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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Dark Waters’ (1994)

Nuns are fucking scary…

The opening of this movie sets the bar so low, you don’t expect much of this movie. That makes it pleasantly surprising that the rest of the movie is pretty good. Of course, the rest of this movie is still begging to be riffed, but it’s still a pretty good movie. The ending is a bit predictable, the practical FX are absolute garbage, and the rubber monster is downright silly, but everything else is okay.

The acting is better than can normally be expected for horror. Yeah, that’s not amazing or anything, but it’s not bad. The atmosphere is fantastic. They really pulled out all the stops on the set. I don’t know where they filmed, but it was pretty cool. It feels like there’s miles of underground chambers on the island. I think this was likely filmed on location, and if it wasn’t, the effort they put in to erecting the set is mindblowing.

The story was solid. As I said before, it was a bit predictable, but that’s not a huge problem. It’s angled as a Lovecraftian mystery, so most of it is making subtle discoveries till the end. I guess that means the ending isn’t a twist, but they should have made the clues a little more difficult to interpret. I pretty much had the whole movie figured out by the halfway mark. Again, not a total dealbreaker, but a four-year-old could have figured it out.

I really can recommend this. Keep in mind, it’s old and a bit silly, but it’s not bad and that’s enough. I REALLY recommend it for riffers. This shit was riffing gold!

SPOILERS!!!

The nun, Sarah, is the female lead’s sister. She’s working for an ancient demon to trick her sister back to the island, so the two of them can summon the demon. Everything starts when one of Sarah’s disciples tries to steal the pieces to an evil tablet and gets murdered by one of the nuns protecting it. So, of course, you think the nuns are this evil cult who worships this weird idol and practices unholy pagan rituals, but as it turns out, they’re actually zealot defenders, trying to prevent this ancient horror from getting loose.

Of course, that’s not the way their initially presented in the movie. They brutally murder Sarah’s friend, they try again and again to kill the female lead, they do all these weird creepy things, and then they burn down the village near their monastery and kill all the villagers. The movie does a pretty solid job of making them seem like the antagonists, but they’re actually the good guys—sorta.

I feel like this all could have been prevented if they just told the female lead to get lost. It’s their fucking island, they could just tell her to take the proverbial piss.

I also don’t understand why the nuns let the villagers live. The villagers are a part of this cult to summon the ancient horror, so why didn’t the nuns just murder all of them decades ago.

But yeah, Sarah is trying to use her sister to summon this demon. None of it is hard to figure out. You find out the lead’s mother never died, there’s all these missing memories from her childhood, she finds a photo of her and her sister when they were children, and she has a ton of flashbacks implicating her in the cult in some way. It’s kinda obvious.

It is fun and riffable though, so give it a shot.

If you like Reed Alexander’s Horror Review, consider stopping by Horror.Media and donating by hitting the ‘Tip’ button. You can also support Reed by sharing his reviews on Facebook and Twitter.

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New reviews posted Wednesday, here on Madness Heart!

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Maul Rats: Dehumanization and the Built Environment in Horror

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For every terror that lies in wait in the woods – lurking with dripping fangs and razor claws – is there a corresponding menace to be found in the human-made world? I would argue so; after all, who among us hasn’t in the course of shopping or working looked around and noted the ironic inhumanity of a human-manufactured shopping experience? Discomfort with capitalism is as old as capitalism itself, and doesn’t always take the form of a Marxian critique or a suggested public policy change – no, it often emerges in art. In punk rock, in performance art, and – of course – in horror.

Once upon a time, I had a job at a record store in a downtown mall in the city where I live. Each day, I’d ride the train in to work and read on the ride. Often, I’d burn through paperback horror novels, which, thanks to a mall employee discount, I could obtain on the cheap (I polished off most of Clive Barker’s catalog this way). At one point, while taking a class on political ideology and wound up reading anarchist and Marxist critiques of capitalism on my journey in to punch the clock and on my breaks. It was both disorienting and orienting at the same time – reorienting, I suppose you’d call it. A reexamination of what my day-to-day life was by the light of a radically unforgiving and consuming flame. There were things of great and terrible value I that learned in that class. One of them was the concept of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon; the prison-concept and forerunner of the modern surveillance state, an institution in which prisoners are both eternally observed and unable to see those observing them. The idea is that each prisoner internalizes their warden, and becomes their own captor – a metaphor that was decidedly not lost on many of the critics of capitalism that I read on my way to the mall.

