Author Topic: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day  (Read 3764 times)

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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #45 on: October 14, 2019, 04:19:13 PM »
14 Phantom of the Opera (1943) (First viewing) - A bit of a weird mishmash of tones - Some very goofy comedy and a lot of long opera scenes. It's a weird one, but it's also quite entertaining, and also lovely to look at. Great sets.
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Johnny Unusual

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #46 on: October 14, 2019, 07:40:20 PM »
14. The Body Snatcher

Another Val Lewton movie.  I notice a lot of these are more horror adjacent than actual horror but they are also all really good so I can't really complain.  Actually, this is the weakest of the Lewton movies I've seen thus far.  But its still a good movie.  Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson short story, it is about a grave robber who works for a doctor.  However, it quickly becomes clear that the power dynamic is vastly in the grave robber's favor and that they actually have a shared past.

The other Lewton movies I've seen were directed by Jacques Tournier and Mark Robson so I was surprised to see that the director was neither man but instead Robert Wise, who would go on to great things.  This is merely a good thing.  More than a lot of the Lewton films, this one does feel very Hollywood, both in good and bad ways.  There's some cheesy music that tells you how to feel about a poor girl who can't walk.  That's not so good.  But there's some great sets and good use of music (a singing girl in particular) that can fool you into thinking its more than a B production so its no wonder Wise would become a big deal.

I'll start with the bad: OK, so the movie takes place in Scotland but only half the cast is doing accents.  Fine, whatever.  But the "lead" is saying "laddie" and "Ed-In-Bore-Oh" with a plainly American accent (not even trans-Atlantic) and it becomes immediately apparent that this character both on the page and with assitance from the actor, is a complete "dull thud" of a human being.  The actor is really weak and is constantly surrounded by much more talented people.  The was also the non-evil lead in "The Ghost Ship" from two years earlier, which I discussed.

I remember his character also not being great there, but at the time I felt the problem was purely on the page.  Here, he just sucks and doesn't jibe with the rest of the film at all.  The on-the-page problems are very similar: he comes off as an easily-manipulated rube who is eager to please whatever authority figure gives him a pat on the back and usually forgets to have a conscience in the process but then occassionally acts righteously indignant about shit he's been party to for a while now.  In the Ghost Ship it half-makes sense: he's trying to impress the captain and learn from him and starts to realize he was learning the wrong lessons.  Here he... sucks.  There's little subtext to this character.  I don't even know why they bothered with text.  When the movie is over, it really feels like he walked away from the experience learning jack shit.  And you can make that work but the movie doesn't try.  He is a complete void of screen presence.

The little girl in the movie isn't that good either but she isn't Russell Wade, so I hope she realized sometime in her lifetime.

Now the other actors are fine.  Henry Daniell is good as the doctor who hires the grave robber, Mr. Gray.  Bela Legosi gives a small but decent performance as a foolish assistant who tries to blackmail Mr. Gray.

Robert Wise lets certain shitty actors shit all over the screen with their poop.  One in particular.  Russell Wade.  He cannot fix the problem and the schmaltzy scenes with the little girl are pretty bad.  But there are some great scenes, like one where Mr. Gray's cab follows a singing woman into the shadows and suddenly the singing stops.  He does well with the light and shadow stuff and while were aren't at the man who would make The Haunting yet, it's some good stuff.

But the "soul of the business" in the words of Mr. Gray is Karloff as the title character.  This is my fourth Karloff performance I've seen and yet again he's great.  Here's is absolutely sinister but also rather charming at Mr. Gray.  They literally come out and say it at one point but I prefer them just telling us through his behaviour that this guy loves keeping the doctor he works for under his heel more than anything else.  He's unflappable and the character and the actor dominate every scene they are in.  Karloff is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/eG1MvCjJffE" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/eG1MvCjJffE</a>
« Last Edit: October 14, 2019, 07:44:35 PM by Johnny Unusual »


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #47 on: October 16, 2019, 04:34:32 PM »
15 Rifftrax Presents - Scared to Death (1980) (First viewing) - A solid nothing of a movie - 50% of it is people walking slowly in the dark. Very good riff though, really enjoyed it. One we will return to for sure.

