Saturday, October 12

31 Horror Movies in 31 Days : Creepshow, The Ring, Attack the Block

Rhiannon: We got a little behind this week, but it's a pretty relaxed weekend here so we plan to catch up. The first movie on our list was Creepshow, an early 80's horror anthology directed by George A. Romero. I hold this movie in a special place in my heart. My childhood best friend and I must have watched it hundreds of times. I'm shocked the tape didn't wear out. Watching it again in adulthood, I feel like I knew each vignette shot-for-shot, and I'm sure I was a little obnoxious quoting lines before they even came out of the characters' mouths.
The thing about Creepshow and me, though, is that I think maybe I've seen it too many times to really enjoy it anymore. It's like that one episode of Seinfeld everyone has, you know, the one that seems like every time you catch an episode in a hotel room or late at night it's that episode, the same episode you've seen a million times because it's always on (mine is "The Hamptons"). You know every word, and it's not not-entertaining, but it's like, who cares? I couldn't even tell you what my favorite Creepshow segment is anymore. The cockroaches in "They're Creeping Up On You!" are pretty gross because cockroaches are just in fact gross, but I've seen it so many times that the nastiness is gone. Maybe we should have watched Creepshow 2, which I've only seen once at a birthday party and was also the first movie I ever saw boobs in...

Kiah: I, however, have only seen Creepshow twice. I am a sucker for horror anthologies, though, so I suppose I am predisposed to liking it. I also enjoy horror that infuses comedy well, so double trouble. That said, this movie does so much so well that the above probably wouldn't matter anyways. Gruesome kills (Cockroaches! 100 year old college monster!) and excellent turns from future stars like Ted Danson and Ed Harris really punch up a script featuring some of Stephen King's finest writing, mostly because it doesn't take itself seriously. It's an interesting experiment, letting Romero and King riff together, and the surprising result is that by being silly, neither creator gives too much into their creative pitfalls (Romero with his overwrought social themes, King with his despair of religion and parenthood). Though these things are brought up, it's with a loose grip, which allows them to flourish rather than derail the entire enterprise.

Worst Segment: "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill"
Best Segment: "Something to Tide You Over"
Best Cameo: TOM ATKINS

Rhiannon: ***/***** Kiah: ***/*****

Rhiannon: I saw The Ring in theaters and thought it was the greatest, spookiest thing. At the time I was just getting into horror movies and was especially jazzed about Japanese horror after reading some Junji Ito comics. This was back before I really knew how to internet, so I was wary of downloading movies. Adaptations like The Ring and The Grudge were like manna from Japanese horror heaven. Couple my general enthusiasm with some genuinely disturbing imagery, a weird little boy who looks and acts like a 40 year old man, and a bunch of horses (they make me very uncomfortable thanks to an old accident) and The Ring is pretty much a horror movie made with me in mind.
It's been near a decade since I've last seen The Ring and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rewatch held up to the experience I had watching it as a 15 year old. I was genuinely frightened during parts of the movie, and the storyline is legitimately creepy despite its numerous plot holes. What struck me, though, and did when I'd first seen the movie, was Samara's origin. We never find out what it is that makes her evil, and as much as I like to have my questions answered, I realize that the not-knowing is really what makes this a solid horror movie.

Kiah: Rhiannon informed me that the Japanese version of this movie has like Ocean Gods and shit in it, so I gotta think that Gore Verbinski probably improved this film by streamlining it. The performances here aren't going to knock you out (though everyone does well), and the effects aren't flashy (only one is memorable, but it's a doozy) both of which allow the story to really do most of the heavy lifting here, which is rare in horror. Fortunately, the story is more than capable of keeping you entranced. My favorite bit is a restrained but chilling performance by Brian Cox as Samara's dad that lends decades of depth to a character onscreen for maybe ten minutes.


Rhiannon: ****/***** Kiah: ****/*****

Kiah: Attack the Block is a British movie that came out in 2011. It's executive produced by comedic director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim) and even has Nick Frost in a minor role, but for the most part it downplays the humor. Instead it focuses on the intense night of five young project kids and the woman they mugged trying to survive an alien invasion and a local crime lord/rapper. While the kids initially aren't sympathetic, over the course of the movie you get to know them as the very young humans they are, trying to deal with adversity both terrestrial and extraterrestrial in the limited ways they know how. While they're never really redeemed, they're at least fleshed out enough for the audience to stop seeing them as thugs and start seeing them as desperate, which is something very rare in not only horror movies, but any movie featuring a multi-ethnic cast in the slums. Think The Wire meets Scooby-Doo.

Rhiannon: As Kiah mentioned, this movie is pretty interesting in the way it portrays the bad kids that are its protagonists. Initially I was turned off because it was just Moses and his gang of poor brown kids victimizing a white lady; pretty slippery stuff in terms of handling race in any medium. As the film goes on, Moses and his friends are shown to be much more complicated than simple thugs and by the end they use their wits to save their building (or "block" as it were) from the alien invasion. 
What really bugged me, though, is that the kids aren't given a chance at real redemption. After they've blown up all the aliens, a crowd of dark figures appears in the hallway. Someone asks "Is it more monsters?" and one of the kids replies "Sort of" because these dark figures are cops, the gang's every day adversary. In the last scene Moses is in handcuffs, and while the building tenets are cheering and the white lady has told the police that he saved her, all I could think was that he's going to be charged for a bunch of murders and spend the rest of his life in jail. I think that this movie, where I've already had to suspend my sense of reality for the terrible alien animations, should have gone the extra mile to show Moses very plainly as a hero and not a lost-cause thug in the back of a police wagon. It's like it was resigning him to his original fate as a bad kid, as though bad kids from poor neighborhoods can never rise above that, not even in worlds where aliens fall out of the sky.

Rhiannon: ***/***** Kiah: ****/*****

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