Horror movies represent a particularly special blend of storytelling and emotional triggers.
Some argue that horror movies are meant to reveal our deepest fears, others suggest they serve as morality tales about what is acceptable in society and the consqeuences of going against the natural order, still others believe that they serve as a mirror of their time. Whatever the case the telling of terrifying stories is something which has long been part of our collective cultural experience, and as horror movies became a more common format in cinema, so too did they evolve over time.
In this very special episode of Cross Talk, Chris and I take some time to give a somewhat concise overview of the history of the horror genre, all the way from the 1920s through to present day – landing the plane with Get Out, It Comes at Night, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, IT, Better Watch Out, and a few others!
We make some obvious associations, like the birth of the slasher in the 1960s, and the over-saturation of the theme in the 1980s, the importance of the atomic age and how films of the 1950s all had a twinge of the absurd, which paved the way for cross-over genre films in later decades.
Of particular note is the importance of social issues and their place within the oeuvre of George A. Romero and other landmark directors, including the eponymous Alfred Hitchcock, who helped take horror from the realm of fear of the unknown and the mythological, and thrust it into the everyday.
And one of my favourite highlights – the first commercially successful and critically acclaimed Marvel movie is also a horror movie.
As it turns out, I actually have a lot to say about the genre, and while my personal collection of films is closer to 2000 then 1000 at this point, I have almost 150 titles then could be classified at horror movies. Chris is a self-admitted horror fan, but it seems that we both know enough to provide a good overview of the genre, and hopefully share some theories you haven’t heard before!
This is the history of Horror movies, this is episode thirty eight of Cross Talk.
Were you surprised by our thoughts on the genre overall? Did you learn anything interesting? Was our feedback on Alien vs Aliens too on the nose? I was personally surprised how many remakes came out in the 2000s and found it really valuable to learn how the 1940s was the period when genre sharing started to become more common.
Sharing is caring creative cuties, hopefully you’ve got some examples that we’ve never even considered, so comment below! And of course we’d love to hear from you in general, so please comment with your favourite horror picks, what you’ve pulled from each of these decades, and why you think horror reflects the current times best.
Until next time, please like and share the content! And subscribe to the mailing list if you haven’t yet. I’ll be sharing some insights on a new Brent Cobb album!
I’ve already written a fairly in-depth review on the movie The Shape of Water – and I made my love of the film known pretty clearly there. But too be perfectly honest, Chris doesn’t care for the movie, and I value his opinion a lot, so we decided it would be fun to put together a deep dive episode on the movie and talk about our differing opinions. Which as some of you know, is one of the reasons why I started Cross Talk in the first place.
To discuss movies, music, board games etc. and present topics in a more meaningful way then your average review or criticism video.
Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great channels out there where the presenters have a degree in film criticism, others where the reviews are purely based on if the movie is enjoyable or not, and still others where the film is dissected and all of the symbolism is put on display. But that’s not how people really talk about movies necessarily.
When you are chatting about a movie like The Shape of Water with your friends, you’ll get lost in incidental details like the way the government facility looked, or the musical score choices, or whether Doug Jones did a better job playing Abe Sapien, the Faun, the Pale Man or “the Asset.” And if you’re a movie geek like us, you might even start entertain interesting theories about why the movie is a fairy tale, and not an alternate reality where mermen exist.
Or maybe you’ll point out how there are so many more movies that do star-crossed lovers in a better way, with more compelling characterizations. And you’ll get passionate about it. Wondering why an amazing film like Get Out only got attention for it’s screenplay.
And so this is episode thirty five of Cross Talk.
Do you think my theory about Giles having invented the majority of the story is right? Or am I completely off the rails with this one dear readers? Chris has a better appreciation of why I relate to the story so well now, but maybe I’m projecting, and the movie isn’t anything more then what you see on screen.
In that case, maybe the submerged bathroom scene is completely ludicrous.
But that doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth talking about, we managed to fill a 20 minute space talking about it, and you didn’t even see all of the outtakes we have! Until next time, please like and share the content! And subscribe to the mailing list if you haven’t yet. I’ve got a blue review on Jack White coming up tomorrow!
Join us for a very special film review on this week’s episode of Watch Culture.
I say this because I’m about to drop some knowledge on why The Shape of Water holds a special place in my heart, so much so that I’ll also be running a deep dive on Cross Talk with Chris later in the month (read: sooner).
The Shape of Water (2017)
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones
Director: Guillermo del Toro
released on blu-ray March 13, 2018
Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer and novelist. His films have a strong fantasy element running through them, often using dark themes and gothic backdrops to convey both subtle and overt messages about human nature. Some of his more mainstream films are Pacific Rim, Blade II and the two Hellboy adaptations, but he also dabbles in spanish language focused stories like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.
