Psychedelic Film Criticism for the Already Deranged

Thursday, May 19, 2016

5 Psychotronic Gems on Netflix: Badass Babes for a Bernie Nation



By popular request, here's the idealistic third entry in the Streaming Future canon, five films that reflect a grass roots toughness in places where grass is rare. Psychotronic in their outlaw spirit, these are films about tough warrior women with frank disregard for your mannish tantrums. They only on Netflix.

It's fascinating and a little unnerving even that most badass foxes I know in real life are for Bernie. and uninspired by warrior clan alpha Hillary. For them it's not a matter of gender but a whole new sort of post-internet age disregard for tradition, even tradition of woman empowerment--is this the long-heralded fourth wave feminism, or merely post-Christian? A bespectacled, hunched-over plain talking elderly Jewish senator has inspired them to vote and care the way they used to, before Obama let himself by hamstrung by his Quiet Man schoolyard pacifism. It wasn't intentional that this list includes so many badass young warriors. As always, these films are cage-free, no abductions, no HMOs or HPOs or HBOs. These women aren't waiting to be abused before fighting back, they're pro-active that way. Nor is this your subtextually clueless Jurassic World-style cinch your blouse and roll up your sleeves and pout to make nature behave feminism. This shit is gonna get bloody, ands fucking fast. In the words of the Faster Pussycat opening narration: ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence.

1. BOUNTY KILLER
(2013) Dir Henry Saine
****
It's one of those cult-deserving films that is, I think, undone by its generic title and poster art. It should be called MARY DEATH, KILL! (a play on both that 'Mary, Boff, Kill' game, and 'Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!') It stars a cute badass named Christian Pitre as Mary Death, a famous bounty hunter in a post-apocalyptic time when bounty hunters are the new rock stars, and the quarry: leftover corporate conspirators (identifiable by their yellow ties). Like Frankenstein in DEATH RACE 2000, Mary Death is a gleaming national symbol of a new post-corporate order, one where the 99% is whittled down to about .04% and have declared open season on big business. And brother, that's sooo Bernie, right?

Lookin' slammin' in mod dress cream-and-dark red dress and packin' guns like the little sister of Gina Carano, as in she can kick ass and not like some don't bust my nails kinda shit which the 'flix be choked on. Followed by adoring photographers and magazine piece writers as she tools around the wasteland, she's just one aspect of this wildly entertaining fusion of drive-in tropes. If GAS-S-S-S met THE ROAD WARRIOR in a Matthew Bright-scripted Sergio Leone-directed hoot and a holler... etc. Well, it's funnier. I love this movie to death, and the casual way it has with total over-the-top gore and brutality (so often girl warriors pull up short in films, as some hack screenwriter thinks maternal instincts have to trump ruthless coldness to maintain sympathy). And if you think it's easy to put a good Corman-esque babes-n-guns action film together then you've never seen SUCKER PUNCH or TANK GIRL or AEON FLUX or ULTRA-VIOLET, BITCH SLAP, CAT RUN, BARB WIRE, SALT, HANNAH or ELEKTRA. Everything those gets wrong, this gets right. Even the love interest, the MAX MAX-esque Aussie rival for the big bounties, is cool. Kristina Loken is an old girlfriend of Raider (Mathew Marsden); she's now a corporate bigwig out to headhunt him into a shave, tie, and cubicle to call his own. He needn't worry though... Mary's got more tricks up her sleeve than her old crew of Pre-Post-Pagan matriarchal vehicular guerrillas has skull face tattoos. Did I make this movie in heaven and send it back through time to perk my spirits up? Gary Busey shows in yellow tie and shades so yeah, I must have, like I did JOHN DIES AT THE END! (Pharmageddon)


Why the BERN: What part of open war against the 1% corporate raiders did you not get?! Blam Blam! Let their yellow ties be spattered in gore, the golf courses and office cubicles awash in the blood of the lamb as the 99% (or the 5% that survive) inherit the radioactive wind, the antique beer, and the black rain.




2. HARDWARE
(1990) Dir Richard Stanley
***
It's one of those foxy girlfriend material sculptress vs. suicide machine horrors, somewhere between the last ten minutes of the Terminator and Demon Seed rolled into one, which sounds very erotic, I know, but instead... it's HARDWARE. A wo-man vs. machine saga in a very vividly realized if low budget post-tech future rife with the sort of weird termite detail we expect from the blighter who gave us the almost-great Peter Weir-ish Dust Devil and then was kicked off his own adaptation of Island of Dr. Moreau. As with great pastiche gems like the above Bounty Killer and another favorite, Neil Marshall's Doomsday, you can see the influences and homages from a mile off, but they're the right influences, the Blade Runner-esque repurposing techno-pagan loft apartment interior protected by elaborate security system, for the world is super dangerous outside the blast doors, with two gross pervs for the price of one, all menacing while rugged mercenary Dermot Mulroney wanders the Road Warrior red filter wasteland and then brings a robot head, for her art (though it has ideas of where its head should go far different than hers).

Now, unlike Bounty Killer and Doomsday this isn't a great junky film. but any isolating artist will relate to foxy redhead Stacey Travis in her fortress of sculptural solitude, beset from without by a fat sweaty leering peeping tom super-the film's main yuck element (it's not enough he's ugly fat and leering, he has to have a face covered in boils and to think he really has a chance over Dermot Mulroney --it's like OKAY we GET IT, we were ready to cheer his disembowelment ten gross gestures ago - get on with it). But that's the end of the 80s all in a nutshell, why use a feather when an anvil will do?

Luckily once he's dispatched to the hell of a thousand eye gouges, the hero robot--every population control advocate's dream machine--is resumes setting about euthanizing any human it can find as a last ditch effort to bring the human population down to sane levels. Its electrokinetic ability to re-build itself makes it impossible to kill; Travis' fortress-level locks makes it impossible for people to rescue her, so it's up to her. Travis believably rocks the seamless momentum from cool artist chick into primal savage, battling this thing with a ferocity both sexy and thrilling. Dylan McDermott's 80s hair, the gross dudes, and some other gross shit or no, Stanley delivers an item that's stood the sands of time. There's a great transcendental Buddhist death scene and a strange overall vibe that makes the whole thing seem like its from some weird genre in a parallel universe where Peter Weir is Roger Corman and Roger Corman is Alex Cox. The gore effects are solid, if a bit draggy, and the hideous drill bit phallus is like GOG gone wild, figuring in the close quarter fight scenes with lovely Stacey, her fierce determination, fiery hair and pale skin, and artistic facial blood and oil stains meshing perfectly with her pale face, green eyes and autumnal red hair. You'll want to date an Irish girl all over again! But don't do it!! 



WHY THE BERN: The world is been overpopulated and destroyed and is now rebooting, making the US (or wherever) look like a cross between San Francisco and Montevideo. Bernie's brand of arcane socialism is in the cards? Like Bernie (and the next film) it's a scrappy indie that makes up for what it lacks in budget with interesting, vividly realized ideas and themes far deeper than a first glance would indicate.

