Monday, December 31, 2012

HE’S MUCH TOO SOPHISTICATED FOR THE STANDARD TESTS: A COMPARISON BETWEEN FRANKENSTEIN & THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Advancements in technology, science, and medicine should be something that society welcomes with open arms. Unfortunately, those that are devoutly religious have a difficult time accepting these advancements, as it would cause them to rethink their faith. The battle between science and religion is extremely complicated and long lasting. Luckily the battle hasn’t been entirely one sided. Over the course of time, the way in which society views science and scientists has greatly evolved. One of the quickest ways we can see this shift is by focusing on the media outlets of the time. When it comes to analyzing how society treated scientists/(wo)men of science, there is no need to look any further than 1931’s Frankenstein and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. Henry Frankenstein and Dr. Hannibal Lecter are two of the most iconic men of science in cinematic history. While one is regarded as a ‘mad scientist’ the other is regarded as one of the most criminally intelligent men to walk the planet. The major difference between the two of these men is the way in which society treated them. The 1930s was a time where the word of God reigned supreme over science whereas the 1990s were a turning point for respect for those with intellect. Both Frankenstein and The Silence of the Lambs are considered to be one of the most important films of their respective eras, which leads us to safely assume that both films truly captured the essence of society’s mindset during their times.

The 1930s may have been a high time for great minds like Albert Einstein, but it was also a time of recovery for America. Finally picking up their britches after enduring The Great Depression, movies became a hot ticket to help distract and entertain society. This was also a time when prayer was still mandated in schools and the theory of evolution was more often avoided than taught. To put it simply, after surviving one of the largest financial tragedies of all time, people were more focused on their faith than of their scientific advancements. Witness Henry Frankenstein. Henry Frankenstein was written to be a brilliant scientist who had been conducting less-than-ordinary experiments on the re-animation of lifeless corpses. After small successes with experiments on animals, he made an attempt to reanimate a living human being composed of body parts he had been collecting from graveyards/gallows. Although he finds success with his monster, he is met with hostility from all of those around him. His hours spent in his laboratory causes tension between himself and his family/friends. Henry Frankenstein has officially played God and will now suffer the consequences in doing so. His creature is met with high hostility and is treated much like the lepers were in biblical times. Had Henry Frankenstein chosen a different livelihood, perhaps one outside of the scientific nature, he would not have been greeted with such turmoil.

Despite being solely responsible for the destructive monster ravishing throughout his community, the creature receives all of the blame and demise while Henry Frankenstein walks away seemingly untouched. This could be due to audiences in the early 30’s not wanting to see a courtroom drama in their monster movies, but it could also be argued that it was simply because the 1930s were a time where the ‘sin’ was punished rather than the sinner. Regardless, Henry Frankenstein was a man of science and the entire moral of Frankenstein is that playing God or playing with science would do nothing more than cause turmoil in ones life. The only way to avoid such consequences would be to act as all faithful citizens had been taught and to avoid any and all forms of questioning.

On an entirely different side of the coin, fast-forward nearly sixty years to 1991 when American audiences were met with one of the most treasured doctors of all time. Anthony Hopkins infamously played Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of The Lambs; with a little over sixteen minutes of screen time, Dr. Hannibal Lecter became one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. Unlike Henry Frankenstein, Dr. Hannibal Lecter was a man of intellectual science. A brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is quite possibly the greatest anti-hero to ever grace the silver screen. While Americans have given criminals the death penalty for far less than the crimes committed by Dr. Lecter, his intelligence is of such a remarkable level, he has often been utilized while in prison to help the American government profile and capture other serial killers. The 1990s were a start of a more progressive and respectful era when it comes to intelligence or scientific discovery. Rather than treating individuals with high levels of intelligence like outcasts, the 1990s brought an air of respect. Dr. Lecter was in jail for his crimes, but his intelligence prevented him from criminal punishment. Dr. Frederick Chilton may have said it best in the film with, “Oh, he's a monster. Pure psychopath. So rare to capture one alive. From a research point of view, Lecter is our most prized asset.” What was it about Dr. Hannibal Lecter that made us want to treat him with kindness?

