It stays with you…

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The hype machine can either make or break many a Horror film, but occasionally there are films that for certain reasons are immune to these effects. It Follows was hyped as “the Next Babadook”, immediately making we weary. The Babadook was such a uniquely special and strange film that the idea of capturing lightning in the same bottle twice seemed impossible. As it turns out, Director David Robert Mitchell captured lightning in an entirely different bottle…but at first I didn’t think so.

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The premise is simple enough, our Heroine, Jay, goes on a date only to have sex and then be drugged and tied to a chair. Sounds like a pretty good time so far? Keep reading, it gets weird. Upon waking, she is informed by her date that he had been cursed, and now he has passed the curse to her through sex. This curse means she will be followed by a creature visible only to those cursed. It will always look like something different, usually taking the form of whatever will help It get close to you. It will always be walking towards her in a straight line, and it will never stop. If It touches her, It will kill her that then It will follow whoever gave the curse to her. The only way to save herself is to pass the Curse to someone else by sleeping with them.

I’ll try to keep the rest of this as Spoiler-free as possible, because It Follows has a lot of layers that are worth unraveling for yourself. After my first viewing I remember thinking that I liked the film, but that it hadn’t come close to the hype…but there was something about it I couldn’t get out of my mind. I can’t explain it, but somehow I knew there was SOMETHING about the film that I had missed. Something that made me uneasy. I don’t recall feeling that anything in the film was scary…but it stayed with me. It Followed. I needed to watch it again, this time focusing on the background and not as much on the story, trying to find what had set me so on edge. I felt like the first time I watched Kubricks The Shining, trying to find the hidden clues and unravel the hidden secrets…

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The first clues I found in the first scene. We see a young woman running out of her house wearing heels, short shorts, and a tank top. From her attire and the lush green grass and trees around her, we think it’s Summerish, right? As she loops back around to her house, we see the lawns across the street are littered with the telltale signs of fall. Dead leaves, barren trees and even Pumpkins on the porch. Doesn’t quite add up… Later, we see our main character, Jay, swimming in an above ground pool, which we can see damn well is not heated, or at the very least is not heated well. then the same evening on her date, we can see that she, her suitor and everyone else in the theater are wearing heavy coats. Later, Jay and Kelly are wandering the neighborhood clearly dressed for chilly weather, but behind them we see the lush green grass again.

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If she needs to dress like Miss Pumpkin Spice Latte 2015, there is no fucking way she would also go swimming in that above ground pool! Then i started noticing that more than just the weather didn’t add up…the Time period this film exists in doesn’t seem to exist either. Nobody has cellhones, or even cordless phones…yet that one girl has the weird clamshell e-reader gimmick. We see brand new modern cars alongside brand new vintage cars, Home decor that looks like a strange hodge-podge of 50’s and 70’s, old clunker tv sets that only show black and white programs, yet we catch glimpses of modern appliances as well such as stainless steel fridges with ice-makers. It’s all very subtle but little details like this will make it almost impossible to get your bearings. It all seems normal enough, but you won’t be able to shake the feeling that something just isn’t right.

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This film has really surprised me by packing a surprising amount of depth into what is on the surface a clever way of saying “Hey kids, be careful who you fuck”. There are so many layers that to fully explore everything in this review would be such a tedious read, so I will cap this off for now, and revisit things again later once more people have had a chance to see it. Please do yourself a favour and watch this film several times.  Share it with others and feel free to email me with questions or comments. I look forward to seeing the legacy this film builds for itself.

 

 

Illuminating the Shining

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Where to begin with this film? Aside from stating that Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my favorites of all time.

If you haven’t seen this film, go watch it this very second. Finished? Great, now go watch it a few more times. You back? Ok, now what if i told you that you still haven’t watched this film enough to grasp everything that is going on here? Go read Stephen King’s novel. Now go study the works and life of Stanley Kubrick. And I mean STUDY!!! Now go study the history of Colorado, and of the Genocide of the American Indians, and the Holocaust, and the Moon Landing. How is this all relevant?  Because Stanley Kubrick seems to have had a LOT to say when he made this film.

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On the surface, the film differs greatly from King’s novel while still keeping the general concept, setting and characters. The film opens with a beautiful shot showing the picturesque drive up the the Overlook, set amidst an ominous droning score peppered with flourishes that almost sound like ghostly whispers. We are introduced to Jack Torrence, charged with serving as the Winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. With him is his wife Wendy, and young son Danny.  Danny has a powerful yet uncontrolled pychic ability referred to as Shining which allows him to see “ghosts” of traumatic events from the Overlook’s past. As the winter months wear on, Cabin fever sets in and Jack slowly spirals into madness. Kubrick portrays this chillingly through the use of his score and the deranged performance of his star, Jack Nicholson. The “Thousand yard stare” of Jack as a faint yet persistant “ringing” sound capture the mood perfectly.

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There are so many frightening elements to this film that to get into them would involve a shot for shot description of them, and it STILL wouldn’t do the magic of this film justice.  You truly need to see this film for itself. It is a masterpiece on the surface…and then there is what lies beneath. Since Kubrick has never come right out and said “Hey, here is all the weird hidden messages and in-jokes I put in this film”, we will likely never know the full extent of his intentions. A good place to start, for those who need a little help with peering behind the curtain is to watch the 2012 documentary “Room 237”.  The film includes footage from The Shining, and other Kubrick films, along with discussions by a number of Kubrick enthusiasts. The film has nine segments, each segment focusing on different elements within the film which “may reveal hidden clues and hint at a bigger thematic oeuvre.” Some of the elements touched on are references to the genocide of the American Indians, The Colorado Gold Rush, The Holocaust, coincidences and tricks within the films continuity, and in what is most interesting to me, the allegations and possible hints that Kubrick helped fake the Moon Landing footage and used this film as  sort of “confession”. Keep in mind, Kubrick was an unusually meticulous film maker, so if it appears in his film, it is not an accident.  There are three Labyrinths within the film. The hedge maze outside the Overlook, The Overlook itself, with it’s twisting and turning corridors and impossible layout, and lastly, the film itself is the most complex maze of all. 

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Once you start digging into the hidden meaning of the film, you could literally go on and on forever. There are so many layers and elements that once they are illuminated, we may never be the same. That is the true Shining. But just remember, “All work and no play, make Jack a Dull Boy”.  If you enjoy this film entirely on the surface, then by all means, take it for what it appears to be, and your experience will still be great. Please keep in mind when delving deeper…no matter how sure we may be about a hidden meaning, it is all just specualtion that can NEVER be proven… “It’s just like pictures in a book Danny, It isn’t real”

Terror Trailers of the 80s vol. 1: 1980

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