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March 1, 2011

The 127 Hours/Frozen Conundrum

I kind of love 127 Hours.  We all have those moments when we think our life is one big drama, when we ask ourselves "Why is this happening to ME?!?!?!", but we don't often have them when we're really stuck in a life or death situation.  It's mostly a one man show in which a range of emotions are on display - not unlike one of my favorite recent films, Moon - and it's entirely entertaining despite the fact that anyone who sees a poster that flaunts the film as "A TRIUMPHANT TRUE STORY" will know exactly where the film ends.

I could write about the film in too many different ways, reviewing it straight up or talking about how it's a statement of warning to people like myself who often shun human connections to do exactly what we want to do.  And I kind of want to talk about that too, but what I really want to talk about is the conundrum that has been running through my mind since I saw the film a month or so ago, and is still in my mind as I watch it again now.

So I ask....what's the deal with 127 Hours?  If something like Frozen, where a bunch of people get stuck on a ski lift is widely considered a horror movie, why isn't a movie about a guy who gets stuck between rocks considered one?

I mean, if your qualification is that a horror movie requires a a terrifying situation in which the characters' life/lives are in danger, we've got one.  The majority of the film is poor Aron Ralston, played by James Franco, stuck in a crevice and trying to find an escape from his peril.  Like Frozen before it, this is a film which should inspire the viewer to consider how they would deal with such a terrible situation.  This is the kind of movie that is all about making us think about our choices and how they can get us in trouble, which is a horror movie staple.

(Off-topic, but I think this movie hits home for me most due to the main character's "me vs. the world/lone wolf" attitude early on and how it plays into his predicament.  On a personal level, I struggle greatly with wanting to do things on my own, living alone, and at times shutting off others to whatever it is I'm up to.  Thankfully, that mostly means watching movies and writing for me, while in Aron's case it means jumping around some rocks where the Hole in the Wall Gang once hid.  Still, it's worth thinking about how much danger we put ourselves in when we disconnect from those we love.  Though it's an unlikely fate, my dear Masha still worries that someday something bad will happen to me in my solo apartment and that my corpse will show up a week later.  She probably shouldn't watch 127 Hours.)

If you want blood, 127 Hours has that too.  The final act features one of the most brutal actions recent films have shown us, and Aron's actions are sure to hit a nerve - no pun intended - with a viewer, and even those who are trained in watching violence and gore should be a bit disturbed by what we see as the blood splatters, the screams are audible, and flesh is literally ripped from bone.

But then again, there's no supernatural forces at work in 127 Hours.  Frozen has the same problem in the horror fan's eyes, but it's accepted because the director is known for his work in the horror genre.  Though Danny Boyle is the man behind 28 Days Later - one of the past decade's most respected horror films - his follow up success with films like Millions and Slumdog Millionaire doesn't really keep him in the horror conversation.

OK, cards on the table.  I don't think I would ever really call 127 Hours a horror movie.  There's just something about the film's tone that seems to keep me from really feeling it's trying to scare me away from going climbing in Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid territory.  Is tone the difference between horror and not horror?  Is Frozen a horror movie because it tries to make us scared of the situation, while 127 Hours is a drama because it tries to make us feel for the character?  Maybe.  I'm not sure I have that answer, I just felt like thinking about it.

Regardless of all this mumbo jumbo, y'all should check out 127 Hours.  I kind of wish they would have cast Sam Rockwell instead of James Franco, but that's a minor quibble.  Plus that mega cute Amber Tamblyn - from Frozen director Adam Green's Spiral - is in it.  It's a human drama - and kind of a human terror - that's well worth 90 minutes of your time that you might have spent rewatching some awful Friday the 13th sequel.

In the meantime, talk to me people!  Where do YOU draw the line between horror and not horror?  Does it even really matter to you?  Do you want to see a dude brutally cut part of his body off?  (If the answer to the last one is yes - 127 Hours, dudes.)

8 comments:

Puck said...

As you said, I'm a seasoned horror film watcher and I had trouble getting through the adhoc amputation scene. It wasn't over the top graphic but it showed just enough to make me cringe.

On the other hand, all points above are why I never really considered Frozen to be horror. A drama? You betcha. A horrible situation? Yep. Not a straight up and up horror movie though.

Dom said...

