Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 2006, or earlater

Friday, April 29, 2016

Prepare for the Coming of the Hillary Matriarchy with these 5 Psychotronic films on Hulu Plus

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.

To help the future happen, mira! A collection of films evoking the coming liberal dystopia that can only result when a woman is or isn't elected president. My 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. There's less apocalypse and more matriarchy to worry about this time, and all in all a more inspiring future of liberal awareness, higher taxation of the rich, and massive un-deployment. 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 we ever weren't.

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....



HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN
(1988) Starring Sandahl Bergman, Roddy Piper 
**1/2

The lithe and lovely Sandahl Bergman, and pleasingly self-effacing wrestler Roddy Piper roam the post-nuclear wasteland on behalf of the man-hungry matriarchy looking for wild women to impregnate. War has left most men dead or sterile; Roddy's one of the few men still able to produce viable sperm --and man he looks it. As a 'no nonsense' health official in charge of helping him 'liberate'-- and then do his duty upon--a harem of fertile 'passives' currently held captive in a frog mutant warlord's stronghold, Bergman ably projects both sex and power, medical austerity, and sheer potent magnetism. 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 and keeps trying to escape. Bergman locks him into an explosive chastity belt that will shock his nuts if he tries to escape, so soon he stops trying and off they go into the wasteland, headed to the legendary Frogtown, a combination abandoned oil refinery and R-rated version of a STAR WARS cantina.

If your misogynist radar hadn't already gone off for the scene where Spangle (Bergman) abducts--and then drugs--a wild fertile woman of the wasteland and compels Hell to mount her, well, it will when she goes undercover as a bondage slave. Hell plays her abductor, their cover story being he's there to sell her into the harem of the Frog warlord. That said, your feminist higher power won't complain too much, since the women are for the most part super capable and assertive, more physically agile and gutsier than Hell, 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.' In other words, rather than affirm male dominance, the film deconstructs sadomasochism, dominance, harem-keeping, reptilian sex slave mind games, and "dance! dance!" warlord cup-banging, as pathetic attempts to reclaim the phallus from mighty Woman. Hell's junk is at the mercy of Spangle and he's expected to 'perform' while his two captors/guardian women watch with detached curiosity, ready to zap him at a moment's notice. In other words it's a 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.

Such a thing might easily devolve into campy parody, but 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 for what's clearly a low budget endeavor. Bergman is still as gorgeous, sexily assured and Fosse dancer lithe as she was six years earlier in Conan. Surprise, surprise, she's nowhere near ready for retirement, and one can't help but wince at all the parts that could have, should have been written for her in a more perfect world. The big surprise 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! Who'd a thunk it?

The rest is hit an miss: a frog with a fez doing the Sidney Greenstreet schtick at the requisite strip club (the main set) is a little unbearable. But then there's Rory Calhoun, wearing his good store teeth as a uranium miner. When he's dying with his head in the laps of one of the young liberated pacifist concubines in the backseat as they're pursued by the frog warlord in his armored car in the big climax you realize suddenly - holy shit! This scene was lifted wholesale for Mad Max: Fury Road, which just swapped out Rory's gender! Considering Frogtown is one of that slew of post-Road Warrior 80s apocalypse road trip movies, the influences come full circle!


Why Hillary: One look at the face of the odious frog king and you'll be reminded of a certain second 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 harem are the women voters of swing states looking askance at the brutalizing Handmaid's Tale future awaiting them under The Fog 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). 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. What an era!


THE BROOD
(1979) Dir. David Cronenberg
***1/2
If you need a map through this genuinely strange, disturbing picture then I'd say watch SCANNERS first. That's 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) and--with a voice so deep it opens up a hole in the floor--Patrick McGoohan as a revolutionary pharmacologist. Here in BROOD-land it's a little less bouncy and a lot more strange and horrible. No drugs this time, just a kind of gestalt externalized therapy at a strange clinic for 'psychoplasmics,' a method of externalizing rage that involves causing the body to break out in spots... or worse. Oliver Reed is Dr. Raglan, the mastermind psychiatrist who runs the place.  very unhinged Samantha Eggar is his star patient. Raglan has her put her deep into regressive therapy and won't let his concerned husband see her. Their child, on the other hand, is brought in for weekends, but comes home traumatized and bruised. Yeeesh!