My thoughts returned to those bygone train rides recently while I was reading Grady Hendrix’s excellent Horrorstör, a 2014 horror-satire set in a supernaturally beset IKEA-spoof (called ORSK in the novel). I was thrilled to encounter my old friend the Panopticon in the pages of Horrorstör, along with descriptions of both the human and inhuman elements of retail that I recognized immediately. Hendrix precisely describes the recycled air, corpse-lights, and general sensory bombardment of the designed retail environment. While the details of his book are more IKEA-specific than my retail experience, Hendrix’s emphasis on the human elements of his tale brought me right up close and made me care about the entire cast – the wage slaves, dead-enders, middle management, all of them. In this, the humanized aspect of Hendrix’s story is our cast of characters, and is contrasted sharply with the dehumanized built environment, which we discover is a prison built on the ghost of a prison – as Marxian a vision of big retail as one could ask for.

I think that Horrorstör is an extremely clever update of a theme that was, perhaps, best explored by a previous generation in George Romero’s masterful Dawn of the Dead (which was subjected to a decent if imperfect remake by Zack Snyder and James Gunn in 2004). Dawn of the Dead was, of course, Romero’s macrocosmic answer to the microcosm he presented in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. Whereas Night addressed issues of race and Cold War paranoia, Dawn was aimed explicitly at consumer culture and capitalism. Like Horrorstör, it transpires entirely in a designed environment that has been rendered hostile. Our cast is carried from the supposedly neutral world of commerce to the red altar of carnage, into the cold light of the uncanny, a light by which we are presented with the terrifying truth that the store – the mall – was never really neutral to begin with.

A built environment need not be physical, either – not necessarily. One built social environment in particular has invited consideration by creators of horror: the corporation, that arrangement that has, since its humble beginnings, taken on the foundational importance – the throne of primacy – once occupied in some places by the Holy Roman Empire, or the Mayans. The corporation is all around us, providing for our human needs and attempting to answer our human questions in a profoundly inhuman – -some would argue anti-human – way. This has been addressed widely in horror – for example, in films as diverse as Severance (a blood-soaked, chav-tastic 2006 British-German romp through workplace retreats), 2017 SXSW Steven Yeun gem Mayhem, and my favorite example: The Cabin in the Woods, which is usually celebrated for its fourth-wall-breaking deconstruction of horror tropes but is just as much a fourth-wall-breaking deconstruction of corporate dehumanization, both literal and figurative.

All of these considerations of built environments and our response to them emphasize the alienation of good, essentially human people from their surroundings, which suddenly take on a hostile or threatening cast. Bret Easton Elis is another kettle of fish entirely. Ellis’ American Psycho is generally accepted as modern horror canon, but Ellis’ other work sometimes escapes the notice of fans of the fiendish, or at least is less often considered in this specific light. 1998’s Glamorama, for example, qualifies as horror-satire as much as thriller-satire – and one that lampoons the built environments (both physical and social) of celebrity with visceral verve and viciousness. My favorite example of the Bret Easton Ellis approach to horror can be found in his 1994 short story collection The Informers, the best of which – “The Secrets of Summer” – should be studied carefully by any writer of short horror fiction for its lean, mean approach to sociopathy and the lessons that monsters can teach us about one another. Monsters are the key (but aren’t they always?); in Ellis’ work, the dehumanized – and dehumanizing – elements of the story are the characters themselves. Rather than set a cast we care about against a backdrop that seeks to do them harm, we meet a cast of wolves, snakes, and jackals – soulless predators all. But in the land of the monsters, is anyone really a monster? Or is “monster” a word necessarily born of comparison, of boundaries that must first exist to then be crossed? What if those boundaries never existed in the first place? In this way, Ellis offers us a truly transgressive vision of capitalist horror wherein we see not the contest between our dollars and our souls – but the bare, fleshless fact that it was never really a contest to begin with.

There are too many approaches to this question to list all of them here. But you don’t need me to list them all – now that I’ve got your gears turning, what are your favorite examples of a terrifying built environment, or of dehumanized humans in an unnatural social arrangement (is it, perhaps, Chopping Mall, arguably the worst movie of 1986)? Leave them in the comments or at me to let me know!

