Saturday, August 8, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I'm not sure what I love more about this dreadful, sleazy little film ... (1) the blatant rip-off of Last House on the Left, (2) the over-the-top performances by Rose Ross, (3) Charles' Kaufman's balls out claiming of this movie as his very own above the title, or (4) Momma's death by inflatable boobs.
OK. I lied. I am sure. Momma's death by inflatable boobs was MENSA-level brilliant. All other enumerated potential loves pale in comparison.
Mother’s Day was a frittata of horror sub-genres – one part exploitation/rape and revenge, stir in a scary inbred-hillbilly family, add slasher-movie holiday tie-in, sprinkle lovingly with a Bad Scary Mom. It’s like “I Spit on Your Grave,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and “Psycho” had a drunken three-way and 9-months later … Mother’s Day was born.
Sure this, like all movies my Dad took me to at the drive-in, was thoroughly inappropriate for an 11-year-old. However, just like “It's Alive” brought to life my psychological shadow friend - Angry Mutant Baby, Mother's Day brought out that other major dark psychological archetype to light: the BAD MOTHER!
Now, we all have Moms. We all have complicated relationships with our real Moms. But inside of our own little heads, we also have the archetypal Good Mother ... our inner nurturer and caretaker. She is represented in religion and myth as the Goddess, Mother Mary, Ellen Ripley, Glinda the Good Witch, etc. And we also have the Bad Mother - a cluster of traumatic memories of our real Mom's failings, represented in religion and myth by the Wicked Witch, the Alien mother, Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Voorhees, Mrs. White in Carrie, etc. Simply put, the good mother gives and the bad mother takes away (and isn’t nice about it!).
Our real Moms are usually neither good nor bad, but human. Our brains as babies register our "good mother" (who gives exactly what we want when we want it) and "bad mother" (who had a bad day, mayhaps, and decides to smack our fanny) as completely separate people, leading to these enduring archetypes throughout our lives. There is the “good mother,” who held you and loved you and gave a what-for to that nasty 7th grade English teacher with submarine sandwich crumbs in his beard. There is the “bad mother” who told you, in frustration, that she was going to leave and never come back if you didn't stop fighting with your siblings and inappropriately shared her frustrations with your father with you … for instance.
Mother in Mother's Day is played by the delightful Rose Ross. She is the sweet little old Southern lady that meets young girls at Est-like meetings and brings them home to watch her mutant sons Ike and Addley rape, abuse and murder them.
(The element of exploitation, sadism, and sexual cruelty make this particular film hard to watch and equally hard to be blogger-snarky about … save for the stellar sweetness that is Mother’s death by inflatable boobs … did I mention that? However, the film is firmly on the side of our heroic heroines and does not dwell too long on the nasty rapey stuff, so I won’t address the ethics of rape in exploitation fare here)
The "bad mothers" of horror are usually violent prudes. It's hard to not notice that these are all pre-sexual liberation Moms – repressed by the society in both their anger and their sexual expression. Mrs. Voorhees hated the horny kids at camp. Mrs. White hated the sinful kids at Carrie's high school and diminishes Carrie’s gifts, shames her for wanting to go on a date to her prom, and calls her breasts “dirty pillows.” Mrs. Bates kills anything for which son Norman gets a boner. The “bad mother” does not appreciate the sexytime one bit … harrumph!
Mother in Mother’s Day is not that simple. She gets perverted glee out of watching her sons rape and torture their prey. She requires them to attend to it with an eerie military precision.
But what Mother has in common with the other Bad Mother’s of horror is her very unhealthy relationship to her “special” child(ren). She similarly has a "reverse umbilical cord" that takes from her evil spawn, instead of giving to them. She is manipulative and psychotic. (one might wonder - if one has a prediliction to wondering about such things - if Ike and Addley had been given the opportunity to move to the city and become respectable Wall Street sociopaths instead of attending to their their needy psycho mother and protecting her from her cannibalistic sister Queenie ... would they have turned out different ... been spared the hatchet to the peen and death-by-Drano revenge dished out by the headbanded heroines?).
When mother dies by way of inflatable boob, I can imagine Charles Kaufman spouting about the symbolism of the Bad Mother, the one who took, took, took, but never gave, being killed by a cheap facsimile of a mother's nurturing breast. Poetry, indeed.
In creepy ways, I could relate to at least some aspects of Ike and Addley. At 11, I felt like my Mother's special boy. I was her favorite, Momma's little helper, the good boy (yeah … the gay one).
