I tend to experience pretty passively any sort of media that requires a television screen. I have the TV on in the background as I go about my day, generally as a form of white noise. It’s not too often that I pay close attention to movies or television shows, but recently I watched two movies that were so awful, so absorbing and deeply terrible, that I could not look away even as I felt like these movies were proof that God is dead and that He probably never loved us much anyway.
The first film was The Snowtown Murders, a depiction of a serial murder case in Australia. I warn you now that if you are not familiar with the case, this film may seem like a mess because many characters come and go without a lot of explanation. This film also has one of the most egregious examples of animal abuse this side of Cannibal Holocaust. Please bear these things in mind if what I write here makes you want to see this film. John Bunting, a charismatic psychopath with a fixation on largely imaginary cases of pedophilia, influenced a merry band of marginally intelligent and largely hopeless losers into killing those Bunting felt needed to die. I say his obsession with pedophiles verged into imaginary crimes because Bunting, like most homophobes, also felt that homosexuals were sexual predators. With his rag-tag group of socially marginalized losers, he killed 11 people in about seven years time.
The film depiction of the Snowtown murders (so-called because that was the town where the bodies were found – the murders occurred elsewhere) is a bleak look at a particular section of society in Australia. Small, dingy homes, cluttered with useless crap, not enough space, people sleeping on couches because there are not enough bedrooms. Even the best impulses of parents in such a world end up coming out strange and cramped, and as they try to protect their children from the monsters outside, they fail to protect them from the monsters within.
Even though it drained me of all emotional vitality, this is a film worth watching. It’s raw and unflinching, showing the worst things that can happen in such a matter-of-fact manner that it’s sole purpose has to be to cause the viewer to go numb. The actor who plays James spends the film so completely stunned by the repeated blows that life gives him that very little registers. One of the first interactions he has with John Bunting occurs when Bunting is decapitating and skinning several kangaroos in a front yard. They were real kangaroos and that scene was just foul and upsetting. The actor who played James looked like a shark-eyed Heath Ledger, absorbing an unexpected scene of carnage with a flat yet strangely frightened demeanor.
That sets the viewer up for the scene that could, more or less be one of the worst scenes ever in a film. The rape scene from Irreversible was affecting because it was so long and so deeply horrible. Violent. A total violation. The rape scene in The Snowtown Murders was the complete opposite in its execution and as a result was infinitely worse in the toll it took on my psyche. James had evidently been sexually abused by his older half-brother, Troy, throughout their childhood together. The scene we are given in The Snowtown Murders is maybe a tenth as long as the scene in Irreversible, but it felt longer to me, as the older brother asserted his toxic will against his younger brother, who lay there on the floor, motionless and quiet, waiting for it to end. It was just a part of the landscape of his life. He just had to submit and then he could begin his day in his bleak, cluttered, hopeless life.
John Bunting, learning of this assault, captures Troy, locks him a bathroom and begins a long, horrible assault against him. As much as Troy needs punishment for what he has done, no one deserves what happens to him. Utterly in thrall to John, James is unable to make things stop until he finally ends his brother’s torment himself. It is the first time he really shows any emotion and it’s clear to the viewer that James’ life is probably far better when he is numb because any awakening of feeling is going to involve violence, cruelty and ill-use. This was a powerful movie and I don’t ever want to see it again, but think others may find it just as appalling and upsetting and transfixing as I did. Sometimes the terrible shows us something, lets us into lives foreign to ours and forces us to understand how it is a person can transform from a small, helpless child into a flat, vicious killer.
The other film I watched was just horrible. No real reason to watch it other than to rubberneck at the sorry lives of others. No revelation. No understanding. All you get is a voyeuristic thrill that comes from watching other people self-destruct but it still may not be enough to get you through Black Metal Veins.
Jesus Allah Fuck, this movie made me want to put the people in this “documentary” out of their misery. Mr. Oddbooks found this film for me because, like many others who have watched the film and then felt the dawning realization that you can’t judge a film by its title, he thought it had something to do with the music genre. It does only in so much as Brad Allen, the male “lead” in this “documentary” is a black metal fan. He’s also a Satanist and gives speeches that can only be described as racist Social Darwinism, which shows a shocking lack of self-awareness on his part.
This film follows several heroin addicts as they live their sorry lives as filmed by director Lucifer Valentine. One guy, Chris, who delights in sharing his ex-girlfriend’s desire to have rough anal sex when on drugs, gets shot to death in a drug deal gone wrong within roughly the first 20 minutes or so of the film so I have little to say about him other than to be sad that his children will face life without knowing their father.
The rest of the cast:
–Raven lives with her boyfriend, Mark Dykman, who is in the Navy. She spends his money on voluminous amounts of drugs while he is away. Her apartment is the hub of lots of drug use, as the other cast members hang out there all day and use. She begins the film looking reasonably healthy and slowly descends into a life that can only be described as corpse-like. She’s had two children and her mother has custody of them both, a fact that makes Raven bitter. She genuinely thinks her mother tricked her and stole her kids. She seems to have a good heart and likes to rescue animals but it’s hard to see how she could possibly have raised kids with an apartment full of addicts. All the people who land on this site via searches on “necrophilia” will want to watch this film because during a scene of consensual sex with Mark, it looks like she is a foul-mouthed, animated corpse. Pregnancy’s impact on the human body varies but it appears to have sapped Raven, and the drug abuse cannot have helped. She looks like a zombie, covered in sores, her skin baggy, her eyes dead. One wonders how Mark Dykman found any of this attractive, but, to use a very un-PC term, he appears to be a Captain-Save-A-Ho type. He does no drugs but was so enmeshed with Raven that he permitted her to bleed him dry financially and to drag her repellent friends into his apartment. Also of interest to necrophiles is the “rape” scene, wherein cast members have sex with an unconscious Raven. I have rape in quotes because several searches online make it clear this scene was staged. She is naked on camera several times and her entire body is a testament to the toll bad life choices take.
–“Doom” is a cypher to me. He had the smallest role in this film and is just a black metal waste case.
–“Autumn Misery” is a lunatic prostitute with a severe case of logorrhea combined with talking-shit-itis. She uses anything she can get her hands on – during the film one very much got the impression she would have smoked a turd had someone told her it would get her high. She claimed to be an advisor to an older, well-placed man who, if he was once a big deal, seems to have slid down the social ladder and is being hounded by dozens of drug-addled prostitutes. Autumn claims she gives him advice on how to deal with the girls whose time he pays for. She also claims to be pregnant and later Brad Allen injects something directly into her stomach in what seems like a dog-patch abortion. She engages in a sex “scene” with Brad Allen that is one of the least erotic things imaginable, and spends a significant time in the film being fingered. She is a hot mess and I wanted to feel sympathy for her but it was hard.
(It was during one of Autumn’s scenes when it dawned on me where I had heard the name Lucifer Valentine before. As Autumn sits by the toilet and tells her strange stories of being a sort of house madam for an older man, she is filmed vomiting. It was the vomit that clued me in. Lucifer Valentine was the director of the Vomit Gore Trilogy. I watched the first film, Slaughtered Vomit Dolls and it pretty much did what it said on the label. I shudder to think what awaits those brave enough to watch Slow Torture Puke Chamber. Lucifer Valentine is a ridiculous human being who claims he had a sexual relationship with his autistic, blind sister and that she killed herself when he started a relationship with another girl. If this is true, he is grotesque, and if this is untrue, he is grotesque, because only a very strange man would lie about engaging in an exploitative sexual relationship with a blind, mentally-disabled sibling. This sentiment of “even if this is a lie it’s still horrible” will come up again.)
–Chris was the kid who got shot to death. He was a mess. A complete fucking mess. It occurs to me that people on drugs are the most boring, sad people on earth. Every scene with him was cringe-worthy and he died early in the filming.
–And now for the “star:” Brad Allen. He’s got a mouth of rotting teeth. He’s got toenails that will make the average person want to vomit (it speaks to the level of his hygiene that the scene wherein he shows his disgusting feet may be the nastiest part of this movie wherein there is blood puke, open fingering, a scabrous naked chick, a possible drug abortion and a feigned rape). He’s a fan of black metal and is a racist. He hilariously accuses the “n*****s upstairs” of stealing all of the money he was paid to do this film, preventing him from getting his teeth fixed because that just seems so much more likely than that he lost it or spent it in a drug haze. Like so many racists, he is the worst example of any sort of virtue of having pale skin. He talks about how the woman he loved committed suicide while pregnant with his child and right about the time you feel some real sympathy for him, he finger-bangs Autumn Misery in the middle of the room and injects her pregnant stomach with what I think was heroin. He lets Raven inject his neck with what I think was whiskey. Who knows what it really was. I tend to think most of this movie was feigned. Or maybe I just really hope it was.
Brad is a complete waste of a human being and seems almost beneath contempt. He seems like he was probably a useless sack of crap before he ever tried a single drug, and it’s made all the sadder because in the only part of this film that works, Valentine talks to his mother, Paula Allen. She died before the film was released. She had Legionnaire’s Disease and talked openly about her own addictions to pain medications and how she felt responsible for the state Brad was in. It was during this scene wherein it is brought home that this strange, gross, racist addict is someone’s beloved son, a child in whom parents had invested time, love and care and who had dreams for him in life. Paula Allen gave this film some humanity but not even she could redeem it.
I should have left it at that, but I didn’t because at one point in the film, “Doom” insists Raven died and I wondered if that was true. So a Google landed me on her MySpace and within minutes I had the Facebook accounts for most of the people involved in the film. Raven’s account is locked down but she clearly did not die. “Doom” was either mistaken or was told to say that for shock value. I felt a bit strange looking up the lives of these kids, but given that this entire film was a voyeuristic jack-off at their expense, me finding their Facebook accounts is the least of their problems.
“Autumn Misery” is really a girl named Leslie. She is evidently off drugs and seems to have had a baby, a fat, healthy little girl. She posts a lot of selfies, many of which involve bright and intricate make-up jobs. Without the drugs, her face looks wholly different and far prettier. She has an intelligence behind her eyes. Her Facebook makes you really hope she has turned things around.
Mark Dykman, Raven’s sober boyfriend, is no longer with Raven. He appears completely disconnected now with everyone from the documentary. He’s dating a woman who is in the military. Pictures of him with her family and with his own make it very hard to understand how it was he spent so much time with Raven and her friends. A deep savior complex, I expect. Plus Raven had a sweet helplessness about her. There seemed very little that was cruel or unkind in her so I think understand why someone would want to save her. But he seems to be living a completely different life. I still cannot understand why he participated in the staged rape upon his girlfriend. Yeah, it was faked, but like I mentioned in regards to Lucifer Valentine’s incestuous relationship with his disabled sister, even if it was fake, it speaks to something very grotesque that he was willing to participate in a staged rape. People who don’t search for information after the film will now think that Mark Dykman, the only clean and sober person in this shitfest, is the sort of dude who would rape his girlfriend when she is impaired and permit her friends to rape her, too. Baffling, utterly baffling. But he’s moved on and is living a better life. Good for him.
Then I found Brad Allen’s Facebook. He appears to be sober, and it appears that some of his racism is of the “casual” hipster sort, as he had a humorous exchange with a pretty, young mixed race girl who was clearly in on the joke. But his life still seems like a complete waste. It doesn’t look like his mouth of rotten teeth has been fixed yet. He evidently impregnated a young girl called [“redacted”] and then buggered off, leaving her to raise the little girl on her own. [redacted] posts gifs about how real men support their children and the few times she asks for help, like needing a ride to work when her car breaks down, Brad fails her and her family is completely unsurprised when this happens. One wonders what [redacted], an attractive, young, and evidently unaddicted blonde, saw in Brad. In one of his last updates in January, Brad was selling off expensive records and black metal accoutrement in order to finance a trip to Australia. He evidently has/had a flirtation with a girl who lives there but lacks a job so he can save money for the trip. He posted a tribute to Jon Nödtveidt, the Satanist lead singer of Dissection who shot himself to death in a pentagram. So, really, all that’s different for him now is that he doesn’t inject things into his veins anymore, though it’s hard to know if that is really the case. (The mother of Brad’s child left a comment below – it clears up a lot about her current parenting relationship with Brad and the picture is not as bleak as I imagined from Facebook entries.)
I wonder if being in this film has hobbled these kids in some manner. Brad Allen and Mark Dykman are the only two who used their real names but it takes seconds to find the real names of the others involved and they mention their involvement in the film under their real names. Is there a way someone can rise above this sort of portrayal? I suspect it would take a pretty sustained success arc for people to trust any of them aside from Mark Dykman. Even though key elements of the film were staged, it is undeniable that the cast were severely addicted to drugs and engaging in all sorts of questionable behaviors. Did they have any sense of the implications of what they had signed on for?
But at the end of it, I was saddened by the sheer waste of it all. This film made me curious about the cast, but at the same time, it filled me with an almost aggressive ennui.
I wonder what the purpose of this film was. Because it’s not like this film really showed us anything we didn’t already know – drug addicts do gross things and live pitiful lives. And the most salacious elements of this film were staged, like the rape and probably the attempt at a chemical abortion. The sad reality of being a drug addict was not enough – Valentine had to add cinematic lies to give the film any legs because the sad, sick, relentless but boring life of the addict doesn’t make a good film. It’s difficult not to watch this film and feel like perhaps these addicts were exploited above and beyond just the damage it would do to them showing their addictions on film. It’s difficult not to want to punch Lucifer Valentine in the face after watching this film. I bet people feel that way a lot, which may be why he refuses to allow people to take photographs of him.
If you watch this film, you will feel grubby, you will feel sad and you will feel a lot of disgust. And if you, like me, look into the cast online, what you find will not be good enough to wipe away the sort of soul depression such a film inspires. The world sucks and people get sucked in, but having those truths explained, truths just about anyone already knows, is not worth this wallow. This isn’t Requiem for a Dream with a black metal hook. It’s a weird man exploiting addled people whose lives didn’t need this level of exposure. I can’t tell you not to watch it because it’s such an amazing trainwreck, but be prepared for a sort of spiritual nausea if you decide to give it a look.
12 thoughts on “This Is Not an Odd Books Discussion: Movies and metaphysical despair”
I watched ‘The Snowtown Murders’ and it was something that stayed with me for a long time, just because of the weight of misery that it showed. I’m glad I didn’t see the other one. I don’t think I’d have made it through.
“Weight of the misery…” is such a perfect way of putting it.
Watching “Martyrs” finally broke me of the desire to see
disturbing films about extreme horribleness. So I shall not watch these films, nor do I recommend that any human watch “Martyrs,” but you have my sympathies for having been exposed to these thoroughly awful-sounding films.
(IN THIS COMMENT IS A VAGUE SPOILER, BEWARE!)
Oh man, I watched Martyrs and the last 30 minutes are among some of the most violent, upsetting, grotesque things I have ever witnessed, especially when it was clear, at times, that the jailers and tormenters, deep in their hearts, felt pity for the girl. Her last feedings, her last beatings – the people doing it were beginning to crack. And at the end none of it even mattered. I think that is what made me hate the film, the knowledge that all of it led to nothing at all. I felt cheated and manipulated. Give me a cheesy Eli Roth bit of nastiness over this sort of artistic, deep look at the worst of humanity that, at the end, will not even give the exhausted viewer a sense of closure. Bleah.
I had the same visceral response to the end of Martyrs, but I felt differently about the film’s lack of closure. I guess I was too busy speculating about what the ending meant to realize that I actually had been cheated! But I saw this film…I think around 2009 or 2010, and years later I cannot get it out of my head. I do not ever want to see it again.
I have to agree that the director cops out, ultimately. I read an interview with him where he gave the standard “the audience must decide for themselves” statement. Which I guess is valid…I mean, it’s an unanswerable question so any answer is as good as another. But it means the film ultimately doesn’t present a complete point of view. It works as a philosophical/dramatic discussion prompt but is unsatisfying as a cinematic experience.
That sort of an ending reeks of a sort of nihilism that I find exhausting. I guess it’s gutsy to ask the audience to sit through so much horror, horror endured in order to achieve a specific end, and when that end is reached refuse to show it. I found it either nihilistic, and if that is the case, all the depth of meaning and experience and revenge and blood and quest was meaningless and why show it. And if it’s gutsy, it failed because it seemed far more of a cop out than a legitimate attempt at interesting movie making.
