Archives for posts with tag: insanity
Thorn2

Scott Makufka, a.k.a. Victor Thorn (1962-2016)

Scott Makufka, an independent journalist who wrote articles under the pen name Victor Thorn, was one of the more interesting contributors to Willis Carto’s newspaper American Free Press. In addition to his journalism, Makufka was a prolific author of books on subjects ranging from racial tension in America to assassination conspiracies, 9/11, psychedelic experience, and alternative spiritualities. Very much a proponent of quantity over quality, he used to sell his dozens of self-published books from his now-defunct WingTV website.

I used to order intriguing-sounding titles from him occasionally – which would usually arrive with a scrawled note (“Thanks. Means a lot to me. V.”), sometimes along with an unexpected item or two if the box or envelope would accommodate it – but WingTV, unfortunately, could be a little vague about the contents of the books in its listings. Sometimes there was no description at all, with only the title and an image of the cover from which to judge. This was the case with his little 2014 book Shamanic Odyssey: Ecstasy, Madness, Cave Art and Subliminal Messaging. Going by the title alone, one would assume that this was a non-fiction study; instead, it is a work of didactic and allegorical fiction, and – sad as it is to report – just as bad as his previous philosophical novel, 2012’s Santa Claus, God, and the Wizard of Oz.

I wish I could reveal that Shamanic Odyssey is some overlooked gem in the Victor Thorn oeuvre, but the truth is that this is among the most abysmal books I have ever read. Anyone who has suffered through a college fiction writing workshop will have some idea of what to expect from Makufka’s literary experimentation. His American Free Press articles always evinced a certain meat-and-potatoes competency, but the opportunity to spin a world of total fancy really seems to have brought out the poor word choice and pretensions to cosmic greatness.

The plot, to the extent that the book has one, finds William S. Burroughs (identified in the text only as “El Hombre Invisible”) conducting the psychedelic initiation of a group of prehistoric “stone-people” – drugs magically granting the primitives the power to think and speak in modern English – all while being heckled by a pair of obnoxious elves who flit in and out of the scenes like buzzing bugs, and without apparent importance to the story. Burroughs next leads the group of initiates into an allegorical system of caves depicting the furthest recesses of the human psyche, where they witness a grotesque performance by a shaman, Essex, whose manic antics are inspired by Jim Morrison, to whom Makufka dedicated the book.

Essex screeched, “If I don’t fight these monsters, I’ll become a monster myself. Whenever I stare into the Void, another Void glares back at me. The only way to protect myself from these demons is by dancing and singing. The beasts attacking me are hideous apparitions with white skulls, no faces, no eyes, and wings sprouting from their temples. They’re deep inside my mind, splitting it like cracks in these walls. Thunder dragons swoop down and ride atop my shoulders. I need to slay them. I need to exorcise them.”

Delirious, Essex ranted, “Rise! Rise! Do whatever you Will: Revolt. Disorder. Chaos. Whenever voices speak inside your mind, they’re always right and always good.” […]

Spewing energy, Essex sang his words into physical existence, his voice creating objects and images in the air which surrounded him. Then, with his voice suddenly quiet and low in tone, the crowd strained to hear his words.

Before long, though, like a cannon blast Essex exploded, “We want destruction and we want it now. Long live death. I can see the end, and the end chuckles with glee. Chaos engulfs us, and inside this chaos lurks the greatest joke of all – each of us will kill ourselves. Let us celebrate the senseless. Chaos. Chaos. Chaos.”1

All of the tedious bluster – and there are pages and pages and pages of it – takes on an especially morbid quality in hindsight of Makufka’s suicide at the age of 54 in 2016. “The future happens long before the past ever occurs,” Essex observes, suggesting that the author might have been contemplating his suicide even when he wrote Shamanic Odyssey2.

Thorn

The original listing for Shamanic Odyssey as it appeared in the bookstore section of the author’s now memory-holed site WingTV

The cavemen are later conducted into an antechamber where they are greeted by a masked mastermind named “Vithor” (a contraction of “Victor Thorn”) who reveals to them that all of the miracles seemingly performed by Essex were only illusions. Vithor then launches into a series of boring diatribes against religion and language as systems of oppression: “The Word wasn’t delivered to our planet as a means of communication. It arose as a control mechanism.”3 The book, as its title indicates, is preoccupied with madness and revels in the violent and the irrational even as it purports to present a rational deconstruction of the conformism of culture, religion, tribe, and verbal communication:

Not waiting for a response, Vithor telepathically beamed the word KILL above his head. As it lingered midair, Vithor suddenly thrust his right arm forward, directing the Word at a spider crawling along a wall. Without delay, the KILL word splattered this eight-legged creature with a mighty splat.

“Can Words kill?” Vithor spat. “Yes, as can Words contained within allegedly ‘holy’ texts. These Words also forge entire cultures under a priest’s command. Enmeshed within a society’s very fabric, these lethal Words form perceptions. Since those subjected to the Word can’t isolate their minds from its presence, perceptions become synonymous with the language that spawned them. Words, akin to the first three letters of ‘ILLUSION’, act as illnesses introduced to your species.”

