Posts Tagged ‘gore’

A poster from a play from the Grand Guignol.

*Trigger warning: this post goes into a lot of dark and uncomfortable topics. If talk of gore, murder, sexual assault and similar subjects upset you, stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

Have you ever seen any version of Sweeney Todd? Whether you saw a stage production or watched the movie, Sweeney Todd is somewhat of an outlier among famous Broadway musicals. It’s dark, bloody, and deals with subject matter other plays don’t, such as rape and cannibalism. It’s basically a slasher story with singing.

Now, if you’re like me (and I assume most of you are, if you’re reading this blog), you not only wish there were more plays like Sweeney Todd, but that some of these plays went further in terms of gore and terror. Well, recently I found out that there was a theater dedicated to plays just like that. And it ran for nearly seventy years.

The Grand Guignol Theater was a theater set up in an old Paris chapel in 1897. To summarize its history, the theater at first performed naturalistic plays centered around prostitutes, street thieves and alcoholics. A typical evening at the Grand Guignol would feature five or six short plays, alternating between cynical slice-of-life comedies, horror shows, and more traditional comedies. However, after a change of ownership, the theater began to focus more on horror.

And as time went on, the theater became famous for it. In fact, the Grand Guignol performed over twelve-hundred plays in the course of its existence, focusing on subjects such as insanity, strangulation, rape, leprosy, hypnosis, eye gouging, stabbing, rabies, and so much more. One actress, Paula Maxa, estimated she’d been “murdered” at least ten thousand times in sixty different ways, among other things. To enhance the terror, the theater staff developed a number of techniques to make the horror onstage seem as real as possible, and actors acted as if everything onstage was actually happening.

It wasn’t uncommon for audience members to puke or faint during performances.

This was all to the delight of Andre de Lorde, one of the Guignol’s writers, who judged his plays based on how many people fainted during a show. Along with psychologist and friend Alfred Binet, he wrote over a hundred plays, all particularly gruesome.

And audiences kept coming back. Like many modern horror fans, they were seeking a thrill. And the Grand Guignol provided. At its peak, celebrities and even royalty visited for shows.

So why did it close? Well, there are a number of theories. By the 1930s, the theater had shifted away from gory shockers to psychological dramas, and attendance began to dip. The rise of movies and TV shows, some of the former being quite gory or sensational themselves, may have also played a part. Theater management even believed revelations about the Holocaust may have played a role, saying “We could never equal Buchenwald.”

Whatever the case, the Grand Guignol closed in 1962. Today it’s a theater space for a deaf acting troupe.

But while the theater closed, its legacy still exists. Many small theaters and troupes around the world have been formed to preserve the Guignol’s legacy and produce their own Guignol-style plays. The Guignol’s also made its way into popular culture, and has been referenced in music, movies, books and more.

Still, wouldn’t it be amazing if the Grand Guignol was truly revjved? If one of the groups inspired by it managed to achieve the same popularity and staying power as the original theater?

Perhaps someday it will come back. And then perhaps Mr. Sweeney Todd won’t be so lonely anymore.

Advertisements

As soon as I heard about this film, I knew I had to check it out, even if I was in Germany. Why? Because  the companies distributing it, Nerdist Industries, has for a long time been providing me and millions of other nerds with the latest in everything geeky and cool (which at this point are basically the same thing), all while being freaking hilarious at it. If the folks at Nerdist thought highly enough of the film to distribute it, I wanted to check it out.

The Hive follows Adam Goldstein (played by Gabriel Basso), a young man who wakes up covered in blood and sores and with no memory of who he is or what happened to him (sounds like my morning this past Thursday). Using clues around him, Adam starts to remember not only who he is, but the events that caused a very powerful and dangerous virus to spread around a summer camp and beyond and what happened to his friends (played by Jacob Zachar, Kathryn Prescott, and Gabrielle Walsh).

The first thing I have to say about The Hive is that it feels like the most recent Evil Dead film, if that film had been made to be serious rather than humorous, the villains less supernatural but much more threatening, and with a heavier psychological aspect. And I feel that works in the film’s favor. It’s very creepy and definitely a psychological mind-bendy, with plenty of mystery to keep you interested in the slower parts of the movie. The effects are done with minimal CGI (which I love), and a lot of time is spent on getting to know these characters so that they’re a bit more than just cut-out characters there to fulfill a role. Plus the actors manage to make you forget that they’re acting and believe in them in their roles, which is definitely a plus.

What I didn’t like about the film was that there’s more blood and gore than I feel there need be, as well as way too much sexual stuff and swearing, which I feel take away from the film and almost give it a comedic feel at times. For example, there’s one moment where Adam realizes something he did that he shouldn’t have done with one of his friends, and that could’ve been a very powerful moment…if not for the fact that it’s ruined by Adam freaking out about something he experienced in that flashback. Talk about a mood killer! And what was with that shower shot? What did that add, exactly?

But overall, it’s a pretty good psychological-horror apocalypse film. It keeps your attention, the mystery of the film is very well set up, and you want to root for the characters while you watch it. And it even has pretty good commentary on our social media addictions, which I enjoyed seeing. Overall, I’d give The Hive a 3.5 out of 5. It’s not my favorite kind of horror film, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re looking for something to creep you out and screw with your mind a bit. And I’d definitely like to see more from the production company behind the movie, Midnight Road Entertainment, which is still relatively new and has plenty of room to expand their repertoire. Heck, if they ever wanted to adapt one of my stories for the screen, I’d definitely be interested if they could bring the same passion and quality to an adaptation as they did to The Hive.*

Oh, before I forget, currently The Hive is only available from iTunes as far as I know. Might be available from other places, I’m not sure, but it’s definitely available from iTunes. And if you want to check it out, I think it’d be a good investment of your time and cash, and maybe a great start to your Halloween season.

*Oh, wouldn’t that be nice if it were to actually happen!