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The Meta Movie Monster Milieu: The Postmodern Horror Film…

Horror films have historically performed very well.

They never really get the same attention or focus as more prestigious genres like drama or even comedy or action, but they tend to chug away reliably in the background. Since the explosion of blockbuster filmmaking during the seventies, horror has always had several innate advantages over other genres. Horror films are cheaper to produce than star-studded dramas, period pieces, or epic spectacle, meaning that they have to earn less money to be profitable. Horror films are also largely seen as disposable and fun films, so there is always a market for these films and they tend to be insulated from bad reviews.

Indeed, there has been a miniature horror revolution over the past few years, itself building on the low-budget found footage revolution of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Very few people seem to talk about it, but director James Wan seems to have built what is Hollywood’s second successful shared universe with the nexus connecting films like The Conjuring and The Conjuring II to movies like Annabelle and The Nun. Indeed, the success of these films has even led to a sort of weird hybrid of revived seventies horror stylings with blockbuster narrative sensibilities.

However, there has also been a quieter revolution in horror storytelling, with several low-budget and independent horror films gaining critical and cultural traction. Films like The Babadook were greeted with enthusiasm. Get Out become one of a handful of low budget horror films to secure a Best Picture nomination. Films like Hereditary emerge from the festival circuit with considerable buzz. Horror movies have always been pointed towards and engaged with contemporary politics, often in a manner more visceral than the prestige dramas around them. However, it seems that is finally being acknowledged.

With all of this happening within the genre, there has been something else bubbling through contemporary horror cinema. Films like It Follows, Don’t Breathe, Lights Out and A Quiet Place represent a fascinating shift within the genre towards more self-aware storytelling. There is a decidedly meta quality to horror films like It Follows, Don’t Breathe, Lights Out and A Quiet Place. As with horror films like The Babadook and Get Out, these are films that hinge on the audience’s understanding of the mechanics and structure of horror films, weaponising the viewer’s expectations.

However, these films are markedly different from companion horrors like The Babadook and Get Out, films that use the language of horror to construct broader allegories. Instead, films like It Follows, Don’t Breathe, Lights Out and A Quiet Place are horror films that often seem to be explicitly about the experience of watching horror films.

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Non-Review Review: Terminator Genisys

“I am inevitable,” the villain boasts towards the climax of Terminator Genisys, just as things look their darkest for our heroes. He is a fully 3D digital image sourced from wall-mounted projectors, reflecting the way that the film itself has been marketed.

He might as well be talking on behalf of the film itself. The Terminator franchise has evolved into an unlikely juggernaut, spanning over three decades and evolving from a low-budget science-fiction film into a blockbuster series. Critical (and popular) reception to Terminator III: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation has been somewhat muted, but the film franchise just keeps coming. In a way, it feels like Skynet making itself manifest. Or, more appropriately, the eponymous robot killing machine.

Fresh off the factory line...

Fresh off the factory line…

There are points where Terminator Genisys seems incredibly self-aware, posing the sort of existential and philosophical questions that are confronting the audience. In The Terminator and Terminator II: Judgement Day, James Cameron positioned time travel as a metaphor for the strings of fate and destiny that seemed to bind free will. In Terminator Genisys, time travel becomes a powerful metaphor for the process of film- (or franchise-) making itself.

Both a sequel and a prequel, a reboot and a remake, the time travel plot element of Terminator Genisys turns the franchise into a gigantic mix tape. Screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier collaborate to turn Terminator Genisys into a live-action version of a Jive Bunny and the Mix Masters track, a sample filled with familiar beats played at the wrong tempo. There are moments when the wrongness seems the point, when Terminator Genisys wanders into the uncanny valley. There are points where it almost achieves consciousness.

Prick me, do I not leak?

Prick me, do I not leak?

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The X-Files – Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose is a masterpiece.

It is one of the best episodes that The X-Files ever produced. It is the only episode of The X-Files to win the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. It was the first episode to take home an Emmy for a performance on the show, with Peter Boyle winning the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. It was Boyle’s only Emmy win of ten nominations. It was the only episode of The X-Files to air on the 13th October, a symbolically important date for Carter (“1013”). It was also Friday the 13th.

No bones about it...

No bones about it…

As part of the recent resurgence in interest in The X-Files, the story has enjoyed even more focus. It was one of three episodes voted by fans to air as part of the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival in 2013 as part of the series’ twentieth anniversary celebrations. Chris Carter himself chose it to represent The X-Files at the Austin Film Festival in 2012. It is very frequently ranked among the best the show ever produced.

And all of that praise is very well earned.

Crystal clear...

Crystal clear…

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Non-Review Review: Oculus

Oculus is torn between two extremes. On the one hand, it’s an ambitious horror film that engages with questions of perception and subtext, while throwing all manner of horror tropes together to form something of a horror movie stew. On the other hand, it rather quickly devolves into a fairly generic horror film that coasts on gore to unsettle the audience and always takes the easiest possible scare. Oculus is at its best during its muddled and exposition-filled opening acts.

While certainly flawed, these segments have an endearing substance to them. In contrast, Oculus is at its worst in the obligatory third act run-around.

All work and no play makes Rory Cochrane a dull boy...

All work and no play makes Rory Cochrane a dull boy…

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