Reel Lists: Top 5 Horror (Part 2)

Posted: October 31, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Reel Lists, Uncategorized
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Just a few days ago, John made some comments about the change in seasons and how that’s connected to our pre-fall existence. He also said that we like to capture these seasons by enjoying seasonal foods, as well as flicks. With that in mind, we at Reel Thinking thought we would compile another Reel List for you to enjoy (or not enjoy). Let us state up front that neither of us are huge fans of the horror genre. Therefore, some of our horror films may seem a little less horrible than those of your average horror film fan (I can only handle so much gore). So, for those of you die-hard horror fans, please sound off in the comment section and compile your own list. [Be sure to check out John’s list by clicking here.]

Blaine’s Top 5

Alien

While the Chestbursters are plenty scary, the most ineffably terrifying thing about this movie is that “in space no one can hear you scream.” Ridley Scott puts us right aboard the Nostromo with Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and company, making us experience and participate in their isolation. Roger Ebert said it well: “One of the great strengths of “Alien” is its pacing. It takes its time. It waits. It allows silences (the majestic opening shots are underscored by Jerry Goldsmith with scarcely audible, far-off metallic chatterings).”[1]signs-poster

Signs

I’m with John on this one, and I think that the restraint Shyamalan exercises is brilliant. In this way, it is not unlike the aforementioned Alien or Hitchcock’s Psycho. In making the audience wait … and wait … and wait to see the aliens, Shyamalan capitalizes on the fact that the human imagination is often better at fabricating fear than are special effects.

Cronos

Forget Twilight; Guillermo del Toro’s first feature-length film, Cronos, is a unique vampire story that is a meditation on the horrors of immortality as much as it is anything else. It’s also a deeply personal film, as del Toro wrestles with his Catholic upbringing. And while I’m hardly a fan of vampire movies, I have to admit that, for some strange reason, I find this film captivating and moving. Nevertheless, it is a del Toro film and is not for the faint of heart.

The Exorcist

One of my family members thought it would be a good idea to show me this movie when I was eleven years old. It wasn’t. Words cannot fully express what this movie did to me. I was haunted by sleeplessness for a period of three month (I’m not exaggerating or joking). I haven’t seen it since, and I doubt I’ll ever have the courage to watch it again. But since this post is all about the top horror films, I figured that my most terrifying cinematic experience should make the list. Parents, please don’t show this to your eleven year old.

The Shining

Sorry Norman Bates, Jack Nicholson takes psychological horror to a whole new level in this film. I know how the film ends; I’m familiar with the twists and turns, and yet I’m always a bundle of nervous tension from start to finish. It’s also hard to ignore the formal excellence of Kubrick’s work. The soundtrack is as unnerving as the visuals, which is really saying something when you’re talking about a movie where gallons of blood pour from an elevator.

Honorable Mentions

Jaws is one of my top ten favorite movies, and it definitely belongs on this list. My original list also contained Psycho and What Lies Beneath. The Birds is another one of my favorites, and it really is terrible that I didn’t have a Hitchcock film on the list. In the end, though, I didn’t want my list to look exactly like John’s (that’s no fun for our readers). What other list-worthy films did I neglect? Sound off in the comments!

Reel List: Top 5 – Horror

Posted: October 30, 2014 by jperritt in Horror, Reel Lists
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Just a few days ago, I made some comments about the change in seasons and how that’s connected to our pre-fall existence.  I also said that we like to capture these seasons by enjoying seasonal foods, as well as, flicks.  With that in mind, we at Reel Thinking thought we would compile another Reel List for you to enjoy (or, not enjoy).  Let us state up front that neither of us are huge fans of the horror genre.  Therefore, some of our horror films may seem a little less horror than your average horror film fan (I can only handle so much gore).  So, for those of you die-hard horror fans, please sound off in the comment section and compile your own list. [Blaine's list will be posted tomorrow]

John’s Top 5:

daniel-danger-psycho-poster-redPsycho – For me, this is the all-time greatest horror film ever made.  Hitchcock was a master of suspense and I am still amazed that this film is creepy in 2014.  Anthony Perkins played the roll of Norman Bates in phenomenal fashion – it was Oscar worthy.  Killing off a notable lead in the beginning paved the way for many plots to follow suit.  Even though I still know the ending, I am amazed at the erie feel I still receive.

