Friday, 13 July 2018

Deities and Demigods

You might catch your breath at the idea,
Grasp the boat’s side, knuckles not as hard nor as pale as this
Wall of sea-borne scales
Glimmering in this cold, crystalline mist.
Your stomach might harden
At the premonition of hell
In the smell of sulphur and charred meat,
In the sight of bobbing, half-finished meals:
Lost men, brave men, men like you.
The dawn might darken
In the opening of this single slitted eye,
Wider than your height
And you might rise to your feet,
Barely trusting the creaking unsteady wood,
Raise your ancestral spear,
Fear that the moon-bright blade
Will not be good
Enough
To end the serpent that girdles the earth:
But since you know its hit point total,
You kill it instead and steal its stuff.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The Question in Bodies #15: Upstream Colour (2013)


As you get older (and I mean, as you get to my age), your favourites often become static. Your lists of things that you love, whether conscious or not, cease to allow new entries, and fewer things fall away. I suppose this isn't really as dangerous or depressing as it seems. It's part of aging. It's part of who we are.

Still, sometimes we surprise ourselves. I think it was the third time, or maybe the fourth, that I watched Upstream Colour that I realised that I was rewatching it for more than simply thinking it interesting or worth writing about, and that it had moved me deeply.

Spoiler warnings are for wimps, but you nonetheless have been warned. 

Saturday, 7 July 2018

It is OK to be Sad (For David)


It is OK to be sad.

It is OK to say that I regret
The loss of a thing that gave me
Much to remember, to mourn
And say that right or wrong
This thing has gone, and forever
And this is done. And I am sad.
And it is OK to be sad.

It is OK to take a breath
And recognise I am not unmarked
By the deaths of those we loved
And those we knew and those
To whom we had a profound
Ambivalence. And I am sad.
And it is OK to be sad.

It is OK to understand that time
Has passed, the opportunities that
have passed untaken gone forever
With your youth, and say that
More than half my life is gone
And things did not pan out and I am sad.
And it is OK to be sad.

It is OK to say I am afraid of all the hate
And I am crushed beneath the weight of all the
Sorrow of the world when people who are
Good and people who are innocent are
Turned away and all the world is toxic
And I cannot stop these things and I am sad.
And it is OK to be sad.

And it is OK to say the sun still rises,
You are still here, you are still here
And you are young if I am not,
And I do not know what the world
Into which you will grow
Will be like, and mourning cannot stop
The bullets and the knives and the votes
That snuff out hope,
But as we are right now,
I am still alive, we are still alive
And we will take that breath again together
And we will straighten up
And we will smooth down our clothes
And I will place my hand upon your shoulder
And I will hold you tight
And I will look you in the eye
And I will say I love you and I know,
And I will say, I know that we have much to do,
But right now
It is OK to be sad.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

We Don't Go Back #85: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)


If Liquid Sky was an example of a film that I'd wanted to see for decades, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is possibly the best example of a film that I never wanted to see. It's not an issue of quality – in fact, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is, in terms of cinematography, performance, technical artistry and structure, an exceptional horror movie, and in terms of its content, an essential folk horror. For me, it's entirely about content.

Everyone has their points of disconnect: for example, while I've never been unduly disturbed by the films of David Cronenberg and their mutant queering of the human body, I have at least two friends who can't cope with it at all. For me, my deal breakers, among the things I cannot usually personally bear to watch are cruelty towards or violence directed against children, zombies (for a whole raft of reasons), and murder by dismemberment, the industrial conversion of human flesh into raw, bloody meat. And I suppose that if I were to analyse that I'd say that while in, say, Existenz or Videodrome the flesh warps and changes, life persists and the transformation is ambivalent. But in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, we enter a human abattoir. We enter the realm of dead meat.

And I'm a vegetarian.

Spoiler warnings are, as per usual, for wimps, but there are spoilers, if, like me last week, you're one of the five horror fans who haven't seen it.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

On a Thousand Walls #14: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

Quite a few of the films I've written about in the last couple of years focus on the experiences of children and adolescents, and mostly by children and adolescents I mean “girls”, and the most usual way you see them navigate the uncanny landscapes in which they find themselves is through being forced to engage with the mechanics of adulthood. And OK, I can't skirt round the fact that this means sexuality. In some films, we have the classic monsters of gothic horror standing in as straight metaphors for sexual awakening, so in The Company of Wolves, the young protagonist, in embracing her sexuality, embraces the werewolf and in Lemora, it's a vampire, and both are deeply ambivalent endings, since in both cases there's an embrace of violence and in both cases there's a sense that sexual agency means, for the young woman, a sort of exile from safety, comfort, and the general discourse of society. It means to become a monster.

In folk horror, the sense of isolation in these situations is part of the deal. It's almost that in the hidden rural corners that sit just outside of the borders of our community, these new adolescent monsters can find a place where they're not really monsters.

On the other hand, in a less isolated setting, the adolescent monster needs to negotiate the society of the crowd in a different way. In the 1976 film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, rather than a character who winds up amounting to a vampire or a werewolf, we have what amounts to a more urban monster, the serial killer.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

We Don't Go Back #84: The Levelling (2016)

The thing about British folk horror is that it comes from a specific time, a specific place. Folk horror is a function of hauntology, hauntology being that idea that we are haunted by unresolved history, that our landscape, whether urban or rural, has the ghosts of past sins encoded in its fabric. We only notice that history is unresolved when the present gives us reason for unrest. And when we feel that unrest, that feeling that perhaps the situation in which we're living is perhaps a little bit, you know, rubbish, then we're haunted.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The Question in Bodies #14: Liquid Sky (1982)

(This post is also On a Thousand Walls #13)

Liquid Sky is a film I've wanted to see for nearly 30 years. Ever since it was in the list of inspirational movies in a sidebar in Mike Pondsmith’s first Cyberpunk game (I dug it out and looked, and found teenage me had ticked off the ones I'd seen like it was a checklist).

I suppose out of all those films I really wanted to see, it's the one that I took the longest to track down, and it's not like I spent the whole three decades waking up every day feeling sad because I hadn't yet seen Liquid Sky, because that's not how it works, but every so often, someone would mention it, or it'd come up in a discussion of cyberpunk films, or 80s cult movies, and I'd think, Yeah, I should get to that, and in the last decade or so that'd mean that I'd go see if you could get it on Amazon or eBay and I'd invariably find you couldn't, and shrug, and go and watch something easier to find, and that continued until a couple months ago, when I found that there was a region 0 Blu Ray/DVD box, only it was a fearsomely expensive import, and I ummed and I ahhed and eventually I decided that I had to, because every single other Great Elusive Film in my life I'd seen and there was only this one left, and dammit, it's been 29 years.

God, I was disappointed. Then I wasn't. Then I was. And then finally I wasn't. One thing is certain: I'm glad I wasn't 14 when I finally saw it. I wouldn't have had a hope of appreciating it, not least because it is an exceptionally sweary film.