Sunday, October 2, 2011

31 Days of Horror: Case 39

2009, Christian Alvart (german director who also did Pandorum) -- Netflix

When Marmy first blurted out the idea to do this October project, she had only one stipulation -- no torture porn. So, those psychological thrillers that concerned people being held against their will and tortured physically and/or psychologically would not be included.  So, no Saw or Hostel or anything from the similar genre.  But does that also exclude things like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or House of 1000 Corpses? What about classics like Halloween?  We couldn't exclude movies just because people were going to suffer, because that would eliminate the entire genre.  We did determine that there has to be a sense (whether badly done or not) of suspense and thrill instead of just glorification of the torture. Its a fine line but I think we will be able to walk it.

First up was a evil little girl flick we saw the trailer for and mostly ignored; I think it was around the same time as another evil child flop, Orphan.  So, was this going to be about a poor little girl tortured by her parents and subsequently broken?  Was she going to be a bad seed (reminds me, we should look up the 1956 original) or was she going to be something else? But the formula is there, and its weird I have a formula when I can name so few of the sub-genre -- see child in previous environment and blame that, start to notice child ain't just right, see resolution of just what the child is.  Our first commentary on the formula was my guess that the fish would die first and then the boyfriend.  Marmy guessed right that it was the boyfriend first.  I think the fish may have come through unscathed.

I have to say that I am becoming somewhat distracted by movies starring the usual vancouver casting. As soon as I saw Calum Keith Rennie as the daddy, I knew to expect a handful more (Ian McShane, Benita Ha). And I started watching the surroundings for Vancouver.  I think, if i was to consider a career in the films, that I would have to be something in the production side of things as I never notice screenplay structure or pay attention to how each act plays out.  I always notice the setting and the set dressing, enjoying well constructed scenes. Even if there was no way a social worker, overworked and always in her cubicle, could afford the house she lived in, it was nicely setup depicting a single woman who rarely has a man in her life.

That man, and he points out how rare he is in her life, is Bradley Cooper, probably playing one of his last friendly schlub roles as her favourite child psychologist and part-time lover. We knew he wasn't long for the screen but, man, the scenes where he dies had me crawling back up on the sofa.  I have the same adult phobia of hornets as he does for roughly the same reason, not having to go to the hospital for my foot-in-nest experience but still, the fear lingers.  I commend Alvart for the scene as Dr. Doug fishes the buzzing hornet out of his ear and deftly, albeit with extremely clamped down terror, drops it in the toilet.  You might ask, wouldn't you be more freaked out that a hornet just came out of your ear than how you kill the thing? That is what it means to have your phobia imparted upon you by an external influencing force -- its dreamlike and you step outside the reality of the situation. You just react.

At this point we suspect the bad seed may just be just... different.  She may be a pusher ala the X-Files with the ability to lay people's greatest fears upon them.  We are given the truth in the matter that they are not actually set on fire or stung by a thousand hornets but that they believe they are. And Daddy Keith Rennie explains, she has killed so so many via this method. When Renée begins to realize something is wrong and asks his advice, he explains, and with a surprising lack of resentment at his incarceration, that he suspects his daughter came into the world... with something else, something older. Oooo, are we now in a monster movie? A religious possession movie?  The movie escalates down a path that explains things very clearly to us.  None of this ambiguity that leaves the character and the viewers second guessing themselves, despite the fact the evil little girl's main attack is psychological torture.

So, bad seed is now demon seed and I guess the only reason she keeps a parent figure around is for the ability to blend in and kill as long as she can without anyone noticing.  Renée won't have any of this and becomes determined to end things, first by killing it with fire and then by realizing that the only real reaction to a creature that uses fear against you is to fight fear with fear.  I guess it takes a lot out of the demon-creature that is hiding within Lily (Lilith actually, heh) because once she realizes that the sunday drive mommy is taking her on is not for ice cream, she doesn't immediately morph into the form that could rip Renée's head off.  Thus mild mannered social worker relieves herself of a creature from somewhere else (it never quites says Hell) but having to explain why she burnt down her house AND drove her car off a pier. But a good forensic team should be able to recognize the clawing of a massive demon arm inside the trunk of that car.  Would love to read that report.

So, any suggestions on what I should see in the next 30 days?