American Mary (2012): Changing bodies, changing lives

American Mary (2012) was directed by a twin sister duo from Canada, Jen and Sylvia Soska. The twin sisters’ previous and first directing endeavor, Dead Hooker in A Trunk (2009), received mixed reviews but it intrigued several critics and fans alike. American Mary was an introduction to Soskas’ work for me and it was mostly an enjoyable first glimpse into their creative world. I will be leaving out the conclusion of the movie and major spoilers but I will mention scenes not shown in the trailer.

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Mary at work.

The plot itself starts with a prototypical story of a struggling female medicine student but the event that acts as a catalyst for its ending was a fresh idea that brought my impression of the movie over to the positive side. Mary struggles to balance her studies with work and she looks for money in the sex industry after finding herself unemployed. An unexpected turn of events presents her with a completely different opportunity that allows her to use surgical skills from med school. Thus, Mary becomes a highly sought out body modification artist.

A portrayal of subculture in any movie can be either positive and complex or reduced and cliché-based. American Mary is both but people unfamiliar with the subculture might take away that these people live removed from society, they are unhappy, and will cross established personal boundaries. In a rather shocking scene, a twin sister duo (played by the Soska sisters) enters a strip club while one of them offers money to a stripper just to bite into her tongue. The sisters then leave to meet with Mary while the stripper is left behind crying. The stripper consented to the kiss but not to have her tongue bitten until she bleeds. This disregard for consent and boundaries is not so rare in the movie. Beatress, who has her body altered to resemble Betty Boop, brushes off Mary’s pleads to leave her alone. Mary’s other clients appear to be ordinary happy people, but the stories of these people are untold and less emphasized than those of customers from the underground scene. My own interest and experience with subcultures allows me to understand that the Soska sisters probably did not intend to imply that there must be something wrong with you if you desire to have your limb or vulva removed. The characters do attain the happiness that they seek when their body reflects how they feel about themselves, but the use of such clichés is unexciting and might harm the community.

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Beatress.

Ruby and Beatress are two most extremely body modified characters in the movie. The stripper Beatress, as it was already mentioned, has paid thousands of dollars to resemble Betty Boop. Her friend, a fashion designer Ruby, aims to become a real-life doll, which she achieves thanks to Mary. Ruby and Beatress became my favorite characters despite their pushy personalities, especially Beatress’s, perhaps because she is truly happy when her outward appearance matches how she feels on the inside. Beatress and Ruby are unapologetically themselves.

The movie does not shy away from medical humor, for example, the surgeons call themselves “slashers” and joke around that they cut people for living. This might be interpreted as a criticism of society that accepts one type of surgical work, but is often critical of plastic operations and even more so of body modifications. Although the last category does not fall under life-saving procedures aimed at saving the body, body modifications can help treat depression or anxiety stemming from body dysmorphia related issues. Here, however, I am not sure the movie carries this message as well as I would like it to.

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Ruby.

Gore is modest and scarce and it does not go further than the second Hannibal Lecter movie (Hannibal, 2001), for example. Most work happens outside camera’s view, close-ups are rare and the movie often shows patients already with bandages on. A viewer who considers Hannibal or most criminal TV series (CSI, Bones) their limit for gore might feel a little uncomfortable, but a viewer expecting detailed gory scenes might be less impressed. The make-up and practical effects team transformed Tristan Risk (Beatress) and Paula Lindberg (Ruby) into a real-life Betty Boop and a real-life doll whose appearances are both alluring and uncomfortable. Looking at them brought up some uncanny feelings which is a sign of an impressive work for any horror film, especially for one with a lower budge. Soska sisters also hired people with real body modifications to play some of Mary’s patients.

Seeing Mary becoming an artist who gets lost in her work and pushes the boundaries too far will probably keep most people watching. Katherine Isabelle’s acting suits the character and she mostly manages to capture Mary’s changing personality. Her performance could have been stronger and rely less on the doe-deer glassy eyed look to express her character’s fading connection to life but she is able to carry the movie until its conclusion.