PS - Once again the film seems hamstrung by a generic title and a poster that for some strange reason shows the fat guy's angry eyes reflected in a computer monitor (on close inspection it's like a target)... why the HELL would you do that? "Don't worry everyone, there may be a cute girl and crazy killer robot but this film has what you really want: an angry guy looking at a computer! 


3. THE LAST SURVIVORS
(2014) Dir. Thomas S. Hammock
***
The tale of a world turned to desert from global warming, the once fecund fields of Oregon now a parched desert, settlers with shrinking wells are under constant attack from the local water baron and his foxy redheaded daughter and their pack of gas-mask wearing goons. Gradually, her boyfriend dead from kidney failure, the girl decides to fight back... etc. What makes it stand out from most is that usually, no matter how badass, women characters hesitate to land the killing blow on a disarmed opponent. 99% of the time they throw down their weapon, make some remark about how there's been enough killing, turn and walk away and give the opponent a chance to reach for their weapon again, then whip around and kill them, because otherwise killing an already-beaten beeyatch would besmirch their smug morality.

Well, none of that with Haley Lui Richardson, and this bitch can shoot, sneak and stab -she doesn't miss, or pretend there's some moral high ground-- it's all dead flat, and if she throws a passing survivor a jar of water she has no illusion that survivor might not be back that night for the whole well, which is already dry (the baron's been draining the aquifer, i.e. drinking their milkshake). And if she and her friend fire at someone they hit them, maybe wound them, maybe kill them straight up, but they don't miss. I'm tired of these young characters finding a gun or whatever while someone's trying to kill them, they pick it up shoot once or stab once, the person goes down or runs off and they drop the weapon right away, like ewwww, as if the gun in saving their life somehow sullied their innocence. I've turned off movies the minute this happens in the past (recently: American Ultra, Everly). The Netflix aisles are choked with half-measure woman on rampage films: actresses (and wusses) who seem to want people to know they, as humans who care blah blah, hate guns but they want your money anyway so they'll shoot one, once, then insist on making a speech about violence. It's fucking dishonest, is what is it. Well, characters in this here saga, they aren't like that. And actually the water baron and his cute redhead daughter are one of the more interesting and complex villain teams I've seen lately: there's just no one around to remind them it's wrong. I like that he's impressed when Richardson comes to his ranch to kill him instead of vice versa, and it's not like his rationale is an excuse for bloodshed: stealing water rights is an old west tradition -as seen lately in RANGO, and THE BOOK OF ELI, or in CHINATOWN or half the westerns ever made, and he's right --it's really mercy killing as those wells are running dry and there's nowhere to go but into slow agonizing death from thirst. With him it's not personal or even inhumane, and if the scrappy dame comes at him with a sword, he's going to fight her with a sword, not grab a gun. He almost welcomes death, and his daughter is Nicole from Cycle 13 of AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL!

Aside from those sporadic, loping cello notes evoking some kind of scarcity-based frontier dustbowl past, Craig Deleon's score's a lovely batch of drone sustains and occasional blazing raw open string electric guitar. "Remember when this all rice paddies?" she asks her boy, and that's about the extent of the exposition - no trite opening monologues about global warming or montages of sped up evaporation. Her hair and clothes and skin perfectly bleached and faded to blend in with the surroundings, fearless and scrappy, sneaking across the landscape like an armed mix of sharper feral kid and less self-righteous Katniss, with impressively dark eyebrows. Even the one child (Max Charles) is impressive; you look in his kid eyes and see a tough adult, and so often, when they try to play grown-up too fast tough kids, it's vice versa.


Nicole Fox, by the way, won that cycle of America's Next Top Model, and deserved to: that quiet but determined competitive spirit is well used here as she initially wrestles with qualms about killing all the unarmed settlers (the priest they bring along assures her it's mercy) too old to carry guns and join their gas mask thug brigade. and her casual vaguely sleepy voice is a perfect match with the Deleon drones. Haley Lu Richardson's performance is alsospot perfect, more Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone rather than the sanctimonious buzzkill Lawrence of The Hunger Games. You can tell she really grew up in a desert NRA environment (born in AZ) and the whole thing has a cool deadpan naturalistic approach I hate in a lot of these kind of HD post-apocalyptic bleached color indies, but this one the bleached color aspect is aesthetically appropriate. All in all it's more like a low key version of Mad Max; Thunder Road rather than Mockingjay Part 2 and thank fucking god for that. Booboo Stewart (Twilight - team Jacob) is way more capable in a crisis than Pippa or whatever the hell is name was. Even hobbled with one leg he can still take out three guys in gas masks all in different directions, and not miss. Her final rampage, to rescue a neighbor boy, is definitely inspiring. One wonders the kind of hell Katniss might have unleashed had her moral crutch dear little Peta died. Wonder no more, instead... just wish and let The Last Survivors be thy wish granted.

4. CENTURION
(2010) Dir. Neil Marshall
***
I'm one of the frozen chew who adore Neil "The Descent" Marshall's expensive 2008 flop Doomsday. I missed it in theaters due to terrible advertising, this one too, tried it's best to sneak past me. It did at first, because I avoid gladiator movies as I can't get past the terrible haircuts (those short bangs), homoerotic posturing, brutal slavery, boring pomp and tiresome biblical solemnity (but mainly, those godawful bangs). To let you know how long it's taken me to finish watching this, even knowing Marshall did it: I started back before I knew or cared who Michael Fassbender was, and only came back a few weeks ago because at last I knew. I shouldn't have waited. Dominic West is good too, as the general leading the doomed 9th legion deep into Pict country with a treacherous female guide (Olga Kurylenko) setting him up, and Ulrich Thomsen as the brutal Pict chief who tortures him once captured. The eternally gorgeous Imogen Poots is a local herbalist who helps hide the few Roman survivors hide because, of course, she was scarred by Thomsen and ostracized as a witch. Really the reason is 1) every script of this sort has to have a version of her (a helpful and attractive and lonely girl who takes a shine to one of the crew and helps hide them all from the hunters, a necessity stretching back to 1958's DEFIANT ONES). 2) it's goddamned Michael Fassbender! Who wouldn't hide him?

But the real red meat of the thing is Kurylenko's mute huntress Pict warrior, whom the commander of the Romans trusts to lead a recon mission into Pict territory, which ain't too bright but we don't really blame her. What we do blame is the skeevy dickishness of the legion's Greek (Dave Legeno), who kills the Pict chief's son during a botched rescue (or something worse) then literally throws a fellow centurion to the wolves. And we understand their grief, these Picts, but even with such rage in his heart, the boy's father throws a knife to captured general Dominic West after he cuts his chains loose, to give him a fighting chance before killing him. Now that's a bro code.