16 Beyond the Gates (2016) (First viewing) - Spooky Jamunji. I really wanted to like this more, but it was just passable. A few good ideas, but a clunky script and some pretty terrible acting.
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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #48 on: October 17, 2019, 10:05:22 PM »
17 The Invitation (2015) - This is an excellent and very effective indie. Hesitant to say much about it though, as it is best to go in blind (This was a rewatch and it holds up even knowing how it plays out though).
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Johnny Unusual

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #49 on: October 18, 2019, 04:25:36 AM »
16 Beyond the Gates (2016) (First viewing) - Spooky Jamunji. I really wanted to like this more, but it was just passable. A few good ideas, but a clunky script and some pretty terrible acting.

Yeah, I really didn't like this one.  It tries a few things I appreciated: it clearly wanted to be a character-based horror movie and there's a specificity to it (evil VHS board game).  But it certainly wasn't scary, as mentioned the acting is bad and it really doesn't utilize a lot of the ideas it sets up.  I mean, on the board itself, you can see which rooms people are in.  The feels like it should matter in a suspenseful scene but it never really comes up.

As for me...

15. Coda - A short animated film on the Criterion Channel in which a man who recently died meets death.  They filed it under horror but I wouldn't put it there.  Quite beautiful, though.

16.  MST3k - Terror from the Year 5000 (Cinema Edition) This one must be out of print, as the only copy this guy had has a 90s/2000s era sci-fi watermark on it.  There's also a scene with a mutant cat that I don't actually think was in the episode.


Offline Charles Castle

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #50 on: October 19, 2019, 06:40:32 PM »
Although the real world caught up with Videodrome (1983, directed by David Cronenberg) a long time ago, in the late 2000-teens, it seems especially prophetic. What is the work of Russian bots and Cambridge Analytica and Fox News but the exact same "philosophical" signal as the one behind Videodrome? The Videodrome conspiracy is a right wing authoritarian fantasy made flesh as gooey cyberpunk hallucination. The real world version is, perhaps, even scarier and more insidious, one that has already wormed its way into every corner of the world's media. One lone assassin is never going to take it down, though our real-world Videodrome continues to manufacture assassins all its own. Sometimes on a daily basis.

The story follows one Max Renn, the president of a fly-by-night television channel that specializes in porn and exploitation. In order to compete with bigger media, he's scouting around for something rougher and more basic than the arty porn his suppliers are trying to sell him. His pirate technician may have stumbled upon what Max is looking for: an S&M video feed called "Videodrome," allegedly from Malaysia but actually maybe from Pittsburgh, that's nothing but torture and murder in a room made of red clay. Max wants it for his channel. Meanwhile, Max meets kinky talk radio host Nikki Brand on a television talk show about media violence, and Marshall McLuhan-ish video prophet, Brian O'Blivion, who only appears on television on television. Max hits on Nikki and they end up together back at his apartment where they watch the taped sample of Videodrome. Nikki is into it. Eventually, she wants to audition for it. Max has reservations. He's begun to experience hallucinations, and his grip on what's real is beginning to slip. He seeks answers from Brian O'Blivion, who he is told is related to Videodrome, only to find out that he is dead. His daughter, Bianca, continues to run his Cathode Ray Mission so the homeless and dispossessed can continue to plug into the world via television. Max is eventually contacted by Barry Convex of Spectacular Optical, who are behind the Videodrome signal, and want to turn Max into their remote control creature. They "program" him to be an assassin with a bio-mechanical tape inserted into a newly grown slit in his stomach, and send him out to do his bidding. His first target, Bianca O'Blivion, is ready for him, and she has other ideas as to what purpose Max Renn and his new flesh should serve.

