Thursday, July 26, 2007

Of The Creepy

Last night I watched The Grudge 2. The original was a highly creepy Japanese-made horror film, and I liked it a lot. The sequel was good, too, for some different reasons. The real highlight wasn't the movie, but the extra features on the DVD. The director, crew, and cast spent a lot of time talking about the differences between Japanese horror and American horror, between the movie business there and here, about the experience of actor and director working through an interpreter, and about the conventions of storytelling that Americans have to have in their movies. And I mean that literally. Apparently, our standard storytelling format has to be in our movies, because American producers won't make movies that violate the standard. They talked about the hundred or so meetings between the Japanese director and writer and the American producers, trying to decide how to tell the story. Essentially, the American team wanted to make an American movie, and the Japanese team wanted to make a good movie. They compromised on an Americanized J-horror picture that was decent but not great.

Most interesting was the discussion about non-linear storytelling. This was a very nonlinear movie, and creepier for it; it jumped between three story lines, and you don't find out until the last minute or two that the separate story lines happen in a specific order, not simultaneously. You have to think about it a little to figure out what happened, and I liked that. Also interesting was the idea of the cyclical structure of American horror movies; there are scary moments and non-scary moments, and we the audience always know what we're seeing. We can occasionally be fooled, but in general the scary moments aren't surprises, at least not in a structural sense. Japanese horror movies, on the other hand, have much more staccato scares, and they're more likely to come without warning. There are no slow moments that you can be sure are free of creepiness, and that's also a refreshing change.

I'm recommending the movie, but you need to know that it's a creepy horror movie. If you don't do those, you won't like this one either....

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