I’m Afraid of Americans (and Other Countries that Happen to Produce Killer Horror Films)

Have you ever watched a movie and just had a distinct feeling that there was no way possible that it had been produced in Hollywood?  There’s just something about a foreign (to Americans anyway) film that sets it apart from the often stylized output of the American movie.  Don’t get me wrong…I love American cinema – and often I’m a huge fan of American horror movies.  But there’s just something about a little production from outside of the ol’ U S of A that makes my spine tingle a bit in anticipation of what’s to come.

Perhaps it’s that so-called foreign films tend to be more liberal in what is shown or said.  Or maybe it’s the opposite…so many horror films from around the world are horrific because of what they don’t show.  Of course that’s not the case of every non-American horror film.  The bad films will always outnumber the good for some reason…I suppose because for every good film, there are a slew of bad ones that follow it in the hopes that some money will be made off of the hype of the good movie.  And therein lies the problem for so many movies.

In any case, the movie that brought this to my attention was a not so well-known monster flick by the name of Monsters that was released in 2010.  I remember hearing about it and becoming quite excited about it with Ian.  It sounded like an interesting prospect…the border being shut down between the US and Mexico to prevent unwanted visitors…a tongue in cheek shot at the immigration and border issues currently being faced by the two countries?  Likely…but the story focuses more on two American individuals attempting to return to the country from Mexico who are forced to travel through the “infected” zone.

Source: Starseeker.com

While the movie was partially filmed in the US (Texas to be precise; as well as Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica) and the actors are definitely American, the production is actually British.  Considering the scope of the movie, its budget came in at under $500 000.  There are points of the film that are visually stunning and were created by the writer/director/special effects guy extraordinaire, Gareth Edwards using software that even we own (Adobe, 3D Studio Max, ZBrush…nice!).  The return on the film so far has been over $4 000 000, so not too shabby of an investment on behalf of the production company.

Source: Moveehd.info

One of the most poignant scenes comes at the end of the film as the two characters stand on the property of a gas station after they have encountered a few of the ‘monsters’, and a sound cue occurs that ties the whole movie together from beginning to end.  Very effective…and a little sad.  While the movie is classified as a horror/science fiction film by many reviewers, it’s really just a story about two ordinary people trying to get ‘home’ set against a highly political backdrop…with aliens!

Fun fact 1:  The two co-stars (Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able) had pretty decent charisma and played off of each other well.  Apparently they were already a couple when they were hired for the roles, and married in July 2010, so I guess I wasn’t the only one to think that.

Fun fact 2:  I’ve been making a list of songs that I like when I hear them from the Galaxie digital stations on the satellite…I most often listen to The Chill Lounge – it’s filled with down tempo, laid back jazz and ambient sounds.  The other day I added a song by Jon Hopkins to my list called ‘Nightjar’ and I tracked it down last night.  And here I am today, discovering that he also did the soundtrack to Monsters.  Rather serendipitous, I thought.

Other Worthwhile Horror Films from Around the World

Source: Time.com

Ôdishon (Audition, 2000, Takashi Miike, South Korea/Japan)

A widower expresses the sadness he is experiencing to a friend that works as a film producer.  His friend helps him stage an audition for a movie that will never be made to help him fill a role – that of his new wife.  After sitting through performance after performance, he falls for the last actress of the day, a young ballet dancer.  He becomes infatuated with her, but the innocent young woman is not all that she seems.  Miike is one of my favourite directors…hands down.  His work is provocative, full of sexual taboos and ultra-violence – he’s definitely not for everyone.

Source: Oldschoolreviews.com

El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone, 2001, Guillermo Del Toro, Spain/Mexico)

Set in 1939 at the conclusion of a bloody civil war in Spain, a young boy is left at an extremely isolated orphanage in the care of the headmistress and a professor.  He finds himself bullied by some of the students, overcoming this challenge only to encounter further problems – the violent caretaker of the orphanage and the ghost of a former resident.  The ghost becomes inexplicably drawn to the young boy, predicting the deaths of many of the children there.  As the time passes and the prophecy begins to take shape, the children of the orphanage are forced to confront the true nature of danger that they face.  This is one of Del Toro’s earlier films, before his work on Blade II, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage.

Source: Werewolves.com

Ginger Snaps (2000, John Fawcett, Canada)

Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald are outcasts in their school; suburban goth girls fascinated with all things death.  At 16, Ginger finally begins her menstruation cycles – about the same time as she is bitten by a creature in a local woodlot.  The changes brought on by both of these turns of events turn her into a girl who her sister no longer understands and Brigitte vows to find a cure for what Ginger has become.  Halloween and the next full moon approach, and soon enough, it’s not just the local dogs that are no longer safe.  This movie is worth the opening scene for the sisters’ special school project alone.

Source: Fearnet.com

La Horde (The Horde, 2009, Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher, France)

A police detective is found murdered by a local gang led by a Nigerian man named Markudi.  The detective’s partners plot to avenge the death of their coworker and friend and descend upon the abandoned building where the gang members are hiding.  As their surprise attack goes horribly wrong, a development outside of the building changes the tempo and outcome of the war on the gang, and would-be enemies are forced to come together to escape the building…and the horde that has assembled outside their doors.  A fantastically gritty and intense zombie thriller.

Source: IMDB.com

Marebito (2004, Takashi Shimizu, Japan)

A man captures on film the suicide of another man after being obviously frightened out of his mind by something.  He becomes obsessed with discovering the fear the man experienced and finds himself within the labyrinthine tunnels beneath his city where he encounters a feral girl whom he rescues and dubs ‘F’.  He brings F home where he discovers she does not speak or eat, but survives off of something else – the story plays out as he does unspeakable things to sustain the girl’s life.  This is the same director who filmed Ju-On and The Grudge, both the original Japanese version and its American remake.

Awesome quote:  “They didn’t see something that terrified them.  They saw something because they were terrified.”

And just to be fair

Here’s an American horror film that I adore for its low-budget appeal…

Source: Threatquality.com

The Signal (2007, David Bruckner, Dan Bush & Jacob Gentry, USA)

Set in three separate acts, the story is weaved around a woman in an unhappy marriage who is planning to escape the city of Terminus with her lover.  During their last night together before the escape, a strange signal begins transmitting across the airwaves – to televisions, radios and telephones.  The signal causes those that see or hear it to begin to display erratic behaviour that often ends in violence.  Each act is told in a different style:  violent gore horror; black comedy and finally a horror-love story full of sorrow.   The ambiguous of the several endings shown allows the viewer to determine their own reality of the final events of the film.  Extremely effective, and I still think about it every once in awhile…not sure what I believe.


Good Golly Miss Jolie

The Jolie has come to Nunavut.  If you don’t know what that means, you should probably read up on it.  For those of you who have been salivating with anticipation of details of her visit, I apologize for the wait!  You see, The Jolie has this thing about photos, and I’m sure her other hosts have had to deal with her “handlers”.  Unfortunately, since we’re so far north, we’ve had to have all her photos approved at great distance.  But no more waiting!  Here she is in all her Jolicity.

This is by far the most northern of her adventures so far.  Also the most cold.  As gracious hosts, we welcomed her into our home and invited her to our Superbowl party.  We also decided to bring her out to experience Wing Night at The Storehouse.  It’s an Iqaluit tradition!  She’s been trying to turn over a new leaf and make friends with some of the inhabitants of our new home, but…well…she’s The Jolie.  It appears she’s rather set in her ways.  Regardless, she has made some friends.  And she’s definitely had some adventures.  Let me tell you about some of them…

When the Jolie arrived, she was coming off of a week-long journey from New Brunswick.  Luckily her wonderful host Wendy sent along some dulse with her in order to prevent her from starving.  It worked, but there wasn’t much dulse left in her little paper bag when she showed up.

After showing her where she’d be staying for the next week or so, she quickly starting wandering off on her own to make some new friends.  Her first encounter ended up being our calico, Brit.  There was a bit of a standoff, but they ended up getting along pretty well for the most part.

When she arrived, it was prime sleeping time for our other cat Jemaine.  She slowly stalked him from afar, and eventually approached his travel crate that he usually can be found in during the day.

As you can tell, Jemaine looks pretty sleepy here.  Unfortunately for The Jolie, she mistook dopey for docile, and they quickly got into a fight.

Following her encounter with Jemaine, The Jolie decided that she needed to brush up on her survival skills.  She decided to check out our book collection and came across a couple of possibly suitable books.  Well…possible if you can apply zombie survival techniques to cats and other wildlife.

While over at the books, she noticed our DVD collection and immediately started hunting for her own movies.  She started making comments about the lack of Brad Pitt movies under her breath, but eventually all was forgiven when she found these…and exclaimed “I feel like I’m on the red carpet again!”  I didn’t bother to mention that she was on a green countertop.

Not too long after her arrival was Superbowl Sunday.  So obviously we invited her to the bash.  She again disappeared for awhile.  Our apartment is not that big.  We had no idea what she was doing.  Actually, Ian eventually discovered what we suspect was some of what was keeping her occupied when she ran off – read about that here.  But we had guests to prepare for, so we had to get going.  We later discovered that while we were preparing some of this…

…she was searching for this…

It would appear that The Jolie does not know much about football, as this jersey belongs to a former NY Giant/current New Orleans Saint…neither of whom were in this year’s Superbowl.  But we can’t fault her…it was the only jersey in her size that she could find, and she was really into the spirit of things.  That is, until the game started.  Halfway through, she commandeered the remote and switched the game to the 7th Annual Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

She got really into the Puppy Bowl.

The Jolie decided to take some time during the next week to do some shopping.  Here in Iqaluit, and the rest of Nunavut, there are some wonderful Inuit artisans and carvers.  Being a Hollywood star and a woman, The Jolie was growing tired of her combat boots.  She decided it was time to invest in some lovely kamik (boots) for stylish tromping around town.  I later learned she was lying to me, and that they were actually a gift from someone else.  I never, ever should have made her a parka!  She’s modelling that in a post on our Nunavut blog

She was also fascinated by some of the carvings she saw.  I told her it was improper to haggle too much, as for many carvers, that is their only source of income.  Besides…the work is beautiful!  We suspect that due to our proximity to the airport, she may have snuck away across the territory to visit some other communities, as she came back one day with an owl that she kept mentioning was from Pond Inlet.

Wednesday rolled around, and Wednesday means Wing Night at The Storehouse.  We all packed up and headed up to the Astro Hill Complex and found a great table by the fireplace.  The Jolie was immediately taken in by the number of flavours of wings that were available.

She decided she wanted hot wings and was content to steal any of the drinks that the rest of us had ordered.

She had a particular fondness for my Smirnoff Arctic Berry cooler.

She also decided that she wanted to eat most of my potato wedges.

And that was after she polished off a basket of her own wings and some of everyone else’s as well.

Sufficiently full and drunk, she decided it was time to practice some of those survival and hunting skills she had been picking up over the week.  She thought she was an amazing shot!

None of us had the heart to tell her that the polar bear was already dead…

Don’t forget to check out Ian’s blog and our Nunavut blog for some further adventures.  They are coming soon!  As always, check out the originator of The Jolie Pez Project for more information…

Don’t Stop Believin’

The cast of Glee did it.  Hundreds of hopefuls on musical reality television shows do it.  Thousands of drunkards in karaoke bars on Friday night do it.  So now…I’m doing it.

That’s right…I’m finally using Don’t Stop Believin’ as a post title.  Go ahead.  You can touch me.

I know you’re wondering why I would do such a thing.  Well, I’m about to let you in on the reason.  So gather round kids…let me tell you a little something…

I’ve noticed on a lot of the blogs that I read that people are all about the bucket list.  People have 30 before 30s and 40 before 40s, etc.  There are lots of things that people want to do before a particular deadline.  I might have the ambition, but I don’t necessarily have the resources to put together such a list of must-have experiences before I die.  I also have this little problem of lack of focus sometimes, so it makes things like writing priority lists of experiences a little difficult to come up with.  What I might consider to be important one day, would not necessarily be so the next.

Regardless, the other night I was watching television, and it occurred to me that I had witnessed something on the show I was watching that I really wanted to experience.  Unfortunately, without connections, a lot of money to bribe someone, or some fairy godmother to sweep in to grant me my one wish, there’s no way, no how that I’ll get to experience what I saw.  But, that doesn’t stop me from putting together a list of the unreachable dreams and goals that I would love to accomplish in my lifetime (but probably won’t if Richard Branson is not my benefactor – cuz he can make anything possible).

I present to you…

The Ultimate Bucket List (with a hole in the side)

  1. Have my own theme music – seriously.  Who doesn’t want this?  It’s like Shaft or Black Dynamite.  Walk into a room and be greeted with a solid bass line?  I can’t think of anything better.
  2. Run down the ramp and fly into the ring at a professional wrestling event – yes.  I’m that girl.  I see those wrestlers get to make spectacular entrances every week…with loud music and pyrotechnics.  I want that.  I want to be able to do this.  It goes hand in hand with my theme music.
  3. Wax poetic with Christian Bale – does anyone really need a reason behind this?  It’s Christian Bale.  I’m fairly sure that the chat would be fairly one-sided, but I wouldn’t want to interrupt that Welsh accent, now would I?
  4. Walk the hobbit sets of Lord of the Rings – I think this one is all but a pipe dream now.  The sets have long been removed, and unless they have been securely stored in perfect condition, not even Richard Branson can help me with this one.
  5. Time travel – cuz it’d be awesome.
  6. Survive and flourish through a zombie apocalypse – I’m always working on my zombie plan.  Now to just wait for the zombies…
  7. Follow Massive Attack on their next world tour – I finally got to see this band in May of 2009 after about 14 years of being a fan.  Well worth the wait.  Their next world tour may just be their last…it would be phenomenal to witness that nightly…
  8. Build a completely self-sustained, off the grid home with its own natural water filtration system, waste management system, etc., etc., etc…. – I’m not talking a compound here.  I’m just talking about a completely environmentally sustainable home in a natural environment.  Dreams can come true!
  9. Finish playing all of the Silent Hill games – I own them all.  I have started them all.  I am too scared to finish them all.
  10. Write The Jolie Adventures.  Oh, okay, this is one on the list that WILL actually happen…soon!  It’s coming…I promise!

I Put A Spell On You

One year ago today, I married my best friend.

Phew, okay, now that the cheese is out of the way, I can tell you the story of our amazing Halloween wedding.  Where to begin…well, I suppose the most appropriate time is sometime in late July 2009.  I was flipping through my calendar at work and realized that Halloween was going to be on a Saturday that year.  Those are the most exciting Halloweens, because more people tend to go all out when the event is on a weekend.  Then it struck me.  Ian and I have been talking about getting married forever, but we weren’t sure what we wanted to do.  We didn’t know how we wanted to handle the fact that we would not be getting married in a church coming from two fairly religious families.  And we definitely wanted something memorable.  What could be more memorable than getting married on Halloween! Continue reading

I, Zombie

Halloween is definitely in the air.  The candy, decorations and costumes have been in the stores for several weeks now.  And to be honest, I’m starting to have weird dreams again.  I usually have Halloween-influenced dreams – likely due to the fact that there are many more examples of new horror movies out in the theatres, or for rent, or just on tv.  With so many sources to draw from, the imagery is bound to get me thinking in my non-waking hours.

Last night, I had the strangest dream. Continue reading