Imogen Poots (left), j'adore
What is also shows is that Marshall refuses to judge either side--both have good and bad people and impulses within them, but the Romans are the invaders so clearly not the 'good guys' in any sense, though for some residents the Picts are as bad or worse (sort of like the Ukraine stuck between the Russians and the Nazis). Kurylenko's chief is a dick, but so is Fassbender's commander. The real one to blame is the Greek, yet in both his dick moves he did it to allegedly survive. And Romans are the invaders, after all. That makes Fassbender's party more like the German U-boat survivors fleeing across Canada in the Archers' 49TH PARALLEL as much as the lost training maneuvers National Guard members in Walter Hill's SOUTHERN COMFORT.

At any rate, on wider contextual look CENTURION fits perfectly in with the totality of Marshall's oeuvre, starting with DOG SOLDIERS then THE DESCENT then DOOMSDAY and now this, each concerning a small but tight band of explorers running afoul of the local pagans/humanoids and needing to bop their way back to Coney, so to speak, though at the end Coney might be a shady, ruthless but long-term wise government willing to sacrifice innocent lives to preserve this or that. In all of them Marshall shows he's got a thing for the fierce Pagan warrior women, and the ambivalent stoic beauty of natural forest scenery. The men are all great but Kurylenko shows herself steadily growing past her previous Russian mob party girl roles and her final battle with Fassbender is pretty badass. Men vs. women dude, to the death, that's true equality!! It's my second favorite close quarters to the death fight between Fassbender and a warrior woman (can you guess the first? Hint, he loses)

Romans, during a good-natured brawl
Why the Bern? Trump, lest you forget is of the Roman lineage. the Picts represent the American youth vote, their faces painted like she got back from Burning Man (or men). Hillary is the commander back across the lines who'd rather eliminate the last survivor to hush up a defeat than risk inspiring the other tribes to rise (i.e. Bengazi). Poots and Fassbender are the hope for the future, the merging of cultures like Hippolyta and Theseus in Midsummer Night's Dream... which is as Bernie as it gets.



5. THE FURY
(1978) Dir Brian De Palma
***
De Palma's oh-so 70s telekinetic thriller  / govt. conspiracy Rollercoaster-style amusement park disaster hybrid, this stars Kirk Douglas is the CIA op dad of sequestered telekinetic subject Andrew Stevens. As always, Kirk has to appear shirtless (it is the law), so the opening finds father and son lounging on a beach in Israel, where father is finishing up his CIA tenure and son is.... swifted away by shady fellow CIA guy John Cassavetes? Damn! Agents film the water approach assassination of Douglas to show Stevens later to trigger his abilities and leave him with a murderous hatred for Arabs and thus ripe for Middle East remote control assassinations, you know how they do. Nazi commandant Kevin Bacon trained a young Magneto in X-Men First Class that way, not that you'd know, dear reader, cuz you're too artsty.

So... fire with fire: the CIA tries to assassinate one of their own in order to steal away/program his telekinetic son without dad micro-managing. Fiona Lewis is the seductive older analyst who keeps Stevens pacified with sex so he won't want to escape the confines of the safe house, but Amy Irving --never lovelier-- is the Carrie type being drawn to his power like a Scatman to the axe. Kirk Douglas keeps Irving safe, or us he using her? He sure as hell uses sexy vulnerable girlfriend material Hester (Carrie Snodgrass), a teacher at the school, so she'll help Irving escape; and in a way that echoes the way Fiona Lewis uses Stevens (and explains why so many CIA analysts are so hot in real life, charisma is as essential as paranoia and agility. Hey, old Kirk don't know about all that, but as long as he's allowed to show off that still-fit and hirsute shirtless physique and be irresistible to younger women either as father figures or lovers, Kirk's cool with whatever (see also: Saturn 3, Rain of Fire). Look quick for Daryl Hannah as a snickery student at the ESP school, though like everyone but Irving, she doesn't seem to have any ability other than sucking up to the mean girl, it's still fascinating to see a future star handle a fairly long scene as little more than an extra, especially if you're a huge fan of California Mountain Snake.


De Palma's previous hit Carrie is a better movie but this is way more enjoyable as there's less mindless teen cruelty (this one scene above aside), and less child abuse, terrifying zealotry and other bad vibes. I don't enjoy Carrie for those major bummer reasons, though the last 1/3 when the vengeance rains down is cool. The Fury, however, is good for repeat viewing, as a lot's happening, and not of all of it really connects or disturbs. In other words, it's everything that was cool about the 70s distilled and then poured indiscriminately around and set on fire. Cassavetes appears to be having fun in one of his slipperier 'doesn't consider himself a bad guy' type of villains. It's very satisfying when he's, you know.. It was given a critical drubbing in the tosh papes of the time, but Pauline Kael stuck up for its "dirty kick" like a gifted child forcing his conservative bourgeois teacher's head down an electrified toilet.

Why Bern: Bernie is Kirk Douglas rescuing the Amy Irving youth vote from the big industry same-old-same-old corrupt meat grinder, i.e. Cassavetes' employer, the '1%-er sphere of influence' - Andrew Stevens is the locked up presidency itself, fought over by both parties. Since Kirk's quest is noble (he just wants his kid back), the psychics/youth vote all sense that and his power and theirs can merge in pursuit of the presidency (Stevens). A stretch you say? Obama's head may not have exploded back when he took office, but it sure turned gray in a hurry.

---
Runners up
(rating for each: ***)

BYZANTIUM
(2013) Dir. Neil Jordan

 DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD
"Dod Sno" (2014) Dir. Tommy Wirkola


KISS OF THE DAMNED
(2012) Dir. Xan Cassavettes

THE FACULTY 
(1998) Dir. Roberto Rodriguez

(2013) Dir Caradog W. James

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And in interest of dystopian fairness, Stop by..

II:  Psychotronic films on Hulu Plus... Hillary Matriarchy!

NOTES:
1. First born sons in occupied countries had to join the Roman army for two years

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Exit the Navel: MARON, DICE








It's a swell time to be an older, white, straight male with a giant ego, a trunk full of dues-paying and/or top-of-the-world VH1 reveries... because chances are you have your own show either on IFC, Showtime, FX, or at the very least, "the Youtubes." No matter what level of fame, micro-success, or just delusional 'web fame' the rest of us Aging SWMs may have garnered, we can all relate to these 1-2 syllable single name titles. Yo, that's us! We're detached. The Generation X kids grown grey, we've been watching as our golden age of cocksmanship, fame, and rock swagger circles down the drain into the sunset. Whether we packed stadiums or just half-filled a small local bar with our relatives once in 1985, we're glad we're not still hoisting amps in and out of bars, fighting off stage fright and anxiety no one will show, fending off a constant onslaught of angry press, slavering fans, grabby jonesers and wannabes and lapel-grabbers and bossy exes. To be still doing it would be a constant reminder none of that shit is as golden as we remember. Since it's all safely behind us now, though, man is it golden!

What most of my generation really wants now, when all's said and done, and that golden sunset is secured in our minds, is simply an outlet, some medium to express ourselves and some kind of audience on which to leave our mark, our initials carved into the bark of the tree, whether the brains of our bored children, pages our blogs such as this, or--now shows, single cam riffs aimed at the critical acclaim garnered by LOUIE. Two of them are currently fresh in the airwaves: new season of MARON (on IFC), and premiere of DICE (Showtime- AYyyy!)

