Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Others Contrasted with The Wind in The Rose Bush

**This post contains spoilers about the short story "The Wind in the Rose Bush" and the movie The Others**



Someone has died.  And someone is lying about it.

In a very general sort of way, this short description applies to both stories.  What's interesting, worth taking note of (in my humble opinion anyway) is the dichotomy between the liars.  Let me explain

In "The Wind in the Rose Bush", Mrs. Dent seems to be secretive, but in my own reading I felt no threat of harm from her.  I interpreted her behavior as uncertainty about having her husband's dead ex-wife's sister in her home.  After a while, it was clear something had happened to the girl, but again, until the end it was not altogether obvious that Mrs. Dent was a danger to anyone.

In The Others however, the three servants are instantly under suspicion.  The second I saw them approaching that giant house in all black, I knew something was up and that they shouldn't be trusted.  They are constantly whispering amongst themselves about the people of the house, and filling the children's minds with terrifying truths.  Everything they do is secretive and sketchy.  They dress in dark colors most of the time, they show up for a job that hasn't been posted in the paper yet, they know the house inside and out...it's all just too much Gothic horror tension to ignore.


What I find intriguing about this situation brings to mind the idea of "Never judge a book by its cover". In the end, Mrs. Dent ends up being the cause of young Agnes' death, while the servants are there to warn the family of their new situation and take care of them in the land of the dead.

Both stories involve the idea of a mother who led to the deaths of her children.  But there's a dichotomy there as well.  Mrs. Dent neglected her husband's child that she clearly never cared about, leading to Agnes' eventual death.  Grace killed her children in a fit of psychosis because she believed the world was too cruel for them.  In the same vein, Mrs. Dent lied about Agnes to cover her own ass, while the servants lied in the best interests of the family.

This idea brings up an interesting question about hauntings.  Who should be feared more?  The ghosts or the people who made them that way?

If you'd like to find out for yourself:
"The Wind in the Rose Bush"can be read online for free I believe, it was available the last time I checked
The Others was tricky, but I did it, so it can be found online!

The Haunting of Hill House: Book and Movie Adaptation

**This post contains spoilers about story The Haunting of Hill House as well as the movie The Haunting**



I am obligated to begin this post with my excitement over the fact that the creepy wife caretaker of the house is played by the woman who plays Mrs. Hess in Home Alone 3.  This holds absolutely no bearing over the movie or story, in fact her character's only purpose is to give this rousing speech.

I've just always hoped and dreamed she'd be cast in some creepy role because (no offense) she has the face for it.  Anyway, just wanted to share that with you.  You're welcome

This movie, while actually pretty good and definitely recommended for a bit of a cheap scare, is starkly different from the book in a couple of important ways.  The main difference being the reason the group is at the house in the first place.  Dr. Marrow brings the three participants, Nell, Theo, and Luke to the house under the guise of an insomnia study, but he in fact is conducting his own research (unethical and off the grid research) about group fear.  He intends to plant a few seeds using ghost stories about the house, and then watch what unfolds.  That diabolical bastard.


Two other differences that are the portrayals of both Nell and the house as characters.  The house is trickier.  We'll start there.

Instead of being ambiguous and unknown, the movie takes the hauntings and turns them into something much more real.  The backstory goes like this.  Hugh Crain, mill magnate and builder of the house, wanted nothing more in life than a large family with lots of kids running around.  Hence the ginormous, completely excessive house.  But all attempts were unsuccessful with all his children dying in childbirth.  His wife eventually passed away as well, leaving him alone.  It is eventually discovered, by Nell (the only one who believes in the hauntings enough to delve deeper into what's causing them) that Crain took a second wife, Carolyn.  And the cliches start.....now.  Carolyn is revealed to be Nell's great-great-grandmother or some variation of that.  Nell has been brought to the house for a purpose.  There are ghosts there, hundreds of them.  Hundreds of dead children, taken by Crain from his mills and killed, trapping their spirits there with him forever and giving him the family he always wanted, at least kind of.  Long story short (not really that short, my bad) the manifestations in the house have two sources: the children communicating with Nell and Hugh Crain trying to drive her away.  Giving the house a face, literally, took away some of the horror of the situation and gave the movie an almost Haunted Mansion feel.


