Archives for posts with tag: desensitization
KMFDMAdios

Adios – the “final” piece in constructing the “Columbine Matrix”?

On Hitler’s birthday, April 20, 1999, the abrasive German electronic pop group KMFDM (depending on the source, either “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode” or “Kein Mehrheit Furh Die Mitleid,” which means “No Pity for the Majority”) released what was supposed to be its final album, Adios. This would be a comparatively insignificant footnote in history if not for the fact that this was also the day of the Columbine High School massacre. Eric Harris, a fan of the band, took notice of what he seems to suggest is something more than a simple coincidence. “Heh, get this,” he wrote in his journal. “KMFDM’s new album is entitled ‘Adios’ and its release date is in April. How fuckin appropriate, a subliminal final ‘adios’ tribute to Reb and Vodka [i.e., Harris and Klebold], thanks KMFDM…”

“The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, amid pressure over the long delay in publishing their investigation’s findings, released a report in May 2000 including over eleven thousand pages of lead sheets, ballistics and eyewitness reports and other attack-related media,” Evan Long states in the introduction to his essential documentary challenge The Columbine Cause. “The length of these reports did not lend them to rapid digestion, and the 9/11 attacks and overall shift in the American political climate of 2001 obscured many of the pressing domestic troubles facing America,” Long continues. “Perhaps the dust of the Twin Towers has settled enough by now for the people of the world to take a fresh look at the attack launched on Columbine.”

Was the “Trench Coat Mafia” something other than what mainstream media outlets reported it to be in 1999? Was the Columbine massacre something other than what it appeared to be? “Now, as far as the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency or some type of brainwashing network, we have to be careful here in terms of avoiding that which our convictions may prejudice us to believe,” Michael A. Hoffman II cautions in “The Columbine Matrix”, a lecture he recorded shortly after the event.

In other words, a good researcher doesn’t act a priori. He doesn’t establish what he wants to see in a story and then look for those things. But rather, he goes to a story with an open mind, even if that report, even if the news details, contradicts his own convictions about something; and, therefore, to the very best of my knowledge, I have not yet seen evidence of an organizational brainwash going on against these two boys. In fact, I think we need to understand what happened in Littleton at a higher level of mind control than what has been previously put forth.

Trench Coat Mafia

Note the KMFDM hat.

Notwithstanding the absence of concrete and credible evidence of intelligence agency involvement, Long, using material released after Hoffman delivered his lecture, presents a compelling case for a cover-up of testimonies concerning disturbing aspects of the Columbine event. The details are beyond the scope of the present essay, which the reader should supplement with a viewing of The Columbine Cause. A further quotation may, however, whet the appetite:

According to an unnamed individual in the JCSO report, the attack had been “the big rumor for two years.”

And Martin Middleton, who had been in the Jefferson County area in the mid-90’s, at that time encountered an individual talking about the attempted bombing that would take place on Hitler’s 110th birthday who also told him that the Trench Coat Mafia which would be attempting it was not just a bunch of lonely depressed kids, but something much larger.

Indeed, we were told after the attack that the Columbine attackers had planned to not just shoot and maim a few dozen students, but to kill 500 people, level the school with bombs, hijack a plane from Denver’s New World Airport and, despite their total inexperience with aviation, fly it over 2000 miles where they would perhaps lodge it into skyscrapers in New York City, a plan which may have sounded foreign to audiences of 1999 but which today seems all too familiar.

KMFDMAdios2

Natural selection, a concept that interested Harris in the social Darwinist context, is also referenced in “Rubicon”, a song by KMFDM, one of the boy’s favorite music groups.

KMFDMParty

Original artwork for the Coup’s album Party Music. A few promotional copies of the CD were sent out with this cover before the official release.

Those acquainted with 9/11 conspiracy lore will be aware of the theories of eerily prescient content in the entertainment media during the years leading up to that event. Such films as The Siege (1998) and Fight Club (1999), in addition to the notorious pilot episode of the short-lived Fox TV series The Lone Gunmen, furnish examples of these alleged indications of foreknowledge of the World Trade Center attack, as does the scrapped artwork for rap group the Coup’s 2001 release Party Music, which depicts the Twin Towers being remotely detonated. Similarly, with Columbine, conspiracy-oriented researchers like Hoffman and Long have pointed to the proliferation of a violent trench coat goth image and sensibility in Hollywood productions like The Crow (1994), The Basketball Diaries (1995), Blade (1998), and The Matrix (1999), which was released a mere three weeks before the shootings in Littleton, Colorado.

As with Warner’s Party Music, the cover of TVT Records’ suspiciously synchronized KMFDM release displays a startling parallelism with the events of that day. Mimicking comic book artwork, the Adios imagery created by Aidan “BRUTE!” Hughes shows two gunmen being rammed and run over by a scowling driver. The content of at least one of the songs is strangely relevant to the Columbine massacre, as well. The lyrics of one track, “Full Worm Garden”, go in part as follows:

Tincture of lead be said with no remorse full of confusion
Wish to enjoy this weightlessness lay me out full worm garden

A noose-knit put on sweater tie it up around the arm
Looks to grip along the trigger down the barrel of a gun

KMFDM

KMFDM’s Sascha Konietzko models the trench coat look.

