Archive for the Movies Category

The Babadook: Grief Monster

Posted in Children, Family, Film, Horror, Monsters, Movies, Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 2, 2014 by Stephanie Selby

The-Babadook

You can guess what movie I just watched! And it’s about time too. Seems like this film has been released everywhere except the U.S. I wanted to see this flick so much, it was starting to drive me nuts (though not as crazy as Amelia).

Amelia’s a lonely widow living with her son, Samuel. He’s a difficult child, making his own weapons and talking about killing monsters – even to the point where he’s pulled out of school. To make matters worse, his birthday is coming up, which also coincides with the death of his father, Amelia’s lost husband. It’s a very stressful time in their household.

Which is made even worse by the inexplicable appearance of a strange pop-up book titled “Mister Babadook.” It tells the story of a monster by the same name. It terrifies Sam and sets him on an obsessive path to try to protect both himself and his mother from the creature. Amelia’s closer inspection shows the book predicting horrible things happening, things that she will do to her child.

Amelia tries to convince her son the monster isn’t real, but strange occurrences prove otherwise. Will mother and son be able to contend with the Babadook? Or will they find themselves overwhelmed?

It’s spooky, it’s smart, and tells a gut-wrenching story that left my stomach in knots.  Those who prefer a faster paced film or expecting a straight-up monster movie will be disappointed; The Babadook is not that kind of film. The slow tension is well worth it though, as we get to know Amelia and her son so well while they’re tormented, which only ups the ante emotionally. A horror movie is so much better when you actually give a damn about the characters.

In fact, I enjoyed the film so much that I pre-ordered my very own copy of the pop-up book shown in the film. It just hope it reaches the minimum amount of orders so it’ll actually get printed. Fingers crossed!

Okay, so I’d like to get in a little deeper at this point. I’ll be discussing different plot points throughout the film. If you’re wary of spoilers, DON’T READ PAST THIS POINT. You’ve been warned!

So, I imagine it’s safe to say that this monster is a personification of grief. It’s very clear that Amelia is still dealing with the loss of her husband, even after six years. Sam doesn’t get to celebrate his birthday on the proper date because it’s the same as his father’s death, and Amelia keeps all his old things down in their cellar. This grief leaves them very isolated from other people as they’re unable to connect with family or create new relationships.

As Amelia’s grief starts to overwhelm her, the tension builds and the Babadook makes himself known. This is especially true when Amelia’s mental state starts deteriorating and she gets ‘possessed.’ Grief-stricken people often lash out, even at the ones they love. There is a monster inside her, but it’s her own emotions that make her act out.

They say you can’t get rid of the Babadook, and that makes total sense if he and grief are one and the same. Those who have suffered the loss never really get over it. That pain will always be with them, and Amelia and her son are no exception. The solution is simple: you learn to live with it. It becomes a part of you and your daily life that you acknowledge and look after. In Amelia’s case that means keeping it in your basement and feeding it bugs from the garden, but hey, people often deal with their grief in strange ways!

Perhaps in a way all are secretly looking after a babadook of our own. How do you live with yours?

My Thoughts on World War Z

Posted in Apocalypse, Books, Dangerous Diseases, Death, Horror, Movies, Scary, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2013 by Stephanie Selby

I saw World War Z at an early screening for a newspaper review. Naturally I keep my opinions professional for the paper, but I think I’d like to be more ‘expressive’ here because its one of those films I have a really strong opinion for. Some of the points I make are going to contain spoilers, but I don’t really care. Here’s the reason why:

In a word, it sucked.

I had low expectations going into this, but I try to stay optimistic and enjoy things for what they are. That attitude didn’t really work for me this time. By the end I really hated this film.

It’s not because I’m some fangirl of the book either. Sure, the book’s great and I really enjoyed reading it, but I also understand that film is a different medium and changes are necessary in adaptation. I was ready to forgive the film on that level.

It’s because World War Z lacks all the elements that are necessary for a good zombie film. Worse of all it’s BORING.

In terms of violence, this movie feels castrated. I’m not saying that nonviolent films are boring, it’s just that zombies by nature are violent monsters. They attack, kill, and eat people for really no apparent reason. It takes violence to subdue them-destroying the brain by any means necessary. Take all this out and zombies don’t seem so threatening. In this film they’re always shown from a distance or in quick shots so you can’t see much detail.  There was even this jarring moment where Brad Pitt was beating a zombie’s brains in with a crowbar, but the body lay below off screen. It really felt like a censored scene.  There were no moments throughout World War Z where I felt fear or suspense.

However, zombies are only one part of the equation. The other part are engaging human characters, and there are none to be found. We only get the bare bones of characterization of Pitt’s character, his family, and the people he works with. We know that Pitt loves his family enough to want to protect him and they love him back, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. The rest is buried under overblown set pieces and going from one corner of the globe to another.

