Month: March 2020

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    Fixed Face

    This is a facility made specifically to capture the features on the lower portion of the face.

    The Doctor explains the chair that makes Yagawa feel so uneasy.

    Synopsis — Fixed Face

    Fixed face is one of Junji Ito’s shorter stories, but is no less terrifying in its smaller page count.

    Yagawa is a young lady who has gone to a dental hospital for some unknown reason. We don’t know her treatment and, for the purposes of this story, it isn’t really important. On arriving, the doctor welcomes her to take the only seat — the dental chair — and to place her head between two ominous-looking clamps.

    These clamps, the doctor says, are to fix the person’s head in place to allow them to capture exactly the features of the lower part of their face. The clamp is made up of a huge over-arching machine. That machine reaches round a person’s head with pointed metal pieces that are to be placed inside the person’s ears.

    However, on fixing the lady in place, the doctor realises he needs to leave the room for a moment. Not long after leaving, he trips down the stairs on one of the hospital’s lower floors — killing himself.

    The location of the dental room is an area of the hospital not often covered by many people. So the lady is left alone, head clamped in place, without a word from the doctor or any other soul.

    She has no idea about the fate of her doctor. And has no way to get herself out of the place in which she is trapped. What will happen to the lady? Will she ever get out? And if so, at what cost will she manage to break free?

    Fear of never being found

    I remember hearing an urban legend when I was younger about a person buried alive and never being found. The thought of being trapped in a place where nobody knows where you are is scary in itself.

    But Junji Ito has created a similar story here, no doubt inspired by his own time as a working dentist. When Yagawa is fixed in place into the dental chair and then left, she is left in a very vulnerable position. But when we see how the Doctor ends up dying, she has no idea — however, we as the readers do.

    We have a power over her that somehow reinforces Yagawa’s increasing anxiety. As she freaks out in the chair, unable to free herself and with seemingly no one coming to her help, we are forced to just watch her struggle.

    What I found interesting too, was that there are no malevolent forces in operation here. There are no evil spirits, forces of nature, or a bad doctor trying to trick her. It is a situation of pure bad luck — for both Yagawa and her doctor. A situation that Yagawa must then try to escape from.

    Yagawa tries to get out

    It reminded me of Tomie: Babysitter and Amigara Fault

    In Tomie: Babysitter, the main character, Erita, falls into a similar situation. After being locked in a family’s baby’s nursery as a precaution, she ultimately finds herself trapped. With the only people who know she’s there unable to let her out. Although it is for very different reasons that her captors are unable to free her, the result is still similar.

    Perhaps this fear of been locked away, or being forgotten, is a legitimate fear of Junji Ito’s? And maybe it’s that fear that he lets feed into his work in these stories? Or maybe it is just that the fear of being forgotten is such a common human fear, that it naturally ended up finding its way into his work.

    Another similarity I felt in this story was of The Enigma of Amigara Fault. When we see Yagawa struggling and convinced that the ear clamps are pinching further into her head, it reminded me of the closing panels of Amigara Fault. Where we would see the tunnels gradually squeezing and bending the people who entered out of shape.

    That idea of being trapped and seemingly under the control of some outside force closing in on you is scary. And I think that similar theme was used well here in Fixed Face too — albeit without the human-shaped holes.

    In Conclusion

    I find Fixed Face to be a very effective little horror story that is light enough on its surface to make for an easy read. But I think there is a lot to admire in those moments where Yagawa is getting more and more frightened in her fixed position.

    There are some great examples of Ito’s penmanship on display. This is especially apparent where we see the lady’s close up face broken out into a sweat and panic. The fear is palpable and really jumps out of the page. Even the sense of motion as Ito draws her swinging to get out of her trap is really well done. Her increasing stress and anxiety is put across in a way that made it feel as though the pace was truly picking up. Almost as though I could hear the woman’s ever-increasing heart beat growing louder and louder.

    Despite the slightly-contrived way in which Ito sets up this situation — the man just having to leave the room and just so happens to trip and die — this is still up there as a favourite of mine. This is less of an evolving story per-se. It is more of a situation that this woman, and by extension us as readers, must endure.

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    Under the Graveyard by Ozzy Osbourne

    My favourite song from his new album, ‘Ordinary Man’.

    Under the Graveyard

    We’re all rotten bones

    Under the Graveyard — Ozzy Osbourne

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    Thoughts on The Lighthouse

    The Lighthouse is a slow-burn descent into madness expertly portrayed by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.

