Thanksgiving Day Special: Review 67: A Man for All Seasons (5/5)

A Man for All Seasons (1966 movie poster).gif

A Man for All Seasons

Directed by Fred Zinnemann

Starring Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Orson Welles, Robert Shaw, Susannah York, Nigel Davenport, John Hurt, Corin Redgrave

Released on December 12, 1966

Running time: 2h

Not Rated (Suggested rating: PG for thematic elements, brief language, brief violence, and some drinking)

Genre: Historical, Drama

I was going to review this earlier and focus on another movie, but then I watched The Gallows, decided I needed to review it first for catharsis. So now I’m scrambling to write this on Thanksgiving Day. I guess this works, as this truly is a movie I am thankful for.

In the early 1530s, King Henry VIII of England wished to divorce his then-wife, Catharine of Aragon, and marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn, citing Catherine’s barrenness, the debatable legitimacy of the marriage to begin with, and the need for a male hair to continue the dynasty and prevent another War of the Roses. He even appealed to the Pope. Sir Thomas More was the only member of the Privy Council to disapprove, saying that the Pope would not approve. This is when the film takes place.

More (Scofield) has some issues at home as well. First, his young ambitious steward, Richard Rich (Hurt), drawn to the allure of politics and power, pleads with More for a position at court. More, telling Rich of the corruption there, advises Rich to become a teacher. Second, a fiery young lawyer named William Roper (Redgrave) wishes to marry More’s daughter, Meg (York). Unfortunately, with More being a devout Catholic, More’s answer is “No”, as long as Roper is a Lutheran.

A length of time after the scenes with Rich and Roper and Meg, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (Welles), then Lord Chancellor of England, dies, and King Henry VIII appoints More as Wolsey’s successor.

Soon after, a pre-corpulent Henry VIII (Shaw), of whom his own cohorts are afraid, makes an “impromptu” visit to More’s estate to inquire about More’s opinion on Henry’s own divorce. More, refusing to either sanction or scoff at the divorce debacle, remains unmoved and stoic as Henry’s vigorous, yet childish and inconsistent mind and speech alternates between threats, tantrums, promises of royal favor and rewards, and hatred for the Pope, his clergy, and the Church. More then drops a comment referring to Catherine as the Queen, and –

HENRY: (full-on screaming) I have no queen! (Beat.) Catherine’s not my wife! No priest can make her so! They that say she is my wife are not only liars, but traitors! Yes, traitors! That I will not brook now! Treachery, treachery, treachery! I will not brook! It maddens me! It is a deadly canker in the body politic, and I will have it out!

Henry leaves soon after.

At the embankment that More’s estate is next to, Thomas Cromwell (McKern), the king’s chief minister, knowing full well that More is less than in favor of Henry’s divorce, confronts Rich, telling him that if he has information that could damn More’s reputation, he will grant Rich a position in the court.

Roper’s religious opinions have changed considerably now that he has heard the king attack the Church; he refers to Henry as “the Devil’s minister”. Rich walks into the room, pleading for a position at court, just after More tells Roper to be more soft-spoken. More lightly refuses, and Rich leaves. Roper and More have a frank exchange of ideas, where More, knowing that Rich is about to betray him, shows his respect for the rule of law, despite him holding God to a much higher standard.

MEG: Father, that man’s bad.

MORE: There’s no law against that.

ROPER: There is: God’s law!

MORE: Then let God arrest him.

(…)

ROPER: So now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

MORE: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Rich, now humiliated, joins Cromwell in his attempt to bring down More. Rich remarks that he himself has now lost his innocence.

King Henry VIII has now tired of Papal refusals, and so he breaks off from Rome, establishes the Church of England, has Parliament declare him “Supreme Head of the Church in England”, and has both bishops and Parliament renounce any and all allegiance to the Pope. This influences More to resign as Lord Chancellor. When More’s friend, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, leaves More’s estate, taking More’s relinquished Lord Chancellor medallion with him, he tries to have a friendly chat with More and draw out his true opinions on the divorce and the king’s recent actions. More rebuffs him, knowing that the time to speak openly about such matters is over.

MORE: (Initially innocent.) Have I your word that what we say here is between us two?

NORFOLK: Very well.

MORE: And if the king shall command you to repeat what I may say?

NORFOLK: I should keep my word to you.

MORE: (Now scolding.) Then what has become of your oath of obedience to the king?

NORFOLK: (Beat. Taken aback, realizes he’s been tricked.)  You lay traps for me.

MORE: (No longer scolding.) No. I show you the times.

(…)

MORE: But what matters to me is not whether it’s true or not, but that I believe it to be true, or rather not that I believe it, but that I believe it.

(…)

NORFOLK: Why do you insult me with this lawyer’s chatter?

MORE: Because I am afraid.

NORFOLK: Man, you’re ill. This isn’t Spain, you know. This is England. (Leaves.)

Norfolk meets with Cromwell that night, who is implying that More’s troubles will be alleviated should More attend the King’s wedding with Anne Boleyn. Cromwell brings up an accusation that More, soon before he became Lord Chancellor and was a judge, accepted a bribe. The accusation is dropped quickly, but as Norfolk leaves, this dialogue is exchanged between him and Cromwell:

CROMWELL: The king wants Sir Thomas to bless his marriage. If Sir Thomas appeared at the wedding, now, it might save us a lot of trouble.

NORFOLK: Aaaah, he won’t attend the wedding.

CROMWELL: If I were you, I’d try and persuade him. I really would try. (Beat.) If I were you.

NORFOLK (As he is about to exit.) Cromwell, are you threatening me?

CROMWELL: My dear Norfolk – this isn’t Spain. This is England.

More declines to appear at the wedding, much to the embarrassment of Henry, and so More is summoned to Hampton Court, of which Cromwell is now the head. Cromwell interrogates More on his opinions, and tells him that the king views him as a traitor, but More refuses to break, and is allowed to return home. As he leaves Hampton Court, he is confronted by Norfolk. In the name of their friendship and their own safety, More roughly breaks off the friendship, much to the anger of Norfolk.

When More returns home, Meg says to him that a new oath is now being circulated, and that all that do not take it will be charged with high treason. If it had only contained just the words relating to Henry’s new marriage, then More would have signed it. Unfortunately, the oath contains words that would name Henry the Supreme Head of the Church. More refuses to take it and is imprisoned in the tower of London.

One morning, More is interrogated by Cromwell, Norfolk, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (there’s a lot of Thomases in the sixteenth century). Despite Cranmer’s manipulations, Norfolk’s pleadings, and Cromwell’s attempted browbeating, More refuses to explain his objections to the oath.

More’s family illegally visit him, and they say heartfelt goodbyes, during which More laments that sin is more profitable than good. He also gives us this tidbit:

MORE: When a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his own hands like water. If he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.

More is brought to trial, where he maintains his silence regarding the marriage and the oath. Cromwell, feeling little else but hatred for More, attempts to use his silence against him, but More catches him in the act while still maintaining his silence on the subject.

CROMWELL: Now, Sir Thomas, you stand on your silence.

MORE: I do.

CROMWELL: But, gentlemen of the jury, there are many kinds of silence. Consider first the silence of a man who is dead. Let us suppose we go into the room where he is laid out, and we listen: what do we hear? Silence. What does it betoken, this silence? Nothing; this is silence pure and simple. But let us take another case. Suppose I were to take a dagger from my sleeve and make to kill the prisoner with it; and my lordships there, instead of crying out for me to stop, maintained their silence. That would betoken! It would betoken a willingness that I should do it, and under the law, they will be guilty with me. So silence can, according to the circumstances, speak! Let us consider now the circumstances of the prisoner’s silence. The oath was put to loyal subjects up and down the country, and they all declared His Grace’s title to be just and good. But when it came to the prisoner, he refused! He calls this silence. Yet is there a man in this court – is there a man in this country – who does not know Sir Thomas More’s opinion of this title?

COURT GALLERY CROWD: No!

CROMWELL: Yet how can this be? Because this silence betokened – nay, this silence was not silence at all, but most eloquent denial!

MORE: Not so. Not so, Master Secretary. The maxim is “qui tacet consentire”. The maxim of the law is “silence gives consent”. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.

CROMWELL: Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?

MORE: The world must construe according to its wits. This court must construe according to the law.

Richard Rich, now Attorney General for Wales, is brought forth to testify. Rich perjures himself, saying that More told him that he could not take the oath because Parliament had not the power or competence to make the King the Head of the Church. The court buys it, and in their eyes, this constitutes treason. More is convicted.

More, now having nothing left to lose, breaks his silence. And it is brilliant to watch, showing just what a magnificent man More is, and how incredible of an actor Paul Scofield is.

MORE: Since the Court has determined to condemn me, God knoweth how, I will now discharge my mind concerning the indictment and the King’s title. The indictment is grounded in an act of Parliament which is directly repugnant to the law of God, and His Holy Church, the Supreme Government of which no temporal person may by any law presume to take upon him. This was granted by the mouth of our Savior, Christ Himself, to Saint Peter and the Bishops of Rome whilst He lived and was personally present here on earth. It is, therefore, insufficient in law to charge any Christian to obey it. And more to this, the immunity of the Church is promised both in Magna Carta and in the king’s own coronation oath.

The court is in uproar.

CROMWELL: Now we plainly see that you are malicious!

MORE: (Beat.) (Quietly, resignedly, ruminatively.) Not so. I am the king’s true subject, and I pray for him and all the realm. I do none harm. I say none harm. I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, then in good faith, I long not to live. (In a sudden burst of scorn and anger.) Nevertheless, it is not for the Supremacy that you have sought my blood, but because I would not bend to the marriage!

More is condemned to death by beheading.

At Tower Hill, More addresses the witnesses.

MORE: I am commanded by the king to be brief, and since I am the king’s obedient subject, brief I will be. I die His Majesty’s good servant, but God’s first.

He then turns to the executioner.

