Friday, October 31, 2014

Bendy Mama Moth-er

I'm not a big fan of horror movies. Oh, I don't hate them as an idea. I'm OK with the violence and the gore and a good directing  / editing job can really turn up the tension when you know to expect violence. Still, most horror flicks are so insultingly simplistic in their use of instinctive triggers (kids in danger, damsels in distress, pornographic set-ups, villains gradually pacing toward their hiding victims, etc.) that it always seems I'm expected to do the work of working myself up into fear and bloodlust. For hinging so much on prodding the audience into reacting, they have remarkably little to prod with.

Mama isn't much of a horror movie. Sure, it's scary and at times somewhat violent, but it lacks that half-assed softcore porn sleaze and cheap reliance on sudden noises and scatological accompaniment we've come to expect from "edgy" horror. So hobbled, it makes do as it can with a touching ghost story in the style of old fairy tales, visual flair and meaningful, decently acted characters. I know, I know, such a letdown.

It should be noted that Guillermo del Toro's name is on the box simply for marketing purposes, but for once I'm not sorry I fell for the "from the producers of" scam. The Muschiettis adopt a similar style to his at any rate. Mama's scares are of the moody, nostalgic variety: the musty, fungoid, detritic remnants of past lives. Much as in Bradbury's October Country stories, instinctive human interpersonal demands and expectations form its backbone. While staying true to ghost story form, scene after scene sneaks in much more illustration than one might expect of our mammalian devotion and possessiveness.

However, to me as a connoisseur of geek counterculture, two random elements dominated my viewing of Mama. One is the recurring moth gimmick which reminded me very strongly of Tim Burton's association of moths or night butterflies with decay, moonlight and subtle grace in Corpse Bride. The second is Mama herself with her subaquatic "bendy ghost" look which seems entirely too similar to The Secret World's ghosts.

Forget who copied whom. More likely than not, some of the visual artists involved simply attended some of the same seminars a decade or two ago. What I'm wondering is whether these will become trends now. Will we be seeing more bendy night-time haunts associated with fragile, wistful night butterflies? Will these become the next tiresome trends replacing flaming zombies and chainsaw murders?

Two decades from now, am I going to be raving about the welcome freshness of, say, a half-naked damsel in distress tripping while running from a vomiting zombie? It happened with The Matrix and all that aerial kung-fu. We were so damn glad to see action heroes keeping their feet on the ground after a few years of that...

No comments:

Post a Comment