Horror, The Universal Language 1: Insanity in Repulsion (1965) & Clean, Shaven (1993)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 25, 2009 11:43pm | Post a Comment
In terms of movies, horror is the most philosophically rich of the various genres, generally giving a more truthful commentary on us humans than any of its generic brethren (science fiction is equally compelling as a literary genre, but it just hasn't lived up to its potential in film -- cf. Tarkovsky's religious mockery of one the great atheistic novels, Solaris, to catch my drift). Since my only costume for Halloween is a wet blanket, why not offer a series of double-feature suggestions as a way of getting into the spirit? I'm going to stay away from the ones everyone should've already seen (yes, Kubrick's The Shining is the greatest horror film ever made, end of discussion) and none by directors with the initials D.L. I plan on doing one a day, ending either with Halloween, or until I run out of categories, or I just get plumb sick of doing this. First up, the fear of the irrational, or, more appropriately, the fear of losing one's grasp on reality.

clean shaven poster   repulsion poster

A common refrain in horror film criticism since the 70s has been that the genre makes us confront the faults in the architecture of reason. This critique usually goes by the name of postmodernism and its big bugaboo by the name of the Cartesianism. René Descartes had some difficulty reconciling how all the immaterial, mental stuff was able to effect changes in all the meaty stuff we call physical, creating the primary Cartesian dichotomy called mind-body dualism. No one's figured a way out of that mess yet, but who cares since we're talking about horror movies. The important point is that Descartes tended to privilege reason over all that biological machinery, so he gets the blame for all the scientistic / instrumentalist / phallocentric / logocentric / patriarchal domination that has supposedly developed since the 17th Century. (I remain skeptical of this demonization of the Rationalists for the simple reason that I'd prefer to live after the Enlightenment than before it.)

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October Is Horror Month In L.A.

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, October 3, 2009 10:10pm | Post a Comment

The sheer volume of classic horror being shown on screens across the L.A. area in October is astonishing...

October 3rd
New Beverly- Shocker (Mid)
Bay- House On Haunted Hill (also showing 4th, 5th & 7th)
Cinefamiy- Mystery Of The Wax Museum / Phantom Of The Opera

October 4th & 5th
New Beverly- Trick 'r Treat / Creepshow

October 6th
New Beverly- Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong / Nightmare In Blood
Cinefamily-  Jerry Beck Halloween shorts

October 8th-

Cinefamily- Sleepaway Camp / Return To Sleepaway Camp

October 9th
Egyptian Theatre- Alien / Aliens
Bay- The Haunting (also showing 11th, 12th & 14th)
Cinefamily- At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul / This Night I Will Posses Your Corpse

October 10th
New Beverly- 12 hour horror festival- Dog Soldiers, The Burning, House By The Cemetary, Superstition, Fight For Your Life, Galaxy Of Terror & more!
Cinefamily- Dr. X / Dr. Cyclops & Spooky Encounters

October 13th

Cinefamily- Tokyo Gore Night featuring Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl

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Joseph Zito Double Tonight (Tues) @ The Cinefamily

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, September 22, 2009 01:00am | Post a Comment
The Infamous director Joseph  Zito is hosting a double feature of two of his best films tonight! Many people know him from directing Chuck Norris in the legendary films Missing In Action & Invasion USA, but he also turned out some really tough grindhouse stuff. I put his Bloodrage up there with Forced Entry, but that's just the kind of guy I am. Sorry kiddies, I'm not showing clips from either of those classicks. However, The Prowler is up there on the greatest slasher films of all time list, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is often cited as the best in that series, so fans of the genre need to make the effort to get down to the Silent Movie Theatre tonight! Having just watched Lawrence Tierney strut his stuff in Born To Kill (1947), I'm very curious to see The Prowler again, as I had no idea who he was back in the 90's when I saw it on bootleg VHS.

The Prowler


Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter Trailer

Invasion USA Trailer

A menacing Lawrence Tierney in Born To Kill

Witchraft Themed Double At The New Bev Tonight!

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, September 11, 2009 02:10pm | Post a Comment

Two of early cinema's greatest occult themed films will be shown at the New Bev tonight and tomorrow. Haxan and Day of Wrath are both beautifully shot and amazing time capsules. Haxan in particular is as eerie as cinema gets, with its stilted silent era pacing and primitive special effects. Cadaver ghouls, witches' orgies and images from the Compendium Maleficarum (discussed here in one of my very first blogs back in 2007) make for a very interesting travel through the history of Witchcraft through a 1920's lens. An early Halloween treat for sure!

