Sunday, February 19, 2012

Women in Horror: The Woman

 ** This review contains spoilers. **

Chris Cleek is a seemingly normal family man and lawyer. His family seems perfect in every way with a loving wife, a successful son, and two obedient daughters. One day when hunting, he finds a feral, cannibalistic woman bathing in a lake. After forcing his family to prepare a space for her in the cellar, he captures her to civilize her and save her from her savage ways. His perfect facade crumbles as he "educates" the woman and the sick person inside emerges. With his perfection, the family's veneer also falls away, exposing his son's violent tendencies, his daughter's pregnancy, and his wife's complacency despite her anger and her abject horror at his actions. Who will be victorious: the savage woman or the civilized man? Who is the more monstrous?

I heard about The Woman during last year's Women in Horror Month and wasn't able to watch it until very recently. I expected to like it, but I was blown away by the film. I absolutely loved it especially because of the wonderful performances of the actors and the underlying message. Chris Cleek is a very creepy character. Gleefully sadistic, he is magnetic and repellent at the same time. He acts as the ideal patriarch of the ideal nuclear family who just happens to be insane, ruling his family with an iron fist. All the women in his life are cowed and fearful as a result of his mentality that women are inherently inferior to men, except for his youngest daughter. His wife, Belle, ignores his abuse to the detriment of her children and his daughter, Peggy, escapes into her music and books to cope with her pregnancy (most likely the product of incest). Even the women and girls seen in passing in their neighborhood are victimized and abused by men outside of the Cleek family, showing that this isn't an isolated incident. His son, Brian, on the other hand, is being groomed to be exactly like him. The process proved to be successful with his disturbing, budding serial killer behavior.

Based on this view of the family and the brutal treatment of the Woman, it's easy to just assume that it's propagating misogyny. At its core, The Woman examines women's roles in society and views women in a much more favorable light than it appears. The Woman is a strong character untouched by the influences of civilization. When faced with Chris, she is the only woman to fight back. After continued abuse and the fact that Chris wields superior weapons, the Woman backs down, but is never fully controlled. The minute she is released and catches Chris off guard, she kills him and his son brutally. This shows that misogyny and the idea of women as the weaker sex are conventions of society and not inherently true. Belle is the first person killed after she is released. Many people are upset by this because they feel sorry for her as a victim of her husband. However, I feel it was justified because she allowed her children to be abused and warped by her husband. By doing that, she is just as guilty as Chris, if not more so. She could have left with her kids or called the police long ago and she chose not to, allowing the abuse to continue for years. Also, Chris Cleek is shown to be more brutal and less civilized than the Woman, the only living member of a savage and cannibalistic tribe. His family dynamic calls into question the traditional patriarchal family unit, proving that nostalgia for the past is supporting this dynamic in reality and perpetuating abuse. The world that surrounds these characters supports misogyny as a part of everyday life, with the only exception being Peggy's math teacher, Miss Hindle. This aspect is a commentary on the atmosphere in our own society and how we are numb or blinded to the misogyny we are bombarded with every day.

The Woman is a commentary on how women are treated in our society in the present and the past. The film had a few surprising twists and turns, including showing Chris to be way more depraved than I thought, which is saying a lot. The ambiguous ending leaves just enough to the imagination and also leaves the story open for another installment. I really like this film and hope Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum work together on other projects in the future. I would recommend this to people looking for a challenging, thought provoking, and (at times) difficult to watch film.

My rating: 9/10 fishmuffins

Friday, February 17, 2012

Women in Horror: Ganymede

Josephine Early is the madame of a bordello, known in more polite circles as a lady's boarding house, in New Orleans. She also conducts even more covert dealings as an informer and advocate for the United States in the Civil War. Her newest project involves a gigantic underwater craft, stolen from the Confederacy, that could be the deciding factor in the war. If only anyone knew if it worked. Anyone who worked on it or knew anything about it is either dead or in jail. As a result, this project isn't the highest on the US's list since there's no guarantee Ganymede would be worth the effort. In desperation, Josephine asks an old flame, Andan Cly, to pilot it. A (mostly) reformed pirate, Cly decides to help out his old friend while simultaneously completing a legitimate deal in Seattle. As Cly makes his way to New Orleans, another threat presents itself to Josephine: zombis. Can Cly pilot the Ganymede without dying and can they transport the craft to the US before zombis or the Confederacy get to them?

