Archives for posts with tag: horror

Ready or Not

Everything would seem to have fallen into place for gorgeous bride Grace (Samara Weaving), who as the movie opens is tying the knot with rich and handsome board game heir Alex (Mark O’Brien) and, in addition to marrying into opulence, faces a major change as she stands to join “a real, permanent family”. The Le Domas dynasty, however, is “big on tradition”, and one of those traditions is a “weird family ritual” according to which the bride is obligated to play a randomly selected game on her wedding night. Unfortunately for Grace, the game she picks is “hide and seek”, which for viewers means yet another iteration of The Most Dangerous Game, with Alex’s insane relatives and servants chasing his new wife around their estate with an assortment of vintage weapons. Visually alluring and adequately thrill-packed, Ready or Not is more or less the dose of feminist poison I was expecting, but not too shabby as the escape-from-patriarchy thriller subgenre goes. This is probably the ultimate in-laws-from-hell story.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ready or Not is:

Drug-ambivalent. Cocaine offers an instant boost of confidence and energy, but fails to improve marksmanship. One character, more likable than most of the others in the film, is an alcoholic. Grace, however, prefers a cathartic cigarette at the end of her ordeal.

Class-conscious, having fun with the popular notion of a satanic elite. The Le Domas family owes its fortune to an occult benefactor called Le Bail, whose name may be intended to suggest Beelzebub. The Le Domas family believes that if they fail to uphold their game play tradition, they will suffer the supernatural wrath of Le Bail – all implying that people can only become successful in life through foul deeds. “It’s true what they say. The rich really are different,” Ready or Not confirms for viewers. Ethical living, in this movie’s moral universe, requires resistance to the avatars of caste, tradition, and family, which are equated with evil. The Le Domas clan represents a fairly WASP-ish version of the predatory ultra-wealthy, with the notable exception of Alex’s brother Daniel, played by Adam Brody. Significantly, this character is one of the few in the family to have moral reservations about Le Bail’s game. “We all deserve to die,” he laments.

Anti-marriage and anti-family. Marriage could literally kill you! In one emblematic moment, Grace angrily rips at her cumbersome wedding gown as she transforms it into active wear for the fight ahead. In another scene, a young boy shoots her through the palm before she manages to strike him – a foreshadowing of the crucifixion of motherhood, a symbolic value stressed again when a nail goes through the wound in Grace’s hand shortly thereafter. To be a good person in Ready or Not is to question the validity of family bonds and tradition. “I realized you’ll do pretty much anything if your family says it’s okay,” Alex reflects disapprovingly. Better be a good bad girl and do what Hollywood says instead.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

shed

Stan (Jay Jay Warren) is a troubled teenager whose parents are dead and who consequently has to stay with his hard-drinking and emotionally abusive grandfather (Timothy Bottoms). Seeing his best friend Dommer (Cody Kostro) get bullied every day at school doesn’t make it any easier for Stan to stay out of trouble, and the fact that that the biggest and most handsome jerk of them all, Marble (Chris Petrovski), deflowered the girl Stan loves certainly doesn’t improve his mood. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department also has an eye on him – and on top of all that, there’s a vampire hiding in the shed behind his house! When bodies start to pile up, Stan just wants all the chaos to stop, but vengeful Dommer gets some dangerous ideas about how a vampire might come in handy in evening up the score with his tormenters at school. Marred by some painfully generic dialogue, The Shed is nonetheless a successfully tense and sometimes humorous echo of the teen horror heyday of the 1980s. I give the drama a passing C but the scares definitely earn an A.

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

[WARNING: SPOILERS!]

Drug-ambivalent. The grandfather stands as a cautionary depiction of an alcoholic, but Stan and Dommer get together and drink with no repercussions for either character apart from the grandfather griping about his grandson stealing his beer.

Anti-gun, guns appearing ineffective as a means of defense and mainly posing an offensive threat.

Anti-military, offering a degrading depiction of a Vietnam veteran in the grandfather, who brags about his service overseas while complaining that young people have no sense of duty.