MORE: I forgive you right readily. (Beat.) Be not afraid of your office. You send me to God.

CRANMER: You’re very sure of that, Sir Thomas?

MORE: He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to Him.

More places his neck on the chopping block. The executioner grabs his nasty-looking axe from under some straw, raises it, and brings it down, decapitating More. The screen goes black the instant the thump is heard.

NARRATOR: Thomas More’s head was stuck on Traitors’ Gate for a month. Then his daughter, Margaret, removed it and kept it till her death. Cromwell was beheaded for high treason five years after More.

Serves him right. He finally got his comeuppance.

NARRATOR: The Duke of Norfolk should have been executed for high treason, but the king died of syphilis the night before.

When my family watched this movie for the first time, we laughed at this line, as Henry VIII had a very…interesting history.

NARRATOR: Richard Rich became Chancellor of England and died in his bed.

Credits.

Some facts that must be mentioned first.

First. The church and its clergy back then did not always represent the will of its people or God.

Second. England’s government was, despite claiming to be representative of God on earth, was far removed from God’s laws. It was a state informed by faith but not run by the church.

Third. The king’s word was essentially law in those days. Yes, there was Parliament, with its Houses of Commons and Lords, but it almost always was a vehicle for the king’s whims. Also, you either sided with the king or you were executed.

Fourth. Thomas More’s beliefs have little to absolutely nothing to do with the Marxist definitions of socialism or communism. Neither of those two societogovernmental ideologies have any room for religious belief, any ideas of rebellion against the ruling authority, or, well, any thoughts whatsoever.

A Man for All Seasons was adapted by Robert Bolt from his own play. It was very literate and careful to explain the facts of More’s dilemma. He abandoned the Brechtian devices used in his play, such as eliminating the character of the “Common Man”, the narrator. By the way, Bolt was not a Catholic – he was agnostic. He didn’t write his play to spew Catholic propaganda. He saw More as a man of conscience and integrity who remained true to his principles even when threatened with death.

This is a movie that is in serious danger of being forgotten, despite it winning Best Picture at its year’s Oscars.

As just a movie rather than recorded history, and a fascinating examination of moral and ethical issues, it’s still fantastic.

The music sounds like it was taken right from the time period.

The play, and in turn the movie, was historically accurate.

Each part feels like it was written for each actor. More for Scofield, Henry VIII for Shaw, Cromwell for McKern, Rich for Hurt, and heck, even Wolsey for Welles.

Even its script is very well written. More’s and Cromwell’s verbal jousting in particular.

The acting is phenomenal, and encompasses a very wide range. Scofield for being dignified and restrained but quietly forceful, McKern using his lines to project how much of a bastard his character is, and Shaw for his over the top screaming that embodies the emotional range of the mentally and emotionally unstable Henry VIII perfectly. Heck, Shaw even looks the part…at least before Henry’s corpulent days. Shaw really had quite a future ahead of him, with him taking on the role of the slimy and slithery yet tough, stoic, and no-nonsense Mr. Blue in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and also the grizzled sea veteran Quint in Jaws. I’ve already reviewed Jaws, but I must say that I cannot recommend The Taking of Pelham One Two Three enough. It’s a fantastic thriller. Not the very ho-hum remake, but the ‘70s original.

And the cinematography is incredible as well. The costumes were perfectly designed to match that. They match the time period and the cinematography’s very beautiful and soft look and focus. The cinematography even evolves as the movie progresses and More’s situation becomes more hopeless; there are more grays and browns than reds, blues, yellows, and greens.

Even some of the subplots are magnified by their gravitas and their actors. For example, Norfolk getting caught in between his duty to England and his friendship with More. Richard Rich’s fall from innocent, kind, and likable to selfish, dishonest, and a serious turncoat. Even Cardinal Wolsey, with his putting of pragmatism before faith being his undoing, and his dying regretting that he did not serve God as well as he had the king.

But More is the true show-stopper here. I personally regard him as one of the greatest heroes in cinema. Putting God before Man, but still believing in the goodness of Man. With Henry’s divorce, remarriage, and break with Rome, More is unwilling to go along with such heresy. But Henry will accept nothing less than More’s approval. When the oath is sent around, More’s refusal to sign had nothing to do with the remarriage. It was about the king wishing to become sovereign over the Church of England and its people, and More’s right to remain silent regarding this supremacy. Speaking of his silence, More is not going to tell anyone but himself, as doing so would compromise the trustworthiness of whoever he tells in the eyes of the English government, King, Parliament, and courts. All that More has done is refuse to sign the document recognizing Henry VIII as head of the Church and refuse to give his reasons. Today, that might seem like blind, naïve devotion to a primitive church and its archaic dogma, but More knew that by signing the document and taking the oath, he would lose all of his religious integrity in the eyes of God, and receive everlasting damnation. (Note: I have absolutely no say in what is required to warrant damnation.) The document would be placing the laws and authority of man over the laws and authority of God. More refused to surrender his conscience to the edicts of his king and countrymen, being unyielding in zeal to God and Church, being uncompromising in his personal principles of faith.

More is a marvel of intricacies, being a ductile fist of steel wearing a velvet glove, a somehow placid lion. He tries at every turn to do what he feels is right, even when his political understanding knows how dangerous that can be in a time when the sinful are prosperous and the decent are in poverty. He knows every angle of the law, but he never exploits the loopholes. He respects the law too much for that, seeing the law as the only hope for man’s goodness. He never exploits the law for his own personal use, even when he knows he is being conspired against. And finally, when he has nothing left to lose, when he weighs himself, his family, his nation, his king, and his God against each other, which one does More choose to confide in in his final days? More chose God, and so will I.

The movie takes the opportunity to explore More’s identity. In a way, it doesn’t exactly do so in the way you’d expect. It tiptoes around More’s religious beliefs rather than identifying with them, and instead highlights what Robert bolt called More’s “adamantine sense of his own self”. It values More’s humanity as well as his spirituality.

It’s an scholarly examination of the Biblical adage: no man can serve two masters; no man can serve God and Mammon. It’s one of filmdom’s finest for the ethical and moral issues it raises.

Sir Thomas More was eventually canonized and made the patron saint of lawyers and politicians. They certainly seem to need one.

Robert Whittington wrote of More: “More is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness, and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A Man for All Seasons.” (Italics added.)

Truly he was.

God rest his soul.

Final Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars.

Review 66: The Gallows (0/5)

The Gallows Poster.jpg

The Gallows

Directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing

Starring Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford

Released on June 30, 2015

Running time: 1h 21m

Rated R (Suggested rating: PG-13 for brief violence and some strong language (Note how I didn’t mention scariness.))

Genre: Horror

In 1993, the play known as “The Gallows” was performed. No, it’s not a real play. I don’t know what the dang play was about. It had something to do with forbidden love ending in tragedy, and something to do with inter-social-class conflict. The movie does nothing to help that situation. In fact, I could easily tell that the two and a half scenes shown from the play were specifically written for the movie. The only vibe I get from it is a sense of overwhelming cheesiness and sappiness. Anyway, something went wrong. Charlie Grimille –

(Don’t say his name!)

It was a freaking movie. Drop the silly gimmick.

As I was saying, Charlie Grimille –

(Don’t say his name!)

Shut up!

As I was saying, Charlie Grimille was the high school student playing the lead role of August, a peasant who falls in love with a noblewoman. On opening night, the play was performed, using a legitimate gallows, with noose, trapdoor, and all. What school would be so stupid to use such a setpiece? It clearly stands out from the rest of the very cheaply designed school sets. But anyway, in the scene in which August is to be hanged, the trapdoor collapsed early, causing Charlie to be hanged. All death is tragic, and this is no exception.

Now, twenty-two years later, a young student named [Michelle] Pfeifer (Brown) has resurrected the play, planning to show it again…with the exact same sets. I presume it’s for a senior project. Dang it. I…don’t want to remember my senior project. Pfeifer is playing the lead female role of…Anonymous Nobility Chick.

Why is there no media coverage of the restaging of this doomed play?

And this restaging is the first of about a thousand stupid decisions made by our characters…and me.

And a football player named Reese (Mishler) is playing August. He can’t act worth crap, and, the day before opening night, he doesn’t even know his lines. I still don’t even know how he got the part.

This caused me to hark back to April of my junior year of high school. Carson High was putting on a performance of “Urinetown: The Musical”. Even though I would later learn that the musical was rather meh, I signed up to be a part of the stage crew. Our only job, for the most part, was moving the right set pieces around at the right time. It was an easy job, and whenever I wasn’t busy, I could stand off to the side of the stage and watch the performance. And our sets took time and effort to make. We even rented some scaffolding to use. We built wooden staircases and the actual backdrops ourselves. In fact, the only time I was in high school that I can remember renting setpieces was in our production of Little Shop of Horrors that we put on the previous year. I’d been in the pit orchestra that year. We’d had to rent our Audrey II props and actual setpiece. The pit orchestra director and the drama teacher had to make the four hour drive to San Francisco just to get them. Feed me, Seymour! But back to Urinetown: The Musical. While the musical was lacking, the actors were quite good. Teching was a lot of fun, and I not only made new friends, but I strengthened existing friendships. Thanks for a wonderful time, Robin, Shelby, Katie, Hannah, and Hannah. Yes, two Hannahs. Frankly, I wish I could have taken drama. I would have loved to have done so. Unfortunately, any openings in my class schedule were taken up by band and choir.

Where was I? Oh, yes, Reese not knowing his lines. Yes. Throughout the three or more days we spent running through the musical and ironing out errors, there was, as far as I could tell, only one incident in which our lead guy (sorry, Henry, I have to point this out) forgot a single line. This was the only time in which the flow of the play was interrupted.

If Reese sucks this much the day before opening night, then he desperately needs to be replaced. Is there no understudy?

