Sunday, August 31, 2014


Conjuring-from top: Fairuza (The Craft); Kathleen Hannah (Punk Singer);
Sianoa Smit-McPhee (Cheerleaders)
I summon thee, Netflix, unholy ghost streamer.
The Craft and now All Cheerleaders Die wait within you. 
Teenagers sleeping over and swapping blood, giggling over the Ouija, 
love spell chanting and stiff-as-a-boarding.
Magic of entrained hormonal unconsciouses--
North, South, West, East. 
Hands high 4 the money spell - Ra Ra Ra. 
But "It" vibrates 
beyond the girls' small reach,
Sometimes through summonings true 
to the ancient Mothers, or false 
to shady Aleister, or merely in image
 via LA hack-banged babble.
From dusty tomes to Xerox-ed grimoire,
goaded by lying boys, and flying traffic,
If no one else, 
this spell may scare 
your downstairs mom.

Director Andrew Fleming,
you made THE CRAFT and BAD DREAMS!
Andrew Fleming,
you seem respectful of women!
Hail to thee, Andrew Fleming! 
Solid and semi-trippy, thou, 
if a tad flat and pedestrian, too.

 Director Lucky McKee,
Anxiously feminist, brazenly misogynistic, 
Do you still insist there's a difference?
Don't both overestimate woman's power? 
Don't both underestimate women's power?

Woman's power is nature's power.
Destructive beyond all your male characters' fathoming,
Darkness in light! Kali in Shiva! Destruction in creation!
Every suburban mama's frat boy litter
shall be cleansed by the blood-rage rag red torch
of her tidal elevator Overlook-ed Period.

Kathleen Hannah:
Your 'music' is like love-hate tattoos on Kali's Mitchum-y dukes.
Saying you're like Hopi from Love and Rockets in your riot grrl cuteness
is to to try and put you in just another frame. 
You're the splash page! Bleed your margins 
all over the murphs, frat boys, douches, and dickheads.
Retaliate against their ugly and unconscious urges. 
You're hot enough that they have to listen. 
Your tubes are the chain whips that streak light through dark magic's 
screaming, streaming window face.

Kathleen Hannah!
Sans bitterness, sans pedantry,
sans food co-op meeting sanctimony,
but yet with fierce tribal howling, smite them!
Kathleen Hannah, make slam dancing safer for women! 
Kathleen Hannah, inspire legions of xeroxed fanzines.
KH! Flinch not as the AOR vultures circle,
or as the jerk-off ticks and termites from their knotty woodwork creep,
 even as nervous exhaustion hides 
a wrongly-diagnosed disease.

Smite feminism's enemies with thy shrill feedback screams, Kathleen Hannah!
 Let your documentary move me to sensitive new age guy tears. (It did)
Guide my hand in chain-whipping, too, with words, the women-hating wallies,
the backwards baseball-capped unconsciously self-entitled douchebag tools of America.
Deafen them, Kathleen Hannah with the same amps they'd use to muffle your gender!
We are with thee, streaming The Punk Singer!
Praying, Chanting for your Re-Rising!

(1996) Dir. Andrew Fleming
Andrew Fleming hasn't made many films but he has a rare gift of getting the ambiguity of hallucinations exactly right: the way snakes seem to be writhing in every shadow as the underlying reptilian cortices of the DNA serpent-tongue universe entwine and unwind within your fever or alcohol-or-opiate withdrawal, or mushroom-overdose you still can't come down from after 12 hours. Little turkeys with straw hats dancing in the shattered scream-filled shadows of Bellevue's alcoholic ward, the rats and the bats in the walls, Bim. Terrifying but soothing compared to the convulsions... lost my train of thought. Fleming never does! The tight script never wastes a word on pointless chit-chat, and a strong cast rounded out by Pedro Almodovar regular Assumpta Serna as the white witch new age bookstore owner, and of course a dark star is born in the riveting breakout performance of Fairuza Balk--grown up from playing electro-shock Dorothy in Return to Oz--as the wickedest witch of them all.

