Friday, April 29, 2016

Prepare for the Coming of the Hillary Matriarchy with these 5 Psychotronic Gems

From fish god cults to a cockeyed MAD MAX: FURY ROAD premake to maternal body horror so unseemly no one's dared try anything remotely like it in 30 years, these five psychotronic films predict the the new world orderless matriarchy of the Scorpio Sun / Pisces rising goddess Hulu-Ree Klinn-Tohn as handily as if they washed ashore with campaign bumper stickers in their rusty talons, and hammers to smash down the crosses from Middle America's fearful Christian churches.

My pick of Five Psychotronic Films on Amazon Prime for a new TRUMPMERICA post was such a hit I felt I had to balance the scale, so here it is. Evoking the coming liberal dystopia that can only result when a woman is or isn't elected president, there's less apocalypse and more matriarchy to worry about this time. A more inspiring future of liberal awareness, higher taxation of the rich, and massive un-deployment shall be enforced. With every new dead or symbolically neutered old white male voter we'll be sliding one step closer to socialism until we're so like Canada we'll forget how to pronounce "about" correctly.

PS - Dear Hulu: You should have a 'Resume' button. Instead we have to start over every time we press stop and that's crap (at least on my Blu-ray player). Also Hulu is a terrible name for a movie site. Don't try to seem playful! You've got enough dreary 50s-60s international art films on there to send even Ozu scrambling for the channel changer, and Hulu is a Hawaiian term, and some of us have never remembered to forget Pearl Harbor. So change yr name to FROGTOWN, and not just 'cuz there's so many insufferably French films on your site, but because you carry the one.. the only....

(1988) Starring Sandahl Bergman, Roddy Piper 

The lithe and lovely Sandahl Bergman and pleasingly self-effacing wrestler Roddy Piper roam the post-nuclear wasteland looking for wild women to impregnate in this cheeky but irresistible Full Moon hodgepodge. He's one of the few men still able to produce viable sperm (fallout has left most men dead or sterile) in a world kind of the gender opposite of Handmaid's Tale --post-apocalyptic, sterile, now a progressive matriarchy vs. lawless frontier. Put under the thumb (via a remote shock chastity belt) of a 'no nonsense' health official (Bergman), the Pipe's packed off behind border lines to 'liberate'-- and then do his duty upon--a harem of fertile 'passives' currently held captive in a frog mutant warlord's stronghold (a combination abandoned oil refinery and R-rated version of a STAR WARS cantina). And though they drive in a pink 'Medtech' station wagon, there's a badass chick (Cec Verrell) on a .50 calibre sunroof mounted machine as his 'bodyguard' to balance things out. She does a lot of bemused, lustful smirking at Hell's discomfort while cleaning her ordinance.

Frankly, there's no possible way--at this point--the film could go wrong.

The standout, for me, being of sound mind and a certain age, is the still-lithe Bergman as the health officer Spangle, able to project both carnal yearning and no-bullshit feminist authority (a very difficult combo to do right). This gorgeous, sexily assured ex-Fosse dancer is still as lithe, confident, graceful, strong and open-souled sweet she was six years earlier in Conan. Alas, Rodney's character is a bit on the broad side. Apparently--for some reason no sensible male in the audience will quite understand--Rodney is furious over his enslaved stud position, and keeps trying to escape! What a maroon, as Bugs bunny might say. Bergman merely touches one of her earrings and the explosive chastity belt shocks his nuts, but still he tries. Maybe that's why the scene where Spangle abducts--and then drugs--a wild fertile woman of the wasteland and compels Hell to mount her isn't as vile as it might have been. Instead it gets so ludicrously kinky on so many wrong levels, though, you just may remember, as I did, a whole mess of prepubescent sex fantasies you used to have in the first and second grade, before you really knew anything about sex so it was all tied in with leashes and master-slave dominance (but which the average 50 Shades-style film never gets right). With Hell expected to 'perform' while his two captors/guardian women watch with detached curiosity, ready to zap him at a moment's notice, we have a very satisfying inversion of the recent real life outrage with an all male government panel on women's sexual health. Here we have an all female team considering his phallus literally government property. It doesn't make things right but it's a start!

The big surprise though is Piper's ability to convey a surprisingly sweet and tender vulnerability in his softer scenes. Coming off a bit broad and flat when he's expected to play the sexist dingus, when he finally drops his guard, he becomes the most emotionally open character in the film! He's got a heart as big all outdoors!

If all this male subjugation gets to be too much then relax in knowing the second half of the film reverses the situation. As Sandahl goes into chains as an abducted slave led by Hell on a leash into Frogtown --their cover story is that he's there to sell her into the harem of the Frog warlord. Your feminist umbrage may start to kick in its stall but just know that the majority of the women characters in this bizarre slyly-satiric film are super capable and assertive, more physically agile and gutsier than any of the men, or frogs. In other words, rather than affirm male dominance, the film deconstructs the infantile frustrations beneath sadomasochism, harem-keeping, reptilian (or amphibian) sex slave mind games, and "dance! dance!" warlord cup-banging, revealing them all as pathetic attempts to reclaim the phallus from mighty Woman.

laugh while you can, monkey boy!
Such a thing might easily devolve into campy parody, but luckily everyone involved here has the good sense to play it straight. Even that semi-twee title is no obscurantist whimsy but strictest present tense fact: Piper's character is named Hell, and Frogtown is occupied by real frog mutants ("created as the by-product of your germ warfare") and the frog makeups/masks are pretty damned good.

That said, it's not perfect: a frog with a fez does a seriously terrible voiceover, there are too many close-ups (not Piper's strong suit) and it sometimes feels under-directed, but for every bad thing a good: Nicholas Worth pours on the sputtering malice as one of the frog warlords, Sandahl gets to do the 'Dance of the 3 Snakes' and lo and behold, there in the midst of the Frogtown cantina who should appear, but western character actor Rory Calhoun, wearing his good store teeth as a uranium miner!. During the big climactic wasteland car chase, when he's dying with his elderly head cradled in the laps of a backseat full of liberated pacifist concubines, a cute blonde warrior driving while a wanderer of the wasteland shoots from the passenger seat-- a horny mutant warlord in hot pursuit in his tricked-out, warrior-bedecked ride across the barren wasteland, you realize suddenly - holy shit! It prefigures the climax of Mad Max: Fury Road! Considering Frogtown is one of that slew of post-Road Warrior apocalypse road trip rip-off homages, it's almost spookily 'full circle' prescient (has George Miller seen this movie?)

Why Hillary: One look at the face of the odious frog king and you'll be reminded of a certain amphibious also-runner behind Trump. Sandahl is Hillary being sold to the Middle States ('can she dance?' asks the Frog Prince in he fez before voting/purchasing); the passive, fertile harem are the women voters of swing states looking askance at the brutalizing Handmaid's Tale future awaiting them under The Frog mutant's sway even though they've been trained to submit (one grand dame frog lady takes a shine to Piper and frees him, though it means her death -- she'd be the swing state independent female voting bloc). The matriarchy embodies the idealized Hillary future. Scruffy Roddy stands for the American midwest, reckoning the pros and cons between giving a woman control of the nation's balls, or else letting power-hungry toads run riot over our civil liberties. Some choice.

(1979) Dir. David Cronenberg

If you need a map through this genuinely strange, disturbing Cronenberg picture, I'd say watch his subsequent film, SCANNERS first. That film is a zippy mind-expander with solid acting, exploding heads, Michael Ironside in his best role (his facial expressions when he's scanning are beyond brilliant). Here in BROOD-land things are a little less pleasingly Hitchcockian and more gender/menstrual/reproductive disturbing. Oliver Reed is Dr. Raglan, the controversial creator of a very 70s form of gestalt therapy called 'psychoplasmics.' A method of focusing rage that causes the body to break out in spots... or cancerous tubers or worse, little homicidal blonde moppets, it's the Freudian 'hysteric complex' writ large upon the body (instead of a paralyzed arm, an extra one).  Wildly unhinged Samantha Eggar plays Raglan's star patient, so deep into his regressive therapy he won't let her concerned husband get in to see her. Their child, on the other hand, is brought in for weekends, but comes home traumatized and bruised. Weird and kind of ridiculous, it all goes down in another wintry remote experimental clinic (Cronenberg has a thing for private clinics operated in the wintry Canadian byways - socialized medicine, must be nice).

