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December 1, 2020

Static Age #13: Les Vampires (1915)

Haunting image from Les Vampires (1915)

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to the (beautifully restored from Kino Lorber) silent classic French serial Les Vampires (1915), written and directed by Louis Feuillade, which is about a mastermind criminal organization that is baffling the police both with its antics (the detectives are continuously mocked via messages) as well as successful robberies. Presented in ten chapters of various running times, resulting in an absolutely thrilling 7 hour marathon for connoisseurs of hundred-year-old genre fare; the finale alone, is quite possibly the most spectacular ending in silent film history.


And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…


Doctor Who - Season 6 art

The 6th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) offers more of the same (albeit with heavier horror undertones), as The Doctor (the always comedic Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (the always gorgeous Karen Gillian) indulge to more adventures. ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ is set in 1969 America when and where all sorts of weird things happened, while ‘Day of the Moon’ continues that storyline and takes it many steps further by introducing world domination by aliens conspiracy theories and President Richard Nixon (Stuart Milligan). The Doctor and Amy go all-out pirates in ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’, an episode that is boasting excellent CGI. ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ concerns a female Doctor that endangers the Tardis. ‘The Rebel Flesh’, ‘The Almost People’, and ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ are about a mysterious liquid that copies your facial features and your – you guessed it! – flesh in general, making a perfect (but evil) replica of yourself. ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ takes the action to Nazi-era Germany. ‘Night Terror’, the series’ most eerie and frightening episode is about a young boy’s cupboard and its very real monsters as well as a beautiful story about child neglecting and psychosis. It’s present day Amy vs. old Amy in ‘The Girl Who Waited’! Taking into account how far back I am with catching up with recent series, it is no surprise that while nowadays everybody has switched to podcasts, I still blog for the very few people that are patient enough to read me.


Ratched - Season 1 poster art

Created by Ryan Murphy and Evan Romansky, the 1st season of Ratched (2020 – present) is set in 1947 and is about the titular nurse (the gorgeous Sarah Paulson) who talks her way into getting hired in a major psychiatric clinic, where her inner darkness will shine. Containing some of the best set and costume design, as well as excellent cinematography, this Netflix series is a winner. Also starring Sharon Stone, this is a stylized exercise in violence as well as a LGBTQI+ manifesto.


On the mainstream movie front, I caught up with the following…


Based upon Roald Dahl’s book and Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 film with Anjelica Huston, The Witches (2020) is a surprisingly terrible remake that fails in almost all fronts, despite having amassed great talents both behind the camera (directed by Robert Zemeckis, who also co-wrote with Guillermo del Toro) and in front of it (starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, and Chris Rock). In terms of tone, the magic of the source material as well as the original film is completely lost, whereas the terrible CGI that hijacked the project are of the SyFy channel variety. The only salvaging elements are the excellent costume and set design, and the African-American culture background during the first few scenes.


The Craft: Legacy (2020)

Staying on the same subject – that of witchcraft – you should also check out Blumhouse Productions’ The Craft: Legacy (2020), which like the 1996 original is about the parallels between wiccans and feminism. Writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones’ offering follows the story of Lily (the diverse beauty Cailee Spaeny) who has special powers but also trouble getting along in school as a misfit teenager. Things improve when she meets three other young witches, but happiness doesn’t last long as her boyfriend commits suicide. What’s more, her stepmother’s boyfriend (David Duchovny) appears to be an evil warlock who is after her powers.


Although Crime is one of my least favorite genres when it comes to fiction, I love True Crime in all of its forms, from books to podcasts and everything in between I am very fascinating with the genre. So this time around I checked out the Audrie & Daisy (2016) documentary on Netflix, which is an absolutely captivating piece on the cyber bullying of several teenagers that resulted in sexual abuse and suicide. Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, this award-winning film is combining archival footage with newly acquired interviews and results into a stomach-churning experience that will wake the feminist inside you – if she’s not already waken! I also watched Skye Borgman’s Abducted in Plain Sight (2017), another documentary on Netflix, this time about a master manipulator that managed to talk his way into having sex with a couple (separately and sans the knowledge of each other’s actions) and kidnap their 12-year-old daughter and mind-wash her so much that she believed she was abducted by aliens!


The New Mutants (2020)

Back to fiction, and this time of the superhero kind, Marvel’s The New Mutants (2020), directed by Josh Boone (who also wrote the screenplay with Knate Lee) is about five – you guessed it – young mutants that are held against their will in a secluded facility by a female doctor, in a setting that resembles your nightmares’ worst version of a psychiatric ward. Reminiscent of the best works of Stephen King, this reportedly troubled production gets many things right, including its commentary on lesbian romance and teenage angst.


And finally, I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…


More Sex, Better Zen, Faster Bullets: The Encyclopedia of Hong Kong Film (2020, Headpress) by Stefan Hammond & Mike Wilkins, with foreword by Jackie Chan and preface by Michelle Yeoh, is offering many chapters that introduce us to the subject’s various subgenres and offer plenty of reviews as well. A really beautiful hardback tome that is as informative as it is entertaining.


Being a big fan of David Cronenberg’s entire body of work, I finally got around to reading William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch: The Restored Text (1959, 2010), an exceptionally penned descent into hard drugs and homosexuality.


Additionally, Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door (1989, 2000, 2018), the shocking story of a perverted mother figure and her many young minions that tortured a teenage girl to death, is one of the best books I’ve ever read and it remains stomach-churning throughout.

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