Friday, 18 December 2009

The Horror!

So, I have watched two foreign language horror films in the last two days, which, despite not being all that scary, were still worth a quick mention on here:

1) The Orphanage: This is a Spanish film, endorsed by certifiable genius (take that how you want) director, Guillermo Del Toro. Astute readers will have realised that it's about an orphanage. It views like a M Night Shyamalan film, if M Night Shyamalan had stayed acceptably interesting after the Sixth Sense. All it needs is to end 5 minutes before the actual end.

2) Let The Right One In: A creepy Swedish vampire (small v) film, which reimagines the key points of the mythology into a largely familiar, but disturbing in the details, story. An anti-Twilight?

In Twilight the vampires sparkle. If you can forget that they are stone-cold killers (and that is made very easy with baseball matches and such), then you can lie back and enjoy the shirtless vampire hunks. Don't worry teen girls! The vampires (tellingly created by a serious Mormon) don't really want to have sex with you, that could bring out their wild (read: murderous) side. It's all chaste before marriage (read: vampirisation), not like with those real boys! Vampires in Twilight are like the safe face of mass-murdering pedophiles. It's actually a bit troubling if you think about it.

In Let The Right One In, on the other hand, stars a "12-year old" vampire "girl". Her 40-something "minder" (the relationship in the movie is ambiguous, apparently it's not in the book), bleeds innocents to death in bleak, snow-covered suburban parks then brings the take-out home for his ward. She meets a bullied, disturbed boy, and gradually draws him out of himself. The boy's maturation is disturbingly linked to his capacity for violence, his ability to control his own environment by imposing his will onto it.

Now, which film more successfully embodies the way that we, as a society, expect our children to behave? Twilight's heroine is almost unbearably annoying, possibly a bit of schadenfreude for the mainly teen female demographic. Does her damsel in distress/virgin/pseudo-whore present a positive image for her fans? Or is her passivity, her endless pining after dangerous/preternaturally safe guys, the very antithesis of what we should be aiming for? The protagonist in LTRON is flawed, but his arc in the movie is undoubtedly in a positive direction, from victim to actor. The movie is being remade for Hollywood, and I wouldn't be surprised if the negative aspects (gore, shocks, illicit sexual themes) are advanced at the expense of the more positive themes like coming-of-age and self reliance. It seems that mainstream cinema, no matter how deviant in subject matter, is unfortunately, and probably congenitally, status quo endorsing. How else do you get box office?


Matt McGrath said...

That's a well written review. I read Twilight a couple of months ago on the premise of "you can't knock what you haven't tried".

Well now I can knock it.


Nick James said...

But that baseball scene in the movie is still snazzy.

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