Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
13 O’Clock Movie Retrospective: Flash Gordon
13 O’Clock Movie Retrospective: Predator
13 O’Clock Movie Retrospective: An American Werewolf In London
13 O’Clock Movie Retrospective: Escape From New York
Tom and Jenny revisit the work of John Carpenter, reviewing the 1981 dystopian classic!
13 O’Clock Movie Retrospectives: The Hunger
We already recorded a second movie review for our new 13 O’Clock offshoot! It’s of my very favorite vampire movie from the 1980s, The Hunger, which I also wrote about in depth right here, if you’re interested. Enjoy!
13 O’Clock Movie Retrospective: John Carpenter’s The Thing
So, over on our 13 O’Clock YouTube channel, the God of Hellfire and I have started a fun new offshoot series, in which we yammer endlessly about some of our favorite horror and scifi movies old and new. Right here is our first installment, discussing our impressions and personal stories about one of our favorite classic films, The Thing. Enjoy!
Horror Double Feature: The Void and The Hallow
Our Netflix double-header today consists of two rather different films, one Lovecraftian cosmic horror, and one that trades in more intimate, folkloric terrors, though both have a retro kinda vibe and share something of a siege-type narrative.
First up, 2016’s The Void, a Canadian film written and directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, and largely funded through a successful Indiegogo campaign. Like a great many recent indie horror flicks, it has a heavy 1980s influence, both in its use of delightfully splattery practical effects, and the sheer amount of 80s-era horror touchstones it references. It seems as though it might also be set in the 80s, judging by the lack of cell phones and the models of the cars, but the year is not obviously mentioned, or even particularly important to the story.
The Void begins with a woman running out of a house with two armed men in pursuit. The men shoot the woman in the back, but another man who has also come running out of the house manages to avoid being killed, and takes off into the surrounding woods. The two shooters then rather casually set the dying woman at their feet on fire.
Cut to the main character, small-town police officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole), who later sees the wounded man crawling out of the woods and hurries to help him. He takes the man, whose name is James (Evan Stern) to a nearby hospital, which only has a skeleton staff due to a fire that broke out there recently. The few remaining staff are going to be moved to another hospital soon, but are stuck at this nearly empty backwater for the time being.
The only other people at the hospital are nurse Allison (Kathleen Munroe), who also happens to be Daniel’s ex-wife, another nurse named Beverly (Stephanie Belding), a trainee named Kim (Ellen Wong), the elderly Dr. Richard Powell (Kenneth Welsh), a patient named Cliff (Matt Kennedy), and in the waiting room, a pregnant girl named Maggie (Grace Munro) and her grandfather Ben (James Millington).
Not long after Daniel brings James in have him looked at, things start to get decidedly strange. Beverly appears to go into some kind of trance in which she kills Cliff with a scalpel, and then cuts the skin off her own face. A state trooper named Mitchell (Art Hindle) arrives, looking for James, as he’s investigating a “bloodbath” out at the house we saw at the beginning. Suddenly none of the phones seem to be able to reach the outside world, and when Daniel goes outside to try the radio in his patrol car, that doesn’t work either. Even worse, he’s set upon by a creepy-looking person in a white full-body burka type outfit, with a black triangle over the face. Seemingly before he can blink, the hospital is surrounded by these eerie figures, who seem to have been summoned by a weird horn-like noise coming from the sky.
Back in the hospital, the group have discovered that erstwhile nurse Beverly has turned into some kind of tentacled monster. The two shooters from the first scene, Vincent (Daniel Fathers) and his son Simon (Mik Byskov) arrive in order to finish off the job they started, i.e. to kill James. They seem to know about the people transforming into monsters, but not much else, though it seems they aren’t taking any chances.
After this, the movie takes on the feel of a siege flick akin to The Mist, with the protagonists trapped inside the hospital by the white-robed cultists, and also uneasy about the people they’re locked in the building with, who could turn into Lovecraftian murder-critters at any moment.
Throughout the movie, Daniel has been having visions of a vast, featureless void in which a massive black pyramid looms on the horizon. As the story goes on, we learn that this is indeed another dimension, and that, much like in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, someone has figured out how to access it in order to further his own goals. The culprit is — spoiler alert — the nefarious Dr. Powell, who it turns out had been experimenting with opening the door to the void for some time, because he believed it would not only help him to become immortal, but also bring his beloved daughter Sarah back from the dead. Later in the film, the remaining characters stumble across a weird sub-basement that isn’t supposed to be there which contains all kinds of malformed human horrors, which are presumably Dr. Powell’s failed experiments that he keeps around for shits and giggles. The fire that ravaged the hospital was also Dr. Powell’s doing, as he lurked around down there, tampering in God’s domain and what not.
