24 June 2008

Curse of the Devil (1973) Review

Conclusion


A legendary film with a cult following, also known as El Retorno de Walpurgis or 'the Return of the Walpurgis'. You can't really go wrong when your blood looks like molten crayons and your werewolf costume looks like one of the Berenstain Bears.

Actually, you can go very, very wrong when your werewolf costume looks that Semitic. Not that there is anything wrong with looking Semitic, just that it doesn't exactly conjure up images of a savage half man, half beast creature. I'm talking Ashkenazi Jews here.


A black mass in Curse of the Devil, or the Return of Walpurgis

Fair is foul and foul is fair. May every Daninsky be covered with hair.

This movie is entertaining because the translation leaves much to be desired and the blood looks like molten crayons and the werewolf costume looks like the Berenstain Bears. Pyjamas and all.

Plot


Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) accidentally kills a werewolf, thereby fulfilling an ancient prophecy. This prophecy holds that one of the Daninsky family would accidentally kill one of the Bathory family. My karma ran over your dogma who happens to be a werewolf.

The murder sets a curse that the Bathory family placed upon the Daninsky family in motion. The Daninsky curse in general falls onto Waldemar Daninsky in particular. The Bathory family were burnt at the stake by the Daninsky family on Walpurgis night, and from there the return of the Walpurgis in the title.

Paul Naschy who has played the wolf man the most times.

Exhibit A: Spot the difference between the Berenstain Bears and Waldemar Daninsky (this is Waldemar Daninsky).

Berenstain Bears, not quite as you may know them.

Exhibit B: Spot the difference between the Berenstain Bears and Waldemar Daninsky (this is the Berenstain Bears). Taken from Pbase.com

During the film, Waldemar adds nearly as many notches to his bedpost as the average James Bond does, but with far more fleas.

Review


  • Paul Naschy holds the record for playing the Berenstain Bear, er I mean wolf man the most number of times.

  • In the first half hour, you have duelling knights, a black mass, a public execution by hanging, an occult curse by one Bathory and a burning at the stake. Somehow, this film does not manage to steer clear of the cheese after that either.

  • In all fairness, this film is not bad at all. The acting and the set design are both great, and the plot gives a nod to ancient European superstitions. It is made with much passion, but it did not age that well and it is unintentionally hilarious at points.

  • At the time, Paul Naschy had problems with the authorities regarding the religious, sexual and violent content of his wolf man films. This is hard to believe - almost as hard as believing that the actors managed to keep straight faces through all the molten crayon blood. The times they are a changing indeed.

There is however one aspect of Curse of the Devil that still applies to our times. This is of course the mass hysteria of the pitchfork wielding peasants. Despite some authors like James Surowiecki arguing that crowd wisdom is superior to individual wisdom, it is clear that as much as crowd participation compounds success, it also compounds dismal failure. In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, Surowiecki identifies four elements required for a wise crowd:

Four Elements Required for a Wise Crowd


  • Diversity of opinion, whereby each person should be privy to his own viewpoint, no matter how eccentric.

  • Independence, which determines that each individual is allowed to formulate his own opinion without fear of favour or prejudice or death threats.

  • Decentralisation, making provision for localised and/or specialised knowledge, like say the knowledge inherent in the separation of powers principle.

  • Aggregation, which is a mechanism for orchestrating the various judgements into a cohesive decision. An example of such a mechanism is Dotmocracy.


It is clear that the pitchfork wielding peasants were not allowed a diversity of opinion, I mean either Wandinsky is the wolf man and deserves to be killed or... no, that's the only option really. They were thus not free to disagree with the mob leader either. Similarly, they did not allow for localised or specialised knowledge, since the investigator sent by the authorities was ultimately not allowed to give his input. Even after he allowed them to pursue their own ways of dealing with Wandinsky, they killed the investigator. There is also a noted absence of aggregation. The mob merely goes from one mob leader to the next, ironically much like a pack of wild dogs choosing its leader by virtue of him being the strongest. As usual, truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense, as the famous quote goes.

The pitchfork wielding peasants. Mob mentality can never be a good thing.

Exhibit C: Spot the difference between a real mob and a fictitious mob (this is a fictitious mob exhibiting compound failure).

