Archive for November, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods review

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2012 by elizaob

The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 horror movie directed by Drew Goddard. The film was a surprise hit gaining positive reviews from most critics however, I personally believe that the film was mediocre.

The Cabin in the Woods is a movie about five friends who travel to a remote cabin for a holiday and become victims of a stereotypical horror movie plot while being observed by office workers via hidden cameras. I think that the film had a good plot and there was good intentions behind it nonetheless, it did not come across that way on the screen. I think that the film was too post modern for its own good especially at the end when it ended with ancient Gods destroying the earth.

(Four of the five teenagers)

Despite this there are some good points about the film. It is witty and has good special effects also, the story is good except for the ending. There is one scene where the different nightmares are released and the lifts open with blood coming out of it, this scene is evidently very influenced by The Shining but with a modern twist.

(A part of the scene which is influenced by The Shining)

I think that one reason why I may not like the movie too much is because it makes me wonder if horror fans know too much about the genre to enjoy the stereotypical horror film filled with the usual characters and rules. The film seems to play on this idea by making the horror genre more complex by adding another layer to it through the technicians who control the fate of the teenagers. Seeing a film like this makes me question whether this will reinvent the horror genre or kill it.

(The technicians)

Here is a positive review from The Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/article-2129045/The-Cabin-In-The-Woods-review-Surprise-smash-hit-year.html

The monstrous feminine/ Archetypes and myths/ Jennifer’s body.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2012 by elizaob

In this post I will be exploring how archetypes and myths relating to women have evolved into stereotypes that are used in horror movies today. I will be using extracts from a book by Barbara Creed, The Monstrous-Feminine and analysing the film Jennifer’s body.

The Monstrous- Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis by Barbara Creed: 

The Monstrous- Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis by Barbara Creed is a book that challenges the view that in horror films the female is always the victim. She challenges this view by arguing  that the prototype of  everything monstrous is the female reproductive body. Creed believes that the seven ‘faces’ of the monstrous-feminine are: Archaic mother, Monstrous womb, Vampire, Witch, Possessed body, Monstrous mother and Castrator.

I have read two extracts from this book:  Stereotyping against the grain and the History of female monstrosity. 

Stereotyping against the grain:

Creed argues that all societies have “constructed monstrous images of women in their art and visual culture”. She then goes on to say that the monsters differ from culture to culture but they all represent female nature as “abject” additionally, she believes that if the monster merges with an animal it makes female nature even more abject. Creed also argues that the seven faces of the monstrous feminine are tied in with what is considered proper sexual reproductive roles for women which has now evolved into a stereotype.  According to her a new wave of feminist artists use this stereotype frequently in their films, books, music, art etc. She then poses two questions: Does this empower women? Or does this explore misogynistic stereotypes?

(The Sirens. The Femme fatales of classical mythology)

History of female monstrosity: 

Creed states that female monstrosity can be found in classical mythology she gives the examples of  The Sirens, Medusa and her two sisters and Sheela-na-gig.  Creed argues that stereotypes enable the reader or spectator to identify with the character however, she believes that “Historically stereotypes have been used to represent female sexuality as monstrous in order to justify the oppression of women.”.

I will now be exploring the different female archetypes and myths that have now evolved into stereotypes used in horror movies today.

Female archetypes and myths: 

Femme fatale- 

(Painting of a femme fatale)

A femme fatale is a woman who is mysterious and seductive, she uses her charms to ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, which leads them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art. Femme fatales in films: Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil and Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

(Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil)

Siren:

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous and devious creatures, portrayed as femme fatales who lured nearby sailors to their death with their enchanting voice and music. In lIterature it is believed that they live on the coast of small Islands among the rocks and cliffs. Sirens combine women and birds in various ways. In early Greek art Sirens were portrayed to be birds with large women’s heads, bird feathers and scaly feet. This portrayal evolved to be female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings, playing many musical instruments, especially harps. According to some birds were chosen because of their beautiful voices. Later on  the portrayal of Sirens again evolved into a beautiful woman, whose body and voice are seductive. Now a siren is usually seen as a woman who is attractive and seductive. Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry are often referred to as sirens.