I don't want to spoil the thing, but there's a kind of post-feminist version of the Monster from the Id going on. The hairy actor in the beginning demonstration is the most disturbing part of the film for me. 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 the most outrageous and deeply disturbing scene in all of 70s horror. Dude, there's always SCANNERS.




PS - My new favorite stealth character actor, Robert A. Silverman, the Dick Miller to Cronenberg's Corman, is great as a previous patient of the clinic preparing a lawsuit, wearing a white towel on his neck to cover an awful mutating psychoplasmic affliction, he's so good here and as Hans in NAKED LUNCH (above), and the artist in SCANNERS well, he just knocks them all up a notch. Why only Cronenberg seems to know of his genius is beyond me.

Why Hillary: It is foretold in ancient texts that 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 charlatan shrinks, who won't let the husband see his own wife. The human body itself is America: "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, he says he's doing it for revenge! So people will know from the press that "psychoplasmics cause cancer." -i.e., global warming. The Brood are the protestors disrupting Trump rallies. As with the Trump supporters themselves, it's not important whether or not he's a threat, it's enough that they get angry thinking about it, and the anger justifies the reprisal. Imagine if all the rage spewed on internet comment sections was able to manifest itself... we'd all be hammered.


DARK ANGEL: THE ASCENT
(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 killing. The story begins in Hell: there's Old Testament-style marching lines of desert laborers (ala STARGATE x PHANTASM), pumping ominous but giddy Fuzzbee Morse score. Angela Featherstone is the young, wistful demoness Veronica who dreams of seeing the surface of the earth, though it is forbidden by her abusive sputtering over-acting demon father (Nicholas Worth, the "psycho's psycho" in DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE 14 years earlier). Once she sneaks away and moves above ground, she tears the spines and hearts out of rapists and racist cops and feeds their hearts to her dog Hellraiser. Shacking up with a handsome sweet-souled doctor named Max (Daniel Markel), she wanders by night (while he's on ER duty) to kill sinners, 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.

Like some Satanic bible school instructional video, this might not be for all tastes, but I dig the dreamlike grungy fairytale threadbare quality and incongruity of set and setting (everyone speaks English but it's clearly shot in Romania). A Guy Maddin meets Val Lewton in Ed Wood's basement kind aesthetic suffuses everything in a red glow. Featherstone isn't the greatest actor in the world but what she lacks anyone can learn; what she has--the ability to project complete confidence and emotional vacancy at the same time--is unteachable. Her flatline reading of "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 and be sexy (and come off campy), imperious (and come off bitchy), mean (and come off sour) or tough (and come off laughable), but Featherstone's assertive confidence and deadpan demeanor is so despite-itself sexy she gets away with murder. "I don't require the blessing of the one true church to engage in sexual relations, Max" she says, and when she unfolds her true form--wings, horn, tail--after orgasm it's not goofy, 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 level of skill at commanding both adoration and fearful respect in in East German science fiction film female characters from ELEOMA and IM STAUB DER STERNE, but never in America. Why there wasn't a sequel (clearly by the title more than one was planned) I don't know, unless of course it's the damn patriarchy. Matthew Bright (FREEWAY) did the script. A woman directed. I've seen it ten times.

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 drawing cop protests for her support of Black Lives Matter; predictions of a hellfire future for sinners mirrors Hill's certainty 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' --that's so Hillary! 



DEMONS
(1985) Dir. Lamberto Bava 
**1/2

In the land of Trump, it's all about the nuclear family, be it ever so "humbly" nouveau-riche. From the giddy era when such swinging was the norm instead-- the 80s--comes this Italian film shot in Berlin to critique those norms, summing up life after both nations had to surrender to the Allies in WWII a mere 40 years earlier. It's the story of a demonic theater showing a film about a silver mask triggering a demon outbreak, with a promotional display mask in the lobby that actually causes a demon outbreak when one girl tries it on as a lark. The result are demons running around in the theater ala MONSTERS CRASH PAJAMA PARTY.

