Quickies: Doom Guy: The Sanest Insanity

(Note: This extremely brief article will focus on 2016’s interpretation of everybody’s Super Mad Space Marine)

Despite having a disturbingly troubled development stage, imagine my and everybody else’s surprise when DOOM 2016 blew the fanbase away with it’s rapid yet intuitive gameplay, ludicrous gibs (points if you get that reference) and an actually engaging story one could get invested in if they were so inclined to look past the merciless carnage. Bethesda and id Software hit a home run with the reboot and by March 2020, there may be a potential repeat bravura performance.

However, despite the relentless onslaught of all manner of carnage, one thing I took special notice of was how Doom Guy actually had a subtle sense of personality.

“Subtlety in a Doom game?!” I hear you exclaim breathlessly in utter disbelief.

*sagaciously nods* I know.

Hear me out.

In ordinary circles, the arsenal wielding fucknut who mows down any and all life they meet is something we rightly look down on and it is an unfortunate reality we deal with.

In the fictional wish-fulfillment and demented world of DOOM 2016 however, this is situational lucidity in a world of murderous lunacy.

For all and intents and purposes, Doom Guy is the craziest yet sanest character in the game entire. He is pathologically violent, saddled with less than zero remorse for his foes while visibly getting off of the fear he causes within them and does not tolerate thoughtlessness on the part of UAC. In saying that, the game thoughtfully injects moments of actual human emotion without our silent, enraged protagonist uttering a single word. At the commencement of the story, after having fought his way through the first of many waves of demonic foes and entering an elevator to reach the surface of Mars, Doom Guy is contacted by the ambiguous character of Samuel Hayden via a console in the cubicle who subsequently attempts to explain the foolhardy rationale of UAC’s mission to obtain a sustainable energy force from Hell. “For the betterment of all” are the paraphrased watchwords of Hayden’s explanation. “For the betterment of the 1%” is what he actually means.

This breathtakingly ridiculous notion would have worked on somebody who bought into UAC’s folly. But not Doom Guy.

During this one-sided verbal exchange, the perspective of Doom Guy shifts down to the bloodied corpse of a UAC worker which has clearly been torn to shreds by Hellspawn and while you see and hear absolutely nothing from our bruiser buddy, you can just *imagine* the look of anger, disdain and even a little bit of compassion for the fact so many innocent people died all in the pursuit of human greed masquerading as ‘civilization’ all from that small shift of movement. After taking stock of the savage sight and understanding what lies ahead, Doom Guy SMASHES the console, flexes his wrists, cracks his knuckles and cocks his shotgun, filled with rage, resolve and retributive righteousness.

Heaven save Hell for nobody else will.

Badass Moment Number I’ve Lost Count Already.

We are all familiar with the typical buzzkill “You Are Dealing With Forces You Do Not Comprehend!” character , the one who attempts to be the last-ditch attempt of the voice of reason. Yet, in a subversive twist, that is who Doom Guy really is at the core. He is the one who knows exactly the nature of what is going on and he’s disgusted yet unsurprised at the fact everybody else keenly ignored it. Throughout the narrative, any opportunity Doom Guy has to disrupt the corrupted status quo of Hell and UAC, he takes it with extreme prejudice, be it ripping and tearing through hapless denizens of the Dread Inferno to unhesitatingly destroying scores of UAC corporate property.

It just so happens however, Doom Guy is filled with unmitigated rage to counteract this consideration for common sense and decency. Although he was specifically created to be the ultimate boogeyman to the hoardes of Hell who aggressively does not give a single, solitary pinkywinkle of a FUCK about all things corporate and demonic (the argument can be made that they are one and the same…) , that doesn’t mean he lacks moral capacity. He just chooses not to apply it to Imps, Pinkys, Mancubi, Cacodemons and the like because FUCK ‘EM!

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Taa-taa!

By the way, anybody think it’s funny how id Software’s very moniker can be linked to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theorem of the Id, with how it pertains to Doom Guy? Think about it; violence is a key point of the personality archetype of the Id, the spirit of the instinctively selfish, ‘Fuck You, Got Mine’ mindset often times displayed by the vindictive survivalist, something which is considered primal and stupid in our regular contemporary society, yet with Doom Guy, it is this very embodiment of ferocity which ensures his effectiveness.

The instinct known as Thanatos, of death, combined with Eros, the agent of lust, though in this case, this lust is built in blood rather than sexual desire usually associated with the theory. While Doom Guy does display the other two aspects of Freud’s tripartate theory with showcasing clear aspects of Ego (Reality, with him dealing with UAC’s mess) and Super Ego (Morality, in this case felt towards the loss of human life), it is the Id, his inherent and commanding use of the evil of unbridled anger to contend with evil which saves the day.

Granted, I am not one for Freud myself, but there are still aspects of his outdated concepts which I feel can be applied, if only in the name of broad philosophy.

I also want to sound more profound than I actually am, so shhhh!

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Alien: Isolation: A Psychoanalysis

Creative Assembly’s 2014 surprise smash hit Alien: Isolation is a measure of tension, disempowerment and gives the player a first hand experience of what it is like to be prey that is being hunted by a large, lethal and superior predator.

Alien: Isolation should rightly be on the Best Of lists for any self-respecting horror gamer who aren’t so much in pursuit of sudden bursts of horror, but a continuous experience of dread, uncertainty and tension as to whether or not they will be alive in the next five minutes.

