In Sleaze Mania, Euro-trash, and High Art: The Place of European Art Films in American Low Culture by Joan Hawkins, she discusses paracinema which are movies that are not mainstream and focuses more on the unfamiliar and style of movies. However, she mentions that paracinematic movies are rarely made because they are not ideal but this allows the exploration of different ways to make films. She also discusses “high” and “low” art in horror movies. “Low” art movies are concerned with the perception of their audience and how they would be able to relate to it.
To discuss “high art” movies, we take Pontypool as an example. Pontypool is a movie about a zombie apocalypse brought on by the use of the English language. The main characters work in a radio station located in an isolated part of Canada. Since they work as radio jocks, they rely heavily on words and descriptions. They have a field reporter, Ken, which they call from time to time for updates on the events happening outside.
Pontypool is considered a “high” art movie because throughout the movie, indirect images are used and with their line of work, they depended on descriptive words and the English language. Since they were working inside a booth, they were as clueless as the viewers and were invited to visualize and create images of what is happening to the town. Personally, I envisioned the breakout in the lab similar to the piling of zombies in World War Z. Pontypool invites the viewers to think along with the main characters because we were equally as clueless. Also, several metaphorical analyses were needed throughout the movie to understand them fully or at least partially because the movie was generally confusing especially the first part when Grant Mazzy was making introductions which irritated his co-worker.
Most times, we would not consider horror films to be identified with intellectual high art films because our perception of horror films revolves mainly on the frightening and horrific aspect of it. Another movie which I think depicts “high” art is Conjuring 2 because there was this scene where I admired the cinematography and this was when they were getting ready for bed and were fixing their stuff and the camera was panning from room to room in a “one-take” shot.
However, the distinction of “high” art and “low” art is not mutually exclusive to themselves and can be a mix of both because “high” art films also contain “low” art aspects. An example for this is that horror films have the general aspect of entrapment which is also found in “low” art films and this generates familiarity in the films. In the movie Pontypool, the zombies have reached their location and they were trying to get inside. In addition, one of their workers became infected and was trying to get to them. As a last resort, they locked themselves inside the booth and tried to figure out ways to escape and find a cure to the virus with the help of Doctor Mendez.
While watching the movie, I found myself getting more and more confused as the characters in the film and it wasn’t helping that there weren’t much visuals since they mostly relied on Reporter Ken in the Sunshine Copper. As the movie progressed, the pacing of the way they talked became faster and was slightly harder to follow.
The movie confused me even until the end. There wasn’t any disclosure on how the virus was triggered, who were the ones behind this, who bombed the station, or if they died or not because the post credits scene wasn’t very helpful.
Even the movie was very confusing, after pondering, I appreciated the meaning that the movie is trying to get across. Words are powerful and can lead to our demise. I think only the English language is infected because it is the language that most people use and it shows the power it has over the people. The scenario in the movie can also be applied to reality and not in the apocalyptic sense but in the daily life of a single person, especially in bullying. Words can go a long way and it can affect people strongly and at times it can affect them negatively whether you intend it or not and it may not cause the end of the world for all people but it can cause a person to be degraded and think lowly of themselves and if not attended to immediately, would cause them to end their lives instead.
Joan Hawkins, “Sleaze Mania, Euro-trash, and High Art: The Place of European Art Films in American Low Culture.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)