Marlon Riggs and the Documentary as a Jump-Start for Social Revolution (2017)

With film comes opinions, and with opinions come controversy. This often is a reality when it comes to documentary filmmaking, because one person’s perspective on reality may differ from another’s. With this being said, certain social issues crave the needed attention society is choosing not to provide, such as the neglect of LGBTQ issues present within the black community, brought to attention by documentary filmmaker and poet, Marlon Riggs in his 1989 film Tongues Untied, leading to quite the fuss. As Tongues Untied is a film with alarming and unconventionally graphic commentary and visuals, it is no surprise that fuming right-wing conservatives had something to say (Petty 416). Due to the fact that sensitive issues such as these have not quite been publically discussed as thoroughly and unapologetically before, an uproar ensued. Because of this, consciousness of blackness in the LGBTQ community began to creep into the limelight. Documentary filmmaking has the power to bring normally quieted social issues to light with the use of vivid imagery of real life events and emotional intent, birthing a strong reaction and increased awareness.

marlon riggs pic

“I was mute, tongue tied by shadows and silence. Now I speak, and my burden is lightened, lifted, free,” Riggs says himself in a particularly dark yet liberating scene in Tongues Untied. In this long take we see the director himself, standing in front of a black backdrop. There is no music. The only things present to stimulate the audience are Riggs’ face and voice, his eyes hyperfocusing into the camera making eye contact with his audience, the very people he is expressing his struggles to. The scene starts as a close up, slowly zooming into an extreme close up shot, emphasizing every feature and expression present on Riggs’ face. His words are haunting, and his face matches that, giving birth to a scene filled with emotion and pain. An audience connects with a scene so pure and real. Just a man, his camera, and a message, no special effects or elaborate editing are necessary. With scenes like this, which are present throughout the film, emotion exudes through poetry, as gay, black men express their anger, fear, and obligated silence they have endured in their lives. Riggs’ film acts as a rebirth, a new age. “Tongues Untied is truly a breakthrough documentary, for it penetrated ‘the walls of silence by which oppressive norms and taboos erase any ‘evidence of being’ among black lesbians and gay men’ (Mercer 22)” (Petty 417). The way in which Riggs “penetrated the walls of silence” was shocking to many, as the neglect of gayness and blackness was revealed in an explicit way. Extreme close up shots of the mouths of both white and black men spewing unsettling profanities targeting the gay and black community flash in-between scenes of gay, black men illustrating their stories of pain through poetry. The audience sees these obvious villains’ faces uncomfortably close to the camera, their eyes hidden as if to give them an inhuman quality. Strong editing is what makes these scenes so profound; the audience listens to the exquisitely real poetry while scenes of pure hatred are inserted aggressively and surprisingly, interrupting their stories just as this hate had interrupted their lives.   In some of these intimate scenes, the men are not saying anything; the audience sees their facial expressions exuding hurt, while the only thing audible is evil. “We need strong black men,” and “I don’t want them around me or my kids,” are just some of the sayings that echo in the background, as if to mimic how this hate has echoed in their lives, producing a sort of meta, or self-referential moment.

Although Riggs’ message is arguably clear, people still focused on the shock factor of the explicit nature of the content rather than the shock factor of the negative experiences of gay, black men. During Pat Buchanan’s 1992 election campaign, he had accused President Bush of using taxpayers’ money to pay for “pornographic art,” referring to a scene in Tongues Untied. But what was interesting about this situation was that the clip mentioned portrayed nudity of white men, the original controversy having nothing to do with the meaning behind the entire film (Petty 416). This only emphasizes Riggs’ point; LGBTQ struggles and neglect in the black community are brought to the public eye. Although it is necessary for the content to be understood in regards to the social issues that are attempted to be exposed, the focus of male whiteness makes Riggs’ message that more important. He speaks about how at one point in his life he craved being with white men, as they were the only “flavor” that interested him. If a black man looked his way he would not pay him any attention, without even a question as to why he was this way. As he talks about this saddening fact of internalized neglect of diversity and his own race, images of only white porn stars flash on the screen, not a black man in sight, making the audience understand why Riggs was so drawn to them. As the audience listens and watches, they get a glimpse of just how hidden gay, black men truly were in the media during this time, which led to a form of internalized racism and self hatred. Soon the audience sees eerily racist images of black men in porn, many suggestive of slavery, it being obvious that there were no positive black idols of sexuality for these men to relate to. Riggs begins to describe himself as invisible, an alien unseen, and even calls himself racist slurs. As he is narrating this, a wide shot image of himself walking alone on the sidewalk in public midday slowly fades away, as to literally illustrate how invisible he feels. Editing choices such as these truly cater to the emotional aspect of the film. “Thus, Riggs’ own experience, and those of black poets, becomes universalized as metaphorical constructs of black gay identities. This leads to a proliferation of voices and gives the video its sense of polyphony,” (Petty 418). The way the visuals and the audio are married to each other gives the film a sort of musical vibe, the use of poetry creating lyrical hints throughout (Petty 418). Often the audio and the visuals are connected in clever way, the visuals acting as a metaphor for the poetry, the poetry that is so rich in feeling and despair.