Ganymede is the fourth installment in Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century series. An alternative history of the Civil War is built with zombies, fantastical machines, and steampunk elements. I loved Boneshaker and I had to get my hands on Ganymede. It definitely doesn't disappoint. The individual characters are dynamic and interesting to read. Josephine is a bi-racial madame with a heart of gold. She's incredibly strong and fiercely protective of her loved ones, including her ladies and her brother. Able to handle herself in a fight, she even successfully fights off zombies. I liked that she was strong, but didn't lose her femininity or become completely emotionless because of it. Ruthie, one of Josephine's employees, is also a strong character who isn't afraid to use her feminine wiles to overcome obstacles. There is a surprising twist with her near the end of the story. Although the delivery was a little abrupt, the meaning is important and makes the story a little more interesting. Cherie Priest is especially skilled in creating a believable web of characters.

Although I really enjoyed Ganymede, I would have loved to see more of the social implications played out between the characters. Many of them are from different backgrounds and wouldn't really get along so well right away. The mixed race brothel led by a bi-racial woman would have turned a few heads or incurred scrutiny or conflict from the Confederacy or southern people in support of slavery. All of the interactions were a little too smooth, including that between Josephine and Andan. You'd think there would have been more tension and conflict between Andan's feelings for Briar, his current love, and Josephine. Each character was dynamic on their own, but more conflict should have been generated between them. Madame Laveau, an aged and powerful voodoo practitioner based on a real person, was also a wasted opportunity that could have had larger implications.

Ganymede is a fun adventure story with interesting characters. Although there are faults, the battle scenes were exciting and suspenseful. It's not my favorite book in the series, but it's still a fun steampunk novel.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Single's Awareness Day!

Here are some songs for those not into Valentine's Day (which were weirdly way easier to compile than the V-Day songs)!

1) The Dresden Dolls - Coin Operated Boy

This is their first hit on their debut album and probably the song most people know by them. It's either a song about loneliness or one about sex toys. You decide. I think it's about the fear of relationships and real emotions.

2) Jenny Owen Youngs - Fuck Was I

Love is a tumor, something that will inescapably harm in the relationship in this song. It's a beautiful song with great imagery.

3) The Jane Austen Argument - Staying Single

Here are all the reasons not to be in a relationship, including some I have never heard before. I love that they include weird breakup stories from the audience that are more bizarre than I ever thought possible.

4) Voltaire - Future Ex-Girlfriend

Ah, the joys of being with intolerable people. This relationship only lasts a week, but some animosity is definitely built up. The Keanu line is the best. :)

5) Death Cab for Cutie - Tiny Vessels

This is a song from the point of view of someone awful. He told a girl he loved her, which wasn't true, and he won't talk to her about what's wrong. That girl could have no idea what is wrong and he's just going to dump her out of the blue. Douche.

Until next year!

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's Valentine's Day again! Here are some tunes for you to listen to if you're oh so in love and feeling mushy.

1) Zombina and the Skeletones - Guess What (I Love You)

Sung from the point of view of a lovestruck girl, this song is upbeat and cute. She writes a love letter to the boy of her dreams in this rockabilly number. It's perfect for asking someone out on this Valentine's Day.

2) Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen - Formidable Marinade

This track is from Amanda Palmer's Down Under album and features Mikelangelo. The man has a voice that is so deep and sexy, I could listen to it all day. This is also one of the most disturbing love songs ever. The cannibalistic and murderous imagery is chilling, but really awesome in this song.

3) The Raveonettes - Love in a Trashcan

Although the title sounds insulting, it portrays what others think about this particular girl. The person narrating the song thinks this girl completes him (or her). I think it's actually pretty sweet.

4) Kirby Krackle - Super Powered Love

This song is sang by a guy with a superhero girlfriend. He worries about her when she goes to fight evil while he stays home. Not only is it a fun, great song, but it shows a point of view not really seen that much. It's nice that he's doesn't feel like he has to compete with her or that he's less of a man. He just wants to help her in any way he can.

5) Nightwish - Ever Dream

This is a just a gorgeous symphonic metal love song.

