Horror 101: Body Horror vs. Splatter Horror

Alright, I’ve had something on my mind for a while and I think I finally want to get it off my chest. Going to take this opportunity to get up on my soapbox, grab my megaphone, and scream gibberish about horror narratives at unsuspecting passerbys.

Brace yourself, Daniel, I’m about to get super nerdy.

Body horror is not the same thing as gore.

Let me say it again, body horror is not the same thing as gore.

Now say it with me, body horror is not the same thing as gore.

If I had to pick my favorite subgenre of horror, it would be body horror and it drives me nuts when I tell people this and I get a response like:

“Gross, I hate gory movies.”

“Gore in horror movies is just lazy writing.”

“Ew, you’re nasty and you need jesus.”

I’m not going to deny the fact that I do like gory horror films and that I am nasty and indeed need jesus. There is something so satisfying about sipping a beer and watching buckets upon buckets of fake blood splatter across the TV screen.

But that’s not body horror. Those types of films are called splatter horror, which is a subgenre that demonstrates a fascination with the vulnerability of the human body through graphic gore and violence.

Body horror on the other hand is a subgenre of horror that intentionally showcases disturbing violations of the human body, like mutilation, mutation, disease, stranger behavior, or graphic violence. Unlike splatter, this subgenre is more focused on making the audience question what is means to be human and their own autonomy.

I think this is where the confusion between splatter and body horror comes from. Yes, body horror can use gore to achieve its goal, but it’s so much more than just gross special effects and fake blood.

A classic example of body horror is John Carpenter’s The Thing, a movie about an alien infiltrating a research outpost in Antarctica by killing off people and then taking that person’s place. The movie does show people dying and some gross mutations, but it’s never needlessly violent or gory. It’s the perfect example of body horror without having to disembowel anyone.

Another example of body horror that doesn’t use violence is The Faculty, one of my personal favorites. This movie is about an alien that takes over the teachers in a high school and it’s up to a group of students to save the world from in invasion. Again, this movie is scary and disturbing without utilizing over-the-top gore.

Body horror done well does not have to be gory or super gross. Body horror does not necessarily equal buckets of viscera and bad writing. Stop acting like I’m nasty because it’s my favorite subgenre. There are so many other factual reasons to call me nasty. Educate yourself.

-EMS

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Movie vs. Book: The Ritual

So, I am a little behind the times.

The Ritual, a movie about four college friends reuniting to hike through Sweden and coming across an ancient, bloodthirsty creature, came out in February of this year. I even watched it six months ago when it initially came out, but before I sat down and did a proper review I knew I wanted to read the novel. Well, this past month I finally bought a copy of The Ritual by Adam Neville, and now that I’ve read it, it’s finally time to share my thoughts.

Brace yourself. They’re not very positive.

The Film Adaptation

ritual movie posterWhen the film came out earlier this year, everyone started recommending it to me. Everyone who watched it said it was new and unique and amazing and that I just had to watch it. I would love it! Well, I’ve never been one to shy away from a horror film, so I cracked open a beer and queued it up.

If you’re not familiar with the film, I’ll give a brief synopsis. Four college friends reunite to go on a hike through the Swedish wilderness to honor their friend, Robert, who died a few months beforehand in a liquor store robbery. One of the friends, Luke, was in the store when it happened and did nothing so there’s some lingering resentment from the other three toward Luke. On the hike, they decide to take a shortcut and end up lost in a forest inhabited by an ancient god that is desperate for sacrifices and picks the men off one by one. Luke ends up stumbling across a small village of people in the forest who worship the entity, a bastard offspring of the Norse god, Loki, and manages to escape before they sacrifice him to the creature.

Even just writing that, the story sounds amazing. Lost in the forest with some creepy beast stealing your friends away and stringing them up in trees sounds like the recipe for an amazing horror story. Except, whoever the hell mixed up the ingredients for this movie put in way too much “men lost and complaining in the woods” and not enough “cool monster” and “creepy cult.”

The movie was incredibly unbalanced in my opinion. We spent way, way too much time following the four friends getting lost in the woods. It’s boring and overdone. I’ve already read that story, I’ve already watched that movie. Hell, I’ve fucking lived that story myself one time when I got too drunk on a camping trip.

