Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - Halloween Edition: Body Horror

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Come play with us! All you have to do is pick three movies that fit the week's theme and write a bit about them.

Yes, it's true! At long last I have returned to the land of the living, having finally recovered from the big apartment move. I was so exhausted the past couple of weeks that I don't know how i managed to stay awake most days, but I'm finally all moved in and unpacked in my new place (save for some books that need a place to go - I have so much more space I don't know what to do with it!), and it feels GREAT! I love my new apartment something fierce and I'm so glad to be getting back to "regular life" stuff like my blog.

And speaking of moving into a new place and taking up residence there: BODY HORROR. This week's Thursday Movie Picks theme. I'll be honest. Body horror isn't really my thing. I don't do well with creepy crawlies and gore. That being said, there are some movies that I LOVE that do kinda fall into this horror subgenre. Bear with me, as you consider....

Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014) If you've seen this, you know exactly why it's here. If not, you may be confused as to how a movie about an alien with Scarlett Johansson's body seducing men for unknown nefarious purposes fits into body horror. Well, except for one scene, it's mostly subtext. What plot there is in Under The Skin concerns itself with, more than anything, this alien creature coming to grips with her outer shell of a body and what it means to be human. But this is NOT a movie that is very concerned with such silly things as "plot" - Glazer is more concerned with images and what they can do, how they can tell a story with only the barest bones of dialogue. Make no mistake: This is a slow burn of a slow burn movie, but it is so utterly hypnotizing that it remains one of my favorite theater-going experiences. If the gorgeous, frame-worthy images don't draw you in, then Mica Levi's haunting experimental score will. Under the Skin, especially that score, burrowed its way deep into my subconscious on first viewing, and has yet to make its way out. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein, 2007) You know all those stories about how mothers find superhuman strength when their babies are in danger? Well, what if a teenage Christian abstinence group spokesperson did something similar when a man tried to get near her lady parts? Well, that's what happens to Dawn (a star-making performance from Jess Weixler) - after a friend tries to rape her, her vagina sprouts teeth and... well... you can guess what happens from there. This black-as-pitch comedy follows Dawn's journey to owning her womanhood in a new, exciting way. It's kinda gross, kinda scary, and pretty damn funny - a true underseen gem.

Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010) If you don't think this falls under body horror, then you've never been a dancer. By now, I'm sure you know the plot: Technically proficient but emotionally stunted dancer Nina (Natalie Portman in an Oscar-winning performance) wins the coveted lead role in her ballet company's production of Swan Lake. She perfectly embodies the virginal white swan, but has trouble with the more aggressive, sexual black swan, and her anxiety manifests in increasingly baroque, scary ways, especially after free-spirited company member Lily (Mila Kunis, perfectly cast) is made her alternate. A psychosexual thriller set in the ballet world starring Natalie Portman and directed by Darren Aronofsky... and with Barbara Hershey as Nina's terrifying stage mother? Yes, this movie was clearly made in a lab just for me, and this is one of very few movies that surpassed my impossible-to-keep-down expectations. The entire thing is ingeniously shot, edited, and scored, with tremendous performances from everyone. Yes, my friends, Black Swan is, in a word, "perfect."


  1. Interesting choices with only your second one that I would have expected here.

    I've toyed with watching Under the Skin for a while but always bypassed it for something else but I'll get to it eventually. Black Swan is a great way of looking at the theme. Not being a dancer I doubt that I got as much out of the film as you but it was a compelling film and I LOVED Barbara Hershey as the near demented stage mother. Where the hell was her Oscar nomination?

    Body horror is most definitely not my thing so this was a hard week to come up with three until I remember a film that for the life of me I can't recall why I even looked at.

    Altered States (1980)-Ken Russell directed head trip about a college professor (William Hurt) who uses ancient tribal halogenics and an isolation tank to achieve another level of consciousness eventually devolving to a primordial ooze of energy as his colleagues and estranged wife (Blair Brown) fight to restrain him from destroying himself. Screen bow for both Hurt and Drew Barrymore as one of his daughters.

    Society (1989)-Bottom of the barrel sludge about a teenage boy (Billy Warlock) who senses that he’s different from the rest of his family who mix with a certain level of society while he is more of an everyday kind of guy. After several disturbing incidents he discovers the truth which is revealed in revolting fashion. Terrible junk.

    The Fly (1958)-Inventor Andre Delambre (David Hedison) is experimenting with his teleportation device, first with inanimate objects which he’s successful with and eventually animals where he runs into problems. Working on the glitches he decides to try the machine out on himself….but unbeknownst to him a fly gets in before he hits the switch and a melding occurs and he becomes THE FLY!! A big drive-in hit on release this isn’t as technically savvy as the 80’s remake but fun on its own merits and hey it’s got Vincent Price in the cast, always a plus.

    1. Oh by the way glad to see you back and also glad the move went so well!

    2. Thanks, Joel! It's great to be back among the living - the end of September was filled with unbearable stress finding a place and executing the move, and October, while certainly much less stressful, has been just as busy. So it's nice to finally be able to come back up for air.

      Under The Skin is definitely a TOUGH sit. I thought it was worth it, but my viewing partner at the time hated it and hated me for making him sit through it. Get through the experimental avant-garde opening scene and such riches await.

      I can only surmise that Barbara Hershey missed out on an Oscar nom for Black Swan because of how little she was actually in the film, but good God is she brilliant in it. The thing is, as crazy as Erica is (does she ever even leave that apartment?!?), the relationship between her and Nina is SO close to real mother/daughter relationships I witnessed in the dance world. Like, SCARILY accurate.

      Of your picks, I've only seen The Fly, the remake of which I considered for this week, but I figured everyone else would pick it. I really enjoy the original in all it's 50s sci-fi-ness. The remake is scarier, though. And a LOT grosser.

  2. Great picks! Under The Skin disappointed me because they only adapted about 1/3 of the novel and left out all the good parts.

  3. Awesome picks. I haven't seen Teeth but now I think that's the movie a friend of mine told me about a few years ago! Definitely remember the expression "vagina dentata"... hard to forget. 😂 I'll add it to my watchlist, it does sounds clever and funny.

  4. Underseen gem is right on Teeth, our match. The others are great, too. Happy to see some love for Under the Skin.

  5. Teeth is the second time I have seen it here this week and ...ouch! I remember the trailer for Under The Skin but forgot about it until now....on my list. I’ve seen Black Swan and was not enthralled by it at all. Our one catwas alll purrs and then would bite so we called her psycho Swan. I do think Barbara Hershey deserved more recognition

  6. Love Black Swan and Teeth is one I do want to check out.