Hope you enjoyed! <3

Monday, February 13, 2012

Women in Horror: Kissed

** This review contains spoilers. **

Sandra Larson has always been fascinated by death, especially as a sensory experience. As a child, she created rituals to bury dead animal that drove off her only childhood friend. These rituals were to her the only proper way to honor the dead. In college, she works at a flower shop, which inevitably leads her to Wallis Funeral Home, where she decides to work and study embalming. This is also where her obsession with death culminates in becoming a necrophiliac. During her study of embalming in college, Sandra meets Matt and impulsively decides to be completely open about her odd sexual proclivities. He becomes obsessed with her, trying to find out why she feels  the way she does about the dead and why he isn't enough. How far can their relationship last? How far will Matt go in search of answers and how much can Sandra feel for a living person?

I saw this movie a few years and ago and was completely fascinated with it. Although necrophilia is obviously disturbing and taboo, this isn't a film that wants to to disgust or repel, like Cerda's Aftermath or the German Nekromatik films. Some may find it boring because it doesn't have the in-your-face gore and extremely disgusting scenes that these other films have. At its core, it's a love story. Sandra is a normal, every day girl, for the most part. She really could be anyone. Her appearance is normal and her only weird aspect (besides the obvious) is that she doesn't interact with people much. The greatest part of the film is that Sandra isn't portrayed as a horrible, grotesque monster, which would have been very easy to do. She doesn't have sex with corpses because she's kinky or wants some sort of power over them, but because she sees it as a consensual spiritual experience. She believes there is still an energy and vitality in them after death and she can release and feel it with her love. Her actions are compared to that of the funeral director, who she discovers is also a necrophiliac. He prefers little boys (adding one taboo on top of another), obviously for personal pleasure, and reasons that they can't feel anything anyway. Sandra is horrified by it because it's a desecration of the dead, while she celebrates and respects those she is with. Molly Parker does a phenomenal job as Sandra, making her a sympathetic and sensitive character.

Matt is also an interesting character. He doesn't react as most people would when Sandra reveals her secret and he becomes obsessed with the reasoning behind it. He senses that she pulls away from their relationship. In an effort to be what she wants, he only succeeds in freaking her out and she holds him at an even greater distance than before. Although she has feelings for him, she's never been with anyone living and still feels drawn to dead people. His solution is to kill himself so he can be with her in a way she can connect with. The end scene is beautiful, haunting, and bitterweet.

Kissed is a wonderful film that shows necrophilia, an obviously distasteful subject, in an artful light. Sandra isn't condemned as monster. It acts as a character piece that shows the development of her fascination of death from childhood. It's a brave film that is easy to condemn, but shows this taboo in an unexpected way.

My rating: 8/10 fishmuffins

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Even More Valentines!!

Not into zombies? Here are some other horror themed valentines so you can express you creepy love.

* This is for any Lovecraft fan eager to spread the tentacly, but adorable horror that is Cthulhu. You can buy prints of it here.

* Here are a couple that come from classic horror films. Who wouldn't want to be wooed by a cultured, educated gentleman? The fact that he eats people is just a personality quirk. And this alien just wants a hug!

* Lastly, we have this delightful valentine puts a dark twist on this romantic holiday.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Zombie Valentines! Part 2

More rotting, loving zombie valentines!

* Zombie children need love too! This is one is a hand drawn one from Etsy, featuring a sweet zombie child. Don't let the innocent exterior fool you!

* This slightly more girly one is for those who love for the mind, not the body.

* This one is from Agorables (hee hee) on Etsy and captures zombie love beautifully. Check out their other cards for creepy cute cards for all occasions!

* The Walking Dead website has 3 lovely valentines featuring the gruesome zombies from their show. This one is my favorite!

That's all the zombie valentines for this year, but come back tomorrow from some more quirky and cute ones!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Zombie Valentines!

It's that time of year again! Want a romantic and bloody card to give to your love? Look no further! Here a wonderful array of zombie valentines that would be perfect for any morbid zombie fan.

* This adorable one comes from Alexandria Neonakis. She takes characters from the Left 4 Dead games and makes these cute valentines. Wouldn't you like to hug a Boomer or kiss a Smoker?

* This adorable, colorful valentine loves you for your brains, but will settle for you heart. :)

* This one gives you the choice of 4 valentines, all expressing an earnest zombie love with adorable drawings.

* This card comes from Kolleen Kilduff. A zombie loving anything more than brains is impressive! You can also download a PDF of this on her site so you can print it out and give it to the one you love more than brains.

