Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How to Survive Killer Spiders....According to Phoebe

movieFor a change of pace, I decided to show Phoebe the (in my mind) classic Arachnophobia. I couldn't believe she had never seen it before. Now, while writing this post, I realized the movie is from 1990. She wasn't born for another seventeen years. Shit. You. Not. Anyways...

...she got a kick out of the idea we were going to see a spider movie. I hadn't as yet made my peace with spiders. Which means she was used to me wailing for my husband to come and deal with them in the house, and running from them when I encountered them outside. She thought she was going to watch me cringe and squeal, which was the majority of the appeal. (Recently I have begun to appreciate spiders for their intricate colors and markings. Not to mention, their practicality. I was lamenting the size of the spiders in my basement to someone, and they told me, "You think they're ugly? Just think of the ugly things they're eating to get THAT big." For the most part, they now get either a photo session if they're particularly interesting, or a wide berth. If they become truly problematic, I have no doubt my cat will happily dispatch them.

Phoebe made sure to snuggle Zelda tight, so that the little Boston wouldn't fear the spiders. (I only know this because I heard her whispering to Zelda that she would keep her safe, and then covering her with a fuzzy blanket.) Zelda was all for it, stuck her nose out of the blanket, and the movie rolled.

Good. Lord. There is nothing quite like getting a talking to from your niece. You see, I completely forgot to tell her that there are a few scenes where the spiders menace cats and even a dog. None of the animals are harmed, but it's a close call. Each time it happened, she would hold Zelda more snugly, and I'd hear:

"MISS HOLLY! THE [insert animal species here]! DOES THE SPIDER GET IT?!" her voice laced with concern, panic, and consternation.

Quickly, I gave up on telling her to watch and see. That went over like a fly in mashed potatoes, let me tell you. I gave in and told her the animal makes it, most times the person doesn't. She is nothing if not consistent, and was completely alright with the ratio of animal survival to human death and suffering. (The only change in pattern was the crow. She was totally ok with that dying.)

Poor Manley, the unlucky photographer. He was pretty much a running joke for her the arachnophobiawhole film. She couldn't figure out why he had agreed to take the photography job with Dr. Atherton if he was so terribly afraid of insects. It was, after all, an insect-finding mission. Nine year olds not only have the funniest way of looking at things, but they also ask the best questions. She wanted to know why Manley's body looked so weird in the coffin when it reached Canaima. I explained that the spider got in the coffin with him and that's how he wound up in California. Phoebe asked what that had to do with the body, and I explained that the spider had been snacking on it. She asked if that was possible, and I told her it was highly exaggerated. Some spiders do save their dinner, but not to that extent. After some more examination, Phoebe decided that not even a big Amazonian mf'er of a spider like the one in the movie could do that to a person.

Most of all, she was completely and totally disgusted with Dr. Jennings, Dr. Atherton, and arachnophobiaDelbert McClintock. She couldn't figure out how Dr. Jennings hadn't seen the spider bites on the victims. After all, he was a doctor. When Dr. Atherton twangs the gigunda spider web and gets eaten, all she had to say was, "Well, he was SUPPOSED to be the expert. Guess he didn't know you don't play with spiderwebs." And poor Delbert McClintock? What kind of exterminator was so unprofessional?

She loved the ending of the movie, when all of the spiders hatched at the Jennings' house and ran amok. Some of her joy was ultimately stolen when I told her that they couldn't, in good faith, use real live venomous spiders in the movie. That day we learned the words "liability" and "ethical". I explained to her that you just couldn't put actors in harm's way for a movie. This greatly disappointed her, and she said that it affected the movie's authenticity. Phoebe is nothing if not a realist.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dinosaurs...and Stupid People

jurassic-parkThe day started out like any other. Dipper and Phoebe came over to visit. Phoebe grabbed up the blankets and pillows for the living room, and then set about playing with Zelda. I was hellbent on not having to watch another episode of that insipid show Walk the Prank, so I asked her, "Hey Phoe, wanna see stupid people get eaten by dinosaurs?"

Her eyes lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. "YES!"

Thus began our adventure of watching 1993's Jurassic Park. As it turned out, she had seen the newest movie, Jurassic World. I shook my head. How can you see these movies out of order?

