Guts and Grog Tooned Up

Thursday, April 24, 2014

2 Extremes: A Tale of Two Foxes- Watched in the Batcave

I am once again honored to be allowed to write a post for the regular readers of Guts and Grog. Blog themes are almost always fun, but Tromeric seems to push the boundaries with great ideas like “Horror With Training Wheels” and now “Two Extremes”.  The original idea for my post was to watch Disney’s The Fox and the Hound followed by Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, and come up with five things the two have in common, other than talking foxes.  Impossible, you say? Let’s find out…


For the first part of my double-feature, I decided to watch The Fox and the Hound, thinking I’d breeze through it, but paying attention, looking for any kind of themes it may have in common with Antichrist. It had been probably close to 30 years since I’d seen it. I remember watching it as a kid and liking it. For those of us old enough to remember such, I even had one of those story books with the 45 in the back that you could put on your record player and listen to as you read along. I had forgotten all about it until certain phrases in the movie brought back memories. Still, my recollection of the events of the movie were sparse at best, and I honestly had no idea how it ended. I assumed it would be a heartfelt tale of how two animals, who were known as natural enemies, could be friends when they put their differences aside. What I’d completely forgotten is that while Disney has always been an Evil Empire, it was also staffed by a group of sadistic bastards who seemed intent on creating films whose sole purpose was to crush childhood spirit, completely traumatize, and leave all of us subjected to them at a young impressionable age, heartless, broken adults.  
My God, I knew I certainly wouldn’t get the warm and fuzzies from Antichrist, what I hadn’t anticipated was The Fox and the Hound making me want to blow my own brains out. What a fucking downer of a movie. There is more loss, betrayal, and heartbreak in its 81 minutes than young children should have to endure in a lifetime. I assumed that Todd and Copper would remain friends after all was said and done. I also assumed that while Todd didn’t necessarily bother me, Copper would be the character I would most connect with. I’m a dog person, plus Todd was the overly outgoing, adventurous one, and if left to my own devices, I’d rather not stray too often from the straight and narrow, like my boy Copper. But then, Copper goes away for the winter, and he returns as a DOUCHE. He even takes his douchebaggery to a whole new level when he straight up turns on Todd because of the train incident that leaves the older dog, Chief, injured. Of course, Chief was trying to murder Todd, but fuck if Copper seems to give a shit. Dude has turned straight up cold. Even in the end, when Todd selflessly throws himself on the back of an attacking bear, he displays courage and devotion to Copper that most of us would never be able to extend to a person who HADN’T totally betrayed us for no reason, other than we are different in some way, be it race, gender, or what, let alone someone who had once been our dearest childhood friend and done so.  I’ve got to give Todd his props. Copper though, even when he got between a downed Todd and the hunter’s shotgun? Yeah, fuck that guy.


After The Fox and the Hound, the plan was to continue on to Antichrist. I put the dvd in, refreshed my adult beverage, and sat down prepared to once again have my senses assaulted. It hadn’t been as long since I’d seen Antichrist, but a year or so is almost and infinity when you watch as many movies as I do. Once it started though, I realized that I had essentially missed everything I’d seen so far, because I was still running through The Fox and the Hound in my head. That movie completely fucked me up. What a slap of real life in the face, despite the fact that it’s a kids movie. I mean, with the way movies these days hit kids over the head with equality, and celebrate diversity, it was a shocking nod to the old “non-PC” days of the past. I decided I needed more time before I jumped into a Lars Von Trier movie, as the mindset I was in certainly didn’t lend itself well to going in. By the end, of course, but going in? Not even I’m that much of a masochist.


The following night, I gave Antichrist a spin. It was basically as I’d remembered it. It starts off with a married couple getting it on, unaware that their toddler aged child had crawled out of bed and headed toward the balcony window.  Of course, the child falls to his death, and from there we witness the grief that accompanies such a tragedy, although both parents deal with it in very different ways.  The grief sends the mother,  credited simply as “She” to the hospital, while her psychiatrist husband, “He”,  buries himself in his work. His work just so happens to be the treatment of his wife. The two head to their secluded cabin in the woods, known as Eden, to attempt to repair not only their broken marriage, but their broken selves. Unfortunately, it  goes  from bad to worse, WAY worse, as these things tend to do.
Now, let me say this, as I’m sure anyone who’s ever stopped by my blog can attest, I’m not the most insightful person in the world. It’s part of why I enjoy reading blogs so much. I love to watch something, take away from it whatever I do, then read others interpretations.  Antichrist is an examination of grief that descends to depths those of us who have never been through a tragedy, like in this case losing a child, will never understand. What makes it even more disturbing is that when He and She get to Eden, we find out there’s even more going on, as previous events, whose details are sparsely revealed, show that She was already pretty damaged before they lost the child.


