Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Cult Cinema #13: Exiles, part 1

(I've already written about The Passion of Darkly Noon, as part of We Don't Go Back. As the completion of On a Thousand Walls and Cult Cinema becomes more urgent, I've got to revisit it, and, inevitably, Martha Marcy May Marlene, which comes next.)



We've got the Moonies to thank for a lot of what we know about this sort of thing. The simple fact that Sun Myung Moon was a dyed in the wool hand rubbing Bond villain who freely owned the way he created structures of control means that we have a language of this. Moon codified the ways churches control us. And not just churches, any ideological group with the right tenor: inspired by a friend's experience with a hard-line leftist group, years ago I wrote a piece where I listed seven ways, I think it was, in which revolutionary Marxist-Leninists and conservative evangelical Christians closely corresponded, and managed simultaneously to outrage members of both constituencies, which was one of my finest moments, let me tell you.1

Leaving any extreme religious group is never simple. Even more mainstream ones leave their mark upon us. Churches have mechanisms of social control, even if they don't admit to them. And this is never more clear when you see what happens to people who leave, whether willingly or not. When you've been in a controlling and abusive religious movement, you don't just leave, because you had an emotional relationship, a human relationship, with that institution and the people in it. And as many people who have escaped from an abusive relationship that they had invested in will tell you, one of the feelings you rarely get warned about is the grief, the mourning for it, because the fact is, as hateful as that personal or institutional (or both) relationship might have been, it still leaves a gaping hole in your emotional life.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

In Search of the Miraculous #16: The Color Turquoise

The New York Times recently ran one of those "what books do you like reading?" Q&A puff pieces in its review section, featuring Alice Walker, the writer, as you probably know, of The Color Purple. In this piece, simply a list sent to the New York Times correspondent by email, she recommended a book called And the Truth Shall Set You Free and equally warmly recommended its author, David Icke.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Monday, 3 December 2018

On a Thousand Walls #15: Edge of Darkness (1985)

(Spoilers as ever. But this is a piece of TV that's well over 30 years old, so frankly, who cares?)

One of the things that I've spent a deal of time looking at since this film and TV project became a serious thing, rather than just a movie marathon that got way out of hand, is how the conditions for cultural moments reproduce themselves, how a trope or a plot concern can be utterly of its time, and then some years later becomes really dated, and then a bit later still it looks utterly prophetic. And that feeds into this wider idea I have of folk horror as a hauntological thing, which is in short how we make movies about witches in the woods when we as a society are haunted by the feeling that history is unresolved, that the past has business with us.

And the difference between the urban wyrd (or the urban weird as I'm becoming more inclined to spell it) and folk horror is that the precise grounds for this discomfort, both literal and metaphorical, are different. The psychology of the urban landscape admits a different sort of haunting. I mean it's not even that an urban wyrd/weird story happens in a city as such: both Dead Man's Shoes and Helen, for instance, as well as Edge of Darkness, which I'm going to be looking at here, pivot on events in green spaces, but it's how the body politic intrudes on those spaces that makes for the status of the haunting.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Cult Cinema #12: Mandy (2018)

Mandy is possibly the most METAL film I've ever seen. Everything about it is designed to evoke that cultural moment where slasher horror, heavy metal and a certain sort of pulp fantasy – I'm thinking early period Michael Moorcock here, but he's only one of them – inspired albums about black swords and demon killers, and Iron Maiden could base their signature aesthetic around a snarling time-travelling zombie. It's crucially a very blue collar aesthetic, and that's important.

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Question in Bodies #22: Freaks (1932)

(Freaks was made in 1932. Back then, the language used to talk around people with bodily deformities was what we'd now think of as pretty offensive. But it's the language of the film, and it's difficult to talk about the film clearly without using its language. And it's a worthwhile and humane film. It deserves to be talked about. Still. If I offend or use terms carelessly, I'm sorry. I would like to do better. Let me know. As ever, expect spoilers.)
Carnival barker:  We didn't lie to you, folks! We told you that we had living... breathing... monstrosities! You laughed at them! Shuddered at them! And, yet, but for the accident of birth, you might be one as they are. They did not ask to be brought into the world, but! Into the world they came! Their code is a law unto themselves! Offend one and you offend them all!
It's a simple enough film, this, and in some ways very much of its time for most of its brief length. It comes from a period where cinema had literally only just found its voice, and you can see that a bit in how former silent actors are still grappling with how to present themselves in talking film. There are moments that look creaky and mannered now, the jolly, tinny parp of the jazz age film orchestra sometimes at odd with the images it soundtracks.