How “The Invisible Man” used horror as an element to address domestic violence

 

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Horror genre in Hollywood can be classified into 3 types: Supernatural movies like Insidious, The Conjuring, and Annabelle that has the presence of a supernatural entity which differs as per individual faith and belief systems. Secondly, psychological horror films, including Get Out, and serial killer films like the Saw series that leave the audience horrified without the presence of any supernatural entity. The third type is a new and evolving one which mostly addresses issues in our society using this genre. The Invisible Man would fit right into the latest group.
Starring the quintessential Elisabeth Moss in the lead role, The Invisible Man is the story of domestic abuse and violence masquerading as a horror movie. However, the movie does a good job at convincing the audience till the end that it’s a horror movie with classic elements like a creepy background score; sudden, loud noises that break long silences, and a female lead who can’t catch a break because the people around her don’t believe her or call her crazy. Also, preconceived notions of mandatory appearance of supernatural entities in horror movies by the audience are a reason for that.
The opening scene of the movie shows Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) running away from a huge mansion cum science laboratory with surveillance around the whole house. Soon, it’s revealed that she is running away from her abusive husband Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and seeks refuge in her childhood friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney Lanier (Storm Reid). Trapped in an unhappy, violent marriage, Cecilia decides to leave her husband eventually because he planned to bring a baby into their marriage, permanently locking her in that rut. She decided to use her reproductive rights (3rd wave feminism whaddup) to obtain birth control and has been preventing pregnancy deliberately. The plot thickens when Adrian Griffin “dies” by suicide leaving $5 million to Cecilia provided she doesn’t commit any crime.
Adrian Griffin is an optics engineer and businessman, the best in his field. He is wealthy and the plot tells us he could’ve had any woman in the world to himself; basically, your regular entitled upper class, white man. He has designed a suit that helps people get invisible. Using this tech, he ‘haunts’ and tortures Cecilia. The ways he used to do that resonate directly with what victims of domestic abuse and violence go through. He makes the victim feel she is unreasonable, he isolates the victim from the only people she can rely on for emotional strength and support, and he destroys the victim’s chance at having financial security.
It was finally revealed that Adrian Griffin, along with his brother and attorney, Tom Griffin (Michael Dorman) faked his death as well as kidnapping to make Cecilia look like the ‘crazy’ woman in front of the world. The last few minutes of the movie is a master class in acting by Elizabeth Moss and an attempt by Cecilia to make her abusive husband admit to everything he’s done to her including killing her sister Emily Kass (Harriet Dyer) and a bunch of security guards in a mental asylum. She realizes that Adrian is continuing to manipulate her with the same pattern and vocabulary he previously used. She kills him using the same suit he made to get invisible and walks out of the mansion with a big smile on her face and relief in her soul. Brownie points to Elisabeth Moss for channeling her inner Offred in that scene (The Handmaid’s Tale fans, put yo’ hands up!)
The movie could have been a bit shorter with some scenes from the first half cut down. The jump scare element in the movie does a good job at keeping the audience at the edge of their seat. Cecilia’s efforts in proving her husband’s crimes to the world are played smartly without showing her as merely a vulnerable woman in a bad marriage which the patriarchal society perceives her to be. The tagline of the movie says “What you can’t see can hurt you” which perfectly defines a victim’s relationship with her closed ones. The Invisible Man can’t be seen by Emily, James, and Sydney and he hurts the three of them badly.