Given this new information/plot twist, Nell's role changes accordingly.  Instead of a hysterical, psychotic mess, she becomes a savior for the children.  I mean that literally, check this out.


Sorry about the quality.  I searched high and low for a screenshot of this, but in the end I just had to take one myself.  It gets the point across I think

Beginning with the very first haunting, when a child's ghost appears in her pillow calling out to her, Nell is calm about the whole situation.  Even before knowing their intent, she fears no harm and is in fact driven to find out what the message is from these pre-pubescent phantoms.

Seriously, she rolls over, wakes up to this and SMILES.  I kid you not (pun intended.  Get it?  Cuz the ghosts are kids.  Moving on)

Nell's backstory is important.  She had cared for her ill mother most of her life, but now that her mother was gone, her sister and brother-in-law were selling the apartment she had lived in with her mother.  It's ok though, they offered her a place to stay.....so she could take care of their obnoxious kid and do all the cooking and cleaning for them.  No wonder she ran away to some creepy old house.  Anyway, Nell had been a caretaker all her life, and when her mother died, she lost herself.  Finding these lost children who needed her was exactly what she needed.  In fact, as the house is falling down around them and the rest of the group urges her to leave, she refuses, stating, "I'm exactly where I'm wanted."


This is where it gets interesting.  Instead of the meek, nervous Nell of the book, we get a fighter.  As the group tries to leave, Crain prevents them, intending to kill them all.  She cries out and tells him she won't let him hurt them.  She literally fights back when a stone griffin comes to life in an effort to stop them.  The love she had for the children of the house, and her friends, gave her a reason, gave her something to fight for.

I'm obligated to end this post with my anger and disappointment over the movie's complete disregard and utter ruin of my favorite part of the book, one of the few parts that actually scared me.  There was a lot of potential the filmmakers had to work with and in some ways I feel like they squandered it.  But I would still recommend it.  If you'd like to accept my recommendation:
You can get the book online (I found a copy for less than $10 on Amazon!)
The movie can be rented for 48 hours through Amazon Instant Streaming for $2.99

Sleep tight tonight, dear readers

Water Ghosts and The Ring

**This post contains spoilers about the book, Water Ghosts, and the movies The Ring and The Ring 2**


In Shawna Ryan's Water Ghosts, a town of Chinese immigrants in America is visited by three women who have sailed there on a boat.  One of the women, Ming Wai, is the wife of a man from the town, Richard, the other two are not claimed.  As the men in the town clammer all over themselves to court the two, and Richard slowly gets weaker, the story reveals the three women are all dead.  They must have died in water somewhere, as they are now water ghosts.  They can reclaim their earthly lives, but only if they are able to drown someone to take their place.

I have to say, Ming Wai's devouring of Richard's life reminded me of Beloved and Sethe, but what I was really reminded of was the movie The Ring.  While the movie is much more intense with its purpose being to scare the living daylights out of a person, the idea is quite similar.  Both feature a ghost who perished in the water, and wants something that's just out of reach.


Samara, the creepy ghost girl in The Ring, died in a well (*gasp* not another well!) after her adopted mother pushed her in, still alive.  Not only that, but her birthmother tried to drown her in a fountain when she was just a baby.  This girl does not have a friendly relationship with water, or mothers for that matter.  By the end of the movie, Rachel, our main character, has figured all this out.  She's even found the well, and brought the body out for a proper burial.  What she doesn't realize, is that what Samara wanted wasn't peace, it was a mother.  Queue the sequel!

Samara's birthmom, by the way.  Real piece of work

Once Samara's soul has been released from the well prison, she attempts to take possession of Rachel's young son Aiden.  She wants to take his place as her child, to finally have a real mother.  She almost does it too, with Aiden getting weaker and weaker, only being able to communicate with Rachel when she's asleep.  The only way to stop Samara is to trap her back in the well.  Send her back to the water.  Sound familiar?  (cough, cough If you're not familiar with the book, the other two unnamed women are unsuccessful in swapping lives and end up re-drowning[?] cough, cough).