It turns out that at this high school, drama classes is the place where only nerds, unattractive girls, and people who can’t get laid go. People in drama classes are scorned, made the butts of jokes, and generally looked down upon. Even Pfeifer isn’t safe from this. Heck, even Reese isn’t safe. Now that he somehow scored the lead role in an actual play, he is teased by his fellow football team members.

For how much disdain they felt toward drama students, I wanted to slap every one of those students that teased them. “What the eff is wrong with drama classes?” I literally yelled that at my computer screen.

And even the movie doesn’t like them. Price, the stage manager, actually patty-cakes with another stage worker, and the movie thinks that the girls that are working as part of this play are its pitiful definition of unattractive.

And this is being documented by Ryan (Shoos), the “cool” guy, and the guy behind the camera. And he is not only the worst offender in the “infuriatingly annoying asshole” department, but after witnessing the spectacle that is Ryan, you will want to reach through the screen and tear his luggage and both carry-ons off with your bare hands, and then shove salt into the hole they were pulled out of. The stage manager, Price, is the drama guy who is most often targeted by Ryan. After Ryan beans Price in the head with a football from ten yards, Price pulls a prank on Ryan, humiliating him in front of everyone working on the play. I laughed like a Bond villain. Ryan, in response, chases Price, pins him against a door, and threatens him. The drama teacher steps in and calls Ryan out. Ryan threatens Price again as Price and the drama teacher walk back onto the stage.

Yes. Ryan is the stereotypical Asshole Teenager. He can heckle Price as much as he wants, with Price taking it like a man. But when that heckling is turned on him in the form of a prank, Ryan can’t take it. He’s a pussy, pure and simple.

In fact, had I gone to this school, I think I would have been friends with a guy like Price. I’m a nerd too.

By the way, that door that Ryan slammed Price against? It’s a door leading to the outside, and it is never locked, as the lock is broken. How has leaving that door broken not backfired in the school’s face yet?

Ryan gives us a shot of the picture of the original 1993 cast, and reveals to the audience that the name of the student hanged was Charlie Grimille (grim-ǝll). Yes. A totally sinister name indeed. It has the word “grim” in it.

Ryan then discovers from Reese that the reason that Reese did the play in the first place was because Reese likes Pfeifer. Ryan, along with his girlfriend Cassidy (Gifford), talk to Reese. They tell the truth about his acting, that he sucks. But they take it farther, saying that the ruination of the play will be entirely because of Reese. But then they come up with the ingenious idea to break into the school that night and destroy the set, so that when Pfeifer breaks down, she can have a shoulder to cry on. How shallow is Ryan, exactly? Because I want to castrate him even more now. And, believe it or not, Reese acquiesces.

After an incredibly awkward sequence in which Ryan is caught in his underwear in his room by his mom, Ryan picks up Reese and Cassidy, and they both head to the school. The door is unlocked, so they head in.

By the way, how long does Cassidy spend tanning every day? Because her tanned skin and her blonde hair never stop clashing. Either that or she’s trying to pull a Rachel Dolezal by taking her first step to faking being black because…I don’t know, she wants to join the Black Lives Matter cult? All Lives Matter, dammit. I don’t care what Mark Zuckerberg or DeRay McKesson might say.

Ryan breaks into Price’s locker and steals his black clothes. Because he’s the stage manager. You have to dress in black during performance. Ryan films himself giving Price two choices of what to wear. A black sweater with “boob holes” cut in the back as well as the front (odd), and a ridiculously small shirt.

Ryan, if I force you to eat your own poop and then eat yourself to death, can you guarantee that you will not only die but that you will die in horrible pain and agony?

Ryan, Cassidy, and Reese go onto the stage and…only do minor damage to the set, like knocking over fake plants and a tree setpiece and removing the noose from the gallows. Sure, they take some boards off of the gallows and take the noose down, but they don’t actually do any damage that couldn’t be easily fixed. Gee. I wonder if some of the spoooooooky activity is going to involve the set being put back together offscreen. Also, Ryan then calls out Charlie’s name for some reason. Ryan is an idiot; he has now sealed his own fate, and he deserves every bit of misery that he will endure this night. Serves him right.

I also couldn’t help but notice that the “Charlie Charlie challenge” wasn’t that popular until just a little while after The Gallows  came out. Are American high school and college students really that dumb?

The three start to leave, but just as they are about to, they bump into Pfeifer. Okay, why is she here? What reason does she have to be here? This question is never answered throughout the movie, and it remains a humongous plothole that the mountain men from Deliverance would love to screw. Actually, Pfeifer says that she saw Reese’s car, but she had no reason to be in that part of town. When Pfeifer notices that Reese is there, Reese stalls her by telling her that he came there for an emergency practice. Pfeifer buys it for some reason, and the four head to the door to leave.

But it’s locked somehow. Also, there’s no phone service. The power is out. The other doors are locked. The windows are barred. There’s no way out. Fill in the rest of the list of tropes of found-footage horror for this Grave Encounters wannabe. (GE is a pretty good and actually scary movie, check it out.)

By now, I had realized that thirty minutes had gone by, and that the movie was only eighty-one minutes long, including the credits. I then did a double-take. I was thirty minutes in. That meant that the movie had less than fifty minutes to tell a good story, make our characters likable, and scare the bejabbers out of me. Good luck with that. It’s not exactly possible.

After wandering around for a while, Cassidy gets annoyed and, out of spite, confesses to Pfeifer that the reason that they were here was because they wanted to destroy the set. Pfeifer gets pissed at Reese, who in turn gets pissed at Ryan, both rightly so. The four return to the stage to find the set rebuilt and intact. Whaddya know? I told you so.

After wandering around again, they go to the main office where, of course, the phones are dead. And then they find a seeeeecret dooooooor. It leads to a looooong coooorridoooooor, which leads to a room with a TV in it blasting static before it cuts to a news report about the death of Charlie, saying that Charlie was originally supposed to play the hangman, that he was the understudy of the guy who originally played August. The footage then goes on to show an interview with Charlie’s girlfriend, who happens to be Pfeifer’s mom, and a repeat of the prologue clip. Why was the prologue even there to begin with when it was just showed anyway?

By the way, yes, that was just found-footage-within-found-footage. When I say it like that, and combine it with its placement in The Gallows, it sounds really silly and stupid. Because it is.

And now I must address the poor, poor scares. They are all jumpers, with the ones actually having buildup being too few and far between to be memorable. Yes, I did see the previews of The Gallows being hyped to hell and back as the next Paranormal Activity; the previews showed people reacting to it in the same way as Paranormal Activity’s previews…getting the crap scared out of them and jumping out of their seats. Now that I have seen both Paranormal Activity and The Gallows, I can safely say that the audiences who actually found those freaking movies scary are complete, utter idiots. I could barely stay awake during Paranormal Activity, much less actually be scared by it. The Gallows didn’t have that same lethargic effect because it was too short, but yes, I was not scared at all by it. Also, in The Gallows, even though it’s found-footage, with every jumpscare, there is still the complimentary bang, whack, or thump.

Jumpscares can be effective if they happen in the right setting, with the right sound, having a fantastic atmosphere, creating buildup, and actually having a reason for being there. But just tossing a bunch of jumpers at us willy-nilly isn’t scary! If anything, it pisses me off!

You know what movie had fantastic jumpscares combined with dripping suspense and buildup, well-done sound design, a claustrophobic setting, an atmosphere filled with doom, despair, and disturbing-ness, and an actually creepy backstory? It only came out this year, and it is known as Last Shift. It’s a little-known, independent movie that can be hard to find, but in my eyes, it does horror right. It’s actually really scary.

But back to The Gallows.

Reese, seeing the guy who was originally supposed to play Charlie in the shot of the 1993 cast picture, is disturbed. He runs off, causing the other three to chase after him. He finds the picture of the 1993 cast from earlier, takes it out of its display, and checks the names on the back. Sure enough, the guy who was originally supposed to play August was Reese’s dad. Uh…what a twist? I can imagine M. Night Shyamalan, one of the masters of the modern plot twist (The Village included), facepalming. How exactly is this twist supposed to affect us? So Reese’s dad should have died rather than Charlie? That’s kind of mean-spirited. Cassidy then gets briefly yanked into the air by something, and when she is caught by the other three, it is revealed that she now has rope burns on her neck. Ooooookay. What is that supposed to mean? Answer: It’s not supposed to mean anything; it’s just buildup to another scare. And then Ryan gets the idea into his head that somehow Reese is causing all of this stuff to happen. I don’t know why. Ryan has no reason to suspect Reese.

And then the four see a vent on the wall of the stage about twelve feet up, with a ladder about that high standing near it. Ryan starts climbing the ladder, saying Charlie’s name in the process. Pfeifer and Reese scold him for saying Charlie’s name, but he spitefully yells Charlie’s name three times, and about five seconds later, he suddenly rockets off the ladder and onto the floor faster than you can say “jumpscare”. He breaks his leg on impact. Well, what did he think was going to happen? He waved a red flag in front of a bull like the wannabe matador he is! Twelve feet off the ground while climbing a ladder, no less! Reese and Pfeifer leave the stage for some reason, and when Cassidy follows them, the door slams shut behind them, leaving Ryan alone. As the other three bang on the door, trying to get in, Ryan lets out a series of screams, before a loud bang cuts them off. The door opens, and when the three enter the stage area, Ryan is gone. His broken phone lies on the stage.

And then we see the exact same sequence involving Ryan, but from Ryan’s perspective. At first, Ryan freaks out at seeing the door shut by itself. Then, just after he calms down, he sees the figure of a hangman in a leather mask, white shirt, and brown knickers, wielding a noose. Of course the hangman is supposed to be Charlie. Ryan freaks out again, but Charlie disappears. Ryan calms down again, and, again, faster than you can say “jumpscare”, Ryan is launched off the floor, a noose around his neck, as he rockets upwards into the blackness.

Nitpick. If you are being hanged, and being lifted off the ground with such force and at such a speed, you would not be able to struggle. Your neck would have already broken, and you would be dead.

But I am so dang happy that Ryan is dead.