Plenty of movies out there, particularly of the “extreme” nature delve into misogyny, but Antichrist presents the idea of a sort of “reverse-misogyny”, which brings about a whole new thought process when you think about a woman who is already blaming herself for what happened to her child. She, who views all women as “evil” based off of research material she read when preparing to write a thesis, let her son die. It’s hatred of herself, for being a woman, coupled with the grief and self-blame, that leads to her hospitalization. It’s the anger at Him, who she perceives as arrogant due to his treatment methods, that leads to her eventual break. It’s at that point that Antichrist goes away a bit from just a dreadful, uneasy feeling movie, to disturbing, and even at times hard to watch.


There’s more there that I feel like Lars was trying to convey, with the woods in particular, that I feel like I still don’t have a full grasp of yet. In my defense though, I seem to take something else away from it every time I watch it. Lars Von Trier isn’t going to be a director for everybody, but I can’t help but feel engaged and at times challenged by everything he does. His movies never make you feel good, but they do make you feel, and that’s not something that comes along all that often anymore.
Now that I’ve endured the two films, and have had a little time to process, let’s see if we can find five things the two have in common, other than talking foxes. Chaos Reigns, bitches.


Loss – When you get down to it, both of these movies deal heavily with loss. In Antichrist, it’s the loss of a child, and ultimately sanity. The Fox and the Hound opens with Todd losing his mother to the hunters, but doesn’t stop there. It goes on to explore the loss of innocence, in the form of Copper being groomed into a true hunting dog by his owner, and ultimately the loss of friendship, as Todd and Copper are forced to the realization that they can never truly be friends.
The Frailty of Relationship – The Fox in the Hound is all about relationships, and how we sometimes think or wish they will last forever. How many of us have had relationships come to an unexpected end? An end that we never saw coming? It hits you like a sledge hammer in the stomach. It’s a harsh life lesson we all eventually learn. Antichrist focuses on a married couple who not only watch their relationship, marriage in this case, fall apart but their very lives also.
Abandonment – The Fox and the Hound is filled with abandonment, particularly in Todd’s case. He’s initially left abandoned by his mother, who leaves him in order to save him from the hunter, which ultimately leads to her death. After being taken in by the Widow Tweed, he’s later abandoned again, this time by her, at the wild life preserve, to once again save him from the hunter. There’s also the eventual emotional abandonment of his best friend, Copper. I’m honestly surprised the movie doesn’t end with Todd splattering his fox brains all over a wall somewhere with the hunter’s shotgun.  
For as much as Antichrist deals with Her, and how she’s coping with her loss and self-hatred, stop and think about how He feels. This is a man who also lost his only child, which has lead to his wife mentally checking out. There’s undoubtedly some feeling of abandonment there. Of course he loves his wife, and wants to help her get better, but I can’t help but feel like a small part of him is also afraid that if she doesn’t recover, he will be left with nothing.
Nature – Not as in “Mother Nature” so much, although that’s definitely there as well, but human nature, although I hesitate to use the word “human” as Todd and Copper are anthromorphic animals. I touched on this just a bit when I talked about relationships, but in both films we see things running their courses no matter how hard something tries to change them. The Fox and the Hound sees Copper ultimately turn on his best friend Todd because as a hound dog, it’s his nature to hunt fox, whether they be friend or not. Antichrist shows a grieving mother, hospitalized by her sadness, and a psychiatrist who is bound and determined to cure her by any means necessary. In both cases, nature wins out.
Misogyny – I already talked about misogyny being one of the main themes in Antichrist, but it’s present, although comedic and diluted in The Fox and the Hound too. It’s actually more of just a sign of the times than anything else, but the hunter, Amos Slade’s treatment of the elderly woman who takes Todd in after his mother is killed, the Widow Tweed, would be considered misogynistic by today’s standards. He never refers to her by name, only “woman”. He constantly berates her, and while he never comes out and calls her stupid, his comment s definitely imply that he feels like she is, and it’s only because she’s a woman.
There you have it, five things that Disney’s The Fox and the Hound and Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist have in common. I’m admittedly reaching a bit there, but hey, there’s evidence that backs up every point.  That just about does it for my long-winded entry for Two Extremes. Big thanks once again to Tromeric for letting me take part in another great theme here at the House of Grog. It’s always a pleasure.





