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road-to-the-well

Laurence Fuller plays a frustrated beta male desk jockey, Frank, who discovers that his girlfriend has been having an affair with his boss. Serendipitously, an old friend of his, handsome drifter Jack (Micah Parker), breezes into town and convinces his buddy to meet him for a few drinks at a night spot, where he also goads Frank to approach a woman (Rosalie McIntire) who catches his eye at the bar. From here, Frank’s life takes a left turn down a darker avenue than he ever knew existed, with Road to the Well developing into a fantastic, albeit eccentric, little thriller sustained by painful tensions and moments of unexpected strangeness. Only one superfluous scene broadly and condescendingly characterizing conservatives as “bigoted trash” taints what is otherwise a recommendable film, and writer-director Jon Cvack is to be commended. Barak Hardley is also worthy of mention for his portrayal of spoiled millennial man-child Chris, while Marshall Teague, glaring out of the screen from the other end of the masculinity spectrum, is also highly effective. For those interested, Road to the Well was recently released on DVD and VOD.

Four-and-a-half out of five stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Road to the Well is:

8. Anti-capitalistic, with prostitution furnishing the film’s model of free enterprise. Undignified Frank continues to work for his company (in order to “build a cushion,” he says) even after learning his boss has cuckolded him. He despises his erstwhile friend Chris, however, as a “hoity-toity yuppie” – but it is possible also to read the envy hiding behind Frank’s feigned contempt for Chris’s material security. Jack is utterly dismissive of regular employment, and encourages Frank to call in sick. “I don’t work anymore,” he says.

7. Anti-war. An implicit parallelism emerges during a scene between a murderer and a military man. One character understands something about the other’s experience.

6. Judgmentally anti-slut. The wages of sin is death!

5. Pro-gay. A corny anecdote is told about a homosexual adolescent who shot himself after being bullied. A homophobic redneck landlord who makes light of his own son’s participation in the bullying is intended to represent the low standard of sophistication prevailing among opponents of sodomy. Frank’s exaggerated reaction to this insensitivity is, one assumes, meant to establish his character’s moral credentials.

4. Manospherean. Frank, over the course of the film, is taught by his experiences to man up and assert himself. “Everything is fine as long as you got some money and a nice piece of pussy” is Jack’s philosophy.

3. Anti-Christian. A chaplain (Teague) has lost his faith and become suicidal. “My faith? What the hell is that?”

2. Anti-marriage. “It’s like marriage is this weird construct we’ve made up for ourselves and handed down from generation to generation,” moans Chris, who is soon to be married. “It’s meaningless, right?” A committed relationship is “not exciting”.

1. Antinatalist. “It’s like they’re these tiny little animals and I’m responsible for ‘em,” Chris frets, imagining the prospect of fatherhood. “If I don’t change their diaper, then they just, what, sit in their shit all day? Or, like, if you touch their fontanelle, you’re like, touching their brain, and you got a dead baby. […] No thank you.”

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Paul Morrissey

Paul Morrissey

Mention Paul Morrissey and movies about transvestites, heroin addicts, and other varieties of lowlife are likely to come to mind; but the director of such films as Flesh (1968) and Heat (1972) holds very different views than one might assume from a first impression of these films and from his professional association with Andy Warhol. “Staunchly conservative, Morrissey still frowns upon the moral and artistic state of America today,” writes Steve Ryfle, who interviewed the filmmaker in 2000. Rather, Morrissey’s vintage films reflect his view that “modern American life was going down the toilet.”1 David Bahr of The New York Times writes:

Paul Morrissey disdains rock music, abhors recreational drugs and thinks even less of liberal politics. When asked his views on sex, he pauses for a moment, looks his inquisitor in the eye and says: “I’m Catholic. I’m with Rome 100 percent.”

Such sentiments may seem surprising coming from a director whose films luxuriate in the libertine lives of heroin users, masturbating transvestites and polymorphous-perverse male prostitutes. Yet Mr. Morrissey – who from 1966 to 1972 directed more than half a dozen movies produced by Andy Warhol, discovered the avant-garde rock band the Velvet Underground and once saw a court label his work “obscene, vulgar and profane” – believes he’s misunderstood, to say nothing of misrepresented.2

Morrissey situates his work outside the counterculture and characterizes it instead as his disapproving reaction to the general collapse of morality as it occurred around him:

There’s something I realized years later, after I had made all the films, although I probably realized it at the time even though I wasn’t conscious of it. At that time, there was this idea that was just coming in – the media was just getting hold of it, and the music world was just screaming its lungs out about how great it was – saying you could do whatever you want. That was really idiotic, and stupid and foolish and silly, unbelievably stupid.

People, by the late sixties, were doing whatever they felt like, and nobody gave a damn.

“I understood that these people were good story material, good subjects to show where life had gotten to, and how pathetic it was,” Morrissey explains.3 Blood for Dracula (1974), for instance, imagines a future-shocked traditionalist vampire (Udo Kier) who despairs of finding virgin blood to drink in the sexually free and easy 1970s, while Trash (1970) depicts the boredom of heroin dependency. “So much of the culture glamorized drugs at the time,” remarks frequent Morrissey leading man Joe Dallesandro. “Paul wanted to show the seedier side, where it all led to.”4 Women in Revolt (1972), which utilizes a cast of transvestites for satirical purposes, mocks the increasingly noisy and confrontational feminist movement of the day. “I thought it would be funny if they were playing women who were converted to lesbianism by the women’s lib movement,” Morrissey says. “The whole women’s thing was so ridiculous. ‘We don’t need men,’ and all that.”5

The director envisioned his Madame Wang’s (1981) as a satire of nonexistent American values and the decline of Western Civilization:

The huge Masonic Temple was a Greek temple, it represented past culture, and it was abandoned and lived in by derelict female impersonators. That was my take on Americans, especially Southern California Americans. They couldn’t care less about anything, except maybe getting up in drag or doing a punk rock show and screaming and throwing themselves on the floor. And the poor Russian agent comes from East Germany and says, “I’ve got to meet Jane Fonda, we’re taking over this country one day, and we have to have all of our operatives in place and I’m one of them.” And everyone says, “great, so what?”6

Morrissey gives the following explication of his comedy flop Spike of Bensonhurst (1988), in which his “pain in the ass” protagonist (Sasha Mitchell) “treats everybody like dirt, and does whatever he wants”:

The little switcheroo, which I thought was the point of the story, was that finally when someone disciplines him it turns out to be the best thing that happens to him. The idea that there are some standards and a sense of order in the world somewhere […]7

Like so many avowed conservatives in American politics, however, Morrissey’s work reveals his complicity in the projects of the culture destroyers even as he professes traditionalism. The mundane drugs-and-drag depravity of his classic oeuvre, while successfully illustrating the emptiness of the revolutions in sexuality and consciousness that had been engineered during the 1960s, also serves to normalize the ascendant dysfunction.

“Life is so second rate now,” Morrissey assesses.

And that idea that life has degenerated to a second rate position was part of the story to all those movies. I still don’t see that as a story element in any other movies – the obvious fact that life today is so much poorer than it was before. And I don’t think you can tell that story unless you’re aware that there’s a difference now. Most people don’t even know there’s a difference between today and before.8

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 18.
  2. Bahr, David. “Conservative Bard of the Demimonde”. The New York Times (February 27, 2000): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/27/movies/film-conservative-bard-of-the-demimonde.html?pagewanted=all
  3. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 18.
  4. Bahr, David. “Conservative Bard of the Demimonde”. The New York Times (February 27, 2000): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/27/movies/film-conservative-bard-of-the-demimonde.html?pagewanted=all
  5. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 20.
  6. Ibid., p. 21.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., p. 19.

buzzard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY NINE

Swelter

Saddle up for another hipster riff on the western … Out-of-place big names Jean-Claude Van Damme and Alfred Molina pick up shameless paychecks for supporting roles in this sub-Tarantinoid dose of direct-to-streaming dreck. The actual leading man viewers get stuck with is a tedious congoid, Lennie James, who plays Bishop, the sheriff of a sleazy backwater outside Las Vegas that finds itself invaded by a gang of prison escapees searching for a cache of hidden loot. Van Damme, his accent thicker than ever, plays the implausibly named “Stillman”, one of the gang of psychotic outlaws, which also includes Cole (Grant Bowler), who discovers he has a score to settle with Bishop when he finds him shacked up with ex-girlfriend Carmen (Catalina Sandino Moreno). Annoyingly slapdash, with no sympathetic characters, Swelter is as uninviting, drab, and exhausting as its title advertises, with Van Damme’s charisma criminally underutilized. The great character actor Tracey Walter does add some much-needed color to a few scenes, however, in his role as “Old Man Henry Johnson”.

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

4. Anti-police. Van Damme’s gang gets the hip Reservoir Dogs slow motion stroll treatment as they shoot down the officers manning a roadblock.

3. Anti-gun. Bishop’s deputy Ronnie (Alan Simpson) is a klutz. Bishop himself refuses to carry a gun until circumstances force his hand. Asked why he performs his duties without a sidearm, he replies, “I’m afraid I might shoot somebody.”

2. Anti-white and pro-miscegenation. White men are vicious, sadistic poison to women. “It’s your DNA,” says Carmen in rejecting Cole’s renewed advances. She prefers the dusky embrace of Bishop. Van Damme also kisses a mutt.

1. Obamist. Swelter unfolds against the backdrop of the upcoming election of a new sheriff. After electing Bishop, a man with a mysterious past, just to rid themselves of the previous power, the townsfolk have grown impatient with what they perceive as Sheriff Bishop’s moralistic stifling of free enterprise and are itching to vote for his lame white deputy as a replacement; but Bishop, the righteous black man of destiny, rides in, rises to the occasion, and manages to protect the townspeople from a descent into white barbarity. (cf. American Hustle)

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Hood

A cheapo ghetto reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood, Hood stars bullnecked mulatto football prince Matt Singletary – an actor with all the charisma of a dead crack baby – as an “army hero” who, after fighting the Taliban (i.e., guarding the CIA’s heroin crop) in Afghanistan, comes back home to Chicago to find that his old neighborhood is being tyrannized by the Latin Kings. Determined to make a difference in “the community”, Hood becomes a hoodie-cloaked superhero of sorts, venturing out at night to rip off drug dealers and redistribute their ill-gotten gains to the needy. Assisting him in his low-intensity, action-deprived crusade are Father Tuck (Malik Yoba) and Juanito (Richard Esteras), with corrupt Chicago law enforcement taking the place of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Darren Jones is fun as an oily politician, and one wishes that Thea Camara had been given more screen time as the big and spirited Mrs. Fitzwalter; otherwise, not much to recommend this one.

2 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Hood is:

8. Anti-drug. Hard drugs empower evil. Hood does, however, enjoy a beer.

7. Anti-police. The Latin Kings have infiltrated Chicago’s police, and even the honest few are lazy, muffin-gobbling slobs.

6. State-skeptical. Cynical politicians are in league with criminals. “The worse a neighborhood gets, the more funding it gets,” an alderman rationalizes.

5. Pro-military. The Army appears as the ideal venue for multicultural empowerment. Blacks on the battlefield get to be called “sir”, mouth off to white superiors, and demonstrate their superhuman heroism by doing 187s on America’s enemies. Hilariously, Hood’s pathetic EBT-budgeted version of a Taliban fighter is just some bespectacled Jewish-looking guy in a caftan.

4. Immigration-ambivalent. Hood indicates that “new immigrants” (i.e., illegals) are a prime source of recruits for the Latin Kings because “most don’t speak English” and need a place to stay. Despite the national blight this obviously represents, the film appears to want to depict them as exploited victims.

3. Multiculturalist. So as not to create the impression of racial tension between blacks and mestizos, the Latin Kings are shown to have congoid subordinates while Hood receives the support of his Hispanic neighbors. A community center allows the races to come together in fellowship. Hood volunteers there and teaches tai chi to a vibrant set of youngsters.

2. Christian. Hood, his family, and friends are Christians, and Father Tuck keeps it real on the liberation theology tip. He acknowledges sin in the Church, however, when (after mistaking Hood for a pedophile) he says, “Unlike some priests, I don’t take too kindly to strangers putting their hands on little boys.” Hood’s soundtrack even features a little Christian rap, and the film ends with a Mother Teresa quotation.

1. Marxist. Hood and his band of merry diversityites rob not only Latin Kings, but honest businessmen as well. Troubled by the phenomenon of ghetto “food deserts” and apparently oblivious to the fact that these result from black consumer and criminal behavior, Hood and his gang commit a series of food truck heists, threatening “1 truck per week till you open stores in these neighborhoods.” Robbing trucks. Yep, that ought to spur investment in “the community” . . .

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

poster_suit_texture_final

Erik Bloomquist writes, directs, and stars in The Cobblestone Corridor as Allan Archer, hardworking editor of the elite Alfred Pierce Preparatory School’s newspaper, The Pierce Gazette. Archer is straight-laced and by-the-book – a young man who still believes in authority and the dignity of institutions – the sort of person one might expect to carry a picture of William F. Buckley in his wallet. He is also an amateur detective and has his inquisitiveness piqued when he learns that the circumstances of a teacher’s recent dismissal are more than a little fishy. Adding interest to the story is Lizzie Merriweather (Madeleine Dauer), whose simultaneous attraction and opposition of journalistic philosophy adds another layer of tension to the narrative.

The Cobblestone Corridor is a low-key comedy hybridizing genres from teen fare to mystery, and Mike Magilnick’s cinematography does a good job of compromising between tones, referencing noir while keeping things light enough for a chuckle. The film succeeds largely due to a cast of interesting faces, which include Bloomquist’s as well as that of Nicholas Tucci, whom viewers may remember from the outstanding slasher homage You’re Next (2011). An assortment of young women in school uniforms adds to the visuals. Finally, while something of a morsel at 25 minutes, there is a measure of substance to be detected down these halls.

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

5. Anti-drug. Archer is contemptuous toward stoners.

4. Green-ambivalent. When classmate Claire (Alex Sarrigeorgiou) says paper publishing “just wastes trees”, her professor (Tucci) replies that this is “an interesting environmental argument”; Archer, however, dismisses Claire’s opinions as “shortsighted and ignorant”.

3. Feminism-ambivalent. Archer reviles “sluts” and puts a stop to an all-girl fight club. Lizzie’s contribution to his development as a journalist suggests, however, that women can contribute as professionals, giving the lie to a threatening note she receives informing her “little girls don’t belong in the big leagues.”

2. Tobacco-ambivalent. Archer cock-blocks a quintessential film noir ritual when he stops Lizzie from smoking a cigarette in his office. She later discovers that he has lied about not being a smoker, however.

1. Media-ambivalent. The Cobblestone Corridor’s best scene – crisply written and delivered by Mr. Bloomquist – concerns the question of the continuing relevance of the print medium. Journalism instructor Mr. Brown (Tucci) asks his class, “Are newspapers still important in today’s society, or are they well on their way to fading into historical oblivion?” Claire assails print as irrelevant in the age of the instantaneous dissemination of information; but Archer, who hates “supermarket tabloid drivel” and does what he can to uphold traditional journalistic standards, holds forth as follows:

People who write for newspapers understand that a story is more than just a clickbait by-line. These message boards that Claire talks about aren’t avenues for intellectual discourse, they’re a mosh pit of pseudo-scholars trying to outsmart each other. It’s not about the news, it’s not about the facts, it’s about being the loudest [. . .] and if one day the servers crash and everything goes to Hell we’ll still have a thoughtful piece of analysis we can touch and feel. That sure as Hell beats a tweet by some self-important high school drop-out hiding behind a screen name.

At stake in this scene and for the remainder of the film is the credibility of “conspiracy theories” and the post-9/11 alternative media, the latter being personified by blogger Lizzie. Archer naively believes that the major newspapers’ reporters are as thoughtful and idealistic as he is, is impressed by the Fourth Estate’s centuries of superficial prestige, and disparages the internet. He suggests, furthermore, that the anonymity of the blogosphere is an invalidation of its credibility, failing to consider the fact that alternative journalism is not, in most cases, a living, and that these writers might be putting their employment in jeopardy by signing their real names under their controversial interpretations of events.

However, after Lizzie’s insights prove to have been valuable in solving the mystery of the dismissed teacher, Archer is moved to establish an online edition of The Pierce Gazette, the idea being that online and print news media can coexist and mutually strengthen each other, and that independent researchers’ contributions can make a difference. This, Archer effuses with idealism, heralds the “beginning of a renaissance for The Pierce Gazette” – a revolution by technology and turnover in personnel. Bloomquist, though, by setting his story in the innocuous world of a non-profit student newspaper, has avoided the fundamental corruption of commercial “news” by controlling financial interests. Archer, once he ventures into the Orwellian sphere of professional journalism, will find his masters reluctant to publish material that strays off-script.

[For full disclosure of this writer’s diet of news and infotainment, he will admit to getting the vast majority of it online – from sites ranging from fluff like Yahoo! to deeper-digging content like Global Research – but also subscribing to a fortnightly print newspaper, Willis Carto’s populist American Free Press.]

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Ready 2 Die

After robbing a Federal Reserve Bank branch and leading the LAPD on a televised freeway chase (“like O.J., Holmes”), four luckless desperadoes find themselves stranded without a car in East L.A., pursued both by the authorities and – after a “ghetto APB” and word of their loot gets out – their greedy fellow gangstas as well.

Writer-director John Azpilicueta stars as the bereaved Lucky, dismissed from a SEALs training camp for “emotional problems”; Jacob Martinez is Smiley, a chubby old thug who tried in vain to go straight, but whose financial troubles have thrust him back into a life of crime; and Pablo Hernandez is Psycho, a hitman who pretty much lives up to his name. The most interesting character, dishonorably discharged Ranger and Coolio haircut hood rat Sniper, is played by Bless May, who unfortunately receives the least screen time of the foursome.

Azpilicueta’s film, typical for an Asylum release, is shoddy and rough-hewn, with crap special effects, some substandard acting, too little coverage for action scenes, and overreliance on quick cuts and shaky-cam cinematography. A series of black-and-white flashbacks, intended to humanize the leads, only succeeds in stalling the action; but sleazebags attracted to a movie as underachievingly titled as Ready 2 Die will no doubt be entertained by its ready abundance of murder, profanity, rape, and pandemic nastiness.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ready 2 Die is:

7. Anti-Christian. More than one thug is adorned with a cross, either as a necklace or a tacky tattoo.

6. Anti-marriage. A mulatto wife is a lazy, unfaithful freeloader.

5. Miscegenation-ambivalent. The aforementioned wife is, however, depicted as quite the sexual trophy and gets the hiding heroes excited as they voyeuristically enjoy the sight of her in the act of adultery.

4. Anti-bankster. The fact that the crooks attack a Federal Reserve bank makes them, if not quite sympathetic, at least not as dastardly as if they had robbed a small business like a liquor store. Ready 2 Die conveys a generalized anger at the economic plight of the country; and, without articulating any particular argument, the movie seems to be suggesting blame by flashing the Federal Reserve Bank sign during the opening robbery. Sniper is unemployed, and the fact that Smiley is behind on his house payments reminds viewers of banks’ predatory lending tactics.

3. Anti-police. Ready 2 Die evinces either indifference toward the “fucking po-po” or, if anything, actual hostility, casting them as the pesky antagonists who pursue the central characters.

2. Anti-war. Sniper expresses the nihilism of war brought home when he says that shooting at police cars and helicopters is “just like Fallujah, baby – just different motherfuckers.”

1. Racist! Ready 2 Die demonstrates as well as a movie could why even minorities have reason to fear the eventuality of their neighborhoods going majority non-white. Gangs, drugs, and scary tattoos are the norm, with mothers living in fear that their children will be murdered not by white supremacist pigs, but by members of their own wretched raza. Furthermore, blacks appear in an almost uniformly unfavorable light in the film. Sniper is one of the movie’s most coldblooded killers. “Fuck that funny-lookin’ bitch,” he excuses himself for shooting a bank teller. “She was lookin’ at me all crazy and shit.” He robs and kills because he would rather do this than “flip some burgers”. A black cop lounges around his home milking “disability”, while his misbehaving son ludicrously claims to have been suspended from school just for being black.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Board to Death B

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

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

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

Board to Death

4 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Board to Death is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Scarehouse_poster

