Saturday, October 18, 2014

Halloween Watch-a-Thon Mini Reviews 6

1) Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

The Lambert family is still haunted and they work to figure out why these ghosts won't leave them alone. This is a forgettable followup to a forgettable film. Besides a well done and unsettling soundtrack, nothing stands out. The family is bland. The plot is forgettable; the scares are nonexistent; and it's just horrible. The ghost is kind of interesting, but after revealing that ghost in life tried to castrate themselves, was forced to present as female through parental abuse, and is a transwoman, I hated the film. This is just another case of demonizing transpeople as horror has historically done and it needs to stop. This film and others like it present transgender people as mentally ill and worthy of fear and disgust. The film also attributes the person's trans identity to the abuse they experienced, heavily implying that to be transgender is to be brainwashed and the direct product of this abuse. It's very sad and disappointing that this trend continues today.

My rating: .5/5 fishmuffins

2) The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

This is the tragic story of a capable and inspiring woman with Alzheimer's who can't do anything to stave off the effects of this debilitating disease. A camera crew comes to her house to shoot a documentary about Alzheimer's and its effects on the family, but incidences start escalating in weirdness and danger, making it clear that more nefarious forces are at work. Alzheimer's is a scary disease. It strips you of your personality, your awareness, your logic, your memory, and essential what makes you you. The beginning of the film heartbreakingly illustrates what it's like to have a loved one go through this. At times, it's a simple forgotten trip to Germany, but it can also be a childish temper tantrum or even an attack because they've forgotten you. Centering a film around Alzheimer's is brilliant because it's something that can happen to anyone and it's a frightening prospect. The rest of the film is pretty good. It gets a little too steeped in found footage and possession film tropes, but it's well done and creepy. Jill Larson is amazing as Deborah. She seems to age drastically during the film and reflects that in her performance. She goes quickly from slightly confused but coherent woman to practically catatonic and appearing 30 years older. There are some unexpected moments, but the ending is predictable.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

3) Frankenstein (1931)

Most people are familiar with Boris Karloff's version of Frankenstein's monster with his flat topped head, heavy soled shoes, stiff arms, and heavy lidded stare even if they haven't seen this film. There are a lot of valid reasons why this is a classic film. The visuals are striking and well done. The acting is over the top, but effective. The part I am most impressed with is the scene with the monster and the little girl by the water. Killing children in film is still controversial today. I recently discovered that this scene was censored at the time and only restored to the film when it was rediscovered in the 80's. The scene is so important, so it's bizarre to think of the film with it. I also liked that they kept the creature gentle and innocent. He only became violent when tortured and abused, making the humans around much more monstrous than he is. Unfortunately, the story has been changed from the nature of man to a cautionary tale about playing god. It also reduces a very intelligent character to a shambling, ignorant mute. The soundtrack is nonexistent, only having music during the beginning and end credits. Music makes a huge difference and could have made a bigger impact with a full soundtrack. It's unfortunate that this version is much more famous the book, but it's still an enjoyable and enduring film.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

4) Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

This film picks up where Frankenstein left off. The monster somehow survived the fire and Dr. Praetorius wants collaborate with Baron Frankenstein to build the creature a bride. This film is more comical than the first and more cleverly written. We see much more of the creature's humanity: he seeks friendship from practically everyone he encounters and learns to speak. The cinematography is again memorable and striking. The soundtrack is amazing with a gorgeous, sighing theme for the bride and a theme similar to his characteristic growl for the monster. My favorite part is the bride. She makes her own decisions. Even though she can't speak and even though she was created for a specific purpose, the bride doesn't allow herself to be bullied. Baron Frankenstein's wife Elizabeth is even much more confident and doesn't allow Dr. Praetorius to control her. This is a complete change from the first film where she was merely a one dimensional weak waif and a damsel in distress. I love the film from beginning to end and it's a very early example of a feminist horror film.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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