Being "sent back" is a big idea, especially in the second movie.  Samara's birthmother attempts to drown her, and later explains as can be heard in the trailer, that children have to be sent back and their mothers have to oblige.  Which makes it rather interesting that Samara is killed by pushing her into a well, a popular Gothic symbol that represents the womb.  Not only was she sent back to the land of the dead (where her birthmom supposes children come from) but she was also metaphorically sent back to where she began, in a womb.

Oh my goodness, breakthrough!  Ming Wai makes it back into the land of the living, and ends her story with the idea of possibly bearing a child.  Samara was just pushed into a womb well.  She can be reincarnated as Ming Wai's future child!  That'd be karma gold.  Alright, you'll have to forgive me, it's late and I had far too much candy at the movies earlier.  Moving on.

In both stories there is an antagonist whose goal is to gain possession of something they didn't have before or wanted to regain possession of.  Ming Wai wants her life back.  Samara would settle for a proper mother figure.  Either way, the desperation felt by water ghosts who died before their time or whose lives were taken from them leads them to fight their way back.  They seem to have unusual scope and unnatural powers, perhaps fueled by their anger and desire for revenge.  This idea is also present in What Lies Beneath, as well as The Changeling.  Both are worth checking out, even though I haven't gone into them here (trust me, you don't want to read the novel I could write if I talked about them ALL).  So, the lesson for today kids, don't murder anyone in water.  They will become stronger than you and scarier than you and then you will die.  Most likely in a horrific way.  Well, have a good day!

If you're interested in anything touched on in this post:
Water Ghosts can be picked up at your local bookstore or online (hint! I found a copy as cheap as 6 bucks on Amazon!)
The Ring can be streamed through Amazon Instant Video for $9.99
What Lies Beneath can also be streamed through Amazon for $9.99
The Changeling is a bit harder because of its age.  With the Internet however, it's definitely not impossible
Same with The Ring 2, If I'm able to find it, so can you.  I believe in you dear reader!

The Following and Edgar Allen Poe

**There are probably spoilers in here somewhere about the TV show The Following.  As an avid watcher of the show, it's hard to keep track of what's a spoiler to someone who doesn't know what I know**





You might be asking yourself, "Hey, is that a mostly naked women with excerpts from Poe written all over her mostly naked body?"  If you are, congratulations, you're right!  If you weren't, don't worry, that most likely means you still have your sanity.  Basically, if you didn't know already and didn't watch the very informative trailer I provided up yonder ^^, the premise of the show is the threat of serial killer Joe Carroll.  This guy.


His justification of murder is none other than Poe himself.  He kills because, as he puts it, "what could be more beautiful than the death of a beautiful woman?".  He is a professor, in more ways than one.  He teaches (taught, depending on your current place in the season) at a university, but he also teaches his "followers".  He has formed a cult of serial killers, and he teaches them his theory that Poe believed in the insanity of art, that it had to be felt in order to elevate one's soul.  He gets really into it too.  His right hand man takes his nickname from "The Fall of the House of Usher", Roderick.  They even have these cool masks to commit crimes and throw confetti in!



Apparently they like making wall art as well

They scrawl "Nevermore" on walls in blood, according to Kevin Bacon, to "symbolize the finality of death".  They cut out the eyes of some of their victims, taken from the symbolism of eyes in "The Black Cat" and "The Telltale Heart".  The eyes are the identity, the windows to a person's soul.  But beyond that, the image and idea of Poe is manipulated to provide a driving plot behind the show.  In my opinion, it was a gimmick to make their show different.  Instead of having a serial killer who just kills to kill which is terrifying enough, let's give him some weird twisted motivation.  