What Lies Beneath – Some of you may be scratching your heads on this one.  Robert what_lies_beneathZemeckis is an excellent director and a film like this shows his versatility.  Plus, almost anything with Harrison Ford is worth watching (almost! Crystal Skull was a horror film of different sorts).  Again, the acting by Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer was excellent and the story wasn’t sacrificed for the scare. If you can make it through this movie without jumping or being slightly scared of the water, it’s probably because you’ve watching one too many Saw movies.

signs-posterSigns – If you’ve followed this site at all, you know that I’m (still) an M. Knight Shyamalan fan.  This was one of the most fun theater experiences I’ve ever had.  Everyone was screaming, everyone was shouting, and most people were covering their eyes (Normally this kind of thing bothers me, but it was fun).  Again, the acting was great.  Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix worked well together and this was one of the few movies where the kids didn’t bother me.  Plus, there’s several notable scenes – the baby monitor, the corn field, the pantry, and the basement.  It’s also as funny as it is scary.

Jaws – Okay, some of you may have objections to Jaws being a horror movie.  Object all you want, but picturejawsposter yourself in the open water with a great white swimming under you…pretty horrific, right?  Jaws was the birth of the summer blockbuster and if you can watch this without being slightly scared of the water (sound familiar?), then you’re not human.  Steven Spielberg worked masterfully to create anticipation (John Williams helped with that, just a tad), by not showing audiences the shark until half-way through the film.  Although the film is tense throughout, Robert Shaw’s dialogue on the ship at night is the highlight.

devil-posterDevil – I wanted to put a more recent film on here.  Plus, not mentioning a film entitled DEVIL for top horror movies seems like it’s breaking a rule somehow.  For those of you who know anything about this film, Shyamalan is attached to it (he wrote the story).  However, not only is this movie pretty scary, the theology that runs throughout is impressive.  It begins with Scripture and has biblical themes until the credits roll.  It is a violent film, but it doesn’t relish in gore like so many (less-creative) horror films.  I’ve written more about it here.

Just so you know, I don’t think all of these are classics and I don’t think this is the definitive horror list.  I do, however, enjoy these films and think they offer some good scares if you’re ever in the mood.

Wednesday’s Weekday Quote

Posted: October 29, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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Keeping with our Halloween theme this week, here is a helpful quote from 41VBgdoj5LL.SY344_BO1,204,203,200.jpgGrant Horner on the relationship between horror films and the fear of God:

We want to have something to fear, and yet we want to maintain control over that fear, to limit that fear within prescribed boundaries, which we can never do in the case of the “fear of the Lord.” Fearing God cannot be bounded, yet we can trust his care and love for us, his promise that he will not harm us. The precise opposite is true in horror films: the evil entity wants to harm us—but we can control it because we know it isn’t real. Our problem is that in our grievously foolish and fallen nature we don’t think God is real either.

—Grant Horner, Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2010)

If you’re interested in reading more about the horror genre, I highly recommend E. Michael Jones’ Monsters from the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film.

sleepyFriday is October 31st and that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  For some it represents a Satanic holiday, for others it represents Reformation Day, for a few it’s a day for them to dress inappropriately and not feel as inappropriate (it’s always inappropriate…just so you know), and for most it’s an easy day to score some candy.  So, whether or not you’re knocking on doors, hiding in your house with the porch lights off, or treating it as any other day…I hope you have a nice Friday.

One truth we cannot escape is the reality of seasons.  Pretty much anywhere you are, there’s been a change in the air.  For most, it’s a bit cooler and Fall has been ushered in.  Without a doubt, this has brought a certain feel into your life.  Maybe you like the Fall, maybe you hate cooler weather, or maybe you’re indifferent, but I would venture to say you are participating in this seasonal feel whether you think about it or not.

It could be that you’re simply wearing different clothes that have been hanging dormant in your closet.  Maybe you have filled your pantry with meals you only cook during certain times of the year.  It could be that you look forward to that pumpkin spiced latte, beer, or shake that’s only available for a limited time.  Or, maybe there are certain movies you watch and they revolve around the seasons.