I normally don't write about comedy (30s Paramount aside), the real world's funny enough, but having lived six years with a comedy journalist, who told me I reminded her of Marc Maron even before the show came out. I too am 16 years sober, bedraggled, bespectacled, misanthropic, reclusive; have no kids, date girls half my age, and think the real world is going to hell and let fame go to my head so fast I'd almost rather not have it. The small amount I've had for small amounts of time always turned me into a raving narcissistic womanizer, so needy for the next wave of adulation I could barely sleep or stand to be alone for more than a few minutes at a time, and apt to throw a tantrum if I had to pay a cover charge. Similarly, Maron's irritable and needly like a cranky child determined to keep his tantrum up until some giant mommy descends from the sky with a massive royalty check. We're supposed to somehow either sympathize with all his luxury problems, the kind of shit only Eric Schaffer, Ed Burns, Woody Allen, and Albert Brooks would relate to. But I don't like to be reminded that my grandiose schtick isn't that easy to live with day-to-day. I'd never be able to tolerate being in a room five minutes with myself. So my hostile response to Maron should maybe be considered with that disclaimer.

 good taste in music, but you think Iggy ever whines about
needing to quit nicotine lozenges? (great photo though)
The IFC show MARON itself centers around our curmudgeon Marc, and involves a mix of him doing his podcast, fly-on-the-wall Grey Gardens-style messy house puttering, and show biz angst (including alledgely naughty insults like to his fey male assistant: "do you have a pussy, a little boy pussy?"), cliche'd producers with on-the-nose lines like "I'm here just to lend a little corporate support," and "I'm gong to be personally shepherding the process" and bringing in a nerdy writer for Marc to insult, fussy PR mavens, and sage counsel from the ever-tolerant Andy Richter. in his downtime he's been dealing with visits from out of town comics he knew on the way up, donating his semen to a lesbian comedian having a child, etc. (PS - never use the sperm of an alcoholic addict, that shit is hereditary). All slathered over with his alt-rock self-loathing and girly ("am I too fat?) narcissism (as they say in AA, "the piece of shit at the center of the universe.")

Sure he's on camera a lot, lives in LA, and has his own podcast, but even so, for a straight middle-aged white dude with scraggly facial hair, Marc Maron spends an awful amount of time worrying he's getting fat, or addicted to--how macho!--nicotine lozenges; constantly blaming his surly exhaustion on how he's poisoning himself with "too much caffeine too much nicotine" blah blah. Sure, we've all been there, but no straight man over the age of 45 who's not actually fat should worry about this shit anymore; or at any rate he should know himself well enough by that age to not think buying a bunch of running gear and deciding to quit caffeine and nicotine and junk food all at once right before launching a big talk show is a good idea. No way anyone stays sober 16 years not knowing basic sobriety 101 shit like that, not unless they were never alcoholics to being with.

By which I mean, as an addict myself I'd have liked to see his relapse done right. It would be a great opportunity to see Maron the actor NOT be a dick for five minutes. Imagine if getting back on the drugs made him relaxed, intelligent, confident, witty and ready to host his show with the focused charm of a Johnny Carson, but only for like, say, a couple of hours before getting all sloppy and nodding off. The next night, the time for being witty and erudite shrinking to a few minutes, and then totally gone. He could have watched, say, the "never seen a man go through a day so fast" scene where Lee Marvin first guzzles downs the whiskey in CAT BALLOU (1965). In it, Marvin arrives on the scene a shaky mess, bums a pint of whiskey, downs half-the shakes stop and for like a hot second he's a crack shot super erudite gunslinger but then a swig later and he's a boisterous mess; another swig and he's passed out again.

Fucking Lee Marvin was a drinker; you can fucking tell in his eyes. I can see it in other sober comic's eyes, like Craig Ferguson, but I don't see it in Maron's. I admit he does his nodding off super mess shit pretty well, and he's got the self-pitying atheist mopeiness down, but to not have even a single scene of focused peace and calm before complete mess relapse, I mean just enough to we see WHY he drank and did drugs in the first place, so we can think for a hot second, "hey, he's finally not an asshole, maybe drugs/booze are/is the answer" which makes his turn to asshole five minutes later all the more heartbreaking. That's the stuff Emmys are made of, and Oscars (ala Marvin's, Cage's, Coburn's, Milland's, etc.) and he'd only have to do it once.


Third, if you were really "cross-addicted" as the saying goes, but haven't done any of it for 16 years, sorry but you won't relapse on just pain pills if your back is bad enough to deserve them (presuming you don't have, like 200 pills prescribed by a dangerously incompetent doctor). I went through that shit when I busted my knee and my natural urge to horde the 20 pills I got was enough that I only took them when I needed them, and wound up needing them all. But if you take pills the way Maron does in this show, son you would be dead. Tolerance shrinks to normal schlub levels. Oxycontin tabs are NOT nicotine lozenges - you can't just guzzle them in the bathroom like M&Ms, not unless you want to die, and besides it's a huge waste of a good stash. They don't give automatic refills on Oxy anymore, and a real addict wouldn't waste them. He clearly never went to AA or he'd have realized trying to juggle pain medication with nicotine withdrawal has never worked once in all of human history. And sorry but if believing in God makes you happier, and you're currently miserable, then you're an idiot to not believe in God. It will be interesting to see him in rehab in future episodes (ONLY on IFC) and if he actually exits his navel long enough to help another alcoholic, to become selfless long enough to be a worker among workers, to genuinely open up to a sponsor, do the 12 steps sans smarminess, i.e. to grow even just long enough to learn to be nice to one other person, the way say Don Draper finally learned to do in the final episode of MAD MEN. (See 'chop wood, carry sponsors.' 

But I bet he won't. Because I don't think he really is an addict as opposed to being one of those jerks (and AA is full of them) who has no will power, and overdoes everything and rather than trying to practice moderation, decides to quit just to prove he's got it together. And then he blames the jerkiness on not being able to do the drugs. In other words, he blames drugs for his prickly jerkiness, and then blames the lack of drugs for his prickly jerkiness. And in short, he is a prickly jerk either way. Rather than learn from his mistakes, his weaknesses, he blames everyone else. Sure, it's his character --the show invites us to view him with a certain amount of derision, to profit perhaps by his example. But it also expects us to identify with him to the point we share his Terry Zwigoff-esque alienation from the banal absurdities around him and think, yeah Marc - these people really are fucked up, the social order is a mess.

Even so... I'm rooting for him to get his head out of his own ass. Maybe even praying... but if Maron himself has no higher power, how will that work? Spiritual awakenings are a tough think to fake.


And then there was DICE!