(Angelina Jolie the modern siren)

Succubus:

In folklore traced back to medieval legend, a succubus  is a female demon or supernatural being appearing in dreams, who takes the form of a human woman in order to seduce men, usually through sexual intercourse. Some  religions believe that repeated intercourse with a succubus might result in ill health and even death. In modern literature and films a succubus may or may not appear in dreams and is often shown as a very attractive seductress. Whereas, before, succubi were shown to be frightening and demonic. In Jennifer’s Body (2009), Megan Fox portrays a very attractive teenage girl who turns into a succubus that kills the boys in her town by seducing and then eating them.

(Poster for Jennifer’s Body)

I will now be analysing the horror film,  Jennifer’s Body to show how female archetypes and myths have influenced horror today.

Jennifer’s Body:

Jennifer’s Body is a 2009 Horror/Black comedy movie written by Diablo Cody (Juno) and directed by Karyn Kusama. The film which stars Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried is about a teenage girl who becomes a succubus and kills her male classmates.

One of the themes in the film is female insecurity, from the start of the movie this is established as a major theme. When we first meet Jennifer she is watching a long-form informercial which is advertising exercise equipment for women. During this informercial there are many close ups on the women’s bums and breasts, throughout this scene there are many eye line matches which could show that Jennifer is quite insecure and might want to change her body. For the duration of the movie a female looks in the mirror nearly every scene, the most striking scene is when there is a close up of Jennifer looking in the mirror smearing make up on her face with tears in her eyes. This scene especially highlights her insecurity and links with a later scene in which she says ” I’m not insecure, I was snowflake queen,”. The fact that her self confidence is based on her being “snowflake queen” is quite sad considering that being “snowflake queen” is irrelevant. With this line I think that Cody was trying to highlight how insecure teenage girls are becoming nowadays, this is because what gives them confidence is being rated and congratulated on their appearance rather than their character and intelligence. Cody said that she always thought the scene was” … such a sad image. She’s so vulnerable. I don’t know any woman who hasn’t had a moment sitting in front of the mirror and thinking, ‘Help me, I want to be somebody else.’ What makes it extra affecting is that [Megan Fox] is stunning.” She then went on to say that “Jennifer is a product of a culture that pressures girls to be skinny, beautiful and just like movie stars” so she hoped that the film “inspires girls to take life into their own hands and do with it, what they want”

(Make up scene)

Throughout the movie Jennifer resembles many female stereotypes, archetypes and myths. For the duration of the movie Jennifer mostly wears red. In one scene she is wearing red tights, lipstick and nail polish, the use of red could emphasise her dangerous nature and also it could show that she is a femme fatale since she uses her charms to lure men into dangerous and deadly situations. Similarly, in one scene there is a birds eye view shot of Jennifer swimming in a lake.  In this scene she resembles a mermaid, another mythical creature. Additionally, there is a particular scene in which Needy has a hallucination of the high school  football captain that Jennifer killed sitting on a chair with his guts hanging out. Jennifer is seen on the right perched on top of the chair like a bird, in this scene she resembles a Siren since Sirens were seen to be half female and half bird.  However, one could argue that it wasn’t just in that scene that Jennifer resembled or behaved like  a Siren. Sirens were known enchant men with the songs they would sing and then destroy them; it could be argued that Jennifer’s “song” is her appearance since she uses her appearance to enchant men  which gets them into dangerous and compromising situations that  result in their death. This means that throughout the movie Jennifer acted as a Siren.

(Lake scene)

In the movie there is a mirroring scene which puts a new twist on the common horror movie rule that a person who has sexual intercourse will die. As Jennifer and Colin make out it cuts to Needy and Chip doing the same however, as Chip and Needy start to engage in intercourse Jennifer begins to twist Colin’s arms causing them to brake saying “I need you hopeless”. As Chip and Needy carry on engaging in intercourse it cuts to Jennifer eating Colin, the viewer can only see this from the shadows on the wall. In this particular shot Jennifer is on top of Chip in a sexual yet animalistic manner which links to Barbara Creed’s point that female sexuality is seen as monstrous which makes it “abject”. This scene puts a twist on the horror rule about sexual intercourse because neither Needy or Chip die after they’ve engaged in intercourse but rather Colin dies.

