Monday, July 6, 2009

Geeks Do Not Have Pedigrees, Or Perfect Punk Rock Resumes: In Which I Spring to the Defense of Diablo Cody

You guys? I think I really like the "Jennifer's Body" trailer.

I mean it! I am excited for the upcoming feature film "Jennifer's Body!" Which is by DIABLO CODY!

Now: I am not a cool person. I know some people who are cool! And one of the things that the cool people enjoy, apparently, is talking about how much they do not like Diablo Cody. 

I can see where they are coming from, sort of! Diablo Cody is weird, like an American Apparel advertisement or Hot Topic or the music of 2012th-wave feminist band Millionaires: "cute" and "cool" in a way that consists of pitching "cute" and "cool" all the way out into the bleachers, basically just hollering, "YOU GUYS. LOOK AT HOW COOL I AM. ALSO, CUTE. I AM PRETTY CUTE, RIGHT?" And nobody thinks that is cute or cool, actually. Not even me. 

If we could keep the conversation on this level, that would be fun. Unfortunately, when people talk about Diablo Cody, they tend to slip pretty easily into what is known, in the feminism industry, as "stupid misogynist bullshit." For example: did you know that she was once a STRIPPER? I mean: strippers! Who write about stripping! And later become successful in other fields in which they do not strip! Jokes ahoy! 

So, cool people: I would like to join you in not liking Diablo Cody. Unfortunately, I think you are huge sexists. Also, despite her grating attempts at cool cuteness, or cute coolness, or whatever, I keep getting this feeling that this Cody woman is actually far smarter - and, specifically, far more feminist - than she lets on. 

You guys, have I mentioned that I really think I like the trailer for "Jennifer's Body?"





I know, right? It is so embarrassing. Because, "buff your situation?" No. "Phuking?" AIIIIIEEEEEEE, and also: no. Yet, consider!

1) THIS IS A MOVIE BY SOME LADIES. It came from a screenplay by a lady, and was directed by a lady. Also? It is a HORROR movie, by some ladies! Now: who here can name a genre of film which is typically gendered as uber-masculine, and yet is preoccupied with themes of sex, perversion, violence, victimization, freakish bodies, bodily invasion, female purity, and subjugation to transpersonal, malevolent and uncontrollable forces, and is therefore pretty much made for girls to play with? Was your answer "costume drama?" Because, if so, I doubt your reasoning. I am of the opinion that girls need to make more horror movies. If you can combine a subversive critique of patriarchal sexuality with some chainsaw murders, I am on your side. 

2) THE SUBVERSIVE CRITIQUE OF PATRIARCHAL SEXUALITY starts, in this trailer, right around the point when Naked Megan Fox, Professional Hot Lady, extends her mouth to about five times its natural size and eats a dude with it. Because: female sexual desirability is simultaneously prized and demonized. Female appetites, sexual or otherwise, are unilaterally feared and shamed. Women's mouths, like most of our potentially dude-pleasuring orifices, are eroticized. Yet the "devouring" or "toothed" vagina is an ancient bogeyman. If you asked me to concretize all of that stuff in 1.5 seconds of trailer footage, I would have no idea how to go about it. I wouldn't know what it ought to look like. As it turns out, however, it looks almost exactly like Naked Megan Fox, Professional Hot Lady, eating a dude with her giant scary mouth.

3) HEY, IS THAT AMANDA SEYFRIED? It totally is! Hi, Amanda Seyfried! You are wonderful! 

4) DID I MENTION THAT IT IS A MOVIE MADE BY SOME LADIES? Leaving aside the situation-buffing and Phuking (again: no, and no), there are actually two funny moments in this very trailer. In the first, Amanda Seyfried tells her friend, Currently Not Naked Megan Fox, that she's "killing people." Megan Fox rolls her eyes and says, "no, I'm killing BOYS." In the second, Amanda Seyfried, whilst getting it on, shrieks in terror. Her exceedingly dorky-looking boyfriend asks her if he is "too big." Now: men are lovely, and have written very lovely things in the past, and continue to write lovely things to this very day. However, here is one thing men cannot, if their track record is any indication, pull off: get the female (hetero)sexual experience to such a degree that they can write scenes like these. 

