Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie Review: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

I just watched this not an hour ago, and I already think it is one of the creepiest films ever made. I don't spook easily, but this will definitely have me thinking about things. It cost virtually nothing to make but does a great job conveying psychological terror without the use of violence, jump-scares, or CGI.

It was shot as a "student film" - hand-held camcorder and everything - a mockumentary if you will. Three college students in (Maryland, was it?) go out to hike in the nearby wooded hills one weekend to explore an old legend about the Blair Witch, who supposedly murdered several children in her magical rites. (If you dare watch, then pay attention to what the townspeople say: it comes back later in the movie.) The students, two men and a woman, soon become lost in the woods, unintentionally going in circles and unable to escape. Every morning they find something outside their tent - the sign of the Blair Witch, piles of rocks to mark children's graves, etc. It gets worse and worse for the students and they begin to lose their minds. I won't spoil the ending, but holy crap, is it morbid.
I loved this movie. It proves that one does not need a gory, porn-filled flick to be scared (and I don't consider those true horror anyway). It never shows very much, just subtle hints and mental suspense accompanied by an awesome score, which, while not quite musical - more just sounds - is still quite eerie. The characters seem very real, and indeed the filmmakers claimed it was real until the main lady was seen on a Steak 'n' Shake ad somewhere on a highway billboard. But real or no, this movie will stick with one for a while.

Final grade: A

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Several persons at Printz love this book. I myself quite liked it.

It tells the story of Lina Vilkas, a Lithuanian teenager captured by the NKVD (Soviet secret police) during World War II. She and her mother and younger brother are treated as below scum, forced into swine boxcars and shipped across Europe and Asia into the Arctic Circle for unknown "crimes."

While this book was wonderfully written and had an interesting - if not altogether likable - protagonist, it was oddly similar to Elie Wiesel's memoir Night. Night dealt with Nazis, while Between Shades of Gray pertained to communism, but it was very similar in build. Then again, I'm sure much of the same thing actually happened...but this is historical fiction, whilst Wiesel's book is an autobiography. Both were disturbingly realistic, but this one, while a grand book in its own right, did not bring much to the table that was entirely new. I still really liked it, however - do not get me wrong there.

Final grade: B

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What are you going to do? I'm gonna do the best I can!

For those of you not aware, the above title is a quote between Santa Claus and Oogie Boogie from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas - very clever movie. But the post itself is relating to the musical I am currently in. School House Rock Live! is actually rather a dull play, and my friend Ezra (who is more learned than I in the ways of the script) says the script is not very good. I'll have to take his word there. The conflict is not altogether fascinating, just a teacher who doesn't think he/she is prepared to educate - but it's what we have. Would I prefer to be in Dracula? Hell yes! But I cannot change that bit (although I can be in a different Dracula play sometime, I hope), so I will have to make do with what I have. Many of the kids here, particularly some of the younger ones, don't take acting seriously. They legitimately concern me. But this is my first non-school production and sort of a practice run for me. It can be compared to a rough draft in writing, or to a napkin on which to clean up. I'd prefer to make my inevitable mistakes here than to make them in a great work of art.

I consider myself an optimist, and if one does not agree with that statement, one ought to chew on this thought: I say an optimist does not pretend things are better than they are, but acknowledges the pain in the world and makes the best out of it. Otherwise to be a positive person, one would by definition be stupid and ignorant. And I prefer not to be either of those, although there is some debate as to whether ignorance is truly bliss; Olivia had a good post about that a while back.

As they say, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Of course there's the question of sugar and water, but I have to leave soon for a SHRL! rehearsal. Good-day.

Wishing the best to most,