There’s no real sense of loss either. In Max Brooks’ book, and most zombie films, the world is radically changed by such an outbreak and you see how people adapt to and cope with the situation. This can be shown through various ways like death, deserted or destroyed aspects of society, among other ways. You won’t find that in this film. It’s pretty much globetrotting to find out how this pandemic started and how to stop it. In the film a young boy Pitt meets with his family loses his parents; you never see the kid mourn or express anything else about it, even as Pitt’s family takes him in as their own.

The ending is terrible too. It takes place in a Welsh WHO lab. I’ve heard that it was originally supposed to be some kind of big climatic fight in Russia, but audiences hated it and it was changed. I didn’t see the Russian ending, but this one can’t be any better. The solution is to make yourself sick with something else so zombies don’t want to attack you. I’m no scientist but that doesn’t make any sense to me. In any case, Pitt and company have to sneak through a zombie-infested lab in order to get to disease samples so he can make himself sick and see if his theory works. The audience was laughing at the zombies by the end of it.

When I saw this I had recently started playing The Last of Us, something of a zombie game (It’s actually great, go play it). Stealth is a major aspect of the gameplay and the scenes in the lab made me think of it. I then realized I could be getting more enjoyment playing a videogame that essentially does the same thing. I literally started wishing I had stayed home and played videogames. Seriously.

I’m baffled at how the filmmakers managed to not only fail at making an adaptation, but making something entertaining. Just why? Why?

Don’t Read the Hunger Games (aka I’m Really Behind)

Posted in Books, Death, Movies, Videogames on July 1, 2013 by Stephanie Selby

I’ve been thinking of Anita Sarkeesian lately…

If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably heard of her. She’s had a lot of controversy after announcing a video series on the portrayal of women in video games. The first few have already come out and I’m considering writing about that as well, but she also has a lot of videos about the portrayal of women in pop culture.

I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I thought it would be fun to complain about her too. While she’s very smart and she has a lot of interesting points to make, I think she’s often too harsh in her views. While many people have criticized her feminist views on video games to the point of harassment (which nobody deserves), none of them have particularly upset me. Sure there’s a lot I disagree with, but there’s one thing she has said that has gotten to me.

(Sidenote: I actually think that the actor did a great portrayal of Peta and again, Sarkeesian ‘s being too harsh again!)

Okay,  there’s a lot of things that I could say, but for now I’m just going to stick with some major complaints. Yes, I agree that the first Hunger Games book was the strongest in the series. Yes, I agree that love triangles are grating and didn’t help the story. But I strongly disagree with the notion that the rest of us ‘shouldn’t bother’ with the final two books, to the point where I am actually ticked off that she even suggests it.

In general, I don’t like the idea that a book should not be read. There are a great many books that I don’t like and wouldn’t recommend to anyone, but I will never tell anyone that there’s nothing to be gained from reading anything. There’s always something to be learned, even from the bad ones. Even if it’s just to learn that you disagree with an author’s point, at least you learned something about yourself and why.  Even if a story doesn’t work on fundamental levels, sometimes it’s important to look at bad writing and understand what not to do. Hell, just look at My Immortal by Tara Gilesbie. It’s quite possibly the worst fanfiction ever written, but still has amazing entertainment value. If it was intentionally written that way, then it was written by a comedic genius.

As for the idea that Katniss ‘regresses’ over the latter two novels, I have to say that this is actually a facet of her character. Post traumatic stress isn’t something that fades away, it’s a condition that one never really gets over. Not only does Katniss has to go through the horror two Hunger Games, but also goes through the trauma of a rebellion. In the real world hardened soldiers never recover from what they’ve experienced in combat, it’s hard to imaging how a teenager would react to similar combat and two death matches.  Katniss contends with and at times even breaks under the tremendous pressure she’s put under, and really who can blame her?

There is a very clear reason why Katniss’ mental trauma (as well as the trauma of other characters) takes precedent. These books are aimed at younger audiences, so a lot of the violence that would normally take place must be curtailed. Katniss is a teenager and can’t participate in war the same way an adult can. This is coupled with the fact that her role as the Mockingjay prevents her from putting herself at greater risk. Mental trauma replaces the physical violence in much of Catching Fire and Mockingjay in order to show the damaging effects of war without exposing younger readers to graphic content.

So those are the main counterpoints I wanted to make to Sarkeesian’s videos. Let me know what you have to say in the comments.

Thoughts on “The Woman In Black”

Posted in Horror, Movies, Scary with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2012 by Stephanie Selby

So I saw “The Woman in Black” on the weekend and figured I’d put my thoughts about the film on here. I know this comes a bit belated, especially when it’s already been out for over two weeks, but I really just want to start some discussion. As a warning I assume that you have already watched the film, or at least don’t care too much about spoilers.

The Woman in Black is a slow-paced horror film that creates a great foreboding mood rather than something gory or really scary. This may bother those that expect more from a scary film, so I suggest you adjust your expectations. There are a couple of jump scares throughout, but not enough to annoy me. In any case, I have to say I really like films that can create a creepy atmosphere compared to gore-fests like Hostel, although each type has their perks. I guess I just have a soft spot for the older style of ghost stories that some might call cliché. However, I’m not completely biased; several times I was getting “Grudge” flashbacks and there were a few unclear points that left me with a lot of questions.