But by the time this has happened, we are fifty minutes into the movie, and we have only thirty minutes left. What in heaven’s name is the movie planning to do in just thirty minutes, with at least five minutes of credits? You should be building up to the climax by now. But the movie is not. In fact, there is no buildup to its climax. Well, it just barely starts to build up, but then the climax comes out of nowhere.

But now that our killer has been seen for the first time, I must address him. I must address the vengeful ghost of Charlie Grimille. Throughout the marketing campaign for The Gallows, during which the movie was hyping itself, Charlie was also hyped to hell and back. Charlie was marketed as the next big slasher villain, set to rival such killers as Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, who both were specifically mentioned. “Freddy had his glove (or was it claws?). Jason had his machete. Charlie…has his noose.” But here are the problems. 1) Charlie is actually pretty small and skinny, and not very imposing. In fact, he looks like he doesn’t even break six feet or two hundred pounds. Freddy Krueger was skinny, but not too skinny, and he was definitely imposing. Jason Voorhees was tall and buff, easily towering over everyone else. 2) When using a noose, you can’t exactly draw blood. Freddy had his claw glove, and Jason had a machete and all sorts of other stabbing or chopping implements. 3) There’s only four teenagers trapped in this school. As a slasher film rule, at least one teen must survive, meaning that the maximum body count can be only three. That’s pretty scanty. Even though its method was stupid, at least the ridiculously awful Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone! managed to make its body count quite high, even though it, like The Gallows, had only four main characters. 4) What reason does Charlie even have to kill teens? Freddy and Jason at least had motives. Freddy was a child molester and murderer who wanted revenge for being burned alive. Jason saw his mother decapitated in front of him. Where’s Charlie’s motive? In fact, one of the reasons Pfeifer is reviving this play is to do it in memory of Charlie. Why the backlash? 5) There is not even a single slasher element or trope in The Gallows. Pitiful.

Cassidy somehow gets separated from Reese and Pfeifer. Her rope burns on her neck have become infected and inflamed and – hey! Don’t touch that makeup that the makeup team spent an entire thirty seconds putting on! You’ll pay for that; we just sent Charlie to kill y – well, that was fast. Nice job, Charlie.

By the way, why was that last scene shot using a red gel? Oh, I know. Because “boo”.

Reese and Pfeifer, after a few forgettable events that do nothing to add to the story, somehow end up on the stage, and for some reason decide to climb the ladder to go to the top. Charlie chases them and grabs Reese, but Reese somehow escapes Charlie’s clutches (how?) and escapes with Pfeifer to the top, where, after several minutes of us looking at nothing, they suddenly discover the corpses of Ryan and Cassidy, still hanging from nooses. Yes. Loud noises and screaming. That will totally scare the audience. They decide to climb back down to the stage, and when they do, they see that the door that was locked before is now open. Why? How? They take the opportunity to get out, but when Reese finally gets outside, he discovers that Pfeifer is not with him. He runs back inside to find Pfeifer on the stage, making choking sounds. Reese gets down on his knees to tend to her, and just as she stops choking, the spotlight turns on, fixing on them. For some reason, Pfeifer and Reese get the vibe that they need to reenact the scene in which August says his final goodbyes to Anonymous Nobility Chick. They do so in a way that could have been a fantastic payoff, but considering how ridiculous the rest of the movie has been, and the fact that it’s not long enough to create the proper buildup, it fails. They say their lines in this movie’s best display of “acting” and kiss.

LAL (Star Trek: The Next Generation): He’s biting that female!

And then another spotlight turns on, pointing at the gallows. Reese, somehow knowing that he has to do this, walks onto the gallows, stands on the trapdoor, and puts the noose around his neck. As Pfeifer, sobbing now, stays in character, yelling to August to not leave her, and as Reese, breaking character, tries to tell Pfeifer to stop, Charlie interrupts the two by pulling the lever, sending Reese on, well…

NORRINGTON (Pirates of the Caribbean: TCBP) : A short drop and a sudden stop.

(YOUNG ELIZABETH notices GIBBS behind NORRINGTON. GIBBS makes motions that look like he’s being hung. ELIZABETH is shocked.)

Reese hangs like the mannequin that was probably used in his place. It was this that made me ask, How was this hanging supposed to be faked to begin with? Charlie takes Pfeifer’s hand, and they bow. Pfeifer’s mother, who is sitting in the audience alone, gives a standing ovation. It would have been cooler if the house was packed.

Cut to a police body cam as he and a few officers investigate Pfeifer’s house. One officer goes up to Pfeifer’s room to discover that Pfeifer was dangerously obsessed with “The Gallows”, as the room is covered in stuff related to it. The officer turns, seeing Pfeifer having her mother comb her hair. The officer calls out to another officer, only to see that officer being dragged by a noose across the hall and up the wall. And then the bedroom door slams shut, trapping the first officer inside. A TV in the room turns on, showing the prologue clip again. The officer says

OFFICER: Charlie Grimille?

PFEIFER: You shouldn’t say that name.

Charlie suddenly appears in front of the officer and attacks him before the screen cuts to black and the film ends.

And we never get an idea of how this incident affected the general public.

Over the past few years, horror has shown that it can still be fresh. It Follows updated the idea of sex=death and the unstoppable stalker. Spring and Crimson Peak showed that horror and romance can be juxtaposed well, with Crimson Peak doing so with fantastic production design and special effects and Spring with its minimalist feel and emotional story. Sinister brought the boogeyman back and made him scarier than ever. Oculus messed with our heads more than most horror films to date. The Babadook showed that a horror story can be metaphorical. Evil Dead showed that horrifically over-the-top violence can be used to a film’s advantage. The Exorcism of Molly Hartley showed that a sequel can improve over its predecessor. Carrie showed that remakes can be good and actually improve over their source material. The Conjuring and the Insidious trilogy gave us nostalgic but still scary throwbacks to the good old clichés. Heck, M. Night Shyamalan showed that horror, comedy, and found footage can be juxtaposed in a surprisingly large step toward his redemption with The Visit.

While the found-footage genre has become quite tired lately, it has given us some quality films. Cannibal Holocaust and The Last Broadcast introduced the moviegoing public to the genre. The Blair Witch Project made it mainstream, even though I didn’t like it. And since then, we have received quality films like REC, Cloverfield, Grave Encounters, Trollhunter, Chronicle, The Last Exorcism, Afflicted, The Taking of Deborah Logan, Lake Mungo, The Den, The Borderlands, Creep, Man Bites Dog, The Tunnel, and though people didn’t like these next three, I still put them up here: Apollo 18, As Above, So Below, and Exists. Note how I didn’t put Paranormal Activity  up there.

So why couldn’t The Gallows work?

The plot is forced, never developed, completely forgettable, unnecessarily rushed, quickly becomes unglued, and is a total mess. Sure, its story was original, but there is a difference between original and contrived. It forgets that it is supposed to be more about the journey than the destination. It’s quite obvious that there was something more than meets the eye behind the restaged play’s doomed performance, yet nobody bothered to bat an eye, let alone complain about it.

Its characters are paper-thin, dim-witted, and unlikable and then some.

Its dialogue was incredibly shaky, and pulls an Unfriended by it being written for today’s teens, but not necessarily by today’s teens. For example, the characters’ seeming inability to swear. I’m serious. There is not a single F-bomb in this, and only a single s-word.

The movie as a whole was effortless and uninventive, lacking any sense of brainpower or common sense.

Even its pacing was off. Some scenes are too dang short, while others stretch on for far too long. This becomes really noticeable when the movie itself is phenomenally short.

Even its execution of found-footage tropes was flawed. There’s just one too many endless dark corridors and hidden dark rooms. Speaking of dark, there is a serious difference between shooting in the dark and shooting in pitch blackness. Sure, the dark can be used as an effective tool that evil creatures can lurk in, waiting to spring out at you. But when it’s so dark that you can’t see anything, it gets ridiculous. Also, nowadays, everyone knows that to operate a camcorder or a cell phone camera, you need to have steady hands. Why do we still have shaky cam in this genre? It’s not quite on the same level as the vomitorium Blair Witch Project, but it will cause some audience members to get nauseous. Plus, why are they even still filming to begin with?

It is an exhausted jumpscare fest, a no-risk investment (the budget was only $100000), a cash grab (it made $38.2 million hand over fist), and flaying of its genre that doesn’t even deserve its R rating. I’m serious. There is little to no violence at all, there is no nudity or sex, and there are no F-bombs. Why was this movie rated R to begin with?

It was hyped more than most other movies that summer, and it was not even close to worth it. It was a failed wannabe, and it seemed purposefully made to catch the eyes of those who weren’t old enough to see Paranormal Activity eight years prior.

And finally, it is an excuse. Its found-footage gimmick gave the screenwriters the idea that they don’t need to come up with a coherent, interesting story, or likable characters, or actual production design, or actual decent camcorder-work.

It’s a tired genre that needs to be laid to rest, unless you have a really damn good idea. If you don’t, don’t just make the movie anyway. The genre is done.

And The Gallows should serve as an example of how not to do it.

Final verdict: 0 out of 5 stars.

Obamacare is Hurting the People Around Me. It Must Be Repealed.

This morning, I had a brief conversation with my father concerning the reopening of Obamacare’s open enrollment and the website being as broken as ever. Two issues concerning the people around me were brought up, bringing the travesty that is Obamacare ever closer to home.

  1. Mike’s Pharmacy, an independently owned pharmacy owned by a really nice guy named Mike that my family has been depending on for our prescribed drugs for the last several years has been forced to close down today due to massive debt brought on by Obamacare.
  2. One of my father’s own employees has had her health insurance canceled for the third time due to Obamacare. And she’s not exactly financially stable to begin with.

This scares me, especially when considering that only 15-20% of Obamacare’s policies have been implemented.

