In J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls, the director mixes the hyper-reality of the agonizing struggles of a young boy named Conor O’Malley with a vibrant fantasy world involving a titanic tree monster. Like in Bayona’s previous feature El Orfanato (The Orphanage), reality and fantasy are blended together in fascinating ways, until it is not quite clear precisely what we are looking at. Though certainly a daunting task, Bayona and his performers manage to tell an engaging coming-of-age story about grief, coping, and the power of storytelling.
Sexual interpretations of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) abound, but few tie the overt sexuality of the film to its professed objective, which is to be scary. Alien is a horror film (specifically, a slasher; Ridley Scott excitedly explained the film to his cast as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in space). So then, why the sexual imagery and themes? Sex can be scary. Even when consensual and enjoyable, it can adopt an air of fear, anxiety, and discomfort. Scott’s brilliance with Alien and its sexually-charged themes lay in the way it transitions from our quaint hang-ups with sex to the terrifying violence inherent in the act of rape. Visual symbolism in the film initially reminds us of both male and female sexual anatomy, but transitions piecewise into the aggressive sexuality of the rapist. As the film proceeds, the male aspects of the sex begin to dominate until the unbridled Xenomorph literally rapes its final victim. These sexual characteristics serves to disturb the audience in two fashions: first by suggesting the anxiety and the scariness of the sexual organs and sex itself, and second by perverting sex into a primal violence and forcing the audience to experience it firsthand.