I eagerly awaited what fate the conclusion brings to other characters as I became engaged with their stories. The strip club owner Antonio does not remain a mere connection between Mary and some clients and his own preoccupation with Mary is endearing despite Billy Barker’s uneven performance.

The movie opens and closes with the song “Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert. This choice is not particularly original as Mary is the name of the main character. Nevertheless, the analogy is not lost here as Mary indeed listens to the wishes of those who have been refused help (body modification) elsewhere, in this case, by the surgeons.

American Mary is a solid 5/10 movie but watching it did not make me feel like I had just wasted an hour and a half of my life. On the contrary, I felt anticipation as I witnessed the dramatic conclusion unravel and I felt sadness for characters who were punished for simply expressing themselves. I would also not classify this movie as a horror movie because it simply is not one; there are no supernatural monsters. I would describe it as a psychological thriller about an American Mary who (justifiably) becomes a raging women in what is essentially a rape-revenge film.

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Death, Hello, We Meet Again

No doubt many people have a difficult relationship with death and dying. Although we might all be intimidated by a thought of dying, some of us are fascinated by death and the relationship of our culture with death. People used to criticize and judge me for my interest in art and its dialogue with death, but also with a lack of avoidance when it came to looking up pictures and videos of people dying (a lot of them very gory). I also wanted to become a funeral director (I feel like this is such a cliche now). As a result, although some of my interest in death portrayed in the arts remained, I completely abandoned exploring real life relationship with death and what dying meant to me. I can fully admit now, it was because I was ashamed and bothered by comments that made me feel very solitary and misunderstood. I should maybe clarify that when I speak of shame, I mean that feeling that makes you hide your interests from other people and sometimes yourself, too.

Recently, however, I discovered a youtube channel called “Ask a Mortician” and it was like rediscovering my old self. Although I do not want to become a funeral director anymore, I absolutely fell in love with Caitlin Doughty’s videos and her honest interest in death.

Furthermore, she managed to verbalize my own reasons for being interested in the topic, and her videos helped me overcome the shame that I felt later in life because I was simply interested in something that scares or disgusts more people.

Caitlin also gave a Ted talk about our society’s relationship to death and her career as a mortician. Additionally, she wrote a book about her experience while working in funeral homes and death industry.

Her book is en enjoyable reading that does not take much time out of your day, and it is not too gruesome! Caitlin’s goal is not to disgust and shock you. Quite to the contrary, she believes (and so do I) that by working on your relationship with death and dying, your relationship with life (and life itself ) will become elevated and more positive.

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“Ask a Mortician” has featured a few guests on her channel, who also create “morbid” content. One of these is “Under The knife”, a youtube channel that creates videos on various medical history topics. I wish there were more videos on this channel, but for now I will take what I can get. ;]

If you like real crime stories, I believe you will enjoy Cayleigh Elise’s Dark Curiosity channel. The majority of her stories fall under the unsolved/disappeared/missing categories. I can guarantee that you have not heard of the majority of cases she talks about, and the amount of research and preparation she puts into making of these videos is phenomenal and quite rare for channels without a huge production team behind them.

I think I will stop here, and share more favourite youtube channels next time!

🙂

-TheUncannyGirl

The Neon Demon (2016): Do not hate the players, hate the game? (SPOILERS INCLUDED)

I have been meaning to write about The Neon Demon (2016 ) by Nicolas Winding Refn since I first saw the movie this summer. I was mesmerized by its visual aspects and it did not feel like I sat through two hours of the movie at all. I have since seen it again and the movie’s charm was not lost on me this time either.