5) LET'S TALK SOME MORE ABOUT AMANDA SEYFRIED, AGAIN. Because, yes, there is the sexy sleepover, and also "I Go Both Ways," and this causes me to go into a whole Katy-Perrian realm in which my thoughts are unhappy. (You guys! This is almost as bad as the "Phuking!") Yet, if Jennifer and/or Naked Megan Fox represent unbridled female appetite, which is demonized and (in this movie) literally demonic, then Amanda Seyfried is the Last Girl Standing: the pretty blonde horror-movie fixture who survives because she resists sexuality. In most of these movies, the Last Girl Standing is the one who successfully runs away from or tricks a male monster who stands for predatory male sexuality - death for her would also, symbolically, be rape, what with all the penetration-y stabbings and such that are typical in this sort of movie. If "Jennifer's Body" wanted to flip the script, it could have gone another, grosser way: a boy running scared of the toothy devouring lady-orifice, and eventually taming or destroying it. Yet that doesn't happen here. The monster and the victim, the pure and the impure, are both girls. There is even complicity between them. But girls are afraid of female sexuality too - afraid of its consequences, or of the loss of control or purity that it represents. We're afraid of it in each other, and we're afraid of it in ourselves. The relationship between Jennifer and Not-Jennifer is about female relationships, yeah: about the way we can be drawn to other women, and be in awe of them, and fear or hate them at the same time. But it's also about the psychological struggle that takes place within women (or, often, as in this case, adolescent girls) themselves. It's not about running away from the killer/rapist. It's about you: what you will permit yourself to want.

6) YOU GUYS,  I REALLY THINK THIS MOVIE IS NOT AS STUPID AS IT LOOKS. Even with the "Phuking!" Damn that Diablo Cody. 

38 comments:

  1. I do like horror flicks. I do like movies by ladychicks. I will consider seeing this.

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  2. Entirely not a response to this day's subject, nevertheless you, Ms. Sady Tiger Beatdown, need to know that it is entirely because of you that when we celebrated last night at our corner local, and I ordered a vodka martini I instructed the bartender to not use Ketle, with which he knows I always have had my martinis made.

    Instead he made my martini with Chopin vodka, made from Polish potatoes, in Poland.

    Love, C.

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  3. I want to like Diablo Cody, I do, and I will probably see this movie... but if the dialouge is as overdone and fake-catchy as Juno, I will weep bitter tears while being pleased that at least my money is supporting women in the film industry.

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  4. Hmm. Could be!

    What did you think of "Teeth"? I thought it was reasonably successful at what you're hoping Jennifer's Body does.

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  5. embarasingly low-brow....

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  6. Great post, I totally want to see this movie! Lets go when it comes out!!!

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  7. goddamn, that is a fantastic review.

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  8. I'm totes seeing it. Movies directed, written by, and starring (BOTH leads) women are excessively rare and need to be supported.

    Also, I liked Juno and LOVE United States of Tara, Cody's other project.

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  9. Sady, if you think this looks good, then you should definitely watch "Ginger Snaps," which this movie appears to be, ahem, "based on." (I love Diablo Cody too, but once you've seen "Ginger Snaps," you just can't shake that persistent sense of exasperation that she kind of maybe ripped it off. And then added the personification of boring, patriarchally-articulated sexuality [Megan Fox]) Anyway. "Ginger Snaps" makes the obvious connection between menstruation, burgeoning female sexuality, teen-girl rage, and lycanthropism. High school girl Ginger is bitten by a werewolf on the night she first gets her period and slowly transforms into a wolf, becoming increasingly sexually aggressive and violent. My favorite line: "I get this ache. At first I thought it was for sex, but now I know it's to tear everything to fucking pieces." Ah, poetry!

