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night five: a girl walks home alone at night. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

 “You’re sad. You don’t remember what you want. You don’t remember wanting. It passed long ago. And nothing ever changes.”

Before getting started, I already summed my thoughts on this one up pretty well last year, without spoilers, which you can read: here.

After this year’s viewing, I still absolutely love this film.

A few specific things I love… spoilers follow.

Girl Walks Home - Car

I love the performances. It’s no small thing to get to know the characters so well with such sparse dialogue, but these actors make it work. Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi are especially great. I’m sad I haven’t seen him in anything else.

I love the way writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour subverts roles in the movie, not just culturally and traditionally, but within the confines of the story itself.

The pimp is set up in every way as the predator, covered in tigers on his clothing, his jewelry, his tattoo. There’s an aggression in the SEX tattooed on his throat. He even has a tattoo of PAC-MAN about to eat a ghost (itself an example of the role of predator switching back and forth). He has animals of prey mounted on his walls. Multiple characters are victimized by him in short order. He takes whatever he wants. Yet he was the prey all along.

This is the most obvious example. It represents the Girl’s predilection for preying on men who prey on women, and the shift of power.

Less obvious role switching and subversion of expectations includes the fact that Arash is dressed as a cartoonish Dracula, coming across the Girl in the night while high on ecstasy to tell her he is Dracula, all the while she is an actual vampire. Yet, while being a vampire, it is the Girl who lets Arash pierce her with the earrings he stole.

The one dressed for the part isn’t what he looks like, the one you expect to bleed isn’t the one who bleeds, the one who normally has the power is actually helpless.

They are small things that can stand out in a movie that is this quiet and deliberate, where gestures and facial expressions do so much of the storytelling. Where everything is so intentional and reveals the characters to us so impressively.

I love this scene:

She is immortal, we don’t know for sure how old she is, but we can sense the emptiness and loneliness. She’s not sure why, but somehow Arash gets into her head. She dreams of him at night, walking to her out of the light, down into the darkness where she lives forever.

There’s that moment, when she’s alone in the frame, that big space of emptiness behind her. We know Arash is going to enter, but it takes several beats longer than it normally would in another film. When it seems like he is going to enter, he still doesn’t. It makes us feel the anticipation, the waiting, the loneliness. And then he does enter the frame, and they slowly come together.

He exposes his throat to her, having no idea how vulnerable he is in that moment, how dangerous she is. Yet, that’s how vulnerability works. We’re always giving the other the potential to destroy us.

And I love that scene at the end. Arash knows what the Girl has done. We’re not sure if he can go through with it, still run away with her. He gets back in the car, the cat sitting between them. The cat would be hilarious and adorable regardless of context. However, here, it represents what she’s done. It represents what he knows she’s done. It sits there between them, but then, they look at each other.

I love this movie.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Yes. As I wrote last year, I’d watch this on on repeat.


night four: what we do in the shadows [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“I think we drink virgin blood because it sounds cool.”

“I think of it like this. If you were going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.”

I absolutely love this movie.

Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement have a comedic voice that is unendingly amusing to me.

What We Do In the Shadows is hilarious, smart, clever, impressively filmed, and never overstretches it’s premise. That last bit is miraculous, given how quickly this could have gotten old, especially with the mockumentary format. The film takes a lighthearted approach to the necessarily murderous behavior of vampires, and they nail the tone perfectly. It works.

All of Waititi’s writing has this rare combination, where it’s so sharp and funny, but also genuinely sweet and warm. He revels in the flaws and awkwardness of his characters, and it’s where I find so much joy in his work.


Word has it that there is going to be a sequel to What We Do In the Shadows called We’re Wolves, obviously focused on the pack of werewolves from this film. There is also a show in development, Paranormal Event Response Unit, which will follow the two police officers from What We Do… going around encountering more of Wellington’s thriving supernatural element. 