The Craft's cinematography is a little flat, as was the style for teen films of the era, with that LA smog draining the color from the girls' picnic ritual bus ride field trips, and the slippery slope morality play of their monkey paw gotchas feel rushed if still effective: The swim team black girl (Rachel True) uses magic to make racist rival Christine Taylor's gorgeous blonde hair fall out, but then True feels bad when Taylor makes a point of apologizing. Campbell's horrible back scars magically disappear so now she's hot but turns vain and obnoxious. Their trailer-trash punk rock leader Fairuza Balk gets rich but her mom wastes the money on a jukebox and a high-rise deluxe apartment, etc. Before new girl Robin Tunney shows up they were just three outcasts goofing around with spell books and stolen candles and getting nowhere  - which turns out for the best. Since Tunney's a real witch (descended from her witch mom who died in childbirth), she gives them a magick power boost which they're too immature to handle.

That's all fine, what sticks in my craw, as a doe-eyed boy, is that poor Robin Tunney doesn't think to wish for deliverance from her crippling phobias and instead indulges her masochistic attraction to one of those backwards baseball cap-wearing rapey douchebags so endemic to teenage movies, and even worse he's played by Skeet "the poor man's Johnny Depp" Ulrich. Man- and then she lets Balk walk all over her with some paltry snake 'glimmers' and some Voodoo god of everything named Manon (though it sounds like she's saying Manos, as in Hands of Fate). Weird trivia fact: the witchery consultant didn't want them to invoke a real spirit, lest they offend a Wiccan or two, or encourage young girls to summon things they wouldn't be able to control --the way the proliferation of Ouija boards in the seventies led to a glut of summoned demons still keeping investigative ghost shows busy to this day!

So there's some troublesome stretches of Tunney running around her house whining and puling, and believing in the snake and bug hallucinations, wherein we root for Balk's by-then quite unhinged stalker; and the almost DC comics-level morality hanging under all the karma has a troublesome subtextual implication that teenage girls can't be trusted with any kind of real power, presuming they'll throw it all away on petty revenge, vanity, financial gains and douchebag boys. Maybe that's true, but drab sermons are not why we're here. We want to see the douchebag boys get thrown out of a second story window real good, and to see Fairuza tear it up (and she does; she's a real witch in real life and her summoning scenes have a solid orgasmic power). We don't want to see Tunney trailing after the mayhem in judgmental horror, so girls watching will know that taking occult revenge against snickering date rapists is wrong, since you might hurt their feelings. In other words, while it's not quite as grrl-empowering as Night of the Comet, it sure beats Tank Girl!

(2013) Dir. Siri Anderson
A labor of love from some chick named Siri Anderson, The Punk Singer is an adorable little scrapbook-style montage of the life, bands, and illnesses of Kathleen Hanna, the original riot grrl, who wrote "Kurt smells like teen spirit" on Cobain's wall thus inspiring the big #1 track of 1991 and triggering a seemingly random cold cocking by Courtney Love backstage a little later. Cobain was enamored of her smart mix of sexual provocateur (strutting around stage in her underwear) and angry feminist ranting (about the evils of the male gaze). Critics argued that combination sent mixed signals, which was missing the point: just by being attracted to her, we (men) became part of the performance, target and the subject,. like shining a mirror in the face of Bro-Medusa (Brodusa?) and turning him to stone. We had the same eerie frisson listening to rap at the time, which was also coming up in the world in 1991. In a world of pop culture aimed right at us 18-35 year-old straight white males, bands like Bikini Kill, NWA and the Geto Boys gave us a new thrill - that of being the target of justified rage. Endangered, threatened, exposed, even from across the new medium called CD, we drove to or our pharmaceutical corporation mailroom temp jobs, blasting our cassettes and feeling like a horror movie was forming just ahead, women and minorities out to rip us apart, and we loved it.