 

 

That Serial Killer Movie

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Whenever a movie made by Mysskin releases, the amount of blood splatter and graphic content in the world increases by double. Chainsaw hacking a man with blood spilling all around the bathroom (Thupparivalan fans, put your hands up) or cutting open the stomach of a living human being, Mysskin never fears to explore blood splatter patterns in his movies. A recurring element in his movies include the representation of disabled characters. A blind man named Gautham is the protagonist of the Tamil movie Psycho whereas Nithya Menon plays the role of a differently-abled ex-police officer.
The movie begins like any typical rom-com with the guy chasing the girl, and the girl rejecting his proposal multiple times but eventually falling for him realizing his “true love”. A radio jockey by profession, Dahini is the psycho’s primary victim in the movie. What starts as a feel-good romantic comedy takes a turn into a psychological horror movie very soon. Mysskin adapts ancient and foreign themes of philosophy and mythology and incorporates them into his movies. His storytelling methods are often bold, never the same, and a commentary on the decaying standards of the society.
The serial killer in this movie is a victim of physical abuse at the hands of his teacher in his orphanage. The teacher who is supposed to be a nurturing, nourishing, and kind figure in anyone’s life turns out to be the primary perpetrator of the serial killer’s life. This collapses the idea of kindness and goodness in the serial killer’s life. The movie did not end with the serial killer get killed by his victims or the cops, which is the cliché in most serial killer themed movies. The serial killer lacked love, affection, care, and protection which he didn’t receive at any point in his life except when Dahini announces to the press that maybe he was just an innocent guy filled with pain and trauma.
The movie addressed various issues including abuse, the trauma that comes with abuse, and ableism. The movie explained how childhood trauma needs to be dealt with in a healthy and healing environment, which in turn brings us to the point of mental health issues and the stigma associated with it in a country like India. Mental health issues left undealt with lead to people like the serial killer in Psycho, was a commentary towards the end of the movie.
However, the repetitive element of the female character being victimized and having to be rescued by a strong male character was in this movie too. Ratsasan was another such movie that followed this concept. Arun’s character arc develops and his urge to catch the serial killer increases as soon as his niece becomes another victim in the movie. Maybe it’s time to give female characters better storylines rather than just using them for redeeming the male’s character development.
An engaging storyline with thrilling and nail-biting moments and an important message is Psycho.

A Sex Education for All

Season 2 of the most awaited Netflix series Sex Education just dropped this weekend and it was far more successful than its predecessor in writing, addressing issues, and representation. Netflix’s Sex Education is a British teenage, coming of age, romantic comedy which was praised for it’s steering away from the normal teenage stuff showed in most of the American teenage series.

The series explores horny teenagers exploring their bodies and figuring out their sexuality simultaneously. However, it has to be given credit for not restricting that with just teenagers but also including older women in unhappy marriages and high school teachers who can’t catch a break. Maureen Groff is the dutiful and devoted wife to the grumpy Headmaster of Moordale High whose primary focus is to meddle with the sex lives of teenagers in his school.

The subject of sex wasn’t just for heterosexual people but for nearly all the people on the spectrum (Please, Google sexuality and gender spectrum). The series doesn’t shy away from introducing such varied sexualities at the same time. It is not overwhelming or feels too much, because it’s real. While we saw Otis Milburn giving sex advice to his peers in season 1, Dr. Milburn takes personal interest in solving the teenagers’ sex lives in a much more professional and ethical way in season 2.

The writing in the series was responsible, researched, and well represented. A disabled character was played by a disabled actor. There isn’t a bigger win-win than this situation. The perils of neglectful parents and drug abuse was shoved into the viewer’s face quite hardly. The series explained various FAQs about all kinds of sex and not just heterosexual sex, the kind of things we rarely listen to others talking or talk about it ourselves.

The series made sure they included a character belonging to every ethnicity and sexuality to make it as colourful as possible. While we are looking at Eric’s church and staring in awe, we also cannot take our eyes off from Olivia’s vibrant lehenga. The series gave a character arc to the most unexpected of characters. Ruby and Otis trying to buy the morning after pills and talking about unwanted pregnancies was an important scene in the series. To show that such situations require both, the guy and the girl, to deal with it together was wonderful. Viv was another character who stole the show this season. A smart, brilliant, and realistic student and a woman of resilience, Viv recognises the problem with her friend and immediately addressed it to nip it in the bud. Sometimes, it’s an intervention by a friend like Viv that proves to be life saving, which was the case for Jackson.

