HAUTE SEXUAL TENSION

•February 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This will reveal plot details: so do no not read unless you’ve seen the film or don’t care if it is spoiled.

high_tension The words, “I won’t let anyone come between us anymore,” echo through the first two minutes of Alexandre Aja’s sophomore film High Tension. Aja’s film has shown American audiences that horror is still alive, but just not in America.  In the recent years the horror genre has churned out PG-13 crowd friendly films that no one likes, but luckily we have the French who continue to provide us original and brutal images.  Aja’s film

is not only an hour and thirty minute homage to seventies slasher films, but also a film about repressed sexuality.  The slasher film, as a subgenre of horror, tends to be driven by our anger, our repressed state, and our primordial consciousness that we are always trying to deny.  Haute Tension uses these ideas in a very innovative fashion.  The main character Marie is not only the protagonist of the film but also the villain, her rampage is brought on by years of denying her homosexuality and more importantly her identity.  The villains in slasher films do not symbolize humanity; they are a part of it.  The killer is not supernatural, or at least they did not begin that way, he or she is in many ways an ordinary person.  They have a logic that we can understand.  Usually they have suffered an injustice and need retribution.  Slasher films are centered on vengeance, either against people who caused them or someone close to them harm, or somehow symbolize personal injustice.  Haute Tension shows the injustice brought on by a closeted life.

There will be obvious problems with Aja’s film, since he connects homosexuality with the monsterous but to his defense the forces that repress our sexuality are the same forces that create madness.  This connection between horror and homosexuality is not new it is an old established norm within Hollywood cinema, but nevertheless it continues to perpetuate negative connotations to homosexual lifestyle.  In Harry M. Benshoff’s book Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film, he writes “even as gay and lesbian people become more visible in ‘real life,’ killer queers continue to abound on the screen.  And even when the films themselves problematize these figures by linking them to social oppression they nonetheless still reaffirm for uncritical audiences the semiotic overlap of homosexual and violent killer (232).”  Homosexuality has been coded within film since the birth of cinema, but the characters that represented queer life had to also be evil.  Filmmakers have made great strides in the last century to show equality, but even though the lesbian in Haute Tension is also the villain, the film works to show that it is society that has created Marie’s homicidal second personality.  Homophobia and the fear of being ostracized by friends and peers has lead Marie to repress who she truly is for so long that eventually it caused severe psychological damage.

Marie represents a duality that can be found in all post-modern horror films, we identify with her as the killer and as one of Carol Clover’s final girls.  In her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Horror Film she writes this about the final girl: “She alone looks death in the face, but she alone also finds the strength either to stay alive long enough to be rescued or to kill the attacker herself.  But in either case, from 1974 on, the survivor figure has been female (35).”  Since the entire film is a culmination of different slasher films from decades ago it is apparent that Aja wanted to make Marie an extremely strong person, to become the final girl.  The homages the film makes are very recognizable, such as the beaten up truck from Jeepers Creepers, the concrete saw and the mockery of pain and fear from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a killer in overalls like Michael Myers in Halloween, the shot-for-shot remake of Blue Velvet‘s classic introduction of Frank Booth closet scene, and the axe scene from The Shining are just a few of the more obvious tributes.  This movement in horror cinema to homage itself has given the genre a new form of self-reflexivity.  “There are a multitude of horror films which employ radical postmodern aesthetic practices to challenge the dominant formal notions of the horror film genre and their ideological underpinnings.  These practices include pastiche, (which includes high modern self-reflexivity and/or the yearning for nostalgia) and schizophrenia as a mode of presentation/reception (Benshoff, 233).”  Haute Tension relies on an audience’s knowledge of the genre for a fully rewarding experience.

Marie is in love with her best friend Alex, but cannot tell her for two reasons: she believes it will ruin their friendship and she hasn’t come to terms with her own sexual identity.  Marie is the most sexually repressed and closeted characters in the horror genre.  From the beginning of the film when we watch her nightmare unfold we already know that she has problems.  Marie runs through the woods with a deep cut in her stomach and blood caked to the side of her face, finally she makes it to a road and a car swerves to stop.  Marie slams her body against the car window and screams for the driver to help her.  Later she says that in the dream she was being chased by herself, so when she asks the male driver to help her, this is her way of crying out for the straight life.  The moment she wakes up she cannot take her eyes off of Alex who is driving the car.  Marie sits up and lights a cigarette, at this moment we realize her masculinity.  The way she smokes the cigarette is with force and her hair is extremely short, in this way Marie embodies certain lesbian stereotypes.  Alex and Marie have an argument about the previous weekend in which we start picking out Marie’s jealousy.  Marie was left at the bar for a few hours while Alex went off with some random guy, so Marie got drunk.  When Alex asks her why she was so inebriated Marie’s reply is, “it was your fault for dumping me for three hours to disappear with God knows who…  I hope it was worth it?”  Alex says, “I’ll say, unbelievable.”  Marie looks hurt and the two of them start calling each other harsh names.  Marie eventually leans back upset.  We find out that they are going to Alex’s parent’s home for the weekend to get some studying done and can only assume that Marie had it in mind to make her move.

The next scene introduces our villain who is pleasuring himself with a severed head.  From the beginning we know that this man is horrendously evil and perverted, this is one of Marie’s views of homosexuality.

Marie views homosexuality as perverted and wrong but on the other hand finds pleasure within her sexual attraction.  Marie masturbates a few moments after seeing Alex naked in the shower, so she knows what gender she wants to be with but society has told her so many times that it is wrong that she cannot open herself to the idea within reality.  So, while she is a monstrous lesbian she is also the hero of her own romance story in her head.  dragon_5When she kills the psychopath it is her way of slaying the dragon to save the princess, it is at this point that she is okay with her sexuality.  She kills him to save her lover and to be able to be with her lover.  If the psychopath is dead then she can officially come out of the closet.  There is a lot of visual representation for Marie’s repression throughout the beginning of the film.  She plays with Alex’s bird and the shot makes it look as though her head was inside the cage, imprisoned within the societal beliefs of homosexuality.  Her repression is also shown by the use of shadows and hiding her face.  Marie and Alex have a conversation about when Marie will finally take the plunge, referring to dating.  The whole time they talk about Marie’s love life her face is partly hidden while Alex’s is fully lit, till finally Marie decides to drop the subject and go outside for a cigarette.  She says good-night to Alex and tells her that she was happy to have met her family, but the entire time her face is only seen in sections because of blinds on the window.  This seems to have the same effect as the bars, there is always an obstruction in nearly every shot of Marie until she kills the psychopath and symbolically comes to terms with who she is.  Her repression is lifted to the surface when she masturbates in the attic; it is this pleasure from imagining her best friend and her shame that unleashes the killer.  The film crosscuts between Marie masturbating to Alex, then to shots of the cornfield and a truck approaching, then to the other members of the home, back to Marie, and finally the man outside of the house.  The music during this scene keeps repeating the refrain, “Just another girl, I love you and remember you’re just another girl.”  Other music includes a car ride song with the lyrics, “Why can’t I see you face to face, someday I’ll be with you, I know”