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Excerpt from “The First Shred” by DLW

Please enjoy the excerpt from “The First Shred” by DLW:

Ok I don’t know what kind of jokes cannibals make, but Ovag laughed at whatever Bace whispered to her. Then she smiled broadly at the executioner. I was staring at the maid opposite me and at the mop and bucket beside her. She was the only person in the room looking at me. Her brows twisted together in thought for a moment as her gaze shifted from me, and then to her feet, then back to me again. She picked up the mop and bucket and took one step back and to her left.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Leviathan’ (1989)

Greatest Bandwagon Movie in the History of Horror!

Decided to re-watch Leviathan.  I don’t know, I always have a soft spot in my heart for the monster movies from my childhood.  Or maybe that’s cancer… whatever.

You have to remember when you’re watching the 80s classics, even one that was on the cusp like Leviathan, they didn’t have a lot to work with.  CGI was brand new, seldom used, and total garbage.  80s horrors like this were all about the set and the practical FX.  That’s what made movies like The Thing and Pumpkinhead so brilliant.  All you got are camera filters, a smoke machine, and a rubber monster.  But, what they did with it was amazing.

What you’ll be shocked to find out about this gem, is that it actually has some pretty stellar actors, who were close to making the A list.  You’ve got my favorite Ghost Buster, Ernie Hudson.  You’ve got Robocop’s Peter Weller, Hector Elizondo, Daniel Stern, and Richard Crenna.  That’s a pretty amazing cast for a shit 80s rubber monster movie.  And, they didn’t stop at just the cast.  The writer gave them dialog that actually worked and felt natural.  It was frankly, brilliant!

Again, the set and practical FX, coupled with the cinematography, was just fantastic.  You can tell the underwater scenes are really just shot in a dark room through a blue filter.  But it works.  They didn’t have the kind of budget The Abyss had to rent a reactor stack and fill it with water.  The set was phenomenal.  It could easily be compared to 1979’s classic Alien.  The only thing that made it cheesy was the rubber monster and the some of the larger plot holes.

Any-who, it’s a late 80s movie so the tech is pretty cheap and their big rubber monster kinda silly. But, in those days it was THE SHIT!  You know what?  It’s also a lot better than some of the shit CGI monsters the industry has been spitting out lately.  Those are so cheesy it makes your head hurt.

Don’t come into this expecting Ridley Scott material.  What am I saying? After Prometheus, we can’t even expect Ridley Scott material out of Ridley Scott.  Just watch it for what it is; a pre-90s B horror.  If you like that sort of thing you will enjoy this.  After all these years I can give it a pass as one of the best creature features of its day and age.  It’s pretty fun and that’s all that really matters.


SPOILERS!!!

This movie was desperately trying to be The AbyssAlien, and The Thing, all wrapped into one.  That’s okay, I guess.  After Alien, there was a huge bandwagon through the 80s to ride its coat tails.  The Abyss was just about to be released and if you’re going to rip off both those ideas, why not go for broke and some how shoe horn The Thing in there.  This, unfortunately, lead to some plot holes based entirely on the setup.  If you remember from The Thing, you have to destroy it on a cellular level with fire.  Kinda hard to kill a monster with similar abilities while under the fucking ocean.  The crew keeps doing things like flushing it out into the water.  What exactly is that supposed to do?  It’s a fucking mutant fish person!

This blows open the biggest plot hole in the movie.  They discover a mutagen that turns people into fish mutants that was hidden in the vodka supply of a Russian ship called, The Leviathan.  They find out The Leviathan was sunk by the Russian military to kill the mutant fish people ravaging the ship.  Sooooo, their plan was to sink the mutant fish people into the ocean?  How come the ocean isn’t already fucking full of these things then.  They’re fish people that regenerate like fucking starfish.  You’re not sinking them, you’re sending them home.

But it gets dumber!  They find the body of a dead one and they’re like, “It must have starved to death.” Why?!  Did it forget how to fucking swim or something?  The best part is the ending, when they blow the mutant fish monster to pieces.  Is that supposed to be a happy ending?  This thing made more of itself when a limb turned into another one.  There are now half a dozen pieces of it just floating around.  That means anywhere from four to six new mutant fish people.  Love the ending line though “Say Ahh!” as he throws a mining charge in the creature’s mouth.