Back when I was a wobbly little feminist in the 80s-90s I used to hate Andrew Dice Clay the way I hated Adam Sandler, frat boys, sports, snarky teen sex comedies, and half the kids at my very working class Italian-American Jersey High school. Badda Bing! By senior year I'd figured out they were actually cool, it was my sensitive Swedish senses were overwhelmed by their boisterousness. Still, I didn't want to be like them, and hated the perceived misogyny and monosyllabic shop kid goomba-ish Dice and Sandler represented. I became a punk kid, then I realized all my punk friends were gay and didn't tell me and I became a hippie. Then I thought the hippies were naive and that the Dead sucked.  In the 90s I was amidst the ecstasy and cocktails crowd, but they were subsumed by swing dancing and cocaine...

In short, I've wandered through many camps and hated them all sooner or later. And now more than all combined do I hate the smarmy bearded hipster co-op 20somethings of Williamsburg and car commercials (Maron types who make a big deal out of their quitting smoking rather than just dying like a MAN). I feel like they're my fault - that wobbly pre-PC feminism come home to roost. Now I miss the boisterous blue collar energy of my high school. Those kids had balls, earthy joi de vivre. And the kids today do not. Looking back on high school I realize I was the asshole, masking my snobbishness in nerdy introversion. Maron is like that too, and I'd avoid him if I saw him at a party, like he'd cancel me out, like two wrongs making a zero.

But DICE, the Tangiers Las Vegas lion, the Bickle in repose, living with girlfriend Natasha Leggero? Yeah I'll hang out with him. He reminds me of my old pal Johnny. That's a case of a wrong and another kind of a wrong making two rights. Unlike ego-paralyzed Maron, Dice throws himself forward and doesn't back down or overthink things - i'ts a kind of hangin'-brain style confidence that most guys who get their own 'this is my sadsack life at 40+' shows like this fail to deliver.

And lord we need it.

I never heard Dice's "hickory dickory dock" era cock-related bro humor, I avoided it like the plague at the time, but I can't imagine it's any more offensive or frat boy catering than anythinng else on cable. Sure he's from Brooklyn, but like Robert De Niro in Scorsese movies, he's a Jew doing an impersonation. To say he is that thing is like saying De Niro actually still has the Lufthansa heist money. I've realized over the years that the loud Italian-American working class kids I didn't like in HS weren't inordinately bad or mean (3) to me; I was just super sensitive and they spoke very loud and boisterously and I'd seen way too many movies about kids like me being bullied by kids like them not to be constantly defensive. But now that the whole of American masculinity (4) is all non-smoking gym-going beard-growing, soft effeminate voiced little bitches buying Mitsubishi Gallants on their iPads, their high little voices so geeky and soft like they're fuckin' Mr. Rogers on estrogen, they're what's wrong with this country! The bullies were RIGHT to push them in the mud back in the 80s, man. Badda Bing!

In short, a blight has fallen upon the American masculine identity, and the no bullshit laid-back badass middle age badda bing of Dice is needed like King Arthur needs a slug from a grail of 121 proof Booker's before the final battle in EXCALIBUR. Iron John deep, Dice brings a no-toupee faux macho to the table that's way less misogynist-- if you just look under the hood--than the MARON type. Dice grants Leggero as much power and respect as he grants himself; he's never surly with her or trying to hide something except in a kind of roundabout playful rapport. He falls asleep going down on her, obsesses about table cloth fabric for his gay brother-in-law's wedding, and then interrupts the ceremony not for some homophobe reason but because the Elvis impersonator conducting the service is a jinx. The couple believe him because everything's been going wrong - they get a Liza impersonator and it all flows smooth. He parties with some group of affluent bachelor party hipsters and gets in a brawl with them when they dis Joan Rivers! In an effort to be more tender introduces his Jewish side into their love making (wearing a yarmulke and shyly introducing himself to her by his real name of Andrew). She's frustrated at times with his man stuff, but never caries it farther than a scene or two, never bothering with trite cliches like left-up toilet seats and oh I guess work is more important than Jimmy's soccer game and I asked you to do one thing, wear a tie for church, or zzzz. None of that shit, or if it is, it's casual bickering stuff rather than big WASPy life and death squabbles we're used to.  "I'm just bustin' your onions," she says giving him shit about his theory of why he's giving cash on her brother-in-law's gay wedding. Dice just rolls along with it. This is a couple who can bicker and cajole in an easy rhythm, without damaging their relationships or nervous systems or our eardrums. It's refreshing. Did all that negative controversy he generated from shocked women in the 80s-90s soften him up? Is this show his chance to show us Andrew? Or is it me who's hardened? When I was a squeamish feminist in the 1980s the PC movement was still young and vulnerable, but since then it's became all powerful, dogmatic, I'm still a feminist but I've come to hate academic-PC thug overreach more than I used to hate the other way around. In fact, I've come to believe that Joe McCarthy was right! Commies have been undermining America's educational system since the Cold War! But I know the me of 20 years ago would think I'm just a right wing paranoid nutcase.

I accept the charges, you time machine-travelin' bastard!

Dice tries on a chair
That said, let me again state: growing up I HATED the type of goomba that Dice Clay played. It was only be senior year I realized none of them hated me back; they thought I was funny, but I took all their friendly overtures as attempts to lure me out somewhere and beat me up. They even invited me to a party or two, and I tried to go, drove up, but didn't see anyone I knew within the first few minutes, panicked, blushed, drove around the block then drove home in shame and listened to Lou Reed's Berlin.

Unlike Maron, Dice doesn't have a drug or depression issue (at least on the show), but he's in the less narcissistic and more good time-oriented Las Vegas. In one great scene he winds up doing a bunch of blow and shots on a party bus for a high roller's bachelor party, gets in a fight defending Joan Rivers' honor, and winds up with his ass kicked.. by a goddamned hipster! That's badass on so many levels. He went to bat for his friend Joan, a woman he admired rightly, and in the context of the show presented himself as both fearless and not a great fighter, which is fine- you can lose all the fights you want as long as you have courage to throw down! Dice either does drugs or doesn't but never apologizes whines or frets or tries to quit and can't. Courage.

Dice in the end is a MAN amongst pinks, punks, and pussies. Strutting through Vegas like he's king of the forest; he's what made the hottentots so hot, even if now, eh, they've been hotter. It doesn't matter if the man he is or is playing is "Dice" or not. Courage. He knows everyone by name, from parking attendants to waiters to casino owners, treats them all with first name respect and vice versa. Courage. Sure he leans on his past glory like a crutch, but as he says many time, he was once packing stadiums for tens of thousands at a crack, but is he bitter and kvetching about not being at that level anymore? Not really. The women are safe from him, he's got a lady and his eye doesn't wander. The dudes around him are cool until proven shady (rather than vice versa). His local legend status is enough for him. As much as any fading icon can be, Dice is content.

Meanwhile Tin Man Maron is still trying to feed his squeaky wheel ego through that teensy oil can beak, out in the Hungry Ghost "I me Mine I me mine I me mine" L.A. The Woodsman forgot to carve him a heart. That hollow-chested Maron would be considered the liberal cool one and lionhearted Dice the intolerant bully instead of the opposite is endemic of the shallowness of America's post-PC masculinity.

What's Dice got that Maron ain't got?