I had been planning on showing her Jurassic park, so I pulled out our themed snack. I dinohad made chocolate-covered popcorn with dinosaur gummies. (Yeah, I know. I used to be a teacher.) They're based off this recipe for Shark Bait Popcorn. I played with the type of cake mix as well as the gummies. It came out great! The chocolate was sickening sweet! And so were the gummies. The kiddo got ramped up, I straight up died and slept through part of our movie.

snuzzlePhoebe and Zelda took up the couch. Like, the WHOLE couch. And wouldn't you know, my dog settles right in and snuggles up to Phoebe. I don't know what it is about Boston Terriers, but they LOVE children. That dog lets her get away with murder. Every time. It's seriously the cutest thing in the world. But I digress. I wound up in the armchair, trying to crochet a blanket and listen to her maniacal laughter. Apparently it's obvious to EVERYONE that you shouldn't clone dinosaurs. Or put them in a glorified zoo. Or run when in the presence of a tyrannosaurus rex. Basically, when the shit hits the fan, all you need is Phoebe. To hear her tell it, she's the undisputed survivor of every type of situation. Which may sound sarcastic, but seriously. This kid has things figured out QUICK.

She wound up loving Jurassic Park, which accidentally started a marathon of all the movies. I'll leave the other reviews for other posts, but suffice to say, she's an adorable little ham. It's worth noting too that Jurassic Park is a stellar movie for a young girl to watch. Despite being made in 1993, it features strong female characters. Both Lex and Ellie are strong, capable women who don't spend the whole movie waiting to be saved. Dipper and I like showing Phoebe those kinds of movies. We want her to grow up to shatter glass ceilings, and never put limitations on herself. Not to mention, it's a stellar way to introduce the little sweetie to Samuel L. Jackson, in one of his earliest roles.

She's not as much of a fan of my movie trivia bits sometimes. I regaled her with stories about how the impressive dinosaur sounds were, in fact, modified tortoise noises. (I left out the part that the sounds were tortoises mating, but maybe when she's older...)


Yep. That's right. I can say with a completely unrepentant heart that I showed my nine the-texas-chainsaw-massacreyear old niece Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now, before you go and start a village mob, consider this...

...there is no nudity nor is there sex in the movie. (Honestly, the characters don't live long enough for either.)

...there is relatively little gore, and much is left to the imagination.

...there is no drug or alcohol use (Again, the characters don't really live long enough to partake.)

...I watched that movie when I was seven. Two years younger than her. And look how I turned out! (Well, maybe scratch that piece of evidence...)

Not to mention, I had discussed this choice with Dipper thoroughly.

When they arrived at my house that morning, I pulled out the DVD and showed her. I let her read the synopsis on the back, and asked her if she would like to see it. She was very excited, because as she explained, it wouldn't be before bedtime and wouldn't possibly give her nightmares. She asked if it was about a monster, and I told her it was kind of like a grown up Scooby Doo in that the monster was actually a human in a costume. (I challenge you to now disassociate Scooby Doo with Leatherface.) She LOVES Scooby, so her decision was made.

Once again, we got our pillows and blankets, and Zelda (my Boston Terrier) and set up in the living room. I got our snacks and Capri Suns read, and we began the movie.

She wasn't too impressed with the opening images of the corpses set up on the tombstone. Nor was she interested in the preface. But once the unfortunates picked up the hitchhiker, she was hooked. Not only that, but she had a scathing commentary throughout the entire movie.

I had never asked her what she knew about hitchhikers, and truth be told, wasn't sure she'd ever given it a thought. But when the hitchhiker went crazy and cut Franklin, and smeared his blood all over the van, she couldn't help herself.

"Wow. Really? What did he do that for?"

"Well, Phoe, he's not right in the head."

"He looked creepy. Why did they pick him up in the first place?"

"Because this movie is set in the 1970s, and people acted differently back then. They gave rides to strangers because they didn't think anything of it."

"Right. So they saw creepy people at the side of the road, and they picked them up? And then were surprised when they got hurt?"

Sensing a teachable moment, I explained that looks don't necessarily mean anything. A hitchhiker could look like something out of a Gahan Wilson drawing, but be harmless. Likewise, the most attractive hitchhiker could be a serial killer. I cautioned her to never pick up someone on the side of the road, no matter what, just in case. To my surprise, she rolled her eyes and said, "Everyone knows that! That's how you get chainsawed! Speaking of which, when does that happen?"

Aaah. Out of the mouths of babes. She and Zelda snuggled closer, and we kept watching.

ruuunThe actions of the characters baffled her. She couldn't quite figure out how they kept getting themselves into worse and worse situations. For example, when Pam went into Leatherface's house and saw all of the bird feathers and skeleton parts, Phoe couldn't figure out why she didn't just turn around and get the hell out of dodge. I explained that she was scared out of her wits, but Phoebe said she should have been better at getting out of the house if that were the case.

