Friday, April 5, 2013

Evil Dead: What You Should Be Watching For, The Conjuring Trailer 2 & The Great Gatsbay Trailer 3

It's actually living up to the hype.
The remake, budgeted at a mere $17 million dollars, uses no Computer Generated Images, everything we see is "real" as a magic trick, illusion or camera angle; that's pretty impressive, and the critics seem to be liking it (it's at a passable 64% on Rotten Tomatoes right now), as well as the fans. So what do we need to be looking for watching this horror-gore fest? There are several things,...
My dad saw this trailer with me when we were watching a film together and this part, where she licks the box cutter and splits her tongue in two, really grossed him out. Why, we should ask, is it a box cutter? Why not a knife? A razor blade, anything that would make more sense? Well, some of the 9/11 hijackers were using box cutters on (at least) American Airlines Flight 77, fanning the controversy around the newest regulations de-regulating box cutters on flights. This particular scene exists within a context, so we can't say too much here, however, this is something we should be keeping in mind, as well as the first time we see the box cutter (remember the lessons about props from your high school Shakespeare English class? Those will come in handy this weekend!) and any connection with it the film makers want to establish. Look at the top of her forehead: this might turn out to be nothing at all, but it's like the layer of skin is peeling back, like a mask, to reveal something. Please remember as we watch the film, the trailer opens with a thunderstorm, and "storms" have served well as parables for the 2008 economic crisis which took the country by storm and set conditions for the start of the socialist revolution.
We won't be able to help but think of The Cabin In the Woods, because it's a cabin in the woods where the plot is set. Five friends in their twenties successively become possessed by this demon awakened from the book of the dead, the Necronomicon, and they are killed one by one until only one is left to fight for survival. Which of the friends fall, in what order, and by what means will all contribute--not only to characterization--but the plot and sub-message of the film as well. What will really need to hold our attention, however, without a doubt, is the Necronomicon
Two other films figure books prominently in their narrative, including The Cabin In the Woods (the diary they find) and Jack the Giant Slayer, the book Jack gives to the Princess (and Bilbo writes a book in The Hobbit). The stitching on the book is intriguing because we have seen stitching like that on the "faces" of "beings" in Silent Hill: Revelation (and I am sure they have appeared in other places as well). We know the saying is, "Never judge a book by its cover," but perhaps that is exactly what we should be doing with this, that what is inside the book is, like the cover, "stitched together," and made of animals (the leather material). In the trailer we see a black trash bag (?) wrapped with barbed wire, and a male opening the book anyway. So, the book exists in a state of irony: even while the book was preserved (protected from the water by the trash bag, which also reveals that it is "trash") it wasn't meant to be accessed because barbed wire keeps "animals" in their safe pasture and keeps them from getting out; so the barbed wire is meant to keep the "animal" in the book from escaping (at least by what we can take from the trailer.
Every detail of this book will be imperative, because this book will become a character itself in the plot sequence. Who finds the book, where it is, the condition, the circumstances for it being found, who opens it, the language, all the places it has been will contribute to the purpose of the film.
"He'll suck your soul dry," while that seems like a simple statement, there is actually quite a bit contained within this image. We know that "He" refers to a male, so the demon released by the book is male, not female, and that male demon is possessing the young people. "Soul" is not something materialists believe in, so the universe in which this film operates does so in a world where there is immortal beings (by definition, the soul is immortal); this does not necessarily mandate a belief in God, as some actually believe a person can have an immortal part of them without it necessarily coming from God. "Dry" is an interesting choice of words, because that does mandate a specific belief system: Christianity. When Jesus went through His Passion, He told the women, "Weep not for Me, but for your children" because He is the branch full of the sap of Life, and the "dry wood" He references is those who lack the sap of life, Grace, the life-force coming from God. Because Grace comes to us first in the Waters of Baptism, water is usually the symbol of Grace, so "dry" would be the opposite of a soul filled with Grace. How? This will be the task of the film, however, because this statement is written in red, we can pre-deduce something about what will happen. Red is the color of the appetites, because more than anything, we hunger for love (the virtue) because when we truly love someone, we are willing to spill our (red) blood for them; or, red can be the color of anger because being angry is the opposite of loving someone, and we turn red with anger. It is, perhaps, by feeding the appetites, denying the appetites or both--depending on the person involved--that those who die will die, we will have to see. There is at least one more detail on this page, the writing underneath the written message, "He'll suck your soul dry," written in columns; the language of that writing will be important because it denotes the cultural background of this book. On the other page, the right-side, is a figure which reminds me of Geryon, the allegorical figure in Dante's Inferno who symbolized fraud: the pleasant face of a man hides the horrible, deformed body of a winged beast, because fraud always appears as "something nice" (the pleasing face of a man) which hides the animal appetites beneath (the serpentine body). So, we need to be looking for instances of fraud in the film, as well. There is also, in the trailer above, a brief image of a horned goat (did we see a similar image in Sherlock Holmes in 2009? I think we did) but that also references that weird painting in the bedroom in The Cabin In the Woods of the goat and the dog pack.
