Solomon Kane (2009)

| | Action-Adventure/Dark Fantasy | France/Spain/UK 2009 | USA 2012


At first he thought that it was the shadow of a man who stood in the entrance; then he saw that it was a man himself, though so dark and still he stood that a fantastic semblance of shadow was lent him by the guttering candle.

—Robert E. Howard, Red Shadows


§.00 Michael J. Bassett’s dark fantasy adaptation of Robert Howard’s work begins 39 years before the publications of the Bay Psalm Book, and 19 years before the establishment of the Plymouth Colony, with the pirate Solomon Kane (James Purefoy), who, along with his band of bloodthirsty privateers, lays seige to a unnamed Ottoman stronghold. Kane is utterly ruthless in battle. In one scene, he delivers a thrust to a Ottoman soldier’s neck and, sadistically amused, drags the dying man along like a macabre puppet before the his horrified comrades.

When Kane’s band penetrates the stronghold’s defenses and make way to the throne room they are assailed by demons; panic ensues; Kane tells them to hold the line. One of his men defies him and makes for the exit, whereupon he is promptly slain by Kane who declares, “I am the only devil here!”

After this incident Kane enters the throne room but the doors shut behind him. He hears the howling of his men and grimaces, knowing that demons have set upon them. Alone, he turns to the gilded treasure spilt upon the floor of the throne room and is hailed by a demon who introduces itself as the ‘devil’s reaper,’ and declares that it has come to claim Kane’s soul, which is forfeit due to his villainy. The reaper then instructs Kane to submit. Kane, however, refuses to give himself over to the aberration, and escapes.

Sometime later, Kane makes his way to a monastery and turns to a contemplative life of Puritanism and good works. His newfound dedication to being “a man of peace,” however, is tested when a group of travelers with whom he forms a bond is waylaid by demonic brigands under the command of the satanic sorcerer, Malachi (a ominously tattooed Jason Flemyng).

§.01 The central strength of the film is Purefoy’s performance, which is superb throughout. Added to this is the atmosphere, aptly realized through real-location filming, Klas Badelt’s score, which is alternatively (and suitably) rousing and grim, and an able supporting cast (including, Peter William Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, Max Von Sydow and Rachel Hurd-Wood).

§.02 The central weakness in the film is its flimsy penultimate conclusion. The addition of a gigantic metallic fire demon that looked like it walked off the set of Warcraft presented two problems, the first being that it [the demon] has no heft or solidity (unlike the reaper from the beginning of the film); never does the creature appear like it might snatch up the swift-dashing Kane, rather the distinct impression is that if it were to grasp him, it would phase right through the man’s body. Secondarily (and more importantly), the addition of the fire-demon detracts from Kane’s interaction with Malachi, who has just been introduced on-screen, after half a film’s worth of build-up. Malachi, after being introduced, swiftly vanishes (through the use of his magic) and then, when he finally reappears, holding Meredith as a human shield, focus is removed from him once again, and placed upon the lava monster. It is strange to see a character who is not the focal point of their own scene, especially when they are so pivotal to the plot.

§.03 The aforementioned issues are, however, thankfully brief and do little to detract from my generally positive opinion of the film. Its much better than its trailer made it out to be.


In 2010, Solomon Kane was adapted as a novel by British fantasy author, Ramsay Campbell (published by Titan Books).

30 Days of Night (2007) | Review

| | Action, Horror, Thriller, Supernatural | 19 October 2007 (USA)

Direction: David Slade | Cinematography: Jo Willems | Music: Brian Reitzell

Writing: Steve Niles, Brian Nelson & Stuart Beattie (read script here)

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Danny Huston, Melissa George


30 Days of Night follows the exploits of vampire-attack survivors lead by Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) in the Alaskan town of Barrow in the midst of a month-long polar night.


30 Days of Night is not scary (I find films like State of Play far more unnerving) but it is effective in establishing a atmosphere of unrelenting depression and vain desperation. This bleak tone is established through the isolation of the frigid clime, the psychological anguish of its principal characters and the unflinching manner in which the film depicts their manifold dispatchment at the hands of the vampires (even when they try and help the beasts, as in the case of The Stranger).

Marlow (Danny Huston), the leader of the vampires that attack the town, is most emblematic of the film’s Zapffeian metaphysics. When Kirsten Toomey (Camille Keenan) is used as bait by the monsters to draw out the remaining survivors, she breaks down and begs for mercy. “Please, God…” she moans. Marlow leans coldly towards her. “God?” He queries opaquely, glancing at the soundless sky and then back at the weeping woman. “No god.” In another scene, during a home invasion, Marlow states to a terrified man, “There is no escape. No hope. Only hunger and pain.”

The counterpoint to this pessimism is ensconced in the character of Sheriff Eben Oleson (played with impressive authenticity by Josh Hartnett).

Whereas Marlow kills and devours his own companion when she is crippled from injury, remarking “That which can be broken must be broken,” Eben continuously intervenes to protect the few surviving townsfolk with little regard for his own safety, going so far as to inject himself with vampire blood to ‘turn’ himself so as to better combat Marlow’s brood, despite possessing full knowledge of what such a grotesque transformation entails. It is in Eben’s final act that the tone of film turns from vain pessimism to fatalistic prometheanism, declaring the valor inherent in willful self-sacrifice.

Its a competent film, well written, scored and acted, visceral and gripping that has aged well (save for the uncanny valley CGI oil which looks like cartoon nutella) and has considerably more to mull over than the typical Hollywood monster fare.


The film was adapted from a comic book series of the same name.

The Ghost & The Darkness (1996) | Review

| | Adventure, Drama, Thriller, Creature-feature | 11 October 1996 (USA)

Direction: Stephen Hopkins | Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond | Music: Jerry Goldsmith

Script: William Goldman | Inspired by: The Man-eaters of Tsavo by John Henry Patterson

Starring: Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas, Tom Wilkinson, John Kani, Bernard Hill, Henry Cele, Brian McCardie, Om Puri


Summary: Tasked with overseeing the construction of a East African railway bridge for the British Empire in 1898, Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) heads to Tsavo where his workers swiftly come under attack by two ferocious man-eating lions. Work slows and the men begin to believe that the animals are no mere lions, but rather, demons. Patterson enlists the aid of the famed hunter Remington (Michael Douglas), and together they set upon an arduous quest to end the maneater’s reign of terror.


In 1996 Roger Ebert gave The Ghost & The Darkness one-and-a-half star out of four and wrote, “‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ is an African adventure that makes the Tarzan movies look subtle and realistic. It lacks even the usual charm of being so bad it’s funny. It’s just bad.” Suffice to say he hated the film (though Siskel appreciated it).

