August 15, 2007

3 Recent Reviews

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There has been some good press on the recent paintings. The San Francisco Chronical article by Kenneth Baker is the latest. Michael Ned Holte has updated his site with a number of new articles. His Artforum piece is among them. And Doug Harvey’s LA Weekly review is also available.

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August 13, 2007

Cosmic Champions


Hard to say whether the light within darkness of the black-box theatre, and cinema, or the experience of sitting in front of a television or computer monitor in an unlit room has come to represent the interiority of unconscious space, or whether there is some kind of intuitive understanding that our dreams are an island of light in a vast ocean of nothingness. The nightmare of British director Neil Marshal’s The Descent (2006) ends in the deepest recesses of our mind. The scariest dreams are the ones where you suddenly become conscious of dreaming, the moment when you want to get off the ride, but you can’t. Mario Bava’s Kill Baby, Kill (1968) has one of the best such scenarios. Italian directors from that period were obsessed with style. Elio Petri’s 10th Victim (1968) is a futuristic fashion bonanza. But Petri was also concerned with social issues. Bava’s movies, on the other hand, fully make style their content. Danger: Diabolic (1968) takes its queue from the slick lines of comic book illustration. Blood and Black Lace from 1964 actually takes place in a fashion house, but Planet of the Vampires from the next year might take the cake simply because there’s pretty much nothing redeeming about the story. Who needs a plot? The movie seems like it was solely made as a vehicle for constructivist costumes and the incredibly saturated colors and lighting effects that are, in fact, dazzling. More than any other movie Bava directed the madcap Dr. Goldfoot & The Girl Bombs (1966) starring Vincent Price and Fabian draws out the cartooniness of his style. The bumbling villain is only outdone by the fumbling intelligence agents. Bava's version blows away the original and the effort isn't hurt by lines by the mad scientist Dr. Goldfoot like: "An exact reproduction and programmed for love and destruction." Even Bava’s macabre movies have a slick visual finish that owes a lot to the illustrator's desire to make the line their own. There is maybe one exception to his almost instantly recognizable visual signature style — a scene from Kill Baby, Kill. The hero of our story finds himself in a 19th-century Transylvanian town haunted by the ghost of a seven-year-old girl who is intent on killing any poor fool who stays overnight, as well as all the denizens who have not already run for the hills. We see him from behind opening a door inside an obligatory foreboding mansion, running across the large room, and passing through the large wooden door on the other end. The sequence is repeated several times, to indicate our hero is trapped in the continuum of the witch's spell. It is almost a French New Wave era deconstruction, equating that moment when you realize you can’t get off the ride and you are almost definitely going to die with literally being eternally stuck in a film loop. Patrick McGrath, the author of “exquisite horror,” so it says on the cover of his 1989 breakthrough novel The Grotesque is particularly talented at conveying the terror of being wide-awake in one's own nightmare. The novel is about the suffering of the lord of a manor at the hands of his family and household staff that are sick of caring for the deaf and dumb invalid-vegetable of a patriarch they consider nothing but an annoying burden and inconvenient impediment to their own happiness and freedom. What they don’t know is that the lord trapped inside his atrophied body is actually totally conscious and lucid. The painful story is narrated entirely from his point of view. McGrath's Spider (2002) conveys the same sense of helpless lucidity. David Cronenberg, who obviously got an advance copy of the manuscript from the author, liked the novel so much he directed the movie by the same title and actually released it the same year it was published. The reader is trapped inside what Nietzsche called “the workshop of the mind”, except the owner of the mind in question isn’t quite right in the head. It’s a great send up to the modern Russian literary tradition of the unfaithful and untrustworthy narrator, exemplified in such forward thinking stories as Nicolai Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman”, among others. Throughout the movie Spider lurks broodingly over every scene, sometimes even mouthing lines both after and before the characters have delivered them. Only in the last scene do you finally realize you’ve been stuck inside a deranged homicidal mind the whole time and his internal dementia has all the while been your own conscious reality. It’s important to understand that the Russian’s invented this trope at a time when they were being led to their graves by a bunch of power mad lunatics. There’s little doubt that Cronenberg’s attraction to the idea of a narrator whose authorial authority is seriously flawed came at a time when the powerbrokers in our own country were starting to show visible signs of