The series ended on a heartbreaking note, as it was revealed that Isaac probably has feelings for Maeve which made him delete the voice note from Otis. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it is something the viewers could look forward to in season 3. Sex for disabled people is a much larger subject to explore and represent on the big screen. It would also be interesting to see what Maeve would choose for her life in season 3.

Delhi Police vs Lawyers: A dwindling down of law and order

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It is an internationally known phenomenon that lawyers and police never go hand in hand. There has always been a cold rivalry between the said parties that often gets out of hand. What is happening in the Capital right now, is a prime example of that. Lawyers and Delhi Police are under loggerheads because of what started as a parking dispute. Although the root cause of this tussle is not known, a video went on circulating in social media today. A uniformed police officer is seen getting beaten up and thrashed badly while he was desperately trying to escape the situation in his two wheeler. The video was recorded by bystanders and the common public.

Today, protests are happening outside Delhi Police Headquarters demanding justice for Police officers. The Indian Police System has already showed their support in this time of despair for the Delhi Police. Cops are raising questions as to who will guard the common public, when the guardian of the common public is under attack. Tamilnadu Police has also extended their support to Delhi Police.

Events like these really put things in perspective. Guardians of the common public are under attack and not safe, on the other hand, protectors of the law are the ones breaking the law and “acting like hooligans”, according to a few police officers. Lawyers are one of the elite working class people. A certain amount of dignity as well as decency is expected of them. So, what does that mean to the common observer who has dreams of becoming a police officer or a lawyer in the future. Role models are often expected to set a reliable precedent for their protégés. What does that tell of lawyers and police officers in Delhi today? How does the country view Delhi today?

Guardians of the common public and protectors of the law are being called hooligans today in social media. Should there be anger management and department mandated therapy sessions for government employees, rises the questions. In India, mental health was never given any due importance for all these years. Government mandated therapy is a long way to go, but isn’t far. Mental health has always been neglected but its one of the main reasons for our social behaviour.

Our social position in this world distinguishes us from animals and places us on a higher pedestal. Maybe this is the time. Maybe its time to see how human beings are deeply conflicted and present themselves in front of the public eye. Today its just a minor dispute between Delhi Police and Lawyers. This could turn into something of a greater magnitude in the future. The main reason behind this current conflict maybe unknown, but the fact that Indian government officials are always hot headed is true.

Jesse Pinkman’s El Camino

AMC’s Breaking Bad had made things very miserable for Jesse Pinkman. We see him liberated in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. Pinkman’s last shot in Breaking Bad was driving away from his captors while bursting into tears of joy which still breaks his fans’ hearts. Pinkman’s world turn topsy turvy once Walter White re entered his life. They both are the characters they are not. Walter White was the bad guy pretending to be the good guy whereas Jesse Pinkman was the good guy pretending to be the bad guy.

The movie intends to deliver a happy and satisfying ending to such a beloved character like Pinkman. And it succeeds in doing that. Pinkman can be seen suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Stockholm Syndrome because of his captors. The editing in the movie with scenes from the past and present move as smooth as a thief.

One of the recurring scenes in Breaking Bad was Walter White taking a shower. There was a similar scene in the movie with Pinkman. White’s shower scene every time was to reflect on the new decisions he made each time while washing off his old self. It was a deterioration of his good, old self which is ironic. However, Pinkman’s shower scene was to indicate his freedom from his captors and the beginning of his new life in Alaska, all the while he has terrible flashbacks from his torture.

The movie was the perfect way of saying goodbye to Jesse Pinkman. It was the perfect ending his character deserved. The final shot of the movie is a parallel to Pinkman’s final shot from Breaking Bad. He is calm, peaceful, content, and serene in the movie whereas he is hysterical, loud, relieved, and heartbroken in Breaking Bad. Pinkman finally found the El Camino to a life he wanted to lead.

