glitter_n_gore: (stoker)
[personal profile] glitter_n_gore
aka The Cloverfield Prequel No One Wanted or Asked For. And it somehow turned out even better than the original.

Let’s talk about Mary Elizabeth Winstead for a minute. If you’re a super hero geek, you might know her from Sky High and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. If you’re a horror geek, you might know her from Final Destination 3, Death Proof, and The Thing (the 2011 version). That is just scratching the surface, really . . . and as I’m typing this, I’m suddenly realizing this is the second horror prequel I’ve seen her in. She's one of those actors who doesn't use horror and sci-fi as a stepping stone to more ~dignified~ cinematic fare; she keeps coming back to genre film and giving us her best work over and over. We fans notice this sort of thing, and we appreciate it.

For me, a great female protagonist is a proactive player in the story, rather than a passive observer. I feel like I’m seeing more and more of these types of characters in horror in recent years--Erin in You’re Next, Edith in Crimson Peak, Anna in The Guest--but I don’t know if there are actually more of them, or if I’m just getting better at finding them. They’re all the sort of people you’d want on your team if something awful went down in your neighborhood.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Winstead’s character, Michelle, may be victimized, but she is never a victim. The fact that bad things are happening to and around her is not a defining attribute either of her situation, or of her characterization. Michelle is clever, patient, methodical, and determined, and never once made me yell at her for doing something irreparably foolish--such as investigate strange noises armed with nothing but a flashlight, or call out “Who’s there?” to a creepy, dark hallway, or any of the other (sometimes amusing, but still foolish) things I might expect from characters in horror movies.

The reason villains tend to be so popular in classic horror franchises is because they are so often the most intelligent characters in their own movies. That, or the body count relies way too heavily on the victims acting, in Eddie Izzard’s words, as if “they’ve had their common sense glands removed.” That seems to be happening less now, and the recent stuff I’m watching is better--and scarier--for it. Because it can be easy to put yourself in character’s position and say, “Pfft, well *I* wouldn’t have opened the door marked People-Eating Space Monsters Outside, Do Not Open, obviously,” if the other characters act in ways we’d considered counter-intuitive. In this one, though. Every decision Michelle made felt like something I would have or could have done. She takes every piece of information she’s handed--never more or less than what the audience is given, by the way--and runs with it the best way she can. We root for her not just because she survives, but because she might just save the rest of us, too.
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