My assessment was (and remains) the complete opposite of Ebert’s, whose review I mention due his assertion that the film was unrealistic. In the serious consideration of any film which purports to be rigorously based off of, or loosely inspired by, real events (as The Ghost & The Darkness does) it is important to establish at the outset just how fantastical it really is (else one could reasonably cry foul and criticize the piece for false advertising). The Ghost & The Darkness falls decidedly into the ‘inspired by’ category, as it is certainly based on real events and yet plays fast and loose with several matters of historical record (chiefly in its inclusion of the character, Remington, who was created for the film and has no real-life antecedent in so far as I am aware). That being said, the maneaters of Tsavo did exist, they were lions and they killed around the same number of people in the film as in real life (more actually). John Henry Patterson also existed, was a engineer as well as a Lt. Col. and did indeed hunt the beasts of Tsavo in 1898 after they killed his men. There is nothing which occurs within the film which is impossible, and very few moments of extraordinary activity (that which stretches believability most is perhaps the assertion that the lions are hunting primarily for the pleasure of killing, though even this can be girded by noting that felines, like humans, sometimes kill, not for food, but for fun).

One of the fascinating aspects of the film which further instantiate the work in the realist genre is its depiction of various period firearms such as Remington’s hefty yet compact howdah pistol (side arm named after the howdah elephant mount, used for close combat against tigers and lions) and Patterson’s now-rare BSA Lee-Speed sporting rifle.

In relation to the narrative itself, the pacing is excellent (neither too swift, nor too fast), the music atmospheric, the performances decent (in the case of Wilkinson) to excellent (in the case of Kilmer), the tension palpable and the lions very plausibly rendered. Patterson’s creative contractions were one of my favorite parts of the film, specifically the fact that, though they initially failed (through no fault of his own), Remington congratulates him, noting that they were a good idea, regardless of whether or not they work, a subtle recommendation to exhaust all possible creative solutions in pressing situations, rather than being bound, slavelike, to the millstone of ‘common sense.’


Script of William Goldman’s The Ghost & The Darkness

Venom (2018) | Review

Plot Summary

Venom opens with a spaceship owned, by the biotech firm Life Foundation, blazing up in the atmosphere and crashing to Earth. Shortly after the crash it is revealed that the vessel contained several alien lifeforms called ‘symbiotes.’ All but one of the aliens are retrieved and the events of the crash are covered up by the Life Foundation whose philosophizing CEO, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), seeks to utilize the creatures for space colonization (if they can live here, he muses, we can live there). Before he can accomplish this, however, he needs to find suitable oxygen-breathing hosts for the extraterrestrial beings, as they cannot live in Earth’s atmosphere long without one.

Enter Eddie Brock, investigative reporter and man of the people. Brock suspects that Drake is more than he appears and attempts to gather information on the tech magnate through his fiancee, Ann Weying, who works for the Life Foundation as a attorney. Through a covert search of Weying’s computer, Brock discovers a confidential brief which contains information on three individuals who had recently expired during Life Foundation clinical trials.

Brock lands an interview with Carlton Drake and is cautioned, by the news company he works for, to only ask safe questions. Brock agrees but backtracks during the interview, accusing Drake of building a empire on “dead bodies” and that the CEO recruits “the most vulnerable among us” for tests which end up killing them. Drake responds by declaring “There is a lot of fake news out there these days.” Brock then begins naming the individuals who had died in Life Foundations clinical trials (confidential information he had obtained from Ann) at which point Drake cuts the interview short. Brock tells the CEO “We’re not finished,” whereupon Drake coldly remarks, “Yes, you are, Mr. Brock.”

Drake’s words prove prophetic as Brock’s life swiftly falls to pieces in the wake of the interview. Brock’s boss fires him. Ann leaves him. He loses his apartment. He sees a acquaintance get robbed at gun-point by a thug at a convenience store and is powerless to stop it. He sees a happy couple in front of his new abode and becomes depressed. He tries to meditate and is interrupted by thrashing guitar music emanating from his neighbor’s apartment.

After his fall from grace, Brock is approached by Dr. Skirth, the Life Foundation’s top scientist (and gaudy scarf afficianado), who witnessed one of Carlton Drake’s experiments that caused the death of a homeless test subject who had volunteered without understanding the nature of the project. Brock initially wants no part of her scheme and declares he is done “saving his fellow man” but swiftly changes his mind and is smuggled into the Life Foundation by Skirth where he sneaks into Drake’s lab and discovers numerous humans in glass cages, one of whom is a acquaintance (a homeless woman who he used to purchase newspapers from). He tries to bust the woman out and succeeds, setting off the alarms. The woman leaps at him and pins him to the ground whereupon a strange substance seeps from her body into his own. The woman then falls over, dead. Brock, horrified, flees the foundation, kicking down steel doors and leaping off walls with superhuman speed and strength and manages to escape but quickly comes to realize a entity has taken up residence in his body. He begins hearing a voice in his head. This voice, he comes to learn, belongs to the symbiote Venom, who has found Brock to be a rare, suitable host. Despite the alien’s considerable powers, Brock has his own life as leverage, for if Brock dies, so does the alien.

Thus, Brock must negotiate an acceptable moral framework with the alien to keep it from killing innocent civilians out of hunger, whilst simultaneously attempting to stop Drake’s cruel, human-symbiote experimentations.


Considerations

Venom is a strange film, not because of the gooey, sentient alien lifeforms in it, but rather because of the character of Eddie Brock and the bizarre tone he and the alien ‘Venom’ set after bonding. For example, there is a scene where Venom declares to his host that he is hungry as Eddie rushes into a upscale restaurant where Ann and her new boyfriend (a doctor) are eating. Wild-eyed, anemic and sweating profusely, Brock declares that he broke into the Life Foundation and then proceeds to grab food off a nearby dish, proclaim it is “dead” with great agitation and then put it back on the dish to the perplexity of the waiter. He then rushes to another table where he spies a patron’s sandwich and growls like a lunatic before lunging at it, smacking around several diners in the process. Ann and the doctor attempt to intervene as the patrons gasp and mutter amongst themselves amidst the grotesque spectacle, but Eddie, heedless, shouts that he’s hot, removes his coat, and jumps into the lobster tank, sighs and grabs a lobster from the bottom and begins gnawing on it like a feral racoon.

The back and forth between the lead, the love interest, and her new love interest (the doctor) is also amusing and far more believable than I expected it to be. I had expected the usual trope of the couple breaking up and then meeting later after the protagonist receives more development, leading to a confrontation between the protagonist and the new love interest (who is usually an insufferable boor). However, this is a trope the film skillfully evades as when Eddie meets Ann again, the doctor tells Brock he’s a big fan of his work, Brock then thanks him. Later in the film the doctor covers for Brock after he losses his mind during the restaurant scene by claiming that Brock is his “patient” (even though he is not).

It is in these strange comedy-of-manners vignettes where the film proved most effective, which was surprising to me, since the film was marketed as a dark, gritty, brooding thriller, which it isn’t (it is light, frenetic and often quite whimsical).

The action scenes are another matter.

Some of the action scenes are interesting, particularly the very first manifestation of Venom within Brock in his apartment, the swat team face off and the bike chase scene, but generally, they’re a little difficult to follow and are lit rather dimly which is exasperated by the design of Venom itself (himself?) is completely black save for its eyes, teeth and mouth, and thus when it is placed against the backdrop of a dark city it is difficult to make out where the shadows end and the alien begins. However, this was a relatively minor issue.

My harshest points of criticism pertaining to the film, however, lies not in the action scenarios themselves, but rather, in the treatment of their effect upon those involved. At one point in the film, Brock is confronted by a squad of heavily armed men who open fire on him, Venom engulfs the mans body and together the errant reporter and the alien entity tear the goons to piece (literally), however, because they are presented as mere faceless goons and the aftermath of the fight is not displayed, there is little gravity to the situation. Near the end of the film, Venom gnaws the head off of a robber in front of a cashier. Eddies response is to shrug and walk away as she gasps in paroxysms of fear. The scene is not funny, nor is it horrifying, its is just odd and tone-deaf. The tone-deafness, it should be said, has nothing to do with the oft complain about PG-13 rating but rather a fixation on things being momentarily ‘cool’ than believable. The scene also establishes the old cashier now knows (just like the guitar rocking flatmate) that Brock is no longer a normal human and yet Brock (a intelligent, if obsessive guy) is wholly unconcerned. Why he is unconcerned is never explained. It would have been very easy to have Venom say something about disposing of the old woman so that he wouldn’t be found out and then have Brock declare that such a course of action would be, not just morally unacceptable, but practically superfluous, as no one is going to believe her anyways, just as no one believes country farmers who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

That being said, the film offered considerably more to mull over than I had presumed, due in no small part to the complexity of all of the central characters, particularly Drake, Brock, Ann and her newfound love interest and was well-paced and genuinely humorous.

Its more Sam Raimi than Joss Whedon; a energetic romantic comedy of manners disguised as a dark action film (though it does have some genuinely tense scenes as previously mentioned, accentuated through the film’s fantastic soundtrack, particularly the protagonist’s memorable, thrumming theme). I quite liked it, and in that I appear to be with the majority, as, though the film was panned by professional critics, it received overwhelmingly positive reviews from its general audience.


End Credits Scene and Sequel

The end credits scene features Eddie Brock returning to journalism and scoring a interview with a notorious serial killer named Cletus Kasady (a well known villain from the Spider Man comic series). Kasady tells Brock that when he gets out there will be carnage (a reference to the name of his symbiote in the comics).

The actor portraying Kasady, True Detective alum Woody Harrelson, has publicly confirmed he’ll be starring in the yet-unnamed sequel to Venom (likely in the capacity of central antagonist), which is slated for release sometime in 2020.

There is also another end credits scene of 0 narrative consequence, rendered in cartoonish CGI, which was nothing more than was franchise marketing. It was entirely superfluous, confusing and aesthetically jarring (since Venom is live action and the second end credits scene is not). Any cut of the film which excludes the goofy, Sony add on (and the annoying Eminem rap song played before it) would markedly elevate the aesthetic cohesion of the film.

Mandy (2018): Excess & Acceptance

“For me, film performance is like music.” —Nicolas Cage, 2018 Sundance Film Festival Cheddar Interview

Panos Cosmatos‘ 2018 phantasmagoric horror film Mandy (script by Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn) takes place in 1983 with Red Miller (Nicolas Cage), a stoic, seemingly unhappy and aloof lumberjack who lives in a cabin in the wilderness with his lover, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), an avid fiction reader and fantasy artist. The couple’s life, though quiet and detached from the rest of civilization (save for a single television), is a contented one (though not altogether happy, as it is early punctuated by past trauma). The couple’s idyll is shattered when Mandy crosses paths with The Children Of The New Dawn, an erotic, Christian cult. The cult’s leader, Jeremiah Sand, finds himself fascinated with Mandy and remarking that he feels naked without her, entrusts his second-in-command with a strange artifact that summons a seemingly demonic biker gang who bind Red with barbed wire as Mandy is kidnapped by the cult. Mandy rejects Jeremiah’s advances and, for her impudence, he torches her alive in front of her horrified and bleeding lover. Red is left to bleed to death but he survives, escapes his bindings, forges a battle ax and sets off to kill the cultists and their psychotic emissaries.

At first glance the film may appear all style and no-substance (See Rotten Tomatoes), with its straightforward story, ominous humming soundtrack (by Johann Johannsson) and operatic violence. This is not the case. The film is filled with themes, some half-worked, others more prominent and well developed. The most prominent of which is ego and acceptance and the differences between the masculine and the feminine as pertains thereto. It is in this sense, a highly sexed film, by which I do not mean that it is concerned with intercourse (it is not), but rather, that it relies, at the conceptual level, upon the dualities of the sexes; the soft coaxing (Mandy) and vindictive venom (the cult women and the woman biker) of the female, the desire for dominion (Sand) and vengeful violence (Red) of the male.

Jeremiah Sand is, in the beginning of the film, the principal vector for the film’s foray into masculine excess (by “excess” I mean those qualities, good and bad, which exceed the masculine behavioral norms of contemporary society), not in terms of strength, speed or violence (he personifies the upward limits of these attributes not at all), but desire. The cult leader is the embodiment of the dangers of the unfettered male ego; vain, cruel, ruthless, vindictive and lustful, yet fickle. He wishes to bring everything under his control and ownership and claims a right to do so through God’s sanctification of his person. Even still his personal failures as a passionate yet overlooked and derided musician, make the character’s motivations understandable; his vile acts a revenge upon a society that callously rejected him. If the mother in Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) is the anti-ideal of feminine erothanatropic mania, Jeremiah is her anti-ideal male counterpart.