If you saw DEMONS in the same theater as the characters in the film, with the actors all in the theater with you, then man you'd hope you were dreaming because shit that meta will freeze your hard drive--just ask the Axis, or the folks at the advance screening midnight show of DARK KNIGHT RISES in Aurora, Colorado. Produced and co-written by Dario Argento, asst. director Michele Soavi (STAGEFRIGHT), featuring sublime boom operation by Angelo Amatulli (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS), and music from Claudio 'Goblin' Simonetti (ZOMBI 2), it's like 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 nowhere near as meta as the best Soavi.

Thus we learn that 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 decent director. I don't envy having the pressure of such an iconic father to measure up to, but the kid has no talent for either blocking, pacing, or storytelling. What he does have are the brilliant red and blue lighting Argento used in SUSPIRIA and INFERNO and art direction that's quintessentially Italian horror of the era (even if set in Berlin) with a gaggle of instantly dated rock songs from Billy Idol, Rick Springfield, and Mötley Crüe to add just the right not of 80s 8th grade 8-ball of crank snorting dirtbag shop class idiocy. Soavi himself plays an elusive robot with either his human mask gone or human with half his robot mask gone; a carload of coked-up punks snort their coke in a Coke cup ("hilarious"); a deux ex machina helicopter drops through the ceiling; and the climax keeps going past the credits. Little random details like those are what gets us through the stock footage of Berlin nightlife so we can at last reach the edifying sight of the final couple on a motorbike riding up and down the aisles killing demons with a samurai sword while 80s hair metal blasts and you realize hey, don't settle for walking.

As the action occurs in a theater mimicking the film onscreen about a demon outbreak tied to a demonic mask (a signifier to papa Mario's first horror film THE MASK OF SATAN), there are also a few priceless and ingenious meta moments that make it more than just dumb dirtbag fun, but something nearly Antonioni-esque, as 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) dying girl's head off. But once the film runs out, and everyone realizes they're trapped, that kind of meta weirdness fades in favor of typical demon attacks. Flat close-ups of green food coloring raining out of grinning fangs and pustules of the newly infected seem to go on way too long (Lamberto loves him some pustules).

Most importantly, thanks to Hulu, now you can watch it on your phone where the screen is too small for any demon to climb through.

Asst. director Michel Soavi would use even more ingeniously self-reflexive post-modern variations on the 'trapped all night in an empty theater' motif for his recommended 1987 STAGEFRIGHT, which used to be on Hulu but now is not for some ungodly reason. Don't be fooled by the 18 other films with that title, the 1987 Soavi is the one to hunt, like the giant white owl hunts die mädchens!

WARUM DIE HILL?  Any difference between the slavering demonic horde, the coked-up 'gang' driving through the Berlin B-roll, and the dwindling 'good' audience members gradually dissipates into meaningless chaos, BUT it's worth noting that a black woman starts it all off by insisting on trying on the mask in the lobby (cuz black ladies always be tryin' on strange display masks, am I right fellas?) which pricks her face and infects her with demonic pustules, and green food coloring mouth foam, spreading daemonia like the biblical plague. I could eke a racist-feminist-sociopolitical metaphor out of all that but I shan't... or can't, for within the heart of that metaphor lurks in a zone where caution and lethargy meet. Assigned Pandora's box opening duty, a group of men might decide to just say they already looked and it was empty. But a woman always has to look, has to try the mask, and the pustules come.  Filmed in Germany, that land where a single demonic prick started an outbreak of inhuman violence, it's waiting for just the right moment to swell and burst anew upon the acne-scarred facial landscape.


DAGON
(2001) Dir. Stuart Gordon
***1/2
We of the Lovecraft cult (if you'll forgive the expression) have become quite used to being disappointed by big screen adaptions. 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, in other words no 2D or 3D representation can compare. Seeming to cohere out of the electric blur behind our eyelids, they urge us forward through Lovecraft's prose as if his writing had its own dark Necronomicon-ish power, so that just reading it by ourselves, not even moving our lips, we feel the behemoths stir 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. Corman made a decent stab at it, but the results weren't quite up to his Poe. Luckily there's Stuart Gordon, the Corman to Lovecraft's Poe, he keeps the events and tentacles flowing in something like real time, over a single night or weekend of rattletrap madness, so there's seldom time to get or need a 'third eye' complete picture. Our protagonists being chased along progressively more surreal avenues is enough to keep us engaged, and that's just what the stories are like, snapshots of Hell barely developed before they're burned.

