As a semi-fan of so-called neofolk music, I was naturally quite intrigued to learn that Annabel Lee—the violinist of her husband’s group Blood Axis who has translated works by Italian philosopher and self-described “super fascist” Julius Evola, as well as Teutonic anthropologist and psychedelic drug advocate Christian Rätsch—was originally an aspiring actress of sorts who starred in a couple of cinematic works directed by filmmakers associated with the Cinema of Transgression movement. Indeed, in Richard Kern’s short The Bitches (1992), Lee not only shows off her ass, titties, and pussy, but allows a girl to perform cunnilingus on her and even fucks some longhaired loser degenerate in the ass with a strap-on dildo in a rather frenzied fashion while she has an expression of sadistic glee on her face. Somewhat ironically, especially considering the later accusations of Nazism made against her and especially her husband/collaborator Michael Moynihan and their band by Zionist oriented ‘anti-hate’ hate groups like the ludicrously named Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Lee also played the eponymous role in Kern’s short Nazi (1991) where she sports a Nazi officer's hat and performs a ‘Sieg Heil’ salute whilst topless and standing in front of an American flag. Additionally, Lee (who was apparently born Annabel McMullin, but has also gone by the name Annabel Davies) also dropped her clothes for Tessa Hughes-Freeland’s no-budget Super-8 Georges Bataille adaptation Dirty (1993). Incidentally, both Kern and Hughes-Freeland (as well as fellow Cinema of Transgression filmmakers Tommy Turner and Kembra Pfahler) would appear alongside Lee in acting roles in the strangely atmospheric shot-on-VHS ‘Pulp Video’ art-trash-horror piece Red Spirit Lake (1993) directed by Charles Pinion (We Await, American Mummy aka Aztec Blood), who incidentally played the exceedingly emasculated fellow that got simultaneously mouth and ass-fucked by the titular chicks with strap-on dildos in Kern's The Bitches. In fact, as a feature film that not only stars her in the lead role (as well as another smaller role) but also co-penned, co-produced, and co-edited under the pseudonym ‘Ellen Smithy,’ the film is Lee’s closest thing to an ‘auteur piece,’ though the aesthetic integrity is largely the result of director Pinion, who seems to have no qualms about artistically collaborating with a woman that violently reamed him in the rectum like a prison bitch. Indeed, Pinion even credits Lee for the film’s supposedly misogynistic content, or as he stated in an interview featured in the book Cinema Contra Cinema (1998) by Jack Sargeant, “We wrote the screenplay tag-team style. I’d write for a while, then I’d say, ‘I’m getting to this sex scene…’ and would let Ellen [aka Annabel Lee] have a go at it. I have to say that many of the really depraved elements of RED SPIRIT LAKE were initially generated by her. For what that’s worth. It’s my shield against being labeled misogynistic.” Notably, as Pinion once stated to Jack Sargeant in an interview, deranged British tranny musician Genesis P-Orridge once wrote him a letter reading, “I loved RED SPIRIT LAKE, I gave it to a friend who is into this kind of pulp video.” Somewhat unfortunately, Cinema of Transgression anti-messiah Nick Zedd is less impressed with Pinion's oeuvre, as the They Eat Scum director apparently started regarded his first feature,“I really hated TWISTED ISSUES.” Personally, I think that Zedd might be a tad bit jealous that Pinion is arguably beating him at his own psychotronic cinema game, as Red Spirit Lake is probably more tastelessly charming and unwaveringly enthralling than about 95% of the films associated with the Cinema of Transgression movement, not to mention the fact it is more sexually absurd and morally bankrupt than something like War Is Menstrual Envy (1992).
Like fellow director Richard Baylor (You've Made Your Bed... Now Die In It!, Cirsium Delectus), Pinion is a sort of post-Cinema of Transgression auteur who carried on the cinematically transgressive tradition of Kern and Zedd, but opted to utilize video as opposed to Super-8 film for largely economic reasons, thereupon giving his ‘films’ an extra schlocky feel that seems obscenely outmoded nowadays, though that is certainly one of the charms of his somewhat singular oeuvre. As far as I am concerned, Red Spirit Lake is the only shot-on-video horror feature that I can think of that has even the vaguest artistic merit, as a work that seems like the result of the post-punk heterosexual progeny of Jack Smith and John Waters attempting to do for video what H.P. Lovecraft did for horror literature. I originally saw the film about half a decade ago, but after recently coming to the revelation that it starred Neofolk figure Annabel Lee, who is no stranger to all sorts of filmmaking as she apparently appeared in Jonas Mekas’ experimental doc He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life (1969-1986) when she was only 3-years-old (it should be noted that Lee’s mother is video artist Molly Davies) and even once worked as a production assistant on Bob Rafelson’s Sir Richard Francis Burton epic Mountains of the Moon (1990), I could not help reassessing the flick, which is an insanely idiosyncratic piece of quasi-metaphysical high-kitsch where the Blood Axis violinist bares all like a proto-Suicide Girl, albeit she seems slightly less plastic and certainly more debauched in her essence. Somewhat foreshadowing Lee’s interest in esoterica, the occult, so-called ‘Radical Traditionalism’, and völkisch matters via its playfully paganistic tone and themes of dark genetic inheritance and hedonistic pre-Christian spirituality, the film tells the quite spasmodic, surreal, supernatural, and even sometimes sci-fi genre-raping story of a young chick that is descended from a long line of wanton witches who inherits a rural New England estate after her spinster aunt is maliciously murdered by a queen-ish Mestizo industrialist and his motley crew of tit-twisting rapist thugs and must defend herself against the gang who wants to take away her rightfully inherited ancient ancestral home. Of course, Red Spirit Lake is far from a modernist ‘Blut und Boden’ fantasy flick in the spirit of the National Socialist classic Ewiger Wald (1936) co-directed by Hanns Springer and Rolf von Sonjevski-Jamrowski, as it is a conspicuously cynical flick of the nauseatingly nihilistic sort that follows in the spirit of Kern’s Fingered (1986), albeit with the somewhat strange added bonus of mystical elements that celebrates New England’s ‘witchy’ past (most of the film was shot at Lee’s mother Molly Davies’ Vermont home).
Apparently shot over the course of two long weekends on a completely guessed budget of $2000 (as the director stated in an interview, “…I’m really pulling that figure out of a hat. It doesn’t really cost anything to shoot on video. You need to feed your cast and crew. That’s essential.”) while Pinion was attempting to make his ultimately aborted 35mm feature Killbillies, Red Spirit Lake is like the ultimate party flick for born again nihilists, trash cinephiles, and sleazy eccentric pornographers. Directed by an auteur that much prefers the cinematic works of Chantal Akerman, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Roman Polanski to the lowbrow horror trash that he actually produces, Pinion’s almost perniciously playful piece of ‘Pulp Video’ (which is the P-Orridge inspired name Pinion gave his now-extinct primitive style of video-based filmmaking) phantasmagoria is like SOV (aka shot-on-video) equivalent to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), albeit where the madness, paranoia, sadism, and nostalgia for an ultra-violent American past is fully and unwaveringly embraced in a fashion that makes The August Underground creators seem like a group of pedantic and autistic fanboys who need to lay off the soulless torture porn swill and who are in desperate need of some nice, warm, wet pussy. Featuring wickedly wanton witches, tin man-esque space aliens, psychopathic nipple-twisting sex criminals, pretentious mystical-minded fags with bad bleach blond dye jobs, Christian peeping tom caretakers, self-loathing Hispanic crime bosses, and ass-raping fag hag ghosts with vulgar southern accents, among various other highly memorable curious characters that only exist in the wonderfully retrograde realm of Red Spirit Lake, Pinion’s little film is a big reminder about how fun true trash cinema can be when directed with pure and unadulterated passion.
At the beginning of Red Spirit Lake, a semi-sexy spinster named Abigail Atavey has her titties violently twisted by Richard Kern at the command of Hispanic Hugh Hefner wannabe Diego Sardonia (German actor J.J. Straub), who is a sleazy and somewhat effete wealthy industrialist that demands that the woman sign over her titular family estate. Although the house is apparently “heavily mortgaged” and Sardonia will probably have her killed if she does not give it to him, Abigail self-righteously declares, “I’m not signing it and you’re not getting Red Spirit Lake.” Sardonia wants the old homestead because he wants to obtain the arcane magic powers it apparently contains. When Abigail begins unleashing a goofy magical spell and attempts to escape by grabbing the testicles of one of Sardonia’s goons, she is immediately killed in a somewhat anti-climatic manner with a single stab to the abdomen by nipple-annihilator Kern. After Abigail’s death, her young blonde niece Marilyn (Annabel Lee under the pseudonym ‘Amanda Collins’) inherits Red Spirit Lake and soon finds herself being routinely stalked and hounded by Sardonia and his band of glaringly shady misfit sadists. Luckily, Marilyn’s great-great-grandmother (also portrayed by Lee, who sports a cheap black wig that looks like it was purchased at a Halloween store), who was brutally murdered by a couple rapist rednecks with some of her witch friends (Tabby Rasmussen, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Jennifer Bailey, Kembra Pfahler), will come back from the dead as a ghost and protect her with magical powers. As Marilyn tells her racially ambiguous fuckbuddy Frank (Payton Farley) via telephone upon arriving at her newly inherited home, “I haven’t been here since I was a kid. I’m the last living heir, so I got everything. Red Spirit Lake has a crazy history. My great-great-grandmother was born here [and] she died here. The town called her Mad Mistress Atavey. They thought she was a witch. She planted the big old maple tree in the back yard.” Of course, the maple tree is sacred and is sort of like the Red Spirit lake equivalent to Donar's Oak, albeit seems to mainly attract the lily-licking spirits of lesbo witches.