It also comes to pass that the pregnant Maggie was actually knocked up by Dr. Powell himself, and that her baby is going to serve as the conduit for the return of Sarah. Daniel’s ex-wife Allison is also transformed into a baby-maker for the hell-dimension, a fact made doubly poignant by the fact that she and Daniel broke up after she had a miscarriage.
At the end, after pretty much everyone dies, a skinless Dr. Powell tells Daniel that he can have Allison and his dead child back if he accepts death, and he says okay, but then he tackles Dr. No-Flesh and they both fall into the void. At the end, Daniel and Allison are shown standing alone in the void from his earlier visions, with no one else in sight.
As indie horror films go, this one was pretty damn ambitious, and even if it wasn’t a perfect film, it was actually quite impressive. It played like something of a mashup between Hellraiser, The Mist, The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, with a huge heaping helping of H.P. Lovecraft tossed in for good measure, though I have to say that the plot, such as it is, was sort of hard to follow. But while the exact nature of the cult surrounding the void, and the exact endgame of what Dr. Powell was up to, were left fairly unclear, the movie more than made up for its failure to explain itself by being an entertaining, decently-paced flick with some absolutely stellar gore and creature effects. Though it’s obviously a pastiche of a bunch of different 80s horror classics, it never really feels like a retread, and has its own original vibe going on. Recommended for fans of 80s cosmic horror in the vein of John Carpenter or Stuart Gordon.
Next we travel to a remote forest in Ireland for The Hallow (formerly called The Woods), which had its premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Corin Hardy, The Hallow is far more straightforward than The Void was, being essentially nothing more than a simple “family in a secluded farmhouse attacked by creatures” flick. In fact, picture The Evil Dead but without the humor or wackiness and with evil Irish fairies instead of demons and rapey trees, and you’re most of the way there.
The movie follows Adam (Joseph Mawle from Game of Thrones), his wife Claire (Bojana Novakovic), and their baby son Finn as they move out to a spooky and run-down farmhouse in the Irish wilderness. Adam is a conservationist/tree scientist who has been sent out there to assess the trees that are going to be cut down for some pending development, and as such, he’s not a big hit with the locals, who not only don’t want the forest that provides some of their livelihood cut down, but also don’t want the creepy beasties who live in said woods to get pissed off and start coming out to steal babies. Particularly antagonistic is neighbor Colm Donnelly (Michael McElhatton), who repeatedly turns up at the family’s house to threaten them about the dangers of the creatures in the woods.
Skeptical Adam is having none of this mythological nonsense, but even he has to admit that there is something weird going on in those woods. Something flies through a window of the house one night, he sees hints of unidentified animals lurking among the trees, and the area seems to be pervaded with a strange black goo that, upon scientific scrutiny, resembles a fungus that can infiltrate the nervous system of the host organism and influence its behavior.
After Adam and Finn are attacked in their car by a creature which is never shown but leaves an alarmingly huge claw mark across the driver’s side door, Claire begins to think they had better leave, but naturally, Adam refuses to be intimidated by what he believes are malicious pranks engineered by the locals. But from then on, the situation gets worse and worse, as Adam is taken over by the fungus, and the baby Finn is taken by the creatures. This was actually my favorite part of the film, when the gooey monsters made off with the baby, Claire gave chase and rescued the baby from a swamp, then returned to the house only to have the partially possessed Adam insist that the baby wasn’t really Finn, but a changeling. There was a lot of delicious tension as the audience was left to wonder whether the baby really had been replaced or whether the fungus was making Adam see it that way.
All in all, I found this a fairly enjoyable but not super compelling flick. It had some great gore and practical effects (including lots of Fulci-esque eye trauma, always a plus), and a few scenes of effective creepiness, but I felt like I wasn’t involved enough with the characters to really be rooting for them, so the whole thing felt slightly flat for me. Also, while I liked the overall concept of it, I felt like it could have been given more of a distinctive flair based around the Irish folklore, as it really just kinda came off as a run-of-the-mill cabin-in-the-woods type movie, albeit one that was slightly elevated by the acting and the eerie setting and look of the monsters. Fun fact: The movie was actually originally pitched as Straw Dogs meets Pan’s Labyrinth, which…just…no. I can sorta see where they were heading with that, but still. Not even close. Actually, now that I think of it, if it had been more like Pan’s Labyrinth it probably would have ruled.
In the movie’s defense, though, I watched it when I was really, really tired, so my exhaustion might have clouded my judgment and made me more impatient and disengaged with it than I would normally be, so if an Irish fairy-tale take on The Evil Dead sounds like your pint of Guinness, then by all means, give it a spin.
That’s all for now, so until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.
Horror Double Feature: Beyond the Gates and Dead Silence
It’s another lazy weekend, which means it’s time once again for another horror two-hitter, courtesy of Netflix. Today’s pairing was really nothing to write home about, but enjoyable enough to write a blog post about, so let’s get right to it.
First up, 2016’s Beyond the Gates, directed by Jackson Stewart, and winner of the midnight-movie audience award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The film, like many indie horrors of the past few years, is a throwback to a golden era of horror cinema (the 1980s; not that I’m complaining about that), and overall I found it a fairly charming effort, though I admit the pacing and tone seemed a shade uneven. Though the movie wasn’t really scary, had a somewhat slow first half, and was obviously a bit hamstrung by its nothing budget, I gotta say I’m looking forward to what this director comes up with in the future, as this was a pretty solid and generally entertaining horror-comedy.
The movie deals with two estranged and polar opposite brothers, uptight and nerdy recovering alcoholic Gordon (Graham Skipper) and shiftless bum John (Chase Williamson), who reunite in their home town in order to pack up their Luddite dad’s old-school video rental store. Seems that dear old dad, also an alkie, has been prone to binges and disappearances for some time, but since his most recent vanishing act has lasted more than seven months, the guys are assuming that this time, their father is never coming back.
Gordon decides to stay at his parents’ empty house while he’s in town, and he’s soon joined by his sweet and supportive girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant), who we later learn was the reason for Gordon giving up drinking, since he hurt her once when he was drunk. Before too long, John also asks to stay there, since apparently the couch he had been surfing on ejected him back into the streets for failure to cough up any rent money.
As the brothers are sorting through the vast and shadowy store, they discover in the locked back office the last thing their father had been watching before he vanished: one of those interactive VHS games that were fairly popular back in the 80s and early 90s, called, naturally, “Beyond the Gates.” The guys watch part of the tape (which features the wonderful Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator fame as the “host” of the game; she is easily the best part of the movie, peering creepily out of the TV screen with her kohl-rimmed eyes), and eventually come to believe that the game had something to do with their father’s disappearance, and finally they figure out that they’re going to have to play the game to the end to find out what happened to him and help him escape from whatever hell-dimension he got sucked into.
This movie did have quite a lot to recommend it, especially if you love cheapie 80s horror flicks and the more recent movies that pay homage to them. Barbara Crampton, as I said, was fantastic; some of the funniest/creepiest parts of the movie involved Gordon, John, and Margot hemming and hawing about the game, and Barbara Crampton (ostensibly on an old black and white VHS tape) just staring intently at them, waiting for them to make their next move. I also really liked the whole retro feel of the opening credits and the movie as a whole, including the Goblin-like opening theme and the predominance of neon pinks and blues. The look of the video store also brought back some pleasant memories, and the tone of the film was overall very similar to a movie of this type from the era. I also loved the design of the board game itself, which had a wonderful homemade gothic aesthetic going on.
I also liked that the movie took its time establishing the relationships between the characters, though I’m not sure it was entirely successful on that score, as I never felt fully engaged with them. And honestly, I felt like the plot could have been sped up a tad, as the first half of the movie seemed to drag somewhat before we got to the actual gameplay. And once the game actually started, there seemed to be a lot of scenes of the characters arguing about whether they should continue playing or not, which got a little repetitive.
I should also say that I felt like the balance between the horror and the comedy was a bit strange; much of the humor was fairly low-key, which is fine, but then there were a couple scenes of over-the-top gore that were clearly supposed to be funny (and they were, for the most part), and a brief comic turn by Jesse Merlin as a ghoulish antique shop proprietor, but the funny stuff didn’t really seem to fit in with the mostly serious relationship drama going on between the brothers and between Gordon and his girlfriend. So as I said, the tone of it was a bit off.
It was also painfully clear that budgetary constraints forced the filmmakers into a box; the journey “beyond the gates” and into the evil dimension was simply facilitated by an ordinary iron gate sitting in the house’s basement, and the evil dimension was just the basement shot with creepier lighting and a smoke machine, but I’m not gonna fault the movie too much for that, because making an indie movie and having to squeeze every penny is hard enough without assholes like me dinging you for having more ambition than cash. And it could be that they shot it like that on purpose, in order to give it that legit 1980s low-budget schlock touch.
So all in all, a decent 80s throwback that should please fans of the same, though it could have done with a bit more cohesion and a slightly quicker pace.
Next up, a film I only just got around to seeing, even though it came out way the hell back in 2007. James Wan and Leigh Wannell, obviously best known at the time for the Saw series, made Dead Silence three years after their breakout debut, and though it’s a completely different kind of film than any in the Saw franchise, I came away feeling sort of meh about the whole thing. I should note here that while I can see why James Wan became such a horror behemoth, most of his movies (The Conjuring, Insidious, even Saw) never struck me as anything particularly special. I realize that’s just me; for some reason his movies, while I enjoy them for the most part, don’t resonate with me, and I tend to forget them shortly after seeing them. I can’t really articulate why that is, but maybe in the course of writing out my thoughts on Dead Silence, I can clarify what I mean.
The premise, for the three of you who haven’t seen it, is that main character Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife Lisa (Laura Regan) receive an unmarked package that contains a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy named Billy. Even though Jamie (and maybe Lisa too, this wasn’t clear) come from a small town where there’s a scary urban legend about a ghostly ventriloquist and a perception that ventriloquist’s dummies are portents of death, Jamie doesn’t immediately chuck the thing out of the nearest window or set it on fire, but instead leaves it in the apartment with his wife while he goes to grab some takeout. Predictably, the doll murders Lisa, ripping out her tongue and leaving her with her mouth wrenched open like a vent figure’s. This prompts Jamie to return to his hometown of Ravens Fair to try to figure out who sent the doll and why it killed his wife, and on the journey, he is pursued by the endlessly shaving and wisecracking Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg), who is convinced that Jamie is responsible for the murder.
First of all, I have to say that this movie looks terrific. Very gothic and atmospheric, which is always a plus in my book. I also dug the whole ventriloquist aesthetic, with the old-school theater and all the trappings of 1940s showbiz, and I gotta admit that the dolls were effectively eerie, as vent figures in movies tend to be. Ghost ventriloquist Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts) was also cool-looking and easily the scariest part of a not-very-scary movie; overall, the visuals and the sound design of Dead Silence were admittedly pretty rad.
Where the movie failed, I felt, was in the plotting and the characterization. The characters were not engaging or charismatic, made dumb decisions (by gum, I think I’ll drive to a cemetery in the middle of the night with a haunted doll sitting right beside me in the passenger seat!), and spouted lame, cliched dialogue. The acting performances were not all that great, with Donnie Wahlberg’s detective seeming like a weird parody of a character and the guy who played Jamie just kind of bland.
The way the story moved along also felt too pat and obvious: for example, Jamie is all, I’m gonna go ask my estranged dad what’s going on with all this murderous doll ghost business, and then he goes to his dad’s house, and his dad’s like, I don’t want to tell you, and Jamie’s like, no dude, tell me, and dad’s like, okay, then, we all killed Mary Shaw back in the day and now she’s killing all our descendants in revenge, sorry I never laid all that exposition on you before, my bad. You get my drift? I just felt like everything was over-explained, like the movie didn’t trust the audience to figure anything out and had to make double-dog sure we were all on the same page, even though viewers were not only on the same page, but had finished the book a long time before the movie did.
The “twist” at the end of the movie was sort of neat, but not entirely unexpected. I don’t know, the whole gestalt of the movie reminded me of some of the lamer, PG-13 horror flicks of the era, like Darkness Falls, except a bit gorier; it seemed as though it wasn’t really made for adults. I watched the whole thing through and didn’t get too annoyed, but overall I thought it was just kind of there. But then again, I feel that way about a lot of James Wan’s movies. I think I would have liked this flick a lot more if I had watched it with the volume down and played some music to it instead, because it would make a gorgeous long-form goth-rock video, but as a movie…eh, not so much.
That’s all for now, and until next time, steer clear of retro VHS games and tongue-stealing vent puppets, and keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.
The Healing Power of Pop-Star Demons: An Appreciation of “Brimstone and Treacle”
As you all know, I really do like to write my long-form movie appreciations on this here blog, but also as you know, I sometimes get so busy with all my other projects that my long posts kinda fall by the wayside. For the past few weeks, I’ve been working my ass off recording all my works in audio book form (there are two for sale so far, here and here), and also slaving away at the 13 O’Clock Podcast. But I’ve got a couple hours to kill at the moment, and I saw a pretty damn good movie the other day, so let’s do this.
How I ended up watching it was something like kismet. The God of Hellfire woke up on Sunday morning, and immediately (and inexplicably) started describing scenes from a movie he’d seen a long time ago, asking if I knew what movie it was. It didn’t sound familiar, but then he suddenly remembered that Sting had been in it, which narrowed the possibilities down quite a bit. After a few minutes of sleuthing, we discovered that the film was Brimstone and Treacle, from 1982. It seemed strange to me that I had never seen it, because it was written by influential British playwright Dennis Potter, whose The Singing Detective and Pennies From Heaven I had quite enjoyed. I read the synopsis of Brimstone and Treacle and thought it sounded intriguing, and the GoH told me it was right up my alley, so we immediately tracked the movie down so I could remedy this grave oversight in my British movie watching expertise.
Brimstone and Treacle was originally written and produced in 1976 for the UK’s much-beloved Play For Today series, but upon seeing the finished product, the BBC balked at its disturbing content and refused to air it. Potter rewrote it for the stage, and it was produced there in 1977. The original Play For Today version was finally shown on British television in 1987, but the version I want to talk about was the delightfully dark and bizarre 1982 version. There are spoilers ahead for both the film and the TV versions, so reader beware.
Sting, doing a pretty entertaining take on Malcolm McDowell’s Alex from A Clockwork Orange, plays a mysterious young con man named Martin Taylor. His game entails running into random dudes on the street, pretending to know them, and then trying to wangle his way into their lives for purposes unknown. He fails at his first attempt, but then sets his sights on the harrumphing, uptight Tom Bates. Tom is leery of this rather pushy young fella, who claims to be a friend of his daughter Patricia, and he grows even more suspicious when Martin doesn’t even know that Patricia was in a terrible car accident a few years previously which left her brain damaged and completely dependent upon her parents. Sensing his skepticism, Martin fakes an illness, and it would seem that Tom has been hooked, because he agrees to bring his car around and take Martin back to his house to recover. But the wary Tom instead ditches the young man and heads home without him. The sly Martin, however, has lifted Tom’s wallet during his “fainting spell,” so now he not only knows where Tom lives, but has an excuse to pay the Bates family a visit.
Martin arrives at the Bates home later that evening, and immediately turns on his considerable charm. He claims that Tom must have dropped his wallet in all the confusion, and Martin, being a good samaritan, immediately came to return it. Martin begins buttering up Tom’s wife Norma (who was named Amy in the original TV version), praising her saintliness and patience in taking care of Patricia, and sympathizing with her about how hard her life has become after her daughter’s accident. Tom is not having any of it and tries to get rid of the guy, being outright rude to him and shouting at his poor wife like an asshole, but Norma sees only a genuinely delightful young man who is advocating for her and siding with her against her condescending husband. Norma is even further entranced by Martin’s professed piety (Norma is a simple woman and very religious, while Tom is a bitter, hateful atheist who nonetheless makes his living publishing religious texts for the bereaved. It should also be noted that in the TV version, he was a member of the National Front and a raging xenophobe, though this was not explicitly mentioned in this film version).
When Martin claims that not only had he been friends with Patricia, but that he had also asked her to marry him while they were at college together, Norma sees no problem at all with allowing Martin to stay in the house for a little while to care for Patricia so that Norma can have a much-needed break. Tom seems like he’s going to bust a vein as all this is going on, and a few blazing arguments ensue, but eventually, Martin’s excellent cooking and apparent conscientiousness make Tom soften his hatred somewhat. Martin does appear to be taking good care of Patricia, cleans the house for the family while they are out, and seems to behave impeccably. Norma is blissfully happy, as she can now leave the house to go get her hair done and do some window shopping, which she hasn’t been able to do at all in the years since Patricia’s accident.
But as it turns out, Tom was right to be suspicious of the too-good-to-be-true Martin, though it’s never made explicitly clear what Martin’s true endgame is, or what exactly he intended to do once he had won his way into the Bates family’s confidences. For no sooner has Norma toddled off to the salon than Martin begins sexually assaulting the bedridden Patricia, who is so brain damaged that she cannot speak to tell anyone about his attacks. This is creepy enough, but the strangest thing about Brimstone and Treacle is that even though molesting a disabled girl is obviously a horrible thing for Martin to be doing, the outcome of the entire episode turns out to be almost entirely positive, in a really bizarre and sort of disturbing way (hence why the film’s subject matter so bothered the BBC).
Now, in the TV version, it’s pretty clearly implied that Martin is a demon; his character is even portrayed with hairy feet. In the film version, this is merely hinted at; Martin looks completely normal, but there are some offhand remarks he makes (“I could be the Devil himself!”) that hint toward a possible demonic (or dark angelic) nature. At one point in the film, while Martin and Norma are praying by Patricia’s bedside, lights start flashing and the curtains start blowing around in what seems to be a supernatural storm of some kind, but it’s implied that this may be only from Martin’s point of view, as Norma does not seem to notice it. Tom also dreams of the young man acting as an agent of chaos, which he does end up being in the end, though whether this is a good or bad thing is left to the viewer to decide.
During the course of the film, it comes to light that Tom was fucking around on his wife with one of Patricia’s young friends (and it’s further implied that he is one of those skeevy über-conservative dudes who is all into underage girls, and perhaps even had sexual feelings for his own daughter). Patricia caught him in flagrante delicto two years before, and ran out into the street, whereby she was hit by a truck and put into her pitiable state. So it’s partially Tom’s guilt that makes him almost reluctant to even entertain the idea that Patricia will ever get any better, even while Norma is constantly praying for her recovery and insisting that the girl’s condition is improving. But Tom doesn’t WANT his daughter to get better, because he will be exposed, so he constantly denigrates Norma’s hopefulness and generally acts like a raging piece of shit.
But Martin’s awful actions toward the disabled Patricia have a (perhaps unintended) side effect. During his final and most blatant rape of her, she begins to scream, waking her parents, who run downstairs and find her naked. Martin has broken a window and escaped, but then the Bates discover that Patricia has completely recovered from her brain damage, and the first thing she does is point a finger at Daddy for fucking around on Mom and causing the accident that left her a vegetable for two long years (and could it be that dear old Daddy was also molesting her as well? This is left ambiguous, as all Patricia says to her father is, “How could you?”).
So here is the conundrum, as I mentioned, and what makes this movie so deliciously distressing. Martin was clearly up to no good from the beginning, sliming his way into the family and taking advantage of their hospitality, not to mention their poor daughter. But in the end, he also did them a great deal of good. He worked diligently for them for no pay, and he lifted a tremendous burden off Norma, allowing her to regain some semblance of a life for herself, as well as the confidence to stand up to her horrid husband. He also exposed Tom’s hidden, evil nature, as well as answered Norma’s prayers by apparently healing her daughter.
But was this his intention all along? Was he actually a demon, or perhaps a dark angel, doing God’s bidding, but in the ickiest way imaginable? Or was he just a dreadful person who inadvertently did the family some good? Would Patricia have gotten better anyway, even without Martin’s “ministrations”? It’s all left to the viewer’s imagination whether the chaos Martin caused was deliberate and meant to help them. At the very end of the movie, Martin is seen again walking the streets later that night, trying to pull his patented scam on yet another seemingly random man. But this man seems to know him, and as they walk off down the road, the man says that the bishop is waiting to see him, “with his one good eye.” Now what on earth could that possibly mean? (One-eyed bishop? That’s a dick joke, right?)
The GoH pointed out to me that perhaps Martin wasn’t “raping” Patricia as such, but was doing a sort of Biblical, Elisha-lays-on-dead-boy-and-brings-him-back-to-life deal. This sounds plausible, and perhaps it was what Potter had in mind, though I haven’t found any other reviews that make this connection, so who knows. GoH also remembered that Odin was often portrayed as one-eyed, so that might be another reference there (with Martin being a sort of trickster god figure), but again, it might be something else entirely.
That’s what makes this movie so great, though; it’s pretty uncomfortable to watch, what with all the disabled-girl-raping and the possible good that comes out of it, which leaves the viewer in a strange moral quandary, but it’s ultimately left up to us to decide how we feel about all of it. If you like Dennis Potter’s stuff, which tends toward the weird and misanthropic anyway, then I can’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy this one too; the performances are fantastic all around, and the whole atmosphere of it is just so pleasingly off-putting that I found myself quite enchanted by it, despite its grim and somewhat unsettling subject matter. There’s also a fairly twisted vein of particularly British black humor folded into the mix; another point in its favor. It also must be said that the soundtrack (consisting of mostly Police tunes, with some Go-Go’s and other stuff thrown in there) is also pretty rad.
Thanks for reading, as always, and until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.