Family-ambivalent. The characterization of the cruel grandfather is simplistically over-the-top, and parental figures and figures of authority generally are given negative depictions. Stan’s father selfishly committed suicide, and love interest Roxy (Sofia Happonen) mentions that her stepfather abused her mother. In each case, the character suffers from the absence of the real father. “We all hate our parents,” she claims. In one of The Shed’s lamest moments, young rebel Stan imagines the indignity of living in a “shitty suburban town, hating your neighbor, hating your wife, hating your parents for the way you turned out.” Militating against the anti-family content of the story, however, is the “In Loving Memory of Dad” dedication in the end credits.

Anti-Antifa. When, toward the end of the film, Dommer has decided to turn to murder, he appears in a T-shirt bearing an anarchist circle-A, anarchism being the ideology of choice of unhinged adolescent losers brimming with resentment and out for revenge.

Racist! The mixed-race Pitt (Francisco Burgos) is a second-tier bully and also a weak link when, after having joined forces with the protagonists, he shows himself a coward and falls prey to the vampire, becoming one himself.

Anti-Semitic! Probably not, actually; but with any vampire film there is always the question of the extent to which the filmmakers are conscious of and engage with the Judaic dimension of the European bloodsucker tradition. The case to be made for The Shed is flimsy, but it may be worth mentioning in this connection that Stan, hardly an archetypal Aryan hero, does have posters in his bedroom that feature runic writing. That the vampire is able to subvert mystery-meat Pitt and deploy him against Stan and Roxy could be read as reflecting Jewish manipulation of minority populations in majority-white societies, as well. As with many classic horror movies, the action in The Shed concludes with a purifying fire – which is, of course, to say a holocaust. The vampire might just as easily and perhaps more justifiably be interpreted as an expression of contagious and potentially homicidal or self-destructive teen angst, however. This reading would complement the movie’s doubly meaningful tagline: “Beware the evil within.”

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

vfw

Joe Begos’s VFW is a satisfying action-horror exploitation homage to the work of John Carpenter and bears an undisguised resemblance to that director’s excellent Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). In a similar siege scenario, the trouble starts when a girl named Lizard (Sierra McCormick) steals a backpack’s worth of dope from spikes-and-leather-clad local kingpin Boz (Travis Hammer) and takes refuge in a VFW post. Zombie-like addicts known as “hypers” soon descend on the unsuspecting veterans in the bar, throwing them back into action and forcing them to draw on their military experience in order to stave off the psychotic horde. (“An army of braindead animals is still an army,” one of the characters remarks – almost as if commenting on current events.) The cool “old but still runnin’” cast includes Stephen Lang as barman Fred; William Sadler as titty enthusiast Walter; Martin Kove as used car salesman Lou; David Patrick Kelly as Doug; and the always likable Fred Williamson as Abe. Cheers fans will also appreciate getting to see George Wendt perched at a bar again in his brief role as Zabriski. VFW’s pacing is brisk; the atmospheric look of the film is on point; and Steve Moore’s electronic score capably captures the Carpenterian evocation of the impending. The earthy screenplay, with its lines like “‘Sorry’ don’t feed the bulldog” and “What in the cocksucking fuck just went on in here?”, is nothing special; but admirers of the 80s action and horror genres and VHS culture will appreciate moments like the weapons preparation montage and the nocturnal excitement of it all.

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

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

War-ambivalent or disingenuously antiwar. Fred has a serious moment in which he laments all the comrades he saw die in Indochinese mud, but some of the messaging as well as the mostly flippant ultraviolence of the proceedings – with guns, axes, bats, and a circular saw employed to dispatch disposable antagonists, not to mention the scene in which a musclebound brute uses a drug addict’s head as a battering ram – undermine earnest consideration of the human costs of war. There is arguably, too, a neoconservative content to the sequence in which Lou seeks to negotiate with the narco-terrorists and is killed for his trouble. The screenplay leaves it to a villain to describe soldiering as glorified “murder”.

Midly anti-capitalistic. Lou, as a used car dealer, stands as an unflattering avatar of the business mindset.

