Horror Film Blog: Black Swan (2010)- Ballerina Thriller Filler

November 19, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

From the second I stumbled upon this trailer, I knew Black Swan has the potential to be a great thriller to add to my repertoire of adored films. Now, you may be wondering how I could possibly rave about a film that has yet to be released, but I can assure you, I have a strong feeling about this one.

Sink your teeth into these cinematic treats: the talented, flawless, and a personal favorite of mine, Natalie Portman, classically trained ballerinas effortlessly dancing across the screen, The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream’s mastermind, Darren Aronofsky, and a psychological disturbia a la Roman Polaski’s Rosemary’s Baby.

Since the film’s debut at the Venice Film Festival, Black Swan’s haunting depiction of a ballerina’s struggle with her own sanity has got critics buzzing.

Portman plays an obsessive ballerina, Nina, in a New York City ballet company. For an extra dose of crazy, Nina lives with her equally neurotic mother, Erica played by Barbara Heresy. Much to Nina’s delight, her ballet company’s artistic director replaces prima ballerina Beth MacInyre, played by Winona Ryder, with Nina for the role of the graceful White Swan in company’s season opener, Swan Lake. Nina’s rookie counterpart, Lily (Mila Kunis) is cast as her opposite: the sensual Black Swan. As rivalry and twisted friendship emerges between Nina and Lily, Nina becomes more in touch with her dark side, which turns out to be her ultimate rival.

A blog from Moviefone.com says critics and moviegoers like Mike Goodridge at ScreenDaily praise the film as “disturbing and exhilarating.” Goodridge raves about Aronofsky’s artful cinematography and even says “this dark study of a mentally fragile performer derailed by her obsession with perfection is one of the most exciting films to come out of the Hollywood system this year.”

With Portman and Aronofsky’s past works in mind, I would be more than shocked if this film was, at the very least, just a slightly enjoyable thriller. Black Swan has some serious potential.

Although I do have a slight apprehension this film might walk the lines of the horror and thrill genre, Black Swan seems to be nothing short of promising. (As a side note: if you crave a guaranteed ballerina horror film, check out the gruesomely psychedelic 1977 flick, Suspiria)

Feel like you need a break from finals or still in silent mourning about the passing of Halloween or just need one last taste of thrill before the holiday season rolls around? Head to theatres Dec. 3 when Black Swan hits the box office for it’s psychologically thrilling debut.

Horror Film Blog: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)- ‘The Most Controversial Film Ever Made’

November 19, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

Once again, I realize that the timeliness of a film that was made 30 years ago, is, of course, completely non-existent, however, as my last blog I could not help but feature Cannibal Holocaust since it is one of the only films I have ever had an issue on completing.

Before I continue, this is my official warning. This film is not to be taken lightly.

Around this time last year, I stumbled upon Cannibal Holocaust during one of my frequent trips to Premiere Video on Lower Greenville. Curious about the title, I picked it up despite even the clerk’s recommendation to not waste my time or money. But, like a child, this man’s recommendation only made me want to see it more.

Before watching it, I did some research and found out why.

Cannibal Holocaust’s plot is really quite simple. Four documentarians travel to the South American jungle to film indigenous tribes. After failing to return two months later, anthropologist Harold Monroe, played by Robert Kerman, travels to their treacherous whereabouts on a rescue mission. Unfortunately, he only finds the explorer’s lost cans of film. After watching the footage, he sees all four of the researcher’s tragic fate and the movie goes on to chronicle flashbacks from the recovered film.

On the surface, the plot may even seem a bit tamed but let’s put this film into perspective: Grindhouse calls Cannibal Holocaust “the most controversial film ever made.”

It is difficult to not sound boastful when I say I have seen my fair share of horror films that are far from the conventional or mainstream. But to be completely honest, I could not finish Cannibal Holocaust. The scenes of graphic torture are strange. And it’s not because the scenes are gruesome but because they all too real. Something is slightly off. After witnessing hundreds of horrifying and gory scenes in movies, there are ‘movie magic’ signs that leave the viewer with an assurance of that scene’s faux-authenticity. But Cannibal Holocaust is all too real.

In fact, Ruggero Deodato, the director, was quickly arrested after the film’s release in 1980 for actually murdering actors for the film. But don’t freak out just yet, the claims turned out to be false and he was eventually released.
Are you ready for this? Seven animals, including a coatimundi, turtle, spider, snake, two squirrel monkeys, and a pig, were actually killed for the film (not to mention the animals used for extra takes).

Yes, Cannibal Holocaust borders on snuff.

Bloggoers at Moviefone.com mention how even “sexual assault is low on [the film’s] list of egregious offenses to good taste.” In a film where “genitals are mutilated, people are flayed, impaled and dismembered, and worst of all, real animals are killed,” it is no surprise that Cannibal Holocaust has been banned in 50 countries around the world and Deodato has since adamantly apologized.

Even if Deodato claims to be making some kind of gaudy statement about society’s metaphoric cannibalism, this film fails miserably.

