Tuesday, October 30, 2007

20:07 (Year-Old Scares)

screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie
I can't guarantee the same results at home (different players/timing) I use WinDVD

You think it's dark when you turn out the lights? Well, down there, it's pitch black. You can get dehydration, disorientation, claustrophobia, panic attacks, paranoia, hallucinations, visual and aural deterioration...

That discussion yesterday about alternate movie "horrors"—elegant horrors, horrors that linger, horrors of the spirit and the wallet and the government and the land—got me realizing how much more often those are the horrors that continue to trouble me after I leave the theater.

Don't get me wrong, now: I am a screamer. Sudden noises, things that go bump, things that jump, subterranean albino beasties that munch on pith-helmeted girls: I will scream at all of it. So here's The Descent (my review here) to commemorate one of the superior straightforward scarefests of the last couple of years. I haven't attributed these words to their particular speaker, warbling her precautions in voiceover. She's one of the sisters. I don't remember her name, and even fans of The Descent never claimed that character delineation was the movie's strongest suit. I'll tell you this: the speaker is not the Main One or the Shady Leader or the One Who Gets Pick-Axed By Mistake or The One Who Was in The Magdalene Sisters (more horror!). She's one of the other two.

Does it really even matter? Don't fret about who she is, just listen to what she says, because it isn't just the cave that delivers on all her Cassandra-like promises—it's the movie, too. I don't remember feeling dehydrated during The Descent (nothing a little Mountain Dew couldn't handle), but disorientation? Check. Claustrophobia? Check. Panic attacks, paranoia, halluncinations? ✓ ✓ ✓ Visual and aural deterioration, though? No. The movie looks spectacular, and though I quibbled with the sound mix and the score, the whole pic, if we wanna indulge some Varietyspeak, is definitely a thrill ride for all of your senses.

Still, when I ask myself a question like, "When were the wits last scared out of me at the movies?" I'm much more likely to think of the grinding unease and grueling terror produced by a movie like this...

THEO: I was hoping you could get us the transit papers to get us to the coast.
NIGEL: Transit papers? That's quite a favor.
THEO: I know.
NIGEL: Highly controlled. [testy pause] Alex, take your pills.

...or the extended, immersive horror of this one:

BEN SLINEY: That was a possible hijack. Haven't seen that in years. It's been quite a while, quite a while. I can't even remember precisely. No, no, it's Boston to LAX, American 11. Yep, they're on it, and they're gonna keep me informed. I'll brief you.

As much as we're veering away from the "Halloween" register I intended to hit, United 93 is scarier than Saw. Greengrass & Co. braid two horror films together: the anguish aboard the plane and the confusion on the ground, which this eerily precise 20:07 pegs just as it originates. Sliney, playing himself, doesn't even have the airline right, and the whole group around his conference table is quizzical at the very notion of a hijacked American plane more than they are instinctively propelled to fear and decisive action. How much things have changed.

Y'all only have to put up with one more of these high-minded and depressing riffs on "horror" before—by the end of the week, I promise—we get back to more obvious frights. Look forward to that on Friday (as if the looming prospect of Bee Movie weren't blood-chilling enough). First, though, a few more frights of the mind... but not until tomorrow!


Catherine said...

I've seen The Descent three times now and it still scares the hairs off my head just thinking about it. The first time I saw it was with a group of friends and we ascribed characters to each of us to lessen the terror somewhat. Quite amusing, seeing my "friends" get picked off one by one. As it turned out, I was the lady with the cheating husband. Humph.

I'm enjoying these 20:07. The blog is in safe hands!

J.J. said...

Yes, The Descent! I'm not a horror fan, but this was in my top 10 last year. Exquisitely produced.

United 93 is as much of a horror/scary movie as Passion of the Christ.


I haven't seen the Descent a second time. It scared me too much on first viewing. same with United 93... interesting juxtaposition