Tag Archives: child

Rosemary’s Baby – Review

24 Mar

In the 1960s, Hollywood was undergoing a major change. From the 1930s up until the late 1950s/early 1960s, movies were strictly regulated in terms of their content. A new Hollywood was now forming and the regulations were not so strong. Enter Roman Polanski’s horror masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby, a deep exploration of psychological dread mixed with dark occultist magic. It’s an excellent combination that is executed perfectly, and couldn’t have been made under the much more strict guidelines of classic Hollywood.

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Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes) are a young married couple in search of a new place to live. They finally find comfort in the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with a strange, dark history. Rosemary and Guy soon become friends with the elderly couple living next door, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman (Sidney Blackmer), who are both eccentric and incredibly friendly. When Rosemary learns that she is pregnant, Minnie and Roman seem very excited, but Guy never really wants to think about it. As time goes on, and the due date for the baby becomes closer and closer, Rosemary begins to become paranoid about everyone around her while dealing with incredible pain from her abdomen and strange concoctions given to her by Minnie and Roman, whom Rosemary now believes are witches. All of this may be a deeply Satanic plot or just a deeply personal problem for Rosemary.

Much like Polanski’s earlier work, Repulsion, this film puts horror in the worst place you could ever have it. In the comfort of your own home. I have place set aside in my heart for films that bring the horror to you, in a sense, like the first Paranormal Activity and The Strangers. What Rosemary’s Baby does differently than these movies is add the plot point of an unborn child into the mix to create some deeply rooted chances to explore psychological dysfunction, but I’ll talk more about that later. Rosemary is never really safe in this movie, and that’s part of where the paranoia and the fear comes from, but Polanski makes sure that this never gets out of hand.

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What makes this film so successful is Polanski’s deft maneuvering of a plot that at times appears to be stuck in the mud, but is never really stopping. The pacing is slow and makes the audience wait a long time to really understand what is actually going on. That combined with the fact that even we don’t full know if Rosemary is in the right state of mind or if this is actually all a big occult plot against her. We spend a good deal of the movie questioning what’s going on around Rosemary and try to piece together all of the evidence that makes sense and the rest that doesn’t make sense. It’s a great way to construct a plot.

So the style and the plot are both really good, and the final thing that makes Rosemary’s Baby the horror classic that it is are the performances. Mia Farrow begins as an innocent housewife into a woman who is completely in shambles, both mentally and physically. John Cassavetes brings his traditional realistic, and almost improvisational, acting style which gives his performance a believability that you don’t always get from movies before this time. Finally, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer are perfect at playing the old people next door, but bring a disquieting element of distrust that makes for exceptional antagonists.

This video is from Bravo’s countdown of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments. They perfectly summarize everything that makes Rosemary’s Baby as great as it is.

So, if you haven’t already guessed, I firmly believe Rosemary’s Baby is one of the greatest horror movies to ever grace planet earth. It’s pacing and feeling of constant dread and paranoia is very effective and really makes the viewer question what is going on. It’s almost a cliche to say “you never know what’s real and what isn’t” in terms of movies. That may be so, but it is the truth when it comes to this film. If you haven’t seen this, you’re missing out on an essential piece of film history that may even keep you up a little bit tonight when you’re doors are locked and you think you’re safe…

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Eraserhead – Review

13 Jul

David Lynch is one of my favorite directors of all time and a huge influence for me. He is the writer/director of films such as Mulholland DriveLost Highway, and Blue Velvet to name a few. He is also the creator of the cult classic television show, Twin Peaks. Every great director has their start somewhere, and David Lynch’s was with his 1977 surrealist film, Eraserhead.

Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is a quiet man who is trying to survive in an industrial wasteland where even a walk home from the grocery store is dangerous. Life for Henry gets even more complicated when his girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) gives birth to his mutant child, born with a small head, a pencil-like neck, and no arms or legs. Night after night, Henry is forced to listen to this baby cry nonstop, with only the Woman in the Radiator (Laurel Near) to give him comfort through song and the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall (Judith Ann Roberts) to satisfy his sexual fantasies.

I knew that this was going to be a strange movie because of my past experience with the twisted stories of David Lynch. Everything I’ve seen by him so far is far from normal, but Eraserhead is so distanced from reality that I was left speechless. The best way I can describe this movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it is that it is the equivalent of a live action nightmare. Things happen that aren’t explained, but are horrifying. Images are warped to the point of being terrifying. And, of course, darkness hides our fears leaving the worst to our imaginations.