Upon the game’s initial release, I read the experience of playing Alien: Isolation is the equivalent of reading an ECG of an arrhythmia patient: there is always a sense of underlying dread in the line, unsteady, and when it does spike, it’s fast and it is frightening before it returns to its default state again, but the patient is never truly ‘safe’. As somebody who works in the nursing industry, I think that’s a rather fair assessment because I can tell you on more than several occasions I could feel my thumper beating irregularly during high-stress scenarios in game.  If I had a scale of the amount of white-knuckledness I experienced while playing, it was always up around the 7 mark and when I was being actively stalked by the Xenomorph, it rocketed up to 11. There is no true sense of respite here, because the game wants you to know where the Alien is at all times; ignorance is costly and foolishness is punished with aplomb.

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Example? Don’t stand in front of the damn Alien.

Naturally, Isolation isn’t flawless as I am certain all of you have read varying accounts at some point about what works in the games’ favor and what doesn’t. But the thing is, as with any game, the experience is completely subjective. So long as you don’t approach this game with the mission to kill everything and anything, Alien: Isolation never truly relinquishes its hold. Isolation is not a participation trophy style game, focus. It rewards prudence, frugalism and conviction in one’s actions.

Which brings me to my purpose of writing this indulgent piece.

The most prevalent theme in this game comes from the title itself: isolation. Of course you have poor Amanda Ripley who is foisted into the decaying Sevastapol station, and in a physical sense, Amanda is on her own for about 98% of the game. The other 2% comes from her interactions with various characters through cutscenes and via her low-fi headset as she strives to find out what happened to her mother and finally, to survive the station and all of it’s malcontent inhabitants.

Hang onto your butts, kids, things are about to get spoiler and pretentious.

Still here? Good.

To me, Alien: Isolation shows said isolation via quite a few avenues in the game beyond the fact our protagonist if fundamentally solitary the entire time.

First and foremost, the fact that Amanda is stuck on a crumbling space station without much of a clue about what has happened prior to her arrival. She can see something catastrophic has occurred given the disrepair of the ship, but then she sees bodies, bodies that don’t appear to have been a result of a kind, gentle death.

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Although Isolation has very little in-your-face-gore, a lot of the violence comes from after the fact. Amanda’s arrival is met with empty space terminals, abandoned guard posts, broken down equipment and low power for dingy, questionably stained computer uplinks among other things. In a sense, Sevastapol station is, to use an example from another superbly oppressive horror, like Cabrini Green from the first Candyman film: it was built with lofty, almost noble purposes, but lack of care of the inhabitants and outsiders caused the place to fall into ruin and the alien’s presence was but the cherry on a decaying, rotten cake of industry and greed.

It is revealed through the game that many of the bigwigs and their supplicants aboard the station were a bunch of greedy sods who cared less about delivering quality products to potential clients and more about cutting budgetary corners, using blackmail, extortion and corporate racketeering to make ends meet. When all goes to Hell, they don’t try to put their differences aside, the chasm between their immorality and moral coil has only grown deeper and far apart.

The Alien franchise has often pegged a lot of the blame on Weyland-Yutani with it’s ruthlessness and lack of compassion for the human species. Despite this however, when it comes to the quality of products, grudging respect can be given because the corporation has been seen to strive for excellence and adapt. Conversely, in Isolation‘s narrative, we have Seegson, which can only be described as a bootleg version of WY;  a competitive branch which has tried to strike out on it’s own to make it rich only to fail miserably because it doesn’t value quality business management and product control. Reading about the slow, agonising death of Sevastapol and by extension it’s parent company via computer files and audio clips are fascinating and more than just a little bit depressing because it is a story we have all witnessed if not been a part of. 

I feel the reason why the developers took a lot of care whilst creating this microcosm that Amanda is thrust into is to reflect a very real problem in today’s world: businesses desire to be expedient, not efficient. They want more but are prepared to give as less as they can in their best interests. The blue-blooded live in an artificial version of paradise while the blue-collared suffer their failings. The way people feel about Sevastapol is a sense of disdainful indifference and apathy. Nobody likes it, but nobody is willing to stand up and make a change for the better in order to bring the station back on its feet. That school of thought it all too common with us, isn’t it- we are more content to endure failure and problems rather than try to band together and fix them as a collective. A grassroots movement is well and dandy, but it takes more than a few hundred willing people to alter a crippling status quo.

A far more psychological and complex reference to desolation in this game are Amanda’s personal feelings. She is going on this mission first and foremost to gain closure about what happened to her mother. She risks her life constantly but with a sense of purpose and collected competence. She is frightened, but she adapts quickly and manages to find a way to endure. You would think, with all of this survival and planning and skill Amanda would be rewarded by finding out about her mother in full… but here’s the kicker: she doesn’t.

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This is what is called an “Oh SHIT” moment.

Amanda is still left with questions and uncertainty. You could theorize that this game and it’s themes of absolute loneliness and relentless oppression echoes Amanda possibly thinking that her own mother has abandoned her, leaving her daughter upset, confused and demanding answers that she isn’t going to get. Granted, Amanda knows deep down that her mother would never do that, but all of us have a little voice of uncertainty in our minds that tell us strange, horrible and nearly impossible things in the event of thinking of a worst case scenario.

In Barbara Creed’s best selling book The Monstrous-Feminine (originally published in 1993), which concentrates on womanhood and femininity in the context of horror, one of the main psychoanalytical archetypes Creed focuses on is that of the Archaic Mother.

What is the Archaic Mother, you ask?

In Creed’s expansive analysis of this psychological figure, the Archaic Mother is the ingrained fear of the mother being the source of reproductive-generative anxiety and danger (2007).

