Monday, April 20, 2015

It Follows

It Follows is the most recent horror movie darling of critics and audiences alike. The plot is relatively simple: a girl (Jay) sleeps with her questionable boyfriend, and in so doing becomes the target of It, an undefined monster that wants to kill her. The only way she can get rid of its relentless stalking is to have sex with someone else who will then become the target - unless he gets killed, which will then make her the target again. 

Even the director acknowledges that the plot sounds silly on paper. Apparently, seeing it does the trick. It's been getting great press from critics and fans alike for its artistic merit, and it's garnered the dubious distinction of becoming what The Daily Beast called “an STD panic nightmare.” Considering how many have noted the movie's innovation as well as its  relevance to current social issues, It Follows piqued my interest.

It Follows creates a remarkably tense atmosphere through anticipation rather than gore. The artistic accolades are well deserved: David Robert Mitchell has made a truly frightening movie with a minimal amount of violence.* However, I want to push back against what many are saying about the message. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Saint Odd

Odd Thomas has become perhaps the iconic name associated with Dean Koontz. The series has sold over ten million print copies and 900,000 ebooks just in the United States. There are also three graphic novel prequels, a couple novellas, and a movie based on the first book.

Odd Thomas deserves the popularity – and the acclaim. Odd is a genuinely good guy, devoted to doing the right thing even when he knows it may cost him everything. The recently released Saint Odd wraps up this series in a way that provides an appropriate finale to an exceptional story.

A number of themes have stood out to me over the course of this series, and particularly in the final book.

1) Odd doesn't wait for injustice or evil to come to him – he tracks it down and engages it. Some people have noted that while many of today's literary heroes step up admirably when something is forced upon them, few actively seek for battles to fight. Odd Thomas is one of the few. He has a gift that shows him supernatural realities in ways others cannot see. Because of this, both Odd and the evil he seeks to combat are drawn to each other. He notes,
A gift like mine seemed to come from some higher power, and whatever the source— whether God or space aliens or wizards living in a parallel Earth where magic worked— it must be a benign higher power, because I was motivated to help the innocent and afflict the guilty.
He could have withdrawn - after all, most of the fights don't immediately effect him (though the ones that do are of the utmost importance). Instead, Odd once prayed to God, "Spare me so that I may serve." Odd has been spared many times, and his service takes him around the world and into the heart of evil. His friend Ozzie notes that he was"a young man who would give his life to save a friend or even an innocent stranger, and who, in giving it, would think he had not done enough."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

From Terminus to Alexandria (The Walking Dead, Season 5)

Season 5 of The Walking Dead continued to dominate the ratings for cable TV shows. It also continued to offer a thought-provoking storyline that wrestles with the complexity of life and death.  Rick's group finally finds a city that offers safety, but not all of them are able to settle back into civilized life. They have spent a lot of time in a Darwinian wilderness. Abraham notes, "It's gotten to the point where everyone alive is strong now. We have to be. You're either strong and they can help you so you help them or you're strong and they can kill ya. So you gotta kill them. You gotta kill them and... I want to say it's never easy. That's not the truth. It's the easiest thing in the world now."

Daryl believes that "the longer [people are] out there, the more they become what they really are." If that's true, then life among the Dead has brought out the best in Michonne and Daryl. When Carol asks a formerly renegade Daryl if he's "starting over" since the plague hit, he responds, "I'm trying." That's something of an understatement. Michonne has gone from being the psycho who kept pet walkers to the moral compass of the group.

On the other hand, Rick and Carol have not fared so well. "We do what we need to do, and then we live," Rick says, and that includes a willingness to slit human throats and conquer peaceful towns if needed. Carol has become frighteningly good at being whoever she needs to be to survive. Yes, I want them on my side in a fight. No, I don't want them as neighbors. Season 5 began with "No Sanctuary," an episode that suggested no place was safe for them. By the time "Conquered" wrapped up the season, it appears that no one is safe from them.