Like a Splinter

I saw that it was based on a novel by Ira Levin, and it was free on Amazon Prime, so I watched it.  I’m not sure Sliver did much for me, however.  Ironically I watched it a weekend after watching another Sharon Stone movie that had been panned, Diabolique.  (Stone grew up not far from me I learned, but then, it’s a small world.) Something I’ve noticed about myself is that my limited experience sometimes sets false expectations.  My experience with Ira Levin has been The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby.  I read both novels and saw both movies.  I’d classify them as horror, so I guess I thought that’s how Ira Levin translated to me.  What Sliver (the movie) suggests to me is that Levin must’ve been really conflicted about living in New York City.  In both this movie and Rosemary, getting a great apartment always comes with a hidden problem of a major kind.

Sliver is a bit difficult to figure out because the original ending was changed so I’m not sure what to believe.  One thing I know for sure is that movies that make a character work in publishing are never shot by someone who actually does work in the industry.  Either that or I’ve been shortchanged.  In the movie Carly Norris (Stone), who moves into the Sliver, has a huge office.  I’ve only ever had cubicles, if even that.  No oak paneling and book-lined walls for me.  In any case, the movie focuses on Carly’s home life because two men fall for her as soon as she moves in.  One of them is a killer (this was what was changed with the rewritten ending), and both of them are creeps.  One spies on everyone in the building through hidden cameras and microphones, and the other has affairs with the young, single women.  And maybe kills them.

I guess I was expecting something more like the original Stepford (the remake—why?) or Rosemary.  Both had a message with plenty of social commentary, it seemed to me.  Of course, both of them were pretty close to the book.  (I’ve not read this novel.  Perhaps I should.)  Sliver, at least the film, was more a matter of moving into a building with a mystery and not knowing whom to trust.  It really didn’t suggest much about surveillance, or women’s agency or lack thereof.  It did make a case for not moving to New York City.  I don’t know how an editor could possibly afford such a nice apartment, in any case. 


Diabolical

Diabolique, the 1996 remake, is sometimes tagged as horror.  It’s also considered drama and a thriller, so how you classify it has some flexibility.  One thing it’s generally not classified as is “good.”  Most remakes suffer in comparison to the originals, and their originating novels explain a lot more.  Still, it’s set near Pittsburgh and it has a lot of religious imagery in it.  In case you’re not familiar—it’s the story of a love triangle involving a particularly odious man and two women who inexplicably adore him.  One of the women is a young, wealthy heiress who inherited a private school outside the city.  She’s a teacher at the school and her cheating husband is the principal.  Her best friend, beknownst to her, is sleeping with her lecherous husband.  But the best friend also protects the wife from her husband’s bullying.

The wife, a former nun, has a heart condition.  Her husband and best friend plot to scare her to death and inherit the school and all her money.  They do this via an elaborate—almost Rube Goldberg-esque—ruse where the women drown the man and he then “comes back to life” frightening the former nun into a heart attack.  Her best friend, apparently, repents along the way and along with the wife, end up drowning her husband for real when he attacks both of them.  You kind of get the sense that there are few characters with whom to empathize and although this could’ve been a feminist manifesto, it was directed by a man and missed that opportunity.  So why am I discussing it here?

The use of religion in this film is intriguing.  Throughout the school there’s discarded religious imagery.  Crosses cast aside, empty holy water fonts, grace not said before meals.  The husband, not a believer, has put all of that aside.  His wife, convinced she’s murdered her husband, confesses.  Then engages a private investigator, for appearances’ sake.  The thing is, the religious imagery doesn’t really come into contact with the story.  The only real exception is when the wife uses the cross she’s wearing to gouge her husband’s face.  A strange form of salvation indeed.  The movie isn’t that good (it’s free on Amazon Prime, though) but it underscores once again that religion does find a natural partner in crime with horror.  Or in this case, a thriller.  However you want to classify it.  The plot twists aren’t effectively executed but I suppose it’s better than a crucifix in your eye.


