I just watched Demon Knight. Movie Thoughts came into my head while I did so, so here they are:
First and foremost, I’ll point out that it was a perfectly serviceable schlock horror experience. I’d recommend it to people who have the exact taste in movies that I do.
But what set my mind a wandering during this movie is something that actually applies less to this movie and more to serious attempts at horror fiction. Demon Knight, being a Tales From the Crypt production, is presented with a framing sequence featuring everyone’s favourite cryptkeeper, the Cryptkeeper. It has that double layer of fiction. The Cryptkeeper is already a fictional character and he is relating to us another story, which is therefore Extra Fictional. You see what I’m saying? I’ll come back to that a few paragraphs from now.
One of the ways that I often disagree with Horror Discussers on the internet is that a percentage of them (it feels like a large percentage, but probably actually isn’t) want to feel like they are scared for themselves while watching the horror movies. I can’t relate to that. I’ve never got that feeling once that I can remember. What I want from horror movies is to care about the characters enough to feel worry that they may not make it through the story. This is something that horror movies often fail.
The people who want to feel scared by horror stories also tend to say they prefer non-supernatural horror, because that way it can be something could really happen. A ghost bear isn’t scary because ghost bears aren’t real, they say. A normal human killer with a knife is scary because one of those might break in and kill me while I’m watching the movie. Well that could happen any time, whether you’re watching a movie or not, so if you want to be scared of that, be scared of it. If I’ve knowingly put a fictional movie on to watch I’m not worried about either the ghost bear or the normal human killer in the movie, because they’re both equally fictional actually. And ghost bears would make for a movie infinitely cooler than a human with a knife.
Anyway, while watching the Cryptkeeper introduce Demon Knight I began to wonder if he, and other similar horror comic hosts, were introduced to allow a sort of distancing from the supernatural elements of the horror stories they presented. You don’t get to pretend the story isn’t fictional when the undead guy making terrible puns tells you right from the start that it’s a story. It’s like a gate that only lets in people who can accept the weird supernatural stuff. If so, good job, Cryptkeeper.
I watched Wind Chill. I had thoughts while I watched it, and here they are:
This is a supernatural horror movie, blah blah, whatever. The main thing I took away here was that I just did not care for the protagonists. Not at all. They were not people I wanted to spend time with.
The story begins when the one woman and the one man meet up to share a car on a trip or something. They bicker a strange amount for two people who ostensibly just met to share this car. I thought that they were supposed to be some former friends who had bad blood between them or something, but nope. That’s just how they are. And it turns out that the man is also basically a stalker. My main feeling while watching was that I didn’t want to be watching them. That can’t be the intended effect.
There’s a frequently occuring trope in horror movies, especially the slasher movies, to have the protagonists be unlikeable jerks so that we are all happy to see them all get murdered. I don’t approve of that line of thought either, though at least I understand their reasoning. They are thinking the point of those films is that thrill of seeing people get slaughtered and if they are unlikeable it is all the better. That is probably true for a large portion of the audience. It isn’t for me, though. What I like about such films is seeing characters I like, or at least am interest in watching, as they try to get through the bad situations. I want to be happy when they succeed and saddened when they fail.
But that’s slasher movies anyway. This isn’t one of those. This is a movie about two people in a car and I don’t like those people and it takes way too long to get to the supernatural stuff. This is sharing a ride with two annoying strangers and it takes to long to get where I’m going.
I admit, the story does try to redeem the characters, have them grow as people and maybe get better, but it all happened long after I cared if they got better. By the time the stuff I wanted started happening, I did not care about how these two reacted to it.
Anyway, that’s it.
I watched Whiplash. Here is what occurred to me while I did so.
This is one of those movies where everyone gets all worked up about a big competition that I, PDR, wouldn’t give a shit about. Often these are about sports. In this case, it’s about music.
Anyway, the move is fine. The actors are good. It’s shot well. All that stuff. But man, I don’t care if that kid wins the music trophy. But here’s what I do care about: This movie seems to endorse cruelty as a method of teaching.
