PURE TERROR MONTH: Blood Sabbath (1972)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

Blood Sabbath’s Internet Movie Database list of Plot Keywords includes: acoustic guitar, public nudity, walking naked in the woods, bare breasts, foot chase, selling soul and goat. If these ingredients were put together in the right way, it would make an entertaining film. Blood Sabbath (1972) is not that film. It is ambitious but also boring. 

Every director has to start somewhere. Brianne Murphy’s story is more interesting than the film itself. After moving with her family to America, she studied acting in New York. She joined the circus as a trick horse rider and eventually landed in Hollywood where she married low-budget filmmakers Jerry Warren (The Wild Wild World of Batwoman

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PURE TERROR MONTH: The Devil’s Nightmare (1971)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

Directed by Belgian Jean Brismée, the film was a co-production between companies in Belgium and Italy and fits comfortably into the sub-genre of Euro-horror combining gothic atmosphere, supernatural elements, lots of sex and violence. 

The film opens at the end of WWII during a bombing raid. A Baron’s wife has just given birth and died immediately after. The Baron orders the servants out of the house for safety and murders his newborn daughter in her cradle. The scene – shocking even by today’s standards – uses a real baby in the special effect. A good way to grab the audience’s attention for sure. 

We then flash forward to present-day 1971. A busload…

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The Evolution of Incompetence and How to Deal With It

In the last 35 years humanity has lost a lot of established institutions which were the basis of social and economic stability. The ‘80s ushered in a 40-year cycle of the slow disintegration of and ultimate total renunciation of the Keynesian economic model in favour of unchecked free-market capitalism.

Over the same time, the human population in the west doubled and the advancement of automation has erased many of the jobs of the past. This new model has given rise to the “gig” economy and an ultra-competitive market for full-time jobs with benefits. For many people this new model doesn’t work because they simply can’t compete at this level.

Some become desperate and rather than update their skills, they adapt new tactics that include dishonesty and manipulation. Many job-seekers either overstate their skills and education or blatantly lie. To weed out these people, companies have invented new ways to detect dishonesty and overconfidence in candidates including rigorous tests and hours-long interviews. The irony here is that many of the companies employing these tactics are operating under ambiguous and/or chaotic business models themselves. Job definitions are often vague and many smaller firms are not above lying outright about a position to engage “the right person.”  In other words, both parties are guilty of implementing the “fake it until you make it” scenario.

As free-market capitalism has evolved, so have the coats of bullshit necessary to conceal incompetence as success. American President Donald Trump is a perfect example. He has devoted his entire career to creating the appearance of achievement rather than being successful. On the evolutionary scale, he is the lowest form of grifter. The kind who plays the victim when someone dares call him out on his illegal practises, non-payment of services and quid pro quo dealings.

In this ecosystem, the importance of knowing your value and setting strict boundaries are paramount. As an individual gains experience, they will spot a grifter or a dodgy company from a thousand miles away. Here are a few red flags to look out for:

  • Is the potential employer vague with the definition of their demands?
  • Do they frequently draw the communication back to the topic of money?
  • Do they acknowledge to e-mails asking for concrete information?
  • Do different bodies within the same organisation tell you different things with respect to the same topic? Do they say one thing on Monday and something different on Wednesday?  This one is particularly important as it might reveal a chaotic working atmosphere and/or a communication problem within the organisation.
  • If something makes little sense, then it probably isn’t true.

The crucial fact in these situations is to communicate your desires and attributes clearly. If need be, get out and get out early. Time is money. Do not waste it on someone who will a.) likely not hire you; b.) attempt to get out of paying you for your services; c.) pull a bait and switch regarding your responsibilities once you’ve signed a contract.

For women, it often takes a long time to learn the value of themselves and the lesson that setting professional boundaries are a good thing. There is not greater word in the English language than “no.”

Square Punk

Let’s consider the square not merely as a geometric figure but by its use as a colloquial term meaning “a boring person.” The term originated in 1950s America and has endured.

The term “thinking outside the box” is directly related. Everything inside the box is predictable, everything outside exists as an unknown quantity.

The broader implication of these phrases within the context of the punk movement and its music is that a person whose life and art fit neatly into a box is not a life lived. The art exists in as boring a manner as the very lines who make up the square. Straight. Predictable. Joining at perfect angles. There are benefits to the square. Its boundaries represent safety, security and are easy to navigate. There are no twists or turns requiring actual mental acuity.

Punks regard the box as restrictive. A perimeter around a creative heart yearning to scale the wall to freedom. The community has always prided itself in not being “square” despite evidence to the contrary. The music itself adheres to a strict set of rules, a common time signature and recurring repetitive themes. A response to the borderless overproduced guitar solos that came before it.

Ironically, many of those who believe their punk lifestyles to be “outside the box” are merely confined to a different box. The box of visual cues is simple, well-defined and has rigid perimeters. The attire consists of a standard set of black t-shirts, multi-coloured mohawks, leather jackets and Doc Martens.

It is important to note that perfect squares do not exist in nature. They are a mathematical construct. The fact that humans gravitate towards building their lives within them is perhaps our downfall as a species. It divides us into groups always looking out from our boxes with mistrust or animosity. Maybe it’s a by-product of an education system that focuses on tests rather than on developing critical thinking skills. School does not train us see life’s canvas from above in three dimensions. The biggest box of all.

The best bands reside somewhere in between the area of the box and a borderless infinity. A square askew. A rhombus. A diamond that catches light and reflects it back onto the world brilliantly. These are the artists who experience the greatest successes in life. The ones who exist creatively within a set of clearly defined perimeters. They know how to manipulate the plane to create something new within the old.

These types of people don’t just make the best musicians. They also make the best painters, the best office workers, computer programmers and teachers. After all, you have to establish the rules before you can break them. To understand which ones to break and how to break them in a manner that yields the desired results.

The best results carry mass. Sound that not only carries the gravitational field but creates it in its own right. I’m fine with that formula. The shelf that holds my collection of vinyl is square, anyway.

(Mis)Adventures in Amsterdam 2011

In my last entry, I celebrated my 8-year anniversary of moving the UK from Los Angeles. It wasn’t a direct flight. I had 3 weeks to travel on my own before I could enter the UK on my student visa, so I took the opportunity to visit some people and places before I settled in for a year of academic stress. First, I visited my family in the far reaches of northern New York. Then, I flew to Amsterdam. I had never been there before.

I arrived under a cloud of ennui. I had just separated from a long-term partner under mid-life crisis circumstances and felt adrift at sea. Determined to steer my psychological raft somewhere fun, I put on my Doc Martens and ventured forth. I spent my first day wandering around in museums and art galleries. After grabbing a bite to eat, I explored the night life. I visited a few pubs, tasted a few different beers and spent some time in the coffee shops. Now “relaxed,” I visited the Sex Museum, which was actually a lot more educational than predicted. I particularly enjoyed the South American and Japanese fertility symbol installations. I ventured south until I heard good music coming from an alternative and metal nightclub. I went inside where a DJ spun ‘90s-era grunge. On the restroom door someone had painted the phrase “Up All Night. Got Demons to Fight.” I took comfort in knowing there was least there was one other person in Amsterdam who felt like I did in that moment. After about an hour and a few more drinks, a large group of twenty-somethings invaded the place and lost their collective mind at the first chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It was time to leave. Tired and inebriated, I hailed a cab back to my B and B, a tall, skinny house in a quiet residential neighbourhood next to one of the city’s many canals.