The ANCYL. What a bunch of twats. Still, I would not kill them for it. Wish they felt the same about me.

Exhibit D: Spot the difference between a real mob and a fictitious mob (this is a real mob exhibiting compound failure).

Note the similarities between the real mob and the fictitious mob. The one has made up its mind about who is guilty, who is innocent and no matter what the reality is, they already decided to kill those who oppose them. On the other hand, we have the pitchfork wielding peasants who run after Wandinsky in the Curse of the Devil.

For those outside South Africa who might still be in the dark, try this erudite legal opinion on the ANCYL leader Mamela's threat to kill those who oppose Jacob Zuma.

Director


Carlos Aured.

Cast


Fabiola Falcón, Anna Farra, Jacinto Molina, aka Paul Naschy, Inés Morales, Martiza Olivares.

Rating


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14 June 2008

Review of Abel Ferrara's The Addiction (1995)

The Addiction film poster

Conclusion


A slow moving, yet slick black and white take on vampirism. No Victorian garb, no corsets and no mortals painstakingly trying to convince vampires to turn them into immortals.

The Addiction
is widely regarded as an allegorical tale of drug addiction, but there is inconclusive evidence to dispel my theory that the main character is brainwashed to believe that she is a vampire.

Plot


Kathleen Conklin (Lili Taylor) is a philosophy student who is shocked to learn about the My Lai massacre in one of her lectures. After escaping this environment of controlled information flow, she walks home in a state of emotional distress.

A vampire wench (Annabella Sciorra) attacks Kathleen by dragging her into an alley, making big eye scary faces and prompting Kathleen to order her to go away. Kathleen is caught off guard slightly, because those in humanities tend to be timid. Come to think of it, they also tend to be bucktoothed trend whores. The outdated (c)Rap music on the soundtrack testifies to that.

vampire from can stock photo
Is The Addiction about vampires? Photo courtesy of Can Stock Photo.

"Order me to go away"
Kathleen yelps a pathetic "please..." and the vampire wench bites her. Clearly, ambiguity is not a wise recourse when dragged into a darkened alley by someone taller than you. The vampire wench licks the blood off her own chin in a manner which suggests she regularly goes out with the sole purpose of ingesting the body fluids of impressionable girls. I can relate somewhat.

"It's not my actions but your incredulity that needs examination here"
Reborn as a vampire, Kathleen acclimatises herself to her new condition. She systematically upgrades from the morally grey area of using hapless homeless people as makeshift blood banks by drawing their blood inconspicuously to view the world in more black and white moral terms.

These terms position her as a predator of the ultimate mammalian predators. Only vampire rules apply to her, which is why she tells one of her shocked victims: "It's not my actions but your incredulity that needs examination here".

But all is not ponies and rainbows. Kathleen becomes self-destructive and realises she needs a little guidance in her newly-found vampire reality tunnel.

drug addict courtesy of Can Stock Photo
Or could The Addiction be about drug addiction?

There's no such thing as a free Naked Lunch
Peina (Christopher Walken) counsels Kathleen. He is allegedly a vampire who has overcome his thirst for blood. While comforting Kathleen in a slightly inappropriate sage-like manner, he considers it an apt time to start a book club. William S Burroughs' Naked Lunch makes the top of the list for that week.

"I'm not like you, you're nothing"
Seemingly converted to the fasting and meditation of Peina, Kathleen manages to finish her doctoral thesis. She has a graduation party but then all her colleagues in attendance get mauled in an orgiastic blood drinking rite.

Kathleen becomes ill and ends up in hospital. She asks the nurse to open the blinds, which would traditionally kill a vampire. The original vampire wench arrives to close the blinds again, claiming that suicide will not end the quest for rest. Kathleen has a change of heart, as opposed to just a change of blood, and confesses to a catholic priest.

"Self-revelation is annihilation of self"
The closing scene features a shot of Kathleen's grave. She lays a rose on her own grave, and then walks away.

Review


On the surface, it seems like an obvious allegorical tale of heroin addiction. The cravings, the mainlining, the mucking about in darkened alleys all seem to contribute to this allusion, but upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that the subtext is one that parallels Lifton's eight criteria for thought reform.