Hanna had some fame as the founder of the riot grrl movement via her many 'zines, her bands Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, the Julie Ruin, and so in the film we learn how Hanna's fearless, raw, fuck you attitude was truly empowering to women and the anemic ectomorphs who love them. She'd get in the face of the mesomorphs who'd come to punks shows to mosh and stand in front of the stage to leer at her sexy bod, ordering them to the back so girls could come up and dance in safety. Eventually she married Beastie Boys' Adam Horovitz and is currently recovering from Lyme disease, which was misdiagnosed as exhaustion from her hectic touring schedule. The documentary's pretty short, too, and never repeats itself or wears out it's welcome. Hanna's in good hands with Anderson, and Horovitz seems a very compassionate husband. Their home, by a riverside is modern yet homey. Can the pitter patter of little feet be far behind? That's a joke, son! Power to the childless, for they can say fuck you to maternity's conscripted gender bondage!

(2013) Dir. Lucky McKee

It's a year after the accidental death of the cheerleader squad captain, and high school hierarchy is still in disarray: the late girl's beau, the narcissistic football captain, aptly named Terry Stankus (Tom Williamson) has sworn a vendetta against scheming lesbian hottie Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) due to her alienating the affection of a pretty blonde (Brooke Butler). Maddy's own ex-girlfriend Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) is a real witch who mopes along the sidelines as the alpha dog and hottie lesbo square off in parking lot shove matche. Smash car and a few cuts later, Leena's fishing the drowned cheerleaders out of the lake and bringing them back to life. Now they're cold zombies with different colored gems in their bodies who feel each other's orgasms and blood lusts. But Leena's so stupid she leaves the key to their immortality hanging in an unlocked school locker rather than wear it around her neck (the equivalent of leaving your roll of thousand dollar bills safely on the boy's locker room floor).

Parts are more successful than the whole: the blood is tacky cartoon CGI, the glowing colored rocks are corny and there's an excess of all the wrong people getting hurt (Stankus does a lot of really abhorrent stuff yet dies only once). But the whole thing has a nearly Russ Meyer-level of gonzo recklessness--we never know quite what's going to happen next--and Maddy lets loose such a brazen stream of insults at Stankus in that parking lot, one can only be reminded of Russ Meyer classics like Supervixens. Too bad he wreaks six pounds of misogyny to every vengeance ounce and even the murders are undercut in intensity due to the blood's Tex Avery elasticity, making it seem like this movie at one point wanted to court a teen market rather than the Alamo Drafthouse crowd, and the sexy webcam underwear pillow fight element contrasting to any grrl power (unsurprising considering it was written by two dudes).

Despite the cartoon blood, the disproportionate vengeance ratio and some vaguely skeevy undertaste to the hot girl-on-girl action, there is some sharp insight to lesbian trials and tribulations, such as how if you're a lesbian you can swoon for a hot chick you see walking by at the gym before you realize it's just you in the full wall mirror, and just as you cannot escape your reflection you can never escape your exes, or her ex, and so on into a long daisy chain of former-lovers peering sullenly over each others' shoulders, or hooking up with each other to get back at you or your current girlfriends, all at your own dinner party. Director Lucky McKee (May, Sick Girl) does make some use of that (he's known as a woman's director, i.e. he has strong but complicated female antiheroes in his films), and Leena makes a lot of twisted witchy faces which--with her pale skin, black hair, and inch thick black eyeliner--make her quite the future camp horror icon, albeit here still in-pupae form and her 'killing people on school grounds is wrong' ethos--which is sooooo the worst part of Heathers (a clear formative influence on this whole subgenres)--keeping her from the hallowed halls of the Acidemic Angels of Death series.

I like a lot of stuff about this energetic film--such as great roving camera that is seldom in the right place at the right time--and look forward to 'part two.' if any, but if the film is way better than the average found-Netflix dreck, its still dreck, and very unsteady on its feet as it tries to serve too many demographics at once. So Lucky, hail to thee but in the future don't be afraid to get a woman co-writer, like Deborah Hill on  Halloween or Gale Ann Hurd on The Terminator, or Karen Walton on Ginger Snaps. That way we won't have to be appalled by your male gaze eye candy, in case Kathleen Hanna is watching us from her crystal oculus. A genuine badass such as her knows how to portray strong badas, but McKee, May or not, you're still just a very sick girl.

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