    They play lighthouse keepers with the task of manning the lighthouse on a rock out at sea for four weeks. But their isolation and growing annoyances of the other, soon guide them down the path of madness.

    Directed by Robert Eggers, the man behind another favourite film of mine from recent years — The Witch.

    I found myself completely transfixed to these two people throughout the entirety of this film. From their initial landing on the island — passing their predecessors on the walk to their new, month-long home — up to the crazy final scenes that played out like some kind of demonic version of Alfred Hitchcock.

    While I’m not going to spoil anything here, what I will say is roughly what the film is about — very roughly.

    Pattinson and Defoe play two lighthouse keepers. Pattinson is new to the job and quiet initially, whilst Defoe plays an almost-caricature of a typical old sea-dog with many old tales and superstitions to impart.

    Their relationship is pretty intense throughout, as would be expected between boss and worker that also live together — especially in such a close and isolated proximity.

    I’ve lived and worked with a boss-like figure in the past and I can tell you for one that it can get pretty tense pretty fast if you’re not careful.

    They often argue and disagree, usually with Defoe coming out on top, but at times they let off steam by getting completely drunk and sing songs of old times in their drunken stupor.

    The film’s climax is one that I will be thinking about for days to come, I think. It has no hard explanation, at least not that I could tell. What it does have is a heart-pumping ending that leaves itself open to interpretation — complete with metaphor and Greek mythological imagery.

    Pattinson and Defoe

    I’d not seen Robert Pattinson in anything before, so didn’t know what to expect. Willem Dafoe, on the other hand, I had seen a few times and so was aware of him and his idiosyncrasies as an actor.

    What I found was that both of their performances were absolutely incredible. As I heard in a review after watching the film, this film displays the whole gamut of human emotions. We see both characters at their most powerful and their most vulnerable too, I would say. From the heights of joy in alcohol-fuelled excitement, to some moments of personal fantasy and depravity.

    Willem Dafoe’s Shakespearean, powerful monologues were absolutely hypnotic to watch — as were his eyes whilst he delivered said speeches. Lit up like someone would be at a campfire telling ghost stories — a piercing light shining from below and up against his intense expression. He became almost scary to see but I found myself unable to look away.

    I’d only heard about Robert Pattinson through knowing about his starring roles in the Twilight films, so that had coloured my perception of him if I’m honest (despite having never seen them). But all I can say is “wow”, based on his role in The Lighthouse. His descent into madness and the odd visions that he witnesses in the desolate, rocky surroundings, are pieces of cinema I wont forget in a hurry.

    Superstition and suspense

    The was a heavy air of suspense throughout the entire film, which for me didn’t really end until the very final shot. At times I felt like I was watching the love child film of both Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch.

    The film was presented in an old-style square frame as opposed to the typical widescreen format that we are used to nowadays. It was also shot completely in black and white. These two factors, along with the fucking incredible score by Mark Korven gave the story the added claustrophobia that the characters on screen were no-doubt facing themselves.

    And as for that score, it was intense, atmospheric and downright terrifying at times. That, coupled with the films overall great sound design, made for what I can’t help but feel will be one of the greatest auditory experiences I will experience in the cinema this year.

    It was just a shame that some dick in the row in front of me kept piping up to his mate with short sentences after some of the film’s big moments.

    In Conclusion

    What can I say other than this is a film that will treat all of your cinema-viewing senses to a real treat. The performances are incredible; the story itself is left up to you to interpret; and the atmosphere is one of constant isolation and sustained dread.

    I loved it from beginning to end and found myself enjoying the emotional journey that these two men were going on. The more I sit and think about it now afterwards, the more my mind is starting to think about the possible symbolism throughout the film. And the more I am starting to form my own interpretations of what I have seen tonight.

    Maybe I’ll write these interpretations into a separate post once I have some kind of coherent way of putting those thoughts together.

    If you enjoyed The Witch, to which this is a sort of spiritual companion, or are simply open to something very different from your regular cinema experience, then I can’t recommend The Lighthouse enough. If you can watch it for the first time at a cinema then you definitely should.

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    February 2020 round-up

    Here are some things I’ve been enjoying in February 2020.





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    The Last of Us Remastered — Grounded mode

    I have been replaying this game through for about the fifth time. This time, however, I’ve attempted the hardest difficulty — Grounded.

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    Thieves in the Temple by Prince

    Love come quick
    Love come in a hurry
    There are thieves in the temple tonight

    They don’t care where they kick
    Just as long as they hurt you
    There are thieves in the temple tonight

    First lyrics from Thieves in the Template by Prince