Marshall-Ween: Sexually Repressed Sanguinivores, a review of Thirst (2009)

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Repression can make you do some crazy things, so can love. That is the interpretation I made when I saw the 2009 Park Chan-wook horror film, Thirst.

Set in South Korea, it follows Sang-hyun, a Catholic priest who undergoes an experiment to find a vaccine for the deadly Emmanuel Virus. Like most "scientific experiments" in horror films it goes terribly wrong, and during a blood transfusion, Sang-hyun becomes a vampire. Yes, with no rhyme or reason he becomes a blood-sucking, nocturnal, super-strengthed, child of darkness. Sang-hyun's life takes a lust filled turn when he meets up with a childhood friend and starts an affair with his wife, Tae-ju.

Now that all parties concerned are caught up to speed, I am not surprised that this movie won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Park Chan-wook is a visionary, taking some of the tired old tropes of vampire and breathed new life into it. Right off the proverbial bat, he plunges film goers into the world of vampirism with no explanation.

Sang-hyun doesn't know how it happens, or from whom the blood came from he just knows that: sunlight burns, blood tastes good, has heightened senses, superhuman strength, and increased agility. Throwing the viewer into the world of darkness so haphazardly allows wiggle room for fans of vampire-lore to come up with theories of their own. This is the kind of speculation which tickles my cranium and makes me want to dig a little deeper.

Speaking of trying new things with creatures that go bump-in-the-night, Park Chan-wook also treats vampiric existence as more of a contractable disease. South Korean vampires turn others by putting their infected fluids directly into their bloodstream. Could this be an allegory for STD's? is vampirism less of a call to damnation and more of a life-long burden to health like HIV? (which cannot be cured but merely managed)

According to Sang-hyun, being a vampire is a curse, a punishment from God for his faithlessness as well as his lust and subsequent act of adultery with Tae-ju. In his mind, vampirism is a demonic compulsion. His thirst for blood and sexual desire for Tae-ju are sins which he cannot help but succumb to, and he inevitably hates himself for it.

Also, like most vampire romance stories, the blood-sucking beau must turn the damsel into his eternal bride. This is where dualistic themes of the film genuinely shine. Tae-ju is caught in an annoying and emotionally abusive marriage with a boorish fool, both of them living with his overbearing mother who dotes on him as if he were still a toddler. Her affair and eventual turn from the weak woman caught in a loveless marriage; to empowered femme-fatal of the night was one of the most intriguing aspects of the film. At first, she is frightened by Sang-hyun's "disease" but becomes all the more fascinated by it. She wishes to turn into a vampire, and in a fatal twist of fate, Sang-hyun is given no choice.

The dualism mentioned above lies in how Sang-hyun and Tae-ju are mirror images of each other. Sang-hyun hates his vampirism and does everything he can to assimilate to human society, Tae-ju loves hers and slowly begins to view humans as merely food. It is this push-and-pull, this tit-for-tat where the philosophical push of the film truly lies. Another thing that is worthy of appreciation about this couple, amidst all of the fantastical, is their believeability.

One thing about most paranormal romance stories is that one never sees a couple that is believable. Yes, it is all fantasy, but it would be nice to see a coupling that hangs in the realm of realism. Thirst does this correctly, Sang-hyun is a rather average looking man, with no striking aesthetic characteristics. Also, it would have been so easy just to cast a woman that looks like she just got off of recording a Korean Pop music video. Instead, she is cuter than anything else. Just a simple observation.

I could go on and on about Thirst but why not see it for yourself instead? This is indeed a gem from the East that turns the vampire-mythos on its head.

Oh, and one more thing. Did you know that this was the first mainstream Korean film to have full frontal male nudity in it? I guess its true what they say; you learn something new every day.

Marshall-Ween: The Bloody, Bewitching, Ballet of Suspiria

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Do you know anything about witches?

It was that simple tagline that hooked me into seeing Suspiria. Although it is an essential horror classic, I have never seen it. So, being the movie aficionado that I am, I decided to rectify that issue by sitting down a few nights ago and took a look. Part of the Three Mothers film trilogy, by famous horror director Dario Argento; Suspiria is a colorful, blood-soaked, feast for the eyes. This piece is pure bombast, and while this may be the folly of other horror films that utilize such methods, Suspiria is all the more impressive for it.

As the opening credits make their appearance, the music brought to blaring life from the Italian progressive rock band, Goblin and they immediately throw the viewer into shock. Yes, this is a film that gives all of itself to any horror buff and does so in the most beautiful way.

