6.26.2006

Why I Love Horror...

...or specifically Gothic/Romantic horror...

Today I watched, or rather listened to , Guillermo Del Toro's amazing audio commentary on the special edition DVD of El Espinazo Del Diablo (The Devil's Backbone). I absolutely love this movie, its one of those foreign language films that affects me in such a way as to inspire me to learn to speak the language, just to view it as the director intended, without those pesky distracting subtitles. I quickly became enthralled with his commentary, its one of the best I've heard. Mike I think you in particular would enjoy it, as he spends most of the time discussing Symbolism in art, literature, and film, particularly applying it to this film. He talks about how the genre came about, his theories on Gothic Horror being a sort of permutation or stepchild of classic fables and fairy tales. I felt like I was at a seminar, even grabbed a notebook to jot down quotes and ideas that stuck with me.

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out why it is that I am so inclined towards darkness, and horror, why I feel the burning desire to explore worlds that I would never want to visit in person (an echo of what Shelley has said about her disinterest in the genre). And here it is in a nutshell, paraphrased from Guillermo's ramblings...

"By being fascinated with, by being sort of in love with monsters, we are exercising, in the abstract, the most beautiful form of tolerance there is...the desire to understand 'the Other', as opposed to simply trying to destroy it..."

24 comments:

mefull said...

He's a WITCH-- BURN him!

must control my outbursts... :-)

Ok you monster lover, this link is for you.

http://monsterbrains.blogspot.com/

I do have to say, the horror genre is not usually my favorite, but you have me wanting to watch that one for the commentary alone.

Ubatuber said...

I'm NOT a witch! They did this to me!

See, now you've got me wanting to watch Monty Python....

And WOW! Great link, thanks! May have to go in my links section...

Darkstrider said...

He turned me into a newt!

Well... it got better.

Yeah Uba, the big G does some of the best commentaries ever! Ive always wanted to see the Devil's Backbone. Guess I need to do it now.

I remember when I first started to really like heavy metal music was on Halloween. I always liked classic rock, and progressive rock type stuff, but diodn't dig the hard stuff until that night. I remember it well... it happened when I was waiting in a firiend's car while he ran into a gas station for something. There was a heavy metal show on the radio, and suddenly I understood.... all that racaus wailing kickass music and screaming... it's just like halloween! It's like monster movies... dredging up the scary stuff we sometimes keep locked away inside... the stuff we no longer have access to in civilized society. The pent up aggression that we're not allowed to vent.

That night, it was Iron Maiden and their incredible album Live After Death that did it for me, and it's still one of my favorites.

sven said...

I luv critters. That notion of wanting to understand "the Other" -- that's the rationalization I've been carrying around in my back pocket for a few years. I trace my paraphilia back to the cantina scene in Star Wars...

There's another line of argument, too, (which works hand-in-hand with the first) that's all about questioning what beauty is. Like, Boo Radley in "To Kill A Mockingbird" or the deformed but good-hearted son in "Goonies"... If beautiful doesn't equal good, then we all need to grow new eyes.

...And then there's the zoological fascination. Like how boys universally seem to go through a dinosaur phase. Part of me wants to "collect them all", to become acquainted with every cryptozoa in the phylum.

So for me it's about cute/hideous monsters.

Atrocity-style horror, different matter... I had a curiosity for it in my high school days, but I've seen too much first-hand now to be able to stomach blood fantasies. Meh.

Darkstrider said...

Different monsters represent different fears/fantasies (ok, pretty basic stuff really). Vampires are about seduction and sexual power, werewolves are the beast that lurks inside each of us, and zombies are abpout the fear of growing old. That's why I hate movies with fast zombies. Who the hell ever came up with that one? Somebody who doesn't get it obviosuly. It's about getting old and feeble and watching yourself fall apart slowly, losing your sense of self. At the same time, the zombies represent death and old age coming slowly but inexorably for you, and they represent what's going to happen to you when it gets here. There is no escape, that's why the zombie movies always end with the idea of complete world destruction.

Return of the Living Dead, my all-time favorite. And Re-Animator of course, and the list goes on.....

Ubatuber said...

"The pent up aggression that we're not allowed to vent."

YES, totally....the beast in all of us...the savage, the feral...Beauty and the Beast, King Kong, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Kraken...the list is endless...that fear of the unknown INSIDE us, of what we all may be capable of...as for fast zombies, I have to say I love 28 Days Later (more of a virus than a walking dead kind of thing tho) b/c it deals with these exact issues, that man is on his own far more a monster than any film creation...

"Atrocity-style horror, different matter... I had a curiosity for it in my high school days, but I've seen too much first-hand now to be able to stomach blood fantasies. Meh."

Could not agree more...Ive mentioned my distaste for recent horror (Wolf Creek, High Tension, Hostel, etc) and can't wait for the trend to pass...as I've gotten older I've found myself less able to take gore, and I can definitely pinpoint in my life the exact moment of the nail in that coffin for me (a miscarriage)...since then its just been completely unstomachable, unless handled well, i.e. not exploitational...
I guess I'm a stickler for ghost stories and the like...gothic horror is generally tasteful...see Del Toro and Shyamalan...its all in the telling...

herself said...

