Nov 25, 2018


While I certainly consider the 1980s to be one of the best decades for music and regard many films, ranging from Rainer Werner Fassbinder's swansong Querelle (1982) to Tim Hunter's River's Edge (1986), from the same era as being among my personal favorites, I have become increasingly disgusted with the entire nostalgia culture trend as is probably most popularly epitomized by the obscenely overrated Netflix series Stranger Things. A degradingly derivative, conspicuously contrived, and politically correct Spielbergian pseudo-artistic con featuring gay little racially ambiguous boys as heroes and a mostly mute baby dyke as a heroine, the preposterously popular show, not unlike the films of (sub)human turd Tarantino, indubitably reveals more about the artistic and cultural bankruptcy of our age than its actual true worth as popular entertainment. Indeed, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that, for better or worse, there is more originality, creativity, and humanity in a single episode of the original Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits than all of the episodes of Stranger Things combined, but I digress. Undoubtedly, it is a symptomatic of our spiritually sick and soulless age that people look to the Reaganite 1980s—a mostly materialistic age when most movies were mostly nothing more than mindless entertainment—as a means to calm metaphysical afflictions like Weltschmerz and Sehnsucht, but, of course, it is not all that surprising considering we live in a decidedly deracinated consumerist age where the only frame of reference for the past is in spiritually and culturally hollow Hollywood form. Personally, I find most of these nostalgia fetish pieces annoying specifically because they express virtual swooning adoration for the very same sort of lowbrow entertainment products that lead to such spiritual emptiness in the first place, as a Spielberg or George Lucas movie is surely not going to provide one with the same sort of cultural or spiritual nourishment that traditional religions, families, and societies once provided people.  In short, these frivolous filmic products are narcotizing poison disguised as the cure.

For that reason, I am able to, somewhat reluctantly, embrace the sort of ‘reactionary retrowave’ cinema of young Greco-Italian-Canadian auteur Panos Cosmatos, who does not merely fetishize the past but also critiques it in a refreshingly esoteric fashion the involves the utilization of both old school genre and experimental cinema techniques. Although Cosmatos has only directed two features, he demonstrated with his very first feature Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) an inordinate maturity in terms of both aesthetic vision and worldview. Influenced by films ranging from Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris (1963) aka Contempt to Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad (1961) to Saul Bass's sole directorial effort Phase IV (1974) to E. Elias Merhige's Begotten (1990), Cosmatos’ directorial debut is indubitably visually alluring but what arguably makes it most interesting is its scathing anti-Boomer subtext. Indeed, as the young auteur has revealed in various interviews, the film is partly a critique of the spiritually degeneracy of the Baby Boomer generation and how they foolishly experimented with dubious forms of occultism while high on psychedelics. In his latest and greatest film, Mandy (2018), Cosmatos not only expands on his anti-Boomer sentiments, but also demonstrates a further aesthetic refinement that ultimately reveals that the auteur is one of the most interesting filmmakers working today.  Like a romance-revenge film as directed by the heterosexual godson of Kenneth Anger and Werner Schroeter, the film somehow manages to reconcile the psychedelic cinematic journey of something like Lucifer Rising (1972) with Charles Bronson/Michael Winner righteous retribution classics like The Mechanic (1972) and Death Wish (1974).

Notably, Cosmatos is actually the son of belated Greco-Italian filmmaker George P. Cosmatos, who of course is best known for Hollywood genre exercises, including the Sylvester Stallone vehicles Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and Cobra (1986), the aquatic sci-fi-horror flick Leviathan (1989), and the celebrated Kurt Russell western Tombstone (1993). While the elder Cosmatos demonstrated a certain talent for eccentricity with the little-known ‘rat horror’ flick Of Unknown Origin (1983)—a somewhat underrated flick featuring Peter Weller in a surprisingly unforgettable performance that was one of the influences behind Mandy—the son, who clearly has different aesthetic tastes (notably, his belated mother was Swedish sculptor Birgitta Ljungberg-Cosmatos), is clearly the more idiosyncratic and experimental of the two. Indeed, it would be easy to accuse Cosmatos of nepotism but—aside from the fact that he did not direct his first feature until about half a decade after his father had died—this fat, swarthy, and goofy-looking fellow has clearly already paid his dues in terms of dedicating his life to the art of cinema and, unlike Brandon Cronenberg, he does not even seem remotely interested in parroting the auteur themes of his padre. While the film stars Mr. Meme Nicholas Cage as the lead, Mandy is clearly not the work of a simple artisan looking to support his family but an enterprising (and seemingly somewhat troubled) artiste that has a somewhat aesthetically schizophrenic affinity for both total trash and high-art. In other words, Cosmatos clearly made the film for himself, but luckily he has good enough taste to make films that appeal to slightly more people than just a marginal group of introverted autists. 

In regard to his arguable magnum opus Trouble in Mind (1985), Alan Rudolph—a protégé of Robert Altman who got his start directing obscure no-budget horror trash like Premonition (1972) and Nightmare Circus (1974) aka The Barn of the Naked Dead—once remarked, “To me, loves is always the turning point, the best hope for any future. And my favorite subject for a film.” If we are to take Rudolph’s words seriously then it is completely understandable why the protagonist of Mandy goes into full self-destructive exterminationist mode after his one-true-love is burned alive by members of a somewhat Manson Family-esque cult. Undoubtedly, Rudolph and Cosmatos’ film have very little in common yet they do share at least two imperative similarities in terms of their combination of virtual worship of romantic love in a wicked world juxtaposed with a potent palette of (oftentimes neon) colors. Just like his previous feature Beyond the Black Rainbow, the films is set in 1983 as if to hint that it is the foreboding penultimate year just before the Orwellian nightmare begins, or so one would surely assume upon watching the films. Indeed, while Mandy might share various aesthetic similarities with films from the same decade when it is set, the film is sometimes as dark and dejecting as the most miserable works of German Expressionism despite paying homage to films as dumb and benign as Friday the 13th (1980) and Phantasm II (1988). Undoubtedly, the fiercely phantasmagorical film is like a reworking of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth as meant to appeal to stupid horror fans that are not even familiar with said myth; or so one would assume if one actually believed that the average My Sweet Satan-esque metal head could stomach something even remotely like an art film. In fact, Mandy is one of the very few films that, in terms of influences and message, I would describe as a true white proletarian art film, though it is surely a cinematic work that most people seem to either love or love to hate. As for me, I was shocked that I could thoroughly enjoy a film that features stupid pointless heavy metal fonts for similarly seemingly pointless chapter title sequences, but I take what I can get.  To some degree, the film is the cinematic equivalent of junk food and the sort of flick that provides a sort of childlike escapism, yet it does provide a tinge of spiritual nourishment and righteous romantic justice that similar films are quite lacking.  In short, the film contains very little, if any, culturally syphilitic poz, which is certainly no small accomplishment considering the current cultural climate.

