Amoeblog

The Strangers

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 4, 2008 01:56pm | Post a Comment



The other night I went to see The Strangers with my favorite person, Ngoc Nguyen. The film begins with a caveat, "The horrifying events that took place in the Hoyt family's vacation home at 1801 Clark Road on February 11, 2005, are still not entirely known." We are also told that the film is "inspired by actual events." Those inspirational events most likely included watching Helter Skelter and maybe Fatal Vision. But the "based on actual events" gimmick is a tried and true one; and one indicative of The Stranger's formula-following strengths and weaknesses.



Is there anything scarier than hippies?


One guy went to the trouble of mapping the address given in the film and many others have taken the opening claim as truth. I'll try to help by adding that I heard the cry of a Great Horned Owl at several points and I've included this handy map of their range so that we can narrow it down further.

      

In interviews, speaking of his influences and tastes, first time director Bryan Bertino praises The Blair Witch Project ("I'm one of the people who loved The Blair Witch Project. I don't care that the camera is shaky and Heather says f**k a lot"), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Descent. He also mentions John Cassavetes and Terence Malick, whose work is reflected in the main characters' strained relationship and the film's measured pacing. By and large Bertino succeeds in creating a low budget '70s vibe. The summer home (a ranch home, naturally) is furnished in heavy, brown furniture and lit by 15 watt bulbs (apparently the owners are either photosensitive or very energy conscious). Crackly records of Gillian Welch, Joanna Newsom and Merle Haggard play. It almost feels like a Pinter play or a Bob Rafelson drama.

The film story begins (like last year's not-entirely-dissimilar Vacancy) with a couple traveling in a car-- their feelings for each other obviously strained but not entirely explained. As the preceding events become more clear, the tension slowly and expertly builds on the viewer's anticipation of something awful. Nothing happens and yet we know something will. Nothing new here, but it's well done and sticks to the thriller formula closely so it works.

Summer of Sequels Presents -- Jason Bourne

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 13, 2007 10:05pm | Post a Comment





Jason Bourne
is a guy who's trying to remember his past and figure out who he is because he suffers from amnesia. In the course of his quest he was informed that his real name is David Webb and he was born in Nixa, Missouri but he seems to totally ignore that, or at least they don't depict him trying to glean anything from this. 

So I'm here to help fill in the blanks, like it or not. No spoiler warning.

"Webb" is an occupational family name meaning (in Old English) "weaver." OK, so at least the paternal branch of Jason/David's family is from the British Isles. He looks pretty Irish. Nixa, Missouri is in the Ozark Mountains. In 1717, the Ulster-Scots, aka Scots-Irish, began to move to the area which was by then mostly abandoned or otherwise depopulated by the indigenous population after a 13th century famine.


The Ozarks, a mix of the Shire and Rivendell

Rich, slave-owning planters on the South Coast called the new inhabitants "hillbillies" because (according 
to one theory) as Protestants back in the British Isles, they had supported William III "Billy" of Orange and lived in the hills/highlands.

During the Civil War, Missouri was split between pro-Union sympathizers and those who were pro-Confederate. The state was represented by stars on both
nations' flags. Confederate sympathizers called Border Ruffians waged war the impoverished hillbillies who were often pro-Union. 

The Chicago Tribune wrote of them as “a queer-looking set, slightly resembling human beings, but more closely allied … to wild beasts…They never shave or comb their hair, and their chief occupation is loafing around whiskey shops, squirting tobacco juice, and whittling with a dull jack-knife.” The next few years, in addition to the Civil War, the state became mired in what was known as the Bushwacker War.

The Ozarks continue to have a distinct culture. They call heavy downpours "gully washers" or "frog stranglers." They say "yins" instead of "y'all." Ozarkians frequently complain about characterizations of them as poor, crazy, sleazy, gun-toting, moonshine-making, backwards folk and then they go and sell stuff like a corncob as "Hillbilly toilet paper" in every gas station. And then there is a mountain in the Ozarks called "Knob Lick mountain." And every truck has a gun-rack in the window.