Things On My Mind

Posted by admin on October 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm.

A longer post today, I think. A few things dancing around my brain.

Saw Where the Wild Things Are and Paranormal Activity. These may seem like vastly different films, but I was struck by both their similarities and my similar reactions to each. The greatest strength of the former is how perfectly it taps into the imaginary process of a young boy - emotional reactions, chaotic creativity, subconscious use of symbolism. This all sounds a bit high-falutin’, but it’s the most concise way for me to put it. Nevertheless, the film left me wanting something more. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but I did find myself checking out of the picture more than once. Truth be told, I don’t know what I’d add or take away.

All I knew about Paranormal Activity is that it dealt with a haunting and was make for something like $1.49. They do a good job of creating a slow burn of scares - noises, then slight movements in the dark, then… well, no sense spoiling for those who care. However, I didn’t really buy the mythology they were creating. Don’t get me wrong; I was suitably freaked out after the film, but for different reasons (to be explained below). That said, the filmmakers’ view of demons seemed to change every ten minutes. Of course, it’s fiction and they can do whatever they damn well please. I just didn’t buy the end of the film, where the established rules seem to be tossed in favor of something “more spooky”.

What they do really well is show that two of the best tools for cinematic terror are repetition and a locked-down camera. These guys get more mileage out of a static shot of a bedroom and its open door than any other horror film in the last decade. And we’re given this shot… how many times? Feels like a dozen. Probably more like eight. But, it carries serious power. You know something is going to happen, but you don’t know what. Again, the filmmakers show their skill by spooning it out, just a little bit more each time - and always different. With the camera sitting there still, we the audience are just as trapped as the couple in bed. The camera’s not going to turn away. It’s not going to pan to something innocuous. There won’t be any cutaways to close-ups of the sleeping couple, a vase of flowers, a picture on a nightstand. We are there to look at things from this ONE vantage point, like Alex with his eyes propped open in A Clockwork Orange.

Strangely enough, both films have odd similarities. A snowball or dirtclod fight is great fun, until somebody gets hurt. Same can be said of messing with the supernatural. Both films have a handful of characters; PA has literally four people in the whole picture. And, each movie focuses on the notion that you can’t run away from your problems - be they domestic or demonic.

Also, I’m feeling a bit inspired by Warren Ellis’ recent post, wherein he’s tossed up a bunch of video and quotes, things that are circling around his brain that he just wants to get all in one place that he might sort them out in some fashion. To that end, here are a few things that matter to me on some level. Perhaps they’ll add to something. Perhaps not.

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