Although much of the documentary is oozing with pain and deeply ingrained feelings of being outcast, there are plenty of scenes, which offer comic relief, as to balance out shame and pride that is felt within the gay black community. In a scene exhibiting gay, black men sassily snapping their fingers at each other, one man proclaims, “Don’t mess with a snap diva!” This scene is very much staged, as these men give a lesson to the audience on different kinds of snapping via a “grand diva rap.” The audience is first introduced to snapping through a wide shot of a group of men, then jump cuts to medium shots of individual men educating the audience on different types of snaps, such as the “Point Snap!,” the “Mini-Snap!,” and the “Classic Snap!.” There are titles written on the screen specifying the different snaps as well as a message saying “courtesy of The Institute of Snap!thology.” The construction of the visuals along with the audio of a jazzy sounding bass let the audience assume it is okay to laugh a little, as this scene is not taking itself so seriously. Part of the successful impact of Tongues Untied relates to its ability to be able to covey a message involving pain, politics, emotion, and history while still keeping some scenes lightweight. Since not all people can relate directly to the subject of the documentary, it is important for people to be able to relate to some aspects of the film, which is why the comedy interlaced between the serious poetry and imagery just works. In this scene, these men are portrayed as free and confident, as they are the only people present within the scene. There are no flashing images of racist or homophobic figures in between the shots of the gay, black protagonists, nor are there echoing slurs aggressively dominating and belittling their free nature. While this scene of snapping variety may serve as comic relief, Riggs finds ways to construct a lighthearted scene still rich in emotional and political intent. Some of the more politically charged scenes show detailed images with upfront themes of racism, homophobia, and neglect, such as imagery of black pornography possessing blatant intent of slavery performing as a fetish. “The Snap! Can be as emotionally and politically charged as a clenched fist; can punctuate debate and dialogue like an exclamation point, a comma, an ellipsis; or can altogether negate the need for words among those who are adept at decoding its nuanced meanings (“Black Macho” 392),” (Petty 420). Although these Snap! divas may come across as sassy and comical, them and the snaps themselves represent a symbol of rebellion and opposition to the society and the system that has quieted their confidence and their pride. Other scenes show these men “voguing,” a form of dancing, in groups, completely letting go of insecurities and fear. These groups, in some cases called “houses,” often in drag culture, celebrate their bodies, acting flamboyantly and expressing themselves with every part of their body. Riggs took these scenes, often wide shots, of liberation and slowed them down, distorting the movement of their bodies, as to appreciate the freedom felt by these houses. Marcos Becquer describes voguing as a way to appropriate the dominant popular culture while also incorporating “African diasporic practices and gay-identified attitudes,” (Petty 425). Riggs’ use of voguing in his documentary emphasizes his urge for acceptance and awareness of gay, blackness within mainstream society, as voguing represents a concoction dominant culture, African culture, and gay culture. His sluggish and exaggerated portrayal of voguing, emphasizing the movement of every limb, is perhaps a proposal for mainstream society to appreciate the beauty and elegance the gay, black community contributes. Riggs uses dominant popular culture in a more direct way to illustrate the neglect of gay, black men by inserting clips of famous, black stand-up comedians expressing hatred for the community through homophobic jokes. Clips from the likes of Eddie Murphy and Spike Lee’s School Daze (1988) are inserted back to back, as to have an ongoing list of black influencers in pop culture who use homophobia as a casual tool for entertainment. Eddie Murphy talks about how while performing on stage he has to keep pacing back and forth so the “faggots” will not be able to get a great look at his bottom. The crowd erupted in laughter, seemingly okay with, possibly even delighted by, the homophobic joke. The montage of clips also includes visuals portraying violence against gay, black men. Essentially Riggs gathered evidence of black men spewing hatred towards gay, black men, possibly suggesting a correlation between violence and how the mainstream media represents gay, black people (Petty 423). The fast paced clips, one after another, really create an obvious point of view, Riggs showing the audience what they might not have noticed before. Not everyone will be able to relate to Riggs’ personal struggles, so he decided to send a message through what a large amount of people would be able to relate to. Riggs wants people to wake up, and really absorb the content that they are force-fed every day, and make them question how this treatment could be okay.

