Friday, August 24, 2012

Some thoughts about the film The Burrowers

Apropos Kristen Stewart—her recent film, Snow White and the Huntsman, was not a movie I liked very much and I really don’t understand the hype surrounding it. This film got a wide release and generated big box office; I cannot imagine why. I think all involved did passable jobs, but no more than that. The film is forgettable once you’re out of the theater. Charlize Theron overacted/over-reacted and Kristen Stewart under acted/under-reacted (few to no facial expressions in key scenes and so little to say; it was sometimes painful to watch, especially the final scene. It almost seemed as if she was struggling to get some words out, but they never came). Chris Hemsworth did the best acting job if you ask me, within the limited emotional range of the film. The entire film had a wooden feel to it. One can hope that there will be no sequel. I cannot see how it would be feasible, realistic or even necessary. What more is there to say about this story that hasn’t already been said?

The other night I watched a film on Showtime called The Burrowers, from 2008. This film was apparently never released to the movie public and instead went straight to DVD. I don’t understand the rationale for that move, since I thought it was a much better film than big budget Snow White and the Huntsman. Who makes these decisions? The Burrowers was actually quite a creepy little horror film, albeit a very unusual horror film since it was set in the American Wild West during 1879. It is a bit slow-moving, but the characters are interesting and well-developed, as is the storyline. A family living out on the lonely prairie disappears without a trace, and a posse is formed to try and find them/rescue them from the Native American Indians whom they are sure have abducted them. How wrong they are. Their discovery that entities other than Indians are stalking them, waiting for them in the dark, is as I said, creepy, because they, like us, find it hard to believe that such monsters could exist out on the plains. But they do. And they are not just any monsters, they are burrowers, creatures that live underground and who have a penchant for tracking and eating humans. But their mode for doing this is quite unique, and I won’t spoil the film by giving this information away, except to say that it is exploited in an effort to kill them off. The creatures, which are CGI creations, are scary enough such that the film works. The Burrowers is a clever film, and while some people on IMDB have complained about the film’s ending, I found it to be realistic, though unsatisfying. All the loose ends are not tied up. The monsters are not completely wiped out. What the film manages to convey very well is a sense of dread; imagine you are out on the prairie at night, sitting around a fire at your campsite. Your vision is limited, the dark envelopes you, you hear noises. Even if there were no monsters, the reality of spending the night out under the open skies, exposed and vulnerable, could be anxiety-inducing for many people. I am one of them. The film never plays for laughs; it takes itself seriously, and that is one of its strengths. Additionally, you get a real feel for what life must have been like in 1879—long periods of isolation, no internet, no phones, little communication, mostly rumors and innuendoes, and the constant threat of attack. I found myself thinking of the X-Files, always a good sign in my book, because some of the X-Files episodes were quite scary. The Burrowers brought to mind the X-Files episode Detour from 1997. Both the film and the TV episode are well-worth watching. 

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