The quality of the movie is not assessed by paying attention only to its visual side, but its story too. I always judge a movie by looking at least at these two criteria and how well they are executed. Some of the articles I have read about The Neon Demon focused on men exploiting women and rape culture. The title of this blog post comes from a well known phrase “do not hate the players, hate the game” but it is followed by a question mark. “The game” can refer to the fashion industry or on a bigger scale to the society itself, a game in which women compete against each other for an approval. Women are born into a world with certain rules and parameters that they initially view to be fixed and unchangeable, maybe even a part of a tradition. They often do not think to question the rules, the game, and wether they want to participate in it or not. Thankfully, other women have now for decades tried to speak out about this issue, although with different outcomes. This willingness to participate and even enjoy the game is portrayed in The Neon Demon and it is a portrayal worth talking about. The models consciously become willing participants in the fashion industry where beauty is the main commodity and thus the models themselves continue to set unreal standards to be met by women and expected by men.

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The Neon Demon‘s story revolves around 16 year old Jesse coming to Los Angeles from a small town to become a model. She quickly grabs the attention of everyone after being signed with a model agency. Ruby, a make up artist, becomes her new friend and introduces Jesse to fellow models Gigi and Sarah. Gigi and Sarah are experienced models who have accommodated to the expectations of the beauty industry. Especially Sarah who proudly displays her body that has been altered by multiple plastic surgeries. Jesse becomes the raising star and her natural beauty is compared to the unnatural beauty of Gigi and mostly Sarah. Everybody around Jess treats her as a naive newcomer, including Dean, a photographer that shoots her first photos in the beginning of the movie (Dean is also romantically interested in Jesse). However, Jesse is less naive than everyone initially estimates and she is fully aware of her beauty and its benefits. Jesse eventually gets murdered by Gigi, Sarah and Ruby.

Jesse, Gigi, Ruby, and Sarah are not stupid and they are fully aware how fashion industry works. Sadly, they do not fight against it but instead choose to compete against each other for the place in the eyes of the photographers and fashion designers. I deliberately did not say a heart, because the male gaze plays a significant role in this movie. Women do not compete for the place in the heart of men; they want to please the human/male eye, and its extension, the camera lens. Nowhere in the movie is it implied that they are interested in participating in the creation of art that is the fashion photography. However, it is not only the male gaze, but the female gaze that can be dangerous, too.

First, I would like to refer to the scene which made me feel very (probably the most) uncomfortable. The scene takes place at a bar after Jesse’s first fashion show. The designer asks Dean to asses Gigi’s beauty to prove a point that fake beauty  (i.e. gained through surgery) can be easily distinguished from natural beauty. Gigi proudly presents herself although she is not happy being compared to Jesse who remains silent and does not oppose the comparison, unlike Dean who finds the entire discussion uncomfortable.

Neither Gigi or Sarah ever decide to quit the industry. On the contrary, they decide to kill Jesse, bathe in her blood, and devour her entire dead body. The very last part of the movie shows Gigi and Sarah participating in a photo shoot. Gigi is unable to stomach what they have done and kills herself in order to get rid off Jesse inside her (well, what she ate of her). Sarah is able to live with what they have done and (re)gains her it girl status.

The movie does not end with a happy ending for Jesse, but what is the ending really? The strongest part of this movie is its power to hypnotize its viewers with stunning visuals and music. The weakness of this movie is its story which concludes without any real conclusion. Or maybe that was the point? That the good does not always win and the show must go on?

I would like to briefly discuss the meaning of “good” from the perspective of this movie. Is Jesse a good person and should the analysis be even concerned with it? Jesse’s character is viewed in comparison to other characters, namely Gigi and Sarah, who are portrayed as fake, competitive, and often say harsh and too honest words to Jesse. Dean initially perceives Jess to be beautiful and talented girl despite her objections (she tells him she possesses no real talent, but is aware that she can make money with her beauty). Knowing Dean’s opinion of Jesse as a person is important as it is him  who points out to her and to the audience how she has changed after her first fashion show. He asks her to leave with him but Jesse refuses. This exchange demonstrates that Jesse feels comfortable in fashion industry and in an environment that treats women so harshly.