Riggs’ efforts did not go unnoticed, the controversy finally opening up a discussion. Riggs was able to create a revolutionary piece of gay, black content, changing the typical boundaries of documentary filmmaking. He had extended the limits of documentary filmmaking set by his predecessors, such as William Greaves, St. Clair Bourne, Henry Hampton, Louis Massiah, and Carroll Parrot Blue (Petty 417). There are even questions as to whether or not Tongues Untied is truly documentary, as rather, it can be considered a “mediation” of the lives of gay, black men. In Tongues Untied, Riggs decided to use performance as a way to document reality, whereas his previous film, Ethnic Notions, included traditional interview scenes, making for a more conventional film. Tongues Untied throws conventional structure in the garbage, as Riggs is not only the director, but a performer as well. The emotional intent and dedication to breaking a pattern of silence, as well as breaking the traditional mold of documentary filmmaking, could be the push that got this film to be recognized and talked about. This film is unapologetic self-expression at its finest, Riggs injecting his own reflections on serious topics such as childhood sexuality, the fact that he is HIV-positive, and racism. However, many men in the film reveal their own life journeys, making the film factual like a traditional documentary and distancing itself from an autobiographical piece (Harper 71).

Documentary filmmaking can captivate audiences enough to create open discussions about normally quieted social issues with the use of stimulating visuals and emotional themes, birthing a viral reaction and increased awareness. Marlon Riggs’ ability to break the mold in documentary filmmaking caused people to open their eyes and ears, and whether or not they were positively captivated by his shameless revolt, people woke up. His surprising use of nudity, blatant exposure of racially offensive and homophobic language, personal tragedy, and artistic vision led to an impactful piece. I believe that shock value is not always authentic, but in this case I think Riggs used shock value in a meaningful and necessary way, as to say he is no longer fearful; he is angry and proactive. I am astonished by Riggs’ courage to not only break the silence and challenge the mainstream media’s portrayal of gay, black men, but also his courage to reinvent what documentary filmmaking is.

Works Cited

Harper, Phillip Brian. “Marlon Riggs: The Subjective Position of Documentary Film.” Art Journal 54.4 (1995): 69-72. Web.

Petty, Sheila. “Silence and Its Opposite: Expressions of Race in Tongues Untied.” Documenting the Documentary, Grant & Sloniowski, eds. Wayne State Press, 1998.

 Riggs, Marlon T. “Notes of a Signifyin’ Snap! Queen.” Art Journal 50.3 (1991): 60. Web.

 

Filmography

Tongues Untied, Marlon Riggs (1989)

Advertisements

Wetlands (2013) Film Review and Brief Summary/Analysis: 3.5/5 Stars

Wetlands

Where did I first hear about Wetlands?

I saw Wetlands on Netflix while browsing for a movie to watch.  The girl with the crazy hair and the vibrant poster caught my eye, so I decided to look into it.  It seemed like a strange and crazy movie, with a rather bizarre plot description I might add, which is right up my alley.  I had no idea what I was in for…

Review:

Alright, right off the bat, I have to say that this movie is definitely not for everyone, especially people with weak stomachs, and is extremely NSFW.  But do not leave my blog just yet!!!!  Do not worry, I will keep the brief summary, and review tame.  But for real, I cannot stress this enough, this movie shows some deeply grotesque images that are not for the faint of heart.  If you are planning on eating some candy and popcorn during this movie, do yourself a favor and just don’t.  Under all of the raunchy and shocking material is the honest story of a lost and unique girl.

Wetlands is a German film based on the partially autobiographical novel by Charlotte Roche and was the world’s best selling novel in March 2008.  It is a bold, bawdy, drama directed by David Wnendt, produced by Peter Rommel, and written by David Wnendt and Claus Falkenberg.  Helen, our leading lady and narrator, played by Carla Juri, is an eighteen-year-old girl who chooses to stray from the typical social norms.  The first words out of her mouth are telling the audience that she has had hemorrhoids ever since she can remember and that she never thought she could tell anyone about it.  She then begins to talk about how her mother had always stressed bathroom and genital hygiene, ever since she was little.  Shortly after that there is a flashback to when Helen was just eight years old.  Young Helen, played by Clara Wunsch, was standing on some sort of ledge, short enough to jump from, and her mother, played by Meret Becker, held her arms out to catch her.  Of course little Helen tried to jump into her mother’s arms, expecting her to catch her, but her mother purposely let her fall to the concrete.  Poor little scraped up Helen looks at her mother in confusion, and her mother tells her “Don’t trust anybody.  Not even your parents.  Better a scraped up knee now than a broken heart later.”  Helen now says that she experiments with hygiene, also known as choosing not to have good hygiene at all whatsoever in any environment ever.  Whether it is rubbing her, um, lady parts on a dirty public toilet seat, trading freshly used tampons with one of her only close friends and “blood sister” Corinna, played by Marlen Kruse, or taking a razor to her body hair roughly on her dry skin, Helen does not seem to be fazed even a little bit when it comes to poor hygiene habits.  To me, the opening to the movie is quite brilliant because at just six minutes into the movie we understand that Helen was raised unconventionally and how she decides to go against everything her mother taught her as a form of resentment and rebellion.  This sets the basis for the rest of the movie and allows the audience to better understand her emotional pain, extremely atypical behaviors, and just why she stands out from the crowd so much.

wetlands bathroom

We begin to learn that her depressed mother is not the only one who raised her questionably.  While visiting her father, Alex Milberg, she mentions that he often hurts her without realizing it.  The movie then pans to a flashback exhibiting Helen’s father accidentally slamming the trunk of his car on her hand.  This scene was obviously a literal version of her father causing her pain, but it was also a metaphor for her feelings of neglect caused by her father her whole life.  Helen does not seem to care about many people, but she very much cares about the broken relationship of her parents.  They divorced when she was young, and ever since then she has desperately wanted them to get back together.  While shaving with a slightly damp razor one day, Helen quickly, and rather violently, starts shaving the dry skin on her legs and her pubic region, when she accidentally slices open the skin where her hemorrhoids remain.  After a scream of bloody murder and a failed attempt at going to school with blood dripping down her legs and peering out from under her skirt, this act lands her in the hospital, which is the setting for the majority of the movie.  She sees this as the perfect seed for a plan to get her parents to visit her in the hospital at the exact same time and magically fall back in love under the dreamy florescent hospital lights.  She uses her charm and cherub-like face to get what she wants, persuading her naive nurse, Robin, played by Christoph Letkowski, to make the arrangements.  She later says in the movie that she has always wanted to have a child of her own, but she has had herself sterilized in order to stop the vicious cycle of her family.  She says that from her great grandmother, to her grandmother, to her mother, to her, all of the first born daughters of the family have been “neurotic, deranged, and miserable.”  This is incredibly sad because she must have gotten herself sterilized in a rage of anger and emotional pain.  Aside from her active sex life and casual drug habits, Helen’s hobby is growing avocado plants which she considers to be her own little family.  I believe that caring for these little avocado seeds is her way of nurturing new life.  I think she translates her feelings of neglect and emptiness from her lack of a loving childhood into love for the plants.  Although she cannot give birth to a child of her own, she tries to find ways to express her motherly nature, while still holding onto her tough and wild exterior.  Helen even has a hallucination in the hospital where she gives birth to an avocado plant, which was strongly a symbolic representation of her inner turmoil about wanting a family of her own in comparison to her growing avocados.  Helen’s little brother, Toni, played by Ludger Bökelmann, also exhibits this crave to nurture as a result of an empty childhood; he is a quiet little boy who will become furious if anyone dares to touch his precious teddy bear.  We do not know much about Toni, but I see the similarities between Helen and him in that respect.  Although Helen does not let much of her soft side show on the outside, the audience gets an inside look into her shocking memories and thoughts as her narration guides us through her life.

wetlands helen

After watching this movie, while I was still in complete and utter shock, I looked up some other people’s opinions.  Some thought it was brilliant, some were repulsed by the vulgar scenes.  Someone was so completely disgusted that he/she cut up the Netflix DVD with a pair of scissors, completely willing to pay the twenty dollar fee for damages (that is a bit extreme in my opinion).  I think Wetlands is a film that does contain a load of shock value, but also has an immense amount of substance.  I believe that her extremely appalling and distasteful language and behaviors are all a cry for attention, relating back to her parents.  So people who think there is absolutely no reason for the gross content, should look a bit deeper .  Although I will admit, some scenes were quite unnecessary and objectionable simply for the sake of being objectionable, leaving me annoyed at Helen to be completely honest.  It is filmed beautifully, portraying a dreamlike and fantastical aura at times, while also emitting a quirky and comical vibe paired with alternative sounding music that fits Helen’s personality perfectly.  Her flashbacks to her childhood, and scenes portraying her daydreams are saturated with deeply traumatic emotion and bright colors which entice the audience and allow people to sympathize for her and appreciate her as well.  Carla Juri does an exquisite job of effortlessly portraying the tortured, yet free, soul of Helen, forcing the audience to feel things for her.  I think Helen is one of those characters I could not picture being portrayed by anyone else.  Overall, Wetlands is completely unforgiving, disquieting, and an intense movie-watching experience.