Another song on Adios, titled “R.U.OK?”, concludes with these interesting lines:

For a moment you might question what you see
For a second your whole world will disappear

This is mind control and you know it
This will shut you up and you know it

Mind control

This is mind control
Mind control
This is mind control
Mind control
This is mind control

That’s all you get
It’s all you need

“That’s All”, meanwhile, features the enigmatic phrases “Get defamed in isolation two plus one negate divine”; “News-print news-peak nevermind”; and “Free the hostage situation taken as a simulation”. “Rubicon”, another of the tracks on Adios, has this to say:

Violence for inner-peace
Bombing for therapy
Terror is everything you need

Cross the dotted line
Fake your destiny […]

Natural selection is based on deception
The ignorant elder empowers the youth

KMFDMAdios3

KMFDM fans

Both boys were known admirers of the group and were photographed wearing KMFDM apparel. Eric Harris made multiple references to the group’s body of work in his writings, and it is difficult, in retrospect, to listen to KMFDM’s output in the years leading up to the Columbine massacre without psychologically hyperlinking much of the band’s imagery back into the Trench Coat Mafia’s “Columbine Matrix”, as Hoffman terms it.

KMFDMNihilMore than one of the songs included on KMFDM’s 1995 album Nihil conveys an angry anxiety coupled with a lack of agency. “Flesh” declares “I am the thing that I can’t control”, while “Beast”, the following song in the album’s sequence, screams “I got no choice / I’m out of control / And the kids just love it”. The listener can only expect to “get respect / When you’re kickin’ ass,” the singer explains. “Some people call them terrorists,” says the sample of an unknown man’s foreign-accented voice that opens the track “Terror”; but “these boys have simply been misguided.” Repeated lines in the song describe a fragile mental state: “I’m close enough to trip the wire / I cannot keep my hate inside.” “Our societies are saturated with bloodlust, sensationalism and violence as a result of alienation from oneself’s reality,” explains another of the sampled voices in “Terror”. Nihil’s next song, “Search & Destroy”, asks, “Are we victims or winners / Believers or sinners? / Do we sit in the saddle / Or are we just cattle?” Here again, as would be the case with much of the public discourse that followed the Columbine massacre, the lines separating automaton and deliberate actor, victim and brutalizer, are blurred.

KMFDMXtortKMFDM’s 1996 effort Xtort declares itself the “Industrial soundtrack to the holy wars” and, in its opening number “Power”, prescribes the use of “Excessive force”: “The children of fear / Are not alone / Rivers of tears / Flesh and blood / An eye for an eye / That’s all we’ve got”. “Craze”, a particularly evil-sounding song on this same album, is especially interesting in consideration of Hoffman’s advancement of his theory of “Revelation of the Method”, or “Must Be”, as James Shelby Downard termed it, according to which a shadow establishment openly mocks its intended audience, both confirming and strengthening its control over a population by “telling you what they are doing to you”. “There’s nothing like giving the game away / All the people are feeling the same today,” asserts a demonically processed voice in “Craze” that goes on to command, “Take a hammer and break a bone for me / There’s nothing like giving the game away”. Whether intentionally or not, the song expresses the wicked delight an elite manipulator would presumably feel in dropping such cryptic hints as to his doings and intentions. Also notable on Xtort is “Son of a Gun”, which describes a “Massive attack” by a “Son of a gun” who has been “Born to kill”. “All are equal” to this “Superhero #1”, who exercises “No discrimination” in his murders – a characterization that prefigures Salon writer Dave Cullen’s description of Harris and Klebold: “They were equal-opportunity haters, railing against minorities and whites, praising Hitler’s ‘final solution’ – and then ranting against racism.” Harris said “Son of a Gun” was one of his favorite songs.

The song “Stray Bullet” from KMFDM’s 1997 album Symbols is known to have been of interest to Eric Harris, who made reference to it on at least one occasion. A “Stray bullet / From the barrel of love” is both an eroticized explosion of violence and an apotheosis: “Stray bullet / From the heavens above […] I’m the illegitimate son of God”. “Megalomaniac”, another track from Symbols, declares “Terrorism our trade” and “Chaos our mental state”. “Anarchy”, a song from Symbols mentioned in Harris’s entry in classmate Nathan Dykeman’s yearbook, evokes a character motivated by revenge who has “made a God out of blood”. Had Harris and Klebold, as Hoffman suggests with reference to the desensitizing content of The Matrix, taken their “MKULTRA marching orders” from KMFDM?

