Tag Archives: Pedophilia

CAPSULE: HARD CANDY (2005)

DIRECTED BY: David Slade

FEATURING: , Patrick Wilson

PLOT: A teenage girl turns the tables on a sexual predator, subjecting him to torture in retribution for his misdeeds.

Still from Hard Candy (2005)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: For regular consumers of torture-based horror, the turnabout of predator and prey in Hard Candy is an interesting surprise. But twist aside, what’s notable about the movie isn’t how strange it is, but how it uses the genre to address heavy questions about guilt, justice, and gender roles.

COMMENTS: In January of this year, confessed serial child molester Larry Nassar was forced to sit quietly while 156 women confronted him about his crimes and the pain they have endured ever since. And Larry Nassar did not like it. This man, whose systematic abuse was aided by America’s top gymnastics coaches, abetted by the country’s gymnastics federation, and protected by Michigan State University, submitted a letter to the judge protesting that having to endure the testimony of his many targets was detrimental to his mental health and asserting that he was a good person who was being unfairly victimized by hateful, hateful women. Suffice it to say, the letter was poorly received.

The reason I bring this up—aside from maybe wanting to add just one more link on Google that reminds the world that Larry Nassar is heinous slimeball—is because Hard Candy does a fantastic job of getting inside the deluded mind of the privileged sex criminal: rejecting the existence of a crime, then mitigating its seriousness, and finally claiming victimhood for himself. The film’s subject, photographer Jeff, uses all these techniques to deceive us into sympathizing with him, even as we watch him go through all the steps of sexual predation: grooming, leading passively, shifting guilt back onto his targets. And he’s good at it, so when the 14-year old girl he’s been expecting to seduce drugs him, ties him up, and proceeds to insult and threaten him, there’s still this lingering sense that he’s a decent guy who has just gotten himself into a real pickle.

The plot evokes memories of Audition, which is appropriate, as Brian Nelson’s screenplay was evidently inspired by news reports of gangs of girls in Japan who lured businessmen into traps online. But where the earlier film hides its intentions behind the tropes of romantic comedy, Hard Candy quickly adopts the conventions of horror, including bondage and body mutilation. The film’s innovation is to flip the script and turn the diminutive (Page is a full foot shorter than her co-star), incautious heroine into the diabolical, unstoppable engine of terror. The result is that she can be read as a violent lunatic, when it is vital to remember that the man she is tormenting is a very bad person.

Movies can be victims of changing times. In 2005, many reviewers called Page’s Hayley a psychopath and lamented the film’s second-half descent into cat-and-mouse thriller. But today, she comes across more as an avenging angel come to force the guilty to acknowledge their sins. It’s noteworthy that the scene that falls the flattest—Page has to sidestep Sandra Oh’s inquisitive neighbor—is the one that tries the hardest to impose the conventions of a thriller onto a battle over the nature of evil. Hard Candy turns out to have been ahead of its time.

Page is truly magnificent, by the way; this was her breakthrough performance, and she has never since had a role that equals it in power. But it’s worth noting that she has a good partner in Wilson, who hits all the right beats for a character who is innately gifted at evading, deflecting, and denying responsibility for his actions. His bland dismissals and patronizing defenses are essential in pushing her forward, validating her anger and justifying her ultimate plan.

The final woman to stand up to Larry Nassar in court was the woman whose testimony triggered his downfall. Rachael Denhollander— whose name also deserves to be remembered—demonstrated unbelievable magnanimity by promising to pray for Nassar, that he find true repentance and forgiveness. And that is probably the most moral and decent response that anyone could hope for under the circumstances. Hard Candy suggests an alternate response, and while it plays more toward wish fulfillment and is by no means appropriate in a civil society, in the face of an evil that is often unspeakable, the movie shows why it still has appeal.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Hard Candy is one sick movie. Sick and horrifying. Sick and mesmerizing. Sick and well-scripted, well-acted, well-directed and well-shot. Sick and comical; sick and suspenseful; sick and surprising; sick and sickening. Maybe if I take another shower, I’ll feel less scummy for enjoying it so much.” – Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by ralph. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: IN A GLASS CAGE (1986)

Tras el Crystal

DIRECTED BY: Agustí Villaronga

FEATURING: Günter Meisner, David Sust, Gisela Echevarria, Marisa Paredes

PLOT: Hiding out in Brazil, an ex-Nazi pedophile and child killer is confined to a iron lung after a botched suicide attempt; it turns out that his new young male nurse knows about his past crimes.

Still from In a Glass Cage (1986)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Disturbing, but there’s nothing exactly weird about this horrific pedophilic psychodrama, other than its enigmatic ending.

COMMENTS: Well-acted and suspenseful, as well as brutally sadistic, In a Glass Cage has a clever setup: a decrepit ex-Nazi, confined to an iron lung after a suicide attempt, becomes both a prisoner and an unwilling accomplice to further crimes at the hands of one of his former victims. The film, while seriously intended, depends on the type of shock torture tactics usually seen in films, with an even more unsettling pedophiliac edge. Any film that starts out with a young boy stripped, hung from the ceiling, and beaten to death with a plank is probably unsuitable to watch with your mother (or pretty much anybody’s mother). There are not many of these scenes, but it doesn’t take many shots of a torturer sticking a needle into a child’s heart to make an impact.