But instead of honoring pain and loss and grieving, which Poe was quite familiar with and dealt with through most of his life, they turn it around and use his words to be the basis of absolute depravity and superflous violence.  To me, watching the show, sometimes it seems as though they forget that they made the whole point of everything Poe and his works and he'll be mentioned for 2.5 seconds just to bring him back up again, but they don't really integrate him into the framework of the show.  Then again, the writers of the show may actually be geniuses depending on how you look at it.  I think it's safe to say that serial killers are not quite right in the cranium, with Joe Carroll not being an exception.  Perhaps the idea is that his warped mind sees Poe in a way that it's not meant to come across, different than your average person would see it.  He distorts what it means to fuel his cult and their motives.  Which provides an interesting angle, since Poe's personal sanity is widely debated, but he never killed anyone (although apparently there are idiots out there who don't actually know that).

With a major plot point being Joe's desire to "write a sequel" to Ryan's book about him, it'll be interesting to see how Poe works into that through the rest of the season.  If you're interested in going on this journey, the five most recent episodes can be watched on Hulu.  As for the first part of the season I'm not entirely sure, but in this day and age of the Internet, I'm sure everyone can figure something out.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Beloved: A Comparison


** Spoiler Alert - this post contains spoilers about the story Beloved**


Here's your first spoiler folks.  This movie is LONG.  It clocks in at just under 180 minutes, or three hours.  In fact, it's three minutes longer than The Hobbit, and we all know how rough that was to make it through (time-wise, it was an AMAZING movie).  If you don't, even I can't help you.  Anyway, going into the movie I knew it was going to be a long one.  Now having watched it, I realize the main reason it is so long is because the filmmakers tried their best to stay true to the book, including as much relevant information as possible.  In fact, I'd say it's one of the best movies I've seen when it comes to that.  A good majority of the dialogue was taken straight from the book and for the most part they followed the story plot point by plot point.



That being said, there was definitely a different vibe to the movie than in the book.  Which didn't make sense to me at first, since it seemed the filmmakers tried so hard to align themselves with the book.  The only thing I could think of was that they interpreted the point of the novel incorrectly, or in a skewed manner.  Let me explain.

The movie opens on a graveyard with spine-tingling, eerie music playing the background that I wasn't able to distinguish as English, almost setting the direction of the movie in stone, so to speak (pun intended).  That belief is confirmed only a few minutes later when you witness the first "attack" by the baby ghost, the vicious and brutal torture of the family dog.  When the other screaming children finally convince the ghost to release the dog, his eye is hanging out of the socket and his leg is so badly mangled Sethe is forced to amputate it.  Assuming the dog never did anything personal to the ghost, the idea seems to be that she has no reason and it just attacking so heinously at will because she can.  The tone is much more sinister as opposed to the purely mischievous feel of the book.  Even the (terrible) effects they use shed Beloved in an evil light.  Like literally, they shower her in red light whenever possible.

It doesn't help that the movie is so campy it could be the first part of Deathly Hallows (get it?  Cuz they did a lot of camping.  Alright moving on).  They use an odd filming style, using strange camera angles. Especially during one-on-one conversations.  They point the camera directly at each person when they talk, as though they're talking to you.  Once I got over my initial confusion, I surmised this was to bring you into the movie, on a personal level.  If you felt you were actually a part of the story you could get invested, let your guard down.  I began to surmise this theory when they introduced Beloved.


That's her there with Sethe (Oprah Winfrey).  I spent an uncomfortable 30 minutes after she was introduced pondering over the filmmakers' interesting choices.  Basically, instead of the regular person she was in the book, Beloved in the movie is portrayed as a toddler in the body of a grown woman.  It's oddly disturbing and really hard to watch.  This makes it all the more horrific when she asks Paul D to "touch her".  And even more so when he actually does.  And even worse when she ends up pregnant.  But I digress.  As I was saying, I believe the camera angles were a way to bring us deeper into the story.  Portraying Beloved in this way (aside from the fact that it is very, very wrong) is a way to get the audience to let down their guard, be vulnerable.  That way you get slammed in the end when she goes completely insane and runs outside, pregnant and completely naked.  Which they show on-camera by the way.  Weird movie.  Very, very weird.

