Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Hey, isn't that the Men, Women, and Chain Saws chick?"

Alas, the back-from-vacation countdown has almost reached liftoff, and I'll be at work again in oh, less than two hours. I always intend to accomplish a lot more when I have time off, but I end up being happy to just lounge around, getting kitty-clumped and feeling an alien sensation that I think might be relaxation. I did take a quick peek at my work email, and was relieved that there's only 67 new messages. Things must have been relatively quiet, or, conversely, so busy that people haven't been emailing. Either way, that's one less thing to worry about.

Watched a very good documentary on horror movies yesterday called The American Nightmare: a Celebration of Films from Hollywood's Golden Age of Fright. (The "Golden Age," by the way, is the '70s, which is kind of funny). It does a good job expressing the context of the social upheaval of the times and how that influenced the films. For example, I've seen behind-the-scenes DVD extras with makeup guru Tom Savini that allude to his service in Vietnam, but this interview has more depth, and really gets across the surreal idea of his photographing dead bodies as his job, and then working on gore effects in his spare time.

I also got a kick out of seeing academic Carol Clover in a movie (who it turns out is also an expert on Old Norse and Icelandic. Who knew?) She was a little bit of one of those "male gaze" cultists, and had this whole thing where if a woman dies in a horror film, she represents women, because feminine = weak, and besides, men hate women. But if a female character survives, she is by definition not feminine, hence not really a woman, and therefore a stand-in for the vulnerability of the male audience. QED.

So the "final girl" characters are really just men in drag. Which throws strange light on a movie like Dressed to Kill, where the killer actually is in drag. Or even Leatherface! But while Clover's book got into some of that goofy gender turf, her comments in the movie were all pretty sensible, so maybe she's gotten away from those trendier theories. Besides, they could have gone with somebody like Vera Dika, who I thought was much worse, and seemed to suggest in her academic tome that the characters in Halloween deserved to die because they were so banal. She seemed to blame Carpenter for that, too, but I remember wanting to yell at her that banality was in the eye of the beholder.

Anyway, I know from my reading that Romero, Carpenter, Craven, all the dudes, are very intelligent and articulate about what they do, and it was good to see interviews with them brought together, talking seriously about their themes. So this wouldn't be a bad film to show anyone who thinks your interest in horror movies is creepy or prurient. Although be forewarned: there's actual news footage from the 1960s in here, and that could be upsetting for the unprepared; a lot worse than the clips from Last House on the Left.

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