Drug-ambivalent. An info-blurb at the front of the movie mentions the current opioid epidemic, and early on a dead-ender jumps to her death. Other substances receive more favorable or at least ambiguous treatment, however. Fred drinks and drives without comment during the exposition, though later Lizard snatches a bottle from his hand, telling him, “This is bullshit” and calling him a “pussy” for boozing when things get tough. Sadler smokes “shitty cigarettes” while Doug smokes “science weed”. Abe calls marijuana “poison” and sticks to liquor until, just before the final battle, he snorts a fistful of the bad guys’ dope to give himself a martial edge.

Civic nationalist. Veterans in the film regard each other as worthy comrades regardless of race. “They gonna feel the might of the American military!” Williamson declares, and one of the hypers even gets a flagpole shoved down the gullet.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

color

Nic Cage fans should get a kick out of this genuinely unnerving H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a family man finally “living the dream” after moving his family out of “the big city” and onto a rural New England farmstead. The trouble starts when a stinky meteorite lands in his yard, after which strange transformations start to occur among Gardner’s family and in the wilderness around them. Devotees of crazy, freaked-out Cage moments will have a ball with his close-encounter-in-the-shower scene, driveway tantrum, and the sight of him blasting away at a mass of slimy mutant alpacas. Some of the outrageously grotesque situations and visuals are reminiscent of films like From Beyond (1986), The Curse (1987), and Society (1989), which ought to give prospective viewers a fair warning of what lies in store. Color Out of Space does, unfortunately, overstay its welcome by twenty minutes or so, particularly when it slips into all-encompassing CGI saturation mode; but, at its best, Color Out of Space is good, spooky, occasionally campy fun.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Color Out of Space is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Drug-ambivalent. Tommy Chong plays a forest-dwelling hermit and weed aficionado. His chemical pastime is played for laughs, but his easygoing disposition also leaves him spacey, reckless, and incapable of perceiving the threat right under his feet (and in his cup).

Media-skeptical. When TV news does a story on the landing of the meteorite at Mr. Gardner’s farm, the interview is inaccurately captioned “UFO Sighting in Arkham?” and the reporter insinuates that Gardner is only a drunk.

Green, suggesting that politicians are insufficiently concerned with conservation and public health. Arkham’s corrupt mayor (Q’orianka Kilcher) proceeds with a profitable reservoir construction project despite being warned about the environmental hazards.

Wicca-ambivalent. Gardner’s daughter, Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), practices witchcraft, casting spells to, for instance, keep her mother (Joely Richardson) free from cancer. She claims never to practice black magic, and is depicted as a more or less normal teenage girl. Her spells are ineffective at combating the titular menace, however, and viewers are left with the impression that Wicca is probably only a silly hobby. Interestingly, one of the talismans employed during one of her rituals is a swastika made from Barbie doll legs. This could, on the one hand, indicate her character’s immaturity; but it might also suggest elites’ anxiety over potentially negative, possibly nationalistic outcomes of young European-Americans’ abandonment of Abrahamic religion in favor of a return to paganism, however superficial (cf. Midsommar).

Urbanite. Lavinia is dismissive of country life, dislikes being made to eat “peasant food”, and, unlike her father, would have preferred to continue enjoying life in “the big city”. The family’s isolation and remoteness from civilization and help does contribute to their downfall in the end.

Pro-miscegenation. Lavinia has a crush on a “kinda cute” African-American hydrologist, Ward (Elliot Knight), who comes to survey the Miskatonic River for a hydroelectric company. H.P. Lovecraft, who advocated “the domination of English and kindred races over the lesser divisions of mankind”, would no doubt have been appalled. Fortunately, the color out of space culturally enriches Lavinia before the suitor of color can.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

we summon

Three hip chicks headed down an Indiana highway for a heavy metal concert in 1988 are in for a few surprises in We Summon the Darkness, an exercise in nostalgia that takes itself slightly more seriously as a horror movie than last year’s Satanic Panic. Meanwhile, a spate of devil-cult murders has been shocking middle America’s Moral Majority. Can the girls really trust the three cool dudes they meet in the parking lot at the show? We Summon the Darkness succeeds pretty well at being suspenseful, but the satire is as stale as a 1988 beer you might find in the glove compartment of a stoner van in some automobile graveyard, the twists in the storyline furthermore resulting in gross inconsistencies of characterization. Unfortunately, this is one of those movies that can’t really be properly synopsized without giving away the payoffs, so mind the spoiler alert below.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that We Summon the Darkness is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Anti-American. The movie takes place on the Fourth of July, signifying the relevance of its feeble exposé of religious hypocrisy and moral failure to American culture more generally.

Anti-drug. The annoying stepmother of one of the girls is depicted as both a judgmental suburban bore and a secret cocaine addict. The hapless three young dudes, meanwhile, are doomed by their party-hearty attitude and willingness to get wasted when they unknowingly drink drugged booze and end up as the captives of the satanic murder cult.

Anti-Christian. In the first of the film’s major twists, the trio of girls is revealed to be a cell of assassins working for the congregation of a greedy televangelist. The idea is that the satanic panic engendered by news coverage of the killings will spook people into joining the televangelist’s church. The movie convention of the religious, fastidiously moral figure turning out to be a killer has been done to death since the 1980s in movies like The Majorettes (1987) and Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988). A real shock ending would have been a televangelist who didn’t turn out to be corrupt.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Midsommar

When some guy named Ari makes a movie about the revival of native European spirituality, you pretty much know what to expect. Midsommar has anthropology student Christian (Jack Reynor) taking emotionally distraught girlfriend Dani (Florence Pugh) to Sweden to study the religious observances of a rustic pagan community. Unsurprisingly, the hospitality of the Swedes turns out to mask the murderousness of a human sacrifice cult. Essentially a Wicker Man for the twenty-first century, Midsommar seeks to improve on its model by imbuing itself with seething hatred of whites and offensive levels of graphically depicted gore. Plodding and seemingly interminable at two hours and twenty-eight minutes, and overstaying its welcome by roughly sixty minutes, Midsommar inadvertently gives voice to my own sentiment when, toward the end, someone observing a ritual sex act commands, “Finish.” The funniest line in the movie, though, is probably the one about Sweden having “a tick problem”.

2.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Midsommar is:

HBD-denialist. Accompanying Christian to Sweden is Josh (William Jackson Harper), a particularly ugly black student whose every moment onscreen is jarring and unnecessary. The quintessential specimen of Africanus cinematicus – the type of black person who only exists in Hollywood movies – Josh shares Christian’s research interest in indigenous European faiths. A candidate for the least convincing black character ever presented in a movie, Josh is given to sophisticated remarks like, “Do you think there is a masochistic part of you that is playing out this particular drama to avoid the work you actually need to be doing?”

Antinatalist. An annoying sex scene is intercut with an inbred, mentally retarded child’s hideous face.

Anti-white. Boiled down to its essence, Midsommar expresses Jewish anxieties about the rise of the Alt-Right and the end of the Christian era. The solar worship, ancestor veneration, and white costumes of the cult carry Nazi and racialist connotations, with even the beams in an elaborately decorated bunkhouse mimicking the Algiz, or life rune, used by the National Alliance. Likewise, a torch-bearing ceremony may be intended to evoke the Charlottesville rally with its tiki torch march and chants of “Jews will not replace us!” It is not so much that Ari et al. will lament the passing of Christianity in itself, but that it makes them nervous to see intelligent young white people watching Survive the Jive videos instead of attending a Zionist megachurch. Ari wants impressionable women and Christians to watch his drivel and call it to mind if they learn, for instance, that a friend is studying Asatru. “OMG, runes? You mean, like, that movie Midsommar? Isn’t that like, cannibalism and stuff?” Boringly, Ari resorts to the old canard that intraracial procreation is akin to incest. The Swedish cult’s scriptures, the movie reveals, are dictated by an inbred oracle, which is tantamount to telling Europeans that their ancestral religions are just retarded dribblings. But don’t expect Ari to make a horror movie about blood-ritualizing mongoloid Israeli rabbis anytime soon. That, after all, would be anti-Semitic.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Satanic Panic

Purple-haired feminist filmmaker Chelsea Stardust’s tongue-in-cheek horror outing Satanic Panic offers more or less what one would expect from the title and poster, and if anything was probably marginally better than I was expecting. The cute presence of actress Hayley Griffith in the lead goes a long way toward making this ultimately disposable movie smell a little bit less like the garbage it really is. Griffith stars as financially struggling millennial Sam Craft, who just started her new job as a pizza delivery girl and needs every penny of every tip she can get. Venturing out of the pizzeria’s delivery radius in order to score what she hopes will be a big tip in an affluent community called Mill Basin, she instead stumbles into a devil-worship cult’s human sacrifice ritual and spends the rest of the night defending herself against rich occultists and otherworldly beings – which, pleasantly, are realized without the assistance of any cheesy CGI. Gross highlights include a bloodsucking kitchen creation, a grab-happy forest monster, worm-vomiting, and the sickening sight of a man’s intestines being pulled out through his mouth – all of which ought to satisfy the fanbase of Fangoria, which produced.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Satanic Panic is:

Class-conscious, suggesting that the wealthy get rich through evil – perhaps even satanic – machinations, and meanwhile stressing the protagonist’s working-class background in her victimhood and her struggle against them. Sam’s troubles begin when one of the Satanists fails to give her a tip to cover her gas – fails to pay his fair share, in other words. A stereotypically smug and entitled frat house jerk also stiffs her for a tip.

Anti-white. All of the nasty rich people are white, and the only blacks who appear in the film work at the pizzeria. A trashy old woman to whom Sam delivers a pizza mistakes her at first for “Mexicans”. She then gives Sam a tacky sweater that, as Sam later complains, “smells like racism”. Sam finds antagonism, therefore, not only among the upper class, but among the common people whose ranks she aspires to leave behind, if only culturally.

Misandrist. No positively depicted male characters appear in the film, and Sam is first harassed, then almost raped, and finally actually raped and impregnated before successfully escaping from Mill Basin. Her boss at the pizzeria is also unfeeling, and the coworker who helped her get the job expects to be able to get into her pants in return. Still a virgin, Sam has spent her life avoiding such advances. Significantly, the only male character given favorable mention in the script is an old boyfriend who had cancer, was unable to perform sexually, and was therefore no threat to her womanly independence. The ending has Sam happily riding her motorcycle into the clueless twilight of her solitary and probably nonprocreative future.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

dead dont die

Did I only imagine that there was ever a certain profundity lurking behind the absurdity of Jim Jarmusch movies? As a young man, I approached the writer-director’s work with some respect; but, checking in on Jarmusch for the first time since 2005’s Broken Flowers, I just find myself wondering if there was ever a point to all this nonsense apart from propping up globohomo. Bill Murray and the other performers are always fun to watch, but I could never shake the feeling that this is a movie that should have been made fifteen years ago. A self-aware zombie-themed black comedy with a blasé approach to gore and the eerie? Is this non-novelty all that Jarmusch has left in his bag of tricks? At least he seems to be aware of his own obnoxiousness, as evidenced by the grouchy line he gives to Larry Fessenden’s motel owner: “Infernal hipsters with their irony.” Indeed.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Dead Don’t Die is:

Gun-ambivalent. Firearms come in handy in dispatching zombie attackers until the undead finally become too numerous to shoot.

Feminist. In The Dead Don’t Die’s most tiresome cliché, Tilda Swinton plays a flawlessly kickass samurai mortician whose effortless, balletic swordplay makes Uma Thurman in Kill Bill look like the Gimp.

Multiculturalist and pro-miscegenation. “That girl’s part Mexican,” Adam Driver observes approvingly of Selena Gomez. “I have an affinity for Mexicans. They’re like my favorite people. I love Mexico. I’ve been down there twice.” Gomez is one of Fessenden’s “infernal hipsters”, and the exact nature of her relationship with her two traveling companions, a white man and a black man, is never made explicit, though the trio is shown checking into a single motel room with two beds.

Pro-black, as long as the blacks are just the harmless, imaginary creatures that live in Jarmusch’s imagination. RZA appears as a magically benevolent delivery driver, while Jahi Di’Allo Winston plays an environmentally conscious juvenile delinquent.

Green. The zombie outbreak is one of a number of disturbances in the natural order resulting from polar fracking. “A change in the earth’s rotation or its spin rate?” frets Jahi. “That’d be catastrophic for sure. All the cycles of the biosphere would be affected. The natural cycles of sunlight would be disrupted, plants wouldn’t grow, wind patterns would change, and tectonic activity […]”

Irreligious. “Dear Lord in Heaven, help us,” Fessenden cries just before the zombies eat him, no divine help having been forthcoming.

Anti-Trump, featuring Steve Buscemi as the obligatory bigot in the red “Keep America White Again” cap. At “payback time”, vagrant Tom Waits enjoys eating some chicken as he watches zombies attacking the racist Buscemi. Then, after Buscemi comes back as a zombie himself, Bill Murray kills him again, telling him, “You got this comin’.”

Anti-American, but in a boring, nebulous, not particularly intelligent or articulate way. “Centerville, USA,” Tilda Swinton observes sarcastically as she cruises the modest town’s zombie-filled streets: “A real nice place.” Centerville as depicted in The Dead Don’t Die is thus intended to serve as a microcosmic diagnosis of what plagues America. But what, fundamentally, is wrong with Americans in Jim Jarmusch’s assessment? “Remnants of the materialist people,” wise drifter Waits observes of the undead. “I guess they been zombies all along.” Warmed-over remnants of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, is more like it. With everything could have been said about the United States in 2019, Jarmusch zeroes in on … people in flyover country selling their souls for kitchen appliances and new trucks. What year is Jarmusch living in? Ultimately, none of the various thematic concerns come together in a coherent way, and The Dead Don’t Die primarily exists to listlessly entertain and run out the clock on middle-aged liberals and somnambulant stoners.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

dead trigger

This campy and stupid but fun mid-budget entry in the based-on-a-video-game zombie subgenre serves as a decent geriatric Dolph Lundgren vehicle. Here he leads a team of “dead triggers” – losers and outcasts recruited by the government to take on suicide missions in zombie-infested warzones – into post-apocalyptic Terminal City, “Ground Zero” of a plague that for years has enriched monolithic arms-and-pharmaceuticals conglomerate Cyglobe. There’s nothing here that people haven’t seen before, but fans of the genre will probably like it, bad CGI and all.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dead Trigger is:

[WARNING SPOILERS]

Retro-feminist, introducing not one but several tough-girl ass-kickers of the supermodels-in-tight-outfits variety. “My father wanted me to join the military, but I always wanted to be a scientist.” Yawn. If this movie were really progressive, the representatives of womanly resourcefulness would be fat, heavily tattooed, pierced, and/or trans.

Euthanasist. People have a “right to die”, and “the more we kill, the more we set free.”

Anti-Christian. A preacher (James Chalke) is depicted as a drunkard, and a zombie outbreak in his church serves as an excuse to show Lundgren slaughtering his parishioners. Probably in an ass-covering move, this scene is then revealed to be a sequence from virtual-reality gameplay.

Anti-corporate. Cyglobe has purposefully prolonged the zombie war to profiteer. Any anti-war posturing one might discern in this movie is, however, wholly insincere. “You know, I realized something,” says Tara (Autumn Reeser). “What’s really left of our humanity. It’s us – the humans left to fight. Because despite everything, we still care.” “Humans”, as far as Saban Films is concerned, are those still willing to fight Israel’s wars.

Obama-ambivalent. Dead Trigger was released by Israeli-American Democrat megadonor Haim Saban; and, just as there was a vacillation in Saban’s attitude toward Barack Obama and his Middle East policy, so there is an ambiguity to Dead Trigger’s characters needing to reach and cross the zombie-besieged and curiously named “Obama Bridge” to make their way to safety and escape Terminal City.

Anti-Russian. Dead trigger vet Martinov (UFC fighter Oleg Taktarov) of course turns out to be a traitor who sells out his team to Cyglobe.

Neoconservative – but also playfully conspiracist, perhaps even straying into Revelation of the Method. “Ground Zero”, the designation for Terminal City, where the zombie outbreak (and hence the interminable zombie war) started, immediately calls 9/11 to mind. Linking the zombies with Muslims – rather like World War Z – one scene occurs in a zombie strip club with Arabic architectural motifs; and, again recalling 9/11, Captain Rockstock (Isaiah Washington) tells one zombie, “Have a nice flight”, before throwing it from a balcony. “Ground Zero” is said to contain secrets that could lead to a cure for the plague. In a possibly related development, two zombie-hunting characters known as the “Twins” (Alyona Chekhova and Seira Kagami) are revealed before they are killed to have been in the employ of Cyglobe all along, thus evoking the concept of the “inside job” in conjunction with potentially 9/11-relevant “Twins”. Immediately following this moment is a scene in which dead trigger Naomi (Natali Yura) recounts an Alice in Wonderland fantasy and her desire to lose herself down the “rabbit hole”.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

us

Jordan Peele’s follow-up to the 2017 horror hit Get Out, this surprisingly effective allegorical genre entry stars Lupita Nyong’o as a woman whose family vacation to Santa Cruz brings her into confrontation with a childhood trauma with ramifications for all of humanity. This is a difficult film to describe without giving away too much of the plot, but it revolves around the protagonist’s anxiety regarding the existence of a “shadow” or doppelganger and her experience of a series of evilly portending coincidences. Peele has a genuine knack for suspense, and the film has humorous moments, as well, thanks largely to the presence of Winston Duke, who appears as the hapless family patriarch.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

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

Drug-ambivalent. The family bonds over a dope-referencing rap tune, even as the father warns his children not to use drugs.

Conspiracist. The movie opens with an intriguing blurb about networks of ominous tunnels running underneath the expanse of the US, and the mystery at the heart of the story is revealed to have something to do with a mind control experiment gone awry. Early on, in something of a foreshadowing, the protagonist’s daughter (Shahadi Wright Joseph) poses: “Did you know that there’s fluoride in the water that the government uses to control our minds?” Of course, all of this could also be read as a satire of online conspiracy theories; but the movie on the whole seems to discourage the viewer from being dismissive of the existence of the otherworldly and outrageous.

Feminist. “You don’t get to make the decisions anymore,” Nyong’o informs her husband. Later, she is shown literally occupying the driver’s seat of their car and taking the initiative in confronting the “shadows”.

Anti-white. Though racial tensions are not the focus or principal subtextual relevance, scenes of interracial violence carry an undeniably racial charge, with audiences probably intended to feel a special satisfaction at the sight of a sassy black girl disposing of feral white girl doppelgangers. Likewise, the moment when a feral black girl doppelganger falls upon a grouchy white guy is probably supposed to convey a sense of justice or racial revenge. In one scene, white actor Tim Heidecker wears a shirt that says “Fragile”, which presumably is intended to endorse the concept of “white fragility”.

Egalitarian and globalist. In its revelation that, living undetected in tunnels under the United States is an underclass of uneducated, underprivileged, dysfunctional, and disgruntled doubles corresponding to more prosperous counterparts on the surface, Us invites interpretation as an expression of proletarian or lumpenproletarian angst and resentment toward upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans. In making the “shadows” physically identical to their class enemies and demonstrating that a specimen of the former set is able to pass as a member of the latter, Us plays with the theme of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. Environment, Peele suggests, is the difference between success and squalor, so that compassion for one’s less fortunate fellows is in order if cataclysmic retaliation is to be averted. The ambiguous “us” of the title lends itself to different interpretations, one of which is that it refers to blacks specifically and arguably the discomfort of the “talented tenth” with their own teeming and rather frighteningly criminal coethnics. The protagonist and her family, who enjoy an upper-middle-class lifestyle on par with that of successful whites, are horrified when they are confronted with their own “shadows” – violent, primitive versions of themselves in convict-style red jumpsuits. It is a “there, but for the grace of God, go I” moment, but also an indication of elitist disgust at the cultural gulf that the protagonists perceive between themselves and their social inferiors. The revelation that the protagonist herself, however, is actually the “shadow” and that her savage assailant is the one who was born topside indicates that this condescension is misplaced, undermining the “Us vs. Them” dichotomy implied by the title. Beyond this, Peele also mentions in one of the DVD extras that he believes the people of the United States as a whole to be the beneficiaries of a “collective privilege”, the solution presumably entailing some form of global reparations.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of the book Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

IRRUSSIANALITY

Russia, the West, and the world

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Nous Defions!