Aside from her ancient ancestor ‘Mad Mistress Atavey,’ Marilyn receives ostensible protection from a crazed Christian ‘caretaker’ named Mathias (director Charles Pinion) and his slowwitted deaf-mute brother Thomas, who has a Manson-esque “X” carved into his forehead. When Marilyn first sees Thomas, she is so shocked that she immediately collapses and suffers a nightmare where a longhaired degenerate with black eyeliner (Cinema of Transgression auteur Tommy Turner, who directed Simonland (1984) and co-directed Where Evil Dwells (1985)) attempts to rape her with his monstrous tusk-like cock. When Sardonia sends his fairly creepy baldheaded underling Wesley (Rick Hall of schlocky sci-fi trash like Richard W. Haines’ Head Games (1996) and Stephen J. Hadden’s Bio-Dead (2009)) to attempt to coerce Marilyn into selling the house, caretaker Mathias abruptly shows up with a shotgun and rather rudely forces him off the property. After telling Marilyn that her aunt Abigail was murdered, Mathias explains, “We gotta talk about the angels. Angels is what brought me and Thomas to Red Spirit Lake. Angels lock the demons away and left us with the key.” The Angels Mathias speaks of are actually humanoid extraterrestrials with glittery silver-toned skin that abducted and experimented on him and his brother. As Mathias also explains to Marilyn, “There’s a war in heaven, Miss Marilyn. Me and Thomas are soldiers of Jehovah waiting for the Second Coming.” Unfortunately for Marilyn, Mathias will later develop the delusion that she is some sort of servant of Satan.
When Marilyn plays a vintage violin that used to belong to her great-great-grandmother that creates an ominous discordant sound and subsequently performs a magical ritual of sorts, the protagonist hallucinates and recalls the memory of how her ancient ancestor and her dyke tarot-reading witch friends were brutally raped and murdered by a couple of puritanical rednecks. Needless to say, it does do take long for unclad pagan witch phantoms to begin roaming around the estate to protect Marilyn and the magical maple tree against Sardonia and other undesirable elements. Meanwhile, Mathias plays peeping tom and masturbates outside while watching Marilyn exercising in her underwear while absurdly proclaiming, “Demons are here. Demons possess me.” After Mathias’ brother Tommy is killed in a battle with one of Kern’s comrades, Sardonia decides to pay a personal visit to Marilyn where he gives her a broken pentacle medallion that he stole from her dead aunt Abigail and complains regarding his lowly Hispanic background, “My mother was a domestic down the street.” The pentacle is a family heirloom that was originally owned by Marilyn's great-great-grandmother and Sardonia seems to make a mistake by giving it back to the protagonist. When Marilyn complains that the pentacle is broken, Sardonia remarks, “Yes, my apologies. I had to tear it off Abigail’s throat. She was dying,” violently mandhandles her, and proceeds to say goofy things like, “Marilyn, Marilyn…How magnificent it must feel to be the last living Atavey.” After Marilyn accuses him of killing her aunt, Sardonia replies, “Not at first. I wanted her to teach me. I wanted her to teach me the secrets…the Atavey secrets…the soft feminine secrets,” drugs her by stabbing her with a needle containing some dubious fluid, carries her up to her room while she is unconscious, declares, “I still speak a language that you will understand,” and then proceeds to rape her from behind on her own bed. Luckily, the spirit of Mad Mistress Atavey soon appears and forces Sardonia to cut off his own cock and balls, but not before biting his tongue off. While the ghost of her ancient ancestor uses magic to get Sardonia to self-castrate himself, Marilyn gently masturbates by rubbing her clit and tits, thus reflecting the protagonist's newfound spiritually sadomasochistic sexual tendencies.