I’m also super excited for Waititi’s current directorial gig at Marvel, Thor: Ragnarok. Although, however successful that is, I hope he keeps making original stuff, too, like What We Do…, the criminally underseen and underappreciated Boy, and most recently Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He’s also a co-writer on the upcoming Disney animated feature, Moana, which features Clement in a voice role.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Yes.Yes. Yes. All the yes. This was my third time and will absolutely not be the last. Taika Waititi forever!


night three: the lost boys. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

Now you know what we are. Now you know what you are. You’ll never grow old, Michael, and you’ll never die. But you must feed!


I’m probably one of the last 80’s kids to see this movie for the first time.

The Lost Boys is awesome and terrible, but it is awesome in ways that are mostly silly, and terrible in ways that are mostly enjoyable.

Interestingly, since they came out the same year, The Lost Boys has pretty much the same story as Near Dark, but with a more playful tone, and some family drama and Goonies thrown in. Also, some-crazy-how, there is significantly more narrative sense in The Lost Boys. For example, no inexplicable blood transfusions in a garage that cure vampirism.

Anyway, this movie is delightfully absurd, and I was never fully sure if that absurdity was intentional or accidental. Kiefer Sutherland is growling away like a crazy person, as he is wont to do. The Coreys added some lovable, terribly acted exuberance and silliness. The vampire deaths mostly don’t make any sense (but its okay, because they explained it away with a line of dialogue). It also did for water guns what Little Monsters would eventually do for flashlights.

This is the vampire movie the 80’s simply needed to produce. It just had to happen.

Also, concerning the 80’s, one question:

As someone who lived through most of the 80’s, I still need to ask, what the hell was happening in the 80’s?!? How did Hollywood produce an R rated kids movie?! The Lost Boys is largely about adjusting to divorce, growing up, potential step-parents, the dangers of peer pressure and drugs, and what it’s like as siblings change at different speeds as they become adults.

Those themes all make sense for a vampire movie for teens. Obviously, vampires are a great way to tell stories of addiction, adjustment, estrangement, and alienation. It’s the R rating that is just so amusingly nonsensical. Somehow, it worked in the 80’s

All in all, The Lost Boys is a worthy addition to the HMF canon

Also, there’s this fucking guy! The 80’s, amirite?!


night two: ‘cronos’. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]


“I don’t know what’s happening to me, but I think it’s better if we stay together.”

The second night of HMF and I’m revisiting a favorite from nights of Halloween past.

Guillermo del Toro’s debut feature has all of the themes he comes back to again and again. Del Toro himself said:

“To me, Cronos contains the essence of what I want to do … a sincere declaration of how I view the world.”

Both literally and figuratively, this is vintage del Toro.

His best work uses and subverts genre trappings and fantastical horror to showcase the beauty and monstrosity of humanity. The horror of the monsters in the del Toro canon always pale in comparison to what humans are willing to do to one another in a quest for power, money, or youth.

Del Toro said of Cronos, “I do what I’ve done in Devil’s Backbone, what I’ve done in Pan’s Labyrinth, etc. Which is, I take the central monster figure and I make it the saddest figure in the tale.”

This is a story of the inherent tragedy of vampire lore. One of the central themes in many vampire stories is the loss of humanity in the pursuit of immortality. The inability to accept the reality of death results in a half life. Vampires are immortal, they reject death, but only by becoming death. They live forever, but only in darkness, only by consuming life itself. #fucktwilight

These stories are often about the destructive potential of the human quest for immortality. Thus, Guillermo del Toro is the perfect storyteller for the genre, and it in turn is a perfect playground for his first feature.

Cronos is arrestingly grotesque and beautiful, often at the same time. A monster story about what it means to be human. A horror film about love, family, redemption, mortality, and sacrifice. Or to put it more simply, Cronos is Guillermo del Toro at his best.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Most definitely. As is easily seen above, Cronos is included amongst my very favorite Halloween Movie Fest films from the seven years I’ve done it.


night one: ‘near dark’. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

 Boy, you people sure stay up late.”