I don't want to spoil the plot, but what's going on in the subtext is kind of a post-feminist version of FORBIDDEN PLANET's Monster from the Id, making this a bit like KRAMER VS. FRANKENSTEIN. It's pretty yucky in spots but, for me, the hirsute actor in the beginning demonstration is the most disturbing part. He's so open and needy in that gross kind of harrowingly 'lonely man-boy who goes to 70s encounter groups or ecstasy parties so people will touch him' kind of way he gives me hives. Still, him aside, the scene where a cute possible love interest Ruth Mayer (Susan Hogan with a great 70s elfin hair cut) is hammered to death by two of the monster kids right in front of her horrified kindergarten class is perhaps the most outrageous and deeply disturbing scene in all of 70s horror. Dude, there's always SCANNERS if you're squirrelly. If not, hold on, for once Eggar gets a decent size piece of scenery in her hands she tears it up an industrial wood chipper.

PS - Seeing this again, I recognize my new favorite stealth character actor: Robert A. Silverman (above). Wearing a white towel on his neck to cover an awful mutating psychoplasmic affliction, he's so good in BROOD --and as Hans in NAKED LUNCH (above), and the artist in SCANNERS--well, he just knocks all Cronenberg's films up a notch. Why only Cronenberg seems to know of his genius is beyond me. Toronto experimental theater's gain is the cinematic world's loss?

Why Hillary: It is foretold in ancient texts: amok liberalism ushered in by a woman prez shall lead to the return of the 70s encounter group /EST craze. The nuclear family unit will be broken apart by an anti-patriarchal shrink who won't let the husband have control over his own wife. It's Canadian but you can argue that the human body being ruptured in The Brood is America itself: "Raglan encouraged my body to revolt against me," notes Silverman, "and it did." Asking why he's suing when he can't possibly prove Raglan's methods gave him cancer, Silverman says he's doing it for revenge! So people will know from the press that "psychoplasmics cause cancer." -i.e., global warming. The title 'brood' are the protestors disrupting Trump rallies. As with the Trump supporters themselves, it's not important whether or not the orange one is a genuine threat, it's enough that the protestors/children get angry thinking about him, and the anger justifies the reprisal. Imagine if all the rage spewed on internet comment sections was able to manifest itself as armies of homicidal moppets?

We'd all be hammered.

(1994) Dir. Linda Hassani
Shot through a haze of red and blue with just the right amount of imagination (neither whimsical nor grungy), this Satanic daughter love story is like THE LITTLE MERMAID x SPECIES with a refreshing lack of qualms about sex, God, or killing. The story begins in Hell: an Old Testament-style marching line of desert-wandering souls (ala STARGATE x PHANTASM) head to their fates, guided by pumping ominous-but-giddy Fuzzbee Morse liturgy. Angela Featherstone stars as the young, wistful demoness Veronica, who's about to come of age and take over torturing the embezzling bankers of Hell, but she dreams instead of seeing the surfaces of Earth and walking under the sky. Even thinking such a thing is forbidden by her sputtering, over-acting demon father (the "psycho's psycho," Nicholas Worth). Undaunted by his furious scourging lashes, Veronica sneaks up to the land of men and immediately fathoms there is much good work to do, tearing the spines and hearts out of rapists and racist cops, feeding their hearts to her dog Hellraiser, and shacking up with a handsome sweet-souled doctor named Max (Daniel Markel). And if any homicide detective tries to get in her way, she just shows him the hellfire behind her glowing eyes while making dire announcements about the grim future that awaits mankind. That's enough to keep him from digging any deeper. Besides, the chief doesn't mind a few less rapists and racists on the streets.

Like some Satanic bible school instructional video, this confusingly-titled (there are about 100 shows and movies named Dark Angel) female-directed little miracle has become one my go-to favorites the last few years, thanks to its dreamlike grungy fairytale threadbare quality, its incongruity of set and setting (everyone speaks English but it was clearly filmed in Romania), its Shelly Duvall-meets-Val Lewton-in-Ed Wood's basement mythopoetic aesthetic, its great cast and its dusky red and black color scheme (ala another favorite, Ghosts of Mars). Sure, Featherstone isn't the greatest actress in the world, but what she lacks in chops is surpassed by what she has--the ability to project complete confidence and emotional vacancy at the same time--is unteachable. Her flatline reading of dialogue like "I've always wanted to witness people coupling, Max, but I never thought it would move me so much," is so spot-on you realize better (or worse) actresses would never be able to match it. They'd either try to be sexy (and come off campy), imperious (and come off stuffy), mean (and come off bitchy) or tough (and come off jokey), but Featherstone's assertive confidence and deadpan demeanor is so despite-itself sexy she gets away with the actor equivalent of murder, which is just right for Matthew Freeway Bright's genius script (full of great lines like: "I don't require the blessing of the one true church to engage in sexual relations, Max.") And when she unfolds her true form--wings, horn, tail--after orgasm--while luxuriating out in the bed, it's somehow very reassuring, as is her matter-of-fact way with wrapping human hearts in newspaper to feed Hellraiser. I've only ever seen that kind of deadpan female genius--commanding both adoration and respect--in German science fiction film female characters from the 70s (as in STAR MAIDENS in the west, ELEOMA and IM STAUB DER STERNE in the east). It's sad America has never been able to duplicate it. Even Featherstone and Hassani had to go Romania to show it. Why there wasn't a sequel (judging from the title more than one was planned) I don't know, unless of course it's the damn patriarchy, the same one that stops STAR MAIDENS or those other films from being released, yet gives us no end of sequels to horror films starring men and/or puppets.

Why Hillary: One of Veronica's first assignments down in Hell is to come up with creative ways to punish the lawyers and bankers, mirroring Hillary's promise to clean up Wall Street. When Veronica kills two racist cops after they beat up on a black guy she mirrors Clinton's support of Black Lives Matter.  Predictions of a hellfire future for sinners mirrors Hill's certainty that global warming will haunt the future of big oil consumers. Also, Veronica tells a nun "she cannot enter a church" as she "would surely combust' --depending on whom you ask, neither can Hillary! 

In Hell, the cinema has cold, unpadded wood seats. 
(1985) Dir. Lamberto Bava 

In the land of Trump it's all about the thermonuclear family, be it ever so "humbly" nouveau-riche (I don't want much," as Groucho Marx would say, "just a little place where I can phone my wife and tell her I wont be home for dinner.") But this Italian film, shot in Berlin, in the 80s, sums up life in conquered Axis countries after the death of disco. It's the story of a demonic theater showing a film about a silver mask triggering a demon outbreak, and there's a promotional display silver mask in the theater lobby that actually causes a demon outbreak. When a brave prostitute seeing the movie with her cool pimp tries it on, the mask pricks her skin and she becomes patient zero for an outbreak of demons running around in the theater ala MONSTERS CRASH PAJAMA PARTY.

If you saw DEMONS in the same theater as the characters seeing the movie in the film, with the same actors all in the theater (as might be at the premiere) then I can imagine this might freeze your hard drive with its meta refraction, i.e. the folks at the advance screening midnight show of DARK KNIGHT RISES in Aurora, Colorado. But at home, decades later, it's just a dumb hair metal stoner kind of good time. Produced and co-written by Dario Argento, with the help of director Michele Soavi (STAGEFRIGHT), featuring sublime boom operation by Angelo Amatulli (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS), and music from Claudio 'Goblin' Simonetti, it's truly an Argento-Goblin-Bava Jr. family affair, by which I mean nowhere near as good as 70s Argento but nowhere near as bad as 00's Argento, and still nowhere near as meta as the best Soavi.

Genius is fleeting --even in the best of us.

Michele Soavi - showing his good side
Lamberto Bava, though bless him, never was/is a genius, nor even a terribly decent director. I don't envy having the pressure of such an iconic legitimate genius father (Mario) to measure up to, but with no talent for either blocking, pacing, or storytelling, Lamberto must get by with a little help from his talented friends. Argento lends him the brilliant red and blue lighting gels from SUSPIRIA; a selection of MTV-ready rock songs by Billy Idol, Rick Springfield, and Mötley Crüe adds just the right note of 80s 8th grade 8-ball of crank snorting dirtbag shop class idiocy; Soavi himself plays an enigmatic robot with his human mask half-gone (or a human with half his robot mask gone). Meanwhile, a carload of coked-up punks drive around downtown Berlin, eating up the running time with out-the-window-B-roll as they snort their coke through a straw in a Coke cup. Is that genius or idiocy? Exactly. Once a full-size helicopter drops through the ceiling of the auditorium after the surviving couple have ridden a motorbike riding up and down the aisles killing demons with a samurai sword, then you finally realize maybe you love this dumb film. It took over an hour to get there, but there you are. For me, though, the best section is the slow lead-up to when the first victim in the film-within-the-film and the first killing offscreen match up in their anguished noises, and a giant close up of a flashing blade on screen seems to be cutting the (normal size relative to the audience) 'real' girl's head off. But once the film-within-a-film runs out, and everyone realizes they're trapped, that kind of meta weirdness fades in favor of long stretches of typical (but nonetheless diverting) demon attacks. There are way too many special effects shots of facial postules dripping food coloring green goo, but stick around. And don't leave during the credits - the film just keeps on rolling.

And give thanks to Hulu, now you can watch it on your phone in perfect safety (the screen is too small for any demon to climb through).

WARUM DIE HILL?  Filmed in Germany, that land where a single demonic prick started an outbreak of inhuman violence that swept the continent, it's waiting for just the right moment to bubble up and burst anew upon the acne-scarred facial landscape. And, to make it all about this moment in America, a woman starts all the madness off by insisting on trying on the mask in the lobby (cuz ladies always be tryin' on strange display masks in lobbies, am I right fellas?)

(2001) Dir. Stuart Gordon
We of the Lovecraft cult have become quite used to being disappointed by big screen adaptions. Maybe it's because the pantheon of his elder Gods like Cthulhu, Yog Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath and their hideous half-human offspring--all summonable via the unholy bible of black magic, the Necronomicon--reverberate far deeper than ordinary mind's eye boogeymen. No 2D or 3D representation can compare. Seeming to cohere out of the electric blur behind our eyelids, these indescribably leviathans urge us forward through Lovecraft's prose as if his writing had its own dark power to transcend the very limits of fiction, so that just reading the story we might waken the elder behemoths from their slumber in the timeless ocean below our archaic collective unconsciousness. Naturally no film is going to be able to capture that feeling. Carpenter's IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS was about that feeling, but didn't create it, and suffered from bad 90s clothes, hair, and acting. Corman made a decent stab at it with Vincent, but the results weren't quite up to his Poe stuff. Thank the Mad Arab, then, for Stuart Gordon, whose FROM BEYOND and RE-ANIMATOR are easily the two best Lovecraft adaptations. In each he wisely keeps the events flowing in something like real time, over a single night or weekend, so there's seldom time to get or need a 'third eye' complete picture. Seeing protagonists being chased along progressively more surreal avenues without ever stopping for a dissolve captures just what the stories are like: snapshots of Hell barely developed before they're already burning, the terror of nightmare momentum, racing across a dangling rope bridge over the yawning chasm of alarm clock death/waking.

For DAGON, Gordon adapts Lovecraft's quintessential "Shadow over Innsmouth" moving the locale from New England to an ancient Spanish fishing village, and having the action go down over one long rainy afternoon into late rainy evening, capturing the strange disorienting nightmare of trying to procure help after a freak storm rolls in and hurls a passing yacht--helmed by American investment wizard Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden)--onto a rocky outcrop, trapping him under the onrushing flood of water from the hull. Guests Paul and his Spanish girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Meroño) rush ashore to get help, are immediately separated by a seemingly friendly priest and... well, the weirdness never lets up for a moment, nor does the rain.

As a fan of the original story, I balked at the substituting contemporary Spain for olde New England but the language barrier actually adds a nice gateway frisson New England would lack. In the terror and confusion of panic in a weird town, the locals may very well start to resemble fish monsters even in the best of circumstances. I was lost in Prague once and the same thing happened!

All in all, DAGON comes as close as any adaptation yet as far as capturing the eerie mood of the fish god cult mythos, and the feeling that some wild recurring dream is coming true and that, between these nightmare wafers, is a wet (literally) dream cream filling, the sort of nightmare magic that happens when the dreaming male's conscious ego meets his mermaid-esque unconscious anima (Macarena Gómez) and it's as if time stands still and you 'wake up' from reality. The truth of the dream and the moment stretches across all time and space; the world around you vanishes; the dichotomies of dreams and waking, of past and future, real and surreal, are momentarily--maybe permanently, fatally--transcended. All dichotomies re-submerged: childhood and adulthood / life and death / male and female / mammal and cephalopod...

Wait what was that last one? Kiss me, baby, and never mind.

POR QUE HILÁRAYE K'LIHN-TOÑ: An evil fish god cult priest incites the elders to smash the iconography of the Christian church? The locals kill a Rupert Murdoch-esque yachtsman (offscreen)? Hell yeah. And the open ending suggests the future depends on the Democratic Party's ability to adapt to weird new paradigms as the only viable answer (vs. the Republican Party's resistance to change). As with the other films on this list it's ultimately about a sort of high Precambrian matriarchy. The plethora of Spanish speakers stands as a mockery to the the anti-immigrant Trump supporters who consider it a violation of their civil rights if you try to explain the difference between Spain and Mexico.

(1975) Dir. David Cronenberg
I disgust la SHIV in an oilier post but fack it. Spiked with livid, funny gross outs and a red kidney thing hopping inside any old orifice, here's a 'careful what you wish for' example of 70s singles swinging rather too successfully. As the wild orgy heats up, maybe ask yourself: is this how the red states really think we behave up here in the blue beyond? Or is it just how they would, were they not good decent Christians? Either way, you may never want to have sex again, and--on behalf of our stressed planet--thank you for that. Looking almost sex ed film crummy, it really should be shown in every high school health class, for it would chasten the louchest Hefner. The performances are deceptively brilliant; the moments of freeze frame slow motion unique and effective; the scenes of orgies breaking out in the halls and stairwells remind me of drug parties I've... heard about... on Fox News. Just thinking about Fox News in fact should answer your question why this film is 'Hillary-esque'! After it's over, you'll be grateful for all the repression that makes social order of any sort possible.

(2005) Dir. Neil Marshall

(1970) Dir. Jaromil Jireš

(2000) Dir. John Fawcett

(1935) Dir. Merien C. Cooper


"I wrote 'fertilizing the eggs,' Gene."

Thursday, April 21, 2016


The woods --alternately uncanny and familiar--are a 'free' way to draw value from trees that's less damaging than clear-cutting. Shit in the woods = archaic. Lost in the woods = easy to happen. Conclusion: shit in the woods and if only the bears hear it, you know you're fucked. I got lost once in the heart of NYC, just trying to get across the upper wild swaths of Central Park one lonesome afternoon. If you've been up there in the wilds of the Northern sections you know how creepy and forlorn it can get and how fast; I wound up going in a big ass circle for a full hour. Nothing more heartbreaking than walking ever more quickly with a mild panic generating in your stomach only to find you're right back where you started, still no one in sight to ask for help or direction, just some snooty squirrel that stands there staring, mocking you.

Blair Witch Project is still the high benchmark for that kind of unease. Those kids might have literally been a mere half mile from a highway and never known it. Once we lose our orientation in amidst the deep woods, it doesn't matter if civilization is right around the next hill or a hundred miles away; we're on our own.