More coming tomorrow!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Women in Horror: High Tension

*** This review contains spoilers. ***

Marie and Alex are college friends and go to Alex's family's country home to study for the weekend. After getting settled in and Alex and her family go to bed, Marie sees an old truck drive up the house. A person rings the doorbell and Alex's father is greeted with violence. The man kills Alex's whole family and takes Alex prisoner, while Marie struggles to keep the killer unaware of her and to find a way to free her friend. Will Marie save Alex or will she just become one of the killer's victims?

High Tension is a wonderful, fast paced, exciting horror film up until the twist ending. So right now, I'm going to pretend the ending doesn't exist. Marie is a very strong, resourceful woman, who subverts all the horror movie stereotypes about women. She doesn't run upstairs when she should run out the front door; she doesn't freeze with fear or turn into a blubbering idiot. The fact that she's a lesbian is even more impressive because they are rarely seen in horror except to include gratuitous scenes of nudity and girls kissing for the enjoyment of the stereotypically male audience. For most of the film, she avoids detection and tries admirably to free Alex from the Killer clutches and get help with stealth, speed, and intelligence. She is one tough heroine and a formidable match for the Killer, even though she's half his size. The Killer is insane and horribly disgusting. In his first seen, he throws a decapitated head out the of the window of his car after pleasuring himself with it. His sexuality is warped and taboo, deriving pleasure and humor from mayhem and murder. It becomes apparent that Alex is one in a series of victims that he's kidnap and killed, among other unimaginable things. His kills are creative, sadistic, brutal, and very bloody. His cat and mouse game with Marie is intense to watch, more than living up to the title of the film. When they finally come face to face, the fight is violent and desperate, then very confusing when the twist comes into play.

You might expect this film to be a strong woman triumphing over a grotesque male killer, but you would be wrong.  The M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist reveals that Marie and the killer are one and the same. The film is told through  her fractured mind and obviously most of it isn't real. After the twist occurs, this otherwise awesome film is reduced to a misogynistic and homophobic one that suggests that Marie is a serial killer because of her unrequited love for Alex. She removes anyone with any connection to her so they will never be separated. The killer's grotesque sexuality is now equated with her sapphic feelings. I would argue that fellating oneself with a severed head isn't equal to a woman's romantic feelings for another woman, but the film's message is clear. Not only does this complicate things conceptually, but it opens huge plot holes throughout the film, like where the truck came from, how Marie sustained the injuries she got from the car crash and the fight with the killer, and the list goes on and on.

High Tension is mostly a great horror film. Marie's crazy mind is a great story teller and I loved the film up to the twist ending. I'm so frustrated that the ending effectively ruins the entire film, but there you have it. I would recommend people to watch it with a disclaimer that I hate the ending.

My rating: 7/10 fishmuffins

Monday, February 6, 2012

Women in Horror: The Loved Ones

Brent Mitchell accidentally killed his father by crashing into a tree in an effort to avoid a dazed, bloody figure in the road. His guilt throws him into a depression where he is constantly reminded of his mistake with his mother’s mental breakdown. Marijuana and loud metal music are unsuccessful way of coping with the tragedy. The only light in his world is his girlfriend, Holly, who he plans to take to the prom. When Lola Stone, the quietest and most unassuming girl in school asks him to the prom, he nicely refuses, thinking nothing of it. Big mistake. The night of prom, he is knocked out and kidnapped. He wakes up in the prom night from hell, where a spoiled princess gets whatever she wants, even if it involves power drills, knives, and mutilation.

The Loved Ones is an odd, macabre film that fills me with delight. It combines the teen prom horror film and the twisted family horror with a feminine spin and some dark humor to make a unique, fun film. Lola Stone is a social outcast at school and her presence barely registers with classmates. The difference between her public and private persona is like night and day. She revels in the torture she inflicts on her victims with the help of her willing slave, Daddy. Lola is the most twisted spoiled child I’ve ever seen. She screams at and taunts her victims with Daddy and pouts when she doesn’t get her way. Other than the gleeful torture, she’s a normal teenage girl. Everything she owns is pink and sappy pop songs are all she listens to because she just wants a boyfriend. (I can never listen to Kasey Chamber’s Not Pretty Enough, Lola’s theme song, the same ever again after this movie.)  Her normal teen behavior with her penchant for carving her initials on her victims’ chest with a fork is odd and darkly comical. The scenes from her own personal prom are my favorite because the torture is only scratching the surface of this family’s psychosis and I find Lola’s special brand of crazy endearing. Robin McLeavy does an excellent job of portraying Lola’s sadism, femininity, and childishness without making her unlikeable or annoying at all.

