Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movies Worth Googling: Strange Movie Reviews by Jenny Orosel

IT’S ALIVE!...OR NOT: Inanimate Objects in Horror

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of waking up in the middle of the night. When you’re looking around your home at 3 a.m. shadows can do weird things to your brain. The back of a chair can look like a monster. That pile of laundry coming out of the hamper might be an intruder perched, ready to pounce on you in the darkness. Then you turn on the light, which in turn wakes up your significant other who then wonders what’s going on and you have to explain it to them, all the while feeling like a fool. Or something like that. But those middle of the night shadows got me thinking about horror and inanimate objects. Sure, the writers and filmmakers like creepy dolls or haunted houses. But there are many other object that, when looked at correctly, could become the stuff of nightmares.

The first thing I watched wasn’t a feature film, and it gave me the biggest mathematical problem I’ve dealt with in a long time. It’s an episode from the third series of DOCTOR WHO titled “Blink.” Only, it’s not the third DOCTOR WHO season, but the third of the “New Doctor” series which, from what I understand, started with the ninth doctor, and the doctor in this one is actually the tenth doctor….I still haven’t figured out how they number the seasons but, wow, that episode was impressive.

A young woman by the name of Sally Sparrow is photographing an old, abandoned house with an overgrown garden and gorgeous, life-sized weeping angel statues. Inside, she discovers writing underneath peeling wallpaper. As she removes it, she finds a message to her, from “The Doctor” warning her about the Weeping Angels to duck. She does just as a large rock is hurled her way. Outside the window, she only sees a weeping angel statue. Creeped out, she runs from the house. Throughout the next few days, she receives more and more messages from various eras—the past, the future. Some brought to her by people who have been waiting decades to deliver them. One major message comes to her from the doctor, via DVD Easter Eggs. It turns out these statues aren’t truly statues, but creatures from another world who feed off the energy of others. When not being looked at, they move with amazing speed. When observed, they turn to stone. The weeping appearance comes because they must cover their eyes, as to not accidentally observe one another. So how can you defeat beings like that when all of your help comes from other times? And if you focus on fighting one, you leave yourself open to any others who may be behind you.

I am far from a DOCTOR WHO fanatic. This might be the third episode I’ve ever seen of any doctor but, wow, did it impress me. It was one of the most genuinely creepy things I’ve seen in a good, long while. The slightest movements in those statues were unsettling. One quick edit away and one slight move of the Weeping Angel’s hand is enough to send chills down my spine. Luckily, the episode is effective even to someone like me who knows a bare minimum about the DOCTOR WHO mythos. All the information you need is what a Tardis is, and the fact that the doctor can travel through time. And although he is key to this episode, it really is Sally’s, as we see (and sometimes don’t see) everything through her eyes. Carey Mulligan, the actress, is incredible in this role. The discovery is totally visible on her face as she uncovers every clue. It’s as if we’re actually watching the character herself, and not an actress who’d already read the script and knows where it’s going.

2010’s RUBBER was not nearly as successful. It’s about a tire—yes, an automobile tire—that falls in love with a woman and sets off to win her over, destroying anyone who might stand in its way. How does it do that? By telepathically making their heads explode. That’s a fantastic idea that, if handled right, could make for one of the most unique movies to come along in a long, long time.

Unfortunately, RUBBER plays it more with a nod and a wink. The introduction to the movie consists of a black car driving through the desert, running over randomly placed chairs. When it stops, a suited man comes out the trunk and lists movies where things happen for “no reason”, and says the following movie is an homage to the “no reason.” The problem is, with every movie mentioned in that opening, there was always a reason. Even the most obtuse movie, there was a reason for the filmmaker. To me, it felt like they were using the “no reason” as an excuse to not think things out in their own movie.

Another fail comes in with a subplot. A group of observers are in the desert, watching this movie unfold with binoculars and commenting on it. That serves no purpose other than to keep pulling the audience away from the tire’s storyline and give a nudge saying, “Hey, we’re making a weird movie where weird things happen for no reason.” I’m an intelligent person, and I like to think most humans are. We don’t need a constant reminder that a movie is strange. If they had just left the tire story alone, it would have been more effective to allow us that bit of suspended disbelief and ride with the story given.

By far, though, my favorite was DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS (1977). And that’s exactly what the movie is about. A demon falls in love with a mortal woman who dies on a lovely four-poster bed. He weeps tears of blood, which give a sort of life to the bed. Above said bed spends the next couple centuries eating whoever and whatever sits upon it. The movie is narrated by an unconnected ghost from a painter who is trapped inside his painting and has been watching this all go down.

Does it sound like a horribly cheesy movie? Oh, definitely, and the plot line is minimal at best. But as Black Glove might have noticed by now, I am a sucker for style. Just because it might lack in plot does not mean that DEATH BED is not well thought out. Between the voice-overs of the ghost and various characters speaking their internal monologues, and the scenes where the bed absorbs it’s victims in a yellowish lava lamp of digestive fluid, there isn’t a single frame that doesn’t reek of orchestration. And it does have a sense of humor about itself. There wouldn’t be a scene of the bed guzzling a bottle of Pepto Bismol if it didn’t.

In this age of remakes and rehashes of movie ideas, it seems a shame that there aren’t more inanimate object movies being made. As I’ve learned from my late night wanderings of the house, in the right light, even a television remote can appear menacing. Maybe instead of redoing beloved movies, Hollywood producers should explore their houses in the dark and look for the shadows. Maybe we’ll get a truly creepy movie out of it. Or at least something a little different.

BLINK is available in the Third Series DOCTOR WHO box set. But remember, it’s the tenth doctor, the second in the New Doctor series…oh, forget it. The UPC number is 7-94051-42022-0

RUBBER is in print, running between 20 and 25 bucks for a new copy. Forget that—it isn’t worth it. Buy it used or, better yet, rent it if you’re that curious.

DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS is out of print, but you can score a copy on EBay for about fifteen bucks.

--Jen Orosel