My biggest grudge though?  They killed off Ernie Hudson.  How you gonna kill my favorite Ghost Buster!  At least it wasn’t ‘Black Guy Dies First.’ That’s saying a lot for the 1980s.  They actually killed off two developed white characters, before killing off the first minority.

In the end, this movie is still fun and, I recommend it to horror heads as required viewing.

If you like Reed Alexander’s Horror Review, consider stopping by Horror.Media and donating by hitting the ‘Tip’ button. You can also support Reed by sharing his reviews on Facebook and Twitter.

https://horror.media/authors/reed-alexander

New reviews posted Wednesday, here on Madness Heart!

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Evolving and Expanding

We are more than a publisher, and as such we are always trying to expand. Many of you have already seen our contributor call, and some of you have even answered it.

Today we are proud to present a new layout for our blogging efforts. From now on, to the right of the screen you can find a pull-down menu of categories. This pull-down menu allows you to find exactly what sort of content you are looking for, whether it’s flash fiction, short stories, reviews, news or even podcasts.

We hope you enjoy your time browsing through our site, and we would be honored to host your own creepy stories or interesting thoughts on the horror as well.

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The First Shred

When author DLW first approached us and informed us she had a trilogy of novellas, I was interested. I had been looking for Grim Fantasy, it’s on our wish list. I also have a soft spot for series, I think that makes us a little different than a lot of publishers who hear about series and really want a proven first book or two before they commit. But we at Madness Heart Press believe in building a brand with writers who want to build a brand. Her synopsis made no sense to me, but lots of things don’t make sense to me, and there seemed to be some gritty darkness at the core of her story, so I decided to give it a shot.

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Review: “The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 10,” edited by Ellen Datlow

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The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 10, edited by Ellen Datlow (2018), is available from Night Shade books or through Amazon.

In an era of ruthless self-promotion, one should be ever wary of self-applied superlatives like “best” or “greatest.” That said, some bragging rights are more deserved than others, and when it comes to collections of horror fiction, the “Best” series from Night Shade Books has inconsistently but regularly delivered.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘The Lords of Salem’ (2012)

Dear Rob Zombie… Lay off the brown acid.

Jesus Christ, Rob.  Was that real crack featured in this movie?  I need to understand what the fuck you were on.

Here’s the thing.  A lot of people complained about this movie being absolute trash.  It did have its problems, but it wasn’t half bad.  Most of my complaints are in singular scenes that were poorly executed, but not the over all story or cinematography.

It does go off the rails at the end.  The end is comparable to Beyond the Black Rainbow.  It’s freaky as hell, like an esoteric nightmare, and likely to produce a bad flashback.

The over all feel of the movie was pretty solid.  The atmosphere was on point, and they wasted no efforts on set design and camera effects.  They leaned heavily on practical FX which I deeply appreciate.  This did lead to one scene with practical FX so bad they were cringe worthy.  It was like something out of Troma Studios.  That’s okay for the Toxic Avenger, but not okay if you’re trying to do serious horror.

The acting was surprisingly good.  I’ve only ever seen Sheri Moon Zombie play Baby in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.  Both of those roles were ridiculously over the top, so it’s hard to judge her acting capacity.  And again, save one scene that was down right cringe worthy, she did a really solid job.

There’s a lot not to like about this movie, but over all it was worth the time I invested into watching it.  I guess, I can only recommend this movie to hardcore horror heads.  I almost want to consider it required viewing just because it’s kind of a fresh re-visitation of the 1960-70s cult horror that our culture is missing.  Honestly, I feel Zombie was onto something here.  Maybe this wasn’t quite it, but he should definitely keep exploring.  Fuck the haters.

SPOILERS!!!

There’s nothing new about the idea that the witches of the Salem witch trials were real witches.  Very recently I reviewed The Autopsy of Jane Doewhich delved into the same concept.  What sets The Lords of Salem apart from modern day takes on witchcraft, is its exploration of the classic horror approach to fear and sensation.  There are no jump scares, no really gory blood factories, none of that jerky or shaky motion nonsense.  Rather, there’s just a slow build of tension, leading to a sense of helplessness, followed by a downward spiral into madness.  This movie uses imagery and pace perfectly.