It speaks to my lack of tolerance for this sort of thing but I’d rather have Eli Roth’s torture porn wherein there is at least a cartoonish morality in some regard than to have this sort of quasi-artistic moralism that craps out at the end. If you are going to punish your audience, you gotta give them some sort of reward for sitting through the horror.
I just saw a film called “Lovely Molly” and I’m having the same dilemma, in a way. The ending was sort of open, but at least it cleared up one of the questions in the film – was Molly possessed or insane. So I think ultimately I don’t ask for much. Just don’t punch me in the face and tell me there will be enlightenment at the end and then pull a bait and switch.
There’s no doubt that the ending is a cop out in terms of closure, but upon reflection, I think the film is still effective for me because it ultimately sort of casts aside what we assume is the central question of the film, and instead invites us into more interesting puzzles having to do with human nature, societal institutions, and the act of watching film itself.
Why does Mademoiselle kill herself? When I explore that question, I realize that the whole “is there an afterlife and if so what is it like” mystery is actually beside the point. It’s really just a MacGuffin, because not only is the question literally unanswerable in any truthful way by mortal humans, but also, like the contents of Marcellus Wallace’s suitcase in Pulp Fiction, knowing what it is would satisfy our curiosity but wouldn’t add anything meaningful to the story.
I believe the afterlife answer is not relevant to the story because, given that Mademoiselle tells her fellow cultists that Anna did provide an unambiguous, definitive answer, I think the reason Mademoiselle kills herself at the end is not because of what Anna told her, but rather the mere fact that Anna gave her a definitive answer.
This is a group that has spent decades, untold amounts of money, and countless human lives in pursuit of an answer to the question of whether there’s an afterlife. These aren’t people who are idly curious, but people so obsessed with their pursuit that they are willing to commit unspeakable atrocities upon their innocent victims. In this sense they are similar to many other groups throughout history: when your life is built around a single purpose, having that purpose fulfilled represents a kind of annihilation. I believe there are Christians who would actually be disappointed if Christ returned, because it would represent the end of the institution into which they’ve invested their entire lives. (Also, I’m pretty sure your more right-wing Prosperity Gospel type Christians would be surprised and disappointed by what the returned Christ would have to say to them.)
That’s why I think Mademoiselle tells her assistant to “keep doubting.” If the afterlife question is answered, what then? Whether or not there is an afterlife, and whatever its nature is if it exists, you’re left facing the rest of your life with the awareness that you have been a participant and supporter of unspeakable evil, on top of which a huge void has now opened up in the center of your now-purposeless existence. For her part, Mademoiselle cannot just ignore what she’s learned, and she cannot face a life without purpose, so she kills herself.
So, I guess I don’t feel the ending is nihilistic. I think it’s an allegorical critique of religions and other groups that do horrible things for idealistic reasons, and over time become more devoted to perpetuating themselves than to whatever purpose initially drew them together.
And as I write this, it also occurs to me that there is actually a rather clever moral dimension to the ending. The torture cult in this film is dedicated to finding out whether or not there’s an afterlife. Do they deserve to get what they want? A moral person would say no. But then, do we deserve that answer, either?
Watching this film, whether we want to or not we become passive accomplices to the atrocities, because we, like the cult, want to find out what happens when this girl is tortured beyond the limits of comprehension. We hate what’s being done to her, but we also want to know what the torture produces. Interestingly, the film doesn’t portray the cult as sadists — they may well be as disgusted by what they’re doing as we are, but they tolerate it because they want to know.
In the same way, those of us who don’t turn the movie off, who stay through the end, also want to know. So we are morally complicit in what happens to Anna in that, by seeking to satisfy our curiosity, we are interested in benefiting from Anna’s torture, just as the cultists are. (Much like how it is considered by most to be unethical to use the results of Nazi experimentation, even though we had nothing to do with it, because it is immoral to benefit from evil actions.) By denying us the same answer the evil cultists are seeking, the filmmaker is making a moral statement.