(Colin death scene)

(Colin death scene without the intercourse bits)

Lighting and colour plays an important role in the movie, it illustrates when Jennifer is strong and when she is weak. In one scene there is a slow motion long shot of  Jennifer walking down the school hall with soft rock music playing in the background. The students are wearing dull clothes and have dull expressions in this scene, to add to this the lighting on the students is colourless. In contrast to this Jennifer is wearing vibrant clothes to go with the vibrant lighting and she has glossy hair and is smiling. This scene shows that the more strength Jennifer gains from the male student body the weaker everyone becomes. In comparison, as everyone becomes happier, increases in faith and heals from their loss Jennifer becomes weaker. At one point she says “my skin is breaking out. My hair has become dull and lifeless”. Jennifer weakens once a month which is similar to when a woman menstruates once a month and becomes a bit weak however, instead of blood leaving her she puts it into herself .

(Strong Jennifer)

After Jennifer becomes a succubus she resembles various animals. In one scene the camera quickly dollies in on her face as her mouth opens revealing jagged teeth, her mouth is dark and it seems endless, in this scene she resembles a wolf. Similarly, in another scene Needy almost runs her over as the lights flash on her she looks like an evil deer caught in the headlights because she is covered in blood but appears to look confused.

Overall,I think that Jennifer’s Body shows how female archetypes and myths have evolved into stereotypes that are used in horror movies today. The special effects bring these stereotypes and myths to life moreover, the fact that the film was  made by women puts an interesting twist on these stereotypes.Cody’s intention to create this movie was to ” subvert the classic horror model of women being terrorized.” and I believe that she has successfully done this.

Diablo Cody talking about the movie:

List of the greatest horror movies of all time

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14, 2012 by elizaob

Here is a link to a list of the greatest horror movies of all time according to The Guardian newspaper.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/oct/22/horror

Rosemary’s baby and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are included in the list.

(Original trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

Horror marketing: Magazine covers, film posters and trailers

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2012 by elizaob

I will be analysing how a horror movie is marketed through film posters, magazine covers and trailers. I will also be comparing a well known Hollywood horror movie’s marketing with a British films marketing.

The marketing of Scream 4 (Hollywood movie)-

Scream 4 Entertainment Weekly cover:

Scream 4 entertainment weekly cover

This magazine cover is simple yet effective, the red background used instantly makes us think of blood and emphasises the films slasher genre while making Ghostface’s black and white outfit stand out. The closeup of Ghostface is intense given that the person looking at the poster cannot avoid Ghostface’s gaze this gives impression that Ghostface is staring right at the viewer as if they are the killers next victim. The cover line “Scream Returns!” shows the films popularity and the excitement surrounded by it, it is also stressed by the exclamation mark used. The names such as Courteney Cox and Drew Barrymore not only adds to the excitement about the film but also helps attract readers to the magazine since they are now big stars.

Flim poster:

This another simple yet effective marketing tool used by Dimension films. The tagline “New decade. New Rules”  is smart since the first Scream set new rules for the horror genre and it is implied that this Scream will change things in the genre again. Also,tagline in red could show that there will be some blood in the film. The image of Ghostface makes it appear as if Ghostface is coming out of the darkness, the fact that Ghostface is looking sideways makes it seem as if it has a target. Ghostface’s chin is in the shape of a knife which emphasises the films slasher genre. ‘SCR4M’ is one of the only words used on the poster, which shows that Dimension films think that that’s all that people should know. Aditionally, this highlights the films iconic status and cult following.