Throughout the latter half of the film, Sand finds his valorous antithesis in Red, who is, until the loss of the love of his life half-way through the film, the picture of admirable (if unexceptional) male stoicism. Red’s virtues, however, may be overlooked upon first viewing given how subtly they are presented (both through deft acting and direction). At the opening of the film, a ruminating Red, a lumberjack, is seen ending his shift and boarding a helicopter to return him home, whereupon one of his co-workers kindly offers him a beer, he politely declines. Later, he has a vodka-swilling breakdown after witnessing Mandy’s death, which suggests he declined the offer of a drink at the beginning of the film due to a past history of substance abuse. Red is also highly attentive; upon his first scene with Mandy he finds her diligently plying pencil to paper in the construction of a fantastical piece of artwork. He is astounded by her skill and expresses deep interest and later talks at great length with her of their favorite planets. It is only when he turns to revenge that he dispenses with his reserve and even then, one would be hard-pressed to argue that his bloody workings, however extreme, were unjust.

Whilst the protagonist is positioned in stark contrast to the cult leader, this contrast is established through personality attribution, rather than through more fascicle tropes (such as the hero wearing white, the villain black, or the hero being brightly lit, whilst the villain lurks in shadow). Where Red is reserved (generally, even in revenge, with a few, momentary exceptions), Jeremiah is erratic and prone to fits of emotion. Where Red is attentive and romantic to his lover, Jeremiah has no lovers, but only concubines (who themselves are merely seeking acceptance, not through societal channels, but through him alone). Where Red is martially capable and technically apt, Jeremiah is not, relying instead upon psychedelic concoctions made by The Chemist, and esoteric religious fervor.

Where the protagonist is willing to sacrifice himself to achieve justice, the antagonist is, despite all his bluster, a coward who begs pathetically for his life when the reaper’s scythe hangs ominously over his head. The film, thematically, resembles The Midnight Meat Train. Both films follow two men who exceed the boundaries of civilization in a attempt to destroy the other and, as a consequence, descend into a primal abyss which does not strip, but rather reveals, their true humanity.

Film Review: The Bone Snatcher (2002)

*** SPOILERS


Having read the deplorably cheezy tagline: It will scare you out of your skull. and being a SyFy original, my expectations for The Bone Snatcher were quite low. I was pleasantly surprised.


Directed by Jason Wulfsohn, written by Malcolm Kohll and Gordon Render and starring Warrick Grier and a bunch of people I had never seen nor heard of, The Bone Snatcher follows the exploits of a talented but mousey systems analyst, Dr. Zach Straker (Scott Bairstow) who is tasked with moving from Canada to the South African Namib Desert to aid a geological survey team after several members of their crew go missing. There he meets the imposing and steely Karl (Warrick Grier), the beautiful and headstrong, Mikki (Rachel Shelley), the superstitious and perpetually ponderous Titus (Patrick Shai), a mouthy driver and a guy who is apparently only in the film to be the first on-screen person to be bonesntached. Once Karl discovers the corpses of his colleagues he is enraged and vows to find their killers. It soon becomes apparent that what killed them is not human when Karl spies a hideous being stalking through the desert. He shoots it and it vanishes, as if into the very air. Shortly, the creature begins picking off the team one by one, forcing Straker, Mikki, Karl and Titus to put aside their differences and formulate a plan to kill it before it steals their bones…

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Straker.
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Mikki.
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Karl.
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Karl discovers the remains of his team, stripped of flesh.
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Karl scopes the bone snatcher but guns prove ineffectual for dealing with the monstrosity.
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Nooo! Character whose name I don’t remember got bonesnatched!
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The Bone Snatcher.

Impressions & Overview

Though critically panned (it used to be the hip thing for the movie literati to bash Scifi original movies, regardless of their content or quality) I found The Bone Snatcher to be quite enjoyable and far more substantive than I thought it would be. One of the benefits of any survival horror movie is the raising of the question: What would you do in such a situation? Would you act as the meek and attemptedly calculating Straker? The even-keel Mikki? The doomsaying Titus? The by-the-book driver Magda? Or would you strike out for revenge like Karl? Furthermore, the scenery is often quite breathtaking (the film was shot in Cape Town and the deserts of Namibia. Though the film is never scary (which it should have been since it billed itself as a “horror” film) it is very atmospheric and tense with a decent soundtrack and some moments of surprisingly good acting (especially from Warrick Grier who I hope, in the future, to see receiving considerably more starring roles).

The Acting, Characters & Dialogue

The acting is uniformly solid. One of the main problems that some viewers may run into, however, is the strong Afrikaans accents, which may warrant the utilization of subtitles (especially in the introduction to the main geological team members, there was so much mumbling and accent it was like they were speaking a completely different language).

The protagonist of the film, Straker, is boring and tepid and does almost nothing of importance throughout the entire film, yet, it is these very qualities that make him believable and help markedly to ground the fantastical elements of the film, namely the bone-snatching creature itself, in reality. Early on in the film after the first attack by the creature, Straker losses his cool, he’s almost perpetually terrified throughout, even as he tries to focus and craft a logical plan of action.

The standout of the entire film, for me, was Warrick Grier as the hotblooded and fearsome team leader, Karl.  He, together with Straker, have the best moment in the entire film when Karl erupts, “There are no bears in Africa!” and Straker responds, “I know that, Kaaaaarl!” It would be impossible to replicate the tone of the scene so I suggest you watch the film for the full effect, it had me rolling with laughter.

Central Themes

The central theme of the film is teamwork, as none of the members of the crew being stalked by the bone snatcher seem able to agree upon anything, later, after one of them is killed there is a sequence whereupon various characters keep drawing guns upon each other and shouting about how so-and-so is going too far or losing it. All of the characters who bicker and refuse to work in tandem end up dead which I read as the scriptwriters declaring, “If you behaved this aberrantly when a giant bug-bone monster was trying to kill you, you’d end up dead. Form up, or fall down.” And they’re right.

The Creature

Being a creature-feature, we would be remiss if we did not specifically remark upon the titular Bone Snatcher itself. The ant-bone amalgamation is, whilst in no-wise scary (at least it wasn’t to me) a fantastic looking creation (and yes, the “creature” is just a bunch of ants, if you hadn’t guessed from the promo poster for the film, which, though cool, is rather too plot-revealing!). Some of the shots of The Snatcher itself are not CGI but rather a man in a suit (Brian Claxton Payne) and these, in my opinion, are the best in the film (the CGI in the film was very uncanny valley and at times looked like stop-motion which was distracting). The reveal that the creature was an amalgam of prehistoric killer ants was obvious but inventive. What I kept wondering, however, was, how were the ants aided by forming a humanoid mass? Straker says they do it for “survival” but how, precisely? We never really find out and that’s disappointing.

Summation

If you enjoy survival horror action films like Pitch Black (which TBS strongly reminded me of) that are more concerned with atmosphere and character than they are with guts, gore or superfluous jump scares, you might well enjoy The Bone Snatcher.

