Thursday, November 10, 2011

Auxiliary List
[1 of 4]

Now, I’ve always had a very broad definition of “horror” and that’s something I’ve never kept a secret.
I do however, admit that what I may personally consider a horror movie (for whatever particular reason) may not be seen as that by others, thus, I’m establishing the ¡Qué Horror! Auxiliaries, films that I saw in the past year that I feel need to be talked about, films that had, to varying degrees, horror elements in them, even though they may not be readily seen as “horror” films.

For the first batch, let’s have two titles that actually made the candidates list, but, because they were both titles that could raise eyebrows and questions, in regards to their status as “proper” horror films--since the first is almost like an art film approximation of a particular horror sub-genre, and the second plays out more as an indie character drama that just happens to be set against a genre background--I figured I’d feature them as Auxiliaries, since no one would question their place here. Both titles are simply too good to be overlooked because they aren’t “proper” horror films.
So, without any further blather…

(September 2009)

Playing like a curious love letter to Argento, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s feature-length debut, Amer, is largely about mood and style, a cinematic exercise where narrative takes a back seat to impressionism and dream logic. While dialogue is sparse, shades of classic Argento (giallo and otherwise) can be found scattered throughout Amer’s 90 minute running time, where eroticism and death constantly stare at each other from opposite sides of a cracked mirror.

And while I single out Dario Argento as a clear touchstone of Amer, it should be noted that in an interview, Cattet and Forzani also mention Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, and Shinya Tsukamoto, among others, as inspirations. They also make it a point to acknowledge Argento’s Inferno and the late Satoshi Kon’s Sennen Joyû (Millennium Actress). Perhaps not so incidentally, it’s interesting to note that Kon’s Perfect Blue is itself, an animated nod to giallo.

While this is clearly not for everyone, Amer is a must-see for anyone who considers himself a serious student of horror.

(June 2010)

Six years ago…
NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A space probe was launched to collect samples but broke up during re-entry over Mexico. Soon after new life forms began to appear and half the country was quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE.
The Mexican and US military still struggle to contain ‘the creatures’…

When word first began to circulate about Gareth Edwards’ Monsters, the news seemed to carry the implication that Edwards’ film would have human-sized aliens in it, ala District 9, which was in rotation at the time.
So, though the excellent Monsters trailer had already primed me to expect considerably-bigger-than-human-sized extraterrestrials, I was still enthusiastically surprised to see that Edwards’ effort plays rather like a character-driven indie film, which just happens to have giant, tentacled aliens as part of its backdrop.

It should be noted that not only did Edwards write and direct Monsters (his feature debut, by the way), he’s also the DP and production designer, plus he did the visual effects. Clearly, a huge part of the credit for placing its audience smack dab in the middle of this fantastic, yet still believable setting, falls to Edwards, who has created a SF/horror-tinged vision of a country upon whose doorstep war has been placed by foreigners.
Thus, it shares that aspect with District 9, that there is subtext to be found. But said subtext never crowds out the fact that Monsters is really about the main leads, Andrew and Sam (played by Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able); it’s their lives and their relationship we witness in the midst of the giant monster movie trappings. And it’s to McNairy’s and Able’s credit that their performances keep us interested in the narrative’s goings-on.
So Monsters also has that in common with Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield; that the characters really are at centre stage. In fact, if you take Cloverfield, then scale it towards the character-driven indie film end of the cinematic spectrum, you may begin to get an inkling of what Monsters is all about.
Better yet though, just get out there and see it.

Parting shot: Reviews of District 9 and Cloverfield can be found lurking in the Archive.

(Amer OS courtesy of; Monsters UK quad and components for custom OS courtesy of

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