So, I had a solo drive to Dallas today. That makes for some good music listening leisure (the new Cold War Kids and Verve records...) and some good reflection on stuff that work and life got in the way of in the past week. A lot of that thinking - obviously - generally goes back to movies, movie culture, and movies and our culture.
Well, since it's October, and since I'm still fresh from a sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre festival, I've kinda had that species of movie on my mind.
Last year I saw an under-appreciated horror film called The Abandoned. It was part of the original 8 Films To Die For series that's become so popular via DVD. The director, Nacho Cerda, had previously done a handful of shorts, and this week I finally watched them. One of them, Aftermath, is about a pathologist who is also a necrophiliac. I will spare the details, but I need to mention that it's extremely graphic. I thought long on this film, especially as to why the director would even want to make a such a thing.
Aftermath doesn't strive for mindless sensationalism or shock-horror (though the imagery is, indeed, shocking...). The film was made without much of an audience in mind, so entertainment value was of no concern, and despite my disliking of the film, it's technically well made. Then it hit me: Cerda's intention was to intellectualize a real-life sexual perversion that exists on the fringe of our society. But why? Is there really much left to intellectualize about necrophilia, a behavior that exists on the fringe because it doesn't have a place in civilized society? What is left to examine? In conclusion, Aftermath is simply a terrible art film with lifelike autopsy visuals.
My conclusions about Aftermath pushed me onto thinking about the intentions behind movies such as The Woodsman (intellectualizing pedophilia), Zodiac (intellectualizing murder), I Stand Alone (intellectualizing BOTH!), and others like them. Raunchy ugliness dressed-up in art film garb in order to misdirect an audience into taking it seriously. Stay with me...
... cuz this took me to thoughts on a film I've been thinking a lot about lately, and that's one of 2008's most buzzed about horror films: Let The Right One In. Overall, I think the film is average-to-good in its offbeat handling of a pre-teen friendship, but there was something I disliked about it hanging over my head. Now, I know what it is. Director Tomas Alfredson - after realizing the genre he was working in had run its course and back thrice over - had "intellectualized" the vampire film, and poorly so. Lord knows he wasn't the first, and he won't be the last, but Alfredson's end result is nothing more than lean-on-me playground romance.
Yet because Let The Right One In has an air of heavy headed-ness about it, has clean & moody cinematography, and - let's be honest - because it's Swedish, critics have been giving it not only a pass, but an over-the-top golden halo: "masterpiece!", "best horror movie I've seen in ten years!", and all such premature excitement.
With movie culture branching out to include critical voices of all ages, backgrounds, and education (something which I think is great, for the record...), it seems the audiences who have truly become the easiest to fool are the ones that are supposed to know better.