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.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Cult Cinema #11: The Pain is the Point

Martyrs (2008)

(I'm not sure you can spoil a film like this. The blank description of the carnage, misery and pain visited upon the women in the 2008 original version of Martyrs is inadequate, really, to get across the extremity of it. Suffice to say, though, there are many spoilers here, along with all of the content warnings.)

Martyrs has a dire reputation. Even the people who like it will tell you it's a work of relentless, nihilistic carnage; the ones who don't will dismiss it as torture porn. Is it? Well.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

The Magician's Wireless

Yesterday I went outside, and it was unseasonably cold. And the sky turned red, and purple, and finally black, and then it began to rain, huge icy bullets of filthy, dirt-streaked water, greenish and oily and iridescent on the back of my hand, a dirty black rainbow on my skin, the cold of it burning, the hairs prickling, the pores closing.

Friday, 26 October 2018

The Question in Bodies #21: Lectio Infernalis

Possession (1981)

(OK, look. I'm just going to list the things worthy of a content warning and be done with it. This post includes talk on: suicidal behaviour; self harm; spousal abuse; misogyny; childhood trauma; infidelity; God. Probably some other things too. But that's your warning. Do what you want with it.)

Writing about films saved my life.

That’s a pretty serious statement to make, true, and of course it’s hyperbole, except that it isn’t, not entirely.

Deep breath, then. Over the space of about three years, I underwent what they used to call a nervous breakdown. I’m kind of cagey about talking on this; there’s always the sense that a thing like this is never really in the past tense. And yeah, I had a couple of false starts, and lulls, and times when I was fooled into thinking the fragile flame of a candle was the distant light of the sun at the end of that tunnel, only for it to be extinguished, which is somehow worse than never having had that light in the first place. The extent to which in my adult life I’ve been free of my mental health issues has only ever been a matter of degree, although it's only in the last two years that what I have wrong with me has really been pinpointed in any way that allows me to work with it. Writing about it, as I have increasingly in the last year, as my recovery has been something I’ve gradually become more confident about, has been a precarious, frightening thing.

There is the risk, for one, when you self disclose with any kind of honesty, that you might be revealed as a terrible human being. The risk that your honest appearance to the world might be as prejudiced, or as self regarding and pretentious, or as a navel gazer, or as inflated and pompous, or worst of all, as pathetic and creepy and small. I've been all of them at times, I think. I'll try not to be any of them here and now, but the problem with honesty is that there are no filters. There are no masks.