For me, the brilliance of Mandy comes in the form of the little things like an evil demonic biker gang that seems like it is the miserably misgotten spawn of the strangely iconic Cenobites from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) brutally buttfucking the bikeboys of Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1963). Likewise, the animation feels the bastard mongrel broad of characters from the esoteric erotic Japanese animated feature Belladonna of Sadness (1973) directed by Eiichi Yamamoto and the Canadian cult sci-fi-fantasy Heavy Metal (1981). As for the beauteously foreboding forest depicted in the film, it falls somewhere between the more mystical German Heimat films and the first two The Evil Dead films. Not unlike like Philip Ridley’s comparably eerily mystical The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995), the film might be set in the American wilderness but it was actually shot in Europe (indeed, while Saxony, Germany stands in for Appalachian region of North Carolina in the former film, Cosmatos opted for somewhere in Flemish Belgium for his feature). And, not just because of the Lowland Country setting, the film echoes the wonderful neo-Gothic weirdness of Belgian auteur filmmakers like André Delvaux (One Night... a Train, Belle) and Harry Kümel (Daughters of Darkness, Malpertuis). In short, Mandy resembles some sort of marvelous Frankenstein movie monster as carefully assembled from the butchered parts of 1980s horror/slasher cinema, the Fantastique genre, the psychedelic films of Kenneth Anger and Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1980s era David Lynch, Heavy Metal-esque animation, Stan Brakhage films like the Dog Star Man (1961-1964) cycle, and stupid heavy metal shit. Luckily, the film is greater than the sum of its seemingly absurdly combined hodgepodge of parts. If Nietzsche was right when he wrote, “There is one thing one has to have: either a soul that is cheerful by nature, or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art, and knowledge,” then one must assume that Cosmatos has the latter type of soul as Mandy is clearly the expression of a man that lives for art and feels obligated to express this to the world. Undoubtedly, the film is not the expression of some simple artisan that simply learned a thing or two about cinema history from film school but an autodidact and natural cinephile that makes no distinction between lowbrow cinema trash and high celluloid art, but simply ‘good’ and ‘bad’ film of all sorts.  In that sense, Cosmatos is somewhat like Nicolas Winding Refn sans the obnoxious autism.

In the featurette Behind the Scenes of MANDY, one of the film’s producer, Daniel Noah, remarks in regard to a central theme of the flick, “To me, this film is ultimately a romance. It is the story of love and while it is a sad story—the story of lost love—it’s also a story about when you lose someone, you still hold them in your heart. And this is a movie that we hope will provide comfort, which is a funny thing to say about a film that is such a dark journey. But it provides comfort because it speaks to people, like Panos and like us, and it says to them that they’re not alone.” Indeed, in many ways, the film, or at least the first half of it, is a simple tasteful love story of the rather wholesome sort where sex does not even really come into play, as the protagonists are depicted in a relatively normal domestic setting doing simple things that lovers tend to do like spooning each other in bed while talking about their favorite planets and watching shitty low-budget horror films together like Don Dohler's Nightbeast (1980). Indeed, it is not until the titular heroine is brutally murder by a Jesus cult that we truly realize how powerful their love is, at least for the male protagonist who carries out a savagely sadistic scorched-earth policy against the culprits. An inordinately psychedelic neo-gothic romance-revenge hybrid where there is no real redemption aside from the glorious thrill of destroying one’s enemies, Mandy cannot be described as an uplifting film yet it does somehow have a deranged triumphant spirit in the end. Surely, while watching the film I could not help but be reminded of various drunkenly lovelorn quotes by Edgar Allan Poe like, “The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world,” as the eponymous heroine's fiery demise is indeed quite the sight, as is the various consequences of said death. Likewise, when Poe wrote in his short story The Black Cat (1843), “There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man,” he could be speaking of the male protagonist. 

The story of Mandy is deceptively simple: Simple man lives a simple happy life with his beloved girlfriend; hippie Jesus cult ruins man's life by kidnapping and murdering his girlfriend; destroyed simple man then dedicates his destroyed life to vengefully destroying every single member of the hippie cult. Of course, the film is more of an aesthetic journey than a narratively complex Kubrickian tale. The male protagonist is named ‘Red Miller’ (Nicolas Cage), which is a fitting name because he is a simple man that, by the end of the film, has a totally red-face as a result of all that blood that splatters on him while passionately dispatching his enemies. Red’s beloved girlfriend is named Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) and she also has a fitting name because she is beauteous young babe that is at the height of her physical prowess and feminine fertility.  As hinted in the film, both characters come from rough traumatic backgrounds yet they have managed to find a special sort of happiness due to their strong love for one another.  Even before she is killed, it is clear that Mandy is probably the only thing keeping Red from being a miserable mess.  While the lovers live in an incredibly safe rural area called Crystal Lake in the remotest forests of the Shadow Mountains, Mandy has the grand misfortune of one day being randomly spotted while walking to work by a bleach blond hippie cult leader named Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache)—a megalomaniac and charlatan that leads a motley crew called ‘Children of the New Dawn’—who immediately decides he cannot live without her, so he has his cult members kidnap her and Red. Being drugged out cult members that are mostly lacking in the physical prowess department, the Children of the New Dawn—a group of about half-a-dozen mostly bleach blond Aryan degenerates that look like they could be the family members of Stephen King fetishist and filmmaker Mick Garris—are not exactly fit for the kidnapping, so they summon a demonic biker gang called the ‘Black Skulls’ to carryout the operation. Rather curiously, the biker gang is summoned via a musical instrument called the “horns of Abraxas” and are given a large batch of hard LSD and a fat male victim—the weakest member of the cult—as payment (or “blood for blood”) for their actions.

 A somewhat hard bitch that had a traumatic upbringing (among other things, her father apparently taught her and other kids at a very young age how to mindlessly slaughter baby starlings), Mandy does not let a large dose of LSD stop her from completely humiliating and emasculating Jeremiah—an unequivocal god and legend in his own mind—when he bares both his naked body and soul to her and attempts to ply her with pathetic pseudo-poetic compliments in front of all of his followers.  While presenting himself as a virtual god in mere mortal form, Mandy literally laughs in Jeremiah's face while his flaccid pecker is hanging out in what proves to be an especially unnerving moment of the film.  Not unlike Charles Manson, Jeremiah is a failed folk musicians that, rather conveniently, inevitably found “another path. The path I have always been truly destined for” and became a cult leader, so he is doubly internally wounded when Mandy mocks both his music and authority. Needless to say, Jeremiah needs to save face and uphold his authority in front of the cult after being so ruthlessly rejected, so he opts to have Mandy burned alive after literally conferring with himself in front of a mirror like the bargain bin Narcissus that he is and stating to himself whilst crying like a little girl, “Tell me what to do.” Unfortunately for them, Jeremiah and his crazed crew fail to murder Red. Instead, they make the ultimately fatal mistake of ruthlessly taunting Red by making him watch his beloved being burned alive, but not before Jeremiah’s seemingly half-autistic right-hand man Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy) declares to him,“Take a good look, you worthless piece of human excrement. This is the tainted blade of the pale knight, straight from the abyssal layer” and then stabs him in the side with said “tainted blade.” Naturally, the only thing that Red cares about after surviving the horrific soul-crushing ordeal is pure and unadulterated bloodthirsty revenge.   Needless to say, the self-stylized quasi-Gnostic cult is no match for the most broken-hearted of backwoods bros.