“For the better pat of the twentieth century, homosexuals, like vampires, have rarely cast a reflection in the social looking-glass of popular culture.  When they are seen, they are often filtered through the iconography of the horror film: ominous sound cues, shocked reaction shots, or even thunder and lightning.   Both movie monsters and homosexuals have existed chiefly in shadowy closets, and when they do emerge from these proscribed places into the sunlit world, they cause panic and fear (2).”  In Aja’s film there is a very strong lesbian as empowered woman/heroine image, the horrific fantasy that Marie creates gives her the power to stand up against society’s image of the homosexual – which has been seen as nasty, perverted, slutty, and disgusting by fundamentalists.  Her coming out is the moment before she kills him.  The psychopath is playing with her piercings while talking to her:

“Why do you care so much about Alex?  She turns you on, huh?  She does the same thing to me.  Yeah!  She turns me on too.”

He forces his finger into her mouth and symbolically rapes her.  She grabs a rock from beside her and cracks his skull.  She then picks up her barbwire bat and hits him in the face eighteen times.  Since he still isn’t dead, she resorts to suffocating him and after he is dead she screams out of sadness and victory.  She runs to the dungeon where the beast kept her beautiful princess and unlocks the door.  Marie is so giddy with joy, “it’s all over now, you have nothing to worry about, I killed him.”  Marie unlocks Alex’s shackles and takes the gag out of her mouth.  Alex’s first words to Marie are “don’t touch me!”  Marie tries to explain that there is nothing left to fear, but Alex continues to tell her to get away.  Alex draws the knife that Marie had given her and threatens her with it.  Marie says, “You don’t know what you’re saying there was nothing I could do to save them…  It was just you, Alex.  Everything’s going to be okay for now on you can trust me Alex…  Easy now, calm down.”  As Marie is trying to explain that Alex was the only one she could save we see flashes of each death and watch Marie committing the act.

Alex finally swings the knife at Marie and cuts her face, a few seconds later she stabs her in the stomach.  Marie has spent the entire film trying to be a heroine and do everything to come to terms with her sexuality to the point of being able to ask Alex to love her and all of her trouble is repaid in complete and total rejection.  This closes the closet door once again and the psychopath comes back to hunt and kill Alex.  “You’ll pay for this you little bitch!” the psychopath yells to Alex as he chases her with a concrete saw.

Just like the older horror films used to ensnare us with their shuddering of denied sexuality. When Frankenstein’s monster reaches out to his newly created mate, even she rejects him. This rejection leads the monster to become self-destructive, and sometimes even more homicidal like the case is with Haute Tension. This understood rejection by Alex and the eventual return to repressed homosexuality is theorized by Freudian psychoanalysis as making one paranoid to the point of trying to eradicate the unacceptable object of desire.  He/She kills the driver of a car who is seen both at the beginning and at the end of the film, and tries to cut into the backseat to get to Alex.  “I’m gonna tear your head off, “he repeats a few times.  He/she also says, “You really know how to drive a woman crazy, you God damn bitch!”  During this end sequence we mostly see Marie in her male personality until Alex gives Marie what she wants, acceptance.  Alex responds to her badgering, “Yes… I love you!  Yes I do, I love you.”  Marie turns back into herself and leans down and kisses Alex on the lips.  Marie’s smile engulfs her face until Alex rams a metal rod into her chest.  Marie then just continues to repeat the line, “I won’t let anyone come between us anymore.”

Haute Tension works to show the duality of homophobia as well as empowered lesbians.  Getting back to Marie as the heroine in her muscle car tracking down her true love through the dead of night with no assistance, these images strongly show the power shift that has occurred throughout the last couple decades.  As Sarah Trencansky writes in her article, “Final Girls and Terrible Youth: Transgression in 1980’s Slasher Horror,” these images of women and the youth “subvert mainstream expectations. In fact, the people these films aim to speak to most are the “feminists, children under 17, and wimps,” the unprivileged “other” groups of society.”  Contrary to popular belief the image of the final girl stands for equality within the sexes.  It goes so far as to empower all people who feel they are being oppressed in one way or another.  So, in Haute Tension not only are we given this heroine but also she is lesbian, and the unrepressed side of her is amazing. “Since the demands of the classical Hollywood narrative system usually insists on a heterosexual romance within the stories they construct, the monster is traditionally figured as a force that attempts to block that romance.  As such, many monster movies might be understood as being ‘about’ the eruption of some form of queer sexuality into the midst of a resolutely heterosexual milieu (Benshoff, 4).”  In this film Marie is her own worst enemy.  Borne out of the sexual politics that govern France she lives within a society in which it is better to bastardize and transform sexuality into a monstrosity than to accept it and feel pride for the person you realize you are.
High Tension (Unrated Widescreen Edition)


TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

•February 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 

            Around the same year that The Last House on the Left was released another young documentary filmmaker was contemplating his own horror film.  He got the idea for his film while he was Christmas shopping.  He was in the middle of a large crowd of consumers all rushing to get their last minute gifts.  He couldn’t make his way down the main isles, so he went down a side isle and found himself in the power tools section.  He stared at a display of tools and thought about how easy it would be to clear the people out of his way if he only had a chainsaw.  Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre completely changed the face of horror.  The low budget 16mm film quickly became the forbidden fruit of cinema.  With its taglines that read: “Who will survive and what will be left of them?”  Everyone’s curiosity was sparked.  Hooper received free publicity during a preview of the film, where a riot had started.  No one knew what they were about to see.  The first showing of the film was a second feature of the night.  The first film was a tame rated R film, then what followed caused people to walk out, vomit, and demand their money back.  When the theater owners told them they paid for the first film and not for Chainsaw, fist fights broke out.  Police were called to the scene and reporters followed, people were ready to sue.  The story of the preview became a part of the film’s promotion.  “What is so bad about this movie to cause people to riot?”  This was the best reaction a film like Chainsaw could have had.

