Trains are for Dreaming

“I don’t sleep, I just dream,” says Rust Cohle after being explicitly told by his partner to “Stop saying odd shit.” Concurrently, a mysterious untraceable train horn resounds in the background, knitting a connection, a thought.

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Rust is right. The organism never rests. True sleep can only mean eternal oblivion. [But even after an organism’s death, matter continually transforms itself further, pulsating and willing, on the everlasting unlife plane of immanence.]

In sleep our nervous system is continually agitated by a multiplicity of inner events, almost all our organs are active, our blood circulates vigorously, the position of the sleeper presses on individual limbs, his bedcovers influence his sensibilities in various ways, his stomach digests and its motions disturb other organs, his intestines are active, the position of his head involves unusual muscular contortions, (…) – all this, through its unusualness and to a differing degree each day, excites the entire system up to the functioning of the brain; and so there are a hundred occasions for the mind to be involved in puzzlement … (Nietzsche, Human All Too Human, §13

Brain activity never ceases, always productive and perceptive. Things impinge upon cognition all the time. Sleep is yet another rhythmically recurring state, a modulation. An electroencephalograph continues drawing up cryptic data.

Dreaming labels those hazily-detected dynamics. “We create and perceive our world simultaneously and our mind does it so well we don’t even know what’s happening.” It’s an incessant flow of emotions, desires, and hallucinations, a complex web with pulsating zones of intensities, thresholds, zany characters, horrors, games, and mysteries, a streaming labyrinth dissolving all subjective orientation. “Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realise something was actually strange.”

It’s pretty common for long-distance travelling vehicles like trains to put its passengers into a trance-like hypnagogic state. The constant flow of scenery, being seated on the same space, the mere novelty of travel or weariness after daily drudgery, all contribute.

My head against the window and “I” succumb to the sleeping machine. Imagined scenes, inspired by the text on the book and/or sounds coming from my headphones, commingle with the auto-generated dream-sensations, as well as the moving scenery outside the window. Colours start to appear. The dazed “I” drifts in and out of consciousness, my eyes occasionally open and start gliding over the text again, reading the exact same passages they had before, and my ears pick up on some of the melodies again, but soon I slumber back into the sway and obscurities of the productive unconscious machine. Until after an unspecified amount of time, I arrive at my lucidly chosen destination. Or do I?

When positioned outside one, trains traversing the world are dreamy too. With their aforementioned vibrant train horns, travelling “na tej bocznej zapomnianej linii” (forgotten branch lines) (Schulz, Sanatorium Pod Klepsydrą) in unknown (techno?)landscapes, or weirdly appearing out of nowhere, penetrating the topography like an intrusion, an infiltration, perhaps without a telos, just transitioning for its own sake, continuing rolling on and on, like time. “You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure.”

Some films with trains & dreaming: Trains Are for Dreaming (2009, Jennifer Todd Reeves), Kaili Blues (2015, Bi Gan), Inception (2010, Christopher Nolan), Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki), The Silence (1963, Ingmar Bergman), Innocence (2004, Lucile Hadzihalilovic)

Dream on.

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Opening Up Terrifying Vistas (Nights 21-31)

The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick) (3rd viewing) 9-/10
I’ve hit a several day dry plateau, feeling down and lacklustre in general, so I had hoped this masterwork to stir me out of the feigned slumber. It really is fierce in its ruthless fatalism, multifarious flavours, and labyrinthine systems, laid out on ancient burial grounds or confused minds, teeming with unconstrained emotions, unsparing histories, erratic encounters with bizarre phantoms, the rage of unproductivity, catatonic states, and extreme weather conditions. All this necessarily coalesces into an excruciating fallout, the shining spillover of redrum all over the hotel lobby.

Thrill-O-Meter: 1 out of 10 screams, spewing blood.

Martyrs (2008, Pascal Laugier) (2nd viewing) 7/10 (from 6)
The most spiritual and intellectual of “torture porn” movies (I guess, probably, haven’t seen many), justifying all the extremely gory constituents of the genre as parts of a parable about suffering, death, suicide, guilt, and visions. Rather elementary concepts, in some ways, but ‘Martyrs’ is an excellent provocation in this respect. (My tendentious interpretation is naturally the most dismal one.)

Themes aside, most of it is pretty much a bore, except the woman with the metallic blindfold helmet and the martyrs’ ’yeux témoin’, they do induce a persisting wary and saddened unease in me. Anna and Lucie’s friendship/attraction is also fairly poignant, the unbearable fetters passed from one to the other, unified by the extreme suffering.

Thrill-O-Meter: 3 out of 10 screams for a million scars, one of them not being able to clutch a knife to end it.

Hereditary (2018, Ari Aster) 5/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 nut allergies.

The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise) 7/10
A very literal adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s book (which I finished earlier this week), and it gets all the neuroses, penumbrae, cold poundings, and distorted angles right on the mark.