Max Renn, as played by James Woods, is a deeply unsympathetic character. His appetite for sadistic entertainments and his pursuit of rougher and rougher content is skeevy enough, but he's the same kind of asshole who in recent years would have been the poster boy for the Me Too movement. He engages in sexual harassment in his own office, he hallucinates striking his girl Friday, he publicly hits on Nikki Brand while they're being interviewed on television. It's purely an accident that the character and the actor who plays him are so closely aligned, given that James Woods in our reality is a complete creep. This is synchronicity at work, something that the filmmakers could not have planned, but it's of a piece. As a right wing crank Woods appears to have succumbed to the Videodrome signal at last.

The visual textures of the film itself are a portrait of a society in collapse. Unlike Cronenberg's other films, where smart people spill their viscera in modernist spaces, this is a film that takes place in back rooms and dingy streets. There's a class consciousness in Cronenberg's depiction of Bianca O'Blivion's threadbare Cathode Ray Mission and the ornate private office from which she runs it. Even Barry Convex's optical trade show seems cheap. But by the time we get to that, we're inside Max Renn's hallucinations and there's no telling what's real. The film slips into alternate realities without announcing itself, and after the midpoint of the movie, it's difficult to point to anything that represents prosaic reality. After he's been "programmed" by Harlan and "reprogrammed" by Bianca, Renn's world has a quality of lucid dreaming. He can direct his reality to a point, such that his "video world" is a lot like the world of the kid in that Twilight Zone episode about the kid who can shape reality. Renn has a video imagination, so the incidents that form the second half of the movie are generic constructs. Renn is a lone wolf hero, or a political assassin a la Travis Bickle, and he moves through tableaux that are drawn from cartoons (Harlan's demise at the hands of a "hand" grenade"), musicals (the tacky Spectacular Optical show), medical shows (the "cancer" bullets Renn's cyborg gun fires into Barry Convex), and porn of course. The cascade of these shifting idioms made the film difficult to follow for its first audiences, and it's still a challenging narrative structure even today. The ending is drawn from television, too, inspired by Christine Chubbuck's on-screen suicide on a Florida local news telecast.

While the overall thrust of Videodrome is dour and positively despairing, this is one of Cronenberg's more playful films. He's always had fun with the names of his characters, and the anagrammatical nature of "Brian O'Blivion" should give you a hint that the movie is a sly satire hiding behind the gooey special effects. "Nikki Brand," too, who enacts her name on her own flesh. Nikki Brand is in many ways the central character in Cronenberg's output, in so far as her identity and her sexuality are encapsulated in her name and in the cuts and burns on her body: Identity is flesh and flesh is identity. The film's sexual nature is key to one of the central concepts of Cronenberg's cinema: what is the function of sex in a world where it is no longer necessary for reproduction and where, like every other element of human life, it has been and is being augmented by technology. We are a civilization of cyborgs, the film intimates, and that extends to our sexuality. The "New Flesh" of this film's famous catch phrase, is polymorphous, where new organs and new orifices suggest new sexual vistas to explore. The New Flesh is transgender, too, as reified by the vaginal slit in Max Renn's abdomen (and the phallus in Rose's armpit in Rabid, and the parthenogenesis in The Brood, and the sexually dimorphic names of the the Mantle Twins in Dead Ringers, and the new organs for rear entry installed in the gamers in eXistenZ, for example). While the director has intimated a sense of adventure inborn in the possibilities of the new flesh in interviews and commentaries, it's significant that the new flesh in Videodrome is mainly used without consent. The Videodrome signal is coercive. The insertion of pulsing organic things into Renn's neo-vagina begins as exploration, but is exploited through rape and domination.

The interactivity of media and video was in its infancy when David Cronenberg made Videodrome. He saw video as a virus, carrying information to viewers in ways that could barely be controlled or foreseen by the creators of video content. He once speculated that he didn't care if the film ever made money, so long as the virus of his ideas was carried to, say, a man in Cuba via a bootleg video. In this respect, Videodrome is the grandparent of viral media of all kinds. The film is perfectly aware of the implications of the fusion of media and the collective massmind. Video, and media more broadly, shapes our perceptions of reality. The battles of the future will be fought in the video arena, the film tells us (the videodrome, as it were), and damned if that wasn't exactly what happened.
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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #51 on: October 19, 2019, 11:59:26 PM »
18 Scream 2 (1997) - Dunno if I just wasn't in the mood, or what, but I was mostly just bored this time round.

