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War and Peace in The Kitchen Garden
This is by far the goriest movie I've ever seen. Gore? Yes. Green gore. The film is a sort of garden-variety chainsaw massacre, entirely film at ground level and from the point of view of insects and rodents who haunt a seasonal garden in Cast, Brittany, in Finistère-Sud (France). Indeed when slugs attack the row of new carrots, the leaves fall to the sounds of a roaring chainsaw. Before, when slugs came out of hiding to reach carrots in accelerated-image motion, it was to the sound of a runaway train. This movie is not without humor! It shows us the daily fight between beneficial insects and those that ravage vegetables, fruits and flowers. The beneficial insects benefit from the discrete help of gardeners, a human family--of which we most often only see fingers, hands or feet, as seen from the ground.
The Aublanc-Fiche family wants to kill no creature, whether damage-inducing or not. To fight back, they bring invaders as far away from the garden as possible (taking the risk of leaving the crop-eaters to act on a neighbor's production!) or let them get eaten by their natural predators (which is not direct murder, you see...). We follow the adventures of the apple tree's field mouse, an undesired garden tenant. It's quite tough and can't easily be caught, as it only comes out at night to hunt for a meal. Captured once and brought by the family's son to a prairie far from the garden, the field mouse quickly got back to its old haunts: a few days later it was back in the garden. It wasn't exiled far enough. A second capture will be required--and this time, it travelled by bicycle, to be left three kilometers further!
Potato beetles are harvested by hand on potato leaves, and sent elsewhere (nice for neighbors...), but the farm mom forgets a few larvae, hidden under leaves, and the invasion started anew a few days later. The film tells the story of this permanent fight in the garden to save a harvest from well organized, voracious beings. Will the farmers manage to savor the fruit (and vegetables!) of their labor at the end of the movie? There lies the suspense. Subterranean traps, gooey trenches where slugs pile up and other tricks will allow the gardener to get several ideas-which may not all be 100% efficient, but will allow him to avoid years of guilt for having contributed to the demise of any little being--which feels no such guilt when it damages a human's garden!
Brilliant political fable and a renewal of American horror
In a pristine CinemaScope format with powerful and stunning framing, John Carpenter turned this film into a condensed version of his years of training and movie watching as a teen, and a specific homage to "the" master, Howard Hawks. On the night of Halloween, lateral travelings at ground level sweep a peaceful American suburb, where we know that a teenager who had assassinated his younger sister a few years earlier has come back after escaping from the asylum where he was being treated. Rustles in the trees, children playing in the schoolyard, preparations of masks for the evening, recurring white car crisscrossing the streets, and later The Thing (film produced by Howard Hawks in 1955) on TV screens-everything converges to increase the tension we feel, including the haunting musical score composed by John Carpenter himself. The moviegoer's pleasure resides in the setup of this device to increase anxiety-the killer only appears very late in the film, the first crimes occur off-camera until the paroxysmal finale, when Jamie Lee Curtis, helped by the young man's doctor, faces the killer who wears an inexpressive white mask, an emblematic and flamboyant image that's often been copied since.
The film sets itself apart from gore, a genre born a decade earlier in which blood flows and murders are explicitly detailed on screen. It rather uses suspense and a visceral discomfort, without voyeurism. John Carpenter's Halloween gave rise to several psychopathic characters, reviving enthusiasms for films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, which then suffered three late, vulgar and dispensable sequels (Psycho II, II and IV). It was also followed at the same era by Jason from the Friday the 13th franchise (12 movies to date as a 13th installation is still announced) and Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street (8 sequels). Halloween was also followed by nine sequels, the 10th directed by Rob Zombie (who also directed the 9th) and simply titled H2.
John Carpenter is one of those movie directors who led to a second golden age for American horror and fantasy (1975 to 1982), in which movies attempts to show America's daily life, and to capture on film society's rejects and the underbelly of derelict megalopolis. Political denunciation of corruption and misery is expressed through a production with effects that can be heavy, but are rich in ideas, in which each shot is filled with creative profusion and leads to a genuine renewal of the genre. Filmmakers such as Gary A. Sherman (Dead & Buried, Vice Squad), Tobe Hopper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Joe Dante (Piranha, The Howling) have made their best movies during that era and Abel Ferrara was revealed with The Driller Killer (1979) and Ms. 45 (1980). Boo: scare me again!