World Mental Health Day

 

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Last year, I adopted a cat. Our family was thrilled to welcome this feline being into our home. Immediately, my parent’s curiosity regarding cats grew and the next thing I know, they are reading about cat behavior and facts related to cats on the internet and pet columns in newspapers. One such fact my mom once read out to me, was that cats get overly anxious even if the colour of their carriage box changes or the position of their food bowl is changed.

And that is just about cats. Human beings are absolutely more complicated than animals. We are a vastly diverse species learning and growing everyday. Our behavior, habits, intelligence, feelings regarding certain things, likes and dislikes and so much more form our mental state of being. People with mental health issues often wonder, why is this happening to me. The truth is, it is happening to everyone. They just aren’t aware yet or refuse to acknowledge it, is what I feel and tell myself.

Now the interesting part about being brown and dealing with mental health issues is that you deal with it alone most of the time. There is one friend in the picture, or two, not more. Then, there is regret about “why did I share it with that one particular person”. Now, my intention here is not to take this serious and dark subject of mental health and turn it hilarious for the purpose of comic relief.

Mental health is never given the same importance as physical health. Mental health is never “seen” like physical health. Because the injury in a mental health issue is sometimes invisible. People talk, listen to them. We are often made to feel guilty for prioritizing our mental health knowing a certain situation or person might trigger us. If a person’s leg is broken, no one asks them to get up, walk and shake it off, right. But that’s not our same attitude towards mental health. That has to change. Giving someone the right help and mental guidance they need, is the same as giving painkillers and medication to a person with a broken leg.

 

The Exoneration of Joker

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Set in the early 80’s, Joker is a period movie tracing the path of Arthur Fleck’s ironic descent into Joker. The movie managed to garner enough praise and love even before the official release in USA. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance was lauded by everyone. It is his comeback movie and honestly, it is a one man show by Phoenix.

The movie intends to make a statement. Its relevance, especially in present day USA, to today’s degenerating and degrading society is spot on. There were a number of sub plots that could have been explored more, but they were just left out in the open. It was just a touch upon the subject.

There were various dichotomies in the movie which were explored well. To begin with, the rich and the poor was the recurring and underlying theme in the movie. Bruce and Arthur can be seen as the two distinct poles of this dichotomy. The scene where Arthur is talking to a young Bruce Wayne aka Batman with a gate in between them is a metaphorical barrier diving the rich and the poor. Bruce’s background is surrounded with greenery and a huge mansion whereas Arthur’s background is just a long,dark, and  plain road.

Mental illnesses were dealt with carefully in the movie. It is no news that mental illnesses were a taboo in the 80’s. Even the State refused to acknowledge this and do the needful. The fault in the Government to look after both, the sanity and sanitation of Gotham, is critiqued in the movie. The overflowing garbage in the city only reminds me of The Colonies from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. 

The choice of music in the movie was quite confusing as it didn’t made sense whether they glorified the situation or not. The public outrage and riots towards the end of the movie show the rise of the powerless over the powerful, by killing Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne. It was another dichotomy of the powerful and the powerless. The movie is two hour long process of justifying the becoming of Joker by Arthur Fleck exploring his family, work life, non existent love life, and his social circle.

IT Chapter 2: The Adult Losers Club

EDfp3U0XkAQWoLLHorror genre in movies quite often leave me unimpressed. There is either a starkly similar repetition of stories or the visual effects are a failure. IT Chapter 1 had a different impact. Of course, its an adaptation of Stephen King’s work which places it on a higher pedestal. The movie addressed various issues, mainly through the character of Beverly Marsh, the visual effects of gory had the classic Stephen King touch, it was gritty, and had a long climax. IT Chapter 2 is no different.