Also, as a woman, I could not even remotely relate to the characters, Dom, Phil, Hutch, and Luke. All they seemed to focus on was being the most masculine and the conflict was completely based on miscommunication and toxic masculinity.

Boo. Boring and overdone.

ritualmonsterThe movie really got interested when the monster actually showed its face. I remember squealing when it came on screen, as if it were some cute kitten or baby bunny that had appeared. Amazing design. Loved the monster. Unfortunately, the monster was on screen for maybe a quarter of the movie. I was way more invested in it and the cult that worshiped it than I was in the four male characters and it barely got a part in the movie. I was thoroughly disappointed. A cool movie with so much potential that just didn’t follow through.

Reading the Novel

After I was disappointed by the movie, I found out it was based on a book!

Great, I thought to myself. The novel must spend more time focusing on the cult and the monster than the movie did. Movies more often than not cut out major scenes to keep the film short.  I need to buy it and read it so I can finally hear more about my sweet, baby monster.

The_Ritual_Adam_Nevill_cover

Nope, I was so very wrong .

The book was even more unbalanced than the movie was. In total, the book was a little over 400 pages and we only ever got small glimpses of the monster. Also, it wasn’t until around page 260 that the cult even came into the story.

Oh, and it wasn’t a cult. It was three metal-head teenagers with authority-issues looking to spill blood. Loki and Fenris, the two young men who made up the band Blood Frenzy, had heard stories about the beast living in the woods and came to worship it while at the same time desecrating ancient churches and other modern religious altars.

While that sounds interesting, Loki, Fenris, and their other friend, Surtr, were boring and one dimensional, basic metalhead stereotypes. They reminded me of the bad kids in an after school special about peer pressure and satanism.

I had issues with all three of these metalhead younglings, but my biggest issue with the book was with Surtr, one of only two women featured in the book.

Women in The Ritual

Let’s talk about Surtr.

In the novel, Surtr was, as far as I could tell, a groupie of Blood Frenzy and Loki’s psychotic girlfriend. Although her age was never stated, based on Luke’s pondering of whether these delinquents would even get tried as adults, I’d guess she was between 16 and 20 years old, which honestly makes the last third of the book creepy for an entirely different reason.

Surtr, whose number of speaking lines I can count on one hand, was described as a short, overweight woman with with black hair. Pretty vague, right? Well, thankfully, the author doesn’t stop there! We also get to hear all about how plump and pendulous her breasts are as she runs around the forest naked and how sebaceous and creamy her vagina smells while she pins Luke down.

That’s it, that’s all we get for physical characterization. And as for her personality, well all we know is that she’s incredibly violent, unstable, and wants to cut Luke’s toes off for no reason other than her sadistic streak. Surtr is basically a wild animal, thrown into the narrative for no good reason other than to provide an opportunity to use insults like “fat bitch” and “ugly cow.”

As a lover of horror and a grown ass woman, I have no issue with that type of language or misogyny. This isn’t kindergarten and I don’t expect authors to pull punches to spare my feelings, especially when they’re talking about a character in life or death situations. However, in The Ritual it was absolutely pointless because Surtr was absolutely pointless. The story started off very male-focused and I was fine with that, until the author brought in a female character and demonstrated how little he cared about her.

Surtr was my main issue with this section of the book, but after the author included a line describing the smell of her vagina, I started noticing other little things that just pissed me off. The old woman who lived in the house and was the descendent of the creature in the woods was one hundred percent a horror stereotype. Old women, living in the woods alone practicing ancient magic? Been there, done that.

However, that stereotype took on a whole new light when I read that description of Surtr. I remember thinking, “oh, he just doesn’t know how to write women at all. Awesome.”

And then, the old woman called the creature in the forest “moder,” which means mother.

So now even the monster is feminine, which means in the last twenty or so pages of the book, Luke is exclusively fighting against feminine entities. He’s fighting Surtr and the old woman and now the ancient mother of the forest.