Unlike a lot of scary movies I have seen, Suspiria has a plethora of candy-coated colors, effective use of bright lighting and some really trippy set pieces that are ubiquitous of the 1970's. A prime example of this cornucopia of visual delights is within the first few minutes of the movie.

It all starts off in conventional horror fashion: On a dark and stormy night. Our lead protagonist, Suzy Bannion, is given a scholarship to the prestigious Tanz Dance Academy in Freiburg, Germany. As she makes her way there, the school itself is a rather unusual building. It is a bright red mountain of an establishment that has a eerie incandescence to it, all the more off-putting when juxtaposed with the bleak and wind-lashed environment that surrounds it.

Amidst the glowing hues of candy-apple reds, glaring pinks, and dark blues, Suspiria still is nail-biting in its approach. Everything, from the interior design of the academy; with its jarring geometric black-and-white floor designs; to the vast city-scapes, with overblown town squares and plazas (one scene especially will come to mind to anyone who has seen this film), Suspiria expertly creates a sense of impending dread, for whatever threat creeps onto its unsuspecting victims.

In fact, the entire look, feel, and spirit of the film is like peering more into the inner-workings of a stage play, not a motion picture. This, to me, is an exquisite bit of symbolism. Characters appear in scenes as if from a distance, especially when something tense is going on. So instead of becoming intimate with the action, the viewers at home are now helpless exhibitionists.

It is only when sudden and horrific death is on display do we get the full nitty-gritty details of such a gory demise. This lent itself to the feeling of helplessness that bubbled forth within me. I could do nothing to prevent the impending doom of the students of Tanz Dance Academy. All in all, I was just a helpless spectator, experiencing a dark ballet, one that was simultaneously sinister and sumptuous. This is the key to good horror: Suspiria was able to evoke in me what I like to call "terrified pathos."

Although Suspiria feels at home in the slasher department, the paranormal also rears its ugly, wart-infested head. Yes, I am talking about witches. In the same vein as some other witchcraft horror based classics, such as Rosemary's Baby, Suspiria reveals little; but knocks the wind out of you via the big reveal. Without telling too much, it is worth stating that it parades some of most beautiful in practical effects utilizing some genuinely gruesome makeup.

As this analysis is being written, there is a 2018 rendition of Suspiria that is going to be released just in time for Halloween. Will I see it? From what I have read about it, it is more of a re-imagining and less of a remake. I'll see it just for the sake of homage. However, I personally see no reason to re-imagine something that is already chock-full of vision. Suspiria captured my imagination and chilled my bones.

Experience Suspiria, to say any more would be pointless repetition.

Wayside Worthy Sayings

The English language is a rich lexicon of flowery sayings and phrases. Some can grab you and not let go. For better or worse. Over the years I have come across some proverbs, and words, that have always--using a turn of phrase--rubbed me the wrong way.

Some of them are overused, hackneyed, and platitudinous to a downright tee. Would you, dear reader, join me on this horrible journey?

1. "I'm just saying."

Uttered by those with a hair-trigger defensive motive. And almost always used by someone who has made a statement that is taken as needlessly defensive, boorish, or duplicitous. Hence the two-faced phrase, "I'm just saying!"

Nobody "just says" anything. Racists tend to resort to this as a masking agent to cover up something stupid. "Black people do violent things--I'm just saying!" Well congratulations, you have made a racist statement without having to own up to it. In other words, you played the racist's game but not take up the racist's name.

A word to the wise, say what you mean and mean what you say. The caveat of I'm just saying! is the equivalent of throwing a stone and hiding your hand. It's cheap and intellectually lazy. Own your words, for they are your own.

2. "That's racist/sexist/ or any other 'ist' one can think of."

On the flipside of "I'm just saying" are those in the camp of the perpetually offended. These are the group idealogues who will always act as a self-appointed savior for any particular race or gender, (usually women) and will pop up to remind the world how racist and sexist everything is.

Make an observation about a particular group, (e.g., Hispanics are Catholic, women on average aren't as physically strong as men) no matter how innocuous the statement may be, and these 'ever-so-tolerant' crusaders will swoop down like morally indignant 'word-ambulance' chasers.

I would not mind so much if there were not so much hypocrisy chocked up within the sinews and minds of these holier-than-thouists of our modern age. Example: When someone, anyone, makes a sweeping or broad generalization about Caucasians or anyone male (or both of these things simultaneously) the mouths of these moralists magically close.

3. "Whatever..."

Everyone at some point or another has been guilty of saying this. It usually is a simple phrase, traditionally spoken by someone who wants to end a discussion--especially an argument--rather quickly. Fair enough, some cases can be taxing and sometimes the mind is willing, but the heart is apathetic.

Where this becomes an issue is when it morphs into the go-to, the crutch, the catch-all for the lazy bore. These folks ubiquitously fall into two factions: The whiny suburbanite kid and the bore as mentioned earlier who has lost an argument. The former usually grow out of their "whatever" phase and obtains employment of some kind. Good for them.

The latter is much more prone to annoying idiocy. Usually, the spout some, say something blatantly false and or stupid or offend purely for the sake of offense. When confronted with such infractions, instead of apologizing or debating their point--like an intelligent homo-sapien with two brain cells to rub together--they fall back on "whatever." It's a three syllable word for weak counter-argumentation that leaves both parties unsatisfied. The art of conversation is genuinely dead. Don't care? Eh, whatever.

4. "Money is the root of all evil."

This platitude is espoused by someone who doesn't have any money as a means to assuage the pangs of poverty. Do you know what would relieve that pain of being broke? Having money!
I understand a poor person saying this, but when middle or even upper classes use it, I am genuinely perplexed.

Is money the root of all evil? Then I suggest paying that 'sin' forward and helping me out; Your sin would be washed clean in the blood of the lamb after all, and I would be your monetary scapegoat! Watch them go silent when confronted with the idea of parting with their precious pesos.

Here's an idea, put your MONEY where your mouth is, otherwise shut up.

5. "Check your privilege!"

Admittedly, this is more of a newer phrase, but considering how quickly it has made it to this list despite its age-- goes to show its annoying potency!

Spoken by the envious who, if they applied themselves to one thing outside of complaining, they might make something of themselves. "Check your privilege!" is akin to someone dragging another down because the person in question feels they are obtaining an awesome thing is unwarranted. Because their lack of talent and ability runs so deep, and their laziness is above the national average, the check-your-privilege ilk has put together subsets of people that they feel should constantly placate themselves amidst the altar of the "disadvantaged." This small list includes, but is most certainly not limited to White privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, thin privilege, ad-Infinitum.

Here's a tidbit of advice and a lesson on human nature. We're born selfish. If any human has an advantage in life--whether real or imaginary--they will do just that, take advantage! This is because having privileges feels good, and people want to do what is pleasurable. If the whiners of life had the same benefits, they would not be part of the caste of the bellyaches.

6. "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"

A surefire way to act as a socially sanctioned domestic violence perp. Can you imagine if a father uttered such a thing? There would be an outcry of sorts.

Back to the bad mothers club. So you have been having a bad day my dear? And that lousy day has been making you very upset? Well, I say "tough cookies!" Bad days are a fact of life, and taking out your frustrations on your (supposed) loved-ones is a catalyst for divorce and a recipe for a broken family.

In a warped kind of way, it all makes sense; your emotions control you, so why shouldn't everyone else be a slave to them as well? So--Bitch--when you say "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," just remember that the emotional well being and happiness of another sentient living individual should not be contingent on your fickle feelings, or whether or not you have had a "bad day."

7. "I don't care about looks."

Spare me. Are you a conscious human being with the sense of sight? Then you care about looks. This is spoken, for the most part, by males who are trying a more disingenuous mating strategy. By appearing to be the good guy who is not like those "other shallow men," his virtue can be bolstered, and now he can win the girl over by his sheer example of moral fiber!

Hate to break it to you fellow, but you're noticing her cleavage and butt right now. And yes she does see that you are looking. And no brother, you are not the exception to the rule. If you are a man with a sex drive, you are visually stimulated and would prefer to mate with someone you find attractive. Granted, what one person finds attractive may differ from another. However, the attractiveness must be apparent--or else no sex will take place.

8. "Violence is never the answer!"

Let me dust off a saying. A wise man once said, "Violence is golden." While violence is not the first, second, or even the third answer; it is, most certainly, the final solution and only a fool would believe that it is not an answer at all.

Violence gave us the constitution. The violence stemmed the tide of Axis aggression. Violence gave us civil rights. Violence is the aggressor, yes: But it is also the protector.

To say violence is never the answer is not just wrong, it is dangerous because it is that very same corny sentimentalism which prevents people from looking at the reality of existence itself. You are the product of violent competition, born from a brutal million year contest called evolution. In other words, you are violence incarnate.

Try that on for size!

9. "I'm bored..."

When I was an annoying little sprout, I said this phrase only a few times. I quickly learned that my boredom didn't amount to a hill of beans, because my mom would always respond with, "And? Your point?" She would then walk off, usually doing something else--leaving me, and my boredom, in the proverbial dust.

She was right. Boredom means nothing. I have had people say to me "I'm bored" and I am always astounded. To this day, I can never understand boredom. We live in a world full of turbulence, upheaval, exploration, and wonder. And you are bored? Stop for a second and turn to your right, you more than likely will find something!