Morally and visually the most shocking scene depicts Ruby having sex with a dead body. Ruby has sex with an anonymous female body because Jesse refuses her sexual advances which are very aggressive and Ruby actually comes close to raping Jesse. Ruby thus settles for the next best thing: an inanimate body; and fantasizes about having sex with Jesse. This appears to satisfy her. The scene reminds us again that women also commit crime against each other; as if men’s pressure on them was not already enough, they also need to defend themselves from each other.

I have  a slight issue with motivations of individual women in this movie. Is it enough to say that they want to be adored for their beauty? That they need to feel on top of the world? I wish Refn added a little bit of background information about the individual characters. Sure, not knowing adds a certain mystery, but it also makes them too one note for me. Furthermore, it would be nice to see the female characters unite and rewrite the rules of the game.

It might seem as something that would not be a reflection of the real world fashion industry but that is not true. Body positivity and criticism of women bringing down other women in order to feel better about themselves has become more common in recent years. I believe it would have added another dimension to the movie, but on the other hand, Refn probably was not interested in spreading feminist message but in offering a story in which hate is being rewarded.

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AJ Briones’s The Smiling Man (2015)

You absolutely have to watch the film before you read anything about it. Not because it would spoil this short movie, but because you need to watch it as soon as possible. Yes, it is that good. As someone who sadly has not had an opportunity to visit any of the multiple (horror) film festivals, I am always thankful when artists/studios release their work online for all of us to watch and appreciate.

Today, The Smiling Man has changed my day for the better. Actually, I will not be able to let it go from my mind for a while. I know this because by now I have become familiar with the way my mind and body react to good horror; I can recognize the reaction and the emotions.

(SPOILERS IN THE PARAGRAPHS BELOW)

I have just seen this movie, so let’s think about this as a first response post. The audience follows the little girl as she is experiencing something most of us would never want to: her home was invaded and (probably) her mother murdered. One of the many clichés of the horror genre are characters who do not run away when strange things start happening,; their curiosity makes them proceed, and usually this is the way a lot of characters die. Audiences have been making fun of such characters, asking why these characters don’t run when it’s obvious such a strange thing would freak anyone out in real life. It seems easier to understand these characters if they are children, or in this case, a little girl. Children are naive, they trust strangers, and have not had the horrible experiences of an adult life; they have not read about people getting murdered and so on. But don’t adult characters become like children in horror movies? Fear paired with curiosity and wonder (“this is too strange to be true!”) might in some cases be a coping mechanism in the face of horrors to come.

One of the most difficult things for horror creators is the design of the monster. The monster has to be scary before and after it’s identity is revealed. A lot of movie monsters fail to be scary after they can be seen, somehow, the magic is lost. Not the Smiling man. His intense look that seems to be directed at the audience and the girl, but somehow never seems to find the camera, frantically moving around the focus point, gave me serious creeps.

Personally, when I am interpreting a movie, sometimes I am inclined to look at what is not shown and what is unknown about the film or the book. If you don’t like this type of analysis, you might not like the following part, but I think these questions are not so out of place. The inability to answer these questions with certainty adds to the feeling of horror. My questions are powered by the title of the film itself. Why the Smiling man? Right now, I can think of three possibilities:

1. He is a madman, perhaps a supernatural entity, who killed this woman without recognizing the murder as a despicable act. The whole thing is a performance: as a clown he murders and then entertains.

2. He has not killed the woman, someone else did, but he is there to cheer the girl up.

3. ? This might seem far fetched, but if he killed the woman, was it because she did not have a good relationship with the girl, and the Smiling man wanted to cheer the girl up?

(or maybe there is an interpretation that is a combination of some of these proposals?)

The probability of these scenarios goes from the most probable (1) to very speculative (3). However, the planting of the balloons is similar to a treasure hunt: finding little clues, which will lead you to the treasure. The balloons are different colors, and the little bags contain body parts, which we later realize represent the woman in the plastic bag. Thus, the Smiling man was not simply interrupted mid murder. He wanted the girl to experience fun. Was the girl sad in the first place, then? And why would seeing the dead woman’s body cheer her up? This is what lead me to the scenario number three.