 

“The film you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five young people.  In particular, Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin.  It is all the more tragic in that they were young.  But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day.  The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

tcm-whowillsurvive

            John Laroquete’s deep and matter-of-fact tone begins Texas Chainsaw Massacre telling us what is to follow is a true story.  This narration leaves the audience even more curious as to what they are about to witness.  As Robin Wood points out in The American Nightmare, “…annihilation is inevitable, humanity is now completely powerless, there is nothing that anyone can do to arrest the process (20).”  From the opening narration we know that this film cannot end well, we know that we are about to see the death of five young people.  At the end of the film when it is only Sally left, we remember that we were told that all five befell the tragedy, so when Sally finally does escape it is something we wished for but did not expect.  To me the film is as close to a nihilistic philosophy that I’ve seen in film.  Hooper has a complete disregard for humanity.  To others there is an existential element occurring through the film.  Others use Marxist theory when discussing the film: the young as the bourgeoisie and the Sawyers as proletariots and their class war that ensues.  Vegetarians also hold this film in high regard, because Hooper shows the parallels between humans and animals.  Sally’s friends are beaten with a sledgehammer, bled and cooked.  Whichever theory works for you is inconsequential; the film shows the utter depravity within humankind.  The film began as an impulse that Hooper repressed, the idea to slaughter everyone to get to the checkout line.  The Sawyer family acts upon Hooper’s repressed thought.  Showing once again that we all have dark desires that are socially unacceptable.

 

 edgein           Chainsaw cannot be discussed without Ed Gein, the Wisconsin bred ‘mommas boy’ who wore a skin suit within the comforts of his home.  In 1958 Gein’s house of horrors was finally found out, when his nights of digging up the dead became unsatisfactory and he lusted the act of killing.  Throughout history the murder of one individual has never been enough to spark the public’s curiosity, but in Gein’s case it wasn’t the act of murder it was what he did after that was so shocking.  Like Chainsaw’s room of bone furniture, Gein made sculptures from the corpses he pulled from the cemetery.  He sewed together masks of human flesh.  He cut into skulls to create bowls, and he ate the flesh of the dead.  Gein yearned to have a sex change, so he sewed together a complete female suit.  Some say he wanted to become his mother, while others believe he just wanted to be a woman.  Either way Gein saw humanity as animals, he would wear their coats and eat the meat of their flesh.  Hooper like many other filmmakers became inspired by this misanthropic view on life.

 

            Hooper’s Christmas shopping and news reports from Wisconsin sixteen years ago gave him enough  ideas to write the screenplay – with the help of Kim Henkel.  The budget Hooper was able to raise varies in different reports but it averages between $90,000 and $110,000.  He found his cast at the University of Austin Texas, including Gunner Hanson.  Hanson played Leatherface during the shoot, but ultimately he was an English professor, that also edited a poetry magazine.  Hanson had the most difficult role to fulfill; he had to be the implementer of terror.  He wielded a live chainsaw while wearing a mask that made it hard for him to see.  One mistake could have caused him his life.  The other actors had to perform in the Texas sun, which would cause temperatures to rise over a hundred degrees during the day.  Their faces aren’t flushed because of makeup, they were all miserable.  Edwin Neal who played the hitchhiker had to lie on the pavement for a scene that fried the side of his face.  They all had to endure conditions that gave the film its overall effect.  During the dinner scene James Siedow who plays the ‘father’ figure of the family, told Hooper that he had another engagement, so they had to film the entire dinner within a day.  The shooting of the dinner took 26 hours, no one was able to sleep and it caused each of them to go a little insane.  Within the sequence Hooper was using real meat as a prop, which began to rot under the harsh overhead lights.  All the actors and Sally played by Marilyn Burns became sick.  They ran to the window, threw up, and returned to their places dizzy with their heads throbbing.  Without the endurance of the cast and crew and without those conditions the scene may not have been as effective as it was.  Finally Hooper had his film, a film that no one wanted.  All the distributors believed the film to be too intense.  Bryanston Pictures a low budget company took on Chainsaw, they didn’t care about content.  Bryanston Pictures made a lot of money off of Deep Throat and Andy Warhol’s Dracula; they wanted to see what Chainsaw could do.

 

            The San Francisco preview story got everyone’s attention; people came out in droves to see what was so bad about this film.  They saw the reinvention of horror.  The film made $20 million in it’s first run, which Hooper hardly saw any of.  The sleazy distribution company simply took off with the money.  They shut the doors and ran away.  To this day Hooper hasn’t seen any of the original profits.  A lot of the actors took a differed payment and believed that Hooper was stealing from them, a lawsuit ensued and the truth of the matter was Bryanston simply stole from them all.  Since then they have all been repaid and now The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been recognized in the Museum of Modern Art.  Everyone has a critique for Chainsaw; one man expressed his rage toward the film by calling in a bomb threat at the Cannes film festival.  He believed the film to be propaganda for fascism.  France banned the film for being an incitement to violence, which made other European countries want it more.  According to Mike Quarles in his book Down and Dirty, he writes, “…critics sought it out, looking for something to lambaste in their columns.  Many of them had their minds changed.  They went in expecting to see a crude gore movie and found something that was a nightmare brought to life.  This waking nightmare, this dip into total insanity, was by no means crude.  It was a perfectly crafted film that achieved its aims 100 percent (108).”  With these critics Chainsaw far surpassed its ‘exploitation’ criticisms.  Today with a remake of the film there is a whole new generation finding the beauty within Hooper’s universe he created in 1974.

 

            The film takes place on a hot August day in 1973 with five friends heading out to a cemetery to check of the grave of one of their family members.  Sally and her wheel chair bound brother Franklin have heard the reports of grave robbing and want to make sure their grandfather’s grave is still intact.  Franklin starts telling them how their grandfather used to work in the slaughterhouse and how they go about slaughtering the cattle.  This would be a reoccurring theme throughout the film.

