hitchcock, horror...drive

On the surface, Drive is a fairly straight forward neo noir thriller. It’s about a heist gone
wrong, unrequited love and the violent underbelly of Los Angeles. Like many classical noir films,
the city of LA operates as a character within the film. There is perhaps a small debt owed to
Michael Mann here in the minimalist landscapes where the city vacillates between an abstraction in
the background and an ontological space we are acutely aware of. Drive is a film that is in dialogue
with itself. It is not pastiche or even simply homage, but something with more depth that emerges as
a reflection on genre and a meditation on the discourse of film itself.



A lot of directors have made this kind of film. Tarrantino in particular jumps out as someone
who is interested in making films for cinephiles. A lot of us enjoyed the overt references to film
theory in Inglorious Basterds. But where Tarantino employs a bloodbath of violence to disrupt the
narrative and invoke an awareness of the constructedness of the film apparatus, Nicolas Winding
evocation of the language of film is more sustained and operates on a level that is subtly
woven into the narrative rather than a disruption or even extension of it. Where Tarantino’s films
feel like they want to show off what he knows, Drive lets the theory take a back seat. It’s there
informing the story in an important way, but as subtext.




the only thing i knew about i am legend when i picked it up is that it's about vampires, and there is a movie based on the novel starring will smith. also- i was reading justin cronin's the passage and had to put it down in the middle due to frustration and boredom [more on that later].  legend is meant to be the book that started it all. the idea of a virus that wipes out much of the human race, giving rise to packs of vampires in a post apocalyptic landscape was conceived by richard matheson in the 1950s before george romero, stephen king, guellermo del torro, or justin cronin wrote a single line. it's pretty much a classic- an ur-text of sorts when it comes to modern vampires and zombies for that matter.

while all the tropes the genre is now known for are there, it's still a damn good read. the discovery of the virus, the aftermath, and the behavior of the vampires themselves are certainly intriguing. but what makes the story especially compelling to me, is the abject despair and loneliness we see in our hero, robert neville. he is the last man on earth and the psychological aspect of this is what tears at him most intensely. the horror of the vampires beating down his door every night only breaches the superficial level of the darkness neville faces. what he finds almost impossible to live with is himself and the fear that there will only ever be himself.  

i think for this reason, legend is a far superior story to much of what has proceeded it. it gets at the thing that we may fear more than monsters and violence and death- which is being alone.


image from near dark, 1987, directed by katherine bigelow

near dark


as a fan of both horror and western films, i only recently realized that the intersection of these unrelated genres had in fact taken place in 1987 by way of katheryn bigelow's near dark. when it comes to vampires, i will pretty much read and watch anything. the iconography, conventions, myths and ultimately clichés, of the genre are easily identified. but i'm not putting the clichés down. because, generally they work. there is something about the vampire with a tortured conscience and the inevitable doomed romance that ensues when he finds [un]likely love with a mortal, that just gets me: angel, louie, bill compton, even edward [ok not edward, i can't stand him, but i'm throwing him in for good measure].

it also seems, that with the exception of a film like 30 days of night, there aren't very many truly evil representations of vampires.  there is always AN evil vampire but it is balanced by the romantic tragic one we want to fall in love with. and so, i found near dark, to be a bit off the beaten path. while the film is awkward and a [slightly dated] product of the 80s, it does try to get at the idea of the romantic/villainous vampire but deconstructs it from another angle. it takes the western hero- isolated, reckless, living by his own code and somewhat of a good old boy, and tears him down by forcing him to face darkness and the loss of his soul. adrian pasdar is definitely more clint eastwood than john wayne. but our hero cannot be a vampire, because the film establishes all vampires are good for nothing murderous psycho bill paxton like ner-do-wells. and like a classic western, once our hero has faced the darkness within himself and the world, he emerges doubly heroic. the order of the old west is preserved and vampires are really bad. even if the old west does have a distinctly 80's guitar riff and a terminateresque big rig blow up extravaganza.

it's very stylish and moody, and worth a viewing.


images from near dark, 1987, directed by katherine bigelow



2009 turned out to be a bit of a zombie renaissance. not that the zombie genre has ever gone out of style. even as it is often considered a bit of a low rent sub-genre of horror- historically, it has also mirrored various socio-political anxieties of the moment. george romero's living dead trilogy did this most famously of course, concerning itself with large issues such as the tide of conservatism, the cold war, and rampant consumerism. all whilst presenting some good seat squirming horror. in fact zach snyder's remake of romero's "dawn of the dead" transplanted many of these anxieties onto the post 911 homeland security weary landscape. last year's zombieland however, while a clever film, seems mainly concerned with simultaneously making fun of the zombie film and reveling in it. the violence is extreme and yet the film is incredibly funny. this tone is in part matched by pride prejudice and zombies. here an authentic victorian style coupled with violence and mayhem give the book a buffy sort of flavor where the dramatic lives of teenage girls are punctuated by banal ongoing skirmishes with the undead.

world war z however, lands more squarely in the romero tradition. by asking the question- what would happen if world war three broke out...against zombies it opens up a discussion outlining many major global conflicts of the 21st century. and then extrapolating the behavior of various government agencies upon that basis. it's really quite brilliant. and while well received i think the political depth of the book may have gone overlooked by some. READ IT.


wwz image from deviant art