Trailer analysis:

There is a close up on the familiar white phone as the trailer starts, the words: “one call started it all” flash up on the screen and the audience instantly remember the last Scream films and the same feeling of terror that they felt before comes back. The calm music abruptly stops and the legendary voice of Ghost face is heard, the screen then goes black and Ghost face appears to be running towards the audience as if they are his victim. This creates fear and excitement because they know that the famous murderer is back.

(Drew Barrymore on the famous phone from the first Scream movie)
Dimension films flashes up on the screen which gives the audience the indication that this film will be good since Dimension films have released the last three Scream movies.
There is a crane shot which shows the familiar high school this again creates excitement as a new generation of Woodsboro teenagers are introduced. We are introduced to the film geek who is asking the famous question: what is your favourite scary movie? This again creates excitement and familiarity with the audience. The video camera around his head shows us that technology will play a big role within the movie. Three pretty girls are introduced, among them there are two blondes and a brunette which are stereotypical female characters for a horror movie.

The teenage girls making fun of the famous question, “what’s your favourite scary movie?” echoes the words of Dewey “one generation’s tragedy is the next ones joke”. We see the familiar face of the final girl Sidney Prescott this again creates excitement. The famous voice of Ghost face says: “welcome home Sidney” this creates tension and excitement because we know that Ghost face has unfinished business.

(Sidney Prescott in Scream 4)
Two film geeks are seen talking about the new rules of the horror genre creating excitement because it is now implied that the film will again reinvent the genre with new rules especially the key one: “virgins can die now”, meaning that innocence cannot save you anymore. One of the boys then goes on to say “The killer should be filming the murders” yet again there is an emphasis on how technology will be used in the film.

(Hayden Panettiere and Ghost Face)
The music becomes faster as Hayden Panettiere mentions the names of legendary horror movies then it suddenly stops when she’s finished. “None of the above” indicates that Ghost face will kill someone which creates tension, fear and familiar excitement among the audience. The chorus of screams at the end brings the title to life and Ghost face coming from behind shows that no one can outsmart the killer.

Overall, we can see from the marketing of Scream 4 that Dimension films are trying to attract their target audience by making the movie appear to be new, updated and ready to reinvent the horror genre again.

The marketing of 28 Days later (British film)-

Film Poster:

Even though this poster primarily uses three colours, red, black and white it is still effective and eye catching.  The red background connotes that the film will be full of blood and possibly death, the red also contrasts with the white and makes the white stand out. The tagline “From the director of Trainspotting & The Beach” attracts the audience of those films which might make them want to watch this movie. The sketch of the Big Ben and Houses of Parliament indicates that the film will be set in London, the picture of the yellow eyes over this sketch could be showing that the people of London will become infected by the virus .

Trailer analysis:

The sentence “On the first day” and the word “EXPOSURE” flashes on the screen with the sound of an alarm going off which could indicate that an accident in a laboratory which exposes everyone to some sort of infection. The camera quickly dollys in on a frightened woman which could make the audience feel as if they are going towards her.  “EPIDEMIC” flashes up on the screen showing that it is a nationwide or even a worldwide problem. The first 56 seconds of the trailer vaguely explains the plot of the movie however, some questions are still unanswered for example the audience still do not know what has happened, this creates some sort of enigma. Various shots of a man walking around a deserted London shows that  film will be set in London and that the main character could be that man. At the end of the trailer there is a flash of something coming towards the camera along with a noise that sounds like a growl which could be showing that the infection has created of monster.

Overall, from this we can see that horror films get marketed in the same way as each other  through posters and trailers. However, it is evident that Hollywood movies go the extra mile and promote their films through magazine covers and many other things considering  that they probably have a larger budget than British movies.

Halloween opening scene analysis

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2012 by elizaob

Halloween is 1978 horror slasher movie directed by John Carpenter. Some believe that it is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, I believe that it has one of the best opening sequences so I will be analysing it.