For DAGON, Gordon adapts Lovecraft's "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 over a passing yacht occupied by American investment wizard Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden), his Spanish girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Meroño), his Aussie boss and boss's wife--up on some rocks and starts sinking, the husband trapped under the onrushing flood of water from the hull. Paul and Barbara 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 first, but substituting Spain for New England is a surprising but effective touch as the language barrier adds a nice gateway frisson. In the terror and confusion of panic in a weird town, the locals may very well start to resemble fish monsters.

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, that the area filling between these nightmare wafers is a wet (literally) dream, the sort of nightmare magic that happens when the dreaming male's conscious ego meets the 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 world of dreams and waking, past and future is momentarily transcended: childhood and adulthood, life and death, male and female, mammal and cephalopo-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). The ending suggests the future depends  on the Democratic ability to adapt overriding the Republican 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.

+ 5 RUNNERS UP:
 SHIVERS
(1975) Dir. David Cronenberg
***
I disgust la SHIV in an oilier post but fack it. Spiked with livid, funny gross outs as the red kidney things hop inside from any old orifice, the film's a 'careful what you wish for' example of 70s singles swinging rather too successfully. Ask yourself: is this how the red states really think we behave up here? 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. Shot as grungy as a 16mm instructional film, it really should be shown in every high school health class. 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 you'll be grateful for all the repression that makes social order of any sort possible.

THE DESCENT
(2005) Dir. Neil Marshall

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS
(1970) Dir. Jaromil Jireš

GINGER SNAPS
(2000) Dir. John Fawcett

SHE 
(1935) Dir. Merien C. Cooper

---

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Through the Woodsman: DOG SOLDIERS, THE FINAL TERROR, WITHOUT WARNING, THE HALLOW

The woods --alternately intriguing and tired, 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 only the bears hear it. I got lost just trying to get across the upper wild swaths of Central Park NYC once, which if you've been up there you know how creepy and forlorn it can get, and how fast; I wound up going in a big ass circle. 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, except 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. That's the real maddening reason why the woods unnerve us. Once we lose our compass and orientation, we're fucked.

DOG SOLDIERS
(2002) Dir. Neil Marshall
***

You think it's easy to be a straight white 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, sex, 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. And then the movie itself, Kate Beckinsale all smokin' crystal blue eyes in a skin tight leather catsuit wielding twin .45 automatics. It's all for us, for our stunted adolescent minds. It's pathetic how we slobber for it no matter how much our higher self sighs in disdain.

Neil Marshall hopes for better. His first feature is the Hawksian darkly comic male group camaraderie version of his later, better-known female camaraderie DESCENT (2003): it's a gory, riveting, terse but slightly cheeky werewolves vs. British infantry squad on maneuvers tale, a kind of SOUTHERN COMFORT meets the first 1/4 of AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, but like THE DESCENT it ends with an all-out stay alive brawl, dwindling down the numbers, until only the true toughies remain. The cast is great though, while they last, especially the cool-in-a-crisis, Max von Sydow-esque Pvt. Cooper (Kevin McKidd) and the bullet-headed badass Sgt. Harry Wells (Sean Pertwee, who's like parts 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 where survival instinct ("three-round bursts!"), Hawksian dark comedy and group dynamics, and focused aggression provide an outside-the-box form of survivalist enlightenment that overflows the boundaries of both the werewolf and survival-behind-the-lines genre parameters. There's some choice dialogue ("I hope I give you the shits, you wimp!"), fast, tight, believably rehearsed acting, a group who've clearly trained together, as actors not just characters, talking in natural, overlapping dialogue. There's even a Hawksian woman (Emma Cleasby - top), a local who takes the boys to the rustic soon-besieged cabin--she'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, like he's on some PG-13 tip; in its better parts it's remarkably like David Julyan's in THE DESCENT... if that's a Marshall leitmotif he really needs to hear all the great retro-analog synth stuff being done these days; it's like pulling teeth to get Julyan to use Carpenterian synths Marshall's DESCENT follow-up, the underrated and very Carpenterian DOOMSDAY.with one cool girl in their midst and an ability to be blackly comic without sacrificing terse vivid something-at-stake realness, and the (pre-CGI) werewolves are perhaps the coolest in the genre. And considering the shoddy treatment of dogs in horror films, I thought I should mention that the shifty Ian Holm-in-Alien 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 and the thick old growth of mountainous Luxembourg (filling in for Northern Scotland) makes ideal territory, the sun ever setting behind thick moorish rainclouds, Marshall's camera swooping around with gritty 16mm (blown up to 35mm) washed-out low-light immediacy that evokes early films by Cronenberg, Stanley, Craven, Raimi, Barker, and Romero.