 

murder-art

            Hooper’s opening sequence, after the narration, is a sequence of flashbulbs and shots of skeletons till finally zooming out to show a corpse tied to a monument in a disturbing but artistic way.  From these shots we realize that this film will be different than anything we had seen before.  John Kenneth Muir in his book Horror Films of the 1970’s writes, “Audiences may flock to see horror films, but they never expect to see truly unpleasant, unappetizing things.  We have our lovely hero’s and our hissable villains, our resolution and closure, and the defeat of evil.  That is what is expected.  Yet Hooper immediately undercuts that sense of decorum, and film structure too (336).”  Every decision Hooper made was to show that there is no order within the universe, within the film’s world, and within ours.  The first time we see Franklin, he is urinating on the side of the road.  A semi-truck passes and Franklin falls in his own urine.  Now we realize that anything goes in this film.  Hooper was not going to cater to the handicapped, why would he for the rest of the characters.  Hooper also characterizes Franklin by being obnoxious, not a true member of the group, just Sally’s brother.  Franklin, played by Paul A. Partain, gives us nothing but his physical handicap to sympathize with.  Hooper does this with the rest of the characters too; we don’t really care about them.  The only thing we do care about is what is going to happen to them, we know it and they don’t.  He builds this relationship with the characters around their future demise. 

 

tcm-godless-bus1            Muir also says, “Hooper takes special pains to accentuate the vastness of the universe at large (336).”  The wide-angle shots show the characters to be ants, insignificant against the large blue sky above them.  These people mean nothing to the universe, they are but animals.  One of the most beautiful shots in the beginning of the film is a long shot of the van traveling through the country.  The blue sky filled with white puffy clouds is overbearing; it fills the entire screen except for a little section at the bottom of the screen that shows the highway.  The van flies through the country, from this shot they look like ants.  This was Hooper’s clever ploy to show from the beginning that his characters are meaningless in the vast world.

 

            There is no order in the world, both the world that Hooper has created and the world in which we the viewer know to be true.  Even Hooper’s score to the film reflects this, since the music lacks melody it is sounds mixed together in an almost cacophonous manner.  It is a jumbling of ugly sounds to represent the chaos that these characters have to endure.  The characters exist in a world where terrible and horrific things can and will happen, just as they do in real life – for no reason.  When we are at our most depressed we begin to rationalize the random events within our existence; we give the world our own sense of order.  Hooper takes this away and says that nothing separates us from lower life forms.  Usually within a film, low angle shots are used to make the characters larger than life.  In Chainsaw the low angle shots seem to represent the foreboding sky, or heaven.  When these atrocities happen there is no divine intervention, the sky remains unscathed by the horrors that befall us.  Muir writes, “high above his oblivious characters stands the vast unknown, which could care less that five teenagers are about to meet their demise (337).”  Some say that Tobe Hooper hated the characters in which he created, simply because nothing is glorified about them.  Usually in horror films we feel for people that are being brutalized, for instance we know and care about Mari and Phyllis (Last House) and that is why when we see them die it has more of a powerful impact.  William Vail who plays Kirk, the first one to be killed, doesn’t have a glorified death in which he almost gets away but at the last moment is attacked.  Instead a metal door slides open and Leatherface plows a sledgehammer into his head, Kirk falls to the ground twitching, and Leatherface hits him again.  Kirk is only a victim of a cook; he is just an ingredient in a stew.  Kirk is an animal being slaughtered by a chef, nothing more.  This film is also different because three of the characters are all killed in the same fashion: they enter a house they have no business in and are murdered by Leatherface.  Pam, played by Teri Mcminn, is placed on a meat hook to bleed her.  She watches as Kirk is cut apart, something we would see if we walked into a slaughterhouse.  This makes Chainsaw a vegetarian anthem.  Through Pam’s eyes we see a lovely animal being tortured and chopped up for meat.  In a sense we see through the cow’s eyes.  Muir says, “we see the world through our eyes, no one else’s we have an ego, the universe revolves around us, but by seeing their fellow man as ingredients for a barbecue, reminds us that our perception isn’t accurate.” 

 

tcm-dinner            Later when Sally is the guest of honor at a traditional family dinner we realize that these people committing the crimes against humanity are just like us.  Despite the family’s strange cannibalistic appetites they sit down and talk about their days, and eat a meal together.  This family could be ours.  This scene acts as a parallel between our two worlds, we don’t understand them because of their eating habits but we understand them as a symbol of the American family.

           

            Without seeing the film, people protested Chainsaw as a gory work, yet the film leaves almost everything to the imagination.  All the murders take place with a wide-angle third-person-omniscient viewpoint.  Yes, there are scenes of blood but it is moderate.  What makes this film feel so gory is the insane pursuit of its victims.  Hooper uses the first half of the film to build up a feeling of boredom within the viewer.  We watch these characters we could really care less about walking around checking out a graveyard and going back to the old family home, yet the whole time we’re thinking, “when will they die?”  The story moves slowly giving a build up of suspense.  We await the grisly deaths we were promised in the opening narration.  Finally after forty-five minutes Kirk is pounded in the head and the film takes off at an unrelenting speed.  When we sit, waiting for the death to take place, this causes a conflict within ourselves.  Death and violence shouldn’t be something we anticipate, yet within the construct of this film we do.  When we get what we wanted and see the first blow to the head, we realize that we might not have wanted the death so badly.  Each of them die, one by one, and after Franklin’s stomach gets cut open by Leatherface’s chainsaw, Sally becomes an animal of instinct.  Sally is chased not as a female, but as an animal that has gotten away.  A farmer has invested time with his cattle and when one gets away he has to chase it down, he usually will not stop until the animal is found.  Leatherface has lost one of his animals and he stops at nothing to get her back.  The film builds in suspense and never lets the viewer go.  There is no climax, there is no resolution, and in the end there is only an animal escaping from the butcher.  The most interesting facet of this film is that in Texas the law allows you to kill trespassers, so Leatherface’s murder spree barely breaks any laws.  As in most horror films, especially slasher films the teenagers are told in the beginning, “don’t go messing around in old houses.”  The gas station attendant is also the ‘father’ figure of the cannibal family, he tells them not to and when they do he reinforces why he made the statement in the first place.  Chainsaw is a complex film that has no real plot; it has no morality lessons, and no conclusion.  Leatherface’s animal gets away and he swings his chainsaw in the air, a sequence that will forever be known as ‘the chainsaw ballet.’  This film works as Quarrels says, as a perfect nightmare.  Teenagers are stalked and slaughtered without any reason.  Its the dream you have when you feel that someone is behind you, so you start walking faster, then you start jogging, then finally run at full pace.  Your too scared to look behind you, so you just run and keep running.  You feel the presence behind you, but your too terrified to do anything but try to get away.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre changed the face of horror films.  As most theorists say, before Chainsaw horror films were shot according to Hitchcock but this gave a whole new perspective to the ‘art of horror.’  It plays on the random events of the universe, and how sometimes things happen for no reason.

LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT

•December 14, 2008 • 1 Comment

 

“It’s crazy all that blood and violence, I thought you were supposed to be the love generation.” Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left

             To most fans of the horror genre the beginning of slasher films has been seen as Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left released in 1972.  The film is the first rape-revenge film to graze the screen, and definitely not the last.  From the release of The Last House on the Left many films tried to cash in on this trend.  Many films even tried to sell their concept by being a sequel to Last House, films with titles like Last House on Dead End Street (1977)Reazione a catena (aka Last House On The Left Part II ), and House on the Edge of the Park (1980).  The only other rape-revenge film that became as notorious was 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave.  But none of these films recreated the following that Last House on the Left seemed to spark.  In the script stage, the film was first called Night of Vengeance, and then it became known as Sex Crime of the Century – a more realistic title for the film’s subject matter.  Wes Craven wrote the film in a single weekend – to be more precise, four days – adapting most of it from Ingmar Bergman’s classic The Virgin Spring.  Wes Craven wrote, directed, and edited the film, while Sean S. Cunningham produced.  The two of them would later go on to create the most popular and iconic films in the slasher franchise.  Cunningham wrote and directed Friday the 13th, and Wes Craven went on to create A Nightmare on Elm Street.  A decade before their careers would take off, they created a film that shocked and horrified its audiences.  Last House was shot in October of 1971 in Westport, Connecticut in and around Sean’s rented home.  The film was released in July of 1972 under the title Krug and Company, and after a few screenings the title was changed back to Sex Crime of the Century, but by August the film was given a new title, one that would finally stick, The Last House on the Left – the least logical of all the titles but somehow the most effective.

             The original 1958 Ingmar Bergman film, The Virgin Spring was a re-telling of a German ballad known as “Tore’s Daughter.”  It is the story of a physician and events leading up to the murder of his daughter, Karin.  Her murderers were three herdsmen, who kidnapped her while she was on her way to church – to light candles for the Virgin Mary.  Dr. Tore and his wife Mareta commit revenge against the herdsmen, who by a twist of fate stay at their home for a night.  Both The Virgin Spring and Last House on the Left depict how violent impulses are within each of us.  The biggest difference between the two films is that in The Virgin Spring, Karin is on her way to church showing that religion has a large part within the context of the film, however in Last House religion is completely absent.  This is a result of Last House being re-imagined for a Vietnam and hippie generation, which translates into a powerful and quite disturbing film.  Even though Last House has been criticized as a violent and ugly film it is also very honest, it doesn’t glorify the violence it simply shows that it’s always there, lurking inside us.  Each human being has a breaking point, where their impulses become rationalized, and must be acted upon.  Mainly speaking from the parent’s point of view, but there are people like Krug and his company that are more tied into their primordial impulses of violence and dominance.

 

            Last House on the Left begins with Mari Collingwood, daughter of Dr. John Collingwood, trying to convince her parents to let her go to a rock concert with her friend Phyllis for her seventeenth birthday.  Mari’s parents don’t want her to go, because the show is in the city and the band she wants to see is called Bloodlust, in the film they are known for chicken decapitations. 

last-house-peace1Mari convinces her parents, and they give her a peace symbol pendant as an early birthday present, a more popular symbol than the cross during the Vietnam War.  The pendant symbolizes a more realistic faith, a faith in human nature.  Ultimately a faith that would be ripped away from Mari and Phyllis.  The two girls spend a few hours in the woods behind Mari’s house drinking a bottle of champagne and talking about what it would be like to make love to the members of the band.  Mari believes that sex with Bloodlust would be soft, gentle, like cotton, not wild and gory.  She tells Phyllis that her breasts have gotten larger since last year and she feels like a woman for the first time in her life.  We are then shown the Krug ‘family,’ a news report tells us they are escaped convicts.  David Hess brilliantly portrays the leader Krug Stillo, a homicidal sadist.  David Hess would try to live down his performance for nearly a decade, playing smaller roles, till finally returning to the same formant in House on the Edge of the Park.  Sadie played by Jeramie Rain is Krug’s feral semi-girlfriend; she is bisexual and just as evil as Krug.  The third convict is Fred ‘Weasel’ Padowski played by Fred Lincoln, who wields a switchblade and follows Krug and his every word.  The only innocent in the group is Junior, Krug’s son and slave.  The report on the radio says that Krug uses heroin to control his son.  We know that Phyllis and Mari are about to meet their demise when Sadie decides not to have sex with Krug.  Sadie says, “I am my own friggen woman,” to which Krug replies, “why don’t you sit back and enjoy being inferior.”  Sadie then tells Krug and Weasel, “I’m not putting out till you get more chicks up here, equal representation.”  Junior leaves the apartment and meets Mari and Phyllis who are trying to ‘score’ some marijuana for the concert.  Junior leads the girls, out of their own free will to the apartment.  It is their free will that makes the story even more disturbing.  They follow the nice mannered, deep-raspy-voiced-drug addict to his apartment.  What follows are some of the most horrific and humiliating scenes ever depicted in the cinema.  The first night Mari is forced to watch Krug rape Phyllis.  The next morning Krug decides they need to leave the city before they are found, so they throw the girls in the trunk and drive out into the country – presumably toward Canada.  The car sequence, if under different circumstances, could be seen as a wonderful joyride into the woods.  All of them are laughing and having a good time, Sadie and Krug have sex in the back seat, while Junior drives and Weasel tries to have a conversation with Krug about the worst sex crimes of the century.  The car breaks down and they decide to have fun with the girls out in the woods.  When Mari is pulled from the trunk she notices that they have stopped in front of her home.  Phyllis and her are dragged out into the woods where they are raped again.  In one of the films most humiliating scenes, Krug forces Phyllis to pee on herself.  When Mari’s life is threatened, Krug repeats the line, “piss your pants, go on, piss you pants.”  In the making of documentary titled, It’s Only a Movie, Lucy Grantham the actress who plays Phyllis Stone, says that there were no tubes used in this scene.  This added another layer of vicious realism to the film.