The lifecycle of the Alien is an abnormal representation of motherhood which isn’t limited to biological sex. In the first film, poor Kane becomes Patient Zero of the rapacious Facehugger and subsequently gives violent, traumatizing and unexpected birth to the Drone which goes on to terrorize the remaining crew. As you may recall, the Facehugger emerged from one of the thousands of alien eggs in that chamber which implies there are thousands of other Facehuggers awaiting to emerge. It would be safe to say the sheer number of them would constitute as a scurge, dreadful progeny which can spawn more dreadful progeny from all manner of parentage. Although the series would go on to enhance it’s lore when it came to the Xenomorph species, one thing which has always remained constant is the predacious anxiety it generates in it’s audience because it speaks loud and clear to our cultural obsession and fear of sex.

H.R. Giger who was responsible for the initial design of what would become the Xenomorph made absolutely no pretenses that his designs were rooted in the link between sexuality and death, which is fascinating because the orgasm one can achieve via intercourse with a partner OR through masturbation has been known to boost the moniker ‘the little death’. Letting a part of yourself go in the moment of pleasure is also permitting a piece of you to die.

So, bearing this in mind, what does all of this have to do with Alien: Isolation?

You could also make a point that the alien itself could stand for Amanda’s doubt and ambiguity to the suspicions about her mother made physical- frightening, unfamiliar and imposing, constantly stalking her and never allowing her to forget it is around, a vindictive demon of the subconscious.

To go one step further, the Xenomorph is Amanda’s malicious, envious bastard Jungian Shadow who wishes to claim Amanda’s place in Ellen Ripley’s life as being the number one child. The only this nightmare can hope to do that is to shed it’s human equivalent’s blood to prove it’s worth.

Want another mind-bender?

The Alien may be a personification of this dark, twisted version of Ellen Ripley herself who has come back to torment her daughter. The Clymentestra to Elektra, the horrible, Archaic Mother archetype who Amanda must survive lest she become another victim of her mother’s will. Unlike Elektra however, Amanda cannot kill her mother, she can only endure and hope she can evade her demonic mother’s wrath as she navigates her way through this escalating crisis.

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Well.

That got a tad more Sophoclean than I anticipated.

Alien: Isolation more than lives up to its’ success, not just as an extremely potent survival horror title, but as a surprisingly prevalent pedigree of interactive genre that makes you tremble thanks not only to the obvious, but also the implied. It was one of the definitive highlights of the game world of 2014 and five years later, it still holds up like a champ.
It has enthusiastically kicked me so hard in the teeth every time I have braved it, but that is why I keep coming back for more: it’s a test, it’s a challenge, and it is exactly the return to slimy, dribbling, psychologically demanding and maleficent roots the Alien franchise required.

The Announcement Of ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ At SDCC Is More Important Than You Think

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“Look at this photograaaaaph…” (Hehe, don’t worry, just fuckin’ with ya.)

But seriously, have a good look at it because as the adage goes, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, or a hundred given my limited skill.

Yes. Natalie Portman looks every ounce stunning in this widely-publicized image, as she often does, but here is the true reason why I personally adore this photograph from the San Diego Comic Convention of 2019.

Ms. Portman, as we know, was shut out of Marvel Studios, kiboshed, excommunicated.

She chose to sign a new contract despite the way her character was treated (though there is that) when it was announced that Thor: The Dark World was slated to be the first Marvel movie directed by a woman, that very woman being her friend (and eventual Wonder Woman director) Patty Jenkins.

Initially, Portman, a staunch feminist, hadn’t planned on featuring in The Dark World, but leapt at the chance to be a part of feminist-forward film history and to be directed in what would have been Jenkins’s first film since her 2003 Oscar-winning Monster. Portman signed a new contract with Marvel. They fired Jenkins soon after with no valid reason.

Portman was crushed because she essentially had been duped into a contract for a film that would keep her away from her young son and force her back into a one-dimensional role under yet another male director.

We all remember how much of a masterpiece that movie was.

When it came time for the third Thor movie, they tried to get Portman under contract again. And she said no. Marvel decided to spin the story to make it seem like it was all their idea. At first, they went for the lame and nonsensical:

When Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was asked about why she wouldn’t be in the third film, and said there were “many reasons, many of which are in the film, so you will see that” continuing with “There are only a couple of scenes on Earth in this movie. The majority, 95 percent of the movie, takes place in the cosmos.” Source

Class act.

Seeing as The Dark World also took place in space, this answer didn’t have a lot of credibility. When Portman said she was “done” with the Marvel Universe, Feige got vicious in interviews, telling reporters that Valkyrie was in Ragnarok to be better than Jane Foster and a better match for Thor.

“We wanted Thor to encounter somebody that was near his equal and that his relationship with Jane may have evolved in unexpected ways in between The Dark World and Ragnarok, and we wanted to pit him against a character who was much more his equal and in many ways his superior.” Source

Feige’s insidious implication is that-

A) Valkyrie was in Ragnarok to be a romantic interest for Thor.

B) Valkyrie is better and more powerful than Jane Foster, and;

C) Jane Foster was always Thor’s inferior.

What’s ridiculous is that Ragnarok had a “Aw man, sorry Jane dumped you” throwaway line to explain Portman’s absence. And instead of saying that Jane and Thor broke up in interviews, a line that does not spoil literally anything about the film, Feige chose to attack Jane’s strength and capability, which would have been a very special dig at Portman.

Do you want to know what none of this sounds like?

Taika Waititi’s opinion.

Waititi is a master storyteller who does not sacrifice his feminist views for laughs. You can bet that Feige’s ridiculous slams on Portman and her character Jane– disguised as “promotion” for WAITITI’S FILM– would have troubled him immensely.

This is a man with a Māori father, who had to use his mother’s maiden name– Cohen– for earlier work because an indigenous last name kept him away from opportunity.

This man does NOT fuck around with entertainment that gets its power off of sexism and inequality.