 

(opening sequence)

Sound:

The creepy music at the start of the opening sequence instantly creates tension. The rhyme said by children creates fear and tension since an innocent song by children has instantly turned sinister. Moreover, the children saying the rhyme could foreshadow the fact that Michael is a child himself. After the rhyme we suddenly hear the sound of an owl which enables the audience to be transported back into the “real world”. Before the killing happens there are many sounds which heightens the tension such as the strings and the clock striking. The clock striking could be an indication that time is up for the victim they will be killed soon. Throughout the whole opening sequence the name Michael is said around three times by different people which creates a sense of enigma since the audience wonders who Michael is. When the killer is unmasked and it is revealed that the killer is in fact Michael it is shocking and confusing since Michael is a child.

Cinematography:

The opening sequence starts off with the camera slowly dollying in on the pumpkin which makes the innocent fruit seem threatening, creepy and sinister. The first person filming makes the audience intrigued yet confused since they don’t know what is happening. Additionally, through the first person filming enables the audience to become unintentional voyeurs when they look through the window. This shot is quite similar to the shot in Psycho when the audience are taken through the hole in the wall to see Janet Leigh undressing, this creates intertextuality within the film and not only shows Hitchcock’s influence on Carpenter but also his influence on the slasher genre.

(Janet Leigh)

Mis en Scene:

A normal kitchen utensil, the knife has become a murder weapon. This shows that the threat is at home and no one is safe, which is the main theme in slashers.

 

 

 

 

Censorship issues and history in the UK and US

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2012 by elizaob

 

United Kingdom:

The censorship of films, video games and internet sites hosted in the UK are considered to be one of the strictest in the EU after Germany.

Technically, local councils (borough and county) have the power to let any cinema show any film. However, the councils always follow the classifications given to films by the British Board of Film Classification. In spite of this usual practise there have been some exceptions. For example in 1996, Westminster Council refused a licence to David Cronenberg’s Crash, even though it was played in the rest of the country also, in 1998 Camden Council gave a licence to the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which was later classified as an 18 by the BBFC.

BBFC- An independent industry body which charges film distributors for classifying their films. It was created in 1912 by the film industry as a “self-regulatory body in an attempt to head off government inference.”- The guardian. Gradually local councils have accepted its classificatications as a standard for classifying films, making it the UK’s semi-official censor.  Ever since, its relationship with the government has been based on the mutual agreement that the BBFC should keep its classifications within bounds that are seen as acceptable by the government in power with acknowledgement of public opinion and in return the government will not set up an official body. In 1984, parliament put the BBFC in charge of video classification in Britain, which has brought their agreement within the law which means that the BBFC now has official status however; it is more vulnerable to persuasion from the government.

How the BBFC make their decisions:

  • “Traditionally observed a distinction between what it calls “manners” – flexible attitudes on the part of the public towards things such as nudity and obscene language, and “morals” – immutable codes of conduct”- The Guardian
  • They change their classifications along with the change in the public’s attitude.
  • Have “road shows” to find out public opinion and justify decisions.
  • Rarely cuts films but if they do they do it openly with a list of the length of cut from a film and the reason on its website.
  • Most cuts are made from the distributor to allow the film to be shown be put into a lower age classification.

 

Laws about what can and can’t be shown in films:

  • The Obscene Publications Act doesn’t allow material which “tends to deprave or corrupt persons who are likely to read, see or hear it”
  • This generally applies to anything that might influence criminal activity by those watching it especially the encouragement violence or sexual violence.

Most of this information was found on The Guardian website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2002/mar/13/filmcensorship.seanclarke

A day in the life of a censor: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/1998/nov/20/features

Summary of 100 years of the BBFC: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/jul/26/sex-violence-swearing-film-100-years-bbfc

What censorship tells us about the changes in societies attitude towards: sex, violence and rebellion:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15107384

 

America:

Public complaints about perceived immorality in Hollywood and the movies and a number of city and state censorship boards led the movie studios to fear that federal regulations would soon come. This fear led them to create the Motion Pictures  Producers and Distributions Association in 1922; this was an industry trade and lobby organisation. The head of the organisation was Will H. Hays a Republican lawyer; he stopped several attempts to institute federal censorship over the movies.

link to a copy of the Hays code: http://www.artsreformation.com/a001/hays-code.html

In 1927, collected a list of subjects, selected from his experience with many US censorship boards that he thought Hollywood studios should avoid. He called the list “the formula” but it was more commonly known as the “don’ts and be carefuls” list. In 1930, he created the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) to put into practise his censorship code, but the SRC “lacked any real enforcement capability”.