As we drove through the narrow streets, the street lamps left light trails. I looked to the right and noticed a young lady on a bicycle attempting to merge into our lane. Someone needed to give way. Everything slowed down. Even more than they already were. I reached my arm out and pointed but before I could yell “Stop” the car collided with the cyclist’s body. The woman and her bike rolled up the windshield and back down onto the street with a great thud. The driver screeched to a halt. Without pause, I leapt from the vehicle and kneeled down to see if the woman was okay. She was flat on her back wailing. She craned her neck forward. I placed my hand over her chest to keep her still. If she moved, she might injure herself further. She began crying and yelling in Dutch. I looked around for help. “Oh, fuck. I don’t speak Dutch.” A local man knelt down beside me, took the young woman’s hand and began speaking softly to her in their mother tongue. I felt bad I couldn’t help more. She cried harder. I stood up and looked at the bike. The collision had destroyed it.

A crowd was gathering and several people were calling for an ambulance. I turned and saw my cab driver still sitting in the car, his eyes wide with fear. I don’t know how he didn’t see her. Here I was, far from sober and I saw her clearly. Then it occurred to me. He had his phone in his lap when he picked me up. He was most likely texting while driving. He couldn’t have been older than 19. He was short and middle-eastern. This surely wouldn’t end well for him.

The police and ambulance arrived. While the EMTs treated the woman, a 6’4 blonde policeman began interrogating witnesses. Finally, he approached the cab driver. The policeman towered over him. Being from Los Angeles, I fully expected the officer to arrest the driver but to slam him down on the hood of the car and cuff him. Instead, he approached the terrified driver calmly, extended his hand and introduced himself. I was most definitely not in America anymore. The cop questioned the kid, checked his credentials and let him go. Meanwhile, the young woman’s spine was x-rayed with a portable x-ray machine, and she was given ice and bandages for her scratches. No one asked her for insurance details and she never asked for the driver’s information so she could sue him later for her injuries or the cost of a new bicycle. Everyone was civil and apologetic. There was no drama or violence. It was my first lesson in how truly messed up the United States law enforcement, health care and legal systems are. America is a raw Darwinist capitalist system where everyone is out for themselves by necessity.

A second officer approached to get my statement and assured me that the woman would be okay. She was lucky the driver wasn’t going faster. Her bike was not so lucky. The front wheel looked like something in one of the Picasso drawings I had seen earlier that day in the Van Gogh Museum.

I went back to my Bed and Breakfast and fell asleep immediately. When I woke up the next morning, my head was fuzzy. I made myself a cup of tea and sat on the end of the bed. I stared at the pattern of sunlight rippling the reflection of the canal water onto the wooden floor and asked myself “Did that really happen last night?”  If someone had a photo of me in that moment, it would probably look like the female version of Jeff Lebowski. For a single moment I pondered that the event was a bad omen for the year to come. Almost as instantly as the thought formed, I pushed it away, refusing to indulge the monster of doubt that lurks constantly just beyond my consciousness. I gulped my tea, stood up, headed for the shower and grumbled as I shook my head, “Oh. Whatever, man. Today is another day.”

Home is in the heart

Eight years ago this week, I arrived in London with nothing but a laptop, a student visa and one bag of clothing. I’ve been called intrepid, though I’ve never felt that way. It was the second big move in life. The first was from my small hometown in upstate New York to Los Angeles in my early ‘20s to find work in the film and television industries. I did so and stayed for 15 years.

Both times I took my adventurousness for granted and thought everyone would be as excited as I was. The people I knew who had also moved away reacted positively and were an endless source of emotional support during each initial adjustment phase. Others reacted with shock and trepidation. At first, I just didn’t get it. What were they afraid of? Then it occurred to me, they had something growing up I didn’t. Stability. Ironically, it was this lack of stability that turned me into an adaptable person. An important characteristic necessary for any successful re-location endeavor.

Their fear (and what I interpreted at the time as a lack of faith in me to succeed) was born from a lack of experience on their part. The people who were the most concerned were the ones who had only lived in one place their whole lives with only one set of people who were always there to support them no matter what. Growing up, they always knew where they would sleep and that there would be food in their bellies. They always knew what school they’d go to and that they’d see the same friends every day from Kindergarten through high school.

