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we summon

Three hip chicks headed down an Indiana highway for a heavy metal concert in 1988 are in for a few surprises in We Summon the Darkness, an exercise in nostalgia that takes itself slightly more seriously as a horror movie than last year’s Satanic Panic. Meanwhile, a spate of devil-cult murders has been shocking middle America’s Moral Majority. Can the girls really trust the three cool dudes they meet in the parking lot at the show? We Summon the Darkness succeeds pretty well at being suspenseful, but the satire is as stale as a 1988 beer you might find in the glove compartment of a stoner van in some automobile graveyard, the twists in the storyline furthermore resulting in gross inconsistencies of characterization. Unfortunately, this is one of those movies that can’t really be properly synopsized without giving away the payoffs, so mind the spoiler alert below.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that We Summon the Darkness is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Anti-American. The movie takes place on the Fourth of July, signifying the relevance of its feeble exposé of religious hypocrisy and moral failure to American culture more generally.

Anti-drug. The annoying stepmother of one of the girls is depicted as both a judgmental suburban bore and a secret cocaine addict. The hapless three young dudes, meanwhile, are doomed by their party-hearty attitude and willingness to get wasted when they unknowingly drink drugged booze and end up as the captives of the satanic murder cult.

Anti-Christian. In the first of the film’s major twists, the trio of girls is revealed to be a cell of assassins working for the congregation of a greedy televangelist. The idea is that the satanic panic engendered by news coverage of the killings will spook people into joining the televangelist’s church. The movie convention of the religious, fastidiously moral figure turning out to be a killer has been done to death since the 1980s in movies like The Majorettes (1987) and Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988). A real shock ending would have been a televangelist who didn’t turn out to be corrupt.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Satanic Panic

Purple-haired feminist filmmaker Chelsea Stardust’s tongue-in-cheek horror outing Satanic Panic offers more or less what one would expect from the title and poster, and if anything was probably marginally better than I was expecting. The cute presence of actress Hayley Griffith in the lead goes a long way toward making this ultimately disposable movie smell a little bit less like the garbage it really is. Griffith stars as financially struggling millennial Sam Craft, who just started her new job as a pizza delivery girl and needs every penny of every tip she can get. Venturing out of the pizzeria’s delivery radius in order to score what she hopes will be a big tip in an affluent community called Mill Basin, she instead stumbles into a devil-worship cult’s human sacrifice ritual and spends the rest of the night defending herself against rich occultists and otherworldly beings – which, pleasantly, are realized without the assistance of any cheesy CGI. Gross highlights include a bloodsucking kitchen creation, a grab-happy forest monster, worm-vomiting, and the sickening sight of a man’s intestines being pulled out through his mouth – all of which ought to satisfy the fanbase of Fangoria, which produced.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Satanic Panic is:

Class-conscious, suggesting that the wealthy get rich through evil – perhaps even satanic – machinations, and meanwhile stressing the protagonist’s working-class background in her victimhood and her struggle against them. Sam’s troubles begin when one of the Satanists fails to give her a tip to cover her gas – fails to pay his fair share, in other words. A stereotypically smug and entitled frat house jerk also stiffs her for a tip.

Anti-white. All of the nasty rich people are white, and the only blacks who appear in the film work at the pizzeria. A trashy old woman to whom Sam delivers a pizza mistakes her at first for “Mexicans”. She then gives Sam a tacky sweater that, as Sam later complains, “smells like racism”. Sam finds antagonism, therefore, not only among the upper class, but among the common people whose ranks she aspires to leave behind, if only culturally.

Misandrist. No positively depicted male characters appear in the film, and Sam is first harassed, then almost raped, and finally actually raped and impregnated before successfully escaping from Mill Basin. Her boss at the pizzeria is also unfeeling, and the coworker who helped her get the job expects to be able to get into her pants in return. Still a virgin, Sam has spent her life avoiding such advances. Significantly, the only male character given favorable mention in the script is an old boyfriend who had cancer, was unable to perform sexually, and was therefore no threat to her womanly independence. The ending has Sam happily riding her motorcycle into the clueless twilight of her solitary and probably nonprocreative future.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

The following material is excerpted from my [out-of-print] book, Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies.

front cover

Sirhan Sirhan, the man who has been characterized as both the first “Palestinian terrorist” as well as the quintessential “Manchurian Candidate”, was described after his alleged assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 as having been “motivated by Kennedy’s support for Israel.” Sirhan is supposed to have written in a notebook, “Kennedy must die by June 5th” (i.e., the anniversary of the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967)1. Sirhan retracted his initial admission of guilt in the crime, claiming to have been “hypno-programmed” by the assassination’s plotters. Indeed, more than one researcher has suggested that Los Angeles sex therapist and hypnosis expert William J. Bryan did the programming. “Bryan, a self-proclaimed eccentric character, once boasted to two of his favorite prostitutes that he, in fact, had hypnotized Sirhan and had worked on ‘top secret’ CIA projects,” writes Forgotten Terrorist author Mel Ayton. “Bryan’s most famous hypnotic subject was the notorious Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, whose name appeared in Sirhan’s notebooks.”2

Bryan served as a technical advisor on John Frankenheimer’s film The Manchurian Candidate (1962)3, which is about a brainwashed assassin. Frankenheimer had been a successful television director in 1960 when he declined an offer to work for the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign. (According to Frankenheimer, United Artists executive Arthur Krim had aspirations to become the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and was reluctant to green-light The Manchurian Candidate for fear it would upset Kennedy; Krim is supposed to have relented, however, after learning that JFK was a fan of Condon’s novel4.) Frankenheimer, who said he “felt guilty” after the Kennedy assassination for not having done the work for his campaign, proceeded to insinuate himself with the Robert F. Kennedy camp: “when his [i.e., JFK’s] brother declared his candidacy in ’68, I immediately called Pierre Salinger and said, ‘Pierre, I want to be part of this.’” “I never left him,” Frankenheimer recalled. “I was there with him for 102 days.”5

frankenheimer

John Frankenheimer

“Bobby became best friends with me,” the director claimed. “He was staying with me in Malibu, and I drove him to the Ambassador Hotel where he was shot.”6 Frankenheimer further related a strange circumstance of this “defining moment” of his life to interviewer Alex Simon. “You were supposed to be up on the dais with him at the Ambassador, weren’t you?” Simon asked. “Yes, then at the last moment, it was decided that having a film director up on stage with him wasn’t the image they wanted, so we had [Kennedy’s labor advisor,] a friend named Paul Schrade, who was about my size and complexion, take my place,” Frankenheimer recounted. “And he was one of the three people shot in the kitchen.”7 Schrade, who survived, has maintained ever since that day that Sirhan only served to create a distraction and that the shots that killed RFK were fired from behind the candidate’s back8.

Ed Sanders, in his biography of Sharon Tate, relates that Sirhan Sirhan, the alleged assassin of Robert F. Kennedy, was reported by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to have been “attending parties on behalf of the Satanist English cult [the Process Church], including one at Sharon Tate’s place.” Sanders points to a possible motivation for the Tate murder that had absolutely nothing to do with some Mansonian (or Bugliosian) notion of an apocalyptic “Helter Skelter” war:

INS criminal investigator Richard Smith’s report stated that an LA law enforcement agency had a female informant who averred that the English Satanist group had commissioned Manson to kill Sharon Tate. […] The reason for the contract […] was “something that she unfortunately overheard that she was not supposed to overhear either in regards to Sirhan Sirhan or about Sirhan Sirhan.”9

Sirhan Sirhan

Sirhan Sirhan

Tate’s acting coach at the time was an Israeli, Zev Lahav, who went by the name “Laurence Merrick” and had been sent to the U.S. to promote Zionist interests10. Lahav, with partner Robert Hendrickson, produced a documentary, Manson (1973), about the Family, which included interviews conducted both before and after the Tate-LaBianca murders. Members of the Manson Family had come to visit the set of Lahav’s previous film, Black Angels, in 1969 – an eerie circumstance considering the race war plotline’s resemblance to the “Helter Skelter” scenario later attributed to Manson by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who participated in the making of Lahav’s Manson documentary. Another of Lahav’s films of 1969, interesting in view of his Tate-Manson connections, is Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?, which is concerned with occult ritualism and mind control (and even features a minor character named Sharon) and was filmed at the Magic Castle, which, as Scott Michaels points out in the documentary Six Degrees of Helter Skelter (2009), sits a few dozen yards from the Franklin Garden Apartments where Charles Manson shot Bernard Crowe over a bad drug deal – also very near the Franklin Avenue apartments from which Manson ran a prostitution ring called 3-Star Enterprises.