(2002) Dir. Neil Marshall

You think it's easy to be a straight male, age 11-55, when it comes to movies, TV, and commercials? Watching a movie on Syfy like Underworld: Awakening for the 100th time, and still not liking it, but sticking with it because it quenches some weird fanboy desire for monsters, sexy pale skin brunettes, violence, and car crashes (a need catered to with pandering directness, punctuated with bro-demo-angling commercials for fantasy football gambling sites, and chips flavored to taste like bacon). Kate Beckinsale, all smokin' crystal blue eyes, in a skin tight leather catsuit wielding twin .45 automatics: it's all for us, SMs age 14-55: for our stunted adolescent minds.  No matter how much our higher self sighs in disdain, we can't resist.

Hoping to galvanize rather than indulge, director Neil Marshall's 2002 debut is a Hawksian, darkly comic male group camaraderie version of his better-known female camaraderie DESCENT (2003). It's a gory, playfully macho, riveting, terse, gory, slightly cheeky 'werewolves vs. British infantry squad on maneuvers' sort of SOUTHERN COMFORT meets the initial 'moors' sequence of AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON sort of thing. Like THE DESCENT, it ends with an all-out balls-to-the-wall brawl, dwindling down the numbers on both sides until only the true toughies remain. While they last, the cast is tops, especially the cool-in-a-crisis, Max von Sydow-esque Pvt. Cooper (Kevin McKidd) and the bullet-headed badass Sgt. Harry Wells (Sean Pertwee, a kind of Michael Caine, Jason Statham, and Bob Hoskins bolted together with oily lug nuts). Their manly rapport and gives the film an adrenalin savagery-switchpoint boost. Hawksians wit, esprit de corps and armament savvy ("three-round bursts!") provides an outside-the-box form of survivalist enlightenment that overflows the boundaries of both the werewolf and survival-behind-the-lines genre parameters. Some choice dialogue worthy of Leigh Bracket ("I hope I give you the shits, you wimp!") flows in natural, overlapping style (clearly the result of diligent training and rehearsing as an ensemble). There's even a Hawksian woman (Emma Cleasby - top)--a local who takes the boys to the rustic soon-besieged cabin--who'd be right at home in THE DESCENT and it's great to see a strong woman rescue a squad of men rather than the reverse.

Mark Thomas's orchestral theme is mostly good though gets a little to bouncy for horror and at times seems remarkably similar David Julyan's in THE DESCENT... Marshall clearly needs to hear all the great retro-analog synth stuff being done these days, they would have helped, his nonetheless underrated and very Carpenterian DOOMSDAY). The special effects are first rate, creating a blackly comic Howling-esque body horror element without sacrificing terse vivid something-at-stake realness;  and the thick old growth of mountainous Luxembourg (filling in for Northern Scotland) makes ideal territory for such isolated do-or-die standing, and Marshall's gritty 16mm camera swoops around capturing events with an intriguing if washed-out low-light immediacy that evokes early films by Cronenberg, Stanley, Craven, Raimi, Barker, and Romero, and compares well against all of them. Final note: considering the shoddy treatment of dogs in horror films, I thought I should mention that the shifty MI-6 guy (Liam Cunningham) who tries to make Cooper shoot a dog to toughen him up in the intro (and kicks Cooper out of his elite squad when he won't) gets his canine comeuppance, so don't let that moment throw you.

(1980) Dir. Graydon Clark

There's a few things we need to get straight right now: I know this post is collecting cool woodsy horror flicks, and no one loves scary woods in movies more than me. But honey, this film's woods--supposedly dark and deep and perfect for hunters--looks like the scrub where all the cheap LA cop shows film bodies being dumped and cars pulling over to hand-off ransom money. There are almost no trees, just dry desert shrubbery, yet these woods hold not only bivouacking cub scouts led by a Patton-paraphrasing scoutmaster (Larry Storch), sets of necking teens, a greasy Cameron Mitchell using a very anachronistic blue collar Brooklyn goomba accent while trying to make a grouse-killer of his pacifist son, and a pre-Pedator alien who's been hunting the most dangerous game, using a nearby groundskeeper shed as his trophy room. If you watch Final Terror (reviewed below)--with its great old growth and beautiful stark photography--as I did, right before this, the thoroughly second-rate look of Without Warning can be a tough adjustment. Carpenter cameraman Dean Cundey knocks out a nice magic hour and the occasional Steadicam fleeing (and a funky bat shuriken POV), but couldn't they at least get a permit to shoot at Bronson Canyon like everybody else? And while David Caruso is one of the first-killed teens (during sex in a "lagoon" lower right), his death is mostly off camera! Why else are we here if not to see him die? Worse, the script includes enough strangely-emphatic anti-hunting oratory to count as passive-aggressive screed, even if the landscape looks like all it might yield is a stray golf ball or a shopping cart full of cans as far as game.

But hey, once-top drawer B-list stalwarts like Ralph Meeker, Jack Palance, Neville Brand and Martin Landau enter the story, via a Bodega Bay-ish bar of colorful drunks and eccentric locals, all of whom refuse to believe the outlandish story of our frantic college boy hero, well, things get quite tolerable, and so vividly rendered by Cundey's camera you can smell the blend of musty naugahyde, cigarettes and stale beer. And as much as the other older actors may be phoning it in or hamming it up (Landau especially is awful), Palance-as the big game hunting gas station herald who sees the chance to hunt the alien as a kind of two-way intergalactic Most Dangerous Game--is terrific. Palance never phoned it in or shouted it from across the street in his life, and here he's in his B-list element.

Thou shalt not suffer a ginger in a magic hour pond to live! 
But now to the one real liability (or strength depending on your frame of mind): the teenage male lead, Christopher S. Nelson, a kid who makes Zach Galligan seem like Humphrey Bogart by comparison. One can imagine an acting teacher showing this film as an example of "What Not to Do" in film acting. You can see the way he overthinks and sabotages himself time and again. Sometimes he'll fall into the swing of a scene almost by chance, helped along by the skill of the good actors around him--he'll just 'be' in the scene and not consciously trying to remember his lines---then you see the thought cross his eyes, oops, I forgot where I was! And with a sudden frenetic lurch he starts 'acting' again and you can feel the crew slap their heads and roll their eyes, and then just decide well, 45 takes are enough - we'll roll that one. Such spastic terribleness works when his character is supposed to be wildly unsteady, hysterical with fear, such as laughing maniacally when the windshield wipers knock off the monsters, or paralyzed by nervous confusion (and he does a good job in a scene spinning paranoid tales of world domination to stall paranoid psycho Landau) but everywhere else it seems more like he's auditioning for a student film or trying to make his acting teacher kill himself. He's very pretty though, and, I hate to say it, but Landau's performance is almost just as bad!

Hard to believe? See this film! And realize the way older character actors were valued in the late 70s-early 80s in ways they're not now. Once, nearly every old star could still get work for scale as expository landlords on TV movies or old timer sheriffs on cop shows, or barflies mouthing old timer-style exposition to frightened kids. As long as they weren't too proud--in Dinner at Eight parlance--to play the beachcomber, they were working. But where are they now, aside from dead?

Final girl Tarah Nutter rocks cute braids (above) but her character is such a useless cringing liberal you'll want to jab her with an NRA button 
Things really pick up in the last few reels, even if it never quite gets to its feet. The idea that Invasion of the Body Snatchers-meets-Red Dawn 'nam paranoia would turn Landau into a second threat ("Sarge, you are not in the army no more." shouts the barkeep) is pretty original, as far as it goes, so it's too bad the posters show off the alien right off the bat, squashing the big reveal. But hey, if you've seen Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster as many times as I have, you may appreciate the strength of Without Warning's destitute delusions. Many of my fellow writers saw it and loved it as kids in the early-early 80s on late-night cable (at a time where there often weren't even movie descriptions in the TV Guide, let alone spoiler-alert posters). I never saw Without Warning back then, but I can pretend.

