May. 18th, 2014

philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Fragile (2005)

I decided to check this out because it's a film from Jaume Balaguero, one of the director's of the REC film series currently working on "REC 4: Apocalypse". His latest film "Sleep Tight" really impressed me, but judging him on "Fragile" was liable to be a bit of a trial by fire, since I am easily disappointed by ghost films.

To briefly outline my issues with ghost films:

1. Dying gives you superpowers.

If a ghost can cause severe harm to people and have malicious intent towards those around them then it feels bizarre when they successfully kill one person, yet then fail to pose a threat to the protagonist until exciting third act of a film. Whatever!


2. What do dead people want?
If the ghost is angry and wants to kill particular people or even just everybody, then that is fine. However, the 'unfinished business' motivation is often extremely annoying. ("Unfinished business" is, of course, a phrase established by the movie of "Casper" - the friendly ghost.) In "The Sixth Sense" the unfinished business for one ghost is that their killer was not discovered, but if so, what difference will putting their killer in prison make for the deceased entity? Murderers are generally not kept in prison forever. If they are released in fifteen years will the ghost start haunting everyone again? This idea that appeasing the ghost will stop the hauntings often annoys me, so I was quite pleased with how it was subverted in "The Ring" (the original Japanese version, of course).

Other times the ghost is trying to warn people who are still alive, but when the ghost keeps on placing enigmatic messages around the place that can be annoying. (This can also be tied to point 1.)


3. Ghosts are just like us.
Okay, so some of these problems aren't such a big deal if the movie in question is a fantasy film like "The Frighteners". But if we are supposed to be freaked out by a spectre, I need to find it somewhat believable. If the ghosts are talking to everyone like they would do when they were alive, I find it hard to take them seriously.


4. Dead? No problem!
This is yet another issue from "Caspar". Bill Pullman, who plays Christina Ricci's dad, makes friends with Caspar's less friendly ghost-friends and they persuade him to kill himself so he can become a ghost like them. This is a bit of an awkward issue for "The Frighteners" too when Michael J. Fox makes himself clinically dead so he can wander around as a ghost for a bit. This is admittedly, an issue more often found in fantasy-like films such as "Caspar" and "The Frighteners" where the films are not really taking themselves so seriously anyway. But sometimes more serious depictions of ghosts will display them as if being a ghost is just an inevitable and predictable result of death, rather than a rare occurrance. Just because there are ghosts all around you, doesn't mean that when you die you will become one of them. (I'm looking at you, "The Orphanage".)


5. Ghost experts
Reports of ghostly activity do not generally involve vivid experiences and are generally surrounded by a large degree of mystery. People who believe in ghosts may have their own idea about what causes someone to become a ghost, but this isn't a field open to a great deal of empirical study (particularly when the entities at the centre of it appear so fleetingly and their entire existence is in question). Yet in films, someone often seems to turn up to explain exactly how ghosts work and to establish clear rules. A recent example of this is "Mama" where an archivist explains matter-of-factly that the spirit of a person becomes distorted after death.


I don't like to be too harsh when judging ghost films. I am quite keen that a ghost story have some kind of truths to reveal about real life for the non-ghostly characters. Sometimes there may be ambiguity about the existence of the ghost, so that what really matters is not the spirit itself, but the effects its supposed presence has on those who are haunted. If that's the case I can forgive a few issues. Alternatively if the film has fantasy elements, I can cut it a fair bit of slack. In the end, what I want is to be entertained.


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