Looking back, his most recent film before The Shape of Water was Crimson Peak, a strong indicator and launching point toward fairy tale narratives.
1962 Baltimore. Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), found abandoned as a baby with scars on her neck, has been mute all her life, that disability which has largely led to her not having opportunities. Despite being a bright woman, she works a manual labor job as a cleaner at a military research facility where she has long been friends with fellow cleaner, Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer), who often translates her sign language to others at the facility. And she has had no romance in her life, her major emotional support, beyond Zelda, being her aging gay artist neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), the two who live in adjoining apartment units above a movie theater. Like Elisa, Giles is lonely, his homosexuality complicating both his personal and professional life, the latter as a commercial graphic artist. Elisa’s life changes when Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings a new “asset” into the facility, Elisa discovering it being a seeming mixed human/amphibious creature found in the waters of the Amazon. Secretly visiting with the creature, Elisa is immediately drawn to him, and despite he having a violent side as part of his inherent being, the two find a way to communicate with each other and end up forming a bond with each other. Elisa has to decide what to do when she discovers that although the reason for bringing the creature to the facility is to test the possibility of him being sent into space, Colonel Strickland, who has always had antagonistic feelings toward the creature, ultimately wants to kill him, this following the systematic torture he has inflicted on him. Elisa may have to balance her feelings on wanting to be with the creature against what may be the greater benefit to him of being set free back into the wilds of the water. Complicating matters are that the Soviets are also aware of the creature, they having a secret agent who has infiltrated the facility.
Smarter people then I have reviewed this film to death already.
So I won’t pretend to impart the same learnings as them in my review of this film, but I will acknowledge that there is some derivation at work here. As Chris will rightly point out in his own thoughts on our upcoming Deep Dive; this is a story that effectively borrows from other films. The Beauty and the Beast story arc is the bones of this film, it also throws in homages to monster movies (Creature from the Black Lagoon), musicals (Shirley Temple, That Night in Rio) and biblical stories (The Story of Ruth).
But where the brilliance comes in is in altering the arcs of these stories. The beast doesn’t transform to be loved, the creature from the black lagoon doesn’t die AND gets the girl, the mute girl and her two minority friends save the day, and love of the arts is celebrated.
That said, even if you don’t know these things, this film challenges the notion of fearing the other – it fights fear with love, and I think it smartly uses Giles (an artist), as a narrator of this ideal, in a time when those ideas couldn’t even exist in popular culture. Giles is a closeted homosexual, someone who dreams and imagines how things could be, and I have a theory that a lot of the film actually happens in his mind.
Pros: It carefully crafts all of it’s themes and ultimately tells a universal story of acceptance, love, and celebrating what is, rather then what should be. del Toro is at his personal best, and he poses some great questions.
Cons: While beautiful to behold, and universally clear in the truths it wants to share, to fully appreciate the story, you might actually need to love all of the things it references – the subtle historical shifts at play. And if you want character nuance, the characterizations could be frustrating to watch.
Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
Points of Interest: Guillermo del Toro wrote lengthy backstories for each of the major characters, giving them each the option to use the information or ignore it. Some opted to take the direction, while some, like Richard Jenkins, refused it. The poem at the end of film has been paraphrased from works by Persian poet Rumi and his predecessor Hakim Sanai.
I really do see why Chris struggles with this film. And believe it or not, I’m not picking apart his thesis before he’s had a chance to defend himself, but rather I want to show you that his perspective is key in understanding my own theory.
The derivative themes, the abstracted characterizations, and the reliance on style as a vehicle for the underlying substance are important. If we consider that the whole story is told from the perspective of an artist character (Richard Jenkins) who has had to hide so much of himself in a time and space of persecution and judgment, then I think the story takes on new meaning. Not to mention the fact that his chosen form of expression, painting, is being supplanted by photography in advertising. Giles loves musicals, lives above a theatre that shows biblical films, and draws the creature he does not understand lovingly. He wants to see a fairy tale realized because his own story did not come through as he wished.
Additionally, he is the most detailed of the characters, which is often how we see ourselves, as opposed to how we simplify others in our own life stories.
I think The Shape of Water is an amazing film, and to be honest, I haven’t even given you the full expression of my thoughts on it yet, but I believe that the upcoming Cross Talk deep dive episode will reveal even more about it. A fairy tale for adults is an amazing thing to behold, indeed.
If you want another fairy tale for adults, then you should check out this video review of 2010’s Scott Pilgrim VS the World, an anti-thesis to rom-coms told from the perspective of a video game geek. It’s a blast to watch, and whether you grew up between the 1980s to 1990s or not, the nostalgia callbacks are insightful.
So please let me know what you thought of our review, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already. There are even more theories coming up next week, y’all come back now.