This is an excellent post. I immediately drew parallels to both flicks after seeing them as well and I believe you’re right when you point out that “Frozen” feels more like (or is atleast more widely considered) a horror film while “127 Hours” isn’t. My $.02 – there’s definitely a different approach to the tone of both movies and that’s ultimately what separates them. “Frozen” seems to be trying to create a sense of dread where “127 Hours” is almost trying more to create a sense of melancholy. At a base level though, the horror element in “Frozen” comes from the fact that it’s 3 people in the situation. Who’s gonna get picked off first? Will anyone be left standing by the time the credits role? That in it of itself creates a more standard tradition of horror. Imagine if it were only one person on that ski-lift? Would make the flick more akin to something like “Buried” - which while also horrific, is also not really a horror flick.

Awesome read, dude!

R.D. Penning said...

There are many difference that differ between 127 Hours and Frozen that make Frozen a Horror Film and not 127 Hours. 127 Hours has the true story factor going for it, where people already know the ending. Remember the last time the tried to make a honest to goodness true story a horror "Open Water", a huge FAIL of a movie. Also tone of the film is a big difference. Frozen- set in a snow storm, dying fast due to freezing is going to create more peril than SLOWLY starving to death at the bottome of a canyon. While 127 Hours would truly be scary to someone in his decision the music in the film does not amp up the fear factor, while in Frozen the music is much rigid and tuned to horror standards. One other thing -Frozen has WOLVES. Without those wolves, Frozen probably wouldn't have been nearly as scary. Right?

Emily said...

I'd agree with Dom here: Frozen's primary goal is to scare you. yes, it tells an excellent story with great writing and believable characters, but it ultimately wants to make you feel fear. 127 Hours is much more concerned with, as you point out, its theme of human connection and such.I think somewhere in between you can stick BURIED, which could be sort of the drama/horror combo that is The Thriller.

I actually wasn't crazy about 127 Hours. I ADORE Danny Boyle, but something about this film just didn't connect with me. I knew it was GOOD, but I just never felt anything. I kept thinking about what I had to do that day. I'll give it another chance--a lot of Boyle's films get better for me on subsequent viewing--but...I dunno.

Emily said...

I'd agree with Dom here: Frozen's primary goal is to scare you. yes, it tells an excellent story with great writing and believable characters, but it ultimately wants to make you feel fear. 127 Hours is much more concerned with, as you point out, its theme of human connection and such.I think somewhere in between you can stick BURIED, which could be sort of the drama/horror combo that is The Thriller.

I actually wasn't crazy about 127 Hours. I ADORE Danny Boyle, but something about this film just didn't connect with me. I knew it was GOOD, but I just never felt anything. I kept thinking about what I had to do that day. I'll give it another chance--a lot of Boyle's films get better for me on subsequent viewing--but...I dunno.

TheGirlWhoLovesHorror said...

Horror to a lot of people means blood and guts but not all gory or violent movies are horror either. I would say that any movie that presents a horrifying situation and gets you to feel some kind of feeling of fear, or terror, or suspense, can be classified as horror. It may be a combo of thriller or drama, but if it horrifies you, why shouldn't it be called what it is?

The Mike said...

Man, a lot of good comments here. Thank y'all for reading!

Puck - I get where you're at with Frozen, to an extent. I showed it to a friend and she couldn't fathom why I would call it a horror movie.

Dom - Thanks for bringing up Buried, a flick I completely forgot about. I'd say that one is square in the middle of 127 Hours and Frozen, with the latter closest to the horror genre. I also agree regarding the number of people in Frozen pushing it toward horror.

Russ - The music entered my mind too, as Frozen's is very horror flick and 127 Hours' is more Slumdog Millionaire. And the wolves do help, though the bugs/scorpions in 127 Hours scare me more than wolves.

Emily - I can see not connecting with it. I'm not sure I really cared for Aron as a character, I think I was just really willing to let myself get caught up in Boyle's way of telling the story. I wouldn't have voted for it for best picture, but for some reason it gives me positive vibes anyway.

TGWLH - Totally agree with you, most films combine at least one or two genres in some way. If there's a venn diagram of horror and drama, I'd say all three of these films (including Buried) fit in the middle, just 127 Hours is further to the Drama side and Frozen is further to the horror side.

Jonny Metro said...

Great post, Mr. The Mike! I wanted to inform you that I enjoyed it so much that I included a link to it in the latest "issue" of SPATTER ANALYSIS.

Check it out!

--J/Metro