19 Rifftrax - Subspecies 4: The Awakening (1998) (First viewing) - Started out pretty well, but have to admit, by the end it was dragging. Not terrible, but not the best Rifftrax. The movie stunk, of course.
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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #52 on: October 20, 2019, 05:06:12 PM »
20 Event Horizon (1997) (First Viewing) - Actually really enjoyed this. Like, it's not amazing or anything, but it's a lot of fun. Sam Neill is great in it. And the effects hold up really well too.
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Johnny Unusual

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #53 on: October 22, 2019, 09:48:17 AM »
17. Cinematic Titanic Brides of Blood (S.O.S. Edition) - This was a first viewing.  It was fine.  That is all.
18. Rifftrax Live - Manos the Hands of Fate
19. Rifftrax - Psycho II
Most of these were just to keep up my daily intake
20. Cronos  I'd never seen this one before but I am a fan of Del Toro and this definitely sets into motion his style: dark fairy tales with horror elements.  Its a great movie that shows a kind of vampire we rarely see: almost exclusively focused on the detrimental aspects.  There's something about the cinematography this time out that actually reminds me, in scenes, of Cronenberg.  The bathroom scene in particular.
21. Sisters  I'd never seen this one before but it is a good one.  More of a Hitchcockian thriller, albeit one with a disturbing death sequence early on.  It does seem to be intended to be a feminist thriller focused on two women: one is one half of a set of twins who seems normal but is in fact under the sway of a creepy doctor and the other a reporter the authorities don't want to listen too.  I hesitate to say how effective it is in with that regard (maybe on a second viewing), but overall it works pretty well.  The best scene is the use of split screen that works very well in this one.  Also, a killer Bernard Hermann score.


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #54 on: October 22, 2019, 05:29:33 PM »
21 Son of Dracula (1943) (First viewing) - Lon Chaney Jr plays Dracula in this, and he's not great, but the movie is quite smart in that it spends a lot more time with the creepy female lead. Really enjoyed the film, and it is directed by Robert Siodmak who went on to be a big noir director, and you can see the early stages of that here. She's definitely a femme fatale, and it has a nice bit of double crossing and comeuppance. Really enjoyed it.

22 Little Monsters (2019) (First viewing) - Fairly disposable, but fun Australian comedy. Worth a watch.
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Johnny Unusual

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #55 on: October 25, 2019, 07:22:25 AM »
22. Isle of the Dead - One of the weaker Lewton movies but with a strong final act.  Greek soldiers end up on an island in 1912 where a general's wife is buried.  After finding that the graves have been robbed and the bodies missing, the two high ranking soldiers find that there are other people living on the island and invite them to stay.  After staying the night, the people learn that the island is beset by a plague and are quarantined until the wind changes (I'm not sure I get it either, but OK).  Soon, the Greek general, a cold man, falls under the sway of an old woman who is convinced that one of the other women is a supernatural entity who is to blame.  It is an interesting idea: the film begins talking about the positives of faith but in the latter half it is about the idea of superstition as a dangerous force.  Boris Karloff is fine as the Greek general but not nearly as engaging as he is in the Body Snatcher.  The film mostly isn't a horror but it kicks up in a major way in the last act, taking a very classic short story formula ("My number one fear is being buried alive") and turning it into a tense but beautifully moody affair.  Despite my feeling it is one of my least favourite of the Lewton movies, it is worth checking out for the ending.
23.  Return to Glennascaul - A short feature starring Orsen Welles as the narrator and himself.  While filming Othello in Dublin, Welles picks up a man who begins to tell him his own ghost story.  It's a very familiar ghost story and while very well filmed, it isn't very scary.  That said, in the opening narration, it is described as a "Tall Tale" and fits more into that mold.  Its fine but nice cinematography aside, I don't think there's too much to recommend. Like, I won't say "don't watch it" but it feels pretty inessential in the Welles canon.


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #56 on: October 25, 2019, 04:49:22 PM »
23 The Mummy's Ghost (1944) (First viewing) - Was worried about this one after how bad the last Mummy movie was, but this was a lot better. And a great, dark ending.

24 Ginger Snaps (2000) (First viewing) - My wife has owned this on DVD since before we met, but we've never watched it till now. I thought it was very solid and well done.

25 The Omen (1976) - The best. Never bothered with any of the sequels.
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Offline Charles Castle

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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #57 on: October 25, 2019, 06:26:32 PM »
9 The Nightingale

The Nightingale (2018) shares some elements with director Jennifer Kent's debut film, The Babadook. Both films are about motherhood. Both films are about women driven to extremes. Otherwise, the resemblance is slight. Where The Babadook was an intimate, almost private film, The Nightingale is altogether more ambitious. It takes its specific story and projects from it a more global portrait of a world that is sick at heart. It's also a good deal more violent. There were walk-outs at the showing I attended, something I can probably chalk up to an arthouse audience unaccustomed to a rape/revenge film that doesn't pull any of its punches. Even accounting for that, it's a rough film to watch. It's not an exploitation movie, not really, but it has the visceral impact of one.

The story follows Clare, an Irish woman transported to Tasmania for some unspecified crime. In Tasmania, she is on parole, serving a military garrison out in the bush who are busy pushing out the black natives in favor of white settlers. Clare has married fellow convict Aidan, and has a child by him. She is the main entertainment for the troops when she isn't doing domestic work, billed by the commanding officer as "The Nightingale" for her beautiful singing voice. Lieutenant Hawkins is bucking for a promotion, and a visiting senior officer is on hand evaluating his fitness for a command back in civilization (so to speak). In private, Hawkins views Clare as his "property" and refuses to grant her the letter that would free her of her servitude even though she's served her sentence for her crime. Instead, Hawkins uses her for his own gratification, raping her whenever he feels the need. When Hawkins is denied his promotion because his unit is drunk and ill-disciplined, he takes it out on her. When Aidan takes it upon himself to demand her freedom, Hawkins and two of his soldiers storm their home and kill him. Hawkins deigns to "share" Clare with his sergeant, but the screaming of the baby distracts him. The other soldier silences the child by bashing her against the wall of the cabin. The three of them leave Clare for dead, and set out to beat the captain back to headquarters in order to preempt his report so that Hawkins can claim his promotion. Clare, for her part, survives and vows to hunt the men who murdered her family to the ends of the Earth. She commandeers a tracker, Billy, who is one of the last members of his tribe. He has no love for Clare and Clare disdains him, but necessity compels her. Together, they set out after Hawkins.

In addition to its main plot, there are two thematic threads running through The Nightingale. The first is the horror of a colonial power that places one type of person at the apex of its power structure--white Anglo-Saxon men, natch--and disregards the humanity of everyone else. In the film, that locus of power is Hawkins, whose only real check comes from other white men who are higher in the structure of (military) power than he is. In his corner of the world, though, when no one else is looking? There, he's God. He decides who lives and dies, and he sees others--even his own subordinates in white male power--as disposable once they've exhausted their usefulness to him. He kills Clare's husband because he's an annoyance. He has her baby killed because the child cries too loud as he's raping Clare. He feels no remorse for any of this because as convicts and as Irish, Clare and her family aren't human, or even useful animals anymore. The film is blunt in its assessment of colonialism, and perhaps over the top, but for the fact that the historical circumstances in which the story exists were very real. It's worth keeping in mind that the racism endemic to the histories of both Australia and the United States were taught to them by England. The vehemence with which Clare denies that she is English to Billy is the repudiation of a subject people, and carves her away from colonialism in spite of the color of her skin.

