To help the future happen, mira los hazardous 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'll be so like Canada we'll forget we ever weren't. Hence this list's heavy reliance on Cronenberg, Roddy Piper, and Ginger Snaps.
PS - Dear Hulu: Hulu is a terrible name for a movie site. Don't try to scan as playful! Be badass. Change it to... FROGTOWN, and not just 'cuz there's so many wearyingly French films on there, but because you carry the one.. the only....
HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN
(1988) Starring Sandahl Bergman, Roddy Piper
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 they gather up en route 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, the "dance! dance!" warlord cup banging, as pathetic attempts to reclaim the phallus from the women. 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, for in a neat twist 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.
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. (one grand dame frog lady takes a shine to Piper and frees him though it means her death -- she'd be the swing state female voting bloc). Scruffy Roddy stands for the American midwest, reckoning the pros and cons between giving a woman control of the national balls, or else letting real amphibious monster gun nuts run riot over all our civil liberties.
(1979) Dir. David Cronenberg
***1/2If 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!
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 doctor, Max, she wanders by night while he's on ER duty, kills and shows any cop who stands in her way her true nature via her glowing eyes.
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 she turned out to have a penis or something. 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.
Why Hillary: One of her first assignments down in Hell is to come up with creative ways to punish the lawyers and bankers, mirroring every democrat's promise to clean up Wall Street. On the surface she kills two racist cops after they beat up on a black guy (i.e. she's pro Black Lives Matter); she launches a one-woman vendetta against crooked politicians and cannot enter a church as she "would surely combust.'
All in all it's my favorite of the Charles Band Full Moon label, it's also the only one that doesn't have like four sequels, though as the title indicates it's clearly built for theme. Figures we'd get eight snickery dickery GINGERDEAD MAN and EVIL BONG sequels instead, proving the fuckin' castration anxiety never dies, which brings me to...
(1985) Dir. Lamberto BavaIn 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 the genuine Satanic post-modern artistic decadence of Italy. Produced and co-written by Dario Argento, directed by Mario Bava's son Lamberto; asst. director Michele Soavi (STAGEFRIGHT); sublime boom operation by Angelo Amatulli (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS) and music from Claudio 'Goblin' Simonetti (ZOMBI 2), it's like an Argento-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 for a hot sec, but is now missing) but nowhere near as bad as 00's Argento. Lamberto, bless him, is a terrible 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.
STAGEFRIGHT, which used to be on Hulu but now is not for some ungodly reason.
As the movie itself is a movie within a movie about a theater showing a film 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 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, and thanks to Hulu you can watch it on your phone where the screen is too small for any demon to climb through.
(2001) Dir. Stuart Gordon
***1/2We of the cult (if you'll forgive the expression) of Lovecraft have become quite used to being disappointed by his film adaptations. Naturally there are limits to what film can accomplish, and 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. They seem to cohere out of the electric blur behind our eyelids, urging us forward; it's as if every story of HP's has some unholy Necronomicon-ish power to awaken the sleeping behemoths of some archaic collective unconsciousness only half our own. 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 duplicate it in our minds, how could it, short of having tentacles come out of the screen and/or slaughtering everyone in the lobby?). The secret of Stuart Gordon, the Corman to Lovecraft's Poe if you will, is to not even try, to just keep the events and tentacles flowing in something like real time, a single night or weekend of rattletrap madness. FROM BEYOND and RE-ANIMATOR both took that approach in vivid 80s Charles Band style, while DAGON, a Spanish venture, is more muted but perhaps the truest of all the adaptations of HP's memorable story "Shadow over Insmouth." (Spanish: Inboca).
POR QUE HILÁRAK LIHN-TAUÑ: The evil visiting priest of Dagon incites the elders to smash the iconography of the Christian church in the flashback. The new iconography that washes ashore is a vivid mixture of Illuminati, Celtic, and Satanic (if there's a difference) a nd in the present tense they kill the Rupert Murdoch-esque yachtsman (offscreen). The very ending suggesting a new future speaks to 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 point out the Spaniards aren't Mexicans.
+ 5 RUNNERS UP:
(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.
(2005) Dir. Neil Marshall
VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS
(2005) Dir. Neil Marshall
VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS
(2000) Dir. John Fawcett
(2000) Dir. John Fawcett
(1991) Dir. Lars Von Trier