The Horrors of Horror

Halloween appears to be predominantly androcentric with Jack O’ Lanterns, Headless Horsemen and Hitchcockian killers at every turn. Scary movies show us serial killers like Freddie, Jason, and Leatherface. Literature and folklore bestow us Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula and Werewolves. Even children’s cartoon are filled with devils, ghosts and ghouls that are taken to be male. And yet despite this, it is still the ladies of Hollywood’s horror screen that have my attention. It’s the final girls, the witches and the evil Queens that come to my mind on All Hallows Eve.

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Women have always had an important place in Hollywood’s horror genre, unfortunately it has just never been a particularly progressive one; they are brutally murdered (usually after having sex), psychotically chased down, or graphically tortured. If an actress would like to be in a horror film where her character lives; she has the option of being a daemon she-devil, a rape-revenge psychopath or a mentally unstable mother figure. If the film is more magical than macabre; she can play the part of a witch with worldly power, but only if her focus is set on youth and beauty. If the actress in question would like to take part in a slasher film then she has the option of dying horrifically or playing the survivor who can endure her killer’s attacks with intelligence, spirit and resourcefulness, but only if she is ultimately saved by a man.

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Of course, no one comes out looking good in horror films; it is a genre of blood and gore, but it is the way in which women are portrayed in comparison to men that worries me. It’s difficult to find female characters that are agents of their own destiny in any genre, but with the lack of barriers that the mysticism of horror and sci-fi bring, there should be endless options for women. Buffy Summers is not a victim, an avenger or a final girl; she is a monster hunter. I will forever praise Joss Whedon in all his feminist wisdom for creating not only a character such as Buffy but a team of friends where women outnumber men and no one bats an eyelid. So why must they stand alone? Where are all the other Scooby gangs? Halloween is a time to break boundaries, transform characters and bend the rules; an idea that Hollywood has bought into with aplomb. Films that center around fictitious worlds of monsters and dress up are films where anything is possible. So where are all the women at?

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Final girls are hardly a feminist ideal; they survive and fight and claw their way through unspeakable horrors only to be saved by a man. Magic makes muscle obsolete, and yet even in situations where the spells of the mind beat the muscle of matter,witches can’t go about being heroes? Magic is possible but apparently men and women still can’t be on an equal playing field. TV shows have tried more than films, because God forbid a block buster rest solely on a female protagonist’s shoulder, but it’s mostly missed the mark. I was never truly won over by the sisters of Charmed, Samantha Stephens basically just wiggled her nose about in Bewitched and let’s not get started on I Dream of Jeannie. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was mostly about changing outfits really fast, I mean wasn’t Aunt Zelda supposed to be a brainiac magical scientist? Shouldn’t she have cured cancer by now or something?Don’t get me wrong I’m actually a fan of many of these shows, but there are just too few female characters so well written as Hermione Granger or Buffy Summers and honestly that’s just not good enough for me.

- Sinann Fetherston

NYFF Review: Foxcatcher

Based on the true story of the Shultz brothers and multi-millionaire John Du Pont; Director Bennett Miller uses an all-star cast to tell a tale of drugs, money, professional wrestling and murder in the late 1990’s. Miller studied old footage, interviewed the numerous people involved in the story including the DuPont family, and introduced his actors to their real life counterparts so as to get a well informed view of the incidents that occurred. His dedication to telling true life stories about events, people and their circumstances brings a real sense of authenticity and fidelity to his films.

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Channing Tatum plays Mark Shultz, an Olympic medalist and two-time world champion in freestyle wrestling. Tatum may be notoriously known for his blockbuster comedies and stripper moves but he proves his acting chops with fierce intensity as he transforms himself into a cauliflower eared, sensitive souled, professional wrestler with apparent ease. While preparing for the role, Tatum met Shultz for dinner in New York and was taken by how the man moved, saying:

“Look at the way he walks, it’s such a beautiful indication of how he goes into the world. I just started studying everything about his movements and I found that was just the way in for me to such an emotional, physical and tangible person. I didn’t try to get into his intellectual side because he’s just such an emotional person.”

Mark’s brother Dave Shultz is played by the skilled Mark Ruffalo who slips into his fighter’s pose with heartfelt sincerity as he becomes the ultimate hero of this enticing piece. A humble coach, talented athlete and all around family man; Dave steps in as a father figure to the lost souls that surround him. He is a rare character in that his nobility is not marred by a pretentious nature or an overtly sentimental tone; he is quite simply a good man with kind intentions. Next to him his wife Nancy, played by Sienna Miller, is the ultimate American housewife – sweet, loving, and scrunchie wearing. Together, they stand as the stable and loving family that their fellow characters so desperately crave.

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Tatum and Ruffalo are inspired in their performances; they lace their relationship with such candor and authenticity that the audience can’t help but feel won over by them both. Despite this, however, it is Steve Carrell that steals the show. The funny man might best be known for his roles in movies such as Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin but his role as Du Pont proves that he can morph into any role. Perhaps it is because of his comedic fame that Carrel can hook his audience so efficiently. He manages to delude them into believing that John “Golden Eagle” du Pont is merely an eccentric oddball with a humorous style and super ego. It is the viewer’s familiarity with Carrel’s inherent likability that becomes their ultimate downfall. When Du Pont’s manner seamlessly slides from eccentric to awkward to frightening with unbearable ease, the audience can do nothing but squirm in their chairs, and watch as their protagonist unhinges. Carrel brings drugs, sex, wealth, Hitchcockian mother issues and an air of delusional fantasy to his character that the audience can’t help but become transfixed by. They are left in awe of his looks, his oddity and his terrifying descent into violent madness.

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A morality tale at it’s core, Foxcatcher will enchant and entice it’s viewers from beginning to end. Miller’s insistence that film should imitate life in its ambiguity pays off enormously as he pulls his viewers into another character’s existence. Undetermined sexuality, blatant drug abuse, complicated relationships and the complexities of self-worth are all on the table for Miller. He drags his character’s stories across the screen and into each other so beautifully that you will begin to understand the world through their eyes.

- Sinann Fetherston (A)

Netflix will be there for you…

In 2015 Netflix is bringing FRIENDS to your laptop screens, and yes TV addicts and future insomniacs, that means every episode ever made. To celebrate the occasion The Rembrandts, who created the iconic I’ll Be There For You theme song, performed the hit inside “Central Perk” (which I think may be the location of the pop-up happening in Soho NYC this month) with Gunther the ever-dutiful barista in the background.

So what does this mean for Netflix subscribers? Well, my best predictions include: sleep deprivation, acute nostalgia, lust for Rachel’s hair, an increase in Chandler-like sarcasm, and the phrase “we were on a break” along with many other quotable lines being parroted amongst the general public. You’re social life will fade away and you’re bank account will slowly but surely drain into online take away orders but remember everyone; FRIENDS will be there for you.

In Conversation

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As an idea ‘InConversation’ is simple – have a conversation and record it. The company intends to range their podcast conversations from film to art, politics to sport, and general news and lifestyle. Their aim is to accumulate a rich and varied database of conversations with all manner of people. Ireland has a phenomenal culture of literature, film, music, and theatre and these folks are ready to tap into it all.

You can listen to their podcast with director Lenny Abrahmson (Frank, What Richard Did, Adam and Paul) here.