If only I could pretend its canyon scrub was actual woods.

(1983) Dir. Andrew Davis

If, to savor WW's Corman-like deadpan self-aware humor and adherence to a beloved formula, you sometimes need to let go of any sense of atmosphere, coherence, or quality, it's just the opposite with The Final Terror. Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) not only directs, he does the cinematography, and very well, so there's a total harmony between atmosphere and actors one rarely sees outside, say, John Boorman. This is partly because Davis shipped his cast and crew up to Northern California's old growth forest for his film, and what could be too dark (especially in muddy VHS) or too washed out due to the canopy is--instead--just right on Blu-ray: gorgeous yet ominous, claustrophobic yet Wagnerianly vast.

It’s the tale of some young park rangers rafting downriver with their girlfriends and enjoying a week of freedom from parental restrictions (sleeping bag fornication unfettered) that--as might be inferred-- turns mighty terrifying as someone starts killing them off. A religiously uptight local boy-- played with the usual zest by a miscast Joe Pantoliano--is their chief suspect but, well, I can't spoil the events further except to note that the real message at work isn't the usual slasher covert return to conservative values (i.e. sex leaves you very vulnerable to attack, so return to repression) but the reverse, a realization that no uptight slasher can stand a chance against a crew of outdoorsy young people with some basic training (National Guard, ROTC) under their belt if they stick together.

In other words it's almost a a 'response' to the slasher craze rather than a part of that craze. It's certainly quieter. The cast is a-brim with both future stars (Rachel Ward, Daryl Hannah) and semi-familiar faces (Lewis "Perfect Tommy" Smith, and Mark "Is that a pledge pin? On your uniform?!!" Metcalf) but some unknown named John Friedrich steals the show after he avails himself of too many of the killers' psilocybe cubensis mushrooms and starts oscillating between being the group's military tactician savior and biggest liability (shades of Patton!). He'll evoke Harold Wayne Jones in The Crazies for you one minute, and the next you'll wish there were more guys like them in these kinds of movies, dudes who illustrate how he who protects you from outside evil can't save you from the evil of themselves.

I don’t want to give too much away, but you know that, queasy feminist that I am, if I can enjoy a film in this disreputable subgenre it’s only because there’s no sexual assaults, unnecessary cruelty, terrible gore effects, or shitty dialogue. Final Terror does not have those things... in spades. If it has little else either, hey, the old growth woods look literally dark and deep; the skulking killer's camouflage leaf jacket blends so well into the surrounding vegetation that it’s startling when a filthy hand emerges to smooth a sleeping girl's hair in the early dawn; Susan Justin’s weird piano and atonal synth score hits the right notes every scene... except one... and Daryl Hannah.

(2015) Dir Corin Hardy

Irish horror--drawing on their national arts funding, eerie emerald-colored landscape (often enhanced with green tints and filters), and dark Celtic folk tales--is on a roll these days and THE HALLOW is a worthy example. Bojana Novakovic and Joseph Mawle star as new parents moving into a woebegone house at the edge of a foreboding Irish forest and the ominous trouble starts the moment mom takes down the window bars. The locals tell the dad--a botanist intent on researching local tree blight--not to wander too deep off the path through the woods, and to take nothing he finds home with him. But he needs samples, and it looked like blight, so no woodland sprite might object to some tree blight being scraped off. But is it blight?

Not according to the legends.

But who believes auld legends these days? Only the spooked locals with their allegedly ignorant tradition. So the wife takes down the bars and charms from around the windows to let in what passes for sunshine in Ireland and dad finds, as you might imagine, some mighty strange black mold samples to bring home. That night they're besieged by an array of Irish faerie lore-originated spooky tricks, the worst of which is the swapping out human babies with weird changelings, raising the human kids in the woods (like the changeling in MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM so coveted by Oberon) and generating weird suspicion betwixt the couple, and tracking mold all over the walls and floor.

They told ye not to go into those damn woods, ya bómán! Ye auld Leathcheann! 

The feature debut of Corin Hardy. The Hallow is not quite the resounding announcement of 'I am here, I am now!' horror genius we got with Jennifer Kent's BABADOOK or Robert Egger's THE WITCH or David Robert Mitchell's IT FOLLOWS, but it's close enough, and the monsters are interesting fusions of trees, mold and people (like the 1951 THING coupled to the hyper-evolutionary mutation ability in the remake), and the idea of the changeling is very subtle and creepily represented, as Clare must decide if it's her infanticidal husband (mutating from woodland fairy venom infection) or the baby (which she dredged up from the bottom of the lake) who's still 'real.'

Despite semi-strange interludes toward the end (which decency forbids me to explain) everything is fairly believable and all fast moving in the kind of tight kinetic 'all in a single long late afternoon-through-to-dawn' (tick-tock) momentum. You might come away only mildly plussed when all's said and done but it's quite a ride. I didn't get up to refill my drink or have a slash once during the whole 90-minute running-time. The lighting is moody and the acting terrific - I mean Novakovic and Mawle are committed, and at times seem like--institutionally-speaking--they literally should be. They're more terrifying than the monsters crawling through their vents, and their veins, and vice versa.

And like all the films discussed here, the woods are a major element --psychologically and diegetically. Filmed with an ingenious palette of murky green colors seemingly culled from the depth of darkness, they've never looked so creepy and gorgeous. Best of all, there's no gibbering rapists, claustrophobic abductions or sadistic cruelty, all which I'm bloody sick of. I like my horror to be supernatural and trading on deep unconscious drives rather than brutal true crime torture porn. Our world is bad enough on its own! No wonder the trees want to leave.

But in Ireland, aye, the trees seem to be coming back... le bhfeice!

Friday, April 15, 2016


Whenever someone like Warner Herzog starts talking about dreams, a kind of stale bourgeois abstraction seems to dampen the word, like some doctoral declawing of what is in 'reality' a vivid brutal fiction. Such declawers, these radically horrifically sane Herzog types, studiously miss the big picture; they can't see that it all begins and ends in a single chemical, DMT.

It's the stuff dreams are made of-- a gland in the center of the brain called the pineal makes it. Located above the reptilian cortex and behind the higher mammalian functioning empathy, the pineal is neither/or. It's that pine cone-looking thing the bird monster Annunaki is sticking into the prototype human's forehead on those old Sumerian tablets (left). It's beyond DNA life itself. It's the third eye, and it's long been calcified, due to the slow infiltration of our precious bodily fluids. It's an idea that's really grabbed hold, starting as far as I can tell, with General Ripper's measured declaration: "Fluoridation... is the most monstrously conceived... and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face."

Think it's a joke? Interdimensional power animals pointed some sites out to me, and suggested I get a pineal gland tuning fork (for real!). And I did!
"...the pineal gland has become calcified due to fluoride in our water and toothpaste to "Dumb" us down and sever this divine connection. Our exclusive Pineal Gland Tuning fork is designed to vibrate at the frequency of the pineal gland, loosening that calcification and strengthening the Divine Connection!" - Soma Energetics
Imagine my surprise then, when just like Kubrick's General Ripper, Lovecraft wrote a story that involves these very tuning forks summoning third eye monsters:
"The waves from that thing are waking a thousand sleeping senses in us; senses which we inherit from aeons of evolution from the state of detached electrons to the state of organic humanity. . . . You have heard of the pineal gland?... That gland is the great sense-organ of organs — I have found out. It is like sight in the end, and transmits visual pictures to the brain." - H.P. Lovecraft ("From Beyond")
“If I accept the idea that this world has no invisible entities, this would mean that I’m agreeing with a single culture only a couple hundred years old and disagreeing with almost every other known culture that has ever existed on the planet. I’m not particularly convinced that we, among all the cultures of the planet, have discovered that these entities don’t really exist." -- James Fadiman (Teeming Brain)
We fans of Lovecraft know three things: 1) his visions of the alternate dimensional elder gods are so on point he was either schizophrenic or a psychedelic drug using shaman. 2) Either way, his pineal gland was obviously de-calcified. 3) There are only a handful of decent film adaptations of his work. Maybe it's just that his descriptions are so outlandish it's as if they tap into a deeper well of imagination than the one tapped by most horror fiction authors. His creatures dwell far beyond what can be duplicated on film. To cast normal horror fiction in our brain (when reading) we use a basic set of archetypal faces and shapes--humans with knives, spiders, snakes--but Lovecraft calls for us to reach back, past that original survival instinct imprinting, into the basement depths for the old dusty box of ancient images we didn't even know were there, back before... we were... 'changed.'

