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Showing posts from April, 2019

Gothic Themes in "Alien: Alone" and "Harvest" (2019)

Recently, I saw the Alien 40th Anniversary short, "Harvest," directed by Ben Howdeshell, and "Alone," directed by Noah Miller. I made a response video. In this post, I wanted to explain why the authors' works are so enjoyable for reasons that go beyond the scope of my original response.

Note: Watch "Alone" first, here; then "Harvest," here.


In my video, I'd watched all of "Alone" before deciding to "react" to "Harvest," on camera. I then took some time comparing the two. To a certain point, comparison is foreseeable; they share the same universe, the same palimpsest (or so it would seem). In truth, there's more to emulate than Alien—or rather, more to emulate than a singular take on Alien's sinister worldview. Scott's latter-day prequels imperfectly replicate an old proposition; so do "Alone" and "Harvest." There's much to recognize, but new directions to explore.

To an ext…

Tangerine (2015): Review (repost)

Commissioned by Marilyn Roxie for their website, Video Hook-Ups, I recently wrote a review for Sean Baker's Tangerine (2015).

Tangerine was shot on smart phones for $100,000 and tells the story of Sin-Dee. A trans sex worker released from jail, Sin-Dee expects her fiance/pimp, Chester, to be waiting for her. Instead, she's greeted by another trans woman, Alexandra. A close friend and fellow trans sex worker, Alex splits a pastry with Sin-Dee at the local donut shop; she also tells Sin-Dee that Chester hasn't been faithful. Sin-Dee is livid; she's only been inside for twenty-one days! Enraged, the scandalized bride-to-be marches off to learn the truth...


Below is an except from my review, which you can read in its entirety on Marilyn's website:

"I confess, if not for the gender variety the premise would be somewhat rote. Here, however, it isn’t tacked on or cheap. Much of the drama, comedy and action revolve around the fact that Sin-Dee is trans, and that many of…

Alien: Ore (2019) Analysis Video

Recently, I saw the Alien 40th Anniversary short film, "Ore." Directed by the talented Spear sisters, Kailey and Sam (see an interview with them, here), I was so impressed with their work, I decided to make a response video. In this post, I wanted to explain why I did, and why "Ore" and its authors are so impressive.

Note: Watch "Ore" first, here. After you have, watch my video.


In my video, I go over "Ore," step-by-step. As a result, the video is very long. "Ore" is very detailed; so is my response. It's not strictly a review, in the sense of slapping on a quick-and-easy rating ("thumps up/down" or 4/4 stars, etc). Instead, the aim is to explain why "Ore" is so good, but in minute detail. This is my style; it's also required to illustrate the level of craft exhibited by the Spears, in "Ore." Trust me: While "Ore" is short, every instant is jam-packed with clever nods to Alien (1979) and A…

Ebert's Folly: "Elevating" Horror Movies with Suspense, part 2

Here is part two of my two-part article on how suspense functions in horror movies. Read part one, here.

As Michael Powell's unintentional swansong Peeping Tom (1960) demonstrates, content and context are not enough to supply horror movies with success. They must be marketed to the audience. Monsters and what monsters are about—these comment on exterior issues (serial killers, rape, etc) but also on themselves. Either commentary serves as a kind of discussion, one had by artists and the persons who patron them. Patronage occurs for many reasons. People might "comfort" themselves when they feel threatened (the "slasher" craze of the 1970s and '80s operating alongside the media's sensational treatment of actual serial killers).


Horror movies often express an awareness. In movies like Scream (1996), this can extend to characters who are horror "experts." Or, in not being experts, the uneducated and superstitious provide comic relief (Shaggy from 

Ebert's Folly: "Elevating" Horror Movies with Suspense, part 1

This is part one of my two-part article on how suspense functions in horror movies (along with surprise, horror and terror as horror movie devices). Part one examines the terms and Roger Ebert's use of them, but also their nuance beyond his narrow labels; i.e., does suspense "elevate" horror movies, like he claims, or is it merely a tool to achieve different ends? Part two shall examine the richness of the Gothic mode in other ways: its "awareness" through progenitors, historical considerations, and nostalgia—a style, if you will. 

The terms, themselves: While undoubtedly a Gothicist, I recognize the ubiquity of the term "horror." Often the nuance—of "horror" and "terror" being two different things—is lost in the label "horror movie." Curiously, its theoretical twin, "terror movie," does not exist in common usage (even if the movie-in-question could fairly be described as "terrifying" by the audience).…

Gothic Themes in Perfect Blue (1997)

This article examines the use of Gothic imagery in Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue (1997). Meant to convey feelings of madness, how are they used, here, and how do they manifest for the viewer in a Gothic sense?

Note: Spoilers!



Madness is central, in Gothic stories. Generally manifest through a kind of palpable affect, the monstrous is an experience felt through horror and terror. Presented to the audience, this charge is stored either inside a location or upon its imagery. Viewed, the promoted surfaces compel specific responses—either from victims trapped inside, or those who feel as such (the audience). Call it a "shared gaze," if you will; the madness remains vicarious.

In blander terms, Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller, one that concerns shared psychosis, or folie à deux. In Gothic terms, its madness is not limited between two people, but an entire location—what I'll call chez folie, or "mad place." A haunted house is more than the heroine and killer,…