6.20.2010

Happy Father’s Day: The Best and Worst Horror Movie Dads

When I began thinking about horror movie fathers, I began to realize how underrepresented dads are in this genre. Maybe it’s because fathers are symbols of strength and security that they tend not to appear in horror films. As I was brainstorming, I kept thinking about all the interesting maternal figures and about how many characters had fathers that were simply out of the picture. So let’s take a moment to highlight some of the best and worst fathers in scary movies.

The Best Fathers
Robert Thorn/The Omen
Although Robert Thorn is driven to commit the unthinkable (AKA: plunging daggers into his evil little “son”), he is the classiest, most intelligent father in horror movie history. He does everything he can for the wellbeing of Damien, including exterminating him from the earth since it’s all for the good in the end. Plus, there is a phrase that the best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother. Thorn loves his wife with all his spirit, as can be seen in the heartbreaking scene when he hears about her death over the telephone. He may not be the real father of Damien, but dammit, he sure deserves  a real son that isn’t Satan’s spawn!

Loy Colton/Near Dark
Loy Colton searches high and low for his son, Caleb, after he is kidnapped by a group of vampires. When the police won’t help, Colton takes it upon himself to hunt down the kidnappers and rescue his offspring. If that’s not enough, when Caleb is finally returned to him, he ingeniously discovers a way to cure his vampirism. A father that can safely perform a blood transfusion with veterinarian equipment is a real winner in my book.
Mr. Collingwood/The Last House on the Left
Mr. Collingwood won’t just kill to protect his daughter…he will torture to avenge her. In fact, he is probably the only crazy father on this list that didn’t slip into the “worst” category.  He is also the only father that really puts those Home Depot father’s day gift cards to good use. Perhaps we should all pick up a chainsaw for our dads this year in case they have to torture some miscreants for us.

John Russell/The Changeling
Poor John Russell. You only see his wife and child for approximately 3 minutes before they are taken from him by a runaway truck. In that short time, he already proved how wonderful of a father he was, laughing and joking with his girls. Months later, as he moves into a haunted mansion, his paternal characteristics push him to help the poor boy’s trouble spirit that lingers in the house. He is hardly afraid, as he welcomes the opportunity to save a child. Now that’s a father.
Note: I know this picture isn't from Dawn of the Dead, but it's the best I could find.

Frank/Dawn of the Dead
You may not even remember this character when I mention the Dawn of the Dead remake, or you may have wondered why I didn’t select Andre. The subtle courage displayed by Frank’s character is what really stood out to me. Father of Nicole, the girl who stupidly chases after the dog, he doesn’t let a desperate survival instinct take over as he nearly turns into a zombie. Instead, he bravely faces death so that he will not endanger his daughter.  

The Worst Fathers
Jack Torrance/The Shining
Is an explanation really necessary? Jack Torrance is probably the creepiest father on this list, as he rampages through an isolated mansion, swinging an axe at his wife and son. Worst. Father. Ever.
100 Maniacs/A Nightmare on Elm Street series
How about a raving lunatic rapist for a father? Or how about 100 of them? Not only are these guys evil for raping a nun, but they are also responsible for creating out one of the most evil villains in genre history.
Jerry Blake/The Stepfather
It’s already bad enough when a stepfather becomes overbearing, but what about a stepfather that will murder you once you no longer fit his idyllic vision of a family? Now that sucks.
Dr. GĂ©nessier/Eyes Without a Face
Some men try too hard to be a good father. This is one of them. Murdering women that resemble his daughter so that he can surgically remove their face to place unto his daughter’s horribly scarred face is not what I would consider model behavior.



6.18.2010

Splice (2009/2010): If Only…


If only Splice had been as great as it promised to be. I first became intrigued about Splice when stills from the film began circulating the internet. The imagery and plot indicated an intelligent, original sci-fi horror film: Two adventurous scientists conduct a secret genetic experiment with unintended consequences, as they formulate a new species of human/animal makeup. Almost a year later, I saw the first trailer. My excitement grew. Then, I left for Indonesia the weekend it came out and I apparently missed the subsequent marketing that was not as effective. Unfortunately, my anticipation was undeserved.

