Field Theory by Hadyn Green

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Field Theory: Things that go bump in the night

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  • Alan Perrott,

    well, how about the child snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang then?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 438 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Littlewood,

    We have a telepathic kid and a ghostly barman -- I wouldn't say Kubrick removed the supernatural element entirely.

    True, but the latter seems to be merely a figment of Torrence's mind (the scenes which feature him are also my favourites in the film btw).
    And the Hitchcock comparison is apposite, but Kubrick seems to be more about detachment, rather than the more visceral involvement, of say, Hitchcock's Pyscho. Although you're right that the effect it has on the audience is the same.

    Two other things worth pointing out on the film.
    Kubrick shot roughly 50 takes per scene (some in excess of 100), and deliberately picked the most extreme ones for the final sequences so as to exaggerate the mania.
    We never never know exactly how long they're in the Motel. The title screens are really ambiguous ("Monday"- sure but which Monday? "midday"- on what day, etc?)

    For what it's worth, I think, formally speaking, at least, it's just about perfect.

    Today, Tomorrow, Timaru • Since Jan 2007 • 445 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    quote> Aye boy, you just use that "shin" of yours and Willie'll come a-runnin'</quote>

    Thanks for the snowmobile, Willie!

    You don't mind if we leave your slowly cooling corpse in the lobby 'til spring, do ya?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    There's just differing genres which freak people out a little. People who are queasy don't like gore flicks like Saw, Hostel etc. Those who analyse can't handle thrillers, because they build themselves up too much. Eventually all of them fall into hollywood conventions and can't be discerned from one another.

    I disagree. Just gore and splatter on-screen is all very ho-hum in terms of freaking people out.

    It's expected by the audience that people will lose their rag and do something extremely dumb, like attack someone with a hammer in a road-rage incident. It's not out of the ordinary, it happens every day.

    Large red-faced angry men, with or without weapons, just aren't really scary in a cinematic context. Scary to be on the receiving end of? Yes. Scary to watch in a cinema? Not really.

    Stick a knife in someone and you expect blood. Stick a knife in them and they pull it out and keep coming, expecially if they don't even seem to have noticed much....?

    No. For genuine creepiness, you need to introduce an element that's outside the expected or anticipated context. The reason Jason's hockey mask is iconic is because it gives him the appearance of a blank, emotionless automaton. Being attacked by an angry bloke is one thing. Being attacked by 'something' that doesn't even seem to care is another.

    The original Schwartzenburger terminator would be another example. An unstoppable, emotinless automaton. No matter how many holes you put in it, it keeps on coming, with no change of expression (which Jason does, too). When you shoot things that to all intents and purposes appear to be human, you expect them to gurgle a bit and then stay down, not get back up without even wincing and keep on coming. Now that's freaky.

    Another example would be Dr Lecter. Genial, charming, cultured, just like your Grandad. Except if you turn you back on him, he's biting your face off. Somewhat outside the assumed and expected pattern. And he doesn't even seem to be particularly bothered - it's just a rather tedious job he has to do before he gets back to listening to the Goldberg variations.

    The Wicker Man - a rather likeable and charming chap is explaining to you, with regret in his voice, but firmly, that he's awfully sorry, but they have to put you in this large pagan symbol and set it on fire. You remonstrate with him - he seems reasonable - but he's very sorry, it has to be done. Well outside the standard pattern of behaviour.

    Things that look human, but when they run they jerk and twitch and look as if their limbs jointed backards? Outside the expected pattern = Freaky.

    An otherwise sweet teenage girl who seems to have a head mounted on a 360-degree swivel? Outside the expected pattern = Freaky.

    Empty London streets in the middle of the day? Outside the expected pattern = Freaky.

    A head which drops off the corpse on the autopsy table, grows legs and scuttles away? Outside the expected pattern = Freaky.

    I reckon there's three levels of fear:

    1. Gore. All very well, but not outside an anticipated pattern. Icky, but not particularly scary.

    2. Monsters that you know are there but can't see yet (gee, Billy's been a long time, I'll just look for him in the dark cellar by myself...). They're scary becuase you don't actually know for sure what you're getting (antici.....pation). Once you see them, you know them, it's all going to be fine.