I was left rather perplexed with the actions of the townsfolk. I know that they just want Arthur out of there, but why hold back all that paperwork when it was just raising more questions? Being so secretive only brought more attention from the firm and if they had just been forthright Arthur never would have had to make the trip in the first place.

As for Arthur, why didn’t he just gather all the paperwork himself and get the hell out of there? He had to go to that house several times. I can understand that he’s trying to salvage his job at this point, but why keep going back to that dilapidated, creepy house when he could have just taken what he needed?

The end of the film also raised some issues with me. One could argue that his efforts were pointless, but in the film’s defense it was the only option that Arthur could attempt and I have to give the film credit for not usual ‘putting the ghost to rest’ cliché. In Arthur’s case it’s better to try to do something than be resigned to let that ghost kill his child. Granted it didn’t work, but it’s no stretch to imagine that a person, living or dead, is incapable of forgiveness.

What I found really strange at the end of the film was how Arthur and his son could be guided to the other side. It’s established that the other children were trapped and pretty much stuck with that woman. What made Arthur and his kid so special? Yeah, Arthur’s dead wife was there to guide them, but I’m sure the other kids have dead relatives that could do the same just as easily. And what happens with the woman in black now? Is she just going to go on killing? I’m a bit disappointed that things were left unresolved with her.

I know that much of my opinion points out the flaws of this movie, but I have to say that overall I really enjoyed the film. I managed to keep a sense of humor and the film did keep my interest. I feel this certainly isn’t a waste of money and I wouldn’t mind watching it again, which is definitely more than I can say with a lot of films these days.

The weird thing is when the movie was over and I was walking out of the theater, I overheard someone say “that was terrible.” Of course I didn’t say anything and continued on my way, but I was still perplexed by the comment. I know people have their own tastes, horror films being no exception, but for some reason I still find it weird. Was this person’s expectations about “The Woman in Black” skewed? Was it something else entirely? Or is it me with the bad taste?

So anyone out there enjoy my thoughts on this flick? If you saw it, what did you think of “The Woman in Black” and why? Would you like me to continue this sort of thing with other movies or would you rather I just stick to writing fiction? Should I really just stop asking questions?

Thoughts on Contagion

Posted in Dangerous Diseases, Movies with tags , , , , , , , on September 13, 2011 by Stephanie Selby

Well it has been quite awhile since I have posted here on my little blog; an eternity by internet standards. Life have been changing for me since my graduation and made keeping up with the site difficult, especially since I’ve been in a bit of a bind for ideas and have had a hard time working up to doing any writing. I’m sorry that I have taken such a long hiatus and I plan to do more in the future. I just have to learn to stay focused, which I’m sure is going to be an interesting challenge.

So I saw Contagion last weekend, I highly enjoyed it, and I feel like talking about it here. This is really more of a critique than a review, as I don’t want to write around important events in the film. It’s going to be a simple analysis of the film and its events. This is going to be a spoileriffic article; you have been warned!

Contagion is supposed to be a realistic depiction of a serious pandemic affecting the world and how officials deal with the crisis. I think they managed to capture what might happen in such a situation rather well.  It’s also really refreshing to see a disease movie treated this way instead of an overblown end-of-the-world type disease where Hollywood has to skew scientific facts to create a fictional deadly pathogen. Another thing that’s always bugged me about most films that deal with scientific issues is that scientists always seem to oversimplify things in their dialogue, even when they’re talking amongst themselves. It’s not a realistic way for scientists and other types of experts to talk amongst their colleagues. The closest the film comes to a heavy-handed explanation is when Dr. Mears explains disease transfer to Michigan officials.

The only real problem I have with this movie is the story of the blogger Krumwiede with his reporter friend Lorraine and the French doctor Leonora that was ransomed. They didn’t appear often and I had difficulty remembering who some of them were. There was a scene or two with Lorraine and I couldn’t remember who she was until she had another scene with Krumwiede. Leonora’ s story pretty much ends with her desperately running back to a town in Hong Kong and it’s not known what comes of that. It honestly makes me wonder if there are some extra scenes with them that were left out of the final cut. Don’t get me wrong, these characters were written for an important reason; the inequalities between countries and to question the ethics of who gets treatment first when there’s only a limited amount of resources. While I understand why these scenes were important, it might have been better to downplay them, tell these parts of the story from more established perspectives or cut them out of the film entirely.

Strangely enough the part I liked best was the explanation for how the disease first arose. After all the devastation that this disease has caused,  the audience gets to see how the disease was formed and spread to humans. First from a sickly bat that few to a pig’s farm and finally to the cook that prepared the pig. Even after the human population has recovered from this, the chance to see how it all began is a reminder that this disaster has a simple cause. It’s easy to imagine that something like this could actually happen.

A new story is coming soon, and boy is it weird, even by my standards. If you know anything about me, you know that’s saying something.