Saturday, December 19, 2015

Day of the Brain Dead

LEVEL ABOVE HUMAN (2015)

North Devon filmmaker Alex Poray's animation explores government manipulation. Panic and fear have always been created by "hierarchies" and media to control consumerism and attention; never has this been more prevalent that the modern rise of ISIS. 

THE director of The Disclosure Project - Steven M. Greer - wrote of the faked alien invasion scenario as government mechanism, justifying trillions of dollars being pumped into a space programme, and unifying the globe in jingoistic military might. In a paper written in June 2002, Greer feared that the net was closing in, stating that "maniacal covert programs plan to hijack Disclosure, spin it into the fire of fear, and roll out events that will eventually present ETs as a new enemy. Do not be deceived." Similarly in 1994 Canadian poet and conspiracy theorist Serge Monast published Project Blue Beam, which claimed that NASA and the United Nations were attempting to implement a New Age religion with the Antichrist at its head, via a "technologically simulated" Second Coming. Many observers have noted the similarities of this colourful notion with Gene Roddenberry's unfilmed STAR TREK - THE GOD THING treatment from 1975.

Hoax aliens have also played out in popular culture. The most famous example is Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre radio broadcast of 1938; this adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds allegedly caused mass panic, but the true extent has been brought into question over the years due to its relatively few listeners. Over this side of the pond, there is the twee story of a six-minute Southern Television interruption from November 1977. Accessed through the Hannington, Hampshire transmitter, the broadcast of an early-evening news programme was distorted by audio of a deep-voiced representative from an "Intergalactic Association." Vrillon warned us that all our "weapons of evil" must be destroyed and we have only a short time to learn to live in peace. And in comics, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's Watchmen has Adrian Veidt - the "smartest man in the world" - genetically engineering a squid monster which consequently sets in motion a shockwave that kills half the population of New York City; with governments believing the creature to be from another world, they decide to work together against this new menace, rather than continue with the Cold War.

Originally a comic book from 2004, Level Above Human was extremely popular when it was uploaded to a short-lived e-book site in 2009.

The title of this twenty-two minute animation by SLAYERS: PORTRAIT OF A DISMEMBERED FAMILY kingpin Alex Poray was inspired by the Heaven's Gate flying saucer cult, where members were "children of the Next Level," which paradoxically reduced them to automatons with no individuality, outside contact and any notion of sexuality (Alex also considered THE SPACE SHOW as a banner, a reference to Greer). LEVEL ABOVE HUMAN tells of President Laine ("the worst president in history"), his attempt to rise political standing, and gain support for a space weapons programme. Laine unleashes hallucinogen Vision X on Snake City, an area which has descended into anarchy and acted as a springboard for widespread unrest. Vision X changes perception so people view military as aliens and helicopters UFOs, against a backdrop of projections and staged events. Snake City slacker Googie McKagan (voiced by Alex) hooks up with Snowflake (voiced by Donna Beeching) at The Parasite Club, but their escape is thwarted and the duo implanted with memories of alien abduction. But that is what they are lead to believe...

Every sequence of LEVEL ABOVE HUMAN illustrates Poray's life-long love of Ufology and punk rock, coming across as Charles Burns meets Hunter S. Thompson with THEY LIVE at the foundation. With its mixture of mean streets, widespread chaos and underlining sleaze, the piece is a brisk jaunt through ever-relevant issues of mind control and the true stature of people who act as law-makers and breakers (even Laine's Attorney General is found guilty of torturing and eating young women). In reality, the association between governments and conspiracy theorists is a constant tug-of-war; as Alex states, "just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you!"

Thanks to Alex for his feedback via Facebook.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ghost Stories Not for Christmas

A GHOST STORY FOR CHRISTMAS - STIGMA (1977)
A GHOST STORY FOR CHRISTMAS - THE ICE HOUSE (1978)

The woman who bled to death: STIGMA moves the BBC Ghost Story strand uncomfortably into the modern era.

FOR the 1977 BBC GHOST STORY FOR CHRISTMAS, director Lawrence Gordon Clark wanted to adapt M.R. James' Count Magnus, but instead made STIGMA on a freelance basis. Scripted by Clive Exton, it concerns a family who remove an ancient standing stone from their back garden. As the menhir is lifted a curse is unleashed, causing mother Katherine (Kate Binchy) to bleed uncontrollably. This body horror trapping made STIGMA a controversial departure, with its shift to a modern setting and loss of period detail lacking the resonance previously created by the series; it also results in a more mechanical tale, away from the myth and tension created by, say, time shifts between researchers and protagonists in more polished entries such as THE STALLS OF BARCHESTER and THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS.

STIGMA can too easily be labelled as a meditation on the male fear of menstruation, but nothing can disguise the fact that it is pretty nasty story; the first image the viewer sees is an out-of-focus red dot which morphs into the family's red Citroen 2CV, predicting the blood to come. Katherine's nude scene is unsettling rather than salacious, as she frantically tries to stop the endless flow, but there is a more unnerving sequence when husband Peter (Peter Bowles) is awakened to find a strange communion between an onion and a knife, hinting at the vegetable's role in pagan folklore as a symbol of protection and purification. The tale ends openly, as Katherine dies on route to hospital, and it is hinted that daughter Verity (Maxine Gordon) may be converting to the black arts.

Geoffrey Burridge comforts John Stride in THE ICE HOUSE.

If STIGMA is a straightforward horror story, it is difficult to describe THE ICE HOUSE other than a hazy, pretentious muddle. Directed by Derek Lister and written by John Bowen, it brought the original GHOST STORY strand to an oblique close before its short-lived revival in 2005, 2006 and 2013. The most experimental yet maligned of all the episodes, Paul (John Stride) has recently parted from his wife and moved to a residential health spa located in a country house. The disappearance of a masseur and the behaviour of the brother and sister who run operations (Clovis and Jessica, played by Geoffrey Burridge and Elizabeth Romilly) seem to be governed by a strange vine growing in an ice house. While the older residents go about their stately business, Paul is the centre of attention for the siblings; why is never made clear, perhaps he is just the latest in a line of guests for which they draw vitality (Jessica enjoys "having people"). Clovis and Jessica's connection to the overpowering scent of the vine is also open to interpretation; in fact the duo remind of pod-people with their otherworldy directness.