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snowflake

Realized through a mixture of live action and computer-generated animation, this Spanish-produced film follows the fortunes of Snowflake, the world’s only albino gorilla, who as a child is taken by force from her parents in Spain’s colony of Equatorial Guinea and sold to a zoologist, who gives Snowflake to his daughter Wendy (Claudia Abate) as a pet. Wendy and Snowflake become bosom companions, but Snowflake’s life is again upturned when Wendy’s father deems her too old and troublesome to be kept as a pet and sends her to live instead in a zoo with other gorillas.

Unfortunately for Snowflake, the papa gorilla is prejudiced, takes an immediate disliking to her, and would rather his two children, Petunia and Elvis, had no association with her. Snowflake is understandably ashamed at being different, and sets out with friendly red panda Jenga to find the Witch of the North (Elsa Pataky), who can turn Snowflake into a normal, black gorilla so she can fit in with her peers. Meanwhile, the evil and superstitious Dr. Archibald Pepper (Pere Ponce) has designs on Snowflake’s heart, not in the emotional sense, but as an ingredient in a potion he hopes will give him eternal life.

Children will enjoy this simple story, the innocent Snowflake being an impossible heroine to dislike. The animation ranges from tolerable to excellent, and the jokes, of the “monkeying around” variety of wordplay, are hit-and-miss; but the film is sufficiently fast-paced to keep both young and old from falling asleep. Voice-over actors in the English-dubbed version include Christopher Lloyd as the goofy Dr. Pepper, David Spade as zen-aspiring red panda Jenga, and Keith David as the father gorilla. Surprisingly, the English version even includes an allusion to David’s role in John Carpenter’s alien invasion classic They Live, when, aping (no pun intended) Roddy Piper’s character in that film, he says, “I do two things: eat bananas and kick butt. Looks like we’re almost out of bananas.”

Jenga sums up the movie’s lesson when he says, “At the end of the day, being yourself always means being a little different.” In addition to the prevailing messages of tolerance and self-esteem, young audiences are also reminded of stranger danger and of the value of family. Mildly gross humor includes nose-picking, with cartoonish violence fairly frequent. Potentially objectionable moments include Dr. Pepper chasing Snowflake with an axe and brandishing a machete as he threatens the beautiful Witch of the North, “You won’t be pretty when I’m done with you.” Mothers may also want to be aware of one borderline raunchy scene in which Jenga, understandably eyeing the Witch’s shapely rump, observes, “Ooh, you know I might be missing out on some stuff with all this purification.”

3 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Snowflake the White Gorilla is:

11. Class-conscious. Dr. Pepper, though wealthy, is a miserly tipper.

10. Media-critical. Media reliability is implicitly questioned when a news broadcast about Snowflake erroneously uses footage of Petunia instead.

9. Pro-police. Cops, after catching Pepper, flash peace signs.

8. Secularist/skeptical. Reason is more valuable than superstition or new age spiritual notions of karma and meditation, Jenga’s jargon stock-in-trade.

7. Animal rights militant. Hunters, ivory collectors, and other victimizers of animals are depicted negatively.

6. Anti-colonial. Just as progressivist wisdom dictates that the Third World must liberate itself from its western masters (even when, as in the case of Equatorial Guinea, this invariably results in terror, tyranny, and a degraded standard of living), it is part of Snowflake’s coming of age that she separates from her adoptive family of humans and self-actualizes among her own kind. (To the extent that the representative of the colonized country is an animal, the film is perhaps unintentionally racist.)

5. Multiculturalist/pro-wigger. Jenga, making the racial subtext of the film explicit, says, “She wants to be black, you moron. It’s actually not uncommon in teenagers.” Snowflake and friends, during the end festivities, do a negroid dance to kiddie hip-hop. Jenga sassily calls Snowflake “girlfriend”.

4. Mildly feminist. Snowflake is tough and adventurous. Wendy’s mother, though the typical homemaker of Franco’s traditionalist Spain, perhaps hints at the advantages of sexual equality and women in the workplace when she observes, “It’s not easy living off of one income.”

3. Arguably irreligious, specifically constituting a coded attack on Catholicism. Dr. Pepper derives his outmoded superstitions from an ancient Latin text full of arcane lore and prescriptions, and his devotions include the lighting of candles on an altar. His beliefs and his yearning for eternal life are psychologically unhealthy “childhood hangups”, the viewer is told. Jenga mocks him and possibly alludes to Jehovah’s Witnesses when he says, “Shouldn’t you be going door to door telling people about your weird obsession?” The Witch of the North, looking into Dr. Pepper’s favorite book and seeing what it has to say on the subject of white gorillas, objects, “Oh, my God, that must be a mistake.” Religion, Snowflake the White Gorilla teaches, must be bent to accord with social progress. Subversively, the Witch is the more likable character.

2. Pro-family. Families, though not perfect, are generally useful and loving units. Wendy, thinking she might die, reflects, “I should have been nicer to my parents.”

1. Pro-miscegenation and anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). The film ends with a white gorilla/black gorilla kiss. A red panda may also have the hots for a human.

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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