Somewhat to her chagrin, Marilyn’s friends Shirley Tejas (Holly Adams of Hughes-Freeland’s Nymphomania (1994)) and Bob (Bob Log) and fuckbuddy Frank eventually show up at the house and eventually find themselves to be the prey of both Sardonia’s surviving goons and Mad Mistress Atavey's ghostly gal pals. While Marilyn has fun fucking swarthy wimp Frank, she is somewhat less amused with fag hag Shirley’s whorish behavior and incessant bitching, which is all the more grating as a result of her southern twang. Of course, since he is a homo, Bob is not too happy when a sensual succubus (Julie Marlowe) begins giving him a supernatural blowjob while he is minding his own business by relaxing in a sauna, thus inspiring him to complain, “What do you think you’re doing? You’re disturbing my subtle energy fields!” When the succubus forces him to perform cunnilingus on her by aggressively sitting on his face and wrapping her legs around his head, Bob shouts, “Be gone, Jezebel!,” in a particularly prissy fashion. Meanwhile, Richard Kern corners Shirley and teases her nipples and fucks her from behind, which she rather enjoys, at least until he puts a cigarette out on one of her tits. Naturally, when Shirley rudely states to Kern, “Well, I’ve been fucked better by a shower massager…and by better looking dicks,” he decides to kill her by slaughtering her like a pig with his knife. When Kern catches up with Marilyn, he gives her a brutal double titty-twister and asks her regarding her exceedingly effeminate beau Frank, “You really let that geek bone you?” In fact, not only does Kern insult Frank, but he also kills him by putting a bullet in his brain. Meanwhile, two scantily dressed ghost nymphs coerce baldheaded wuss Wesley into following them into the snowy countryside where he ultimately freezes to death after stripping off all his clothes upon suffering the delusion that he is about to get in a threesome with two busty witch bitches. As for Kern, he gets fist-fucked in the rectum by the reanimated corpse of annoyingly extroverted Southern belle Shirley, who says to him before snuffing him out, “You weren’t such a bad fuck back there…Just a little rude. The truth is I think you’re one sexy piece of man meat. You’re so big and strong.” Needless to say, Kern does not survive the supernatural assault on his anus. As for the ending of the film, Marilyn suffers a miserable fate at the hands of Christian chronic masturbator Mathias, who sinisterly proclaims in the very last shot of the film, “Angels coming soon.”
Aside from providing ample evidence that Richard Kern is possibly a better character actor than he is a filmmaker, Red Spirit Lake indubitably proves that a special sort of pseudo-cinematic auteurist film can be achieved on the true trash medium of consumer grade analog video. Of course, had the film been shot a decade later when digital video became the new preferred medium of no-budget filmmakers, Pinion’s densely packed art-trash horror show might have lost a tad bit of its peculiar aesthetic character. Admittedly, I was originally first drawn to Pinion’s work after randomly seeing his first feature Twisted Issues (1988)—a SOV gross-out skate-punk horror flick—which, due to its anarchistic lo-fi style and fresh youthful spirit, gave me nostalgia for the amateur skateboard videos that I made as a punk-rock-loving kid, but Red Spirit Lake proved to be an entirely different video affair, as a work that features a preternatural otherworldliness that, aside from the films of the Cinema of Transgression movement and oeuvre of Richard Baylor, is probably best comparable to the more bizarre guido horror flicks of the 1970s, including the aberrant artsploitation works of Alberto Cavallone like Blue Movie (1978) and Blow Job (1980). Featuring a borderline sadistically darkly comedic winter wonderland realm that makes the Coen Brothers’ Fargo (1996) seem like bourgeois pussy pedantry and a trashy yet sometimes aesthetically pleasing use of pagan ‘magical’ imagery that seems like a hopelessly heterosexual take on some of the high-camp imagery used by Teutonic dandy Werner Schroeter in his early epic masterpiece Eika Katappa (1969), Red Spirit Lake ultimately seems like the curious result of a genuinely talented filmmaker and cultivated cinephile attempting to make the most absurdly trashy yet enthralling horror exploitation film ever made using the worst consumer grade video equipment imaginable. Aside from the Dutch arthouse flick Winterstilte (2008) aka Winter Silence directed by Sonja Wyss, I certainly cannot think of a somewhat recent film featuring an intriguing utilization of pagan imagery and themes, even if it is done in a somewhat intentionally silly tongue-in-cheek fashion. Indeed, knowing that star and co-writer Annabel Lee would later embrace the ancient art of Occidental paganism, ‘occult fascism,’ and Radical Traditionalism makes Pinion’s film all the more interesting. Additionally, in its inclusion of filmmakers Richard Kern, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Kembra Pfahler, and Tommy Turner in outlandish acting roles, Red Spirit Lake confirms my long held belief that the Cinema of Transgression was an avant-garde exploitation movement.