So, watching Mother order her disordered sons to do her evil bidding, I was disturbed that there could be anything untoward about a Mother’s relationship to her “boys.” This film initiated me into the idea that Mom, too, has a dark side. Mom's can hobble their children emotionally, create inappropriate cross-generation bonds, etc. (Note to readers: It would have been nice to learn this in a more appropriate fashion than a sex-and-violence exploitation film at 11, but such was my lot.)
So dark lesson learned from age-inappropriate film #3? Love your mom, but be on guard! Moms are human beings whose capabilities for love, compassion and empathy can be hindered by their dark side which is manipulative, violent and emotionally hobbling.
Except for you, Mom. Please don't call me about this.
Happy Mother’s Day….
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
"There's only ONE thing wrong with the Davis baby ... IT'S ALIVE!".
The film starts with the bloody birth of a shadowy monstrous baby that kills all of the staff in the delivery room and then escapes out into the suburbs to wreak murderous mayhem. Its father tries to hunt It down, but in the end he can't help but love the little monster and tries to protect It from the police in the touching/disturbing finale.
Where Psychic Killer operates on pure psychological wish fulfillment ("I will so think you to death, bitch!"), “It's Alive” strikes a deeper chord, methinks, simply because it used a monster baby as its highly sympathetic antagonist. With It’s vascular arms, four fangs and three-fingered talonesque hands, It wasn't exactly cuddly (and It had that troublesome homicidal tendency), but It was a baby … perhaps a very demanding baby with hard to meet needs, but a baby nonetheless. And who doesn’t love babies?
My understanding of psychology (aka - my years on the couch) tells me that when it isn't about mother it's usually all about baby. More specifically, it is about the baby inside each of us that we try to pretend doesn't exist -- the one that surprises us when it takes over our limbs and does baby-like things like making unreasonable demands on our familiars, throwing a tantrum, grabbing anything it wants in it's line of sight … or acting out in a murderous rage.
It may seem like any other homicidal monster baby. But It is more than that. This little snaggletoothed, veiny-headed bundle-of-talons is a poignant metaphor. It is that needy, angry baby inside all of us personified, the one we deny and try to snuff out with drugs, booze, reality television, compulsive Hummel collecting, whatever. It is the inner baby that we need to learn to love and protect at all costs (like the Daddy in the movie learns to do) to become whole psychological creatures.
In other words, the journey of It from a hated, angry, biting, slashing, monstrous demon baby to a loved, cooing, cared for, happy monstrous demon baby is just about the purest metaphor for the process of psycho-therapy that a schlocky 70s horror drive-in movie can achieve.
But I wasn’t thinking that on “Drive-In Night” in 1975 when I was 6. As I watched the father and mutant reunion on screen, I was briefly (it doesn’t end well) comforted. I looked up at my Dad, sleeping with an empty carton of stale milk duds propped up on his gut, and was so certain that if he discovered me to be somewhat ... er ... different from the other kids ... a pimply faced, girly, parachute-panted mutant of sorts … that he would not shoot me, either. He would run into the sewer, gather me up in a blanket, grab my talon affectionately and tell me that he loved me and would protect me.
OK, OK. I know. It's just a cheesy movie and I’m overanalyzing it all. “It’s Alive” just copied the themes of Frankenstein and fused it with Rosemary's Baby to make a quick buck. And, yeah, the Daddy gets shot to death at the end and It escapes to the sewers to await calls from his agent to appear in sequels (which kind of kills my nice “inner child” metaphor).
But still ... I stand by my overanalysis:
Important lesson learned from age-inappropriate film #2, “It’s Alive”: We all have a little monster baby inside of us and rather than try to kill it, we gotta learn to love it … or it will rip us to ribbons.
All of 6 years old and already the grindhouse schlock of the Drive-Ins had taught me so much. But there was so much more to learn ...
Friday, June 26, 2009
'Drive-In Night" started out innocently enough. My Dad would shake up some greasy popcorn on the stove, dump it into a brown paper shopping bag, pick up a few neighborhood kids and charge them a dollar each, load up a cooler full of Stop-and-Shop-brand tonic (they call soda tonic in Boston), plunk down the $5 per carload at the Neponset Circle Drive-In, and enjoy PG-rated double features like "Cannonball Run" with "Smokey and the Bandit" or "Gumball Rally" with "Vanishing Point."
But after weeks and months of innocent fare, one "Drive-In Night" in 1975 showed a double-feature that would change everything for me: "It's Alive" with "Psychic Killer" (sounds like an ad for a new energy drink: "It's 'Alive!' ... now with extra 'Psychic Killer'!" ... okay maybe not...).
Yes, at the ripe old age of 6 (?!), my Dad was initiating me into the world of disturbing horror. Sure, go ahead and call it bad parenting or lousy boundaries (my therapist, my Dad and I have already conceded this point). However, it was also the start of my lifelong fascination with horror movies. More importantly, it was the start of some very intense life lessons on how to handle the dark (or shadow) side of life.