Did you like the movie? What did you think of the balloon colors? So far I can only see those colors being represented on the girl (pink top, blue jeans) and the Smiling man (black). Alternatively, black could refer to something bad, blood is read, but what about the blue? Maybe the red one represents the woman, blue one the girl, and the black one the Smiling man? The contents of the third bag included a head of a little doll, does this mean the girl will also end up being murdered? Is this a murder, murder, suicide scenario?

Lex Luthor and terrorism: Another look at Batman v Superman (with SPOILERS!)

MY RATING: 7.5/10batman-vs-superman-official-logo-HD
WARNING!!! THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!

It has been quite some time since I saw Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). I went to see the movie prepared to be disappointed because I had seen the review titles and read a few comments here and there. Rotten Tomatoes’s rating was at 29 percent at the time before I sat down and watched the opening scene. I loved it. The next morning morning I still did not feel like Snyder’s movie failed to deliver. I started writing this review the day after I saw the movie but before publishing it I wanted to see it one more time. Circumstances have so far prevented me from doing so but because I want to share my thoughts about some aspects of this movie I am publishing the post now anyway.

***

The movie is not the best movie that I have seen in the past few years and some of the criticism is valid, for example, certain actions scenes are too hectic and longer than they should be. However, it is a great movie, which a lot of commentary on knowledge and the (mis)use of power.

A lot of other reviewers were not happy about the overall darkness of the movie and they compared it to Marvel’s Avengers and Deadpool. Compared to these critics, I am happy that Snyder did not try to amuse the audiences with too many jokes and instead chose the darker path. Not all superhero movies need or should be funny, relatable happy stories with hints of depression here and there.

I do not want to review all aspects of the movie here, at least not in this first article. Instead, I would like to focus on Lex Luthor.

I was not too much into Lex Luthor when I saw the trailers. I did not like his spoiled smart rich kid persona and his jokes did not land for me.  He is still a smart rich kid with a very unlikable personality after seeing the movie. However, he is more evil than the trailer lets you to believe. The moment you realize Lex can and will do more than just threaten people verbally is one of the strongest aspects of this movie. Lex Luthor blowing up the US Capitol is a turning point and it surprised me because it comes out of nowhere. Although it is clear that Lex will cause trouble, this act of terrorism is unexpected in its boldness and extremeness.

Lex Luthor shares characteristics with another DC villain, the Joker, at least on the surface: he plays games with other characters and he likes to joke and laugh like a maniac. One of the big Nolan-Joker-like moments is Lex setting a timer and giving Superman an ultimatum to kill Batman or Superman’s mother Martha dies. Everyone who saw Nolan’s Dark Knight will remember an almost identical scene when Joker gives people on two boats an hour to either kill the passengers of the other boat or both boats will explode when the hour passes. Joker wants to prove that citizens of Gotham will always kill in order to protect themselves because that is human nature. However, Lex wants to prove to himself that he has power over aliens although he is physically weaker or cannot fly. Lex’s superpower is his brain and the movie portrays his journey towards self discovery and self improvement. Thus Lex’s interest in metahumans is not merely scientific. They made him feel self conscious and weak and it is not only until he enters the mothership that he is able to successfully use his knowledge to fight them.

Lex Luthor  hints at this sense of powerlessness when he gives a speech at the Metropolis Central Library re-opening party:

Books are knowledge and knowledge is power, and I am… no. Um, no. What am I? What was I saying? The bittersweet pain among men is having knowledge with no power because… because that is *paradoxical* and, um… thank you for coming.