One of the things that sets The Loved Ones apart from others in the genre is how it shows the effects of Lola’s actions in many different ways instead of just showing violence. Brent’s whole life is thrown into chaos and misery because a boy that escaped her caused him to swerve and kill his father. The side plot with the depressed goth girl and Brent’s friend going to the prom at first seems completely unnecessary. Near the end of the film, it becomes clear that the girl’s brother was the victim that Brent avoided in the road, tying all the characters together and showing the huge circle of pain and grief created by Lola and Daddy.

The Loved Ones is the result of taking two genre tropes and adding an unlikely monster like Lola, pitch black humor, and the effects of the villains’ actions outside of their torture chamber. The only flaw is that ending is a little too neat and convenient. This film is a pleasant surprise and I hope it is released in the US sometime very soon so I can add it to my film collection.

My rating: 9/10 fishmuffins

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Women in Horror: The Exorcist

The Exorcist is one of the most infamous and well known horror films ever made. It tells the story of Regan, a girl who suddenly exhibits strange and violent behavior. Medicine and psychiatry fail to cure her of her odd behavior after she endures test after test. Then supernatural occurrences surround Regan, including objects moving by themselves. Her mother, in desperation, asks Catholic priests for help. They believe she is possessed by the devil and decide to perform an exorcism to free her. The question is if it will actually get exorcise the demon and if so, how many of them will be alive by the end.

Regan is a 12 year old girl, on the cusp of womanhood. She’s portrayed at first as a normal, innocent girl. After she is possessed, obscenities spew from her mouth as freely as her infamous green vomit and she is shown is obscenely sexual. If she had been much younger, I would have figured it was simply meant to disturb the audience by oversexualizing her in a disturbing manner and thought nothing more of it. Her age leads me to believe that Regan’s budding sexuality is being repressed through this story of possession. Even her mother suspected her new behavior had something to do with puberty. When possessed, the language she uses and her attitude towards religion and society is subversive and rebellious. Regan’s behavior is extreme, but teenagers are typically rebellious and push boundaries. Her sexuality is also grotesquely portrayed, directed at taboo targets, such as her own mother and the adult men who try to save her (namely doctors and priests). She maims her own body in a horrible parody of masturbation and continually hurts herself physically in other ways. This shows that her natural sexuality is something horrific and harmful for herself and everyone around her. The goal of the film is to transform Regan back into her pure, virginal state to reinstate the status quo. The patriarchal society sees female sexuality as threatening and dangerous, something to be suppressed.

Even Regan’s mother, who seems strong and successful, is undermined through the course of the film. At the beginning of the film, she is a world famous actress who successful raised her child on her own. However, she falls to pieces in the end, powerless to save her daughter. She turns to the Catholic Church, an institution that only imbues men with power, despite being an atheist. Despite her role as a powerful woman, she can do absolutely nothing to help her daughter.

Despite my misogynistic interpretation of the film, I did enjoy the film. The acting is impeccable from the entire cast, but especially in Linda Blair as Regan. I don’t think anyone who watches the film can sit undisturbed as her condition worsens and she appears as evil as the demon inside her. The effects are amazing and don’t lose much of their effect even today. The makeup on Regan is incredibly creepy even though relatively small changes are made to her face. The director and actors went to great lengths and were even injured on the set in order to create real emotional responses and realistic supernatural effects. The musical score is made up of eerie modern classical music by Penderecki and portions of George Crumb’s string quartet Black Angels. This music has a way of getting under your skin and enhancing the unease the film already elicits.

The Exorcist could be seen just as a good vs. evil, demonic possession film or one about forcing women to suppress their sexuality in favor of a domineering religious patriarchy. Either way, it’s a very well-known and often times feared film that will live on in infamy.

My rating: 7/10 fishmuffins  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Women in Horror: Wolfsbane

*** This review contains major spoilers. ***

Calla Tor is separated from her pack and her family, surrounded by the Searchers, who have been her enemies for as long as she can remember. She assumes they will kill her soon until they offer to make her part of their campaign to destroy the Keepers, the masters of her and the other guardians that treat them like property. Since it gives her the opportunity to save her friends and family, including Ren, and earn them their freedom, Calla agrees. Shay, the Chosen One turned Guardian, is with Calla and acts as her only support system, but she still has complicated feelings about Ren. Will the Searchers keep their promises and save her friends despite their past conflicts? How many will die in the fight for freedom? Will she ever choose between Ren and Shay?

