I’ve been reading a new seinen manga at Mangafox called the Vovnich Hotel. It’s…well, weird. Imagine a horror film, but turned into a slice of life anime. By this, I mean it uses horror tropes, but doesn’t focus on scaring you. On a remote pacific island, a clean-cut young man decides to stay at the titular Hotel. It’s soon apparent that it is not your average place.
There’s the masked luchador who runs the hotel, and whose claim to fame is that he beat Chuck Norris in a fight. There are the two oddly endearing, yet very creepy maids. The younger has a glass eye, and the other has serious scar issues. There’s all the assassins that keep popping up, the Snark who seems to be killing random people, a bunch of kids including one very strange little girl who wears a rabbit mask, a useless robot detective, and more. It’s not really like anything you’d expect at all.
There is one twist though, that caused this post. The author also interweaves the idea of the Three Mothers: Mater Lacrymarum, Mater Tenebrarum, and Mater Suspirium. This is from the Italian giallo film maker Dario Argento’s famous trilogy of films about them, with Suspiria as the first. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across Argento references in other works.
I’ve never actually seen the trilogy, and I’m not too keen on it. Giallo is sort of a garish form of horror often with some serious levels of violence. Directors like Lucio Fulci and his Zombie films heavily influenced horror into ultraviolent realms, and created some notorious scenes that are hard to watch even today. While it’s an acquired taste even for horror buffs, giallo is a powerful influence on film. Suspiria is probably one of the top films from Italian horror.
This makes for something awkward. To become culturally literate, you often are forced with a choice to watch things you don’t want to watch. While this is a fairly out there example, in that giallo isn’t really that required to watch, a lot of modern film doesn’t share a Christian worldview. It also contains things that you’d find objectionable, but if you are a Christian into the arts, or just want to remain culturally current, you have a tough choice.
Tough, and important. A lot of the problems of Christian fiction seeming out of touch is because its self-contained, and many of the writers to me don’t seem culturally literate except in the smaller evangelical Christian subculture. So a lot of times, you notice the lack. You get Christian SF writers whose writing feels like it’s in the 80s or before, or never really engage modern ideas or trends. Where are all the biopunk Christian SF writers? There are some excellent cyberpunk ones, like Pat Todoroff, but none of those. What about steampunk? I see a few, but not many. When we talk about fantasy, why are we always stuck on the same books?
It’s difficult. I’m not sure I can make an answer. It’s good to remain pure, and there are a lot of things I wish I could unsee. But as an artist, the purer I am, the harder it can be to write. An example is Wreck-it-Ralph; to really “get” the film, you have to be familiar with basic video game culture. When you have writers that aren’t, you get painful movies about these bizarre things that are called video games but have no resemblance to them. Or, like in many movies, you get this almost magical representation of programming or hacking that is more like a wizard waving a wand than creating code or even a game. So it’s sometimes lose-lose.
The Vovnich Hotel is the hard edge of R. Mostly for mature situations and language, and some sexuality and nudity. Probably it would be something akin to Donnie Darko, which is another film I need to watch but don’t really care to.