Pretty Messed Up #2: Horror Has a Face
Movie mash-ups are perhaps the most cheeky of video essays. They tear down the artistic autonomy of a given film by mixing and mashing it up with footage from one or more other movies. It’s a modus operandi not unlike the irreverent artistic strategies of the Dadaists or that of surrealist collages. Most often though, mash-up videos settle for laughs.
The videos of Peet Gelderblom take the mash-up into conceptual territory, fully using the form’s potential as a tool for essayist critique and questioning. For that is what his mash-ups aim to accomplish: they don’t deal in definitive answers like a lot of video essays (try to) do, but instead evoke questions by juxtaposing footage from very different registers. In this particular montage highbrow and lowbrow entertainment fight shoulder to shoulder. As Apocalypse Now‘s Colonel Kurtz delivers his warped vision of what it takes to be a soldier, his monologue is subliminally illustrated with footage of zombies on a rampage. Some notable zombie films are often interpreted as a critique of consumerist society (1), but this mash-up likens the living dead to Kurtz’ perfect soldier.
This mash-up is part of a series of similar efforts called Pretty Messed Up. And pretty they are, because Dutch director Gelderblom has the technical chops to back up his conceptual work. You may know Gelderblom from his side-by-side montage that pitted Hitchcock against De Palma in a Split Screen Bloodbath, or from his Director’s Cut of Raising Cain, which was approved by De Palma himself.
The amount of work and the level of precision that went into his mash-up of the Muppets for instance is not only admirable, but essential to the success of this kind of video essay. The technical expertise amplifies the defamiliarization that is the essence of Gelderblom’s artistic strategy: we are left to wonder what is mashed up and what is messed up, what is made up and what not.
Catch up on the other episodes in this series via these links:
Pretty Messed Up #1 | Waking The Frog
Pretty Messed Up #2 | Horror Has A Face
Pretty Messed Up #3 | Heading Towards Certain Death
Pretty Messed Up #4 | Steve’s New Car
Pretty Messed Up #5 | Kidman-Kuleshov Theater
This video essay includes clips from:
Apocalypse Now [feature film] Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Zoetrope Studios, USA, 1979. 153 mins.
Dawn of the Dead [feature film] Dir. Zack Snyder. Strike Entertainment et al., USA, 2004. 101 mins.
World War Z [feature film] Dir. Mark Forster. Plan B Entertainment et al., USA, 2013. 116 mins.
The music used is: