Strange Children and Haunted Dollhouses: Or, My Attempts to Figure Out What the Hell I Just Watched.
When I was a kid, I had a dollhouse that intrigued me with its detail. I only had sporadic moments of “girliness”, but I did rather enjoy finding tiny furniture for each of the rooms and setting them up. I tried to imagine what sort of little people (or beings) would live in the house (my sister and I also regularly watched a cartoon called The Littles) and what daily routines would carry them from room to room and compel them to utilize the tiny replicas of stoves, beds, tables, etc. That may all sound sound rather benign and typical of a prepubescent girl, but you must not forget I was also a weird kid with a taste for the morbid. As I got older, I would let my mind wander to fancies of the dollhouse coming alive with inhabitants that wouldn’t stay put (I never watched The Amityville Horror…this was from my own imagination). Fast-forward to adulthood when I read an M.R. James story that confirmed to me I wasn’t the only one to ever have “day-mares” of haunted dolls and dollhouses. Maybe it’s a sort of “god-complex” that one has creating a simulated environment in a dollhouse that also leads to the inevitable conclusion that we have no real control over our possessions; that even mere toys we create can turn on us.
On that pleasant note, today’s trailer seems to – I guess – explore the same themes as the James story and my own morbid childhood imagination. We see Toni Collette as a doll (and dollhouse?) maker who is trying to raise her very weird daughter while mourning the death of her mother. She seems to be recreating images from her own life in doll form, maybe as a way to maintain a clearly tenuous grip on her sanity. The movie’s title and a key line in the trailer make me wonder if the “hereditary” trait is madness or evil and if it’s something that grandmother, mother, and daughter all share. Or just the mother. Or just the daughter. No, it seems to be the mother. I honestly have no idea. Milly Shapiro plays the daughter and is a cute kid yet has an old face that’s clearly made up to be even more unsettling. That and her morose stare as she makes clicking noises with her tongue just adds to the uncanniness. My boyfriend and I watched the trailer as part of the previews shown before A Quiet Place, and we pretty much just looked at each other afterward like, “WTF?” Still, don’t let my bemusement turn you off from seeing the film. I won’t. An AV Club review is calling it a “traumatically terrifying horror movie”. I haven’t read the review yet, and I recommend you don’t either until you watch the movie, because kudos to horror movie trailers NOT giving away the whole plot for once.
When Silence Means Survival
After a quick double check, I noticed that we haven’t yet covered the trailer for A Quiet Place, an upcoming horror film starring real-life husband and wife, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. The original teaser trailer dropped way back on February 12, and there is now a more fleshed-out “official” trailer to whet your appetite before the April 6 release. Personally, if you’ve managed to avoid the new trailer…please continue to do so. The teaser is much more terrifying and lends itself to more speculation as to what this terrorized family is hiding from. Clearly, they can make NO sounds. Knitted squares are used for board game pieces and the family communicates via sign language. They must cover literally their tracks and paint the floorboards to know where to step. The new trailer indicates that the setting is some post-apocalyptic landscape inhabited by something intent on eradicating anyone who’s survived. But, like most trailers, they showed a bit too much. Not a lot, of course, but I think this is a story where the less you see, the better.
One Scary Mother
I have just come back from a glorious vacation in Paris. Yes, Paris! For 10 days I said “fuck it” to my diet, walked over the fabled streets, chateaus, and churches, and bought a beret. I don’t care if only the tourists do it, I looked damned cute in it and just dove headfirst into the Francophile spirit of things. In between mouthfuls of Camembert cheese and baguette, I talked horror movies with our friend and tour guide, and discovered a few gems that I now want to talk about. One is based on a true story of a small-town policeman (gendarme) who was also a serial killer (you’ll need to translate the link into English, by the way). The movie, Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart (La prochaine fois je viserai le coeur) isn’t anywhere I can watch it, so I saved it on Netflix in case the DVD ever becomes available. The second is a TV series that is available through US Netflix streaming called La Mante (The Mantis). Stephen King raved about it (!!) and I just caught the first episode. I’m hooked. A serial killer collaborates with her policeman son to catch a copycat. I worry that they gave away too much in the first episode, but it seems to be more focused on psychological character studies (because, you know…that’s what the French do). Plus, a fellow horror watcher has confirmed that there is plenty of gore to come and big reveals, so I’m going to tuck in with some cafe and French chocolate and dive back in. Catch you on the flipside, mon petit chou!
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Cursed by a Legacy of Violence
You’ve probably already seen the trailer for the upcoming movie about Sarah Winchester and her infamous mansion. You may even have visited it for yourself. I’ve never personally witnessed it, but I’ve been fascinated by it ever since I saw a documentary about it years ago (I forget the name of the production). Legend has it that Sarah was haunted by the spirits of those murdered by the very instrument that was said to have won the West – such “winning” came at the bloody expense of the Native American tribes doomed to stand in the way of Manifest Destiny.
As a result, there’s a lot of social commentary to unpack here, and I’ve found one such article that has done it better than I could. Was Sarah was building her house to appease the spirits who haunted her now that she had inherited her husband’s $20,000,000 stake in the Winchester fortune? That’s obviously the theory that is dramatized for the upcoming film starring Helen Mirren. Others assume she was merely keeping carpenters and artisans employed out of a sense of noblesse oblige. Her reclusive and eccentric nature coupled with a nation grappling with his legacy of violence helped fuel the stories of a cursed woman. In my opinion, such a story would have been a powerhouse in the hands of someone like Guillermo del Toro; his early movies are a master class in using ghosts to portray collective national trauma (the linked video is well worth a watch). However, it doesn’t look as though that will be the approach. Jump scares and a terrorized Sarah Winchester a la Insidious or Poltergeist seem to be on the menu. Hopefully, I’m wrong. The subject matter and leading actress are enough reason to draw me to the theater. But I would have liked a telling that left me unsettled and sad. Because we have yet to exorcise our nation’s ghosts.
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