 

last-house-3-krug-co2            They force the two girls to have sex with each other, and during the entire scene Mari sobs while Phyllis tries to comfort her.  Phyllis tells Mari that it is only the two of them, no one else is around.  Krug goes to the car for supplies, and while he’s gone Phyllis throws dirt in Weasel’s face and makes a run for it.  Weasel and Sadie chase after her and leave Junior to watch Mari.  While the chase ensues, Mari gives her peace symbol to Junior and says they are friends.  She offers him methadone in exchange for her safe escape.  Craven then cuts to the police station where two bumbling police officer are playing checkers.  A report comes on their radio and gives a description of Krug’s car, which sounds like the car they had seen outside of the Collingwood’s home.  When they get into the squad car, they say it only takes twenty-five minutes to get the Collingwood home.  Back in the woods Weasel and Sadie are still trying to catch Phyllis, who has hid from them.  Phyllis leaps out and hits Sadie in the head with a rock, calling her a stupid dike.  The chase is now shown in real time.  There is a static shot showing Phyllis running through a stretch of woods, and a couple of seconds pass and it shows Weasel and Sadie following behind.  The score changes from weird noises to a drumbeat that signifies Phyllis’ heart.  She stops in front of a cemetery, and then continues to run.  She sees the highway and as she runs toward it, Krug leaps out of nowhere and blocks her path with a machete.  This would be an image that stuck with Cunningham, who would later use it in Friday the 13th.  Krug, Sadie, and Weasel who is behind her surround Phyllis.  Weasel slowly walks up toward her and stabs her in the back.  Phyllis falls to the ground, they all watch as she struggles.  Krug asks Weasel if he feels better now.  Weasel replies, “yeah a little bit.”  He then follows Phyllis while she tries to crawl away, he bends down in her face and asks, “how’s your back baby?”  She spits blood in his eye.  He grabs her and picks up her body from the ground.  She screams and agony.  Weasel then stabs her repeatedly in the stomach.  Each time Phyllis lets out another scream.  Sadie steps in and stabs her a few more times, then plays with her intestines.  When Phyllis finally dies, they all turn around and walk away without even a hint of emotion.


             Mari and Junior are trying to make their way out of the woods when Krug stops them.  Krug throws Mari on the ground, Sadie and Weasel help pin her, and Krug opens her shirt and carves his name into her chest.  He then pulls down her jeans, her underwear, and then proceeds to rape her.  Mari screams and goes into shock while Krug is on top of her.  There are two static shots that Craven cuts between, Krug’s face on top of Mari’s as he drools on her cheek, and a shot of Mari’s hand grabbing fistfuls of grass.  When Krug is done, he lets Mari get up.  She slowly pulls her pants up and buttons them as she stumbles away from Krug and the rest of them.  Mari vomits behind Krug’s back, he is looking in the direction of the camera, and we can tell by his facial expressions that he doesn’t feel right about what he has just done.  They all appear to be full of guilt: Krug, Sadie, and Weasel stand in silence while Mari throws up.  Mari then stands up and begins to pray.  The only mention of religion is when a character looses her humanity.  She walks away from them.  Krug stands still for a second watching Mari and trying to wipe away grass that has dried to the blood on his hands.  He then starts to follow her toward the lake.  The rest of them follows Krug in silence.  When Mari gets to the edge of the lake, she continues walking until the water is above her arms.  Krug slowly grabs Weasel’s gun, he aims it at Mari who has stopped moving.  She looks as though she wants to die, as if death would be the only release from cruel nature of humanity.  The sequence cut back and forth between Krug and Mari, Krug steadies the gun, Mari stands in the lake waiting, Krug thinks about what he’s doing, Mari stares at the trees, Krug fires, Mari’s head swings around and her body rises to the surface.  Two more shots are fired.  They all stand by the edge of the lake staring at Mari, knowing they’ve done something wrong.

             The group cleans the blood off their skin and change into more formal attire.  Next they are at Mari’s home looking for a place to stay for the night, so they can get their car fixed in the morning.  John and Estelle give them a guest bedroom and Mari’s room for them to sleep.  In Mari’s room they finally discover who’s home their in.  They eat dinner with the Collingwoods’, during which John observes Sadie gulping down glass after glass of wine, bite marks on Weasel’s arm, and a band-aide on Sadie’s head.  After dinner Estelle finds Junior dry heaving in the bathroom.  She sees that he is wearing a peace necklace.  She gasps, but continues to help Junior get back to his room.  She hears them talking to each other in Mari’s room.  She goes into the guest bedroom and starts opening a suitcase.  As she unzips the case, she hears Junior say, “if they find out we killed their kid..” Krug cuts him off, “shut up or you’ll be in the lake with her.  Estelle finds their bloody clothes, her jaw drops.  The next scene is the mother and father going to the lake, where they find Mari’s corpse on the shore.  Weasel has a nightmare, where he imagines Dr. Collingwood and Estelle getting ready to perform an operation on him.  Estelle puts a chisel on his gums, while John swings a hammer.  Weasel wakes up and wonders around the house leaving Krug, Sadie, and Junior asleep.  Weasel finds Estelle in the kitchen drinking.  Weasel asks about Mr. Collingwood, she says he’s still in bed.  He is actually in the basement trying to find the perfect weapon.  Estelle begins to flirt with Weasel.  She says she’s had fantasies of a man who could just take her easily.  Weasel says he could have his way with her even with his arms tied behind his back.  He moves to kiss her, she tells him they should go in the backyard so she doesn’t get caught.  When they are outside, the father begins booby trapping the house so the culprits cannot escape.  Weasel takes off his tie and puts his hands behind his back, and Estelle ties him up.  She unzips his fly and begins giving him oral sex.  She bites down hard, like a viscous animal, shaking her head.  This is the beginning of revenge section of the film.

             John takes Krug’s gun from the nightstand, aims his a shotgun at him but right before he fires Krug wakes up, destroys the only source of light, and in the pitch black a shot is fired.  Krug and John fight in the living room, where Mari’s corpse has been placed.  Krug tells the doctor that Mari put up more of a fight then he does.  Krug beats the doctor till he lies on the ground in submission.  Junior shoots at Krug.  Krug tells his child that he has always been weak.  Krug says, “I want you to take the gun, put it in your mouth and blow your brains out, blow your brains out, blow your brains out.”  Junior commits suicide and Krug looks satisfied, he turns around and John is gone.  We then hear a chainsaw being started.  The father chases Krug back into the living room where Krug shields himself with furniture.  Sadie sees Junior dead, and sees that Krug is in trouble, she decides to run away.  During this entire time the two officers have been trying to get to the Collingwood house, but their car ran out of gas and no one will pick them up because they are “pigs.”  We see Sadie running out of the house and accidentally straight into a pool as Krug continues to defend himself against the doctor.  John grits his teeth and wields the chainsaw looking like a mad man.  Finally, the police offers enter the house and shout, “no, stop!”  Sadie emerges from the pool as Estelle runs toward her screaming with Weasel’s switchblade.  She slices Sadie’s throat while John cuts into Krug.  The final shot of the film is the mother and the father holding each other in a freeze frame of the perfect American family.