As the first movie had hinted, the Losers Club reunited in IT Chapter 2 as adults to kill Pennywise once and for all. A glimpse of their life as adults outside Derry is shown before they all meet, which was important to understand their characters. Beverly is in an abusive marriage with her husband which is a parallel to the life she had with her father as a young girl. Bill is a writer whose book endings are hated by everyone. His inability to deliver a proper and satisfying ending mirrors how he finally realized his brother was actually dead by the end of IT Chapter 1. Richie, the kid who was the funniest in the group and was used as a comic relief literally became a stand up comedian. Eddie, a germophobe and a kid with hypochondria became a risk analyst. It shows how he chose his profession to calculate and weed out the risks before doing something. Ben, the new shy and fat kid who joined the Losers Club quite late is seen leading a quiet and alone life and away from his office colleagues. Mike, or the token black member of the Losers Club is the only one who didn’t leave Derry like the rest of them. He seeks the answer to killing It properly. However, Stanley felt it better to kill himself rather than facing Pennywise again because he was scared. He saw himself as a liability to the rest of the group.

There was a brief moment in IT Chapter 1 where the kids have a fight and get separated. The individual events during those moments explain the characters more in IT Chaper 2. There was a subtle hint towards Richie’s sexuality. He is a closeted gay man and Pennywise teases this personal demon Richie is dealing with, in a brutal way. Turns out R+E wasn’t about a girl after all. Ben’s one sided love for Beverly is what Pennywise used to haunt him. Eddie’s germophobia was used to scare him. Bill’s guilt and conflict with dealing with the reality of his brother’s death is teased again when an adult Bill is dragged by Pennywise into the same sewer his brother went missing in.  Furthermore, Pennywise kills another kid in front of Bill as a cruel reminder of his brother.

The ritual of Chud was learnt by Mike from Native Americans in order to kill Pennywise. This subverts the trope of the White Savior Hollywood has been feeding its audience for so long. The collection of artifacts by the Losers Club was to show that they’re letting go of the past and trying to live a new life. Bill’s boat he made for his brother, Beverly’s postcard which she assumes was given by Bill, not Ben, Eddie’s inhaler, Richie’s token from the gaming arcade, Ben’s yearbook page that only Beverly had signed, and Mike’s rock that started the Rock war with Bowers and company that introduced Mike into the Losers Club all signify an important phase in their lives.

The movie could have been cut down a little in length definitely. The climax scene was too long just like in IT Chapter 1. IT Chapter 2 was the perfect ending to the IT saga. Everyone had a satisfying ending. Mike finally left the town of Derry looking into other ventures. IT Chapter 2 wasn’t just another horror movie, but a story about genuine relationships, personal demons, gaining power over our weaknesses, and friendship.

 

Evil Superhero Universe

Amazon Prime’s The Boys creates its own Vought Cinematic Universe in a world where superheroes are mainly used as agendas for commercial, nationalistic, capitalistic, and religious purposes. Based on the comics of the same name, The Boys is a superhero series which has a completely different take on the superhero business. As an avid fan of superhero movies and TV series, I must mention, it wasn’t easy to watch the show with a happy and understandable experience. The show dismantled the idea of superheroes I had in my mind for a really long time in a brilliant way.

There are a set of ideas and images one has while thinking of superheroes. Hope, Sacrifice, Selflessness, Generosity, Righteousness, Integrity, Humility, the list goes on. The show not only does rob the superhero characters of these qualities, but gives them the opposite of these qualities as character descriptions. Imagine an evil Captain America, a lecherous Aquaman, and a Flash who kills people “accidentally” frequently. The thought itself is bewildering and difficult. It’s not the powers and super skills that makes a superhero what they are. Their choice to use those power and skills in a manner that is benefiting for all makes them one. Homelander misuses his powers and is full of pretentiousness. Translucent is a peeping Tom. Deep asks female superheroes to give him oral sex. They are more concerned about movies made on them and their merchandise being sold in the black market. They propagate religious fundamentalism. They are the real villains despite having the powers of superheroes.