Konietzko

Konietzko

KMFDM snarler-songwriter Sascha Konietzko has complained that “a giant shitstorm came down on KMFDM” after the Columbine horror, and it is entirely possible that Konietzko is justified in his outrage at the band’s being falsely implicated. It is not this essay’s intention to charge that the personnel of KMFDM or Rammstein or any other group are Mossad or Central Intelligence Agency contractors bent on programming America’s youth for commission of acts of mass murder. Easy answers may never be forthcoming where the Columbine massacre is concerned, with more mystery and convolution emerging the more one examines the case. This essay is purely exploratory.

A lack of conclusive information does nothing to dispel the number of anomalies and bizarre circumstances surrounding the event, the release of Adios being one of many of these. Evan Long cites “an unnamed individual in the reports [who] called up accounts of a Denver-area culture well outside the bounds of humanity.” He continues:

This individual, who attended another high school in the area, related that he had been to parties attended by goths and Trench Coat Mafia individuals in their 20’s across the area, and that most of the Trench Coat Mafia individuals were out of school and that there were not very many who were still in school. He stated that they were into bloodletting, cutting and violence.

He also was questioned on sexually explicit photographs found in his backpack which were homosexual in nature, and stated that he had been to the house of an individual known to some in this circuit as “Pedophile Bill”, a homosexual man who was, quote, “not nice sexually” and had given him these pictures and also showed him photo albums which made him sick to his stomach. The albums, he said, contained sexually explicit photographs of small children up to the age of fourteen.

Who was “Pedophile Bill” and what was his connection, if any, to the events at Columbine High School? How extensive was the Trench Coat Mafia, and what was its organizational structure – if indeed it had any to speak of? If Long’s film The Columbine Cause demonstrates anything, it is that the public does not know what happened April 20th, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, and that further research, much of it on the ground, must be conducted before the case can be closed to any critically conscious observer’s satisfaction. As Sheriff Ted Mink’s reported destruction not only of weapons and shell casings from the crime scene but also the infamous “Basement Tapes” of Harris and Klebold indicates, the authorities are determined that no independent investigator will ever be able to challenge establishment narratives with the aid of this key forensic and psychological evidence.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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Weirdo and generally sleazy San Francisco character Graeme Whifler began his directing career in music videos, specializing in bizarre outings for Ralph Records artists like the Residents. His other credits include directorial dabblings in television documentary programs like Ancient Prophecies and the original screenplays for Sonny Boy (1989) and Dr. Giggles (1992). He also wrote and directed the notoriously extreme horror project Deadly End (2005).

What does Whifler have to say for himself? “All I wanna do is get inside people’s minds and fuck with ‘em and make them feel and think things that they’re not supposed to feel or think,” he confesses, “so I know, when I’m writing, if I’m doing something right, I’ll start giggling like I’ve just, you know, taken a shit on the floor and I’ve done something really bad […]”1 Whifler prides himself, indeed, that he has done something “really bad” with his horror opus Deadly End, as he boasted to one interviewer:

Our last victim was in France, some poor psychologically frail young woman required hospitalization from watching my little movie, but she’s fine now.

Deadly End might never have been released if it weren’t for some guy going into a seizure during one of the film’s “heavy” scenes. It was playing in a huge theater; part of Montreal’s Fantasia Festival, and this guy starts croaking like a frog and flails about on the floor. Well, thank God, sitting right next to him was Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame. Stuart rushed to the lobby to get help, found a young woman selling popcorn, told her what happened in the auditorium, and all she said was “cool”. The guy made it to the hospital okay, but Stuart was so impressed by witnessing Deadly End’s deadly power that he vowed to find the film a distributor, which he did, thank God.

The guy who had the seizure wrote me an e-mail months later saying he liked what he saw and was wondering how he could get a DVD so he could see how the movie ended. I sent him one, hoping to score my first fatality. But truthfully, the film isn’t that gory or bloody, less than a cup in the entire movie. I do employ certain other small psychological triggers so that as they add up, they give most a fun ride. For the weaker and less fortunate, it’s Darwin time. […]

Graeme Whifler

Graeme Whifler

Irwin Keyes – horror fans know this name – came to a small screening at my home, and he brought his girlfriend. Half an hour or so into the move, Irwin’s gal snuck out of the room. I found her 45 minutes later, outside, in the rain, crying. After the film finished she came back inside, cold, wet, and pretended that nothing was wrong. What can I say, Deadly End squeezed some sore somewhere deep within her. The part that set her overboard was the radio talk show announcer’s rap, “God’s greatest gift to man is pain” (I stole that line from Harry Crews). She told me she’d never heard something so sad.

Irwin’s girlfriend reacted kind of like the 20-year old woman in a Phoenix theater who left the Deadly End screening sobbing to take refuge in the little girl’s room. She said the old people in the movie reminded her of her grandmother and it was just so sad she couldn’t take it anymore. Then there was the autistic guy in Calgary who I caught in the lobby trying to sneak out of the theater fifteen minutes before the movie’s big ending. He looked upset and he told me he thought something really bad was about to happen. I scolded him for leaving before it was over and assured him the film had a happy ending. He shuffled back into the theater. I saw him after the movie was over and he didn’t look too good. The movie really burrows deep and upsets some, the weak, the lame, der untermenchen. Deadly End is a sort of psychic crematorium for those of unsettled minds.

