Category Archives: Perfect Movies
I’m having trouble figuring out how to start this review of what I think is a perfect movie. A bold opening sentence, I know, but any accurate synopsis would spoil so much of what makes Red State great that my writing one would do all five of you reading this blog a disservice.
“But what’s so perfect about it, yo?” you wonder. “If you were a good writer, you could make your point without spending so much time focusing on how difficult you’re finding it to make your point.”
Red State is perfect for the same reason any Perfect Movie is perfect: It starts strong, gets better, then ends. A simple formula, really, but few films even aim for that let alone pull it off. So many movies these days rely on huge set pieces, mind-blowing action sequences, and high-concept drama that they blow their loads early. Everything after the Great Part lags. You yawn. Check your phone. Tweet about the cool bits.
Red State starts with a strong small-town horror set up, then takes one unpredictable turn after another, each better than the last, and ends sharp. The characters are (sometimes frighteningly) believable and the acting couldn’t have been any better (especially from Michael Parks [as Fred Phelps meets David Koresh] and John Goodman). Throw a little cultural commentary into the mix and you’ve got yourself a Perfect Movie.
Watch it on Netflix, guys. Seriously.
The nightmarish image above is from the end of the first scene in Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul‘s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. The creature is a Ghost Monkey, and yes it is terrifying, but not in the context of the film. As I understand it, those things (yup, there are more of them) aren’t malicious. You would never guess that from the following screenshots, though.
[SPOILERS AHEAD: If you haven’t seen the movie yet, watch it on Netflix]
We next see the Ghost Monkey slowly ascending the stairs into Boonmee’s dining room. Boonmee, Jen, and their aid Thong have just barely gotten over the shock of seeing Boonmee’s long-dead wife’s ghost appear at the dinner table when they hear footsteps on the stairs. They turn, silent, and see the Ghost Monkey’s glowing red eyes as he approaches.
It speaks to them from the darkness. Jen recognizes its human voice as that of Boonmee’s son, Boonsong, who disappeared into the forest 6 months after his mother’s death. They invite Boongsong to the table, where we get our first good look at the thing.
Ghost Monkey Boonsong explains what happened to him all those years ago. It seems he had an affinity for photography when he was still human. One day, while developing photos he had taken in the forest, he spotted something unusual in one of his prints.
Boonsong destroyed the image, but became obsessed with the creature in it. He decided then and there that he would go out into the forest to find one in person. This was his goal when he ran away.
The search consumed Boonsong’s every waking moment. His obsession made his hair grow long and thick and gave him excellent night vision and poor light vision. He transformed into a Ghost Monkey. Eventually, he took a Ghost Monkey bride.
Together they stalk the forests. And the caves. And wait outside Boonmee’s house, sensing his disease. The last we see of them, they’re peering at a dying Boonmee from the shadows.
So they look like the stuff of cavemen’s nightmares, and every scene they’re in is creepier than the entirety of most modern Hollywood horror films, but they really aren’t so bad, in context. I haven’t really provided any context though, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Even without the Ghost Monkeys, Uncle Boonmee is an excellent, totally unconventional film that leaves much of the heavy thinking to the viewer. You won’t find answers here, just fables. Stories about transformations. What it means is ultimately up to the audience. I can’t very well explain that in pictures, but I can include a few gorgeous screenshots and the psychedelic poster art. Click for higher resolution images.