If normal fiction like Stephen King is Candyland, Lovecraft reaches back in the closet and pulls out this game (below), a complex month-long brain-melter that you'd swear wasn't there before. Its pieces are twisted into nightmarish figures dusty from time. You know you've never seen them before... yet they're so familiar... so uncanny:

In other words, Lovecraft's fiction is 'true' beyond our normal conceptions of both truth and fiction, and maybe he had some unique gift to activate his own pineal gland via electrified tuning forks, as seen in Stuart Gordon's FROM BEYOND (1986). It starts as a deranged sadomasochistic (impotent) scientist Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and his assistant Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) create a machine that amplifies the frequency of their pineal glands. This allows them to see the monstrous creatures in the parallel dimensions, including eel like creatures swimming through the air, and giant worm type beings. One of them bites off Pretorius' head, sending Crawford running from the house screaming, a gibbering madman. (Presumably the channel works both ways - if you see them they can see you, too... hey, why not?)

Crawford is institutionalized. Dr. Pretorius' head is still missing, and a sexy psychiatrist Dr. McMichaels (Barbara Crampton - left) feels the only way the head will be found is if they recreate the experiment in Pretorius' lab attic. The results? The doctor rematerializes, merged with the worm thing and able to bring his/its kinky sadistic sex dominating fantasies to bear (he has a closet of bondage gear and a pillory in his room) through unholy trans-dimensional power. As the Pretorius worm keeps turning the machine back on from his alternate dimension, Tillinghast's pineal gland escapes his cranium. Poking out like an angler fish's lantern, it becoming a sentient thing all unto itself, feeding on the brains of others, and McMichaels gets kinky as the pineal stimulation sheds inhibition and increases sexual intensity.

What's funny is that now years later, the pineal tuning fork and amplified pineal-activating soundwave system turns out to actually work. It certainly worked for me back during the 2012 galactic alignment. There was no sex drive enhancement though, quite the opposite, more like lighting the stove of the long unlit crown chakra as the others fade in power. In conjunction with salvia divinorum, deep meditation, and drone music (included below if you have Spotify), the results were literally mind-altering.
(Skip this next part unless you're planning to take the journey. And if you are, see also my 'enlightened' side site, Medsitation)

the Void- white noise; Buddha- TV station;
your pineal gland: TV antenna (a guru would
be a descrambler box, or signal booster)
There ARE demons like the Lovecraftian elder gods however, so you need to be resolute, and trust in a higher power to act as a kind of 'no place like home' life raft, or-- in my visualization--one of those Nerf footballs kids clutch to their chests in order to float better in the deep end. This will occupy your conscious mind, distract it and center it so you don't panic as your entire construct of self, of id-ego-superego is unraveled, like a ball of twine, until there's nothing of 'you' left at all, just that Nerf football, which then lifts up without you holding onto it, and the pool vanishes and it goes up and up and you're still with it somehow, faster and faster and right through the monsters at the gates as if they were just papier mache animated miniature golf hazards (for no monster can maul empty air) and into the green of the undifferentiated self (the 'whole in one'). Once past those hazard demon arms, which continue to reach out menacingly at invisible golfers next in line at the hole, so to speak, you're now beyond time and space (up the chute into illuminated blackness). You notice there are very few other souls up/out/in there--and they are indistinguishable from the elements around them -as are you, for all is one, though not quite inseparable. You sense a few other consciousnesses bopping in--Buddhist monks, hippies like yourself, god helmet wearers-- their activated kundalini pineal glands all like fleeting little fireflies in the electrified darkness. But there are a few full figures materialized up there. The one I 'saw' was a giant meditating motionless Buddha in the center of an overflowing fountain, the water pooling in his lap, running slowly through a network of capillary grooves down into my forehead, though not only to me, but to anyone who could tune his frequency in (for any number of TV antennae can pick up a signal without diluting/changing it); I knew that he wasn't making the energy so much as forming it, like a Ben Franklin lightning kite, so the 'key' on our end of the kundalini string (the pineal) would electrify.

Rather than just the blinding white noise of pure oneness/the void (Dharmakaya), of being struck ourselves by lightning and obliterated, we were given via Buddha's mediation just the right dose. But there are other 'kites' up there, not all of them 'good.' The breakthrough can be quite insane and painful on a psychic level as your third eye (which is experienced mostly in vivid dreams, as during bad fevers or sleeping with a nicotine patch on) full opens and you feel what some have termed 'the baby teeth of the dragon' unzipping you from you psychic cocoon like a vacuum cleaner bag, your impurities and soul dust being electrified and zapped away as your construct of self is unraveled, and it feels like the area above but behind your eyes in the center of your forehead is a small burning electrode struggling to escape out of your forehead. And maybe eat the brains of the bitchy shrink.

The worst most terrifying received third eye image for me was the gigantic rotating Medusa head planet, its fiery mouth a giant hellish furnace, bloody sharp and full of fire all at once, the Kali demoness at her most staggeringly terrifying, as I floated in place above her planet in the upper stratosphere, the rotation of the planet passed below me. I knew that the mouth, the fiery gorgon maw, would soon pass underneath where I floated, and then not just the mental and physical portions of myself, but the 'Whole Self,' soul included, would be be devoured in flames; and that is a terror vastly beyond any I'd felt before or since. But I prayed and then felt the clouds of reality part behind me and a giant glowing electric hand of god or an angel reaching through to touch me on the shoulder as I sat there in my lotus position, and all was electrified with love and trust and I was saved /cured/ awake. I knew there was a God because there He was, hand on my shoulder. Or some angel.

Of course I tried to share this in AA, minus the salvia part, but they thought I was crazy. Why wouldn't they? Later that god--or its shadow/variation--turned out to be a trickster, sneering in contemptuous sadistic laughter after I got shut down by this girl I had fallen in love at first sight with. Reeling from her deft rebuff, I took the wrong direction on the subway and rode it to the end. Not that my pain was particularly undeserved... Gods are not always gentle in their teachings.

Crampton as Dr. McMichaels (post-pineal activation)

These days, having had my rebirth moment already, the unfolding of my constituted reality until I'm back in the womb of the undifferentiated self, I've lost completely that spiritual yearning I used to have, that feeling which drove me to 'see more' all through my 20s and 30s, and some of 40s. It was like I knew there was a crazy movie out there I wanted to see, a movie most people denied existed. But I tracked it down and finally saw it, three or four times, and then I became it, fully, and now have no desire to ever see it again. My whole self quest is over. I know where I'm going after death. Whether I'm right or not is irrelevant. Yesterday I thought I was dying - I couldn't breathe - thought I had lung failure. Today it's raining and I'm fine. Conclusion: allergies. Cigarette regimen, resume... cautiously. My cigarette break buddy Sean's getting an artificial heart valve. Baby, that death drive ain't no joke. Then again, I only feel that way when it's breathing down my neck, Medusa's hellmouth slowly revolving below me as I float in perfect stillness of motion above the planet, and I guess in grand Munchausen style I'm hoping for another last minute god hand before that mouth swallows me. I can't even remember the spiritual terror of that hell devouring moment -a kind of deep level of existential dread I've never experienced in real life, not since childhood nightmares. It's not the hellfire though, it's the feeling of being cut-off from the feeling of it. We need to ignore death to function in the world, but if we ignore it too well we piss it off, and it comes gunning.

