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A scary thing happened on the way to the Movie Forums - Horrorcrammers

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Yeah, I just gave The Northman the same rating as Just Before Dawn. It is what it is.
Have you read any of the Sagas? That tends to impact whether or not someone takes issue with the narrative.



Yeah, I just gave The Northman the same rating as Just Before Dawn. It is what it is.
Your rating for both match mine, so I hereby declare your opinions as Correct.



Have you read any of the Sagas? That tends to impact whether or not someone takes issue with the narrative.
I have not.

But I'm not sure that being familiar with source material would have helped the issues I had.



I have not.

But I'm not sure that being familiar with source material would have helped the issues I had.
I dunno. Complex characters with narrative simplicity is symptomatic of the source(s). Like Eggers’ film, they generally tightwalk between straightforward narratives and magical realism. Revenge stories that matter-of-factly present their anti-heroes and not-so-villainous antagonists are par for course.

On a slightly related note, I’ve seen many express disappointment at how derivative the narrative is, but this is a fairly faithful adaptation of Ambale’s Saga (aka Amleth’s Saga), which is the inspiration for Hamlet (ol’ Willie Shakes just moved the H).

Outside of being filmed in Old Norse (which would’ve been both mine and Eggers’ preference but would’ve prevented the film from getting funded and made), I’m hard pressed to think of a better possible saga adaptation (though I personally would’ve adapted Aegil’s Saga).



I dunno. Complex characters with narrative simplicity is symptomatic of the source(s). Like Eggers’ film, they generally tightwalk between straightforward narratives and magical realism. Revenge stories that matter-of-factly present their anti-heroes and not-so-villainous antagonists are par for course.
Given the creativity behind the film, I am disappointed that the dynamics of the source material weren't adapted in a better way, if my complaints are problems with that source material.

It felt as if every time the film introduced and interesting element of nuance, it then pushed too far and it became less interesting again.

For example, when we learn the (rather obvious) fact that
WARNING: spoilers below
his mother was actually a slave/rape victim of the father and was, in effect, rescued by the uncle, this is an interesting moment.

I wish that the film had been content to leave her character in this place: she made a brutal choice (the death of her husband and the death of her child) to escape a life she did not want. Certainly that is par for the course in terms of how character in the film act.

But instead of stopping here, the movie has to take it one step forward. She's fine with him killing the uncle! She offers him an incestuous relationship!

Now instead of being interesting, she's just overtly evil.

And this information creates a parallel between the main character and his mother's youngest son. Yet the film barely takes a moment to let this sink in, and the youngest son is later dispatched without a second glance.


All of these dynamics and elements could have been exactly the same, but I wish they'd been framed or treated differently.



Given the creativity behind the film, I am disappointed that the dynamics of the source material weren't adapted in a better way, if my complaints are problems with that source material.

It felt as if every time the film introduced and interesting element of nuance, it then pushed too far and it became less interesting again.

For example, when we learn the (rather obvious) fact that
WARNING: spoilers below
his mother was actually a slave/rape victim of the father and was, in effect, rescued by the uncle, this is an interesting moment.

I wish that the film had been content to leave her character in this place: she made a brutal choice (the death of her husband and the death of her child) to escape a life she did not want. Certainly that is par for the course in terms of how character in the film act.

But instead of stopping here, the movie has to take it one step forward. She's fine with him killing the uncle! She offers him an incestuous relationship!

Now instead of being interesting, she's just overtly evil.

And this information creates a parallel between the main character and his mother's youngest son. Yet the film barely takes a moment to let this sink in, and the youngest son is later dispatched without a second glance.


All of these dynamics and elements could have been exactly the same, but I wish they'd been framed or treated differently.
I didn’t take that last bit as being altogether “serious” but rather a taunt.

WARNING: spoilers below
I don’t think she was “fine” with him killing the uncle but rather bringing to the surface what his “goal” would ultimately be.

Now, she may not actually love the uncle. Romantic concepts in Viking society didn’t seem to align particularly close to our modern sensibilities and had more of a focus on instrumental function. Even if she were truthful, I view it as more of an emphasis on a woman’s role as a lord’s wife.

