Stupid Girls

Monday, June 28, 2010

why I'm watching horror movies

You are reading

Well, "Teeth" is actually a very dark comedy. Personally, I think it is miscategorized, but I bet they did it because of graphic imagery -- not of the actual biting of male members, but the after effects. I like Teeth because you can't smirk at Dawn for being one of those Abstinence Only people; her reasoning is sound, and has nothing to do with vagina dentata which, at the beginning of the film, she doesn't realize she even has. Dawn only bites when frightened or severely startled. Her gynecologist, for example, was actually molesting her. It's a very well written philosophy of women's right to control our bodies, destinies and souls, couched in this totally ridiculous, humorous and actually dignified point of view. The audience isn't just rooting for Dawn to survive, but respecting her decisions. It's really celebratory; we
laugh because we're happy for her.

There's something about Austin, Kate. I don't know what it is, but a lot of the stuff I find very interesting comes from Austin. Like, once, I met this group of sideshow performers. They actually call themselves freaks. They're people with physical differences and they put on SUCH a good show! It's very amusing and it also introduces people to the liberation of the physically different. Here's their website:

The more I learn about Austin, the more I'd like to see it.

Back to horror. I've seen some interesting Japanese horror, mostly ghost stories, set in period. I've seen some really good Korean and Chinese stuff, too. Most of it is more like the Twilight Zone. Some has gore, but it's not the point of the story and could easily be left out, in my opinion.

I also saw this German flick "Otto, or Up With Dead People," which is commentary on Queer bashing, AIDS,
homeless youth, behavioral health challenges and the degradation of the environment. Otto is a zombie and gets a role in an experimental film about Gay zombie men, organizing for civil rights. It's very gorey. Again, that's more for shock value and is unnecessary, in my opinion, and those of quite a few viewers on NetFlix, too. Still, it's a very poignant film. I guess I can relate because I was a lot like Otto when I was a teen runaway.

Today, I watched The Exorcist for the first time since I saw it as a new release, when I was in high school and still caught up in fundamentalist Christianity. I am AMAZED at how differently I see that film now, and what it tells me about guilt, shame, fear of punishment, etc. heaped on people by hierarchical religious institutions! I no longer believe any of the things that made that film scary back then! Now, it's just sad, and a lot of hard work to watch.

What I'm learning from horror is how to think outside the formula of story telling. I'm also learning what works for suspension of disbelief, and what is just too irresponsible to use as a foundation for a fantasy story. In horror, anything can happen. Most conventional dramas and comedies stay too grounded in mundane life and don't go to that other place. Exceptions would be "Beloved" and "The Green Mile," but those are often not very popular because they're too complex for the viewer to grasp or because the "paranormal" aspects look like a cheesy, cheap plot resolution after over an hour of the viewer wondering what the heck is going on.

I'm trying VERY hard not to fall into either trap. Don't get me wrong: Beloved is brilliant, even the film. But the ordinary audience member has too little background in African American history, in poetic metaphor, psychology of trauma and indigenous spirituality to have references for it as a film.

By the way, Marianna Dengler paid for tickets so I could take the local girls in the 'hood to the opening of Beloved at the fancy theater here. THEY understood it, with barely ANY experience in any of the above subjects, except what we'd discussed from films they'd seen at my home. But they got it, just like my illiterate, hillbilly grandma was the ONLY person who understood the e.e. cummings poem I read at my father's memorial!

I think we learn too much stuff and that's how we lose intuition and native emotion.

So, by watching horror, which is a huge genre of multiple sub categories, I am learning how to think for my self, not by rote formula, and still tell an effective story.

I'm also so appreciating cinematography, SOUND and music, etc.

I'm not interested in snuff, violence, etc. I'm interested in story telling. I've even learned some interesting stuff from Ed Wood. He's not as awful as people think, writing wise. His thinking and storytelling were interesting. I loved "Glen or Glenda" and am now trying to wade through "Bride of the Monster," which has some decent writing in it.

There's a film called "Matinee" with John Goodman. He's bringing a B horror film to a theater in the Florida Keys. It's called "Mant," about a mutated man/ant, product of nuclear radiation. Problem is, he's doing it just as the local sailors are on stand by from the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's a great discussion of nukes, the effects of Cold War propaganda on civilians, etc. But it's VERY funny and VERY scary, but not for horror reasons. It doesn't preach at all and it's really entertaining.

I first watched James Whale's Frankenstein with a new eye after Vito Russo's book Celluloid Closet, which taught me how to really look at movies. I've never been to film school, you see. I began to see all kinds of interesting stuff in Frankenstein: subversive ideas, sexualities, abstract art, metaphors, etc.

So, I'm learning how to write my story by watching other story tellers of unusual tales.

ALSO: It is very gratifying to me that I am unliving some childhood trauma. I was TERRIFIED, as a child, by the film, Them, which was the original, nuclear mutant ant film (and filmed in places I frequented, like Joshua Tree and the Los Angeles River).

That's why I rewatched The Exorcist today. I'm thinking of revisiting other films onto which I'd projected the terror of my childhood, as well.

I'm still flirting with Lugosi's Dracula, by sneaking up on it with those bad Ed Wood movies. I've developed a genuine affection for Lugosi as a result, but still can't bring myself to watch Dracula.

Dracula symbolizes the late night visits to my bed by my parents, you see. I'll get there, just not yet.

But I could hug Lugosi now; back then, I can't tell you how frightened I was of him, or anybody with an accent like his. Our neighbors were Czech, and I was convinced he'd jump the fence with a knife in his mouth and kill us all in our sleep (effects of Cold War stuff here).

I do not remember most of my childhood. Dracula may bring some stuff back, given how resistant I am to viewing it.

But, I made it through The Exorcist today without any traumatic memory associations, so maybe it's time.

Seeing Lugosi now, knowing how painful, lonely and frightened his life was in addiction, I feel myself want to cry. I learned this from the movie, Ed WOod, and then looked Lugosi up. He was a sad old man, desperate and broke, with no other talent besides being the bogey man. sigh.

See, a lot of stuff gets classified as horror just because nobody really knows what else to do with it. It's the weird independent films, the real artists, the backwater messages and ideas.

What passes for horror these days is just pathetic. Some of this older stuff, the foreign stuff, the low budget stuff, though, is really interesting.

There's a film called Horror In The Wind. A drug gets accidentally released on the population. It was SUPPOSED to keep people pacified. It was an experiment of the theocratic government of the USA, under President Pat Roberston. But something goes horribly wrong. Instead of making people passive, it just reverses sexual orientation: all straights are now Queer and Queers heterosexual. The CONVERSATIONS about this are PRECIOUS. It's a TERRIBLE movie, but it should be a cult classic. I call it the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes for Queer Nation. It's a lot of fun. That is categorized as a horror movie!