    3. Stuff that's well outside any pattern you could anticipate, and that sticks with you long after the film is done (see all of the above).

    There's also a sub-group of te 'outside the pattern' stuff, where the modus operandi/raison d'etre/whatever is never fully explained - possibly even scarier.

    Sapphire and Steel, for example. All we know is that there are 'things' out there, that want to be 'in here'. What exactly they are, why thay want it, and how they're going to do it, are never explained...

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I keep walking past the big box set of Sapphire and Steel in Whitcoulls and just not being sure if I dare. I don't remember the plots but I do remember the fear.

    The Dr Who episode that haunts me the most is "The Empty Child". My chest tightens a little just thinking of it. Lovely stuff.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Except if you turn you back on him, he's biting your face off.

    I'm not quite sure that works anatomically :)

    Oh and I agree with everything you said. The beginning of The Thing with the guys shooting at the dog was fucking weird and had (me at least) hooked straight away.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    The Dr Who episode that haunts me the most is "The Empty Child". My chest tightens a little just thinking of it. Lovely stuff.

    Also Stephen Moffat. And what's he working on now? Tintin.

    "Snowy? Snowy? Where'd you go, boy..."

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I keep walking past the big box set of Sapphire and Steel in Whitcoulls and just not being sure if I dare. I don't remember the plots but I do remember the fear.

    Yes! Although I saw a clip of one episode within the last few years and couldn't quite work out why that show was so spooky. Unless it was Joanna Lumley's amazing bowl haircut...

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks,

    Damn… came real late to this topic as was traveling at the time. I've noticed it thanks to a link by Haydn on a 'current' thread. Oh well, couple of points anyway...

    About ten years ago, there was apparently an obsessively faithful mini-series of The Shining, with King closely involved. The fact that we all remember specific moments of the Kubrick and none of us seem to have seen the other speaks volumes.

    Yep. Stephen King wrote the script adaptation himself and executive produced. I think it was pretty lame. I started watching it, but lost interest.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks,

    Re: "Blink" - very much so. Reminds me of the old Buffy episode with the Gentlemen, where everyone loses their voice. That one managed to be both the funniest and the scariest episode of the season - possibly the series.


    Careful Josh, that's my geek button you're pushing.

    We just rewatched Hush with the kids, and it was as I remembered it - creepy and hysterically funny. Joss wrote it because people kept telling him how great his dialogue was - so he wrote an episode with almost no speech.

    Interesting that ‘Hush’ was brought up in light of ‘Blink’. In Blink, the way to stop the statues is to not blink; in Hush, the villains of the piece had no eyelids and therefore never blinked.

    Anyway, it was an excellent episode. Great ending, too (after all that, Buffy and Riley sit at the end, lost for words). As for “funniest and the scariest”, I think it probably was the scariest as Josh says, but then Buffy was not really a show I watched primarily for the scare factor. It was certainly pretty funny. I think the funniest episode (at least funniest non-Whedon written ep) was The Zeppo by Dan Vebber.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Um Hayden, your latest post, not this one, which invites punters to 'discuss', needs 'discuss' activating.

    Just saying.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Quelle horror!

    Raised (or reanimated?) as I was by whiteware-wolves on a diet of frisson chips...
    and early British fare like the scary Day of the Triffids and Quatermass
    I'd have to offer that The Shining - the film and The Shining - the book are really two different beasts - or maybe a beast with two backs.
    But both are chilling in their own medium.
    The two Ks (king n Kubrick) are masters of psychological /physiological triggers.
    (or is that fuzzy-illogical?)

    If only Kubrick had had a chance to render a take on H.P. Lovecraft's disturbing non-Euclidean geometry, which was enough to make one pass non-Platonic solids off the page (as it were).

    Tarkovsky's Stalker was well in the Zone or at least well within the ballpark - Disquiet Earth indeed!

    Suspiria was always gonna work - I mean how could a recipe of a girls school in hysteria, maggots and that music fail?

    How lovely to discover a small cadre of fellow Sapphire and Steel fans - sob - I thought I was alone.... thank you! (I still can't use feather pillows - they always get me down!)

