Saturday, January 23, 2010

Open Water

I remember going to see Chris Kentis’ Open Water (2004) in the theater with some friends a week or two after it had been released. Except for our little group, the theater was pretty much empty. By the time the film was over, I was in awe of its ability to put my mind in such a state of uneasiness, but I don’t think my party shared my view. Most of them thought the movie was drawn out and boring. One of my friends suggested the outcome was inevitable. In his opinion, it was quite obvious that the couple was never going to be rescued, rendering the ending less affective. I disagree. Throughout the whole film I held on to the notion that there was still hope for the husband and wife. In the end, when they finally succumbed to their fates, my hopes were crushed. I remember being disturbed by the way the wife finally gave in—just when the authorities had sent out a rescue party.

Something like that could easily happen to anybody. The thought of my wife and I getting left in the middle of the ocean while on vacation utterly terrifies me. A few years ago I took a cruise to Jamaica with my family, and I remember looking out into the ocean on one of the late nights when no one else was around. I had thought to myself, if I fall overboard nobody will be able to save me. The thought was mesmerizing. I know this may seem crazy, but I was so hypnotized by that awesome view, I almost felt compelled to jump. It was as if I were being called to some unknown world that would cost me my life to enter; a world full of creatures that my imagination couldn’t create. I wouldn’t say I have a phobia, but when I think about the greatness of the oceans and the mysteries that lie beneath, I tend to feel a little uneasy. So yeah, the idea of being left in the middle of an abyss scares me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Eden Lake

I can recall the exact date I first experienced James Watkins' Eden Lake (2008). It was the 22nd of March last year that I was so troubled by what I witnessed on the screen that I decided to write a letter to the editor of Rue Morgue magazine. I’ve copied the letter here, because I feel it gives a clear illustration of how I felt, and continue to feel, about this picture:

Dear Jovanka,
I’m trying to think of a way to begin this letter, but I guess I already have, so I’ll just get straight to the point. First off, I am a horror film junkie, and in most cases, the sicker the better in my opinion. I watch horror films to be disturbed, or turned on, or even just for a laugh, but I’ve never been moved the way I was tonight while viewing the film Eden Lake.

Personally, this film is by far one of the most important works of art I’ve experienced in years. Its message was so poignant and disturbing, yet so encouraging at the same time. I’m sure you’ve seen it and I wonder if you share my appreciation for such a responsible film. As I was watching I was hoping for some kind of a happy revenge-type ending, but instead I got one that will be stuck in my mind for days. It amazes me how such a visceral and suspenseful film can convey such a profound yet simple message while forcing its audience to question their own morals and responsibilities as parents, teachers, and role models to the generations after us. I was able to relate to the protagonist, myself majoring in elementary education. I consider myself one of the good guys—someone who’d rather influence the world around me positively—even though many would say I’m responsible for corrupting young minds through explicit and subversive music and art. I also have a ten month old to whom it is my duty to raise with a kind and compassionate heart. I have an understanding that if I love my child he will love others, and if I hurt my child he will most likely hurt others. This film, in my opinion, focuses on the consequences of a world where irresponsible adults fail to accept their roles in shaping a younger generation to do what is right and adhere to some kind of moral code. The future of our race really is in our children’s hands. It’s our job to make sure we’re teaching them compassion, character, and integrity. The true horror is that we ourselves don’t know compassion, character, or integrity. What I’m trying to say is that this film encouraged me to continue my studies and become a teacher to help mold young minds. Who knows? Their parents might be failing to do so.

Bravo to the director and writer for conveying an important message through art, and best of all horrific art. This is an intelligent film for social-minded people. Anyone with an awareness of horror that goes beyond boobs, blood, and beasts—though all three elements are definite perks—should check out Eden Lake and hopefully be encouraged to accept responsibility for those who are younger and more impressionable. Either that or just stop reproducing.
Yours truly,
Joseph Whiteford

Somebody, shut off my brain.

My mind has been fucking with me lately. I’ve been bothered with all this shit floating around in this small brain of mine. I notice that my tics have been more severe than usual and that scares me, because I twitch and fidget all day just to tense up in bed when I finally collapse, hours after I get my ass off this couch; and worse than that, my little boy emulates my every move. It scares me to witness his little idiosyncrasies when he gets excited: the curling of his fingers, the tensing of his neck muscles, and his unintentional refusal to breathe when he gets overwhelmed with happiness. Am I abusing my child?

There are many things eating at me lately. Not only do I feel that I have no time to finish projects and goals I’ve set for myself, but I’ve been eating way too much ice cream (and nothing else). Also, as excited as I am about my wife being pregnant with another bundle of fulfillment, I’m worried about the expense and fatigue that come along with adding another being to our little family. And though I love art and music, my band has been working on the new Harley Poe album for about two years now and I’m just to the point where I don’t care how it turns out, I just want it finished; but even if we do finish it, then what? Though I have a great desire to tour, it’s just too hard to leave my babies behind; and since I’m not touring, I’d better find a career in a secure vocation that can support my family.

So here I am two years into becoming an elementary school teacher, knowing without a doubt that I’d much rather make a living as a writer or an artist or a musician of some kind. I realized yesterday through my IUK education class that my motives are all wrong for becoming a teacher. I think I’m supposed to be doing something else, but do I take a chance and go to art school? Do I drop out, get a retail job, and hope that I begin to sell more paintings or that some big wig randomly discovers my band and wants to give me lots of money for playing at the same bar every month? Is it more realistic to let my wife bring in the money while I change diapers and attempt to write a bestselling novel or picture book, or should I ignore these feelings, suck it up, jump into a career that might not bring fulfillment, and regret my decisions until I die?

Honestly, my intention for writing this post was not to vent about mundane issues (I'm just good at doing that), but to give praise to three films that never fail to fuck with my head. These movies are Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Open Water (2004), and Eden Lake (2008). For all different reasons, after viewing any of these three poignant works of art, I’m left with emotions that keep me from sleep and stress me out, just like the shit that’s been floating around in my small brain. Within my next three posts, I will discuss the reasons why I’m so affected by these three masterpieces.