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  10. I'm totally with the anonymous who said people need to see Ginger Snaps. I was actually thinking of that before it was brought up; seriously, it's my all-time favorite werewolf/female coming-of-age movie. If you don't think those sound like two topics that can be combined well, just watch it.

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  11. Seeing this trailer yesterday, I was eventually led to Gawker.com where EVERYBODY HATES DIABLO CODY! Just erebody

    Which kind of took me by surprise, cause I lover her.

    Yes, she can write some really clunky TOO cool dialogue but I really felt the whole (of Juno) was worth the some of it's parts being a little too on the nose.

    Also, it was a movie with a lot of women where I didn't want to just fucking stab someone about how incredible droll & stupid it was.

    Lastly, "United States or Tara" is a really great show. I highly recommend it.

    I will most definitely see this movie, but I will totally compare it to "Teeth". I loved that one.

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  12. You know, I thought I had posted a comment asking whether Sady had seen Teeth, and suggesting if not that she do so, but I guess I forgot to hit "post" or something? And now X.Trapnel has beat me to it, so I'll just say, "yeah, what X.Trapnel said." Teeth is both smart and fun. (And gory!)

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  13. @Everybody: Do you want to know a sad fact? The sad fact is that I have never seen "Teeth" OR "Ginger Snaps," and have heard SO many good things about them, and have been planning to see them forever. Yet I have not. Between this and "Audition," which another commenter recommended 40 million years ago, I think I have to do a lady-horror week, which will be sort of like the Apatow week long ago, except that the terror I feel will be intentional on the parts of the screenwriters.

    Does anyone else have any recommendations, actually? Because I think that this is a good idea.

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  14. Dear Anonymous 1:39, it's "embarasing" that you don't know how to spell and yet take it upon yourself to criticize other people for being low-brow.

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  15. Eh, I don't like her, because her writing in Juno was quirky-cutesy-poo (watch it in 3-5 years and see how much so) and her book had no point. Just another middle class kid dipping a toe into "bad" real world stuff in order to make themselves seem more interesting and wild. In other words, slumming.

    You also might want to read up on your Hollywood history. Female screenwriters and directors used to be the big shots. (Frances Marion, etc...)

    Besides, "Carrie" was pretty good and covered similar themes about the fear of female sexuality, menses and power...30 years ago.

    I don't have to like her or her work because she's a fellow woman. Others have covered the same ground - and did it better. She should be judged on her work. That isn't sexist at all.

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  16. Judging from an anti-hipster speech I heard a few months ago, there's a wide swarth of people who professionally hate Diablo Cody. I can understand it, she did think the line "honest to blog" belonged in a final draft, and to some extent she's going through a much milder version of what Quentin Tarantino went through in the late 90's. That said, there is a sexist thread to some of the hatred of her - for a similar example, see the comment thread on the Sasha Grey interview at the AV Club.

    It's not really a female themed horror movie, but Kathryn Bigelow made Near Dark, which is one of the best vampire movies ever made. That bar scene still gives me shivers even though the DVD is sitting politely on the other side of the room. (Just to return to my theme of sexism and the AV Club comment threads, there are some people who claim that the bar scene was directed by her then husband James Cameron, who wishes he could have made something that visceral.) I seem to be blog-whoring a lot for a friend of mine, who has a good career assessment of her work: http://philnugentexperience.blogspot.com/2009/06/career-report-card-kathryn-bigelow.html . I haven't seen everything she made, but since the Hurt Locker, I've added all of her stuff to my Netflix queue. I don't think there's anyone alive who directs action as well as she does. And someone could (and many have) fill entire graduate theseses on her exploration of gender.

    If I may put on my hipster glasses for a second, I watched Audition before all the hype, and it's one of the only times I've actually seen people run of the theater in horror. The people who've seen it since on DVD call me and say they're less impressed, so I try not to oversell it.

    Ginger Snaps is a really good little movie, emphasis though on "little."

