In this politically inflamed, socially mediated era, large groups of people feel abandoned by society and their government. Alongside such alienation has come a spike in hate crimes triggered by the “fear” of people with different religious, ethnic and economic backgrounds.
More a cry of rage than a real solution, the border wall between the US and Mexico has turned into an ideological litmus test. Ironically, the fact that the wall is actually out for bids seems to have only increased the anger and violence.
This week’s film, The Bad Batch, tracks people in a very near future who are cast out of American society and banished to a desert wasteland.
As they enter the wasteland a sign reads:
“Beyond this fence is no longer the territory of Texas. Hereafter no person within the territory beyond this fence is a resident of the United States of America or shall be acknowledged, recognized or governed by the laws and governing bodies therein. Good luck.”
Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) directs The Bad Batch, a multi-genre mashup of slasher-meets-horror-meets-dystopia- meets-love story.
Leading the way is Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), an apparently wholesome individual who is tossed into the Mexican desert in the film’s opening scene: she is part of the “bad batch”, inferior citizenry who are no longer wanted in the U.S. After briefly wandering the arid flats, she is kidnapped and taken to an encampment called The Bridge, filled with bulked-up steroid abusers; in short order she is chained up and two of her limbs severed for food like other “bad batchers” who have shared the same fate.
Arlen escapes thanks to a Fisher King-style hobo wandering the wilderness (Jim Carrey), and ends up in a second camp, called Comfort– a place of equally metaphoric implications. Comfort houses the real outcasts – immigrants, the mentally ill, the disabled – but on first inspection at least, appears to have rough charm and some form of rubbing-along livability.
Comfort, however, is controlled by a comically sinister cult leader (Keanu Reeves), who urges the inhabitants to “follow the dream” in an excellent deadpan.
“The harder you work, the richer you’ll die.” Maybe this single line justifies the price of admission to Bombay Beach, an eerily compelling documentary about lost souls in a lost place, made by the former music-video director Alma Har’el.
Bombay Beach is the name of a ruined town on the Salton Sea, a saline lake in the middle of Southern California’s Colorado Desert. It was a smart vacation resort in the 1950s and 1960s, but abandoned when the water level rose. Now its seedy chalets and trailers are homes for America’s most needy, like a refugee holding camp for the poor, surreally living in the fragments of a forgotten dream of leisure and prosperity.
Har’el tells the story of three of these marginal souls, and does so with compassion and insight. One man had been arrested just after 9/11 on charges of maintaining what appeared to be a huge weapons and ammo dump in this wilderness. He says he’s no militia extremist, just a regular guy with an American affection for guns. Now he’s out of prison, and his son is addicted to Ritalin and other prescription medication.
An elegant oldster, like a character from a David Lynch movie, makes a living buying discount cigarettes from Native American reservations and selling them at a profit to his neighbors.
A young African-American boy has a future ahead of him with a possible football scholarship to college.
All these lives are recounted with flair and an eye for an exotic tale. It’s a rich slice of Americana, and there’s a great soundtrack from musicians including Bob Dylan.
Director George Miller’s follow-up to his own 1979 hit Mad Max is proof that not all sequels are inferior. If anything, this brutal sci-fi action film is even more intense and exciting than its predecessor, although the state of its post-apocalyptic world has only become worse.
Several years after the deaths of his wife and child, Max (Mel Gibson) has become an alienated nomad, wandering an Australian outback that has fallen into tribal warfare conducted from scattered armed camps.
After a road battle with psychotic villain Wez (Vernon Wells), Max meets up with the odd Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), who takes him to the camp of a sympathetic group led by Pappagallo (Mike Preston). Since Pappagallo’s people are camped at a refinery, Max plans to take their oil — more precious than gold in this world — but eventually joins them to fight a band of marauders led by the evil Humungus (Kjell Nilsson).
The striking climax features a heart-pounding chase scene involving an oil tanker-truck and a frenzied rush for the coast, with Humungus and his forces in hot pursuit. Nilsson makes a scary villain, with huge muscles and a sinister pre-Jason hockey mask, edited at breakneck pace and staged with manic fury by Miller and stunt coordinator Max Aspin.
Tobe Hooper’s film, made over 40 years ago, shocked the nation and gave birth to a new form of horror. The film’s release was troubled and there was increasing pressure to censor or ban the film but it has stood the test of time to become an iconic landmark.
When Sally (Marilyn Burns) hears that her grandfather’s grave may have been vandalized, she and her paraplegic brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain), set out with their friends to investigate.
After a detour to their family’s old farmhouse, they discover a group of crazed, murderous outcasts living next door who also like to dabble in cannibalism. When the group is attacked one by one by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), who wears a mask of human skin, the survivors must do everything they can to escape.
This film never fails to terrify.
Ruggero Deodato’s film was banned and heavily censored across the world; the film’s director was even arrested on its release and the print was seized.
Deodato’s pseudo-documentary follows the plight of four arrogant filmmakers who fly out to the Amazon, in order to film their documentary The Green Inferno, believing that the scenes they capture will buy them inevitable success. They are never seen again.
The footage is recovered by Professor Harold Moore (Francesca Ciardi) who travels to the Amazon and finds the remains of the film crew along with their unseen footage.
The footage reveals their vile treatment of the South American tribe of cannibals who ultimately turned on them. Their brutal deaths at the hands of the tribe becomes the subject of their documentary.
Dario Argento’s 1977 slasher is arguably the artistic apex of the giallo movement, a horror genre he pioneered along with fellow Italians Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. This film has become the entry-level key to unlocking the whole genre, featuring its trademark lush, hyperstylized, color-saturated visuals, lashings of gore, its undercurrent of lurid female eroticism and its magnificent score —in this case provided by rockers Goblin and Argento’s “Tenebre.”
The film follows an American ballerina (Jessica Harper) who transfers to a sinister German dance academy covertly run by a satanic coven of witches, including Dark Shadows star Joan Bennett. The mish-mash of languages and accents from the multi-national cast doesn’t matter much since the whole thing was post-dubbed anyway. But once you become attuned to the garishness of Argento’s work, Suspiria is undeniably creepy and haunting, tuning in to burgeoning female sexuailty as a metaphor for a transformation process that is unknowable.
A remake directed by Luca Guadagnino starring Chloe Moritz and Tilda Swinton is being released later this year.