Friday, October 24, 2014

Favorite Scene Friday! The Birds: Pecked

This week's Favorite Scene Friday! was written by Jay from Life vs Film!

HitchcOctober is being celebrated both at French Toast Sunday and Life vs Film, plus it's Horror month pretty much everywhere online, so it seemed right to fuse the two together and pick one of my favourite scenes from one of Alfred Hitchcock's horror movies. I'm not taking the low-hanging fruit of Psycho's shower scene, I'm instead opting for 1963's The Birds, and again, I'm not taking the obvious birds-gathering-on-the-climbing-frame scene, or even one of the big bombastic set pieces, instead I'm going for the moment the film takes a sudden lurch into horror.

Lafar Posters via JoBlo

Before this point in the film, the small San Francisco fishing town of Bodega Bay has suffered a few inexplicable attacks from feathered fiends - a lone seagull clawed at the head of our heroine Melanie (Tippi Hedren), another flies into a closed door, a flock of seagulls set about a children's birthday party and a swarm of sparrows wreaked havoc in the lounge via its chimney, but nothing serious has occurred other than a little scarring - both physically and mentally. However, when Lydia (Jessica Tandy) goes to visit a fellow farmer to discuss the odd behaviour of the town's birds, we discover the true peril these people are in store for.

That's right, he's dead. And not just dead, he's had the eyes pecked out of his head. There are deep red pools where his eyes used to be, and it's ruddy terrifying. It isn't helped by the film's complete lack of score, making Lydia's slow approach down the corridor seemingly take all the longer, as there's almost no sound whatsoever. Similarly, she looks around the room in silent confusion, noticing the extreme disarray and littering of bird corpses, one of which apparently bled to death whilst impaled in a window. This is the point where we realise that a bird attack, which previously sounded more comical than actually fatal, could in fact be incredibly dangerous and life threatening, and every attack that comes after this point comes with its serious consequences, but it all starts here.

Lydia's silent, gasping fleeing from the scene looks a little odd, but was an homage to Edward Munch's The Scream. I'm grateful that we don't actually see the attack take place - if there's one thing I can't watch, it's eye trauma - but I think not showing it makes it all the more powerful anyway, especially in the jump-scare value of the moment Lydia sees the body, as the camera zooms in on his face not once but twice. It's an image I won't soon forget.

What's your favorite scene from The Birds?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Peek Through the Hatch: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Spoilery thoughts are in this post!

So I was watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last night, catching up in order to watch the new episode next week, all so I could catch the world premiere of the first Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer. I was also on Twitter, since I can't stand to be watching just one screen aparently. All of a sudden, people are talking about the Avengers trailer and I realize that it's leaked online. But I refrained from watching the leaked/bootlegged version. I was going to wait until next week.

So I was pleasantly surprised to check Twitter this morning to discover that Marvel went ahead and released the official trailer! Check it out below (like you haven't already).

Some thoughts:

  • Like a lot of folks, I'd been hearing about this trailer (or a version of it) since Comic-Con. It's nice to finally see stuff like Ultron walking in on the party scene and the Hulk throwing the car at Iron Man (in full Hulkbuster armor) and then punching through it. Expectations were basically met there.
  • The Pinocchio song is indeed awesome and lends the trailer a disturbing vibe.
  • Some cliches: Black Widow saying "Nothing lasts forever.", Scarlet Witch dropping to her knees and screaming, Thor's cape sliding/billowing over to block the background (didn't we just see that in Man of Steel?), Hulk and Iron Man punching each other at the same time (that sort of already happened in The Incredible Hulk between Hulk and The Abomination).
  • The party scene is going to be one of the highlights of the film and it's fun seeing a little bit of it here. Check out Thor's crazy red jacket:

  • We get a wide shot of the party and I'm wondering who the two mystery women are. It's clear that Black Widow is there but I'm wondering who the other two are. I'd heard that Jane, Natalie Portman's character and Thor's main squeeze, would be there but that she'd be with someone else, the guy she goes on a date with in Thor: The Dark World (Chris O'Dowd from The IT Crowd). At least, I think I remember hearing/reading that. I'm not sure why they'd do that. Maybe Cobie Smulder's character, Maria Hill is also one of them?