Mitch goes by the internet moniker Mister Bones. He’s a simple minded fellow, who loves comic books, horror movies, hockey, and video games. He can be found writing about such as that, and all manner of other meaningless topics over at this blog, Tales From the Batcave.

2 Extremes: The Moon, The Dead World- Attack of the Midsections


torso belly open.jpg 

2 Extremes is a celebration of differences among film, but it’s also a way to document surrealistic similarities that arise from comparing two things that obviously have little in common. Thanks to Guts and Grog, I got to experience a film I probably wouldn’t have set out to view otherwise - Belly isn’t exactly the sort of movie that I gravitate towards, since I’m not a fan of rap and I don’t know much about DMX or Nas or any of the other big-name stars recruited to act. But I chose Belly because of the only clear correlation between that and Torso - both of their names mean relatively the same thing.


It’s easy to pick out the differences between the two, not just physical but also thematic. Torso features a prominently white, female cast, while Belly’s ensemble is full of black men. The former is an Italian giallo, the latter an urban gangster study. Neither share any cast or crew, and there’s no immediate evidence to suggest that there should be any reason to relate one to the other.


Yet there are a number of quick similarities that arise from comparing plots.


1. Party scenes that turn violent quickly.


Torso’s villa sequences make up a significant amount of plot, so much of that movie finds our protagonist and her friends partying it up before they’re slaughtered by a masked, gloved killer in traditional giallo style. Likewise, Belly features an opening sequence where DMX and Nas infiltrate a club and steal a bunch of money, killing a couple guards in the process. In a stylish encounter later, a Jamaican drug smuggler gets his comeuppance by assassins who sneak into his home. This leads us to…

belly mask.png

2. Masked killers.


Most of Belly’s violence is perpetrated by gangbangers who aren’t afraid to brazenly show their faces, but the aforementioned scene is one that strangely resorts to a ninja-like assassin who sports a striped mask across her face. It’s never really explained, either, giving it an aura of mystery that matches Torso’s slasher motivation throughout the film. Both movies force the viewer to question the reason behind the killings, which gives us our third similarity…


3. Philosophical reasoning behind murder.


Torso masks its gratuitous violence, nudity, and borderline-offensive lesbianism in the search for artistry within the gore. The murders are posed, colorful, and over-the-top enough that the visual aspect of them ties in well with an artist’s depiction of his subject. There is sexual fetishism behind the violence, predicated because of the killer’s past. In a correlative scenario, Belly’s street crime is a statement about urban kids growing up with their sense of right and wrong skewed; as the reverend states at the end of the film, they’re taught (or perhaps not taught) to think that killing and stealing is just the normal thing to do, and the selfishness of those before them have given them a right to think like this. In much the same way Torso recognizes the importance of childhood development, Belly tackles this in an urban setting.But for 2 Extremes week, I wasn’t satisfied with simply taking the exterior similarities of both films and highlighting them. There’s something intriguing about trying to reach for comparisons that shouldn’t really be there, so I randomly chose moments from each film: the opening title, then 7:40, then 22:10, 49:13, 67:20, 78:16, and finally the moment when the closing credits begin to roll. I put each still from both films together, with Torso on the left and Belly on the right, attempting to see if any of the moments matched up with each other. I was surprised with some of the results.
torso belly title.jpg

The title sequences have little in common with each other, though they both utilize bold, heavy letters. I didn’t expect much correlation between the two, especially because Torso uses a stock card instead of printing the title over an image as Belly does.

torso belly 740.jpg

Interestingly enough, Torso’s first killing happens around this time, so we get a clear visual of the masked killer in the woods, murdering one of his victims. In Belly, we get a look at one of the main character’s girlfriend, who has turned her head away from the camera; it’s also off-centered. Put together, it’s interesting how both form two different perspectives on death: the masked killer can stare at the body he’s recently destroyed, while the girlfriend turns away from her boyfriend Tommy’s guilt.

torso belly 2210.jpg

Coincidentally, both of these stills involve blurry, interrupted imagery. In Torso’s picture, the camera is quickly moving among objects in the foreground as it traces a character in the background. In Belly, director Hype Williams intentionally juxtaposes his characters with the television screen of a soccer match. In both scenes, the object of the shot is to provide a cloudy sense of the characters on-screen; everyone is obscured because none are safe.

torso belly 4913.jpg

Two shots of prominent women from each film round out these stills. In both, the females are in dramatic situations; Torso’s main player is fearing for her life, while Belly’s character is being imprisoned for her boyfriend’s crimes. In both, there is a sense of overwhelming dread, of a situation that is unavoidable.