Who Bites?

Although I use them, I find genres too constraining.  When Parasite first came out in 2019 many people said it was a horror film.  Others called it a thriller.  A comedy.  A drama.  It has elements of all these things.  As the first non-American film to win an Academy Award for best picture, it was an irresistible draw.  When it would come to a streaming service I already pay for, that is.  And having watched it, I still don’t know how I’d classify it.  And if you haven’t seen it, how would I describe it?  The word that keeps coming back to me begins with the same first couple of syllables: a parable.  In case you’re even more out of touch than I am, here’s the skinny on it.

A South Korean film, it’s the story of a poor family (Kim) that, desperate to get out of their circumstances, finds a way to infiltrate a rich family’s (Park) home.  The Kims live in a semi-basement flat prone to bugs and flooding.  The family’s son gets hired as the Park’s substitute English tutor for their daughter.  He recommends his sister (putatively as someone his cousin knows) as an art tutor for the Park’s son.  The poor siblings then arrange to have their father (presented as a stranger) hired as the chauffeur, and finally the mother as the housemaid.  They live in poverty while working for the wealthy.  Then they discover the former housekeeper kept her own family in a secret basement.  The homeowners discover none of this, then a garden party goes all wrong.

Laugh out-loud funny in parts, it’s a poignant film that, for me, explores the plight of the clever poor.  The wealthy have so much that they can easily support a second family without even noticing any financial loss.  The only reason the Parks employ all the Kims, however, is that they don’t realize the Kims are actually a family.  By pretending to be unrelated they’re able to survive.  There’s a lot to say about this movie.  I can see why some people suggest it might be horror—that’s not the usual genre assigned, though.  It has a Jordan Peelesque nature to it.  The social criticism is fairly intense throughout from trying to syphon off a neighbor’s wifi to cheap solutions to kill the bugs in the apartment.  The Parks live in a walled, gated paradise while those down lower simply have to make do.  If you haven’t seen this one, please do.  You’ll be glad you did.  And please, remember to vote.


Bookmark This

I haven’t forgotten about horror.  In fact, this past late winter my list of must see movies has continued to grow.  I don’t subject you, my kind readers, to endless barrages about Holy Horror since I believe the idea behind the book is novel in its own right and can stand on its own.  The other day I even ordered bookmarks to be made, for free distribution.  Thing is, days are getting longer, and warmer, and people are thinking the opposite of horror just as spring is the equinoctial opposite of fall.  Like a good monster I’m biding my time.  And doing so on an editor’s budget.  (The pay scale’s not the same as that of a professor; believe me, I know.)  Horror’s funny that way—it is seasonal, at least in most people’s minds.

I make the point in the book that fear serves a useful function.  It occurs in other genres quite frequently, although they bear the outcast label less overtly than horror.  Perhaps this gets to the root of my fascination.  Having grown up as part of the pariah social class of the poor, my sympathies are with the genre that often fails to find respectability.  Many of those who criticize horror do not watch it.  Some of these films are quite sophisticated, and the genre blends into other “speculative” categories such as science-fiction and some action, as well as into the more naturalistic thriller.  And thrillers are merely dramas with an elevated pulse rate.  This difficulty of distinguishing genres sharply is one reason Holy Horror addresses some films that aren’t strictly horror.

Work continues apace on Nightmares with the Bible.  Again, the ex-professorate never receives sabbaticals during which concentrated work might be done on books.  In the pre-dawn hours, however, I steadily make progress.  Very shortly an article I wrote for Horizons in Biblical Theology on the topic will appear.  Safely during the spring.  As the days grow longer more of my weekend time is demanded by the outdoors aspect of home ownership, cleaning up after the freezing and thawing of a long winter when infelicities were safely covered under snow.  Sometimes I fear for the progress made on my next book—it is the first advance contract I have ever had—but then I remind myself that fear does serve useful functions.  It’s not called a deadline for nothing.  So even as the darkness fades I prepare for the next round to begin.