coming completely unglued. The other most common moment of real fear in nightmares is the theme Marshal takes on in The Descent: that chilling moment when you think you’ve wrenched yourself back into consciousness only to realize you’re still stuck in a dream that’s gone from bad to worse. Wes Craven tried to drive the dream within the dream into the ground by turning it into a kind of assembly line charade in the Nightmare on Elm Street cycle. We can thank him for all the po-mo crap that came afterwards, like the Scary Movie franchise. But Marshal knows an inexhaustible human fear when he has experienced one. The young director’s first outing four years earlier was Dog Soldiers (2002), a more straight up horror show. Unbeknownst to an affable troop of British soldiers, they’ve been sent deep into the forest as bait for Black Ops to capture what they believe is a the perfect killing machine. It has haunted these woods for years. Marshal easily updates the werewolf story with some decent effects and mostly by just giving his characters some breathing room. Their interaction is what really makes the movie happen. At the beginning of the story they’re sitting around chewing the fat and shooting the bull about what scares them the most and the captain who’s seen some serious action tells them an anecdote about a guy he knew on his last tour of duty in Iraq who got a portrait of Satan, horns and all, tattooed on his derriere as a talisman to protect himself from danger. There was a huge explosion, recalled the captain, and when they went out into the smoky field to search for any signs of life the only thing that was recognizable amidst the arc of bloody carnage that ringed the black crater was this hunk of human ass with the devil’s face on it! It’s a lesson Darth Cheney, and the Bushevic Crime Family should keep in mind as they retreat back into fenced in compounds guarded by private armies that would make any rabid Columbian Drug Lord or despotic dictator froth with envy. It’s always sort of endearing when progressive lefty geeks turn their attention to the dark side. It’s a mixed up intellectual endeavor when it doesn’t turn pathological. “Black Blade”, the song Michael Moorcock & Blue Öyster Cult wrote together for 1980’s Cultösaurus Erectus says it all: “There's death from the beginning to the end of time / And I'm The Cosmic Champion and I hold a mystic sign / And the whole world's dying and the burden’s mine / And the black sword keeps on killing 'til the end of time.” (Thrones does a great cover on Day Late, Dollar Short, along with one of Rush’s “Oracle” off 2120). But when the Neocon Christo-fascists try to cloak themselves in powerful mythological archetypes there’s never any irony whatsoever, only cruel ugly policy. They never seem to realize that they are not the good guys in this or any other reality, that it is they who desire to harness the primal powers to perform their treachery, and it’s against them The Cosmic Champion must forever wield his sword. The Descent (tag-lined: “Chicks with Picks”) is far less overtly political than Marshal’s first movie. There’s not much to the plot. Several kick-ass ladies go caving. As with the director’s debut effort, much of the story has to do with the rapport between the actors who are thrust into dire circumstances. It turns out the cave they are in has never been explored before. The collapse of the tunnel behind them forces them to keep moving forward, deeper and deeper underground. The psychological extensions of that alone, would have made for a heck of a film, but Marshal is intent on taking it all the way. A number of reviewers have commented on both the psychosexual analogy of the tight crevices, claustrophobic tunnels and bottomless pits to a giant vagina (the cast and director even joke about it), and the dark underworld labyrinth with its clammy stones and subterranean streams as a metaphor for the unconscious. What happens when all this is put into hyper-drive? Sanity is unhinged. Dreams have a way of starting in a somewhat believable, unthreatening way and then following the logic of the narrative scenario to fantastic extremes, so, you guessed it, that’s exactly what Marshal does. One minute the woman are sitting around in their cabin, drinking beer, smoking pot and laughing it up, and the next thing you know they are trapped deep underground with no way out… and they are not alone! They have entered into a hive of fearsome, bloodthirsty humanoid underground dwellers and the gore starts flying. All civility is lost. It is survival of the meanest, and it’s always surprising to find out what people have inside them. In the near-final scenes the dominant among the survivors have been transformed into fearsome Amazonian warrior skull-crushers, wielding bones, torches, and (of course) their pick-axes, and howling primal screams as they try to hack and hew their way to freedom. As with Spider, it is the dream within a dream ending of the movie that makes you reflect back on the whole experience as a nightmare. We are living at a time when it is very possible the proverbial train has left the station and our leaders no longer know how to operate the brakes (Constitutionally or economically). This is not the kind of ride you can get off of, although you might think you have.