Film Review | Hellraiser: Judgment | 2018

***this post contains spoilers

“I knew what I wanted to make, and I felt like ‘you know what, I wrote a traditional Hellraiser story with Revelations and I got raped by the fans. I’m not going to try and appease the fans anymore.’ I’m going to make a film for me and I have a very strong idea visually on where I want to go with the story and its going to be very different. I’m going to make a food for me and offer everybody a bite.” (“Interview with Gary J Tunnicliffe”60 Minutes WithArchived from the original on 12 November 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2017.)

The Hellraiser films are not so much a “series” (as in, a continuation of a story or set of stories) as they are a reworking of various different motifs and considerably smaller number of characters into completely self-contained vesicles (which I do not mean as either a good or bad thing, it is simply the best description which occurs to me). The only consistency throughout all of the films and what holds them all together is the presence of the mysterious puzzle-box known as the Lament Configuration and the bizarre, other-dimensional beings known as the Cenobites (koinos, “common”, bios, “life” | used to refer to members of a communal, religious order).

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Hellraiser mainstay, Pinhead; leader of the Cenobites, the “High Priest of Hell.”

Of the 10 films to date, only Hellraiser (1st in the franchise), Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Hellraiser: Bloodline (4th) and Hellraiser: Hellseeker (6th) can be considered any kind of proper series (Hellseeker only because it features the return of Kirsty Cotten, the protagonist of Hellraiser 1 & 2). This is especially true of the fifth installment, Inferno, which, though a very good movie, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any of the preceding films in the series, save for the cenobites (and they are all different save for the Chatterer – who lost his legs somehow – and Pinhead, who only shows up at the end of the film). Despite the disparate styles and plots of the various films, they (by and large) maintained a continuous mystique and consistently raised questions concerning the principal motivating factor in human activity: Desire. After the abysmal outing that was Hellraiser: Revelation (9th in the franchise) – despite it’s excellent script – I was interested to see what the talented FX artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe could do with Barker’s material in the capacity of writer/director.

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Hellraiser: Judgment (10th in the franchise), was released in 2018 and was directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe, produced by Michael Leahy and was created with roughly the same budget (approx. $300,000) as its predecessor. I had absolutely no idea what the budget for this movie was before seeing it and never once did a single thing throughout my viewing thereof ever appear “cheap.” It is also worth noting that the idea (floated by some critics and reviewers) that around $300,000 is a “small budget” speaks volumes of the excess which is bred by a distance from any real fiscal instability, from any real poverty and the unabated hunger for spectacle for its own sake.

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The plot of the film centers around three detectives, two brothers and woman, who are hunting down a serial killer known as The Preceptor, who kills according to the Bible. Every murder committed by The Preceptor corresponds to a particular “sin” described in the ten commandments and if that sounds almost identical to Andrew Kevin Walker’s script for Se7en that’s because it is. The generic (and often uneventful) police procedural is, thankfully, interspliced with numerous scenes of a otherword which we later learn is Hell. This extradimensional realm is, as per usual, populated by the ominous cenobites as well as another group of peculiar beings known as the Stygian Inquisition who appear to be headed by a horribly scarred and bespectacled human-like creature called The Auditor, who is responsible for processing the souls of those desired by Hell. The Auditor’s task is accomplished by sitting across from the prospect and inquiring into the nature of their past to unearth their sins whereupon the hell-clerk will type up a thorough documentation of the individual’s misdeeds on a typewriter affixed, not with paper, but human flesh. Ink is dispensed with for blood.

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The Auditor
The Auditor as portrayed by G. J. Tunnicliffe.

Two storylines run in concert. The first is that of detectives Sean & David Carter who are looking for a serial killer and who are quickly joined by a female detective named Egerton who is brought on by the higher-ups to both the expedite the case as well as keep an eye on Sean (who suffers from PTSD and turns to the bottle). The second storyline follows the Auditor processing souls in hell with the aid of various other grotesque and bizarre entities. The outer realm and the mundane collide when the Auditor absconds into his pocket dimension with Sean.

Process of the Stygian Inquisition.

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The Auditor.
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The Assessor.
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The Jury.
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The Cleaners.
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The Butcher.
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The Surgeon. The last processor of the Stygian Inquisition.

Sean unintentionally puts a damper on the Auditor’s plans when he declares that “no one can judge him but God.” Shortly thereafter, a angel named Jophiel appears and demands that The Auditor release Sean, stating that God has plans for him. The Auditor is confused and reluctant, greeting the angel kindly but coldly. Shortly thereafter The Auditor seeks council with Pinhead, the leader of the cenobites about what to do concerning the angel and the human. Pinhead asks where Sean is and they both return to the rooms of the acquisition only to discover that the detective escaped. Later it is revealed that the Preceptor is none other than Sean and that the reason he was killing those who had broken the ten commandments was due to his intense religiosity and hatred for the modern world. Pinhead seeks to claim the deranged detective’s soul but the angel Jophiel intercedes once more and demands the man’s release; God wants him out in the world, deeming those he kills to be “acceptable losses.” Pinhead, knowing that Egerton will shoot Sean given that she knows he is the killer, upon his return to earth, happily obliges and Sean is swiftly dispatched by the police woman just as planned. This infuriates the angel who then threatens the cenobite.

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Detective Egerton.

Pinhead, however, is none to happy being threatened with “pain” and decides to torture and dismember the angel and, after sufficient suffering, kills her. All the while the Auditor had been slinking and when the angel is dead he moves to the cenobite’s side and notes that he should not have acted so rashly, for God will surely punish him. Indeed, this is just what happens as a bright, white light envelopes Pinhead, who is transformed into a human and banished from Hell, forced to live amongst the mortals, presumably, for the rest of his days. He cries out at the loss of his “sweet suffering” and then screams. Credits rolls and at their end two Mormon missionaries appear at a house in Germany, peddling their creed, once the door is opened the Auditor’s voice is heard, welcoming them in and signalling that they are soon to be processed by the Stygian Inquisition. It is here that the film ends.

