Monday, July 09, 2012

Rage of Huberty: CHRONICLE (2012), CARRIE (1976)

The film CHRONICLE (2012) is a teenage daydream of telekinetic power acquired from an alien source and like few others it explores the motivations fate itself might have for bullying kids into becoming homicidal agents of vengeance. The same thing happens in CARRIE (1976) except the telekinesis seems more linked to feminine hysteria; in each film there's an invisible Kali goddess strolling through, monitoring the bullying and torment of a high school loner the way a brewer might monitor fermentation. Kali wants not beer though, but fiery retribution, for the grand unleashing. That's what we want too, but there's a problem: though CHRONICLE has a fine unleasher in Andrew (Dane DeHaan) there's also goody-two-shoes type in Alex's popular but sappy cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) who's acquired the same powers and wants the film to be the touching tale of a regular dude getting back together with his nerdy 5th grade sweetheart-turned-senior class hottie video blogger (Ashley Hinshaw) and sticking by his bullied bud through thick and thin, not realizing the condescension associated with placing said bud in a victim mentality. Meanwhile their nonthreatening African-American pal Steve (Michael B. Jordan), a student body president candidate, just wants CHRONICLE to be a badass superhero film where he, Steve, gets laid a lot. The glowing subterranean alien blob of intelligence meanwhile, should be familiar to fans of Jack Arnold's SPACE CHILDREN (1958) and in a more oblique way, THE VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960). In CHRONICLE, the powers are given when Steve and company find a big hole behind a rave and descend with the loner Alex since he brought a camera thereto. They behold a big (luckily for the camera's sake) glowing blue orb, touch it, and are Kubrick obelisk-like transformed into dudes with massive telekinetic skills, thus fulfilling their destiny, Huberty-cum-Kali-style. If only they all had the balls and psychotic tendencies to be as wanton in their destruction as Andy, what then a film to make.

Top: Chronicle / Bottom 2: Space Children
Instead, CHRONICLE really "stands" for something. The handheld camera thing isn't just laziness or copping a Blair Witch feel, it's actually used with some poeticism and with none of the grain and odd grays of real HD video (presumably one of the telekinetic gifts is a Steadicam camera hand); the celluloid shines and yet the DP is free to move from all sorts of angles, and sudden poetic and interesting jump cuts. Eventually police 'copter and car footage and news footage, and the camera of the cute blogger, all enter into the found flow. There's some great tricks with mirrors and the whole conceit about Alex's ability to film himself via telekinetically-adjusted angles, the camera employed like a magical selfie Tinkerbell to his maniacal Peter Pan.

Thanks to bullies in school, a dying mother, bullies on his block, and an abusive father who drinks up his disability checks and gives his son a hard time, Alex doesn't get far into the realm of being accepted due to his new power before he shrinks back into his peevish first person shooter shell (boosted by some premature ejaculation). It seems Kali is sparing no expense in ensuring Alex's ensuing rampage!

 The end result is that the survivor of the three is the one who gets to decide what tone the movie is taking, what footage will be used and when, and I won't spoil the ending. But just imagine the troubles that might have arisen if Amy Irving in CARRIE (1976) also had some telekinetic abilities and could give Carrie a run for her money? It might not have gone off so perfectly. And that's the real element of greatness in CHRONICLE: it's ragged at the edges as in a real friendship where each person is conflicted and pulling the others in a different direction than the one they want to go. None of them get the movie their demons or angels were hoping for.

I relate with that. As a teenager I started out an Andy, isolated, no social life, days spent in as many study halls as possible, reading endless violent adventure stories, ala Mack Bolan "The Executioner" series (above left) and entertaining vicious vigilante fantasies towards anyone who ever crossed me, no matter how minor an infraction. My best buddy at the time was just one level crazier. As I was getting out of the whole war thing he was buying guns from the back of Soldier of Fortune.

