Archives for posts with tag: madness
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

Thorn3

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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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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Writhing Tongue

Writhing Tongue (1980) ***

Not the exercise in horror or sexual perversion that its arresting title might suggest, Writhing Tongue is actually just an offbeat medical melodrama. Masako (Mayuko Wakamori), a pretty little Japanese girl, pricks her finger while playing one day and soon develops an awkward walk and refuses to eat or open her mouth. Doctors diagnose the girl with tetanus, and her extended hospitalization places a strain on her parents’ marriage and even their sanity, their anxiety intensifying when first the father (Tsunehiko Watase) and then the mother (Yukiyo Toake) begin to suspect that they, too, might have contracted the illness.

Writhing Tongue will be a challenge to viewers accustomed to breakneck pacing, with most of the film consisting of scenes of the harried and increasingly haggard parents watching their daughter suffer in her hospital bed. Here and there an odd touch enlivens the proceedings, such as when the despairing father apostrophizes the ancient bacteria occupying his child’s body; but Writhing Tongue, for the most part, is a slow, lugubrious affair, and likely to be disturbing to any parents of small children. This critic’s chief complaint: at no point in the film is there anything even remotely resembling the “writhing tongue” promised in the title!

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Farewell to the Ark

Farewell to the Ark (1984) ****

Very loosely inspired by the magical realist vision of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, this oddball allegorical film is a difficult one to synopsize. Set in a rustic Japanese village where “time doesn’t flow”, Farewell to the Ark follows incestuous cousins Su-e (Mayumi Ogawa), condemned to an indestructible chastity belt by her father, and Sutekichi (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a 35-year-old virgin who longs desperately to penetrate her. Sutekichi’s maddening sexual frustration finally boils over when he hears himself publicly mocked by the randy Daisaki (Yoshio Harada), causing Sutekichi to murder him. After that, he and Su-e flee the village and live as husband and wife in an idyllic forest.

Separated from their community, however, Sutekichi, like some character out of a Paul Bowles story, begins to lose touch with the world around him and feels compelled to create little signs, labeling everything “shoes”, “my house” and so forth; he even hangs a sign on himself that says “Me”. A lot of other bizarre things happen in Farewell to the Ark, as well. A little boy falls into a pit, only to emerge a moment later as a fully formed adult; two youths pursue a woodland nymph whose admirers, if they see her naked, are doomed to die a horrible death; and masked dancers put on a torchlit rite that has to be seen to be believed. Seldom dull, Farewell to the Ark does, however, run somewhat overlong at 127 minutes. Still, it has much to recommend it to seekers after the strange, the obscure, and the thought-provoking.

4 out of 5 stars.

Writhing Tongue trailer

 

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