A Dark Song

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October 18, 2017 – This film is going to be talked about for quite some time. It’s intense, original, and defies many, many expectations. It will probably get backlash, mostly by virtue of having to be packaged and marketed alongside Saw 12, Curse of Chucky or Paranormal Activity 45. I hate to summon the dreaded “post-horror” category, but A Dark Song could be comfortably placed there. I don’t care over-much, but you can call it “horror” in the same way that a quiet ghost story like The Haunting or The Others is horror. Continue reading

Being A Witch Ain’t One

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October 17, 2017 – Do we have a witch problem in recent horror cinema? Or are some filmmakers taking a mirror to something around us? I’m referencing three semi-recent films that look to me like a brutal, radical trifecta of witchcraft. Are they more Malleus Maleficarum, or more like a horror movie Valerie Solanas might have cared to make?

 

This thought came to me when I first listened to The Faculty of Horror‘s excellent two-part podcast on witchcraft movies. The Faculty of Horror are amazing, FYI and I’m hard-pressed to find a horror podcast that’s both highly academic and a hell of a lot of fun.

 

The movies are Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009), Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (2013) and Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2016). The first of these is almost tough to identify as a witchcraft movie. But all three share some characteristics: brutality, ugliness, unrestrained female power and most importantly, dead children/anti-motherhood. And trust me, these films do not skimp on shocking brutality to children and babies.

This is more complex than you think. I don’t understand why those evangelical leaders so concerned about witchcraft, the occult and feminism don’t get on their knees and praise Rob Zombie for making The Lords of Salem, which confirms everything they think about a woman reading tarot cards or kids listening to heavy metal in brutal and graphic detail. Why haven’t they put up The Witch and Antichrist as examples of what happens when women have no interest in being mothers or want the legal right to an abortion?

And then, what happened our 90’s model of witchcraft as empowerment, beauty and feminism? The Craft, Charmed, Practical Magic, etc – few if any witches were ever presented as baby killing hags, and the Devil was left out of most of this material. Wiccans and spiritual pagans have spent decades trying to convince a panicked public that they don’t worship the Devil and sacrifice children – but now we have these recent movies. I haven’t measured yet the level of pagan/Wiccan outrage over Lords and The Witch, but have come across examples of support for them.

I think these filmmakers hardly share the evangelical view – at least, I’m certain Rob Zombie doesn’t. The only filmmaker I can think of that openly, earnestly courts this Pat Robertson model of witches is James Wan in The Conjuring. So what’s going on here? Is this just a radical, punk rock take on the subject matter? You want baby killing hags? Here you go, right in your face! Perhaps Wiccans and pagans are responding positively because they’re tired of defending their religious rights. And as this obscene presidential administration unfolds before us, I’m sure women will also be sick of fighting for reproductive rights they were already granted decades ago. People are witching up already. What will the next wave of witchcraft movies bring?

 

 

If you have a burning desire to add The Witch or any of these other films to your DVD library, or to support this blog by browsing and shopping via this link, please consider clicking below.

 

Chillerpop takes your questions and comments here on this blog, on his Facebook page, and on Twitter (@ChillerPop).

Druid Rage!

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October 16, 2017(originally published October 4, 2012) Tree hugging peaceful pagan hippies, you say?  Perhaps, perhaps…but the horror genre hasn’t always seen it that way.  Given their association with the Celtic S’amhain, our Halloween, it’s only natural that the ancient Celtic priest class would find their way into our tawdry terror tales without any sort of critical eye. Continue reading

Satan’s School for Girls – The Public Domains of Terror!

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October 14-15, 2017

Do you need any other reason to take in this film beyond the terrifically sleazy title? Did you not catch this psychotronic beauty on your local TV channels before the days of streaming and the Internet, when ANY horror movie would do, no matter how bad?

If either of the above is the case, let me inform you that this 1973 film is highly notable for being an Aaron Spelling production and for featuring not one but two Angels – yes, angels and not devils – Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd!   Continue reading

Five Modern Exorcism Films to Watch

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source: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498519090/Possessed-Women-Haunted-States-Cultural-Tensions-in-Exorcism-Cinema

October 13, 2017 – When I first stumbled onto the blog It’s Playing, But With Research, I was jealous. Jealous! With envy as green as the pea soup streaming out of Regan’s mouth! Academics CarrieLynn D. Reinhard and Christopher J. Olson not only studied exorcism cinema for a living, but they compiled a comprehensive list movies featuring an exorcism (the list is continually revised).

What?! Someone has watched more exorcism cinema than me?? Impossible – I wasn’t having it! So I went on a bender thanks to their list, and we began a correspondence that ended with me having a credit on their book Possessed Women, Haunted States. What a lovely honor. I urge you to read the book (which analyzes the tropes of exorcism cinema and puts them in sociological context), check out their blog and listen to their podcast, Pop Culture Lens. Continue reading

Six Trash Movies From the Satanic Panic Era!

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PamDawberMuffinOctober 12, 2017 – As I’ve chronicled on a prior version of this blog, satanic panic is de rigeur in recent horror cinema. From the possession and exorcism genre revived by The Exorcism of Emily Rose to retro satanic cult thrillers like House of the Devil. From the franchising of Ed & Lorraine Warren’s infamous devil-busting “true stories” to the conflation of witchcraft with devil-worship (Lords of Salem, The VVitch). From flirtations with affirming the 1980s moral panic of Satanic Ritual Abuse (HBO’s True Detective) to challenging it (Regression).

