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Article ID: 4049
Age Group: Adult
Posted: March 17th. 2002
Witch Cinema 07
by Peg Aloi
Well, there has been a pretty decent crop of horror films this year and a lot of films that defy categorization but that definitely have horrific elements. I am not sure where this trend is coming from (horror all but died out in the 1980s, it seemed, with few notable exceptions like the Evil Dead films). Why do so many witches and pagans love horror films?
Good question. My first guesses would be: 1) We are featured in a lot of them! 2) Witches are naturally drawn towards subjects like the occult and the paranormal, featured in the plots of many horror films 3) Witches and pagans, being creative people, enjoy creative literature and media, and horror movies are about as fantastical as it gets... and 4) We are in touch with unseen forces and feelings that many people consider "scary" (the otherworld, the old gods, magic, nature, even) and enjoy stories that deal with these things.
Me: I like to be scared. Not sure why. Not a healthy thing, to be sure, but it's not like I am the only one out there, am I right? Okay, on to this month's films.
If you live in or near a big city that has a decent alternative or arthouse movie theatre, be sure to go see Donnie Darko if it plays near you. It will also be released on video March 19, so you can see it that way, too. This is an unusual, absorbing story of a teenager who sleepwalks. He is also in therapy for depression and possibly developing schizophrenia; but to all outward appearances he is merely an unhappy outsider who wants more out of his life than his suburban existence. Set in October, 1988 (and with a surprisingly evocative soundtrack that includes original and cover versions of songs by Tears for fears, Echo and the Bunnymen, and other 80s bands-don't let this keep you away). Donnie starts seeing a tall figure with a metallic rabbit's head who speaks to him and tells him the world will end in 28 days (on October 30th). Donnie starts marking the days; soon after a jet engine crashes through his bedroom ceiling; fortunately Donnie has sleepwalked that night and avoids being killed. But all is not as it seems and the story takes twists that are surprisingly intricate: Donnie becomes interested in time travel, thanks to a book written by a strange old woman in his neighborhood. He exposes a scandal involving the local self-help guru, and falls in love with the new girl in the neighborhood. He also begins to be able to see the very near future, as ectoplasmic blobs emerge from peoples' chests (including his own) and show where they are about to go and what they are about to do. The story seems to be influenced by a wide range of other stories: E.T., Harvey, The Time Machine, The Catcher in the Rye, and others. But it is wholly original and one of the most engaging, moving films I have seen in a while. Don't let anyone tell you the ending before you see it! And even when you do, you will be scratching your head working out exactly what DID happen. The story does have its ambiguities and mysteries, which is one reason I found it so unforgettable. Let's hear it for movies that avoid spoonfed, predictable plots to their audiences!
You lucky arthouse denizens can also go see a spectacular French ghost story called The Devil's Backbone (by the director of Cronos and Blade 2, Guillermo del Toro). (This should also be available on video soon). It is set during the Spanish Civil war, at a boys' orphanage in a tiny village. The narrator of the story is an old man who claims to be a ghost. An unexploded bomb sticks out of the central road, and everyone pretends to ignore it. On the night the bomb fell, one of the boys, Santi, disappeared. When Carlos, a sensitive newcomer, arrives at the orphanage, he is immediately set upon by a tight-knit gang of boys, and also begins to see visions of Santi's ghost. Santi tells him he was murdered, and also that a disaster is coming. It is a harrowing story but also one of courage and loyalty, as the boys eventually befriend Carlos and band together to expose Santi's killer.
Both these films, though very different from each other, each have as their main character someone whose outsider status is emphasized by their ability to see things others do not, to know what will happen in the future, and to move between the worlds of the living and the dead. Both Donnie and Carlos have something of the shaman, psychopomp and prophet about them. But they are also overshadowed by the central image of the huge metal object that crashes to earth and changes everything: the jet engine, the unexploded bomb. I found myself remembering the threat of nuclear annihilation that loomed so close in the 1980s, and the way that these fears came flooding back into my mind with the news revealed this week about the Bush administration's new nuclear policies. We all look up at the skies these days with more trepidation than 11th, which seems to make this frightening imagery resonate even more deeply.
If you are in the mood for something a bit less thoughtful, there is the remake of H. G. Wells' timeless classic, The Time Machine. Starring Memento 's Guy Pearce (a brilliant stroke of casting, I thought: the Memento guy who can't make new memories or see more than fifteen minutes into his past, finds a way to blast forward 800, 000 years into the future), this is a very enjoyable remake with some clever twists added that Wells could not have foreseen when he wrote the story. The special effects are amazing (look for Orlando Jones as a holographic version of "the Library"), and the acting is very fine, particularly Jeremy Irons as the ancient Morlock. The evil hairy Perhaps you have already seen Queen of the Damned. Yes, it mostly sucked, but I did enjoy the cinematography, and the special effects were quite good. The film's main problems, as I am sure Anne Rice fans can attest to, is that too many plot elements are condensed into one film, thus making it hard to follow the story and hard to accept where the story goes. The screenplay was rather clumsy and dense, all the information and history one was expected to just accept with little or no explanation. That said, it is a fun movie and visually very appealing, especially the glitter goth make-up!
As for what else is new, well, most of you have probably already seen the story on Wren's Nest about the sequel to The Wicker Man being filmed in Scotland: The Riding of the Laddie (which sounds a bit like a pagan porno film, but what the heck, the first one was too, sort of). This is interesting news following the announcement of a "remake" of the original being shot in the United States with an American cast and storyline. The Riding of the Laddie will star Christopher Lee, the first film's Lord Summerisle, and Robin Hardy, its original director, will write and direct. Sad that scriptwriter Anthony Shaffer died recently or he might have been involved, too. We will continue to follow this story and see when we can expect to see this film. (If it premieres in London before New York I will be making every effort to be there!)
Recently, the extra-spooky film Session 9 was released on DVD. This is a must-see and got my vote for one of the ten best films of 2001, for its brilliant cinematography and direction by Massachusetts' own Brad Anderson. The film was shot at an abandoned mental hospital in Danvers (site of the original Salem Village).
A new Welsh film starring the incomparable Australian actress Rachel Griffiths (Muriel's Wedding and Six Feet Under) and Jonathan Pryce, filmed in a gorgeous village in South Wales, should be making its way to your area soon, too: Very Annie Mary. It's not the least bit scary, but hilarious and musical and very entertaining. I couldn't leave the non-horror fans with nothing to look forward to!
Until next time, enjoy the movies. Oh, and I hope you have all been tuning into Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately... some VERY interesting things going on there.
Media Coordinator - The Witches' Voice
Monday, March 18th 2002
Email: [Staff Email]
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