Christmas is, most likely, the obvious time for seasonal flicks.  (You can check out our top 10 Christmas films here.)  However, I’ve received a few emails from Redbox and Netflix that seem to imply others have certain films they watch around this time.  Friday the 13th and Halloween are obvious favorites for people who liked to be spooked – and relish in gore, for that matter.

I, for one, always like to watch (at least part) of Sleepy Hollow around Halloween each year.  For starters, I grew up watching the Mickey Mouse version of Sleepy Hollow and have since been intrigued by the story.  I don’t know how others couldn’t be fascinated of a story about a headless horseman – am I right?  The first time I saw Tim Burton’s rendition of Sleepy Hollow, I thought it was very well done.  I also thought Johnny Depp did an excellent job – and this was years before his Pirates of the Caribbean fame.  However, I must say that I don’t enjoy the latter half of the film as much now and am a bit disappointed in some of the content.  So, I’m not recommending you watch it.

For me, one of the main reasons I enjoy the film is the cinematography.  It just seems to capture the feel of the Halloween season I described earlier.  There’s an eerie darkness throughout that seems to resonate with the overall sense of the season.  However, why is it that we have this feel?  Why do we eat certain foods and watch certain flicks during certain times?  Well, I think it’s because of the Garden.

You see, one of God’s many graces he continues to bestow upon us is the change in seasons.  Variety is the spice of life, because God knew what he was doing.  The same temperature, the same food, the same day after day after day, would become a bit mundane.  However, God – in his infinite grace – still blesses us with different feels associated with seasons, even though we sinned against him.  He still allows us to anticipate cooler or warmer temps instead of punishing us by making the weather a cool 50 degrees or a warm 80 every day until he returns.

In his grace, we still have different seasons and I think this is one truth that still reverberates with creation.  These seasons point to our infinitely creative God and we try to capture this feeling by capturing the seasons.  We capture the seasons with our meals, films, and traditions.  There’s something “pre-fall” about these feels and we long to hold on to them in various ways.  So, whether it’s the cool air of Fall, the warm sand at a beach, or clutching a cup of hot chocolate by a fire, enjoy the change and give thanks to the Creator of that great gift.

Gotham and the Origin of the Origin Story

Posted: October 24, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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[Editor's Note: We're committed to illuminating film through the lens of Scripture here at Reel Thinking and as such, this post is a bit outside of our usual repertoire. However, we saw fit to discuss Gotham because it has some bearing on and relationship with the movie universe. We will not be discussing TV shows on a regular basis at Reel Thinking.]

A young police officer is called out on a murder investigation. He arrives on the scene, a dark and dingy alleyway, to find that a couple has been murdered. Ignoring his partner, who is more interested in shirking his responsibilities than solving the case, the young officer makes his way over to the only known witness—a young boy, shocked and frightened, named Bruce Wayne. So begins one of the most-anticipated TV shows of the fall: Gotham.

The premise of Gotham is far from unique: a young Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie)—the future Commissioner for Gotham Police Department—arrives in the iconic, crime-riddled city of Gotham and pledges to undo the corruption therein. Adding to this already difficult challenge is the fact that the Gotham P.D. is corrupt. It’s not so much that local gangs have moles in the police department, either; in Gotham, the mafia runs the town and essentially owns the police department. Gordon, of course, is the exception to this rule, and thus his mission is clear from the outset. Moreover, this setup begs an interesting question: will Gotham, in an effort to appeal to the broadest possible audience, end up looking like the stereotypical, solve-a-murder-a-week television cop show, or will there be more of an overarching narrative as Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) attempt to find out who killed Bruce’s parents? The answer to the first side of this question, given the overall feel of the show to this point, appears to be no; for the most prominent feature of the first few episodes of Gotham is that it is packed full—too packed some critics have said—of encounters with Batman’s future enemies. The forensics expert at Gotham P.D. is Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), the Riddler. Working as minion in one the city’s most notorious gangs, Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), the Penguin, is set up to play a central role in upcoming episodes. Carmine Falcone (John Doman) is the big baddie, and Poison Ivy (Clare Foley) also makes an appearance. Gotham is, then, clearly set up as an origin story show.