(PS - 11/17 - I went to the doctor and have COPD, I should have listened to the rain)

BATAILLES: take it to the Limit-Experience"

Let me now hogtie in all that with HELLRAISER and those kinky-ass Cenobites: the sadosmasochistic pleasure pain principle taps into notions forged in the heated French brain of Georges Batailles; it finds fruition in the strange, feverish clued-in mind of Lovecraft and later Clive Barker. The idea that normal pleasure becomes stale compared to agony and the merging of both. My old guitarist who loves cocaine also likes 'gonzo' porn, and misogynistic horror movies, to my eternal dismay. I've demanded he weed out lyrics like "shot the bitch on down," and I learned from studying to be a drug counsellor that cocaine addicts are often very intensely into bondage porn, ordering vile shit off the internet in the dead of night and forgetting about it the next afternoon when they wake up, and then getting packages from bondage sites a week later and not remembering ordering it or even seeing the site, and then feeling horrified when they open it, like their cocaine binge self is a perverse amoral Mr. Hyde shopping the dark alleys behind Amazon. Cocaine removes the mammal empathy impediments to our inner reptilian objectifying sex monster, so sensation, power and self-gratification become so essential we're addicts for whom the high needs constant 'upping' not to be a low. I would say I'm immune to all this, but I remember as an eight year-old, imagining having a harem of girls I liked from school, all forced to kneel before me in chains etc. - Shit I used to fantasize about as a kid actually, up until around the thirdd grade, when my sense of empathy began to kick in. Now I wonder if my deep feminist repulsion towards any display of this kind of sick reptilian cortex sadism is just a long con version of that cocaine fiend's horror at getting the package.


Then there's this slick new feature length men's fragrance commercial disguised as a Bond movie called SPECTRE.  It has a pretty great train fight, a smokin' hot babe (Léa Seydoux) who looks lovely with her perfectly mussed blonde hair over a black turtleneck against a snowy white Alpen backdrop (j'adore), and a glum attitude of leftist disaffect: systemic corruption is dragging MI6 down the drain. Now the chips are so stacked against our Mr. Bond that, after he rides right into the dragon's den, has his arch enemy Stavros (Christophe Waltz, yet again) display how the entire purpose of the vast chain of human misery since the dawn of Casino Royale has been to keep that sinewy ever-clenched jaw muscle on Daniel Crag's face forever woeful, for the most ridiculous of reasons (sibling rivalry!), that we can't help but grow sick of the whole series, even the Connery ones! Luckily, though the bad guys know all 007's secrets, they of course aren't bright enough to remove his trick watch when they strap him to the torture chair. One well-placed pistol shot later and the whole entire billion dollar complex is up in flames. And once again the lucky lady and the lucky shot-popping Mr. Bond are off to another designer boutique parfum tableaux.

Not to say there's not some great vistas, but really... the chain of paranoid logic at work is so wearying in its oppressive glitz that SPECTRE becomes the most un-Bond Bond ever. At least Roger Moore's movies didn't turn you off and make you want to read a book or go out and play instead of lollygagging in front of the TV. It's as if--having gone back to basics in SKYFALL--director Sam Mendes wanted to just scrub everything we love and care about in the series he's shepherding, putting him in the same buzzkill category as Dave Fincher in ALIEN 3. He turns what should be a romp into an 'interrogation of power' 70s-style 'everyone is corrupt' conspiracy downer like THE PARALLAX VIEW or THE FORMULA, albeit one dressed up like a Rolex watch ad supplement in Esquire. More depressing even than QUANTUM OF SOLACE, it posits all the global superpowers as so dumb they'd turn over their national security to a shady private contractor at the first sign of trouble, like if the US Army gave its lunch money to some kid who claimed to be from the Black Hand. And MI6 still lets the entire weight of the world order rest on one man's shoulders, even while loudly ordering him to let it drop. And nary a scene goes by without some sort of high-end tie-in. The hypocrisy is beyond any Situationist's remedy.

Fight corporate synergy in affordable style and comfort
In short, the writers love to set up plush high end noir Bildenberg conspiracies for Bond to be almost swallowed by, but he's so comfortable in the 'top ten percent of the top one percent' spending arena we wonder how he's going to fight the power and still adorn himself and his foxy lady in enough duty-free store finery. And if that wasn't enough, we have to know that so much of the SPECTRE treasury is paid for by white slavery, just because, you know, sexually brutalized foreign females are the new status symbol. But then those writers and corporate product positioners are at a loss how an expensively-coiffed Brit with nothing but a snub nose automatic and an exploding watch can defeat this vast conspiracy inside of the next hour. So Boom - a lucky stray shot topples the empire, twice. One snub nosed .38 slug starts a death star style chain reaction at the fortress without even needing to study the blueprint inside the R2 unit, and then back in London the same pistol not only hits a helicopter from a half mile away but explodes it. Oh James, is that your 'magic' gun? Does the screenwriter really know anything about any aspect of how reality--even in movies--operates? Has he ever fired a gun or read about barrel length vs. accuracy? Does he think hitting a car means it automatically explodes, as his only experience of either guns or gas tanks comes from 80s action movies?

I know if my NRA bro was here he'd be the first to point it out: a snub nosed pistol has terrible muzzle velocity and accuracy beyond a hundred yards --that's the trade-off for its easier portability. I'm sure Bond's a crack shot, but if a longer barrel didn't help accuracy, snipers wouldn't bother with rifles. Old Bond can just aim at a helicopter (from a rocking boat no less) far over Big Ben and Bam!

The only interesting part of the whole film the torture device of Ernst's: a small robotic surgery needle that bores into various parts of the brain to erase memory and the ability to recall faces (so everyone looks like a stranger), and presumably bore out his pineal gland. But hey! Though he gets the needle, Bond isn't even fazed. Mere torture doesn't work on Bond! For some reason! He gets the needle in, but doesn't inhale. Is it lazy writing that we never know why it doesn't work? Why even bother with the laboriously sleazy set-up? SPECTRE's main complex is a billion dollar array of monitors and all this shit, and we spend all this time learning how impossible it is for Bond to escape or beat SPECTRE. And then he just does! It's clear the writers would be more at home doing HOSTEL III than writing action movies. Mainly, Mendes wants James to change into some new designer clothes. more than he loves actual plots or action or spycraft. Even the old 60s Batman wouldn't rely this much on their target demo's ignorance of basic physics.

Some guys are of the belief that it's the expensive watch and designer threads that attract the models, and not cocaine, but those guys are wrong. And if you can flip through an issue of Esquire without feeling like you're being sold on the idea of investing in a corporate white slavery ring by some synergizing pimp, then you really are already so brainwashed by the objectifying media that even a Situationist street agitprop freakout can't wake you up to your own commodification, baby. The only way the filmmakers can justify such strident product placement is to have Bond give up spycraft at the end to go show his new girl a good time. With his swanky car, watch, cologne, snobby taste in champagne, and wardrobe all keeping her rivitedzzzz he's bound to succeed, because everyone knows that's what a woman wants: a wallet on legs to dutifully cart her from one flagship to the other.

THE MAGICIANS, a Canadian-Syfy show is perfect for post-grad 20-40 somethings still trying to contextualize their sophomore year 'molly' rolls with particle physics finals and the science fiction and fantasy they read as geeks in high school. In short, it's about me, man. I really related with "selling your comic book collection" and having to get a job, but then finding, through psychedelics and higher education, that your fantasy world is still thriving, and based on real shit, I mean real in a sense of out-of-body experience in alternate realms and Lovecraft's pineal gland monsters.

If that doesn't work for you, try this: it's Harry Potter for people who love drugs and hate children and wish they could dropkick every last shred of fantasy film "whimsy" Mickey Mouse scoring into a wood chopper. I'll confess I've never gotten to into the Potters and I kind of gave up on Syfy original shows after Bo started being all high and mighty about not killing people in LOST GIRL. But MAGICIANS was on in the background last week while I was polishing my previous post and it subliminally won me over when the lead brooding ectomorph Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) woke up in bed with his arch gay aesthete drunkard buddy (Hale Appleman) and his fellow rich jet set party girl bestie, and in the context of the show it's not considered weird that he did gay shit on prime time TV, it's weird he did it while his girlfriend (Olivia Taylor Dudley) was in the other room! Meanwhile his best friend from home, Julia (Stella Maeve) has a great husky voice and got refused admission to the prestigious alternate dimension Magic school so becomes a 'hedge witch' - the equivalent of a townie meth head of magic. Dude, the world of a liberal arts major acidhead at a major university who leaves his townie best friend behind has never been more vividly mythologized!