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August 09, 2007

Cannibal Holocaust

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No one can match Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic vision of our civilization’s total demise in 2006’s The Road. The world has been entirely destroyed beyond all recognition and comprehension. The story takes place after the fantastic Armageddon. Exactly what happened is unclear. Everything must have gone wrong all at once: economic collapse; a world hopelessly at war; environmental disaster; nuclear Holocaust; you name it, it must have all happened in one great unforgiving and devastating storm. US literature has never been closer to the minimalism and extreme bareness of late Sam Beckett. Humanity is reduced to little more than the cadaverous, grimy, bulky weight that is the dying shell of the human spirit. McCarthy has understood the simple fact that where survival is concerned the end most closely resembles the beginning. The truest thing McCarthy ever heard was that we humans are monkeys in pearl necklaces. Dorothy Parker was once supposedly challenged by some snide, upper crust snob to put the word “horticulture” into a sentence. She reportedly retorted: “You can lead a whore-ta-culture, but you can’t make her think!” McCarthy’s is a hyperrealist’s world, cruel and amoral. There isn’t much mercy in his world-view, but 1985’s Blood Meridian might be one of his most ruthless contributions. The book reads like an old Quentin Tarantino movie — except set in a lawless Wild West. Someone gets brutally scalped or otherwise gored to death on practically every page. Blood Meridian makes Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) look like a family picnic. The Road is basically the intimate story of a father and son trying desperately to stay alive after the only world they know has gone to hell. Everything is reduced to the cold hard facts of life: them against the world. There are a couple of classic Atomic Age allegories of the breakdown of society where good folks are set against each other. They were generally law and order propaganda intended to remind us that our culture was the only thing that saved us from mob rule. McCarthy is a student of human nature. He’s never placed much serious stock in moral ideals. What McCarthy’s interested in is what his fellow humans are capable of when their existence is seriously threatened. And a recurring theme of The Road is that devastating environmental conditions reduce us to cannibals. Anthony Burgess is best known for A Clockwork Orange. Some folks dismiss his earlier efforts, but his follow up to A Clockwork Orange was The Wanting Seed (1962). The novel is a complicated rebuke of ideological political cycles. Has anyone noticed that all of a sudden out of the blue during what is a widely acknowledged crisis in our nation the presidential election season was moved up by an entire year? Although more than half the national civil population is in favor of impeachment, the topic has been moved off the table in disproportionate part due to the unprecedented shift in the political schedule. Burgess takes the subject to cannibalistic ends. As the story opens up, we are introduced to a totalitarian version of a liberal government: all government officials are by law homosexual; police officers are recognized by their bright red lipstick drag; and it is forbidden for heterosexuals to procreate. An obvious crisis ensues. A Military regime is instated to deal with the calamity. The homosexual government can’t feed their citizens. Simulated wars are contrived in order to deal with the problem of starvation by creating a food source out of the fallen soldiers. Of course, no matter what the ideology the public servants remain the same. Soon enough cannibalism proves too controversial. And the cycle begins anew. Bar the rare exception, movies have shied away from the subject. The Japanese director Toshiyasu Sato’s Spatter: Naked Blood (1995) took the theme to the unprecedented highs of auto-cannibalism. Three