WITHOUT WARNING
(1980) Dir. Graydon Clark
**1/2

There's a few things we need to get straight right now: I know this post is collecting cool woodsy horror flicks but this film's woods--supposedly dark and deep and full of hunters--looks like the scrub where all the cheap LA cop shows film. Yet. they hold not only bivouacking cub scouts led by a Patton-paraphrasing scoutmaster Larry Storch, 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 way over his legal limit. If you watch Final Terror (reviewed below)--with its great old growth and beautiful stark photography--in the same sitting, right before this, the thoroughly second rate look of Without Warning can be a tough adjustment. Carpenter cameraman Dean Cundey does knocks out a nice magic hour and the occasional Steadicam fleeing (and alien 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 early-killed teens (during in a "lagoon" lower right) his death is mostly off camera for some moronic reason. As if hard-pressed for a 'moral' the script includes enough anti-hunting oratory to count as passive-aggressive snot flicked at someone's conservative NRA father, even if the landscape looks like all it might yield is a stray golf ball.

But hey, top drawer B-list stalwarts like Ralph Meeker and Martin Landau hang loose at the requisite bar of colorful drunk and eccentric locals who refuse to believe the outlandish story of our frantic college boy hero and--miracle of miracles!--Jack Palance rocking every moment he can grab a big game hunting gas station herald who sees hunting the alien who's hunting them as a great chance at an Most-er Dangerous Game. And while both Meeker and Landau ham things up something awful, Palance is in his B-list element and the local watering hole sanctuary--that beloved standard for gathering together some theory-spinning shot-faced local extras and character actors to gape at, then blame, then help some freaked-out young couple. stretching back to THE BIRDS--is so vividly rendered you can smell the blend of musty naugahyde, stale cigarettes, stale beer and a moldy radiator. Sweet bra

No ginger shall get it on in a beautiful pond and live! 
So that shit's all good, the alien too, is great, but there's one real liability (or strength depending on your frame of mind) and it's the lead actor, Christopher S. Nelson in the lead. Good god he makes Zach Galligan seem like Humphrey Bogart. One can imagine an acting teacher showing this film as an example of "What Not to Do" --too bad, cuz he's his own worst enemy. Time and again 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, "whoops I'm on camera," and with a sudden frenetic lurch he starts 'acting.' It works when he's supposed to be wildly unsteady, hysterical with fear, laughing maniacally when the windshield wipers knock off the squid-shuriken, or paralyzed by nervous confusion; he does a good job spinning paranoid tale of world domination to stall paranoid psycho Landau who by then is ready to shoot him for being a pod person, but in other parts it seems more like he's auditioning for a student film. He's very pretty though, and I used to have his same hair, and really isn't doing that much better than Landua as far as believable consistency. Good thing there's Palance and a stock of good character actors in the bar, like old Neville Brand, and Ralph Meeker who by then was quite comfortable doing sheriff parts in TV or anything else he could get. Gotta love the late 70s-early 80s. for nearly every old star could still get work guest as expository landlords on TV movies or old timer sheriffs on cop shows (as long as they weren't too proud--in Dinner at Eight parlance--to play the beachcomber)

Final girl Tarah Nutter rocks cute braids (above) but her character is such a useless cringing liberal you'll want to slap her with an NRA button 
Still, how bad can it be? 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. Too bad the posters show off the alien right off the bat. quashing the big reveal for first timers. Imagine how much less Alien would rock if they put a big pic of him on the poster, instead of that egg! Ridley Scott never would have stood for that. Yeah this ain't Alien or even Predator, but if you've seen Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster as many times as I have, you may appreciate its destitute 'makes Corman seem like Coppola' delusions. Many of my fellow writers saw it and loved it as kids when it played over and over on late night cable. I never saw it back then.