It is important to note the setting of both The Silence of the Lambs as well as Frankenstein. Henry Frankenstein is ridiculed for science in a somewhat foreign environment of castles and personal laboratories, whereas the setting for The Silence of the Lambs was far more modern and realistic for audiences. Kendall Phillips says in his book Projected Fears, “With Silence, the horrors that had moved from Transylvania to the Gothic suburbs of Halloween emerged into the complicated and politically tense world of reality,” (Pag 153). There it is. The location and time period heavily influence Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s treatment. It’s much easier to see coming from the viewpoint of the new millennium’s audience, but the 1990s was the start of the “politically correct” movement. No longer were we allowed to speculate and judge individuals on their differences but rather were forced to develop a sense of understanding and tolerance for those different. In addition, religion was no longer the center of all existence. In the sixty years between Frankenstein and The Silence of the Lambs, tolerance of all religions (not just the Catholic/Christian religions that were the major focus in the 1930s) was in effect meaning science had a chance to flourish as its own entity against (what many believed to be) the word of God. Strangely enough, the binds that have been loosened upon Dr. Lecter by society seem to also be what drives his more dangerous personality traits. “He is an entity of pure consuming desire, a ravenous id, unleashed from the bonds of morality or obligation,” (Phillips 158). With Dr. Hannibal Lecter free of all moral constraints set upon him religion, he was free to evolve as intelligently as humanly possible, but also as immoral. It still influences the idea that those with more science than religion in their are going to grow up to be menaces to society, but the growing requirement of tolerance causes us to be intrigued by these individuals instead of terrified. That’s one of the most universally perplexing things about Hannibal Lecter.

For all intents and purposes, anyone that comes in contact with Dr. Lecter should be absolutely horrified by his presence and want him to sizzle in the electric chair, but everyone from doctors, federal agents, and even senators find his intelligence to be one of the greatest assets to society. Towards the end of the film, Hannibal Lecter goes as far as killing one of the guards assigned to watch him and arranges his corpse above his jail cell in an extremely symbolic manner. With his entrails removed and bed sheets hoisting his lifeless body above the ground, it would appear that Hannibal Lecter had arranged this man to resemble the angel Gabriel, the messenger from the bible. Hannibal used the very religion he didn’t believe in to send a message to those trying to understand him. It would appear that only those of true intellect would ever understand where he was going, but unfortunately for those around him, they were all walking a life of faith and therefore would never understand the message he was trying to send. Despite his anti-moral behavior, his intelligence is what prevails and keeps him alive and desired. Science and religion play a major role in just about every political decision made on Capitol Hill. While many would like to believe that the decisions are made with the best interests of the citizens in mind, the fact of the matter is that our elected officials make decisions based on their own personal morals and agendas. In America, our media outlets often reflect the way society as a whole views a topic and horror films are no exception. By examining both 1931’s Frankenstein and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, film goers can get a better look on the way the people of the time handled and valued science.

Friday, December 21, 2012

SEXIEST ANIMALS IN HORROR MOVIES

Horror fans are a bunch of weirdos, but you're the greatest weirdos I've ever known.  Since I've been pummeled by the treacherous Battle Royale style game of survival called "Senior Year of College", I haven't had much time to sit down and blog, let alone think about writing topics that aren't going to give me credit hours.  This evening I decided to let YOU, the reader decide what I should blog about.  I posted on the official Day of the Woman facebook page for blog topics and guaranteed to write about the first five (and any of the consecutive entries I found interesting).  I'm a woman of my word, so this will be an ongoing series of delightful fun.  Our first entry comes from Bloody-Disgusting's own music critic, Jonathan Barkan. At what I hope was an attempt to be a smartass, the first suggestion was "sexiest animals in horror".  After much thought and some horrifying realizations, I've actually got a list. Seriously, Jon? REALLY?!

 SPLICE: There was a far more NSFW image I could have used of Dren, but I didn't want to spoil any parts of the film for those who haven't had it.  A breathtakingly gorgeous hybrid of different animals spliced with human DNA, Dren made audience members everywhere slowly question their sexual desires and made the Sexy Stud from Clerks II look a little less creepy with his feelings on inter-species erotica, hey.  A subpar film, but definitely a sexy, sexy creature of science. Sometimes, playing God makes some lovely products.

CAT PEOPLE: Going for the 1982 remake with German goddess Nastassja Kinski would have been far too easy to showcase, and her big name often overshadows the grace that was Simone Simon in the original film.  French starlet, Simone Simon was the woman who truly personified the popular desire to have "a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed".  I think that if women aspired to be more like panthers and less like cougars, the dating world would be a bit more interesting.  She brings an entirely new meaning to "faster, pussycat" in the best ways possible.  Meow indeed.  

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE: I'll probably catch some slack for this one considering this animal is really just the product of some poor victims being sewn together by connecting their digestive tracts, but the fact that it's an animal made of humans permanently going ass-to-mouth makes them the kinkiest of any of the animals on this list.  I won't knock someone's hustle and if people are cool with going Downtown Julie Brown or tasting the pink starfish, be my guest, but always remember that in the process, you're one person away from being a voluntary human centipede. Enjoy.

SLITHER: This animal is geared a little more towards the women, well, I guess men too if this is the sort of thing that tickles your fancy.  Despite the adverse side effects of letting one of these buggers in your no-no zone, the folks behind this film could have made a killing in slithering slug shaped sex toys.  I'll even let you keep the prototype name and allow you to go all instagram and make a profit without even notifying me.  Seriously, think about it. A permanently lubricated slithering phallic object? Men would be rendered obsolete.