Technical aspects of the film are superb, from the shadowy blue-grey cinematography to the music by Javier Navarette. Villaronga shoots suspense well, drawing out the stalking and alternating closeups, pans and overhead shots with sinister little details (Griselda’s black stocking falling around her ankle) in a way that recalls Dario Argento at his most nerve-wracking. David Sust is chilling as the second generation killer, and Günter Meisner expertly portrays Klaus with hardly a word, conveying  warring emotions of horror and guilty pleasure purely by facial expressions. All of this quality makes the movie more difficult to dismiss; the producers spent too much money and artistic effort for accusations that they were merely trying to make a quick buck off salacious material to stick.

The torture Angelo devises for Klaus is subtle. He demonstrates that there is no escape from the Nazi’s past atrocities, that mere regret will not absolve him from the evil he has unleashed in the world. He forces Klaus to relive his crimes not as memories, but as actual ongoing atrocities for which he is still responsible, despite long ago having lost the ability to commit them. For Angelo the sadist, this may be the biggest turn-on; knowing that a part of Klaus still enjoys watching these horrors, while another part of his mind is screaming in anguish. Through this complexity Glass Cage transcends exploitation—although just barely. Its insights into the psychology of sadism don’t cut deep enough to compensate for all of the scarring imagery, making it a good, but not great, movie about capital-E Evil. Those who like their horror served up with a side of extreme moral depravity will consider it a classic; others may want to pass.

Cult Epics DVD or Blu-Ray includes a 30 minute interview/documentary about Villaronga (mainly focused on Glass Cage), a screening Q&A, and three (not scary) experimental shorts from Villaronga spanning 1976-1980.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Like the film’s characters, we find ourselves party to scenarios involving the most extraordinary fetishisation of suffering and death, horrors which invoke a troubling combination of impressions: they are sensual, grotesque, dreamlike, oddly beautiful, almost pornographic, usually painful to witness. But however horrifying the experience, Tras el cristal is bound to make for rewarding viewing… easily one of the most lyrical nightmares ever concocted.”–Chris Gallant, Kinoeye, Nov. 2002

(This movie was nominated for review by “w depaul.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CHILD BRIDE (1938)

Do not be alarmed! The loud thud you are getting ready to hear is merely the sound of your jaw dropping to the floor while watching Child Bride (1938). And before the credits roll, you will know that you have truly entered a twilight zone from the gutter cinema of yesteryear.

Of course, in 1938 movies were deep in the law of the Hays Code, and the only films which managed to subvert Will Hays’ dos-and-don’ts-list were the exploitation features. That is because they contained an “educational, moral message” for the masses.

Child Bride was a government funded film which begins it’s sermon with: “These child marriages must be stopped!” Predictably, the film then wallows in its own tawdry agenda. Written and directed by the rightfully forgotten hack, Harry Reiver, Child Bride is a ripe candidate for one to the most disturbing examples of unintentional weirdness.

“Here is a page from the Book of Life… in Thunderhead Mountain. We do not aim to ridicule the back yonder folk, but if our story abolishes their child marriages, then it will have served its purpose.” If the music from Deliverance (1972) starts coming to mind, then take it as a warning: Be afraid. Be very afraid. The only thing missing is the horror horn and fear flasher from Chamber of Horrors (1966).

Still Child Bride (1938)Ma and Pa Colton (Dorothy Carroll & George Humphreys) don’t like no child marriage. They even have a book lying on their front porch saying it’s a crime, which is a tad ironic since their eleven year-old Jennie (Shirley Mills) does lotsa provocative stretching and shows plenty o’ leg in her homemade miniskirt, cut up to her crotch (the ‘dress’ looks like it was cut with lopsided scissors), while doing her early morning chores before trotting off to school.

Jennie’s sort-of mountain boyfriend Freddie (Bobby Bolinger) stops by to accompany her to Continue reading CHILD BRIDE (1938)

CAPSULE: BLUE BEARD [BARBE BLEUE] (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Catherine Breillat

FEATURING: Lola Créton, Dominique Thomas

PLOT: A young girl from a poor family is married off to a local aristocrat with a blue beard and

Still from Bluebeard [Barbe Bleue] (2009)

a reputation for murdering his brides.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTBlue Beard‘s weirdness, while detectable, is mild; and, despite its tragedy and enigmatic tone, as a film its impact is surprisingly slight.

COMMENTSBlue Beard is not merely a period piece in setting, with its authentic medieval gowns and tapestries and frescoes and gloomy stone castles, but it’s also a throwback to an older, subtler age of storytelling with its slow, clam, and detached style.  The primary actors—Lola Créton as the doomed child bride and Dominique Thomas as the unexpectedly sympathetic ogre—never raise their voices, and their expressions remain staid and repressed: obscure emotions flit across their faces, but their subtexts never fully emerge into the light of day.  Even the nobleman’s trademark chromatic bristles—the mark of his supernatural origin—look black and gray in the film, only showing a slight steely blue cast in just the right light, when viewed in private with the luxury to examine it.  Pacing is slow, camerawork languorous.  The flatness of the film serves two purposes: it gives us the freedom to project our own interpretations on the characters, and it causes a few key images to suddenly burst into three dimensions and startle us, like pages from a children’s pop-up book.  Director Breillat takes a weird approach in revealing the fate of Bluebeard’s previous wives, and the effect is successfully memorable and eerie.  The enigmatic final image, a psuedo-Biblical shot that strangely casts the young girl as Salome while effectively encapsulating the spectrum of her unresolved emotions, also fairly pops.  Breillat layers a framing story on top of the fairy tale wherein one little girl is reading the story to her more sensitive and easily frightened sister.  It’s an interesting directorial choice, but it would be hard to claim that this device is entirely successful.  In terms of pacing, it at least provides a little respite from the plodding medieval segments; thematically, the conceit Continue reading CAPSULE: BLUE BEARD [BARBE BLEUE] (2009)