torso belly 6720.jpg

Despite the odd camera angles of these two stills, along with the obscurity of objects in the background, there’s not too much to compare here. Looking closely, however, a cross can be seen in both: on the left, the door’s paneling resembles the object, while the blue light in Belly’s still forms a T.

torso belly 7816.jpg

Unfortunately there are absolutely no comparisons to be drawn here.torso belly credits.jpg


A sense of detritus can be glimpsed at the beginning of the credits for both films. Torso’s is a dirty, grimy feeling, while Belly’s ending is a bit more uplifting, concluding with a shot of Times Square celebrating on New Year’s Eve. There is a sense of rebirth in the former, while the latter revels in the murder setting.

Am I stretching to relate a lot of these images? Of course. But comparing the stills together does give an uncanny relation to each film that would be missed without intense scrutiny - or randomness. 2 Extremes gives us the opportunity to look at film in a way that we ordinarily wouldn’t, and though there is obviously no concrete similarity between Torso or Belly, the juxtaposition between images occurring at the same time in both films allows us to understand the thematic pacing of film; there is, among all films, some connection to emotion and plot, whether one realizes it or not. Without close study, these movies are connected by title alone; but there are more interlocking connections under the surface, and it is surprisingly beautiful.


-Ryne Barber

  

Ryne Barber writes primarily for his own horror blog, TheMoonisaDeadWorld.net, but he also does '80s horror movie reviews for Horrornews.net. His love of horror started as a child, amid the vast rows of horror VHS boxes at his father's video store. An overwhelming passion for coffee and beer keeps him fueled.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2 Extremes: Kweeny Takes On 2 Girls, 1 Essay





















Well, here is another one of my BRIGHT ideas again, “Won't it be fun to watch back to back movies about fucked up women? Dude it will be great!”

Yeah great is the right word to use.

But in truth, watching Girl Interrupted and American Mary back to back was a fascinating experience. They have a common thread that connects them, which is probably why I put them together in my head  and thought about watching them for the 2 Extremes week. It made sense to me at the time. Both are stories centered around women who have mental illness. I am kind of obsessed with stories about women and mental illness. So the natural line was drawn for me before I even knew what I was doing.

Of course the extreme part about each film isn't based on their genres. Girl Interrupted is a drama based on a memoir, while American Mary is body mod horror. When you look at them through that lens, they have nothing in common. One is about someone's real life experiences, the other, a shocking fiction about a med student pushed to become a monster. Sadly though, Mary Mason dies because of her illness, where Susanna Kaysen manages to get out of the hospital, realizing what she must do to change her life.

Their endings are very different, and Mary comes out the most tragic.

The thing I love about these two films side by side is the fact they have so many similarities compared to all their differences. While each film has variations, especially in their endings, here are some similarities to think about:

1. Both are well acted, filmed beautifully, and have amazing people behind their creations.

2. Both have female leads who in some form or another, are dealing with metal illness.

3. Both female leads make terrible choices because of their mental states.

4. Both female leads have been under-appreciated, abused and mistreated due to their gender.

5. Both are highly creative people who are just trying to get by despite their situations.

6. Both have compelling stories that even if they are not based on fact, they feel real. Their stories are relatable. Mental hospitals and body modification horror seems to somehow blend nicely under the dark light of the women who live in those worlds. And as a woman, I feel a connection to both stories. Many women suffer from mental illness, and are made to live in horrible conditions because of it.

I could probably think of more if I spent more time pondering it, but then I'd never get this article written. I will say though, Girl Interrupted has the better title name.

But because of how similar these films can be, I have a problem picking a favorite. I mean, I could break it down to shallow parts to help in the choosing, and even that falls short. One has big name actresses I adore like Wynona Rider and Angelina Jolie. But the other has the Twisted Twins and Katherine Isabelle. I could try to go deeper and pick a favorite story, but there again, I'd fail. I love both the stories. I love the terrible realistic horror that comes from watching the suffering of a bunch of women in a mental hospital in Girl Interrupted, and I love the terrible honest horror of watching a woman with dreams of being a surgeon being stripped to the bone and humiliated, then snapping in revenge like in American Mary.

What do you know, both these films are horror movies. One is just packaged differently for mainstream consumption.

I really do prefer the mental mindfuck films, no matter how they are billed. The films that sick with me are the ones that make me question my own sanity and sympathize with crazy people. Especially when the crazy people are doing things that are terribly wrong. And here are two great films that do just that.