Right at the height of his simmer, James Huberty killed a mess of people at a San Ysirdro McDonald's, and my buddy was enthralled by it; he soon knew the exact arsenal Huberty had brought with him, the order of the victims, the final stand-off, the anti-immigrant underpinnings, and he expected me to honor Huberty in my heart as well. Rest assured he made sure I knew every detail during our long car rides to nowhere. Finally I pulled way back, pulled away from him, and got into drugs and Lou Reed instead. He wound up who knows where, but when Columbine happened I knew it could have been us who went ballistic in that library, but I pulled away. God knows we thought about it and fantasized about it and drew pictures 'chronicling' it. Neither of us was bullied enough to go that route, but if he had pushed me to join him in a cathartic rampage before I left, well, I may even have gone along with it. Teenagers.

The chronicling aspect is also an important part in CARRIE, a film so iconic now it's basically our century's Red Riding Hood. As if handheld by a demonic spirit Hitchcock fan, De Palma's camera circles and swoops and looks down with a telekinetic blood bucket-blue eye, or slows down or splits the screen and fractures into diamond-insanity or clever close-ups. De Palma splatterd onto the map with this film, like a bat out of hell colliding with the  demonstrating the patience to let the build-up to the big release come with agonizing tick-tock mom70s windshield.  De Palma's film seems to occur in an alternate dimension much slower than real time, as Carrie's victorious climb up the steps to the stage to receive her crown takes so long, for example, you feel as if De Palma is playing a merciful God, allowing her big moment to stretch into infinity, slowing the clock down so those few seconds of 'acceptance' Carrie feels last a lifetime. For her.

Red is her color, so I see the film now and wonder if she couldn't have just rolled with the punches and laughed it off, a good-natured sliming ala the Kid's Choice Awards, red instead of florescent green. Instead she sees, Bunuel-style, everyone in the audience mocking her, though they are just shocked, for the most part, in reality, at least the reality we see, but it's too late; her Kali-endorsed madness ensures she sees them as all laughing evilly. Revenge can't help but be fiery, and final.

Just as with the the feeling of belonging and togetherness that happens, for a brief time, with loner Andrew and the cool kids Matt and Steve, it's clear Kali is deliberately sabotaging his life in order to indirectly inflict outward damage. The whole cast of high school faculty and students around Carrie is being manipulated by an unseen director to prod and abuse Carrie so her powers can be used later to annihilate them, the way Nazi Kevin Bacon uses Magneto's parents' lives to trigger the big mutant displays in that X-MEN prequel. This also fits very well with theories about telekinesis and poltergeist activity being the almost exclusive domain of teenagers reaching sexual puberty and dealing with huge amounts of repression and changing hormones:
The first part of our theory is the most well-known, childhood/teenage puberty is the cause of most Poltergeist activity and is more often than not caused by a young female in emotional or psychological "crisis". In many cases, this young girl doesn’t even realize that they are causing the disturbance. The poltergeist uses this person to transmit and transform their paranormal energy to move objects and oftentimes cause damage or harm to people and items around them. It is not a possession of a human, but merely the human being used like a transmitter for the psychic energy.

The Southern Pole of the magnet is the young female starting up the "baby making factory". As she projects her emotions outward (as most teenage females do), the poltergeist pushes its own energy toward her. The two energies repel each other often causing objects to move or harm to others. The stronger the stress she feels, the more this spirit will want to feed off of her emotions, the move likely the poltergeist activity will increase. As stated above, the spirit is using the young female as a transmitter to project its energy outwards. 
It has been brought up by Italian researcher Pierro Brovetto and his colleague Vera Maxia that this action of opposing energies can result in teenage telekinesis (a possible excuse for object movement). Brovetto and Maxia believe that the extra fluctuations triggered by the pubescent brain would substantially enhance the presence of the virtual particles surrounding the person. This could slowly increase the pressure of air around them, moving objects and even sending them hurtling across the room. - Theory 4

But of course, De Palma's film does the same for us, and that's important. We in the audience initially aren't necessarily on Carrie's side. Her overreaction to her first period,--shrieking like some kind of NELL-ish hill person--is such that even the kindly gym teacher slaps her. From that one incident flows the entire film, and after seeing the traumatic abuse suffered by Carrie from her crazy Christian mom, we're completely on her side, even as she goes ballistic and kills even the nice gym teacher, it just feels right. We're not possessing Carrie, we're using her as a transmitter for cathartic humiliation-repression exorcism.

