25 September 2011

September 25th

Hellraiser (1987) directed by Clive Barker
Grandpa had signed me up on his Family Video account as being able to rent R-rated movies.  Mom had no idea.  One bright summer afternoon while she was out, some friends and I decided to have a horror movie marathon.  We picked up The Gate, another movie I can't remember, and Hellraiser.   I had been dying to see Hellraiser ever since catching the TV spots for Hellbound a few years prior.  The tag line "time to play" uttered by a monster with nails precisely pounded into his head had me insanely curious as to what such a creature meant by "playing."

I wasn't disappointed.  Hellraiser introduces some entirely new horror monsters.  The Cenobites aren't out for revenge, or crazy or even bloodthirsty.  They are merely "explorers in the further regions of experience" and can be "demons to some, angels to others." They provide an "experience beyond the limits: pain and pleasure, indivisible."  Should you call them, they will manipulate your body with a precision far beyond any human surgeon.  They will make your nerve endings sing an opera of extreme sensation.  Fascinating stuff.

There's much to like in this film.  The Cenobites, of course.  Clare Higgens is brilliant as Julia, the true monster of this horror film.  We watch as lust transforms her from housewife to timid killer to cool murderess.  Christopher Young's majestic music is one of the best horror movie scores ever committed to film.  Barker's visuals, particularly when shooting Frank, are beautiful.  I love the shots of skinless Frank against the opaque windows in the attic room.  Frank himself is beautiful and his resurrection scene -- backed with that majestic score -- is a highlight in '80s horror.  Some of the low budget shows through in the obviously latex skin being torn and the less-than-realistic Engineer puppet, but the film is mostly effective at what's it's attempting.

During our horror marathon that summer twenty years ago, Mom came home earlier than I'd planned.  She walked into the living room right as Julia let out a loud moan, Frank thrusting on top of her.  We were both embarrassed, but she said nothing and left us to our movies.  Once my friends had left, told me she didn't want me watching such things.  I argued back, attempting to explain how far behind I felt and how many horror movies I still needed to see just to catch up with the rest of the world.  I doubt she understood, but I was already hooked; a life-long horror fan had been born.  (8/10)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) directed by Jonathan Demme
The only horror movie to ever win a Best Picture Oscar, though you can certainly argue this isn't a horror movie.  Me, I typically cast a broad net and count serial killer pictures as horror movies, mainly because they aren't a whole lot different from a Michael or a Jason, except for their lack of immortality.

I haven't watched this film in years.  I hadn't noticed the sexism subplot with Clarice until this time through.  Whether it's her boss using faux sexism to put local law enforcement at ease or the psych prisoner Miggs discussing the aroma of her vagina, we're constantly reminded that Clarice is a woman in a mostly man's world.  Even her first meeting with Lecter is a result of her gender, her boss (correctly) thinking that sending a pretty woman might convince Lecter to open up.  Clarice, for her part, does what she must: she takes these affronts professionally, but makes sure to call out both her boss and Lecter on their incivility.  I can't think of any other serial killer movie in which we're watching events from a woman's perspective.  Typically, they are the victims and nothing more.  I'm thinking this is one of the secrets to this film's immense popularity; it speaks to more than 50% of the population.

As for my pondering a few days ago as to which Lecter is best, I'm still thinking Brian Cox.  I know Hopkins won an Oscar for his performance in this film, but his Lecter feels like he's trying too hard to be creepy.  He's a borderline comic book villain at times, handing out clues like the Riddler and monologing his insights as only fictional characters can.  He's a really neat character, don't misunderstand, but I feel like he doesn't match the realistic tone of the rest of the film.

Man, I bet the FBI got tons of applicants in the early '90s.  Between this, Twin Peaks and The X-Files, being a special agent looked like about the coolest job in the world.  I wonder how disappointed those applicants were to find out there were no giants, vampires or engaging serial killers to talk to once they got the job?  (8/10)

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