Horror As Resistance

I didn’t set out to write this sort of thing. This blog was supposed to be a way for me to put my ideas out into the world, the collected works I could point to whenever someone asked about my ideas on film and culture. This was supposed to be padding for my graduate school application. But we live in a tumultuous society and one that now – more than ever – demands that our voices either be heard or silenced completely. Though my reach is limited, I have the power to get my words out there. I am not risking my life for these words. I can do this one small thing and in honor of those who cannot, I feel that I have an obligation to try.

I want to tell you something, readers: you have been lied to. You have been told that you have no power and that your interest – even love – of horror storytelling and film has no meaning. At best, it’s a frivolous hobby. At worst, something ugly and deviant, a shameful pastime never to be mentioned out loud. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time and effort arguing for the merits of horror and other types of genre storytelling, and I find myself compelled to do so once again right here, right now.

Friends, nothing you love is meaningless if it gives you strength. Through storytelling, human beings examine the what-if, the infinite possibilities of our world and all the worlds that might follow it. Through horror, we experience the abject and the strange. As an audience, we see our fears presented on screen and conquer them. Because the truth of every horror film is that no matter the plot, no matter the body count, no matter how vividly the nightmare is constructed, the audience always survives. Don’t you see? Every time, the audience faces down their fears and conquers them. The audience always survives. We’ve endured zombie plagues and serial killers, werewolves and demonic dolls, and none of them – not even the ghosts or their knives – could stop us. In their own small way, horror films have made survivors out of their audiences. And for me, that matters. If I can face catacombs and vampires and in doing so find the strength to resist misogyny in the wider world, then it hardly matters where that strength came from; only that it belongs to me, and I will not be quiet in possessing it.

What you love is not meaningless if it gives you strength. This is not to say that horror films are the unlikely cure for all the world’s ills or that they empowering to everyone in the same way. No, horror is merely a genre, a means of storytelling, and for good or ill, stories are not inherently anything. But if you can find strength in them or coopt them as a form of resistance, then they are not meaningless.

Find your stories. Find them in horror or comedy, find them in theater, film, or the graffiti at your bus stop; find your monsters and survive them. And know that by surviving them, you can survive the world.

What you love is not meaningless. What I love helps me endure.

The Good Neighbor (2016)

Hello, good readers. Some of you might have noticed my absence from the internet, though I imagine most of you are busy with your own lives and have no cause to think of mine. However, I have returned! In the haze of graduate school and political chaos, I live. I have returned to the world of horror criticism tinged with angry feminism. Witness me

And with that introduction, I return to the first review of 2017

The Good Neighbor starts out in the same vein as Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), the more recent Disturbia (2007), and other horror films about the complications of observing a stranger from a distance. Though its inspirations are clear, The Good Neighbor quickly evolves into something quite different. The premise is deceptively simple. Two teenagers, armed with an abundance of time and an absent father’s money, have decided to convince their cranky neighbor he’s being haunted through a combination of technology, special effects, and petty meanness. For posterity, they have broken into the old man’s house and rigged the entire thing with cameras – except for the basement, strangely the only room in the entire house with a lock on it. Hilarity ensues as the pranks and cruelty escalate. Exactly who is this old man? Who or what is locked in the basement? And exactly how many lines will these teenagers cross before they realize they’ve gone too far?

It’s a fun ride. The Good Neighbor has plenty of ideas it wants to work through and the patience to develop them in unexpected ways. Exactly who the “good guys” are in the story isn’t immediately apparent and the film makes great use of scenes where the characters misinterpreted what they see on film and run wild with the conclusions. In a lot of ways, The Good Neighbor is a story about the limitations of film, the conclusions we draw about strangers without knowing them, and – intentionally or otherwise – how devastating the narratives people construct about their lives can become if unchallenged

All and all, The Good Neighbors is a hell of a lot smarter than it looks. It’s tightly paced, well written, and doesn’t include anything excessive. Despite the premise, it’s a tight and sparing film, limiting itself to only three main locations. It does wonders with a sparse set, James Caan gave a wonderful and unexpected performance as the cranky neighbor, and its ending was beautiful and devastating in all the right places. The only complaint I have was that the timeline tends to jump around and while this works as a narrative device, the changes aren’t always clear, which leads to some confusion in a few scenes.

All and all, four stars. Go see this one. It deserves a watch.