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  17. @Anonymous: I get what you're saying about the quirky-cutesy-poo. In fact, I don't think I ever missed it. There's a really cynical, dumb, Napoleon-Dynamite-esque commodification of the "quirky" elements that made other directors (Wes Anderson, for one really obvious example) successful in her work.

    And, no: you don't have to like her "just because she's a woman." That's a stupid criterion. Yet she does consistently make female protagonists central, and writes them as complex, thinking, feeling, self-determining PEOPLE (and, yeah: she doesn't leave out the fact that those people are sexual, and that's important) in a way that's entirely missing from most major movies, including the movies made by current hipster darlings, who either succumb to Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ism or make their female characters untrue and hollow and stereotypical in other ways. Juno is nobody's idea of the perfect feminist picture. The fact that it's so much MORE feminist than 99% of the shit out there says either something bad about 99% of the shit out there, or something good about Diablo Cody, or both.

    I also did not miss the female sexuality/menstruation/power themes in "Carrie." I just think it's really fucking sad that one of the few films out there to explore those themes is, you know, "Carrie." Which was directed by a man, and came from a novel written by a man. That man was Stephen King, who I think we would be hard-pressed to argue for as an example of a person deeply in tune with the female psyche or with feminism on the whole.

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  18. @Suckersapien: I read both of those threads! And you are dead on in your assessment of them! Also: I like Kathryn Bigelow, a lot, from what I've seen of her. And would actually like to watch "Near Dark" sometime soon.

    Anyway, returning to AV Club comment threads: that Sasha Gray one was HARSH. And triggering as fuck. I had to log out around the point when someone literally called her "a piece of meat" and said that she should never aspire to be anything more or to presume to speak about herself as a full human being, because she'd been in porn.

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  19. Two things: first of all, 'Hard Candy' is definitely a horror movie with interesting feminist ideas that you ought to watch and comment on if you ever do a series of feminist horror movie critiques. I don't remember who directed it, but Ellen Page is the lead and I am in love with her.
    Second, I worry about movies like this that attempt to critique the patriarchal idea of female sexuality as scary and icky by presenting a woman who is sexual and also scary. I mean, yes, you can see "Naked Megan Fox unhinging her jaw and eating a guy" as a rebuke of attempts to minimize/hide female sexuality, but can't it also be interpreted as *reinforcing* the idea that vaginas are scary and evil and icky? I guess I want to see how it plays out in the movie before concluding that this is going to be a positive thing. And since I don't watch horror movies, I may never know- unless you watch it when it comes out and let us know, Sady!

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  20. (Longtime lurker here.)

    When it comes to Diablo Cody, a lot of people rag on her about her dialogue... but, to be honest, when I first saw the movie I finally thought, "People who speak like ACTUAL PEOPLE I know! Wow!" I think a lot of people forget how much of teenagers' - as well as a LOT of adults' - time is spent trying to look smarter or wittier than anyone in the room, particularly a certain class of teen, of which Juno is the poster girl (and I, treasurer). Might just be for me, though; I'm Canadian.

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  21. Sady, I love you. I have spent the past three days reading through all your previous blogs and it just makes me love you more.

    Moreover, your blogs have irrevocably altered my perception of pop culture. Example: I have just finished watching Coyote Ugly with my friends, and all I could think was "Oh, how typical: the girl who dances on the bar loses the guy (whom we're supposed to sympathize with), and only gets her life together and achieves her dream AND gets the guy once she leaves behind her provocative, sinful ways. And you just feel so BAD for the other girls still at the bar, because their lives can never be fulfilled with this lifestyle."

    See? I can no longer experience pop culture sans YOUR influence.

    Thanks :-)

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  22. I think the thing that totally got me was the "no, I'm killing BOYS" line. It's pretty much a complete reversal of what they do the ladies in standard horror flicks, which is to linger porntastically over them as they are butchered like sexy animals. I add my endorsement to Ginger Snaps, Teeth and Hard Candy (though the last wound up to be pretty triggering for me, and the dialogue is actually a series of monologues). Also, I'm kind of stoked that the Final Girl in Jennifer's Body is blonde instead of the standard brunette. Although now I recall that Final Girl is always white....

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  23. I pay Diablo Cody the compliment of taking her seriously and her work seriously. While I had plenty of issues with Juno, I thought it was at least thought-provoking and worthy of discussion.

    Someone up thread compared Diablo to Wes Anderson and I think that's a great analogy. "Bottle Rocket" had plenty of flaws, but he was allowed to develop. It's cool to see another woman getting her stuff made in Hollywood and I hope Diablo has a long career in front of her.

    The Diablo Hate is reminiscent of the harsh critiqe many successful women receive.

    By the way, the trailer for Jennifer's Body is high-larious!

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  24. You may have already seen this, but a dude at Salon totally agrees with you. I can't seem to copy/paste the URL, but if you type "Diablo Cody" into their search engine, it's the first entry to come up.

    As a certified wuss, I will not be seeing this film or any other lady-horror flick for the same reason I don't see any horror flicks, but I would cherish the opportunity to vicariously appreciate their subtexts through your trenchant analysis!

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  25. I have to join in on the chorus of people recommending Ginger Snaps. I saw it back when it came out because it's Canadian. ;) Loved it instantly though.

    In a similar theme of women and horror, but in book form, I also highly recommend "Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong -- a Canadian author. There's some aspects of the main character's relationship with "Clay" that grate on me and such, but overall I do love the story (and it's a whole series now.) It's not really horror I guess but it can get a bit graphic, and has some sex in it too. :P Female main character though.

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  26. Having done a bit of reading (and remembering the general flap about it when it came out) I'd probably like to watch Hard Candy sometime soon. Personally I wouldn't see Audition (though I generally enjoyed Ichi the Killer, by the same director) but that's just me.

    Tayi - please correct me if I'm off-base with this, but I was under the impression that a lot of horror movies (in fact, most of them) do revolve around evil/icky/threatening MALE sexuality, and the implication that sex (as symbolized by penetration with knife or vampire teeth, attack by werewolf, etc) = death. Things like "Teeth" and "Jennifer's Body", in my mind, could simply be a reverse of the formula where the woman stalks and kills the man in a sexually symbolic fashion.

    If I'm wrong here I'd appreciate being corrected; just my idea about it.

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  27. Oooh, Ginger Snaps. Yeah, that was fantastic. I heard that there's a sequel, but it isn't very good. Anyone seen it?

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  28. oshima- I actually have no idea about what is typical for horror movies in general. I don't usually watch horror movies, because I have an overactive imagination and they give me nightmares. What I was thinking of was more just the general misogynist idea that women and women's sexuality are icky. It seems like I hear this all the time, how vaginas are disgusting and menstruation is scary and breastfeeding is disturbing and sexually aggressive women are frightening.

    Plus, even in horror movies where the aggressor is male, it sort of seems to me like the condemnation is often for the female victim. Isn't it pretty common for the people who get killed first to be the "slutty" girls? and the last girl standing is always the virginal one. So the implication there is that sex is bad, because it makes you vulnerable or deserving of violence. I guess my question is, is painting female sexuality as aggressively dangerous any better than painting it as dangerous in a passive, victim-blaming way?

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  29. I have to respectfully disagree with those who felt Teeth was a successful feminist horrour film.

    A while ago, I wrote a review of Teeth and an analysis of its problems here: http://ws450.blogspot.com/2008/12/vagina-dentata-what-wonderful-phrase.html

    I won't quote the whole thing because it's long and spoilertastic, but here's a paragraph from my longer rant:

    "Teeth gives its main character the "superpower" of a vagina dentata, otherwise known as mythical toothed girl bits. Historically, this myth is thought to represent men's fears of the terrifying woman cave. In terms of a superpower, this actually ranks below Aquaman's. It leads to requiring her to be sexually molested vaginally in order to use it. It does not protect her from the actual molestation, it merely provides a way to injure the male after entry. The vagina of doom would not stop her from being beaten, molested in non-vaginal ways, shot, stabbed, or paid seventy-seven cents for every dollar a white male earns at the same job. Instead of empowering her, it reinforces the idea that a woman's power and value come from between her legs and access thereof."

