Funland: Short Story Review

IMG_1558.JPG“Funland” is a short horror story by Daron Silvers, and one that I really liked when first hearing it. The main character describing his love of arcades and animatronics as a kid reminds me of my own early years, so I can relate to his nostalgia when going to them after so many years. The writer also creates a very vivid picture of the abandoned park they’re visiting by describing the scene in both its heyday and forgotten state. This really gives it a feeling of innocence corrupted since it’s a place the character remembers so fondly from his childhood, but has been reduced to faded ruins that shouldn’t be reentered. I especially like how much detail is used for the character’s favorite animatronic, a humanoid dog part of a mini golf course that would come out of an outhouse and shout at players after getting a hole-in-one. It’s never described as creepy in the main character’s memory and sounds like something you would actually see in a children’s park. It also makes it a much bigger contrast when the character gets another hole-in-one at the abandoned attraction and the animatronic comes out of the outhouse after him.

Though, one thing I noticed when going back to it was it’s similarity to another good story called “Abandoned by Disney”. Both involve the main character exploring an abandoned children’s park where they’re scared away by what should be an inanimate character. Then again, this story is about a character revisiting a distantly past part of his life and realizing he isn’t meant to be there anymore, and the other is about uncovering a horrible secret in what is supposed to be one of the happiest places on Earth. I really do like this story, but the biggest thing bugging me about it is the sequel, “Return to Funland”. Even though that one focuses on the original main character’s brother and he’s going to Funland because he knows something wrong is going on ahead of time, it’s basically a rehash where he goes in, gets chased out by the same animatronic and decides to leave the place alone. The reason it really bugs me is because it’s by the same author, so it is canon and kind of detracts from the first story because of it. It just felt forced, like the writer wanted to continue the story but didn’t put a lot of thought effort into giving it something new.

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Darling: Review

Darling is a 2015 thriller/horror film written and directed by Mickey Keating, and stars Lauren Ashely Carter as the main character, Darling. I heard this was a very good psychological story that took a lot of inspiration from older horror films, but was very underwhelmed while watching it. The plot is Darling is left alone as the caretaker of a large house where the previous caretaker committed suicide, and there’s one locked door on the second floor that she’s forbidden from entering.

One positive thing I read about it was that Carter is supposedly the Audrey Hepburn of indie horror, and I have no doubt the filmmakers tried as hard as possible to make her look that way. The whole movie is shot in black and white in an old house with 60s style clothing and house phones, but is also shot in HD and never shows much of the world outside the house. The camera is always very close to the characters as they walk down sidewalks and almost never shows the street, probably because getting too many shots with modern cars doesn’t fit with the time period. Not showing much of anything besides the house also doesn’t really allow for the house to seem so weird when there’s almost nothing normal in the movie to compare it to. Right from the start, it’s long silent scenes with only Darling and a lot of attention put on the door.

I could see some inspiration was obviously taken from The Shining with her being the caretaker and there being one mysterious room that might have some malevolent force in it, like room 237, but whereas The Shining had time descending into the weird stuff, Darling just tries to be extremely tense from the start, whether it’s her staring into the camera or just dragging a suitcase up the stairs. It starts with her just wandering around the place and starring down a narrow hall leading to the door which she unsuccessfully tries to open before weird editing is used in an attempt to make the scene more intense. It only left me wondering why she acts this way when nothing strange has happened with the door yet and she’s expressed no desire to see what’s in the room before this scene. Another problem with this movie is the lack of dialogue.

Most of it’s just Darling wandering around the house in the dark while nothing out of the ordinary actually happens. She eventually starts following a man she met on the street, waits for him in a bar, has a very awkward date, and takes him back to the house. The small talk continues until she attacks him with a kitchen knife and starts talking about what he “did” to her. Darling still has no backstory at this point, the actress didn’t even try to look like there was any force behind the stabbing, and I had no time or reason to care about the man, so I felt none of the horror the director was trying to inspire. There is a very morbid scene with unsettling editing and sound effects where Darling has a nightmare where his body comes to attacker her, so she dismembers him, but that’s the scariest the movie gets.

It ends with the homeowner calling to tell Darling she found out about her history in an asylum, the police show up, she kills herself, and another girl who looks like her is shown accepting the keys from the owner while being told about the last caretaker’s suicide. I know I’m just listing things off instead of going into any real analysis, but with the movie being so empty I can’t think of any to give. It was just a serious of events amounting to the beginning of itself.IMG_1369.JPG

Frankenstein: Thoughts on Ch. 1-3

IMG_0382.PNGNow that Frankenstein has started narrating his own story, his character isn’t what I was expecting. All I really had to go on before this were TV references to the re-animation scene in the movie, where he just looked like a mad scientist, but knew there’d probably be more complexities to him in the book. He does seem a lot nicer though. Even after being plucked out of a certain death situation and still obsessed enough to continue into the cold climate, he’s a very polite guest on the ship, and finally gives the captain to someone to talk to.

