Wednesday, January 24, 2007


White Elephant Reviews: The Amityville Horror (2005)

Really, and in a totally non-homoerotic way, I will watch anything with Ryan Reynolds in it, especially if it’s on OnDemand. I expected little, but this widely despised remake of the simultaneously boring and nerve-wracking original Amityville Horror pleasantly surprised me. It also made sure that I couldn’t get to sleep until 2:00AM. I had to eat a whole container of wintergreen mints and read The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a pretty short book.

The basic plot is: the Lutz family gets a real bargain on a house in Amityville because the previous tenants were all murdered up real good. The Lutzeses move in undaunted, get somewhat daunted by the house's weird noises and unearthly visions, then eventually get very daunted but too hypnotized by the house's evil to leave. The local spirits work especially hard on Ryan Reynolds, turning him from a happy-go-lucky contractor into an embittered shut in child hating weirdo (perhaps this explains why he teamed up with Jessica Biehl to hunt vampires). This takes about a month. Then they move out, leaving all their worldly, 1970s-era goods behind. In between, some black goop oozes out of various parts of the house and a slutty babysitter gets really, really scared.

Anyway, if we judge horror movies by whether they inspire fear (or its more sophisticated and rarer cousin, horror), this one’s a winner. The movie was genuinely horrifying, in that it created a long-burning and hideous dread without having to actually supply too many scares. The director uses surprise cuts sparingly and very clumsily, since none of them are in the least scary. They’re about on par with a well funded haunted hayride and they consist mostly of actors in lots of white makeup drooling Hershey’s syrup out of their mouths. But the moaning sounds of the old house and Ryan Reynolds' against-type performance load on the tension big-style.

So the movie is pretty good. But the story is classic (and its structure is of course literally true, even if the haunting is disputed). Bear with me here: we have a man marrying a woman who already has children, so he’s a stranger and so are they. They buy a house (the scene in the movie in which they tour the house and make their decision is very finely done - the Amityville story is of course a real estate nightmare). The movie is in some ways also about the fact that you really don’t know what you’re getting with either house or marriage.

It kept reminding me of the Roman wedding ceremony. The Roman bride wore red and carried a torch, a strange fire which could kindle the hearth OR burn the house down. She was marked always as a stranger: her children were members of her husband’s family but she never really was. In the movie this is quite sensibly reversed with the husband as stranger, a vile torch ignited by a chthonic spark.

This is especially sinister given that the movie is in many ways so everday. It's just a family unhappy with its new house. They don't really even need an evil spirit to tear themselves to pieces.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"All roads lead to the same place"

Brutus prepares to cast Expelliarmus and defeat Snape once and for all.

As loyal Moonsash readers know I'm a huge fan of Rome on HBO, and this season is pleasing whatever faculty I have that responds favorably to sex and violence drenched historical dramas. The first episode was a little rocky but the second one is an unparalleled delight: the return of Cleopatra, Vorenus' midlife crisis coming to a gothy head, and a prolonged, delightful brawl-for-all between Marc Antony, Atia and Octavian (Octavian decks Antony with some kind of ancient Roman bookend). We see none other than Lucius Vorenus come into possession of the ancient Roman version of the Gem Saloon, which should be utterly unbelievable and delightful in every way. Fixin' towards a bloody outcome indeed.

Extras has been a little different; the first episode was great but the second one felt like a huge and pointless setup for a moderately funny song by David Bowie. I worry that the celebrity guest stars will begin to overwhelm the tender and complicated overarching plot. It also looks a little like Ricky Gervais is repeating The Office's first to second season change: these two episodes have been decidedly heavy on drama and light on comedy. Gervais handled it well in The Office but who knows how it will pan out this time.

ALSO HOLY SHIT ON BATTLESTAR GALACTICA HELO JUST SHOT ATHENA/BOOMER/SHARON/PRETTY KOREAN ACTRESS whose character has gone through so many name changes I can no longer keep track. This blog post is OVER.

Friday, January 12, 2007

An Incoherent Sound of Rage

A Seattle school has put a moratorium on viewings of An Inconvenient Truth because a bible-believing parent named Frosty objects to the presentation of science (It's worth noting that it seems that neither he nor his wife has actually seen the objectionable film). If this were a video blog, you could see me sputtering and bulging out my neck-veins with fury. The school has an official policy on "controversial issues," indicating that teachers must strive to present both sides of anything that invites heated debate. Shall we assume that the Holocaust will get the same rigorously impartial treatment [heavy sarcasm here, O People of the Internet]? Just read the article, which shows how religion and patriotism are bound up in a willful rejection of anything that might show a flaw in America.