Lex is a genius but apparently he feels that after the arrival of metahumans this is suddenly not enough. Later, in a frankenstein tradition, he creates a monster by bringing Zod back to life using alien technology and his own blood. Does Lex Luthor bring something new within the frankenstein tradition of mad scientists on TV/in the cinemas? Lex Luthor is a subtype of mad scientist: he wants to use his knowledge to secure himself a power grip that would defeat metahumans. However, Lex Luthor is a mad scientist who is engaged in a war of terror in a movie that is intended for mass audiences all over the world. Lex Luthor is a white rich terrorist in a blockbuster movie and this is what makes him fascinating.

Did you like Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman?

 

COLDER: Toss the Bones (2015) and soothing madman (no spoilers review)

Today I visited my favorite shop in town: Comics City (Olomouc, Czech Republic). I needed to take my mind off some matters and decided buying a few comics (and a Harley Quinn keychain) would help with that. Buying make up was my retail therapy for past 12 years, but things changed since the beginning of 2016. I am not complaining. I have rediscovered my passion for reading and it has made me feel more like myself again. But now to the point…
12523874_10208567832184109_8345527500993126821_nRight now, my purchase strategy is as following: I go straight to the “cheap comics” and “new” sections. I check all comics they have there and when I see something I like but I am unfamiliar with I go online and search for reviews. This is why I bought Colder: Toss the Bones (2015) and Outcast (2014–). I liked the cover of VWars (2014), the reviews seemed OK and because I am into vampires I decided to buy it. It cost me cca 1,50Euro so why the hell not. I also bought Mars Attacks: Greatest hits (?) because I liked the movie and absolutely adore the design of the aliens. Again, 1,50Euro.

I already read all of them, each one being issue 1, and I absolutely fell in love with Colder: Toss the Bones by Paul Tobin. First, I was already sold when I saw the cover page and art by Juan Ferreyra. I have to admit that it reminded me of the Joker in Death of the Family but this lunatic on the cover of Colder: Toss the Bones was charming on his own and I was curious, very curious, to know his story. Toss the Bones is a follow up story of the original Colder (2012) series and Colder: The Bad Seed (2014). So far, I have only read Toss the Bones, and as I am writing this blog post I know I will be going back to the beginning and read the first two series EDIT: I have read them all now, and COLDER series is one of the best things I have ever read (I am high on COLDER and I will write more articles with in-depth reviews and analysis). No, I absolutely do not mind the reversed order.

Colder: Toss the Bones has 5 issues and reads well. I have to admit, I only bought the first issue and read the rest of them online. There are two reasons for that. First, they did not have other issues in the store. Second, I would not be able to afford it if I also wanted to buy multiple different comics. That is why I usually buy first issues only and finish the rest at home, on my computer. However, if I like a comic, I will eventually get all issues. I just cannot get them all at once.
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The antagonist of the story is called Nimble Jack and he is a gourmand with a particular taste. Eating humans is not exactly what makes him happy; it is a particular characteristic that humans possess that he cannot resist and must feed upon.

His playful and innocent personality paired with all characteristics of a lunatic make him a very likable madman character if you are into those (I am). He also does not play favorites nor makes exceptions. I also found I could not exactly predict his next move. All I knew was that it would be funny in a twisted but enjoyable way. However, I am not sure if I would want him as a roommate (this is a reference to the story).

If you like madmen characters who are charming and deadly then you definitely need to read the series. The protagonist, Declan, is also very well written. I understood his motivation and felt happy when he was happy and felt sad when he knew he might lose everything in order to defeat Nimble Jack, who moves from one realm to another.

The solution and conclusion was well done and thought out and left me feeling satisfied. I could actually read more! Next Colder story please! I want to spend more time in the world with Nimble Jack, a gourmand performer. At times, it felt like the perfect one man horror show. I do not want to give away too much, but I applaud the creator of Nimble Jack for coming up with so many different ways to kill a person and make the reader laugh with Nimble Jack. The humor is genius. The comic is not about killing only, though. It is about our sanity and I dare to say it will make you rethink your own tastebuds. What makes your hunger go away?