In CHRONICLE, Andrew's gradual turning back into madness happens not because abject material--pig's blood or green slime--was dumped on his head, but because he involuntarily dumps on himself. Any loner-writer type will relate, that feeling of being held back by one's own self-sabotage from full participation in the sense of group camaraderie, or making a move on a girl, as if driven to return to your lonesome rumination the way a vampire must return to its native soil. CHRONICLE's big pig blood moment occurs off camera and is caused by Alex's own anxiety, skeeving out a girl who was ready to take his virginity and sending her running, and spreading the news (he puked) - Andrew becomes his own worst John Travolta. The betrayal blood of the lamb/pig baptism of Carrie, or the winners at the Kid's Choice Awards is inverted, and the effect is twice as horrific yet anticlimactic, a mere fuse lighter rather than the bomb itself.

In each case the offending 'abject' telekinetic is finally destroyed but remembered forever, by someone like Amy Irving, who's altruism in sending Carrie to the prom is always slightly suspect: her heading to the prom in her normal clothes to spy on her boyfriend and Carrie makes no sense. How could this end for Carrie in any way other than heartbreak? Does she even know smirky William Katt is already making out with Carrie on the dance floor? Couldn't Amy have talked someone else into asking Carrie? It's to the film's everlasting credit that we're never quite sure, even when Amy spots the rope and figures it out, is she maybe just trying to cover her own ass? Certainly Carrie suspects the same, otherwise she wouldn't be pulling her down into the grave.

Similarly, the 'friend' cousin with the need to constantly express his feelings in CHRONICLE, Alex (Matt Garetty) ends the film--which has held onto its found footage-style narrative structure with great tenacity and awesome results--by speaking directly to Andrew in the final closing 'captain's log'-style letter, attempting to bring closure to his experience. There are atypical bullies in both CARRIE and CHRONICLE but Alex and Amy Irving represent a unique kind of villain--the 'good-intentioned' road-to-hell paver. Certain kids decide to take it on themselves to stop the evils they perceive in their peers. In refusing to let the evil flower, they stunt its growth and the root system rises up to level the town. These do-gooders somehow never see it's really all their fault that Kali was awoke and half the town is in flames.

Or maybe I'm just telling myself that to excuse my own walking away from the budding evil in my gun nut friend. He never went ballistic, as far as I know, in the biblical sense. But he could have. And on his walls the cops would find his tacked up pictures of James Huberty to prove his madness.  Who knows what I may have provoked him to do had I gone all noble on him, demanding he throw out his Solider of Fortune collection and renounce his violent convictions?

Instead I just left him, for college, where I eventually found a true posse of first punks then hippies and finally felt accepted, extroverted, and washed clean in the blood of the lambsbread, mon. Thirteen years later my old buddy was finally doing everything I used to, but I had by then been forced by my own weakened constitution to abandon whiskey and orgies and was in AA.

But for all the negative things people say about drugs, the right ones, the good ones, have a way of raising your evolutionary perspective --the haters who demonize have usually never tried them, and that's contempt prior to investigation. They don't believe in UFOs since they've never seen one, so how can they believe drugs are bad if they've never tried them? If the Columbine kids had a joint instead of Luvox would any of the carnage have had to happen? God forbid a natural drug like pot be legal. It might curb the homicidal urge in a whole damned generation... no longer the CHRONICLE but the chronic. No longer "Carrie White burns in Hell," but "Carrie White burns spliffs," 4Eva mon. So kill all the people who want to ban what they don't understand.  Line them up and... oops.. start over.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen Chronicle yet. Now I have to! My comic book geek friends all liken it to comics, and that didn't make me all that interested, because I imagined frustrations with stunted outcomes.

    I had to look up Luvox (which would be a great organ based band name):

    Side effects that you should report to your doctor or health care professional as soon as possible:

    allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
    fast talking and excited feelings or actions that are out of control
    hallucination, loss of contact with reality
    irregular, pounding heartbeat
    muscle spasms or weakness
    suicidal thoughts or other mood changes
    unusual bleeding or bruising
    unusually tired or weak


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