Now I'm going to go curl up in a ball and rock back in forth...


Queenie Thayer has been an avid fan of horror all her life. She's a published author of both horror and fantasy. She currently writes for Darkmedia.com and is a Fright Meter Awards Committee Member. She also enjoys blogging, and is known in the crevices of the internet as Kweeny Todd, the Demon Blogger. There she shares her obsession with the macabre and the monstrous. She's also an aspiring filmmaker, and is trying to get her short film Red Handed off the ground.




http://kweenytodd.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/KweenyTodd
https://www.facebook.com/RedHandedMovie
Twitter: @kweenytodd


------
The Demon Blogger: http://kweenytodd.blogspot.com/

Recent Fiction:
Look for my story A Bird in the Hand in AGES OF WONDER, out now from DAW Books!

2 Extremes: The Tin Man in the Radiator- A VonKlingele Kustom



Where to start?  It really took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do for 2 extremes.  I really wanted to pair something up with Eraserhead.  Mostly because I wanted a good reason to watch the movie again and I thought it would be the perfect movie to double team with something light. I figured no other movie comes close in tone, subject matter, or really anything for that matter.  I decided to follow it up with Wizard of Oz.  Nothing says clean, good natured, family fun like Wizard of Oz.  What follows is my experience and I was surprised by the results to say the least.

I kicked things off with Eraserhead.  One of my all time favorites.  This is a movie that pulls you into it's world and doesn't let you go.  Everything about it creates a mesmerizing world you can't look away from.  Even if you really want to at some points.  And this time was no different.  Without getting too pretentious I love the way this movie affects you, it creates this feeling of dread and uncertainty that are always just under the surface.  You don't really know why , but it's there.  I bring this up because it's the number one factor in what came next. 

I fired up Wizard of Oz , a movie I've seen a million times, thinking I knew what I was in store for.  This movie is a classic of old school Hollywood.  An endlessly upbeat, positive movie with a message of overcoming odds and learning to appreciate the important things in life. On the surface this is as far from the bleak world of Lynch as possible, but as I started watching it seemed different this time.  That same sense of dread carried over changing what the movie meant to me. 

It all starts from the black and white scenes in Kansas.  It's almost like another chapter starting in a larger story, linking the two movies.  A story connected by dreams.  For me Eraserhead has always been a terrible dream brought to life.  Our time in Kansas feels like the bridge between the nightmare of Henry's world and the magic of Dorothy's time in Oz.  The wind swept farmland a perfect counterpart to the industrial wasteland of Eraserhead.  Two sides of a coin.

The switch to the garish Technicolor world of Oz is an abrupt splash of color and happiness that provides a temporary sense of comfort.  One that quickly dissipates.  I began to see the darkness in Oz.  I'm not just talking the Witch and her terrifying monkeys.  It's the little things.  A  "good" witch manipulating a scared little girl into murdering her enemies, an entire race of little people trapped in the middle of a conflict they can do nothing about, and it's all kicked off with a brutal death.

Even Dorothy's friends she meets along the way hinder her just as much as they help.  Bringing her down with their problems and desires.  All paving the yellow brick way to the Emerald City.  The seemingly perfect center to the world of OZ, overseen by a great and powerful wizard.  The most obvious case of things not being what they seem, as he is revealed to be nothing more than a normal man, and a conniving one at that.  A man that has to be bullied and pushed into even the slightest bit of help.  And in the end he reveals the way home has been in her possession from the very beginning of her increasingly pointless journey.  One last fuck you from the "good" witch.

Before this I always wondered why Dorothy was so anxious to return home to the bleak dust bowl that is her Kansas home.  Why leave the magic and wonder of OZ for a quiet life of poverty and hard work?  After seeing OZ in a different light, looking below the surface, I understand.  Something isn't right and it's only a matter of time before it continues to grow more and more sinister.  I'd get the hell out of there to, with a quick "fuck off" to that piece of shit lion for good measure.

When I first started thinking about this double feature I had no idea what I was going to write.  What would I have to say outside of "shit be crazy, yo!"?  I never anticipated how different a movie can be with a different frame of mind.  Both movies seemed to flow together like two parts of a fitful nights sleep.  For me Lynch's movies have always forced me to look a little deeper, just under the surface, to begin to understand them.  And applying that to a classic I've seen a million times gave me a whole new experience.  A journey between two worlds of dreams and hidden meanings.  The strangest part for me was that by the end of this, it didn't really seem all that extreme to watch these back to back.  It made sense in some strange way, no matter what's on the surface it's all shit underneath.

 - Jacob VonKlingele



Jacob lives in Washington State with his wife Alisha VonKlingele, and their two two demon spawn(the good kind of demon). He plays with their toys  more than they do. Sometimes contributor to the grog as well as building  fucktons of custom action figures. You can check out some of his work over at VonKlingele Kustoms. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2 Extrmes: My Little Centipede- Bride of VonKlingele






















Alisha VonKlingele decided to draw up this beast in honor of her extreme double feature. I think it speaks for itself.










Alisha VonKlingele raises demons, draws, crafts, and loves the 80's. Make sure to check out her page, Legend of the Crafter.

2 Extremes: Eraserhead Actually- From the Diary of Maynard

Eric a.k.a. Guts-and-Grog-mastermind is probably one of the weirdest horror-guys I know. There are times when I don't get to see anything of him for months, and then suddenly he's back alive and kicking and with a terrific blogfest-theme at his hands.
I already participated on his themes "Horror with Training Wheels" (Hocus Pocus) and "Extreme Week" (Irreversible, Feed). This time, it's getting completely bizarre:

"2 EXTREMES: DOUBLE FEATURES FROM HELL"

This is hilarious, but also damn brilliant. Let me explain: it's a double feature to confuse your senses. Unlike previous themes, this has nothing to do with genre, or even a theme. Basically, Eric wants us to pick two movies that should not be watched together, and eventually watch them together! The possibilities are endless. "A Serbian Film" with "Babe: Pig in the City" as the follow up. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" with "Friend Green Tomatoes", "Glitter" with "Subconscious Cruelty" etc. etc. 

After racking my brain over and over, I finally came up with a double feature that is really, really extreme: surrealistic arthouse body-horror meets romantic christmas-comedy. David Lynch's "Eraserhead" meets Richard Curtis' "Love, Actually". A match made in hell? No, a match made in a bizarre industrial landscape... with tea, christmas decorations and lots of love :-)))))


ERASERHEAD

Original Script Title:
Gardenback

USA, 1977
Director: David Lynch

10/10








Haven't seen "Eraserhead" in quite some time. As much as I adore David Lynch, I'm rarely in the mood to watch his movies. I can't just pop "Blue Velvet" in on a rainy Sunday. Or "Elephant Man" on a sunny summer day. No, I prefer my Lynch on a, what I call, Lynchian evening. An evening when the sun just went down, when it's not too hot, not too cold. Could be in Spring, in Summer or in Autumn. I can't watch my Lynch in Winter when it's freezing, and I can't watch my Lynch when it's sweating hot outside. Oh, and since I prefer to have some tea while watching Horror, I also need a big cup of Lady Grey or Earl Grey next to me while watching some Lynch. Oh, and 1-2 candles burning. You see, I'm a very strange kind of Lynchian :-)

Luckily, this year's March (here in Styria) was very Lynchian, so there were plenty of chances to dive into the weird world of "Eraserhead", undoubtedly one of the weirdest films ever made, but also one of the most fascinating ones. Is it Lynch's best film? I don't know. IMO it's at least as near-perfect as "Lost Highway", "Mulholland Drive" and "Inland Empire".


The movie follows Henry Spencer, an unstable guy with a silly haircut, who lives in a small apartment somewhere in a gloomy-looking industrial cityscape and spends the days coping with the fact that his semi-girlfriend gave birth to a creature that looks more like an alien-monstrosity, experiencing visions and nightmares of losing his very own head which later gets manufactured into erasers in an old pencil factory (Erasers, Head - get it??), and watching a heavy-cheeked girl who 'lives' in or behind his radiator and sings about how everything is fine in heaven (see here).

Lynch refuses to explain the movie and suggests that everyone should interpret it for themselves. Easier said than done. There are gazillions of interpretations out there and they all seem to fit, or not fit at all. I think I've seen Eraserhead 5 or 6 times now and I still haven't figured out what's it all about. There's lots of strangely unsettling sexual stuff (carved chicken makes obscene movements), criticism on pressured marriage and unwanted children, fear of fatherhood, (mutant/monster kid), and various post-apocalyptic elements that suggest some kinda downfall of civilization (rundown industrial areas, abhorrent behaviour of several people).


But, like with most Lynch-films, it doesn't matter what it's all about. It's more about seeing filmmaking at its best, experiencing the vision of a director who doesn't play by the rules, a director who seems to live in a completely different dimension, a director whose main goal is to challenge the viewer with bizarre images and freaky characters of otherworldly nature, unsettling and disturbing, as well as fascinating and mesmerizing.