But I can pretend.


THE FINAL TERROR
(1983) Dir. Andrew Davis
**1/2

If, to savor its Corman-like deadpan self-aware humor and adherence to a beloved formula. you need to let go of any sense of atmosphere, coherence, or quality, it's just the opposite with Andrew Davis's The Final Terror. Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) not only directs, he does the cinematography so there's a total harmony between atmosphere and actors one rarely sees outside, say, John Boorman.

It’s the tale of a camping trip up in the wilds of Northern California--some park rangers rafting with their girlfriends for a week of freedom from parental restrictions (sleeping bag fornication unfettered) that turns mighty violent, with the chief suspect being a religiously uptight local boy played with the usual zest by Joe Pantoliano. I can't spoil the events further except to note that the real modus operandi here seems to be that no slasher or slashers can stand a chance even in their home woods if some of them have been in combat and/or basic training.

And what a cast! Future stars (Rachel Ward, Daryl Hannah) mix with eerily familiar faces like Lewis "Perfect Tommy" Smith, and Mark "Is that a pledge pin? On your uniform?!!" Metcalf. But the real stand-out, is someone named John Friedrich, who avails himself of too many psilocybe cubensis mushrooms during the gang's terrorized odyssey, and goes a little deranged--oscillating between being their savior and biggest liability (evoking Harold Wayne Jones in THE CRAZIES, and almost no one else since--those two guys broke the mold!). 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 because there’s no sexual assaults, unnecessary cruelty, terrible gore effects, or shitty dialogue. And this does not have those things... in spades. If it has little else either, hey, the old growth woods look literally dark and deep, and the skulking killer's camouflage leaf jacket blends so well into the surrounding vegetation it’s startling when a filthy hand emerges from it to smooth a sleeping girl's hair, and Susan Justin’s weird piano and atonal synth score hits the right notes every time, almost always.



THE HALLOW
(2015) Dir Corin Hardy
**3/4

Irish horror has been having a bit of a tonn nua in low budget state-funded horror cinema, drawing on the country's emerald-colored landscape and dark Celtic folk tales to compensate for small casts and the washed-out quality of HD video, and HALLOWS be a prime example, telling the familiar tale of a new family (parents + wee child) moving into a woebegone house at the edge of a foreboding forest. The locals tell the dad--a state-funded botanist--not to wander too deep therein, and to take nothing he finds home with him, but he's researching bark blight and needs samples. He finds, as you might imagine, some mighty strange samples. With venom like the malignant cells in the 1981 THING, this blight grows up fast and is full of Irish faerie lore tricks--swapping out human babies with weird changelings, and raising the human kids in the woods (like the changeling in MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM so coveted by Oberon)--but who believes auld legends these days? Only the spooked locals with their alleged ignorant tradition. So the wife takes all the weird iron bars off from around the windows to let in what passes for sunshine in Ireland.

Turns out there's a reason they said 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 only one tier down instead of the usual sixty. The monsters are interesting fusions of trees 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 that I've found in my research is the key to effective horror. You might come away only mildly plussed when all's said and done but I know I didn't get up to refill my drink or have a slash once during the whole 90-minute running-time, no easy feat. The lighting is moody, the woods mysterious, dark, and deep, and the acting terrific - I mean Novakovic and Fawle are committed, and at times should be, institutionally-speaking. 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. There's no gibbering rapists, claustrophobic abductions or sadistic cruelty, all which I'm bloody sick of and easily traumatized by and go out of my way to avoid. I'm traumatized plenty enohgh just from walking down the street --it has nothing to do with real spooky fear. Our world is bloody hell all on its own. No wonder the trees want to leave. But in Ireland, aye, the trees seem to be coming back at last... le bhfeice!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Pineal Express: FROM BEYOND, LUCY, SPECTRE, THE MAGICIANS


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.

