340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Murky memories.

Call me slow, but it wasn't until we watched Dark Water that I recognized the trend of Japanese-inspired horror movies featuring young female protagonists.

The Ring (and its sequel), The Grudge (and its forthcoming sequel) and Dark Water all feature young, white women as the protagonists. In and of itself, this isn't necessarily odd -- women are often preferred as protagonists in horror movies because, according to the logic of patriarchy, audiences would never find a panicked man plausible or sympathetic. For a recent -- and chilling -- rebuttal to this chauvinistic notion, see Bill Paxton's performance in Frailty.

Still, the theme of isolated young woman is interesting: in all three movies, the protagonists are either alone after a divorce (The Ring, Dark Water) or culturally isolated in the heart of a foreign country and struggling to maintain a relationship with a partner (The Grudge). I wonder if the filmmakers are just mining a archetype of vulnerability or if there's something else going on here. Hm.

Anyway, Dark Water didn't impress me so much, though I suppose it's worth the price of a rental if you're a genre fan. More tragic than terrifying, this haunted-apartment story revolves around a mysterious injustice and a tortured little girl (also elements of The Ring and The Grudge, come to think of it). The aesthetic is appropriately damp, dank and claustrophobic, and the performances are solid. I appreciated the director's decision to add a little texture and nuance to the relationship between the two divorc├ęs, refusing to allow a simplistic assessment of their motives and past.

My main problem was with the "bad mother" theme that totally permeates every frame of this movie. Maybe I should take it in stride, given the genre, but it really bugged me. Mothers are weak, selfish, hysterical, delusional and ultimately a danger to their children -- unless they're dead martyrs in which case they're sanctified, untouchable and harmless.


  • At 4:29 p.m., Blogger no one said…

    I'm a wuss when it comes to these movies.. I saw The Grudge a few nights ago... yeah, I'm totally sleeping with a nightlight. Something about the jerky crawling motions freaks me out.

  • At 4:36 p.m., Blogger Labris said…

    Which is something else that bugged me: Dark Water just isn't that frightening. I'm easily scared by scary movies -- I missed half of The Ring 'cause I kept squeezing my eyes shut -- and this didn't really scare me. I jumped a few times, but I wasn't scared.

    Then again, I don't think it's supposed to be terrifying... more of a sad movie than a scary one, really.

  • At 9:17 a.m., Blogger I'm basically a warm-hearted creature. said…

    women are also the gender of choice for horror flicks cuz of the voice...the 'female' voice screams. It utters the unutterable. Voices the unsaid. One could argue that this pre-language state effectively masks a fear of symbolic castration (oh no...grad school memories are flooding back!) as for mama...well, the mama plays right into the cultural fantasy eh? the protecting sanctity of the womb vs. the smothering/suffocating confinement. mommy's are strong cuz they raised us...weak cuz they are forced to let us go. I think I'm going to plug into Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' now.

  • At 8:43 p.m., Blogger no one said…

    That is an interesting thought. You know what movie I enjoyed that wasn't terrifying but scary enough that I jumped a bit? "What Lies Beneath" with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeifferrrrrrrrr.. Oops, my "r" button stuck.

    I just think it's neat how creepy she can look in the right light.


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