Just kidding. […]

When people ask me “Graeme what kind of movies do you like?” I answer “I like movies where people get hurt.” Of course, that includes tragic drama and good comedies. But what I don’t like is seeing people getting hurt in the same ways over and over and over again. Most all the “genre” product is so tired and so lame. I’ve pretty much given up going to the movies unless I’m hungry for popcorn, but recently I’ve noticed they are starting to put something in the butter topping at the theaters that’s making me sick.2

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Whifler, Graeme. “Audio Commentary” (special feature). Carroll, Robert Martin, Dir. Sonny Boy [Blu-ray] (1989). Los Angeles, CA: Shout! Factory, 2016.
  2. Barton, Steve. “Whifler, Graeme (Deadly End)”. Dread Central (February 13, 2008): http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/6191/whifler-graeme-deadly-end/

buzzard

Writer-director Joel Potrykus and star Joshua Burge create one of the cinema’s great characters in Marty Jackitansky, as scathing a condemnation of this critic’s generation as has yet dared to bring the pain to the screen. Jackitansky is a loser, but seemingly unaware or unconcerned by this indisputable fact. He “works” for a bank’s mortgage division, but does little to earn his pay and actually spends most of his time devising ways of clipping the company for a quick buck. He orders useless supplies just to sell these back to the vendor for a cash refund, and even thinks he can get away with signing customers’ refund checks over to himself.

Jackitansky, a child of the 1980s, seems to have lost touch with reality sometime during the 1990s, as evidenced by the fact that he plays video games obsessively and yet refuses to use a computer because, as his even nerdier friend Derek (Potrykus) suggests, he is “scared of technology and robots and stuff.” He is young enough to suffer from the same desensitization and nihilism that characterize Generation Y, but too old to be comfortable with the personal technology that defines the social lives of those a few years younger.

Digital technology and an ineffectual public education system have left people like Jackitansky with little or no understanding of rudimentary math or economics. He blows all of his money on horror paraphernalia, and it never seems to occur to him to ration his limited resources once he goes on the run in order to elude the authorities. He thinks nothing, for instance, of eating out or throwing away the bulk of his dwindling cash on one evening in a nice hotel – and ordering room service, to boot.

Jackitansky is almost infectiously likable as an anti-heroic protagonist, his scams indicative of a creative if stupid and misguided resourcefulness and mischievously rebellious streak – at least, that is, until his anarchic revolt reveals itself to be little more than self-absorption and lack of regard for his fellow man. His intensifyingly hostile rudeness toward the admittedly goofy Derek kills any sympathy the viewer might have harbored until the point when Jackitansky finally becomes insufferable. Hoping to avoid detection by the authorities, he crashes in Derek’s father’s basement. Rather than being grateful, however, he dismisses his friend as a “fuckin’ loser” and even has the nerve to complain that his couch “sucks”. Buzzard progressively darkens in tone as the viewer begins to understand that Jackitansky is driven not by merely merry pranksterism, but by genuine junk-food-fueled psychopathy.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this journey into the nightmare realm of cubicle jobs, adult virgins, and institutionalized alienation is:

4. Reactionary! Jackitansky, a representative socialist, has had his head filled with vague notions about the unfairness of capitalism. Consequently, he has no compunctions about cheating a “crap mortgage company” out of an honest day’s work or threatening or even attacking a small businessman (Joe Anderson), whom he accuses of “corporate thievery”, for standing in the way of one of his idiotic schemes. “I’m gonna strangle you and rape your fuckin’ face off,” Jackitansky tells him, unaccountably adding, “You’re the reason people get mad and die.” At the same time, not much can be said for an economy that reduces Derek, a man who appears to be in his late twenties or thirties, to living at home with his father. One could, if one chose to find an anti-capitalist message in Buzzard, interpret Jackitansky’s parasitic hustling as merely an echo and reflection of the unproductive vulture economy responsible for the subprime mortgage collapse.

3. Media-critical. A Freddy Krueger poster enlivens the protagonist’s apartment, the Nightmare on Elm Street films clearly furnishing the inspiration for the deadly weapon he fashions from a Nintendo Power Glove. That he chooses to make this game control into a weapon for use in the real world, too, indicates a dangerous confusion of reality and the virtual world of glorified violence. Jackitansky’s given name, Marty, carries for this reviewer associations with two other famous Marties of the American cinema: Ernest Borgnine’s conversely sympathetic role in the 1955 film of that title, and Martin Scorsese, a godfather of trivialized movie bloodshed. Jackitansky, unlike Borgnine’s Marty, allows his self-pity to drive him to lash out at others, with whom he is unable to empathize. Significantly, he wears a T-shirt advertising Demons (1985), an Italian horror classic about demonic creatures emerging from a movie screen to do their evil in actuality.