More than that, I think the strength of the scene is how it impacts the audiences understanding of Ambleth himself. His time as a wolf berserker already firmly placed him as a morally gray protagonist but stripping his mission of any modern sense of nobility and heroism makes him a quintessential Viking protagonist.


I do think placing the narrative in the tradition of sagas and Viking culture does excuse or at least contextualize a lot of seeming deficiencies when judged as a narrative in a post-modern landscape.



Registered User
I’ve seen many express disappointment at how derivative the narrative is.

That's like complaining that gospel and blues ripped off rock and roll.



That's like complaining that gospel and blues ripped off rock and roll.
Exactly. Not that I’m saying that is what Tak is doing but it was a near constant complaint on Film Twitter and Reddit.



I do think placing the narrative in the tradition of sagas and Viking culture does excuse or at least contextualize a lot of seeming deficiencies when judged as a narrative in a post-modern landscape.
Maybe.

All I can say for sure is that I was underwhelmed, found the story to be overly predictable (not derivative, per se, just predictable), and kept thinking something neat and different was going to happen only for those interesting gestures to come to nothing.

The movie's goals may well be very different from what I wanted out of it, and that's fine. But I can't imagine wanting to watch it again.



Registered User
I've heard Viking nuts praise the film as historically accurate (save for the Wagnerian Valkyrie). The film seems to have had a careful eye to the historical and mythological details.



The magical realism seemed about right. If you want to see it as a "real" story seen through the eye of people who believe in magic, you can. If you want to see Gods in the background, you can. If you like the ambiguity held in tension between these "readings," you can have that as well.



There's no false nobility impressed upon our raiding beserkers. They are monstrous, if not quite actual monsters. The film is not really playing favorites, pleading for us to love or hate these people. The Vikings TV show on the other hand, really wanted to make a case for ethos of these people as well as the mythos, to sense that they were genuinely superior and special - "narrative nationalism" - if you will.



The visuals are nice, especially the more fantastical stuff.



It's not postmodern. It's not clever. There's no big twist. It's not Shakespeare set in escape room during the COVID crisis. There's no cheap and creaking allegory. At most, there's a hint of feminist politicking in the mix and perhaps slight modern critique when Amleth refects that his culture gave him a life that never even allowed him to consider love, that it was a choice. In this sense, it's simple. But I like that. I don't want to be reminded of Ukraine, or Trump, or sexual politics, in a film like this -- I want to take a break from it here, and we do.



I think the greatest disappointment for Eggers fans is that it wasn't "out there" enough, but not every film needs to be a Lynchian Labyrinth.





Nightmare Alley, 2021

Stan (Bradely Cooper) leaves behind a troubled relationship with his father and takes a job at a carnival. He quickly ingratiates himself with couple Zeena (Toni Collette) and Pete (David Strathairn) who operate a compelling mind-reading act. Stan is a fast learner, and soon he and his crush Molly (Rooney Mara) are out on their own surviving on Stan's very successful act. But when wealthy clients offer Stan a lot of money to contact their loved ones, he can't resist the opportunity despite many warning signs.

I have heard a range of reactions to this film, everything from people who really liked it to others who said that they were bored. Overall I would say that I liked it. While there's never really any doubt where Stan is heading, his journey there has some memorable and interesting moments.

Early in the film, a character remarks that a mind-reader doesn't actually have to work that hard to read someone---people are desperate to show themselves to you. This sets up a nice thematic arc for the whole film, as characters reveal different traumas, vulnerabilities, strengths, loves, and fears to one another. Being a noir-thriller, though, the question is which of those things are real and which are a facade?

Across the board I thought that the performances were good, and particularly Cooper's turn as someone who is smart enough to see the angles except when money is on the line. Cate Blanchett is a picture-perfect icy femme fatale as a psychiatrist who gets into a fling with Stan and gives him inside information so that he can wow his wealthy clients. Willem Dafoe also makes an impression as the leader of the carnival who clues Stan in to some of the less savory tactics of the trade.

The overall look of the film is pretty neat, both in the carnival sequences and spaces like Blanchett's office. The costuming and makeup are also really on point.

Generally speaking there was a slower pace than I expected. I can understand why some viewers found it to be too slow-moving. It's not a film I imagine I'd revisit, but I'm glad I watched it.




I think expectations on The Northman was a bit weird. People kept using The Lighthouse as their reference point, and mentally I used The VVitch instead.
A slight detour to explain that.