In what can either be seen as either a major flaw of the film or a perversely poetic statement about the power of love, Red, who seems almost literally possessed by the Greek goddess ‘Adrestia,’ expends very little effort when it comes to systematically exterminating rather enigmatic enemies that almost seem to have magic satanic powers. Indeed, upon visiting an old negro friend named ‘Caruthers’ (Bill Duke) in his remote trailer to fetch his prized crossbow named ‘The Reaper,’ Red is informed by his comrade that the Black Skulls are ungodly beings and will probably kill him, but the friendly warning does not faze him. Indeed, as Caruthers explains in a sort of strangely poetic country colored gentlemen sort of fashion in regard to the Black Skulls, “There’s stories that there was a chapter that ran courier for a manufacturer of LSD. He took a disliking to them and cooked them up a special batch, and they have never been right in the head since. I seen them once from a distance. What you’re hunting is rabid animals and you should go in knowing that your odds ain’t that good, and you’ll probably die […] When I seen them things, they were in a world of pain. But you know what the freakiest part was? They fucking loved it.”  After visiting Caruthers, Red also opts to forge a large battle axe, thus underscoring his compulsion towards a truly visceral and brutal ‘hands on’ sort of revenge as opposed to simply gunning down his enemies with some sort of assault rifle.

Although Red is captured by the Black Skulls after crashing his car while attempting to hunt them down, he actually proves to be a formidable fighter against completely leather-clad faceless creatures that can hardly be described as human. Living in a home that more resembles the double-wide trailer of stereotypical meth-addled bikers than the ominous lair of demonic beings, the Black Skulls reveal certain idiosyncrasies despite their matching ‘infernal uniforms.’ For example, a gaunt and seemingly gay member of the group that seems to have a makeup dresser makes Red cry by stating, “You have a death wish.” Red retorts by crying “I-I don’t want. . . I don’t want to talk about that” and telling him, “You’re a vicious snow flake.” Since he is the most faggy of the group, Red does not have to waste too much energy to takeout the lanky biker even though one of his hands is initially nailed to a floor. The next biker Red encounters is a grotesquely large and fat porn addict named ‘Fuck Pig’ that seems to be a demonic couch potato of sorts. On top of destroying Fuck Pig’s living room while he is watching a porn, Red gets a couple gallons or so of the rather rotund biker’s blood on his face after murdering him. While the final biker puts somewhat more of a fight as the two battle in front of a burning car, Red has no problem decapitating the bulky Jason Voorhees-esque being, especially after the creatures taunts him by stating in regard to Mandy, “She burns. She burns. She Burns.”  Before dispatching the final biker, Red himself transforms into a demonic being of sorts after fiendishly consuming some of the Black Skulls' cocaine and LSD.  Of course, Red then makes his way to the church of the Children of the New Dawn after completely liquidating the Black Skulls brigade, but before he does he must meet a mysterious LSD chemist so that he can get directions. 

The Chemist (played by Richard Brake, who is probably best known for playing the legendary ‘Night King’ in HBO’s big (s)hit show Game of Thrones) is a Delphic hippie-guru-like figure with a pet tiger name ‘Lizzie’ and without Red even saying a single word to him, he remarks, “It’s cool, man. Jovan warrior sent forth from the eye of the storm. When it’s calm, I know it’s good. Oh, man. They wronged you. Why they gotta be like that? You exude a cosmic darkness. Can you see that? Okay. The children. North.” From there, Red heads north where he first encounters Brother Swan, who has the gall to state, “She… She burned brightly, Mandy. Don’t you think? Still, better to burn out than fade.” Since Swan has a big mouth, Red opts to underscore that fact by firmly penetrating his oral orifice with the butt of his battle axe, thereupon killing his creepy psychotic sycophantic ass in a rather brutal fashion that is something akin to deadly oral rape. From there, Red knocks the children off one by way as day turns to night until he eventually reaches their primitive church, which seems like it is located in a remote pit of hell.  Somewhat predictably, Red first encounters Jeremiah’s lead whore Mother Marlene (Olwen Fouéré)—a sort of evil and sexually insatiable Mary Magdalene figure with a disturbing million-cock-stare—who demonstrates a shocking degree of self-delusion and denial by bragging without even showing the slightest inkling of fear that she is about to be murdered, “Jeremiah says. . .I’m the most sensual lover he’s ever experienced. . .because of my sensitivity. . .and my empathy. I can anticipate my lover’s every move. I meet them. Like warm waves. . .locking. . .the rocky. . .hard shore.” As the old whore of Jeremiah who was once told by her charlatan lover that, “Everything you do is wrong,” Mother Marlene was naturally jealous of Mandy and Red killing her almost seems like a compassionate act of mercy, even if he decapitates her.

In what ultimately proves to be a grand entrance, Red scares the shit out of jerk-off Jeremiah Sand by rolling Mother Marlene’s decapitated dome into his lair. While Jeremiah commands, “Come no closer. God is in this room” and tells Red, “You’re just meat. Without a soul. Without a brain. Without anything,” the charlatan messiah soon reveals that he has nil authority by trying in vain to spare his own life by curiously offering to suck the protagonist’s prick. Indeed, it seems that the sex-obsessed sicko, like all sociopath/narcissist types, lacks the capacity to differentiate between love and sex, though he clearly sees the latter as a symbol of power. Of course, Red is not impressed with Jeremiah pansy pleadings of, “I’ll blow you, man. I’ll suck your fucking dick!,” so he crushes the cult leader’s head until eyeballs pop up with his bare hands and then sets his decapitated head on fire.  Notably, as Red is crushing Jeremiah's skull, he lets out an orgasmic yell that reveals that he has finally obtained the visceral emotional relief of killing the man that killed his one-true-love. In the end, Red erases all physical memory of the Children of the New Dawn by burning their church down and then nostalgically thinks of Mandy while driving away as if she is in the passenger seat of the car with him as he maintains a deranged expression of happiness on his absurdly blood-soaked face. As Red drives away, the planets Jupiter and Saturn can be seen in the sky, which, quite notably, are the lovers’ favorite planets as revealed during a tender moment near the beginning of the film before everything went to hell.  Incidentally, in the same scene, Red jokes that he likes the Marvel comic character Galactus because he “eats planets,” which is fitting words for a man that murdered virtually every single member of a group called the Children of the New Dawn in what amounts to a sort of Gnostic Ragnarök.