She couldn't stop laughing when Franklin got whacked with the chainsaw in the middle of the bushes. Phoebe couldn't figure out what in the hell he was doing out there in a wheelchair to begin with. I tried to explain to her that he was searching for his friends, but the explanation died on my lips. There were other ways to look for them than go charging off into the bushes in the dead of night.

All told, she really enjoyed the movie. She actually asked to watch it again a few days later, so we did. She liked that it was straightforward. In her words, "They were stupid, they got chainsawed." She also liked the effects - the fact that the kills weren't overly gory. She realized extreme gore isn't to her taste when she saw the Sharknado franchise. (I take no credit for that. I wouldn't have shown that to her.) She's interested in seeing the rest of the franchise and the other movies in the Texas Chainsaw family. Maybe one day. I'm not sure I'm ready to show them to her. To be honest, the original is the most unique, and I don't want the charm of it to be lost to her by overburdening her with the others.

As a side note, Dipper and I missed out on our chance to meet Gunnar Hansen, Leatherface himself. After coming to a convention near us ended, he died unexpectedly. From what I hear, he was a wonderful person. I wish I would have had a chance to meet him.

I should also take a moment to give a shout-out to my husband, Panda. He bought me the 40th Anniversary Edition of the movie pictured at the beginning of this post. (That's right! 40 years. Can you believe it? I can't!)




What do you mean 'the alien killed the dogs' ?!

john-carpenter-the-thing-movie-posterOver the summer, I showed Phoebe one of my favorite movies of all time, John Carpenter's The Thing. I thought it would be a good one to show her because the effects, while still looking good, aren't as realistic as some of the more modern movies. I also thought she'd like the psychological guessing game - wondering who survived and who was an alien.

It surprised Dipper and I when it took me two tries to get through the movie with her. As it turns out, The Thing is a little too heavy on talking, and a little too light on the alien massacres. She wanted less discussion and more alien transformations. The second time through, I prepped her that once the proverbial ball got rolling, it was a bloodbath. That seemed to satisfy her. She picked out a craft, and we continued the movie.

Just like with Ridley Scott's Alien, Phoebe was all about the animals. In fact, the movie opens with a helicopter flying low over the snow, shooting at a beautiful husky. I would be doing her a great disservice if I said she was merely disturbed. I think the phrase, "losing her shit", while a bit crass, is a better approximation of her reaction.

"MISS HOLLY!" she squealed.

"Yes, Phoebe? What ---"

"WHY ARE THEY SHOOTING AT THE DOG, MISS HOLLY? ARE THEY GOING TO KILL IT?" Now, it's important that at this juncture, I point out that her speaking in capitals is not because she was yelling. Her eyes were the size of the moon, and her body was very still. She was speaking very carefully, emphasizing every single word.

"Phoebe, it's great that you ask questions and you're curious, but you're gonna spoil the movie for yourself."

"I don't care. DO THEY KILL THE DOG?"

"Not that one."

"THEY KILL OTHER DOGS?" Shit. I shouldn't have let that slip.

"Well, not the humans. More like the alien comes and kills the dogs."

"Oh. Do the humans kill the alien?"

I was at a loss. I was about to spoil most of the movie. Having learned my lesson with Ridley Scott's Alien, I proceeded thusly:

"The whole fun of this movie is that at the end, you don't know if the alien is gone or not. Yes, the alien kills all the dogs --"


"Hang on, let me finish..."


"Yes, the alien kills all the dogs. But the alien also kills most of the humans. And the humans give the alien a helluva fight."

She considered that for a moment. I could tell she still wasn't happy with the dogs dying. After a little more consideration, she shrugged and told me that the humans were stupid because they let the alien kill their dogs. I tried to explain that they weren't necessarily stupid, more so that they just didn't know what they were dealing with. I tried to explain that as the viewer, we are omniscient, and having that to our advantage, can suggest better courses of action for the characters. She then told me that if she were in a horror movie, things would be different, chiefly because she wasn't stupid. (That, however, is a topic for another post at a later date.)

Her final decision on the movie was that it was alright. She didn't like the alien wiping alienout the dogs, and she would have liked a better idea of who was human and who was an alien. Not knowing made it confusing sometimes. Not to mention there were several characters to track, but not much real character development to help her keep them separate. She also wasn't terribly impressed with the special effects, until I told her that the movie was made in 1982, and without the help of computers. Once I explained how the special effects artists (Rob Bottin's work was fantastic!) she began to appreciate it a little more. I promised the next movie would have less talking, and more straight-to-the-point killing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Where's the kitty?!

Subtitled, "Watching Alien With My Nine Year Old Cat-Obsessed Niece"...

