Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... until your screen glows... infinite

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pharmageddon! JOHN DIES AT THE END

As John Carpenter ages into his RED LINE 7000 phase, a horror genius named Don Coscarelli has quietly stolen the title of the new Hawksian Drive-in fuzzy horror guru. What is fuzzy horror? I can only tell you it encompasses all of Coscarelli's films, the early Sam Raimi, some Cronenberg, John Carpenter til he started doing cable TV, Quentin Tarantino if he ever made a horror movie. It's a loosey goosey termite art digging and goofing around - simultaneously mind-expanding and brain-addling; it never has to rely on vicious sexual violence, misogyny, torture, yelling, or religion; it understands normal healthy adult sex is the creepiest most uncanny thing ever once you can finally see it clearly for what it is, stripped of all its alluring-in-the-heat-of-the-moment bark. Why is it Hawksian? Because it's still scary even though it's witty and irreverent. It transcends genre and is based on character interaction, a droll shared language--the gallow's wit of RIO BRAVO, ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, THE THING, SCARFACE, THE BIG SLEEP, and HIS GIRL FRIDAY--and because there's so much less pointless twisting and random acts of shock designed solely to get bad (better than no) publicity, it understands the two bros being cool language of deadpan calm and running jokes. Why fuzzy? Because it can get pretty sloppy, so is best to watch late at night, with a nice buzz and low expectations, and the films only get better with each new fuzzy view, cuz the earlier fuzzy has made you forget most of it anyway.

Clancy Brown with the Mehalis sisters, Helena and Maria

I won't go too much into JOHN DIES plot - you can just mosey over to Netflix streaming and watch it, and then come back to this scintillating post. But let's just say this - that dude up in that picture with the sunglasses and mysterious device? That's Clancy Brown, flanked by Helena and Maria Mehalis as his identical twin assistants. Brown played the infantry trainer ("Medic!") in STARSHIP TROOPERS, another fuzzy horror masterpiece and he's the guy you want for a part like this, whatever that tells you.

I will say also that time looping is involved in this film, but I liked this film way way better than the recent, over-praised LOOPER. And I believe in time travel, if only via one's third eye, and when a movie makes the third eye hallucinations real instead of dreams it works because a hep person knows movies already exist at the hallucinatory level. Unfuzzy directors feel compelled to separate the two - what is just a dream and what is real - like we'll upend the apple cart if not brought safely back to rut, as in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, wherein the wolf must come out of David through grand physical agony or it won't be 'believable' --and the welcome eruption of Nazi werewolves with machine guns is revealed to be a dream. If John Landis made the dream the real and focused on those Nazi werewolves for the whole film, than hot damn, that would be hardcore fuzzy, and also a bit like the Peter Grant fantasy sequence of THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME.

What mainstream science still can't quite admit, but which leading edge scientists are realizing, to their amazement, is that the universe is totally subjective. If we can move past notions of size, perspective, and spatial relativity then space/time travel is possible regardless of the distances between solar systems. As humans with limited ESP ability (and lack of astral projection experience), we can't imagine space travel any other way except by carting our bodies from point A to point B, in a vessel relative to own size, but that doesn't mean we all won't one day be long past that limited conception of ourselves. If space itself is a vacuum, the idea of needing to travel a certain amount of miles to get there is foolishly short-sighted. Why not just collapse the vacuum? Why not merely shrink the space? Why not merely beam one's consciousness like a cell phone signal on ahead into some deep freeze robot ready to inhabit like an electro-neurologically linked collection of artificial limbs?

The closest we have to ESP as a legitimate science today is the cell phone, relay tower and wireless router, but we take those things for granted the way we took ESP for granted in the 70s, back when we would have considered cell phones an unrealistic fantasy (even Deckard in BLADE RUNNER had to find a phone booth; and of course Heywood Floyd calling his daughter from the Moon - in 2001). Now we take for granted the sound waves that beam all over the globe constantly, billions of voices, TV signals, radio and military and Google Map drone images, soaring up and down like ping pong balls between humans and satellite paddles, remote controlling martian probes millions of miles out in space, and yet we scoff at alien abductions due to light year distances.

We once laughed at the horseless carriage, in the words of Criswell. Radio, vitmins! Yes, even television.

Perhaps this is why what was absurd fiction a mere century ago is taken for granted as science fact today and yet no one dares broach the subject of  pandimensional travel's validity! And it's because the subjective experience of hardcore psychedelic drug trippers would then be valuable and science fears this, understandably since objectivity is the foundation of their known world, whereas subjectivity the foundation of the trippers. But we know the horrifying truth: Fiction is truer than reality! 

All of which serves as a warped introduction to my praise of Don Coscarelli, a man who I've written of in the past as being suspiciously like myself in extrasensory speculation, to the point that one of my pet AA intervention metaphors, self-performed eye surgery, crops up in JOHN DIES AT THE END. Check out this exchange in the film after Dave calls a priest because John seems possessed.

Dave: What do you think it's like, Father?
Father Shellnut: What's what like?
Dave: Being crazy, mentally ill.
Father Shellnut: Well, they never know they're ill, do they? I mean, you can't diagnose yourself with the same organ that has the disease, just like you can't see your own eyeball. I suppose you just feel regular, and the rest of the world seems to go crazy around you.

Now check this from an old post of mine in the C-Influence:
Eyewitness testimony can be considered “fact” in a court of law but means nothing to science, which cripples itself through its dismissal of everything “subjective” as if there was something that wasn’t (...) Our collective disbelief about things beyond our comprehension is itself beyond comprehension, revealing the fundamental impossibility of trying to think about nature objectively from inside an organic brain (sort of like trying to perform eye surgery on yourself without a mirror) (5/27/11)
I have no choice, therefore--considering the film's avalanche of uncanny coincidence-- to believe JOHN DIES AT THE END was written by me... in the future!

I mean this as no disrespect to JOHN DIES' creators, Coscarelli and author James Wong (a pseudonym, so they say), and of course all three of us are clearly inspired by Lovecraft, William S. (and Edgar R.) Burroughs, Alan Moore, and Hunter S. Thompson, so who knows who I really am? I always hoped Lovecraft might read my work one day in a time travel loop and be inspired to write the Cthulu mythos based on my own August Derleth-based fan fiction. That's probably not in our immediate 'future' as I haven't written any, but I once meant to and if time is elastic and we are all one, then we are all one right now, connected through an elastic time tentacle, boinging back and forth through time in order to play not just many parts, ala Shakespeare, but every part, ala the Brahmavaivarta Purana. In other words, if you weren't me before reading this, you are now, or will be, now that this weird word tentacle has boinged into your future cognition.

This is how we become our own great-grandmothers, and this, and this alone, is why Ramboona never fails.

Such weird collapse-of-time distortions in JOHN DIES AT THE END are only one of the great side effects of a black ooze-style drug dubbed 'soy sauce,' the film's main drug, a mix of the black ooze from the X-FILES, the black centipede meat of the NAKED LUNCH, and the Black Sheep Dip from my own unpublished novel... and of course, probably, organic psychedelic 'alien intelligence' gateway drugs like psilocybe cubensis mushrooms (the block spore stuff inside the caps and stem veins) and Salvia Divinorum (the black of the gorgon's eyes). Aside from time dilation, this 'soy sauce' provides zen-like calm as well as the ability to read minds and to astral travel. The latter includes visiting an interzone-style alternate reality to invest in biotech that's a literal fusion of bio and tech wherein computers and Lovecraftian multi-tentacled horrors fuse into one entity that sucks the intellect and experience of the entire world through its crab-claw-tentacles, ala Corman's ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (or David Cross in FUTURAMA: BEAST WITH A MILLION BACKS - see my 08 post, and More Tentacles from the 5th dimensional Rift) or "if" SKYNET was a giant octopus (and recall the name sky-"net" existed long before the creation of the internet; the film came out in 1984, the same year William Gibson's term 'cyberspace' entered pop culture). That's not even forgetting the tiny nanobyte brainputating spores that take over bodies in THE THING (1982), GHOSTS OF MARS (2001), and the ones that just dissolve humans from the inside out, like those celluloid emulsion pinpricks in THE FLESH EATERS (1968)-- all super, and super fuzzy.

And of course we can't not mention Don's own previous films, including the definitive fuzzy horror of the PHANTASM series, which depicts post-death Archon soul harvesting procedures, and the zany melancholy of BUBBA HO TEP, wherein the real Elvis and Ossie Davis as a wheelchair bound JFK battle a mummy from the old west. 

There's great metextuality and in-joke humor in all Coscarelli's films--all without sacrificing narrative or suspense--but JOHN DIES is particularly clever: the 3-D glasses worn by one-handed Fabianne Therese show her the ghost of her hand, the phantom limb made visible, enabling her turning a magic key in a secret door in the mall. That her magic 3D glasses would work in a 2-D film is just one of the stunning filmic choices that puts Don Coscarelli's film way out in front of the cult-contending pack, up past even BUCKAROO BANZAI (1982), which for all its archness never could quite commit to its interstellar overdrive psychotronic roots, and into the zone of timeless fuzzy classics like REPO MAN!

Pay close attention to the banners hanging on either side of the church pulpit in the above still, as I get ready to lay down more of the massive flood of similarities to my own work that will bear out the theory I shall become John Wong in the distant future or have already been in the distant past (that they are the same --for history is not linear, but looped - it's the Moebius strip tape splice section where it can sometimes jump its thread count --and if it can sometimes, and time is looped than that 'jump' is eternally now). Note that the phone Dave uses in the scene depicted on the far left banner is a hot dog, similar to the banana and Marlboro phones in my QUEEN OF DISKS! (2007)

What's that you say? Everyone does the old banana phone gag? Well not when addressing psychedelic transdimensional tape splice time slippage! So there!

Another similarity is that the 'Mall of the Dead' is similar to my 'Mall of Time' from an old unpublished short story about a guy looking for a special cigarette in the distant past (based on a time when I briefly lived in the head of a Chinese baker) at a conceptual mall. Here's an excerpt:
 I wanted to buy some of these new cigarettes - new being an operative word. I heard they have a special chemical in them that makes you become someone else. A friend of mine got some and wound up a Chinese baker in Secaucus, New Jersey. It didn’t last long but it was totally like that movie Being John Malkovitch, he said, except that there was no visual component, just cakes, heat, shouting, Chinese symbols he could suddenly understand and the smell of cinnamon. (...)
The mall of time had been designed to appeal to the tactile senses to lure the net-dazed shopper back in. The theme was an evolution of history with spacey gadgets on one end and gradually decades receding as you walked down the aisles until you past the dawn of man and into some weird cannabalistic pagan wordlessness. Eighties clothes and jewelry down to seventies retro, flapper prom tuxedo shops, Cowboy Dan's, and then farther back still… through pre-Columbian dining room sets, a series of moving sidewalk exhibitions with tinsel rain and roaring plastic volcanoes and the voice of Christian Bale narrating your trip through time. The roar of a dinosaur as we reach the kid's robot dinosaur displays, and, if you are a tripper, looking for the special cigarettes, back farther still...
... and as we took the escalators down and down and ran giddy but full of dread along the black tiles, the lights growing dimmer, the plastic lanterns becoming faint torches reflecting the shine on the wet cave walls, our shoes echoing amid the cacophony of drips and winds amd jungle howls, and the crowd thinning down to only us, and Bale’s voice on the loudspeaker as it discussed the mating habits of the pterodactyl, that flying dinosaur that was the missing link between birds and reptiles. Down where we were heading the sound faded away altogether, the animatronic dinosaurs became lower to the ground, hiding in the shadows and in the coin fountain now bubbling with fake moss and plastic sludge. Blood and mud filled the air, like a slaughterhouse zoo. 
Right? See the similarity? Coscarelli's film is a little different, but the idea of a "mall of the dead" and a special drug being associated with interdimensional time travel is the same, and James Wong writes really bizarre, perceptive stuff for Cracked. Am I totally comfortable in saying that Wong is me in the distant future or distant past or in an alternate reality where we come from the same persona stalk in the blazing tree of souls? Yes. Do I 100% believe it? Well, for that I'm going to turn it over to an Arkham University-style detective in the film:
Detective Lawrence 'Morgan Freeman' Appleton: I'm an old school Catholic. I believe in hell. I believe it's more than just murderers and rapists down there. I believe in demons and worms, and vile shit in the grease trap of the universe. And the more I think about it, the more I think that it's not just some place down there. Oh no, that it's right here with us. We just can't perceive it. It's kinda like the country music radio station. It's out there in the air, even if you don't tune into it.

So what does that tell you? That for a fuzzy horror filmmaker Don Coscarelli is amazingly prescient about the realities of post-death alternate dimensional enslavement, forging a direct link with theories espoused by everything from the Tibetan Book of the Dead to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the writings of Nigel Kerner, Phillip K. Dick, Nick Redfern, and to David Icke, and that he understands the collapse of reality that comes from opening up the field past mainstream science and Christianity's tight-ass gates and stretching one's tentacles out into the slimy obsidian blackness.

The heavens and hells of the bibles are all around us, man.
Morgan Freeman is right.
The future, present, and past exist simultaneously.
The heaven and hell we create for ourselves is created with each inhale, destroyed with each exhale.
Karma is so instant that retribution precedes the crime, like MINORITY REPORT (another Phillip K. Dick "prediction"); this explains the 'lucky in love unlucky at cards' adage,
and if time travel is possible than people from the future have already manipulated our past to suit their own future ends.

The Hassidic Jewish community has mastered this which is why they continue to dress the same as they did before the stock market crash, to as not draw attention to themselves when they come time traveling back and forth with investment tips.

Was this 'truth' revealed to me by the alien intelligence, with an image of a Hassidic scholar reverse screwing himself into existence out of the pages of a giant, opened scroll? Yes. I saw him cohere from Yiddish symbols twisting, alive in the light of the Menorah. I saw him immediately pull out his briefcase from within the scroll and walk through the wall, still only semi-corporeal. He'd be 100% 'there' by the time he got to Midtown.

Did I wonder then whether my spirit guide was a member of the Thule Society and possibly by extension also appearing to David Icke?

Mmmm could be. Spirit guides are so often sleazy tricksters you can't believe everything they say...and therefore can believe nothing they say. Even though they 'win your heart with honest trifles' as they put it in Macbeth. 
On the other hand, just hearing them say it is more illuminating than a year at fair Harvard
or so my spirit guide tells me.

Of the two alien (plant) intelligences I've encountered in my 'ahem' travels, one is legal and the other should be. One is like a strict Catholic gardening teacher named Salvia, who skins me alive in a slow, circular orbit every time I drop by her communal garden, like a clockwork of dragon's teeth. And if I can sufficiently let go (of self, time, duality) and identify with the nature of the universe, with the floor beneath my meditation cushion (if I had one), then I can just let her teeth strip away my egoic shell, then 'pop' --I'm suddenly free, I become pure love, with no sense of time or space. I dissolve into the bright yellow cosmos, where any question the remainder of my psyche can think to ask is answered, in a way wherein I remember being told the answer in the distant past. That's how I learned the truth about Bigfoot

The other plant guide I encountered is a little younger and less austere -- the cool hippie teacher instead of the stern egocidal gardener; this one Psilocybe C., is a space jockey. He moves into your room like that fun kid from college, sweeps the crap off the floor of your life, sneaks you into all the coolest wildest clubs and teaches you how to see the spirits between the cracks of reality. Then, after awhile, he starts to get on your nerves. It takes hours and hours for him to say goodbye, lingering in the doorway, hugging you every two minutes, coming back five minutes later to say he forgot his... uh... pen. Each minute passes like hours and you're like, dude, but was great having you around but now you're getting on my nerves, bro; and you're still seeing his shadow days after he's allegedly gone home. By then he's totally gone (by Tuesday usually) and you miss him, terribly.

So as you can see, these 'poison path' pen pals do take a bite before they go. Your mileage and enlightenment may vary, and only holy fools, madmen, and artists would be insane enough to ever even want to meet them. But they need to.

If this rambling 'review' has been more about me than JOHN DIES AT THE END, I apologize. All you really need to know is where it exists in the family tree of midnight cult goofball fuzzy: it's to the soft side of THE EVIL DEAD trilogy, it's a more low key sci fi trippyhol version of TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL and REPO MAN, sitting at the same table as NAKED LUNCH, BUCKAROO BANZAI, NIGHT OF THE COMET, even maybe a smattering of HELLBOY and CONSTANTINE waiting in the corner. It's ANTS IN YOUR PLANTS OF 1939 meets 80s John Carpenter. That should be enough for you, me, or an ant waiting to an Indra be.


  1. And yet another fine piece, though I have no desire to watch this film. Good stuff!

  2. I've had this movie on my Amazon wish list for a few weeks now. Sooner or later, I'm going to buy it.

    Alan Watts has a quote similar to the one about the eye not being able to see itself... regarding the same point about the brain. I'd have to go dig out "The Book" to find it, though, and I don't have that kind of energy tonight.

    I have bookmarked this so I can read the second half AFTER I watch the film. But you've hit all the right notes to get me to a) watch it, and b) keep coming back here for more words.


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