I guess if there is room for cinematic masterpieces in the horror genre like Stanely Kubrick’s The Shining, there is just enough space for films which leave us regretful and disappointed. Cheers.

Horror Film Blog: Let The Right One In (2008)- The Swedish Magnum Opus of Vampire Films

November 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

First of all, after seeing this movie, I found myself a bit surprised for two reasons: 1) how have I avoided writing about a single foreign or vampire horror film in this blog? and 2) why can’t American film makers produce vampire movies that don’t completely discredit the blood-sucking genre?

Well the answer to the first question is, unfortunately, beyond my comprehension. However, for the latter, I have come to terms with the fact that authentic movie-lovers might never really understand the appeal of teenage vampire melodrama.

But not all is lost because Swedish filmmakers finally washed all of our sorrows and doubts away!

Let the Right One In is brilliant. And for those of you out there who may not enjoy the horror genre but can appreciate beautiful cinematography, it would be an absolute shame to pass this one up.

This 2008 film directed by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson is based on a romantic horror novel with the same name. The film chronicles a bullied 12-year-old boy by the name of Oskar (played by the adorably meek Kare Hedebrant) who meets his new neighbor, a young girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson). At the very beginning, Oskar is desperate for friendship and despite Eli telling Oskar they (mysteriously) cannot be friends, an intimate friendship emerges. After Eli finds out that Oskar is getting viciously bullied at school, the plot thickens and Eli does everything in her vampire power to keep Oskar safe while feeding her thirst for blood.

In the film festival circuit, this movie recieved nothing but rave reviews. A blog from Tor.com called it “one of those slow, quiet, disturbing, beautiful, and quite possibly brilliant category-elusive films…part coming-of-age, part horror, and part…something like a love story.”

I couldn’t agree more. Even as a horror-film lover who adores all things terribly horrifying about the genre, there are films like this one, which are nothing less of a genre masterpiece. American filmmakers get so mixed up with the demand of the horror film market that they forget the how an intricately detailed plot and beautifully subtle cinematography can impact an audience far more than sadistic gore.

And guess what? Let the Right One in was actually released in 2008 at the Austin Fantastic Fest! So head on over to Movie Trading Company, and ask for Let the Right One In NOT Let Me In (the recent American remake). Or get both, watch the American first and cure your disappointment with this refreshing Swedish delight.

Arts Blog: Funny Games (2008)- ‘Whether by Knife or Whether by Gun, Losing your Life can Sometimes be Fun’

November 8, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

After the original looked for some much needed American attention, here is a remake full of horrific fun. Thanks to one of the most horror-film savvy people I know, Missy Boyle, this blog features a film she recommended: the remake of the 1997 German version, Funny Games, both directed by Michael Haneke (they even have similar trailers).

Even though it is difficult for me to admit the relevance or timeliness of this film since it was made over two years ago (and the original practically 10 years), this film is in need of some much needed recognition for its emerging post-modern audience especially among the never-ending list of bland blockbusters (Paranormal Activity or Saw 16, anyone?).

Unlike most remakes, this one does very little (if any) to nuance the original. With the same director, this shot-for-shot remake chronicles a family of three: husband George (Tim Roth), wife Anna (Naomi Watts), and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart). While peacefully enjoying their bourgeois lake house, two strangers, eventually named Peter and Paul (Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt), knock at their door asking for eggs, not once but twice, dressed in all-white golf-gear, Peter and Paul (Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt). Unexpectedly, Peter breaks George’s leg with a golf club and the two friendly guests hold the whole family hostage.

Without giving too much of the juicy and quietly horrific details away, the family is sadistically tortured and forced to play Peter and Paul’s “game” (cue movie title reference). Peter and Paul are the ringleaders. They bet the family they won’t survive past 9 a.m. the next morning and the games begin.

“This movie pushes the limit and goes past what North American audiences are used to from horror films,” says blogger, Rodney, who also cleverly points out how this remake is precisely what subtitle-phobic American audiences are in search for.

Rodney criticizes the film for being “slow” at times but also points out something quite interesting: the slow scenes of the family mourning in agony are the most horrific. And honestly, I could not agree more. What is more familiar than torture within a situation that is horrifyingly possible?

If you’re even the slightest bit curious, then do yourself a favor and see this film. But even if you are wondering why it’s post-modern or how the two assailants break the “fourth wall” I guess you will just have to find out for yourself.

Arts Blog: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)- ‘Let’s do the Time Warp again?’

October 29, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Danielle Barrios

In honor of haunted festivities about to begin all weekend, and Glee for that matter, here is a film that is not so terrifying, but oh-so Halloween.

Who can honestly resist the cult classic, over-the-top parody, ‘Time Warp” dancing, perfect adaptation of the British musical stage play, The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

If you have been living under a rock for the past 20 years, The Rocky Horror Picture Show may actually sound like a horror film. Instead, however, it is a psychedelically dreamy trip into the zany lives of a crew of perfectly dramatized characters. The films two main characters, Brad and Janet, played by Barry Boswick and, yes, Susan Saradon herself, stumble upon a castle and find themselves going for a neurotic trip through ‘Transsexual Transylvania.’ The film has catchy tunes and scantily clad men and women running amok while Brad and Janet endure the wonderfully homo-erotic Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

The reason why I’m not giving too much information away is simple: if you haven’t seen it, 1) you should be ashamed of yourself and 2) this is the perfect season to change that.

Audiences have been obsessed with the film practically since its debut in 1975. And since then, midnight showings have become a phenomenon across the country. For hardcore fans and even those just a little bit curious of what this crazy tale is all about, websites like an official Rocky Horror fan site have links to finding when the next viewing is near you.

Attending a showing for the first time? Prepare for the virgin treatment. Without seeing The Rocky Horror Picture show at an official viewing, you are not only completely unaware of what the showing has in store for you but if you do choose to see a showing, your experience be a little bit different than the rest of the veterans in the audience. Trust me, going to a showing is worth the experience.

So don’t have any exciting plans this weekend?

Lakewood Theater in Dallas is showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show this Friday October 29th! The shadowcast is “Amber Does Dallas” and being only 3 miles away from campus, you have no excuse not to go. Call 214.821.7469 or go to The Lakewood Theatre’s website for more information.
Oh, and Happy Haunted Halloween!

Arts Blog: I Spit on Your Grave (1978)- One Dose of Old-School Revenge, Please

October 21, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Danielle Barrios

It’s that time of year again. Halloween? Well, yes. But more importantly, it’s horror movie remake season. We’ve all sat through at least a dozen, and regardless of whether you’ve seen the older version or not, you always hear the same reaction: “The original was so much better.” This is why I commonly find myself asking why Hollywood insists on revisiting films in the first place. If the original was so epically iconic or even dreadfully unbearable then why on earth would you give it an underappreciated love child?

Beats me. Here is the most recent example.

In 1978, director Meir Zachi debuted what is still known today as one the most gruesome feministic revenge movies of the 21st century. At the box office, I Spit on Your Grave, barely broke even. Instead, the film made headlines across the world. Bad 1970’s film quality aside, the violence is ruthless.

Jennifer, the main character played by actress Camille Keaton, endures brutal torture, forced sodomy, and rape by four men for more than half of the film before strategically performing an equally evil revenge for all four of her prior assailants. If you are shocked, you should be. This film is not for the fainthearted, which is why some countries, even the U.S., modified versions of the film for several years after its release due to censorship issues. Some critics saw it as glorifying violence against women. But others, perhaps more avid horror lovers, saw it as THE female empowerment flick.

And now, audiences can have the pleasure (or displeasure depending on your experience) of seeing a more contemporary version. Director Steven R. Monroe managed to remake a cult classic into what is now equivalent to a money-hungry blockbuster wanting nothing short of the reaction a suburban housewife would have to snuff films on the Internet. Just like the saying “some things are better left unsaid,” some movies are better left untouched.

Why not see it and decide for yourself?

The unrated 2010 remake of I Spit on Your Grave is now playing at the Angelika Dallas throughout this haunted season.

But do yourself and everyone else in the theatre a favor, at least try to see the original first. =)

Horror Film Blog: Diablo Cody’s ‘Jennifer’s Body’ Underappreciated

September 26, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

Ever since the horror movie industry has attracted niche audiences of vampire lovers and zombie freaks, so too has a demographic of film connoisseurs who crave the underdog grown beneath the radar. Ironically enough, and perhaps even unpredictably, some films, aimed at a specifically commercialized mainstream audience, naturally take form as cult classics.

Diablo Cody’s Jennifer’s Body without a doubt falls into this middle-child category- craving much deserved attention. Although the film’s release involved a substantial amount of press and advertising (thanks to the cleverly chosen cover model, Michael Bay’s action bombshell, Megan Fox), the film flopped– at the box office, at the reviews, and, furthermore, at the bank.

But with Diablo Cody’s repertoire in mind, how did this happen? Did the audiences just not get it? Was it too obscure for a wide-range audience to understand the satirical nature of the film’s content?

Although the move has since been released on DVD since its 2009 box office debut, horror film lovers have refused to leave this one in the dust. The Cathode Ray Mission gives Jennifer’s Body cult credit to Amanda Seyfried, “the movie’s real star…capturing the movie’s twisted take on female friendship.”

Fox’s good looks and horrible acting is overshadowed by a sweet doe-eyed Mean Girl which can be seen as either fiscally ironic or just plain good dark humor. I think what the audiences didn’t get with Cody’s creation is that the horror genre should not just attempt to terrify but familiarize hilarity.

The premise of the film is outrageous, and rightfully so. Cody wanted her audience to not only be horrified by the physical capacities of the film’s characters, but to laugh at their ridiculous intentions. And quite honestly, it’s classic. Her subtle use of satirical horror asks why we no longer watch or make films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a terrifyingly hidden message about hippies and their unavoidable death for rivaling against the government.

Which begs the question: shouldn’t we want our horror films to do more than just horrify?