"But there was nothing about the little, low-rambling, more or less identical homes of Northumberland Estates to interest or to haunt, no chance of loot that would be any more than the ordinary, waking-world kind the cops hauled you in for taking; no
small immunities, no possibilities for hidden life or otherworldly presence; no trees, secret routes, shortcuts, culverts, thickets that could be made hollow in the middle – everything in the place was right out in the open, everything could be seen at a glance; and behind it, under it, around the corners of its houses and down the safe, gentle curves of its streets, you came back, you kept coming back, to nothing; nothing but the cheerless earth."
Thomas Pynchon, "The Secret Integration"
This is Ian Mathers' Tumblr. I live in Canada. I've written about music and other things for Stylus, PopMatters, Resident Advisor, the Village Voice, and a few other places. Hi.
ahaha i think if more critics saw the ‘extended’ counselor they might like it more, but i think general audiences would still despise it, ~too pretentious, same with the director’s cut of zombie’s halloween ii, which is another maligned work
her has pretentious dialogue; the counselor's wordsmithery is a work of deadwood-level fuckin’ art. have none of the people who say that ever heard a rich asshole speak in their own words, and not the words of a speechwriter? that’s what they souuuuuund liiiiiike. grhrhghrghgrhgrh save me from this idea that a film is “pretentious” just because it’s weird or off-putting. real rich people talk funny. especially cocksure sociopaths, which - hullo! i guess b/c they don’t talk like they’re in a scorsese movie they aren’t “realistic” tho?????
ok i want it noted you unleashed this by mentioning his name but ROB ZOMBIE.
i have … so much sympathy for people who’ve had bad viewing experiences with zombie films because lord, lord, do not try to tell me (& plz note i originally proposed this as a hypothetical and then a friend told me it actually happened to him, once, & it was hair-raising, so) you would want to be in the same room as a bunch of loud, sweaty, drunken, bearded white dude with devil’s rejects playing on the tv, you would not, you would not, and this is pretty close to most people’s first and last exposure to the film career of mr. zombie and i am not even remotely interested in trying to cajole them back to try again; there are some kinds of evil where it’s not anyone’s business to say “you haven’t seen enough of that already”, and zombie’s several films deep in an exploration of what it means to him to have empathy and wrestle with real evil that’s so raw and shaking that i would never, ever, under any circumstance, insist anyone seek it out if they can’t handle fictional depictions of vile things.
that said, if the true test of a horror movie is how well it unsettles me and sticks uneasily under my skin for the rest of my life, and i think it is, zombie is the finest horror director alive; halloween 2, the director’s cut, unhinged me, and the lords of salem shook me in my seat, left me with arms clutched around myself, weeping, unmade. what appalls me most is that, thanks to the disgusting audience they’ve attracted, thanks to his completely unrepresentative debut, what most audiences will fail to realize and appreciate about his sensibility towards horror is how rooted it is in a radical level of empathy for human being, how much of the reason it horrifies is because his lens makes you care. if he were even remotely the kind of filmmaker he’s sometimes made out to be, one only interested in splatterhouse violence, a movie that builds so much of its nauseating impact on a slow burn of psychic dread until the terror reaches such feverish intensity that it distorts the very images on screen like the lords of salem would never have happened; no, what makes his films so revolting - and i don’t begrudge anyone the desire not to experience his work because of his skill at it - is that the people who have to suffer exposure to the terrible void that is human evilness in zombie’s movies are not necessarily “good”, but they are people you, the viewer, love, are compelled to love, because zombie himself loves them - with an honest compassion that accepts them for being flawed, for being busted stuff, for being people who don’t deserve to have that horror inflicted on them, but who are visited by this ill nevertheless, because there is no center and there is no holding and there is no love that can save you. it’s not your fault. there is no place that is safe from this evil. but it’s … it’s not okay, but it’s okay, because you lived, and because you lived, you are loved.
i think about laurie, deborah, and the horse at the end a lot; i think about heidi and her dog a lot. those weren’t punitive choices.
i mean - i guess, the thing about zombie is, he’s doom metal pkd, he’s dreyer without the hope of the afterlife’s salvation, he’s the kind of bad trip that leaves you feeling, inexplicably, like you’re healed at the end of it - it’s not catharsis, but it’s something, and i’ve had this excerpt sitting in my drafts bin trying to find a place to go and it sums up my feelings on the lords of salem and zombie in general as well as anything:
There is no moral in this novel; it is not bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play when they should have toiled; it just tells what the consequences were. In Greek drama they were beginning, as a society, to discover science, which means causal law. Here in this novel there is Nemesis: not fate, because any one of us could have chosen to stop playing in the street, but, as I narrate from the deepest part of my life and heart, a dreadful Nemesis for those who kept on playing. I myself, I am not a character in this novel; I am the novel. So, though, was our entire nation at this time. This novel is about more people than I knew personally. Some we all read about in the newspapers. It was, this sitting around with our buddies and bullshitting while making tape recordings, the bad decision of the decade, the sixties, both in and out of the establishment. And nature cracked down on us. We were forced to stop by things dreadful. If there was any “sin,” it was that these people wanted to keep on having a good time forever, and were punished for that, but, as I say, I feel that, if so, the punishment was far too great, and I prefer to think of it only in a Greek or morally neutral way, as mere science, as deterministic impartial cause-and-effect.
I loved them all.
These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The “enemy” was their mistake in playing. Let them all play again, in some other way, and let them be happy.
—a scanner darkly (philip k. dick, 1977).
i don’t think rob zombie’s for everyone. i really, really don’t, and i don’t think it’s my business, or anyone else’s, to make him so. haha, i’d probably be the first person yelling if i saw anyone try. but for me - that guy gets to me.
(bolded emphasis mine)
I never would have watched The Devil’s Rejects normally, what I’d heard about it didn’t appeal to me at all. But one night years ago I wound up drinking in a bar with the movie being projected on one wall; I was there with friends, actually pretty much everyone in the bar was a friend, but I felt trapped. Not by social pressure or anything, by the movie. I couldn’t turn away for the full length of it. By the time it ended my brain and my heart were both sick, and at total war with each other; I knew I’d just seen a work of genius that I don’t think I could ever bring myself to watch again (I still shudder a bit at the thought). I haven’t seen a lot of Zombie’s other work, and honestly some part of me has felt a bit relieved when people say his other movies are kind of crappy, because there’s a part of me that feels deeply ashamed at the thought that someone who makes movies as—not good, but as effective—as The Devil’s Rejects is out there making more of them and I can’t handle them.
The comparison to Philip K. Dick, a hugely formative and still important writer for me (despite, yes, some issues I have with his work), pretty much nails it, I think. I feel like if Zombie was adapting Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (as opposed to remaking Blade Runner, mind you) he’d never want to discard the Mercerism thread, for example. A Scanner Darkly has already been done, and done well, but the idea of Zombie taking on Ubik or The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch just about knocks me out. I would watch, but I would be terrified to watch; it’s intense enough for me to read those stories, and personally I find a lot of things easier to take on the page than on the screen.
I especially appreciate, in this really, really excellent analysis (which, at least based on the notes, has not had nearly enough exposure), Tara’s absolute refusal to be didactic about Zombie’s importance; we need, or maybe I just need, more writing like this that grapples seriously with the strengths and importance of artists without insisting that due to those strengths everybody must get on board. Most artists I have any sort of affection or respect whatsoever for are not ones I think everyone can, should, or will love (PKD definitely included).
I hated cassette tapes as a kid. Haaaaaaaaated them. (VHS tapes too, for many of the same reasons.) Living where and when I was, I had no awareness that people might be making music and releasing it only on cassette, so the contents were just the same bands I was hearing on the radio, tv, etc. I just knew that tapes were my only option to listen to the music I liked on car trips and the like. And my shitty little Walkman fucked things up all the time, sometimes destroyed tapes, ate batteries like crazy, etc. To say nothing of how annoying I found fast forwarding and rewinding. Making tapes too, that was a pain in the ass if you were a perfectionist; trying to no leave gaps between songs but also desperate to avoid cutting off even a second of the track, feeling like I had to start over again if I messed something small up 9/10s of the way through.
We already had CDs at home, and while I did grow up on vinyl as a kid I didn’t particularly notice or care about any differences in sound between mediums. Being able to skip tracks, or start from a particular track; that was huge to me. I kind of suspect that plenty of people roughly my age who still kind-of feel in the back of their heads like the ‘right’ way to listen to an album is all the way through were influenced on some level by how annoying doing anything else on a Walkman was.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t feel at all the same way about tapes in 2014. All of the things that bothered me at the time—inconvenience, sound quality, analog imprecision, fragility, etc etc etc—seem like virtues to me now. Probably partially for reasons outlined in the most popular post I’ve ever made (by some orders of magnitude), and it’s true that I started liking them a lot more pretty much the second I no longer felt like I had to rely on them, but I think mostly because, well, I was a dumb little kid. Lots of us, when we were dumb little kids, had aesthetic prejudices that seem laughable to us now; thankfully, I think little fussy ol’ me was kind of adorable in his cranky naïveté rather than, I don’t know, embarrassing.