I spent the summer watching my niece a few days a week, which was awesome. She's super smart, sweet, and very fun to hang around. But I have to say, you can only see so many Scooby Doo episodes before you begin to question your sanity. I brought up the idea to Dipper of starting to introduce her to more adult horror movies. He gave me the green light.

The first movie we watched was the 1979 classic, Ridley Scott's Alien. Dipper and I figured it wouldalien be good to start with. Interesting but not overly-verbose plot, strong female lead character, suitable horror with little gore, and the pièce de résistance...a cat. My niece will watch ANYTHING, so long as there is a cat involved.

Phoebe and I piled up the blankets and pillows in the living room, got my Boston Terrier a few toys so she'd stay with us, and snagged some snacks from the pantry. Capri Suns in hand, curtains drawn, we began the movie. The opening parts kept her interested because she was looking to see the cat. The real fun began once the crew of the Nostromo encountered the alien ship.

When Kane began descending into the egg chamber, Phoebe turned to me, furrowed her brow, and asked, "Miss Holly? Is he stupid?" I explained he wasn't stupid, he was exploring. She wasn't quite convinced, but agreed to keep watching. When the facehugger attacked Kane, she said "That's what you get for not being careful!" Try as I might, I couldn't disagree.

Fast forward. The Xenomorph is rampaging on the ship, the crew are starting to die, and Ripley's damn cat is nowhere to be found. After the captain gets killed in the airshaft, Phoebe paused the movie. I asked her if it was too scary.

"Miss Holly?" she asked.

"Yes, Phoebe?"

"Why is everyone so stupid?"

I sat there staring at her, literally unable to answer. I thought she was kidding. I burst out laughing, and she took offense. Apparently she was serious.

"What do you mean? Why do you think everyone is stupid?"

"Because they are. They're not really fighting the alien and it keeps killing them. And nobody is looking out for the cat. They better not hurt the kitty!"

[caption id="attachment_2195" align="alignleft" width="300"]Phoebe LOVED this scene! Phoebe LOVED this scene![/caption]

I couldn't really argue with her logic. I am an animal-lover, and Xenomorph or not, my animals would be on my mind too. I tried to reason with her. Then, in order to restore peace and order, I had to spoil the movie. I told her the biggest secret of all...JONESY LIVES. All the way to the end. She thought a bit on this and then...

"If they weren't stupid, we wouldn't have a movie."

In case you didn't know, there are some arguments you don't win against a nine year old. Especially not a smart one. I thought that was the end of our discussion on the merits of having smart horror movie characters. We continued watching.

Prior to putting on the movie, I had prepped her for the chestburster scene. Truth be told, it was the only scene Dipper and I were unsure of her reaction. I felt like I was spoiling it for her, but I told her a little about it, and that the cast didn't actually know what was coming. The reactions in the scene are priceless - most likely because they're genuine. Irregardless, Phoebe loved it. She leaned forward, and watched with rapt attention as Kane writhed and screamed. Her eyes got as big as saucers when the chestburster appeared, and she roared with laughter when it ran amok. I couldn't help but laugh with her. Though it was a serious scene, there was a certain charm and hilarity watching the ugly little bastard run through the set.

[caption id="attachment_2193" align="alignright" width="300"]According to Phoebe, these are the only two characters worth watching. According to Phoebe, these are the only two characters worth watching.[/caption]

Fast forward. It's now just Ripley, Jonesy the cat, and the rampaging Xenomorph. Phoebe again pauses the film.

"Yes you could," she says confidently, apropos of nothing. "You could have a movie where everyone wasn't stupid."

"I guess you could, but it wouldn't be very fun, would it?" I wasn't sure where she was going with this line of inquiry.

"Yeah it would! They could find the alien, fight it smart, kill it, and move on. With the kitty."

I told her I would have to think about that and get back to her.

Her final take on the movie was that it was excellent, but she wished there was more of Jonesy the cat. She loved that Ripley took charge and (for the most part) made smart decisions. She was shocked to the core that Ash turned out to be an android, and asked why Ripley didn't know that. She thought that was silly, considering androids were part of their everyday norm. She was suitably horrified that Ash had been tasked with bringing back an alien organism, and that she was glad it hadn't happened. Most of all, she wanted more Jonesy. In the end, it turns out that my niece doesn't care about the human body count, especially when they're stupid humans, she just wants to know the animals make it out alive.

She is very interested in seeing the other Alien movies, though at another time. The second one is more of an action flick, and she's significantly more curious about "hardcore horror" movies. Preferably with cats. Our movie watching has continued, as I see her twice a week, and every other weekend. Be on the lookout for more of Phoebe's take on popular horror and sci-fi movies!