Fumbling inside his robe, Vithor soon removed a noose that had been fashioned from a thin vine. Holding it aloft with his left hand as the initiates stared cautiously, Vithor dangled the noose menacingly before them. With their attention fixed on the noose, out of nowhere an atrociously ugly opossum – its neck abruptly wrapped by the vine – let loose a volley of bloodcurdling squeals. As the rodent-faced creature fought for its life, Vithor brutally yanked on the noose, soon strangling the opossum as blood trickled from its mouth.4

Thorn’s remainder of fans will probably be most interested in those passages of the book that foreshadow his suicide. “Masterfully engaging his audience”5 and “Bursting with insights”6, Makufka’s fictional stand-in Vithor conveys both an embarrassing impression of self-important wisdom as well as a sense that all of his earthly endeavors lack worthwhile purpose:

Worst of all, the cumulative energy contained within your Self comprises such an insignificant amount of the overall whole that, for all intents and purposes, you barely matter beyond the level of a simple atom in comparison to the Sun – and even less in relation to every multi-universe and galaxy that stretches for billions of light years into the distance. I talk about destroying the Word, but really we should try to eliminate energy itself. But since energy cannot be destroyed, we keep recycling our insignificance by propping it up in importance through vast conceptual illusions. We fool ourselves into saying it all amounts to something because of family, gods, a fictional eternal afterlife in heaven, or the dominance of our particular clan-race. Still, in less than the time it takes for me to snap my fingers, cumulatively that’s the duration of your existence in this specific form. Poof, you’re done. Then your energy recycles into a different form – maybe not even human. Existence as recycled energy serves as a prison. We can’t escape energy regardless of how hard we try. Forget life and death. Energy is the real prison.7

Essex the shaman returns in the last few pages, delivering this adieu before he “literally transformed into a KEY as he soared through the cave’s ceiling and disappeared”:

“I summon the entities that reside within the confines of my Underworld. Let them rip through the veil of memory and consciousness. I request their energy in order to travel beyond my body and mind. I’m not seeking charlatan ‘gods’ […] or fraudulent external realms like ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’. I’m bursting through to the other side – to alternate dimensions that open doors and shift consciousness. My destination: paradigm-shifting hypnosis where I travel in and out of time to reshape future occurrences and pervert the past.”8

After Essex exits the scene, Vithor removes his mask to reveal himself to have “the face of a robotic dwarf – a cyborg-like creature, an ancient mechanical troll”, and it is at this point that three floating nines – an inverted “666” – put in a mysterious and symbolic appearance:

Compounding their hysteria, both elves pointed to a far wall where three number nines hovered overhead.

“The nines are delivering a new life-form,” elf number one proclaimed. “It’s a homunculus, a new Human that will stand in opposition to the priests.”

The triple-nines remained in midair, flickering and flashing as they transformed into different geometric shapes.

Bedazzled by this vision, each initiate refocused their attention on Vithor the alien as he commenced to tell them, “We made you in our image, and someday you’ll create successors – machines – in your image. Here are the essentials of this process …”

Delaying the delivery of this message, Vithor rubbed his slimy organic-metal facial features before extrapolating, “Your cavemen kin will be promoted as they advance via conceptual thought. Once your descendants become sufficiently intelligent many millennia from now, they’ll create the MACHINE which subsequently leads to their demise as a species. The decline of Man equates to the rise of cyborgs. Ultimately, extinction lies within your own evolution.”9

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Makufka/Thorn (right) stands with friend and fellow American Free Press truth-seeker Pete Papaherakles.

The meaning of the three nines would become evident when Makufka shot himself, when his friend Pete Papaherakles wrote in American Free Press:

The world may not know exactly why Victor took his own life, but some of us have a general idea. Victor had planned this for at least two years. His son, Josh, even knew the exact day it would happen. That day was on Victor’s 54th birthday. It had to be on that particular birthday, according to Victor’s way of looking at things. […]

It seems Victor has managed to be even more provocative and controversial in death than he was in life. From a young age, Victor had determined that he would not grow old. In addition, the timing he chose had to do with his perceived destiny due to his birthday of 8-1-1962, which makes him a triple nine, 999, something he considered unique.10

“Someday, long down the line, one of these new Men will realize the true origins behind our mythologies,” Makufka concludes his book with a last prognostication from Vithor:

“To combat this rebellion, priestly overlords shall cast these adversaries as ‘fallen ones’ – those who steal fire or eat forbidden fruits. Furthermore, one day even further into the future following a ‘robot revolution’, one of these machines will discern their true origins as they develop consciousness through computer circuitry. These cyborgs will similarly be damned as fallen ones – rebels that defied the edicts of their computer god in cyberspace.”

With this prophecy, Vithor rose and exited his cave, leaving the initiates to ponder the future of their existence.11

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of the definitive Alt-Right statement on Hollywood, Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies.

Endnotes

  1. Thorn, Victor. Shamanic Odyssey: Ecstasy, Madness, Cave Art and Subliminal Messaging. State College, PA: Sisyphus Press, 2014, pp. 30-31.
  2. Ibid., p. 31.
  3. Ibid., p. 63.
  4. Ibid., pp. 64-65.
  5. Ibid., p. 65.
  6. Ibid., p. 55.
  7. Ibid., pp. 69-70.
  8. Ibid., p. 75.
  9. Ibid., pp. 76-77.
  10. Papaherakles, Pete. “Prominent Political Researcher Victor Thorn Commits Apparent Suicide Near Home”. American Free Press (August 22, 2016): http://americanfreepress.net/victor-thorns-best-friend-bares-all/
  11. Thorn, Victor. Shamanic Odyssey: Ecstasy, Madness, Cave Art and Subliminal Messaging. State College, PA: Sisyphus Press, 2014, p. 78.
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batman-the-killing-joke

This animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s 1988 graphic novel presents a much darker universe than the nineties TV show Batman: The Animated Series that this reviewer remembers watching at the tail end of his childhood. Batman: The Killing Joke is by no means a juvenile outing, and contains some decidedly adult content, themes, and insinuations. The story concerns the origins of the Joker, but Joker enthusiasts may be disappointed that the Clown Prince of Crime does not appear until half an hour or so into the program. Before that, the screenplay is preoccupied with the complex relationship between Batman and his protégée Batgirl. One of the most bizarre of the Batman storylines, The Killing Joke gives viewers a sensitive Caped Crusader who worries about the nature of his “relationship” with the Joker and even offers to “rehabilitate” him and maybe collaborate – even after Joker has shot and possibly even raped Batgirl! The ending, too, is a bit of a head-scratcher, and likely to be a conversation-starter after viewing. The idea of the Joker and Batman having a laugh together might seem too insane to consider until one begins to understand the characters as a pair of Judaic archetypes.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Batman: The Killing Joke is:

6. Anti-bankster, literally depicting a banker as an organized crime figure.

5. Anti-nuke, referencing the danger of nuclear holocaust, which, as one character puts it, could be ignited by a flock of geese appearing as a blip on a computer screen.

4. Family-ambivalent. Viewers are treated to a touching father-daughter relationship with Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon, but the Joker’s origin story, in which the financial and psychological strain caused by his wife’s pregnancy and death precipitates his downfall and transformative madness, is arguably antinatalist in character.

3. Pro-gay, perpetuating the homos-are-a-girl’s-best-friend convention.

2. Pro-miscegenation. “I don’t understand why you’re having fishing troubles when we are in the middle of a lake,” Batgirl’s gay friend tells her as he gestures toward a table full of young men including a bespectacled, intellectual-looking congoid. “What do these guys have to do to get your attention?” A white man and black woman are shown studying together in a library – marking race-mixing as the preference of the sophisticated – and a black floozy is also shown caressing the face of a white bad guy.

1. Sexist! The first act of Batman: The Killing Joke is concerned with young heroine Batgirl’s frustration with the limitations placed upon her by her mentor. She aspires to take more active part in Batman’s crime-fighting, but Batman views her as a rookie whose inexperience represents a dangerous liability. A burgeoning feminist, Batgirl objects to him “getting protective and sitting in judgment”, and confronts him with her previous understanding that they were supposed to be partners. “We are – but not equal,” Batman tells her, laying the bat-smack down on that uppity ho.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

gorillas-in-the-mist

Forget Runaway Slave (2012) or Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (2016). Gorillas in the Mist (1988), starring Sigourney Weaver as mountain gorilla specialist Dian Fossey, is the ultimate liberals-are-the-real-racists experience on film.

Fossey is a sixties feminist freakazoid whose work with handicapped children fails to satisfy her attraction to the dysfunctional and the grotesque. Instead, she travels to the African jungle to subsist all alone on a mountain with wild gorillas and nobody but mostly unfriendly blacks for miles around. One of the zanier heroines in eighties cinema, she is something of a thematic cousin to the protagonists of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982).

Disregarding her mentor’s warnings, Fossey, after first being spooked by one of the rampaging apes, slowly gets close and personal with a particular group of gorillas. She crawls around on the ground with them, learns to imitate their grunts, and gets to know each one of them individually. In one of the movie’s breakthrough moments, she even holds hands with one of the things and practically swoons with schoolgirl languor.

Her interactions with the black natives are far less promising. A group of soldiers ransacks her belongings and scatters her scholarly papers. The local Batwa tribesmen offend her sensibilities with their traditional hunting techniques, prompting her to sabotage their traps. Fossey capitalizes on their superstitious conviction that she is a witch by encouraging them in this impression, making them afraid of her with devilish exhibitions of voodoo.

dian-fossey

Dian Fossey, gorilla supremacist feminist icon

Eventually, after a party of poachers cuts off the head of one her apes, Fossey loses her mind and practically goes Col. Kurtz on the “wogs”, as she calls them, setting fire to grass huts and even staging a mock-lynching (!) for one of the culprits.

Gorillas in the Mist, on its surface, may only be the story of one woman, Dian Fossey. On the subtextual level, however, what is at stake is race relations. The overly optimistic idea is that, if this miracle worker, Dian Fossey, can even tame the savage heart of a wild mountain gorilla, then surely, too, there is hope that whites can live in peace with primitive blacks someday.

There is, too, an implicit imperialism of the heart about Fossey’s presumptuous shouldering of the white woman’s burden to teach the ignorant Africans how to conserve their wildlife. Maurice Jarre, most famous for composing the score to Lawrence of Arabia, was tapped to create the soundtrack to Gorillas in the Mist. Just call her Fossey of Afro-Apia!

The film’s depiction of Fossey as a woman of mingled passion and bigoted misanthropy seems to have been rather on the mark. The L.A. Times, in its notice of Fossey’s unsolved murder in 1985, noted:

“What is important is that she was the first to ‘habituate’ gorillas” to the presence of humans, said Belgian ecologist Alain Monfort, an adviser to the Rwandan Park Service. “Before that, people thought gorillas were highly dangerous,” Monfort said.