As a woman reading this, I was even less thrilled than I was in the beginning. Obviously, the author has some issues with women that he unknowingly unloaded into this novel. I felt alienated reading it and only finished it because the hidden misogyny only started popping up when I was almost done. When I’m less than 200 pages away from finishing a book, it takes a lot for me to not finish it.

That, and I really wanted to write this post criticizing it and the only way I could be seen as a credible critic was to finish it.

My final thoughts: 0/10, boring, misogynistic, was rooting for the monster to win.

My Beer Journey

As everyone knows, I love beer. I am a beer nerd and will go out of my way to find new and interesting beers to try. However, looking back, I didn’t always like beer. My first experience with beer still makes me gag to this day.

I have no idea how old I was, but this was in our home back in Wisconsin. We were downstairs in the basement while the grown ups were upstairs, playing cards and drinking beer. Now you probably remember that the basement stairs sat right below the living room so if you spilled something in the living room it would spill down onto the basement stairs.

At this point, our readers can probably guess what happened.

miller can

I remember so many of these cans in our fridge when we were little. I honestly couldn’t remember what the beer was until I found this picture of the old Miller cans. 

I don’t know who was drinking the beer or who put their beer on the floor above the stairs, but someone spilled a can of Miller Genuine Draft. It got all over the carpet right at the door to the basement and it smelled so bad.

So yeah, that was my first experience with beer, and it was gross as hell. I remember thinking I would never drink beer.

Well guess what, childhood Emily. You were wrong.

Well, I guess I wasn’t entirely wrong. I have yet to drink a Miller Genuine Draft and I doubt I ever will because it’s gross.

Anyway…

My next experience with beer wasn’t until I was in my early twenties because, as you know Daniel, I was a huge fucking nerd in high school and never did anything against the rules. I never drank alcohol, I never did drugs, I never snuck out. I think I got grounded once for missing curfew because I was too busy watching weird anime at my friend’s place. That was as bad as I got. Huge nerd alert.

deschutes-black-butte-porter

Black Butte Porter is amazing and always will be amazing.

When we moved to Washington, dad started drinking more microbrewed beers and one of his favorites back then was Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewing. He talked about how delicious it was and how it tasted like chocolate and how it was so much better than any of the mass-produced beers. At the time, all I drank was Smirnoff Ices and Mike’s Hard Lemonade and even then I thought they were too sweet.

I looked at the Black Butte Porter in the fridge, shrugged, and decided to give beer another try.

It was so delicious. It did taste like chocolate and it was crisp and refreshing without tasting like liquified candy. That was where I started to fall in love with beer.

I started trying other beers when I had the chance, usually sticking with beer that had a low alcohol content and lighter flavors since the darker stuff was still a little intimidating. Well, nowadays I absolutely adore dark, dry, bitter stouts that dry your mouth out like a nice red wine and it was the Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing that got me hooked.

Our Aunt Jaime was in town visiting and she went out of her way to pick up a four pack of Old Rasputin. Everyone who tried it said it was too dark and bitter, but she kept saying it tastes like black licorice. Well, I wanted to look cool in front of everyone and I like black licorice so I took a sip off of her beer.

rasputin

It’s like a warm hug in a beer bottle. 

Oh my god, it was amazing. It was rich and spicy and amazing. It was like wrapping a warm blanket around you on a cold, rainy day. It was like the smell of campfire smoke. It was like floating in a tub of warm water. It was amazing.

After that, I was always drawn to the darkest beers I could find. I would go out of my way to drink every imperial stout or porter I could find. They made me feel cozy and warm and comfortable.

I have plenty of stories about other beers that have had an impact on my life. The Tsunami Stout from Pelican Brewing, the Oktoberfest from Sam Adams, the Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing, the Ten Fiddy Imperial Stout from Oskar Blues. I can distinctly remember the first time I tried all of these beers and how they made me feel, but I’ll save those stories for another time.

-EMS

 

My Queer Eye Makeover

This week, I have been miserable and Mother Nature is to blame.

My eyes have been red, my throat has been raw, and my nose and ears have been unbearably itchy. The culprit, the canola fields surrounding my town are in full bloom and are spewing their devil pollen all over my life. I am miserable and I have been stuck indoors all week, trying not to die.