Origin stories are not new, and Batman origin stories are far from rare. Everyone knows how Bruce Wayne—the boy who watched his parents die— became Batman. Everyone knows, and yet an estimated 8 million people watched the first episode of Gotham.[1] Why? Why do we still want to see young Bruce’s story? Why are we curious about the rise of Jim Gordon, and why do we enjoy seeing Batman’s enemies before he’s around to fight them? These questions can be answered in a number of ways. One answer is that people love the Batman universe and are, therefore, naturally interested in anything that gives them more of it. There is some truth to this claim, no doubt, but it doesn’t account for the fact that many people who watched the show are probably not Batman fanatics. [2] It could be that people are intrigued with Gotham because it’s usually Batman who gets the spotlight, and so a show focusing on Gordon is unique. Then again, perhaps the marketing team just did a fantastic job selling the show. There is some truth to each of these responses; however, there is, it seems, an much simpler underlying factor that needs to be considered.

People are drawn to origin stories like Gotham because we are obsessed with origins. That is, people want to know how things began—how things got to be the way they are today. Origin stories meet that need; they promise to answer our why questions. In Gotham, we have the promise of getting to see why Jim Gordon is Jim Gordon, Police Commissioner of Gotham Police Department. What shows like this reveal to us, then, is that there is something in our nature—our design—that compels us to search out stories about beginnings in order that we may better understand life (and our role in it). At its most basic level,Gotham reveals and awakens in us an ancient desire—a desire that goes all the way back to, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).


  1. http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/09/23/gotham-ratings/  ↩
  2. For instance, I am Superman fan; and although I like the Caped Crusader, I’m not necessarily among those rushing out to see or read everything Batman.  ↩

Batman v Superman: 4 Reasons to Get Excited

Posted: October 23, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago, John shared some “reasons to hope” in the upcoming Star Wars movie. Now it’s my turn, and this week I want to give you some reasons to get excited about the Batman v Superman film. First, let me start off by saying that I am a huge Superman nerd and was initially very disappointed to hear that it will be a while before we get to see The Man of Steel in another solo movie. I got over it quickly, however; and apprehension soon turned into thrill.

In addition, those of you who follow movie news at all are aware that as plot points, casting rumors, and leaked footage have emerged, skeptics have been increasingly vocal. One of the perennial issues with superhero movies is that studios must appeal to a massive audience, while also trying to satisfy some of the comic book fans—of which I am included—who know and love these characters in mediums other than film. Ultimately, though, the purpose of these films is to make money (a lot of it); and as a result, the diehard fans will never be satisfied with every decision a director or producer makes. Some have ardently opposed the casting of Ben Affleck (more on that later); others have complained that the film will be surfeited with characters—friend and foe alike (a valid concern, in my estimation). That being said, there are several reasons that I’m really, really excited about this movie … and I think you should be too.

BATMAN v SUPERMAN

Sometimes the title tells you all you need to know. We get to see Batman and Superman fight! Knowing that Superman is the best—and would win that battle every time (I’m looking at you, Frank Miller)—doesn’t lessen the anticipation at all. It’s one thing to see this in a graphic novel or in a DC animated film; but to see it on the big screen, with director Zack Snyder at the helm, is a whole new ballgame.

Yet another of the manifold reasons people will flock to theaters to see The Dark Knight face off against Supes is that we are somehow attracted to cinematic spectacle that helps us feel our own smallness. We all need to be reminded that “we are but dust” (Psalms103:14), and at their best, massive action scenes can remind us of this truth. The Batman/Superman fight can remind us that we are very weak.

On the other hand, it just looks like a lot of fun, and it is important to remember that God is not opposed to fun.

BEN AFFLECK AS BATMAN

No, I didn’t make a mistake; this really is a reason to get excited. I know that we all like to think we can do a much better job than the people who get paid to make casting decisions, but let’s put all the outrage on hold until we’ve seen the performance. Remember, people weren’t all that excited about Heath Ledger being cast as the joker in The Dark Knight either. And not only is Affleck a Batman fan, he’s also a terribly underrated actor. His work in Gone Girl should have erased any doubts about his acting chops.

