Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Zdzislaw Beksinski was a Polish painter of the fantastique whose work reacted to the horrors of war that he saw all around him. The video above is a short documentary about his life and his work, and the video below is an extended exploration of his work. He was very prodigious, constantly working and constantly producing masterpiece after masterpiece. Enjoy discovering your new favorite artist!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


Yes, I know, it's been a while, so please excuse me if I just dive into this process head-first, without much in the way of explication or lubrication first. Suffice it to say that I've been having RIDICULOUS problems with blogger's AdSense functionality (haven't made a penny in two months, despite my blogs being over-run with an obnoxious amount of ads) and so my motivation hasn't been what it could be. Then I figured, I mostly use this blog as a way to keep track of what I've watched, read, and seen, so why not just keep blogging until the situation sorts itself out? So I guess that's what I'm going to try to do. Cheers! - Jerky

UPGRADE (2018) ~ The sci-fi noir revenge thriller Upgrade is a must-see for fans of all those genres, and definitely belongs on any list of the best SF films to be released so far this millennium. It ranks alongside Ex Machina and Dredd and Her. Fun, dark, ultraviolent, original, and surprising!

THE DEATH OF STALIN (2017) ~ Speaking of pitch-black satire, the latest film by Armando Iannucci—one of the key figures in the Britcom Renaissance and frequent partner of bona fide geniuses Chris Morris and Steve Coogan—The Death of Stalin presents a highly fictionalized account of the panic, turmoil and terror that gripped the Central Committee and other important elements of the Soviet government in the wake of Joseph Stalin's sudden death in 1953. Uniformly fantastic performances (Michael Palin, Steve Buscemi, Simon Beale, Andrea Riseborough and Jeffrey Tambor are all perfect) and help to elevate this film from high minded farce into something approaching (but not quite attaining) the level of a Dr Strangelove. Based on a French graphic novel, The Death of Stalin was banned in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

APOSTLE (2018) ~ An excellent addition to the Folk Horror canon, of which the prime exemplar is the (original) Wicker Man, which also happens to be a heavy influence on this film. It's been a good couple years for this genre-within-a-genre, starting with The Witch and hitting definite peaks with The Ritual, A Dark Song, and now Apostle. Although not as rooted in actual philosophies, beliefs and ritual practices as some of the best in occult cinema, Apostle does a good job of presenting what life must have been life in some of those far flung turn of the century religious communes, some of which you can still find in the darker parts of both North America and the Old World. As a horror film in the Western tradition, I consider it one of the best of the year so far... richly envisioned, convincingly acted, beautifully designed, and both thrilling and intriguing. Some might find it a bit long, somewhat confusing, and more gruesome than necessary. Horror fans should definitely see it and, if they like it, help to spread the word, because one takes from a work of art only that which one is capable of taking, and a lot of dummies are putting up bad reviews that sound a whole lot like the cracking of piggish teeth on the pearls cast before them.

POSSUM (2028) ~ Brilliant debut feature from Matt Holness, creator of the cult horror comedy TV satire Garth Merenghi's Darkplace. This film puts Sean Harris' uniquely disturbing and expressive looks to maximum use, kind of in the same way that David Cronenberg did with Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone. Possum features an ambiance redolent with dread and anxiety, and you can feel the pressure of sanity at its breaking point throughout, like the internal pressure inside a bottle forever pushing away at the cork stopping it up. Another Cronenberg film this reminded me of is the under-rated, underseen Spider. And also The Babadook, only with a far creepier imaginary baddie in the form of Possum. Just excellent.

HAGAZUSSA (2017) ~ The disturbing story of Albrun, a lonely goat-herding girl who lives with her mother in a secluded shack in the German Alps in the 15th century. People in the nearby village are cruel to Albrun and her mother both, apparently believing them to be witches. When Albrun’s mother falls ill—leading to some disturbing scenes in which you’ll start to think that maybe the villagers have the right idea—sexually assaults her, then dies. Cut to 15 years later. Albrun, still living in the shack and tending her goats, has a baby boy. A town priest gives her the gift of her mother’s polished skull, which Albrun takes home and uses as part of a memorial shrine. Another villager, Swinda, befriends Albrun, but we soon find out that her intentions are anything but good. Deception leads to Albrun once again being raped. She takes revenge on the village in a particularly gruesome way, then eats a magic mushroom that causes her to indulge in some strange cruelties and engaging in a number of taboos, ultimately leading to her apparently supernatural demise. A truly great folk horror film.

THE LIGHTHOUSE (2019) ~ A fantastic performance by Willem Dafoe and a decent one by Robert Patinson anchor director Robert Eggers’ black-and-white, Lovecraft-tinged follow-up to his magnificent The VVitch (2015), but for me, The Lighthouse ends up feeling like something less than the sum of its (admittedly superlative) parts. For instance, the conversations, though thoughtfully articulated and grandly performed, don’t ever really seem to go anywhere. And the hallucinatory elements, featuring mermaids and tentacles and angry sea-birds, felt detached from the narrative. I did like the way it ended, however. I’ll probably have to give this one another watch before I make up my mind about it.

