Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pharmageddon! JOHN DIES AT THE END

As John Carpenter ages into obscurity, a horror genius named Don Coscarelli has quietly stolen the title of the new Hawksian Drive-in fuzzy sci-fi/horror guru. What is the fuzzy? It's a loosey goosey digging and goofing around - simultaneously mind-expanding and brain-addling; too laid back and badass to care about sticking to any genre, it never has to rely on misogyny, torture, yelling, or religion; it understands normal healthy adult sex is the creepiest most uncanny thing ever once stripped of all its alluring-in-the-heat-of-the-moment buzz. It displays 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 plot twisting and random acts of shock designed solely for trailers and in-theater jolts bad (better than no) publicity, it can explore 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. As such 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 somewhere and watch it, and then come back to this scintillating post. But let's just say this - Clancy Brown (left, flanked by Helena and Maria Mehalis as his identical twin assistants) played the drill sgt. in STARSHIP TROOPERS, another fuzzy horror/sci-fi 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 all 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 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, Cronenberg, 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 Chthulu mythos based on my own August Derleth-based fan fiction. 

That's probably not in our immediate 'future' as I haven't written any, and HP is long-dead (so they say) but I once meant to, having read a great Derleth-edited paperback of Chthulu mythos stories called Lurker at the Threshold, 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 the tubes of time and space in order for our quantum conscious 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 will e soon. This weird word tentacle I've reached you with has boinged into your future cognition! 

This is how we become our own great-grandmothers, and mighty pissed we are to still be stuck in the space time trap of this baleful prison planet.. Luckily,  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' that makes all of history seem to occur in the Now, and illuminates the full of the brain to the parts where this is own. The film's main drug of choice (though it chooses you, its black drops growing fuzzy limbs, morphing into flies and boring right into your cheek unless frozen). 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 under-published novel. Still, though its origin turns out to be extradimensional, it resembles organic psychedelic 'alien intelligence' entry points like psilocybe cubensis mushrooms (the block spore stuff inside the caps and stem veins) and Salvia Divinorum (the black of the gorgon's eyes, if you've seen it you know what I mean). 

Aside from time dilation (which any good psychedelic doth provide) 'soy sauce' provides the ability to read minds and to astral travel, to for example distract the guy in charge of quality control at the factory that made the bullet fired at you by a wise cop or visit an interzone-style alternate reality (accessible via "the Mall of the Dead") to invest in biotech that's a literal fusion of bio and tech wherein a computers and a Lovecraftian multi-tentacled horror fuses 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 via his eerily prescient novel Neuromancer). That's not even forgetting the tiny microbe spores that take over bodies in THE THING (1982), GHOSTS OF MARS (2001), and the THE FLESH EATERS (1968), all highly wreck-o-mended, bro.

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

The in-joke humor that indicates a classic horor fan (!) at work never comes at the cost of deadpan narrative suspense in Coscarelli's canon; and JOHN DIES is particularly clever in both these areas:]one-handed Fabianne Therese is the only one who can open the phantom door, because phantom limb made visible through 3D glasses.. 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 fuzzy pack, alongside rarefied company as 1982's REPO MAN, the 1975's DEATH RACE 2000, Cronenberg's NAKED LUNCH, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA; 1985's RE-ANIMATOR, and of course Coscarelli's own PHANTASM,

Alllow me 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, looping back in time to watch the movie based on my work, and getting mired too deeply in space-time to fully remember where I left the Moebius strip tape splice section of the loop where I can jump back into 'now' (like trying to find the start of a roll of Saran wrap after its fallen off its teeth). If you doubt, 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 walking back in time in a special mall to find another of the special cigarettes that once enabled him to move briefly into the head of a Chinese baker (a true incident that happened to me during one of my out of body salvia journeys in the early 00s). 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 the feel of the oven heat, Chinese shouting which 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 cannibalistic 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 and 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. The tangy acrid smell of blood and mud filled the air, like a rural abbatoir. 
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 (was Wong the name of that baker I briefly became?) where we come from the same persona stalk in the blazing black tree of souls? Yes. 

To mas prove it, I'm going to turn it over to the 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."

As he showed with PHANĖ‡ASM before this, 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, Terence McKenna, Phillip K. Dick, Nick Redfern, and David Icke, his alternate dimensions in both films indicate correctly the collapse of reality that comes fro stretching one's auric tentacles out into the slimy obsidian blackness that breathes beyond time and soace.

The heavens and hells of the bibles are all around us, man, the dimension of hell, that radio station that's there whether we tune into it or not, ala that wise detective. 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, people from the future have already manipulated our past to suit their own future ends (to quote Terminator/Genysis (a movie not made at the time of this post) "What do we want?" / "Time travel!" / "When do you want it?" / "It's irrelevant!" 

The Hassidic Jewish community has mastered this which is why they continue to dress the same over the decades, so as not draw attention to themselves when they come time traveling back and forth across the 1929 crash line with investment tips. This 'truth' was revealed to me by the alien intelligence I sometimes meet and ask questions of - the alien intelligence illustrated this to me via an image of a Hassidic scholar reverse screwing himself into existence via the unwinding of a secret scroll deep in the secret room of an old Brooklyn synagogue, after which he walked through the wall, still only semi-corporeal, confident he'd be 100% 'there' by the time he hit the street and caught a cab to Midtown.

Did I wonder then whether my spirit guide was a member of the Thule Society and possibly some Nordic anti-semite, the same one appearing to David Icke and, perhaps, Himmler? 

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 someone puts 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, I can move my consciousness to the floor beneath my meditation cushion and watch with perfect emptiness as her teeth stripz away my egoic shell. And then 'pop' --I'm suddenly free. I become pure love, with no sense of time or space or time to limit me. I dissolve into the bright yellow light and any question the I can think to ask is answered. That's how I learned the truth about Bigfoot.

The other plant guide I encountered is a little younger and less austere -- the cool hipster party partner instead of the stern egocidal gardener. 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. Unlike Salvia, who never overstays her welcome, Psilocybin hangs around forhours and hours after the last party closes. You yawn and steer him to the doorway but he's still lingering, coming back five minutes later to say he forgot his... uh... pen. Each minute passes like hours and you're like, dude it was great having you around but now you're getting on my nerves. By Tuesday he's finally totally gone (by Tuesday usually) and you miss him, terribly. Should you call him again this Friday? Or be a smart tripper, and hang out with him no more than once every other week? (You never have that issue with Salvia - there's nothing 'fun' or recreational there)

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 some of us are called, as in on a heroe's journey.

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 not perfect (if I had been or will be Wong, I wouldn't make the lead such a buzzkill, trying to drive John to the ER instead of playing along with his trippy madness, nor would I have him call ancient alien theorists "those Roswell losers" - both mark him as very uncool.) But aside from all that, it's a must. It's ANTS IN YOUR PLANTS OF 1939 meets 80s John Carpenter at Cronenberg's Interzone. 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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