It’s not as if Splice is entirely bad. In fact, I really enjoyed the first half of the film. The characters were interesting and their rebellious manner of exploring science could be charming at times.  Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are always welcome faces. The creature design is equally as good, especially as it continues to grow. The different phases of its maturity provide complexity to the relationships of the scientists to their genetic experiment. You feel bad for the confused, whimpering creature in its early stages of development. This sympathy slowly dissipates into uneasiness, as strength and intelligence become stronger characteristics of the genetically engineered being. Obviously, the moral complexity continues to deepen as well. Should this thing be treated as a human? As a pet? Or as an experiment?

Should have gassed that bitch...
No, I'm not talking about the creature.

Eventually, the film starts to forget these questions. It becomes less about science and more about drama. The love triangle that forms between the scientists and their creation is painfully forced upon the audience. Once the creature matures into a woman-like figure, the movie plummets fast and hard into cheesy sci-fi soap opera land. What is intended to be sexy is a joke. What is intended to be complex is simple. What is meant to be surprising is obvious. The second act and third act reveals can be seen from so far away that you wonder why you continued to watch the film. The last few scenes of the film are laughable—so silly and mediocre that it feels like it’s an entirely different film.

"How's my makeup? Can you still see my butt forehead?"

Even if the filmmakers decided not to delve deep into controversial bioethics (which I’m not necessarily saying they should have), they could have at least made it more of a horror film. As the first trailers showed, this film had the potential to be scary. After the first act, it doesn’t even attempt to be frightening. I wanted scenes where the creature escapes, wreaks havoc on humans, and opens up all sorts of disastrous cans of worms for the natural order of things.  I’m not asking for jump scares or excessive gore, but I’m asking for SOMETHING! Something other than dramarama.

"Mommy, what does genetic mistake mean? I heard it from Daddy."

Anyway, Splice is an interesting movie to see because it will probably be talked about in horror circles for a while, especially because of some…ummm…peculiar scenes. Before you check it out, lower your expectations a few notches. It does have some great moments in the first half of the film that do make it worth a watch if you know not to get too worked up over what’s to follow.
  

6.12.2010

The Scariest Things about Indonesia

Well I'm back from Indonesia and I had a great time. Thanks to all of you that wished me a good journey; it was most definitely appreciated. My brother's wedding was tons of fun and I was introduced to all sorts of new customs. Plus, my new sister-in-law's family was incredibly gracious. Though the title of this post may suggest that Indonesia is a terrifying place; it really isn't. As strange and as different as the culture may have seemed to me, the people of Indonesia are so wonderful that you almost feel at home in their presence. As a foreigner, I couldn't have felt more welcome in their country. However, being from the West, there were some things that took some getting used to...

The Traffic:
This video was taken precisely where I had to cross the street all the time, but it doesn't even begin to show you how crazy it is to be in a motorized vehicle in Indonesia. Lanes don't exist. They drive wherever there is room. There are no crosswalks for pedestrians; you simply walk into traffic and hold out your hand to make the vehicles stop. This is what happens when you cram one of the world's largest populations into a small area.

The Zoo:
Although visiting the zoo/safari was my probably my favorite experience, it is also scary how few rules are in place to protect humans and the animals from one another. The only warning when driving straight through a lion or tiger's home is "roll up the windows." No fences. Just a sheet of plexi-glass is between you and large cats, grizzlies, rhinos, etc. And how about how eagerly the zookeepers fed the Komodo Dragon a live guinea pig because they thought we would like it?





The Music:
For whatever reason, Indonesians love creepy bell music or gamelan. They play it everywhere: in the hotel lobby, in restaurants, in elevators...I don't know why, but I find the music oddly disturbing. Maybe it's because the rhythms and patterns are different than what we're used to. Listen to this and tell me it's not just a little weird:


The Monkeys:
Yes, monkeys are cute, but they can also be evil. The monkeys often steal tourist's cameras in Indonesia. Luckily, I knew to watch out, but I could tell they had their eyes on me when I was taking pictures.
Pet monkeys are also scary. When I saw this guy, all I could think about is him going Monkey Shines on his owner (and perhaps rightfully so):
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