I do really hope PCap sees this, because it is known that when/if I ever meet him, I will freeze and expire due to a fatal case of Hero Worship in front of him, my deck of Twelfth Doctor-inspired notecards of things to say fluttering to the floor shortly before my lifeless body and overfull, exploded heart.
This month at the Gutter, I looked The Transfiguration, a meditative, low budget indie horror centered on one troubled boy’s fixation with becoming a vampire. I focused on the way the movie simultaneously deromanticizes vampires while speaking to the redemptive virtues of love, since the way supernatural romance tends to idealize maladaptive and downright self-destructive behaviors is kind of a bugbear of mine. The Transfiguration really has so much else going for it I didn’t get into. In particular, I loved the way the movie explored masculinity in Milo’s relationship with his brother. These guys do not open up like Supernatural’s Brothers Winchester, but the performances and the economical writing and direction get so much across — anxiety, resentment, and unconditional love — meanwhile, the brothers wage silent, unceasing wars with personal demons that are always in the background, just like the closed door to the room where their mom committed suicide. Men are asked to repress so much in our society. This is something that fascinates me, as an oppressed ladytype. This is not a battle of the sexes. Women support patriarchy, and patriarchy kills and erases men. The repercussions seem particularly acute for black men, especially black men from low-income neighborhoods like Milo’s, who are also routinely vilified and othered and would have more need of a robust support system, but could never, ever have a heart to heart like Sam and Dean. Milo gets some “support” in the form of therapy, but it’s not really. It’s just another form of policing.
Race is and isn’t dealt with, because it’s America, and race is ever in the background, and we have an African-American star, an African-American star in a horror movie, and incredibly, that by itself is still kind of exceptional.* We have an interracial romance, which is less rare, but still noticeable and obliquely pointed up in the movie itself with references to Jungle Fever and Sophie (Chloe Levine) noting Milo is the only person who hasn’t asked her why she’s in his inner-city neighborhood. I noted that some reviews seemed to find Eric Ruffin’s very subtle performance of stoic Milo unlikable, but I suspect no one would have felt that way if he were being portrayed by a white actor. Maybe I’m wrong; it’s a tricky role to play, being sympathetic while your character is a self-fashioned killer trying to purge himself of his humanity. But we’re really coached into finding remoteness, aloofness, stoicism desirable in white men; it goes back to that destructive interpretation of masculinity I was talking about before, with the Byronic heroes of YA novels aplenty. Anyway, I thought he was surprisingly likable, given how the movie opens and what we know about him before he starts to slowly fall in love. I found Milo every bit as sympathetic as Oskar in Let the Right One In, actually more so, because Milo is struggling not just to escape his hellish life, but eventually to do the right thing. Which makes the movie so much more poignant.
It’s not a fun movie, but it is a moving and Important one. Give The Transfiguration a watch. It’s on Netflix streaming now.
* Yay for change though. The BEST horror movies I have seen this year — this, Get Out, and The Girl with All the Gifts — all had black actors as leads. God, Get Out was good. Go see it if you haven’t. I loved It, too, but one of the only things I would change about it is I felt they gave Mike short shrift. I do recognize it’s hard to get a lot of backstory done with 7 leads in a 2-hour running time.
I tried to make this a challenge that dives a little deeper than your average movie list challenge. I also tried to keep it positive and personal. There’s no “bests” on this list, just your favorites, and there’s no worsts either. This is a celebration, if a little on the black sabbat side of celebrations. It’s 58 days because if you start it TODAY, it will take you through Halloween. Of course, if you don’t start it today, it could take you until Thanksgiving or whatever. Nip and tuck as best sorts with your own prefs. Mwah!
