Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Movie Review: The Ruins

I liked The Ruins. A little. Even if the premise was somewhat silly. (Killer weeds? Really?)

And then it became an exercise in futility truncated by illogical hope.

To explain: I take issue with much of modern American cinema. Namely, we (Americans) can't seem to be okay with total tragedy...someone always needs to escape. Hope is always an option.

Enter, The Ruins. Six twenty-somethings set out for a hidden Mayan temple. One makes it out alive. The primary villain/monster? Weeds that only grow on the temple. I can't believe in a weed that must feed on flesh--not one that moves as quickly or with as much intelligence as the killer plants in The Ruins. It just isn't biologically possible. One character even remarks that the plants must be really old because insects and birds don't land on the temple. How did the plant survive then, without the flesh it seemed to need? I can stomach something this implausible if it is presented as supernatural, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

The first 45 minutes set up the tension and suspense well, culminating with the moment (in my opinion at least) that one character falls down a shaft into the heart of the ruined temple and breaks his back. After that point, the audience knows they are going to die. All of them.

But they don't. the worst tradition of "hope wins out" cinema, one character--one of the least likeable characters--escapes in the end. I like my tragedies Shakespearean. Kill 'em all.

Read the book (I haven't, but I heard the ending is much more...logical).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Race and Night of the Living Dead

I first watched Night of the Living Dead when I was eighteen. I grew up in a small town in Kansas. Sheltered, I guess you could say. The eighteen-year-old me didn't grasp the heavy race-relations overtones in the film.

I just watched it again at thirty-three. The thirty-three year old me wants to beat the eighteen year old for not understanding the depth and complexity of that movie.

Boy, have I changed. The whole movie can be read as a treatise on race in the 1960s. Notice the whole mob is white? Did you watch the credits and see those pictures of the "ghoul" lynch mob posing next to Ben's body? I'm not the first to point any of this out, and I won't be the last. How shocking was it for a crowd in the late 1960s to see a black man slap a white woman? Were those crowds paying attention?

Are we paying attention now? Horror is often considered the bastard cousin of the more legitimate speculative fiction. Horror is just for thrills, they say.

Watch Night of the Living Dead if you haven't already. Watch it again if you have seen it.