2. Anti-white. The Jewish-looking Jackitansky, asked about his unusual name, replies that his ethnic background is “White Russian”, an answer that verbally reinforces the character’s presumptive whiteness vis-à-vis the non-whites he encounters during the film. Blacks appear as orderly, clean-cut, honest workers, whereas whites are lazy, crazy, socially awkward, and criminal. A blond convenience store cashier (Alan Longstreet) cheats Jackitansky out of a five-spot. Others, such as Derek, who has “party-zoned” his father’s basement, or those who aimlessly vegetate at a hip-hop performance, waste their lives.

1. Anti-Y. Generation Y, as personified by Marty Jackitansky, has no work ethic whatsoever. It has been made self-absorbed and autistic by spoilage, instant gratification, and pop-cultural depravity.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Vice poster

Sometimes nothing quite hits the spot like a bleak futuristic movie. Combining elements of Westworld (1973) and Blade Runner (1982) and updating these themes with apprehensions of twenty-first century cultural rot and a rising police state, Vice is a worthy entry in the dystopian thriller genre. Appropriately, generic actress Ambyr Childers stars as a synthetic human plaything at Vice, an indoor resort complex for perverts and sadists. Thomas Jane is cool as the dedicated but tired cop who attempts to find Childers after she escapes into the outside world, and Bruce Willis oozes the sleaze of authority as Vice’s untouchable proprietor. Fast-paced and relevant, Vice is solid. Those hoping for outrageous depictions of high-tech debauchery, however, will be disappointed, as most of the sex is merely teased.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Vice is:

5. Arguably Christian. A church provides at least momentary refuge. One line of dialogue suggests that those wrapped up in illusions avoid such places. Christians are falsely blamed as likely terrorist suspects.

4. Misandrist. Vice, unfortunately, is full of today’s hysteria about a ridiculous “rape culture”. The film depicts a nightmare America not unlike that from the Purge franchise, in which white males would delight in nothing more than to pay for the privilege of beating up, raping, and murdering women.

3. Anti-state and anti-corporate. Vice reflects the darkening reality of a world governed by a sexually permissive but totalitarian state guided by materialistic corporate interests. Elements of the police are in Willis’s pocket and work to cover up his crimes. The Vice resort fronts for defense sector research, the “artificials” being tested for military applications. The film can also be read as a skewering of the official 9/11 story.

2. Luddite. Technology threatens human liberty. Characters hope to escape to the “tech-free zone” of St. Helena.

1. Pro-censorship. Surprisingly for a Hollywood movie, Vice contains a thinly veiled argument for censorship. Describing the pleasure palace in words that might just as easily refer to the multiplex and its desensitizing effect on viewers, Thomas Jane’s cop holds forth as follows:

You know, people go in there and they get their freak on and they do whatever they do, and then they keep goin’ in there, and then they keep goin’ in there, and then they bring that shit out in the real world, it feels normal to them. [. . .] I used to be a cop. I’m not a cop anymore. I’m a fuckin’ garbage collector since that fuckin’ place opened up. It needs to be shut down.

Later, in a confrontation with villain Willis, he adds:

This is the only place I know that any scumbag in the world can get into paradise [. . .] You would think that if you created a place where people could come and they could commit any crime they could think of, just any fucked-up thing that comes into their head, they could get it out of their system and they’d become better citizens, you know. But you know it turns out, the exact opposite is true. These people get a taste and they just can’t get enough.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Board to Death B

Board to Death is Dammie Akinmola’s miniature (15-minute) film inspired by a short story, “Death by Scrabble” by Charlie Fish. The movie’s title, framing ennui and death wish as a game, signals a playful attitude toward its dark subject matter. Joshua Exposito, an odd choice of leading man whose voice, accent, and moody stare recall Highlander‘s Christopher Lambert, plays the jealous husband of quintessential femme fatale Victoria Ashford in this neo-noir black comedy.

Wasting no time getting to the grit, the film opens with the insane protagonist staring across a Scrabble board at his smug, smoking wife and giving voice-over narration in the conventional hardboiled fashion. “I’ll break the bones of anyone who touches her, anyone who lays eyes on her,” her swears. “I’ll crack their skulls and smash their teeth on concrete. They’ll suffer till their lights go out.” He then proceeds to live up to this bloody vow.

The black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous, and director Akinmola, also a composer, has wisely opted to use music sparingly, so that Exposito’s crazed whisper commands every inch of the viewer’s attention. One only wishes to see Board to Death expanded into a full-length feature, as too many characters are crammed into its too-brief running time for the audience to have any satisfactory sense of the meaning of each character’s deserts. If nothing else, the short format and compressed storyline prevent the viewer from ever becoming bored – let alone to death.

Board to Death

4 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Board to Death is:

8. Anti-feminist. The wife is a monster who cruelly enjoys her husband’s suffering and the murders he commits. Women’s empowerment has complicated and corrupted male-female relations, maddening men and discombobulating their moral compass. She “can’t be trusted” because she is “far too strong”.