Many things went through my 8-year-old mind as the policeman physically removed me from the only bedroom I’d ever known. Perhaps the most important thing was that the concept of home is a complete fallacy. The place I thought was home – the place I laid my head every night since before recollection – it was never my family’s. It always belonged to someone else. After several moves and school changes, I learned that “home” is mutable. For some, it means Thanksgivings and Christmases and family gatherings. For me, the word means little more than a roof over my head and a place to store my stuff.

The moves to L.A. and London have reinforced this notion. Good and bad things can happen beneath any four walls and roof and in any city or country. We need much less to survive than we think we do. A large house with a ton of unused stuff in the basement or garage does not equal happiness. It’s people who matter. With technology, it’s easy to keep in touch with people. The people who care will return your calls. Those who don’t will fade away. Several have drifted in and out of my trajectory on their own venturesome journeys like waves on a beach. Some have generated tsunamis.

I’ve seen and experienced things I never would have had I stayed in Fulton, New York. In both L.A. and London, I’ve met amazing people and learned invaluable lessons in work and life that have changed me in ways I cannot begin to explain in a short blog post. Some of them have moved away, leaving me feeling a bit sad as my friends once were. They say “home” is where the heart is. I believe home is in the heart. People who move around carry it inside us wherever we go. Each time we move physically, our hearts grow bigger carrying the experiences and people we love within it. Like our own personal excess baggage.

Commuter’s Diversion

Recently, I was sitting on a London bus next to a woman with a cell phone. Not an odd sight. Until she set the phone down on her lap to reveal the contact name “Sugar Butt.” I smiled. I had questions. Rather than make assumptions, I jumped straight into the virtual rabbit hole, and googled the term. The tunnel was deep.

Urban Dictionary did not list “Sugar Butt”. Only “Sugarbutt.” It confused me. The name “Sugar” was clearly listed as this person’s first name and “Butt“ as the last.  Although it’s safe to assume that “Sugar” is a nickname, Butt is indeed an odd surname. Was it short for a more common surname such as Butterfield? Was it French? Butt means target in French. Holy shit! Was the woman sitting beside me a highly trained assassin? Was Sugar Butt her latest intended hit? My mind raced. I was no closer to the truth than I had been two stops earlier.

Then, there was the definition. Urban Dictionary listed Sugarbutt as “a nice round, juicy, sweet ass. A behind that everyone wants.” More questions. Was Sugar Butt male or female? What was the nature of Sugar Butt’s relationship to the woman on the bus? It was clearly sexual but was Sugar Butt a spouse? A boyfriend?  Did “Lady” have a piece on the side? Most importantly, did Sugar Butt’s butt taste like sugar? All  my questions remained unanswered. “Lady” pushed the button and got off at the next stop.

For the rest of my commute, I began to consider my own contacts list. Did I know anyone with a name as interesting and/or entertaining as Sugar Butt? I feverishly scrolled past the names of friends, family members, former coworkers, clients past and present, doctors, divorce lawyers, exes and the exes of friends.  The only remotely interesting names were Joe “S.O.B” T. and Johnny DeLuxe. Both were dead. I felt sad. I needed to up my game. I needed to come up with some new nicknames for the people in my phone. Names concisely identifiable to me and only me and yet interesting enough to illicit questions–or at least a chuckle- in the minds of bordering strangers on public transportation.

Here’s a few I came up with:

“Bane O’Existence”

“Angel Heart”

“Habitual Line-Stepper”

“Velvet L. Pipe”

“Cool Monk”

“Tragic Johnson”

“Diamond Maker”

“Smart Cookie”

I will keep working on this.  Someday, some bored bus rider may glance over at my phone and find diversion in one of these names. I hope it makes them smile, too.