The plasticdino Halloween special!!

summary: I subjected myself to some horror movies and talked about them

words: ~2,000

content: spoilers, language, cartoon blood, descriptions of gore, mentions of abuse, murder, dysfunctional families, misogyny... and more!!!! (be careful with this one guys)


I'm a horror virgin, so what better way to celebrate Halloween than by watching some iconic horror movies and also reviewing them? Also, some people (like two) have said they wanted to see more reviews. Ask and ye shall receive, treasured mutals. Still, I promise the wrtiting section of this site isn't going to become a glorified letterboxd page. My main goal here was actually to experiment with writing something in a short time frame, so here's the result!

Now in terms of my choices, there wasn't much thought put into choosing these tbh. I just grabbed ones that I know are particularly iconic or was planning to watch eventually anyway. And yes I grabbed them physically, I got these all out on DVD! It's always good to support your local library if you can 👍

But basically, Horror nerds don't judge my choices, ok? I also won't be recounting the plots of any of these movies in detail (it takes up too much time 😭) and I won't be censoring spoilers or gross stuff that happens. Please read at your own risk!

Audition (1999)

dir. Takashi Miike

Plot Summary: A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all. - IMDB

Short Verdict: I will never watch this again (complimentary)

This is not my first Takashi Miike movie! Ages ago I watched Andromedia (1998) which is a terrible and very silly film that no one should ever watch. It is also one of my favourites. Anyway, while these two films share a kind of initial naive awkwardness, they could not be more different in tone. Andromedia is a cute sci-fi romance, meanwhile Audition is touted as one of the most acclaimed and disturbing horror movies of all time. No pressure or anything.

After watching it, I can totally understand the obsession with this movie. The sense of dread is so tangible. I think even if you didn't know the twist, you could figure out from the first couple minutes that something is wrong. It only gets more toe-curling from there. Nothing really bad or explicit happens for over an hour, but the lack of music and all the ominous small talk make everything seem kind of unbearable.

When it does start to go off the rails, I loved the dream sequence where the various flashbacks start bleeding into each other and progressively become more surreal. You could definitely interpret it as a manifestation of Ryo's insecurity and fear of women, with every female character in the film returning during the dream sequence to taunt him in some way.

After this, I had to fast forward some of the final torture scene just cause it was way too much for me. I don't think it's bad that they went there or anything, being able to create a scene so visceral is a talent for sure. I will be haunted by the thought of acupuncture needles for weeks! But yeah, I'm just a pussy lol. It's why I haven't watched many horror movies up until now.

Ultimately though, I think they made Ryo too sympathetic for me to get behind the popular interpretation of Asami as a #feminist #girlboss. Initially, when she goes after her abusers you don't feel too bad as they meet a grisly end, as gross as it is to actually watch. If this was just it I could understand the narrative of it being a morally questionable but still kind of satisfying revenge movie.

Meanwhile, Ryo is just your average guy with Women Problems. He definitely makes huge mistakes, but he's by no means a monster. We spend the whole movie from his point of view and clearly see the guilt and loneliness he feels after his wife dies.

So yeah, when the movie goes all in on his suffering it hurts much more from an audience perspective. This made me lose all sympathy I could have had for Asami. I did think it was a little cheap to go from actually justifiable motivations to "what if yandere girlfriend but even more fucked up". But I also don't believe movies have to have a neat and tidy moral or anything. In fact, it could be a sort of moral about going too far with revenge, or letting your hatred get so extreme you'll hurt anyone who gets in your way.

Since this movie has such extreme content as well as a pessimistic tone, I doubt I'll watch it again. I don't think it's a bad movie though, and I don't really interpret it as misogynist either. Ultimately it was good, but it won't be becoming one of my favourites.

Saw (2004)

dir. James Wan

Plot Summary: Two strangers awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, and soon discover they're pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer. - IMDB

Short Verdict: Fellas, is it gay to nearly bleed to death in a warehouse?

I always thought of Saw as kind of a trashy film series. But you know, not in an interesting way. It seemed like there weren't any characters you could get attached to or themes or anything it was just like. Ok, here's how we can do the most fucked up thing in the most fucked up scenario, without really caring what it all means. That's always how I heard people talk about it.

That was until I witnessed the great Tumblr Saw revival of 2021. On my dash there were suddenly hundreds of memes, fanart, text posts about what I understood was a pretty lame horror movie franchise. For better or worse whenever something becomes so ingrained into the culture of Tumblr like this, I'm fascinated. Finally, in 2022 I am attempting to understand the hype.

Now I'm going to say upfront, this movie surprised me so much. I actually loved it a lot. It wasn't as pessimistic as I thought it would be. It still had plenty of intense and disturbing moments. But yeah, rather than feeling traumatising for no reason it felt like the violence actually advanced the plot, or at least had real emotion attached to it.