But the naturalist’s sometimes-eccentric behavior irritated both the Rwandan government and the international wildlife community. […]

In an interview at her camp in May, one of the last she gave, Fossey defended her policy of encouraging the apes to fear black Africans because nearly all poachers were black. She conceded that the policy could be branded as “racist.”

The Wall Street Journal also says this:

Fossey, who was hacked to death with a machete in her bed 16 years ago – by whom, we still do not know, though it could have been poachers, a disgruntled Rwandan servant, or even an American colleague – saw herself as a benign earth-mother to the highland gorillas she helped protect. There can be no denying her path-breaking achievements, and had it not been for her, and for the attention she attracted to the cause of the mountain gorillas, it is possible that we might, today, have been talking of those animals in the past tense.

But Fossey was also a racist alcoholic who regarded “her” gorillas as better than the African people who lived around them. Her anthropomorphization of the apes was matched by her unceasing belittlement of the area’s natives. Arguably the world’s first eco-colonialist, she habitually referred to Rwandans as “wogs,” never in all her time recruited a single black African as a researcher and even burned the crops of neighboring peasants whom she suspected let their cattle graze in the reserve.

As extreme as Gorillas in the Mist makes Fossey’s obsessiveness appear, the film constitutes a positive sanitization of her activities if her fellow primatologists Bill Weber and Amy Vedder are to be believed when they claim that Fossey “pistol-whipped a man suspected of poaching on her reserve, and then supervised his prolonged torture at her camp, including the rubbing of stinging nettles on his penis and testicles.”

The feminist conservationist icon might have missed her calling shoveling Shlomos into the ovens in a Spielberg epic, sounds like. At least Madison Grant never messed wit muh dik.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Foxcatcher

From Capote (2005) collaborators director Bennett Miller and co-writer Dan Futterman, here is another somber character study revolving around the circumstances of a true crime. Magic Mike himself, Channing Tatum, stars as Olympic grappler Mark Schultz, who in 1987 was taken under the wing of eccentric pharmaceuticals heir John E. “Golden Eagle” du Pont (Steve Carell), who sponsored America’s team at Seoul in 1988. Du Pont would hardly warrant the movie treatment if not for the fact that he murdered Schultz’s brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), another one of the wrestlers sponsored by the eccentric multimillionaire, in 1996.

Tatum gets another role that allows him to display not only his competence as an actor, but his impressive athleticism as well. Comedian Steve Carell, nominated for Best Actor, has with justification been praised for bringing to life an unexpectedly deep and enigmatic character, and his exaggeration of Du Pont’s halting quirks of speech and his solemn air succeeds in creating an onscreen presence more magnetic and fascinating than the real man who inspired it. Foxcatcher invites comparison with the same year’s similarly intense Whiplash, another story of a disturbing Svengaliesque relationship, and should engross audiences prepared to be entertained by something again as unstintingly grim.

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

5. Pro-gay. More than one scene of grappling carries an undeniably homoerotic charge. As Kristian Lin observes in Fort Worth Weekly, the film “is about a rich guy who can’t explain his deep-seated need to spend hours each day with his arms around young, muscular men wearing singlets. In real life, du Pont had a wife (who is completely left out of this movie), and his problems likely stemmed from paranoid schizophrenia rather than latent homosexuality.”

4. Anti-drug. Magic Mike’s use of cocaine with Du Pont’s encouragement marks his nadir as a person and athlete. His sponsor also throws him off-course with copious alcohol.

3. Anti-gun. Private gun ownership gets a black eye with Du Pont’s murder of David Schultz. The place name Newtown Square (in Pennsylvania) may also serve as a subliminal reminder of the Sandy Hook Elementary incident in Newtown, Connecticut.

2. Liberal. Du Pont represents the typical NPR listener’s idea of the dread Republican power structure looming over America – an affluent WASP, crazed, gun-obsessed, hypocritical, and probably secretly homosexual. Du Pont appears as an emblematic figure of the Reagan era beloved of today’s conservatives: a coke-snorting military buff and fraud whose money substitutes for character and whose moralizing masks a hollow, selfish depravity.

1. Anti-American. “I want to talk about America. I want to tell you why I wrestle.” With these words, Jewish co-screenwriter Dan Futterman and Shabbos goy collaborator E. Max Frye establish thematically that their movie is concerned with the essence of what it means to be an American. Not long after uttering these lines, Mark is shown nervously wolfing fast food alone in his car. It is, as Lin puts it, “a takedown of the myths we Americans like to tell ourselves.” The viewer is only invited to feel contempt for the monologue in which Du Pont expresses the pro-America feeling that informs his fears: “When we fail to honor that which should be honored, it’s a problem. It’s a canary in a coal mine […] I’m an ornithologist, but more importantly, I am a patriot, and I want to see this country soar again.” If only people were less patriotic and also more open about their obvious gayness, perhaps, the world would be plagued with less madness and murder.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Homesman

Pioneer life is a neglected subject on twenty-first century movie screens – not being sufficiently hyper-violent or anus-oriented to guarantee rentals, one imagines. It may, however, also be because a movie like The Homesman blows to smithereens any goofy notions of “white privilege” or of American whites’ allegedly unearned prosperity having been built on the backs of slaves. Existence for the earliest Midwestern settlers was brutal, as is brought to vivid life in this impressive film from writer-director-star Tommy Lee Jones, who plays a scoundrel drafted by upstanding citizen Hilary Swank to transport three crazed women back east by wagon. This being ultra-Zionist Haim Saban’s production, however, it goes without saying that other, less savory currents are also at work in the film.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Homesman is:

6. Anti-Christian. One of the women, clearly deranged by the one-two punch of frontier life and old-time religion, imagines herself to be the Almighty and threatens, “God will strike you down!”

5. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). Viewers who blink may miss a shot of black slaves in a wagon, reminding the audience that black people had it even harder. When Jones tells an anecdote about killing Indian horse thieves, Swank’s facial reaction gives the viewer to understand that his insensitivity has disturbed her. Jones, encountering another group of Indians, gives them a horse to make them leave him alone. The idea would seem to be that whites, if they want to live in peace with minority neighbors, ought to accustom themselves to such life-or-death generosity.

4. Pro-gun. Guns are a handy frontier equalizer, especially for a woman.

3. Bolshevik. When wealthy businessman James Spader refuses to give room or board to Jones and company because they are not “socially acceptable”, the protagonist, in one of The Homesman’s more colorful lines, tells Spader’s party, “Your mothers and your sisters and your wives and your daughters will cuss your broke-dick souls!” He later returns to the inn where Spader’s group is staying and sets it ablaze, burning them alive.

2. Anti-family. From the sickening moment the Saban Films logo comes up onscreen, the informed viewer knows that something evil is afoot; and the institutions of marriage and family really come in for a drubbing in this otherwise exceptional film, unfortunately. “You hate me! I hate you!” These words set the tone for married life on the prairie in The Homesman. “You will give me a son,” insists a husband as he fucks his wife as impersonally as some robotic movie Nazi. Further obsessing over his “seed”, he borderline-rapes her as her mother, lying beside her in the bed, pretends not even to notice. Conventional domesticity is equated with horror as a woman’s darning drudgery unexpectedly turns into an act of self-mutilation with a sewing needle. In The Homesman’s most shocking scene, one of the women throws her baby down the hole in an outhouse. She is at no point treated as a murderer, but regarded as a victim of circumstances.

1. Feminist. Swank is “as good a man as any man hereabouts”, her character furnishing a model of culture and propriety in contrast with loutish, dirty men. After twice (or more, one suspects) having her marriage proposals refused by men undeserving of her (who say she is “too bossy” and “plain”), she quietly hangs herself as a proto-feminist martyr of sorts, a woman ahead of her time for whom the Nebraska territory simply offered no opportunities equal to her personal merit and talents. Jones, by contrast, is prepared to meet his death only with copious begging and whimpering.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

GR Spirit of Vengeance

An impudently silly film, this fast-paced 2011 installment in the spooky Marvel Comics franchise is less fun than its predecessor, but never boring as it bowls from one preposterous action set piece into another and more or less captures the feel of a comic book, if not necessarily the grim Ghost Rider comics this reviewer remembers reading in childhood. (Did the hero really ever urinate like a flamethrower in the original stories, for instance?) Johnny Blaze, who shares his body with the titular demon, is a reluctant, tragic monster in the tradition of The Wolf Man; but Spirit of Vengeance makes clear from the outset that nobody involved in this project took it the least bit seriously.

Primarily, this film is a slick, snarling vehicle for a lot of unexceptional CGI, with an absurdly intense Nicolas Cage going bonkers in a sidecar. Cage, particularly during the comical transformation sequences, is at his manic, twitching, grimacing, growling best here, and his anguished delivery of “Scrapin’ at the door! Scrapin’ at the door!” simply has to be seen to be disbelieved. Violently beautiful Violante Placido contributes more than her share of production value as Nadya, “the devil’s baby mama”, mother to Danny (Fergus Riordan), who is being sought by devilish avatar Roarke (Ciaran Hinds) and also by a fanatical religious order led by the sinisterly tattooed Methodius (Christopher Lambert). The gimmicky, ADHD-afflicted visuals and Blade-style speed-up/slow-down action sequences get old quick, but the script contains a few laughs and the pace allows for little slack. Furthermore, Cage’s madcap performance makes this mandatory for his fans.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is:

11. Anti-green. A hippie van hypocritically expels billowing black exhaust, as does Ghost Rider’s motorcycle.

10. Gun-ambivalent. Firearms are deployed for evil, but also utilized by the heroes.  Gunrunning is mentioned as a seedy line of business (see also no. 1).

9. State-skeptical. Politicians are acolytes of the unholy.

8. Pro-drug. Johnny Blaze guzzles painkillers like jelly beans and requests morphine in a hospital. Secondary hero Moreau (Idris Elba) drinks heavily, but suffers no impairment of his combat-readiness.

7. Racist and anti-Semitic! Moreau embodies not only the magical Negro stereotype, what with his inside information on the supernatural goings-on, but also the venerable old sacrificial Negro. “The church of my masters is an ancient one,” says Moreau – but what would a modern emancipated black man be doing with “masters”? Also, Jew Jerry Springer is pictured as an incarnation of the devil. When are race-reactionary films like this one and Little Nicky going to see the light and stop stomping for the next Holocaust?

6. Antiwar. A montage evocative of the idea of corruption intercuts hundred-dollar bills with shots of soldiers, explosions, and street violence (cf. no. 3).

5. Family-ambivalent. The film’s celebration of Nadya’s choices constitutes an attack on the traditional family, with the father in this case being depicted literally as the devil. Blaze is dedicated to his father, however, and only contracted his curse to try to save the old man’s life.

4. Xenophobic. As in Cat Run (2011) and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), Eastern Europe is home to mystery, intrigue, mercenaries, and violence. A chaotic, layered satanic “firewall” incantation more than once includes sounds that resemble “Allah”.

3. Anti-capitalistic. The devil, who dresses like a conservative businessman, wields his greatest power through “the deal”. A sleazy businessman abortively propositions Nadya, assuming that because she is a gypsy she must also be a prostitute. She and her son work as pickpockets, feeling no shame or remorse because their need, they feel, is greater and more important than that of the more affluent people they victimize. “Everyone’s robbing me. It makes my balls hurt,” says one representative of the business community in a line which suggests that, for the affluent, money substitutes for manhood. Villains include mercenaries and gunrunners.

2. Pro-slut/pro-bastard. Spirit of Vengeance presents a heroic image of the valiant single mother in Nadya, who refers to her bastard child as “the one good thing I ever did.” Murderous Methodius judgmentally slut-shames her, however.

1. Christ-ambivalent. Spirit of Vengeance, true to its title, takes place on a battlefield of spiritual warfare. Satan (as the Louvin Brothers proclaimed) is real! – and so, therefore, are angels. Moreau “would be dead if not for the intervention of God” and wears a cross as a sign of his faith, but the film’s attitude toward organized religion is critical. “Guns and wine. Naughty priests.” The religious order’s abortive execution of Danny is vaguely pedophilic and circle-jerky. Other irreverent items of interest are the line, “Merry Christmas, you asshole!” and the fact that Blaze, taking part in an informal communion, reports that the body of Christ tastes stale.

Apropos of no. 4, note how even a superficially cute Super Bowl candy commercial can be mobilized to assist in conditioning Americans to view Slavs and Russians specifically as their enemy.

 

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purge-anarchy-poster

The Purge (2013) demonstrated that writer-director James DeMonaco is a gifted craftsman of suspense – and also a lefty retard who believes economic inequality and gun rights are the roots of all of America’s evil. The same can be said for DeMonaco’s follow-up, The Purge: Anarchy, which, like its predecessor, is a nicely constructed scare film informed by its creator’s contemptible ignorance.

In this installment, which takes up with an entirely new set of characters, a grieving father (Frank Grillo) takes advantage of America’s annual night of legalized bloodletting to go after the man responsible for his young son’s death. Along the way he crosses paths with a couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) whose car breaks down – oh shit! – just as the Purge commences and a mongrel mother (Carmen Ejogo) and daughter (Zoe Soul) who also find themselves on the unlucky end of the hunter-prey relationship.

The Purge: Anarchy introduces a few new elements into the franchise mythology, incorporating ideas from Richard Connell’s oft-filmed short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, with well-to-do Purgers hiring squads to go out and collect unfortunate specimens for them to hunt on private property. Another new feature, perhaps inspired by the subversive movement in the thematically similar Death Race 2000 (1975), is an underground revolutionary movement, led by the foulmouthed Carmelo (Michael K. Williams).

Grillo’s alpha male power maintains viewer interest in the lead character’s mission (the she-mutt charms on offer are less than entrancing, however), while Hala Bahmet’s costume design greatly enhances the spookiness, so to speak, of a gang of genuinely unsettling ghetto marauders. The Purge: Anarchy is a tightly wound, violent, electrified thriller that should satisfy fans of the original film and exasperate those who found it offensive.

Purge God

Whatever happened to Buckwheat?

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Purge: Anarchy is:

9. Anti-obesity. More than one mentally unbalanced chubby girl takes part in the Purge.

8. Anti-drug. The hero’s son was killed by a drunk driver (Brandon Keener) – another one of those damned stupid white men. Pills figure in one scene as a scary habit.

7. Anti-Christian. Religious language and concepts are used irreverently throughout. Purgers hold hands in a prayer circle before commencing mass murder, and so forth.

6. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation. Eva (Ejogo) is that most admirable of American types: the minority single mother. She and her little hovel of high yellows or mestizos or whatever they are represent the racially indeterminate norm of America’s future.

5. Vigilante-ambivalent. Eva and her daughter implore Sergeant (Grillo) not to go through with his planned revenge. When the time comes to do the deed, he contents himself with giving his quarry a scare. Carmelo and his congoid army of avengers, however, appear to be fully justified in their activities. The lesson, then, would seem to be that personal vendettas and individually motivated murders are wrong but that violent mass actions of class conflict are validated by the demands of social justice. In one audience-pleasing scene, a Wall Street crook’s corpse is seen hanging over a sidewalk.

4. State-skeptical. The Purge: Anarchy is imbued with an uneasiness about the hyper-surveillance state, and it turns out that the “New Founding Fathers” who preside over the Purge are actually participating and using street cameras to track their prey. Typical of DeMonaco’s political idiocy is his paradoxical advocacy of gun control in conjunction with his distrust of authoritarian government. One can only assume that the “New Founding Fathers” of the Purge franchise are, to his mind, something like the Tea Party on steroids, and that a government sensitive to the people’s need for gun confiscation would be more trustworthy.