Sorority sisters, haunted houses, and nights of revenge are all typical slasher movie elements; but Killer Party this is decidedly not. A Canadian blast of cold gore porn, The Scarehouse is a story of two competing horrors: the tortures inflicted by its vindictive protagonists, on the one hand, and the vapid “21st century party monster” mentality of their bevy of victims on the other. As to which is more appalling, that is for each viewer to decide. Co-ed sadists Corey (Sarah Booth) and Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray) are out of prison and out for vengeance after taking the rap for a sorority prank that resulted in an involuntary manslaughter. Determined to torment their fellow sisters, the pair has designed a haunted house attraction to mask the actual torture laboratory within.

The lighting and atmosphere of the film should satisfy devotees of the genre, and genuinely homicidal psychos should also be entertained. The lead performances, particularly Booth’s, are strong; but The Scarehouse, like other torture-oriented horrors, suffers from lack of likable characters. The backstory explaining the night’s motivation is never sufficient emotional justification for the shocking degree of onscreen brutality, and serves only to ensure that even the screaming victims of the atrocities garner little audience sympathy. Occasionally humorous, The Scarehouse is more often disturbing, and this reviewer would much prefer to have seen a movie about these two characters not killing people.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Scarehouse is:

4. Homosexuality-ambivalent. From the perspective that there is no such thing as bad publicity, The Scarehouse is pro-gay for featuring homoerotic flirtation between young women; but the portrayal of the lesbian lead as a psychopath is hardly flattering.

3. Anti-Christian. Jesus freak Jaqueline (Katherine Barrell) stands for the film’s contempt for “fire and brimstone shit”. Other irreverence takes the form of the sadists’ appropriation of crucifixion symbolism: Corey has a cross tattoo on her back, while Elaina at the end can be seen wearing a crucifix.

2. Anti-drug. “You might want to stick to water.” Drinking, along with a rufie, results in the accidental death that sets the plot in motion, and drunks are also more susceptible to the torture porn treatment. One of the songs on the soundtrack also refers to alcohol poisoning.

1. Anti-feminist. Whatever The Scarehouse’s intentions, it shows something of a divided mind with regard to its array of targets. Elaina and Corey advertise no overt ideological motivation for their murder spree, but do demonstrate a distaste for traditionalism as it takes on grotesque, hypocritical forms. Jaqueline’s Christian good girl moral code is a lie, so she must be punished. Similarly, Katrina (Emily Alatalo), for “Frankensteining” herself in an exaggerated devotion to a male chauvinist’s hourglass figure ideal, must answer for her betrayal of her sorority oath to embrace woman’s “inner beauty”.

Corey and Elaina, if they are supposed to be radical feminist progressives, discredit their cause with their violent antics. The moon phases pictured on Corey’s tank top may mark her as merely a walking, talking, rampaging case of PMS. “Why does everyone think I’m a lesbian?” she wonders aloud, to which Elaina replies that “there is some truth in it”, the implication perhaps being that the political agenda of Corey and her type is motivated more by sexual frustrations than by reason or fairness. Elaina blunders through the sorts of clueless academic abstractions that cause social experimenters’ projects to fail. “You know I only have textbook theory,” she frets. “I built this place on a lot of theory, and this is a test run, so give me a frickin’ break on a few minor flaws.”

The fact that horny, drunken fraternity men appear as the gullible victims and not the perpetrators of murder and sex crimes undercuts the popular misandrist myth of an ubiquitous “rape culture” on college campuses. Women’s degradation and endangerment appears as their own doing in The Scarehouse. The sisters only degrade themselves by calling each other “cunt” and “bitch”. As women’s femininity has been eroded, their pedestal toppled by political empowerment, they no longer enjoy their previous freedom from violence and sexual mutilation at the movies. (“I am going to punch her in the box,” Corey threatens.) Just as a man can be kicked in the crotch with the utmost casualness, as has been the case for decades, “liberated” (i.e., dehumanized) women are now more apt to see their breasts removed or their eyelids ripped off on the big screen. A satirical indication of the degeneration wrought by the sexual revolution comes when the sight of the bloody and ravaged Katrina makes one character wonder if this is a “sex party”.

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