Frankenstein’s family history is a very interesting one. His father was also really wrapped up in his work from a young age, but eventually decided he wanted a family before it was too late. He sounds like a more successful version of Frankenstein because first of all, he worked in politics instead of raising the dead and also knew when to ease off on the career. Frankenstein obviously didn’t do the second part soon enough and now has to spend the rest of the story worrying about what his quest for knowledge has created.

I also never knew that he was going to marry his cousin. The 1831 version of the book changes it to her simply being an orphan taken into the family, but I’ve got the original where she’s the daughter of Frankenstein’s late aunt on his father’s side. In both versions she’s brought to live at the house because Frankenstein’s mother, Caroline, plans to have them marry in the future. I think that’s supposed to connect to the monsters creation in that they both defy what’s really supposed to happen. The monster was originally a bunch of dead parts who’s fate should’ve been to stay in the ground, because most people in the story are on the same page about undoing death being a bad idea, and being planned since childhood, Frankenstein’s fate should’ve been to marry Elizabeth (his cousin).

Frankenstein takes an interest in biology at a young age and reads a lot of older literature on the subject, which his professors later told him gave very inaccurate views on how things work and fantastic promises of what could be achieved. This probably played a large part in his attempts at things like reanimation since the writers of those books didn’t see any limits, where as the modern biologists had set up clear rules what was and wasn’t possible. Since Frankenstein had no mental restrictions like low expectations, he never stopped trying. In his mind it was like climbing a mountain, very difficult, but there is a top to be reached if he just tries hard enough.

Frankenstein: Thoughts On First Four Letters

img_0369My English literature class recently started reading Frankenstein, and I’ve got some mixed feelings about. I really like horror stories and this is the first one I’ll be reading as a class assignment, which is really good since I’ve been meaning to reading it at someone point and now have no excuse not to, but have trouble adgusting to older English in which it’s written. The same problem happened with Wuthering Heights, but it’s kind of like a water balloon fight. The writing is difficult to understand at first, but after a while you get used to it and it’s a great read, like how the initial coldness of the water might make you recoil but you eventually start having ¬†fun.
I never really knew how the story started so the beginning was a little confusing. Epistolary novels are often a little harder for me to follow, and the first letter of this one not saying who the writer is first gave my visualization of the events kind of a clumsy start since I didn’t know who to picture speaking.

The story starts in an interesting way as it’s first four letters from an explorer, Robert Walton, to his sister as he heads North to explore the arctic and picks up a stranger along the way. The stranger was stranded on some ice, half dead and with only one sled dog still alive, but asks the crew members on the Walton’s ship if they’re heading North before he agrees to hitch a ride. This was very strange as you’d think someone almost dying in such a harsh climate would want to get out of it, but it’s explained by him also asking if they saw someone else going around the area on their voyage. The character obviously really wants to catch whoever this person is to keep stalking them even after getting so close to death.
It’s also interesting to see how Walton interacts with the stranger, as he made it clear earlier in his letters that he needed a friend. After being told the point of the trip is to find out amazing new things about the arctic, the mysterious guest admits he also has a hunger for incredible, and dangerous to obtain, knowledge. It’s eventually revealed that the stranger is Frankenstein and the man he’s chasing through the deadly landscape is his monster. I think this was a much better way of introducing Frankenstein than just starting with him and an omnipotent narrator.

That way of telling it probably would’ve been easier to follow, but Walton explaining the events as him just happening upon a strange man on the ice creates a lot of suspense. It also sets up an interesting comparison between Walton and Frankenstein as they’re both men in pursuit of knowledge while facing terrifying risk, which works to make it a sort of cautionary tale.

Another thing that supports it being that kind of story is “or the modern Prometheus” being included in the title. The story of Prometheus is about a god who gives knowledge of fire to humans and faces a terrible punishment for it. This connects very well with the story of Frankenstein because as a scientist who’m the common people look up to as a source of knowledge and explanations about how the world works, kind of like the way followers of a certain faith will look to their God for the same things, he crosses the line and gives knowledge of something never meant for humans to know. As fire became a destructive force when introduced to humans by Prometheus, Frankenstein’s bringing back the dead created a monster that would go on a killing spree.

I know I’m jumping pretty far ahead by mentioning the murders when this is supposed to be about the beginning of the story, but that’s really where the meat of it is, so it’s bound to come up in discussion of almost any part of the book, even with the title that calls to mind another story of forbidden knowledge doing a lot of damage for everyone. I’ll get more into the relationships of the not undead characters tomorrow.