             Last House begins by depicting opposites, gradually blurring barriers, until the audience’s emotional involvement with violent actions leads not to catharsis but self-disgust and self-awareness…  It is an extremely complex film that unveils an ugly sadistic lust most horror films pander to. (Tony Williams, Hearths of Darkness: the family in the American horror film, associated university press, 1996, page 130)  I don’t believe there are opposites within the film, each time the film shifts its gaze from the Krug ’family’ to the Collingwood family there are certain aspects of each that parallel one another.  I will admit that the lines between the two families blur together, it is my opinion that the lines were never bold to begin with.  In the beginning of the film John sits in the living room of his home and reads the newspaper while ignoring his wife.  Later when we finally see the Krug ’family,’ Weasel is sitting in the living room reading the paper, while Krug ignores Sadie.  When Junior and Sadie are talking in the bathroom, Sadie makes the comment that she wants to change her name to Agatha Greenwood, a sophisticated name similar to Estelle Collingwood.  These may be minor parallels but they are shown through dissolves.  Craven never cuts from one family to another he only uses cross-dissolves.  Dissolves work two different ways in film, either to show similarities or to show the actions within two different locations are happening at the same time.  Estelle baked a cake for Mari’s birthday and there is a close up of Estelle spreading creamy icing over it, while Krug tells Sadie that he is the ’cream’ of American manhood.  Krug starts pulling on Sadie’s clothes showing he wants to have sex with her; this is where she states she needs more ’chicks’ around.  In the Collingwood home John makes advances to Estelle by saying, “come into the living room so I can attack you.”  This could show that John has a will to attack whereas Krug not only has the will but acts upon it.  John’s line of dialogue also represents a form of foreshadowing, since he only attacks Krug in the living room – once with fists, the second with the chainsaw.  Another juxtaposition Craven uses in his editing is after they have kidnapped Mari and Phyllis, Krug says, “We just wanted some company,” as the Collingwoods’ are putting up a Happy Birthday banner.  I find this to be humorous in the most disturbing way.  Of course, as the lines blur as Williams says, the final similarity is the violence.  Both the Collingwood family and the Krug ‘family’ commit heinous acts of violence.  The final freeze-frame on John and Estelle is a lot like the earlier shot of Sadie, Weasel, and Krug after they have just raped and murdered Mari.  In both instances the killers realize what they have done and stand ashamed and silent.

 

last-house-4-portrait-of-american-fam1            The film is a statement on the role of violence in our society and our families, as the title The Last House on the Left seems to reflect, these events happen down the street or even next door.  We are not at The Overlook Hotel, we’re not in a vampire town called Salem’s Lot, we are not in the far away Vietnam, the location is our living rooms and our backyards.  This is the violence that is inside all of us, either to inflict upon others to gain our desires, or as a form of retribution.  After Mari’s rape and murder we know the film is far from over, we yearn for the death of the despicable Krug, but when we finally get what we wanted there is no sense of happiness.  The last shot of John and Estelle is a snapshot of pain.  These two have lost more than their only daughter, they have lost themselves.  They have committed the ultimate act of violence – murder – but what for?  Their actions did not bring their daughter back to them; it only filled them with the realization that they were in no way better than the people that had killed their daughter.

road leads to nowhere and unreleased promised land

             As the soundtrack echoes, “the road leads to nowhere,” it implies that no matter what happens death is always the end result.  The further lyrics, “the castle stays the same,” implies that nothing changes.  It is very bleak, but where does violence get anyone, nowhere, and what does it help to change, nothing.  David Hess did the soundtrack for the film, which plays over the rape of Mari, and lingers until she is dead.  The music is as effective to the power of the film as the way it was shot.  Craven and Cunningham were both novices and had only worked with documentaries up until that point.  They decided to give Last House that same look.  Since neither of them really knew exactly how film cut together, they did five to eight minute takes of each action from three different angles.  This gave the film its authentic and real essence.  When Phyllis is stabbed, the shot lasts from the point in which she realizes she is surrounded, to Weasel walking up behind her, him stabbing, her falling to the ground while never cutting once.  The actors and actresses led the action, not the camera.  Many films since Last House have adopted the psedo-documentry techniques, but for the time this film was a completely knew way of showing depravity within human nature.  The film was banned in the UK for 30 years, and on the posters it says it was banned in twenty-six other countries as well.  When Wes Craven took his film to the MPAA they told him it was automatically an X rated film.  So Craven then cut ten minutes out of the film, but still they called it an X, again Craven went back and cut out another ten minutes, but again X.  The MPAA was not going to budge, so Craven put all the footage back into the film and gave it to a friend of his who was on the board and he gave it an authentic ’rated R’ seal of approval.   This film also had one of the greatest ad campaigns that almost forced people to go to the theater just to satisfy their curiosity.  In Richard Meyers book For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films he states that Hallmark films the distribution company that helped produce the film came up with its final title.  Meyers says they ripped the title from Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange where they attack the Last House On The Left, which leads to their downfall (95).  Meyers goes on to write that Hallmark borrowed key phrases from Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Color Me Blood Red ad campaign that read: “You must keep reminding yourself it’s just a motion picture (95)!”  Hallmark changed the phrase around to read: “To keep from fainting keep repeating, it’s only a movie… only a movie…  only a movie.”  The film posters also read: Can a movie go too far?  The poster shows Krug, Sadie and Weasel bent over ready to attack.  The bottom reads: Warning! Not recommended for persons over 30!  People who didn’t eventually see the film knew the ad campaign.  Everyone had an opinion, either if they had seen it or not.  I remember my mother telling me that when she saw it in the theater, it made her sick, none of them knew what they were in for.  She always told me it was forbidden to see it, so of course I had to see it.  This was the same for most of the audiences that went. 


            The following are excerpts from one of the posters made for Last House on the Left; this poster had a statement attached to it, which read:

 Many people who have gone to see the movie LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and many public officials contacted by outraged moviegoers believe the answer to this question (can a movie go too far?) is yes!  Demands have been made to terminate the engagement of this movie immediately.  Why?  LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT relates to a problem and a situation that practically every teenage girl is vulnerable to and every parent lives in dread of.  A young girl savagely brutalized, killed by a wanton band of degenerates.  Revenge of the most horrible kind exacted by the parents of the dead girl – the killers are themselves killed

 Yes, you will hate the people who perpetrate these outrages – you should!  But, if a movie – and it is a movie – can arouse you to such extreme emotion then the film director has succeeded.