An interesting about the filming of Eraserhead was that it was done periodically over the course of five years due to funding and technical issues. There is one scene that I need to look for next time I watch it where Jack Nance opens the door and you can actually see how he aged when the door opens. I also read that Nance kept his hair the same for those 5 years. Not so easy with hair like that.

Back to the aesthetics of the movie, I’d like to talk about a major part of this movie: the lighting. A lot of the cinematography is done in the noir style, filling the screen with intense whites and blacks. The lighting is rarely soft, with hard light the accentuates what the audience should be looking at or to reveal every detail of a subject. This works well for the movie, as I said before, by hiding a lot of what is seemingly frightening. There is one scene in particular at the end where the lights are flickering on and off, and what we are trying to see in truly unbelievable.

Almost, if not equally, as important is the sound design. There isn’t a whole lot of talking in this film, so the sound has to be done right in order to keep the viewer interested. Luckily, Lynch has created a haunting ambient soundtrack that is guaranteed to send shivers down spines. It’s hard to comment on the acting since there isn’t much talking and the actions aren’t done in the silent era kind of way, but more downplayed. I can say that Nance is perfect for Henry, and plays him with both love and fear.

Surrealism isn’t for everyone which is totally understandable. Many people have given their interpretations, but David Lynch says he hasn’t heard a correct one yet. I, personally, view it as a growing fear against parenthood, especially when unexpected and unprepared, but there is so much more to this movie than that. That being said, this Eraserhead requires many, many viewings before (if) it can be understood. This is one of my new favorite movies and, to anyone brave enough, I recommend it.

Santa Sangre – Review

26 Jun

If you have read my blogs before this, then you know that writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky is no stranger to the bizarre. Santa Sangre may not be Jodorowsky’s most strange and confusing film, but it is certainly his most disturbing. Let me put it this way: El Topo is Purgatory, The Holy Mountain is Heaven, and Santa Sangre is Hell.

A man finds himself in a mental hospital, and refuses to act like a normal human being. Cut back to his childhood. Fenix (Adan Jodorowsky) is a circus performer along with mother (Bianca Guerra) and father (Guy Stockwell), who is having an affair with the tattooed woman (Thelma Tixou). Fenix is abused by his father and hates the life he was given, but finds solace in the new mime, a deaf and mute girl named Alma (Faviola Tapia). One night, all of the conflict in his life collides, and we are then transported again to the present where the older Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky) is still in the mental hospital. He escapes to find his armless mother and lives with her to be her arms. Every chance Fenix now has at love is crushed by his mother who can now control his arms and uses them to kill the women, maybe even his original love, Alma (now played by Sabrina Dennison).

This is one of those movies that when the credits begin to roll, the viewer is forced to just sit  staring at the screen and contemplate what they just witnessed. So much happens in Santa Sangre that it’s almost difficult to take it all in. The movie is loaded with family dynamics, love deeper than the surface, possible incest, mental disorders, and the plight of mortality. Now that’s a fully loaded movie.

For fans of El Topo and The Holy Mountain, some people might be disappointed with how linear and down to earth this might be. In fact, I was on the IMDB message boards for this movie and people were complaining that it wasn’t “trippy” enough. If that’s the only reason you’re watching a Jodorowsky film, than yes, Santa Sangre won’t really be enjoyable for you.

For me, this was an incredibly moving and haunting experience. As I said before, this film is hellish in a surreal, but also very real kind of way. It shows sides of the world that I don’t particularly know a lot about, but does exist. There’s the side of living with a torn family and also a side of living with overwhelming guilt and shame. If you aren’t sympathetic towards Fenix, then you must have been born without any sense of feelings, because he may be one of the most tortured characters ever in a movie.

While Santa Sangre tries to keep itself down to earth, it still has a beautifully unsettling surreal atmosphere to it. I still feel distanced from this world the Jodorowsky created, but that’s fine because I never want to be there. It’s terrifying. Is it surreal for the sake of being surreal? Or is it because Fenix’s view of reality s distorted due to the abuse and traumas that he has suffered. I like to think that the answer falls in the latter category, especially since we get glimpses of reality throughout the movie.

Santa Sangre is a magnificent piece of film making that may be difficult to sit through for some and may bore others entirely. It is not a movie that is to be watched for solely pure entertainment, but to reflect on your own psyche and your impressions you leave on other people. The personal evils are brought to light in this haunting Jodorowsky film, and I can honestly say that what I have seen, I will not forget.