Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bad Dream. (Prince of Darkness)

CW: Racism

THIS IS NOT A DREAM.

This has happened before. I remember it from my youth. The president of the United States is rarely a good man; I don’t think there’s ever been a good man as president in my lifetime. I don’t think people who become presidents are ever good, let alone the ones who want to be president.

From my lifetime, the president has been defined by his desire to kill and torture. I don’t remember Clinton, but I sure do remember Bush. I grew up on his dreams: of 24 and NCIS and other shows about the necessity of Bush’s world. I remember Katrina and his inability to react. I remember the parodies that played him like a clown, a fool, harmless. I remember being taken out of class at the age of six for reasons that would haunt the world forever. I don’t remember the exact details of that day, but I still feel the implications of that day rippling forwards and backwards through time. I remember one of those ripples; years after Bush became a painter. I was riding in my grandmother’s car to go to the dentist when I saw a man walk down the streets. I remember, for the briefest of moments, being afraid. I was afraid of him. I knew, even a few moments later, that I didn’t have to be afraid of him, and yet in that moment I was. I thought he was going to kill me. I was afraid he was going to kill us all. I know why I was afraid, I know how I was afraid, and I know my fear was unjustified, piercing through me like the ghost of a long dead devil. And yet, I still feared that man solely because he was a Muslim.

Hello Darkness,
my old friend.
Well, it’s not the worst John Carpenter film. It’s certainly the weakest of his “Apocalypse Trilogy” and it’s probably on the lower end of quality for Carpenter’s filmography, but Prince of Darkness is by no means terrible. The characters are a bit flat, the scares, while mostly effective, don’t quite work as well as other Carpenter scares (there’s a moment in the climax where we cut away solely to show the deaths of a minor character and then cut back as if nothing happened), and, given the Lovecraftian overtones of the trilogy, the nature of the evil is explained to us completely in a way that feels satisfactory rather than in a way that puts a hole in the heart of the audience that can never be filled like all good Lovecraft stories do.

But perhaps the biggest problem with the film is where it lies structurally within the trilogy. Where this the first part of the “Apocalypse Trilogy,” then one could see this as setting up the themes and ideas the other two films would push further and further until we end with the audience going completely mental in a relatively low budget film. Indeed, the flatness of the characters could act as another thematic concern of the films as the characters become more and more dimensioned until, at long last, they become self aware of their existence and watch the movie with us. Except this is the second film of the trilogy.

THIS IS NOT A DREAM. NOT A DREAM. WE ARE USING YOUR BRAIN’S ELETRICAL SYSTEM AS A RECIEVER. WE ARE UNABLE TO TRANSMIT THROUGH CONCIOUS NEURAL INTERFERRENCE. YOU ARE RECEVING THIS BROADCAST AS A DREAM. WE ARE TRANSMITTING FROM THE YEAR 2. O.

I remember Obama. The narrative we told at the end, when our dreams of a democratic savior turned out not to be shaped like him, was that of a broken man who couldn’t help but be broken by the job of being the president, no matter how hard he tried to be a good man, he could only succeed at being decent. I remember walking down to the library, seeing nice old ladies, and sometimes their sons, handing out pamphlets that said Obama was a Muslim Nazi, bent on destroying all that we hold dear. They were part of my daily walk from school, always there when the weather was nice and capable of containing such fear of the unknown. I never talked to them about their politics or anything for that matter. I was trying to be apolitical at the time and thus not even look into any sort of politics. I believed that made me enlightened, or at least allowed myself not to get into shouting matches like the ones I saw on TV. There were some politics I did hold, though I called them common sense. Fox News, despite the claims of my least favorite teacher, is not fair and balance, Clint Eastwood talking to a chair is frankly ridiculous, and gay people in general deserve to be treated like people. After I felt afraid about the Muslim man, I never saw those ladies, or indeed any people at a table by the library, again.

I remember reading about Chelsea Manning. At first, it was just about her Wikipedia page and how the system of Wikipedia allowed for members of the military to edit her page to refuse her even her own name. I remember my childhood bullies refusing to give me my name, though on a lesser scale than she was refused hers (they called me “Seen” because bullies are rarely, if ever, clever). I remember reading the article because it was about how shit Wikipedia is, with little care for who Chelsea even was. I remember reading articles about Chelsea years later and feeling guilty about my younger self’s desire for apoliticality. I remember feeling happy when it was announced she would be freed. I remember childhood friends refusing Chelsea her own name.

           And yet, the film itself is an engaging watch. There was never a moment when I felt bored or uninterested in the events unfolding in the film. Carpenter is, after all, a competent technician, even when making a left-handed film. There are some genuinely amazing shots scattered around this middling film (one that caught my eye was a moment where we inexplicably focus upon a leaf, but then the focus shifts and we now see the moon behind it, but it looks as if there’s no leaf blocking it at all, the VHS camera used for the dreams adds to the unnatural nature of those scenes, and the final shot is brilliant). The actors do a thoroughly good job with what little they have, though none of them really stand out. The effects are obviously a highlight of the production, even though they’re sparsely used-- when Sophie (ironically the only character whose name I remember) looks in horror at the celling filling up with the ooze the antichrist uses to possess people, it almost looks as if it’s actually dripping onto the celling as opposed to the camera just being upside down; the mercury used to keep drowned Satan (Carpenter has said it’s not Satan, but come on) is mesmerizing, especially given the chilling fate of the love interest; and Alice Cooper looks even more like a zombie than his stage persona.

THIS IS NOT A DREAM. NOT A DREAM. WE ARE USING YOUR BRAIN’S ELETRICAL SYSTEM AS A RECIEVER. WE ARE UNABLE TO TRANSMIT THROUGH CONCIOUS NEURAL INTERFERRENCE. YOU ARE RECEVING THIS BROADCAST AS A DREAM. WE ARE TRANSMITTING FROM THE YEAR 2.

I know TRUMP. I was there when the votes were tallied and it became increasingly clear that HE would win, I became afraid. This was not the terror of a ripple nor the terror of that those who thought Obama was going to somehow lose in 2008 felt. Sure, I voted for Clinton, but that was because Stein wanted me dead and the Libertarians were never going to be a good choice, despite what the South Park guys say. But I didn’t feel afraid because Clinton lost. I was reading books about the cause HE was courting. I knew what evil they wanted. What their end goal was. They haven’t touched me, not yet. Maybe they never will. I’m being na├»ve; they’ll get to me eventually. I felt numb and broken when HE won. My brother told me I was overreacting and that this was just how the Republicans reacted when Obama won. Because being afraid because a Black Man is elected president because the last president made it so no Republican could be elected as the next president is the same as being afraid of an open racist, sexist, homophobic monster is elected president because HE was a racist, sexist, homophobic. I screamed at people around me because I needed to futilely scream at something. I apologized to my roommates who were trying to sleep, but I didn’t feel like anyone else felt afraid. Months later, my brother would make a joke about knowing what it’s like to be a Clinton voter on election night. How I hated his willingness to brush aside the implications of HIM being president for the sake of mocking the left.

I remember the marches. I never attended any of them, mostly because I was nowhere near any of the big ones and I only learned about the small ones after they occurred. I wish I could go to one of them, just one. I feel like I’m not doing anything to help. I can help, but instead I’m going to movies, reading books, and writing a blog about the 1980’s. I feel like I’m too much of an introvert to do anything. I keep thinking about the nuclear bomb that’s going to drop on New York City the moment I enter because HE wrote a tweet that pissed off someone. I feel like I’m lying just to get brownie points for being a good liberal who supports punching Nazis, yet would never actually do anything about the injustices of the world.

I remember the other marches. The ones that killed people. The ones that HE was fine with. The ones HE only complained about under duress. I remember nothing changing when HE said literal, actual Nazis were just some good working boys. I remember nothing changing when HE bragged about grabbing women by their pussies. I remember nothing changing when HE let Puerto Rico drown. I remember being told HE was a dove by my brother on Election Night in comparison to Clinton’s hawk. I remember HIM declaring a willingness to drop nuclear bombs on North Korea.

I remember reading about the Fourth Dimension; I read about it during the Obama administration, and around the time HE won, but it keeps popping up in my head when I don’t want it to. It claimed events have ripples that recur again and again in new and different shapes, each getting worse and worse than the last. The song remains the same, but the tune changes slightly, until at last a new song kills us all in our endless state of wartime. I remember the fear that crept up on me as I read that bit of science, of how its implications disregarded the nature of any sort of free will. If the future is fixed, if these events that will occur are known to occur, is there anything we can do to change them? To stop the ripples in time in the first place? Or is history doomed to be as it always will be, in its singular vision?

In short Prince of Darkness, a movie about a group of scientists studying a religious artifact said to house the antichrist and what follows in the wake of his escape and attempt to bring his father (THE ANTI-GOD) out of the Darkseid, doesn’t really hold a candle to stories within the genre like Nameless or Carpenter’s later Mouth of Madness and it probably would have been improved if there was another half-hour added to the film. In many ways, the explorations of the themes of identity and the supernatural that the film toys with were done much better in The Ward. Still, it’s an enjoyable watch that’s worth at least seeing once. Though, if I’m being blunt, it’s not worth writing 2,000 words in any context outside of a project exploring the interests of John Carpenter.

THIS IS NOT A DREAM. NOT A DREAM. WE ARE USING YOUR BRAIN’S ELETRICAL SYSTEM AS A RECIEVER. WE ARE UNABLE TO TRANSMIT THROUGH CONCIOUS NEURAL INTERFERRENCE. YOU ARE RECEVING THIS BROADCAST AS A DREAM. WE ARE TRANSMITTING FROM THE YEAR 2. O. 1. 7.  YOU ARE RECEVING THIS BROADCAST IN ORDER TO ALTER THE EVENTS YOU ARE SEEING. OUR TECHNOLOGY HAS NOT DEVELOPED A TRANSMITTER STRONG ENOUGH TO REACH YOUR CONCIOUS STATE OF AWARENES. BUT THIS IS NOT A DREAM. YOU ARE SEEING WHAT IS AN ACTUAL OCCURRING PHENOMENON FOR THE PURPOSE OF CAUSALITY VIOLATION.

I don’t remember Regan. I wasn’t there for that. But he was always there for me.

(Next Time: We Have Such Sights To Show You…)

Special thanks to Scout Tafoya

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[Photo: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson]

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