Manchester by the Sea


Having been unable to go to the cinema for a painfully long  time, a rare opportunity presented itself.

The title of the film does not suggest too much, but the story  that lies within is strong and powerful and very moving. The story hinges on the lead character Lee Chandler,  (delicately played by Casey Affleck) who seems to have the world on his shoulders.  From the start of the film we feel he is this smoldering character, externally calm and controlled,  but a mere touch and he explodes into an orgy of unprovoked violence, often while drinks in a nondescript bar.  It is only in a latter part of the film we discover why he is carrying so much pain.  A key moment in the film is when he receives a phone call. We later discover his brother has died from a rare heart disorder.   The subject of death, how people react to it,  the process of dealing with a death, starts to shape the story.

We then are introduced to his nephew, who seems to be taking his father’s death with an unnatural cool aloofness and seems intent of continuing his adolescent life, which involves bedding two young girls at the same time.  One thing that unnerves him is the fact that his father has to be kept in a freezer, as it is impossible to inter him in the frozen ground.  Sometimes there are tints of humour in this film, which is essentially defined by dark dramatic drama.  The complex nephew/uncle relationship seems a key element in the film.  Lee Chandler is the town’s pariah, despite this I am sure many a cinema goer would warm to his tragic circumstances.  It is also a film that might make some cinema goers redefine their relationships with their family.

Let’s be clear, we live in the horrible cruel unyielding world, full of tragedy,  and Manchester by Sea, is film that reinforces this point.

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What kind of Horror do you like?

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What kind of Horror do you like?
Having not seen a film in a far too long time, due to work commitments, a gap appeared in my schedule, and the only film that seemed remotely possible was a film called Crimson Peak. The scenario seemed to suggest it had potential. But then when I watched the film trailer, I thought no this is not for me. It looked stylish, well done, but some of the images of a freaky entity crawling along, a floor, turned me off.
Then I thought about horror writing. There seems to be different types. There is the type that has the aim of terrifying the reader to the maximum. Those that really don’t hold back, their going full force, blood soaked violence, the author lets rip, with a gore fest, in which things get messy. They write about insatiable demons or sadistic and unspeakably cruel torturers, take Survivor by J.F Gonzales, where you will find necrophilia, cannibalism, torture, baby mutilation on the agenda.

The old Haunted House theme rears its head often enough. Check out this opening line from Shirley Jackson “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.”

When talking about extreme horror …this book has to be worth an honorable mention. “The Shining” does not center around a house, it’s more a hotel overloaded with horror from its dark past. Who can forget how the main character, Jack Torrance, who has his surfeit of problems before he decides to unwisely take a job in a remote hotel. This is a hotel dogged by a grim past, previous caretaker Grady, who succumbed to cabin fever ( defined as lassitude, irritability, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter) went on to kill his family and himself.

There are others that perhaps try and mess with your head.
Take a classic Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, in which a young wife arrives in a house called Mandalay, a house beset by a tragic past, as her new husband’s previous wife had drowned in a cove near Manderley the previous year, and her ghost haunts the newlyweds’ home. Anyone would struggle under such conditions which are compounded by the sinister Mrs. Danvers, who is still in charge of Manderley, who does her best to scare and intimidate her new mistress, as well as to plant traps for the new mistress to fall into, like suggesting a costume for a Ball that, it turns out, is the same dress that Rebecca the first wife, wore at the last ball. Mrs.Danver’s power is such that she almost nudges the new mistress of Manderlay close to suicide. Later we discover that the previous wife had had a murky past, and had had among other things affairs. With the truth of Rebecca’s death revealed finally the burden of her ghost is released and the couple can finally start married life…be it after the house is set on fire.

There are other types, those who appeal to teenagers…there is often a formula notably that the main character does survive, even though the reader may doubt this fact right up until the end of the story. Ultimately, the protagonist is stronger because of this survival. Teenagers lean towards supernatural creatures, to the unknown horror, to more reality-based horror (mysteries or dramatic teen issues). Halloween is naturally a good time to be selling you YA horror book.

Then there is spooky funny stories for children… Roald Dahl for example seemed to tune in really well to children’s minds and created some memorable characters as well creating stories that might leave some adults feeling a little uncomfortable. Take for example “The Witches” . Imagine going on a holiday in a hotel only to find out that the hotel is the site of a convention of witches, equally the hotel is overrun by mice seemingly mice that were once children before the witches transformed them into hairy little rodents. Not being fond of mice, (we used to have visits from them when we lived in our old apartment in Paris) a mouse infestation could ruin any luxury vacation.

When thinking about Crimson Peak, I would prefer to see a film similar to “The Others” the film with Nicole Kidmen, written by Alejandro Amenábar which is far more subtle.

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