He knows from experience just how infuriating it is when it comes to directors missing out on opportunities because they aren’t a miserly white man.

So, how does he fix this? How does he fix the idea that Jane Foster can’t go to space, or that she’s not powerful enough for Thor, the God of Thunder?

He makes HER Thor.

Waititi saw Portman / Jane Foster’s name dragged through the mud by Kevin Feige in order to promote his movie, and when he got hired to direct again, he decided to right those wrongs. This picture means everything. He is on his knee, handing her Thor’s hammer, essentially saying: “You will never have to go through that shit with me. With me, you’re a god and we stand as one”.

The expression on her face, after Marvel attempted to break her, doesn’t need words.

What a picture. What a moment.

How does that taste, Feige?

Oh, The Villainy: Jerry Dandridge (Fright Night, 1986)

Tom Holland’s (no, not Spiderman, the director) Fright Night is one of the defining films of 1980’s horror which maintains the blood-sucker film tropes while also subverting them in ingenious ways. With a compact, efficient story, delicious self-awareness and a colourful, if ecclectic cast, it is one of those genre films which is affectionate to the past it knew while simultaneously looking into a future it did not. In essence, the film is a re-telling of the fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf, only this time the boy is a nosy, Peeping Tom teenager and the wolf is a bat who just wants to be left alone, dammit!

In addition to being an overall gem of a film, most fans will also tell you that arguably the best character in the film is the genial, affable and dangerous vampire antagonist Jerry Dandridge played with ease and, let’s face it, downright sexiness, by Chris Sarandon. Exquisitely dressed in 80s fashion with an easy gait and a confident, genial air, Jerry presents himself as a very different predator, but one the audience can easily find themselves relating to. So, why is this, exactly? Well, let’s bury our fangs a little deeper into the jugular, shall we?

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Making of the Monster

About a year or so ago, I was fortunate enough to have a short yet pleasantly informative Twitter exchange with Mr. Holland (he probably doesn’t remember me) where I praised his work and stated Fright Night is one of my favourite horror films of all time. After he replied with his gracious thanks, I followed it up with a question pertaining to Sarandon’s performance and how much he and the actor collaborated in order to bring the character to life. According to Holland, as it is with so many healthy actor-director relationships on the professional level, Holland provided Sarandon the essentials for the character using the script as foundation, while he also permitted the actor to put several of his own ideas on the table, one of them being the fact Jerry had descended (in a sense) from fruit bats, hence his taste for apples we see through the film. It’s a minor detail, but nevertheless adds up to the character as a whole because ironically enough, this aspect of Jerry’s personality gave the undead, blood-sucking demon in man’s clothing life. A lot of what the audience enjoys about Jerry is that he shares quite a few personal traits with us, namely, the fact he is different.

Yes, Jerry is a vampire, but this status of being different is considerably deeper than it appears, and in no other scene is this readily prevalent is when Jerry stalks and corners Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) in a smoky alleyway after an argument with Charley (William Ragsdale) and Amy (Amanda Bearse). When vampire and human come face-to-face, Ed is clearly terrified before Jerry does something very fascinating; rather than go straight for the bite, he appeals to Ed’s deep-seeded insecurities about being the outcast of society. For all of Ed’s off-putting behaviour, it is made clear that it is a front he puts up in response to being ostracized by everybody, including his friends. Unlike Ed’s living peers, Jerry completely understands what the teen has endured because he too knows what it is like to live as an outsider who had no choice but to live in a close-minded, intolerant society. Jerry offers Ed a choice, a place by his side where he will be accepted and quite possibly loved.

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Ah, yes. About that.

It hasn’t been a secret that the film has a strong, sexual undertone which not just features Jerry’s straight desires for Amy (don’t get me STARTED on the nightclub scene), but also the notion that our fellow bats (sorry) for both teams. In the sequence outlined above, when Ed accepts Jerry’s gentle proposal of alliance, the very words Jerry uses while speaking to Ed indicates the difference is not just that of personality, but PREFERENCE. Ed is not seen with any romantic partner during the film, but if one were to investigate deeper into his relationship with Charley, it could be discussed that Ed has unrequited feelings for the other boy but does not act on them due to a sense of shame and denial, as is common in most adolescents. As a result, he acts crudely, sometimes making crass, morbid jokes of a sexual nature as a means of hiding his confused affections by using Amy as a surrogate for himself.

Additionally, when Jerry takes Ed into the folds of his amazing silver vinyl coat in a gesture highly reminescent of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and bites him, it’s not hard to take note of the romance of the action. It truly is a splendid subversion of a paragon of the trope.

A secondary source of the topic of Jerry’s sexuality presents in the form of his relationship with his day watcher, Billy Cole. While the relationship displayed on screen does not explicitly confirm anything, the interpersonal relationship they share indicates there is a massive bond between them. Billy will literally give his life for his vampire master, not merely born by mere duty, but because he wants to. Whenever Jerry is threatened, Billy engages, ready to defend Jerry, no matter what measure the cost, even if it means his own life… to use a broad term.

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Psychology

For all of his lethal power, confidence and experience, Jerry is actually a very lonesome yet surprisingly reasonable and social being when the time calls for it.

Several times throughout the film, when not being a dastardly killer, we witness Dandridge being surprisingly warm and one might even hazard to say KIND. The guy is so sincerely smooth, he manages to gain access to Charley’s home under the guise of the new guy on the block who wishes to ingratiate and endear himself to his neighborhood which works absolutely gangbusters on Charley’s single mother. Of course, we as the audience are well aware of his motivation, that is to warn Charley to back off and mind his business, but he is extremely clever in his approach. He even has the gall to state his intentions in front of Charley’s mum before jovially passing it all off as a light-hearted jape.