The arrival of movies with sound in 1927 led to the strong belief that “the formula” needed to be further enforced. Martin Quigley, who was a publisher of a Chicago-based motion picture trade newspaper, started to lobby for a more wide-ranging code that listed material that was inappropriate for the movies and also had a moral system (based on Catholic theology) that the movies could promote. He asked Father Daniel Lord, a Jesuit priest and instructor at the Catholic St. Louis University, to write the code, which was formally adopted by the board of directors of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association on March 31, 1930; the code was commonly called the Production Code.

Depression economics and changes in society enabled studios to produce more risqué films that didn’t comply with the code, since there was no enforcement body this couldn’t be stopped. Films such as: Scarface, Safe in Hell Public enemy, Frankenstein and Freaks were released during this time which is now known as Pre-code Hollywood.

The code was amended and adopted on June 13, 1934 and the Production Code Administration was established. This meant that all films released on or after July 1934 had to obtain a certificate of approval before being released, nearly all motion pictures produced in the US and released by a major studio obeyed the code for more than thirty years. The Production code was not created or enforced by the government or any states it was just a deterrent for government censorship.

During the 60’s films about murder, race, gender and other themes that didn’t meet the terms of the Production Code were released due to the rebellion of producers and directors. This led to the weakening and eventual demise of the production code. Psycho was one of the films during the 60s that challenged production code but because the PCA were losing their power they allowed the movie to be released as long as it was recommended for mature audiences. However, the PCA did try to get the scene where Janet Leigh flushes some papers down the toilet cut.

The demise of the Production Code enabled more horror films to be released which has led to the evolution of horror and it becoming a popular and successful film genre.

Gone with the wind and censors:

Here is a short clip about the 1939 film Gone with the wind and the use of the word damned in the film:

Most of this information was found on www.wikipedia.org

Horror trailer analysis

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2, 2012 by elizaob

In class we analysed four  trailers according to the amount of times particular shots, camera movements, sounds, iconography were used. I have presented some of the  information in the form of a bar chart.

Click on bar charts to enlarge.

Paranormal Activity 4:

Types of shot-

Camera movement-

Sounds-

Significant dialogue:

“That creepy kid from across the street”

“I’ve been hearing things”

Other noises:

-Heartbeat

-Rumbling

-Screaming

Horror iconography-

-Creepy kid

-Lights flickering

-Doors shutting

-Figure

Any issues of representations-

-Teenage girl as victim

-No dad

-Nuclear family

Sinister:

 

Types of shot-

Camera movement-

138 Shots in total

Sounds-

Significant dialogue:

“family died here”

“consumes the soul of children”

Other noises:

Repeated screeching sound

Horror iconography-

-Scary house

-Weird stories

-Blood

-Creepy children

-Symbols

-Tapes

Issues of representation-

Possessed kids

Man as the main character

The devil inside:

Types of shots-

Camera movement-

Sounds-

Significant dialogue:

Recorded message which draws you in.

Child’s nursery rhyme

Screaming

Other noises:

Some sounds- Silence- Stops

Her voice echoing

Horror iconography-

-Mental asylum

-Crucifix

-Scientific theories

-Creepy basement

Issues of representation-

Females are the victims

Silent Hill- Revelation:

Types of shots-

Camera movement-

Sounds-

Significant dialogue:

“Just a dream don’t worry”

“Someone’s following me”

“Run!”

Music:

Bass music

Other noises:

Piano when telling the story

exaggerated diegetic noises

Horror iconography-

Church

Chambers

Knives

Chains

Cells fire

Creepy old woman

Issues of representation-

Final girl theory

Single parent