Horrorfest 2017 Presents: Mother! (Darren Aronofsky)


There are many other horror films that Mother reminds me of, Black Swan and The Shining being two of them. Darren Aronofsky has engaged in psychological matters before, and he goes even further with his latest. Metaphorically, this is a trip into the outrageous, and I refuse to go looking for online answers. Its more satisfying to figure out what a movie is trying to say, even if you end up being wrong.

Also its nice to see Jennifer Lawrence being a part of a non blockbuster film again. I remember discovering her in Winter’s Bone, and she once again displays a naturalistic charisma that makes Veronica one of her best performances. Javier Bardem rivals her, embodying Him as a sort of wonderful grizzly bear of a man. The two are perfectly matched up together, and the struggles that result between them are both captivating, and later on, insane. My patience was rewarded with a last act which I cannot further elaborate on.

Oh and there is a cameo from the last person you would expect to be in this madhouse of a film. I love that Domhnall Gleeson is bent on being in every movie he can possibly appear in, plus Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris might as well be an older version of the main duo. I saw this in an empty theater, and was enthralled by almost every moment. This might be Aronofsky’s masterwork, a film that cares only about what he is trying to accomplish. No wonder audiences hated Mother!

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Perfect Blue (1997, Satoshi Kon)


Deciding to go from being a successful pop singer to an up and coming actress, Mima thinks that she has made the right decision, although an insane stalker doesn’t seem to think so. In fact this person is not only watching and following her, but has also created an online diary where they pretend to be Mima. Still Mima goes ahead with her plans, even though this results in the stalker escalating and even killing people, all in a plan to drive Mima insane. There is a moment where the audience is almost tricked into thinking that Mima has gone crazy, and it’s executed beautifully in a horrific and violent way. This film’s animation is fluid and stunning, another prime example of how the Japanese have quite possibly surpassed the Americans, although both have their own unique styles and contribute greatly to animation and cinema.

Another thing I love about this film is how it proceeds two other great films about talented people going crazy in Black Swan and Mullholland Drive, although Mullholland is more complex and better than either Swan or Perfect. Regardless this film builds up Mima’s descent into madness very slowly, coming to a fever pitch and at times leaving the viewer unsure of her state of mind. The last act is a walking nightmare, and what occurs is both creepy and stunning.

Plus this whole business starts when Mima chooses to be a part of a moment on the TV show she’s on that leaves her disturbed and haunted, as the film showcases in close ups that reveal that her mind is damaged by the experience, even though what she went through was pretend, not real. However it also causes her stalker to drive to new heights of rage, and in a way some of this film also reminded me of Opera, too, another film where an actress is in grave danger from a homicidal admirer. Not to mention the nods to Hitchcock, as he previously featured films where the protagonist-be they male or female-thought they were going crazy.

The last act is particularly captivating, as reality and fantasy blend together in a way that is rather unhealthy. I rather liked how the film ended, and this is one of the best horror films of the 90s. The score for this also is rather great, going from the fake pop music ballads of the group Mima leaves to creepier, more horror movie style scores that underline the film’s darker moments. Perfect Blue by the final shot is a memorable and excellent experience, a kaleidoscope of colors and moments in time. In a way it also is a social commentary on how people worship celebrities, obsessing over them in unhealthy ways and not realizing that they are not myths, but actual people, flesh and blood just like anyone else.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Black Swan (2010)


7.    Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)

This is one of those entries on my list where people say “Well is this really a horror movie?” I think it fits the basic criteria, which is  disturbing, nightmarish, completely insane by all means, and haunting to the max. Featuring a powerhouse acting job by the lovely Natalie Portman, Arnonofsky takes a rather ordinary plot-a ballet company doing Swan Lake-and turns into a frightening experience combing fantasy with reality, and featuring body horror that would be right at home in a David Cronenberg film. Having Mila Kunis act as Portman’s more outgoing, adventurous counterpart/rival was a great touch, and I loved how expertly creepy and slimy Vincent Cassel was in the role of her director. A man who gets way too close to his dancers, commanding high respect and demanding extreme perfection to the point of causing his performers to be exhausted. This literal balancing act is what causes Portman’s Nina to slowly and then rapidly become unbalanced, giving the movie its bleak center: the pressure causing what little sanity the poor girl had to begin with to ebb away.

Something I truly love about this film is how the darkness builds up to a fevered pitch, as Nina goes from being only able to portray the White Swan to embracing the Black Swan of the title, going inwards into herself and uncovering the madness necessary to let go. Perhaps this is a bloody and sad tale of method acting gone utterly wrong, or simply just another fine psychological driven movie from Arnonofsky, who with Black Swan, The Wrestler, Pi and others is one of the best of the modern directors. Whatever the case the transformation is something I still brood upon from time to time, pondering whether art attracts insane people. Maybe people are driven insane by art. Something in the middle, perhaps.

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