Made by a weird little gland in the center of the brain, the pineal, it lurks above the reptilian cortex and behind the higher mammalian functioning empathy. Somehow it's beyond even the reptilian-mammalian combo that is humanity's core, beyond DNA life itself. It's the third eye, and it's long been calcified due not just to inactivity but to the infiltration of our precious bodily fluids, an idea that's really grabbed hold, starting as far as I can tell, with General Ripper's declaration: "Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face."

Think it's a joke? Not me. Interdimensional power animals pointed some sites out to me, and suggested I get a pineal gland tuning forlk (for real!):
"...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 Dr. Strangelove with the fluoride, 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)
Fans of Lovecraft know two things: 1) His visions of the alternate dimensional elder gods are so on point he was either schizophrenic or a psychedelic drug using shaman, either way, his pineal gland was obviously de-calcified to near shamanistic levels. 2) There are very few good 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, far beyond what can be duplicated on film. To cast normal horror fiction in our brain 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 or Monopoly, Lovecraft reaches back in the closet and pulls out this game, that you'd swear wasn't there before, the pieces twisted into nightmarish figures dusty from time but you know you've never seen them, 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, allowing 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 which 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? Well, you can imagine. 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 interdimensional 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, 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, donning some of Dr. Pretorius's bondage gear... uh oh.

What's funny is that now years later, the pineal tuning fork and amplified pineal-activating soundwave systems turn out to actually work... I think - they 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 UNRAVELING of the Self:
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 true paradise of the undifferentiated self, you realize at once that 'up' here, beyond time and space, there are very few other souls--and they are indistinguishable from the elements around them -or 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 directly to be, 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 antennae on our end (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, then, we were given 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.



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 out in the galaxy it was slowly revolving toward me. As I floated, hovering in place above the surface, 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. 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.

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 and took the wrong direction on the subway. Not that it was particularly undeserved... Our God/power animals 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 the old desire, that spiritual yearning I used to have. 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 now have no desire to ever see it again. My whole self quest is over. I know where I'm going after death, so 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.
+++++++
(OKAY - RESUME HERE)

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 tapping into notions forged in the heated French brain of Georges Batailles and finding fruition in the strange, feverish clued-in mind of Lovecraft and later Clive Barker. 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. I would say I'm immune 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 age of ten, 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.


SPOILERS GALORE FROM HERE ON DOWN:

Then there's this slick new feature length men's fragrance commercial disguised Bond movie called SPECTRE, which has a pretty great train fight, a smokin' hot babe (Léa Seydoux) in nice dresses, perfectly mussed blonde hair over black turtlenecks against a snowy white background (j'adore) and a glum attitude of systemic corruption dragging MI6 down the drain. Now the chips are so stacked against our Mr. Bond that he rides right into the dragon's den, has his arch enemy Stavros (Christophe Waltz, yet again) display how the entire purpose of this vast chain of human misery since the dawn of time has been to keep that sinewy ever-clenched jaw muscle on Daniel Crag's face forever woeful. The bad guys know all 007's secrets but 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 lucky lady and lucky shot 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 is so wearying in its oppressive glitz it's the most un-Bond Bond ever--as if having gone back to basics in SKYFALL, director Sam Mendes wanted to just scrub all the tropes and sexist fun we love and turn into a remake of an 'interrogation of power' 70s-style conspiracy downer like THE PARALLAX VIEW dressed up like a Rolex watch ad supplement in Esquire. More depressing even than QUANTUM OF SOLACE, it posits the entirety of the world as so dumb they'd turn over their national security to a shady private contractor at the first sign of trouble, like a cowardly grocer paying off 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.

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 can't help but wonder how he's going to fight the power when he's just a poster child for that same power. And if it 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 that Christophe Waltz has spent the last 20 minutes detailing in soul-crushing detail. 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 brings down a helicopter from a half mile away. Oh James, is that your 'magic' gun? Does the screenwriter really know anything about any aspect of how reality--even in movies--operates?