The story is really about the female lead (played by Sheri) being seduced by a coven of witches because she turns out to be the descendant of the Reverend Jonathan Hawthorn.  That’s the guy responsible for the Salem witch trials, for the hoes at home.  She’s a former addict, which makes her particularly susceptible to them, and this is apparently a part of a curse placed upon her family by the original witches of Salem a.k.a The Lords of Salem.  Bound in fate, the movie simply follows her seduction and personal decay, the purpose being for her to give birth to the antichrist… I think?  The ending is a little fuzzy.  She spits out a fucking demonic starfish, for fuck sake!

The major cringe worthy moments are the only detractors from this movie.  There’s a scene when the female lead communes with the baby she is destine to birth.  The rubber mutant baby costume is laughable at best; a fucking outright embarrassment to the rest of the movie is more accurate.  Sheri’s acting during this scene is the only place she truly falters, but who could blame her, I couldn’t take that scene seriously either.

Then there was the blowjob rape scene.  If it was conducted as a part of the female lead’s corruption, that would have been fine.  However, a priest violently assaulting and mouth fucking the female lead is only fit for trash grind house and the rest of this movie was very much above it.  The only reason to stoop to that level is to be intentionally provocative, but it just doesn’t fucking impress me.

The ending is a jumble of visual takes on the corruption of the female lead.  It seems to represent her giving in to the taboos of typical Anglo Christian sin.  For the most part it’s fine, but some of it does kinda come off like a silly metal video, rife with demonic visual scrambles.

Over all, most of its problems are forgivable and the movie it’s self not that bad.

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Lip Gloss and the Inverted Cross: ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’

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If there has ever been a better real-life example of idle hands being the devil’s plaything than Archie Comics, I would be amused and delighted to hear about it. (No, really: at me.)

From 1942 through 2014, Archie may have received the occasional update or fine-tuning, but he stayed the same basic Archie: redheaded, beloved of Betty and Veronica, safe as milk. Then, recently, Archie and the gang were delivered from the idle hands of his former curators and into the hot little mitts of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, where the devil got delightfully mixed up in things.

Aguirre-Sacasa, you see, rebooted the entire franchise from the ground up, giving it an occult twist. This included a reboot of the character Sabrina Spellman, a teenage witch who first appeared in Archie in 1962 and originally had a tween-oriented TV show that premiered in 1996 and ran for an inexplicable seven seasons.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new direction of Archie Comics. When I was first dipping a sneakered toe into the comic book ocean, Archie was considered inferior to the capes-and-tights fare that I consumed (although in the late 80s and early 90s, it would have been more accurate to refer to superhero titles as “skintight leather and refrigerator-size machine gun comics,” but I digress). The new Archieverse in the comics is dark, and often delightfully so. I’ve been particularly pleased with the artistic direction. Have a look at the cover of issue #1 of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (the comic), drawn by Robert Hack:

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As far as comic books go, I’d recommend Sabrina (or Afterlife with Archie) if the aesthetic appeals to you as much as it does to me.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (the Netflix show), on the other hand, is a little more complicated. The series is a companion to 2017’s Archie adaptation Riverdale (which airs on the CW, the network for which Sabrina was initially developed). Sabrina is competently – at times beautifully — shot, and I find Kiernan Shipka’s version of Sabrina Spellman to be entirely charming. That said.

Sabrina’s corner of the live-action Archieverse can be viewed three ways. Seen one way, it’s a disjointed horror jukebox, alive with neon and noise but – in the end – little more than a product of its references, some of which are more obvious than others. Alternately, it can be viewed simply on its own terms: as an arch, self-aware little supernatural horror series. Lastly, if we cut through the rich referential fog that it inhabits, and remove the tropes it borrows from more satisfying shows, we’re left with the least appealing version of the show: Sabrina as the archetypal Good Witch, locked in a struggle with a Satanic straw man whose implications are much scarier than the generic corn-maze boogeyman conjured up in episode 1.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is at its most lovable when it’s glorying shamelessly in its own references and pop-horror-culture obsessions (which may explain, but does not excuse, its appropriation of some very specific real-life religious imagery – but we’ll get to that). To give you a taste of how baroque this magpie-like plucking and juxtaposition can become, I offer my favorite episode of the series, “Chapter 5: Dreams in a Witch House.” It shares the premise of my favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the season four finale “Restless.” In both “Restless” and “Dreams,” the cast of regulars is trapped in a world of dreams that reveal their insecurities and fixations.

