Archives for posts with tag: Hellraiser

Naturally, everyone prefers a pleasurable moviegoing experience to a sharply unpleasant one; and yet, as adventurous, seasoned, and discriminating cinephiles already know, there is something instructive and salutary in an occasional trip to cinema’s Dark Side and a philosophically minded sojourn in the Movie House of Pain.  This is the tenebrous, nightmarish place (think Hellraiser and picture hooks and chains slowly swaying and clinking in unfathomable darkness) where nothing worthwhile is ever projected, where filth alone adorns the screen, and where Boredom and Loathing wait like lewdly lip-licking Cenobites to bind and eviscerate the viewer.  These are the experiences, after all, which give good and great movies their significance, just as, without the darkness, light itself would be impossible.

A case in point is Betty and Coretta, a Canadian-made Lifetime Network movie about Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) and Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett), the respective widows of martyred rabble rousers Malcolm X and Martin King.  Superfluous beyond belief, this most recent hosanna out of the Martin King Cult is exactly the film one would expect it to be: a stoic, vapid, stylistically sterile, and self-congratulatory cardboard reenactment of highlights from the lives of two not particularly fascinating women as they bravely continue to live their lives whole decades after the touted events that made them even tangentially relevant to anyone other than themselves – much of it punctuated, of course, by a soundtrack of the obligatory soulful moaning.

Considering the inconsequential nature of the women’s stories following their husbands’ deaths, Betty and Coretta understandably suffers from a lack of interesting event or forward narrative momentum.  Follow Coretta Scott King as she boldly faces reporters who have the nerve to question her about the FBI recordings.  Follow Betty Shabazz as she bravely raises a daughter troubled by nightmares after her father’s murder. Follow Coretta Scott King as she graciously gives multiple inspiring speeches and lobbies to get a holiday named after her husband.  Follow Betty Shabazz as she boldly hosts her own radio talk show.  Follow Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz as they admirably persevere, eat lunch, exchange brave mothering insights, move on up, and boldly shop for shoes together.  Betty’s public accusation that Louis Farrakhan (Alex C. Askew) had a hand in Malcolm X’s murder is as confrontational as the movie ever gets, and even this subplot fails to engage.

Worse, screenwriters Ron Hutchinson and Shem[p?] Bitterman’s script is rock-hard stale bread all the way, with Coretta Scott King sounding every time she opens her mouth as if she suspects the pious stenographers of black historical destiny may be hiding behind a curtain and recording her every word, calling her husband a “vessel for greatness” and arguing that “we need to consecrate his legacy.”  Angela Bassett’s wooden performance perfectly mirrors the empty verbiage she recites, and Malik Yoba is just as boring as Great Doctor Junior Himself.  Mary J. Blige fares better in her role, coming across much more naturally, but the dialogue does the actress no favors.  Lindsay Owen Pierre is unworthy of note as Malcolm X, and Ruby Dee, who narrates the film as a pseudo-documentary interviewee, gives evidence of incipient senility as she delivers her lines in halting, awkward syllables and sometimes even appears to read from cue cards as her eyes dart unsettlingly from side to side.

A star and a half.  Ideological Content Analysis, after being stretchered out of the Movie House of Pain like a wounded and bloodied trooper, indicates that Betty and Coretta is:

8. Pro-bastard.  Betty’s daughter keeps it real and skips the marriage bit.

7. Anti-gun.  Betty’s daughter has nightmares about men with guns.

6. Anti-miscegenation.  Betty’s daughter’s white live-in guyfriend, as if wiping his nose before offering to shake hands with Betty is not bad news enough already, also turns out to be a dastardly spy for the FBI.

5. Selectively anti-state.  The FBI is an antagonist, as are the congressmen who oppose the creation of the national King holiday.  (All the FBI probably needs, though, is a quota system, for it to become a tool for progress.)

4. Egalitarian.  Coretta campaigns for “economic justice” and identifies poverty as one of the evils plaguing America.

3. Statist/pro-NWO.  “Can you believe it?” Betty says, exasperated.  “Another round of budget cuts.  When are taxpayers gonna learn?  Pay a little now or a whole lot later.”  The film opens with witness to history Ruby Dee gushing at the momentous dedication of a King statue by President B.O.  Coretta longs for “a new world [order], a just world, a world dedicated to fayuhness and equality for awl.”  The UN is referenced as a weapon for forcing social change in America.

2. Feminist/black uber alles.  “You don’t need a man to survive,” Betty tells a student.  “You just need some trainin’ so you can get a good job.”  Addressing herself to black women, Coretta defiantly intones, “Weeee awwww a powuhful fawss.”

1. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Imagine that.  And yet, in an unintentional irony, as soon as Betty has enough money, she gets “a nice home, away from the city [and her fellow blacks, presumably], where Betty could give her children the sheltered life she had dreamed of.”  Still, “Every time a neighbor see us, they think we gone blow somethin’ up.”  Bigots!

BettyPin2

deer crossing

A scabrous, wilfully unpleasant film, Deer Crossing wallows in the worst that humanity has to offer.  Perhaps best described as Bad Day at Black Rock meets I Spit on Your Grave, Christian Jude Grillo’s paranoid death trip into the redneck post-apocalypse that constitutes the U.S.A. outside New York, L.A., and Chicago (at least in the minds of those who live in New York, L.A., and Chicago) is a marginally recommendable film for one outstanding reason: K.J. Linhein’s Zeus-like portrayal of the granddaddy of all sadistic white trash antagonists, Santa-bearded superhick Lukas Walton.

So over-the-top it has to be seen by any admirer of things ludicrously compelling, the characterization dares to evoke what foul thing might have been spawned the night Dan Haggerty got drunk, hogtied Wilford Brimley, pumped him full of heroin, and had himself a high old time.  Lukas is basically Democrats’ idea of the typical Republican: a hulking, hairy, overalls-clad figure from distant antiquity who licks his chops at the thought of oppressing women and children and runs amuck in benighted cultural wastelands like Texas and Alabama; a gun-toting rapist and hater of all humanity, but especially African-Americans, and who will destroy us all if he/it is not stopped.

Deer Crossing takes up with old Lukas after he captures and reconditions city mother Maggie Chancelor (Laura L. Cottrel) and her young son Cole (Kevin Fennell) as the playthings of his inscrutable, primitive whims after they hit a deer on the highway and fatefully crash their car in Lukas’s neck of Deliveranceland.  Eight years will pass before the father, Dr. Chancelor (Warren Hemenway), receives evidence that his missing wife and child may still be alive.  If they are, does he want to know?  If so, his son will have lived more than half of his life in a milieu altogether removed that of Dr. Chancelor.

Is Deer Crossing a contribution to the environment vs. genetics debate or just a greasy middle finger directed at every cowboy hat in sight?  At times the film seems deadly serious; but then Lukas Walton will lope into view and elicit a laugh with his hillbilly hijinks.  The exaggerated quality of the characters and situations is constantly at odds with what seems to be Deer Crossing‘s desire to be taken in earnest.  Sunless, despairing, and silly, but also entertaining, the film is a kind of One-Eyed Jack whose belches and mumbled obscenities invite interpretation.

Christopher Mann, who stars as Detective Derrick Stanswood, seems comfortable in the role of the black man hated because he thrives.  Pinhead himself, Hellraiser‘s Doug Bradley, appears as Sheriff Lock, who – odd for a rural Pennsylvania lawman – sports a futilely wrestled British accent.  Among the other locals are callous cowboy-hat-and-eyepatch-wearing homosexual racketeer Randy (Tom Detrik) and drug-peddling madam and hairdresser Gail (Jennifer Butler).  Ernie Hudson, meanwhile, collects a paycheck by showing up in a couple of scenes as Captain Bailey.

3.5 probably overly generous stars of a possible 5.  Only the most tenebrous sense of humor is likely to endure, let alone enjoy, Grillo’s study.  Ideological Content Analysis, meanwhile, indicates that Deer Crossing is:

7. Anti-Christian.  A cross is visible on a sweaty redneck’s tacky shirt as he sodomizes a male prostitute.

6. Anti-drug.  Lukas keeps Maggie doped so he can have fun with her.  Sheriff Lock is an addict.

5. Anti-marriage.  If your spouse becomes a vegetable, it’s just a depressing hassle.  Better is when they go missing, particularly if there’s a mistress waiting in the hospital wings to become wife #2.

4. Anti-gay.  Because sodomy in the world of this film is the province of sexually inadequate white males and self-loathing backwoods hicks, it is evil and a symptom of moral rot.

3. Black supremacist.  If not for competent cops like Detective Stanswood and Captain Bailey, police departments across the country would be run by goofy, giggly white imbeciles like Detective Kushman (Phil Eichinger).

2. Animal rights militant.  Maggie should have watched the road and never hit that deer.  Her ordeal is her punishment, nature’s manifest wrath in hillbilly form for the sacrificial albatross.  Rural hunting traditions are transformed into the pointless stabbing of a rabbit trapped in a box.

1. Anti-white male/anti-redneck.  Deer Crossing admonishes city-dwellers that, not far outside their small pockets of civilization are seas of woods infested with “inbred, mullet-wearing motherfuckers”.

The Possession, or as I prefer to dub it, The Jewish Exorcist – or, alternately, Yahweh Got Game – is at heart a neurotic family drama set in motion by the divorce of apparently secular Jewish parents Clyde and Stephanie Breneck (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick).   Expectedly, this has upset the lives of their adolescent daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and, more markedly, Emily (Natasha Calis).  Even worse, Mrs. Breneck has begun dating an Anglo-Saxon dentist and Wagner fan (Grant Show) – which is to say, a crypto-Nazi on all three counts – thus further diminishing the chance that this broken family will ever be put back together again.

Shit really starts to hit the fan, though, when Mr. Breneck buys Emily a mysterious wooden box at a yard sale.  We know the box is bad news because, in an earlier scene an old woman, its previous owner, hears it whispering Jewish gibberish at her and decides to try to beat it with a hammer, but only gets a thrashing and body-slamming from an invisible entity for her trouble.  Her son, a nice middle-aged Jewish boy who just then happened to be stopping by to visit Momma, sees nothing wrong with passing the curse on to somebody else if he can make a buck, and sells the troublesome antique to unsuspecting Mr. Breneck.  Slightly reminiscent of the Hellraiser puzzle box, but scarier because it’s bigger, covered with Hebrew abracadabra, and full of creepy, crusty Jewish stuff, this “box” – which, unfortunately for everyone involved, contains a dybbuk, or cranky, perpetually whispering, old Jewish hag, plus a host of annoying Jewish moths that infest the house – becomes an immediate obsession of pubescent Emily, who develops a sharp possessiveness and sensitivity about having her “box” touched, preferring, rather, that she should be the only one to handle her “box”.

Tragically, several people, beginning with her father, also want to touch Emily’s “box”, and that always leads to trouble.  When he becomes concerned that the “box” is causing Emily to misbehave, Mr. Breneck tosses it into a dumpster, but that only causes her to run out of the house, psychically pinpoint and retrieve it, and vomit a lot of Jewish moths.  When a mischievous schoolmate touches her “box”, he gets a vicious feminist beatdown, and when her black teacher, Miss Shandy, i.e., shady shine or schvartse shiksa (Brenda Crichlow), confiscates Emily’s “box” and then, like a street thug, tries to prize it open with a knife, her eyes start leaking blood and before you know it the “box” has asserted its will and exacted its Jewish revenge.  The crypto-Nazi dentist, who never touches Emily’s “box” but probably wants to, must, of course, also be punished, if only for liking Wagner operas; and, after Emily lures him toward her by giving him come-hither goth-slut stares, she grabs some well-deserved Holocaust reparations by telekinetically and bloodily extracting all of his Anglo-Saxon teeth.

Mr. Breneck, fortunately, has seen the original Exorcist and realizes he’s in over his head; consequently, after surfing the net and watching some exorcism videos, he gets religion and drives to New York to try to guilt-trip some rabbis into helping a brother out.  One of them, Tzadok (“Hasidic Reggae Superstar” Matisyahu) – the titular Jewish Exorcist! – mans up and agrees to throw down and from that point you just know the dybbuk’s days in possession of little Emily are numbered.  Jewish mystical mumbo-jumbo, after all, is pungent medicine, and – while less frequently prescribed, perhaps, than other varieties of movie mumbo-jumbo – easily trumps medievalist Tolkien tomfoolery, voodoo, gypsy curses, santeria, snake-charming, evangelical tongue-speaking and laying-on of hands, and costumed Catholic Latin-spouting and incense-swinging, for instance, as the premier form of unrestricted spiritual warfare on the silver screen.

Disorienting aerial shots occasionally remind us that Yahweh, like some sociopathic, masturbating voyeur, is watching everything that happens on earth, and can smite the gentiles at any moment the sanctity of the Jewish “box” is challenged.  He, in His omnipresence, is the true hero or the vengeful eminence grise of The Jewish Exorcist.  Through His unwitting agent, the dybbuk, He orchestrates and manifests His almighty will; and, while the dybbuk is identified as a force of “evil”, we must grant that this vicious old hag has ultimately effected a positive outcome by causing, albeit unintentionally, the reunion of a family and presumably also the eventual restoration of the Yahweh-approved sacrament of holy matrimony.

Unintentionally funny more often than scary, The Jewish Exorcist does, in its defense, contain two or three moments that could pass for a species of low-voltage suspense, and the actors are generally fun to watch as they make total fools of themselves.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Jewish Exorcist is:

3. Racist and especially anti-Negro.  Mr. Breneck is a college basketball coach by profession and in one scene we see him in action, honing his team by means of a peculiar imaginary ball exercise.  The Jewish Exorcist would have us understand that black guys wouldn’t even know how to dribble a ball unless there was a Jewish professor on hand to tell them how it’s done and train them by means of a creative psychological experiment.  Apart from this scene and the aforementioned sorrowful fate of Miss Shandy, there is the conspicuously placed deflated basketball amid the wreckage resulting from the film’s final jump-scare: a reminder that the achievements of blacks are as nothing compared to the will of Yahweh and His plan for His chosen people – a caveat, in short, that Yahweh Got Game.

2. Pro-marriage/pro-family.

1. Zionist/anti-miscegenation.  “Keep your filthy gentile hands off my Jewish ‘box’!” wails this hysterical horror flick at every opportunity.  The sanctity of the crusty, moth-filled Jewish “box” must be guarded at all costs and by all necessary violent means.  Significantly, when Miss Shandy tries messing with Emily’s “box”, a ghostly breeze enters the room from nowhere and the miniature American flag on her desk starts flapping energetically, signifying that whenever the national chastity of the Zionist “box” is threatened, spirito-militaristic Israeli-American patriotism will be invoked and wrathful Yahweh will visit neoconservatism mercilessly upon the earth.

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