Frankenheimer, over the course of his career, would direct a number of movies with explicitly Jewish and anti-Nazi themes: The Train (1964), The Fixer (1968), Black Sunday (1977), The Holcroft Covenant (1985), and Dead Bang (1989). Black Sunday, in particular, depicts the Israelis as allies against Islamic terrorism. Indeed, the assassination of RFK, as Ayton puts it, “might be the first act of the tragedy that culminated in 9/11”11.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Endnotes

  1. Troy, Gil. “Understanding RFK’s Assassination as Palestinian Terror”. The Jerusalem Post (June 5, 2013): http://www.jpost.com/printarticle.aspx?id=364591
  2. Ayton, Mel. The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, pp. 6-7.
  3. Vaughn, Robert. A Fortunate Life. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, 2008, pp. 260-261.
  4. “Dialogue on Film: John Frankenheimer”, in Armstrong, Stephen B., Ed. John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013, p. 96.
  5. Simon, Alex. “John Frankenheimer: Renaissance Auteur”, in Armstrong, Stephen B., Ed. John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013, pp. 149-151.
  6. Hart, Hugh. “Frankenheimer Knew Period’s Main Players”, in Armstrong, Stephen B., Ed. John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013, p. 213.
  7. Simon, Alex. “John Frankenheimer: Renaissance Auteur”, in Armstrong, Stephen B., Ed. John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013, p. 151.
  8. Post, Paul. “Schrade Still Seeks Justice for RFK: Senator Was Assassinated 47 Years Ago, June 5, 1968”. Saratogian (June 5, 2015): http://www.saratogian.com/article/ST/20150605/NEWS/150609842
  9. Sanders, Ed. Sharon Tate: A Life. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2015, p. 266.
  10. K., Rainer Chlodwig von. “Israel, Manson, and Vampirism: The Freaky Life of Laurence Merrick”. Ideological Content Analysis (May 4, 2017): https://icareviews.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/israel-manson-and-vampirism-the-freaky-life-of-laurence-merrick/
  11. Ayton, Mel. The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, p. 11.

Odd Thomas

Anton Yelchin stars as Odd Thomas – which, the hero informs the audience, is actually the name on his birth certificate – a pleasant young man with an unfortunately morbid paranormal vocation. An “undercover detective for dead people”, he is able to see and receive communications from the deceased, who look to Odd for otherwise unforthcoming justice. Thus, Odd is able not only to assist Police Chief Porter (Willem Defoe) with the occasional murder investigation, but to attempt to prevent violent crimes from ever occurring. Odd alone is able to perceive the otherdimensional demons, called Bodachs, which congregate like tasteless tourists among the living just prior to a murder or some other evil event or catastrophe.

Odd knows something horrible is about to happen in his town of Pico Mundo, California, when swarms of Bodachs appear in conjunction with the arrival of Robert Robertson (Shuler Hensley), or “Fungus Bob”, or “Fungus Man”, as Odd alternately nicknames him. Odd is certain Robertson is up to no good, but he and Chief Porter are limited in what they can legally accomplish until more of Robertson’s plan materializes.

While the film’s computer-generated visual effects, including a bit of that irksome Blade-style speed-up/slow-down action, only range from good to tolerable, the central mystery confronting Odd is sufficiently interesting to sustain the 100-minute run time. The Bodach concept is exploited to taut effect in more than one suspenseful sequence, and the combination of the protagonist’s wholesomeness with the general unsavoriness of the subject matter makes for a winningly offbeat formula. Yelchin is amiable as Odd, while Addison Timlin, too, adds appeal as his bedroom-eyed companion Stormy.

3.5 stars. Worth a rental.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Odd Thomas is:

8. Class-conscious. The psychotic Robertson “inherited a shitload” from his mother.

7. Multiculturalist (i.e., pro-yawn).

6. Sexist! “I’m a woman. We all have issues,” Stormy explains. Later, loading a gun, she objects, “I don’t need protecting” – a pretense given the lie when she dies at the end.

5. Christian-ish. Odd believes in “a higher power” and picnics in a church’s bell tower. This church provides only the most tentative sanctuary, however, when someone or something invades its peace with malevolent intentions. Materialism is frowned upon (“It’s too bad a car can’t love you back”), as are the prevailing pop culture vanities of the age (“fame is the altar at which most people worship”).

4. Anti-family. Odd has the typical dysfunctional background, his mother having gone insane. Odd Thomas endorses the single mother in the character of Viola (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

3. Gun-ambivalent. The Robertson plot keeps the bogeyman of the crazed mass shooter phenomenon alive, but any anti-gun sentiment indicated here is undercut by the fact that Odd defensively takes down one threat with a pistol. The additional development that the police force turns out to have been infiltrated by satanists points to the danger of giving the state a monopoly on firearm ownership.

2. Police-ambivalent and generally state-skeptical. Apart from Odd’s reliable collaborator Chief Porter, police are depicted in a derogatory light. Early in the film an officer slams a culprit’s head into a car door and quips that this is “one of the perks of the job.” By the end of the film, the force has no credibility whatsoever, with false flag theories even receiving a boost. Whether Odd is more properly viewed as a vigilante or as an extra-legal police auxiliary and black-bag man for the state is open to interpretation.

1. Anti-Semitic! Principal villain Robertson, a serial killer aficionado and aspirant, has exotic hair that “looks like a yellow yarmulke”. And could this character’s nickname, “Fungus Man”, be a derogatory comment on the Jewish people’s pattern of parasitic attachment to established cultures of the West? Odd, after discovering Robertson’s corpse in a tub, chooses to hide it in a disused gas chamber. Why? Is this supposed to be funny? Let Odd Thomas author Dean Koontz, writer-director Stephen Sommers, and all other perpetrators of this hateful celluloid libel know that the Holocaust will not be mocked!

Rock DJ Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie) launches upon a series of strange and frightening experiences after mysteriously receiving a goth record credited to “The Lords”. But are her ordeals real or just hallucinations? And is the elusive tenant down the hall in apartment 5 just another figment of her imagination? Meanwhile, museum curator Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) investigates what he believes may be a link between the Lords’ surprising new hit song and the local heritage of sorcery and witch burnings. Could the eccentric old ladies living in Heidi’s building be the remnants of Salem’s seventeenth century coven, and, if so, do they have plans for their young friend?

Rob Zombie’s latest horror opus, The Lords of Salem, is impressive in a number of ways. Ambitious, consistently atmospheric, and occasionally quite unsettling, the film is filled with images that will remain with those who view it. Cinematographer Brandon Trost deserves much of the credit for the veneer, somewhat tenuous, of something approximating class, which keeps the show afloat over the stinking morass of its unsavory obsessions. The special effects and art departments are equally commendable, as are the contributions of musicians Griffin Boice and John 5.

The Lords of Salem does, however, begin to overstay its welcome as it becomes increasingly apparent that the film has little or no purpose apart from cramming as much blasphemous shock value onto the screen as possible while maintaining a stylish pretension to some kind of seriousness. Still, horror fans should find much to enjoy, and may detect and appreciate the writer-director’s indebtedness to genre classics including Black Sunday, Rosemary’s BabyThe Wicker Man, and The Fly. These same fans, unfortunately, may be disappointed to learn that familiar performers like Michael Berryman, Meg Foster, Richard Lynch, Andrew Prine, and Sid Haig are squandered in worthless, unrecognizable cameos.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Lords of Salem is:

9. Media-critical. Pop culture carries the potential for mass hypnosis. Rock in this case is literally “the Devil’s music”.

8. New age. Wicca is “a positive, earth-centered religion”.

7. Multiculturalist/pro-wigger. Heidi sports ratty dreadlocks and gets along swimmingly with her non-white coworkers.

6. Pro-miscegenation. Herman “Whitey” Salvador (Jeff Daniel Phillips) – a white Hispanic, presumably – is something like Heidi’s occasional guyfriend. Matthias is married to a Latina (Maria Conchita Alonso).

5. Anti-family. Matthias, appalled at the thought of changing diapers, has never wanted children. An attendee at a drug rehabilitation support group recalls that his mother was also an addict and responsible for his own drug problem. (see also no. 3)

4. Drug-ambivalent. Hard drugs are a problem from which Heidi is still recovering, but cigarettes and liquor receive a free pass. Mrs. Matthias smokes marijuana.

3. Pro-choice. “Children are a bit of a waste.” Childbirth is more than once depicted horrifically. First a witch licks a newborn infant and spits on it, disgusted by the taste. Later scenes depict a human mother giving birth to inhuman invertebrate offspring. (see also no. 5)

2. Feminist/pro-slut/pro-castration. In the opening scene, a coven of seventeenth century Femen disrobe and disport without shame. “That felt good,” Sonny (Dee Wallace) says after braining Whitey with a pot, thus repurposing traditional women’s domestic wares into the means of gender retribution. Heidi, Zombie’s feminine ideal, is a tattooed eyesore who sleeps bare-bottomed and experiences sexual self-actualization with a goat. Her guyfriend Whitey, a sensitive nurturer, does a weenie dance to the Velvet Underground’s masochistic paean “Venus in Furs”.

1. Anti-Christian. The Lords of Salem is a veritable cavalcade of blasphemous celebration. Images likely to offend religious viewers include monstrous, masturbating clergymen, Christian objects juxtaposed with liquor, and a priest (Julian Acosta) forcing Heidi to give him a blowjob. Church is “slavery”. The Bible is “the Book of Lies”. “Our philosophy,” says rock musician Count Gorgann (Torsten Voges), who no doubt speaks for Zombie himself, “is to expose the lies of the Christian whores and Jesus the true bringer of death.” “God must die. God is the unholy pig,” he adds for those in need of further clarification on his views.

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