Like “Restless,” “Dreams” structures itself as a series of dreams within a dream – unlike Buffy Summers, however, Sabrina and her pals seem to inhabit a story almost entirely about stories. At one point Chance Perdonno’s Ambrose is trapped in a recursive sequence in which he quotes from Hamlet – and then “In the Desert” by Stephen Crane – while “Night of the Living Dead” plays in the background — all in an episode whose very title is an H.P. Lovecraft reference. All of the above takes place in just four minutes, while still advancing the plot in a serviceable way (and delivering gory horror chills). It can get a little dizzying, but also intoxicating – a pink-champagne neon ride through a labyrinth of mirrors, where 21st-century teens get down (ironically? We’re never really sure) to “the Monster Mash” at a literal Halloween sock hop.

The problem is that we’ve seen this show before, both literally and figuratively. When you shear away the glittering pop culture detritus, you’re left with a remarkably unoriginal story, even for a property that has been a going concern since 1962. Call me old-school, but I had a lot more fun watching Buffy Summers hit most of these plot points the last time around, and that was two very long decades and a string of lesser imitators ago. Sabrina’s sidekicks are particularly one-dimensional, considering that they’re given an entire season to develop, not just a pilot episode, and while Ross Lynch can (I suppose) be forgiven for his Harvey Kinkell, given the thin material he’s presented with, he is one of the least interesting on-screen love interests I’ve ever seen.

So: if Sabrina is one part by-the-numbers supernatural teen drama and one part a cyclone of pop culture surfaces, what is its secret sauce, the X factor that Netflix seemed to be banking on here? Satan, that’s what, and Satan with a focus on cheekiness and quantity rather than intelligence and quality.

While there have been many dubious distinctions to mark the last three years, I’d argue that there have been a few positive developments in the zeitgeist, and one of those positive developments is a clear-headed, calm, open discussion of Satan and Satanism. This is a sentiment that – when expressed out loud – usually requires a bit of explanation. “A positive development?” you might ask. “Doesn’t Satan represent evil – represent human depravity – represent everything that decent people should be against?”

Not the way I figure it – and not the way that the Satanic Temple figures it. I’ve been a member of the Temple since 2014, although my philosophical interest in Satanism goes back about a decade and a half further than that. I should make a few things clear right out of the gate. First, neither I nor the Satanic Tempe believe in a literal, magical, actual Satan. I/we honor him as a literary symbol, a representation of rebellion against arbitrary tyranny and religious irrationality and oppression.

The Satanic Temple is the subject of “Hail Satan?,” which was at the Sundance Film Festival last year and will be released more widely on Good Friday of this year. 2018 also marked efforts to bring a 3,000-pound Baphomet monument to state capitols in Arkansas and Oklahoma. These are sites where Christian activists erected massive religious idols on public land– the Temple exists, in part, to serve as a counterbalance to such efforts and to preserve separation of church and state, and part as a nontheistic religion that promotes compassion and human freedom. But I’m not here to evangelize – if you’re interested in learning about what the Temple stands for, you can read the seven tenets here and an FAQ here.

And the aforementioned real-life Baphomet monument brings us back to the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and to the show’s odd specificity in appropriating a symbol for its absurd and slanderous portrayal of the (real) Satanic Temple – the (fictitious) Church of Night. Below, you can see a comparison of two monuments, one from the Temple’s original monument (top) and the one representing the Church of Night in Sabrina (bottom):

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Over and over in the show, the Church of Night is identified visually with the Satanic Temple, while perversely demonstrating actions that run counter to each of the Temple’s Seven Tenets. Sabrina is presented as the Good Witch, endlessly lecturing the Bad Witches (with their Baphomet monument, black clothing, and blasphemous ways) about the various ways in which they are Evil and she and – get this – the Catholic Church are Good. At one point Sabrina asks, regarding the Church of Night, “Why should they get to tell me what I do with my body?” (Satanic Temple Fundamental Tenet #3: “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”) Members of the Church of Night are portrayed as superstitious believers in magic who look askance at science. (Satanic Temple Tenet #5: “Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world.”) In another scene, Sabrina says (of the head of the Church of Night): “He’s not divine. He’s flesh and blood, and can be corrupted.” (Satanic Temple Tenet #6: “People are fallible.”)