To while away the hours, I have been rewatching the show Queer Eye, which is a beautiful, sweet show that makes me cry every single episode.

So, I am assuming you know what Queer Eye is, Daniel, but for all the people out there who do live under a rock, let me explain. Queer Eye is a show about five gay men who change people’s lives for the better. The original version of this show, called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, focused solely on sloppy, straight men, helping them update their wardrobes and learn proper hygiene. The Netflix reboot, which I have been rewatching all week, has made over straight men, gay men, trans men, and even women. Like the show’s tagline says, it’s more than just a make-over now.

Watching the episode about the woman, I started imagining what would happen if I was nominated. How would the Fab Five help me? What would my episode look like?

My episode would start like every episode, with the Fab Five driving to ambush me. In this scenario, I’m not sure who would have nominated me, but I feel like they would have nominated me because of how externally focused I am. I focus so much on keeping the people around me happy and content that I usually skip taking care of myself.

So the Fab Five would swoop in, see how cluttered and unstructured my life is, and they would make it so much better.

Bobby is the interior designer. He would take one look at my mismatched, college student apartment with piles of junk in all the corners and probably lose it. He would redecorate, finally giving me an adult apartment, and he would set up organization systems for all my books and craft supplies and clothes. He would also help me purge all the stuff I don’t need.

Jonathan is the grooming specialist and I think he would be somewhat proud of me for having a regular skin and hair routine. However, he would probably take one look at my medicine cabinet and throw everything out. I always buy the cheapest options when it comes to beauty products, and I’m pretty sure Jonathan would not stand for that. He would teach me everything I need to know about beauty products and would show me the best places to get things and would teach me how to make amazing beauty products at home. I would be so cool after meeting Jonathan.

Antoni teaches the clients about food and I think he would have the biggest challenge when it comes to my eating habits. He would probably sit me down and explain to me all the things that do not count as full meals that I have been using for full meals. Cereal is not dinner, saltine crackers are not dinner, a spoonful of peanut butter is not dinner. You need to start actually eating food. And of course I would listen and nod and as soon as he leaves, I would eat a jar of peanut butter for dinner. Not all of their lessons will stick. Sorry Antoni.

When it comes to fashion, Tan is the expert of the Fab Five. I’m pretty sure he would appreciate how varied and colorful my closet is, but would be a little confused by how I use that color. I have a tendency to find an outfit that works and then wear it over and over and over again. I need more pieces that I can mix and match for work and for play instead of statement pieces that only look good one way. He would also teach me where to find clothing that actually fits my bizarre body and throw out all the jeans I own that are way too short for my long legs.

Last, but not least, Karamo would just help me get my shit together. He’s supposed to be the culture guru, but more often than not ends up being a therapist for the client. I’m sure he would hear me speak and think to himself, this girl needs to get back into her therapy routine. He would start by helping me find a good therapist and getting my self care routines back so I could properly recharge my energy for once. I think he would also help me layout my career plans, which have been amorphous and undefined since I left college. Karamo would not stand for that. He would sit my butt down, tell me I need to take risks, and lay out a fifty year plan for me. Boom, done, set for the rest of my life.

I so desperately want to meet my five gay fairy godfathers.

-EMS

Getting Older is Bullshit

I’m just going to go ahead and skip the apology for my post going up four days late. This has happened before and I can guarantee it will happen again because I am bad at creating structure for myself outside of work. Anyway, you were also late on your post on our other blog. Only like two days late, but still late so I feel slightly vindicated.

To jump right in, I am very, very tired. I woke up feeling exhausted, spent the day yawning at my desk, and then came home and took an hour nap. I’m pretty sure I’m tired from the long weekend I spent down Vancouver with the family. Any long period away from home leaves me feeling sluggish and drained.

As I was dozing off this afternoon, I was thinking about why I was so tired and racked my brain trying to think of all the exhausting things I did while on the west side. I came up with nothing. I sat on the couch all weekend, sipping beer, watching Netflix, and chatting with the family. The most strenuous thing I did was drive five hours home yesterday, which involved pressing a foot pedal and listening to podcasts.