 I read Nightshade and I had some significant problems with it, namely with Renier and the oppressive and misogynistic wolf pack hierarchy, but other aspects of the story redeemed it for me. Wolfsbane had all of the things I hated about Nightshade and more with none of the things that I liked. In the last book, Renier was insufferable and used violence as well as passive aggressive tactics to make Calla feel inferior. He didn’t figure largely in this installment, but when he appeared, he made a big impression. When Calla returned to her home to try to save him, he decided to beat her into submission and “break” her because that’s what a good boyfriend should do to make his girlfriend stay with him. If that wasn’t enough, Calla blames herself and feels guilty for his actions, which just screams domestic abuse situation. I had absolutely no sympathy for Ren because he decided it was ok to express his love through his fists.

Now, let’s move on to Shay. In Nightshade, he was a great character and everything that Ren wasn’t: understanding, caring, and an all-around good boyfriend. Now that he turned into a Guardian, he automatically turned abusive and egotistical just like Ren. He pressured Calla for sex, which she refused because she wasn’t ready and she still had complicated feelings about Ren. In true Guardian fashion, Shay became angry and jealous. Calla was scared that he would shift and hurt her and she still wanted to stay with him. This scene alone gave me the urge to throw the book across the room. Neither of these boys was remotely attractive or worthy of Calla’s affections. I really wanted her to come to her senses and stand up for herself with both Shay and Ren, but she never did. The strength she had in the first book was gone, making her into a hugely uninteresting character. I truly don’t understand the fandom surrounding this series, revering these abusive males and arguing which one is better. With a society that already has misogyny deeply ingrained into it, there really doesn’t need to be any more normalizing of violence against women.

Wolfsbane, in addition to featuring horrible romantic interests, didn’t have much going on plot wise. It fell into the second novel in a trilogy pitfall where it sets up for the third book, but doesn’t do much else. The cover was also terrible, featuring an oversexualized Calla in a suggestive pose, which is far inferior to the original design that was circulated. Isn't it pretty? The only good things about the novel were Andrea Cremer’s fluid writing, some of the new Searcher characters, and the glimpse into the Searcher way of life. The negatives of this novel vastly outweigh the positives for me and I won’t be reading the rest of the series.

My rating: 1/5 fishmuffins

Friday, February 3, 2012

Women in Horror: The Descent

** This review contains spoilers. **

Sarah’s husband and child died in a tragic car accident a year ago. Now, her estranged friends come together with her to go on their annual caving trip. It’s a little awkward at first because they hadn’t seen each other since the accident, but that’s quickly over as they spend a night of drinking and reminiscing together. The next day, they head out to Borum Caverns, an easy, tourist level cave. They go there to find a much more difficult cave and end up trapped inside due to an avalanche. They start to panic and turn on each other. One of them becomes injured because of her own recklessness, making it imperative that they get to the surface. An unforeseen obstacle rears its ugly head in subterranean humanoid creatures that attack with ferocity and hunger. Can these six women battle these dangerous creatures and make it to the surface alive?

I saw posters for The Descent during its theatrical run in the US and I dismissed it as another cheesy, lame horror film. A few years later, my sister recommended it to me and I watched it in total darkness, enhancing the scares and the film’s already creepy atmosphere. The Descent is a frightening and claustrophobic film that features both realistic and supernatural scares. The first half of the film has no supernatural elements at all. The scares stem from narrowly escaping being crushed in an avalanche and trying to find a way out of the undiscovered cave while trying to keep calm despite practically certain death. Then the cannibalistic cave dwelling creatures appear and all hell breaks loose. The six women struggle to fight off these monsters and find a way out as their numbers dwindle, making their true natures emerge.

The six women in this film each have their own strong personalities and back stories that are established when they meet at a cabin the night before. When they are put under the stress of being trapped, they turn on Juno, the woman responsible for misleading the group and dooming them to certain death. Despite their fear and hopelessness, these women are incredibly resourceful and strong, even in the face of monsters. The monsters cause some of them to lose their humanity in order to fight back as ferociously and survive, Sarah and Juno in particular. Sarah goes from emotionally crippled and barely functional to bad ass creature killer. She puts aside her fear and emotion until only her anger remains. Juno is the opposite. She starts out strong until she accidentally murders one of her friends in the heat of battle. Afterwards, she keeps physically strong, but her fear and guilt eat at her. Sarah stabs Juno in the leg and leaves her for dead surrounded by creatures as revenge for everything that happened. Is it Sarah who has turned into a morally devoid monster and killed her friend? Or is Juno the villain, whose carelessness and cockiness cost her friends their lives? There is no clear answer to who is more justified or who ultimately is the hero of the film.