My suspicion is that current filmmakers are as fascinated as I am with it, some of them having studied its history and some of them having lived it. But I also suspect it’s failing to strike any basic nerve or chord with today’s audiences, except perhaps in the more insane conspiracy theory circles out there.

So I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight six made for TV movies made straight out of the Satanic Panic era! I chose these primarily because they earnestly traffic in the lurid prurient headlines of the times with zero irony and Lifetime TV Production panache. Some have very high profile actors involved, which makes them simultaneously awful and delightful.

They’re monuments to a time when the majority of Americans believed satanic cults skulked around daycare centers, role playing games would drive you criminally insane, Smurfs were out for your soul, and ‘not guilty by virtue of demonic possession’ was a viable legal defense strategy.

Trigger warning? Be warned that I’m going to viciously mock these features that involve heavy themes, such as child abuse. The Satanic Panic has harmed many lives (some to this day) and its not my intent to minimize what the falsely accused or victims of bad therapy have gone through. If anything I hope to highlight how incredibly absurd these movies’ point of view is.

Do You Know the Muffin Man (1989) – Ugh. This one is truly low. Just the title alone should make you want to take five showers. As a fictionalized account of the McMartin trial, it was made with the soft pearl clutching gauze of a very special movie of the week that hopes to start national discussions and ‘combat the growing problem of child abuse.’ But what this meretricious garbage TV movie did in fact was shamelessly exploit and magnify the satanic ritual abuse daycare hysteria that had people believing in secret tunnels that weren’t there, animal and baby sacrifices (with no physical evidence), and bullying children into confessions with very creepy anatomically correct dolls. Notable also for prompting a protest letter from Michael Aquino, founder of the satanic Temple of Set. Starring Mork & Mindy‘s Pam Dawber, Stephen Dorff, John Shea and jump-the-shark Family Ties baby Brian Bonsall (looking creepier than Damien from The Omen as he recites a black magic spell taught to him by his abusers.)

Mazes and Monsters (1982) – America’s sweetheart Tom Hanks had to start somewhere, and in between cross-dressing gigs on Bosom Buddies he took the lead role in this puzzling, unintentionally hilarious 100 minute warning against the dangers of Dungeons & Dragons. As college student Robbie Wheeling, Hanks descends into madness and homicide because .. he rolled a dice and pretended to be a wizard. It’s for sure a watchable artifact of the 1980’s, but click here for the very sad history behind this fictionalization, and here for Dungeons & Dragons’ place in the Great American Satanic Panic. Actress Wendy Crewson plays the love interest. where were these cute preppy girls

Witch Hunt (1999) – This Australian crime drama came out after the height of satanic panic, but worthy of inclusion for its basis on a “true story” which I am having a tough time tracking down for facts and for its impact on Australian society. Now, the film stars classy sex symbol Jacqueline Bisset, and the plot concerns a missing young girl whose grandmother (Bisset) is “involved in witchcraft.” Well that’s all I need to know before sitting my ass down to watch the whole goddamn thing. But even with this deliciously lurid plot and the presence of Bisset, Witch Hunt still manages to be one of the dullest, most sleep inducing things you could ever watch. Would it have killed them to have at least one bloody pentagram scrawled somewhere?

The Haunted (1991) – Now, we enter into Ed & Lorraine Warren territory! Or did you think they weren’t a thing before The Conjuring? Those two wacky demon-busting cons were patrons, architects and enablers of the satanic panic. And this one, based on their infamous Smurl Haunting case (Wikipedia has done a good job of document the debunking of this one), is laughable with adult filters and not completely without horror movie frights. There’s plenty of occult shaming, conservative wardrobes and prim Manichaenism in this one, as a family is perpetually harassed by a demon. Also, it features a highly unfortunate sequence with a male protagonist raped by an evil demon. And with due apologies, because I don’t find rape laughable – this sequence was fucking funny.

The Demon Murder Case (1983) – More Warrens in what is a dear and beloved childhood memory. I’ve written about this before, a made for TV film with Kevin Bacon, Andy Griffith and Eddie Albert (!) based on the Brookfield Connecticut ‘Devil Made Me Do It’ case. I grew up in an adjacent town when this happened and though it is complete BS and needs to be examined critically, it also provided me with local lore and spooky atmosphere. The exorcism scene is very laughable. And yes, in the real-life case, demonic possession was the defense’s argument. Also consider that two of the family members, including the allegedly possessed child, have said that none of it was true and that The Warrens’ interference has caused them hardship.

Midnight’s Child (1992) – This one perhaps doesn’t belong here, but it was made in the tail end of Satanic Panic and it involves devil-worshiping child care. Olivia D’Abo stars as a Satanic Swedish au pair. Again, if that alone doesn’t compel you to park your butt and watch the whole damn thing, my blog is probably useless to you. It also stars a very young and cute Elizabeth Moss, currently dazzling audiences in Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. A tale that’s mostly Lifetime-lurid, rather ridiculous, but fun as hell.

If you have a burning desire to add any of the movies discussed to your DVD or digital library, or to support this blog by browsing and shopping via this link, please consider clicking below.

Chillerpop takes your questions and comments here on this blog, on his Facebook page, and on Twitter (@ChillerPop).

That Sow Could Still Be Mine (The Chillerpop Exorcist Retrospective, Part 6)

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ETSOctober 11, 2017 – This will be a short one, and please be warned that there are heavy SPOILERS for Exorcist The Series. Season 2 has already begun airing on Fox.  I started an “Exorcist Retrospective” on this blog and I’ll take this opportunity of the 31 Days of Halloween to catch up by covering last year’s Season 1. Continue reading