Whilst nowhere near as dense in symbolism and metaphor as some other Barker-inspired films such as The Midnight Meat Train, the film does offer some peculiar and unexpected critiques. One of the most unexpected to me was the criticism of the “anti-modern savior” in the character of Sean Carter, The Preceptor. Whilst his religiosity and hatred of other human beings acts as Sean’s primary source of motivation (especially when coupled with his desire for revenge against his brother and wife who were having a affair behind his back), he also takes sadistic pleasure in what he does, despite the fact that he feels considerable remorse afterwards (as he states in his confessions to The Auditor). Sean’s revenge against his traitorous brother and wife is understandable and his disdain towards those who act wholly without any moral consideration, is also, if not righteous, again, understandable. Yet, at one point later in the film, when he confronts his brother, he screams that he would kill every single human being alive if he was able due their sinfulness, completely neglecting his own past transgressions (beating his dog, slaughtering other humans in war, torturing and murdering those who broke the ten commandments) and the fact that he is precisely the kind of monstrous personality he decries. Sean then is, in many ways, analogous to the self-righteous religious radicals who use the phrase “modernity” with disgust and style themselves as revolutionaries despite being wholly chained to a tradition which has never even existed, those who state how much they cannot stand the modern world, even as it sustains them, those who state that they hate everyone, even as they spout fascicle platitudes of brotherhood and unity under God; those whose plans for change all invariably boil down to nothing more than murder and violent repression on a monumental scale which is always permissible so long as they are the ones carrying it out and so long as it is done in the name of their favored deity (who can, of course, do no wrong, and they, as the instruments of providence, likewise are absolved of all). Unlike this common crop of self-loathing, hypocritical, hysteric, psychologically damaged loons, Sean is, at least, willing to admit his murderous intentions. This vain, human wailing is sharply contrasted by the opening of the film which shows Pinhead and The Auditor discussing the increasingly outmoded nature of the Lament Configurations; they note that the interconnectivity of technological systems has rendered the puzzle boxes relatively ineffective as conduits of desire; people aren’t interested in rituals and puzzle boxes anymore, but rather, the liminal sea of the internet. Instead of bemoaning this, the two denizens of the outer world see this as a opportunity to try out new methods of their own, namely the pocket-dimension houses of the Stygian Inquisition who lure their victims via internet transmissions. Where The Preceptor flails and cries out, the cenobites and the inquisition adapt. And yet, just like many humans, Pinhead falls victim to his own hubris whereas The Auditor never overplays his hand and it is for this reason that it is he alone who stands triumphant at the end of the picture.

What is most interesting about The Auditor, in terms of his personality, was how polite and dutiful he was, in contrast to the cenobite, Chatterer, who is erratic and violent when unconstrained by his master; so much so that when Sean helps hurry the auditing procedure along, The Auditor treats him kindly, gifting him a reward of inhuman knowledge; yet he is, at the same time, completely sanguine about inflicting suffering, if it is necessary to complete his task. This contrasts with the cenobites who enjoy suffering for its own sake. “I am a man for whom pain is nothing more than a common currency,” The Auditor states flatly, during his interrogation of the child murderer Watkins, who had been reticent in divulging his sins, “I will spend some on you… if you like?” One can easily image The Auditor as having been a overzealous DMV worker in his previous, human life.

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“DMV? How dare you use that word. I am the DMV.”

It was a thoroughly enjoyable film, well-crafted and with something to say. I’d recommend it.

 

Alienation, Elitism & Lived-Art in The Midnight Meat Train | Part 2

THE KEEPERS OF OUTER DARK

Interspliced with Leon’s break from society and descent into the heart of the city, are numerous sequences featuring the subway killer, a man who is referred to only as Mahogany. Mahogany, unlike many contemporary horror film antagonists, is not a raving lunatic, rather, he is restrained, dutiful and immaculate, keeping to a schedule as regular as the train which he nightly frequents with horrific and bloody consequence. Also unlike many other horror movie villains, Mahogany is not driven by lust or rage or some insane fantasy, but by compulsion from his superiors, namely, the icy and nameless conductor of the eponymous train. During one scene where Mahogany struggles to kill one of the passengers on the train (one of only two times in the film he meets a foe who can match his considerable martial prowess, the other being Leon after being marked by the subterranean organisms), the conductor intercedes as Mahogany grapples with the passenger, shooting the passenger through the head, killing him and regarding Mahogany severely, “I’m very dissapointed in you, Mahogany. Clean up the mess.” It is here that we are first introduced to the conductor and also shown that our grim serial killer is not really in control, but rather, is merely a duteous, if very efficient, employee. Here is also where the first parallel between Leon and the butcher makes itself apparent. Mahogany is following orders from the conductor, just as Leon is following orders from Hoff. The principal difference is that whilst Leon’s actions are constrained by the norms and conventions of broader society, Mahogany’s actions are constrained only by the orders of the conductor and his subterranean masters. In this sense Mahogany is more “free” (less constrained by external pressures) than the protagonist, but it is difficult to say if he is better off. The question: “What cage would you rather be inside of than without,” here presents itself.

Mahogany is possessed of superhuman strength and longevity, protection from the police (who have been infiltrated by the agents of the subterraneans) and, presumably, ample funding (that or he has merely been saving up his money for a long time for those fancy suits, among other things, would require considerable upkeep). In his character one finds a certain parallel with Patrick Bateman, both smartly dressed, well-heeled and murderous corporate workers, who exist among the upper echelons of their respective societies, both vampiric egregores of a Hollywood-consumer culture that has never really existed, or rather, exists only because of those selfsame egregores. Yet he distinguishes himself from a character like Bateman via his loyalty to purpose, his sacral duty to feed the subterraneans. Though the precise arrangement between Mahogany, the other members of his order and the monsters is not detailed, it is stated (by the conductor) that the secret of the subterraneans must be kept by the ring-wearers through ritual sacrifice, implying that Mahogany and the conductor (and later Leon) are actually doing a service to the outer world by protecting them from the threat below which functions as a metaphor that there are indeed something that it were better that most people do not know and that it is the purpose of those special few who can bear the psychic trauma (Mahogany, Leon, the conductor and the police woman) of that knowing to protect them from it.

Alienation, Elitism & Lived-Art in The Midnight Meat Train | Part 1

“I was like a kid in a candy store any time we filmed the scary bits. The one thing that did make me cringe was the pierced Achilles tendons, having severed my own five years ago playing basketball…” – Bradley Cooper.