My father owns his own independent podiatry (foot doctor) clinic, and it has been pretty successful ever since his father started the business in the 80s. But now, with forced implementation of Obamacare’s policies, it has been forcing him and his employees to do all sorts of unnecessary stuff, pay astronomically more money to the government, and suck out even more precious time from his schedule that he could be spending with his family. This hurts even more when his own healthcare provider is constantly double-crossing him.

Over the past few years, in fact, just this year alone, Americans all over our once-great nation have had their insurance premiums go up drastically under Obamacare, leaving them downright broke. Despite President Obama’s promises that premiums for Obamacare would go down $2500, they have gone up over $3000 for the average family.

Obamacare has been bumping off practically every small, non-federally-owned insurance provider, as well as some of America’s largest insurance providers, leaving us with a government near-monopoly of health insurance provision. And thanks to this, the prices of health insurance have been skyrocketing. This blatantly contradicts President Obama’s promise of “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” In fact, with each year between 2016 and 2024, an additional 6-7 million people will no longer have employment-based insurance coverage.

And, as I stated earlier, it is cracking down on and trying to wipe out small, independently owned businesses. But even bigger businesses aren’t safe, as Obamacare’s policies continue to force innumerable businesses across the country to cut hours, reduce wages, and slow hiring. Small businesses with 20-99 employees will have to reduce what they pay their workers by $22.6 billion every year. Employees who work for these small businesses lose between $827.50-$935 every year. Businesses will have to pay additional costs of $4800-$5900 per employee. It doesn’t just reduce workers’ pay – it outright puts them out of work. One out of every ten small businesses is reducing hiring to stay under the 50-employee threshold. In fact, companies like these are hiring more part-time workers to avoid Obamacare’s penalties and save money. By 2024, Obamacare will be responsible for the loss of 2.5 million jobs. While the White House responded by saying that Obamacare cutting employee hours is entirely because of workers choosing to work less, the reality is this: Obamacare provides subsidies that decline with rising income, and increase with falling income. The less money Americans make, the more they get from the government. This means that Obamacare is providing incentives for people to flat-out refuse to work. People who actually do work can lose hundreds or thousands of dollars in health insurance subsidies. For every dollar Americans earn per hour, at least fifty cents is taken away from every dollar given to them by Obamacare.

And then there’s the ridiculous tax burdens. Marginal taxes will increase by five percentage points of employee compensation, lowering the return from working by over ten percent and reduce the labor supply by five percent. This is already devastating, as the labor force participation rate is at its lowest since 1978 – only 62.8%. Fewer workers mean fewer taxpayers, meaning damningly higher taxes.

It has failed to deliver on its promises, and will continue to make the future for myself and millions of Americans look much more bleak.

And guess what? Even most Americans that live below the poverty line are not eligible to sign up! I was able to talk with a fellow American that lives below the poverty line, and he confirmed that he and his family were not eligible!

The harm that Obamacare does to employers and employees alike is flagrantly obvious, and it’s only going to get worse as time goes on. If we want an actually functioning let alone strong and maintainable labor markets, there’s no other choice but to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Did you know that the last country that tried to create a single-payer health insurance system of Obamacare’s size and scale was Nazi Germany?

I think the first bad sign was the fact that its jaw-dropping number of regulations fill over thirty thousand pages.

Veterans Day Special: Review 65: Taking Chance (5/5)

Taking Chance

Directed by Ross Katz

Starring Kevin Bacon

Released on January 16, 2009

Running time: 1h 17m

Not Rated (Suggested rating: PG for some language and thematic elements)

Genre: Drama, Historical

During Operation Iraqi Freedom in April 9, 2004, outside Ar Ramadi, Iraq, a USMC unit was conducting convoy escort when they came under heavy fire by terrorists. Private First Class Chance Phelps refused to be evacuated, manning his M240 or M2 .50 caliber machine gun to cover the evacuation of the rest of his convoy. He was fatally shot in the head, posthumously being promoted to Lance Corporal. His body was brought home. Upon learning of Phelps’s death, and discovering that Phelps’s hometown was near his own hometown, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, who had previously served in Desert Storm, volunteered to escort Phelps’s body home. Phelps was buried in Dubois, Wyoming on April 17. Phelps’s parents, stepparents, sister, the Chief of Naval Intelligence (Phelps’s sister was the Chief’s aide), and every veterans’ organization within ninety miles was present. LtCol Strobl detailed his experiences as well as his own soul-searching journey in his article, “A Marine’s Journey Home”, also known as “Taking Chance”. You can read the article here. It’s a powerful, emotional story.

http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/A-Marine-s-journey-home-2762679.php

In 2009, LtCol Strobl and Ross Katz wrote the script for a movie based on Strobl’s article. Kevin Bacon was cast as LtCol Strobl himself. The movie was titled Taking Chance.

And it was one of the most emotionally gripping but simple experiences I have ever seen put to film.

The film begins on a black screen, with radio chatter and sounds of explosions and gunfire, with the radio then saying, “Phelps is down.” Cut to two Marines going to an unmarked house in the middle of the night and knocking on the door. We see a montage of the Marines taking his and other bodies home, and treating them with utmost respect. Their bodies are taken to a special mortuary to be cleaned and dressed.

We transition to LtCol Michael Strobl (Bacon), who is a “numbers cruncher in a cubicle”, who spends time with his family, and, every night, checks the casualty reports on Operation Iraqi Freedom. One night, he notices that Private First Class Chance Phelps has been killed in action, and that he hails from a hometown near Strobl’s own. He volunteers to escort Phelps’s body home.

Strobl learns more about Phelps from Phelps’s personal effects: a wooden cross on a string, a St. Christopher pendant, a wristwatch with a little blood permanently on it, and Phelps’s dog tags. Strobl is told that Phelps’s effects are not to leave Strobl’s side under any circumstances.

After verifying that it is indeed Phelps’s body, Strobl, accompanied by driver Rich Brewer (John Magaro), drive away from the mortuary to the Philadelphia airport.

I must mention that with every body transported from the mortuary that day, some construction workers stop their work to place their hard hats over their hearts with every transport that drives past.

Rich talks to Strobl as they drive to the airport. While Rich is against the war and has lost a friend in Iraq, he holds nothing but respect for our armed forces. When the two arrive at the airport, the two render honors to Phelps as he is unloaded.

At the ticketing counter, the ticketing agent expresses to Strobl her sympathy for the family and her thanks for Strobl’s service, and upgrades Strobl’s ticket to first class. Strobl, the workers on the tarmac, and the flight crew render honors to Phelps as he is loaded onto the airplane. About forty-five minutes into the flight, the first class flight attendant gives Strobl her small gold (silver in the movie) crucifix. Honors are rendered to Phelps as he is unloaded off the plane in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After Strobl comes across an Army sergeant escorting his dead brother home, the two render honors to the sergeant’s brother as he is loaded onto the plane.

As honors are rendered as Phelps is loaded onto another plane the next morning, Strobl encounters the pilot, who is a retired Air Force officer who served in the First Persian Gulf War. On the way from Minneapolis to Billings, Montana, Strobl meets a young woman who is glad to meet a Marine. When the plane lands, and the pilot announces that they’ve been carrying Phelps’s body, the passengers and Strobl exit the plane, rendering honors as Phelps’s body is unloaded off the plane. The young woman from earlier in particular is visibly affected.

Strobl meets the funeral director, and they load Phelps’s casket into a hearse for the final part of the journey to Dubois, Wyoming. Along the way, a series of cars turn on their headlights in respect, and form an impromptu funeral procession.

Upon arrival at Dubois, Strobl is greeted by a fellow Marine, one of the two who had told the Phelps family of Chance’s death. Strobl and the Marine place some personal items into the casket and make sure that Phelps’s uniform is squared away, noting his Purple Heart.

That night, a memorial event is held at the local VFW. The local veterans and others, including Phelps’s sergeant who was with him when he was killed, welcome Strobl with gratitude for bringing Chance home. They reminisce about Phelps’s outgoing and energetic personality and some war stories of theirs, including the manner in which Phelps died. As the veterans leave that night, Strobl talks with a Marine who served in Korea, saying that he is ashamed of his office duties when he should be in combat. The Korea vet kindly reprimands him, telling him that he is no less of a Marine than Phelps was, and that he is now responsible for the final part of Phelps’s legacy.

The next morning, Strobl meets Phelps’s family, giving them the personal effects and mentioning that Phelps was treated with great care and dignity across his final journey. Strobl even gives them the crucifix from earlier, realizing that it was given to Phelps rather than him.

The funeral had a surprisingly high number of military servicemen and women in attendance. Phelps was given full military honors.

During the final procession to the cemetery, all the flags are posted at half mast, and a troop of local Boy Scouts hold large flags.

Honors are rendered as Phelps’s casket is removed. Phelps’s divorced parents are each presented with a flag. The attendees all pay their respects, and Strobl, the final man left at the ceremony, renders honors for the final time.

On his way home, Strobl reminisces about his experience, saying that though he did not know Lance Corporal Chance Phelps before he died, somehow, after escorting him home and putting him to rest, he misses him. Strobl returns home, reuniting with his wife and children. The film ends with a shot of the mailbox outside the house from the beginning, labeled “Phelps”.

It’s no secret that I love our armed forces with all my heart. I have nothing in my heart but respect for them, the service that they performed, and the lives they gave. It doesn’t matter whether or not you supported Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is simply about respect for not necessarily our military leaders, but for each individual soldier that puts his or her life on the line for America and her people, and the emotion in the funeral procedures for our fallen brothers and sisters.

Taking Chance, to me, is not just about our armed forces and the procedures they go through when killed in action and returned home. It’s also about my hope for humanity and this film’s honesty in reflecting the heart and pride of America.

In fact, a recurring theme in Taking Chance is that it’s all about the little things in life. Kind words. Small gifts. Pure and simple gratitude.

And it was this theme that made my eyes constantly wet throughout the entire movie.

It wasn’t just this that made me cry.

Taking Chance was unique in how we never meet our titular character, but, by the end, we cry for him.