“What’s the matter, Charley? Afraid I’d never come over without being invited first? You’re quite right. Of course, now that I’ve been made welcome… I’ll probably drop by quite a bit. In fact, anytime I feel like it…with your mother’s kind permission, of course.”

Later that night, Jerry pays a visit to Charley’s bedroom to lay down the law; forget about me, and I’ll forget about you. Despite the fact Jerry holds Charley in a choke-hold and makes absolutely no bones about the fact he can easily snap the kid’s neck, he nevertheless employs verbal intimidation first by offering the nosy teen his ultimatum for privacy. This perfectly rational proposal is abruptly shattered when Charley resists followed by the vampires’ exasperated utterance of “Fool.”. Jerry make to ice the hapless teen before Charley stabs him with a pencil, which is enough to ward the vampire off. As the vampire makes to retaliate, hideous monsterface ready to roll, Charley’s mother calls, causing Jerry to stand down. Think about it; he still could have easily murdered the boy and left, but chose not to. Instead, he decides to royally trash Charley’s car as a means of saying “You’re next, boyo. I gave you a choice.”

After the assault, Charley brings a cop  to investigate Jerry’s home before once again, Dandridge wields his reliable weapon of charm to his advantage, resulting in the utter humiliation of Charley in front of the unimpressed police officer.

Although he is appreciative of the company and services of Billy, he truly wants to be social on his own terms, be it in the form of a minion to do his bidding or lovers (who basically are minions, albeit glorified ones). When Jerry cordially opens his doors to Ed, Amy and Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) under the nervous, watchful eyes of Charley, he is a perfectly charming gentleman to all without losing a shred of his humor. When he greets Mr. Vincent, he cordially shakes the old man’s hand all the while delivering one of the finest backhanded compliments I have ever heard in a film. Upon saying hello to Ed, while his acknowledgement is brief, it is nonetheless respectful of the boy without a shred of recoil or insult. Finally, with Amy, well, he may technically be undead, but his sex drive isn’t due to the fact as we find out, he had a romantic partner who looked exactly like her a long time ago.

(Note, I’d never fully understood how a vampire can have sex to this day. Is it more of a glamour than a physical act? Educate me.)

Jerry manages to seduce and abduct Amy, his magnetism is utterly undeniable when he single-handedly hypnotizes (the way Sarandon uses his eyes is just incredible) the girl and puts the bite on her. Yet, prior to this moment, he displays some legitimate if not wholly human capacity for craving companionship. While Jerry does indeed value his privacy, he still has the desire for connection beyond a simple and master and slave category, even if his initial attempt is questionable in execution.

 

Conclusion

To me, Jerry Dandridge is one of the most effortlessly relatable supernatural villains in cinematic vampire history. To the best of my knowledge I am no longer not a vampire but thanks in no small part to the harmonious collaboration between Holland and Sarandon they crafted a thoroughly enjoyable and effective character. Although Fright Night functions beautifully as a fun throwback, it retains a contemporary edge because the world can never get enough charismatic and engaging antagonists who are the heroes of their own story. Had the film been told from Jerry’s personal point of view, we would have seen a lonely misfit introvert with extrovert qualities who wants to live a quiet, simple life (with the occasional bit of excitement) with his best pal. However, he is endlessly hounded and harassed by some know-nothing kid who positively refuses to mind his own beeswax culminating in a devastating, tragic conclusion.

Yeah, that got you thinking, didn’t it?

What a character, what a performance.

 

Hail, Harry! Goodness Bea’s Top Ten Harryhausen Creations

So here’s the deal, friends.

I’m an unapologetic Ray Harryhausen fan.

From an early age I was that kid watching Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films and Clash of the Titans (but to name a few) who delighted in seeing all of the wild and wonderful creatures who were given life by Ray and on more than several occasions felt an emotional connection to them more than I did the human characters. As Harryhausen himself stated on many occasions, he did not just want to make visual effects, he also wanted to give the beings he creatively fathered a life of their own, their own agency, their own story. It is because of this drive and conviction that I felt more emotionally attached to most of his cinematic children than any of the human characters they shared the screen with!

So in the interest of wasting your time for my personal entertainment I’m going to list off my Top Ten most beloved Children of Harryhausen. As a disclaimer, I will be focusing on the individual subjects themselves, not the movies of which they appeared.

 

Honorable Mention

Troglodyte (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger)

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Despite his less than savory appearance, the Trog is actually as sweet as a cinnamon roll who helps Sinbad and his men in their quest. When the characters come to understand him, it’s difficult not to want to get up and give our over-sized ancestor a hug.

 

10) Hippogriff/Gryphon (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad)

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The flesh and blood paragon of Good who goes up against Korah’s (Tom Baker) Evil Centaur looks so gorgeous and although I didn’t want either creature to die since they were being used as man’s tool to reach an objective, I felt very sad when Griffy was eventually choked by the Centaur (with a cheating helping hand by Korah). Still put up a hell of a fight though, so props for that!

9) Bubo (Clash of the Titans)

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While there were a fair few good looking creatures in this movie, my vote goes to Bubo, Athena’s mechanical owl sent by Zeus to assist in Perseus’s quest to save Princess Andromeda. I dig owls in general, but Bubo is just so helpful and gosh-darn adorable with his saucer-size blinking eyes and curious hooting.

8) Kali-Ma (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad)

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Wouldn’t you know it, this is where I first became familiar with the Hindu goddess (and my Pan-Pagan Patron), Kali-Ma.

