Thursday, August 21, 2014

Post Mortem: A Look at Modern Cinema

For those of you familiar with the movie series Quarantine, you may not know that it is loosely based off of a Spanish trilogy known as REC. The main difference between the two movies is that one is simply a type of zombie movie while the other is about possessions. Two different horror tropes to be certain but the fact that the American versions skipped the possession-transferred-through-bites is a tad strange; we have movies about exorcisms all the time in our country, why would we worry about possessed people in this one particular scenario?

Because we as Americans do not accept changes to our genres very easily. When Dawn of the Dead was remade, there were tons of people complaining that zombies weren’t fast, and that the movie was worse off for it, despite the fact that it made the whole ordeal a great deal scarier. With Twilight, not that it’s horror really, but you have people making fun of it on a near constant basis because it broke the norm and is unique in the Vampire/Werewolf list of movies. Look at how Twilight compared to the entire Underworld franchise; by taking what should be terrifying and tweaking it with a little glitter, you make something that we as Americans as a whole mock, but also enjoy. The Underworld franchise played off of the old Vampire versus Werewolf idea that was made popular in comic books in the late seventies and early eighties, but was in no way as well received as Twilight. Why was this? Because Americans do not accept change well. Twilight was marketed as teen romance, steered out of the horror genre as quickly as possible, all in an effort to make it appealing to the target audience.
Now the target audience for Quarantine is more adult than Twilight, so this film was allowed to up the ante so to speak and introduce blood, gore and swearing. There were sudden scares and tense moments, but all in all the film was a semi-standard zombie movie that ran along the same vein as 28 Days Later (the virus creates rage-fueled humans that might eat people, but pass on the disease through saliva and/or blood) rather than Dawn of the Dead (a physically dead body reanimated through mystical/scientific means that results in a cannibalistic cadaver that varies in speed based on which movie you’re in). Now since Quarantine is a remake of REC it would stand to reason they would carry over pretty much everything.
But they don’t.
At the end of the two movies, the surviving reporter and her camera man retreat into a sealable loft that was supposedly owned by someone who never comes around. In Quarantine, we find a laboratory where someone is creating germ warfare, and an emaciated zombie comes shambling from the darkness sniffing for the survivors before eventually killing them. The zombie was still very human and fairly mindless. In REC, the reporter and the surviving cameraman do the same thing but find a loft covered in news clippings and religious paraphernalia (Crucifixes, pictures of Mary, etc.), the clippings all talking about a famous case of a girl who was possessed by a demon. They find a recorder that, when played, has a man that says he’s located the enzyme that causes the possession to take hold but has not been able to make a vaccine. He goes on to say the Vatican has said to let the possessed girl die, as there is little they can do for her.
This is when she makes her presence known, walking in the darkness from a backroom with a hammer in one hand, her features twisted and demonic. She sifts through garbage, obviously looking for someone as she heard them enter the loft, and the reporter and cameraman move away. The cameraman is caught and beaten to death with a hammer, before the reporter is dragged off into the darkness, as it happened in Quarantine.
Now we have a movie series in America where the sequel focuses on an outbreak in an airport terminal, creating zombies that force the Center for Disease Control to seal off the area. The sequel for REC had a team entering the apartment building from the first movie with a priest looking for a blood sample from an infected person. They use religious icons and mantras to keep the infected at bay, and search through the building after discovering that they travel through the air vents.
So right here we have a divergence; one movie follows along the zombie route, the other follows along the possession route. America did not get to see the “religious zombies” I believe because the producers and Hollywood executives didn’t think it would make as much money here if that was the plot, as it has never been done here before; we’ve had mystic zombies, radioactive zombies and virus zombies, but never possessed zombies. No, we Americans like our possessions to be very clear cut, usually possessing a young woman and being handled by a Catholic Priest or two (Exorcism, Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Conjuring, etc.), with very defined victories being pulled through in the end, either philosophically or in reality. Sometimes evil gets a parting shot that makes the victory bittersweet, but in the end good triumphs over evil, as it always should.
  Not in REC or any of its sequels (there are four movies all in all). In these tales, there are no victories for the protagonists, usually taken from their grasp at the very last second; pulling their chance for survival at the last possible moment in a climactic event that has been building through the entire movie. This is something that we as Americans cannot do with our films; foreshadowing. If we try at it, it is usually very obvious and bludgeons the viewer over the head with the event that will happen further on in the movie (in the remake of Evil Dead when we see the brother repairing the door with a nail gun, everyone in the audience cringed as we knew that would somehow be used later on). But foreign films bring things up in subtle ways that make you gasp later on when it rears its ugly head to punish the protagonist.
Like I said, the differences here are because America just is not ready for things to be changed. We don’t like to think when we watch horror movies, we like to be scared. This is a problem that will not go away unless we as a group focus on making Hollywood listen to our cries for more intellectual horror movies. We can’t rely on Guillermo Del Toro and Sam Raimi to bring us new inventive ways to be scared, we need to seek out the indie authors and screen wrights and have their work pushed to the silver screen. If we don’t do that, we really will all just end up having pleasant dreams instead of the nightmares we so crave.

Sweet Dreams, either way. 

No comments:

Post a Comment