Sunday, November 25, 2012

Insidiously Dull

On Friday, I did an un-Dad thing. I skipped the orchestra concert in which Nat and the kiddies were performing, in Launceston. I did so in favour of a few glasses of rum and lime, a bowl of popcorn, and a horror DVD.

To put it into perspective, though... last weekend with Natalie bedridden, me as carer/carrier, a barbecue/cinema/sleepover event, and a bunch of other stuff was a nightmare. And the week itself that followed wasn't easy. Natalie is on the mend, but her back still hurts, and she's sleeping poorly as a result. (Yes, we have a spiffy new mattress. Big bastard it is, too. And yes, one of my jobs for the week was to take the old, Queen-sized box spring mattress up into the Cinema Zone for its retirement usages. Access to the CZ is not easy. For those of you who've been there: yes, stuffing a gigantic fucking mattress up through that entrance was a bitch of a job. Genghis helped, though.)

Anyway. This weekend (the one that just happened) Natalie was on call. And so, of course, all parental missions fell to me. That included the Saturday morning trip to Grammar, in Launceston, so Jake could sit through his standardising tests so they know what to do with him next year. (I have a small bet with myself that says I will still have to go in for extensive talks with teachers and principals, just to get the same basic set of acknowledgements of the boy's abilities that we've got at the primary school. The bell-shaped curve sucks.)

Naturally, as Natalie was on call, the other two kids had to come with me as well. And that wasn't so good, because the standardising tests last three hours.

Thus we visited Chez Tehani in the interim. Genghis gets along quite well with Tehani's eldest, and the Mau-Mau plays very well with Tehani's daughter, so these visits are always a positive thing. Nice to have a bit of a chat, too, and see the new baby outside of the hospital setting. He seems a quiet, determined chap, much bent on getting a good feed, and filling his nappy.

So anyhow. Visitations, etc. And then the rest of the weekend as Chief Kid Wrangler. On those grounds, I decided that I could be permitted to skip one orchestra performance, and take a little quiet time on my own.

Tragically, the horror movie was a dud, in my opinion. Oh, sure: Insidious has all the requisite visuals, the spooky images, the sound-track, etc. But jeez... when are the Yanks going to get tired of making horror movies about the Happy Family Who Encounter Supernatural EEEvuls? It would appear to be their one and only take on horror -- at least, if you disregard the annoying subgenre of slash/gore porn horror.

Honestly? I no longer give a shit about these interchangeable, modular, wholly replaceable Happy American Families. From the Exorcist (at least the family was a bit dysfunctional) through Poltergeist down through Amityville, to the latest incarnation, they are all the fucking same, and the story is always the same, and I am bored with it. Bored bored bored bored bored.

Rule one of storytelling is to engage the audience with your characters. But how am I supposed to engage with these lego-brick whitebread Ken and Barbie clones? They're dull. They're absolutely beyond redemption. They exist on screen purely as symbolic representations of some kind of idealised suburban Elysium, to be pulled down and destroyed by the Creeping Doom of (Insert Wicked Vile Creature of Occult Origins Here.)  They are without any form of individuality or interest, and while the Shiny Happy People symbolism of it all may resonate with a thin slice of the vanishing American middle class, they nauseate me even as symbols. 

Is it any wonder I find myself cheering for the monster? Waiting (vainly) for horrible, bloodstained fates to befall these pathetic glove-puppets of a morally bankrupt society?

Here are some horror films I have more or less enjoyed in the last decade or so: I liked Sauna, a remarkably creepy Finnish period piece set at the end of a war between Russia and Sweden somewhere in the Renaissance. It was very well done. There was an interesting story going on, with interesting characters, and as elements of horror crept in and derailed everything, I found myself drawn into the development, and genuinely creeped out by what was happening to the characters.

I liked Ringu, out of Japan, and The Ring (the English-language remake) as well. I liked the way the story focused on the investigation of the horror, and I liked the suspense created by the seven-day deadline, and I liked the way the investigators were constantly struggling to free themselves from the curse, even as they tried to understand it. Most of all, I liked their absolutely immoral decisions at the end -- the course of action they took in order to try and free themselves. And of course, the excellent visuals were perfectly creepy.

I even liked Tarantino's Dusk Til Dawn. Not because I think it's a good film, but because Tarantino was at least trying something different. The complete switcheroo between suspenseful crime/hostage flick and balls-to-the-wall vampire action/horror was unexpected, and provoked a lot of laughter. And I went on to enjoy the over-the-top denouement, with all the lashings of silliness Tarantino applied.

I didn't much like the Blair Witch Project, though. It wasn't Happy Family Crumbling Under the Supernatural, but it was Happy Circle of Friends Crumbling Under The Supernatural. And I never bought the whole shaky-cam POV, and frankly, watching Americans blame each other and fight each other when placed under pressure just gives me the shits. I'm way too Australian for that to resonate with me -- and remember, Australia's the nation where they stopped making "Survivor", because the co-operation between the players made for dull TV. (It may be dull TV, but it's damned good sense in real life. Troubles? Rely on the people around you, and work together. It's your best chance of getting through. Owning lots of guns, dogs, and a carefully stocked bunker is a way distant second, I'm afraid.)

So. Now I've seen Insidious. And I'm guessing it will be another decade or so before I bother to revisit the genre. But between the rum and lime and the popcorn, it was a nice evening -- and I survived the weekend pretty well.