Is Wetlands worth watching?

If you are easily offended, and are not into crazy arthouse films, maybe you should skip this one.  If you are like me and are a person who enjoys all kinds of movies, including foreign films, and does not mind a little shock value here and there, I say go for it; overall it is a totally fun movie!!

You can watch the trailer here (mildly NSFW):

Ask Me Anything (2014) Film Review: 3.5/5 Stars

ask me anything

Where did I first hear about Ask Me Anything?

The other day I went on Netflix to browse and see if there was anything new and interesting to watch, and this was literally the first thing I saw on the home page.  I thought this would be a cute comedy/Rom. Com. to watch.  I figured it would have a light and whimsical vibe, which was what I was in the mood for at the time; I was sort of wrong.

Review:

Ask Me Anything was not exactly what I thought it would be.  You know that saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” well that is exactly what I did.  The short plot description Netflix provides compared to the movie poster led me to believe that this was going to be a comedy filled with fluff.  I literally thought I was about to watch a movie that resembled Love Actually, especially considering the poster reminded me of the poster for Love Actually.  And don’t get me wrong, Ask Me Anything has several comedic and snarky moments, but this movie has a deeper meaning and darker aura than I was expecting.

Ask Me Anything is a somewhat amusing, and quite bleak, drama directed by, written by, and also based on the novel, Undiscovered Gyrl, by Allison Burnett.  Britt Robertson plays Katie Kampenfelt, a troubled, recent high school graduate who, while taking a gap year between high school and college, writes a blog about her life as suggested by a school advisor.  She decides to change a few details from her life in the blog so that no one can figure out her true identity.  At the beginning of the movie, Katie announces through her blog that she is currently involved with a 32-year-old community college film professor, named Dan, also known as the ever so charming, Justin Long.  Oh yeah, and both of them are already in relationships.  By this point, we are about five minutes into the movie, and the audience already has a taste of what her character is like: selfish and careless.  I believe her sassy and reckless behaviors are a result of her own insecurities and loneliness from a complicated home life and lack of many friends.   She lives with her mother and her mother’s snide but caring boyfriend, while also visiting her former sports writer, current demotivating, borderline alcoholic father and his mousy girlfriend throughout the movie.  Blowing off calls from people here and there, and cheating on her high tempered boyfriend are just a few examples that demonstrate Katie’s little respect or value for the people she encounters in her life.  Although to Katie, Dan is special and she believes she has a true emotional connection with him.  Katie puts up a front that she is tough and doesn’t need anyone, but in reality she unhealthily craves attention from Dan.  She uses her sexuality to keep him around, showing her desperation to be with him even when he subtly attempts to end their affair.  He even moves without saying goodbye to her; if that isn’t a hint, I don’t know what is.

ask-me-anything-movie

Before Dan moved, Katie got a job working at a book store, but when her loving mother and her mother’s snarky, mustached boyfriend tell Katie that her boss, played by Martin Sheen, is a convicted sex offender, they force her to quit.  She soon after gets a phone call from Paul Spooner, an admissions officer, played by Christian Slater (Heathers nostalgia), from the college which she deferred a year from, coincidentally asking her if she needs a job.  Katie takes the job as a nanny for his and his wife’s newborn son.  Katie is given access to a car, a Volvo to be specific, for her nanny duties.  A very excited Katie calls Dan telling him that she can now come visit him, which causes him to be taken off guard considering he thought moving would be the obvious end of their relationship.  Although Dan stays on her mind throughout most of the movie, she eventually partakes in a new scandal…you guessed it, an affair with Paul.  Katie’s slight obsession with these men distract her from her own true priorities and self esteem issues.

What is truly wonderful about Ask Me Anything is the fact that almost every character is very important to the plot and only enhance the core reasons as to why Katie is so troubled and has issues chasing after (mostly older) men who will only hurt her in the end.  From her school advisor who is only in the movie for a few minutes, to her only female, mischievous, and carefree friend, Jade, to the depressed voice of reason, Joel, every person in Katie’s life plays a role in either helping her or hurting her.  The varying  people that impact her life allow her to grow and eventually make mature decisions that will alter her life forever.  Although I did not read the novel, I have read that the movie stays true to the book, which is always a plus.  The film mostly relies on character development to keep the structure in tact, which, for a movie of this genre, is perfectly okay.  It’s not necessarily filmed in a unique way or anything, but the script and variation of personalities the audience experiences throughout the film are impressive.  Britt Robertson’s performance may warm and break your heart all at the same time.  Robertson genuinely becomes Katie as she portrays her haunted soul, sarcastic attitude, and carefree exterior beautifully.

christian slater

One of my complaints is that there is not really a climax in the plot.  The audience is kind of just along for the ride as Katie makes mistakes from beginning to end; there is not necessarily one moment that explodes with shock or action.  Although, there is a small twist ending which in my opinion, sort of came out of left field.  Twist endings are something that really captivate me as a lover of film; some are mind blowing and have me screaming at the screen in pure excitement, and some are duds that make absolutely no sense and also have me screaming at the screen, but in anger (cue Enemy).  To me, a good twist ending is crafted so there are clues the audience could have picked up on throughout the movie that come together like a perfect puzzle in the end and have you saying “OHHHHHHHHHH.”  This one did not really do that for me.  The twist is nothing compared to that of The Sixth Sense or anything; it is not completely shocking, and I did not quite see the reason for it, but overall it was interesting.  There are a few hints throughout the movie, but after I watched it, I thought to myself “well okay then.”  Overall, Ask Me Anything is a delightfully gloomy and sarcastic coming of age drama that will make you feel as though you deeply understand and relate to Katie Kampenfelt and the endeavors of growing up.

Is Ask Me Anything worth a watch?

If you appreciate quirky indie dramas and/or coming of age films, then you will most likely enjoy Ask Me Anything.  

You can watch the trailer here:

If you are a movie buff and are interested in my reviews and in talking to me, please feel free to comment, follow, and express your opinions!!  It would mean a great deal to me.  Let’s get a discussion going!

Clown (2014) Film Review: 3/5 Stars

clown

Where did I first hear about Clown?  

Okay, so it was a while ago, but I believe I started hearing buzz about Clown on bloody-disgusting.com.  For people who are disturbed by a website with that name and have no clue what I am talking about, it is a horror website that often posts news about upcoming horror movies, video games, comics, etc.  The buzz stopped for a while, considering there was not yet a full movie, but recently bloody-disgusting started posting clips from the movie and it sparked my interest for the second time.

Review:

Clown is a horror movie from 2014 directed by Jon Watts, and produced by none other than the modern king of horror, Eli Roth.  Aside from producing the film, Roth also stars as Frowny the Clown.  At first I was very confused as to who was responsible for the film considering I heard a few opposing things about it; so I decided to do a bit of online research.  The original trailer that was released in 2010 by Jon Watts and Christopher D. Ford was fake and was advertised as being from “master of horror Eli Roth.”  Funny thing though: Eli Roth had nothing to do with the original (fake) movie trailer.  Watts and Ford put his name on the trailer to get as much attention as possible, and it worked.  Eli Roth wound up seeing the trailer and loving the project, so he was on board with the movie.  The poster I posted above is from Italy and it is a more tame version of the original banned movie poster.  It was banned for being a bit too grotesque.  The original one was simply the entire photo of the clown rather than only a portion of it formed into letters like the one above.  I decided not to post the original poster because I do not want want to disturb any squeamish babies people.

The movie starts with Kent (Andy Powers) and a secretly pregnant wife, Meg (Laura Allen) talking to each other on the phone, flustered about finding a last minute clown for their son Jack’s (Christian Distefano) seventh birthday party after the one they originally booked did not wind up showing up.  Kent is a realtor who magically, and quite conveniently, found a clown suit and wig kept in a pretty suspicious looking chest (if I do say so myself) in the attic of a house he was trying to sell.  The chest was chained to the wall, so if you had no idea what you were getting yourself into, that was the first sign that something is going to go wrong with wearing the clown costume.  Kent shows up to his kid’s birthday party just in time to act as, who he calls, Dummo the Clown.  The party goes great, Jack is a happy little birthday boy, Meg and Kent are relieved after the minor clown crisis, but then, surprise surprise, Kent can’t get the clown suit off.  I’m just going to pause right here to talk about how although this movie is totally fun, it is not all that original whatsoever, and it is pretty predictable.  You do have to take into consideration, that coming up with a new and clever horror storyline is pretty tough, because not only is our society desensitized to a lot of gore and graphic images, but also, it has all kind of been done before.  Just think about how many zombie movies, vampire movies, supernatural/ghost movies, exorcism/satanic movies (oh goodness please make them stop), found footage films (ugh (even though I still go see them)), and even clown movies, there are out there.  And how often do we walk out of the theater (if it even makes it to the theater), saying “That was totally awesome, super scary, and most of all, completely original!!”?  I’ll answer this question for you: painfully not often.  There are a small amount of good horror films in this world that make us squirm and are well thought out with a solid plot, so when a genuinely decent one comes out, the filmmakers milk it as much they can with sequels; Paranmormal Activity and Insidious, I’m talking about you.  Or filmmakers resort to movies that just exist to shock; The Human Centipede, I’m talking about you.  Not all can shake the public like The Exorcist and The Blair Witch Project.  My point is, this film is not exactly revolutionary or unique, but it is enjoyable to watch in the most predictable of ways.