    And where are we with True Blood ?
    Poppy Z. Brite must be spitting tacks!

    Zombies are Dis-ease
    (followed by Quik-eze)

    give me Un-ease any day

    may I also offer Peter Weir's Last Wave as a great and sadly under-rated horror movie too.

    here''s your day back
    peace
    Zane Dalili (anagram)
    element 93

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7896 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    a much earlier occult-fantasy freak-out for kids called Ace of Wands. Anyone heard of this?

    Yes. I bet it's aged badly though. Did that screen here? I remember it from the UK. Tarot, and his owl Ozymandias (?). I shall now look at the fansite. And probably regret doing so :)

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Excellent Simon Pegg piece on why zombies must lurch slowly, inexorably towards you, preferably making a low moaning noise.

    Not as excellent as Charlie Brooker's reply.

    Speaking of fantasy worlds, apologies for being: a) indulgent and b) nerdy, but I have to defend myself here. Last week Simon Pegg wrote a piece for this paper complaining about the running zombies in my preposterous horror series Dead Set. Proper zombies don't run, they walk, he said. I was all ready to write a stinging riposte until I read his article all the way through and realised it was dauntingly well-argued. So I'll keep this short and combative and hope I get away with it.

    Simon: your outright rejection of running zombies leaves you exposed, in a very real and damning sense, as a terrible racist. And if the recent election of Obama has taught us one thing, it's that the age of such knee-jerk prejudice is firmly behind us. Still, let's indulge your disgraceful bigotry for a moment by assuming speedy zombies need defending, and list the reasons why ours ran, shall we?1) I like running zombies. I just do.

    2) They HAD to run or the story wouldn't work. The outbreak had to knock the entire country out of action before the producers had time to evacuate the studios.

    3) We had to clearly and immediately differentiate Dead Set from Shaun of the Dead, which had cornered the market on zombie-centric horror-comedy. Blame yourself, Simon: if you'd made that film badly, it wouldn't have been so popular, and drawing a distinction wouldn't have been an issue. Each time one of our zombies breaks into a sprint, it's your own stupid talented fault.

    4) Even George Romero, the godfather of zombies, bent the rules from time to time. Witness the very first zombie in Night of the Living Dead, which moves at a fair old whack and even picks up a rock to try to smash a car window. Or the two kiddywink zombies in Dawn of the Dead, who burst out of a room and run - yes run - towards Ken Foree. I know you saw these scenes. You know you saw these scenes. And you also know that if this were a trial, this would be the moment where you splutter in the witness box and admit you're completely wrong.

    5) Running zombies are, to be frank, cheaper than stumbling ones. You only need one or two to present a massive threat. I love a huge mass of shambling undead as much as the next guy, but we couldn't afford that many crowd scenes. The original plan was to set the final episode six months in the future, by which time the zombies were badly decayed and could only shuffle (although "freshies" would still run), but budget and time constraints ruled this out. Which would you rather see - running zombies or absolutely no zombies at all?

    Hmm? HMM?

    Face facts. It's time to embrace diversity, Simon. Make room in your heart for all breeds of zombie. Except ones that talk. They're just silly.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Oh, and the most frightening film I've seen for ages? Kiyoshi Kurosawa's J-Horror blend of ghosts in the machines, the alienation and lonelieness of modern life (and life after death isn't any better), and eventually the end of life on Earth -- __Pulse__)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Another thing about Zombies is that it's quite hard to make them into cool members of society, as has been done endless times with Vampires and even now with Werewolves.

    There are no zombie versions of Twilight. There is no Interview with a Zombie. The closest seems to be schlocky horror-comedies like Zombie Strippers (which is bad even for a b-grade film)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    Actually, what I'd really like to see is an entry in the "zombies as infected" genre which covers people recovering from the zombie illness. Like, in "28 Months Later", it's revealed that about six months after becoming infected people recover .... and then try to get about their lives despite memories of running around tearing people's throats out with their teeth. It'd be great.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    There is a great zombie segment in the special features section of the Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog DVD.

    (Presumably online too, but I couldn't say where.)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    There is a great zombie segment in the special features section of the Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog DVD.

    I have borrowed that DVD so I'll check it out, thanks

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

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