Something that surprised me, this movie is tightly written and even has themes (novel, right?). Everything was set up and tied together so well. The twist at the end was unexpected and shocking but didn't feel unsatisfying and out of nowhere, because it was literally staring you in the face the entire time. Admittedly, on paper it really is dumb but it's pulled off so well that it didn't take me out of the film at all. In fact, when I first saw the guy with his head bleeding I thought "man, that's a really obvious prosthetic lol" and then it turns out that DIEGETICALLY IT LITERALLY IS (idk how intentional that was but still. Slay).

I thought it was interesting that the police are actually very incompetent the entire time. There's literally a trap where they have to choose between a civilian life and capturing the suspect. As I said, themes!!! I also loved the way the day was kind of saved by a mom trying to protect her daughter, and refusing to play her part as a helpless kidnapping victim. It would have been really easy to kill both of them as a cheap way to raise the stakes but keeping them alive was much more interesting. Finally, the moment at the end after Adam kills Zep and both him and Lawrence are freaking out and it's super disturbing and desperate but also. I can see why the gays went insane for this. It's iconic for sure.

There were a couple things I disliked though. Firstly, Leigh Warnell's performance as Adam was maybe a little more goofy than I think was intended and sometimes didn't work for me. I will admit, he totally brought it back with the final scene. But up until they point I don't think he was selling the edginess of the character and his accent was a little off. I still liked Adam a lot tbh and it wasn't a deal breaker, it's just something I wish was a bit better. The thing that bothered me more was when they edit really fast. It is very dumb. The over the top-ness of it was kind of giving "low budget 2000s music video" as opposed to "genuinely disturbing horror film" and I know they were going for the latter rather than the former. It also reminds me of this lol.

Admittedly, this movie did not have a huge budget. Plus, they admitted they ran out of footage. Which is why they replay a lot of previous scenes when they need to fill time. I hate to say it, but you can totally tell this is what they were doing. I can't be too critical because I've literally been in the same situation myself (like last week). But still, if they'd showed a bit more restraint with the editing and actually shot enough footage I would have liked it much more.

Unlike the other movie I watched where one of the main characters ends up without a foot, I think I will actually watch this again. Although, I'm unsure about watching the sequels and probably won't bother. But I can't deny that I understand the appeal of this movie now and I don't regret watching it at all. Saw fans... I'm sorry for doubting you and I understand everything now.

Ring (1998)

dir. Hideo Nakata

Plot Summary: A reporter and her ex-husband investigate a cursed video tape that is rumored to kill the viewer seven days after watching it. - IMDB

Short Verdict: why was it called Ring tho. WAIT-

Writing reviews is so funny. I was going to start this off by saying "There is no ring imagery in this at all, why tf is it called Ring" but as I was writing that I got it. THE CURSE IS LIKE A RING. THE CYCLE NEVER STOPS. I'm sooo smart (they literally say this on the wikipedia page for the movie btw).

Anyway, this is basically the theme of the movie. The curse being cyclical perhaps mirrors how Sadako's powers were passed on to her from her mother, scarring both of them. This then mirrors Reiko's less traumatic but still fractured relationship with her ex-husband and the fact that their son becomes cursed arguably because of Reiko's neglect. It's no secret that horror movies always try to ~say something about society~ and this one definitely captures how familial trauma can feel inescapable despite our best efforts.

Leaning into the tragedy part of the story also really worked emotionally. The irony of Ryuji and Reiko only reconnecting once they're both doomed felt heartbreaking. This was compounded when Reiko rushes to Ryuji's house after he dies and only then refers to herself as "his wife". Plus, Reiko holding back tears on the phone with Koichi definitely got me.

The music is also great. Except the techno song during the end credits which is more hilarious than anything. But apart from that. The strange slowed noises and synths made a great companion to the scares. The effects weren't particularly ambitious here, but they served the story perfectly. I just wish the scariest shot in the movie (Sadako's bloodshot eye) wasn't spoiled by not only the DVD cover but also the DVD menu... like come on guys. Maybe I should have just pirated it lol.

As for my criticisms, The fact that they end up working out the mystery with magic mind powers as opposed to actual detective work is a little bit contrived. It is once again reminding me of BBC Sherlock 😭 (I promise I don't spend all my time thinking about BBC Sherlock). Also you do wonder how they got any of this on videotape. The flashbacks seemed to be taking place in like the 50s?? Idk, I'm not trying to be Cinemasins here and nitpick everything. The fact that it's all supernatural lets the filmmakers off a bit tbh. But still, I was fascinated by Sadako's backstory and found myself still asking a lot more questions that I wish were answered. I imagine they explain the things I wanted in one of the many sequels but I personally believe movies should try to stand on their own with no follow-up. Still, it can't be a bad thing that I wanted more content from a movie as opposed to less.

Despite all of this, I loved the atmosphere of this film the most and I am kind of curious about its many sequels. Like with Audition, it's not hard to see why it's considered a horror classic. Speaking of Audition, why did all three of the movies I watched have fucked up scenes involving phones..... The inherent horror of answering a phone call. That's the real terror in all of this.