The Descent is one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. It’s a perfect mix of suspense and gore that works harmoniously in a way I haven’t seen before. Through the supernatural aspect, it shows how quickly the behaviors and constructs of civilization fall away to basic, animalistic survival instincts. The women that make up the entire cast are well written and wonderfully crafted, dynamic characters. I highly recommend this film, but urge you to watch the UK ending and ignore the US ending.

My rating: 10/10 fishmuffins

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Women in Horror: Every Other Day

Kali D’Angelo is a sixteen year old girl with a unique situation. Every other day, she is a normal human girl who attends high school, does homework, and other normal things. On the other days, she is overcome with bloodlust and the urge to kill supernatural creatures. Along with the bloodlust is an entire change of her constitution, allowing her to heal quickly, go without food or rest, and be faster than any other human. Unfortunately, supernatural creatures are legally protected as endangered animals and what she’s doing is classified as environmental terrorism, despite the fact that they kill humans. Kali has no idea where these urges come from or why she changes to much day to day, but she gives in to her instinct.  Everything changes when she notices a distinctive mark on a popular girl at school that is indicative of a deadly parasite. She has twenty four hours to save her and Kali is still only human. With the help of some newfound friends, can Kali save this annoying popular girl? Will this adventure lead to Kali’s discovery of who and what she really is?

I initially picked this up because of the brief mention of zombies on the back cover and the similarity to the cult TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I love with a great nerdy passion. Every Other Day is actually quite different. Refreshingly so compared to many other paranormal teen novels. The focus isn’t on romance, like practically every other in the genre, but it’s not completely absent either. Kali’s personal discovery and adventure are in the forefront. At first, she has no idea what she is or why she has the overwhelming urge to hunt every other day. Because there isn’t any other option, Kali keeps her secret and just tries to live day to day. I really like Kali because she doesn’t whine about being alone or succumb to angst or drop everything in her life for a boy. There needs to be more heroines like her in teen fiction to counteract the Bella Swans that prompt people to think that abusive relationships and letting others control you is completely normal or even desirable. Kali isn’t just physically strong, but she experiences and works through emotions and tragedy to become stronger. Kali is believable as a person, aside from her supernatural abilities. Her newfound friendships with Skylar the self-proclaimed school slut and Bethany the popular girl are odd at first because they are all so different. Eventually, it works because they all have their own depth that is revealed throughout the course of the story.

The world building is fantastic. Charles Darwin discovered supernatural creatures in his studies of the Galapagos Islands. The creatures are considered endangered and efforts are made to save them. Kali ignores these laws to protect people against them, making her a terrorist of a sort. These creatures are well known to the public and people even choose to study them in universities for research. Other creatures besides the typical ones are featured such as chupacabras and dragons. Some popular ones show up in very different ways than usual. The world isn’t like anything I’ve read before.

Every Other Day is a fantastic read by any standards. The writing is laced with humor and emotion that really sucked me into the story. The action is fast paced and some plot twists felt like they smacked me right in the face. This is a rare instance where I actually hope a series will continue the story. Highly recommended to fans of Buffy and paranormal fans tired of romance dominating the genre.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Women in Horror Recognition Month

It's that time of year again! Women in Horror Recognition Month! Yay! Women are often ignored or marginalized in horror. They are frequently objectified and made into two dimensional characters only to be gruesomely murdered a few scenes later for the amusement of the audience. They play the helpless victims and make really dumb decisions, like running upstairs instead of out the front door when running from a masked murderer. On the other hand, there are also a growing number of horror films to refute these types of films where female characters have dynamic personalities and examine aspects of our society through the lens of horror. This month, I will be reviewing films and books on both sides of this spectrum, focusing on how women are treated within the work and what it says about society. I'll also post whatever else strikes my fancy in regards to women and horror. As a female horror fan, I really enjoy this month to spotlight achievements of women and look at their changing role in the horror industry. If you'd like to learn more about this awesome even, please go the official website and check out more events going on.