Stop saying it, and I'm not here to entertain you--I'm not your show monkey.

10. "Nazi!" or "Hitler!"

Hear me out on this one. Hitler and his Nazi Cronies were some of the most nefarious nere-do-well's this world has ever seen. In no way, shape or form, am I defending or endorsing Adolf Hitler. (I'm a biracial, bisexual man for goodness sakes!) May he rot, and may all of his supporters, past, and present, sleep with the fishes.

With that disclaimer fully enclosed, can we as a society stop using the word Nazi and the name Hitler, to tear someone down who we might disagree? Hitler is no longer a scary cautionary tale of unbridled power and the dangers of her conformity--he's become a bugaboo; a regular twenty-first-century boogeyman with goose-stepping goblins, here to take your full grown millennial children from their cribs; screaming profanities in German to them all the way to Fox News' headquarters.

He's become a comic book villain. It's weakening the effect.

Me personally, I prefer to vary my insults by borrowing from other lesser known (or at least less discussed) despots. Let's move away from the Teutonic tyrant and try Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Che Guevara, and Mao Zedong on for size. Too twentieth century? We can go old school! How about Gaius Caligula, Ivan the Terrible, and Leopold the II of Belgium!

History is bloody good fun!

11. "I'll pray for you..."

The most lethargic form of charity that pantomimes serious concern for the well being of another. A veritable "for-twenty-five-cents-a-day" fake, moral crusaderism. Unlike the Christian Children's Fund (and this is coming from a non-believer) who--at least--tries to impact actual charity, saying "I'll pray for you" is the equivalent of saying "There's nothing I can do."

The next time, be honest and say that. When someone is in actual need or, worse yet, peril; the last thing anyone needs is an appeal to some non-existent sky wizard who may or may not provide some assistance.

Growing up, I remember a person--we'll call him Joe--who would always shout "I'll pray for you..." One day, one of Joe's friends was in dire straights. The time when he needed Joe the most, Joe moved his mouth to say (wait for it) "I'll pray for you..." Joe's buddy was enraged by that and retorted with a hissing "I need a place to stay, not your stinking prayers!" I think the point was made quite clearly.

12. "Be a man!"

By who's standards? Yours? Societies? Women's? Other men's?

Be a man is parroted by those who, more often than not, want something from a male--especially when said thing is detrimental to that individual male's emotional, mental, or physical well being.

What is more perturbing (or infuriating in some regards) is when a woman says it. Is your man--or a man you know--about to well up with tears? "Be a man!" You yell out. Pray tell, what do you as a woman, know about being a man? It is just as idiotic when a man says it, but at the very least he has some semblance (by his very membership to the gender) of what he is saying.

Contrary to popular belief, men feel and emote just like any other human being. Let them express it. We might have fewer mass shootings if that were the case.

13. "You Should Smile More."

I'm pointing my proverbial finger at the fellas for this one yes. Yes, I have heard women spout this nonsense too, but more often than not, it is from men towards women.

I'm sorry she, much like men, feels the gamut of emotions and does not want to "turn that frown upside down." No, she is not some hostess on a game show, there to make sweet gestures to showcase fabulous prizes. No, she does not have to flash her pearly whites so that your day could be brightened.

Maybe she is dealing with hardship. Instead of demanding her to smile, try letting her vent.

14. "Don't judge me!"

Most likely, if one hears this, the one saying it is guilty of some fraction or another. A rapid defensive position towards those who would dare to point out some major flaw of character.

An example is in order: I grew up in some pretty rough neighborhoods, where broken homes and drug use, as well as dealing, was commonplace. When some low down druggie or an irresponsible single mother was given guidance, their first phrase would be either "only God can judge me!" or "don't judge me!" and my personal favorite "You don't know what I've been through!"

Yes, I can, and yes I will. The fact of the matter is that your stupid actions affect others around you. Also, if I might add, being judgemental--in varying capacities--is a natural neurological mechanism used to gauge safety, who one is going to socialize with, and what actions one is going to take. You do it, I do it, and so does everyone else.

15. "Watch your tone!"

Tone policing is an ugly habit because it is more concerned with how something is said instead of the truth behind it.

Yes, sometimes tones should be watched. However, when every conversation is scrutinized to the point where no one can say what they feel out of fear, nobody benefits. If someone has to walk on eggshells to protect your pusillanimous, lily-livered, ego then you are not a conversationalist, you're a word fascist. A communicative authoritarian ready to start a war over every perceived tone crime.

It looks as though I won't be talking to you any time soon.