4 PEER RESPONSES DUE IN 20 HOURS
For this week’s discussion, I chose to observe The Blair Witch Project, a horror film released in 1999. This film is unique compared to earlier films and even many films normally released as it is filmed in a first-person perspective. Although the films are different, many parallels can still be drawn between the two. The directors of The Blair Witch Project, Daniel Myrick, and Eduardo Sanchez utilize a fear of the unknown throughout the film. The protagonists as well as the audience are unsure whether the witch is real or not until it is too late, somewhat similar to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Both films utilize abstract sets, to give the audience a feeling of unfamiliarity and fear. In my opinion, these sets correlate to the protagonist’s eventual mental deterioration. The endings are also similar, they both reach a boiling point in which the protagonist’s sanity comes into question. But the ending to the Blair Witch Project is much more simple than that of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The Blair Witch Project ultimately confirms the unknown at the end of the film. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari leaves the audience questioning whether or not Francis is actually insane or not.
1. While The Blair Witch Project has a soundtrack, it is used minimally which helps create a sense of realism. The film relies on silence and the use of Foley mixers to create a sense of danger. In my opinion, a true soundtrack would take away from the sense of realism. Myrick and Sanchez, do an excellent job putting the audience into the shoes of the cameraman by using natural sounds to build suspense.
2. At the beginning of the movie, the protagonists interview two men while they are fishing. Throughout the scene, the sound of rushing water is dominant over their speaking. Towards the end, the protagonists eventually ended up using a source of water to attempt to find their way out of the forest. Though at this point the water is quiet, showing how truly lost they are.
3. During scenes filmed at night, the directors greatly use sound to instill fear in the audience. It is often difficult to see during these scenes which makes the sounds that much more important. At a point in the film, all of the film’s protagonists find themself sitting together in a tent. Suddenly, they begin hearing the sounds of rocks and laughter from outside the tent. The fear of the unknown then suddenly sets in for the protagonists and audience alike.
The film I chose was Death Becomes Her (1992) which is labeled as fantasy, horror, and comedy
There are elements of the film shared with each of the three genres it’s categorized in. Death and murder are the main themes in the movie and contribute to the horror element. There’s suspense, murder, and the undead. The fantasy side contains magic that allows. Finally the comedy genre seems to set the narrative for the movie, making it overall lighthearted with the use of slapstick comedy. Of course, the three genres interacting prevent it from being just a horror, fantasy, or comedy film.
Because the film covers three distinct genres, the score of the film plays an important role in guiding your feelings. In the scene after Dr. Ernest Mendville pushes his wife Madeline down the stairs, the music changes several times so you know when to feel horrified and when to laugh. As he’s on the phone, his assumedly dead wife begins rising from the floor behind him in a zombie-like fashion. Dramatic music swells along with thunder in the background, letting you know that something sinister is going on. As we get into the comedic bits, such as Madeline stumbling because her head is on backward, and Ernest’s shock in knowing that she should not have survived and broken neck, the music lightens up and becomes a little punchy, underscoring the comedic timing. In some of the other comedic moments, there is no background music, again letting the actors set the tone of what emotion you should be gravitating to.
World War Z wouldn’t have been able to be released under the Hays Code because it falls under a “Don’t’ and too many “Be Careful” categories. The only “Don’t” this film has is the very first one, “Pointed profanity by either title or lip”. There isn’t much use of profanity in this film, but it does have some scenes where they use profanity. On the other hand this film has many “Be Careful” scenes. To name a few would be “The use of firearms”, “Rape or attempted rape”, and “Brutality and possible gruesomeness”. Throughout the whole film people are fighting for their lives and to do so they use fire arms and explosives. Plus it shows different military members helping protect these people with the different military weapons. A gruesome scene in this film is where Gerry (Brad Pitt) is forced to cut off his colleagues hand once she is bitten by an infected person. You kind of get a glimpse of her arm once Gerry goes to disinfect it. Also the entire movie shows people getting eaten by other people. I’d say that is pretty gruesome. The attempted rape scene isn’t too graphic but the viewer can kind of tell what is happening. This scene happens in the beginning of the movie when all the chaos starts and shows Gerry’s wife calling for him as she is being attacked by two men in the grocery store. The scene only lasts a few seconds but we can make out whats going on.
These are only a few examples but I believe this would have been enough for them to not release this film. Thanks to Jack Valenti, we improved to a more reasonable rating system that works for today’s film. I don’t see too many films from this era being able to release their films under the strict Hays Code.
Filmmaker IQ. “The History of Hollywood Censorship and the Ratings System.” YouTube, 28 Nov. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynf8BmfgPtM.
Censorship has deep roots in the film industry, going back to the censorship of boxing in 1897. The most notable censorship was the Hays Code adopted in 1930 and more seriously enforced in 1934 with the Legion of Decency. This stifled American cinema for several decades until the rating systems were implemented. I covered Insidious (2010) this week. I think that the movie could have been released under the hays code with one main change. The hays code states, “Films could not use revenge as a theme or premise in stories set during modern times, since it could be seen as glorifying violence (specifically murder).” This directly conflicts with the ending to Insidious where one of the main characters is choked and brutally murdered by the husband. With that, if that scene was changed it would most likely have been released under the Hays Code. It is important to note that Insidious carries a pg-13 rating which is largely why this film would mostly stand up to the Hays Code.