To my understanding, when Pasolini, a gay, atheist, Marxist, did his Trilogy of Life, it was motivated by the idea that modern storytelling had gotten screwed up because of commercial interests (I suspect the Marxist part was relevant here), and he wanted an attempt to get back to what storytelling was like before they were affected by the need to gather greats amount of wealth by telling them. (personally, I wouldn't have thought The Canterbury Tales would have succeeded in this). Though, it's worth noting he still inserted an original story in The Canterbury Tales (and I don't know how I should take the fact that I felt this was the best entry in the movie - in terms of a verdict of this experiment). But I look at Oedipus Rex (sans the very end) and The Gospel According to St. Matthew and while not having heard anyone express similar things about those two, can't help but wonder how much Pasolini was still in a mode of wanting to tell these stories as they were (after, I don't know how long, I've finally ordered a copy of Salo that will be arriving in a month, so I guess I'll be finally watching that one as well). With that in mind, it's not surprising that his Gospel According to St. Matthew is, I believe (though far from certain), is supposed to be considered fairly faithful to the text (let's be honest, despite being dragged off to Church as a child, I never read the Bible, or don't really remember much of what I read). But with that light, it's not surprising that he'd create a movie that I've seen listed on some list of great movies from the Vatican (or maybe it was the Vatican's newspaper, which might be called, The Vatican? Look, I'm not Catholic, I don't feel the need to pay attention to these details. I stumbled across an official list somewhere and was amused at the slight irony of who made the film).

Anyhow, back to Eggers. Nothing in The VVitch was that out there compared to the source material, it's just, all those fables and legends about witches, was just pretty far out there to begin with (if put to screen. like in Haxan). So, it left me with the impression that Eggers seems interested in telling stories, legends, myths from past eras, to give them the space to be as alien and foreign as they were ("the past is a different country, they do things differently there," and all that). I can't say how that maps onto The Lighthouse, not being nearly as familiar with old wickie lore (or what have you). But that rosetta stone makes sense for The Northman, and while not reading the source material specifically for that epic, having had to read Beowulf at some point in my life for school like everyone else, it was pretty close to what I was expecting it to be before everyone else started getting really excited (also because it was listed as Action/Adventure, and horror wasn't on the list). Which is to say, I am not surprised he would eventually make a Viking epic story, and I am not surprised I would find it relatively less interesting than his other movies (but still interesting).

Bah. I thought I had a point but now it feels like I didn't. But I did want to take that detour talking about Pasolini while everyone was talking Eggers. I am curious how Eggers will talk about this one, like 10 years from now, with enough personal distance and not having to worry about torpedoing his career by expressing any shortcomings about it.

WARNING: "The Northman" spoilers below

wrt actual plot points -
The Kidman reveal - I feel like her turn was more, "this society sucks. I'm just meat to it, and I have to do what I have to survive." I still don't know if she actually liked the uncle. Though, he was probably the best of her bad options.

I think my biggest issue was the two leads actually expressing emotional love for each other close to the end. I wasn't expecting that in a Viking story. It seemed more like something out of, well, the last five centuries. So when I rewatch this, which, I know I will at some point, that will probably be the thing I'll be wondering about a lot.




Registered User
Eggers seems interested in telling stories, legends, myths from past eras, to give them the space to be as alien and foreign as they were ("the past is a different country, they do things differently there," and all that).

I think that this is right on.



Anyhow, back to Eggers. Nothing in The VVitch was that out there compared to the source material, it's just, all those fables and legends about witches, was just pretty far out there to begin with (if put to screen. like in Haxan). So, it left me with the impression that Eggers seems interested in telling stories, legends, myths from past eras, to give them the space to be as alien and foreign as they were ("the past is a different country, they do things differently there," and all that). I can't say how that maps onto The Lighthouse, not being nearly as familiar with old wickie lore (or what have you). But that rosetta stone makes sense for The Northman, and while not reading the source material specifically for that epic, having had to read Beowulf at some point in my life for school like everyone else, it was pretty close to what I was expecting it to be before everyone else started getting really excited (also because it was listed as Action/Adventure, and horror wasn't on the list). Which is to say, I am not surprised he would eventually make a Viking epic story, and I am not surprised I would find it relatively less interesting than his other movies (but still interesting).
I don't mind at all the idea of just letting source material stand on its own for the most part and totally indulging in the alien world of the past (and you can really tell that a ton of research/work was done in the portrayals of the cultures). One of the books we had in my house growing up was a giant anthology of Russian fairy tales and they just seemed incredibly weird and horrifying to me because many of the usual "beats" of Grimm-style fairy tales weren't in them.

