Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week 5 - Witches and the role of Women in Fantasy/Horror

For this weeks reading assignment, I chose to read Black Maria or Aunt Maria.  I really enjoyed how Aunt Maria was portrayed as a female character in the book.  She never felt flat or uninteresting as a character, and I felt myself getting more and more angry with her demeanor as the book progressed.  Mig herself is also a very well-written character, and I really enjoyed the sibling bond and the character development that occurs for Mig after her brother is transformed.  Mig herself reminded me somewhat of Gaiman's Coraline.  She was kind of strong, but utterly helpless at convincing her mother and is oppressed by her Aunt, or as she calls her, the "Queen Bee".  It's easy to identify with a character like Mig, because I think we all have a relative or know someone who is an "Aunt Maria", a sort of mean-spirited person who is somehow able to charm everyone around her, and yet those people seem as impervious as zombies to her true nature.  I didn't start liking the character of Mig's mom until she sees Antony Green's ghost and "wakes up" in a way to Aunt Maria's evil plans.  I really enjoyed her character after that, and felt like she acted more like a mother, especially when they both transform into cats and time travel back to Antony's burial.  I think it's impossible to not feel for the other women who at least try to help Mig... I enjoyed Mrs. Phelps especially because she seemed to want to help Mig learn the truth about Aunt Maria and help get Chris back and learn the truth about her father.  Aunt Maria, herself is just no ordinary witch.  She was sweetly cruel and vindictive, and the reveal of Naomi's transformation really spoke about the cruel nature of her character, the type of vengeance and grudges that a person as mean-spirited as Aunt Maria could hold.  All-in-all, I really enjoyed the twists and turns of Black Maria.  I also enjoyed how the witches were not generic but more caricatured versions of women that have extraordinary powers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The "Weird" - Week 4 (Switch w/week 3)

After reading China Mieville's King Rat, I think I can safely say the novel definitely fits under the definition of "weird" fiction.  King Rat is a blend of both horror aspects as well as fantasy.  I guess I would say that the environment and plot are more fantasy-based (sort of like Gaiman's American Gods), while the language and certain plot details become more horror-based.  This combination of genres is what makes Mieville's novel "weird".  It isn't quite in the vein of pure Tolkein fantasy, nor is it a complete horror novel.  I feel like the novel really capitalizes upon this aspect and uses the horrific aspects to enhance the fantasy plot -- the character of the Pied Piper, for example becomes only so much more sadistic and descriptive when he decides to kill Kay, as Mieville writes "... Kay could see the whites of the other man's eyes.... the glass front of the train burst open like a vast bloodblister."  The locations though, the aspect of the sewers opening up to these anthropomorphized rats, is definitely more fitting to a fantasy genre.  Cabin in The Woods is also a "weird" film, in that it breaks the typical horror genre and adds an element of comedy- it is essentially a spoof on the horror genre that takes the typical horror tropes and makes them obvious in order to poke fun at them.  I think Cabin in the Woods is really successful because it actually goes as far as to tell you exactly which tropes they are mocking - essentially the nerd, the dumb blonde, the athlete, the virgin, and the fool.  Then we the "audience" having all the information, essentially watch as a group of scientists and corporate bigwigs go about killing them off one by one, as "dictated" by a higher power.  It's technically a horror in the graphic nature (verging towards extremely graphic by the end of the film), but comedic because we have a sense of knowing exactly what will happen by the end of the film, and how each character will die.  Essentially, the "weird" defines a mix of horror, science fiction, comedy and/or fantasy and combines them to create something new that changes how we view the genre.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Vampiric Relationships - Week 2

I think the relationships portrayed in both Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire and Matt Reeve's "Let me In", both bring an interesting dynamic to the genre.  The concept of having any type of "moral" vampire is an ironic and fun twist to our normal view of a vampire.  Louis is the kind of vampire protagonist that we can identify with and almost feel sorry for.  He begins as a character that is initially seeking some kind of escape from the reality of his brother's death, and the concept of vampirism is a welcome escape, and yet over the course of the novel we see how the "gift" of vampirism soon becomes a curse.  Even more threatening is Lestat, the older and more experienced vampire, who can't seem to help but bully Louis into becoming "what he should be" and by doing so in the most gruesome and heart-wrenching ways for poor Louis.  By the end of the novel, I felt I was really able to identify with Louis, because I think we all have a friend who might try to convince us that we should do things just because that is the way things are, but Louis really struggles to try and control himself.  Even more disturbing is the relationship that forms when Lestat makes Claudia into a vampire so that Louis will not attempt to leave him.  Claudia was a really interesting character because she was so different from Louis in that she did not have the same moral reservations as him, and because her worldview was so different having been changed as a child and forced to stay in that physical body while still growing both mentally and emotionally.  I feel like Claudia and Abby's character from "Let me In" might have had at least a few things in common, at least in their knowledge and quickness of wit and ability to appear to their victims as cute innocent children before they devour them.  I think Claudia and Abby are also alike in how quick both characters were to anger - Claudia when she takes the life of the mother and daughter servant in response to Lestat and Abby as she attempts to defend Owen from his bullies.  Claudia's relationship to her vampiric "parents" is particularly interesting I think because she does question (often violently) her origins and her relationship to Lestat and Louis.  She is a very dynamic character because she goes from a helpless 5-year old into a very independent and dangerous young vampire.  It's interesting to think that while Louis resents his vampirism and does try to control it, Claudia feels more trapped and angered by it, unleashing this anger in a manner of different ways.  Overall, the characters are interesting I think mostly in how each responds to their vampirism.  As humans trapped in an undying body, the idea of having a conscious and morally reprehensible vampire is an interesting one, because we can really watch how they respond to situations that we too can identify with - Louis as he tries to choose whether to eat humans or abstain, Claudia as she struggles to determine her origins and find where she belongs, and even Lestat's somewhat jaded view of vampirism - each has it's own interesting potential for character development.