Monthly Archives: October 2020

The Conjuring (2013)

At almost two hours this supernatural horror film by James Wan can’t quite maintain the fearful tension of its opening acts but there’s plenty here to make you turn on the hall lights on the way to the bathroom. Many familiar gothic tropes are present: an uncanny doll, a terrifying crime in the past, a dilapidated country house, unaccountable noises, and strange visions. Plenty to think about too: the supernatural entity requires an object to manifest its power in the material world. In this instance not only a doll but a music box and a locket. It’s as if these items function as conduits. There’s also the question of Catholicism, which is probably indispensable for any story of demonic possession and exorcism. You can go all the way back to Matthew Lewis’s notorious novel The Monk to see just how crucial the mise-en-scene of the church and its rituals are to the creation of a properly spooky atmosphere. In any case, The Conjuring was scary enough to start a franchise!

Black Christmas (1974)

This is a surprisingly scary film with Olivia Hussey as a level-headed college student who begins receiving deranged and obscene phone calls. Shortly afterwards, one of her sorority sisters disappears. It soon becomes apparent to the audience that a crazed killer is on the loose. Who could it be? The “high strung” (asshole) artist boyfriend played by Keir Dullea? The drunken bad girl of the house (Margot Kidder)? Or perhaps the impeccably combed-over cop (John Saxon)? You’ll never guess!

Fright Night

Fun to watch this again. Chris Sarandon plays a slinky vampire named Jerry. Roddy McDowell is the neurotic Van Helsing figure. And the inimitable Stephen Geoffreys steals the show as Evil Ed.


Season of the Witch aka Hungry Wives is a film by George Romero about an ennui-struck woman edging into middle age who becomes a witch.

It’s immediately apparent that Anna Biller repurposed some energy from Romero’s film for the vivid, stylish The Love Witch:

Connecting Dots (303/415)

“The rich are only defeated when running for their lives.”

Can anyone really imagine any American politician saying this out loud? Even as a metaphor– one of the ways James intended this statement– it’s impossible to envision the most “radical” political figures in national politics– an Ilhan Omar or a Rashida Tlaib– using such language. 

One of the secrets of American politics is that both Democrats and Republicans share a common philosophy: they are Liberal in the broadest sense of that term, which is to say they are devoted to the notion of a Free Market as the foundation of political rights, the social order, and economic prosperity. Unified by this commitment, in the absence of any substantial disagreement on the basic principle, Dems and Reps have had to find other ways to distinguish themselves from one another. The easiest, most inflammatory and engaging means of doing so is to fight Culture Wars that focus on issues of identity and morality rather than on the structural violence of the inequality that is an unavoidable outcome of the capitalist system. Though they may quibble about specific policies, on the issue of political economy, as Barack Obama affirms, the two parties are fundamentally in agreement.

Continue reading

Materialist Conception of History (303/415)

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

Continue reading

Decline and Fall

Biden: “He thinks wind causes cancer. Windmills. It’s the fastest growing jobs…”

Trump: “I know more about wind than you do. It’s extremely expensive. Kills all the birds.”