clown movie birthday party

When Kent first realizes he cannot get the costume off, for some reason he decides that this is not a real problem, and goes to work anyway.  He goes to one of the houses he is trying to sell, and there are people working on renovations at the house as well…who happen to have power tools.  He starts becoming frustrated at work with the fact that the costume is stuck on him, so he tries to do the least reasonable thing possible: he tries to cut off the clown suit with power tools.  He winds up accidentally slicing open his wrist and the material of the costume is so strong that it broke a power saw.  Later, Meg questions why Kent still has his costume on and why on earth he wore it to work.  When Kent pleas for help to his wife, the quick solution involves ripping off his clown nose with dental instruments from her job, which obviously turns out to be a bloody mess.  It becomes more than clear to the audience and to the characters that this demon clown suit is not coming off any time soon…or at all.

As time goes on, Kent realizes that there is something really wrong with why he cannot get the costume off, and it’s not that he gained a ton of weight in a mere day or something.  He conveniently winds up finding the original owner of the costume who tells him that the costume is actually the skin of an ancient European demon who eats children, of course.  The only ways to rid the demon are to either feed it five children for the five months of winter, or to behead it.  Karlsson (Peter Stormare), the original owner, had the same awful experience that Kent is having, so he will do virtually anything to end the curse.  As Kent becomes hungrier and hungrier for the delicious flesh of children, the film becomes creepier and creepier, showing the mental and physical destruction of him.

clown Eli roth

The incorporation of the birthday party at the Chuck E. Cheese’s-esque place was a setting that was not only perfect for a potential child buffet, but gave the film an unsettling and frightening vibe.  I enjoy how this setting transformed something completely un-scary into something nightmares are made of.   Without giving too much away, I will never look at the McDonald’s play tunnels the same way again.  Some of Kent’s, or should I say Frowny the Clown’s, child luring tactics (also used on his own son) are reminiscent of The Exorcist and Evil Dead.  Playful and persuasive voices enunciated from demons is something I have seen (or heard) before in horror films, which I enjoy every time.  Although it also has other typical horror movie maneuvers, the film comes together quite nicely, never boring the audience.  One of my frequent complaints about horror films, including this one, is the lack of character development.  It’s not that I did not like the characters, but I also didn’t not like the characters, which is almost worse because that shows that none of their personalities really left a true impact on the movie’s storyline.  Clown‘s ending is not much of a surprise, making it less satisfying once the credits start rolling.  Overall Clown is a fun movie if you don’t expect a groundbreaking plot that will make you think for days; however, it might make you shudder for days.

Is Clown worth a watch?

If you’re interested in the horror genre as a whole, and appreciate the work of Eli Roth, this movie may be for you!!  This movie may not be for you if you suffer from Coulrophobia though.

You can watch the trailer here:


Honeymoon (2014) Film Review: 3/5 Stars

honeymoon landscape

Where did I first hear about Honeymoon

I originally saw an article about Honeymoon, and its trailer, on moviepilot.com.  The trailer intrigued me without giving too much away about the story.  It has an eerie vibe that made me very curious and excited to see this movie.  Moviepilot often has articles about films that are coming soon, so I knew I would be unable to see it for a while.  Recently, Netflix added Honeymoon to its Horror genre in the watch instantly section.

Review:

Honeymoon is an intelligent horror/thriller/science fiction film directed by Leigh Janiak.  My thoughts following viewing the trailer included that this film has the potential to be a fantastic creep fest, but it also has potential to lack a real climax and have not much actually happen.  To my pleasant surprise, Honeymoon takes the idea of a gradual electrifying buildup, and executes it in a superb manner.