Day Of Wrath

New Beverly Cinema
7165 West Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90036
(323) 938-4038

September 11 & 12
Day Of Wrath (1943) Fri 7:30, Sat 3:40 & 7:30
Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages (1922) Fri 9:40, Sat 5:50 & 9:40


No Atheists in the Afterlife? Thirst (2009)

Posted by Charles Reece, August 16, 2009 11:30pm | Post a Comment

A fantastic adaptation of Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin. Not that I've ever read any Zola, mind you, but I've read about him. Maybe after I've finished working my way through the entire output of the 19th century Russian realists, I'll be ready. If only Zola had featured more vampires in his stories .... Well, Chan-Wook Park knows how to get me interested in realism, at least -- same as the Russians -- with ideological discussions of atheism.

Sang-hyeon is a Catholic priest with a martyr complex or strong death drive (amounts to the same thing, I suppose), who plays guinea pig in a macabre experiment to help doctors find a cure for a virus that's particularly dangerous to Korean men. He's the only one to survive the voluntary infection, due to a  transfusion using vampire blood. The catch is that he now needs to feed on normal human blood to keep from sweating his own and breaking out in disfiguring boils. Initially, he's racked by guilt over his bodily urges, which leads to his sucking on a comatose patient's IV and a fellow priest, Noh, who has a more sanguine attitude about the vampire virus. Sang-hyeon sees vampirism as a loss of humanity, whereas Noh sees it as a gift, and a potential cure for his blindness. Due to his miracle cure, the vampire picks up a religious following of Catholics who see him as another messiah, parallel to that other popular tale of transfiguration. Is he a vampire who walks like a man, or man who acts like a vampire?

buffy angel kiss  twilight isabella edward

Despite the similarities, Thirst doesn't belong to the "vegetarian" vampirism that Buffy made popular and can now be seen in Twilight. It was easy to sympathize with Buffy's beau, because when Angel did evil deeds, it was as the soulless Angelus, who constituted a separate identity (even if the two entities shared the same body and memories, they certainly had no control over what the other did). There's no identity switcheroo in Twilight, but the good vampire Edward is able to survive on animal blood (see 'carouche'). Angel was capable of that, too, having lived on rats for many years after regaining his soul. Furthermore, the two diegeses share a supernaturally enforced Victorian restraint, since the vampires get real thirsty for their lovers when sex is involved. Taking blood and sex out of the equation pretty much makes hash out of vampires, since they're reduced to a more pathetic version of us, but with superpowers. Instead, Park's film is closer in its themes to another vampire show that sometimes gets lumped into the vegetarian subgenre, True Blood.

true blood bill sookie thirst sang hyeon

Maybe because it's on HBO or because it's not written by a Mormon, but True Blood manages to defang the mythology without violating it (although the hamfisted erotic dialog comes close). Here vampires keep their sanguinary sexual desires, are responsible for previous slaughters, and have to choose to live off of synthetic human blood (like only shopping the frozen food aisle). Making a somewhat analogous case to Peter Singer's animal rights argument, Southern gentleman/-vampire Bill Compton has come to view humans as deserving of the same rights as his own kind, since we're capable of the same feelings as he, if not moreso. Whereas True Blood's moral questioning is basically utilitarian, Thirst's is faith-based. The divine image has been transmogrified into a distorted mirror, so is Sang-hyeon still obligated to God's favored creature? If the vampire is nothing more than pure carnality, then its moral status is that of all the other animals not given the lead in the story of Eden. Scorpions aren't being immoral when they strike.

thirst tae-joo kang-woo

Thirst's vampiric version of the 19th century nihilist is Tae-joo, an orphaned girl who came under the care of the domineering Lady Ra and her spoiled, sickly boy, Kang-woo. Rather than being raised as the boy's adopted sister, Tae-joo became his caretaker and wife. Sang-hyeon was a childhood friend to the family and, post-transformation, meets up with them again when Ra comes begging for a miracle to cure her son. Between games of mah-jongg with the family and friends, the priest and the wife begin to slip away for bouts of hedonism that's erotic in a way the metalhead couple making out in a mall could appreciate. Based on how she grew up, Tae-joo doesn't see much that's special in humanity, so wants nothing more than to leave it all behind by being turned. After a series of sinful events, including the plan to kill Kang-woo, Sang-hyeon grants her the salvation she desires. That's when he discovers that some vampires are more Darwinian than others. She's pure survival-of-the-fittest with nothing filling up the hole of faith. Humans are reduced to the status of actors -- that is, cattle -- and she's the only director that matters. Feeling himself drawn to the abyss, with his monstrous status of being nothing but an animal, only with the ungodly power to upset the divine heirarchy, Sang-hyeon can see no other moral choice than self-immolation -- and, thus, the movie's central conflict. Obviously, the couple hasn't read much utilitarianism or other atheistic moral philosophies. They might've discovered with Bill that there's more of a connection to humanity than the forced choice between nihilism and theistic middle-management allows.
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