Undoubtedly, Mandy is, in many ways, an exaggerated expression of Nietzsche’s words, “Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent.” Personally, I have see enough men throw their lives away on women to feel a little bit agitated by certain aspects of the film, namely Red entering a perennial dark void of no return for a woman that seems like a cold cunt, though I can certainly sympathize with him. While the titular chick clearly does not deserve the inordinately brutal demise she receives, it is hard to deny that seems like a total bitch and it is probably no coincidence that her greatest outburst of emotion comes out in the form of her laughing demonically for an extended period of time at a sick sociopathic pseudo-messiah, as if she was begging for death.  Notably, a scene at the beginning of the film where Jeremiah Sand first sees Mandy bears a striking resemblance to the artwork on Black Sabbath's 1970 self-titled debut album (additionally, aside from the fact that Mandy is wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt in this scene, Cosmatos once remarked in regard to his intent with the film, “I wanted to create something like a heavy metal album cover from the ’70s”).  Of course, this is not the only moment in the film where Mandy resembles a witch.  In short, Red—a man that literally devotes his entire life to his women—is too good for Mandy, thereupon making his vengeful mass-murdering spree all the more tragic. Of course, the fact that the heroine is a bitch makes the film an all the more romantic example of masculine sacrifice as the protagonist takes virtual otherworldly risks and it is doubtful that his lover would have even done a fraction of the same things for him had the tables been turned. It seems that auteur Cosmatos has a more sympathetic view of the heroine as he stated in an interview with, “I mean, it was very important to me that you actually care about Red and care about Mandy and feel something for them unless it just becomes a lot of noise signifying nothing, you know? And I really feel it’s important, even for being just an abstract film, you still sort of feel some kind of connection to what you’re watching emotionally.”

Judging by his own remarks, I can only assume that Cosmatos has a seemingly self-destructive fetish for broken women, as if he is the sort of dude that would stay with a bat-shit crazy bipolar bitch that got gang-banged by an entire underage high school football team. On the other hand, Cosmatos reveals another side of the heroine in an interview with that makes her seem more sympathetic where he states that she would have approved of Red’s murderous revenge campaign, remarking, “Absolutely. I think she loves all of him, so this part is definitely a true part of them. And her too: I think she would have done the same for him.” Undoubtedly a charitable (to say the least) view of women, Cosmatos also demonstrates an almost grotesque naïveté regarding womankind as if ladies have ever historically demonstrated a tendency towards sacrificing their security, let alone their lives, to avenge a male lover. In that sense, Mandy, despite being inordinately aesthetically mature, sometimes feels like wishful juvenilia, at least in an emotional sense. After all, while the filmmaker is nearly middle-aged, he is from a soft generation of man-children that were largely raised by women. I hate to say it, but I feel like Cosmatos needs to learn more about a life and the opposite sex before he makes another movie unless he decides to switch to the sort of stupid genre trash that he loves. Indeed, maybe Cosmatos should put down some of the unhealthy cinematic junk and watch some Fassbinder where he can learn more about the specific timeless peculiarities of the so-called fairer sex. 

Nietzsche once wrote, “Heavy, melancholy people grow lighter through precisely that which makes others heavy, through hatred and love, and for a while they rise to their surface.” For better or worse, the same can also be said of the film’s hero and his eponymous lover, as Red reaches his full potential as an almost godly Übermensch of retributive murder—or, more in tune with the character's mindset, ‘Galactus’—when he loses his beloved and his lover demonstrates an almost otherworldly degree of potent maniacal contempt while mocking a psycho that has just kidnapped her. While I find the statement somewhat dubious in itself, Red’s actions do confirm Georges Bataille’s words, “The unleashed desire to kill that we call war goes far beyond the realm of religious activity. Sacrifice though, while like war a suspension of the commandment not to kill, is the religious act above all others.” Indeed, Red certainly achieves a sort of spiritual transcendence underscored by the final shot of the film that he would have never achieved had he not gone on his vengeance campaign of hyper homicidal heartbreak. While the film features a number of scenes of vulgar brutality, it also carries a good timeless traditional message about the power of love, which says a lot for a film that was, according to its director, influenced by, “the weird, amorphous vibe of [Lucio Fulci’s] CONQUEST” of all films.  Additionally, I also respect Cosmatos for not being a politically correct cunt and instead having the gall to make an explicitly pro-revenge film of the artful sort in a pathetically pacifistic age of neutered nihilism.  In fact, the auteur would state in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine in regard to Mandy, “I actually think [the act of vengeance] really does help the characters. I wouldn’t want to make a movie that punished the person taking revenge, and I tend to prefer films that don’t moralize about it.”

The film also makes a mockery of commercialism as is especially expressed in an unforgettable scene where, shortly after his lover is murdered, Red becomes disturbed upon seeing a goofily perturbing TV commercial for a grotesque easy-mac-and-cheese brand called ‘Cheddar Goblin’ that involves an eponymous green monster absurdly vomiting the sub-food product onto a disturbingly overly cheery child’s head. In regard to the Cheddar Goblin scene, which provides a rare moment of comic relief in what is an otherwise largely heavy film, the great auteur Italian Ettore Scola was certainly right when he once said, “Grotesque humor is a noble and tragic way of representing contemporary problems.” In terms of aesthetic cultivation and relative lack of degeneracy, Cosmatos seems to have a lot of potential as an auteur, though one hopes he at least matures somewhat when it comes to women and cinema as boyish 1980s nostalgia only gets you so far as an artist. Indeed, maybe Cosmatos’ new buddy Nicolas Cage, who was such a big fan of E. Elias Merhige’s Begotten (1990) that he produced the auteur’s second film Shadow of the Vampire (2000), will try to convince him that the 1980s mostly sucked as indicated by rather retarded films he starred in like Vampire's Kiss (1988).

Still, both of Cosmatos' features demonstrates he is a talented filmmaker with a lot of potential that seems to artistically benefit from some sort of internal misery.  Indeed, I hate to say it, but I think that the auteur has a lot to gain from some more suffering.  In fact, Mandy was apparently largely influenced by repressed rage the auteur felt as a result of the death of his parents, especially his mother, which explains the film's complete and utter lack of erotic love.  After all, as Thomas Ligotti once noted, “Let's say it once and for all: Poe and Lovecraft—not to mention a Bruno Schulz or a Franz Kafka—were what the world at large would consider extremely disturbed individuals. And most people who are that disturbed are not able to create works of fiction. These and other names I could mention are people who are just on the cusp of total psychological derangement. Sometimes they cross over and fall into the province of 'outsider artists.' That's where the future development of horror fiction lies—in the next person who is almost too emotionally and psychologically damaged to live in the world but not too damaged to produce fiction.”  While I would not wish suffering on any one, especially not what happens to the male protagonist of Mandy, I think the greatest thing that might happen to a filmmaker like Cosmatos is to have a disastrous relationship with a soulless bitch like the titular thots from Bergman's Summer with Monika (1953) and Fassbinder's Bolwieser (1977) aka The Stationmaster's Wife.

Speaking of human misery and tragedy, it should be noted that the film's Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson died of an accidental drug overdose before the film was even released. When I discovered this shortly after watching Mandy, I even felt a bit angry at the senseless loss despite knowing very little about the musician as Jóhannsson's exceedingly ethereal musical score is nearly immaculate and certainly one of the greatest and most potent aspects of the film.  Apparently, Cosmatos took Jóhannsson's death rather hard, as he was hoping to establish a lifelong collaboration with the composer.  Considering that Cosmatos is himself no stranger to drug abuse, I think he might want to consider directing the ultimate cinematic (anti)drug trip as he certainly already has all the artistic vigor to accomplish that.