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, 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 need scopes, spotters, and rifles. But old Bond can just aim at a helicopter (from a rocking boat no less) and Bam! I remember when a Stuka would dive overhead and strafe Sgt. Rock in the old DC comics and he would just toss a grenade into the cockpit as it bottomed out. Like hitting the lottery every damn time you buy a ticket.

The only interesting part is 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! Mere torture doesn't work on Bond! For some reason! Is it lazy writing that we never know why it doesn't work? Why even bother with the laborious sleazy set-up? Here are vast acres of sets and walls of monitors and all this shit we go through learning how impossible it is for Bond to escape or beat SPECTRE, but then a single well-placed bullet sends it all up in smoke. It's clear the writers would be more at home doing HOSTEL III than writing action movies --they got their vile sadism down. Mainly, Mendes loves to give old James a chance to retire to his first class hotel room to change into some new designer desert clothes. Even the old 60s Batman wouldn't rely this much on their target demo's ignorance of basic physics and firm belief that it's the expensive watch and designer threads that attract the models, and not cocaine. Though of course, 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, and wardrobe all keeping her rivitedzzzz 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, like 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 not only that, is based on real shit, I mean real in a sense of out-of-body experience in alternate realms and Lovecraft's pineal gland monsters -- they're all connected and it's all a big load of Now.


If that doesn't work for you as a preface to dig this show then just know that it's Harry Potter for people who love drugs and hate children and wish they could dropkick every last shred of fantasy film "whimsy" into a wood chopper. Take your fucking pick. 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 it's not weird that he did gay shit, 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 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, and 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, had I not presumed benevolence, especially coming as it all does after a whole season of basically non-traumatic drug metaphor magical weirdness, and underneath 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 just the brain's way of handling being raped by Zeus in disguise as a swan; or the way towls at the window are the brain's way of handling being probed by aliens. And don't get me started on that bear in the Overlook


Besides, the season one ending became like that aforementioned trickster, a cretin who uses our own faith against us, takes advantage and first gives us all sorts of insights and truths, three usually, and then for the fourth they play us like Robert Shaw got played in THE STING; mine just sat opposite me on the subway and laughed hysterically as I sat in shock, humiliated and confused, misled on his/her advice, this all-knowing spirit (this being in the same era of the above 'one day it's paradise, the next it's a wasteland' spiritual journey) just rolling in the aisles while never losing his mocking evil laughter; I never saw him again. Later, a feminine spirit came, my last visitation, 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 too, for these cliffhanger rapes and tortures are a betrayal in their way, too.


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. Hilarious, fuzzy logic-packed and unrepentantly trippy, I liked it 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 but are too dumb or chickenshit to take it themselves and outfox him. It's the ultimate Adderall speed fantasy: it makes you feel smarter and brighter than everyone else in the room, but not smart enough to know everyone else feels the same way, and the more you pontificate the more insane you probably sound. What pissed off the critics of course, is that they consider themselves the smartest guys in the room to start with, and no movie starlet with a deep Hawks-does-Daria voice is going to outsmart them, no matter how many drugs they do. If some nerd with a pocket protector can't feel at least smarter than an actress of Scarlett's beauty, then they literally may as well be dead.

Me 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, creating humanity by going back in time to act as a Kubrickian monolith -by-way-of the Sistine Chapel, honey, to me, that's badass -- I don't care that there's really no story here and 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 no more).

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, then I pity the fools who feel threatened by this gonzo nutcase film.

Those insecure left brain bourgeois suck-ups don't deserve this film. Luc Besson is too 'cool' for them! You can tell he makes films that he wants to see not films he thinks will tell 'important' stories. I love directors like that -- they're not chasing some trend to make a bundle, they're not hacks - they're stoners enthralled by childhood memories of seeing DIE HARD or LETHAL WEAPON in the theater for the first time. I'd much prefer to see an action movie made be a moron who genuinely loves that genre he's working in, like Besson, rather than a smartass who "talks down" to it (the way, say, Fincher did with ALIEN 3, or Mendes in SPECTRE). Good French genre directors are rare enough, but the few there are love movies and trust their instincts, no matter how nuts those instincts are. If critics hate on LUCY just for its stoner 10% brain premise and idiotic plot, then they don't deserve it. 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!

Been there, boy




Cover it 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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