Bea, played by Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), and Paul, played by Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful), are happy newlyweds.  The movie begins with them talking to a camera for their wedding video about their first date involving an unfortunate Indian food incident, and how a poorly planned camping trip became a charming indoor fort-tent adventure that led to a proposal.  I appreciate the fact that as the movie progresses, the audience is invited into Bea’s and Paul’s relationship.  They have this overwhelming chemistry that is believable and realistic.  They’re quirky, sweet, and have pet names for each other like “honey bee” and “Pauly poo.”  They have this serious passion and light sense of humor that can make any viewer fall in love with them in the way that you wish to tell yourself that you want to vomit from their mushy and annoying romance, but you know they’re just too cute.  Horror movies often lack in the character development department, but Honeymoon nails it in this category.  It is especially necessary and impressive because they are the only main characters, aside from two supporting characters who later appear only to enhance the plot.  Horror films are repeat offenders in giving characters cheap, stereotypical personas and make little effort to make them relatable.  It is a good sign that the movie starts with strong characters in order to further appreciate and savor the story.

Bea and Paul decide to spend their honeymoon at Bea’s family cottage with 90’s decor in the middle of the woods.  As kitsch and alluring as this little vacation sounds, we know something is going to go wrong.  Although I was captivated by the idea, I still thought, “Oh great, another mediocre cabin in the middle of the woods flick.”  Even though that sub genre has been done time and time again with movies like The Last House on the LeftEvil DeadThe Strangers, and Cabin in the Woods, when they’re good, they’re good.  There is something chilling about a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere that is a repetitive setting for an abduction or slasher intruder storyline.  After Bea gives Paul a tour of the cottage, they get situated, and bask in their newlywed romance, they decide to go to sleep.  As the audience watches the couple in their dreamy slumber, a strange, bright ray of light comes through the window accompanied by a low and dense sound.

Honeymoon still

The following day, everything seems to be peachy as Bea awakens Paul by goofily poking his nipple with a mallard duck decoy.  They make pancakes and go fishing together just relishing in each others company.  Later they decide to go for a stroll when they come across a shabby restaurant.  In the restaurant, Bea and Paul have a bizarre and startling encounter with and old friend of Bea’s, named Will.  After Bea and Will get reacquainted, Will’s wife walks in the room flustered, telling Bea and Paul that they urgently need to leave.  She looks exhausted, with purple bags under her sunken in eyes.  The audience gets a vibe that something is not quite right with her and the situation itself.

Later that night, Paul notices Bea missing from the bed and soon finds her standing naked and in a trance in the middle of the forest.  At approximately 27 minutes into the film, this is a major turning point for the plot.  By this point, I expect a film to pick up the pace; we got an introduction, now we want a juicy story.  After the freakish incident, Paul is looking for answers, and without giving too much away, something bad happened to Bea in the woods.  Bea is no longer acting like herself and seems like a stranger to Paul.  From denying the seriousness of strange markings on her thighs, to no longer remembering how to make French toast or coffee, Bea is not Bea.  She gives some (pretty bad) excuses for her zombie-like expressions and pose in the woods like “I must be sleepwalking,” or, my personal favorite, “Nothing, I’m fine.”  By this point, a viewer is hoping things start getting more exciting, and although the viewers are totally creeped by Bea’s brief disappearance, more needs to happen.  I did say this film is a gradual build up in a smart way, but I do wish there were more scares and startles in this film.  About a quarter of the movie felt like a romance film, and although that time was used for character development, I don’t like waiting long for the feature to get scary.  The dialogue and character progression make up for it somewhat, but if more scary events happened, I would have given this film a higher rating.

Bea honeymoon

Paul begins to lose his grip on who his wife really is, what she is turning into, and even on himself.  Treadaway gives an exquisitely charming performance as a horrified yet loyal husband who will do anything to ensure his wife’s safety and sanity.  Leslie portrays Bea in a haunting fashion that evokes fear in not only Paul, but also the audience.

It is clear that Honeymoon did not have a high budget considering the lack of effects.  I often think that filmmakers use special effects in place of a plot, which is never how it should be, but it seemed a bit like effects were avoided until the end of the film.  It is almost as if the director was trying to distract the audience from the fact that there were little alarming/shocking scenes and no extravagant effects for the majority of the movie with candy or a shiny object, or in this case a strong character relationship.  Despite this, Janiak executes this plot wonderfully, with a strong bond between the characters and an eerie aura enticing the audience all the way through.  Nobody said marriage was easy, but Paul and Bea find out how challenging and unnerving it can be to trust and hold onto your betrothed.

Is Honeymoon worth a watch?

Yes!  Honeymoon is worth watching if you are into mild horror flicks.

You can watch the trailer here: