Thursday, June 19, 2008

French Couture 101, How to Dye Gowns BLOOD RED

I am a HUGE fan of foreign horror movies, as in, ones in another language than English. Lately, I have developed a genre-crush on the French. Their horror films, while not always perfect, certainly smack me upside the head a lot harder than anything made in the U.S. I could go into great academic detail about the creeping uncertainty and disconnect that happens when you get thrown into a different cultural world, especially one where the natives don't like you and YOUR culture all that much, and would not be averse to carving you up and eating your flesh for dinner, but the bottom line for me is that French films are awesome because

1. they have better acting,
2. they have better costumes,
3. they are willing to SOAK both actors and costumes with a blood and gore tidal wave.

Well, there are other reasons, but you get the idea.

Last night I watched Frontier(s). I rather liked it. Basic story: group of French thieves take advantage of riots after a new rightwing government is instated to do some looting. They take refuge in a hostel near the Luxembourg border, which just happens to be run by neo-Nazi cannibal freakazoids. Mayhem, wholesale slaughter, and a LOT of bloodshed ensue.

This movie is absolutely cobbled together from several parts Texas Chainsaw Massacre, several parts American Gothic (I could go on for days about the similarities to that one, complete with screencap evidence, but I'll spare you), a large dollop of Haute Tension and a small one of Hostel, and they seem to have found the brother of Anton Diffring's "Nazi sentimentalist" doctor from Faceless to play the family patriarch.

There are some who might sneer at such a wholesale looting of plot points from other films, but for me, it works, because I actually LIKE all those films. (Except Hostel).

Obviously, this movie is not about the costumes - too bad, because if Udo Kier was playing Papa Nazi he would totally have broken out the full uniform.

But there is some fairly impressive spatter-soak dyeing of a couple white party dresses -

I must use this technique on my next design gig. Instructions:

1. Put white vintage dress on attractive French girl.
2. Hand her various sharp objects, power tools, and rifles.
3. Provide her with creepy cannibal targets.
4. After the splash and spatter method is completed, pour approximately two-three buckets of blood over her head.

Voila! Instant couture-dyeing, Costuminatrix-style.

The "blood facial" also seems to be rather a thing with the French. We also saw this in Haute Tension: the wearing of a gore mud mask by the end of the film.

The new French spa treatment: guaranteed to keep you youthful and insane for years.

Hey, it worked for the Countess Báthory, didn't it? They obviously borrowed the technique from the Hungarian nobility, so it MUST be fabulous.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Strangers Revisited: Anyone Can Write A Movie!

So after seeing The Strangers, and thinking of that "very late at night with nobody else around" atmosphere, and realizing at the time that I was wearing a flannel shirt that was nearly an exact replica (though about twenty sizes larger since I Am Not An Elf) of that which Liv Tyler wore in the movie....

PLUS the fact that I come home quite alone very late at night at least once a week, I got to thinking about what sort of horror movie scenario I could create for myself.

Unfortunately, what I came up with was this:

1. The Costuminatrix gets into her car, drives home after radio show, goes into house, prepares for bed.

2. At 4 am, there is a knock on the door. The Costuminatrix is fast asleep and does not hear it.

3. Potential stalker killers leave because there is apparently no one home.

4. End of movie.

or: replace 2. with: The Costuminatrix hears knock, mumbles "it's 4 in the freaking morning and I do not want to sign any petitions supporting Obama right now" and goes back to sleep.

3. Credits roll.

And everyone goes home before they even finish their popcorn.

If I wanted to clear out the theatre Janet-Leigh style, I could do this:

1. The Costuminatrix arrives home after radio show, opens garage door, shuts it, goes upstairs.

2. Cut to silent figure with bag over head hovering in shadows inside garage.

Now that's scary.

Given that in the movie, Liv's boyfriend temporarily abandons her to go out and get her cigarettes, you could add this tidbit which would TOTALLY WORK in my world:

3. The reason Bag Head Killer got into garage in first place is because nicotine-addict husband forgot to lock the back door when he came in from one of his many outdoor smoke breaks, before leaving the house.

The moral of both stories: cigarettes will kill you, kids.

Fortunately, my friends are better writers than I am, and came to my rescue with their own ideas.

First, we have movie maven Flightless, who offers a more urban view:

1. Flightless has insomnia and is up reading at 4 a.m., but does not answer the door.

2. Potential stalker killers are attacked by neighborhood drug dealers, rats, or the giant cat who lives downstairs.

Now, if you remember from the last post, we have the technology (and creativity) to use those Ichi-inspired "razor blade in heels" surgical implants, so Flightless offered to use her gub'ment Stimulus Check to get them so we could use this modification:

3. Flightless finally looks out the 3rd floor window to see what all the noise is. Giant cat has potential stalker killers down on the concrete & is savagely toying with them. Stalker killers look up at the window and beg for a quicker death.

4. She kind of wants a snack anyway, so she goes downstairs and kills them with her razor blade heels before grabbing the Tofutti Cuties out of the freezer. [Product Placement!]

Flightless is already working the Hollywood system. Her movie has FINANCIAL BACKING due to the product placement angle! Now all she needs are some hott girls in lingerie and/or super short nun habits and we are talking box office GOLD.

Fortunately, she reminded me that she always sleeps in her teddy-wimple twinset.

Speaking of tofu, our resident chef Tofu Girl has a movie with an insectoid culinary theme, which you don't see every day in the horror genre:

1. Tofu Girl goes home. Tofu Girl kills several mosquitoes. Tofu Girl rejoices.

2. Killers arrive at 11:30.

3. Tofu Girl is busy counting mosquito corpses. She looks up to see the killers and decides that yes, that cattle prod is the VERY THING she needs to continue killing mosquitoes.

4. Tofu Girl offers cupcakes in return for said cattle prod.

5. Killers die of diabetic shock.

Tofu Girl emerges victorious against mosquitoes, killers, and sugar.

Rawk Spice’s movie deftly combines two storylines into something we like to call “Avoidant Vengeance”:

1. If its 2 am and RS is getting home from anywhere odds are she's been drinking

2. Any noise wakes RS up, but she's really choosy about who/what she gets out of bed for, especially under condition #1.

3. Potential stalker killer hears dulcet strains of
Carrie Underwood coming from neighbor's place, assumes there is a chick in there, and knocks on his door instead.

4. RS has unintentionally killed two birds with one stone.

It has the ring of reality, plus a twist ending. Also, knowing RS as I do, it has the notion that Motorhead played at top volume probably scares the crapola out of bag-headed killers. I give it two thumbs up.

Professor Jack, our resident Decadent Victorianist, offers his ode to late-night interruptions, with violent and bloody results:

1. Professor Jack is in bed furiously taking notes on some tawdry French Decadent novel when he hears a knock at the door.

2. He opens the door, and standing on his landing is someone with a bag over their head, brandishing a knife.

3. Unfortunately for the would-be killer, Jack has a straight razor and it is much, much sharper than Bag Man's knife.


5. When it's all over, the Professor wonders if there is room in the basement for another one. Maybe if he stacks them creatively...

Moral of the story: Don’t mess with a PhD, man. They will CUT you, and they will fail you in British Lit.

Riva Derci wants rock stars involved somehow, and suggested that if anyone is knocking on her door at 4 a.m., it better be David Bowie, or there will be blood.

But Riva, what if it was David Bowie with a sp00ky bag over his head? "Let's dance.....put on your bag mask and daaaaance the blues...."

We decided that a bag-headed Bowie would probably sound more like Assy McGee.

The Tenebrous Empress hails from the Franco-Argento Cinematic European Lodge for Education and Study (FACELES), and pooh-poohs the idea of mere late-night doorknocks and bag-headed killers; this is all too American-peasant for her. Believing instead that she runs a significant chance of having her face stolen in Europe—as she says, hott Eurotrash is always trying to steal the faces of unsuspecting sluts—

--so she wouldn't even be home. She'd be in Europe seeking the Evil Scientist of her dreams, with leather miniskirt, merry widow and Aqua Net hairspray carefully packed in her suitcase.

The Lady Mishegas ups the ante – she has a secret weapon, the KILLER BABY.