7. Arguably anti-Christian. The murderous maniac protagonist is a churchgoer.

6. Pro-tobacco. In classic 1940s fashion, cigarette smoking is code for sex.

5. Multiculturalist. Peaceful non-white Britons sit with attentive gazes during a Christian service, suggesting that they are positively assimilated participants in Western Civilization.

4. Pro-miscegenation. A mixed-race couple (Carl Muircroft and Latifah Parara) appear to have a healthier and more normal relationship than the leads.

3. Media-critical. In one blatantly postmodern and self-referential scene, Exposito picks a fight against the backdrop of the poster for Board to Death, the very film in which he appears at that moment. Is this to suggest that the character’s diet of violent entertainment has shaped his insanity, desensitized him, and incentivized his antisocial behavior? Judging from Akinmola’s admission on the movie’s website to admiring Quentin Tarantino and his (flippantly ultraviolent) attitude toward life, one can only assume that this critique is unintentional.

2. Anti-gun. A bartender (Cristinel Hogas) keeps a shotgun under the counter, but finds it worthless as protection when the jealous husband seizes it from him and pummels him.

1. Anti-marriage. The husband alleges that his wife is “a demon, a succubus sent to tempt men.” Among his final utterances are the words, “Wife. Liar. Killer. Husband. Possessive. Paranoid. Dead.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Zombies vs. Strippers

The Tough Titty, a strip club in a seedy Los Angeles slum, finds itself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in this silly Full Moon outing. Spider (Circus-Szalewski), the proprietor, along with his bevy of shapely and jiggly employees, must cope with swelling numbers of undead perverts who congregate around the building while everyone also tries to come to terms with how they will spend what may be their last night on Earth. A pair of lewd customers wants nasty thrills; DJ Bernie (Tanner Horn) just wants to get high; while Spider and the strippers increasingly find that staying alive is more important than making money they might not be able to spend.

Slightly better than the tacky and unimaginative title might suggest, Zombies vs. Strippers is still an unremarkable pile of trash and risks overstaying its smelly welcome even at a meager seventy-four minutes padded with lengthy opening credits. There are, of course, curves galore, and a few witty one-liners; but the zombies, after a nice gradual tease during the exposition, offer only a modicum of suspense and pay diminishing returns as more and more of the snarlers appear onscreen. Good enough for a slow night, but hardly the movie this viewer would want at the top of his queue at the end of the world.

3 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Zombies vs. Strippers is:

13. Diversity-skeptical. Black stripper Vanilla (Brittany Gael Vaughn) dismisses “crazy fuckin’ white boys”.

12. Pro-gun. Guns are used defensively against the corpses.

11. Anti-slut. Fornicators are punished, with the zombie plague being compared to venereal disease.

10. Anti-X.  Like Creep Van, Zombies vs. Strippers holds Generation X/Y in low regard, particularly in terms of their value to employers.  DJ Bernie is a pothead, and the strippers can be foulmouthed and sassy. “I’m a professional. That used to mean something,” bouncer Marvin (J. Scott) reflects disapprovingly on the slacker mentality. “The American Dream is stuck in the mud,” children’s host Hambo the Ranch Hand (Chance A. Rearden) says before advocating the extermination of the rising generation.

9. Anti-TV.  Paralleling the zombie plague is the zombie-like vapidity and desensitization of the characters in the film from what seems to have been a lifelong diet of dumb television. “What would Hambo do?” Spider asks, the pig-nosed TV personality having apparently taken the place of Jesus in his life. Characters are more than once unable to distinguish between entertainment and imminent threat.

8. Anti-police. The LAPD, whether from cowardice or indifference, never enters the neighborhood of the Tough Titty. Bikers laugh at the threat of a call to the police.

7. Pro-choice/euthanasist. The infected must be put out of their misery for the good of humanity. Hambo, holding up two eggs, calls for the “eggstermination” of the young.

6. Anti-drug. Spider insults a zombie, calling it “crackhead”, and tells Bernie that weed will lower his sperm count. Later, offering a reefer to a zombie, Bernie is bitten.  When Bernie the zombie is killed by Vanilla, she cries, “This is your brain on drugs, motherfucker!” and pierces his head with her high-heel shoe. Drinking impairs the judgment of more than one character. One man is killed just as he is about to light a cigarette.

5. Capital-ambivalent. Zombies vs. Strippers presents a warts-and-all but basically sympathetic portrait of the American small businessman in Spider, who despite his efforts has failed to make the Tough Titty profitable.  Spider is not above trying to cheat a customer out of his money, but his chosen victim, musician Spike (Adam Brooks), is dishonest and an admitted thief. Adding to Spider’s woes are disrespectful and lazy employees like Bernie, whose poor turntable efforts prompt Spider to threaten to replace him with an mp3 player.

4. Anti-Christian. Christians are represented by biker Red Wings (Brad Potts), who spouts biblical claptrap but makes little secret of his nasty-mindedness. Spike gets tired of listening to his “religious crap”. One of the strippers irreverently dons a nun costume.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Black stripper Vanilla, announced as two scoops of chocolate ice cream that will make a man’s banana split, is desired by the white men around her and engages in flirtation with Red Wings.