In the end, the stark dichotomy between the two portrayals of Beloved make the point of the story in general hard to reconcile.  In the novel, she is a manifestation of something that knows what it wants and is actually able to go about it.  In the film, she's a toddler who wants something, but her brain literally isn't developed enough to understand so she just throws fits.  The whole movie.  I think the choice of actors, the change-up of Beloved, and the overall theme difference caused a lot to be lost in translation.  In the movie, Beloved was literally a parasite.  She clung to Sethe, leeching the very life from her, as she demanded to be taken care of because she was in fact still a toddler on the inside.  In the novel, you are also given much more background information, explaining why the scene at the end with the ladies from town is so important.  What Beloved does to Sethe may kill her, but it heals her internal scars, as well as those caused by the rift between the family and the rest of the town.

So.  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Have you not read the book and/or seen the movie??  Well what are you waiting for?!
The novel can be picked up at your local bookstore or online (hint: I found a copy on Amazon as cheap as 7 dollars!)
The movie can be streamed from Amazon Instant Video to rent ($1.99) or buy ($9.99) or on YouTube for $1.99

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Skeleton Key and "Po' Sandy"


When I first read Charles Chestnut’s “Po’ Sandy”, I was instantly reminded of one of my all-time favorite horror films, The Skeleton Key.  They both revolve around slave/servant culture as well as the supernatural, chock full of Gothic imagery and thematic elements.  While the two stories contain several parallel plot details, there are various other ideas that are twisted and seem to run perpendicular to one another.  The foundation of supernatural conjuring and the torture of slaves is strong for both works, while the intent of such conjuring and the determination of the tortured slaves work at cross-purposes.  And as always, the Gothic symbol of the mirror is alive and well.

In “Po’ Sandy”, slaves Sandy and Tenie, husband and wife (in the common-law sense, as most slaves were not permitted to legally marry, as they were not considered full/real human beings), just want to be together.  In an effort to protect him, and to accomplish their goal of staying with each other, Tenie (a conjure woman) turns her husband into a tree, “rooting” him with her, literally and figuratively.  But they are ironically torn apart when Sandy is cut down to be used for lumber.  Her good intentions have inadvertently killed her husband, whose moans and groans are heard in the buildings made by his lumber.  His physical torture, hers mental and emotional, even those remembering the story years later are tortured by the memories left behind.  Julius, a black man in the present time of the story, can barely handle retelling the story to a young white couple.  Chestnut’s work illuminated the slave culture and shed light on the torture they endured.




The Skeleton Key, on the other hand, is set deep in the bayous of Southern Louisiana, a land overrun by hoodoo.  Hoodoo, as opposed to voodoo (more of a religion), is an Afro-American folk witchcraft, relying largely on the idea that “hoodoo cannot hurt you if you do not believe in it”.  A young nurse accepts a job as a private hospice caregiver at an isolated plantation home surrounded by swampland in the coastal Terrebonne Parish.  The house, as it turns out, has a sordid past.  A past of mistreated servants and hoodoo conjuring, one that is not so easily forgotten.  So hostile is the energy of the home that no mirrors are hung anywhere, for when you look into a mirror, you are confronted by the ghosts of the house.

Forgive the trailer, it's a bit campy and kind of makes it look like a terrible movie.  I promise it's not, and I highly recommend it!

I digress.  The past servants of the house in New Orleans, Mama Cecile and Papa Justify, grow weary of the constant mistreatment by the affluent white folk.  As conjurors, they devise a powerful conjuration, the conjure of sacrifice.  Essentially, they get to live forever by taking people who believe in hoodoo (hint: this part is very important) and stealing the years they have left, otherwise known as switching bodies.  And their first victims?  The two children of the family they work for.  They are discovered practicing magic on the children and are taken by an angry mob to be lynched.  The children watch from the house, Mama Cecile and Papa Justify now inhabiting their bodies, as the souls of the young girl and boy are hanged and burned.  Once they’ve had their revenge on the family that so mistreated them, they continue this practice with strangers.  As their current bodies age, they find fresh, young victims and maliciously take their lives for their own selfish purposes.
For Tenie and Sandy, the situation is entirely different.  Neither of them want to hurt a soul, all they want in the world is to be together.  Even when the love of her life is ripped away from her, Tenie does not seek revenge.  It is almost ironic to think about how the slaves (Tenie and Sandy) were less bitter and angry than the servants.  Even if Tenie and Sandy were the best-treated slaves in the world, they still would’ve been treated worse than the servants.  Yet Cecile and Justify are the ones wreaking havoc and taking revenge.