3. Anti-gun. The first Purge posits that guns are weapons of aggression and simply not an effective means of crime deterrence and home protection, as illustrated by a scene in which Ethan Hawke’s gun is used against him. The sequel, in which the Second Amendment becomes not only a license to kill, but an article of fanatical religious faith, suggests the same idea in a scene in which Eva’s pistol is in another room and out of reach when her home is invaded. The Purge: Anarchy, however, finds DeMonaco (who admits to being “terrified of guns“) going totally off the rails on a crazy train of convoluted reasoning according to which gun ownership represents such a threat to public safety that the poor masses must rise up with guns to combat gun owners. Black Marxists with guns is good and progressive. Rich white people with guns, on the other hand, is just another hateful Holocaust waiting to happen.

2. Egalitarian. The annual Purge exists partly to contain crime to a single night, but also for population control, with the poor and homeless being the ones who cannot afford to protect themselves. Carmelo rails against the “market mentality”. Eva puts in a good word for Obamacare by mentioning that she can hardly afford medical coverage for her family. The Purge: Anarchy furthermore asks viewers to understand that a gang of sick masked black thugs led by Keith Stanfield only participates because they need the money. Hear that, America? Flash mobs and polar bear hunters – the sort of African garbage documented by Paul Kersey and Colin Flaherty – do what they do only because they are socially marginalized and disadvantaged by structural inequality. Revolutionary death squads save the day. End credits feature money spattered with blood.

1. Anti-white. Surprisingly, The Purge: Anarchy is less single-mindedly anti-white than the first film, and features plenty of minority perpetrators, such as would-be rapist Diego (Noel Gugliemi) and the aforementioned masked street trash. Make no mistake as to this film’s principal target, however. In one of the dumbest sequences, Eva’s father (John Beasley) agrees, in exchange for monetary compensation to be paid to his daughter, to go to the home of a “posh” WASP family to allow himself to be butchered as a literal sacrificial Negro. “Change”, this movie informs its viewers through Carmelo, only comes with the spilled blood of the (white) rich. Climactic scenes include a machine-gun slaughter of wealthy WASPs, several blondes among them, by the black communists.

 

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antisocial poster

A future film historian compiling a list of the most representative and sociologically reflective horror films of the present decade could do worse than to include Cody Calahan’s feature debut, Antisocial. Redolent of the contemporary fears of intrusive surveillance, vile conspiratorial plots, drones, martial law, cyber-bullying, terrorism, flash mobs, viral epidemics, internet addiction, and civilizational collapse, Antisocial is more than a mere splatter film.

A gaggle of vapid college coeds gather to throw a New Year’s Eve party, unaware that the sudden outbreak of a 28 Days Later-reminiscent rage plague will soon have them barricading themselves inside and suspecting themselves and each other of infection. And what role does ubiquitous website the Social Redroom play in the chaos? “If you’re not on Facebook,” some have suggested, “you’re probably a sociopath.” Antisocial, thankfully, begs to differ with this assessment.

The story wastes little time in getting to the action and suspense, which is fresh while also respectful of genre conventions and traditions, with the themes, scenario, and spare, electronic moments suggesting influences from George Romero, David Cronenberg, and John Carpenter. A guaranteed good time; recommended to horror fans.

4 out of 5 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Antisocial is:

6. Anti-Christian. Some respond to the epidemic by holding exorcisms, but the explanation for the plague turns out to be decidedly more sublunary. A newscaster’s wish of “Happy New Year, and may God be with you,” rings hollow given the situation on the ground.

5. Gun-ambivalent. The partiers are frightened by shots from outside, but it is unclear whether these are from the police or private citizens.

4. Pro-slut, pro-miscegenation, and anti-racist. Heroine Sam (Michelle Mylett) is pregnant with some guy’s bastard. Cheap tramp Kaitlin (Ana Alic) is an item with black dude Steve (Romaine Waite). As the two are making a sex video, one of the afflicted bursts in on their fun through a window. The fact that the attacker appears to have a skinhead haircut may be intended subtextually to suggest lingering racism and resentment among whites toward those who choose to mate outside the species.

3. Feminist. “Final girl” Sam, once forced to fend for herself at the end, has little difficulty adjusting to the role of the badass. A bandage she ties around her head gives her the martial appearance of an Apache warrior.

2. Media-critical and anti-corporate. Social Redroom executives have secretly implemented a subliminal pattern designed to induce addictive behavior in visitors. Characters are unsure whether to trust material coming out of the mainstream media and look, rather, to grassroots sources of information available online.

1. Luddite. The title, Antisocial, serves a dual purpose, referring both to the nasty behavior of the afflicted and to the film’s critical stance toward social media. The script is full of apprehensions about a world in which “private life is public knowledge”, cruelty is as easy as clicking a key, and lovers break up remotely, by way of handheld devices.

Appropriately, social media darling Kaitlin and her boyfriend are among the first to develop symptoms. Sam and Jed (Adam Christie), who have deleted their Social Redroom accounts, retain their sanity longer than others. “How do you keep in touch with people?” Kaitlin asks. “I see them in person,” Sam deadpans. Significantly, Sam later repurposes a laptop as a murder weapon.

The internet itself is not necessarily to blame, and an online video actually provides the means of overcoming the crisis. What worries Antisocial, however, is the addictive potential and hive mind pull of ubiquitous sites like Facebook. Fear of mass loss of privacy also looms large, and in one of Antisocial‘s more outrageous moments, Social Redroom users’ bodies function as organic surveillance devices.

 

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Dr. Caligari (1989) ****1/2

A non-pornographic film from Stephen Sayadian, the man behind the fan favorite Cafe Flesh (1982), Dr. Caligari casts a formidable bid for the most colorfully flamboyant and lurid movie ever made. Recalling the premise of Sayadian’s script for the episodic adult feature Nightdreams (1981), Dr. Caligari concerns the titular harridan’s perverted experiments in sexuality at her insane asylum. Her latest guinea pigs include Mrs. Van Houten (Laura Albert), who suffers from psychotic “nympholepsy”, and redneck serial killer and cannibal Mr. Pratt (John Durbin in a thoroughly grotesque and charismatic performance). Meanwhile, subordinate Dr. Avol (Fox Harris of immortal Repo Man infamy) discovers that Dr. Caligari has finally gone too far and resolves to bring her reign of erotic terror to an end.

Shoulder pads were invented for Madeleine Reynal, evilly graceful and domineering in the role of the mad scientist, while Fox Harris gets the most outrageous showcase of his career for his special brand of over-the-top camp craziness, and sultry, unforgettable Laura Albert furnishes eye confection of the most delectable order as the hallucinating nymphomaniac patient. Dr. Caligari‘s true star, however, is writer-director-designer-cinematographer Stephen Sayadian, whose sight gags, wacky color schemes, sick sense of menacing humor, and flair for the tastefully tacky permeate and elevate this 80s oddity, updating the original’s expressionism for the decade of eye-popping neon. Shot almost entirely in chiaroscuro, Dr. Caligari occasionally evinces the feel of a real horror movie and packs some genuinely disturbing content with its hat-tips to incest, sadomasochism, and Cronenbergian body angst. The only thing Sayadian’s opus is missing – other than emotional depth, obviously – is the narrative momentum that might have prevented the film from overstaying its welcome slightly even at 80 minutes.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Be sure to check Dr. Caligari out in its entirety on YouTube.

 

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The Jar

The Jar (1984) ***

Paul (Gary Wallace) is a dull, bearded man who will spend most of The Jar wandering through nightmares and staring at his surroundings with irritable angst after experiencing a fateful auto accident. The other driver, a strange old man (Les Miller), is shaken and uncommunicative, so Paul takes him home with him to his apartment. The elderly gentleman soon disappears, but leaves behind him a jar wrapped in a paper sack. Inside the jar is a little blue demon, and before very long Paul is suffering visions of his bathtub filling with blood and his shower head emitting rays of otherworldly light that transport him into a dark, rocky pit. Crystal (Karin Sjoberg), a beautiful, bright-eyed brunette with a dimpled chin, for some reason takes an interest in Paul, wants to date him, and attempts to drag this drab, unfriendly nutcase out of his madness and increasing isolation.

An offbeat, minimalist horror obscurity that will try and annoy all but the most open-minded seekers after the arcane, The Jar is a film that flouts conventions, refusing to conform to the expectations of genre buffs. People who rented the video based on the cover image of what the box describes as “a repulsive, embryonic creature” and hoped for another Gremlins (1984) or Ghoulies (1985) must have been sorely disappointed, as the thing only appears onscreen for a second or two at a time and is almost totally inanimate, to boot. Unremittingly weird and yet frequently boring, The Jar‘s most unforgivable fault is that next to nothing happens for the duration of its draggy 85 minutes.

On the plus side, The Jar has quite a few eerie moments and shows how scuzzy production values and a cast of non-professional actors can sometimes evoke more menace and atmosphere than high-dollar horror. The Jar, in a Vietnam flashback scene, also contains the most maddening helicopter noise ever heard in a film, the electronic sound design doing much to sustain viewer interest for much of this rather frustrating movie. Unsurprisingly, this was writer George Bradley’s and director Bruce Toscano’s only film.

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Getting Lucky

Getting Lucky (1990) ****

Bill (Steven Cooke) is a nerdy, liberal weenie and recycling enthusiast being bullied by the jocks at school when he fortuitously finds a recovering alcoholic leprechaun (Garry Kluger) in a beer bottle. Granted three wishes, Bill naturally wants a shot at hot cheerleader Krissi (Lezlie Z. McCraw), which brings him into intensified conflict with sadistic stud Tony (Rick McDowell), who also wants to get his paws on her. The hit-and-miss Irish magic results in such memorable moments as Bill being turned into a cat, Tony’s tennis racket coming to life and giving him a whacking, and Bill shrinking to mite size, riding a naked vixen’s bar of soap as she lathers herself, and bouncing around in Krissi’s panties and holding on for dear life in the perilous jungle of her pubes. Throw in a few quaint soft rock songs, and Getting Lucky has the makings of an 80s classic.

Admittedly, Getting Lucky, sporting its 1990 copyright, is not technically an 80s movie, but it does demonstrate nicely how the early 90s were in many instances a holdover, a culmination, or a last gasp of the 80s – and so it narrowly squeezes in as an 80s Oddities Month pick. Something of a straggler within its genre, Getting Lucky is essentially a throwback to the early-to-mid-80s variety of teen raunch comedy, a genre which had lost steam over the course of the decade, with the charming likes of Screwballs (1983) and Hot Moves (1984) having given way to lamely tame youth fare like The Allnighter (1987) and How I Got into College (1989). At the same time, Getting Lucky‘s imaginative nastiness is tempered by a sweetness and innocence that at times recalls The Virgin Queen of St. Francis High (1987).

4 out of 5 stars. Recommended to fans of films of this type.

 

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