Nun from Can Stock Photo
Or is The Addiction about mind control?

Lifton's Eight Criteria for Thought Reform
  1. Milieu Control: Controlling the flow of information in a setting such as this is not a logistical nightmare. The entire film takes place in what appears to be one block in the Bronx. A vigilante group of vampires can likely overcome their fears of hepatitis and condition a victim such as Kathleen to also overcome similar fears by exercising control over a relatively small environment.

  2. Mystical Manipulation: Someone with fangs jumping you on a street corner in the middle of the night would arguably count as a mystical manipulation. Similarly, Peina claims some mystical manipulation of his thirst for blood. This is despite offering no evidence that he is in fact a vampire.

  3. Demand for Purity: Between Peina and the original vampire wench, Kathleen is expected to be either a vicious predator or an aloof ascetic vampire. To them, a golden means is not possible within their group. This is despite Kathleen's initial reaction of acquiring blood in less sinister ways and then mainlining it. Not exactly kosher, but less conspicuous than dealing with a large number of unpredictable converts.

  4. Confession: Peina and the vampire wench stalk Kathleen and keep tabs on her actions. They appear at opportune and inopportune times to present themselves as benevolent creatures. It is doubtful that they have Kathleen's best interests at heart, especially since the vampire wench and Kathleen apply a little Affirmative Action of their own on Kathleen's faculty staff.

    Kathleen has no confidentiality. All her actions are made known to the others of the group, either by her own admission or by some apparently mystical manipulation.

  5. Sacred Science: None of Kathleen's actions seem to be good enough for the group. If she chooses the option of becoming a vicious predator, Peina reprimands her. If she chooses the path of aloof ascetism, the vampire wench convinces her to leech on her faculty staff. Either way, the group's doctrine is not to be questioned by Kathleen.

  6. Loading the Language: The group clearly has its own jargon. Phrases such as 'order me to go away' obtain new meaning within the context of this group, and Kathleen even begins to hurl similar jargon at her victims. In the view of this group, the victims are the ones who are to blame for being at the mercy of vampires because they are not strong enough to offer any resistance.

  7. Doctrine over person: Personal experiences are considered irrelevant and subordinate to the experiences the group prescribes. In light of this doctrine, it becomes more clear why Peina and the vampire wench seemingly contradict each other. They are instilling a doctrine over the person of Kathleen by breaking down her mental resistance.

  8. Dispensing of existence: Clearly, the group has the final say in who stays and who goes. Kathleen was chosen to be at the mercy of the group, and Kathleen has no way of getting out of this situation. Not even when she attempts suicide. Kathleen's individual existence is valuable to the group, for reasons unknown, and her existence will only be allowed to come to an end when the group decides that her existence is dispensable.

It is truly shocking that all of Lifton's eight criteria for thought reform are met by religious and political movements, but The Addiction is a pretty cool movie. Despite no inexplicable booby shots. It is an attempt at an art for art's sake film, so it doesn't really qualify as a horror movie. Its slow pace, its loaded language, its lack of flashy editing and its tiresome scenes of agony might not appeal to other gorewhores out there, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ken Kelsch is a brilliant cinematographer and deserves a special mention. The shots are composed exquisitely and they manage to make the black and white format come alive. This is despite the film being shot in only 20 days!

The Addiction proves that sometimes buckets of blood and inexplicable boobshots are not required to produce a compelling film. Sometimes an existential crisis brought about by attempts at thought reform are sufficient.

Director


Abel Ferrara

Cast


Edie Falco,
Michael Imperioli,
Annabella Sciorra,
Lili Taylor,
Christopher Walken.

Rating


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12 June 2008

Review of Politics of Ecstasy by Nevermore

Nevermore Politics of Ecstasy album cover

Conclusion


Soaring vocals, snarling guitar riffs and incredibly inventive playing. Plus it is a concept album, so I'm sold.

Review


Jeff Loomis plays guitar for Nevermore. You really should need no further convincing, but Pat O'Brien exchanges riffs of Hades with Loomis on this album. It rarely gets better than this.

