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!
Some weeks, trailers are found based on word of mouth. Other times, something is forwarded to me, or requested. I’m a huge fan of sitting on my butt and waiting for someone else to be brilliant. And then there are … Continue reading →
Suck it, Tom Brady
The title has absolutely nothing to do with today’s trailer. Or maybe it does, if peripherally. The trailer for the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise dropped during the Superbowl, and every football fan who fancies themselves a sci-fi nerd had something to salve their crushed spirits – that is, if they were a Patriots fan or disappointed that Justin Timberlake didn’t have another wardrobe malfunction to make the halftime show interesting.
Now, we get to see the backstory for the smuggler turned resistance fighter who zoomed into our hearts in the Millennium Falcon with a wookie for a co-pilot. I don’t really have much to say about it. I’m sure that’s disappointing for those of you riveted to my hard-hitting commentary, but it’s late and my boyfriend keeps trying to show me videos on Reddit. Suffice to say, that the trailer makes me a little suspicious as to if they will try to show some tragic backstory with a lost love, which kind of takes away from the tough-talking rogue who fell for a badass Princess Leia. Somehow, I liked it better that he was just a scoundrel indebted to a Jabba the Hutt mob boss and was motivated by profit. No doubt there was good in him, or he wouldn’t have been won over to Luke and Leia’s cause. But I don’t know if there was any idealism in it. He just liked them in spite of himself and was always up for giving the reigning authority a good poke in the eye. And then he fell in love…
But maybe I’m just too jaded. Or too sleepy to get terribly worked up over it.
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.
Waco: When Faith Becomes Deadly
When I was a little girl, my family belonged to a particular sect of the Evangelical Church known as Fundamentalists: meaning they adhered to a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible as a means of practicing the fundamentals of the Christian faith. The churches we attended tended to be tightly-knit sects that fiercely squashed any questioning of its tenants and often fell under the sway of charismatic and obdurate leaders. These leaders were to be obeyed as if they were God, for they were seen as God’s chosen spokesman. I am not speaking for all members of these types of churches, but as I grew older the line between these I attended and those that wound up on the nightly news blurred more and more. At the time, we were like most people in that we felt we were too smart for a cult. We would never drink poison or live monastically away from family and friends to “help God along” in our destination to the afterlife. And yet…that’s basically that’s what we were asked to do. The only things keeping us from joining the fates of so many were education and our parents’ inability to perpetually swallow inordinate amounts of bullshit.
The story of such a group is being retold in a 6-part miniseries beginning on January 24. Waco stars Michael Shannon, John Leguizamo, and Taylor Kitsch (as David Koresh), and will attempt to convey the story of the Branch Davidians as their leader hurtled them towards a showdown with the United States government that lasted 51 days. There is still some bitter blood between small government types and federal law enforcement, and the Branch Davidian compound is still held up as an example of “big government” enforcing itself onto a group’s right to practice their faith as they saw fit…even if that group suffered severe mental and sexual abuse at the hands of their leader (it was even a key source of inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing that occurred two years later). One argument is that it didn’t have to end the way it did if the feds hadn’t gotten involved. Another is that Koresh’s crimes forced the hands of local and federal law officials to take drastic measures. In any regard, it proved a recipe for tragedy. And lest we fall to the temptation of elevating ourselves as being free of any such influence, remember that no one is above falling under the spell of a flashy showman with a gift for gab that claims to know exactly what it takes to solve all our problems and is willing to fight the government on our behalf. Sound familiar?
As much as I have problems with the first Overboard from 1987, I do have a soft spot for it. After all, it has some things I hold dear: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, deliciously rotten kids with hearts of gold,and … Continue reading →
If I’m being completely honest, I really thought that the title of this film was a reference to an STI. Goes to show you just where my head is lately. Anywho, the trailer for this week is The Clapper, an … Continue reading →
I’m really torn on how to feel about The Greatest Showman, the upcoming P.T. Barnum fantasy/bio pic. On one hand, I love Hugh Jackman. I’d be pretty crushed if it came out that he’s slime. I want him to be successful … Continue reading →