 Violence and bestiality are not condoned in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT – far from it!  The movie makes a plea for an end to all the senseless violence and inhuman cruelty that have become so much a part of the times in which we live.  We don’t think any movie can go too far in making this message heard and felt!

 This fact is already borne out by the number of parents who have taken their daughters to see the film.  These parents regard this movie as a perfect deterrent to this type of behavior.

             Last House on the Left gave Craven and Cunningham enough notoriety to begin their careers.  The film also perpetuated the idea that violence needs to be shown in order to avoid it, or exploit it.  The horror films that followed would be bloodier, and show what Dario Argento calls the art of murder.  Last House was the catalyst for more realistic looking horror films; it is a landmark that can never be overlooked when trying to gain an understanding of the horror genre.

 “Exploitation films are no different from any other kind of movie.  All appeal to some desire or fear that the audience may have.  Only because they do it more directly, with perhaps a bit less finesse, than a Hollywood product, they are branded as exploitation.” Mike Quarles, Down and Dirty: exploitation filmmakers and their movies  (xiii)

 

Eden Lake

•December 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

eden-lakeWonderful!  This is a film to re-watch, perfect British horror.  Eden Lake is a great take on the rich couple go camping and get terrorized tale.  We get elements of torture-porn, final girl, killer kids, revenge, and complete without a happy ending.  I Immediately drew parallels between this film, The Strangers, and the french film Them, but in the end apprechiated how different Eden Lake was from any other entry in the kids-gone-bad sub-genre that seemed to emerge in the last year.  Most of the kid films end in the death of the adults, and while this one is no different in that respect – there is a disturbing sequence where the woman fights back and stabs a child’s throat with a glass shive and then holds him regretfully until he’s dead.  She may meet her end before the credits, but it is not at the hands of the “bad” children, but the parents of those children.

The film was stylish, dark, and actually shocking.  I was happy to see the boyfriend tortured and killed because in my eyes the entire situation was his fault.  It is the man’s failed attempt at proving his masculinity that leads to their destruction.

 If a group of kids are being too loud down the beach, ask them nicely if they could listen to their music a bit softer and try kneeling down – it’s all about body language.  What you don’t do is puff your chest and act like Johnny Macho.  Even if you do choose to be a Johnny, that’s okay but when the kids place a spike behind your tire so you have to change it – what you don’t do is chase them into town and creep through one of their houses and spy on them.  But lets say you choose to be a fucking weirdo and spy on a bunch of young teens, that’s cool they didn’t find out. After your long day of struggling to be a man and defend some archaic code you should at the very least choose another spot to set up camp, preferably not where the kids last seen you.  It’s okay if you do, just make sure you don’t forget the keys to your excessively expensive Explorer.  Alright, you forgot and now the kids are joyriding through the woods.  That’s terrifying, but not the end of the world.  When you find them just calmly diffuse the situation and by all means don’t kill their dog.  Oh… well you’re just fucked.

Let The Right One In

•December 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

let-the-right-one-in

A Swedish, coming-of-age, vampire film that deals with many disturbing layers of sexuality – without featuring any sex.

The following is filled with spoilers, if you haven’t seen the film be aware I give everything away.

With themes like coming-of-age and vampirism it would have been easy to turn the film into My Best Friend’s A Vampire or the Jim Carrey classic Once Bitten, but instead we get a perfect mix of moodiness and eerie atmosphere shot with amazing cinematography – something the now relevant Twilight couldn’t achieve.

The opening of the film slowly reveals snowfall against a pitch black background, and subsequently the film also closes with this shot.  It seems more than appropriate for a film set within a stark Swedish winter.  For all the films dark aspects: the killings, bleedings, pedophilia, castration, suicide, and bullying – the central characters Oskar and Eli provide a ray of light as we watch their budding relationship.

Eli is a vampire who just moved in next door – no relation to the plot of Fright Night – and Oskar is a boy obsessed with murder and crime (as a direct reaction to being bullied at school).  When the two meet it is awkward because both are very independent and keep to themselves.  Oskar dreams of torturing and killing the boys at school and Eli senses their likeness, and thus a friendship is borne.  

After botching his last attempt at procuring blood for Eli, Hakan – the man she arrives with, goes out on the hunt again.  Out of jealousy he asks Eli not to see Oskar.  It is in this moment we realize that Hakan is not a father figure but something terrible.  Hakan is a pedophile who has found “true love” with Eli and will do anything to protect her.  Hakan only kills young attractive men for Eli, not that there blood is any different, he just prefers young men.  This is why he loves Eli.  Eli is actually a castrated boy who will never physically get older.  As Hakan ages, his love never will – she is his eternal Lolita

The relationship between Oskar & Eli doesn’t evolve until Hakan botches another blood mission and disfigures his face/attempts suicide with hydrochloric acid – which he fails at.  Eli releases Hakan from his torment and still unsatisfied from draining him feeds off an older woman.  This older woman unknowing of what has happened to her tries to feed on friends but can’t.  She is attacked by a swarm of cats, and not wanting to live with the perverse hunger she asks a doctor to open the blinds and let the sunshine in.

Oskar is not frightened when he learns Eli’s secret – he is intrigued and wants to know more about her.  He doesn’t invite her in just to see what happens and we see the pain she suffers as she bleeds from every pore and orifice.  Eli asks him, “would you still like me if I wasn’t a girl?”  To which Oskar replies, “I suppose so.”  While the two are sleeping next to one another she tells him, “I’m not a girl.”  Finally it is revealed to Oskar exactly what she means when he sees her scar from the full castration – everything has been removed.  He has already fallen for her.  Oskar’s love is ultimately professed when he protects her from the grieving Loche whose girlfriend just went up in flames and whose friend fell victim to Eli.  This solidifies their love.  She leaves, but watches over him and when the bullies go too far she kills them all – in a scene worth cheering for.  After the killings, they move away together.  On the train Oskar sits looking out the window, and then there is tapping.  We realize Eli is inside a large box and they communicate through Morse code.  They tap P-U-S-S at each other which in Swedish meaning: little kisses.

This film is lovely, beautiful, and layered.  I feel optimistic at the end.  On one hand Oskar will age and end up looking like the relationship between Hakan and Eli, or he will become like Eli and the two be eternal lovers.  I like the latter.

Based on the book: Let The Right One In

by John Ajvide Lindqvist

 

http://www.lettherightoneinmovie.com/