And as I write this, it also occurs to me that there is actually a rather clever moral dimension to the ending. The torture cult in this film is dedicated to finding out whether or not there’s an afterlife. Do they deserve to get what they want?
HA! This is a very interesting point to consider.
I’ve seen praise for The Snowtown Murders in a couple different places. Went ahead and put it on the wishlist.
Lucifer Valentine. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. You know, his movies don’t seem all that interesting on their own to me. But if I had an industrial or metal band, he’d probably be the guy I’d hire to do the music videos.
Tell me what you think when you watch it.
Lucifer Valentine… You know, you really gotta be into the kink to be able to tolerate his “fictional” films. I don’t fear puke but after a while the schtick gets old. He’s quite the showman, though.
Hey, I found the address for that ‘zine. Once I get my office cleared out and I can sit down up there, I will send it to you. If you do find the author, be sure to let him or her know about the P-ville reaction. And that everyone who saw it who wasn’t a maternal small town postal clerk found it awesome!
I would like to clear up a few things concerning your where are they now section about brad allen.. I am the so called “teenage” mother of his daughter. First of all I am not a teenager, I am 26. I do admit that brad has had many issues in his recovery from his former addictions but the things you have said about the relationship with me and his daughter are just not true. I personally don’t care if he helps financially as long as he keeps up with continuing his sober life. I have a very caring family who helps if needed but I take care of our daughter by myself. He does have a very loving relationship with his daughter. He may not see her as often as one would like but he does love her very much. As to how out relationship started, I have had issues with depression over losing my first daughter in 2008 when I was 6 months pregnant. This depression led me to drink heavily as well as horribly bad use of smoking weed. Brad had just returned back to the states from Mexico when we met in 2010. He was no longer using herion or any hard drugs at the time. I have never witnessed any of the hard drug use that was shown in the film. We had a very strong connection despite being total opposites. As he said I was the light lighting up his dark world. I do admit to a lot of drinking very early on in our short relationship but there was nothing else. Having a baby had always been on my mind since losing my daughter on 2008 and combined with the depression I was going through I was careless with protection a and wound up pregnant after only 2 months. I immedialty quit everything. We tried for 4 months after that to make things work but I knew that we didn’t have a healthy relationship and did not want to bring our child into that. We did have a messy breakup that I believe pushed brad back into addiction. From my knowlegde it was just with drinking and pills. We did not speak until about a month before I delivered. Brad and his parents were there for her birth but sadly his mother died about a month afterwards. For the first year of our daughters life I was there for brad to help comfort him and tried to keep him from further abuse but the loss was too hard for him. I kept my distance for quite awhile only checking in to make sure he was okay.. In the past year he has made big changes and has been clean for quite some time. I always wanted to make sure my daughter knew her father but kept her away only when I felt he wasn’t sober. I care more about him getting sober and getting his life back so that he can fully be the loving father I know he is. I have never seen the movie and never will. Brad does not want me or his daughter to know that or see that part of his life. I would appreciate if you would remove my name from your blog, as he has gotten many threats and we both would like to protect myself and her from being on the reciveing line of those threats. Finally I would just like to say that despite the issues we have had that he is a very loving father and we have remained friends.
No problem, I redacted your name from the entry. I also apologize about getting your age wrong – I had taken notes from your Facebook and must have written things down wrong because I wrote down you had graduated from high school in 2009. I apologize for this mistake and removed the “teen” part from the entry.
I’m leaving the rest as it is because the content I saw showed you were pretty cheesed at Brad at the time but I think your comment clears up the rest. Bad break-ups happen and I can see how things could have been tense but have since cleared up. I hope you and your daughter are doing well and that Brad continues to be a good father. And yeah, I wouldn’t ever watch Black Metal Veins. As an outsider it was very upsetting – for a person who cares about Brad, I bet it would be intolerable to watch. Brad clearly has more to him than I could see at first glance and it’s nice to read that he is doing better in life than his Facebook led me to believe.
I am so sorry that you lost a child and that you have suffered, especially from addiction. I’ve been down that road and know how hard it can be to fight back. Please take care of yourself and thanks for leaving this comment.