girls are given an experimental painkilling drug that results in bizarre self-mutilation. One of the experimental subjects, for example, eats herself alive. The most faithful contributions to the subject where probably made by 70s and 80s Italians. Jay Slater’s Eaten Alive! (2002) is without a doubt the most complete account of these cannibal and zombie movies. Where zombies are concerned, nothing the Italians did ever came close to George Romero. Not that the cannibal movies are so great. It’s just that nobody else got into it so much as the Italians. The movies most commonly sighted are: Umberto Lenzi’s Man from Deep River (1972); Ruggero Deotato’s Jungle Holocaust (1977); his Cannibal Holocaust (1980); Lenzi’s Eaten Alive! (1980); and, finally, Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (1981). They are a peculiar bunch of films if for no other reason than their incredible amount of crossbreeding. Identical footage, stock imagery of the cruelty of jungle wildlife and staged footage of savage rituals is shared throughout, and so are the same actors, especially his lead man Ivan Rassimov, Mark Kerman, who was always in a completely different role, and Me Me Lai, who gets an awful boob-job somewhere between Deep River and Jungle Holocaust. Lenzi is hit or miss. He’s a classic Italian B-movie director right up there with Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Argento is a hands down master, but, if there’s any doubt about Fulci, his 1983 Conquest might change some minds. Lenzi and his acolytes were the prime movers behind these cannibal movies, but the director illuminated a great many depraved subjects over his long career, and showed an uncanny insight into the most violent psyche, among the more notable of his contributions was the criminal mind in Almost Human (1974). These flicks are essentially about sex and violence. Not surprisingly one of the best movies in the long running Emmanuel soft-porn franchise was Aristide Massaccesi'sEmmanuel and The Last Cannibals (1977). When Lenzi took the theme up again a few years later the bar of primal lust and gore was raised pretty high. Deotato’s Jungle Holocaust was basically a story of one man’s survival in the vicious, primordial jungle. Lenzi’s movies all had a very different theme. He wanted to contrast primitive man against modern space-age man. In his movies the balance of nature is tipped by the intervention of our world. In Deep River a desire to exploit natural resources leads us deep into the jungle, our irrepressible greed and wanton exploitation is what brings all our deepest fears of the rain forest alive. These movies don’t address cannibalism literally. Naked, black wigged man-eaters abound, but these stories deal with the theme of cannibalism metaphorically. The lost tribes in these stories are supposed by outsiders to no longer exist. Eaten Alive! is a notable exception. It’s the story of a Jim Jones type cult that has taken up camp deep inside the South American rain forest, only it’s the Italian version, so the charismatic leader is portrayed less as an Elvis-like urban counter-intelligence agent gone awry, than as a perverted Roman demigod whose rituals include a fearsome golden dildo. But Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox is a pale comparison to Deotato’s Cannibal Holocaust of a year earlier. There is no better example of the student surpassing the master. If Lenzi wanted to call our modern way of life into question, Deotato’s movie is a far more vicious indictment of the vanity and greed of our civilization. A team of modern day documentary journalists go into the deep jungle and kill, destroy, and rape everything they encounter in order to juice their latest sensationalist film, until they anger the stone-age natives so much so that their bubble of superiority is irrevocably burst and they get the comeuppance due to them. The question is always clear in these movies: who is the real savage? And the answer is always the same: all our space age culture and civilization aside, we are.