The other thematic thread running through the film is found in the relationship between Clare and Billy, which at first mirrors the power structure in which Hawkins exists. Clare is white, Billy is black, therefore she has power over him. This is a kyriarchal relationship in which intersecting oppressions trickle down from their fountainhead. But unlike Hawkins, Clare comes to realize that Billy is just as human as she is, with wants and needs and a pain as deep as hers from the extermination of his people and his family. They are mirrors of each other, and when Clare finally ceases to call Billy "boy," they realize they are more similar than different. The implication found in their relationship is that the only way to overthrow the patriarchal colonialism of Hawkins and the British is for oppressed peoples to put aside their differences and unite in common cause. The film is clear-eyed about this, though, because it places significant barriers to this reconciliation between Clare and Billy, and they are few in numbers and not as well armed as Hawkins and his men.

The surface plot of the film makes obvious that male and female is an axis of conflict, too, given that this is a rape/revenge film, and the rage engendered by that framing is sometimes all consuming for both the characters and for the way the film's violence impacts the viewer. Such is the force of these scenes that further acts of violence by Hawkins seem like rape even when they aren't. And, of course, Hawkins isn't the only rapist the British characters have in tow. Hawkins's sergeant wants a taste of the aboriginal girl they encounter and feels obliged to abduct her and use her as he sees fit, and of course he kills her. The key motivating element of both men's characters is entitlement. The rage that fills him is the rage of mediocre white men who are thwarted from receiving what they view as their just due. They have been told that they are better than everyone because they are white and male and that everything is theirs to take regardless of the wants of the not white or not male peoples of the Earth, and if that's not the core of rape culture and Patriarchy in general then nothing is. In this, the film reveals the strength of having a woman in control of the narrative, because a male filmmaker might not find this locus. Kent, on the other hand, puts almost too fine a point on it. There are other elements of the film that seem female-identified, too, not least of which is the way it casts the incredibly beautiful Sam Claflin as Hawkins. There is a tendency in a lot of rape films made by men to view rapists as somehow ugly or unappealing, but this film makes him a golden boy who doesn't need to rape except as a function of basic existence. He might as well be brushing his teeth or beating off into a napkin for all the meaning it has for him. Perhaps the most monstrous element of a monstrous character is that he's not even all that remarkable. Clare's status as a mother further identifies the film with a female gaze, and some of her difficulties over the course of the film are biological troubles that a male filmmaker might not think about. What does she do with the milk her breasts are still producing, for example? This adds a layer of misery to her journey and adds both specificity and universality to her character.

This is also the work of a director who is at home with horror. This is a haunted film, in which Clare is tormented by ghosts that may or may not be real, but the visions they provide are horror movie set-pieces. This is particularly true when she goes completely mad near the end of the film once Hawkins captures Billy and leaves her alone and unarmed in the bush. A more visceral kind of horror is found in the homestead where Clare and Billy find two dead settlers, a scene that plays a bit like something from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Blood Meridian. This scene, and it's rape scenes are indicative of a film that understands the value of blunt force trauma as opposed to insinuation and elision. Indeed, this is not a subtle film at all. Its themes are barely subtextual, and usually play out right in the open. The Nightingale is also one of those films that suggests that there is no catharsis in revenge. Both Clare and Billy get their revenge in the end, but what has their revenge accomplished? They still end up on a beach together as Billy breathes in ragged dying breaths from his wounds and Clare watches as Billy, the last of his kind, rages at a rising sun that never sets on the brutal empire that has made him extinct.

This doesn't coat anything in treacle to make it go down easy. It's a hard film to watch and a harder film to love. It's a necessary watch, though, one that has timed its moment perfectly.
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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #58 on: October 28, 2019, 06:04:57 PM »
Backed up. Will review later. Side note- apparently I confused Devil Fish with Touch of Satan, so I was very confused while watching that episode


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Re: October 2019 Horror Movie a Day
« Reply #59 on: October 28, 2019, 06:20:22 PM »
Backed up. Will review later. Side note- apparently I confused Devil Fish with Touch of Satan, so I was very confused while watching that episode

Both have places where the fish lives.