-Ty E

Oct 31, 2018

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

 As much as I would not want to admit it to my rather naive childhood self, horror franchises—or, more specifically, movie franchises in general—are a cynical insult to filmgoers and their intelligence, especially when one really considers how unbelievably horrible these solely monetary motivated sequels really are, but few better demonstrate such an obnoxious talent for churning out pointless no-budget sequel after pointless no-budget sequel than semitic smut-peddler Charles Bands’ uniquely worthless Full Moon Features. Indeed, the production and distribution company, which almost makes Troma Entertainment seem like Warner Bros Studios in terms of sheer artistic bankruptcy and lack of creativity, is notable for producing a number of strikingly terrible horror franchises over the past couple decades that seemingly no one watches or desires, as if the company is simply a laughable front for some money-laundering operation or something. Indeed, Full Moon is so shameless in terms of its patently pathetic propensity for defecating out mindless and worthless direct-to-video duds that it actually created a rip off its its own Puppet Master franchise—the company’s first and most successful series—with the rather literally named Demonic Toys, as if the Puppet Master films were not bad and unimaginative enough. Needless to say, I never thought I would bother to ever watch, let alone review, another film from the franchise, at least until relatively recently when I found a pretty good reason. A series reboot that was penned by talented auteur S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) and that thankfully has virtually nil association with Full Moon (though Charles Band acted as a hands-off executive producer, it is actually the very first film of the Fangoria Films relaunch), Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)—a delectably anti-politically-correct horror-comedy co-directed by Swedish duo Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund (Wither, Animalistic)—is unequivocally the greatest, most intelligent, and idiosyncratic film in the entire series. Vaguely artsy, gleefully gory and amoral, and even somewhat eccentric, the film is what you might expect from a counter-kosher nihilist that hated the Puppet Master franchise so much that he decided to completely dishonor its dubious legacy by making a malefic Mumblecore-like killer quirk piece where the very same puppets that fight Nazis in previous films became genocidal Jew-slaughtering toys of lilliputian Hitlerian terror.  Indeed, if there ever was a no-budget trash flick that seems like it was meant to bitingly troll superlatively sanctimonious shoah gatekeepers like Eli Wiesel and Abe Foxman and play them like marionettes, it is this film.

 Indeed, anyone familiar with Full Moons knows that, aside making retarded entertainment, they have always had a sort of insufferably insipid anti-Nazi fetish, which is surely the result of the company’s owner Charles Band—a Litvak-descended Jew—who, among other things, apparently talked director David Schmoeller into changing Crawlspace (1986) from an anti-Vietnam war tale to anti-Nazi one with Klaus Kinski portraying what is assuredly one of the most absurdly and inexplicably deranged National Socialist true believers in cinema history. Of course, Band did not stop there as he eventually introduced Nazis to his most famous franchise with Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991). In fact, Band even created an entire sub-series of totally unwatchable anti-Nazi Puppet Master films known as the ‘Axis Saga,’ including Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012), and Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017). While the classic puppet characters like ‘Blade’ and ‘Pinhead’ fought against the Nazis in the original films, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich manages to disrespectfully mutilate and ultimately murder the entire Puppet Master mythos by having these very same puppets, as well as their eponymous creator André Toulon, portray Nazi spy killers that specifically target Jews, black, gays, and even gypsies. Probably to the great chagrin of Band, the anti-untermenschen motives of these characters ultimately makes them more intriguing than in the original films where they just seem like, well, mindless automatons. In fact, the puppets of the film oftentimes have more character (and even likeability) than the actual human characters, which was probably Band’s (ultimately failed) intent with the original films. Gorehounds will probably also be pleased to know that the film has the highest body count of all of the Puppet Master films, though what fans of the franchise like seems pretty irrelevant when one considers that this film was clearly was not made with fanboy nostalgia or sentimentalism in mind.  In that sense, it can be compared to the recent Star Wars franchise films like Rogue One (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), albeit in a good way.  After all, whereas the new Star Wars films were an insult to George Lucas and the white heterosexual male target audience that made the series so popular in the first place due to being totally tainted with social justice warrior agitprop and grating displays of gynocentrism, the newest Puppet Master film paints a big beautiful bloody swastika onto the souls of both Charles Band and the franchise's original fans.

 Despite the fact that he unfortunately had nil involvement in the actual directing of the film, screenwriter S. Craig Zahler—a relative novice that has demonstrated with only a handful of films that he is one of the best genre filmmakers working today—probably deserves the most credit for the spirit and overall positive qualities of the film. A music journalist turned filmmaker whose novels have been lauded by figures ranging from genre maestro filmmaker Walter Hill (The Warrior, The Driver) to legendary actor Kurt Russell to horror novelist Jack Ketchum, Zahler reveals much character in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich in spite of the film’s seemingly nonexistent budget and somewhat dubious direction (notably, co-directors Laguna and Wiklund have mostly dabbled in no-brain/no-budget digital horror trash and simply cannot be seen as true ‘auteur’ filmmakers). With his directorial debut Bone Tomahawk (2015)—a sort of seamless horror-western hybrid of John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980)—Zahler demonstrated a natural directing talent for nuanced depictions of human failings and visceral ultra-violence. With his second feature Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)—a moody and broody cinematic work with a fitting Siegel-esque title—Zahler revealed he could outdo his heroes like John Carpenter and Walter Hill by bringing a smidgen of arthouse cred and artful nuance to brute violence, gross criminality, and extreme character conflicts. Had Zahler directed Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, it would have unequivocally been a much better film, even if the auteur is not exactly known for his dark humor. Although I can only speculate his motivations, Zahler’s screenplay feels like a fun exercise in anti-fanboy postmodernism where the writer gleefully destroys a mostly worthless and forgettable franchise that probably has some sort of nostalgic significance to him but he felt was in desperate need of killing. After all, there is nothing more ‘safe’ and banally conformist than a film about puppets killing Nazis, so naturally the opposite scenario—in a sort of completely unexpected Mumblecore form no less—makes for a provocative film as demonstrated by the various obviously offended reviews from both professional and amateur (as well as Jewish and goy) reviewers. 

In fact, some people are so offended by Zahler’s work that, despite the fact he is Jewish, they have accused the auteur of being a neo-Nazi of sorts. Indeed, in a stereotypical whiny and pathetic article entitled ‘Is S. Craig Zahler a White Supremacist?,’ a young autistic Jew-boy complains, “It’s pretty clear that S. Craig Zahler has a formula for his fiction. Irredeemably evil minorities + damsel in distress threatened with sexual violence+ heroic Aryan(s)+ violent climax= jackpot!” Of course, what this hysterical Hebrew is really complaining about is the fact that Zahler prefers working within traditional western themes and does not contaminate his work with the social justice disease, Marxist sermonizing, nor phony token nonwhite characters, which is typical of contemporary Hollywood. Of course, as a member of the chosen tribe that has confessed that his favorite filmmaker is Sidney Lumet—a socially conscious Jew that directed such classic unAryan titles as 12 Angry Men (1957), The Fugitive Kind (1960), and Serpico (1973), among various other examples—Zahler would have hardly made the cut if he had a time-machine and traveled back to the Third Reich in a desperate attempt to get a job with Dr. Joseph Goebbels’ studio (though, as recounted by the filmmaker himself in Godard's Contempt (1963), it should be noted that half-heeb Fritz Lang claimed that he was actually offered such a lofty position).