1. It's 4 a.m. The Lady is up with baby in living room.

2. There is a knock at the door.

3. The Lady unleashes her Mini-Me, who savagely rends the intruder limb from limb with the power of her drool, diaper droppings, and extreme cuteness.

Kitty LeClaw advised me to do a little plot repair on my own movie. Instead of calling the police or going back to sleep, she suggested that I answer the door with a whirling blender in-hand.

Our blender, sadly, is busted as the result of too many impromptu margarita ice-crushing sessions, which would guarantee me instant death. People with faulty or overused electric weapons always seem to have trouble. Witness Leatherface’s chainsaw malfunction.

However, I do have hippie neighbors. They are fond of constant campfires and maypole dancing. Kind of like The Wicker Man but not as awesome.

Flightless immediately leaped into the screenwriting fray:

"This movie has EVERYTHING! Divine costumes [Screen cap], a killer blender [Screen cap], and the most horrifically ingenious use of a maypole [Screen cap-NSFW]!"

The Tenebrous Empress politely pointed out that she had omitted Helmut Berger, whose ingenious use of a maypole she would certainly pay $10.75 or more to view.

This was met with unanimous approval by all.

But in a fit of sudden brainstorming, I arrived at this script:

1. At 4 am, there is a knock on the door, waking The Costuminatrix from a sound sleep.

2. The Costuminatrix sleepily gropes her way to the door, throws it open, smacks hand repeatedly underneath "NO SOLICITING" sticker on side of house whilst yelling "Can you not &%*^#! READ????!!!?"

3. The Costuminatrix slams door, locks it, returns to bed.

4. Bag Head Killer stands forlornly outside, wondering what to do now.

Academy Awardsville, here we come!!!

* Many thanks to Tenebrous Kate for the use of the Faceless stills, and to all my contributors for this post.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Strangers/Ils (Them) - Always Wear The Right Shoes

Consider the analogy of the deep fried Twinkie. You eat the deep fried Twinkie. You KNOW it's bad for you. The outcome could be one of these things:

1. "I know that Twinkie was bad for me, but damn it was delicious, and I feel okay about eating it."

2. "I know that Twinkie was bad for me, and to be honest I was more bored than hungry, so I ate it anyway and....meh. Where are the Hostess Cupcakes?"

3. "I know that Twinkie was bad for me, and I really shouldn't have eaten it, and now I have OMG THE WORST STOMACHACHE EVER."

The Strangers kinda falls somewhere between the first and second categories. A pleasant waste of time, but ultimately unsatisfying.

For starters, I will say up front, by way of disclaimer: I am not really a fan of Liv Tyler. I do not care for her little-girl Julie Hagerty voice and her bravely trembling lips and air of general helplessness. That said, I also kinda wasn't really cheering for the villains, either. The couple getting menaced weren't quite dumb enough to make what was happening to them snarkily enjoyable in a campy way, nor were they likable enough to evoke a lot of sympathy.

The spoken narration at the beginning a'la Texas Chainsaw Massacre was kind of a bad move. It took me out of the movie immediately. If you are going to make a big deal over this being "based on true events" which is a very loose phrase, the absolute best thing you can do is have a brief title card reading "Based on true events" and LEAVE IT ALONE. If you carry on about FBI statistics on violent crime and blah blah, this starts to look more like an episode of Law & Order or a LifeTime Women In Jeopardy movie.

Apparently, by many accounts, The Strangers is based on the French thriller Ils (Them), starring Michael Cohen and Olivia Bonamy.

I can tell you, having seen Ils this weekend, that as usual, the foreign original is worlds better than the American remake. There are flaws in both, but ultimately Ils does the cat and mouse thing with better sound design, more sympathetic characters, and about a megaton more atmosphere.

Granted, it wasn't all roses for Ils. I don't generally believe that filmmakers need to answer every minor niggling question. But I can tell a movie is losing me when I start asking bothersome questions of myself that really have very little to do with the plot. Like "Why are they French and in Romania? Couldn't they have just set this movie in France?" or "Why are they living in this enormous sprawling mansion when there is just the two of them?" or "DAMN, those walls need a new paint job, that is just about the most depressing decor I have ever seen."