Thrill-O-Meter: 1 out of 10 screams, for exploring the ‘uncharted waste of Hill House’.

***

That’s it; there’s a million other films I wanted to see but didn’t manage to, will continue with horror stuff November anyway. I’m a big cinephile, so I’ll likely do more film shit-posting, like monthly summaries of what I’ve seen with write-ups and screenshots, themed posts, or writing lengthier reviews for individual films.

All so shed.

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Opening Up Terrifying Vistas (Nights 11-20)

The Midnight Parasites (1972, Yoji Kuri) (short) 7/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 deformation retractions.

 

Suspiria (1977, Dario Argento) 7/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 1 out of 10 screams for an audio-visual kaleidoscopic onslaught, crafting an intoxicating world filled with unseen forces and vulnerable women.

 

殺し屋1/Ichi the Killer (2001, Takashi Miike) 7/10
Ultra-violent gory over-the-top stylish banquet of rape, gratuitous torture, revenge against bullies, sadomasochism, latent hyper-violent impulses, and more. I dug this acerbic dew alright.

Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams for its portrayal of the relative easy with which extreme violence can be unnoticeably inflicted upon the human body.
Gozu / Yakuza Horror Theatre: Cow’s Head (2003, Takashi Miike) 5/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams.

 

The VVitch: A New England Folktale (2015, Robert Eggers) 7/10
Great stuff; it’s just a joy to see Anya Taylor-Joy within coming-of-age woods-witch-devil aesthetics and hear Early Modern English used for the Gnonlicious survival excruciations of a devout family lurched into sexual tension and a crisis of faith.

Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 bleats for Black Phillip who unfortunately isn’t the G.O.A.T. goat, which would have to be Shub-Niggurath. Iä! Iä!

 

Split (2016, M. Night Shyamalan) 7/10
Thrill-O-Meter: My different personalities might have varying impressions, there likely doesn’t exist a comprehensive consensus, the particular self typing this down will not speak for the others. One thing I suspect we’re all in agreement of, though, is how wonderful Anya Taylor-Joy is. James McAvoy too, enganging portraying a man with DID, with a subset of personalities empowered to become The Beast.

Continue reading “Opening Up Terrifying Vistas (Nights 11-20)”

Opening Up Terrifying Vistas (Nights 7-13)

Island of Lost Souls (1932, Erle C. Kenton) 6/10
This is the first adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel I have seen, a story I wasn’t familiar with before. Pretty nasty mad scientist undertakings – painfully breeding an artificial human race from other animals, contorting bodies, enslaving the minds, enforcing domestication. “Please, Mr. Parker, spare me these youthful horrors.” Of course one of those “horrors” is the in-betweeness of the creations, neither animal nor human (“Part man! Part beast!”), the intrinsic weirdness of the specimen, where the animality “creeps back”. Artificially forced ’sapience’ is weird enough, of course, also urging questions about the intractability and opaqueness of consciousness, with resonances of the problem of ‘presence’ and ‘excess’ tout court. The ensuing self-destruction is quite poignant. Good stuff overall, I’ll have to read the novel at some point.

Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 experimental vivisections.

 

The Bad Seed (1956, Mervyn LeRoy) 6+/10
Rhoda is a seemingly perfect 8 year old – cordial, mannered, smart – but soon starts to develop apparently psychopathic tendencies and is possibly implicated in a peer’s death slowly investigated by the adult community. A film about appearances, eminence, and tokens, handled competently, with fantastic acting, a steady pace, and accomplished dialogue (trying to be scholarly on the psychological front, referencing Freud, addressing nature vs. nurture, recreating a psychopath’s reactions, etc.). That said its play-origins show far too much for my liking, it felt just a little contrived, dominated by language, and cinematically inflexible that way, unfortunately dissipating the overall chilliness and allowing me to anticipate the twists and plot lines, which do get delightfully dark and unexpectedly gleeful in their evil at times though.

Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams.


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The Innocents
(1961, Jack Clayton) 7/10
Such a lovely quaint British gothic film, the two children here are even more devilishly charming than the one in ‘The Bad Seed’, while the mansion is visually and atmospherically exquisite; it just makes sense for this ethereal place to conjure up the past’s ghosts, sexual unease, and neurotic divination.

Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams for dream dances with ghosts and the weight of teeming voices and visions in ones mind’s senses.

 

ハウス / House (1977, Nobuhiko Obayashi) 7/10
A very colourful stylised camp haunted-house horror-comedy, full of blood rivers, saccharine melodies, high-pitched voices overspilling from enthusiasm or fear, cannibalism, cat intensities, panicking girls (with names like “Sweet”, “Melody”, “Glorious”, “Kung Fu”), mocked tropes, creative editing, mutilations, zany special effects, and things weird-for-weirdness’ sake. The 20 minutes before the last 10 are just a delightful vibrant delirium.

Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams.
Hilarit-E-Meter: 5 out of 10 laughs.

Continue reading “Opening Up Terrifying Vistas (Nights 7-13)”

Opening Up Terrifying Vistas (Nights 1-6)

During October I watch a high number of horror films and here’s the first weekly post of what I’ve seen so far. Apart from my usual rating, there’s also a special “Thrill-O-Meter” which rewards films which have been viscerally powerful, unsettling, and frightening during the actual viewing experience (which isn’t easy to achieve for me, so “1 scream” already denotes the film is a success as a horror film, while “10 screams” would mean I probably wouldn’t be around to tell you about it). Anyway, here are my first few viewings:

 

Mandy (2018, Panos Cosmatos) 9/10

“Basically the perfect movie.” – Nyx

Hell’s heart fires black arrows, incising into the flesh, exquisitely deeper and deeper. Each shot is aesthetically superlative, carrying enrapturing-hallucinant whirls of textures, details, and colours, shooting up occulted magic into ones flowing bloodstream, which eventually gushes out through the burning orifices, meshing in unholy communion with the strange mountains, chthonic intensities, and dark sonorities of infernal ecstasy. Eyes blaze.

Thrill-O-Meter: 2 out of 10 screams for exuding cosmic darkness & horror synth-metal.

(I’ll definitely be rewatching this later this month.)

 

The Entity (1981, Sidney J. Furie) 6+/10

The source material of Peter Tscherkassky’s amazing experimental shorts “Outer Space” and “Dream Work” deals with poltergeist rape assaults on a lone overworked mother (based on a woman’s real life accounts), shot with many fine oblique angles (they’re really good), in combination with an abundance of mirrors and distinct small household items, juddering or getting smashed as the film goes on. The medical team within the film is quick to provide trauma as an explanation of the delusions or unconscious rape fantasies, but as with ‘The Exorcist’, the sheer power of the encroaching supernatural makes the psychic projection contention appear insufficient, such that parapsychologists become involved, new planes of existences are enumerated, and so forth.

I’d certainly rank ‘The Entity’ among the better poltergeist movies I’ve seen, but the genre as a whole just doesn’t do much for me currently: scenes of terror are too loud and repetitive, the familiar themes are carried formulaically, etc. But definitely very competent.

Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams, but I was startled when the camera lens itself seemed like it was once used as a surface sustaining impact.

 

Hidden (2015, The Duffer Brothers) 6/10

A satisfactory post-apocalyptic / shelter survival movie, with a few decent twists. Interesting for me to see traces of some themes and techniques engaged with here which would come up in their later ‘Stranger Things’; for example the presence of a naturally intelligent curious child, flashbacks by visual association, difference, infective transmission, conspiracy, a specific number of set house “rules”, etc. A quote: “Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there. Sometimes the truth’s hidden from us.”

Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 squeaks for Zozo’s doll.

 

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1983, John Landis) (music video) (rewatch) 6
Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 banging tunes.

 

9cX8JOh.pngCLIMAX (2018, Gaspar Noé) (theatrically) 8/10
Thrill-O-Meter: Hasn’t reached the the visceral-cerebral depths of IЯЯƎVƎЯSIBLƎ or ENTER THE VOID, but at least 2 out of 10 screams for the sheer awesomeness of ИOE cinema. “Expérience extraordinaire.”

‘we were being changed, and made part of their world’

For a delightfully psychedelic & insectlicious sci-fi masterpiece, see Saul Bass’ Phase IV, where an adaptive intelligent ant hive mind communicates with and fights a couple sufficiently brave and unhinged human scientists, on unrelenting game theoretic grounds, within a desolate sun-scorched desert ocean, with subterranean complex tracts, the first (ever!) crop circles, and alien monoliths. This is the film to behold for extended wordless sequences of insect savagery in stunning magnifications, as well as (communicable) information distilled to pure hive mind dynamics, abstractly charted. Lovecraft’s “things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl” seems very apt.

“Now I know how a rat feels in a maze. Rats in a maze. It’s almost like a controlled experiment in which we are the subjects. Find out which rat is the smartest. The strongest. An intelligence test.”

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∞ appreciation

I’d surely rank the lemniscate (from Latin, “decorated with ribbons”) among the most superb symbols, carrying such a wide breath of powerful associations and meanings. There’s infinity, eternal return, the Möbius strip, a strange loop, Ouroboros, and I’ll add one of my own: two sets/worlds with a point intersection (a threshold, a tunnel within the membranes through which strange things from the other side may infiltrate).

All these obviously interplay with each other. Think of Prof. Templeton’s episode, when he saw

strange-loop coilings of Ouroboros, the cosmic snake, who traces a figure of eight – and of moebian eternity – by endlessly swallowing itself

Continue reading “∞ appreciation”