ginger snaps, batmen, and cannibal corpses, oh my
Hello everyone! This is going to be a bit of a shorter entry today, due primarily to the fact that my phone and my laptop have both taken total shits and in the meantime I’m also suffering from a spot of employment-related depression, which has actually really been kicking my ass probably a bit more than I realized.
But hey, I saw The Batman last night, and despite being 20-30 minutes too long, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Robert Pattinson is genuinely a fantastic Batman— right down to the way the mask frames his face— and though I find him to be something of a subpar Bruce Wayne (in contrast to Michael Keaton, who was and remains the live-action gold standard for Bruce Wayne), I’d put that down more to the writing than anything, and the vibes I was getting off the end of the film were telling me I’d be getting something more akin to what I wanted in the sequel.
Also, though I haven’t seen much of Matt Reeves’s work since Cloverfield (which is one of the best American monster movies of the 21st century, in my opinion), I feel confident in my assertion that he is one of the best directors of action sequences working today, something that almost feels like a lost art. The action scenes in The Batman are genuinely legible, absent of the hyperactive editing and faux-verite camera work that infects the action of so many blockbusters these last ten-fifteen years or so. The sound design is an extra kick in the teeth, providing a sort of breathless kineticism to the proceedings that helps every move to feel like it actually has weight and impact. Throw in a couple stylistically-elevated setpieces (like a phenomenal car chase scene and a hallucinogenic fight sequence set in a club) and you have the most memorable live-action Batmanning maybe ever? My partner accurately stated— and not in a way that felt like a criticism— that this movie aligned itself much closer in aesthetic, spirit, and feel to the Arkham games than any previous live-action entry in the Batman canon, and I’d have to agree.
Of course, that statement also applies to the actual plot of The Batman, which eventually amounts to a mish-mash of Seven, Zodiac, and a couple vague intimations towards political commentary and agitation, playing out in a manner that felt very video game-y not just in subject matter and attitude but also in pacing. (It reminded me specifically of Condemned: Criminal Origins, if anyone is wondering.) That’s not to say that it was bad, or unsatisfying, because it was neither of those things, and I quite appreciated the clear influence it took from some of my personal favorite Batman stories— The Long Halloween, Hush, Court of Owls, etc. But I am starting to wonder if this sort of heavily mystery-focused Batman narrative isn’t just altogether better suited to a serialized format, despite how enjoyable I found this entry’s cinematic bombast.
Also (and my partner wanted to make sure I emphasized this), Zoe Kravitz is hot as shit as Catwoman.
In other news, I’ve been getting really, really into Cannibal Corpse, in a way that probably would have made more sense when I was twelve and was just discovering stuff like Cannibal Holocaust and Preacher, but alas, I never watched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in my childhood; if I had, who knows where my life path would have led?
Similar is my recent predilection for anime, which I was always hesitant to embrace beyond the obvious generational touchstones that I was exposed to as a young’un (Studio Ghibli, Toonami, the Shonen Jumps that I’d flip through in the grocery store, canonized stuff like Akira and Ghost In the Shell, Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, staying up too late and occasionally catching the various stuff airing on Adult Swim a la Evangelion and FLCL— all stuff I’ve mostly maintained a healthy respect for, despite the weird bit I had for years about hating anime, which was mostly rooted in my disdain for the weebs who used to sexually harass me and my friends in middle school/high school).
I’ve lately been fascinated by some wild shit thar I only caught peripheral glances of as a kid and, like Cannibal Corpse, this shit would have lit me on fire back in the day: all the old Madhouse shit I used to see on the shelves of the video store like Wicked City and Ninja Scroll, stuff I vaguely remember catching a few snippets of on the Sci-Fi Channel like Lily CAT, and a lot of the bizarre shit that Hazel covers in this video.
So what I’m saying is, expect newsletter editions about Cannibal Corpse and anime in the not-too-distant future.
Otherwise, enjoy this little tidbit I wrote about the 2000 werewolf movie Ginger Snaps as a writing sample for a major pop culture website (which recently unceremoniously passed on taking me on as a features writer in favor of pursuing another candidate, can you believe it??):
Before “elevated horror,” before New French Extremity, and before requels, a little Canadian movie called Ginger Snaps was unleashed on the Munich Fantasy Filmfest in August of 2000, followed shortly by an appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival. Though it would only go on to gross about $450,000 domestically, a feverishly devoted cult audience would latch onto the film via the home video market, soon anointing Ginger Snaps as among the best horror films of the 21st century.
Directed by John Fawcett (who also co-wrote with Karen Walton), Ginger Snaps is a mordantly funny and biting satire of teenage life even before lycanthropy takes center stage, as its opening credits roll to a montage of sisters Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald staging elaborately gory suicide shots for a school project. The two protagonists, phenomenally portrayed by Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle respectively, have excellent and believable sisterly chemistry, evoking the likes of Daria and Jane or Enid and Rebecca in their instinctively misanthropic rebukes of everything around them. The film does a stellar job of making their relationship feel authentic and lived-in, almost instantly investing the viewer, which makes it all the more fraught and tense as Ginger is bitten by a werewolf and it all starts falling apart.
What makes Ginger Snaps work so well is that its central metaphor is beautiful in its simplicity– lycanthropy as puberty and sexual awakening– and yet infinitely layered in execution. Expertly utilizing early-aughts disaffected suburban ennui as its backdrop (with an equivalent soundtrack that ranges from the artfully angsty post-hardcore of Glassjaw to the knuckle-headed fight riffs of Hatebreed), Ginger Snaps uses Ginger’s affliction to savage the hyper-sexualization of teenage girls, internalized misogyny, sibling rivalry, and the social stratification of high school, among other targets. All the while, it does so with a pitch-black sense of humor and no shortage of gruesome body horror and bloody setpieces. Ginger’s slow transformation over the course of the movie is eventually given a male counterpoint, and his own shift is presented as equal measures horrifying and hilarious.
By the film’s end, sympathetic characters the viewer might have expected to make it to the credits have been graphically torn apart, mothers have been forgotten about entirely, and intravenous drug use is portrayed in a manner that’s downright heroic. More than quirky late-night filler, Ginger Snaps is a truly unpredictable, exquisitely paced, and relentlessly charming teen wolf flick that deserves to go down as one of the smartest and best-regarded horror offerings of the century so far.
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