"Psychic Killer" starred Jim Hutton (Timothy Hutton's Dad!) as a guy who can kill people by astral projecting (C'mon ... no judging ... it was the 70s!), which was quite a useful skill. Is there an evil lawyer you hate who happens to be in a construction site? Just psychically move that conveniently dangling pile of concrete over his head and bomb's away! Is the butcher not cutting your Black Peppercorn turkey breast quite as thin as you like it? Just make him force his own hand into his meat grinder and hit the switch.
To be sure it was all a lot for a 6-year-old to take. The meat-grinder scene seared my 6-year-old brain like albacore tuna. I had been plunged right into a dark underworld without any warning or welcome and without a road map on how to get out.
As I sat nervously rubbing the grease-bruised popcorn bag as if it were a magic lamp that would bring back my innocence, my brother quipped "Hamburger Helper ... when you need a helping hand!" His gallows humor was just what I needed. From this point forward, gallows humor would be my trusted tool, my psychological ally, my breadcrumb trail from the darkness back to the light.
And once back in the light, I could enjoy all the wonders of imagining that I, too, had a "Psychic Killer" brain with all its perks: (a) Revenge wish fulfillment without consequences! (b) No fingerprints, DNA, or any way to trace you to the crime! (c) Miminal physical effort expended, not even so much as lifting one’s hand to the bitch-slap position!
Sure I was only 6, but killing people you hate without suffering any of the consequences is truly an idea that can be enjoyed at any age (What do you mean we don’t get recess today? Don’t make me make you shove the business end of that protactor into your eye Miss Toomey!). We all share in common the desire every so often to just wish some arrogant, ignorant, bullying, lying, pathological motherfucker into violent oblivion (no … you don’t? … maybe it's just me... this blog might have not been such a good idea…).
Unfortunately, despite valiant efforts, life kept reminding me that you can't really just think people dead. (the high-school quarterback who mocked my Elvira pin-up pictures should be very thankful for this). Life later taught me that "psychic killing" was a subset of what is called "magical thinking" - thoughts that give you a little psychological boost, an illusion of power over your outside world, but that have no actual effect. I was tilting at windmills (if said windmills then launched a projectile sail that decapitated said high-school quarterback who mocked said Elvira pin-up … for instance).
Psychic killing turned out to be just some made up Hollywood BS. Hollywood had set me up for withering disappointment for the first time, but not the last...
So what life lesson about the dark side did "Psychic Killer" impart to me? Quite simply that it's better to try to kill people with your brain than with your actual hands. And when I grew into a skinny, pimply, introverted, girlish, awkward teen in a Cure t-shirt stumblefucking his way through the psychic meat grinder of public high school, this non-lethal power was actually quite useful. Sure it was completely ineffective, but it did help me avert mid-to-long term negative consequences like blood-stains on my Chess King parachute pants (shutup, you had them too!), incarceration, and starting a cycle of karmic violence that could haunt generations of my hypothetical children.Important lesson learned from age-inappropriate film #1, “Psychic Killer”: Kill people only in your thoughts, because when you use your hands, you get your stinking DNA all over the place.
Next posting: It's Alive! ...
Monday, June 15, 2009
A place to put all of my narcissistic ramblings, my angry fist-shakings, the memorials for my dead pets (yeah it's coming...wait for it!).
Mostly a way to feed my writing habit and need for attention ... the need to hear people tell me they love me and I'm smart ... or that they hate me and I'm dumb ... the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference, so hate away ... just don't be indifferent because I have attachment issues.
Seriously, where are you going?
So what can you expect from PMD? Lots about horror movies, gay sexiness, and psychology. Not in any kind of academic way, mind you because I'm a complete idiot. C'mon, it's a blog, not the New York Times.
The focus will be on the dark side (Jung called it the shadow) and how horror films explore the troublesome process of delving into it: Clarice went into Buffalo Bill's basement; Ginny went into Jason’s ramshackle cabin; Father Merrin went into Regan's bedroom. Horror heroines and heroes go into the "scary place where the bad thing happened" and they bring the light. But while they are in there, a lot of cool, gory, crazy shit happens.
Post-Mortem Depression hopes to explore as much of horror films and the shadow and gay sexiness as its creator is capable of enduring. Because I'm such a giver.
But I will also indulge my own narcissistic ramblings (like this one!) on occasion.
So welcome to all. Enter my fevered brain, stroke the slutty attention whore at the center of my cerebellum.
Welcome to Post-Mortem Depression.