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Lock Up

One of my favorite Sylvester Stallone movies from my childhood is 1989’s Lock Up, a satisfying prison flick that stars Sly as Frank Leone, a model convict with six months to go and what appears to be a bright future ahead of him – until he is unexpectedly transferred in the middle of the night to a hellish correctional institution run by the sadistic Warden Drumgoole (Donald Sutherland), who harbors a long-festering vendetta against Leone. “This is hell, and I’m going to give you the guided tour,” he promises. Full of memorable bits like a cockroach race, a barbell assassination, and a brutal slow-motion football montage, not to mention a sentimental piano theme that I’ve never forgotten, Lock Up also delivers the adrenaline in its inevitable escape and comeuppance sequence.

following orders

Following orders.

Sutherland is perfect as the mannered antagonist, and Drumgoole is easily one of the greatest bad guy monikers ever, putting me in mind of the canistered zombie who kicks off Return of the Living Dead (1985) – and Drumgoole is a zombie of sorts, at least in a figurative sense, as he reanimates for the viewer the corpse of the evil Nazi villain stock character. Viewers only hoping for a fun Sylvester Stallone vehicle and harmless action fix instead find themselves the captive audience for a dose of Hollywood Holocaust propaganda when Drumgoole has Leone sealed into a glass chamber for delousing with Zyklon gas! Naturally, Drumgoole leaves Leone struggling to hold his breath way longer than is necessary, and Stallone’s partial Jewish family background makes the moment that much more piquant. Reinforcing the notion that there is something Nazi-like about the prison staff is Tom Sizemore’s character Dallas’s nickname for one of the guards – “Col. Klink” – a reference to the WW2 POW camp sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. Then, too, there is the racial makeup of the guards, with whites like Manly (Jordan Lund) being among the meanest and most stereotypically fascistic and blacks like Braden (William Allen Young) revealed to have compassion in their still-beating hearts. There is an undeniable thematic overlap between the prison and Shoah film and fictional genres, with prison movies as far back as Brute Force (1947) serving as social commentaries on the dangers of authoritarianism and with entries like the Holocaust (1978) miniseries, various salacious Nazisploitation movies of the seventies, and Escape from Sobibor (1987) combining elements of both genres – and Lock Up implicitly acknowledges this connection, so that it could be classified with Soylent Green (1973), for example, as a crypto-Holocaust movie.

Three writers, including Die Hard (1988) bard Jeb Stuart and some nobody named Richard Smith, are credited with Lock Up’s screenplay – but somehow I have to suspect that it is the third name, Henry Rosenbaum, that accounts for the Zyklon delousing scene. The film was directed by John Flynn, whose other credits include the obscure made-in-Israel thriller The Jerusalem File (1972), vigilante movies Rolling Thunder (1977) and Defiance (1980), and the top-notch Steven Seagal revenger Out for Justice (1991). Rocky (1976) composer Bill Conti, meanwhile, contributes the score to what adds up to an audience-pleasingly macho but sensitive send-off for the eighties, Stallone’s most successful decade – even if the gassing scene does give it just a whiff of a fishy-smelling air of high camp for those racially conscious viewers in the audience.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

yourenextposter

Inexplicably neglected since 2011, with no wide release until now, You’re Next is not only one of the finest film surprises of 2013, but one of the greatest slasher movies ever made. Affectionately versed in its 80s genre heritage, Adam Wingard’s film is a combination slasher and downbeat, darkly comedic family melodrama, almost as if Noah Baumbach had decided to direct a horror movie.

Middle-aged couple Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are celebrating their wedding anniversary, for which occasion their grown children and their significant others are gathering for a celebration at their country house. Before very long, old sibling rivalries and resentments resurface, both to the family’s chagrin and the audience’s delight; but the funny display of dysfunction at dinner is disrupted when an arrow flies through a window, lodging itself in one guest’s head, and the group realizes that the house is being attacked by an unknown entity or entities. What follows is a Straw Dogs-style siege, a tour de force of storytelling, creative suspense, and invested work from an excellent cast led by Sharni Vinson as Australian heroine Erin.

You’re Next has clearly been crafted with love by people devoted to the genre, and nearly everything in the film is perfect. From delicious moments of tension to elegant use of slow motion, unexpected bits of humor, the obligatory final girl structure, and the reverent casting of genre favorite Barbara Crampton as Aubrey, this is a film by and for those who appreciate the 80s horror inheritance. The experience is further intensified by a supremely effective soundtrack of gothic noise and energizing and inhuman electronica courtesy of scorers Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Justice Lee, and Kyle McKinnon. Director Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are also collaborators on The Guest, a film presently in production, so one can only hope for more morbid magic from that one whenever it gets its release.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that You’re Next is a horror which, in the grand old slasher tradition, has a pronounced sense of morality, and also indicates that it is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

11. Anti-drug. Vicodin abuse is a sure invitation to victimhood in a slasher film.

10. Anti-police. A police officer, arriving on the scene of the horror too late, gets the wrong idea of the situation in the house and makes what the audience can only view as a fatally tragic error.

9. Anti-miscegenation and anti-Arab. One of the young women is involved with a quiet (or is that aloof? – and presumably somewhat pretentious) “underground” documentary filmmaker named Tariq (Ti West), whose name (“to reek”) suggests offending armpits. These miscegenators are among the first to die. It is worthy of note, however, that this minor character seems to have been designed so as to contradict stereotypical depictions of Arabs (cf. no. 7).

8. Anti-Christian. Paul and Aubrey’s faith is formal and superficial and not shared by the younger set, who give evidence of their contempt as prayer is said at dinner.

7. Immigration-ambivalent. Erin, of tough, self-reliant Australian stock, is the sort of immigrant that the country arguably needs. Tariq’s death is undignified and will not be mourned by the audience (cf. no. 9).

6. Anti-state. The resourceful Erin, the audience learns, was raised by an extremist survivalist father in the Australian outback. Though she is somewhat embarrassed by her past, her father’s doomsday scenario teachings definitely come in handy (see also nos. 3 and 10).

5. Anti-slut. In the film’s opening scene, a couple has what is obviously loveless sex. The shameless woman then gets up and goes to a window without even bothering to cover up her semi-nudity. Naturally, this wanton specimen is the first to die. Goth girl Zee (Wendy Glenn) is a far worse degenerate and demands to have sex next to her boyfriend’s mother’s corpse.

4. Anti-weenie. Generation X/Y men are worthless and incapable of defending themselves.  Drake (Joe Swanberg) is a spoiled brat and philistine, and one senses that devious brothers Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Crispian (AJ Bowen), apart from being motivated by the fortune they stand to gain (see no. 2), are haunted by a sense of having been insufficiently nurtured as children. Both devoid of anything resembling a work ethic, neither man has the taste for doing his own dirty work. Crispian is a struggling writer who fails to meet with his father’s approval and has probably grown a beard partly to cover up his pudgy features, but also so as to seem to be more of a man, which may also explain his lame tattoo (cf. no. 1). The relativistic hypocrisy of the neutered liberal American male is also spotlighted when Crispian, after having his family slaughtered, actually claims to be a pacifist. (For more on Generation X/Y, see Creep Van)

3. Antiwar. Just as, in the years during and after the Vietnam war, movies exploited the phenomenon of psychologically scarred and dehumanized veterans taking the terror of foreign conflict back to the streets of America in Motor Psycho, Forced Entry, Rolling Thunder, First Blood, Combat Shock, and others in this vein, a wave of films including recent entries Savages, Jack Reacher, and You’re Next has emerged to continue this simultaneously salacious and critical tradition. In You’re Next, a team of coldblooded mercenaries, probably veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan, have been hired to exterminate most of the family for the father’s fortune. Mild-mannered “fascist” Paul, who acquired his wealth as a public relations shill for a defense contractor, has surely guaranteed for himself a painful demise in the unforgiving moral universe of You’re Next.

2. Anti-family/anti-marriage. A wedding anniversary is the occasion of a massacre. Parents Paul and Aubrey are self-absorbed, faintly distant, and perhaps inconsistently affectionate with their children. Felix, along with girlfriend Zee and brother Crispian, plot murder against their parents and brother Drake. The man murdered in the film’s opening scene has, it is later revealed, left his wife for a college girl.

1. Feminist. Erin is forced to lead the home defense and proves to be quite the adept at forging makeshift MacGyver-style weaponry. Of interest is that she uses kitchen wares, the trappings of traditional woman’s work, for violent self-assertion (cf. Vile). Also interesting, though, is that Erin makes a kitchen blunder that might, were she not the final girl, actually have cost her her life. Imagining she has flung boiling water on adversary Felix, she forgets that she earlier turned off the heat. “The water’s not even hot, you dumb bitch,” Felix tells her. Erin, however, quickly recovers and handily dispatches this sexist swine (with his insensitive expectation that women ought to know how to cook) with a triumph of poetic justice, taking advantage of a blender’s exposed mechanism to give him a gruesome homemade lobotomy. Zee, in a parallel characterization, is more ambitiously wicked and assertive in her villainy than wimpy co-conspirator Felix.

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