10.15.2021

Some Found Footage Horror Movies Are Worth Seeing

video camera

One of the problems with the horror genre (and the film industry in general) is the copycat phenomenon where everybody tries to copy the few successes. Originality goes out the window as everybody scrambles to make the next [insert title of last successful film]. I'm not sure there are many examples more divisive among horror fans than the found footage film. Some horror fans hate them, others still love them, and I suspect the majority of us are just tired of them. The Blair Witch Project (1999) was not the first found footage horror film but was wildly successful in a way none before it could imagine. Love it or hate it, it was a landmark example of how successful the found footage formula can be, especially if done on the cheap and with a brilliant marketing campaign. The downside was that we were treated to a deluge of found footage films.

For the purpose of this post, I am going to use a broad definition of "found footage" that includes all the films that are obviously found footage (i.e., the audience is told that they are watching recovered footage) plus those that might more accurately be described as "shaky cam" or POV (i.e., much of the film is from the perspective of at least one of the actors). I think this makes sense because these films are more about their characteristic visual style than the details of their plots.

10.13.2021

We Must End Religious Exemptions and Ensure Equal Treatment Under the Law

plague doctor

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which I prefer to refer to as "the plague," has changed me in many ways. Like most other transformative experiences, the full extent of the changes probably won't be evident for some time. It may never be evident to me if this thing lasts as long as it now looks like it will. One surprising change I am aware of is that I have become far less tolerant of the entire concept of religious exemptions. While I was not exactly a fan of them before the plague, I now see them as a serious failing of the United States much like racism, immigration, and gun violence.

I have been fairly tolerant of many religious exemptions because I figured that the scope of the damage they did was fairly small. Sure, it sucks to be the child of a parent who yanks you out of public school and subjects you to Christian homeschooling or a Christian school, but it took me a while to realize how damaging this can be. It is far worse than I feared. But what the plague has made me realize is that religious exemptions are being allowed by our legal system to jeopardize public health. And that's just wrong. I'm sorry, but someone's "sincerely held religious beliefs" cannot be allowed to endanger others or entitle them pick and choose which laws they follow (not unlike their approach to a certain "holy" book).

Yes, I am well aware that the separation of church and state is supposed to keep government out of religion just as it is supposed to keep religion out of government. And yet, setting up a system where howling about religious beliefs absolves the believer from following the laws you and I have to follow seems fundamentally wrong. In fact, it seems like a violation of church-state separation. If we are going to allow vaccine refusal on the basis of religious nonsense, what are we going to do when a religious believer informs us that driving under the speed limit violates his or her religious beliefs? How much are we willing to let them harm us?

10.11.2021

What If An Evangelical Fundamentalist Christian Pastor Said Something Stupid?

jesus art

You are not going to believe this, but an evangelical fundamentalist Christian pastor recently said something stupid. Shocked, aren't you? Who was it? I'm not sure it matters. But what did they say? Again, I'm not sure it matters. Ask yourself the following question: Is there anything a Christian pastor could say that would be so stupid you would be shocked to learn that they said it? No, I didn't think so.

Atheists who write blogs or are otherwise active online love to share stories of evangelical fundamentalist Christians saying stupid things. I suspect we've all done it many times. I know I have. There are probably at least a few good arguments for doing so, but I can't help wondering whether it really has the kind of impact we wish it had. I'd be surprised if it has much of an effect on evangelical fundamentalist Christians. They'll just dismiss it as unfair or out-of-context even when it isn't.

I think it might have once had a positive effect on liberal to moderate Christians and atheists, but I am doubtful that it still does. After all, how many things have the same impact after they've happened well over a thousand times? We habituate to hearing the same news over and over again, and once shocking statements no longer surprise us. Repeated enough times, they may even become what we expect to hear from evangelical fundamentalist Christians. Once that happens, it seems unlikely that hearing the next stupid statement will affect us the way the first few did.

10.09.2021

A Brief Review of The Empty Man (2020)

stranger

When it comes to film trailers, I think everyone has had the experience of watching one that seemed to contain every scene in the film that was worth watching. Of course, there's no way to know that until one sees the film. And when one finally does see such a film, it is a massive disappointment. Much less common but still troublesome is the scenario where the trailer so misleading that it makes it look like the film is very different from what it really is. I recently stumbled across the most egregious example of this phenomenon I can recall in the form of The Empty Man (2020), a horror film that received poor reviews on release but has turned into something of a cult classic since then.

The trailer made it look like it was going to be a ripoff of the Slender Man nonsense. Watching the trailer, I was reminded of a bad made-for-TV film like the garbage served up by the SyFy channel. I almost skipped it for that reason. But this was a case where taking a chance despite the awful trailer paid off, as it ended up really liking it.

I have to acknowledge that The Empty Man was a strange film with a few major flaws that won't be for everyone. It was too long, disjointed, and often seemed to be heading in a few different directions at the same time. I did not hate the ending, but it was somewhat of a let-down. The first thought I had as the final credits rolled was that this should have been a six-part series rather than a film. There was so much good stuff but it was almost like they couldn't figure out which thread to follow or didn't have the time to connect them.