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August 06, 2007

Killed by Death

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Straight people don’t know what you’re about
They put you down and shut you out
—Black Sabbath

“Killing yourself to live” from Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath is another favorite line. The above quote is an ode to pot, but it could just as easily apply more broadly to adolescent teenage angst. As we grow up it’s not like that painful part of our experience when we realize that the world is not solely an extension of ourselves, and that in crucial ways we are separate and individual beings, ever goes away. The struggle to find our limits is with us forever, or at least until we take our last breath. In an artworld shocker Theresa Duncan has committed suicide and her significant other Jeremy Blake disappeared and is presumed dead. The circumstances surrounding their deaths are, not to exaggerate the point, extremely mysterious. Theresa, herself, bloodied the water back in May by posting an incendiary piece of conspiracy theory on her blog, Wit of the Staircase.. If growing up is defined as an acceptance and acquiescence of and to the artificial limits placed on us by our unspoken bargain with culture and society, both Duncan and Blake were fighting it with everything they had in their arsenal. And they had plenty. I never knew Jeremy. But for every critic who called him a back stabbing careerist or worse, there were plenty of folks who gladly sang his praises. Three invitations to the Whitney Biennial must say something. His Artforum “conversation” with John Baldassari was none too shabby, even if the old-timer (we lovingly refer to him as The Winter Warlock) kept mildly cajoling him by insisting the difference between the older and younger generation was their relationship to art history. The Winter Warlock was all about it, and he accused poor Jeremy of not giving a rat’s ass. At any rate, Blake managed to convince a lot of folks who would otherwise have been in very different camps to get along — techno-futurists and proponents of old school painterly abstraction, among others — which is no small feat. Regardless of what you thought of the work, anyone who can get warring parties together has got something on the ball. My connection was more with Theresa. Not that I knew her personally. I knew her as The Wit. I’m not sure how, but I was on her mailing list from the get-go. And she was an untiring writer. Updates came almost weekly. And every time I tuned in I was rewarded with her latest barrage of postings. To begin with her subjects were mostly Kate Moss- and perfume-centric. Her other obvious passion was Jeremy whom she came to refer to simply as Mr. Wit. I would sometimes reach out to her. Congratulate her on a particularly brave piece of writing and/or let her know about my own latest online contribution, and the response was always lively and committed. As an artist I would have to say that it’s a little easier to hide behind ones art than behind one’s writing. Plenty of artists are able to mask their deficiencies behind prevailing fashions. With writing you’re fucked, there’s just no place to hide. Either it’s good or it isn’t. Duncan definitely had something going on, so I paid attention. “What about the mystery?” I’m sure you’re wondering, besides, that is, why an incredibly attractive and insanely successful young couple would off themselves. Since I wasn’t a close friend I can only go by the same external factors as everyone else. One of the more curious things about all this is that as quickly as the news got around (for a decent roundup around the blogosphere and elsewhere check out Newsgrist), very little about the personal tragedy of the apparent double-suicide has come out. I only know what everyone else knows which is that The Wit’s normally sensuous and arty posts were momentarily interrupted last May by two uncharacteristically harsh pieces. The first appeared on May 13th and was titled “The Trouble With Anna Gaskell”. The second, titled “Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith, the Toast of Vichy France” appeared four days later on the 17th. As a fellow blogger I know exactly how easy it is to publish an ugly tirade. It’s happened a couple of times already, but the thing about it is that it’s easy enough to un-publish such undesirable examples of untamed spleen. The fact that The Wit left those articles up can only mean that she seriously stuck by them. Duncan’s rant against the Saltz/Smith artworld power-couple was a good enough excuse to revisit post-WWII efforts to export US literary and artworld product to a beleaguered Europe and South America. The CIA’s role in championing Ab-Ex and concurrent literary figures shouldn’t be any great secret. The fact is our government was very active in this regard. It’s been the subject of a number of revelatory books. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the US did not continue those strong-arm policies where art is concerned. Our reality is that our government has since taken an extraordinarily adversarial position to the arts, as opposed to other countries like Great Britain and Germany, who have become famous for promoting their cultural product by any means necessary. So much so that our art market has become inundated by awful art from abroad. The UK’s Rachel Whiteread’s work now present in far too many US museum collections is probably the prime example, although there are plenty of others. The more important post was Theresa’s May 13th offering: “The Trouble with Anna Gaskell”. The litany of fashion world reverie was momentarily interrupted by the real world, and it wasn’t pretty. Apparently one Jim Cownie had made a personal case out of making the art-star couple suffer. Duncan is at pains to convey the level of harassment she and Blake were suffering. The story she tells is slightly incoherent. Stalkers are reported to have out-of-state plates linking them to Cownie and his nefarious gang of thugs. At the same time allegations are made against the Church of Scientology who Cownie supposedly works with. It's a somewhat tenuous connection, hard to prove. What we know is Mr. Wit did art for one of Beck’s last albums. It’s bad enough Beck has aligned himself with Scientology, although for all of us who never bought into his mythology his Dianetics connection comes as no major surprise. Such notable newspapers as The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times have run multiple articles on the story. Apparently Mr. Wit briefly dated Cownie’s step daughter Anna while in art-school. The link to the Church of Scientology is a whole other ball of wax. Nevertheless, the LA Times made it the centerpiece of their last article. As I’ve said, the real story behind the reported double-suicide remains to be told. There is, however, something totally creepy about the July 25th article: "The apparent double suicide of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan”. Regardless of how murky the allegations against the Church of Scientology are — Duncan, herself, first and foremost, makes accusations against Cownie. No one doubts Scientology’s ability to bully their enemies. It’s common knowledge that they have a wing of the organization entirely devoted to harassing those who don’t agree with them. We all know you don’t mess with the Church, they are a bunch of nasty fuckers. There’s nothing to indicate Blake’s involvement, no matter how contentious, would have resulted in a blood feud. Nevertheless that was the lead. It’s a testament to the contemporary standards of reportage that to get his story the staff writer called the Scientology front office. Of course they denied it. To his credit the writer also put a call into Beck’s press agent who also predictably denied the entire episode. Bravo!