2. Feminist.  The name of the strip club, the Tough Titty, says it all. Strong women stand the best chance of surviving. The representative male chauvinist pig (Patrick Lazzara) who uses abusive language against the strippers is certain to meet with an unpleasant end.

1. Relativist/nihilist.  “We’re all a bunch of criminals. A whole world of ‘em.”

 

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Do Not Disturb, previously released in 2010 as New Terminal Hotel (the latter version, according to IMDb, is thirteen minutes longer), marks a welcome return to the horror genre for character actor Stephen Geoffreys, who, after appearing in a handful of 80s classics like Fright Night and 976-Evil, took the (to say the least) unexpected career plunge of becoming a gay porn star and spent most of the 90s plumbing the depths of that smelly cinematic demimonde.

In Do Not Disturb, he plays Don Malek, an eccentric screenwriter living in a skid row apartment and driving his agent, Ava (Tiffany Shepis), to distraction by his refusal to do any work. She is apparently less concerned by the fact that Don is also murdering people. Malek, however, is, as it turns out, no run-of-the-mill serial killer, but an unorthodox and unusually refined variety of vigilante, taking matters into his own hands where karma would seem to have failed his sense of justice.

Geoffreys retains his familiar knack for muted, quirky intensity, his youthful impishness dampened here, however, by an air of defeat and experience that suits the characterization. The most mysterious person in Do Not Disturb, though, is not Don, the killer, but rather his agent, Ava, whose feelings and motives are questionable throughout the film. Tiffany Shepis is tough and consistently interesting as Ava, managing to make the character likable in spite of her harshness and unfeminine crudity. Ezra Buzzington, meanwhile, contributes a memorably disgusting performance as Spitz, Don’s perverted, handicapped neighbor.

BC Furtney’s direction is solidly simple, allowing the film to feel like a respectful adaptation of a stage play, with scenes consisting largely of two characters talking in a room. The strong cast, fortunately, ensures that this format is successful, maintaining tension and viewer interest. Add some nudity, gore, and squirmy, unnerving synthesizer music, and what results is a pleasant-enough black comedy suitable for late-night viewing.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Do Not Disturb is:

11. Xenophobic. An annoying Brit in a bar provides murder fodder.

10. Anti-state/anti-police. The world is an “Orwellian Babylon”. “Little cameras are watching us wherever we go now, aren’t they?” Police investigation annoys Don’s plans. The criminal justice system is unreliable. One of Don’s victims, a Hollywood bigwig, is said to have “killed that girl and we all know it.” “They don’t prosecute [rich, powerful] guys like Stanley.”

9. Anti-racist. Spitz makes a reference to a prostitute’s “nigger pimp”. His racism is presumably intended to add further justification to Don’s decision to murder him.

8. Anti-Christian. The Lord’s name is taken in vain. When Ava asks him, “Are you alone?”, Don asks, “In the universe?” It is apparently his disbelief in an afterlife or in divine retribution that drives him to vengeance (see also no. 5).

7. Media-critical. “Isn’t any press good press?” The detachment Ava displays when confronted with Don’s handiwork suggests a severe desensitization to violence. Is this the result of the industry in which she works?

6. Antiwar/anti-military. “Military service ain’t worth shit,” says wheelchair-bound Spitz, who complains about his medical expenses.

5. Subversive. “Join the workforce,” Don says sarcastically, to which Ava replies, “Be an upstanding citizen.” “God fearing,” Don adds (see also no. 8). A crummy end credits song, “Tables Turn”, threatens, presumably on behalf of degenerates everywhere, “We’re all gonna take you down.” Tattoos abound.

4. Drug-ambivalent. One writer is said to have a $400 daily drug habit. Another man’s predilection for cocaine leads to his death. Despite what is clearly the alcoholism of at least one character, Do Not Disturb buys wholly into the romance of the bottle and the picturesque hipness of drinking, with Geoffreys and Buzzington milking every drop of cool that they possibly can from the stage business of imbibing.

3. Feminist. “Don’t pull my dick,” says Ava, an exemplar of the mannish career woman. Men are more than once shown to behave as predators toward women and are, consequently, dispatched by Don.

2. Pro-vigilante. Don is a “strangely noble” murderer. The film evokes no sympathy for his victims.

1. Nihilist. Do Not Disturb, with its grim relativism, verges on the anti-human.

Spring_Breakers_poster

Writer-director Harmony Korine’s dope-drenched epic of college-age pagan debauchery suffers from the same fatal ailment as most other movies that insist on taking as their subjects the absolute dregs of society – namely a lack of characters worthy of the least bit of audience sympathy. The introduction of the principal quartet of spoiled and mostly indistinguishable bimbos is so icily off-putting and nonchalantly bile-provoking that it could almost be a set-up for some exercise in torture porn. College students in name only, these are pretty, pot-addled apes who, during a lecture on the civil rights movement, amuse themselves by scrawling lewd notes or drawing a picture of a penis. Where the Boys Are this is not.