Morgan: Movie Review

Morgan is a modern day, Frankenstein based, science fiction film about a mysterious women sent to by a large corporation to assess the results of a project where a genetically engineered human has been created and desplayed violent behavior, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, one of the main actresses from 2015’s art-house horror film The Witch, and Kate Mara, who’s played supporting roles in American Horror Story: Murder House and House of Cards. Such a promising premise and cast begs the question of why the movie wasn’t better received. It was advertised in a very interesting way. The film was downloaded into an artificially intelligent computer named Watson, which analyzed all scenes and put together a trailer, making it the first A.I. to ever do so. Connecting the film to such a major discussion like whether or not a computer can create art worked well to get me interested.

However, the movie itself doesn’t even come close to being as revolutionary as its advertising strategy. It begins with the human lab creation, Morgan (Taylor-Joy), becoming violent toward her creators, and so the company in charge of the operation sends in an assessment specialist, Lee Weathers (Mara), to decide if the whole thing should be terminated or not. It soon becomes clear Morgan acts much more human than the researchers treat her, while Lee is shown to be very reserved and unsympathetic to her situation. The scienctists who created Morgan seem to go back and fourth between caring for her like a real person and just following procedure.

A psychologist (played by Paul Giamatti) is eventually brought in to evaluate Morgan’s mental state, and tension builds as he demands to sit across from her inside the cell. After many probing questions, her attack on a researcher at the beginning of the film is brought up. He starts yelling for her to react violently to him, and seems to go too far for it to just be a way of testing her submission with a bluff. She then kills him, which caught me off guard as I see no other way that could’ve ended with the guy continuously screaming at her to come at him.

It’s decided Morgan is too violent for the experiment to continue and should be terminated. The scene with her strapped to a table as she’s about to be euthanized is meant to be very emotional, but it doesn’t feel earned. One of the lead scientists, Dr. Lui Cheng (played by Michelle Yeoh), had Morgan convinced that she was her mother, but states she doesn’t have one right before the injection happens. After Morgan is revived by two handlers she was close to who plan to get her somewhere safe, she follows an old cliche by attacking people who secretly wanted to save her just as they’re about to do so. She finds Cheng, the two share a few words in another language, and Morgan suffocates her during a hug. This strongly hints they had a more personal relationship than Cheng’s coldness lead me to believe, but I still think it would’ve worked better to include some emotional moments between them before all the mayhem, instead of trying to make it a twist.

A larger problem this scene creates is that right before her death, Cheng recorded a video log saying their efforts to create a new more peaceful type of human have failed. If the whole point was to make someone peaceful, did forcing them to stay in a concrete cell for extended periods never seem like a bad idea? Did they ever think maybe treating her like a person, as opposed to a project or shifting between the two, would’ve produced a better result? With her entire upbringing supposedly centered around not being violent, why is it so easy for Morgan to go around beating the crap out of and/or killing people?

Morgan ends up locking Lee in her cell, and prepares to take her favorite handler to an unknown location, but looks kind of dumb when Lee brakes out of the room Morgan has longed to leave for months in less than an hour. The two start a game of cat and mouse where Lee survivors multiple blunders no regular human should, strongly hinting she really isn’t one. Morgan eventually gets to her destination, a lake, only wanting to see some more of the world she was shut away from.

Lee then sneaks up from behind and tosses her in the water, causing Morgan to flail around in it before Lee walks over and drowns her. At this point, I’m less sad about her death, and more confused how she can do marital arts and drive well enough to evade another car chasing her, but is helpless in waist deep water.

Lee proceeds to kill all remaining witnesses, and we’re suddenly in a city where two cliche looking businessmen are talking about how the recently failed experiment shows trying to improve their superhuman creations is pointless, costly, and they should “just stick to what they know” by continuing with the older model. The scene then cuts to Lee sitting in a cafe and staring into the camera, silently confirming she was also the product of genetic engineering.

This film certainly has flaws, the biggest being it’s reliance on sci-fi tropes, like the lab creation rebeling against its creator storyline, a shady corporation of nameless money hungry people in dark businesses meetings being behind it all, and just taking itself too seriously, though I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it a bit. It is well shot and manages to make something as normal as the woods feel like an alien environment, since that’s what it is for Morgan. Taylor-Joy’s performance was strange, but in a good way. The character is supposed to be similar to all the others, though in a large but not very visible, way different. Her asexual clothing and almost too proper way of speaking do a good job of convaying that strangeness. I was a little worried at first that Mara would give a stilted, awkward performance, but quickly saw the character isn’t meant to show that much emotion and has some trouble interacting with those who do, which was interesting.

In the end, this probably won’t go down in anyone’s Sci-Fi favorites list, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.