Let’s face it, its a one-sided interpretation of a rich and complex character, yet this was still where my fascination with the Dark Lady started. While her appearance was generally brief, it was incredibly memorable from when she comes to life and dances with grace and beauty to when Korah makes her battle Sinbad and his men (brandishing multiple sabers!!!) before her untimely decommissioning. I especially love how she was shown in full frame while interacting with the characters, it made those sequences feel extremely organic, not to mention how she always seems to be serenely smiling which makes her all the more intimidating.

7) Eohippus (The Valley of Gwangi)

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Look at the tiny!

Although this little fellow’s appearance is brief and the catalyst for disaster, one with such a tender heart as mine can’t help but go “AWWWWWW!” when he coyly first appears from his miniature stable with his endearing little whinny.

6) Rhedosaurus (Beast from 20,000 Fathoms)

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Poor big bloke.

In all honesty, despite being huge, destructive and terrifying, I never perceived him to be the bad guy. In my opinion, the true villains were the careless humans who tested atomic bombs which subsequently woke him from his sleep, ejected him from his home and forced him into a world he had no clue how to respond to other than with his primal instincts.

5) Taro the Dragon (The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad)

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Yet another magnificent creature used and discarded as an instrument by some jag-off sorcerer.

Taro tirelessly guarded the cave lair of the bald hex-caster Sokura and severely lacked exercise room due to being chained up to a pulley mechanism in an enclosed cavern. While he was unquestioningly loyal to his cruel master much akin to a hound, most likely due to a spell, Taro nonetheless showed glimpses of emotional intelligence or at least recognition when he didn’t cook Sinbad and his lady love alive as they carefully made their way past him toward the end of the movie in their escape from the island.

4) Medusa (Clash of the Titans)

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THIS is Medusa.

Not the pretty blonde CGI-enhanced supermodel from the 2010 remake.

THIS.

As well as looking the very horror she should be, I also love how this writhing dread was made to move, having to ambulate around using her arms as she slithers through her cursed sanctum. It’s a short appearance but nonetheless an absolute highlight and further testament to the mastery of Harryhausen’s vision. And how about that damn score that plays when she makes her entrance? Brrrr.

3) Living Skeletons (Various)

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I’m cheating somewhat since our bony buddies have showed up in several of Harryhausen’s movies but they are practically a staple for our intrepid, vaguely handsome hero to fight before they reach their goal.

By the way, I never understood how the osteo warriors could scream in Jason and the Argonauts, but it sure was creepy and hilarious.

2) The Hydra of Colchis (Jason and the Argonauts)

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While the seven-headed Hydra had limited screen time and didn’t get to grow multiple heads (Jason was actually smart in slaying the creature by stabbing it in the heart all heads shared off the bat) I always appreciated how much time and effort went into the dynamic movement of each head.

When you watch the scene for that aspect in particular, each head is moves differently and performs an action independent of its’ neighbor. The only thing I wasn’t too sure about was how disproportionately large Acastus was as it was suffocating him, but I only put that down to scale as opposed to lack of skill on the part of Harry and his fellow technicians.

A small conceptual detail I am quite fond of is each head’s mouth looks more along the lines of a predatory bird than that of a traditional serpent. Very cool!

1) Talos (Jason and the Argonauts)

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This guy was practically an overgrown Terminator.

When the guardian of the Isle of Bronze first moved, the grating, shearing sound of his head turning to fix Hercules and Hylas with his cold, unfeeling stare, my blood froze. Apart from his gargantuan size and expressionless face, his ruthless and cunning persistence helped solidify him as one of the most imposing foes Harryhausen created. When Jason finally manages to outwit Talos by pulling the plug in the juggernauts’ ankle to drain him of his ichor (the liquid which keeps Talos ‘alive’), despite his stone expression, Harryhausen ingeniously managed to convey the bronze colossus’s distress through the dropping of his sword, his titanic guttural moan and clutching his throat. Amazing.

 

 

Oh, The Villainy: Colonel William Tavington (The Patriot)

According to a vast swathe of movie fans, the malignant piece of human cancer known as Colonel William Tavington is one of the greatest villains to have ever hit the screen and even nineteen years after the release of The Patriot, the character still remains one of the most (if not only) endearing factors of an otherwise bloated, nonsensical mess of a blockbuster directed by Herr Roland Emmerich.

The film shamelessly glosses over the existence of slavery and makes a juvenile judgement based on the dynamics of war (incredibly appalling and in bad taste) and makes no qualms in making it utterly certain Mel Gibson’s character Benjamin Martin has no truly discerning ambiguity because HE’S THE HERO. I will give credit to  Tom Wilkinson, Joely Richardson, Tcheky Karyo, Chris Cooper and of course the late Heath Ledger, all of which who manage to rise above and do a respectable job with the material they are given, however horrendous it is.

But enough of that snobbery; let’s talk about the toothsome fellow who is the subject of the post.

 

Makings of the Monster

Despite having been in Paul W.S. Anderson’s mean-spirited shocker Event Horizon (a personal favourite flick of mine) several years earlier, Jason Isaacs made a full-fledged international debut as one of the cruelest, morally reprehensible creatures to have ever existed on the big screen in a role that almost wasn’t his. Originally, Kevin Spacey was contracted to play the role but due to a lot of the budget heading up in Gibson’s favor, they could not afford another big name and Spacey had to drop out.

(In the harsh glare of retrospect, this near-casting would have been incredibly fitting but for all of the most disturbing and wrong reasons.)

Afterward, the casting agent made a frenzied rush to fill the role and Isaacs auditioned for the role at the Eleventh Hour and as they say, the rest was history. Given Isaacs wasn’t as well known outside of his native UK, he was a lot easier to afford and while there was a certain risk that his name wouldn’t have drawn in double the crowds, Gibson’s presence alone was enough to at least get the butts in seats. It wasn’t until after the profit returns came in before everybody realised that the true star of the movie was Isaacs.