It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: any and all references to other horror films should be one of our mental checklists we mark as we watch the film, Carrie (which is scheduled for release this year), Friday the 13th, The Cabin In the Woods, Saw, etc., because Evil Dead wants us to know it's self-aware, it exists within a context of horror-films and that context is a dialogue with us the audience listening in. The more we can pick up on the visual imagery, the more we will be able to discern in the dialogue. 
A chainsaw in a horror film? How many times have we seen that? But this is one of those cases in which originality isn't necessarily desirable. As we have discussed previously, numerous works of art utilizing the same motifs or symbols are not only going to prove more accurate as a statement of cultural conflict taking place (because they all agree about what is harming society or causing the conflict) but also because our visual vocabulary is strengthened by recognizing the repetition of the motifs, so we are better able to take note of it.
I hope you like the new look: I apologize the text in the captions of the former style was difficult to read, I stuff a lot of material in there, so I hope this makes it easier! I saw Burt Wonderstone and was pleasantly surprised with how pro-capitalist the narrative was it had several valuable points. Like Oz the Great and Powerful, and the upcoming Now You See Me, involves "magic" as a metaphor or at least a vehicle and will be fun comparisons. I will be tweeting my reactions to Evil Dead tonight, so if you want to know whether to catch it or not, just check (Warm Bodies and Mama are lingering at a theater in town, so I am going to make it a point to take them in this weekend as well).
Have we seen an image like this before? Yes, in Snow White and the Huntsman when Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is trapped in the Dark Forest and gets ensnared by the branches; a "Dark Forest" figures prominently in the plot of Oz the Great and Powerful, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, Mama and The Hobbit. Usually, a dark forest is a metaphor for the soul trapped in sin, or a soul that is lost in general, as in the beginning of Dante's The Divine Comedy. Why? There's a common sense reason for this: wild, dangerous animals lived in the forests where it was dark, just as sin (the animals appetites) live in a soul not "enlightened" by Grace. Her pose in this image is interesting and leads us to the second reason a "dark forest" relates to a soul lost in sin: her arms are being outstretched like Christ on the barren "tree" of the Cross. Instead of embracing the ascetic lifestyle of the barren Cross, sinners embrace the lesser trees of worldly pleasure that create a forest of sin and darkness. This isn't necessarily the direction the film is going to go, but being aware of how the symbols are traditionally employed will make it easier to see what the film wants to say. Just to finish up this line of analysis, however, note that the girl above is "bound" by the branches, just as she is probably "bound" by her sins (it seems that she has had a problem with alcohol and the trip to the woods is meant to help her break her addiction, but I might be wrong about that detail, but remember all the films we have seen featuring drugs and addiction as a metaphor for the appetites). Whereas Christ's arms were bound to the Cross to release Grace onto the world, her arms (perhaps) are bound by her sins because she's not strong enough to break her bonds. This serves as a great spiritual lesson for us Christians because it illustrates what the Apostle Paul described as "running the race" in that, each day, breaking our bonds to sin, we build up strength against sin so sin can't "hold us" like the branches are holding her. If anyone survives in this story, it will be important how they survive and what virtues/qualities they exhibit making it possible for them to survive.
You may remember, The Conjuring was the film scheduled for release in January but, it had such overwhelming responses from the audience, they moved it to a July 19 date instead, so here is trailer 2:
I glanced over some comments left by others for the newest trailer Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, which I am really excited about. Again, people have complained about the lack of "originality" in the story line about a "messianic" figure who is the only hope of humanity, but the truth is, this storyline continues as a viable vehicle because it re-enforces the free will each of us have and the responsibility the choices we make on a day-to-day basis effects the world. In other words, either each of us is a "shadow hunter" or a demon to be hunted:
This is, simply, the power of art to "show" and not just tell: we can be told something by our parents as we are growing up, for example, but seeing what sin does to our soul as it is depicted in the form of a monster, is far more powerful than someone telling us that sexual sins are mortal; likewise, seeing a hero overcome the enemy is far more encouraging for our spiritual battles than merely being told to "resist temptation" and fight the good fight. At 1:58, it's not the characters who are faced with saving the world or letting it fall to darkness, but we who are faced with saving the world by saving ourselves and making the choices that make us strong individuals.
Once more, if you haven't read the book since high school, it's a fab and quick read:
Have a great weekend!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner