Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Video Vault: The Babadook

By Shawn K. Inlow

The Babadook
2014 - Jennifer Kent
93 minutes - Unrated
Vault Rating: 8

Here is a charming, chilling little first feature by writer / director Jennifer Kent that does honor to a genre that has gone to the dogs of torture-porn for nearly a generation.

Oh, the horror genre has had gasps of life.  The found footage approach of "The Blair Witch Project" was interesting and the way "Paranormal Activity" allowed the audience ramp up their own tension was nice.  But, by and large, the "Hostels" and the "Saws" and the "Friday the Centipede Umpteenth" have cut the soul out of genuine horror and removed the thrill from thrillers.

Until now.

Here is a genuinely good story about a single mother (Essie Davis as Amelia) dealing with her grade-school aged son (the wonderfully goggle-eyed Noah Wiseman as Samuel) whose obsession with the classic monster-under-the-bed theme takes on alarming proportions.  There is something very wrong with her son, and what, to any parent, is more unsettling than that?

The boy's compulsion takes off from the cleverly constructed children's pop-up book of the title that introduces a shadowy, top-hatted figure.  Page by page, however, the book turns more and more alarming until Amelia attempts to destroy it.  When the book re-appears we begin to get that feeling that we have slipped into that uneasy place between the supernatural and lunatic.

The boy's disturbed fear makes us queasy and his mother's anxiety over it doesn't help a bit.  While a palpable fear begins to clot and manifest itself we know this:  Amelia better not let the Babadook in.

But you should.  How nice it is to see a satisfying horror film with a quality story behind it that naturally drives the outcome!  I got chills, I tell you.  Three times.  And by the film's end, my mood was surprisingly lifted.  How many times have you watched one of the modern blood-spattered gross-outs only to be left sitting there feeling cheated?

Oh, I remember a time when horror movies were fun!  "House on Haunted Hill" and "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price come to mind, not that these films have anything in common, or "The Birds."  "The Babadook" transported me back to a time when the genre really had something to offer.

And the ending?  At first, I thought it was kind of a cop out, but then, when I thought about it, I realized how perfect it was.  How mischievously right it was.  Because we all have our monsters under the bed, don't we?  And if you dare...  You should have a look.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Torture Report: Better Than Useless

A torture victim pictured covered in excrement at Abu Ghraib.  We are in an unwinnable war of modern martyrdom.
 by Shawn K. Inlow

Today I'm watching all the wailing on television about the release of a report, many years too late and well after anything will be done about it.

This is not politics.  This is war.  And the United States is the most warlike nation on earth.  We have always been at war.  Almost always.  I defy you to name one U.S. president in your lifetime that has not fired a single shot in war.  There is one.  But you might not like the answer.

The Mountain wants to address torture in general before we discuss this report.  When 9/11 happened, Osama bin Laden won.  The terrorist resorts to the tactic when he has no other weapon.  And the tactic worked masterfully on a nation that has, instead of asking why the attacks happened, simply been turned into a quivering, fearful population that will sell out our core freedoms cheaply and cling to the uniforms of the military for protection.

It's a protection racket.

Terrorism begets terrorism.  We, and many other nations right now, are in an unwinnable war of modern martyrdom and we become more and more enraged with every beheading, don't we?  WAR, my friends, is SAVAGE, no matter who wages it.  No matter what methods you employ.  WAR is the sum FAILURE of civilization.  It is destructive in everything it touches.  Dehumanizing.  Debilitating.

But.  There's always a but.  In the United States war is insanely profitable.  It is the only growth industry left to us.  The only thing made in America any more is ordinance.  The jobs are in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.  Nobody does it like Uncle Sam.

The Mountain maintains that when the United States went Medieval after 9/11 - which I lay squarely on the shoulders of men like Dick Cheney, George Bush, the Pentagon and the CIA in no particular order - this country crossed a line from the savagery of constant war to the blackest abyss.

Raytheon thanks you.  GE thanks you.  Exxon thanks you.  Because now the war state has been merged with the corporate state and the surveillance state and now it's Orwell shot clean through.  All we need now is our daily "Two Minutes Hate."  But who are we kidding.  We get far more than our two minutes daily.  The ONLY thing we see on television is hate.  The ONLY thing that manages our politics is hate and fear.

Step away from the television.  Go walking on the Mountain.

When you are in a fight, the only way it ends is if someone stops swinging.  The Mountain suggests America be the one to stop throwing punches.  We need to stand for peace.  We need to stand for kindness.  We need to stand for love.  Americans should be withdrawn from the middle east entirely.  We need to stop.

America was drawn back into war against ISIS - our new Eastasia - only when they threatened the Iraqi oil fields, right?  Just so.  BP thanks you.  Chevron thanks you.  But our country is now trapped in the same endless cycle of violence that Israel and Palestine find themselves in, locked in each other's death grip, neither being able to let go.

So I ask you.  At the end of the 9/11 logic, who is stronger?  Somehow, bin Laden was on the same side of the banks, the military.  At the end of the day, the banks are stronger.  The military has swelled like a bloated demon-pig.  And the government no longer answers your calls.  You are ostensibly free as long as you don't ask the wrong questions.

Wikileaks asked the wrong questions.
Bradley Manning asked the wrong questions.
Edward Snowden asked the wrong questions.

People like this go to Room 101.  For real.  And our government will try to make them vanish down the memory hole.  Because, my friends, they are right.  They are just telling the truth.

Now this report comes from a congress that has been spied upon by the CIA - an organization that Congress should control.  And all the toadies who authored the American response to 9/11 are being called the liars they are.  Oh, but they still get to go on teevee and lie some more on their own behalves while the truth tellers have to hide out in Russia.  Or an embassy in England.  Or in solitary confinement.

And all these worms come crawling forth to shout with straight faces this magnificent irony:  This report will endanger Americans!  This is irresponsible!


I would say, wouldn't you, that Americans have been endangered in the Middle-East for a very long time.  Maybe sometime Americans will get the idea that being in the Middle-East is a bad idea.  As if this report will endanger that status quo.  "They" said the same thing about the Iraq War Journals published by Wikileaks and other major newspapers.  Still waiting for the other shoe to drop there.

Maybe the report will have some truth in it.  And there are criminals and villains and warmongers who sense that maybe - just maybe - they could be hauled up in front of a new Nuremberg Tribunal to answer questions.

If wishes were hand grenades, the Masters of War would die.

Maybe the report will have some truth in it.  The Mountain hopes so.  But don't delude yourself into thinking that those who authored and carried out torture in our name will be held responsible.  NOBODY takes responsibility for ANYTHING anymore.  Another product no longer made in America (trademark).  The only people taking responsibility anymore are terrorists.

Maybe men like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney will be cast out of the public sphere for the cowards and liars they are.  Maybe those who lied to congress will be held accountable.  Yeah, right.  Because congress just doesn't want to know.

Now Hear THIS!!