And that becomes the problem -college isn't just for tripping, it's also where HUNTING GROUND date rape shit runs riot, leaving powerless schmucks like me and Quentin with a lifetime violent hatred of all frat boys, or in the case of THE MAGICIANS, loathing for a trickster who comes to Julia in the form of a Mother Earth goddess. There's also a beloved childhood author (a kind of C.S. Lewis meets Tolkein) who turns out to be a pedophile. There's even a magical rite that can only be attained by drinking a jar full of demi-god semen. Any one of those things would be disturbing enough that I'd have never half-watched it had I known. I wouldn't have opened up to it had I not presumed benevolence, especially after a whole season of basically non-traumatic drug metaphor magical weirdness, and underneath that a cover memory of new age holistic spirituality.

That aside, the show has a sharp knowing eye for the arcane realms, there's few monsters per se, but a lot of high strangeness with the dead coming back as evil beings from beyond (ala the home of the elder gods in Lovecraft). I do love the split that goes on between the first visit to the magical dimension known as Fillory, rich with beautiful sights, but then a snap of a wand and 100 years have passed and its become a toxic wasteland. "Your childhood fantasy's a great big magical Dacchau," Lucy notes. It's like Frodo going to sleep after saving Middle Earth and waking up to see old evil Sauron has already won decades earlier and left a scorched Shire in his wake, no a polluted cesspool wasteland (like in WIZARDS). I've had the same thing happen over two nights of astral traveling back in '03. The first night I accessed a divine realm with the help of an angelic spirit guide. The next night I came back and the realm was a industrial emptiness and woe, the spirit reproachful - I'd left a hundred years ago and allowed this to happen. I guess that's a not uncommon one-two punch - maybe a combo metaphor for our own slow killing of the planet and my own slow killing of time, distraction, drugs and daily gallons of Diet Coke. It's been in lots of fantasies and visions, it's like maybe I'm not 'experiencing it' per se, but reliving a trauma in a stone tape loop, witnessing the primal scenes of our planetary past like a series of holographic waxworks.

Still, I did not like the sudden terrifying harshness, including one brutal trickster visitation / rape, two goddess jism things / brutal slaughter / child molestation / the way molesting creates monsters; the price of cover memories etc to leave me as a viewer feeling pretty brutalized. I mean, we have to wait far too long for a resolution to such a grisly cliffhanger to such a regularly 'fun' show. I don't know about you, but I didn't binge watch my Sunday away just to be have the shit kicked out of me by some Syfy show that suddenly decides it wants to recreate how disillusioned and betrayed we felt when we first learned our beloved childhood icon Bill Cosby was a date rapist super-creep.

I'm not saying the show isn't brilliant, fractal-like and meta and getting at the core of some profound truth about escapism vs. facing the banality of the real, sort of like addiciton - the longer you ignore your dependence the worse the withdrawal, the less you 'come down to.' Maybe all consciousness is a cover memory, and all fiction and fantasy a way of patching in that cover memory's weak spots. Visions of angels with white wings landing beside us are maybe just the brain's way of handling being raped by Zeus in disguise as a swan; or the way that owls at the window are maybe the brain's way of handling being probed by aliens.

And don't get me started on that bear in the Overlook

The Magician's season one ending became like that aforementioned trickster, a cretin who uses our own faith against us, takes advantage. It gives us all sorts of insights and truths only to then play us like Robert Shaw got played in THE STING. My trickster just sat opposite me on the subway and laughed coldly and maliciously as I sat in shock, humiliated and confused, misled on his/her advice. Later, a feminine spirit came (during another session) and said journeying into this area is like dialing random numbers: you can hope you get a friendly voice but there are a lot of tricksters amid the angels. Ask any cult leader: faith is the easiest thing to abuse. That goes for TV and movies as well, for these cliffhanger rapes and tortures are a betrayal in their way, too. They presume a viewer so inoculated against all the SAW-type torture tropes, so that we'll barely feel the sting of the needle.

Luckily, for every vile trickster there's a couple of angels, like Scarlett Johansson and Luc Besson who came riding to my traumatized rescue with LUCY (2014), on (what else?) HBO (home of 'the rutting'), to help me recover after that brutal cliff-hanger finale. Now that's some prime DMT nonsense! Hilarious, fuzzy logic-packed and unrepentantly trippy, I liked LUCY even better than I normally would because all the angry science geeks and self-righteous bourgeois pundits hated it, loudly condemning the film's anti-science idiocy (the 10% of the brain thing, they say, has been disproved).

Moron says what now?

Sure it's dumb in a lot of ways - so was LIMITLESS ("One pill makes you Corporate") or any other film where some designer drug makes a gullible slacker superhuman and he goes up against gangsters who want the drug too but are too dumb or chickenshit to take it themselves and outfox him with the same power. It's the ultimate Adderall speed fantasy: the drug makes you feel smarter and brighter than everyone else in the room --and they're too stupid to take it too and level the playing field. It's a great boost but it doesn't make you compassionate enough to know everyone else feels the same way, and the more you pontificate the more insane and grandiose you probably sound. What pissed off the anti-LUCY critics, of course, is that they consider themselves the smartest guys in the room to start with, and no movie starlet hottie with a deep Hawks-does-Daria voice is going to outsmart them, no matter how many drugs she does. If some nerd with a pocket protector can't feel at least smarter than an actress of Scarlett's beauty they may as well be dead.

Me, I'm not threatened. I dig it, and love the ending: as her Lucy finally merges with the pervasive all consuming oneness via using '100%' of her brain's capacity. She even creates humanity by going back in time to act as a Kubrickian monolith to her ape chick equivalent. Honey, to me, that's badass -- I don't care that there's really no story here. I like the deadpan way the cop just rolls along with the weirdness. Dude, you can tell old Luc Besson's a fan of Adderall or meth and this is his valentine to it, and right or wrong you know I approve that message, because it's both right AND wrong, and when you're beyond duality, both are included in the spectrum (and if you judge either one as better or worse you automatically ain't beyond duality).

Belive it or not, I don't find any of the shit in LUCY unbelievable. What I find unbelievable is that we're a species able to solve a problem like ourselves only by avoiding it with escapism. And since the only way to solve that problem is not to believe it, to stop watching movies, then I pity the fools who feel threatened by this gonzo nutcase film. They may as well read a book for god's sakes, it's that bad.

The French equivalent of Michael Bay, Luc Besson is too 'cool' for them! You can tell he makes films that he wants to see. He's not chasing some trend to make a bundle but because he's enthralled by childhood memories of seeing DIE HARD or LETHAL WEAPON for the first time as a kid, or scoring with some hot gallic bird after a night 'rolling' at a great Parisian dance club and staying up til dawn, the way one's first ecstasy trip--one that happens to include a major sexual hook-up--changes you utterly, providing a high point the rest of your life will never quite match. Personally, I'd much prefer to see an action movie made be a moron who genuinely loves that genre he's working in, like Besson (or Ed Wood), rather than a smartass who "talks down" to it (the way, say, Fincher did with ALIEN 3, or Mendes in SPECTRE). Who cares if an idea makes sense? It's a goddamned action movie, not a science fair, you ('scuse me while I take a sniff) insignificant cocksucking low down client stealing, trend chasing, kowtowing, sniveling, self important jackasses. LUCY, Luc and I will fuck you up! Snnnnniffff Arggghhhh! That's good shit!

Been there, boy

Cover your escape with this, and let the pitch that 
cracks the champagne glass egg of Illumination crack the 
crust from your third eye lashings
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