RELEASE DATE

The fact that this film has a 2016 release date is another reason for great anticipation. Let me explain. A long countdown means that Zack Snyder and company have ample time to get it right and give us the movie we want to see. There will likely be advance screenings, cuts and recuts, and hours upon hours of editing—all in an effort to make the the best (read: most profitable) film possible. Basically, we can have faith that the filmmakers—from now until 2016—will be doing everything within their power to make the year-plus wait worthwhile.

DAWN OF JUSTICE

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will actually be a part of the larger DC Universe. The film’s subtitle is DC’s promise that they are paving the way for the Justice League movie, which is slated to release in 2017. Yeah, the gauntlet has been thrown down, and Marvel finally has some competition!

This sort of world-building is a timely indication that—no matter what the postmoderns say—metanarratives aren’t dead. And finally, we should all get excited about Batman v Superman because you can rest assured that, in the end, they will join together in the fight for justice; for that is the mark of a true superhero

Wednesday’s Weekday Poll

Posted: October 22, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized, Wednesday's Weekend Poll
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We’ll be featuring some Batman themed posts later this week, so here’s our question for you:

 

In case you missed it last week.

12_Years_A_Slave_PosterArtI’m very hesitant to write about such a sensitive historical event.  Prior to watching this film, I had told myself that I wouldn’t be doing a post on this.  In many ways, writing eloquently about a topic such as slavery is something outside of my gifting.  However, instead of writing in-depth about the film, I thought I would simply highlight a few themes that struck me while watching.  12 Years a Slave falls into the category of movies everyone should watch.  Below are a few reasons why:

Depravity

If this movie teaches us anything, it is the depravity of mankind.  My wife and I couldn’t help but ask, Were people really that wicked?  We both know our theology and we believe in the the doctrine of original sin, but how could people be that cruel?  How could people treat fellow image bearers in such a wicked way?  This movie displays the depths of wickedness we are all capable of.  It shows the dark, evil that lurks in all of our hearts.  It should humble us all to know that we are capable of those same sins.

Freedom

In a conversation between Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Bass (Brad Pitt), I was reminded about the gift of my freedom.  Bass makes the statement that his freedom is “everything to him” and remarks of his taking for granted being able to walk off the plantation at any time.  This too, made me realize how often I take my freedom for granted.  To be honest, I rarely give a passing thought to the cost of my freedom and the luxuries my freedom offers me.  This film gave me a small glimpse into the blessings I’m afforded every day.

Hatred

If this movie doesn’t move you towards hatred, I don’t know what will.  Of course Scripture commands us to be angry (Eph. 4:26), but we are to guard towards sinful anger.  This movie caused me to feel anger towards racism, slavery, wickedness, but I had to be cautious not to hate white people, in general.  Movies like this – if we’re not careful – can stir up feelings of hatred over past sins.  While I’m baffled by the blind racial hatred by our previous culture, I was reminded to guard myself against hating those responsible.  Rather, I’m forced to think about the blind-spots of our current culture?  What sins will the next generation hate us for?  How are similar sins currently being manifested?

Enslavement

This film also helped me to grasp a deep theological truth.  Towards the end of the film, the proper authorities show up presenting Solomon’s freedom papers to his slave master – Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender – btw, phenomenal performance by Fassbender!).  As Epps views these authorities taking his “property”, he becomes furious.  He screams, he threatens, his rage spews through his words and actions, but he can do nothing to Solomon.  In fact, Solomon is told, Pay no attention to that man.

As Christians, we too were enslaved.  We had a hard master who still screams at us, mistreats us, and makes us live in constant misery.  However, the truth is, we have One who calls us out of slavery and tells us to pay no attention to that man.  All the devil can do is threaten and disrupt our peace.  While that causes us misery each and every day, we no longer belong to that master.  We have a master whose yoke is easy and burden is light. (Matt. 11:30).

While I don’t think it was my best picture, it was deserving of the Best Picture – well acted and executed by the filmmakers.  As I said, this is a film every Christian needs to watch.  Some may protest that due to the rough content, but I find movies like this helpful to watch.  Helpful for the reasons listed above, but also helpful to assault the idols of comfort and ease in my heart.  So, rent 12 Years a Slave and be thankful for your freedom, and think of ways in which you can stand against injustice in our current culture.