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  30. Woo! This comes out on my birthday, huzzah!

    And I hear ya, Sady--I don't hate Diablo Cody either! I own 'Juno'! :D

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  31. Ooh, lady-horror week sounds excellent. How about Trouble Every Day? Genuinely disturbing in that it made me have to go lie down on the bathroom floor until the buzzing went away.

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  32. I like movies made by women. I also LOVE horror movies, but to me this kind of just seems... shit? In my humble opinion of course. I don't know, it just seems to be another boring god damned horror movie, but I think some of my cynacism stems from having a friend who's mum is a coroner and shares stories, spending years watching shit like August's Underground, Slaughtered Vomit Dolls (soft-core snuff, if that's even a good way of putting it, which I doubt,) has probably vastly desensitised me and disillusioned me to violence/horror films in general.

    I agree with Tayi that:
    " I mean, yes, you can see "Naked Megan Fox unhinging her jaw and eating a guy" as a rebuke of attempts to minimize/hide female sexuality, but can't it also be interpreted as *reinforcing* the idea that vaginas are scary and evil and icky? I guess I want to see how it plays out in the movie before concluding that this is going to be a positive thing."

    I don't get why female killers in movies ALWAYS have to be somewhat sexualised/"get their tits out"/whatever. I want to see a movie about a woman (who isn't Aileen Wuornos) who kills just because she likes to. Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby kind of satisfied that yesterday, but no way in a pink fit would I call that a horror movie. Or decent. It's a b grade disaster, but a good b grade disaster imho.

    Good (and by that I mean well constructed), strong women characters in horror movies are hard to come by, and from what I see on the trailer, I'm still not convinced. I'm going to second the notion of watching Audition and Ginger Snaps but I will also say watch a movie called "May" which is a really, awesome constructed horror movie. Also, Catacombs (with Alecia Moore aka Pink) is also a semi-decent horror movie.

    Until my zombie movies/horror movies get made, and seeing as I don't have a spare 10k to make one, I don't think we'll see good horror movies involving women as more than just crazy nymphos or passive victims for a while yet :(

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  33. Pathogen is a zombie film written, directed, produced, and edited by Emily Hagins, who was twelve at the time. I haven't seen it but I saw a documentary about the making of her film called Zombie Girl. It was thoroughly enjoyable and featured an awesome mother-daughter relationship.

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  34. "No, I mean really evil. Not high school evil."
    As someone who is still suffering Buffy withdrawal symptoms, this line made me chortle.

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  35. I don't like horror movies because... Well, fear is scary.

    The trailer draws me for all the wrong reasons. Female sexuality run amuck and murdering people? Sign me up! I can only hope it leads to the symbolic collapse of civilization. Not to mention this is by the writer of Juno, and she's a cute girl who calls herself Diablo.

    If a guy puts her down for being a stripper, it's obviously because he's jealous that he couldn't be a stripper.

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  36. @Anon2
    And in Carrie they make it really obvious without having to say it. Plus summing up the themes of the movie in about 30 seconds: It's just blood, laughter and then KILLING SPREE

    I came to your blog because of Antichrist, so I'm definitely going to see this movie at some point.

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  37. emylie_bo_bemylieJuly 19, 2009 at 5:06 PM

    @womenwithpants
    Yeah, you make really good points about "Teeth." I had really looked forward to seeing it, but upon seeing it I realized I clearly hadn't thought it through at all. The scariest part of the movie was when the first boy raped her in the cave, not because of the penis chopping but the rape. It was just horrible for the protagonist and the fact that he was suffered as a result of raping her didn't make it better for her at all, quite frankly it just made it more terrifying for her. Yeah, basically the worst super power ever.

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