It took me quite a while to get used to Van Williams' metronome-like drumming. At first, I didn't really get into it because I am accustomed to flashy drummers like Richard Christy, who employ loads of cymbals. After a while, the incredible precision took its toll and I can't really picture any other drummer in Nevermore.

Van Williams employs more drums, making his playing more brutal. That's the ultimate strength of this band - every player is a merited working part of the machine. This reminds me of what Legalism had in mind for government.

Legalism as personified by Nevermore


Legalism is one of the four prominent schools of Chinese philosophy during their Spring and Autumn period, the others being Taoism, Confucianism and Mohism.

Taoism deals with the true nature of matters, which is why Megadeth and Slayer personify Taoism in my books. Confucianism taught an unconditional hierarchy of specialised filial relationships while Mohism taught equality of all people, and these are not really applicable to Nevermore (or anywhere else, really).

Legalism on the other hand focuses on trying to establish a meritocracy.

Han Fei's proposals for leadership under legalism


  1. Fa: Law or principle. It is obvious that metal is the law for Nevermore. Legalism considers all people equal before the law, but holds that the law must punish those who break the law and reward those who abide by it. This is why Trivium is punished with bottles of piss and Necrophagist is rewarded with awesome Ibanez guitar endorsements.

  2. Shu: Secret tactics. These are used by the ruler to maintain the law. Nobody should be able to fathom the tactics of rule to the extent that they would want to establish rule by themselves. The idea is that subjects would see no other alternative to getting ahead other than following the law.

    When they follow the law, they think they are acting towards their own benefit. In principle, they are acting towards their own benefit within the meritocracy but they are also acting towards maintaining harmony. Nevermore's secret tactics include hiring jaw-dropping session musicians like Chris Broderick.

  3. Shi: Legitimacy. The position of the ruler must hold power in itself by virtue of the law. The ruler is merely the catalyst for the law. Jeff Loomis is definitely a legitimate guitar god any way you look at it - legally or illegally.


Metal became known for death vocals lately, but some exponents still stick to the standards of Dio, Halford and Dickinson. Nevermore is one such band. While the vocals does get rough at points, it never goes into death growls. This means you can actually hear what Warrel Dane is singing about. Unlike Metallica, it's not a case of you'd rather not hear the tripe he is singing.

Jeff Loomis guitar god
Jeff Loomis. Guitar god by day, merchant of menace by night.

The album title is from the book by Dr Timothy Leary of the same name, however Dane has stated that the album is more about control issues and spirituality than better living through chemistry. Thus, the album has more in common with politics than ecstasy. You really need not concern yourself with any of these concepts. The ultimate proof of a successful concept album is that the music speaks for itself, and it does on all Nevermore albums.

Track listing


  1. The Seven Tongues of God

  2. This Sacrament

  3. Next in Line

  4. Passenger

  5. The Politics of Ecstasy

  6. Lost

  7. The Tiananmen

  8. Precognition

  9. 42147

  10. The Learning

  11. Love Bites (Bonus track)


Personell




Rating



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10 June 2008

Doppelganger (1993) Review

Doppelganger, the Evil Within film poster

Conclusion


This high budget lameness resembles a pretty cool metamorphosis scene with big latex heads, a few buckets of blood and lots of ooze with a half-baked plot added as an afterthought. The doppelganger idea is charming and could be seen as a metaphor for the main character's struggle to come to terms with her higher circuits of consciousness, scared to unleash a monster as it were. Or maybe not, but that's my version and I'm sticking to it.

Plot


A girl (Drew Barrymore) is stalked by her doppelganger in this obvious allusion to her shady drug habits and the resulting explorations of Dr Timothy Leary's 8-circuit model of consciousness. Well, not really. Most of the film is just plodding and dull so I added my own subtext.

Review


"To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour." - William Blake

No, William Blake was not on acid. At least not the same acid that Dr Hoffman synthesised. His auguries of innocence do however seem to describe the same kind of phantoms summoned by Dr Timothy Leary with the auguries of lysergide.

Dr Leary did serious psychology work for a while. His interpersonal circumplex model is still used to evaluate and differentiate between personality disorders. After a colleague introduced Leary to psilocybin mushrooms, his area of expertise changed drastically. It is during this period of intense experimentation with psychedelics that Dr Leary developed his seven levels of consciousness model, which he dubbed 'the Seven Tongues of God' (Nevermore fans rejoice!). This model was later improved by Dr Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, after ingesting more drugs in greater quantities. It developed into the 8-circuit model of consciousness.