But The Northman doesn't stop at this level. It keeps introducing nuances or vibes into the film that feel like they mean something and then just . . . don't.

WARNING: spoilers below
I am curious how Eggers will talk about this one, like 10 years from now, with enough personal distance and not having to worry about torpedoing his career by expressing any shortcomings about it.


I mean even in the here and now he has made several comments about the extensive studio notes. Like you say, I'll be interested to hear his remarks a little further down the line.

WARNING: "The Northman" spoilers below

wrt actual plot points -
The Kidman reveal - I feel like her turn was more, "this society sucks. I'm just meat to it, and I have to do what I have to survive." I still don't know if she actually liked the uncle. Though, he was probably the best of her bad options.
I mean, she
WARNING: spoilers below
liked him enough that she conceived a child by choice with him. Obviously that's not some ringing endorsement of their love, but it gives her character dimension. I just feel as if the moment that (admittedly from a modern point of view) things just go a bit wonky. She is the mastermind. She orchestrated her husband's death. She signed off on the killing of her own son. The continued fixation on the uncle (who is, really, kind of a goober) feels incredibly hollow. And maybe that's sort of meant to be the point, but the film then ALSO wants to have its big finish be a duel in an erupting volcano.


From both a narrative and emotional/character point of view I was pretty dissatisfied in the final act.



One of the books we had in my house growing up was a giant anthology of Russian fairy tales and they just seemed incredibly weird and horrifying to me because many of the usual "beats" of Grimm-style fairy tales weren't in them.

Well, now instead of the constant teasing of a Nosferatu remake, I'd like to see Eggers do a Viy remake.



WARNING: spoilers below
I am curious how Eggers will talk about this one, like 10 years from now, with enough personal distance and not having to worry about torpedoing his career by expressing any shortcomings about it.


I mean even in the here and now he has made several comments about the extensive studio notes. Like you say, I'll be interested to hear his remarks a little further down the line.

Some of that curiosity is informed for his current comments. But Kubrick and Spartacus comes to mind. Obviously a very different situation, since Kubrick was a director for hire on that one. But in the moment, it was a large jump up in scale and prestige for him. Apart from torpedoing his career, I imagine some of his initial praise for his own work on the film was just simply focusing on the parts he felt were a success and the challenge of scaling up. Much more of The Northman is clearly springing from Eggers' mind, but the whole line of, this is the most watchable (or accessible) version of this movie ("and is definitely the version he wanted to tell"), I kind of wonder if x-number of years if he'll go, "yeah, but in retrospect it would have been interesting if I hadn't made something accessible."

Granted, what he's already said about The VVitch has been leaving me wondering, "what the hell else was there for you to put up there?"

ETA: going back to my old line when those interviews were being posted, I would have been happy with a "The Northman" that didn't have a beginning, middle, and end.



Victim of The Night
As I scroll through the last 3 months of Horrorcram, it looks like almost nobody saw or at least had anything to say about Ti West's X.
Is no one interested?
Just curious, I find this odd.



As I scroll through the last 3 months of Horrorcram, it looks like almost nobody saw or at least had anything to say about Ti West's X.
Is no one interested?
Just curious, I find this odd.
It’s West’s best film and makes me forgive him of his trespasses. Mia Goth is phenomenal, as always.



As I scroll through the last 3 months of Horrorcram, it looks like almost nobody saw or at least had anything to say about Ti West's X.
Is no one interested?
Just curious, I find this odd.
I assume it hasn't hit streaming yet? I don't go to theatres super often these days and my most recent trips were for Ambulance and The Northman. I suspect there are others in a similar boat.



I assume it hasn't hit streaming yet? I don't go to theatres super often these days and my most recent trips were for Ambulance and The Northman. I suspect there are others in a similar boat.
You can rent it but I think it’s something stupid like $20