- Horror movie that wigs you out every single time you watch it
- A horror movie that made you afraid of something you weren’t before
- A horror movie you, grownup person, are afraid to watch
- A horror movie that changed the way you thought about something
- Favorite use of gore
- Favorite use of tension without gore
- Kiddie horror that freaked you out as a child
- Score that freaks you out
- Favorite song from a horror movie
- Favorite version of the end of the world
- Favorite meta reference
- Favorite use of clowns
- Favorite cult or conspiracy
- Favorite horror love story
- Favorite body horror (ex. practically everything David Cronenberg has ever done)
- Favorite adaptation of a book, comic, or video game
- An adaptation or remake you’d like to see
- Favorite horror comedy
- Favorite anthology horror, TV or movie (ex. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Night Gallery, XX)
- Favorite horror TV movie or miniseries
- Favorite horror TV series
- Favorite masked killer
- Favorite Final Girl
- Character you personally relate to most
- Most sympathetic monster
- Least sympathetic monster
- Favorite villain monologue
- Most richly deserved death
- Most unfair death
- Favorite human monster
- Favorite animal monster
- Favorite alien monster
- Favorite monster monster
- Favorite Dracula
- Favorite Frankenstein’s Monster
- Favorite Mummy
- Favorite Wolfman
- Favorite non-Dracula vampire
- Favorite non-Wolfman werewolf
- Favorite horror movie from Pre-Code era
- Favorite 60s monster
- Favorite 70s monster
- Favorite 80s monster
- Favorite 90s monster
- Favorite 00s monster
- Favorite monster hunter
- Favorite B-Horror
- Favorite horror movie of the last 5 years
- Favorite foreign language horror movie
- Favorite character arc
- Favorite transformation
- Most heroic animal in a horror movie
- Favorite performance in a horror movie
- Favorite horror movie aesthetic (ex. Guillermo del Toro’s super-saturated Gothic in Crimson Peak, Ed Wood’s cardboard tombstones)
- Favorite cameo in a horror movie
- Favorite twist ending
- A movie that scares or disturbs you that isn’t traditionally considered a horror movie
- Essential movie to watch on Halloween
At the Gutter this month, I’m mulling the brand-new English translation of the
Turkish translation Turkish bootleg of Dracula, Kazıklı Voyvoda, or The Impaling Voivode, or Dracula in Istanbul, a fascinating addition to Dracula scholarship and, frankly, an adaptation of Stoker’s story that really privileges the fun parts. I freaking love Dracula relocating to modern Istanbul instead of London. It makes so much sense.
Also, I link to it in the article, but I’m going to again here, because Comics editor Carol wrote a thing about Draculas I wish I’d written, and you should read it because it is perfect and also about Draculas.
I’m pouring one out for Tobe Hooper this morning. You know, I still haven’t gotten over Wes Craven or even begun to process George Romero. All these giants who created films of such unflinching conscience taken from us. I don’t know how well that’s understood now, but we need them more than ever. At least we have their work, right? It’s suddenly an important time to remember the horror of the late 60s and 70s. There are questions there we still haven’t completely confronted, answers we haven’t accepted or absorbed.
#PCapRecap is stalled because the dwarf star that has been collapsing between my ribs since Twelve’s last episode is still collapsing and I can’t face a rewatch yet, if I even had time, what with the toddler renewing her War on Parent Sleep and me in the beginning and middle of writing many Things and Gutterthon revving its engine. As we are coming up on the Season of Pumpkin Spice, I am penciling it in for November.
In preparation for Pumpkin Spice Days, I am mocking up a Horror Movie Tumblr/FB/blog Challenge with a difference and should be posting it this time next week. I think it will probably cover about a year. There. I have said it here and so OCD will make it so. It is the quirky and esoteric listmaking of sleep-deprived madness! You’ll like it!
At the Gutter this month, I write a love letter to Hellraiser’s Julia (Clare Higgins — you get all the Oscars in my heart) and it occurred to me during the writing that Hellraiser’s Lead Cenobite, the Hell Priest, or more popularly “Pinhead,” and Clive Barker’s other big movie monster, the Candyman, are not dissimilar. Consider:
- Both technically dead, yet able to physically manifest when invoked.
