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One of The Great WTF Movie Moments?

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WTF Moments: The screaming, half-dead bear Alex Garland put in Annihilation to haunt our nightmares:


Stephen King once wrote that there are three classes of scares: gross-out, horror, and terror. Gross-out is self-explanatory; it's a severed head, mutilation, the entirety of the Saw franchise. 


Horror is unnatural, he suggests, zombies or a pregnant woman ingesting raw liver in the dead of night. 


Meanwhile, terror is cerebral, the excitement of understanding something is lurking behind your closet door, but only darkness embracing you when you open it.


Nevertheless, Stephen King likely did not intend to imply that the genre is trinary, but it's an interpretation that has taken on a life of its own, largely impacting the categorization of frights since he established it, so many years ago.


The reality is that horror as a genre is oftentimes a picture of these classifications. At its best, it includes a little of all three. Few horror setpieces illustrate this quite as well as, The Bear in Alex Garland's existential, sci-fi nightmare Annihilation, one of the great modern WTF moments.


Garland created the notion of accommodating the inaugural installment of author Jeff VanderMeer's acclaimed, The Southern Reach Trilogy. This trilogy is nearly as unconventional a fashion as you are likely to find. Rather than looking to the passage as the blueprint for the film, Garland instead relied on his memories of the one time he had read the book, conveying his recollections of character, story, and set pieces, like a half-remembered dream. 


Incidentally, this is what many other critics stated e supposedly did. So, what I am conveying here then, is that this is not of my opinion. Again, I am simply asserting here in this article, that this is how some perceived. Period. Nonetheless, it's a decision that factors profoundly into the finish outcome of the film, which creates the first scene to play very much, like a product of a dreaming mind. The kind of creativity I also may perceive. 


Nightmare logic, dictates the plot's progression, with inexplicable time-lapses, and albino alligators, plaguing the crew, Natalie Portman's Lena accompanies into a strange mutated patch of land in Florida, called The Shimmer. From the moment they crisscross its outset, the conventions of the time, physics, and nature are distorted. This discernment of unease, of unreality, breaches the fourth wall and washes over the viewer. New viewers won't know what to anticipate, because no reasoning appears to direct what happens next. It's utterly an extensive nightmare — a horror that occurs ahead, with the presence of one of the more gruesome movie monsters of recent memory. My kind of movie though.


About halfway throughout the film, the crew makes camp at an ancient, deserted military base. As evening befalls, one of their numbers, Cass falls, to an attack from a mysterious creature they can't detect through the darkness, however, one of Gina Rodriguez's suspected fellow explorers may have murdered her. Paranoia devastates them, leading to Anya breaking down, and turning on the group, binding them to a chair, and gagging them. The stage is set.


It warrants noting, that before any creature shows up, Rodriguez sets the tone with a chilling line, reading: When I look at my hands, at my fingerprints... I can see them moving. Just as she seems to be on the precipice of violence, a familiar but distinctly disembodied scream reverberates out through the hallway: It's Cass. Anya bolts, running off to rescue her patron, but instantly vanishes with a yelp. As they are strapped to chairs, the group can't entirely shift to see what she encountered, though they seem to know it isn't Cass.


Maybe that's for the better — the spectacle of what inscribes would annihilate all lingering semblance of sanity, among the three of them.


A bear lumbers across the wooden floorboards, though not one of the human world. Blanketed in adumbration, we first only view its face, which has rotted away, exposing a sentient skull beneath. As it lurches forward, it sticks its long, deformed jaw between Lena and Tessa Thompson's, Josie. In the scare, to end all scares, its mouth opens and unveils the voice of Cass squealing for help.


It's the intersect of King's trinary of scares. The rotting flesh of the bear, peeling away to reveal the skull beneath, is so foul a display, its difficult to not presume what its breath smells like, as it wafts over Lena's shoulder. 


The sight of this bear — which has died at least once — somehow still alive, is the unnatural incarnate, as is the moment the scream of one of its victims, careens out of its mouth, shattering tense silence. 


And then, there is the terror of it all, the understanding as to where that noise is coming from: after being destroyed by the bear, Cass DNA, her natural essence, was in some way, consumed by the bear, and made part of the constant mutation, of the Shimmer.


At that second, Lena and her fellow adventurers, know the same fate awaits them, should death find them on this journey. 


Anyway, it's difficult to imagine newcomers to the film, experiencing this scene for the first time, and not muttering, What the f***?! under their breath. Such a response to Annihilation's Mutant Bear is more or less automatic.


Garland's trademark of existential, science fiction horror, is present in both of his feature films. Annihilation is heralded by the artificial intelligence masterpiece, Ex Machina. 


With his first incursion into TV, the FX and Hulu series Devs, which premiered over the weekend, it feels safe to say he will indeed find a new way to make us squirm, albeit this time on our couches, pretty soon.

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