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Tony Grist

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Hex [Nov. 8th, 2004|09:34 am]
Tony Grist
Hex is a jolly Brit TV show that started like it was going to be a rip-off of Buffy, but has steadily got sillier and more endearing.

A fallen angel (who looks like Ralph Fiennes, only more devastatingly handsome) is angling for the soul of a blonde ingenue. She is protected by the ghost of her lesbian school chum.

The lesbian ghost spends her time sleuthing and eating junk food.

I love the lesbian ghost.

Of course the angel isn't only after the ingenue's soul. When he isn't dogging her footsteps he's hanging out in this faintly absurd S/M club- with the leather-clad vixens and the coloured lights.

Ooh- and how wicked of him- he smokes like a chimney.

Supernatural evil=sex.

It's the Victorian equation. Sex was banished from the circle of the lamplight and the only way writers could deal with it- in popular fiction at least- was to have it erupt from the shadows disguised in a clay-spotted shroud. The classic ghost story is powered by thwarted desire and sexual guilt.

Once it became possible to write frankly about sex the ghost story withered and the sexy spook (Dracula for instance) dwindled into camp. Ghosts that are simply ghosts (and not metaphors for something else) are not really all that frightening. Were you scared of the ghastly ghouls in Pirates of the Caribbean? No, I thought not.

The modern ghost stories that work are not about sex. They are about things that scare us now. The Japanese movie the Ring is about our powerlessness in the face of modern technology. The Spanish movie The Devil's Backbone is about social dissolution and the breakdown of the family.

And something like Hex, which is still messing about with the demons of sex, can only hold our attention by cutting the supernatural with comedy.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-11-08 03:19 pm (UTC)
The modern ghost stories that work are not about sex. They are about things that scare us now. The Japanese movie the Ring is about our powerlessness in the face of modern technology. The Spanish movie The Devil's Backbone is about social dissolution and the breakdown of the family.



I hadn't thought about The Ring from that perspective, but it's true!

That movie really scared me. Scary movies rarely do--mostly they just make me jump (the director's cheap trick) when the music gets loud and a close-up face suddenly appears. But The Ring was chilling--that eerie jittery black-and-white video of the girl in the well...

I actually found myself thinking I was so creeped out that I might want to leave the theater! But that was fun, too.

I never saw the technology connection. It's so easy to see the sexual connection with Dracula--all that helplessness and violent kissing. Once you lose your virginity you're no longer innocent: once Dracula gets into your bedroom (and you have to ask him in!), he'll have his way with you.

When I was about twelve, I went to a slumber party, and we all stayed up late to watch Dracula on television. We were laughing nervously and feeling very jumpy by midnight, and Nancy's father suddenly materialized in the living room to tell us to keep down the noise, and we all screamed.

A fine movie. I understand Bela Legosi didn't know what on earth he was saying in English, which is one reason "Listen to them, the che-e-ldren of the n-i-g-h-t" sounds so deliciously odd and spooky! He was apparently just memorizing the pronunciations of the meaningless words.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-08 04:06 pm (UTC)
I hadn't seen the technology connection myself until I started thinking about why the Ring is scary and Hex isn't.

Have you seen the Devil's Backbone? I think you'd like it. It's set in an isolated orphanage during the Spanish Civil War (which is unsettling enough) and the ghost is one of the creepiest ever.

I like Lugosi. But I think the book is better than any of the film or TV adaptions. I read it a few years back, expecting it to be cheesy, and was very pleasantly surprised.



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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-11-08 04:24 pm (UTC)
I've never heard of the Devil's Backbone. I'll look for it. Is it old?

The book Dracula is wonderfully scary, and far scarier than the movies: Jonathan Harker seeing Dracula scaling the wall from outside his window; the exploration of the dank empty house, searching for coffins (what if Something finds them?); the eerie fog engulfing the cursed ship; Lucy going uneasily to bed; the peasants crossing themselves when they looked up the road towards the castle...