Tired of what they feel to be their intolerably mundane lives, four girls determine to travel to Florida to “find” themselves on spring break. Short of funds, three of them successfully rob a restaurant, and off they and naive Christian friend Faith (Selena Gomez) head for the sun and sand, where their participation in grotesque bacchanalia rightly lands the disgusting group in jail. Coming to their aid as if by providence, revolting rapper and drug dealer Alien (James Franco, in a truly transformational character creation) bails them out and takes the girls under his demonic wing, introducing them to his gangsta friends. Faith, though stupid, retains some vague wisp of the notion of decency and so decides to go home at this point; but her three friends remain and go with Alien, who, like a thuggish Charles Manson, will usher them through an initiation into nihilistic evil.

More shocking and memorable than actually good, Spring Breakers does contain some visual coups that viewers will never forget: a man performing fellatio on two guns; three girls in pink ski masks dancing, guns in hand, in the attitude of the three Graces; and, of course, sand strewn with cheap, jiggling flesh. With the anesthetized and dreamlike shoot-out of the climax, the director walks a particularly dangerous line. Are the events at the end of the film intended to inspire audience approval or did Korine even stop to consider how these moments would be received? Is Spring Breakers really the serious social commentary it seems to pretend to be or just a tacky exploiter that points and laughs at societal disease? Is Korine documenting or actually celebrating the decline of western civilization? Either way, this vile opus has much to say about American life, and much of it is true.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Spring Breakers is:

9. State-skeptical/anti-business. “Everyone can use a little bailin’ out once in a while,” Alien says in a line that hints at a broader significance. With his neck tattoo of a dollar sign, Alien symbolizes misguided rapacity and mirrors the criminal world of big business.

8. Pro-gay. Girls frequently engage in teasing kisses, grinding, and so forth, none of it particularly sexy. The sum effect, however, is normalization. Alien clearly enjoys sucking the guns and tells the girls afterward that he loves them.

7. Media-critical. “Just fuckin’ pretend like it’s a video game. Act like you’re in a movie or somethin’,” one of the girls advises the others before they commit a robbery. “I got Scarface on repeat. Constant, y’all,” Alien boasts, contributing to the sense that these young people’s poor behavior has been programmed by their entertainment (cf. The Bling Ring).

6. Anti-American. Alien describes his materialistic gangsta lifestyle as “the American Dream” (cf. Pain and Gain). “Seeing all this money makes my pussy wet,” one of the girls says.

5. Anti-Christian. Juxtaposed scenes equate Christianity and substance abuse as means of escape from reality. Two dumb Christian friends of Faith advise her (with good reason, as it turns out) to “pray super hardcore” for her well-being in Florida. (Ironically, her religious scruples do preserve her from the danger experienced by the other girls.)

4. Diversity-skeptical and anti-wigger. “I don’t like it here,” Faith says, finding herself in the midst of a bunch of scuzzy blacks and wiggers and feeling intensely uncomfortable. This moment counterbalances the casual flashes of suggested black-white miscegenation in the film. A theme of Spring Breakers is self-destruction, and one moment in which a girl drinks from a black water pistol, a rapper’s smug face on a poster behind her, indicates the self-loathing and suicidal nature of wiggerism.

3. Culturally and morally ambivalent. From drugs to guns and gangsterism to flippant fornication, Korine keeps such a cold, ambiguous distance that his attitude from one scene to the next is occasionally difficult to fathom. The copious casual sex and drug abuse carry surprisingly few consequences, with only a shot of a vomiter passed out by a toilet (and party-crashing by police) disrupting the flow of fun. There is nothing at all admirable in Alien or his groupie disciples, and yet the amount of time devoted to his misbehavior, his air of a tragic artist of wasted potential, and the martyrish pose pretentiously granted him at his demise would appear to give him a neon sheen of antiheroic myth. The ravages of gunplay, likewise, are mitigated by the fetishistic fascination and sexuality accorded to firepower. One of the girls determines that “being a good person” is the “secret to life”, but fails to act according to this piece of wisdom.

2. Relativistic and nurturist (i.e., anti-science). Spring Breakers points to environment as the key determiner of individual development, discrediting the role that genetics and race play in shaping human intelligence and character. “I was the only white boy in my whole neighborhood,” the worthless Alien recounts. Consequently, he grows up to be indistinguishable from the criminal blacks among whom he moves. “We met people who are just like us. Just the same as us,” one of the girls reflects in voice-over. Only the social context of their spoiled upbringing, sheltered by white privilege, has presumably prevented the girls from sinking into savagery before now. Heritability would appear to play no role in shaping these people, so that Spring Breakers works like a stock anthropology lecture to the effect that those spear-brandishing jungle natives in the National Geographic are no less civilized than the European gentleman reading poetry in his smart smoking jacket, their mating and war-making rituals being identical at bottom. The culture war does, however, appear to hold importance for Korine, even if it is not always clear on which side of the battle line he stands.

1. Anti-human. No likable characters = no reason to care.

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