INTRODUCTION

Ryuhei Kitamura’s The Midnight Meat Train1, released in 2008 and first shot in New York City, and then Los Angeles, stands apart from the glut of contemporary mainstream horror films through both the caliber of its acting, the peculiarity of its story, the deft craftsmanship of its design and, most singularly, its symbolic elements, its metaphors. Ryuhei said of his film, “The film will speak for itself when it comes out no matter where you see it. It is my best film to date and I am proud of myself, my crew, my cast and my producers.” (The Cannibal Express, James Grainger, Rue Morgue, No 81, August 2008). Speak for itself it does, but only to one possessed of a keen ear, for what Ryuhei and Barker have created is nothing like the b-movie the title would suggest. Lucid-dreams, cthonic calls, subterreanean beings, a century-old cold-case, corporate repression, masculinity, art and the inability to produce it, all act as pieces to a puzzle that becomes more and more starkly evident with every subsequent viewing. However, before we delve into the contents of the film itself it would be useful to turn to the bar-to-entry from any serious consideration of such a work, principally, the name itself and the Hollywood snobery that turns up its nose at it. Snobbery is distinct from elitism as-such, in that elitism is the assertion that certain individuals and groups are more apt at certain things than others and that those more capaple persons will or should be positioned in a beneficial placement where their attributions may shine. Snobbery, in constrast, is the belief that those things which occur outside of one’s cultural (typically class-related) purview of approval, for whatever reason (it is generally a matter of unconsidered tradition), are not to be taken seriously and further, are to be derided. To be elitist in the arts is merely to say some works are better than others and why; to be a snob is to say, such and such works can never be good, can never be taken seriously.

Given that the name of the film instantly conjures up visions of schlocky retro-exploitation horror such as big-breasted women soused in blood, screaming and running through the woods in highheels only to trip on a bizarrely elevated root, unbelievable smatterings of blood, copious quantities of drug use, inexplicable cat jump-scares and masked killers with chainsaws, some trepidation is warranted (even though the film is more mystery/thriller, than action-romp, at least until its final act). That the film plays out in a serious fashion and at no point ever firmly plants its tongue in its cheek is another strike against it in the eyes of the would-be arbiters of cinema. How dare it take itself seriously! How dare a horror movie have its principal characters behave like real human beings! Such is the sentiment that is hinted at, if not outright expressed, in many stodgy reviews of the film from glossy and sundry publications. One of the film’s most dour reviews which I was able to find came from the site Deep Focus Review and was penned by a one Brian Eggert who gave the film 1 stars out of 5. Eggert remarked that:

Some ideas [in the film] make sense, others remain vague allusions, and others still are altogether nonsensical—all of it is awash by Barker’s penchant for humorless characters sopping with melodramatic relationships (not to mention gallons of blood). When moviegoers in my screening should have been cringing, they were laughing.2 How could they not, when Barker insists that we take his concept as gravely as he does, despite the inherent silliness of the plot? Kudos to you if you can take a movie called The Midnight Meat Train seriously. I can’t.”

The idea that a film cannot be “serious” if it has a peculiar name or if its plot is not hyper-real or based solely in the real-world, or if it contains “vague allusions” (which Eggert doesn’t even attempt to excavate) is one that Barker himself has remarked upon. During a interview with Cinema Is Dope on the state of horror-cinema at the 42nd Sitges Film Festival, Mr. Barker said, “I think we went through a very bad period, didn’t we? When it seemed like horror had become Michael Bay3 territory. All that we were going to see was remakes of Sean Cunningham4 projects, reworked with Paris Hilton5 and some new special effects. And I think audiences are more sophisticated than that. I think the appitie for fresh horror, for fresh images, for fresh ideas, for fresh metaphysics, is strong. I’m fed up with us – and when I say ‘us’ I mean ‘audience’; I’m counting myself as a audience member – being condescending to it. I feel as though the producers are condescending to us [the audience]; they’re saying, ‘eh, they’ll be satisfied with Friday The 13th , Part 310.’ Bullshit. Give me something new. Give me something fresh. If that’s an anime, if that’s some hybrid between live-action and anime or some form of cinema that we haven’t even yet seen, why not? The Cinema Fantastique has always been at the cutting-edge of style and of content.”

When the interview noted that horror movies cannot simply be 90 minutes of jump-scares, Mr. Barker replied, “Completely right and… how boring is that! This is a full circle. I mean, we’ve seen this stuff played out; this is back to the 80s again. Right? I mean, this is the 80s playing out again. We need to – we as enthusiasts, passionate purveyors or creators of horror and fantastic cinema – have to stand up and be counted and say, ‘We are not just going to be doing the same old, same old.’”

One wonders if Eggert would have found the film less heavygoing if there were some 4th wall breaks (qua Deadpool) or perhaps some hammy slapstick scenes dropped squat in the middle of real tension (qua Jason X). Eggert’s disdain for The Midnight Meat Train and Barker’s statement about being “fed up” both stem from a similar source: The branding of a particular medium, genre or sub-genre to be unworthy of consideration from the would-be cultural arbiters; formulaically it is: If you make X then X cannot concern itself with Y. A portion of this problem is to be found in the fact that the more people there are (population growth) and the less homogenous a society is (global multiculture) the harder it is to maintain and hand on the symbolic language which affixes particular artistic forms to higher and lower pedestals in the collective conscious of a given polis. Hence phrases like, “It was good, for what it was.” Or, “It wasn’t trying to be more than what it was.” This, at base, is nothing more than a admission that one’s expectations upon cinema have been lowered to such a point that the dullardry of the half-baked rehash and the mindless, incoherent spectecle are the norm, that symbolic or metaphorical content of any impact or magnitude is completely out of the question. From this the annoying penchant for the word “pretentious” to be bandied errantly about like the ball of a petulant child. This mental trajectory is amply demonstrated in a BBC6 article entitled, Film Review: Ocean’s 8 isn’t good, but is it fun? Such a question is symptomatic of what we shall henceforth call Popcorn Mentality, an extension of the pleasure principal as the first and foremost aspiration of a piece of media; pleasure, that is, “fun,” at any cost, above all, above even the apperception thereof. As long as a work of art (if indeed that is what it happens to be7) is “fun” then it was time well spent, even if that “fun” is often merely a by-line for “gaudy distraction.” Any themes contained in such works, dreams crystallized, desires reified, values elevated, are shunted aside, prospective ways of being buried beneath a howling circus of self-gratification, blinding colors and ear-rending sound. Interestingly enough, this popcorn mentality, or gray herdery, is something which is prominently, albiet subtly, featured in The Midnight Meat Train.

