Mandy, Beyond the Black Rainbow, and the hypocrisy of the reviews these films have garnered thus far

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I loved Beyond the Black Rainbow, and this guy’s performance in particular.

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen two films made by Panos Cosmatos — Beyond the Black Rainbow, and Mandy. The former was widely panned by critics and has a low approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while the latter has been lauded by critics and audiences alike.

Meanwhile, I’m baffled as to how these films could be received so differently when they are so similar to each other.

  • Both films are set in 1983.
  • Both are retro as all hell, a la Stranger Things, down to all kinds of wonderful details like the fashion and furniture of the time.
  • Both films utilize a plodding, glacial pace.
  • The dialogue in both films is delivered in a slow, dream-like way.
  • Both films clock in at about 2 hrs.
  • Both films tell simple fantasy stories (BtBR is about an evil doctor that imprisons a girl who has psychic powers, Mandy is about a guy seeking vengeance against some religious fanatics who killed his spouse, and their biker-demon henchmen) but tell them in ways and dress them up with interesting storytelling devices that make the films seem more complex.
  • Both films are quite violent, and have scenes where sharp spikes are driven into some poor bastard’s mouth — Cosmatos seems to have a fascination with penetrating orifices with sharp things. I like it.
  • Both films wear their influences on their sleeves, quite overtly: for example, the biker-demons in Mandy are clearly inspired by the Cenobytes from Hellraiser, while the “devil’s teardrop” knife from BtBR and Red’s axe from Mandy are clearly inspired by the films of Cronenberg. And of course, though less obvious to the layman, the slow pace and dream-like qualities of both films hearken to the films of both Lynch and Kubrick.
  • Both films share a nod to 80’s metal: in BtBR, it’s the ‘heshers’ listening to Venom by a campfire; in Mandy, its the Motley Crue and Black Sabbath shirts she is usually seen wearing.

I think both films are fine (though I much prefer BtBR, most likely due to it leaning a bit more toward the sci-fi and horror genres) and very similar so I don’t understand why one was shat on while the other is celebrated. I bet it has everything to do with Cage being in Mandy, and all the sycophants pushing each other out of the way to eagerly suck a star’s dick.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: critics are fucking idiots. They are as biased as anyone else — nay, more so since they are paid to write their drivel and Hollywood hype machines don’t mind throwing a few coins at the monkeys when it’s to their advantage — so their opinions are actually less valid than yours or mine. Don’t pay any god damned attention to them. Just watch what you want to watch, and feel about it however you feel. You don’t need a fucking critic to tell you what moves you and what doesn’t.

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I’m on a mission here.

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i wish everything in life was constantly nightmarish

since i was a kid, i’ve been fascinated by things that disturb me. one of the earliest memories i have of this is catching a few snippets from the movie, dune. there is a scene where a guy has to put his hand in a mysterious box and it seems like something weird and awful is in the box and it’s going to hurt him, and another scene where a person is wearing a weird suit that looks like a cage of plexiglass and a bullet pierces the suit very slowly until it gets in, at which point it resumes normal speed and kills the person. both of those really stuck with me — i mean, here i am 30-odd years later, still yammering on about them.

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the box that basically started it all

those examples (along with a bunch of other stuff that scared the hell out of me) basically set the tone for the rest of my life. as i’ve grown older and developed the means to search out freaky stuff on my own, i’ve found more of it, and in varying forms — music, film, visual art, words, abstract feelings. and at a certain point, i realized that the things i find most intriguing aren’t strictly gory or violent or typical slasher movie fodder. the things that really mesmerize me are things that are nightmarish. that is the key quality i seek.

what qualities make something nightmarish, you ask?

  • sinister overtones in otherwise normal situations
  • twisted, deformed versions of familiar things
  • things that a) don’t make sense and b) inspire fear

i think it was the movie jacob’s ladder that finally illuminated this nightmare fascination thing to me. i saw it several years ago, loved it, and thought about it a lot afterwards. i thought about how it was scary as all hell but wasn’t really a horror movie. there wasn’t a demented killer or a demon or any of the usual horror trappings. it was more that the main character was experiencing weird, scary stuff and it was hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t. while ruminating on this, i had an epiphany where i realized that the film legitimately felt like a nightmare to me — PINGGGG — and then i thought about a lot of my other favourite things in this world, and started seeing the nightmarish qualities in those things too: lost highway, possession (1982), the shining, eyes wide shut, 2001: a space odyssey, antichrist, under the skin. virtually anything by cronenberg. akercocke, voices, faust (1994), too dark park, the process, the exorcist, and bosch, for example.

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perfect example. can’t say why this is disturbing but it is. and i love it.

i’m not sure why i’m drawn to nightmarish stuff. my best guess is that i was a wimp as a kid and things like dune just set off some electrical pathway in my brain that has liked to be stimulated ever since. i think that’s a bland, cop-out explanation and i hope there’s a better reason but i can’t think of one. all i know is that i like the blurred line between what’s real and what isn’t, i like not understanding what’s going on, and i like the fear.

i like it so much, i want it to be present in my life whenever possible — like a shadow that i can sense is near, or catch a fleeting glimpse of. i learned this when jenn and i went on a summer road trip that was lovely fun but tinged with a weird darkness due to the fact i was reading faust by robert nye on the same trip. i only realized long afterward why even the warmest memories of that vacation had a vague portentous tone to them, and why other vacations where i had neglected to bring some good, dark art with me felt more one-dimensional, less compelling. since then, i’ve made a point to bring some kind of satanic literature with me to help spice things up, to help cast a dark cloud over the summer fun, and it’s worked wonderfully.

i can only hope that when i die, i’m plunged into an eternity of hellish experiences, like a scene from hellraiser. only then will i surely have my fill of nightmares.

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wow, plastic found in fish that we’re eating. how shocking.

lots of unhappy news lately, it seems.

i just read a CBC news article that says tiny pieces of plastic are now being found in supermarket fish and shellfish. isn’t this something that i’ve bitched about many times on here already? why, yes. yes it is.

the article states that plastics aren’t just being found in fishes guts so it’s not like you can just gut them and be done with it. the plastics are being found throughout their tissues — which means eating fish means eating plastic.

what’s even worse is that microplastics absorb or carry organic contaminants, such as PCBs, pesticides, flame retardants and hormone-disrupting compounds of many kinds. so now you’re eating plastic that is tainted with poison. double bad.

however, the article goes on to say that we really don’t know what this all means, whether it’s really that bad. one scientist says, “what we really need to do is a risk assessment … nobody has done that for microplastics.”

ok, sure. so we don’t know exactly what we’re going to find at the end of a 10- or 20-year study on individuals who eat fish full of plastic twice a week. we don’t know exactly how much more cancer those people are going to have compared to people who didn’t eat the plastic fish. but let’s use some common sense here. what else would anyone expect from eating tiny bits of stuff made from toxic chemicals and petroleum products — things already known to be carcinogenic? come on. use your head.

when we’re all sick and feeling like shit, slowly dying from cancer caused by years of eating plastic, i’m going to be breathlessly moan, “i told you so.”

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“i win.”

the impending summer of satan

jenn and i like going on big summer road trips. one of my fave memories of our many trips is not of a place or activity but a weird feeling i experienced one year when i read robert nye’s faust while on vacation. it’s a great book and really affected me — i felt happy and good about summer and all the fun things we were doing, like exploring forests and small towns and lakes and various sights, but there was also a feeling of dread, of fear, interlaced with all those good times and pleasant vibes because of faust. it really added a strange and fascinating dimension to the trip for me. it was like the specter of the devil and all intangible evil cast a shadow over all the wholesomeness of our summer fun.

and i loved it.

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good book. i recommend it. even jenn liked it.

it was because of this experience that i recently ventured into russell books with benjamin (sorry if that tidbit gets you divorced, benny). i was in search of well-written dark books to enjoy on upcoming road trips. not stephen king “and then the vampire swooped down and said lunch time as he bit her lovely milk-white neck” stuff. i wanted stuff that was more multidimensional and less goofy and stupid — more stuff like faust. so i described my impossibly specific tastes to an enthusiastic russell books employee who did a fantastic job of recommending and finding copies of all kinds of suitable things i’m excited to read. ben also did a quick search on his phone for ‘best satanic books’ and came up with some more good suggestions. i walked out of there with five novels, sure to ruin my summer perfectly.

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it’s going to be a goth summer. these guys look like cenobites from hellraiser. christ, can you imagine wearing all that pleather and PVC in the heat? i bet they stink under there.

and now i can’t wait for the next road trip. offsetting all the fun with a bit of spiritual desolation makes the overall experience much more emotionally and psychologically stimulating. it means i can have lots of fun with my wife, exploring natural wonders and swimming and hiking and whatnot, but also feel a little terrified for the safety of my soul or spirit. it’s a wonderful balance.

maybe if jenn was down to listen to akercocke and voices on the trip, i wouldn’t need to read these books to get my dose of satanism and misanthropy. that will never happen though so i’m glad i’ve got this plan B sorted out well ahead of time. there is no way i’m leaving evil at home on this road trip.