Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cannibal Baby: The Love Story

I once worked with a project manager who was so horrible that the only way I could tolerate her presence in the office at all was to work at home in my free time on a horror movie script starring her as the monster. She drank Jack Daniels out of a gigantic bottle with only a sliver of whiskey remaining, carried around a similar bottle of Listerine, and dressed like she was thirty or forty years younger than she was. I was working with her for at least four months before I realized she was supposed to be in charge of me in some sense. I thought she worked for some other department and just came to our meetings because she was interested.

The horror movie I built around her still only has a few scenes written. It needs to be a Pixar-style movie. Later I took a new job. On the way to a company camping retreat, I explained to my new boss that when I finished the horror movie script I was currently working on, the next script I needed to write would be an animated horror movie starring children. If you've heard of Lord Of The Flies or any of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, you know it's possible to build great horror stories around children. But why an animated movie? Because therapy bills and civil lawsuits limit what you can do with child actors. You couldn't make South Park with real children, and you couldn't make the movie I have in mind about this horrible, warped she-spider of a project manager with real children either.

I didn't explain this all to my boss on the way to the camping retreat. I don't like to describe what I'm writing until it's written, and you can ramble in a blog post more than you can in real life. Instead I picked a much simpler analogy: an imaginary movie called Cannibal Baby. The Cannibal Baby turns all the other babies into cannibals too, as well as the toddlers, kittens, and puppy dogs. A child molestor captures the Cannibal Baby and keeps it on a leash. The Cannibal Baby eats its way out of its mother's body, bursting out of her head covered in blood and brains.

You couldn't do this stuff with child actors. You'd get sued for therapy bills and your child actors would be in therapy for their entire lives. If they got married and had kids those kids would probably need therapy too. Therefore - my logic went - the only way to make horror movies that explore the true potential of horror stories involving children is if they're animated, and computer animation specifically is much more powerful for the kind of texture and realism horror movies require.

But I failed to question my assumptions. There's one flaw in my theory, and if you've travelled the world, you may have already spotted it. The flaw is that A) not every country is as lawsuit-happy as the United States, and B) if your government pays all the therapy bills anyway, you can make any damn movie you want with child actors.

Some demented Swedes took this freedom and ran with it.

The version in theaters has subtitles, but I just wanted to mess with your head. And if you can't deal with subtitles, don't worry. The 2009 Hollywood remake was a done deal before the film even got a US distributor.

This is an amazing movie. A sick, twisted love story, a horror movie with a scary and sympathetic monster, and just the tiniest dash of that evil-children Lord Of The Flies stuff - just enough to make you remember that vampires don't exist, but monsters do.

It's got the most original love story since Harold And Maude, which was a long damn time ago. It's as magical as Pan's Labyrinth, and unlike Pan's Labyrinth, no idiot is going to tell you it isn't a horror movie. The cinematography is icy smooth, the humor is sly and wicked, and the drama is real. The acting is absolutely extraordinary.

If you date enough women, you will fall in love with a monster. At least one. It's inevitable. She's sleek and smart and then you spot those teeth on her, those rows and rows of razor-sharp needle teeth. You see the blood on her hands and you wonder how many bodies you haven't seen that you'll never find out about. And her eyes are so beautiful. There's a unique blend of horror and nostalgia when you think of her, and Let The Right One In captures every last nuance of its flavor.