These stories bring up an interesting question about race and hauntedness.  Is that even a word?  Well, it is now.  Anyway, in "Po' Sandy" the white couple is told of the hauntings by a black man.  And as he relays the story, he reveals that the others servants, the other black servants are the one's upset by the hauntings by Sandy.  Similarly, the young people chosen by Justify and Cecile are all white.  It is even hinted at that the black people they've tried to trick always run before the switch can be made, because they are more likely to believe in hoodoo sooner and realize the situation was not safe.  There is a difference, however, in who is doing the haunting.  In "Po' Sandy" the ghost is that of Sandy, a black man.  But in The Skeleton Key, the ghosts of the house are those of the lives stolen by Justify and Cecile, all white.  I think with "Po' Sandy" the idea is simple.  In the days of slavery, blacks were haunted every day but the horrors they were put through, all the friends, family and loved ones who were lost.  They were haunted by freedom, or the idea of it, as they had never had it to begin with.
The Skeleton Key, on the other hand, is more complex.  While they were not quite slaves, Justify and Cecile were mistreated and oppressed.  Perhaps a sign of what minuscule progress had been made since the times of "Po' Sandy", the two servants were able to escape their lives.  They took the lives of those who had placed them in the shackles of inferiority, in turn trapping them in the very house where it all began.

Just as a little endnote in case you need more convincing to see the movie, this happens:

And if you need more than that-oh, what's that?  Stop?  I'm making it worse?  Well alright then. If you do in fact wish to experience these stories:
"Po' Sandy" can be read online, I believe it's the first result on Google
The Skeleton Key is available on Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video to buy ($9.99) or rent ($2.99), and on YouTube for $2.99

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"The Yellow Wallpaper"


**Spoiler Alert - this post contains spoilers about the movie version of "The Yellow Wallpaper"**

As someone with a penchant for the terrifying, as well as having a healthy appreciation for a good reference, I tend to do some Internet sleuthing after I finish a good horror book or movie.  I look for other works, whether they be TV shows, songs or the like, that may have alluded to the work I just finished, or even used it as a base point.  It's like a little Internet scavenger hunt.  Happening upon a modern adaptation is like stumbling upon the buried chest of treasure marked by a huge red X.  I tripped right over one of those treasure chests when I found a horror movie made just two years ago, using "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman as its foundation.

At least, that’s what I thought.

You’ll have to forgive me, I’m still recovering.  My fragile little heart was content through most of the movie, not minding how docile it seemed to be.  And then I reached the last twenty minutes.

I have to give credit to the people who worked on the movie.  Having read the original story, the plot twist at the end BLEW MY MIND.  Let’s start at the beginning.

The movie starts out quite similar to the book, relative to the rest of the film’s plot anyway.  A husband and wife, along with the wife’s sister, retreat to a house they manage to find for rent after their own house and everything in it burn down, taking the couple’s young daughter with it.  This brings up the first interesting dichotomy between the two stories, the difference between the birth of a child, a boy (book) and the death of one, a girl (movie).  At least, there would be a dichotomy, if they were the same story.  But alas, you are tricked.  About halfway through the movie, it is revealed that the wife has started withdrawing to the attic room, the one with the yellow wallpaper.  She likes to write up there, and she’s started working on a story.  She shares the story with her husband, a story about a little room with yellow wallpaper, and the woman who sees things in the moving print.  That’s when the husband asks, “And who’s behind the wallpaper?  Is it you, Charlotte?”

And then your brain explodes.  Because you realize the movie isn’t about “The Yellow Wallpaper” at all, but the woman who wrote it.