“We keep odd hours.”

And we’re off! Night one kicks off with Kathryn Bigelow’s cult classic about a guy who tries to convince a young lady to engage in some casual sex, and as these things often go, she turns out to be a vampire. Our young cowboy finds himself thrown in with a gang of asshole vampires who terrorize bar-flys, truck drivers, and hitchhikers along remote portions of Texas and Oklahoma highway.

The film is pretty to look at, and it’s easy to see the DNA of a directing style that would eventually win Bigelow a ton of awards for The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. 


Critics liked Near Dark, and as I already mentioned, it became a cult classic. In some ways, I can see why. The idea itself was an interesting take on both vampire movies and neo-westerns, and at times it delighted in its own violent mayhem. It also featured a synth soundtrack by Tangerine Dream that had some great moments.

However, overall, this one was just too nonsensical in all the wrong ways for me. The writing and story just didn’t hold together at all. It was erratic and silly, but to me it didn’t seem to be so intentionally. Everyone has the sorts of holes and weaknesses that prohibit enjoyment, and Near Dark had too many for me.

If anyone wants to have a specific conversation about what didn’t work for me in Near Dark, I’m game. I just didn’t want to go on and on bitching about it in this post. That’s just not what I want RtM to be. I’m also totally down if someone who loves this movie wants to enlighten me concerning its virtues. I would genuinely enjoy learning to see it through a fan’s eyes.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? No. There’s definitely something I’m missing. It’s got a big following of folks who love it and rewatch it, so I’ll leave them to it.


primer for vampire movie fest [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

Here we go. Halloween Movie Fest 2016.

First, a primer in part one of this year’s HMF.

As promised, the first half is all vampires. A movie fest within a movie fest. Like the cream in one of those Halloween themed orange and black Oreos, but where the cream filling is actually a monster who will grant you a grotesque immortality if it likes you, or merely exsanguinate you if it doesn’t.

DRACULA (1958)

The mini movie festival within a festival is rooted in last year’s HMF. When I was doing some reading on The Wicker Man after I watched it, I learned that it was a big deal for Christopher Lee to be the understated villain in this (mostly) subdued horror film. Until then he was mostly famous for his role in the Hammer Films Dracula series as the titular vampire.

I’ve never seen any Hammer Films, but they were clearly notable in the history of horror, so I read up on them a bit. The Hammer Films rabbit hole led me to a few other vampire films I’d never heard of, one thing led to another, and I realized that at the very least I was going to need to make half of HMF16 vampire movies.

This is fun for me, because it gives me a style of ‘Another Day, Another Movie’ I haven’t done in quite a while. I love Halloween Movie Fest, but it’s much more varied and diverse than other versions of ‘AD,AM’ I’ve done.

It’s different doing ‘AD,AM’ with a more specific genre, like Westerns or Noir films. It changes the way I watch because I’m focused in on the nuances and boundaries of that genre, whether those boundaries they are heeded or ignored. I start to inhabit the language, style, and palette of that genre. It becomes the story ecosystem I live in for a bit. This pointlessly fun activity gives me this big frame of reference for each film, which is obviously always there, but is easier to see and discern in the context of the geeky rhythm of this sort of endeavor.

The closest I’ve come to this within HMF is zombie films, because the genre is so young and the rules are so clear. Every departure from the tropes is really obvious, every stylistic choice stands out, meaning you need fewer films to really sense what a particular storyteller is trying to do.

Anyway, this year I get to fully add that element back into HMF by watching ten vampire films in ten days.

Next up, night one: Near Dark.


black mirror, season 3 [trailer park.]

All year, as more info came out about the third season of Black Mirror, I’ve been worried.

My question: is it possible to maintain the previous quality after doubling the length of a season with the move to Netflix?

Even if it turns out that every episode isn’t a winner, the trailer for the new season has gone a long way in calming my fears.