And it was no surprise to me that what made this movie so poignant was the fact that these events actually happened.

Even when you look at it as just a movie, all of the aforementioned factors still make the overall product work. I will not, and have no reason to, complain about the strong, coherent story and script. Each individual character receives more development in just a few minutes than I’ve seen in many other movies with us knowing the characters for an hour or more and still not knowing anything about them. Every scene is filled to the brim with raw emotional power that still manages to be subtle. There is no room for over-the-top acting here, as all of it is well done in its restraint.

I am happy to say that Taking Chance is as close to perfect as films like it get.

God bless every one of our brothers and sisters that have served or are currently serving in our armed forces, and God bless us to be as ready, willing, and able as ever to welcome them home with open arms.

God rest the soul of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, and may he be granted a long, happy eternity in Paradise.

Excuse me as I go grab my bugle to play “Taps” and my bagpipes to play “Amazing Grace.”

Happy Veterans Day. Semper fidelis.

Final verdict: 5 out of 5 stars.

In Response to Jay Roach’s “Trumbo”

Trumbo details the story of Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), one of the Hollywood Ten, who was imprisoned for eleven months for contempt of Congress and blacklisted by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for his political beliefs, and his struggle to be reinstated into the Writers’ Guild of America.

Such political beliefs were…wait for it…Communism, and being a member of the Communist Party of the USA.

Back in the 1940s and 50s, America had dived headfirst into the Cold War and, out of fear and paranoia of Communism and Commies, began an attempt to censor Communist speech, movies, and literature. Both Republicans and Democrats alike were terrified of Communism, and it was understandable that they would want to censor Communist material.

Dalton Trumbo was one of ten screenwriters that was censored for his Communist ideals and ideas.

Some history on the guy: Dalton Trumbo was born in 1905. He was a reporter at his high school and the University of Boulder for two years. His writing career began in the 1930s. He became a supporter of Communist Russia in the 1930s, became an ardent anti-fascist and a full-on supporter of Leninism, supported the Loyalists in Spain, hoped for unity against Hitler, and called for a boycott of all German products.

Trumbo married Cleo Fincher in 1938. They had two children, Christopher and Melissa “Mitzi”.

When the Nazi-Soviet pact was made in 1939, Trumbo, showing his hypocrisy, quickly switched his viewpoint, becoming a vehement pacifist, and even supporting Hitler. Trumbo and the Reds in Hollywood, alongside the USSR, supported Hitler when the Nazis invaded Poland, Norway, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and France, and when Hitler started executing blitzkrieg on London. In fact, he and the Hollywood Commies tried to ease Hitler’s burden of conquest by demonizing Hitler’s enemies and accusing Great Britain of being unworthy of American assistance. He and they even accused President Roosevelt of treason by giving weapons to the British in their time of need.

Trumbo’s most famous work, his novel, Johnny Got His Gun, was published in 1939. It was a very bitter anti-war-for-any-cause-whatsoever novel that details a World War 1 infantryman who becomes a quadruple amputee, as well as deaf, mute, and blind. Most of the book details this infantryman reminiscing on life and the futility of war and medical ethics.

In 1941, as Winston Churchill courageously led his nation in defying Hitler, Trumbo wrote a novel, The Remarkable Andrew. It was truly desperate in denying that Britain was a democracy, and charged FDR with treason for seeking to aid the British in their attempts to fight off the Nazis.

And then, when the Nazi-Soviet pact collapsed, Trumbo quickly showed his hypocrisy again, becoming pro-war to the point of fanaticism. He and the rest of the Hollywood Commies turned against Hitler in June when the Nazis invaded much of the Soviet Union. Trumbo and the Hollywood Commies now demanded that the USA give major military and economic aid to the USSR. Fans of Johnny Got His Gun wrote to Trumbo requesting copies. In response, Trumbo turned these names in to the FBI, accusing them as slanderous, defeatist, and pacifist. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Trumbo shot A Guy Named Joe and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo out of his butt in a frenzied attempt at being pro-war. Only now had he and the Hollywood Commies become “patriotic”, believing that US help was crucial to the survival of the Soviet Union.

Trumbo knew full well of his own hypocrisy, and yet he still wanted people who thought differently from himself, the CPUSA, and the USSR to be attacked until they recanted, and then have them censored. He wrote to a fellow Communist screenwriter, Herbert Biberman, that “whenever a book or play or film is produced which is harmful to the best interests of the working class, that work and its author should and must be attacked in the sharpest possible terms.”

Trumbo was an obsessive disciple of Josef Stalin, having called him “one of the democratic leaders of the world”, and having prevented a film being made that was based on Leon Trotsky’s biography of Stalin.

When fellow Communist screenwriter Albert Maltz published a defense of artistic freedom in literature, asserting that literature should not be judged on the politics of its author. Trumbo, and the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), participated in a flat-out inquisition and sessions of browbeating and intimidation until Maltz publically recanted. Maltz, who was later brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and was jailed for refusing to testify, informed historian Gerda Lerner that his appearance before HUAC was nothing compared to the CPUSA scare tactics used against him.

Well before the blacklist, Trumbo and the rest of the CPUSA had formed their own “Redlist”. In The Worker magazine, Trumbo boasted that he and the rest of the CPUSA had successfully stopped the making of Hollywood films based on books banned by Stalin, such as Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and Victor Kravchenko’s I Chose Freedom.

In 1944, a large amount of important Hollywood writers, directors, labor union officials, and studio executives, alarmed by the infiltration of the film industry by the Reds and the rise of Red propaganda, formed the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA). Its founders and members included such figures as Walt Disney, Morrie Ryskind, Ayn Rand, Hedda Hopper, Robert Taylor, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Ward Bond, Walter Brennan, Cecil B. DeMille, Dick Powell, Barbara Stanwyck, and John Wayne. While they were all from varying political backgrounds, they all despised Communism, viewing it as an antithesis of Americanism. This group was formed because at the time it looked like the Commies had taken control of Hollywood. CPUSA members had major influence in powerful unions, with the Screenwriters Guild picking Trumbo and fellow Commie Gordon Kahn to run the Screenwriter magazine. This magazine was used to praise important Red screenwriters, give lectures on history, economics, and foreign policy, and attack anti-Communism in Hollywood

Screenwriter Richard MacCauley submitted a piece to Screenwriter magazine opposing censorship by politicians and activists. Trumbo, who was the editor of the magazine, rejected the piece, denouncing the right to free speech, claiming that the “inalienable right” to free speech had directly resulted in the Holocaust: “It is difficult to support your belief in the inalienable right of man’s mind to be exposed to any thought whatever, however intolerable that thought might be to anyone else. Frequently such a right encroaches upon the right of others to live their lives. It was this inalienable right in Fascist countries which directly resulted in the slaughter of five million Jews.”

Trumbo claimed to have ghostwritten Sec. of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr’s Report to the Nation on the 1945 founding of the United Nations.

Trumbo showed his obsessive devotion to Stalinist Russia in 1946, when he blasted Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech, describing it as a disgusting fascism expression. That same year, he hosted a meeting of the CPUSA presumably to discuss putting Communist propaganda into Hollywood movies. This was at the time when the Cold War was in its developing stages, and the Soviet Union had full control over the CPUSA.

Trumbo allied with Stalin against America on every foreign policy issue as the Soviets invaded Eastern Europe and tried to invade Western Europe. He became part of a Communist effort to infiltrate Hollywood, unions, the military, the State Department, the atomic energy installations, and the White House.

In 1947, the Cold War had gone well under way. Even major liberal American figures, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, lawyer Joseph Rauh, and union leaders Walter Reuther and David Dubinsky had realized that Stalin was an enemy and that Communism was dangerous, and formed the group Americans for Democratic Action. In January, this group formed the blacklist. But Hollywood Commies, through every medium imaginable at the time, allied themselves with the USSR and against America.

Soon after, the HUAC called Trumbo to testify about Communist influences and propaganda in Hollywood, presenting his CPUSA card and card number as evidence. The card had the name Dalt. T. printed on it, it identified him as a screenwriter, it showed his current address as 620 Beverly Dr., and the CPUSA card number was 39300. In a silly attempt to save his own skin, Trumbo tried to say that the HUAC was infringing on his First Amendment rights. Trumbo refused to testify, and, with the other nine Hollywood Ten, who were all proven Communists, were convicted of contempt of Congress, and spent eleven months in prison.

Years later, Trumbo would admit to Bruce Cook, his biographer, that he would have regretted not being a CPUSA member.

After being released, Trumbo and the other nine Hollywood Ten had difficulty getting screenwriting jobs and often worked under pseudonyms, with Trumbo doing so with Roman Holiday and The Brave One. After receiving full writing credits on such films as Spartacus and Exodus, Trumbo was reinstated into the Writers’ Guild of America.

In 1949, Trumbo was part of the CPUSA attack on fellow Communist director Robert Rossen because of Rossen’s film, All the King’s Men, as they thought it was too close to an attack on one-man-rule, like Stalinist Russia.

In 1950, he took the side of Kim Il-Sung and North Korea when they attacked South Korea.

During the 1950s, Trumbo wrote but didn’t publish a manuscript titled An American Story. It dealt with a mother considered to be unfit by her husband because she supports North Korea’s invasion of South Korea. She believes that this is somehow reminiscent of the United States declaring independence from Britain in 1776.

In 1956, Trumbo left the CPUSA and remained a Stalin apologist until his death.

During the era of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, Trumbo negatively compared Dr. King to Nat Turner, the leader of a bloody slave revolt in 1831. He attempted to verbally castigate Dr. King and his fellow civil rights activists for being nonviolent. However, Trumbo was a champion of the violent, racist, Maoist Black Panthers.

Trumbo’s last writing credit was a 1971 script for a film version of Johnny Got His Gun. He died of a heart attack in 1976. His wife eventually died in 2009.

To put it lightly, Mr. Trumbo was not a very good or very nice guy.

Actually no. I’m not going to put it lightly.

I’m also not about to defend his blacklisting. While I fully understand why, I will not stand for censorship of free speech. In fact, some of the screenwriters blacklisted were not even Communist at all.

But was the HUAC in the right, addressing Trumbo’s and the CPUSA’s insidious behavior? Ultimately, yes. Trumbo, the Hollywood Ten, and the CPUSA were adamant Communists. They followed Stalin’s policies blindly; they were full-on Bolsheviks who followed every whim of the Kremlin. Card-carrying CPUSA members were Communist activists promoting an unfriendly, oppressive totalitarian system of government. Trumbo and the rest of these men had been working their damndest, through unions and studios alike, to increase Communist power in Hollywood, to capture it for the purpose of serving the USSR, to shut up, shut down, and eradicate their ideological opposition, and use Hollywood as their vehicle for Communist propaganda. This practice would, of course, come back to bite them in the balls, as the HUAC would do the exact same thing to them.

Serves Trumbo and his cronies right.

While the HUAC was correct in its decision to call Trumbo to testify, it was quite stupid. But it was not without reason. And reactions from the general public had absolutely no business whatsoever in making him look like a champion of Americanism.

But what in God’s holy name was the HUAC supposed to do, if not step forward and tell the truth? What were they to do, if not expose ideological treason? What were they to do, if not expose Trumbo and his cronies for what they truly were, traitors to America, with their true allegiance being to our then-mortal-enemy? What were they to do, if not say truthfully that these Communists were providing aid and comfort to, at that time, the greatest enemies that free speech and freedom of the press had ever had?

Had Trumbo and his cronies been a rebellious political party in the USSR at the time, there’s no telling what would have happened to them.

By being a criminal conspiracy designed to 1. overthrow the government designed to protect our freedoms as Americans and 2. impose Communist tyranny, the Hollywood Ten got their righteous comeuppance.

By committing straight-up, unmitigated treason, they caused their blacklisting themselves.

They deserved it.

Unfortunately, Hollywood has spent much of its history since then praising and venerating the Hollywood Ten. In 1997, on the fiftieth anniversary of the blacklist, at Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Hollywood honored many long-time Communists, including Hollywood Ten member Ring Lardner, Jr., and former CPUSA head in Hollywood Paul Jarrico. The Writers Guild of America bestowed First Amendment Awards on them because of what they did in response to the blacklist, for refusing to testify to the HUAC that they were CPUSA members conspiring with the Kremlin to depose capitalist America and replace it with a Soviet-like government. It is amazingly insulting to Americans, as each of the Hollywood Ten were full-blown Reds and only one, Edward Dmytryk, actually broke with his party. Why in the sacred names of God, Jesus Christ, and America would Hollywood bestow these First Amendment awards on Communists, whose very ideology is the antithesis of free speech?

Ultimately, Dalton Trumbo won. And America lost.

I was actually kind of surprised to learn that Trumbo is only the latest film in a line of films praising Communism and doing their best to obliterate the political Right. These films always say the same thing: that Communists are martyrs, champions of liberty, and victims of right-wing tyranny, oppression, and censorship. These films conveniently forget to mention just what Communism actually is. This group of films includes, but is not limited to, The FrontGuilty by SuspicionThe Majestic, Good Night, and Good Luck, and a 2007 documentary also known as Trumbo, made by Trumbo’s son, Christopher. These films have been doing this for the last forty years, while stopping short of outright murdering people who disagree, thereby keeping Hollywood free of non-radically-liberal voices.

Now, in 2015, we have this biopic of Trumbo’s blacklisting. Directed by Jay Roach, the same schmuck that directed Recount, a petty, fraught little movie that claims that Republicans stole the 2000 Bush/Gore presidential election and portrays Republicans as ghoulish with the real Warren Christopher and James Baker dismissing it as hopelessly untrue, and Game Change, a movie made purely to bash Sarah Palin, a desperate presentation of many debunked controversies about her as fact, and described by John McCain, his wife, and Sarah Palin as fiction, I can only assume that Trumbo will flat-out whitewash Dalton Trumbo, portraying him as a poor, innocent victim of a right-wing extremist conspiracy targeting him.

Is it going to be obvious Communist propaganda? Yes. Is it going to be any more than that? Hell no.

Reports from my friends and my like-minded brothers in conservatism have confirmed that Dalton Trumbo has, in Trumbo, been portrayed as a free-speech hero. And Hollywood conservatives like John Wayne are seen as, essentially, liberals’ interpretation of the Thought Police. While Trumbo is depicted as having beliefs that could be considered Marxist, he is depicted as a figure not unlike Pope Francis, rather than a figure like Vladimir Lenin.

All of Trumbo and the CPUSA’s heavy-duty, bloated Soviet propaganda and activities are omitted from the film. So is his support of Lenin, Hitler during the Nazi-Soviet pact, Kim Il-Sung, and, of course, Stalin.

The villains in the movie are not Trumbo and his Communist cronies that were covertly working to turn Hollywood over to the Kremlin. The villains are the anti-Communists fighting the Red conspiracy in the film industry, with special interest placed on columnist Hedda Hopper, John Wayne, Robert Taylor, labor leader Roy Brewer, the HUAC, the MPA, and various other opponents of Communism. And they are thrashed in this movie. In Trumbo, they are literally portrayed as the epitome of evil. They are dragged into the movie, have all their money sucked out of their wallets, get the holy crap beaten out of them, and are tossed out.

In fact, Trumbo gives us little to no idea of what it means to be a CPUSA member or why this blacklist was imposed.

As I expected: Trumbo stoops to such lows as rewriting history to benefit evil.

But you should have heard what Bryan Cranston (yes, Walter White – and now Dalton Trumbo himself) said when Howard Stern interviewed him. He dropped two particular ideas that not only made it clear that he was 1. simply saying the same line fed to him by somebody involved with the film, 2. attempting to rewrite history, 3. showing his own complete and total ignorance of the CPUSA’s ideals, Trumbo’s beliefs, and what would have happened to him had he been rebellious in Russia, but 4. he was desperately trying to whitewash Communism in general.

  1. “Stalin wasn’t a communist; he was a fascist dictator.”
  2. Trumbo wasn’t really a Communist; he was just one of many guys trying to fix the US’s Cold-War-Era economy.

Oh, and he never actually elaborated on either of these statements, again proving his complete and utter ignorance.

And guess what? Cranston repeated the first statement word for word in his interview with The Daily Beast the very next day, and claimed that the American government lashed out at Trumbo and the CPUSA only (only) because they had the word “Communist” in their party’s title, without mentioning or even considering the other reasons. Not only that, but he whitewashed Trumbo and the CPUSA, saying that they were only trying to create more jobs for American workers.

What typical, regurgitated bilge.

And Trumbo’s and Trumbo‘s final bit of obvious hypocrisy is exposed by Cranston’s interviews.

Cranston’s responses are the exact same shameless lies and deception that Trumbo and every other Communist screenwriter shoehorned into Hollywood through their Stalinist slurry-filled scripts.

When I was a child, and my father had seen a movie like Trumbo coming out, and briefly complained about it, I would have brushed it off and eventually forgotten about it.

I’m a bitter old man now. And I’m not going to let something like this fly idly by without me doing my research on it and setting the record straight.

But does Trumbo, a pile of Communist garbage, have a right to exist? Of course. It’s free speech, I guess, just so long as it doesn’t actually portray the right of free speech as having directly influenced the Holocaust, as that would be screwed up.

But is it worth portraying this hateful but admittedly talented man as a poor, innocent victim? No. Of course not. And if Americans are as good and smart as I know they are, then Trumbo‘s Communist propaganda will backfire. Kind of like how Brokeback Mountain and Capote had the rug pulled out from under them by giving their Best Picture Oscars to Crash.

But here’s the thing with Trumbo’s release that makes the movie overall self-defeating.

First. It has only been released to a few theaters, and it is rated R. Children, who are particularly impressionable, will not be able to see it, unless their parents take them.

Second: the case involving White House Down. Jamie Foxx starred in it as a Barack Obama wannabe that is somehow successful and beloved despite seriously flawed liberal policies and was attacked by a rogue group of right-wing extremist white supremacist terrorists. Foxx had, prior to the film’s release, referred to Barack Obama as “our lord and savior”. This caused much annoyance if not anger with much of American audiences, and they intentionally boycotted White House Down. I personally still avoid movies with Foxx in them, like Django Unchained and Annie. And no, this boycott was not out of racism. This boycott of White House Down was successful enough that the movie barely broke even, and caused Sony a loss of $197 million. We can do the same with Trumbo.

Third: Parenting. If you parents don’t want your children exposed to Communist propaganda, don’t let them see Trumbo!

Am I going to see Trumbo?

No.

At least, not for a good long while. I may review it in the future. But I will only access it through sites where I can watch it for free.

And if people who know that they’re being force-fed Communist dreck want to see it, I don’t give a crap! Have at it, hoss!

Much of the American people do not want pro-Communism and anti-conservatism movies to be around. They consider them to be anti-American. They consider them to be part of the modern liberal agenda to indoctrinate children and adults alike to accept socialism and in turn communism with open arms.

I am one of those people.

Call me paranoid, delusional, or straight up idiotic if you like, but I have this to say to Communism.

Communism, keep your filthy, bloody hands off of my America.

Review 64: The Exorcism of Molly Hartley (3/5)

The Exorcism of Molly Hartley

Directed by Steven R. Monroe

Starring Sarah Lind, Devon Sawa, Gina Holden, Peter MacNeill

Released on October 9, 2015

Running time: 1h 36m

Not Rated (Suggested rating: R for disturbing content throughout, violence, and a scene of strong sexuality)

Genre: Horror

Yes, you read that title right.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley, the forty-fifth movie I reviewed on this blog, and one of my most hated films to date, has a sequel.

