Friday, June 25, 2021

film notes | beauty and terror

 This past weekend, I was in Rockford visiting my dad, and of course, nights included some horror movie picks (he is where I get my love of them after all.)  We decided to re-watch The Conjuring, and then it's sequels, including the new one, as well as some Warren-universe adjacents, The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona. (the only one we didn't touch on was Annabelle and its sequels, but I am planning to revisit those soon on my own.)  I remember the hype was so very big on the first film and it's scariness, it initially dissappointed me--not all that scary, with a couple good jump scares, but nothing like, say Insidious, which scared the crap out of me first time I watched it with no real expectations. What I've noted on rewatches, however, is how beautiful a film it is visually, and how much attention is paid to camera angles and long shots and set decor. Looking at it it, it's a really visually appealing film, full of vintage patterns and soft pastels and seventies music. There are moments, when the house full of daughters, seems very Virgin Suicides-ish.  The sequels are similarly specific in their camerawork and design--the moldy house in London, the early 80's decor of the new one.  There are also great visuals in the spin-offs. 

One of my favorite juxtapositions in all genres is something beautiful that is also tinged or shot through with darkness. The Conjuring does not look like a horror movie usually would. Even something like Haunting of Hill House, while dark and lovely, seemed like a haunted house from the get go, with crumbling statuary and dark corners. But there is so much light, so much floral wall paper and sun swept floors in this film. How could ghosts live in something so filled with light?  Some of the most horrific scenes--the hanging witch over the shoulder, the sheet scene, happen in broad daylight, not in shadowy dark.  One of my favorite horror films, It Follows, does this well and has a similar seventies feel--lots of light and daylight and horrific things that live in it.  

I have a line in my website's artist statement about this juxtaposition of the beautiful and the terrible, and I think it may be one of the things I am always striving toward, both written and visual. Collages that seems pretty but are darker (the conspiracy theory pieces for example.)  The whole of dark country flirts with this, scenes that seem pretty and subdued, but with a darkness underneath them. (My promo pieces for it are actually set alongside vintage wallpaper samples, and the footage I'll be using for the book trailer has a similar feel.)  The book itself, playing off the photo,  is pink--a color I was hoping to be reminiscent of a teen girl's pink bedroom. And yet, it's very much a book about horror and things that go bump in the night.  Sort of like if you scraped away the floral wallpaper and found the devil underneath.