Clearly a sane and masculine-minded individual that is able to appreciate art despite the politics of a particular artist, Zahler once revealed in an interview with the self-described ‘extreme music journal’ Worm Gear in regard to his preternatural interest in counter-kosher art, “I’m a (non-practicing) Jewish dude, but reviewed bands with white power or fascistic leanings, because I have an ‘art over politics’ viewpoint, and even though Mike G was sensitive about this stuff, he and Wagner still ran reviews—often positive—of this material. People have a right to hate whomsoever they want to hate and also to express that feeling. Charles Dickens has a ton of anti-Semitic shit in his work, and he is a writer I like who was an inspiration to me as a young fiction writer. I’ve just never felt the best way to respond to intolerance is by returning the sentiment—partially because that is the desired response to intolerance.” Undoubtedly, if most Jews and left-wingers had a more reasonable attitude like Zahler does, the United States would not be on the brink of a second civil war, which is somewhat ironic considering that Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich depicts dolls waging a war against the very same sort of oh-so sensitive people that would want such a film banned and, for that very reason alone, it is much more important than the average hokey horror-comedy turd. 

Just like most of the films Zahler has been involved with, Teutonic Über-queen Udo Kier—an unquestionably strangely charming chap that, not unlike fine wine, seems to get better with age—plays a small but unforgettable role in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich as the eponymous figure André Toulon. Of course, in this (anti)sequel, Toulon is more of an antagonist than protagonist, but I could not help but root for him, as Herr Kier almost always comes off as distastefully likeable.  A effortlessly effete ex-Nazi spy of half-French/half-German parentage, Toulon is depicted at the very beginning of the film slumming it at a soulless hipster bar in Postville, Texas in 1989. When Toulon tries to strike up a conversation with a female bartender and she gleefully attempts to piss him off by making out with her dyke friend, he mumbles “disgusting homosexuals” and subsequently summons his Nazi puppets to dispatch the extra cunty carpet-munchers. The cops eventually later catch Toulon in the act in his Hitler house of horrors using occult powers to kill subhumans, so they naturally kill him out of impulsive disgust. Flash forward three decades later to present day in Dallas, Texas and beta-boy divorcee Edgar Easton (Thomas Lennon)—a comic book nerd that writes comics and works at a comic store owned by his insufferably snarky semitic friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin)—plans a road trip to a convention to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the infamous Toulon Murders because he owns one of the original Toulon puppets and plans to sell it there. Unbeknownst to Edgar, the ‘Blade’ puppet, which he finds in his deceased brother’s room, was also responsible for killing said deceased brother. Unfortunately for him, Edgar mistakes the uniquely unwitting mistake of bring his Jewish pal-cum-boss and new hot blonde girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer, who is the half-Norwegian niece of suicidal One-Eyed Jacks (1961) star Pina Pellicer) to a convention that is eventually blitzkrieged by a motley crew of nasty National Socialist puppets. Needless to say, as a place that details the history of an infamous Nazi where various expensive knickknacks and dolls are sold, the convention is flooded with Nazi-obsessed Jews so the puppets naturally decide to carryout a rather nasty Säuberung worthy of the Dirlewanger Brigade.  While none of the puppets resemble Dr. Dirlewanger, Blade somewhat fittingly resembles a corpse-like Dr. Goebbels.

While Edgar might technically be the lead character, Markowitz is, for better or worse (I’d certainly choose the latter), certainly the most dominat and unforgettable, namely because he is a whiny neurotic loudmouth kosher cuckold of the stereotypically slave-morality-ridden sort that has Nazis on the brains, thereupon making his (rather pathetic) inevitable murder at the hand of a Hitlerian marionettes all the more grotesquely fitting. For example, when Edgar tells him that he will not be able to play his favorite music (e.g. grindcore) in the car and that he will have to pay for gas if he accompanies him to the convention, Markowitz retorts in a stereotypical smartass fashion by calling his goy pal “Genghis McHitler.” Likewise, when the friends check into the convention hotel and the front desk clerk remarks, “You must be Markowitz,” the Hebraic nerd bitchily retorts, “Why? ‘Cause I look like a Jew?,” thus underscoring his glaring lack of self-esteem and paranoia when it comes to his race-cum-religion. In short, Markowitz is what Woody Allen might be like if he was a chubby millennial anime nerd. When the puppets start killing, Markowitz—a grade-A four-eyed wuss with a flabby body and poor motor skills—declares in what is undoubtedly one of the most unintentionally hilarious one-liners in cinema history, “I got about six million reasons why” in regard to his decision to man-up and take on the terrifying toys that are exterminating his race.  Needless to say, things do not goo too well for Markowitz.

While it takes a little bit too long for the Hitlerian puppets to start killing, once it begins it feels like it never stops. The first notable death scene at the convention involves are yarmulke-sporting Jew named Jason and his wife. While looking for his missing ‘Kaiser’ puppet in the room, Jason rationalizes his somewhat curious collection of Third Reich material to his wife by arguing, “Lots of Jewish people collect Nazi memorabilia – medals, pamphlets, posters, stuff like that. My Uncle Shelley does. It’s a reminder, sure, but there’s also a feeling of empowerment there, you know? Like saying to the Nazis, ‘Your big plans of genocide and world domination didn’t work, and now your symbols are nothing more than trinkets for us, to collect, souvenirs of your failure and our survival.’” Rather ironically, only seconds after making his boastful Jewish power declaration, Jason finds his Kaiser, which proceeds to literally torch both him and his wife in what proves to be a literal two-person holocaust. Indeed, aside from knocking off his yarmulke, the flames reduces the faces of the couple to mere bone (or a sort of kosher ‘totenkopf’). In a nearby room, a flying puppet named ‘Autogyro’ decapitates a gypsy while he is taking a leak and the headless gypsy even manages to piss on his own head after it falls into the toilet. After that, ‘Blade’ disembowels and slits the throat of a drunk blond gallery-owning queer shortly after he lies to his mother on the telephone about quitting drinking. In another room, a fat bull-dyke calls out for her girlfriend ‘Anne’ in the bathroom and is naturally dismayed when she finds her blue naked corpse in bathtub in what initially seems like a suicide but is ultimately something much stranger. In what is undoubtedly the most grisly and unforgettable killing scene, a puppet named ‘Money Lender’—an archetypal hook-nosed rabbi-like Jew with claws that match his schnoz—enters a pregnant negress’ vagina and eventually exists her bloated stomach with the woman’s fetus in its hands in a scenario that surely can be seen as symbolic of the millions of black babies aborted by Jewish doctors in the United States since the landmark legal decision of Roe v. Wade Supreme Court in 1973.  Undoubtedly, this scene is almost as shocking as Hebraic ex-abortionist Bernard Nathanson's classic anti-abortion doc The Silent Scream (1984), but I digress.

While Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich naturally does not have much in the way of a plot, it does have a lot of lame hipster-esque one-liners and whining, especially from Jew Markowitz, who states to protagonist Edgar after getting his fat neck slit by Blade, “Dedicate your next comment to me: to a great…Jewish hero. Shalom, amigo.” Before croaking, Markowitz, who is certainly no hero, makes a rather pathetic beta-boy attempt at courting a uniquely unattractive Asian girl named Nerissa (Charlyne Yi) who, like the ill-fated Jew, has an unhealthy anime obsession. In what is undoubtedly one of the most (seemingly unintentional?) hilarious scenes in the film, Nerissa dies brutally as a result of her skull hitting pavement after making a failed attempt to jump out of a two-story window and into a dumpster in what feels like a sad commentary on the athletic capabilities of nerdy Asian fangirls.  After all, Nerissa is the only character whose death is not the result of a Nazi puppet.  Aside from possibly a negro bartender named ‘Cuddly Bear,’ who is brutally savaged by the puppets but whose true fate is never really revealed, none of the non-white/non-straight characters survive the genocidal puppet show. Being the white heterosexual male protagonist, it is naturally up to Edgar to save the day, but he’s too much of a stereotypical modern-day spiritually castrated pussy to even accomplish that. Indeed, upon somehow magically realizing that Toulon is somehow alive (or, more specifically, ‘undead’) as a zombie and that he’s using occult powers to control the puppets from the luxury of his resting place, Edgar crashes his car into the extra necrotic Nazi's fancy mausoleum. While this causes the puppets to lose their powers and thus stop killing, it quite predictably pisses zombie Toulon off and he instantly begins trying to kill Edgar and Ashley. While Edgar tries in vain to put up a valiant fight, Toulon grabs a luger out of a special Nazi suitcase and puts a bullet in Ashley’s brain. In the end, Ashley is dead, Toulon gets away by slowly fleeing into nearby woods, and Edgar translates his story into a heartbroken issue of his comic series ‘Madame Lightning.’ While signing copies of his cryptically autobiographically comic, a young fan asks Edgar if he plans to write more comics and he replies, “Yeah, probably. I don’t feel like things are fully resolved” and then the film predictably concludes with an inter-title that reads, “To Be Continued.” 

As someone that is relatively familiar with various forms of National Socialist aesthetics and occultism/esotericism, I was somewhat disappointed that Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich did not really exploit this material. For example, at the very least, Toulon’s lair and/or mausoleum could have featured völkisch symbols like the ‘Schwarze Sonne’ (aka ‘Black Sun’), runes, and/or the quite alluring Ahnenerbe emblem. Additionally, aside from the skull-faced ‘Blade’ (apparently, three different versions of the puppet were used for the film) and ‘Money Lender,’ most of the puppets were simply too goofy to be taken seriously, especially ‘Happy Amphibian,’ ‘Grasshüpfer,’ and ‘Mr. Pumper.’ Undoubtedly, the filmmakers probably should have sought inspiration from Prussian auteur Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s magnum opus Hitler: A Film from Germany (1977), which features genuinely creepy puppets of Nazi bigwigs like Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, and Göring. In fact, I would argue that the life-size puppets in the criminally-underrated British Angela Carter adaptation The Magic Toyshop (1987) directed by David Wheatley are much creepier the ones in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, but then again, a pretty large percentage of audience members would probably find the film to be too disturbing if it took a more serious approach. After all, it is first and foremost a kitschy and sometimes even sardonic dark-comedy, as it would probably be impossible to take it serious if was anything else, hence one of the various reasons why Zahler probably opted to not direct the film himself. 

While I doubt it was the filmmakers’ conscious intention (though it might have be, at least partly, especially screenwriter Zahler’s), Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich can certainly be seen as an ‘unconventional’ commentary on the holocaust and the legacy of Third Reich in the modern age, especially in regard to young American Jews that have no real connection to that era. Personally, I was somewhat shocked to learn that Zahler was a Jew after seeing his features like Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99 they are are highly masculine and testosterone-fueled cinematic works with traditional western themes that feature none of the insufferable sort of Judaic slave-morality sermonizing or race hustling that you expect from the stereotypical contemporary Jewish filmmakers ranging from Spielberg to Judd Apatow to J.J. Abrams, so I find it especially interesting that the Jews featured in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich are unlikeable holocaust-obsessed neurotics and narcissistic wimps that seem driven by a pathological obsession with antisemitism, hence the nerdy Jew named Jason who brags that he collects Nazi memorabilia specifically because it provides him with a certain “feeling of empowerment.” I do not think it is any coincidence that he is the first character killed in the film as his mentality and overall demeanor epitomizes what gentiles find most loathsome about Israelites.

While various Jewish intellectuals ranging from Karl Marx to Otto Weininger to Gilad Atzmon have theorized about the motivation behind Jewish self-loathing and self-obsession, Charles Manson, who knew a number of prominent Jewish gangsters in prison, of all people once provided one of the more interesting arguments behind this. Indeed, in a 1989 interview with Penny Daniels, Manson, who sometimes made insightful statements in between his esoteric gibberish, remarked in regard to the Jewish tendency of Hitler (anti)worship and the strange tendencies in relation to his Jewish cellmate Jerry Milman, “How do you have peace on this earth? You can’t have peace on this earth unless you let the Second World War die. You wanna keep the Second World War going?! You wanna keep selling and buying Germans and dead Indians on TV every day? You know, that’s got to stop. The Second World War’s got to stop. And its got in the Jews. The Jews won’t let the Second World War stop. They keep the Second World War going […] they keep perpetuating it because they’re making money! As soon as the Second World War was over, they never stopped the brainwashing. The brainwashing they were selling the American public was making money […] Their not gonna stop making money! If the combination is there to make money, their gonna keep selling it. They’ll sell it all the way until I’m in the cell with a guy name Milman. Jerry Milman. And he’s got pictures of Hitler and Japanese and things and all . . . and I said, ‘Boy, Hitler must’ve been a hell of a guy,’ and he said, “Hitler was terrible. I hate him! I hate him!’ I said, ‘Why do you hate him?’ He said, ‘I’m a Jew.’ I said, ‘Why do you enshrine this guy? Is he your daddy?’ And he looked up to his mother’s fear. And his mother’s fear was Hitler. Hitler was like his father figure. He loved Hitler . . . but he hated Hitler. He needed Hitler to hold him up. Because Hitler was holding his hate up. Because, without his hate, he didn’t exist. He didn’t have no reason to live unless he had some hate. He didn’t have any reason to buy and sell unless the money held him up. If you took the money away from him, if you took the hate away from him . . . he’d be gone.”  Clearly, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a film that is a venomously sardonic assault on the very sort of archetypal Jew that Manson mentioned in his rant. Notably, more recently, Jewish American Olympian wrestler Mark Schultz, who was depicted in the Foxcatcher (2014), made a similarly and no less academically unsound argument when he offended his fellow Jews on Twitter by writing on August 14, 2018 (in a now-deleted tweet), “Jews win by sticking together against divided gentiles. Jews love persecution. It justifies offense and reinforces the need for strength in numbers to divide and conquer gentiles.”   While just speculation, I can only assume that Zahler's intention with the film was to drive a proverbial stake through the the perennial Hebraic vampire of Judaic victimhood, which the original Puppet Master franchise undoubtedly contributed to.