So why in the world am I so tired? The only thing I could come up with is that I’m old.

I know, I know, I’m not that old. Whenever I say things like that, someone person pops up and says, “You’re not old! Wait until you’re my age! By my age, you’ll wish you were dead!” I get it, I’m not even in my thirties so shut up. That doesn’t change the fact that, in the last five years, there is a list of things I can no longer do simply because I’m older and my body is different.

Being away from home is one of them. When I was in college, I would go back to the west side every weekend to see all my friends, hang out with family, go to job interviews, and shop. I was always on the go and I would still be able to get up at 6 a.m. Monday morning to go to classes and work.

Nowadays, being anywhere that isn’t my house is downright exhausting. To quote something I saw on Tumblr, I’ve literally turned into like a shitty video game character who does two tasks and then needs to sleep for nine hours to regain stamina.

I’ve also noticed that where I sleep and how much I sleep matters now. When I was in high school and college, all I needed was five hours of sleep and some coffee and I was good to go. If I needed a nap, I would nap on the bus, in the library, in my car, wherever I could find a quiet place. That is so not the case now that I’m pushing thirty. Unless I am in my own bed with my own pillows for at least eight hours, I am useless the next day without three cups of coffee and a fire under my ass.

When I got home from work today, I also had to take some painkillers before I took my nap because I had developed a headache on the bus. Want to know why? Because, in the last two years, I have suddenly developed motion sickness. For years I was able to read, crochet, write, do whatever I wanted in a car, on a bus, in a plane. Well, not anymore! Now I must stare straight out the window or risk giving myself a head and stomach ache. This is some serious bullshit. Thank god for audiobooks and podcasts.

In the last two years, I have also developed seasonal allergies. Everyone else in the family gets them and I always felt lucky that I didn’t. I love the outdoors and the summer and being able to breath through my nose. Well, not that I’m more than a quarter century old, guess what? My system has decided the pollen is the devil. Also, it doesn’t plug up my nose. Surprise! It plugs up my ears and head.

Fantastic.

It’s also way easier to hurt myself without even trying. When I was little, I jumped out of trees, out of swings, and off the porch and could get up and keep running. Last year, I slept on my neck wrong and couldn’t move my upper body for two weeks. I SLEPT on it wrong. I didn’t hurt myself exercising, I didn’t crash my car, I just rolled over into the wrong position and apparently fucked myself up completely.

The list goes on and I’m sure as I move into my thirties and eventually my forties, it will continue to grow. Soon, I won’t be able to do anything besides sit quietly on the couch and wait for the sweet embrace of death. I hope it comes soon.

-EMS

Aggretsuko and White Feminism

I try very, very hard to be aware of the privileges I have in my life and of the challenges others face. I am a white, cisgendered woman from an upper middle class family. Yes, I have struggled and I have worked very hard to get where I am today, but I also understand that part of the reason I have come this far is because I started out with certain privileges.

Well, sometimes I fail. Sometimes, I can’t see past my own nose.

Recently, everyone has been talking about the Netflix original anime, Aggretsuko. It’s a wonderful anime about a red panda named Retsuko who is experiencing the stereotypical millennial struggles. She doesn’t like her job, she doesn’t have much money, and she doesn’t have many friends. So to blow off steam she goes to a karaoke bar every evening and sings death metal. I loved this show. It was a good blend of cutesy animation and millennial angst. Watching it soothed my withered, adult soul and re-kindled a love for anime I haven’t experienced since I was fourteen.

tenorMy favorite character by far was a gorilla named Gori, the director of marketing for the company Restuko works for. Gori is fierce, rocking a pink dress and taking crap from nobody. During the show you also get some glimpses of her being vulnerable, like when she’s worried Retsuko doesn’t like her or when she gets dumped.

I loved Gori so much. As a woman, I was thrilled to see a female character in a position of power, a female character who is allowed to have more than one emotion and still be considered strong.

Well, unfortunately, I realized afterwards that I was a bit blinded by white feminism when it came to Gori.