You know, that sort of thing.

However, Olivia Bonamy does a notable thing in this movie; something that Liv Tyler in The Strangers fails to do. She hears a noise downstairs, and before going to investigate she puts her shoes on. And they are not six-inch fuck-me stilettos. They are sensible sneakers, suitable for running through the woods when pursued by crazed hooded attackers.

I do question the wearing of a white shirt, which is going to light you up like the moon right when you do NOT want crazed pursuers to find you, but she was in a hurry, so I'll give her a pass.

The footwear-in-horror film is sort of a general problem. One of my fashion-in-film compatriots, Rawk Spice, has often expressed her distaste with the idea that if you are a woman in a horror movie, then you are either barefoot or in completely stupid heels that no woman would attempt to run in.

But Olivia is different. She did it right. Of course, she still gets it in the end, but she will be remembered for doing the smart thing when it came to shoes.

Contrast this with Liv. Liv starts out sensibly. She gets out of her pretty fluffy bridesmaid's dress and dons the Seattle grunge look. Not only is it comfortable and appropriate attire for running from killers, but it's totally hip. In 1994, but hey.

And then she doesn't put her shoes on.

I don't know about y'all, but if I am feeling alone and scared and kinda vulnerable and there may possibly be guys in bag masks circling the house, one of the first things I'm gonna do is put on the comfiest, sturdiest shoes I can find. Preferably with steel toes. Preferably with golf spikes. I am not going to wade through broken glass on the floor or, for Chrissake, go outside with bare feet. Because then people who are a lot more fashionably dressed than you are going to kill you with knives.

At least she wasn’t wearing rubber flip-flops because they would have heard her coming a mile away and perhaps killed her right away, in disgust, on principle.

There were a couple alternate footwear suggestions, so listen up, filmmakers.

Professor Jack, from Liar Society, believes that rollerblades are a fine option, as you can “glide away from terror.”

Flightless trumped that with the idea of ice skates, because “I could use them as weapons, and then when I did the inevitable fall-and-twist-my-ankle thing, the audience could say "Well, it is hard to run in ice skates."

But we all agreed that since Liv Tyler is an Elf and therefore used to running barefoot through Rivendell or whatever....

...the best we could do is Ichi the Killer inspired razor blade heels. Surgically implanted into her feet so she needn’t bother with shoes.

This is why I am a Costuminatrix. Clothing and accessories as DEADLY WEAPONRY. I would ROCK on Project Runway, man. I could just eliminate the competition.

Now that's "fierce."

Salutations, an obligatory introduction

Greetings, all.

By way of introduction: My name is The Costuminatrix. I am a lifelong horror-movie fanatic. Let me give you an idea of what I think about the horror genre. In the foodie world, a gourmet is someone who enjoys the best of things; a gourmand is someone who will eat anything. Hence, I am a horror gourmand. I'm not saying it's a healthy way to live. But it sure is fun.

I'm also, by trade and training, a costume designer. I have a degree in this. I'm pretty good at it. No, I am not famous, nor would you recognize my work if you saw it. So while I wait for George Romero to call me and ask me to distress a bunch of clothes for zombies to wear on his next movie set, here I am, starting a blog primarily devoted to costumery in horror films. Plus other things. I am nothing if not opinionated.

I guess I don't really claim any street cred as far as actual film critiquing goes, since I review Adult Movies/Media/occasional Paraphenalia for
AVN, which sort of makes me a cheap whore. But a well-dressed cheap whore. You're not going to see any of those reviews on here, namely because the object of those sorts of films is not to wear any clothes. Sorry. Believe me, you're grateful for the omission.

I am only as smart and witty as my friends, and I have several who share my love for horror, fashion and cutting remarks. A few of them even have their own blogs, which are much funnier than mine, and better written. I will likely refer to them a LOT, by their various monikers. Think of it as joining a fabulous party, one with wigs and masks and fans, and a big spiked punch bowl.

If you have stopped by out of idle curiosity, welcome! I make no promises that you will be constantly entertained and amused, but remember: some of the best parties end up with lots of people passed out in the back yard.