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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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