Dr Timothy Leary, doppelganger for delinquency.

Dr Timothy Leary, doppelganger for delinquency.

Dr Leary's 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness


According to Dr Leary, the old left brain/right brain consciousness model is more than just the smart maths side versus the dumb arty side. The left side represents our primal modes, needed for our survival, while the right side represents our more divine levels of consciousness, needed for evolution. While it is crucial to awaken the levels of consciousness of the left side in order to survive, it is not necessary to develop the levels of consciousness of the right side of your brain, unless of course you want to have some fun.

The Seven Tongues of God


These refer to the seven basic spiritual questions.

  • The Ultimate Power Question: What is the basic energy of the universe?

  • The Life Question: What is life?

  • The Human Being Question: Who is man?

  • The Awareness Question: How does man know?

  • The Ego Question: Who am I?

  • The Emotional Question: What should I feel about it?

  • The Ultimate Escape Question: How do I get out of here?


Robert Anton Wilson added an eighth tongue – What if there are others out there? This might have severe theological ramifications, because in order to accommodate 8 tongues it means we'd have to picture god as Medusa. Unless of course your god is Cthulhu, in which case there are more than enough allegorical tentacles to go around. But wait, there is more!

Medusa. Gorgon. God?

Medusa. Gorgon. God?

The 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness


Dr Leary assigned each level of consciousness to each of the basic spiritual questions. He further claimed that each level could be achieved with the appropriate contraband.

  • The Bio-survival Circuit differentiates between danger and safety. Infants on this level crawl forwards or backwards. It is stimulated by drugs which offer pain relief (opiates like codeine or morphine).

  • The Emotional Circuit is concerned with emotion. This mode of consciousness differentiates between submissive and dominant. Infants at this level become aware of up and down. Alcohol stimulates dominant and submissive thinking.

  • The Symbolic Circuit deals with logic and abstract thought. It is concerned with dexterity and handling artefacts. At this level, infants become aware of left and right. Stimulants like caffeine and cocaine stimulate this mode of thinking.

  • The Domestic Circuit offers tribal awareness. Leary never associated a drug with it, but others have suggested endorphins. This means chocolate!

  • The Neurosomatic Circuit is where things get more interesting. The previous modes of consciousness are all affiliated with orientation within an Euclidean geometrical system. The neurosomatic circuit is concerned with orientation outside of fixed points, such as when one floats in water or when one free falls. Leary postulated that we need this kind of consciousness for when we walk in space someday. Marijuana is used to disorient your perceptions of Euclidean space-time.

  • The Neuroelectric Circuit is when the mind becomes aware of its personal consciousness. Leary suggests that telepathy occurs at this level. Psilocybin and peyote are used to activate this circuit.

  • The Neurogenetic Circuit allows the mind to become aware of the group mind of its species, or awareness of its collective consciousness. LSD is used to activate this circuit.

  • The Psycho-atomic Circuit is when the mind becomes aware of super intelligence, or god. Cthulhu is in the ketamine.



What about Doppelganger?


Just like contraband serves as a shortcut to various circuits of consciousness, I will give you a shortcut to the worthy scenes in this film. When watching this movie, skip to the following highlights and cut approximately 50 minutes of dullness from your life:

  • the opening, which has a sex scene and a murder back to back

  • Drew Barrymore in the shower, with bloodshed on her boobies

  • any scene with Leslie Hope, as her character is the only one worth watching. One of her scenes involves Americans pronouncing doppelganger. Hilarious!

  • scenes featuring Drew Barrymore with both a pair of shades and a large knife. Note: both accessories, because when she has only one of them nothing happens

  • the transformation scene. Don't worry, you'll know



Director


Avi Nesher

Cast




Rating


When skipping to the suggested cool scenes:
necro files horror movie reviews heavy  metal albums rating skulls awesome
When watching the entire film:
necro files horror movie reviews heavy  metal albums rating skulls awesome

Please Pimp Me Out to Complete Strangers

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