Undoubtedly, despite its surely shallow anti-Nazi angle, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is—whether intentional or not (I can only assume the former)—a critique of American post-holocaust Jewry and its own sick propensity towards neurotic self-worship. Just as the Halloween or Friday the 13th slasher flicks depict dumb pretty Aryan teenagers being dispatched for committing sins of the flesh, the Jews and other ‘minorities’ in the film become victims of their own sinful Hebraic hubris. While it would be easy to write-off screenwriter Zahler as a stereotypical self-loathing Jew, that would be too simple and ignores the rest of his highly masculine (read: unkosher) and master-morality oriented oeuvre. In short, Zahler seems to have mostly have transcended his Jewishness, hence why he had no qualms about casting living legend Mel Gibson in his latest feature Dragged Across Concrete (2018). Indeed, as the great Otto Weininger once wrote, “The antisemitism of the Jew, then, proves that nobody who knows the Jew regards him as lovable—not even the Jew himself. The antisemitism of the Aryan supplies the no less significant insight that Judaism must not be confused with the Jews. There are Aryans who are more Jewish than many Jews, and there are really some Jews who are more Aryan than certain Aryans.”  Surely, considering Zahler's less than hysterical attitude towards antisemites and antisemitic art, it can be said that he has, at least partly, transcended his own innate Jewishness.  Likewise, the typical Jewish filmmaker could not have created a film like Brawl in Cell Block 99 where a white blue collar worker commits a sort of twisted modern Christ-like sacrifice and, as Weininger also wrote, “Christ was a Jew, but only in order to overcome Judaism in himself most completely, since the firmest believer is he who has overcome the most powerful doubt, and the most positive affirmer he who has risen above the most dreary negation.” 

Unlike a lot of cinema, Zahler’s films, including Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, reject the metaphysical diseases of modernity and as Weininger wrote over a century ago in regard to modernity, “Our present age shows Judaism at the highest peak it has climbed since the days of Herod. The spirit of modernity is Jewish, wherever one looks at it. Sexuality is affirmed and today’s specifies ethic sings the wedding hymn to sexual intercourse. The unfortunate Nietzsche is certainly not responsible for the grand union of natural selection and natural fornication, whose despicable apostle is called Wilhelm Bölsche. He appreciated asceticism and thought its opposite more desirable only because he suffered too much from his own. But women and Jews are matchmakers; their aim is to make humanity guilty.” Aside from being responsible for a cinema that emphasizes heroism and strength over guilt and neuroticism and family love over soulless lust, Zahler creates films that promote sacrifice over self-worship and thus cannot be seen as in any way characteristically Jewish. While David Mamet—a right-wing Zionist Jew that attacks any Jew that rejects his race and/or religion—might have once wrote, “The quiddity of the self-loathing Jew, the opted-out Jew is his grotesquerie […] his efforts at assimilation foiling the possibility of contentment with a group to which he actually belongs”—Zahler seems content due to the fact that he has transcended his Jewishness and not simply because he has fallen victim to ‘assimilation.’ After all, how could a Jew assimilate into an industry and culture that is covertly, if not overtly, kosher?! Additionally, Zahler is not helping his career by creating films involving Jews being blow-torched by puppets or muscular white proles exterminating entire gangs of Mexicans singlehandedly, so one can only come to the conclusion that he is an unequivocal auteur that is driven to create a deeply personal, albeit genre-oriented, that comes straight from the soul.

Undoubtedly, the subversive nature of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich becomes clear when one compares it to John Landis’ surprisingly pathos-ridden An American Werewolf in London (1981)—a clear expression of culturally schizophrenic Jewish-American identity—where the auteur reveals his deep-seated Jewish paranoia in a nightmare scenario where a brigade of demonic Nazi werewolves quite literally holocausts his entire family in a dream-sequence that seems somewhat out of place in the film, at least if one does not realize it is a cinematic work that is fundamentally about Judaic introspection. Where it is clear that Landis is obsessed with Nazis and antisemitism in his classic kosher werewolf flick, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a film that makes a mockery of such sentiments by gleefully depicting the most seemingly benign children’s playthings brutally liquidity an eclectic collection of victim-mentality-ridden untermenschen, thereupon killing the very spirit and essence of Charles Band’s franchise in the process. 

In preparation for this review, I attempted to (re)watch Puppetmaster (1989) and Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991) but, unlike Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, I found myself being unable to really concentration on the banality of it all. Indeed, I am willing to go as far as saying without even the slightest bit of exaggeration that the famous final segment “Amelia” of the classic made-for-television anthology horror film Trilogy of Terror (1975) features more delightfully deranged doll action and eccentric excitement than all of the original Puppet Master films combined. It is also no surprise that Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich shares something in common with Trilogy of Terror—a film where a so-called ‘Zuni Fetish doll’ takes on a dumb bitch chick—in that, on top of the fact that it features a puppet taking over the body of a human, it utilizes Lovecraftian tier fright tactics in its utilization of historical socio-cultural racial paranoia and animosity to stoke fear (whereas Black Devil Doll From Hell (1984) fails in that regard because it was made for blacks by blacks and thus comes off as superlatively silly).  Notably, one of my earliest movie memories is being exciting about the fact my parents were able to grab a new release copy of Child's Play 3 (1991) at a local store video store, yet now it is nearly impossible for me to take any of these toy horror shit seriously thus making it seem like a miracle that I was even able to enjoy Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.

Interestingly, in his book The Mask Jews Wear: The Self-Deceptions of American Jewry (1973), Reform Judaism Rabbi Eugene B. Borowitz—a philosopher from a more liberal strand of Judaism that is arguably atheistic and promotes a assimilationist tendencies—reveals a certain shame and repulsion towards Occidental civilization, arguing, “I therefore have much sympathy for the concept of Black Power. As a Jew, I know personally that one can never truly be a person as long as he looks at himself with the eyes of those who hate him. I do not see how Jews can dodge the fact that, religious and social traditions aside, much of the best of Western literature from Marlowe to T.S. Eliot sees the Jew as intruder or enemy. So, every Jew appropriating even the best of this civilization must sooner or later come to terms with the scandal, the disgrace of his Jewishness. And this is one reason why we wear Marrano masks with such fixity—they enable us to escape from our stigmatized inner selves; they proclaim us to be just like everyone else.”  When I watch Zahler's films, I certainly don't sense this shame or repugnance towards the West, as they are cinematic works that express the opposite.  For that reason alone, I certainly would nominate Zahler to ‘Honorary Aryan’ status, even though his favorite filmmaker Sidney Lumet.

As for a potential sequel that is hinted at quite blatantly at the conclusion of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, the possibilities seem endless but I think the coolest concept would involve the puppets heading to the nightmarish Unite the Right of 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  After all, the counter-protestors were comprised of a rather eclectic collection of degenerates that the puppets would clearly love targeting, though somehow I think they would go after Richard Spencer too.

-Ty E