The art should also persuade you to read this comic if somehow the story itself would not be enough. I mean, look at this:

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All and all, Colder: Toss the Bones receives 5/5, 100 out of 100 and all points all houses from Harry Potter would ever receive. I love these characters who are set in a universe which compliments their uniqueness.

Pablo Absento’s Shi: A Chilling Take on Japanese Horror

THIS IS A TWO PART REVIEW. FIRST PART DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY SPOILERS, THE SECOND PART IS MOVIE ANALYSIS AND DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. BOTH PARTS ARE SEPARATED SO YOU CAN AVOID SPOILERS IF YOU WANT TO.

NO SPOILERS REVIEW:


Shi (2015) (
Japanese, death)  is a short horror movie directed by Pablo Absento. It lasts almost 7 minutes and will leave you wanting to see more.

The beginning of the movie shows a father getting fired from his job for a reason unknown to both himself and the viewers.  He explains to his employers how he cannot lose his job because he needs money to pay school bills for his daughter and hospital bills for his son.
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The movie is set in Japan but it is not a copycat japanese horror movie. Aesthetically, the monster does not look like a typical japanese horror movie monster and gives a western vibe. In my opinion, this works very well, it is refreshing and a welcomed mix of Western and Japanese horror cultures.

Although there is a detailed shot of the monster’s face it still manages to stay scary and threatening. It moves fast and its mission is to catch you but not before it plays a game of cat and mouse game with you.

The ending leaves a lot of place for more than one interpretation which is something I like a lot in horror movies. I hope the short will eventually become a full length feature.

WATCH IT HERE & READ THE INTERVIEW ON THE FANGORIA WEBSITE.

WARNING! FOLLOWING MOVIE ANALYSIS CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!

Two things caught my attention the most. First, the monster is fast enough to catch the father but instead it plays a game with him. The father stops for a while to catch a breath and to see if the monster is still following him. The monster flashes in front of the camera but the father does not seem to notice. Thus the monster could already attack him here but it didn’t.

Instead, we see the father managing to reach his apartment. Here, he bangs on the door and begs his wife and then his son Sam to let him in. Finally, he finds his keys and tries to open the door. Finally, the viewers can see Sam in front of the window, the monster as it moves quickly from right to left, screaming can be heard and then what is probably a sound of closing doors.

The main question after the first viewing was what death in the title refers to. Is it the monster? Or is it something else? The movie is called Shi which in Japanese means both “death” and “four”. The title is written in hiragana, the japanese alphabet, and not in kanji which supports the double meaning of its title. More importantly, there are four members of the family: the father, the wife Yoko and their two children. The death can thus refer to the monster itself, or it can refer to the deaths of the characters in the story.

In the beginning I said that there were two things that caught my attention. I already covered the first one. The second is the question regarding little Sam but it actually opens up a bigger question of the meaning of this movie.

When the father sees the monster for the first time, he sees it dragging a human body which appears to be his own. It it possible to argue that he has already died. However, this might only be a dream or a premonition. One way or another, there is a connection between him and death.

As was mentioned, Sam is seen being at home. However, in the beginning of the movie the father hints that he might actually be in the hospital. The sentence remains unfinished but serves as an evidence to support this interpretation:

“I need money for Mona’s school and Sam’s hospital bills. My child is in the… .”

Death of children and parents is a common theme of many Japanese horror movies (One Missed Call, The Grudge, The Ring, Dark Water …). So, little Sam might be the second dead character besides his father. Yoko, his wife does not come to open the doors and the location of his daughter also remains unknown.

The movie is shown primarily from the point of view of the father and is full of emotions that take over when death threatens to take away the happiness. The main emotions are anxiety and fear which are present from the beginning until the very end. The last sound of the movie is the sound of closing doors which leaves you with a question: who is going to be next?

***

What is your interpretation? Did you like the movie? 🙂 Let me know in the comments.

My rating: 4,5/5