Archives for posts with tag: Karen Black

Charles Band’s latest foray into his favorite horror subgenre, the miniature plastic macabre, has exactly two things going for it: supporing players Stacy Keach and Karen Black, both of whom ought to be embarrassed for their participation in this backward-minded, meanspirited, wilful negation of racial realities aimed at all two angry young black men who wait with bated breath for every new Full Moon release.  “Beyond Django” is the film’s tag line, but “Beyond Gonzo” might be more appropriate.  Ooga Booga, a slapdash horror hash of make-believe relevance, is the sort of idiotic movie in which characters make such witty observations as, “If this thing electrocutes me, I’m gonna be pissed.”

Devin (Wade Forrest Wilson), a hardworking black medical student, is unluckily gunned down by a racist cop (Gregory Niebel), appropriately named Officer White, after being mistaken for the culprit in a convenience store robbery and murder – the 1960s Deep South of liberal mythology apparently having merged and melded with modern Los Angeles in Ooga Booga‘s bizarro world – only to be reincarnated as a revenge-seeking stereotypical bone-in-the-nose African warrior doll.  No racist is safe from the bug-eyed, reefer-puffing wrath of this spear-chucking pigmy!

The concept might have been worth a few chuckles if, like Chucky or that pesky Leprechaun, Ooga Booga had been endowed with the power to spout corny one-liners as he dispatches his quarry; but until the doll inexplicably acquires the power of speech in the final scene, he carries out his simplistic regimen of vengeance (which more than once includes the extraction of eyeballs) with an unimaginative reticence, communicating with his girlfriend (Ciarra Carter) only by nodding or gesturing with his spear.  The scene in which Karen Black – cast as an ode to her role in Dan Curtis’s excellent Trilogy of Terror, in which she also finds herself pitted against an angry doll – is boringly pursued by Ooga Booga through her trailer is only an unintentionally poignant reminder of how far this film falls short of its forebear.

2.5 out of 5 possible stars.  ICA’s advice: see Trilogy of Terror instead.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ooga Booga is:

8. Anti-slut.  A prostitute’s rash illustrates the wages of sin.

7. Anti-Christian.  Tacky trailer park manager Karen Black has a kitschy picture of Jesus on her wall.  “Jesus H. fuckin’ Christ,” Officer White exclaims angrily in another scene.  Judge Marks (Keach) refers to “puttin’ nigras in the hole” as being “God’s work”.

6. Un-p.c.  Despite its anti-racist social (i.e., socialist) message, Ooga Booga would like to have its crap and eat it, too, engaging in racial stereotype-based humor under the flimsy pretext of satirizing it, but succeeding only in confusing its tone and intentions from one scene to the next.  Hambo (Chance A. Rearden), a Krusty-like, hog-nosed, haggard, and sordid children’s show host, displays an Asian hooker doll and gives it voice: “I’ll suckie-suckie for crackie-crackie.”  Devin is annoyed by the poor taste of Hambo’s jokes, which, however, are presumably supposed to be funny for viewers.  Likewise, an unappealing gang rape scene’s seriousness of purpose is rendered suspect when it is immediately followed by a superfluous scene of the victim complacently showering with her breasts exposed to the camera while Ooga Booga watches and masturbates.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  The doll and his moll decide not to kill White’s wimpy partner (Corey MacIntosh) after seeing a photograph of his black wife and kids.

4. Drug-ambivalent.  The gang of losers working for White represents the drug trade and drug use poorly, but Ooga Booga appears to suffer no consequences from his frequent marijuana smoking.

3. Anti-police.  Cops are corrupt racketeers, racists, and lusty killers.

2. Anti-white.  Ooga Booga is one of those sad, tired exercises in flagrant fraudulence in which white bums beg blacks for handouts, packs of vicious whites rape black women, and whites as a race are generally stupid, mean, dishonest, criminal, and violent drug dealers, users, and pimps who inconvenience the law-abiding minorities.  The LAPD might as well be the KKK, and White’s non-racist partner, though he objects to the bigot’s recklessness and killing of innocents, is too wimpy ever to intervene.  A Confederate flag on the drug gang’s wall reminds viewers of the hackneyed formula according to which states’ rights and secession equal racism and sexism, which, of course, equal mental retardation, rape, and murder.

1. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  A specter is haunting America: the specter of racism!  Nearly every racial smear applicable to blacks is included at some point.  Even Devin’s landlord is a bigot and in one scene barges into his apartment to complain about noise and calls his tenants jungle bunnies.  “I want you to remove that stain from my world,” Judge Marks says, exposing the genocidal flame that burns in every white man’s heart.  Ooga Booga personifies hate and stereotyping reappropriated as deadly emancipatory weaponry leveled against their masters and originators.

killer joe

Whereas 2006’s Bug was an interestingly novel but frustrating film, this second collaboration between playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts and director William Friedkin is an essentially perfect work of art and probably the greatest product of Friedkin’s career – which, in view of the fact that said career also includes The French Connection and The Exorcist, is praise of an unusually high magnitude.  An ironical study of human folly and avarice in the mode of the Coens’ Fargo, but resembling Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, Sling Blade, or No Country for Old Men more in its climate and milieu, Killer Joe is an elegantly and wickedly realized adaptation of a crime story in the pulpy and noirish tradition, and is brought to wonderful, vibrant life by the year’s finest assemblage of actors.

A stylized black comedy focusing on a Texas white trash family, Killer Joe surprises in not approaching its subjects with the expected Hollywood condescension, but in allowing even the dumbest and sleaziest characters their due degree of human dignity and consideration.  Emile Hirsch plays Chris Smith, a loser and gambler deep in debt to loan shark Digger Soames (Marc Macaulay).  His not-so-bright solution is to hire a hitman, policeman Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), to kill his divorced good-for-nothing mother and collect on her life insurance policy.  Chris’s dimwitted father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), childish, enigmatic sister Dottie (Juno Temple), and whorish step-mother Sharla (Gina Gershon) are willing to go along with the plan; but when Chris and Ansel are unable to meet the killer’s condition of pay up front, Joe decides to take Dottie as his “retainer”.  This being a noir world, nothing goes as planned.

In The Manchurian Candidate, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) explains that, “the human race is divided into two distinct and irreconcilable groups: those that walk into rooms and automatically turn television sets on, and those that walk into rooms and automatically turn them off.”  Joe Cooper, in Shaw’s paradigm, is the serious man, the one who always walks into a room and switches off (or smashes) the television.  “I’m real,” he says to Dottie.  Joe is also an increasingly threatening and problematic figure for the Smith family, particularly after he shows himself content to keep his “retainer” indefinitely.

Killer Joe is insightfully cast.  Emile Hirsch is an obviously foredoomed man from the moment he first appears, while Matthew McConaughey displays a surprisingly icy, intimidating side.  Thomas Haden Church is both hilarious and melancholic, and quirky Juno Temple may have the prettiest, sweetest face and voice on the planet, the perfect sexual foil for scarily masculine Joe.  Gina Gershon is a national treasure and has the potential in coming years to become something approximating her generation’s Karen Black.  One of the great sexpots of the 1990s, her charisma and animal appeal remain undiminished; her age, if anything, has enhanced her capacity for juicy character parts, so that one can only look forward to the roles of her further maturity.

Gershon’s instantaneously immortal and deservedly notorious fried chicken moment is only one of many evidences of Killer Joe‘s unwillingness to pull its punches or compromise.  A violent film that in no way glorifies violence, Killer Joe‘s view of the human condition is a sophisticatedly absurdist one, with the chicken scene being the most grotesquely brilliant depiction of proxy object fellatio since Roger Watkins’s Last House on Dead End Street.   Whether the scene is gratuitously cruel and intended for mere shock value, or whether it rather has some thematic relevance and meaning is something viewers should enjoy contemplating for themselves, and will probably (or at least ought to) be a point of reference for film fans in perpetuity, much in the same way that the backwoods rape in Deliverance or the nuclear bomb ride in Dr. Strangelove have entered the cultural psyche.

One of the best films of 2012, Killer Joe receives five stars and the highest possible recommendation.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that the film is:

5. Pro-drug.  Use and trade in illegal drugs is a reality of average Americans’ lives and as casual a recreational comfort as beer.

4. Neurosis-critical.  Obsessive health consciousness and the ubiquity of empty sexual imagery have turned America into a basket case, with fast food, consequently, becoming the new pornography.

3. Anti-Christian.  The unthinking invocations of Jesus and God; the crucifixes decorating Ansel and Sharla’s trailer; the rote and meaningless funeral ceremony for a woman whose death was welcomed by the attendees – all are representative only of the obviously ineffectual superficiality of these people’s beliefs.

2. Anti-slut.  Sharla is in for some major pain and hideous humiliation.

1. Anti-state/anti-police.  Dallas police officer Joe moonlights as a hitman and says he likes vicious loan shark Digger.  The ease with which Chris acquires a gun illegally serves as a reminder of the futility of gun control legislation.

Out of the Dark

Out of the Dark (1988) *****  Generic title notwithstanding, Out of the Dark is a genuine gem from the heyday of the late night cable erotic thriller.  Bobo, a serial killer in a clown mask, is stalking and murdering beautiful phone sex workers, and a handsome photographer (Cameron Dye) finds himself the number one suspect after a sultry photo shoot with one of Bobo’s victims.  His phone sex cutie girlfriend (Lynn Danielson) stands by his side, but a hardboiled and cynical L.A. detective (Tracey Walter) is determined to nail him as the culprit.  Distinguishing Out of the Dark from some of its peers is its wicked sense of humor and ultrastylish sensibility.  This movie even makes Tracey Walter look like the world’s coolest dude as he’s getting out of his car in slow motion.  Greatly enhancing Out of the Dark, too, is the fine cast of character actors, with Bud Cort, Karen Black, Divine, Starr Andreeff, and Paul Bartel all in fine form in smaller roles.  Recommended to those who wish Basic Instinct had been funnier, but not quite as dumb as its parody Fatal Instinct.

Clownhouse

Clownhouse (1989) ****1/2  The story of what transpired behind the scenes during the filming of Victor Salva’s Clownhouse is widely known and has resulted in its forever being tainted and relegated to out-of-print movie ignominy.  Politically incorrect as it is to concede, however, this film, which was effectively creepy when first unleashed on adolescents more than two decades ago, is actually amplified in its power to unsettle them as adults and is arguably – albeit unintentionally – a stronger chiller in retrospect for its unsavory intermingling of art and reality.  A horror film within a horror film, Clownhouse frequently gives indications of being an exercise in perversion for Salva, whose story luridly focuses on the psychological torture of a boy (Nathan Forrest Winters) who is terrified – and with good reason, as it turns out – by clowns because, as he puts it with tears in his eyes, “You never know who they really are.”  Indeed.

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