Psychology

Tavington is a cold-blooded and terminally vindictive snake who is all too ready to throw down with anybody who dares crosses him. According to Herr Roland and co., Tavington was inspired by real life Redcoat Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton who was rumored to have been one of the most dangerous and blood-thirsty members of the British Army during the Revolution. While the actual amount of historical precedent has not been substantiated due to a combination of the nebulousness of time and historical bias, for the sake of this particular discussion, let’s credit the actions of a real-life monster for those of a fictional one.

Although the character admits that his primarily motivation for joining the British Green Dragoons was to regain the fortune and reputation that his late father had squandered, it rapidly becomes prevalent that he is an abomination wearing a man’s flesh who is nourished by the brutality and unfairness of war. Even his superior General Cornwallis decries his brutal tactics, saying that the Colonies are still their kin and when the war is over, communication between cousins will re-open, Tavington doesn’t give a hoot. War isn’t a means to an end, it is absolutely everything he lives for.

Tavington has no inclination of being civilized or merciful- to him, war is war and war is a means of obtaining a forbidden fruit type of power which is otherwise inaccessible in conventional circumstances. He thrives on conflict and nothing makes his blood hotter than to kill another man while looking into his eyes to see their final moments of fear, confusion and pain.

While The Patriot can hardly be accused of possessing sensitivity towards nuance and historical fidelity, it is very accurate to say that in times of conflict and voids of power, humans have the alarming capacity to dehumanize each other in in the grip of bloodlust. War acts almost as a carte-blanche of enabling the worst aspects of humanity to pour forth, especially when it comes to war crimes. When permission to kill is granted by a nation for any given reason, let’s call it The Cause, that declaration can be easily rationalised as justification for any and all violence they may commit against others in the name of The Cause.

Tavington is the epitome of this dreadful reality, in a sense, he is Ares, the; a man who lives for nothing but the horrors of war for the sake of it.

Let’s have a look at all of the crimes Tavington is responsible for, directly and indirectly because of this single-minded hunger;

* A bad attitude that smells worse than a skunk’s underpants.

* Countless war crimes if the verbal condemnations of his peers are to be believed.

* Blackmail.

* Systematic torture interrogations of Colonial peoples, enlisted and civilian (deleted scene).

* Mass murder of enemy soldiers and innocents, first, second and third degree- a key example of course being the infamous church scene of which he gives the order and the torch to Adam Baldwin’s turncoat Wilkins to do the deed. The expression Wilkins has on his face when he sets pyre to pitch says it all- he has committed an unforgivable sin and Tavington has taken his very soul.

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* Property damage and destruction (duh).

* Disobedience and sedition of commanding peers and military orders on and off the battlefield. The man argues with CORNWALLIS on several occasions even though he really should know better.

* Child killing. Okay, that still goes under the previous point of mass murder but it was his unhesitating and sudden execution of Benjamin Martin’s second-eldest child that truly kicked the movie’s story into motion. The fact he feels no remorse or guilt over the action compounds his lack of a moral compass which can all be summed up in his line following the incident; “Stupid boy.”.

The point may be scoffed at now, but it was undoubtedly one of the moments of proper malice the film had up it’s sleeve and it is a powerful moment which cements Tavington’s wretchedness.

Later in the film when Martin (who has become quite notorious to the British Army by this point) arrives to Cornwallis’s base in North Carolina to treat with the General in exchange for the freedom of his captured Colonial guerilla army, Tavington uses the memory of the son’s murder to goad Martin into acting out right then and there just so he may have the excuse and satisfaction of killing the man under otherwise parlay conditions. This man LIVES to cause suffering to those he deems below him and makes no attempt at hiding it.

* Being disgustingly handsome while doing it.

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To 17-year-old Bea, this scene was hardcore pornography.  Still is.

 

Oh yes, about that last point.

Jason Isaacs’ performance single-handedly seduced me to the dark side of loving the villains in the fictional medium. I had always favored villains before that point, finding them to be the best parts of many a story, but Tavington elevated that appreciation to a high degree. Oh sure, there have been LOTS of wonderful villains since, but Tavington still remains the crucial milestone for me, with his elegant tones coupled with his reptilian and subtly predacious looks. Call me shallow, but hey, honesty is the best policy.

 

Final Words

I will tell you this much though- back when this film came out, every straight girl in my class were expressing their crushes on Ledger save for me- Tavington was the one I daydreamed about, Tavington was the one I crushed on and I made no attempt at hiding it. It was this character that ravished me and encouraged me to full on embrace the forces of malevolence and I haven’t looked back since. Although I was for the most part alone in feeling this way, it wasn’t until I met some like-minded Sick Sisters who harbored the same desires that I realised that Tavington is a very fondly remembered character despite (and because of) his horrendous ways. It takes a huge amount of charisma to earn that type of appreciation and it goes to show how fantastic an actor Jason Isaacs truly is. The character is completely basic textbook evil on paper and he could have been yet another run-of-the-mill baddie, but Isaacs imbues the character with his own spark that he all but truly owns the role. I’m so glad this film catapulted him into international stardom and his star continues to shine brightly.

No, The Patriot is absolutely not the great movie it was originally hyped up to be nor is it historically or culturally sensitive, but damn if it does not have one of the most darkest, most devious Hellspawns to ever grab our attention. Nineteen years on and William Tavington is still one of the best of the worst.

My Favourite Characters: Rebecca ‘Newt’ Jordan

It is a deeply risky venture to include a child as one of the primary cast of characters in a film and television show for various reasons, it’s riskier still when that character is suffering monumental PTSD, malnourishment, and abandonment issues all the while caught in the middle of a high-stress survival situation involving seriously scary extraterrestrials with double mouths and phallic skulls.

