First night, Chinese ghosts:
A Chinese Ghost Story and A Chinese Ghost Story II
Two of my favorite films with creepy things in them--ghosts, tree demons with epic, hungry tongues, reanimated corpses, empty, corrupt shells of government officials and religious figures actually animated by devils--are A Chinese Ghost Story and A Chinese Ghost Story II. When I first saw A Chinese Ghost Story at the Dobie back in 1990, it was a revelation to me (even with its chop suey subtitles) in terms of having the lush supernatural creepy stuff that's the coolest thing about horror (to me) in conjunction with actual story, humor, wonder, and characters who don't all die in the end. A combination I'd been pining after, it seems.
Second night, space:
Alien and Aliens
Alien was the first horror movie I ever voluntarily lined up to see (on opening night in Philadelphia); I was 15 (yes, children, I am old). A friend had dragged me to see Jaws a few years earlier, and I never forgave her. So not my thing. But space! If it was going to be in space, I was in.
And for the first time, I got the appeal of horror movies--that total engagement, edge of the seat screaming thrill. Your attention on the edge with your body, totally in the moment, riding the roller coaster. Exhilarating catharsis. I discovered that a)I love horror in space, and b)if the cat survives, I'm okay with everyone else but the final girl dying. Plus, all those good things--a carefully built narrative and a well-built world peopled with real-feeling characters you can care about. Spaceship! (I'd been loving on spaceships since kidhood.) Very alien alien monster.
Where Alien is a horror movie in space, Aliens is really an adventure movie with horror elements--in space. One of my favorite recipes. Extraterrestrial planets (another thing I've been loving on since kidhood) and terraforming and cranky unfinished ecosystem, intrepid band of interesting/engageable characters--and not everyone dies! Win! Of the two, Aliens is actually the one I've viewed more often. I'm sure it's the source--even though I haven't watched it in a long while--of a recent dream in which I learned that when Sigourney Weaver is driving, you can park the car wherever the fuck you want.
Third night, those prints don’t go together:
Teeth and The Frighteners
These two movies don't really go together. Teeth is a biting, dark (also hilarious) indie tale of mutation and the evolution of vagina dentata as a survival response--which really, when you think about it, makes some sense. I really like the mordant intelligence of the movie.
The Frighteners is just fun. Peter Jackson directs Michael J. Fox and a cast of supporting goofballs; the story has a shadowed, sorrowful heart but wears an impish coat of dread whimsy. Plus, I love The Mutton Birds rendition of "Don't Fear the Reaper."
Fourth night, del Toro:
The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth
These are both Spanish language films, the first 'presented by' Guillermo del Toro, the second written and directed by him.
I like The Orphanage because it's dark, creepy, set by the sea and partakes of the Gothic with some good scary stuff, but has compassion--albeit a somewhat twisted compassion--at its heart.
Pan's Labyrinth is, for me, a wonderful dark (dark) fairy tale--as fairy tales properly were. I love the narrative's eye for detail and that so much of it is in the little girl's POV. I love that she's a reader, and faces her monsters--both worldly and otherworldly--with tenacious resilience. It doesn't matter if the otherworldly is real or imagined--the dread figures of the fantastical underworld and the brutal would-be father figure above are equally chilling. I like this movie because it's ambiguous but utterly satisfying just the same. It pricks your sense of wonder with a sharp, terrible claw.
Fifth night, zombie laughs:
Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland
Not sure there's much to say about these. Over-the-top black comedy silliness and fun. Shaun of the Dead is happily British and awesomely funny. Zombieland is mucho Norte Americano and lots of fun. Both movies are funny and dark with zombie violence, but with gooey hearts of sweet caramel. Sort of.
Today's bonus, the zombie apocalypse, Teddy bear style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=
Final night, from Sweden to Heian era Japan:
Let the Right One In and Onmyoji
When I saw Let the Right One In with friends we had a lot of discussion as to whether it was really a horror movie (of course many of the movies in my ideal fest here have not technically been horror movies--but it's my ideal fest for the spooky time, not a horror film fest). I think it is, by the definition that what's implicit by the end of the movie is quite a horrible, chilling prospect. The Swedish are very good at well-constructed narrative, pacing, and matter-of-fact-dread coupled with everyday life and haunting beauty. Many people have praised Let the Right One In and it deserves the praise.
Onmyoji is a Japanese movie that tells the story of a court Onmyoji--which translates as the 'Yin Yang Master,' an occult master and fortune teller--in the Heian period, who safeguards the kingdom in a time when the land is plagued by evil forces. It's a costume epic full of the supernatural, sorcery, demons, ghosts, heroes, servant gods, metamorphic creatures, political intrigue, and betrayal. In short, awesome.
Thanks for coming to the fest. Please put your liquor bottles in the recycling and your popcorn tubs and candy wrappers in the trash. And leave a tip for the help.