Friday, January 06, 2006

I Do Sooo Love Roger Ebert

My main man, the only film critic who seems to consistently stick up for women. Gods bless ya, babycakes.

For the record, I'm totally a horror fan. But that doesn't include mutilation and torture horror, sadly now a sub-genre in the forefront. Now if only he would take on all those TV procedural shows...

Wolf Creek
BY ROGER EBERT / December 23, 2005

Dimension presents a film written and directed by Greg Mclean. Running time: 95 minutes. No MPAA rating (intended for adults). Opening Sunday at local theaters.

I had a hard time watching "Wolf Creek." It is a film with one clear purpose: To establish the commercial credentials of its director by showing his skill at depicting the brutal tracking, torture and mutilation of screaming young women. When the killer severs the spine of one of his victims and calls her "a head on a stick," I wanted to walk out of the theater and keep on walking.

It has an 82 percent "fresh" reading over at the Tomatometer. "Bound to give even the most seasoned thriller seeker nightmares" (Hollywood Reporter). "Will have Wes Craven bowing his head in shame" (Clint Morris). "Must be giving Australia's Outback tourism industry a bad case of heartburn" (Laura Clifford). "Vicious torrent of bloodletting. What more can we want?" (Harvey Karten). One critic who didn't like it was Matthew Leyland of the BBC: "The film's preference for female suffering gives it a misogynist undertow that's even more unsettling than the gore."

A "misogynist" is someone who hates women. I'm explaining that because most people who hate women don't know the word. I went to the Rotten Tomatoes roundup of critics not for tips for my own review, but hoping that someone somewhere simply said, "Made me want to vomit and cry at the same time."

I like horror films. Horror movies, even extreme ones, function primarily by scaring us or intriguing us. Consider "Three ... Extremes" recently. "Wolf Creek" is more like the guy at the carnival sideshow who bites off chicken heads. No fun for us, no fun for the guy, no fun for the chicken. In the case of this film, it's fun for the guy.

I know, I know, my job as a critic is to praise the director for showing low budget filmmaking skills and creating a tense atmosphere and evoking emptiness and menace in the outback, blah, blah. But in telling a story like this, the better he is, the worse the experience. Perhaps his job as a director is to make a movie I can sit through without dismay. To laugh through the movie, as midnight audiences are sometimes invited to do, is to suggest you are dehumanized, unevolved or a slackwit. To read blase speculation about the movie's effect on tourism makes me want to scream like Jerry Lewis: Wake up, lady!

There is a line and this movie crosses it. I don't know where the line is, but it's way north of "Wolf Creek." There is a role for violence in film, but what the hell is the purpose of this sadistic celebration of pain and cruelty? The theaters are crowded right now with wonderful, thrilling, funny, warm-hearted, dramatic, artistic, inspiring, entertaining movies. If anyone you know says this is the one they want to see, my advice is: Don't know that person no more.

Oh, I forgot to mention: The movie doesn't open on Dec. 23, like a lot of the "holiday pictures," but on Christmas Day. Maybe it would be an effective promo to have sneak previews at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Note: As of Jan. 3, 2006, the Tomatometer reading for the
film had dropped to 51.


Fun Joel said...

Well, Hostel is also full-on torture horror, but the female characters are not on the receiving end. Not sure if that would make you like it any better or not. For the record, it is a sick f-in' movie, but good if you like that kind of thing. I reviewed on my blog.

And btw, sorry I haven't responded to your email (response to mine) -- I'm still working on that article, kind of, and will be in touch.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to say, in no uncertain terms about the movie:


When Ebert takes the time and trouble to whack a movie with a baseball bat with nails sticking out of it, I actually do listen.


PS -- Re; tonight's BSG -- HOORAY, IT'S BACK! and OMG! OMG! OMG!


Anonymous said...

I am a big horror movie fan, but I absolutely hated this film. ughhhh....

Chris Soth said...

I haven't seen the film, probably won't. Maybe one of those rentals next October. But the jumping off point for discussion seems to be:

Where IS the line? What defines it?

Probably somewhere different for all of us. Would Wolf Creek be ok if ALL the victims were men? How many victims have to be women before it crosses the line? Or is it just what the torturer does to them? Would it be ok if it were a "true" story?


shahua said...

Never really liked Horror, but was convinced to see this movie. All I can say is that this movie is WRONG. I could not continue to watch this. Much to the dismay of my date, I walked. She wanted to stay, "since we spent the money," I wanted a shower.

Kid Sis said...

On Killing

The point for me isn't that it's women being brutalized as the point of the movie. not happy about the Hostel situation either, which I've been monitoring the last year, and that's skewed more towards male victims.

The thing that worries me, where the line is: A film only about sadism, thus linking sadism to entertainment. And yes, the line has already been crossed.

Great horror films are about our fears, or are allegories for our lives: Rosemary's Baby, Misery, May, Carrie, Ginger Snaps, The Silence of the Lambs...these aren't films that use the same techniques employed during the Vietnam war to create killing machines:

Stressing that human beings have a powerful, innate resistance to the taking of life, he examines the techniques developed by the military to overcome that aversion. His provocative study focuses in particular on the Vietnam war, revealing how the American soldier was "enabled to kill to a far greater degree than any other soldier in history." Grossman argues that the breakdown of American society, combined with the pervasive violence in the media and interactive video games, is conditioning our children to kill in a manner siimilar to the army's conditioning of soldiers: "We are reaching that stage of desensitization at which the infliction of pain and suffering has become a source of entertainment: vicarious pleasure rather than revulsion. We are learning to kill, and we are learning to like it." Grossman, a professor of military science at Arkansas State University, has written a study of relevance to a society of escalating violence.

Maura said...

I am a huge fan of horror films, but for many of the reasons that Ebert details, _Wolf Creek_ left me cold. What is the point of the film?

Making a film just to shock the audience isn't enough for me. For instance I thought that _Saw_ had a good *story*, along with its nasty situations, but _Saw 2_ was just a rehash without much originality, and upped the suffering.

Some slasher films seem to think that having lots of gore is enough. For instance, _House of 1,000 Corpses_. It's obvious that the villains are the heroes in Rob Zombie's eyes. There is no sympathy for the victims and their suffering. The cruel, sadistic killers are portrayed as being somehow cool. I'm in no rush to watch _The Devil's Rejects_ as a result.

Kid Sis said...

Maura, totally with you. And Shauna and Shauhua. Line crossed; cold shower needed.

So I know I'm coming late to the party, but who here loves Ginger Snaps and May? Just saw them and can't stop raving!

M said...

I saw Wolf Creek a while ago and enjoyed it. (If "enjoyed" is the right word to use for a horror movie.)

I honestly didn't pick up on any "misogynism" at all. For me, throughout the film, it was clear that the film makers intended the viewer to be concerned for the wellbeing of the kids (both male and female). Although I saw the film several months ago, I can't think of any one instance of justification for the man's actions. Nor did the killer have any redeeming qualities -- in fact, he was evil to the point of being cartoonish, which was my big problem with the film. You'd have to be pretty strange to identify with the killer in Wold Creek -- which is what is necessary for the film to be misogynistic.

Sure, there is a line. A movie that panders to the audience's misogyny, racism, sadism, etc has crossed that line. But Wolf Creek fell far short. If you want an example of a film that crosses the line, watch The Isle. A movie that not only crosses the misogyny line, but also the unnecessary cruelty to animals line.