Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Random Stuff: The Sweet, the Bloody, the Sublime

Dig this iconic image from Lucio Fulci's seminal 1980s film, THE BEYOND. Often celebrated for creating chunkblowing masterpieces, Fulci's best work combined grotesque, over-the-top imagery with sublime images like this one. Romero has given us zombies that function as social metaphors, but Fulci's zombies reflect the nightmare of human existence: that a truly spiritual dimension is nothing more than another waste land (as seen here) that offers no escape from our material existence as meat. And what is a zombie but just meat?

As most readers of this blog will already know, Fulci created much of his best work in the early 1980s, as he followed up ZOMBI 2 with THE GATES OF HELL, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, NEW YORK RIPPER, and THE BEYOND. These films often draw our attention to the eyes as the spiritual center, the focal point of human existence. Yet, the eye also becomes subject to tearing, to destruction, to blindness. I recently revisted THE BEYOND courtesy of the new Grindhouse DVD, and while I still find that the graphic violence has impact, I feel more and more drawn to the film's surrealism and its ability to make me feel like I've visited a truly otherworldly place. Those blasted out and blinded eyes Fulci shows us? He was trying to say something about our place as viewers.

Meanwhile, I also recently revisted Jess Franco's, BLOODY MOON, a 1981 film that borrows heavily from the America-style slasher film in vogue at the time. Nevertheless, this viewing left me with the sense that Franco accomplished something more in line with the Italian giallo, with its red herrings and emphasis on voyeurism. At the risk of making the film something more than it really is--basically something Franco did for a pay-check--it still manages to seem more artful than the American equivalent at the time, with (BEWARE SPOILER) an ending that calls to mind Mario Bava, who also gave us endings that presented more than one perpetrator

For a Franco film, the effects work looks more professional than the painted-on blood often seen in some of his scaled-down, more personal productions, like VAMPYROS LESBOS or VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD. While I generally prefer those more personal films, I still have fun with BLOODY MOON, which stands well above most of the other stalk'n'slash films of the early 1980s. Plus, it features a truly cruel "must-see" moment with a circular saw.

Lastly, a confession: the film adaptation of TWILIGHT opens today, with me about two-thirds of the way through the novel. I told myself I didn't have to read it, that I had other things more worth my time. But when a horror (lite) novel captures that much attention, I feel like I just oughta know what's going on. I have to say that it's not changing my life, and I'm not ready to start decorating my Facebook page with Flair images of Edward. Nor do I think we really need yet another instance of the "romantic" vampire (another confession: I only made it through the first two books of Rice's Vampire Chronicles). Still, I can see why young readers go for this stuff. I even feel strangely connected to my inner teenage girl (though I'm a 39 year old straight guy). And, I have to say, the book's kind of . . . hot, though in a really chaste, Mormon kind of way. As a vampire, Edward's drawn to Bella's bouquet, her scent, and I'm struck by how just about every page of the novel contains something wet and moist--just not what you might expect. Still, after finishing it, I think I'll need a good chaser to wash it down--maybe I'll finally finish VARNEY THE VAMPIRE.

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