Tolerance. Badda Boom! 

NOTES:
1. And everyone is as famous as they want to imagine (we never know who's reading us or watching us online at any time-- with the cumulative result no one actually needs to for us to feel like we're getting through.
2. . Who was the idiot creative writing teacher who first thought we should always put pet names front and center in short stories? They were an idiot. They always get a big laugh in New Yorker lit readings, but I think it's way too cheap.
3. see my rant against one of them in my Remote in Reach: The WALL
4. remember I'm only talking about trends in masculinity at least on TV and the movies; not real life except as a dim reflection. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Prepare for the Coming of the Hillary Matriarchy with these 5 Psychotronic films on Hulu Plus

From fish god cults to a cockeyed MAD MAX: FURY ROAD premake to maternal body horror so unseemly no one's dared try anything remotely like it in 30 years, these five psychotronic films predict the the new world orderless matriarchy of the Scorpio Sun / Pisces rising goddess Hulu-Ree Klinn-Tohn as handily as if they washed ashore with campaign bumper stickers in their rusty talons, and hammers to smash down the crosses from Middle America's fearful Christian churches.

To help the future happen, mira! A collection of films evoking the coming liberal dystopia that can only result when woman is or isn't elected president. My Five Psychotronic Films on Amazon Prime for a new TRUMPMERICA post was such a hit I felt I had to balance the scale, so here it is. There's less apocalypse and more matriarchy to worry about this time, and all in all a more inspiring future of liberal awareness, higher taxation of the rich, and massive un-deployment. With every new dead or symbolically neutered old white male voter we'll be sliding one step closer to socialism until we're so like Canada we'll forget we ever weren't.

PS - Dear Hulu: You should have a 'Resume' button - instead we have to start over every time we press stop and that's crap (at least on my Blu-ray player); also Hulu is a terrible name for a movie site. Don't try to seem playful! You've got enough dreary 50s-60s international art films on there to send even Ozu scrambling for the channel changer, and Hulu is a Hawaiian term, and some of us have never remembered to forget Pearl Harbor. So change yr name to FROGTOWN, and not just 'cuz there's so many insufferably French films on your site, but because you carry the one.. the only....



HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN
(1988) Starring Sandahl Bergman, Roddy Piper 
**1/2

The lithe and lovely Sandahl Bergman, and pleasingly self-effacing wrestler Roddy Piper roam the post-war wasteland looking for wild women to impregnate in the name of the cause (war has left most men dead or sterile). He's one of the few men still able to produce viable sperm; she's a health official in charge of helping him liberate, and then do his duty upon, a harem of fertile 'passives' currently held captive in a frog mutant warlord's stronghold. Since both sides need manpower more than nukes, 'our' side's future depends on "potent young men in the field, who can perform in difficult conditions."

Anyway, off they go across the border and into the wasteland to Frogtown, a combination abandoned oil refinery and R-rated version of a STAR WARS cantina. If your misogynist radar hadn't already gone off for the scene where Spangle (Bergman) drugs a wild fertile woman of the wasteland and compels Hell (Piper) to mount her, it will when she goes undercover as a bondage slave Hell's allegedly selling to the Frog warlord.  BUT your feminist senses might tingle too, since the women are for the most part super capable and assertive, more physically agile and gutsier than Hell, and though they drive in a pink 'Medtech' station wagon (ala KILL BILL!) there's a badass chick (Cec Verrell) on a .50 calibre sunroof mounted machine as his 'bodyguard.' In other words, rather than affirm male dominance, the film deconstructs sadomasochistic ritual, dominance, harem-keeping, and "dance! dance!" warlord cup banging as pathetic attempts to reclaim the phallus from mighty Woman. Hell's junk is kept in a chastity belt with a built-in taser wired to Spangle's earrings and he's expected to 'perform' while his two captors/guardian women watch with detached curiosity. It's a satisfying inversion of our current deal with an all male panel discussing women's health issues, here we have an all female team considering his phallus literally state property.

Luckily it's played relatively straight. Even that semi-twee title is no obscurantist whimsy but strictest present tense fact: Piper's character is named Hell, and Frogtown is 'ribbit' occupied by real frog mutants ("created as the by-product of your germ warfare") and the frog makeups are pretty damned good. Bergman is still as gorgeous and lithe as she was six years earlier in Conan; Piper is surprisingly sweet and tender in his softer scenes, and if, when he's expected to play the sexist dingus, he comes off a bit broad, it's not easy conveying a character who feels he's 'too good for this shit' without coming off like an actor who feels he's too good for the film, so I don't blame him if he falls into the latter camp at times. The frog with a fez doing the Sidney Greenstreet schtick at the requisite strip club frog bar? That's a little twee. But ain't squat twee about Rory Calhoun, wearing his good store teeth as a uranium miner. When he's dying with his head in the laps of one of the young liberated pacifist concubines in the backseat as they're pursued by the frog warlord in his armored car you realize suddenly - holy shit! This scene was lifted wholesale for last year's Mad Max: Fury Road!! Considering Frogtown is one of that slew of post-Road Warrior 80s apocalypse road trip movies, the inspirations come full circle!


Why Hillary: One look at the face of the odious frog king and you'll be reminded of a certain second runner behind Trump. Sandahl is Hillary being sold to the Middle States  ('can she dance?' asks the Frog Prince in he fez before voting/purchasing); the harem are the women voters of swing states looking askance at the brutalizing Handmaid's Tale future awaiting them under The Fog mutant's sway even though they've been trained to submit (one grand dame frog lady takes a shine to Piper and frees him though it means her death -- she'd be the swing state independent female voting bloc). Scruffy Roddy stands for the American midwest, reckoning the pros and cons between giving a woman control of the nation's balls, or else letting real slimy monsters run riot over our civil liberties.


THE BROOD
(1979) Dir. David Cronenberg
***1/2
If you need a map through this genuinely strange, disturbing picture then I'd say watch SCANNERS first. That's a zippy mind-expander with solid acting, exploding heads, Michael Ironside in his best role (his facial expressions when he's scanning are off the hook); and--with a voice so deep it opens up a hole in the floor--Patrick McGoohan as a revolutionary pharmacologist. Here in BROOD-land it's a little less bouncy and a lot more strange and horrible. No drugs this time, just a kind of gestalt externalized therapy at a strange clinic for 'psychoplasmics,' a method of externalizing rage that involves causing the body to break out in spots... or worse. Oliver Reed is Dr. Raglan, the mastermind psychiatrist who runs the place. Working deep into strange therapies with his patients, including a very unhinged Samantha Eggar, whose deep into regressive therapy and the doc won't let his concerned husband see her. Their child, on the other hand, is brought in for weekends, but comes home traumatized and bruised. I don't want to spoil the thing, but there's a kind of post-feminist version of the Monster from the Id going on. The hair weird hirsute sissy actor in the beginning demonstration is very unsightly - he's the most disturbing part of the film for me. In fact, hey, man, if it's too much, watch SCANNERS instead. Yeah, maybe you should just watch SCANNERS. The scene where a cute possible love interest Ruth Mayer (Susan Hogan with a great 70s elfin hair cut) is hammered to death by two of the monster kids right in front of her horrified kindergarten class is the most outrageous and deeply disturbing scene in all of 70s horror. Dude, there's always SCANNERS.




