A Salute to Wes Craven’s Lesser Known Films

Few horror directors loomed as large in the late 20th century as Wes Craven: the original Nightmare on Elm Street took the gut instinct dream logic at the bowels of many a horror film and made one of the most iconic films of the slasher genre, unintentionally nudging the genre toward “gimmick killers” along the way; Scream not only revived slasher aesthetics in the 90s but kicked off the popular wave of teen-dramas-with-murder and the still lingering love for meta commentary on horror tropes.

Those are the name brands. But beyond that he managed to start with some of the then-most brutal (and still pretty cringey) films of the 70s – The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes – to weaving an increasing amount of pathos into the writing of his films’ victims. Craven’s “Final Girls” always felt like real people, and even the expendable meat had considerably more going for it than any filmgoer would’ve expected from the genre. When Craven took a sudden left turn to do Music of the Heart in the late 90s, it almost made a weird kind of sense to me (looking in retrospect, of course). If there’s a bizarre mashup that characterizes Craven’s body of work, it’s definitely “horror with heart.” The world’s a rather smaller, sadder place without him.

All that in mind, I thought it would be fitting to spotlight a few of his lesser known films, ones which hold a special place in my heart. Let’s all, horror and film fans alike, toast a great artist.

Continue reading

Why Hannigram is Not 50 Shades of Grey

blurring together

This week’s Hannibal has topped off a truly stellar season of arthouse cinematography and their usual fine tradition of lovingly shot “S&P was drinking and crying the day this passed through” gore effects with a revelation that surprised nobody but Will Graham: that fancy cannibal Hannibal Lector is in love with our tortured FBI profiler protagonist. How Will feels in return has been deferred for the series finale (because this series was too good for human eyes anyway, and if you excuse me I’ll be crying into this glass of chianti), but the final verbalization of a long history of astonishingly unsubtle subtext does seem like a good time to hash out a certain long discussion: is the relationship between Hannibal and Will unhealthy.

Ah ha, no. I’m kidding of course. Despite feints attempting to establish the contrary, the vast majority of Hannibal’s viewership, including those who found themselves in the romantic undertones, overtones, and tones between Hannibal Lector and Will Graham, were never under any kind of delusion that that bond was a healthy and ideal one. The question before us, instead, is where the progression of and response to that relationship belongs in the current framework of fictional relationships. More specifically, what sets it apart from the poster child for romanticized abuse, 50 Shades of Grey.

Continue reading

Examining (and Destabilizing) Gender in Silent Hill 2

despondent james

Editor’s note: Waaaaaay back when I was starting my Consulting Analyst series on Silent Hill, I promised that when it concluded I would show you all a very special little piece of nostalgia: 21 year old Vrai’s senior thesis; or, what you might call the very first Consulting Analyst. 

Parts of this are still rough around the edges – it lacks the easygoing tone I’ve developed for analytic discussion in years since, it’s evident I haven’t really learned the complex language to make a truly meaningful discussion of gender-as-spectrum rather than as modified binary, and God help me since it’s an academic paper I felt compelled to mention Freud (in comparison to younger me, I mainly abstain in favor of Lacan instead). 

But even still, I’m proud of where I’ve come from. Of my continuing weird and deeply personal fondness for James Sunderland. So please, come enjoy this trip to the past with me.

(Oh, and pack a lunch. This sucker was the capstone of four years of work, and it’s about two and a half times the length of your average Consulting Analyst).

Continue reading