Friday, July 23, 2021

film notes : relic and middle age fear cycles

There are many things I could write about in the context of this movie.  In fact, I hesitated to mention it, either on FB where I usually try to point people in the direction to awesome things. To my bestie or my boyfirend, both of whom love horror as much as I do. Instead, I wanted to sit with my opinion for a couple days--and while it's a great movie for all sorts of reasons, I'm not sure I would recommend to others who I know it would have a similar effect on. It made me sad and uncomfortable, and in a shakier mental state than I am now, it may have eviscerated me. 

The plot follows a woman and her daughter attempting to care for (and in the beginning, even find, her mother, who had not been seen in a few days and may have been behaving strangely. As the grandauhgter scooched her way through the doggy door to gain entry I was sure there was a gruesome discovery, but no, the gruesomeness and gloom stretches on.  She is missing.  She returns.  There is obviously something not quite right--supernatural or no. In the end, the whole film is a horror-laden metaphor for aging and dementia--and a very well-wrought one at that. It spares no expense in it's mystery and building gloom, it's moldering, expansive sets,  and finishes triumphantly. 

However, I would not recommend it, least of all to myself. Least of all the last few years. I've mentioned before my mother's state in the months before her death.  The delerium that was the result, not of age, but infection, but something she couldn't quite get out of the grip of. Or seemed to be getting away from, but declined in the end. She was not so old, and things like alzheimers do not run in either side of the family, so while other's might have thought that decline was age, Im guessing it was more  physiological, hough her nervousness and anxiety certainly did not help. It was a theory that was proven correct as she healed and got better through the autumn--at least at first after the surgery on her foot and a hospital stay nearly a month long. But regardless of neurological or physiological, there were so many scenes in the film that reminded me of my mother--her hallucinations.  The men she believed were entering the house every night and moving things around. When she moved to the rehab home and was still a little loopy, she kept talking about little girls playing in the room.  About butterflies and moths flittering near the ceilings.  Insects on the floor.  The weekend in August that landed her in the hospital she was at her worst, she kept pointing to the floor at imaginary bugs. Having imaginary phone conversations holding nothing to to her ear. The first sign, though we didn't recognize it, was waking from an afternoon nap and mistaking it for morning. That was early July the last time I was home and she was intact. .  By the next time I visited in late August, she could not guage reality from whatever was happening in her head. 

So much of this movie feels like that dark hand closing over my mouth and taking out all the air. It also picks and strums at other anxieties--about my dad dying alone in his house.  About my own impending older years and what will happen. .About the weight of aging parents as we reach middle age. About a generation of us facing these circumstances.  Luckily my mother got much better before she got worse. Was even fully herself in early October.  But she did--get worse, though it wasn't as much delerium later in the fall as it was a kind of depression that ultimately broke her already compromised heart.. The last time I visited her, two weeks before her death, she was newly returned home. Was planning to  be recovering slowly under my dad's care, but as the weekend progressed she seem inconsolable--not eating much and crying. When I left, I wasn't as sure as even the week before she's be getting any better. She did not. That very sunny day in early November, she gave up.

My favorite part of this film, and it's aboslute worst, is the unfolding rooms discoverd by the grandaughter.  She moves some stuff in a messy walk-in closet and discovers an entire house behind the other house. Moves about trapped and in between the walls. Only this house is crowded with things , moldy, and decrepit. The ceilings narrow fun-house style and the walls move.  Soon, the grandmother, changed into a monster, but also not a monster, chases both younger woman through the maze before they smash a hole into the wall and emerge above the fireplace into the house as we know it to fight off the grandmother/monster. All of course and apt metaphor for the older woman's experience of the house--the prim exterior and the winding interior. Moments of lucidity, then madness. An earlier scene where she fights to bury a photo album in the yard lest those memories by taken by whatever stalks her.  So much there, and so much I probably could not bear to watch again to fully appreciate. 


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