The big bad music teacher of the movie is convinced that he needs to find the next best music man, and the way to do it is to torture his students. This, he feels, will weed out those students who aren’t fully on committed and will make the True Musician prove their worth by doubling down. It kind of sounds makes it sound like talent isn’t teachable, but is inherent in certain people and they are the only ones worth trying to teach. Seems like a dumb thing for a music teacher to espouse, but whatever. And this movie actually does paint this teacher as a bad guy. We see the negative effects this method of teaching has.
But then, in the end, main kid rises up against the cruelty and does a good music at the music championships. He seems to be doing it in an attempt to prove his bad teacher wrong, but this is exactly what his teacher wanted. Bad teacher was right all along. That sucks.
Anyway, being competitive must be awful.
Yesterday I watched a movie! Here are my Movie Thoughts about Timer.
Full disclosure, I didn’t mean to watch Timer. When I started watching it, I thought I was going to be watching In Time. I was aiming for a sci-fi story about people with clocks in their arms that tells how long they have left to live and uses that gimmick to comment on wealth disparity, but what I got was a movie about people with clocks in their arms that tells them when they will find their one true love. But hey, I liked Timer fine, so it’s all good.
The Movie Thoughts that came to me during Timer is this: I think there may be a whole genre of movies that I recognize but which hasn’t quite been codified yet. Timer is a movie in which a company has a fancy new sci-fi device (which is more magic than science, really) and we aren’t exploring what the device means for humanity or anything, we are focused on a emotional arc of the characters. The sci-fi magic, presented via some company’s gizmo, is just a plot device to allow us to play through the character study and apart from that one element, the world resembles our own. It isn’t a future timeline or a fantasy world. We might get some offhand commentary about how the world is changing because of the device, but that isn’t the focus, and it hasn’t progressed enough to make society unrecognizable. (For example, I disqualify the movie the Lobster because the society in there has different laws and mores than our own. It’s too different.)
Other examples of this sort of thing would be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where there’s a company that can erase memories. There’s also Cold Souls, where there’s a company that can remove souls and put them in different bodies and such. Both are stories not about the science, but about the characters who just happen to access the science via the miracles of capitalism.
I may not be big on capitalism, but I like this gimmick for a genre. The idea that one could wander down to the strip mall and go into a shop and have some magic device that can power an emotional story arc. I can’t pin down a name for this genre, but it’s definitely related to Magic Realism or Fabulism, but with a corporate component. Capitalist Fabulism? Eh, someone will find a better name, so long as we get more movies of this ilk. And I hope we do.
Hey, I forgot that “Movie Thoughts” was even a thing I had started doing on this site. I think I did two and then forgot about them. Well, I want to break up the flow of Phone Guys being the only thing going up, so let’s talk about a movie I watched the other day.
Today’s Movie Thoughts are about Knightriders.
I don’t actually want to get too into the details of the film itself, but I should give a little bit of a summary: This is a movie about a group of travelling performers whose medium of performance is motorcycle jousting. There’s a bunch of drama about who gets to be in charge of this motorcycle troupe, and there’s a lot of allusions to the tales of King Arthur. That’s the basic deal. But the Movie Thoughts that occurred to me while watching were about how much I wish the movie had been dumber.
I’m not going to say Knightriders is a bad movie, but it isn’t a good enough movie that I enjoyed sitting through it when I wanted a dumb action movie.
What I mean is that it turns out that Knightriders exists in some sort of valley of quality that actually makes me find it less enjoyable. It’s in the Mid-Quality Zone. I thought that the motorcycle knight movie was going to be stupid. Instead, it turned out to be a movie delivered a drama film plot that just happened to have motorcycle jousting amid actual character work and attempts to take the plot seriously. These things would be good in a good drama, but Knightriders doesn’t break through the barrier to be a good drama. It’s just middling. And the fact the film’s length seemed better suited for a compelling drama than for a dumb action movie meant that I was getting more of what I didn’t want.
The lesson is this: We need more movies about motorcycle fighting. There needs to be enough variety in that concept that there are motorcycle fight movies for whatever mood the viewer happens to be in.