/ Institutions /
I pause nearly midway through John Carpenter’s The Ward.
I really love this poster.
(I first paused right after the titles at the beginning to record my reverence for the Goyaesque horror, the dark grotesquery of the introductory image cascade, a montage of institutional tortures filmed as though imaged on irising shards of shattering mirror, all reminiscent not only of Goya and his Napoleonic black etching, but … of the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition, the brainless tortures of England’s Bedlam … the tortures of any American schools principals office. Any vertical authority — think centralized government — has the power to torture anyone, any thing without power: the lab rats, the imbeciles, the politically or theologically imaginative …
The young, the female … the Jews …)
The inmate is accountable to the warden; the warden is not accountable to the inmate: the orphanage is not accountable to Oliver Twist.
Every once in a while a Dickens gains prestige, a kind of authority, but only sometimes, don’t bank on it.
I’ll string a series of things here on the subject. Some of it I’ve said before, future blending, editing is possible while living. First I repeat how much in recent years I have come to love the horror genre in film: a category I had, lifelong, held in contempt, avoided. And while dealing with this, identifying it, hailing it, I want to further exclaim how I love the myriad ways the genre declares itself. In any horror film worth its salt everyone in the audience knows from the first moments that we are in a world where the victims are capable of sentience, of truth telling (though it won’t do them any good). Meanwhile the authorities perpetuate fraud, the parents have it all wrong, as do the cops, the teachers …
The priests tie the bewildered girl to the stake and burn her. Actually they began their tortures yesterday: they sodomized her with a molten crowbar, they cut off her breasts, these priests … these priests cut off her vulva, they cut off her clitoris, still don’t know what it is! … all in the name of God, of course.
Shame on me, I loved Carpenter’s StarMan but have seen next to no Carpenter since: sorry, I’ll make it up.
I’ve seen several horror flix in the last few day, each more wonderful than the other, gathering cute high school girls together, showing them in the shower, giving lots of boob profiles …
And of course much as I hate verticality in power especially in large scale political organizations, I have to admit that films are made vertically, many of the best of them: there’s an author, a director, there’s an invisible power above them: bankers, producers … Then there are the doormats, the gofers, the assistant to the assistant grip … (And when I’m writing myself, novels, stories, blab, I don’t seek voters: no discussion, I close my ears: it’s my writing.)
Horror: what a vacation from the everyday, the quotidian, so needed: here in The Ward the doctor doesn’t know his ass from his elbow, the nurses are all Nurse Ratched … nested ranks of thugs with weapons, perverts, sadists … essentially … liars, mis-mappers abuse the girls imprisoned in this hospital.
Just remember one thing: if natural justice were allowed to rule, if the human world were half as Darwinian as undeveloped, unsupervised wilderness, there wouldn’t be any six billion people standing on each other’s eyeball, not for long. Hitler, Nixon wouldn’t survive in nature, but neither would the union, neither would the church, the school …
OK, I finished the flick. It took a turn I didn’t expect, the crazy girl turned out to be crazy after all, the pigs in charge turned out to be trying to help her after all. I’ll digest before speaking further; but: everything above is true, true, true, regardless of where this plot went. Essentially, the movie tricked us: normally we’re supposed to be able to trust what we see on the screen unless heavy warning hints abound. No, this movie simply cheats. It’s terriric anyway, I’m glad I saw it, and I’m glad I’m blabbing about it.
I have to praise the hell out of the poster again. That image made me stream the film in the first place. It’s such a rich mix of things: the image is dynamic, the girl is beautiful, sexy, lithe, athletic: we focus on her loins, see her bosom, all flexed: it’s dark, it’s frightening, it’s horrible, claustophobic, upending … Very well thought through: girl in a crooked cage: or is she crooked?
Turns out there were even more pretty girls in distress than we had thought!