ART AS DARK PORTAL

The film begins with a man who awakes on a subway train. He slips and falls, only to discover that what caused imbalance was an enormous pool of blood. Gasping, he rises and spies a man hacking someone to death with what appears to be an oversized industrial meat tenderizer. Cut to Leon Kaufman, the protagonist of the film, a bright-eyed vegan photographer with a beautiful girlfriend and a nice apartment. However, despite his seemingly charming life, Leon has a problem, his photos aren’t getting any attention. Try and try as he might he simply cannot get a gallery showing; that is until his girlfriend Maya tells her well-connected friend Jurgis to set up a meeting between a well known art-dealer named Susan Hoff and the ertswile photographer. Leon is overjoyed. Leon meets Jurgis who tells him not to mention Maya because “Susan likes her artists young, male and single.” Jurgis shortly thereafter clarifies that “the male part really isn’t that important.” When Leon finally meets Susan he apologiezes for his tardiness but she responds, “Punctuality means nothing to me. Its a virtue for the mediocre.” Thus we understand that Hoff is more than just a snob, rather, she intensely cares about the works of art; this is elaborated upon shortly thereafter when Hoff asks Leon to describe his work and explains what interests him. Leon says that the city is his principal interest because “no one has ever captured it, not the way it really is. The heart of it. That’s my goal, that’s my dream.” Hoff responds by telling him that he is failing to achieve his dream. She points out one of Leon’s photographs, a still of a slovenly bum asleep and sliding off his seat towards a crisp and dignified businessman and says that it is melodrama, “arresting but empty” and tells him that he needs to show what happens next, when “the filth touches him (the businessman).” Finally, Hoff instructs Leon, “That next time you find yourself at the heart of the city, stay put, be brave, keeping shooting. Then come see me.” Leon is crestfallen but Jurgis comforts him saying that though she might not have cared for his art work, she didn’t hate it either and saw potential in him. Later that night Leon lies in bed with Maya, contemplating the days encounter and determines that Hoff was right, that he was only skimming the surface of the city, failing to capture enough of its essence, its beauty and horror alike in starkly vivid detail. Maya tells him, in the manner of a well-meaning yet uncomprehending lover, that Hoff was wrong, that his art really was good regardless of what she said. However, Leon disregards Maya’s opinion (as is reasonable given that she isn’t a artist or art critic) and determines to take Hoff’s advice and plung into the depths of the city to capture it in all its majesty and terror. It is notable that the whole impetus for the plot of the film is derived from artistic elitism, to high standards of creation and the willful fullfilment of one’s dreams given that to affirm any artistic standards is somehow verboten (as is aptly demonstrated in most reviews of the film which touch upon Hoff wherein the character is generally described as a “snob” or in otherwise negative terms). That same night Leon has a dream that he is abord a bloodsoaked train, emblematic of the “heart of the city” which he desires to capture. He awakes in the dead of night and traverses the city, wandering through filthy slums where the tatterdemalion denizens of the metropolis wander aimlessly. He spies a young group of thugs smashing a bottle to the ground and decides to follow them into a subway station, snapping pictures along the way. Everything cold. Everything blue. As if Leon is descending into an icy lair. The hoodlums then attempt to rape a young and beautiful asian woman in the train-station; instead of leaping to her aid or raising alarm, Leon, shocked as he is, continues to take pictures in his quest to capture the city as it really is. When the woman finally sees Leon his fugue is broken and he challenges the thugs. The leader ascends the stair for a faceoff but Leon points out the security cameras which the criminals had missed. Understanding that Leon now has the upper hand, they begrudingly leave. The girl thanks Leon and gifts him with a kiss as thanks and then runs off to the train just as the doors are closing. The doors are held open by a tall man with a old suit and a silver ring with a peculiar ensign. Once inside the train, the man with the silver ring removes a stainless steel meat tenderizer from his bag and crushes the woman’s skull.

Leon later discovers through reading the newspaper that the name of the woman whom he had saved is Erika Sakaki, a model. After boarding the train she was never seen again and had been reported missing. Leon runs to the police but they don’t believe him, suspecting that he was stalking Sakaki. He protests and says that he only followed the thugs because he thought they “looked suspicious.” The female officer notes that even if that were so it was curious that he continued to photographer Sakaki even after the brigands had pulled a knife on her; she asks him why he did this and Leon falls silent, unable or unwilling to formulate an answer. Art, intensly felt, is often difficult to externalize, even to one’s self and certianly to others, specifically if they are not well-versed in the symbolic and metaphorical lexicon which one is apt to deploy, thus Leon’s silence, though incriminating, is highly understandable. Leon’s dour fortunes turn swiftly around when he brings his photographs of the attempted gang-rape to Hoff who is enchanted. She declares that they are so good that if he can capture two more images of a similar caliber she will admit him and his work to her group art show which she is holding in three weeks. Delighted Leon heads back into the grimy underbelly of the city only to chance across a man with an old suit and curious silver ring. Later, he puts the pieces of the puzzle together and compares the ring from his most recent photos to the man on the train with Sakaki. A perfect match. The man with the silver ring is the model’s killer. But why? From this point on Leon becomes increasingly obsessed with the man with the silver ring; eventually, Maya confronts him as he tells her that he traced subway disappearences back to over a century ago (which would mean that if the man with the silver ring is responsible for all of them, he’s possessed of a strange longevity) and shakes her violently, telling her that he knows she think he is the killer. Maya, believing him to have lost his mind to his art, determines to get to the bottom of the issue herself and to that end enlists the aid of Jurgis.

It is at this point that Leon is no longer merely attempting to make art; he is living it, and eventually he will become a integral part of the “heart of the city” he so desperately wished to capture.

1The Midnight Meat Train was Ryuhei Kitamura’s first english language film.

2It bares remarking that one film screening is a very small sample size.

3Michael Bay is a American director and producer best known for The Transformers franchise who is oft derided for his exploitative, brassy, shallow and incessantly over-the-top style. His works have also been criticized for excessive product placement.

4Sean S. Cunningham is a American filmmaker who is best known for such horror films as Last House on the Left (1972), which he produced, and Friday The 13th (1980) which he co-created with Victor Miller.

5Paris Hilton, the great granddaughter of Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels, is an American socialite, singer and actress. Though she has been involved in a wide variety of projects, she is often criticized as being “famous for being famous,” or, well known simply due to the wealth she inherited from her family. Her acting has also been criticized, earning her numerous Golden Rasberry Awards throughout the years, a spoof award given out to the worst films of the year by UCLA. During the 30th Golden Rasberry Awards “ceremony” Hilton was selected as “Worst Actress of the Decade,” a category which she “won,” beating out Lindsay Lohan, Mariah Carey, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. It should be noted that members of the Golden Rasberry Foundation are not actually required to watch the films they critique and lampoon, thus their input, in any serious artistic evaluation of cinema, is next-to worthless.

6BBC stands for The British Broadcasting Corporation.

7Art is the crystallization of a dream in corporeality through creation so as to achieve some end within a broader social context; generally the communication of some fractal portion of the dream which inspired the creation itself. If it is not, at the least, this, then it is assuredly not art at all. This is to say that art is a act of creation which is inherently communal and purposeful but which finds its genesis in the personal, in the dreamworld or mindspace.