Even after already having seen it a couple of times, "Eraserhead" is still as effective as always. The first 20 minutes are simply grotesque. Seeing slightly anxious main character Henry walking through the gloomy industrial environment, entering his strange apartment which is decorated with sticks in mounds of earth and pictures of an atomic cloud, all set to an intriguing soundscape that consists of industrial sounds, church organs and white noise, basically the mother of all drone / doom music - yes, it's all extremely strange and disconcerting.


 
The next 12 minutes - the most outrageous dinner scene since "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" - are slightly amusing and somewhat entertaining, but then the monster child 'arrives' and it all goes downhill. The child's constant moaning and crying, Henry putting a weird worm into a little cupboard, the child getting sick and covered with smallpox-like sores, the Lady In The Radiator stepping on mutated worms that fall from the sky, Henry pulling mutated worms out of his wife, the above-mentioned dream sequence with the head and the pencil factory, and the shocking finale with the child's body splitting up and its enormous head hovering through the apartment - dazing, agitating, disturbing. Believe me when I say that "Eraserhead" never fails to turn me into a complete wreck.

The black-and-white photography is simply stunning, and the camera work of Frederick Elmes ("Wild at Heart", "Night on Earth") is simply flawless. The effects may look a bit dated now, but they're still able to frighten the shit out of you. The grotesque production design is amazing, the editing is top-notch and as I already mentioned above, the music - created by Lynch and sound designer Alan Splet ("Mosquito Coast", "Deat Poet's Society") - is mindblowing. I've never heard anything like it. Not even SUNN O))) could ever come up with something so impressive.


Also, weirdly fabulous acting by Jack Nance as Henry, the awkward guy with the super-crazy stand-up hair, Charlotte Stewart as his weird wife, Jeanne Bates and Allen Joseph as her even weirder parents, Laurel Near as the Radiator-Lady, and the beautiful Judith Roberts (best known as Mary Shaw in "Dead Silence") as the 'beautiful girl across the hall'.

Overall, "Eraserhead" is a disturbing, intriguing and mesmerizing masterpiece, and undoubtedly one of the most unique films ever made. Now, even after seeing it for the 5th or 6th time, it's still able to frighten and unsettle me. I wasn't a total wreck this time, but I was... well, a bit unsettled. I switched the lights on, made me a glorious cup of English Breakfast tea, turned the lights down,
lit the candles, and...


Wiki ~ Imdb




LOVE ACTUALLY

German Title:
TatsÀchlich... Liebe

UK / USA / France, 2003
Director: Richard Curtis

9/10









...and watched one of the most brutal british Horror films of all time: "Love Actually", a Christmas-themed scare-fest, made to shock the viewer to its core.
It's packed with eerie sea monsters...

...and other weird creatures.

People getting brutally attacked by sea monsters...

People attacking each other...

People breaking down in utter desperation...

and there are also lots of graphic sex scenes.

Of course, everything I just said is bollocks. "Love Actually" is actually one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, made by the same people who made other amazing romance comedies like "Notting Hill", "4 Weddings and a Funeral" or the two "Bridget Jones" adaptations. You may be surprised about what I just wrote, but as I already mentioned in the interview with Karina from "Mundane Rambling", I'm a huge fan of British rom-coms, especially when Hugh Grant's starring in it. I love his clumsy and silly acting behavior, and I also love how much more realistic these movies are, compared to most US rom-coms that came out over the last 30 years, or so.

It was really weird to see "Love Actually" right after "Eraserhead", mainly because I felt strangely gloomy and I wasn't quite in the mood for light-hearted entertainment. However, 15-20 minutes into the movie, my mood changed and this movie that I've already seen many, many times before... well, it chased the gloominess and its demons away, and it once again embraced me with its charming loveliness and its powerful emotionality.


It might be a bit too long (135 minutes) but that doesn't matter much. It's an absolutely marvellous, gorgeous-looking and fabulously entertaining film, stunningly written and directed by Richard Curtis, grandmaster of UK rom-coms, and packed with awesome actors playing super-super-likable characters, like:

Hugh Grant as English Prime Minister ("
Who do you have to screw around here to get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit?"),
Martine McCutcheon as Natalie, member of the Prime Minister's household staff ("I did have an awful premonition that I was gonna fuck up on the first day. Oh, piss it!"),
Bill Nighy as rock'n'roll legend Billy Mack ("Hey kids. Here is an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!").