ANACONDA: A wise sage once spoke, "my anaconda don't want none unless you got buns hun," and I personally choose to live my life with this mantra.  The nice part about an anacoda is that it's an equal opportunity sexy monster.  Not only is the snake shaped like a mountain sized pork sword, but it's got a vagina for a mouth.  Seriously, LOOK AT THAT PICTURE. Take the fangs out and you've got a breathing fleshlight. Escaping the fact that this thing could deep throat a small Himalayan village, an anaconda could be a pretty awesome night out.  Just be warned, the bite is pretty poisonous, you might want to stock up on some serious penicillin. Jon, I'm really starting to hate you for making me do this list. I digress...

Five is going to have to be sufficient because making this list makes me feel really disgusting and I would much rather swallow lawn darts than try to sexualize any more horror movie animals.  Luckily, the rest of the suggestions for posts were a bit less ridiculous.  Again, thanks Jon for this strange idea!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

SIX HOURS OF MY LIFE I WILL NEVER GET BACK: THINGS I LEARNED FROM WATCHING THE HOSTEL TRILOGY IN A SINGLE SITTING

There are moments in my life where I make extremely unwise decisions and I will be the last to admit it when I've made a mistake.  However, this is an instance where I will scream from the rooftops how much of an idiot I am.  I'm one of those horror nerds that likes to watch franchises all at once.  When it's Halloween, I'm that asshole that stays inside all day to watch every single Halloween film ever made in a row.  Thanks to the wonderful feature of FEARnet and a hell of a chest cold, my dumbass thought it would be wise to watch all three HOSTEL films, one right after another.  This is the part where my Sassy Gay Friend should pop in and ask me to "look at my life, look at my choices," because this was definitely one of my more idiotic decisions.  I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I hated HOSTEL when it first came out. I really, really hated it. Now before anyone makes a comment about me being a girl or not being able to handle the gore, you can take those stupid comments and put them in your pocket.  I love me some gore, but it needs to have a purpose and it needs to have motivation behind it.  I felt the original HOSTEL was  nothing more than gratuitous violence that rested solely on gross-out factor and provided little to no storyline credibility.  Hoping that maybe Eli Roth could retain some of his Cabin Fever glory in the sequel, I watched that.  I'll be honest, I turned it off about a half hour into  it. I just couldn't do it.  One would think that after that I'd be done with it all but little miss "glass-half-full" over here thought that maybe seeing them all at once would be the better choice.  Boy, was I wrong.  Just like any messy breakup, instead of being upset about all of the wasted time it's important to understand and appreciate the things you learned from the experience.  I submit for approval, the life lessons learned from enduring the HOSTEL trilogy in one sitting.
HOSTEL
Strong concepts can't save a weak movie: If there's one thing I won't deny Eli Roth, it's that he did create a Hell of a creepy concept.  The idea that there are people willing to pay a large sum of money to be a part of a league of violent killers with a penchant for torturing innocent tourists sounds like TAKEN on Walter White strength meth.  Having an interesting idea isn't all a film needs to be successful.  There is little to no tension in the film and all of the violence and killing feels entirely unmotivated.  Now, I understand that half of the charm comes from the "random acts of killing" but this just didn't click right with me.  There just wasn't a fluidity between the storyline and the actions within it. For shame, pussycat.   

Decent acting also cannot save a weak movie: As an actor myself, I am a very picky critic when it comes to acting in a horror film.  I don't think anyone in this film is deserving of any awards for their performances anytime soon, but Jay Hernandez is pretty damn convincing.  At least all of the actors were on the same page with their mediocrity, which gave some sense of continuity within a film that had none elsewhere.  Despite having actors that seemed very committed to the direction they had been given, the film still felt extremely flat and void of any sort of depth.  This could possibly be the terrible writing given for the women in this film.  Can screenwriters please start consulting women before they try to write for them? Eli Roth may have a hell of a female fanbase, but it is blatantly apparent the man has absolutely no clue how to write women.

Your special FX are bad, and you should feel bad: I don't do eye trauma, I don't. It's quite possibly the greatest kryptonite I have.  Upon my first viewing of HOSTEL I distinctly remember having to cover my face and I barely made it through the scene. Upon revisiting, I have no idea what I was so scared of.  One of the most well known scenes from the film has quite possibly the WORST special FX I have ever seen.  When she's screaming in the chair before Paxton cuts off the eye, YOU CAN SEE HER CLOSED EYELID UNDER THE PROSTHETIC. Come on, guys. Get your shit together. That's just basic FX makeup 101. The Achilles tendon cut is pretty good, but the eye scene is one of the worst makeup jobs I've seen in a very long time. Howard Berger, you're better than this.