Before I go on, let me explain what I mean by white feminism. White feminism is a form of feminism that solely focuses on the struggles of caucasian women, ignoring the struggles of women of color, queer women, or disabled women experience in favor of solving white women problems. Examples of white feminism would be the first suffragettes excluding black women from their marches and organizations, modern day feminists protesting against hijabs and other religious clothing as being oppressive without even asking Muslim women how they feel, and Emma Stone at the Oscars complaining that only one female director was up for Best Director while completely ignoring the two people of color who were also nominated.  

Needless to say, I try very, very hard to not be a “white feminist.” I try to be intersectional when it comes to my feminism.

That’s why I was incredibly upset when I Googled Gori from Aggretsuko and found multiple articles about how Gori’s character was a gross stereotype of black women. Historically, black people have been compared to apes and gorillas as a way to dehumanize them. Well, Gori the gorilla is not only written as a “sassy black woman,” she’s also voiced by the only black woman on the show.

If you want to understand more about Gori and how problematic her character is, please read “The Problem of Gori in Netflix’s Aggrestsuko” by Nicole Adlam. Her article was the one that opened my eyes to the problem with Gori and, as a woman of color, she has more of a right to talk about how cruel this stereotype than I do. I don’t want to talk over her, so go read her words.

After reading more, I was incredibly upset with myself. I was so into this character who was so powerful and sassy and wonderful. I thought, “wow, look how far we’ve come! Look at this three dimensional female character! I love her.” It never even crossed my mind that she could be offensive because, well, she’s in a position of power! That’s so positive!

I didn’t fall into the trap of white feminism. I ran into it, fingers in my ears going “la la la la la!” I wanted to see her as a positive role model and never stopped to think about how she was representing women of color.  I don’t like the idea that I could be so blind to this racism built right into my TV shows. I am ashamed of myself and will try to learn from this so I can be more critical of the future media I consume.

Everyday, I just need to remind myself to listen, to be respectful, and try to pull my head out of my own ass every once in a while. I try so hard not to be a white feminist, but sometimes I fail. And you know what, that’s okay, as long as I keep trying to learn and grow. It’s when I stop listening that I’ve truly failed.

-EMS

 

True Life: I’m Addicted to Event Planning

So, you’ve probably noticed that my post on this blog did not go up last Friday. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve missed a blog post and I can guarantee it will not be the last because I can be very forgetful. Sometimes, if I’ve had a long day or I have something planned for Friday I’ll just forget to write and I am completely at fault for that.

However, last week I had a very legitimate excuse as to why I missed my post. I was busy planning the decorations for a wedding.

My dear friend Meredith got married this past weekend and as my wedding gift to her, I agreed to coordinate all of the wedding decorations. In the past, I’ve put together office parties, baby showers, and birthday shindigs, all of which has over-the-top decorations so Meredith knew I could do it.

Well, when I agreed to decorate for her wedding, I was incredibly excited! I love planning events! After she asked me, I immediately jumped on Pinterest and started tracking down the best DIY projects to help her pull of a rustic, class, affordable wedding.

Well, when last Friday rolled around and I was covered in purple paint and burlap fiber and realized I only had a day to pull everything together, you know what I was thinking?

Wow, I am so glad Meredith let me do this because I am having the best time.

I absolutely love planning events and that never changes, even when the stress levels rise. Even on Sunday, a few hours before the wedding when I was covered in tree sap and lavender petals and running around like a mad man, I was still having fun. I love the feeling of getting stuff done and of seeing my creative vision come to life.

Of course, there are easier ways to be creative and express myself than decorating for events. Activities like painting or drawing are just as creative, even more so, and usually don’t involve me slicing up my legs while picking wildflowers or bruising my arms lugging firewood. However, painting and drawing do lack one thing: instant gratification.

You can paint a beautiful picture and wait months for anyone to even acknowledge it, but when it comes to planning events, you get immediate feedback from your audience. On Sunday, I spent five hours busting my butt on the decorations and flowers and was praised immediately for my work. I was immediately praised for my art and it felt really, really good. I am still beaming.

Anyway, I’m still in the process of recovering from this weekend so I’ll keep this post short. I promise my Write Makes Right post will be up on time. I have no excuses to miss it this week, other than who I am as a person.

-EMS a