From left to right: Hulk, Black Widow, Mystery Woman 1, Thor, Captain America, Mystery Woman 2, James Rhodes/War Machine/Iron Patriot, Iron Man, Hawkeye
  • Finally, that final shot of Ultron is pretty flippin' badass. I can't wait for May 1st!
What do you think of this trailer?

    Friday, October 17, 2014

    Favorite Scene Friday! The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Meet Leatherface

    Our newest horror-themed FSF is by none other than the horror-averse Nick from French Toast Sunday! Yes, one of Nick's favorite genres is "not horror". When not watching scary movies, you can find Nick on the FTS podcast or reviewing new flicks over on their site. You can check out all of Nick's FTS posts here. Follow him on twitter - @therehak.

    French Toast Sunday

    To be honest, I don’t know why I asked to participate in this series. If you know me, I’m very vocal about my fear of horror films. I just can’t do it. I even hide my face during horror movie trailers (ask any member of FTS, they’ll tell you). My problem is, when I watch something, my brain holds onto those images, and then I can’t fall asleep at night without my brain showing me those images every time I close my eyes. The only way to combat that is to stay up all night until it’s daytime OR I turn all the lights on in the house. Why all the lights? Well, as we all know, monsters don’t come out in the light, they only come out when it’s dark. I whole-heartedly believed that until I saw Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). This film was a terrifying exclamation that horror doesn’t happen at night, it can happen anytime.

    Vogler Art via JoBlo

    About 32 or so minutes into the film, Kirk and Pam set off to find a local swimming hole, as you do in the middle of nowhere Texas. They discover that the swimming hole is all dried up, but they see a generator running, maybe someone nearby can point them in the direction of a proper swimming hole? Wrong. Absolutely wrong. They come across a generic non-descript looking house. Kirk knocks a few times and finds himself inside, leaving Pam outside. He hears some squeals coming from the back of the house. Probably a pig right? I mean, they did drive past a slaughterhouse earlier. Kirk explores the hallway and attempts to walk through a doorway. All of a sudden, Leatherface. The scare causes Kirk to trip and fall, and while on the ground, Leatherface bashes Kirk’s head in with a hammer. It’s a soft, almost mute thud sound as Kirk is struck not once, but several times. It’s not this over the top crunch or smack effect sound, it’s natural and real. You can feel the bones in his skull breaking with every hammer hit. Kirk's body goes into shock and he spasms and bleeds like a slaughtered pig. Leatherface drags him away and slams a metal door behind him, cue music.

    Let that set in a second. In the middle of the day, in broad fucking daylight, inside a normal-seeming home, a man’s skull is brutally bashed in with a hammer and is dragged away, THEN the music happens. There is nothing to prepare you for the kill. No build-up. It attacks you and catches you off guard much like Leatherface catches Kirk. Wham! It happens, you accept it, then realize Leatherface, and this film, are not fucking around. You are not going to make it out alive.

    So you’d think the scene would be over, right? WRONG! Pam, sitting on a swing outside, calls to Kirk. No answer. She enters the home and all we hear is the generator outside running. Pam walks around the home and falls into a room filled with chicken feathers and bones. The music kicks in, a low dull humbuzz rattle that builds. She screams and is immediately greeted by Leatherface who runs after her and catches her just as she makes it out the door. He RUNS. He doesn’t walk. He doesn’t say something funny or campy. He bolts after, catches her, and laughs, LAUGHS, as he carries her into the kitchen and hangs her from a meat hook. Did I mention Leatherface is laughing? All of this is accentuated by the humbuzz rattle that builds, a semitone at a time, twisting and turning your stomach at the unknown horror still to come.

    Scene’s over, right? NOPE. Like any sundae, it’s not complete without the cherry. And the cherry on top of this psycho-nightmare is Pam, hanging from a meat hook, watching and screaming in horror as Leatherface revs up his chainsaw and begins to dismember Kirk right in front of her. Cut to weather vane.

    What's your favorite scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?