I regret writing what I wrote, Jeffery, It was thoughtless of me. I halfway thought that my comment might come off like a put down of what you're into--but I sent it along anyway, as part of me trying to describe my thought process when coming into the stop motion world. It was more of an insight for me only than a commentary on you or anyone else's magical affinity for what they enjoy.

I love your art because I know where you're coming from, and maybe if I knew the people involved in bloody horror films I might not be as put off by it. My comment was based on my surface reactions and general preferences.

Darkstrider said...

I wonder how long it's really been now since a horror movie has been made? What they;'re calling horror movies these days are just gory exercises in outre stylishness, always built on the already swollen to overloading bloated carcasses of its predecessors. Anybody seen the remake of The Omen yet? I don't know... at least it's not gonna be all gory (I don't think anyway), but it looks like almost a frame for frame remake with different actors and lots of stylish After Effects work. What's the point??!!

Ubatuber said...

Shelley, NO NO NO, I wouldn't call it thoughtless at all, you were merely expressing an opinion, one that I completely understand, and praise you for...

NO regrets, OK?

Ubatuber said...

Yes, the other half of the current horror trend, the mighty Remake....Amityville, Texas Chainsaw, Omen...blah blah blah...The only reason I will see the new Omen is because Mia Farrow is in it, and I love her performance in Rosemary's Baby...plus I generally like Liev Schreiber, his directorial debut ("everything is Illuminated") is one of the best contemporary films I've seen lately...Elijah Wood is hysterical and heartwarming, plus theres a funny potato scene, so I was instantly sold :)

Darkstrider said...

And hey, Julia Styles is babe-a-licious, but is it just me, or was her face paralyzed in every shot in the trailers?

Ubatuber said...

Julia, the slack-jawed yokel....:)

That's the famous look of many actresses these days, see Naomi Watts in King Kong...

"OK, Naomi, for this shot I want you to look slightly up, with your mouth just a little open...yeahyeah, like that, but relax your face more, try not to express anything too deeply....now.....STARE.......and...ACTION!..."

...not to be harsh :) really I like Naomi Watts and the new King Kong, but can you say drinking game?

Ale said...

There's a strange connection between stopmo/horror/heavy metal/gothic stuff....and I got NO idea what it is or where it came from, but I can sense it somewhere...

28 days later: GREAT movie! Reminds me of a great PC game called Fallout...If anyone feels like playing a radiated-zombie filled RPG, go for it...But I think we all got better stuff to do, right? xD

Grant said...

"Devil's Backbone" is a definitely a great film. I'm also partial to the Clive Barker directed films "Hellraiser" and "Lord of Illusions". The most recent "horror" movie I've seen would have to be "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" which wasn't too bad.

Ubatuber said...

Didn't see "Emily Rose", but I am a fan of Clive Barker, I'm still waiting for that "Thief of Always" film. Loved Nightbreed (Cabal) when I was younger too, though I haven't seen it in awhile...similar theme as discussed, the monsters are more human than some of the humans...My dissatisfaction with American horror lately has led me on a foreign horror quest which has turned up some real gems, Backbone, Ju-on, Uzumaki (thanks Sven!), Tale of Two Sisters (has some of the most unsettling imagery I've ever seen, including a girl/ghost under a kitchen cabinet, yeesh)...I'm sure there are others.......

Ubatuber said...

How could I forget Shaun of the Dead and Bubba Ho-Tep....hysterical...

Darkstrider said...

Hey Jeffrey,
I rended Devil's Backbone from Netflix, and what I've seen of it is amazing... especially Big G's commentary! But about 3/4 of the way through everything falls apart... the image freezes and the vocals slowly degenerate into incomprehensible gibberish. Dammit!! I assume this isn't the case on your disc? I ask because I'm thinking of buying it, and want to make sure they're not all like that (probably not).

Thanks a million for pointing it out... I'm utterly awestruck at Del Toro's knowledge and artistry.

Ubatuber said...

No, I havent had any trouble with my copy, you should probably tell Netflix about it. I got mine from my library. You're watching the special edition, the one with the gothic art/symbolism commentary right? Cause now I'm curious about the original commentary on the first dvd release....may try to rent that one too :)
How far did you get? It has such great characters, I love Carmen and Jacinto...

Darkstrider said...

Yeah, I got the Special Ed. Just tried it again, and was able to hear most of it... but toward the end it wants to freeze every now and then, and it jumps ahead to the next chapter, so I missed a little bit. I'll definitely let Netflix know, and get my own copy... hell, I'll flesh out my Del Toro library.

Darkstrider said...

Without the commentrary on I was finally able to see it all the way through. My god, what an incredible movie!!! I can't believe what a great director Del Toro is, here more so than in anything else I've seen (which would just be Hellboy and Blade 2 I think). Still need to get Chronos.

Hey, since you mentioned The Other, I just wanted to say, there's a movie called The Other, and it's one of my all-time favorite horror flicks.

Ubatuber said...

I know, I love it too..."Jacinto. Bring him to me."...it has been a long while since I watched a film and screamed "Hell YEAH!" at a line of dialogue, but thats one of the best ever....got chills....Conchita's death and the sweetness of the cigar band, Carmen's 'heavy' leg, and the kinky one-legged sex scene...the spiced rum, and 'mammoth' approach...love it all...so many of the shots in the film look like paintings, compositionally...just beautiful...I hate that I dont speak the language...gotta work on that, I know subtitles are rarely spot-on...
Rented Cronos, and its about what you would expect from a first film...not as great as Backbone but definitely worth seeing...sort of his take on vampirism...then he did Mimic which was a huge let down for him, Hollywood butchered his film basically, to the point where he refused to film scenes that they wanted in there, and a second unit director had to go in and shoot parts...five years later came Devils Backbone, and from what I am hearing about Pans Labyrinth, it looks to be utterly unbelievable, very similar to Backbone...you can check out the trailer on Youtube if you havent already...cannot wait for it...me and the wife may try to drive to see one of the screenings, probably Austin TX if we can get off of work to go, whenever dates are announced...I mainly just want to meet him, introduce and pimp myself out :) I have a good feeling about it, like I'm going to work with him someday...a little hope keeps the dream alive :) He's also in early development on Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" and Hellboy 2...I emailed him and asked him to consider me for a position on either when they get the greenlight.......

Y'know, I almost mentioned the Other in one of my posts, I read the book in high school (had a really cool teacher sophmore year, and this was one of our required readings!) and have seen the film, I loved it too...probably the best 'evil twin' story out there...always loved the pitchfork scene...

Darkstrider said...

Backbone is the kind of movie I can really sink my fledgeling analytical teeth ino. A while back I becamve very interested in cinematic analysis... trying to break a film down and glean the symbols out of it and understand how the director created what he did. With this film I was able to go much deeper than any other... mainly because Del toro alrweady di an analysis in the commentary... but also because he just directed it so damn well! His use of symbolism is perfect. It took me a while... i got very little of it the first time.... that's the one where you're mostly just absorbing the story and the visuals and all.... you start to really diog in on the second viewing.

I noticed his strong use of color right away on the second viewing, but at first I just thought the amber light represented places of comfort and security while blue light was danger. It wasn't until I noticed the strong amber light in the pool with the floating body that I suddenly grasped it and put it together with the floating fetii (an element shared with The Other, and I guess what reminded me of it). And the statement... "What is a ghost.... an insect trapped in amber....".

Man, I could go on all day! Yes, the mammoth hunter sequence... perfect! And the bomb that never exploded.... and every character is in spme way an orphan and incomplete..... it fits together all too perfectly! And I really loved his comments about those script-by-number books... hey, I've read my share of them, and they doidn't hjelp me one bit toward the kind of movies I want to make. i don't give a damn about logic and social class and all that crap! Give me purely imaginative fantasy! Whixh he does, better than anybody. The might have butchered Mimic (I forgot he did that one) but it was still far better than the average Hollywood grist.

And I think the comments that stand out the most to me are the ones about melodrama. I never really understood that drama is straight action while melodrama is what's happening under the surface... what goes unspoken and undone. Beautiful!

Darkstrider said...

Whoah! Just watched the Pan's Labyrinth trailers! Intense. Looks like Nightbreed meets The Dark Crystal meets Devil's Backbone... meets Hellboy! And it looks like possibly the best movie ever made. I love the fact that he uses actors who are so 'real'.... they're not like Arnold and Sly on steroids, or The Rock. His films remind me of much better updatings of Dario Argento films (loved Suspiria and Deep Red) and Mario Bava.

Ubatuber said...

Yeah yeah, all of the above...I've always been analytical of films, trying to recognize symbols in the ones that are good enough to have them (Eraserhead started the trend for me, I just had to crack that nut)...just saw Black Sunday/Mask of Satan (Bava) for the first time (I had no idea our library had so many great films on dvd, we've been trying to avoid spending money at the rental place, and good thing....six movies at a time for a week and its free...plus its gotten me all book-friendly again, which Id forgotten how much I love)...
anyway...Bava...loooove the shadows in that film...
Were you able to translate the Pans trailer? Ive been reading everything I can find on Pan, just finished A Touch of Pan by Algernon Blackwood, and read The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, both great short stories...hope I got the names right :P...
His actors are incredible, 'Jacinto' and 'Carmen' both have these massive IMDB lists...tons of films to add to my list...I watched Backbone the other day with no subtitles or commentary...just to watch the performances without missing a beat....all stellar, so many great scenes...and in Pan he uses Doug Jones again, dont know if you're familiar? Hes an unbelievable mime actor, a sort of contortionist...he does monsters mostly, he was Abe Sapien and the main 'Gentleman' from Buffy...so the beasts in Pan should be excellent...
I went through a fetus phase in college with my art, very much inspired by the 'keg' scene in the Other...plus, they'd let me into the med school to sketch the jars...and hey, if you run back Hellboy and watch the scene where the Prof is walking Myers down the hallway to meet Hellboy, you'll see the amber fetus in the background :)
Didn't know Del Toro and Mignola had tried to get Harryhausen for Hellboy!! How awesome would that have been....apparently he felt it was too violent...