It’s been a minute since I checked in. As some of you may have heard, we had an election about a month ago and it was a bag of flaming poo. As someone who is not a white man, who has Hispanic and LGBTQ friends and family living in Texas, who works in social services, the election results were more than terrifying for me. Though I’ve always tried to stay cognizant of social issues, even the ones that don’t effect me directly, this has been the first time I’ve actually feared for my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of people I love. Needless to say, I hadn’t been feeling inspired to write about my hobbies in the midst of said dumpster fire, but a some really amazing things happened in my personal life that helped me come back to this form of self-care: I got a new job teaching middle and high school kids about consent, I started getting a lot more involved in direct local activism, and I got engaged to my boyfriend. Now that I feel I am able to do more than just stare at my newsfeed with glassy-eyed horror, I am back to writing about what I love.
Having said that, I want to acknowledge the series I was initially going to write, reviewing the second season of Black Mirror is going to have to wait until later. The show, as brilliant as it is, just hits a little too close to home at the moment given the current political climate. But I do want to talk about two movies I saw recently that blew me away with their ability to avoid common gender tropes while being just damn good movies.
This movie is about ten years old and I am ashamed to admit I only heard of it after I started subscribing to Shudder (which I highly recommend for all horror fans as Netflix has really jumped the shark when it comes to offering a good selection of horror). The movie takes place in the backroads of Oklahoma; a couple on a failed camping trip are unfortunate enough to cross paths with a gun-toting redneck and his addict girlfriend, neither of whom has any qualms with taking hostages to get across the Mexican boarder, and all four of them are even more unfortunate to encounter some seriously scary creature. What I loved right away was the camping couple, Seth and Polly, turn movie tropes about men and women on its head right away; Polly is the outdoorsy type while her partner Seth prefers the comfort of the indoors. Seth complains frequently, an action typically reserved for female characters. While on their way to a hotel after their tent rips, they stop for and are eventually taken hostage by Dennis and Lacey, who are both people you would not be surprised to see on a Dateline special about the meth epidemic in America. The car breaks down and they end up at a gas station, which they soon discover is being inhabited by some kind of horrifying creature that does horrible things to the animals it encounters. Not only is the story intense, but the creature FX are amazing. To top it off, this movie humanizes both men and women. The men in this film are essentially opposites; while Seth is a bookish Phd student who gets scared, makes questionable choices, and is not super quick on his feed, Dennis is a quintessential “tough guy” complete with a sketchy past who has no problems taking charge (usually with a firearm). What I love here is that the film does not set up one as superior; Seth and Dennis both end up being characters with complexities that make them human and I sympathized with both. Same goes for Polly (SPOILER: Lacey is killed very early in the film so we really don’t have the chance to get to know her); Polly is a no-nonsense woman who is smart and calm in a crisis, but also has a soft spot for her bookish boyfriend. Eventually, they all work together to try and make it out of the gas station alive and it’s very tense. Did I mention how terrifying the creature is?
From the Dark
Michael and I watched this movie the other night and it had the same type of female protagonist who was portrayed as an actual human being with enough smarts to stay alive in the face of some zombie/vampire monster who hates light but loves rip skin to ribbons. A couple in rural Ireland experience car trouble and encounter a vampire/zombie who really wants them both to also be vampire/zombies. The man of the couple is rendered useless and his partner is responsible for not only keeping them both alive, but also is good at keeping herself alive when she’s alone. She’s also smart and amazingly calm while being hunted but not in a way that makes it completely unbelievable. She has her own moments of vulnerability but overall, she’s an incredibly competent human whom I would love to pair up with during the zombie/vampire apocalypse that I am sure is coming our way in 2017.