Tell me: which sounds like the organization that represents evil, by Sabrina’s supposed standards? The Satanic Temple, which the show goes far out of its way to very specifically misrepresent, or the Catholic Church, portrayed as such a generic Good that the only college ever mentioned in the course of a show about teenagers in a small-town high school is Notre Dame?

Sabrina could have been so much more. It could have gone in the direction that the Magicians (another show better than this one) did, which was to almost entirely eschew the black/white paradigm in favor of something more interesting, nuanced, and wild. You don’t need to do away with fantasy to have a morally complicated show, as any Game of Thrones fan could tell you.

How did this show go so wrong? Sabrina is a wonderful character, who represents deep progressive values that I share. Her pals are equally great, on the surface – lovable and fierce, advocates for their communities, excellent role models one and all. So why are the show’s metaphysics so maddeningly unreconstructed – so reactionary?

Part of it, I think, lies in the true source material – no, not the comic books. Sabrina makes the same mistake that its forebear, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, did when it invented the genre. Buffy was one of the all-time great TV shows, and one whose influence on Sabrina is obviously stamped in the DNA of every on-screen moment. But like Buffy, Sabrina adopts – wholesale! – the grotesque “morality” and the worldview of witch trials and witch hunters, of the Malleus Maleficarum – in short, of G(o)od versus (d)Evil.

It’s 2019, and we deserve better than that.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Flatliners’ (1990)

The Definition of Being Out to Get Yourself

I just found out there was a remake of this amazing classic, and I’ve never reviewed the original, so I decided to rewatch it… again.

What made this movie so amazing was how they took an old boring concept and made it new again. The idea that the dead don’t come back without consequence is as old as Merry Shelly. Actually, way older than that. We’ve always feared the dead. I think it’s primordial.

So the idea of killing yourself clinically, and using modern medicine to revive yourself was just an amazing new spin. Enticing a near death experience is something modern medicine has experimented with, but not by actually killing people temporarily. The fact that each character who attempts the flatline was legally dead makes this movie so damn exciting.  More on this later in the spoilers.

But look at the fucking cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Oliver Plat, and Kimberly Scott. Even the child actors didn’t suck. The acting is flat out spectacular. The plot and story are timeless with a modern twist. It’s deep, but not so complicated you can’t follow along easily. Finally, the atmosphere is dark, gritty, and palpable.

A movie you have to watch in the dark is always a win in my book.

I don’t really give a fuck what you think about the concept. This is required viewing for horror heads and good enough for a general audience. It’s not all about fucking gore, you know.

SPOILERS!!!

Your own sins are out to kill you! Now that’s not even a new concept. A lot of movies have tried manifesting personal sins against the main cast. But this one made them real and deadly. Kiefer Sutherland’s character is literally being hunted down by the kid he got killed when he was a kid. That’s just kinda fucking cool man. There’s more too it, of course, as Kevin Bacon’s character discovers you have to atone for your sin in order to get it off your back. Unfortunately, the “sin” of Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Robert’s characters are fucking dead. How do you seek forgiveness from the dead?

Well, as it turns out, for Roberts, it’s really her dead dad that wants forgiveness from her, and for Sutherland, he’s got to die to make the little prick happy. This leads to a really tender moment between Robert’s character and her dead dad, and Sutherland going flatline for 12 whole minutes. My only complaint here is brain death occurs six minutes after the heart stops, so Sutherland should have come back brain damaged.

While one character totally has his life ruined when his sin catches him out as a cheater, everybody survives… now, there’s a problem with that.

I don’t remember this movie ending with everyone surviving. Is there a director’s cut alternative ending I’m not aware of? In my memory, the cheater and Sutherland’s character both died. I very vividly remember a scene with Kevin Bacon trying to talk Kiefer Sutherland down from suicide, right before the the ghost kid fucking kills Sutherland by pushing him out of a very real tree. Not a dream tree from the movie I just watched.

I digress, it feels like a copout that nobody died. There should have been very serious consequences for the hubris of the experiment in order to make the story seem complete. The only person who actually suffered any consequences was the cheater when his fiancee dumped his ass. Is that all? I feel like him and Sutherland should have bit the bullet the way I described. Maybe I made the ending up in my head because I desperately wanted it to end that way.

Anyway, even though the ending is a total copout, the movie is amazing.

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