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August 05, 2007

Completely Inhuman


The title is a refrain from Sonic Youth’s song “Inhuman” off the album Confusion is Sex, in which Thurston Moore repeatedly chants “completely inhuman”. Sister might be the bands most influential record, but the SST release of these tracks from 1983 is one of their most tits-out efforts. Folks have, from day one, tried to define what makes us human. Feeling pain, or feeling at all used to cover it. These days just wanting to feel something, anything does the trick. It’s no small irony that the world we have made for each other is the most alienating possible. J.G. Ballard continues to throw our peculiar desire for synthetic reality back in our face. Cocaine Nights (1996) and Super-Cannes (2000) are ruthless indictments of the way we choose to fill the void we have created for ourselves. According to the author these are but two installments in a trilogy. Except for their different settings the books are virtually identical. Cocaine Nights takes place in a resort community for the wealthy, while Super-Cannes is located in a walled in corporate park (something akin to Iraq’s Green-Zone, except in the French Riviera). Both are basically murder-mysteries. And, in both, the elites have resolved to stave off their insufferable boredom with a particularly drastic form of entertainment. These are the lawless classes of the global economy. Their post-national corporate existence makes them inured to any semblance of local justice. Ballard is keen to contrast the intimacy of personal relationships against an aristocratic penchant for rigged sport. Super-Cannes, in particular, finds the protagonist sorting through a deceitful web of personal relationships — love affairs and friendships — in order to get his head around a practically unfathomable conspiracy. It seems that the otherwise myopic theocrats engaged by the trans-national corporation he works for can no longer get it off in the pressure-cooker world of high finance and cut-throat business competition without their nightly thrill. For their pleasure they have organized some peculiar junkets. Convoys of black Mercedes SUV’s ferry members into town in fascist-style gangs to beat and murder their local vagrant of choice. Where the totally insulated corporate set are concerned entertainment is especially deviate. Social existence becomes entirely consumed by the need to find some kind of stimulation in such an absolutely inhuman environment. In such a paranoiac world, our hero has nothing but his humanity to guide him through the labyrinth of deceit and cover-up. Cocaine Nights was Ballard's first go at the theme. The protagonist must navigate a nearly endless maze of smoke and mirrors to understand why his friend was murdered. It's a classic enigma. In a way these books offer up a last vestige of a Marxist critique of the the kind of monsters we can become in conditions that would otherwise seem ideal. Our last-ditch effort at pleasure becomes entirely sadistic and we are reduced (or elevated) to thuggery. These books offer up a kind of Fantasy Island where the indulgence of choice is an old fashioned crime spree. Ballard has always been keenly aware of the inhumanity we create for ourselves. Concrete Island might just have been the most astute vision of the desolate wasteland we routinely create for ourselves, although someone else could probably sight any number of other examples. An outstanding movie along these same lines is Society (1989) directed by Brian Yuzna famous for the Re-Animator cycle. It’s rare to see a movie in this day-and-age so unabashedly class-conscious. The elite are savagely skewered. A teenage boy presumably the son of an extremely wealthy Beverly Hills family doesn’t feel like he fits in. As he gains independence he increasingly begins to believe something fishy is going on in his all too perfect