Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Dipping My Toes in Horror: The Blair Witch Project and Sweeney Todd
Giving you a break from the literal stories of my life, it is time to dip my toes into horror some more. The two films I have got on tap tonight are a couple which I've always been meaning to see, but have never quite got around to it. They've always been there, but I've just never bothered to pick them up. You may not see Sweeney Todd as a quintessential horror film. Mind you, it isn't a quintessential musical, either. I've been telling everyone that I was going to see it for ages, but when it stared back at me on that horror shelf, I saw that there was no time like the present. Same goes for The Blair Witch Project. So let's get to it!
So, if I'm getting my stories straight, The Blair Witch Project started this whole found footage phenomenon. I'm not big on that phenomenon, especially because now everyone is trying their hand at it and it is losing its sheen. Paranormal Activity was okay, but Paranormal Activity 2 was one of the more boring films I've ever seen. It was kinda just an excuse to watch surveillance footage for ages and then we get some people getting dragged around for like, five seconds. And that's the template that most of these found footage films follow. The Blair Witch Project, however, was quite effective even though it had so little going on. I guess it just kinda taps into your fears - and that fear happens to be getting lost in the woods. Even if there wasn't some creepy witchcraft stuff going on, then I would still be terrified. Mainly because I'd be frustrated beyond all recognition. That's where The Blair Witch Project wins over Paranormal Activity - these people are trapped in this foreign land with no hope of getting out, whereas the people in Paranormal Activity are within the confines of their own home. There's just that extra air of unpredictability about the whole thing.
The actuals scares in The Blair Witch Project aren't exactly the most vomit-inducing things - which could be a by-product of its age and how horror has grown since then - but they are extremely effective. Simple things like noises and branch formations out in the woods were quite scary, which are emphasised through the cheap filming which brings you right into the story. The ending itself jams everything up at just the right time, leaving that little "nightmare" component in your brain (it may not be scientific but there really is one) buzzing. I imagine that the movie was more effective upon its release, but I did endeavour to make the experience as scary as possible. Which included watching it really late and in complete darkness. Luckily I had The Perks of Being a Wallflower to take my mind off things, because I was a little shaky afterwards. One thing I do have to ask is - why was this nominated for Worst Picture and Actress at the Razzies? I thought it was quite a hit back in the day, and it has a reasonably good score on Metacritic. I just find that kinda bizarre.
Since horror is a pretty large genre, I thought I may as well get into some different kinds. A musical horror is definitely something a little different, and I have to thank Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for introducing me to that subgenre. Because I've always thought that music and horror would go together well. I like how everything was just casually sung in this film, without these huge dance numbers and overbearing backing tracks and the like. It was kinda like a day in the life of me, singing through everything instead of saying it. Except I don't slit people's throats. Or bake people into pies. That's just extremely strange.
As a non-fan of Tim Burton, I found this movie to be quite alright, especially because Burton does dark well - but only when it is supposed to be dark. Plus, Johnny Depp was actually terrifying in his role. Legitemately terrifying. I'm not really a fan of his transformations and stuff, but he really was terrific as Sweeney Todd. Helena Bonham Carter was great, too. As was Alan Rickman...any opportunity to hear his voice is a guaranteed good time. While I'm not exactly running out to get the soundtrack to this movie, I just thought it was really interesting to watch, because it was a musical that seemed more natural than others. The violence was gloriously bloody, which is something I definitely wasn't expecting. I mean, I knew there was a bit of butchering, but not so much. Then again, I also thought that this was going to be filled with huge chorus numbers and people running around with scissors. Alas, that wasn't the case. I wouldn't say that the movie was a masterpiece, but it sure was a lot scarier and darker than I was expecting, and a lot less camp.
What do you think of these films? What was the buzz surrounding Blair Witch like back in the day? Do you think horrors and musicals are a good match?