- Both invoked through a deliberate ritual, solving Lemerchand’s Configuration or saying Candyman’s name 5 times.
- Both fetishize pain. Your suffering will be exquisite, legendary, etc. Promises, promises, boys.
- Insofar as suffering = snuggling, both are pansexual. The heart wants what it wants.
- Both love to talk, especially when backed by orchestral themes.
- Both love their work. Which is eviscerating people, primarily with hooks.
- Be it infibulated flesh or a fur-trimmed coat, these gentlemen are unafraid of making a fashion statement.
But if you consider the Hell Priest and Candyman as Bizarro Valentines, which would offer the better relationship?
I suppose some of it has to do with what you’re looking for in a monster. The Hell Priest is obviously polyamorous, coming with his own set of playmates. While focused on his petitioner/victim, he still defines theirs as a casual relationship, ever referring to the attentions of the Cenobites as “play.” Whatever his disposition in flashbacks, he’s consistently dominant. You will not be picking the restaurant.
Candyman, on the other hand, is more relationship focused, though he will kill other people. But at heart, he’s pretty clearly a bee-filled romantic. Candyman also respects consent. You can invoke him and he might split you from your groin to your gullet, but he’ll still ask for a kiss. Meanwhile, the Hell Priest seems like he’d plow right through any hard limits with a glib “there are no limits” and that’s not cool, even for a sadomasochistic monster.
- You couldn’t kiss Pinhead without putting an eye out. Which you’d probably better be into if you’re snuggling Pinhead. I suspect he’s one of those who’s not into kissing anyway.
- Do the bees stay inside Candyman or would they get on you, too? I think they probably would. Are you allergic to bees?
- Are you the reincarnation of Candyman’s long lost love? If not, he may break your heart while he splits your gullet.
- Would Pinhead ever give you any alone time or do the other Cenobites always have to come with? What if you just want to be with the Chatterer? Would he get jealous? Would you be upset if he didn’t?
- Age and planes of existence differences: Technically Pinhead’s only been around since WWI, but his explorations of the untold realms of experience seem to have given him knowledge equivalent to several millennia. Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey. Candyman dates from when slavery was still the law of the land, and of course, it was a barbaric act of racial violence that made him into the unquiet dead he is. While his persistence as rumor is not explicitly grounded in the climate of racial injustice and has lent him an aspect of timelessness, functionally that history is a huge, integral part of his story, and you need to be sensitive to that.
- They will kill you, but you may not have the same ability to cross into other planes of existence that they do. Or you might. Consider carefully whether that flexibility is important to you.
That was a joke. Anyhoo, 13 is Jodie Whittaker, and I could not be happier unless she were somehow going to be co-Doctor with Peter Capaldi who is also immortal irl and never stops playing the Doctor. It could be like Law&Order spinoffs, Doctor Who 12 and Doctor Who 13, and they’d have special crossover episodes and it would kick booty. But this is a good second to that.
I am indeed too emotional to say much, though I did jiffy up a bit of coherence on the Gutter’s Facebook, and now I need to share my Gutter article about pretty much this exact scenario under the broader topic of accepting change in your favorite shows gracefully.
Hey! A couple fun projects to let Peter Capaldi, the best of all possible Doctors, know you love him and
he is ruining your life by stepping down has made a positive difference in your life with his portrayal of Britain’s signature hero to nerds and children, his brilliant oeuvre, activism and social conscience, fine irl role modeling, and general awesomeness.
First, over at Tumblr, we have #StarsforTwelve, a reference to Twelve’s lament as he lay dying in “The Doctor Falls” that there were no stars overhead. We can’t have that. There’s going to be a candlelight vigil July 11 at Roath Lock studios and you can help by posting your tribute to Peter and the whole Doctor Who team on social media with #StarsforTwelve. Check out the above link for full details.
Then after Stars for Twelve, we have a book for Peter! ALL THE DEETS: