Archives for posts with tag: horror

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.

Prodigy

The popular creepy kid genre can be traced all the way back to The Bad Seed (1956), but really took off in the years that witnessed the introduction of the birth control pill and the legalization of abortion in conjunction with overpopulation propaganda, with Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973), It’s Alive (1974), The Stranger Within (1974), Devil Times Five (1974), I Don’t Want to Be Born (1975), The Omen (1976), and The Brood (1979) being notable examples. The purpose of such movies, when it is not simply to make a quick, exploitative buck, has frequently been to instill in deracinated women associations of anxiety and disgust with their own biological imperative, and The Prodigy (2019) is an especially noteworthy development of this tradition. I found it to be genuinely scary – even as I smirked inwardly at its gross subtextual purpose.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Prodigy is:

3./4. Anti-gun and pro-choice in one fell swoop. You have to watch out for those meddlesome old white men with their guns trying to save children from being murdered by their mothers. BELIEVE WOMEN when they determine that their sons deserve to die.

2. Antinatalist. The Prodigy might as well have been titled Abort the Alt-Right: The Movie.

1.Anti-white. New parents John (Peter Mooney) and Sarah (Taylor Schilling) – who have the surname Blume but do not appear to be Jewish – seem to have the perfect suburban life until their unhealthily pale son Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) starts to manifest precocious intelligence while lagging behind in emotional development and social skills. He also has different-colored eyes like Nazi LARPer David Bowie, who is name-dropped in the screenplay. These are the film’s first clues that what devil-child Miles really represents are Jewish and globalist anxieties about the remaining potential for a resurgence of nationalism and fascism among peskily still-reproducing white people. One of the semi-autistic child’s first demonstrations of intolerance is when as a schoolboy he becomes jealous at the sight of a Mexican-looking boy working on a project with a white girl. Miles wants to be paired with the girl instead and attacks the other boy in deplorably savage fashion with a wrench. A not-so-insignificant establishing shot shows him attending Buchanan Elementary School – because everybody knows the antisocial influence that Patrick J.’s tutelage exercises over the kids these days.

A Jewish parapsychologist, Dr. Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore), finally determines that Miles, who speaks in Hungarian while he sleeps, is the reincarnation of a misogynistic serial killer, Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux), whose family had relocated from Orban Land to Ohio. Scarka, as seen in The Prodigy’s prologue, disrespectfully chopped off womyn’s hands and murdered them in his supervillainous hillbilly house of horrors. He was probably a Republican, too – the viewer just senses it. Hungary, in Jewish consciousness, is inseparable from its twentieth-century history of anti-Semitism and the “Holocaust”, and Scarka personifies the threat of retro central-European bad-optics nationalism’s reincarnation in Rust Belt populism and toxic masculinity. After Dr. Jacobson tries hypnotizing Miles in order to learn more about the malevolent Hungarian soul occupying his body, Miles threatens to accuse him of sexually molesting him – because, of course, that is what incorrigible young white men are doing these days – falsely accusing Jewish men of being pedophiles. Who needs the bother, amirite, sisters? Just #RESIST pregnancy and have an abortion.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of the books Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism and Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies.

Piercing

Don’t watch this movie. It opens with Christopher Abbott hesitatingly holding an icepick inches above an infant’s face – and then, as if that sight isn’t already off-putting enough – offers a possible justification for this contemplation of infanticide by revealing that the baby is a super-intelligent psycho directing the father to go out and murder prostitutes. Everything about Piercing is stupid and pointless – from the Tarantino-derivative and thematically irrelevant 70s-style opening credits to the would-be shock of seeing people in full-body S&M suits screwing in a bathroom. Nonchalantly rehearsing a murder to the tune of “The Girl from Ipanema”? Whoa, bro – that’s a pretty edgy soundtrack flex! I won’t bother recounting any more of the plot because frankly none of this idiocy matters. I’m sorry to break the news to writer-director Nicolas Pesce, but your movie is as boring and hollow as you. Get your garbage off my planet.

One star. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Piercing is:

4. Anti-family. Don’t ask.

3. Feminist. Piercing reverses audience expectations by having hooker Mia Wasikowska turn the tables on reluctant predator Abbott. (Yawn.) The argument could be made that the movie is anti-whoredom for depicting the risks incurred by both prostitutes and johns who meet as strangers, knowing nothing about the other person’s mental state – but somehow I doubt that this much thought even went into planning Piercing.

2. Pro-pedophilia, featuring an eroticized shot of blood oozing onto a little girl’s lap.

1.Antinatalist. Hopefully no one connected with this movie ever procreates.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of the books Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism and Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

It Comes at Night

A plague has decimated the United States, plunging the population into anarchy and reducing living standards to the bare rudiments. Rather than offering a panoramic view of the cataclysm, however, It Comes at Night opts instead to tell this story on an intimate level, with a minimal cast, and through the interactions of two families trying to survive in a forested wilderness.

Joel Edgerton lives in a remote house with wife Carmen Ejogo and son Kelvin Harrison. The death early on of the mother’s father, played by David Pendleton, serves as a reminder of the family’s continued vulnerability to the mysterious pestilence even in their isolation and haunts the remainder of the film.

New tensions are introduced when another family, headed by Christopher Abbott, enters their lives. Edgerton never completely trusts Abbott’s motivations, and lonely and sensitive Harrison finds himself drawn to Abbott’s attractive wife, portrayed by Riley Keough.

Highly effective moments of paranoia reminiscent of John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing enhance this morose and often oppressive horror drama, tipping this review in favor of a recommendation. 4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that It Comes at Night is:

3. Anti-gun, with firearms contributing to a tragic denouement instead of successful home defense.

2. Pro-miscegenation, with Edgerton married to a black woman and helping to raise her black son (it is never clear whether Harrison is supposed to be Edgerton’s biological or adopted son, but he looks too dark-skinned to be the former). The film includes a dream-turned-nightmare fantasy scene in which Keough grotesquely straddles and smooches the congoid boy before spewing black plague-slime into his face. Perhaps inadvertently, the scene conveys the temptation to miscegenation as well as the sense that there is something wrong and unnatural about it.

1.Borders-ambiguous. Writer-director Trey Shults has said that It Comes at Night is fundamentally about “fear of the unknown”; and one expression of this in the film is instability created by the unexpected presence of an outsider. Viewed microcosmically, It Comes at Night can be interpreted as an allegory about the immigration debate and the popular call for a wall and strong protectionist measures. Christopher Abbott, who plays the stranger, has some Italian ancestry, but could easily read visually as a mestizo. His character enters the lives of Edgerton and his family when he breaks into their home hoping to find supplies – he is, in other words, illegal and undocumented – but is allowed to move into the house with his wife and child after winning Edgerton’s trust with successful food-for-water barter. His presence, tolerated on pretexts of mutual economic benefit and universal compassion, also represents a threat to Edgerton’s family’s domestic security, however; and, just as Mexicans entering the United States have brought with them illnesses such as highly virulent strains of tuberculosis, Abbott and his family carry with them the risk of plague contagion. Perhaps endorsing this reading is Shults’s description of the climactic sequence as a “Mexican standoff” and his confession during his commentary on the film that, “I was reading books on genocide and thinking about, like, us as humans, you know, and how long we’ve been on this planet and that […] ingrained in us is tribe mentality, you know, and, like, basically, these two families are these two tribes.” The inability of the two men to maintain a peaceful collaboration is treated as a tragedy, but one that could have been avoided if their paths had never crossed – if, for example, Edgerton’s home security precautions had been more thoroughgoing and Abbott had never been able to break into his home in the first place.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Cure

“Help! Let me out of this shitty movie!”

I’ve developed such an iron stomach when it comes to digesting rotten movies that it really says something when it takes me multiple sittings to make it all the way through one, as happens to have been the case with A Cure for Wellness. This plodding Judaic dud concerns a corporate creep (Dane DeHaan) who travels to Switzerland to retrieve an insane executive who is reportedly recuperating in a mysterious clinic. Switzerland essentially being a piece of Germany, the place is naturally being run by crypto-Nazi perverts with all sorts of deep, dark European secrets. Boringly perverted director Gore Verbinski and his collaborators are so determined to give the setting and characters an air of coldness and clinical inhumanity that these qualities, unfortunately, end up attaching themselves to the film itself, making it about as appetizing as a gore popsicle. Even the effort to liven things up with would-be shocks like sadistic dentistry, eels in a toilet, masturbation, and incestuous rape only make the movie more of a yawn-inducer. Even the Blu-ray menu is irritating, with its horror movie cliché of a little girl’s monotonous singing. Throw in the fact that this is yet another mean-spirited production of Israeli intelligence asset Arnon Milchan (opening with a shot of skyscrapers, to boot) and A Cure for Wellness goes straight into the biohazard bin.

2 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Cure for Wellness is:

3. Assimilationist, showing the inspiring ability of blacks and Indians to ape European dress and mannerisms.

2. Judeo-capitalist, casting a financial criminal as the protagonist.

1. Anti-white and pro-miscegenation. Early in the movie, a white woman makes a reference to a “twelve-inch” black penis, suggesting congoid sexual superiority. The pathology of a racially homogeneous community is conveyed by icy-eyed Europeans whose sterile paleness is amplified by their all-white wardrobe. National Socialist notions of racial hygiene are parodied as a form of isolationist inbreeding. The protagonist learns that the clinic occupies the property of a nobleman who determined that the only woman pure enough to bear him a child was his sister. Sad to report, we have now actually plumbed the cultural depth at which audiences are sufficiently debased to tolerate the casual horror of a father (Jason Isaacs) sticking his hand up his daughter’s crotch and then sniffing his fingers for the camera. Hitler is never explicitly referenced, but the entire backstory of fiendish medical experiments and fields full of emaciated corpses are intended to evoke the specter of the persecution of the Jews. A Cure for Wellness functions as “Holocaust” revenge porn, with the viewer expected to exult in the sight of a sheltered European girl (Mia Goth) cleaving her father’s skull with a shovel and riding into the night on a bike with the evilly grinning New York crook who has rescued her from the Swiss ethno-dystopia.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Shallows

Blake Lively plays Nancy Adams, a medical student who, following her mother’s death from cancer, treks to the same beach in Mexico that her mother visited while pregnant with her. Hoping to enjoy a little sentimental surfing, Nancy instead finds herself the victim of a shark attack and ends up stranded off the coast on a rock as the hungry monster circles her. The Shallows is an okay survival movie and goes by pretty quickly, the dramatic limitations of its essentially one-person story notwithstanding.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Shallows is:

7. Propertarian! A would-be thief is physically removed by the natural order.

6. Pro-gun, if a flare gun counts.

5. Christ-ambivalent. Both good and bad Mexicans are shown with crucifixes.

4. Green. Sony Pictures hopes for “a greener world,” according to an end credits statement. Thinking of the environment rather than herself, starving Nancy opts to help an injured seagull rather than eat it. A hook lodged in the shark’s mouth could be interpreted as an indication that a revenge is being exacted by nature against humanity for some previous wrong.

3. Feminist. Nancy survives on her own, with little to no help from men. The film’s director, in one of the Blu-ray extras, claims that the shark is female; but the creature’s connotative presence onscreen is that of a predatory male, a giant, angry phallus pursuing a woman against her wishes. Poisonous jellyfish, with their dangling tentacles, mimic a threatening swarm of sperm cells that Nancy must avoid. End credits appear over shots of reddened surf, the menstrual coloring celebratory of the avoidance of pregnancy. Instead of raising a family, she will pursue a career as a physician. Her mother, it may be worth noting here, has been punished with cancer and death for procreation. Alternately, The Shallows can be read as a torture porn film masquerading as a women’s empowerment trip. Nancy’s tattoo and bizarre earring mark her as a typically damaged and self-mutilating young woman of her generation – and her carefree display of her body is sure to incense the girlfriendless members of the audience.

2. Anti-racist. The viewer is teased into fearing for Nancy’s safety as she rides in the company of a Mexican stranger, Charlie, on her way to the beach. So friendly is this man that he even refuses to accept money for the ride. Likewise, two young Mexican surfers are employed as red herrings of a sort. They make no attempt to molest the beautiful, solitary gringa, and her brief apprehension that the pair might steal the bag she left on the beach turns out to be unfounded. The only negative portrayal of a local in the film is a drunkard who does, in fact, intend to make away with her belongings. Recent news out of Mexico suggests that The Shallows is probably overly kind in its depiction of this Third World country’s hospitality.

1. Anti-white. The “shallows” of the title are, of course, the waters around the beach; but this word could also refer to those naïve, bumbling Americans who, like Nancy, expect there to be Uber service in rural Mexico. White is associated with death. The antagonist in the film is a “great white”, and the stinging jellyfish glow white at Nancy’s approach. An exception is the wounded seagull, whose company Nancy comes to enjoy. Weak, dysfunctional whiteness, it seems, is the only acceptable kind.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Laurence Merrick 2

Life imitating art?

One of the many unusual figures whose life trajectory intersects with the Manson Family saga is Laurence Merrick, an Israeli Defense Forces veteran who, as critic Bryan Thomas relates at Night Flight, was sent to the U.S. in 1960 “to speak in support of Zionism, and while he was fundraising in New York City, he met his future wife, a dark-haired aspiring Broadway showgirl and wannabe actress named Joan Huntington.” From there the pair “came out to the west coast, and set up the Merrick Studio, located at 870 N. Vine St. in Hollywood, California, and for a time it was an inexpensive place for actors” – including Vietnam veterans – “to learn lessons about their craft.”

The Merricks were subsidized by the government, too, which enabled them to make a lot of money running the school. They bought a nice house in Beverly Hills and then decided to put their studio profits towards making their own movies, which they could then cast with students from the school, a win-win situation for everybody.

Laurence Merrick

Merrick, Thomas writes, is “probably best known for co-directing the legendary 1972 documentary Manson with Robert Hendrickson, which […] ended up garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Feature-Length Documentary.” The Israeli “was also well-known in Hollywood […] for the fact that one of his students, Sharon Tate, would later be killed by members of Manson’s Family, during August of 1969, the same year he spent fourteen days directing [the biker film] Black Angels.” Note the interesting choice of words, too, when Thomas relates that Huntington viewed her husband’s movies as “training exercises”.

A 1977 UPI article states that “Merrick became interested in the Manson Family because actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered with four friends by the group, had been a student at his school” – implying that Merrick only took an interest in Manson after the killings had taken place; but Merrick and Hendrickson had begun conducting interviews with Family members “before and after the shocking murders that rocked the nation in 1969,” Thomas indicates (italics added). As his account of the making of Black Angels tantalizes, the totality of Merrick’s involvements with this movie, Tate, and the Manson Family strains the limits of what can be dismissed as mere “synchronicity”:

In fact – in yet another example of the parallels that existed between Southern California’s biker and hippie countercultures – members of Manson’s Family would occasionally drop by Paramount Ranch, located at 2813 Cornell Road, in Agoura, California, and visit the set while Merrick and his cast and crew were filming scenes. […]

Merrick’s script focuses on two biker gangs at each other’s throats, a white motorcycle gang called Satan’s Serpents — led by Chainer (once again played by Merrick’s favorite leading man, Des Roberts) — and a black motorcycle gang, called the Choppers (their leader was played by Bobby Johnston, whose biggest role previous to this one was as a prison guard in In Cold Blood).

The film’s title, Black Angels is actually the name attributed to the highway patrolmen who observe the two rival biker gangs from a distance, waiting for the race-motivated war for turf to explode.

Merrick recruited a real black biker gang to play the Choppers in order to provide authenticity.

The main plot concerns one “Black Angel” in particular – a lieutenant for the highway patrol named Harper (Clancy Syrko, who also edited the film) – who wants to see all of the biker gangs wiped off the face of the earth, and he plots to pit the two gangs against each other so they will end up in a race war leading to both of them being destroyed. […]

Black Angels

It’s interesting to note that this film’s concept of pitting white against black in a race war, in the year 1969, is very similar in some respects to Manson’s concept which he called “Helter Skelter”, an apocalyptic war arising from racial tensions between blacks and white, which he believed was foretold in Chapter 9 of the book of Revelations in the bible (as well as hidden messages he believed he heard in the Beatles’ “Revolution #9”).

Makes you wonder what kinds of conversations they were having at Paramount Ranch between members of the cast and crew and some of Manson’s followers.

There were also many interesting cameo appearances, including a real member of Charles Manson’s gang, Mark Ross (he plays “Singer”), who later claimed to write a theme song for the film that was never used […]

The film’s tagline “God forgives, the Black Angels don’t!,” incidentally, was borrowed from the hugely successful 1967 Italian spaghetti western, God Forgives… I Don’t.

Another tagline – and perhaps another reference to Manson? – was “A portrait of the family.”

Speaking of Manson and his family, again, it was during the film’s production that Merrick was invited to head over to Spahn Ranch, with a 16mm camera, in order to film the Manson family on their own turf.

Merrick also shot footage of them at Devil’s Canyon, their Barker Ranch hideout in Death Valley, and then later – during the Manson trial – at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles, in addition to other locations.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who did as much as anyone to shape the public’s perception of the Manson Family mythos, participated in the production of Merrick and Hendrickson’s documentary and appears onscreen.

Guess What Happened to Count Dracula

Des Roberts as Count Adrian in Merrick’s Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?

Merrick’s previous movie, Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?, concerns the occult, mind control, and, at least subtextually, acknowledges Jewish power in Hollywood – and it only intensifies the Tate-LaBianca resonance of Merrick’s work, even featuring a minor character named Sharon. Thomas continues:

The movie featured several of Merrick’s students in key parts, and chiefly concerned what happened to Dracula’s son, Count Adrian (Des Roberts, who plays the vampire while sporting a wicked John Carradine-style goatee). Roberts and his musical partner, Andy Wilder, also provided the film’s musical score.

The film was shot at the Magic Castle in the Hollywood Hills, a mansion built in the 1920s which had been renovated for performances by magicians.

One of Merrick’s students owned the place, and had invited Merrick and his wife over for dinner, which left a lasting impression, and when the couple began thinking of locations where they could shoot their Dracula movie, they both remembered the Magic Castle, which was just about to undergo a renovation. […]

The movie also contains a subplot straight out of the then recent box office smash Rosemary’s Baby, when one character — an actor named Guy (just as John Cassavetes’s character was in Roman Polanski’s film), played by John Landon — is all too willing to sell his soul in return for being given a successful acting career.

It’s also interesting to note that Merrick’s film features a “surprise” ending that was clearly inspired by Polanski’s previous film, 1967’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, when Polanski’s future wife Sharon Tate sprouts fangs in the film.

According to Horrorpedia, “more obscure X-rated edits of the film [Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?], with an emphasis on male gay sex, were released as Does Dracula Really Suck? and Dracula and the Boys.”

Adding to the mystique of Merrick’s Manson documentary is the fact that it features Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme caressing a rifle and explaining, “You have to make love with it; you have to know it […] so that you could pick it up any second and shoot.” This interview took place several years before Fromme was convicted of (supposedly) having attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in Sacramento. Merry Prankster and founding Yippie Paul Krassner claims that Manson sent him a letter instructing him to get into touch with Fromme around 1971:

I called, and we arranged to meet at her apartment in Los Angeles. On an impulse, I brought several tabs of acid with me on the plane. […]

The four of us [Krassner, Fromme, and her roommates Sandra Good and Brenda McCann] ingested those little white tablets containing 300 micrograms of LSD, then took a walk to the office of Laurence Merrick, who had been associated with schlock biker exploitation movies as the prerequisite to directing a sensationalist documentary, Manson.

Squeaky’s basic vulnerability emerged as she kept pacing around and telling Merrick that she was afraid of him. He didn’t know we were tripping, but he must have sensed the vibes. He may even have gotten a touch of contact high. I engaged him in conversation about movies. We discussed the fascistic implications of The French Connection.

Was Fromme “afraid” of the Merrick from the effects of the LSD – or did she have other reasons? This brief encounter, whatever its meaning, in combination with Fromme’s participation in Merrick and Hendrickson’s Manson constitutes another Israeli connection to an eccentric piece of American political assassination drama following the various Jewish and Zionist intrigues surrounding the murder of John F. Kennedy.

Bizarrely, Merrick himself was murdered in an outrageous episode further dissolving any distinction between reality and theater. Bryan Thomas relates the bizarre incident:

Dennis MignanoThen, in 1977, Merrick’s life would intersect fatally with a potential acting student named Dennis Mignano, who – much like Manson himself – had really wanted to have a music career, but when that didn’t pan out, the struggling rock singer decided to take acting lessons.

That decision had led him straight to Merrick Studio – which by now was teaching classes in acting, directing and cinematography – where he applied to be a student.

He believed that Merrick – due to his association with Manson, bikers, and magic – was the perfect person to help him launch a successful acting career (Mignano had reportedly been obsessed with magic as a child).

Mignano filled out an application to be a student, and then was told he was eligible for government assistance to pay for his tuition, but he had to wait for three weeks for the application to be processed.

Mignano grew irritated and felt like the delay was yet another setback and a disappointment, but he waited, and while he did so he watched episodes of a 1976 TV mini-series called Helter Skelter, which just happened to be re-airing on TV.

The TV series may have played a small part in reminding him that his life was now intertwined with Merrick’s and he then became obsessed with the idea that Merrick had actually placed a curse on him.

On January 26th, 1977, he went to the school and waited in ambush for Merrick to appear in the parking lot for a few hours and then pulled out a pistol and shot 50-year old Laurence Merrick in the back.

Mignano then fled the scene, and much like the opening scene of Richard Rush’s 1980 action film The Stunt Man – which, and get this, starred actor Steve Railsback, who had played Charles Manson in the Helter Skelter mini-series – he, by pure chance, happened upon a movie being shot mere blocks away, on Willoughby Ave., and the killer blended in with the crew (just as Railsback’s character did), pretending to be part of the film production team.

Merrick, meanwhile, staggered into his office at the studio, telling his students “Some son of a bitch shot me and I don’t even know why!” Some of the students thought they were witnessing an impromptu acting exercise, but quickly realized that their teacher was dying in front of them.

Merrick was rushed to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, but he was pronounced dead within an hour. Students at the Merrick Studio Academy of Dramatic Arts said that Mignano had been hanging around the building all morning, asking them questions about Merrick and his Manson documentary.

Mignano confessed to the crime in 1981 and was confined to a mental institution. Six months after his murder of Merrick, Mignano’s sister Michele, a topless dancer, was also murdered – a case that remains unsolved. Questions about Merrick remain, as well. Why was his actors’ studio receiving government funding? Did his work on behalf of Israel end after he left New York for Los Angeles – or did it continue in some capacity as he interacted with the Manson Family and completed his films?

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Nomads

John McTiernan, director of Hollywood blockbusters Predator (1987), Die Hard (1988), and The Hunt for Red October (1990), began his movie career rather more humbly with the flawed and eccentric but nonetheless entertaining debut Nomads (1986). Notable as McTiernan’s only credit as a screenwriter, Nomads was eviscerated by the critics when first released, and still has only a 13% green splat at Rotten Tomatoes. “Was there any sense in it?” asks leading lady Lesley-Anne Down in an interview included on the Nomads Blu-ray. “I don’t think there was very much sense in it at all for anybody.” Is Down correct in dismissing the film as a shallowly offbeat curio – and were the critics who panned the movie motivated only by an objective assessment of its merits?

Nomads stars Pierce Brosnan as a French anthropologist, Jean Charles Pommier, who in the opening sequence dies in the care of Down’s character, Dr. Eileen Flax, in a Los

Down

Lesley-Anne Down freaks out in John McTiernan’s Nomads.

Angeles hospital. He appears in a beaten, bloodied, and seemingly insane state, and his enigmatic last words initiate what will be a strange paranormal ordeal for Flax, who over the course of the film will both investigate and experience what befell Pommier, with most of the story told in flashback. The anthropologist and his wife (Anna Maria Monticelli) had only recently moved to the U.S. and purchased a house that, as it turns out, has a horrible history attached to it. Soon after moving in, the Pommiers discover Mansonesque graffiti on the garage door and more graffiti inside: “Gutman’s a Hero”. The home, they learn, was the site of a horrific child murder, and a band of elusive antisocial misfits who live out of a van have adopted the house as a holy site.

Pommier, being an anthropologist, follows the titular “nomads” around Los Angeles with the intention of documenting and studying them in order to gain a better idea of the threat he faces and to understand “what kind of people could think of a murder as some sort of shrine.” He determines that none of them have employment and watches them from a distance as they laze at the beach, party, and generally terrorize people. The nomads become aware of Pommier’s surveillance after he witnesses them murder a man and put the body in a dumpster. After first being pursued by them and escaping, Pommier again works his way into proximity with the group – at which point they seem to accept his presence and stage an impromptu photo shoot, with one of them, Mary, played by Mary Woronov, doing an exotic dance. When Pommier develops the film, however, he finds that none of the nomads appear in the exposures, which invites a comparison with vampires – although the nomads, who have no problem frolicking in the daylight, are clearly not vampires at least as conventionally depicted.

These quasi-vampires – vampire lore comprising a traditional understanding of the eternal Jew – are nomads, or what Pommier, drawing on Eskimo legends, describes as an urban variety of Innuat. As related in the film, “It has to do with wandering the desert. […] It’s all the same. Nomads live in deserts, whether it’s a desert of ice or sand or whatever doesn’t make a difference. […] They were supposedly hostile spirits. According to the myth, they were capable of assuming a human form” and traveled from place to place, bringing ruin and madness with them wherever they went. As Pommier tells his wife:

None of this may mean anything. None of it at all. […] But I may have found people who are living outside – outside any structure. They do not participate. No exchange, no constraints. They resort to violence with no provocation and then get away with it. It is as if to the official world they did not exist.

All of this rootlessness, in combination with the confluence of ritual, child murder, the reverence for a killer with the Jewish name Gutman, as well as the general depravity and destructiveness, contributes to an accumulation of clues that the nomads may be the Jews. Curiously, composer Bill Conti mentions during his Blu-ray interview that the soundtrack includes what he describes as a “Middle Eastern sound” – though to this reviewer’s untrained ear such a flavoring is difficult to detect in the synth-and-guitars music cues.

Adam Ant Nomads

Adam Ant portrays the leader of the titular band of roving marauders.

“You must not try to fight them,” a sinister nun (Blue Velvet’s Frances Bay) tells Pommier. This encounter takes place in a dilapidated cathedral where, in a sequence of nightmarish phantasmagoria, a flock of satanic women in habits is seen running through the halls in masks, one of them flashing her bare breasts at Pommier – all of which points to a faith corrupted. Dancing Mary, the nomad portrayed by Mary Woronov, wears a cross that glints in the sun, and later, when she is seen at night, she wears an even larger crucifix so that the viewer can hardly help but notice it as she cavorts like a stripper. Are these Christian elements ironic and indicative of cultural subversion, or have these been added as fig leaves to hide the almost naked Jewishness of the menace? Woronov’s features, it must be noted, are rather evil and arguably Semitic-looking.

In a key moment toward the end of the film, Pommier says to his wife with an air of wistfulness as they survey the Los Angeles skyline from a rooftop, “We are so very far from home, you know. All of us.” He laments his “bourgeois” life in a “civilized” world – in short, bemoans his condition of rootless cosmopolitanism. Both he and his kindred spirit the doctor, another childless middle-aged professional in the process of moving into a new and foreign home, have agricultural surnames, Pommier (“apple tree”) and Flax, that betray their simple origins and relatedness to the earth – Flax also connoting blonde and distinctively northern European looks – that set them apart from the dark, mysterious wanderers who move in their midst. Pommier’s polyglot cosmopolitanism, peripatetic ways, and sophistication nevertheless present a thematic parallel with the lifestyle of the nomads, so that it comes as no surprise when Pommier finally succumbs to them. The horror of Nomads is loss of a sense of belonging to a place and one’s own native culture – the horror of an alienated world in which, for instance, Dr. Flax’s colleague Cassie Miller (Jeannie Elias) complains about the “meshuggenah lunatics” who people the city. Whatever the meaning of the film, it may be worth observing that it is set in the entertainment capital of the world and that the final nomad antagonist Dr. Flax encounters is unable to pursue her beyond the California state line.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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