Roth has absolutely no idea what people really talk like: There is this weird trend going on with filmmakers and having absolutely no idea what teenagers/young 20-somethings actually sound like. HOSTEL doesn't have any lines that are particularly memorable, but Roth slam jams some sarcastic rudeness and tries to play it off as "this is how kids today talk" but the thing is, they don't. They don't talk like how he thinks they do, at all. At 22, I think I'd know. His entire script of dialogue feels entirely forced and trying way too hard to be edgy.  It feels like that kid in the back of everyone's fiction writing class that just HAD to push the envelope if for any other reason than pushing the envelope.  My friends and I have a fair share of conversations that would make even Lisa Lampanelli blush, but Eli Roth must be compensating for something with the amount of dick references he's got sprinkled throughout...It was laughable in a bad way and really hurt the overall atmosphere of the film.  It's okay to be funny, but it's another thing for every single sentence out of someone's mouth to be worthy of upvotes on internet forums.  Good Example of Young Adult Dialogue: Adam Green's FROZEN

HOSTEL II
Eli Roth still has no idea how to write women: There is a reason that Eli Roth hasn't settled down yet, he has no idea what women are all about. Instead of focusing on frat boys like in the first film, Hostel II focuses on three art students who are the stockiest stock characters that ever stock charactered.  I still can't determine if it's because Eli Roth really, truly doesn't understand women, or if he's just a lazy fucking writer.  Two hours of hearing from whiny drunk blonde, overly angsty 'unique' brunette, and desperate wannabe. Heather Matarazzo must have been in a bind for cash, because this was so beneath her.

No one has any idea how much blood is in the human body: One of the misogynist scenes in horror history is the "Elizabeth Bathory" scene and with good reason. It may be (technically speaking) the best shot of the film, but Heather Matarazzo probably has about 3 liters of blood in her entire body, and there is no way she would be spilling this much all over this woman. I was so pissed off watching this scene, and the most misunderstood use of human blood since Johnny Depp's beddeath in Nightmare on Elm Street didn't help the case.

Apparently casting isn't important:  When I'm thinking of terrifying villains, I of course think immediately of Roger Bart.  Um. What? Roger Bart?! THE STRAIGHT NATHAN LANE?! A VILLAIN?! Eli Roth, I know you're not the best at casting (see Rider Strong in Cabin Fever) but this is ridiculous. This man has made a career as a character actor.  I'm all for giving actors opportunities out of type, but casting Roger Bart as a villain is about as convincing as casting Michael Cera as a heartthrob.  Every time he was on screen I was dumbfounded as to how THIS was their best option. Seriously? I just look at him and start singing showtunes.

Gimmicks can be used without reason: I'm sorry. What in the actual fuck was the purpose of putting these little desensitized hellions outside of being 'shocking' or 'edgy'?  Every time these little buggers came on screen I didn't know whether to laugh or scream in frustration.  It's one thing when killer kids have a purpose, but these kids served absolutely no purpose to the film at all. If the scenes including these kids were cut, the film would have lost absolutely nothing, if anything, the film could have benefited from keeping these ridiculously purposeless scenes on the cutting room floor.



HOSTEL III

Weird shit for no reason is a great distraction: Look at this mask. I'm serious. Look at it.  The entire premise of the third installment feels like the series had a baby with the rich people form Rat Race and are now betting in Vegas on the parameters of the deaths of these innocent people.  I kind of dig this concept, but what the hell was the point of this? It's aesthetically impressive, yes, but really distracting. I didn't care about the death scene, all I wanted was a better look at her mask work, which I think was the point all along. This film is garbage, here's a cool mask as a consolation prize.

Sluts are dumb: I am not using the word in an attempt to slut shame, I am using it because that is the stock character all of the women in this film fall into. They're all either escorts or sexually active which is HOLY SHIT SO TABOO in today's modern world.  So when this poor lass is covered with bugs and sweet stuff on her mouth, the slut wouldn't know any better than to close her mouth, would she? Of course not, because for a woman to have any sort of intelligence in any of these films is just too unrealistic. Did I mention she was dressed up like a cheerleader as well? Oh yeah, that happened too.

Victor learned a lot while he was in Europe: One of the more interesting casting choices was Kip Pardue as the villain.  I found it to be a really interesting choice and Pardue really delivered.  Taking the Elite Hunting Club out of their dreary European chambers and into the glamorous world of Las Vegas almost made it a little creepier for me (as an American) to think that this was going on in a place I'd actually visited instead of a location I'll probably avoid like the plague.  It seems that once the film got out of the hands of Eli Roth, things started to improve a little. I mean, a half step up from garbage is still trash, but this could have been a lot worse than it was.

I just saved you six miserable hours. 
You can thank me later.
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