In James Cameron’s 1986 science fiction action classic Aliens, little Rebecca Jordan, better known to her peers as ‘Newt’ on account of her small stature and rapid speed has not only witnessed the coldest of Hells, but has been caught up within it after seeing her family, friends and her entire terraforming community in Hadley’s Hope (how ironic) being either completely annihilated or be taken by the rampant Xenomorph population. Sticking to the shadows of the dilipidated settlement and utilizing the ventilation system, Newt managed to survive the onslaught without any combat or formal training but at the cost of her health and her innocence. Every day is a struggle for her as she avoids the personification of existential menace in order to gather supplies and attempt to retain the safety of her hiding places.

 

The Young Old Soul

While clearly intelligent, resourceful, observant and self-sufficient, she is painfully aware of the reality that one of those monsters could snatch her at any time if she isn’t careful because she knows no amount of technology or arsenal makes a difference.

Upon the arrival of Ripley and the Colonial Marines, she knows none of them are long for the world because she has seen how no amount of firepower can possibly make a difference, a point she verbally states when Ripley tries to assure her they will escape their collective predicament. Some may decry this as nihilistic to which I say that is precisely the point. Upon first meeting these self-described saviors, all she sees are a bunch of dead bodies who don’t know it yet and she needs to get away from them as soon as she possibly can. It is not until these adults have proved themselves in some way that they trustworthy does she open up to them, Ripley in particular.

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Some detractors of the character say she is far too whiny and does nothing to which I absolutely disagree; while it is true she never picks up a gun, possesses a high-pitched shriek and is not bestowed the same breed of Badass Moment (TM) as her adult counterparts, she is not passive. She, like Ripley, has had the unenviable opportunity to observe and pay attention to the Xenomorph’s behavior, noting when they tend to be active (mostly at night, mostly) and what they are drawn to (activity) while also possessing firsthand knowledge of the best routes around the facility based on experience and practice. This young lady has been through a lot and rather than curl up and die, she had put all of her energy into staying alive and ends up being a very valuable resource for information for Ripley and company while also maintaining her own agency as a character.

 

Despondency and Responsibility

In the Director’s Cut, it transpires that it was Newt’s own family who made primary contact with the aliens in the form of a pesky Facehugger latching on to her own father’s face. It’s a short sequence, but it effortlessly sets up WHY Newt cannot stand the alien menace because it was her own family who wrought it on the colony, however unwitting. Ask yourself this; if you saw this as an adult, if this happened to your family, do you believe you’d keep a cool head? Do you believe you wouldn’t have openly expressed your horror, peed your pants or became paralyzed in fear and confusion? Her response to any alien presence is completely understandable because the Xenomorph is the embodiment of her absolute nightmare made absolute reality; loss and all of the pain which comes with it. Something we can all relate to.

However, the more she is around the Marines, she recognises the fact her motherly surrogate Ripley shares her traumatic experience and with that revelation comes that beautiful, enduring connection which gives her a sliver of hope. Maybe there is a chance, maybe she can become a little girl again. In an endearing twist of a scene where Ripley tucks Newt in for a few much needed hours of rest the way a mother would a child, they confide about the reality of monsters outside of dreams. Ripley goes the extra mile to put the little girl’s mind at temporary ease (in a condescending yet well-intentioned way) by displaying Casey, Newt’s toy doll’s head, has no bad dreams inside of it before Newt replies that it is impossible for Casey to dream because she’s just a piece of plastic which in turn causes Ripley to chuckle. Although Newt is fully aware her grown up friend is just trying to help her relax and loves her all the more for it, she proves she is still pragmatic, an attitude which reinforces to Ripley not to underestimate Newt’s emotional intelligence and logic.

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In addition to building up such bonds, Newt shows her prowess in times of crisis, for example, the extremely tense Facehugger scene when she and Ripley are trapped in the observation chamber courtesy of that corporate shark, Carter Burke. Although it is Ripley who ultimately manages to attract the Marine’s attention by setting off the fire alarms to kick off their rescue in earnest, young Newt does not merely stand helplessly by and allow her caretaker to do all of the work. When she notices a sneaky Facehugger attempt to get the drop on the pair of them, Newt flies into action by shoving the edge of a desk into the penetrative beast’s tail in order to buy she and Ellen those precious seconds before Hicks charges in along with Hudson and Vasquez who finish in disposing of the creatures. In another scene of high stress, Newt proves her competence in the last stand sequence where a small squad of Xenomorphs almost box her, Ripley and the remaining Marines in a room by showing them an escape route through a ventilation shaft. While the final result ends in a heavy cost for Private Vasquez and Lieutenant Gorman, without her help, everybody in that room would have either died or have been taken down to the hive to serve as unwilling incubators for arachnid rape monsters.

 

Big Surprises, Small Packages

Truth be told, while by James Cameron’s own admission, Newt’s response and promising genesis of recuperation from her overload of trauma is strongly idealised, I don’t feel this character’s journey is any less powerful, thanks in no small part to not only the writing but also the acting. Carrie Henn was not a professional talent, but you would not think that given how instinctively she interpreted Cameron’s direction and her innate chemistry with Signourney Weaver, what resulted was a deeply refreshing performance. So potent was her presence that when her character was callously killed off in Alien 3, I felt authentic emotional pain which still resonates to this day. Thanks to Henn’s work, we saw a fully realised child who had lived through literal Hell on (to a degree) Earth which has been replicated countless times (Sherry Birkin from Resident Evil 2 is a strong and direct example of this influence), but never equally matched.

What a little badass.

 

Sja0