PS - My new favorite stealth character actor, Robert A. Silverman, the Dick Miller to Cronenberg's Corman, is great as a previous patient of the clinic preparing a lawsuit, wearing a white towel on his neck to cover an awful mutating psychoplasmic affliction. He's so good here and as Hans in NAKED LUNCH (above), and the artist in SCANNERS well, he just knocks them all up a notch. Why only Cronenberg seems to know of his genius is beyond me. Is it that he doesn't want to leave Canada? He should just go to Vancouver, the B-movie capital of the world!

Why Hillary: It is foretold in ancient texts that amok liberalism ushered in by a woman prez shall lead to the return of the 70s encounter group / est craze; the nuclear family unit will be broken apart by charlatan shrinks, who won't let the husband see his own wife. The human body itself is America: "Raglan encouraged my body to revolt against me," notes Silverman, "and it did." Asking why he's suing when he can't possibly prove Raglan's methods gave him cancer, he says he's doing it for revenge! So people will know from the press that "psychoplasmics cause cancer." -i.e., global warming. The Brood are the protestors disrupting Trump rallies. As with the Trump supporters themselves, it's not important whether or not he's a threat, it's enough that they get angry thinking about it, and the anger justifies the reprisal. Imagine if all the rage spewed on internet comment sections was able to manifest itself... we'd all be hammered.


DARK ANGEL: THE ASCENT
(1994) Dir. Linda Hassani
****
Shot through a haze of red and blue with just the right amount of imagination (neither whimsical nor grungy), this Satanic daughter love story is like THE LITTLE MERMAID x SPECIES with a refreshing lack of qualms about killing evildoers. The story begins in Hell, a mix of the long lines of Old Testament-style marching lines of desert laborers from STARGATE x PHANTASM, but with deep red and blue filters; a lot of care and love went into these early scenes, and it shows. Angela Featherstone stars as the demoness Veronica who dreams of seeing the surface of the earth, though it is forbidden by her abusive sputtering over-acting demon father (he makes Divine seem mumblecore). Once above she tears the spines and hearts out of evil doers and feeds their hearts to her dog Hellraiser (like Osiris tossing the heavier-than-a-feather hearts to Ahmet for you of the ancient faith) and presenting his spine to the near-rape victim with the words "look upon this to allay the memory of this night." Oh man that's awesome. Shacking up with a handsome sweet-souled doctor named Max (Daniel Markel), she wanders by night while he's on ER duty, kills and shows any cop who stands in her the hellfire behind her glowing eyes. She has no trouble making them believers after that!

It might not be for all tastes, but I dig Featherstone's low-key performance and find the dreamlike grungy fairytale threadbare quality endearing in a Guy Maddin meets Val Lewton in Ed Wood's basement kind of way. Featherstone isn't the greatest actor in the world but what she lacks anyone can learn; what she has is unteachable, a rare and precious gift: the ability to project complete confidence and emotional vacancy at the same time while delivering classic lines like "I've always wanted to witness people coupling, Max, but I never thought it would move me so much." Better (or worse) actresses would never be able to deliver that line right. They'd either try and be sexy (and come off campy) or imperious (and come off bitchy), or mean or tough (and come off laughable), but Featherstone just announces it with relentless assertive confidence that's still sexy. The way she delivers lines like "I don't require the blessing of the one true church to engage in sexual relations, Max" is so good I wish I had it as a ringtone. Even her sex scene with Max is tasteful, and I love when she unfolds her true form--wings, horn, tail--after orgasm and he's like "hey, it's all right." He's cool with it but in a low key way, like if he was Stephen Rea and it was THE CRYING GAME. The lighting is all uniformly good (as in effectively masking the low budget) and her matter of fact way with wrapping human hearts in newspaper to feed her dog is endlessly reassuring. I've only ever seen that level of skill at commanding both adoration and fearful respect in in East German science fiction film female characters from ELEOMA and IM STAUB DER STERNE, but never in Americans.

Why Hillary: One of Veronica's first assignments down in Hell is to come up with creative ways to punish the lawyers and bankers, mirroring Hillary's promise to clean up Wall Street. When Veronica kills two racist cops after they beat up on a black guy she mirrors Clinton's drawing cop protests for her support of Black Lives Matter; Veronica launches a one-woman vendetta against crooked politicians and cannot enter a church as she "would surely combust' --that's so Hillary! 
--
All in all it's my favorite of the Charles Band Full Moon label, I've seen it five times, so it figures it's also the only one that doesn't have any sequels, though as the title indicates it's clearly built for them. Figures we'd get eight snickery dickery GINGERDEAD MAN and EVIL BONG sequels instead. Seeing their ugly ass covers plopped right there amidst the Criterion art movies is funny for five minutes, but then it's just depressing, since there's so little in between. Fuckin' castration anxiety never dies, man, which brings me to...


DEMONS
(1985) Dir. Lamberto Bava 
**1/2
In the land of Trump, it's all about the nuclear family, be it ever so "humbly" nouveau-riche and swinging. From the giddy era when such swinging was the norm-- the 80s--comes this Italian film summing up life after the Axis fell. The story of a theater showing a film about a mask triggering a demon outbreak causing a demon outbreak, it's got a lot of--ahem--layers. Produced and co-written by Dario Argento, asst. director Michele Soavi (STAGEFRIGHT); featuring sublime boom operation by Angelo Amatulli (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS) and music from Claudio 'Goblin' Simonetti (ZOMBI 2), it's like an Argento-Goblin-Bava Jr. family affair, by which I mean nowhere near as good as 70s Argento (or even 80s Soavi, like STAGEFRIGHT which used to be on Hulu) but nowhere near as bad as 00's Argento (which is everywhere).

Lamberto Bava, though bless him, is not a strong director. I don't envy having the pressure of such an iconic father to measure up to, but the kid has no talent whatsoever for blocking, pacing, or storytelling. What he does have are the brilliant red and blue lighting Argento used in SUSPIRIA and INFERNO and a general look right that's quintessentially Italian horror of the era; Goblin, hindered by a gaggle of instantly dated rock songs blaring up the soundtrack, from Billy Idol, Rick Springfield, and Mötley Crüe; a robot monster thing with either half his human mask gone or human with half his robot mask gone; a carload of coked up punks snorting their coke in a Coke cup (hilarious); a deux ex machina helicopter dropping through the ceiling; and several climaxes (including a surprise at the end of the credits) and the image of a couple on a motorbike riding up and down the aisles killing demons with a samurai sword while hair metal blasts.