family. A tape his friend has surreptitiously made of his sister’s coming out party confirms his most paranoid feelings of teen alienation. He will come to discover that the wealthiest members of his community routinely engage in the most decadent rituals, that his feelings of not belonging are well warranted because he has, in fact, been adopted, and that he is the object of their hunger and age old lust. Rarely has class-consciousness and teenage angst been put to such great use. All expectations pointed to a vampiric decadent conclusion in which the young man was consumed by the judges, lawyers, politicians, as well as all the rest of the fine upstanding citizens attending the party in the movie's debauched finale. The atrocity of social privilege our young hero is confronted with isn’t the usual blood-sucking perversion of wealth, though, but something else quite extraordinary. It is common enough to depict old world royalty as a bunch of depraved, degenarate vampires. In fact, it’s been the only way to express the almost inexplicably iron-fisted hold on power by the few families who managed to secure top positions in the late royal monarchies of the 18th and 19th centuries; the Viennese Queen of France, and Germans married into multiple families including notably British, and Swedish kingdoms who made curious bargains with the outsiders. But these are old conspiracy theories, and what is most curious is that they would manifest themselves in an adolescent horror movie in the late 20th-century. It turns out that the wealthy are not really human at all. No surprise! In Society they are depicted as a bunch of shape shifting individuals who have ruled the world since time memorial. The hero of our movie must, in fact, fight against an overly privileged and entitled nemesis. In a bizarrely optimistic twist director Brian Yuzna tries his very best to hold onto the American dream where the little guy still has a fighting chance. The vampyric upper classes might still hold all the cards, but too much time and too many little indiscretions and mistakes have accumulated for the inbred ruling elite to be sure of their stranglehold over power. Bill, who has had bad daydreams and terrifying visions, reaches up inside his rival and turns him inside out. Is Billy some kind of bastard child of these creeps? Who knows. It's more than possible. Eons of rule over the less-than-perfect human race has no doubt resulted in some unexpected cross-breeding. The existence of half human half aristo-decadent vampire monsters is more than possible in the context of the movie. It provides the unexpected surprise that is their ruin. It’s an allegory of colonialism. The games of the wealthy are temporarily interrupted by the consciousness that their victim is no longer different than themselves, except in the one key factor, that although he is a hybrid, he still retains some semblance of humanity. The Chinese, whose economic model now holds the rest of the world in thrall, have asserted that imperialist policies are a “dead-end”. The West may, at this point, agree, but it is far too late in our game to stave off our winnings from our losses. The fact of the matter is that all our gains — our wealth — is based on exploitation of resources that have now come back to haunt us. Those indignant masses that are now moving into Western metropolises, suburbs and ex-urbs to flee worlds made unlivable by our economic machine are now deemed terrorists. It’s easy to call the politics of our enemies repressive. After all those policies are specifically opposed to our own. The important thing is to understand why our way of life is being disputed. Except for the radical right wing, who exist in a terrible bubble of nostalgia, our half-human self — what is, at any rate, left of our collective humanity — wants only to improve conditions on the ground.

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