What wonderful writing!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-08 04:59 pm (UTC)
The Devil's Backbone is recent. My DVD is copyrighted 2002. The director is Guillermo del Toro. He's also made a clutch of so-so Hollywood movies and an off-beat and creepy, low-budget, Mexican vampire movie called Cronos.

While we're on the subject of movies about hauntings, did you see The Others with Nicole Kidman? I though that was very effective.



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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-11-08 05:07 pm (UTC)
Yes, I saw The Others, and didn't see the ending coming! I thought it was beautifully done.

I also enjoyed The Sixth Sense, but I figured it out the minute the little boy was in the church talking to the psychologist.

I was watching the movie with my sister, and I punched her.

"I figured out the surprise ending," I said.

"Well, what is it?"

"I'm not going to tell you, but I just want you to know I figured it out right here."

Too bad I did, because I would have loved being shocked at the end.

--By the way, your novel is wonderful! I'm up to page 53, and your writing style has set up a nice hum in my head.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-08 06:45 pm (UTC)
I guessed the Sixth Sense too. I knew there was a twist coming and I couldn't see what else it could be.

The Others took me longer to figure out, but I was onto it before the end.

In neither case did it spoil my enjoyment.

I'm so glad (relieved) that you're still enjoying the book.....
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-11-08 07:06 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad (relieved) that you're still enjoying the book.....

I'm finding it hard to set aside. I wrote another thousand words--all too easy!--I'm now over 16,000--and then rewarded myself again with some more chapters. I'm up to page 106, and the tension is mounting--I care about all these people now, and I wonder where you're taking them.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-08 07:24 pm (UTC)
At the time I was writing it was more a case of where they were taking me.

I never work out a story in advance. I start with the characters (heaven knows where they come from) and then watch very closely to see what they do.
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[User Picture]From: qos
2004-11-09 01:06 am (UTC)
Hex sounds like fun. Maybe it will make its way over to the US eventually. (Or maybe it's already here but I don't pay enough attention to television to know. . .)

I avoid scary movies as a rule, but a friend convinced me I had to see The Ring. I was freaked out for two full weeks after.

For me, it was not about technology, it was about the (apparently) unmotivated evil of Samara. The crux for me was the tape of her in the hospital in which the doctor says, "You don't want to hurt anyone, do you?" and she replies, "Yes, I do. I'm sorry."

I'm not saying the technology aspect isn't there, but it's certainly not what hit me.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-11-09 04:26 am (UTC)
I'd forgotten that chilling scene.

Like you, I was freaked out for two weeks.

Secretly? I waited for the "deadline," wondering (sort of whimsically, sort of not) what would happen...

That creepy little girl!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-09 09:34 am (UTC)
I don't remember that scene. I've scratched my head and I think it must be because I'm talking about the Japanese version and you're talking about the American one. I had understood they were pretty close, but I guess there's a measure of divergence.

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[User Picture]From: qos
2004-11-09 01:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, I watched the American one. I'm told the Japanese one was even more scary, so I'm not planning to watch it. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: qos
2004-11-09 02:04 pm (UTC)
Perhaps I should elaborate. There's a scene in which the heroine's friend goes to a hospital and finds a tape made during a psychological observation. It's creepy, because the room is all white and bare, and Samara is sitting in the center with her dark hair hanging down mostly over her face, looking very alone in this oppressively clinical room. A doctor is asking her questions in voice over. I forget all the details, but at one point the voice says, "You don't want to hurt anyone, do you?" in an affirming way.

And this little girl, who looks like a helpless victim of adult paranoia and selfishness, replies in her soft but clear voice voice, "Yes, I do. I'm sorry." The message I took from it -- and from the rest of the film -- was that in some way Samara was fundamentally evil, and whatever it was that her parents did to get pregnant (the mother had been trying for years to conceive) let her into the world. The movie never tells us what she did to get pregnant, whether it was technology or some kind of pact.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-09 05:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think that that hospital scene was in the Japanese version, but to tell the truth I found the whole back story rather confusing. Maybe the American version made a better job of explaining who the "demon" was and where she came from.

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