Gregor "Baldy Man" Fisher as Billy's manager Joe ("10 minutes at Elton John's, and you're as gay as a maypole!"),
Keira Knightley as newly married Juliet ("All I want is just one shot of me in a wedding dress that isn't bright turquoise."),
Andrew Lincoln as Mark who's secretly in love with Juliet ("They're not funny. They're art!").


Colin Firth as semi-talented writer Jamie ("Scary? Yes, sometimes scary. And, er, sometimes not. Mainly scary how bad the writing is."),
LĂșcia Moniz as Jamie's housekeeper ("I don't want to drown saving some shit my grandmother could have written."),
Emma Thompson as lovely wife Karen ("Which doll shall we give Daisy's little friend Emily? The one that looks like a transvestite, or the one that looks like a dominatrix?").


Alan Rickman as Karen's husband Harry ("Find a venue, over-order on the drinks, bulk-buy the guacamole and advise the girls to avoid Kevin if they want their breasts unfondled."),
Heike Makatsch as Harry's lover ("It's an art gallery, full of dark corners, for doing... dark deeds."),
Rowan "Bean" Atkinson as salesman Rufus ("Ready in the flashiest of flashes." / "Prontissimo.").


Laura Linney as office worker Sarah ("It's official. Worst DJ in the world."),
Rodrigo Santoro as Sarah's love interest ("Life is full of interruptions and complications."),
Liam Neeson as freshly widowed Daniel ("He might be injecting heroin into his eyeballs for all I know.").


Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Daniel's stepson Sam ("Let's go get the shit kicked out of us by love."),
Kris Marshall as sex addict Colin ("I am Colin. God of sex. I'm just on the wrong continent.")
Abdul Salis as Colin's best friend ("Colin, you're a lonely, ugly arsehole. Accept it.").


Martin Freeman as sex film body double John ("You know the type. He's married to his job. Either that, or he's gay as a picnic basket.")
Joanna Page as John's body double partner Judy a.k.a Just Judy ("Naughty!").
and many, many more.



Did "Eraserhead" had any effect on my viewing of "Love Actually"? Definitely. As I mentioned above, I already seen it a couple of times but it never made me cry before - until now! Lynch destroyed my oh-so-tough maleness (o rly?) and turned me into a sobbing wreck - two times!! I know that Karina will ask if I don't tell, so I better tell it right now: I cried during the word-card-confession (To me, you are perfect.), and I cried during the scene where Emma Thompson confronts Alan Rickman over the necklace he bought for his secret lover ("Oh god. I am so in the wrong. The classic fool." - "Yes, but you've also made a fool out of me.
You've made the life I lead foolish, too.")

Damn, I'm such a pussy :)


Wiki ~ Imdb

Final thoughts: this was an extremely weird experience. Originally, I wanted to do "Martyrs" and "Stand By Me". Then I changed to "Eraserhead" and "About A Boy", before I finally decided to do "Eraserhead" and "Love Actually".

I'm not sure if I'll ever do something like this again, unless I'm invited to a sequel to this blogfest :-) Still, I don't regret doing it. Haven't seen "Eraserhead" in quite some time, and it was interesting to break out in tears during a film I never expected to make me cry. Thanks Eric

P.S. Bear in mind: Rodrigo Santoro, the guy who plays the endearing love interest of Laura Linney in "Love Actually"... he's the same guy who plays Xerxes in the "300" flicks!!



Bonus! Bonus!
I invited my good old pal Cindy Prascik as mental support, so that me, whiny old fuck, isn't completely alone in here ;-D Let's hear what she thinks about "Love Actually":

My good pal Maynard has asked me to say a few words about the "Love Actually" half of his unlikely double feature. As I sat down to write, I realized I really only need one word: charming.

Me? I'm an action fan. I like superheroes, monsters, and big explosions. If you told me "The Expendables" was the only movie I could watch for the rest of my life, I'd be okay with that. As you might imagine, I avoid romantic comedies like the plague, but "Love Actually" is different.

"Love Actually" is blessed with what is surely one of the finest ensembles ever. Most of the characters are loosely connected with each other, and all are in various stages of various types of platonic and romantic love. The stories are layered, far beyond your average boy-meets-girl, contrived-scenario-tears-them-apart, love-saves-the-day drivel.

If there's one thing the Brits do especially well, it's inject a bit of cynicism without any underlying meanness or misery. In "Love Actually", not everyone gets THE happy ending, but there's nothing pitiful about the ones who don't. In real life, the fairy tale ending isn't all that matters.
"Love Actually" is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always honest portrayal of relationships in the real world. It's love, actually.



Make sure to check out Maynard's page Horror Movie Diary here.