My current class at the ol’ University is winding down. The full title of the class is “‘The Night the Hogs Ate Willie’: Southern Gothic and Horror in Film and Fiction.” This title seemed to imply a parity between movies and novels (though “fiction” technically embraces the majority of “film”), however, the bulk of the class has involved the film half of this title. We’ve read a few short stories, and a couple of chapters, but no complete novels. This is fine by me – for one thing, I didn’t have to buy any books for this class (although I get reimbursed anyway, so I guess that’s moot), and, for another thing, I love films! Here then, in the order in which we were to watch them, are brief notes on the fourteen feature-length films we were assigned to view for this class:
Okay, so this flick didn’t fit the “Southern” aspect of the class title (it has nothi
Nowadays, vampires are gorgeous. Count Orlok proves that wasn't always the case.
ng to do with America, much less the American South), but I think it was assigned first just to give us an introduction to the origins of horror and gothic films. Nosferatu
is an adaptation of the Dracula story. By silent film standards, I found it enjoyable, if a little slow compared to other silents. Many of the tropes found in later horror films can be spotted here. This landmark German film is well worth a view.
This Oprah Winfrey vehicle was the longest and most boring film of the semester. Jennifer and I watched it together, and it nearly soured her on watching any of the other assigned films with me. Part of me wants to decry this flick for not having any redeeming qualities, but perhaps it would be more in keeping with the spirit of an English major to simply declare “I didn’t get it.” The first five minutes were cool, though.
Night of the Hunter
I had seen this stylized film noir before. A preacher cons widows into giving him their fortunes, and then he murders them. But this time, he’s met his match…in a couple of young kids. It’s slick, innovative, and suspensful. It’s also deeply flawed, too, something I commented on extensively in class. A fellow student (probably the only student in the class older than this 1955 film) argued that the flaws can be attributed to it being from a simpler time. I politely disagreed; this movie came out after Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and Rear Window - three flicks often cited for being nearly perfect creations. Age is no argument here. Regardless, it was well worth the view. Hell, it’s worth two views, as I can now attest.
Yeah…this falls into the “I didn’t get it” catergory, too. I fell asleep watching this film, which stars Samuel L. Jackson. I finished watching it the next day, something I probably would not have done had I been watching this simply for my own enjoyment.
Eye canoe, can you?
Here’s another one I’d already seen. “Dueling Banjos,” squealing like a pig, some sort of environmental message. Disturbing and weird.
Night of the Living Dead
This is one of a few films in the class that I was really looking forward to watching. And it was well worth it! I’m not a fan of zombie stories, but I don’t discount them out of hand, either. This is one of the films that started the zombie craze, and it’s very inventive. Great characterization, unpredictable turns of plot, and a race-relations message to boot. If you haven’t seen it…change that as soon as you can. Heck, watch it right now:
This poster really captures the "essence" of the film.
I’d never heard of this film before and, appearantly, neither had many of my classmates, as many of them accidentally watched the wrong film
. The correct film is this blacksploitation flick from the mid-70s. Not as scary as it probably could have been (the bell-bottoms and huge afros were hilarious), but this vampire film is still a lot of fun to watch.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Sometimes a movie's tagline is simply perfect. This is one of those times.
So, I often have this Janus-faced drive regarding films: on the one hand, I’m a film-buff, so I try to see all the “important” films. On the other hand, gore and grotesqueness are difficult for me to watch. So, I’m glad this flick was on the syllabus, as that gave me the impetus to finally watch this film. And…it’s really good. I mean, if you’ve seen all those slasher films of the 1980s, then much of Texas Chainsaw Massacre might seem dated, contrived, and even tame. But I haven’t seen those films – which, in fact, derived much from this flick – so the horror was there in all its glory for me. The plot is relatively simple, but it holds, and there’s an intesting subtext of job loss due to automation. Lots of symbolism and foreshadowing, too.
…Speaking of slasher films from the 1980s: The poorly titled Pumpkinhead features a conjured demon that wreaks revenge on a group of youngsters visiting from out of town (a common motif in horror films, I’ve realized). This would have been better had the kids committed a more inexcusable offense; one of them hit and killed a ten year-old with his motorcycle. Sure, that’s terrible, but I didn’t think it made the guy inherently wicked. Overall, a decent but forgettable movie.
Oh, look! Vampires again! Only this time, instead of laughing at the 1970s styles, I was laughing at the 1980s styles. Also – SPOILER ALERT! – vampirism can be cured via a blood transfusion. So that’s good to know. Like Pumpkinhead, your best bet is just to skip this one, too.
The Silence of the Lambs
Here’s another flick I had already seen. Jodie Foster leads, so, for my money, it already
This image has nothing to do with "SIlence of the Lambs." It's just an excuse to post a picture of Jodie Foster.
has 9 out of 10 stars before it’s even begun. This was the best movie of the semester and, I think, one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
Wild at Heart
In this film, director David Lynch tried to reference The Wizard of Oz as many times as possible (fifty times is a close estimate). I think it’s funny when one movie references another, because then it runs the risk of having viewers think, “Hey, I’d rather be watching that film.” And, here, that was very true. I think Lynch directed this film by saying, “Lights! Camera! Act Weird!” Again, I just didn’t get it.
The Doe Boy
Here’s a story about a Native American adolescent who tries to win his dad’s approval by going hunting with his dad, but ends up just killing a doe. Oh man, if my son ever did that, I would be so disappointed! “Son, we were supposed to kill a male deer! you killed a female! What are you, a girlie-man?” Also, the boy has hemophilia, which has interesting implications in a hunting-crazed culture and amidst the Cherokee identity with bloodlines. Oh, and his dad is white, so his blood isn’t “pure.” Get it? I gotta say, I think it’s funny how hunters are often depicted as insecure about their manhood and obsessively concerned with proving themselves. Because, well, that’s pretty much what I’ve observed in real life, too. Could you imagine dads being like this in other professions? “Son, I wanted you to be an optician so that I could be proud to call you my son. And all you do is sell bifocals all day! Get out of my house, you pansy-ass!”
Beast of the Southern Wild
We’re supposed to watch this for class next week. I’ve already seen it. I have no plans to watch it again.
I was going to insert a movie poster from "Beasts of the Southern Wild" here. But then I thought, "Nah, why not another picture of Jodie Foster instead?"