I remember thinking it a bit odd that her name was Charlotte, but it never clicked until that scene.  Now, as I previously mentioned, the last twenty minutes were a whirlwind of terror.  But, while they were terrifying I do have to say that they were very, very strange.  And I don’t mean in a, “Well that was a strange yet scary and still relevant to the story plot twist” kind of way.  I mean it in a, “That came out of nowhere and makes absolutely no sense” kind of way.  I believe that is a point that just needs to be made.  However, while they were weird and confusing and I still really have no idea what happened…the end twist is so amazingly mind-blowing that those last twenty minutes are forgivable.  Long story short, the end has Charlotte infected with some sickness (think vampire, but not really…I’m telling you, I’m still confused) and she has to be kept away from light during the day.  **Heads up!** Conveniently, there’s a panel in the yellow wallpapered room that opens up into a small space.  Her husband gently places her inside the wall, and as he closes the panel his voice-over begins and he states, “Charlotte had written…the wallpaper pattern does move.  And no wonder.  The woman behind shakes it.” **End of spoiler**

I’m going to give you a second to find your balance after that one.

You good?  Alright.  Now let’s get to making some sense of this.  I had intended on being ever so brilliant and making all the connections about male dominance and the male-dominated culture…you know, back when I thought it was the same story.  However, there were still several significant plot points that dealt with such a theme, an example being that the movie is narrated by the male.  Whenever anything important is taking place, the turning over of the keys to the house for example, the husband, John, is always in the foreground with the two women standing in the background.  There is much talk of hysteria and overreacting whenever one of the women see, hear or experience something out of the ordinary.  But of course, when it happens to John, everything is perfectly normal.  While Charlotte is the stereotypical, emotional woman in distress trope, John is the first to move on from the child’s death.  He immediately talks about getting work and getting out of the house, with the women shocked as it hadn’t even been a week.  When things go wrong, even if they are stereotypically under the responsibility of the male, John blames Charlotte and takes out his anger on her.  In fact, he rolls his eyes when someone brings up the issue of rights for the modern woman, and is in full agreement when a friend of his states, “What else does a woman have if not the joy of creation?”  Even the wife’s sister, Jennie, is upset because she believes that in getting an education she missed her chance to be married and secure and taken care of.  Which is exactly what John does overbearingly with Charlotte, constantly telling her not to “exert herself” even though she is physically fine, unlike her parallel in the original story.


With all that said, the way this movie portrays John is interesting and more complex than meets the eye.  What comes off as dominance by a male, I interpret as overcompensation.  You have to compare the two situations.  In the story, John's wife has just given birth to a baby.  Instead of joy and happiness, she is afflicted by something he doesn't understand as a physician in the days before mental illness became a recognized issue.  So he asserts the dominance given him by the time they live in.  In the movie, on the other hand, John's daughter was taken from him before her time by a fire.  It is interesting to note that it is never confirmed whether or not the fire was preventable, or whether something could have been done to save young Sarah from the burning house.  He is quite often angry at Charlotte, for things that are not under her control or not her responsibility, and when he is eager to look for work he appears cold and uncaring.  But it seems altogether possible that John is just a father who feels helpless and guilty at the loss of his only child and is taking it out Charlotte and her sister, the only other people who can understand his pain and feelings of loss.  And, taking a page from the book of stereotypes, as a man John wouldn't be prone to dissolve into hysterics over his feelings, as his wife does throughout the movie.  In fact, perhaps John is angry at Charlotte because he's jealous of the way she experiences her feelings so fully.  He wants to share in their loss with her, but as a man in that time period, he just doesn't know how.

The idea of male dominance and male-dominated culture is a favorite issue of Gilman’s, as well as the idea of there being no escape.  That issue runs through most of her works, and “The Yellow Wallpaper” is no different.  The movie version may be tamer, but the underlying theme is indeed still there.  And while there are definitely similarities and differences between the two, when it comes down to it, in the end both women end up becoming the woman behind the wallpaper.



Just a note to anyone who wants to read the story and/or watch the movie:

Gilman's short story can be read online, I believe it's the second result on Google!
I viewed the movie on Netflix, but I've done some checking and it can also be rented for 4 bucks from Amazon Instant Video!