ANIARA (2018) ~ A beautiful, poetic, philosophical science fiction film from Sweden in which a huge colony craft (the titular Aniara) carrying thousands of immigrants from a Sun-ravaged Earth to Mars gets knocked off course and has to dump all its fuel, leaving it unable to turn around until it encounters a celestial body that it can use as a gravity well to turn around, turning a planned month-long trip into what the captain informs his passengers will now be a minimum two year drift through empty space. Unfortunately, he’s lying. The truth of the matter is that the chances of encountering a celestial body at all are pretty much nil, and as more and more people cotton on to this fact, the more the passengers’ morale—not to mention the state of the craft—deteriorates. There’s a sub-plot about a hallucination machine that breaks down—or rather, has the AI equivalent of a mental breakdown—leaving the passengers without any means of escaping from the soul-crushing reality of their predicament, causing cults to rise up and suicides to skyrocket. Time passes. The main character we’re following does her best to stay positive, despite suffering some profoundly unjust situations and tragic losses. She finds love. Starts a family. More time passes. Entropy sets in. Things get dark. Then things get REALLY dark. Then more time passes. Before you know it, five million years have gone by and you’re asking yourself, WTF?! Just like life, I guess. A minor masterpiece, but don’t watch if you’re easily depressed.

THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2015) ~ When considered in combination with his followup feature, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016), this genuinely creepy and occasionally terrifying film establishes the director—Anthony Perkins’ son Osgood (Oz)—as a genre director whose work deserves to be taken seriously (although his most recent, Gretel & Hansel, isn’t faring too well with audiences or critics). The time-hopping story about two girls left behind at a mostly deserted private Catholic boarding school during the winter holidays has enough creepy nuns, heavy silences, and shadowy glimpses of superntural devilry to fill a dozen of your worst nightmares. The acting is fine, the twists are twisted, and the double-climactic denouement simultaneously feels novel, and yet somehow paradoxically classical as well. I have just one little quibble with it, which I will keep to myself, as it’s pretty minor and I wouldn’t want to influence anyone watching for themselves.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018) ~ I didn’t like it. Cliché-ridden, sappy, boring and drawn-out… a real snooze-fest, especially considering it was about one of the most ostentatious and overtly “dramatic” rock bands of all time. So many of these musical bios seem to miss the point that the music created often has very little to do with the musicians who create it. They miss the point that music, at its best is, in a very real sense, a kind of magic (no pun intended). A whole that is greater than the sum of its parts… a kind of egregore, or collective yet independent consciousness, to the point where “Which one’s Pink?” is less like a joke and more like a Zen Koan that might put a streak of grey through your hair if you meditate too intently upon it.

CLIMAX (2018) ~ Gaspar Noe’s latest nihilistic descent into cinematic portrayals of drug-induced madness, only this time set in the world of professional dance troupes. The entire film takes place almost in real time, during the troupe’s wrap party, where someone spikes the punch with hallucinogens, and so after a very extended section of every dancer giving a solo performance over a driving techno beat, they all start to have bad trips, during which they all seem to want to “accentuate the negative” in and about each other. This of course leads to brutality, bloodshed, rape, suicide, murder, and all manner of Gaspar Noe style shenanigans. I won’t need to see this one twice.

UNDERWATER (2019) ~ Kristen Stewart versus Cthulhu and his star-spawn? I’m in! Actually a pretty decent PG-13 horror adventure movie in the vein of Leviathan, Deep Star Six, and The Abyss (kind of), with a good supporting cast, decent special effects, a few new ideas and a surprisingly effective ending. Your mileage may vary, but if you like monster movies (I do) and don’t have a knee-jerk, bandwagon-jumping hate-on for Kristen Stewart (I don’t), then there are definitely worse ways to spend an hour and a half on a weekend afternoon.

IN FABRIC (2019) ~ An inspired, giallo-tinged slice of surreal horror comedy (although the laughs are few, far between, and require a somewhat twisted sense of humor to appreciate) from Peter Strickland, a UK based auteur who wields a decidedly continental aesthetic arsenal. The first of his films to garner significant mainstream attention was the magnificent Berberian Sound Studio (2012), featuring Toby Jones as a foley artist for an intimidating director of Italian horror movies in the 1970’s. His next big film, The Duke of Burgundy (2014) was one of the best reviewed films of its year, but it took me three attempts to just sit through the damn thing, and it left me completely cold. In Fabric is about a very strange new department store that opens up in an unnamed city, from which an “artery red” dress haunts a number of the store’s customers, in turn, perhaps with the knowing assistance of the store’s witchy employees. The stories are also vaguely connected to a corporation called Waingel’s—where the dress’s first victim works, and where its next victim tries to secure a loan—which seems to be some sort of bank, but not really. Whatever it is, you apparently need to be on the “Waingel’s Wavelength” to navigate its byzantine corporate structures. Anyway, despite finding the first section a bit of a hard slog (ironically due to the fact that I empathized too much with the poor, put-upon divorcee, heart-breakingly portrayed by Marianne Jean-Baptiste), the subsequent sections, which move at a faster pace and involve increasingly bizarre set-pieces and performances, had me fully on board until the end, which proved the perfect catalyst for generating a gestalt admiration for the film as a whole. I will return to this film again, and will definitely keep my eye on Strickland’s future projects.