As the action occurs in a theater mimicking the film onscreen about a demon outbreak tied to a demonic mask (a signifier to papa Mario's first horror film THE MASK OF SATAN), there are a few priceless and ingenious meta moments early on, as when the first victim in the film and offscreen match up in their anguished noises, and a giant close up of a flashing blade on screen seems to be cutting the dying girl's head off. Then those things kind of fade in favor of typical demon attacks, and finally, riding up and down the aisles on a motorbike waving a samurai sword. But hey, thanks to Hulu you can watch it on your phone where the screen is too small for any demon to climb through, a problem that was all over the sequel, DEMON 2 (which Hulu ain't got, so don't ask).

Asst. director Michel Soavi would use even more ingeniously self-reflexive post-modern variations on the 'trapped all night in an empty theater' motif for his recommended 1987 STAGEFRIGHT, which used to be on Hulu but now is not for some ungodly reason. Don't be fooled by the 18 other films with that title, the 1987 Soavi is the one to hunt, like the giant white owl hunts die mädchens!

WARUM DIE HILL?  Any difference between slavering demonic horde, the coked-up 'gang' driving through the Berlin B-roll, and the dwindling 'good' audience members gradually devolves into one slavering chaotic whole, but one thing's for sure: a black woman starts it all off, insisting on trying on the mask in the lobby (cuz black ladies always be tryin' on strange display masks in lobbies, am I right fellas?) which pricks her face and infects her with demonic pustules, and mouth foam, spreading demonia like the biblical plague. I could eke a racist-feminst-sociopolitical metaphor out of all that but I shan't... or can't, for that metaphor lurks in a zone where caution and lethargy meet. Filmed in Germany, that land where a single prick started a separate


DAGON
(2001) Dir. Stuart Gordon
***1/2
If we of the Lovecraft cult (if you'll forgive the expression) have become quite used to being disappointed by big screen adaptions, maybe it's because the Elder Gods like Cthulhu, Yog Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath and their hideous half-human offspring reverberate far deeper than ordinary mind's eye boogeymen, seeming to cohere out of the electric blur behind our eyelids, urging us forward through Lovecraft's prose, as if it itself had some Necronomicon-ish power to awaken the behemoths slumbering in the timeless wells below our archaic collective unconsciousness. Naturally no film is going to be able to capture that feeling (Carpenter's IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS was about that feeling, but didn't create it). The Corman to Lovecraft's Poe, Stuart Gordon, is to not even try to match that level of weird, to just keep the events and tentacles flowing in something like real time, a single night or weekend of rattletrap madness. We get no 'third eye' complete picture, but just the impressions of our fleeing protagonists being chased along progressively more surreal avenues does a pretty good job of measuring up to what H.P probably had in mind. Gordon's FROM BEYOND and RE-ANIMATOR both had big long climaxes in and around a single attic or basement, while DAGON runs amok through a small ancient Spanish fishing village over one long rainy afternoon into late rainy evening. It's one wet-ass movie. Substituting Spain for New England aside, it's perhaps the truest of all the adaptations of HP's memorable story "Shadow over Insmouth." (Spanish: Inboca), the only one to really capture the momentum.

On the immediate surface, DAGON looks like just another 'American turista stranded in a strange isolated town / sacrificed to ancient god' yarn (and man there be a slew) but there's literally never a dull moment once--about five minutes in--a freak storm rolls in, sloshing the yacht occupied by American investment wizard Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden), his Spanish girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Meroño), his Aussie boss and boss's wife--up on the rocks. Paul and Barbara rush ashore to get help on land, are immediately separated by a seemingly friendly priest and, well, the weirdness never lets up for a moment, nor does the rain.

It took me 15 years to get around to seeing this film lets you know the extent of my wariness as an Innsmouth-aholic that I am. In my prejudice I figure the monster aspect would be limited to some affordable malady like MESSIAH OF EVIL's bleeding eyes, HAUNTED PALACE's no eyes, but DAGON's eyes are juuust right. The CGI isn't always top drawer, but who cares when everything else surely is?

Occurring all in almost real time, DAGON comes as close as any adaptation yet as far as capturing the eerie mood of the fish god cult mythos, and capturing the feeling that some wild recurring dream is coming true, that the orea filling between these nightmare wafers is a wet (if you'll pardon the expression) dream, the sort of magic that happens when the dreaming male's conscious ego meets the mermaid-esque unconscious anima (Macarena Gómez) and it's as if time stands still and you 'wake up' from reality back into the truth of the dream and the moment stretches across all time and space and the world around you vanishes; the world of dreams and waking, past and future, transcended: childhood and adulthood, life and death, male and female, mammal and cephalopo-wait what was that last one? Kiss me, baby, and never mind.

If, like me, you've needed your firebrand Spanish-speaking girlfriend to translate for you while on holiday, or had to get over your natural aversion to deformed or otherwise strange limbs to get it on with your dream girl (or boy), this will feel--as it did to me--like some strange reflection of your own primordial subconscious (i.e. like Lovecraft's actual fiction), so good luck with that playa! Better believe, I needed those 15 years apparently, because now I love DAGON as I love Lovecraft and love the dark behemoths in the third eye sea (I made them a fish god cult, but I eated it). Jeeze listen to me. Already my hands are growing slimy; the folds of skin along my neck becoming gills. Dude, it's all good. I ain't no tentacle-phobe (tentaclophobe?)

POR QUE HILÁRAK LIHN-TAUÑ: An evil priest incites the elders to smash the iconography of the Christian church in the flashback. The new golden religious relics that wash ashore are a vivid mixture of Poesidonian, Celtic, and Satanic (from a time before there was difference). The locals kill a Rupert Murdoch-esque yachtsman (offscreen). The ending suggests the future lies with the Democratic ability to adapt vs. the Republican resistance to change. As with the other films on this list it's ultimately about a sort of high Precambrian matriarchy and the plethora of Spanish speakers of course stands as a mockery to the the anti-immigrant Trump supporters who consider it a violation of their civil rights if you try to explain the difference between Spain and Mexico.

+ 5 RUNNERS UP:
 SHIVERS
(1975) Dir. David Cronenberg
***
I disgust la SHIV in an oilier post but fack it. Spiked with livid, funny gross outs as the red kidney things hop inside from any old orifice, the film's a 'careful what you wish for' example of 70s singles swinging rather too successfully. Ask yourself: is this how the red states really think we behave up here? Or is it just how they would, were they not good decent Christians? Either way, you may never want to have sex again. Shot as grungy as a 16mm instructional film, it really should be shown in every high school health class. It would chasten a Hefner. The performances are deceptively brilliant; the moments of freeze frame slow motion unique and effective; the scenes of orgies breaking out in the halls and stairwells reminding me of drug parties I've... heard about... on Fox News. Just thinking about Fox News in fact should answer your question why this film is 'Hillary-esque'! After it you'll be grateful for all the repression that makes social order of any sort possible.

THE DESCENT
(2005) Dir. Neil Marshall

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS
(1970) Dir. Jaromil Jireš

GINGER SNAPS
(2000) Dir. John Fawcett

SHE 
(1935) Dir. Merien C. Cooper

---

"I wrote 'fertilizing the eggs,' Alex."