So who can go against them? They have superpowers, physically fighting them is out of question. It’s a group of common people who take down the Supes’. Common people who have regular jobs, have families to look over, have lost their loved ones in the name of “collateral damage” by the superheroes.

The narrative that USA creates its own demons is strong with this one. The revealing of Compound V and it’s usage since 50 years gives us an insight into what happens when the superhero life is forced upon you, instead of you choosing it. Steve Rogers made his choice to take the super soldier serum. Bruce Wayne chose to be a masked vigilante to save Gotham from evil elements. Tony Stark chose to use his intelligence in his tech to save the universe. They’re superheroes because they made a righteous choice to do good. However, there are instances where superheroes are created through accidents too. Barry Allen, Carol Danvers, and Peter Parker and many more led a normal life before the so called “accident”. But in The Boys, superheroes are in plenty. They’re not rare, because of the injecting of Compund V. They have to compete each other to secure a position in The Seven. They’re commercial superheroes.

There are direct references to a few DCEU and MCU movies. The series is a critique of the capitalism, white supremacy and religious fundamentalism prevalent in present day USA. It will be interesting to see the origin of The Boys and their attempt to take down Vought in season 2.

Bella Ciao Ciao Ciao

Netflix’s Money Heist is about a bank robbery that goes on for 5 days. A group of robbers with pseudo city names breaking into the Royal Mint of Spain AND the Bank of Spain is the subject of the show. Money Heist is just like any other heist or bank robbery movie. There is a mastermind behind the heist(The Professor) and one main official negotiator(Raquel Murillo). Sometimes things go wrong for the robbers, hostages try to break out, personal relationships mess things up or unplanned and improvised situations occur. Except, the robbers ask the bankers to print their loot money in those 5 days. That was one unusual element in the heist for me.

The brilliance of the show always depends on one character outwitting the other character i.e The Professor and Inspector Murillo. The tables turn so quick even Barry Allen won’t be able to keep up. (That’s indeed a Flash reference). There are nail biting crucial moments where the viewers are in a dilemma as to support whom. The editing is a key factor in Money Heist. The robbery going on presently along with the planning and plotting session from the past playing parallel to each other is excellent. The viewers don’t lose track of each scenarios. The build up to each of their plans planned and the robbers carrying them out with precision is a treat to watch.

Money Heist is an European Spanish show. As someone who doesn’t know Spanish, I was glad when the show had an English dubbing as well. But dubbings can go wrong as well. It didn’t work out well with me during watching Netflix’s Dark. The voice cast has to be perfect and in sync with the characters. The Professor is a leader but he doesn’t have a commanding voice, that’s how he is. That understanding of the characters was important to have the voice cast accordingly. This show was much different from all the American and British shows I’ve watched so far. The negotiator in power Raquel, is a woman who is vulnerable, makes mistakes, and isn’t perfect. She isn’t Sandra Bullock. She is faced with the same and everyday issues women face all around the world. Domestic abuse and child custody are the challenges placed in front of her and she always doesn’t have the upper hand. Nairobi’s motherhood is often questioned because she was a drug dealer and once her son had to face the brunt of it. Tokyo is a hot headed woman who put the group in jeopardy several times. She and Rio are the reason the heist takes place in the Bank of Spain. Stockholm left behind her bank job to accompany the man she loves along with her unborn baby. These characters aren’t flawless women, because women aren’t flawless.

However, Alicia Sierra, the negotiator of Part 3, is a woman hated by everyone. She is not the type of woman patriarchy expects women to be. She isn’t kind, sweet, nurturing, and filled with empathy. She is pure evil. She is a woman in power who will do anything to do her job. And she was the woman who gave an equally tough competition to The Professor. It’s ironic how The Professor was so much against the idea of romantic relationships within the group and all hell broke loose once he realised the woman he loved had died. Talk about hysteria in women,eh. It would be interesting to see how The Professor emerges back from the mess created by the end of Part 3 and do his thing in Part 4.