Thursday, April 19, 2012

Your CABIN IN THE WOODS meta-review

Heard the hype, avoided spoilers, and saw the film with friends who are not horror novices.  These are savvy people who know what ELVES is and who have Dawn of the Dead timeline photos.  And our reaction was, "Well, that was a good flick."  BUT then I get home and see fulsome praise spurting from every blog in my blogroll (the much-missed Emma Blackwood proves the rule exceptionally).  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, like Obama and Google Wave, is going! to! change! everything!!!!


Let me be clear.  I liked CABIN IN THE WOODS and I think that you should see it if you like horror movies.  It's imaginative and well-executed with lots of fun twisty-turns to keep the crowd-minds busy.  And it's peppered with nods to horror, but not in an obnoxious SCREAM way.  But the reaction is a little baffling.  People are lining up to anoint this movie with oils and lay frankincense and myrrh at its feet.  It always seems weird when similarly novel horror movies like ABSENTIA and LEFT BANK get practically ignored so everyone can take the hot-girl-movie to horror prom.  That is a perfectly good analogy.


Like, is the genre so destitute and bankrupt of fun that we have to always be on the lookout for game changers and redefining works?  Even given that CABIN is well-constructed, is the concept good enough to sustain a million billion derivative works?  That certainly wasn't the case with SCREAM, which essentially declared horror dead, then birthed a glut of shitty greed-driven babies before BLAIR WITCH came along and tore up horror's death certificate.  Trust me, nobody is tireder than me of seeing zombie movies that are basically and boringly the same zombie movies I've seen a hundred times already.  But lots of people seem so eager to get over traditional horror and move on to some post-horror, urbane-sophisticate thing.  I don't really get why.  I don't especially think originality should be the primary concern of creative people (I like most of the Lookout bands, even though they are just doing the first Ramones album over and over).  What's striking is that if CABIN does set off a wave of highly-meta, "post" horror movies, it will basically be part of the same cycle of imitation that happened with BLAIR WITCH (found footage), SAW/HOSTEL (torture pawrn), and SCREAM.  A trendy trend.


CABIN IN THE WOODS deserves to be watched and applauded for its merits.  But it's hard to evaluate something objectively when it's raised up a multinational cheerleading section who think it's the greatest thing ever because it's frightfully new.  I think that some time will have to pass before we can really say how important the film is, whether it's as special as a unicorn or as commonplace as popcorn.

Monday, April 2, 2012

THE BLOOD SPLATTERED BRIDE (1972)

Like the previous year's glorious DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, BLOOD SPLATTERED BRIDE is an adaption of le Fanu's Carmilla, repurposed into seventies lesbian vampire horror.  BRIDE begins with a honeymooning couple, Simon Andreu as the never-named husband and Maribel Martin as his new wife Susan.  Husband regards the marriage pact as a good reason to commence violent undressing and hair-yanking sex games.  This understandably alarms the virginal Susan, who sort of softly resists until husband digs a naked woman out of the sand at the beach.


Said husband is the latest male member of a family with a storied history.  An ancestor was murdered by his new bride on their wedding night after he "tried to make her do unspeakable things."  The lady was found with the dagger beside her husband's corpse.  Her name was Mircalla and her portrait is one of many, many wife portraits kept in the basement of the Husband's manor.  The same manor to which he takes naked beach woman, who is named Carmilla.


If you are good at solving puzzles and getting to the meaning of poems, you can probably figure out what transpires.  I wouldn't say that plot is necessarily the selling point of the film, given that much of this had been explored by DAUGHTERS in 1971.  What BRIDE does well is focus on the horrors of marriage for ladies, which is especially horrible given that it was considered The Event of a lady's life, until very recently.  Gents could theoretically look forward to success in business or deciding to start an ashtray collection, as the Husband here ponders.  Girls basically got to put their finger in a ring, then get their own ring penetrated in between dish-washing sessions.  Not to get all Jezebel on you, but BRIDE conveys the entrapment and discomfort better than any horror film since Romero's SEASON OF THE WITCH.  Let's all agree that marriage sucks, everyone.


The picture's also interesting because it blatantly incorporates a lot of elements from psychology.  It opens with a quote from Plato: "The good ones are those who are content to dream what the wicked actually practice."  Freud cited that quote in an introductory lecture on psychoanalysis and it's here applied to dreams of husband-killing that run through a young wife's mind.  This movie introduced the Judith complex to me (female aggression arising from the loss of virginity, desired but also abhorrent).  I'm sure that a lot of the weird imagery derives from Freudian origins as well (birds! daggers! clocks!), although you don't have to study generally-discarded psychological theories to enjoy it.


Seventies pics tended to get weird, anyway, so even the strange things here aren't off-puttingly strange, more psychedelic and engagingly surreal.  It's admirable that BRIDE was so well-mounted and organized!  Touches of this are just perfect, like the old-tymey silent-movie horror organ blasts that show up occasionally.  And the scene in which Susan's giant bush is revealed, followed immediately by a shot of a guy trimming actual hedges.  It's also pretty groovy that art objects play such a large part throughout.  Susan is a talented artist (but a professional wife, married to a Husband who claims to not have a profession).  The art that contains previous wives are kept locked up in the basement.  There are also clocks, including an AMAZING racist one and one which houses a dagger which could itself be viewed as a fine art piece.  Plus rings (not marriage ones!)...


...and paintings that mirror lesbian tensions!


I wouldn't call BLOOD SPLATTERED BRIDE a great movie.  The main black mark are the parts that proceed a little too slowly (it gets a bit ponderous in the middle, like many wives, LOLOL).  I also think it trails DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS overall, but it definitely includes its own rewards and merits viewing.  I'm going to pursue more of Vicente Aranda's work based on how stylish, smart, and strong BRIDE is (just like many wives, amirite?).  Recommended.