As you may remember, I lambasted HoMH, deriding its laughably illogical story, cardboard cutout characters, and beyond insulting message that Christians are little more than starry-eyed kooks or homicidal maniacs, Satanists are kind and caring, and Satanism is a happy alternative lifestyle. It was a sordid little movie that deserves to die. In the style of Shakespeare, I bite my thumb at it.

And then, a few months after reviewing HoMH, I heard of its sequel coming out direct-to-DVD. Thinking, How much worse can it get?  I decided to watch it.

I was pleasantly surprised.

The story begins as Father John Barrow (Sawa) is assisting another priest in an exorcism of a pregnant woman. The demon impersonates the woman’s voice, begging Barrow to release her and “do what’s right.” Barrow, like a moron, undoes the leg straps. The demon breaks free, having successfully tricked Barrow, and tackles the other priest out the window. They fall to the ground, where both die. Barrow is defrocked by papal decree. While he deserved to be defrocked, he definitely deserves to be redeemed. The chaplain who delivers the papal decree to Barrow will be an important character.

Transition to Molly (Lind) celebrating her twenty-fourth birthday with some friends. Surprisingly, she’s not with her Satanic cult. Wait – where’s Joseph? Where’s her former high school’s psychologist who’s the leader of that cult? These questions actually will be answered, but later. Molly goes home with two of her friends, a guy and a gal, and they, after a brief sequence, are implied to have participated in a threesome. Looks like the sequel is ditching its predecessor’s neutered PG-13 rating. Okay. Molly wakes up the next morning to find her friends missing. The police show up at Molly’s house for some reason, and find the mutilated corpses of the two friends in the bathtub. Of course the demon that’s been inside Molly for six years is hungry and wants some souls to eat. Molly, when asked who killed them, replies.

MOLLY: I didn’t kill them. (Her voice deepens and distorts, sounding demonic.) We did.

Molly, believed to have some sort of mental disorder, is committed to a sanitarium. Barrow is there, essentially filling in the post of surrogate priest. The instant Molly steps into the sanitarium, Barrow’s crucifix’s top wall holding breaks, and the cross hangs upside down. Subtle. But hey, if I ever saw that happen in real life, I would be thinking, Oh crap. Something fishy is going on.

Molly spends about six months in the sanitarium, being monitored by a psychiatrist, Dr. Hawthorne (Holden). We also learn that Molly’s father committed suicide soon after being admitted to a different sanitarium at the end of the previous movie. Dang it. And we learn that Joseph and the school counselor / cult leader committed ritualistic suicide, and that Molly escaped the cult, fleeing to Michigan to start a new life. She even graduated a semester early and magna cum laude from business school. I would say “good for her”, but this success in school only started after her induction into the cult. So no.

It turns out that Molly’s induction into the Satanic cult – gasp! Actually has repercussions! Molly, one night, has a large fly crawl into her nose, showing that something has possessed her, even though she’s clearly already been possessed. Over the next while, Molly terrorizes Dr. Hawthorne and much of the staff, drives the rest of the patients more insane than they already are, and even drives the devout Christian receptionist to suicide.

Apparently, this film doesn’t know that to properly tell a possession story, the possession crap has to start slowly. Methinks the filmmakers do not grasp the concept of a Slow Build.

It is implied that something evil and demonic is going to happen six years, six months, and six days after Molly’s induction into the cult. 666. Her induction happened when she was 6+6+6 (18) years old. 666. And on the sixth day, the demonic event will happen at 7:06, which can be interpreted as 6:66. That’s a lot of effort to surround Molly with 666.

Molly finally goes crazy, entering the final stages of possession before the event. Barrow is finally called in. He goes to and asks the chaplain from earlier for help, but the chaplain is unable to join him. But the chaplain still gives him the necessary gear. Bible. Holy water. Crucifixes. The Roman Ritual of Exorcism. And some sort of box adorned with religious symbols designed for capturing evil spirits.

Barrow returns to the sanitarium, where Molly has been placed in a padded room and strapped to a stretcher. And her facial makeup is surprisingly creepy. And the voice, while generic, is no less disturbing. While her devilish dialogue is less penetrating than, say, Baal in The Rite, Pazuzu from The Exorcist, the Deadites from Evil Dead, the Jungler in Deliver Us from Evil, the demons that dwelt within Cain, Nero, and Judas, as well as the demons Legion, Belial, and Lucifer himself from The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Bathsheba from The Conjuring, and so many more, I still get that undeniable vibe of Holy crap. I’m hearing the voice of evil personified. Of course the Devil knows his Bible, and of course he dismisses it by quoting Karl Marx:

MOLLY (POSSESSED): The opiate of the masses!

And I was surprised that EoMH did not follow the typical cliché of the exorcism working. In fact, even two surprisingly tense attempts later, Barrow has still not sent the Devil back to Hell. Understandable – to cast out the Devil himself is going to be an amazingly daunting task.

By the way, there’s a little nod to HoMH when the Devil recites a passage from Paradise Lost. Molly and her high school class studied it. I can remember the scene well – the teacher passed out Bibles in order for the class to better understand PL’s symbolism. The entire dang class was annoyed by this, and I was annoyed by the class. The class’s Bible-thumper, Alexis, stated that she had her own Bible and didn’t need one of the teacher’s copies, resulting in a small argument.

Anyway, Barrow goes into Molly’s room for the third time, and, after much effort, and after Molly is exposed to what looks like the pure light of God, the Devil is exorcised, and his spirit, which manifests itself as a swarm of bad CGI flies (Beelzebub) (Lord of the Flies), is sent into that spirit-trapping box from earlier. Molly and Barrow officially meet, and say their goodbyes.

I knew that the movie wasn’t really over by that point, as I still had twenty-five minutes to go.

When I saw the rest of the patients at the sanitarium staring ominously at Molly, I hearkened back to the first exorcism attempt, in which the possessed Molly quotes Mark 5:9: “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Barrow countered by saying that Jesus cast Legion out of the man and into a herd of swine, and the swine, in a frenzy, ran into the sea and drowned. Possessed Molly says that she enjoys doing that. In a blast of understanding, I realized, Oh. The patients are the swine.

Barrow goes to the house of the chaplain from earlier and gives him the spirit-holding container. He notices a book on a desk with a pentagram on it. Barrow asks the chaplain about it, and the chaplain explains that that style of pentagram is the sigil of Baphomet, and he gives Barrow some exposition involving LaVeyan Satanism.

In Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible, there are four books, of Lucifer, Satan, Belial, and Leviathan. Part of the Book of Leviathan, like the Biblical Book of Revelation, deals with the Biblical End Times. Part of that section of the Book of Leviathan features a ritual that can bring the Devil to the earth through a ritualistic version of [allegedly] the greatest crime of all – matricide.

I was stunned at this next plot development.

Molly, when she was inducted into the Satanic cult, was essentially impregnated with the Devil. While Heavenly Mother was the Devil’s actual mother, Molly, in this case, has become the Devil’s surrogate mother. Because of this, tonight, with the ritual murder of Molly, the Devil can be born into the world. That’s actually kind of disturbing.

Upon realizing what is to happen tonight, Barrow goes to retrieve the spirit-holding container. When Barrow notices that it is gone, plot twist, the chaplain knocks him out.

Meanwhile, at the sanitarium, the security guards abduct Molly and drag her down to the basement.

Barrow wakes up in the sanitarium, and a security guard leads him away at gunpoint.

Dr. Hawthorne, who actually has much more of a character in this movie than I’m letting on, arrives at the sanitarium, fends off and kills a security guard with a pair of sharp scissors, then rescues Barrow. She and Barrow run downstairs.

By the way, all three of them have discovered that the swine truly have thrown themselves into the sea, as every single mental patient there has rationed cyanide among themselves. Yikes. That’s an unpleasant way to die. Kind of like drowning, but without the water. Cyanide makes your muscles relax, and with a relaxed diaphragm, you can’t breathe. You suffocate. It can take several minutes for you to die.

The chaplain from earlier is dressed in full satanic garb, with his followers standing around the room. The ritual begins, but Barrow and Dr. Hawthorne burst in. Dr. Hawthorne impales the chaplain as Barrow frees Molly, who finishes the chaplain off with the ritual knife.

The rest of the Satanists chase Barrow, Dr. Hawthorne, and Molly outside, but the armed Satanists are gunned down by the police, who have arrived out of nowhere, while the unarmed Satanists are taken into custody.

That was anticlimactic. I was actually kind of hoping that Anton LaVey himself would be there, but he’s dead, so I then hoped that his successor, Peter H. Gilmore, would show up, so he could be among those Satanists either killed or arrested. I’m serious when I say that the man’s face, eyes, smile, and overall aura scream “evil”. I’m serious that whenever I see a picture of the man, I feel physically uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable just to write or talk about him and his “church,” so I’m just going to move on.

By the way, the chaplain had documents in his house that listed the names of everyone in Molly’s former cult.

Molly is taken away in an ambulance. It’s really nice, and is a load off my shoulders to see her redeemed. She lays back on the stretcher, and closes her eyes, but the music builds as she opens them. What was supposed to be happening?

And we end with an epilogue, showing one of the flies that made up the Devil’s spirit flying into a school bus, and crawling into the ear of a young girl.

Of course the Devil always has some sort of insurance policy.

Well, I guess that the people who preach and live God’s will every day will just have to be ever-vigilant.

When I finished the movie, I acknowledged its flaws. Obviously, the story was all over the place, but was at least, to some degree, consistent. The characters needed more development, but they were, to some degree, still memorable. The budget is significantly lower than that of its predecessor, and it shows, but, to some degree, it felt like it was utilized better. The cinematography is a little awkward at times, but it is, to some degree, pretty good for it being direct-to-DVD.

But it was glorious to see Satanism, which was praised in Haunting, was disparaged in Exorcism. It received its punishment that had been a long time in coming.

Despite its inevitable and numerous flaws, The Exorcism of Molly Hartley is a definite improvement over its predecessor.

As if that was actually a hard thing to do.

Final verdict: 3 out of 5 stars.