Night Watch

Russian Supernatural Horror. Okay, this is a vampire movie that has some cool moments in it, and was done for an amazingly small amount of money 4.2 million. It looks almost as big as Underworld 2. I was amazed. It is a very convoluted and detailed story about the forces of lightness and forces of darkness held in balance through the ages, based on some ancient truce made by the two warring kings of each side. The emphasis is on choice, and how everyone must choose for themselves which side to be on, and these forces cannot violate that free will. It is a Manichean Dualistic worldview that understands spiritual reality as two equally opposing forces in a perpetual struggle for the souls of mankind.

And there is a prophecy of a Gnostic redeemer who will come one day and choose one of the sides, who will it be? So, very Gnostic. And quite frankly, it was a bit too esoteric and detailed for me to follow. But there are some very cool things that happen in it. For instance, the very beginning starts out with a young man going to an old woman in present day to put a curse on his unfaithful girlfriend pregnant with another man’s child. This lady turns out to be a modern day witch, and it’s all very Jean-Pierre Jeunet style in its gothic quirkiness. Very interesting characters who are not all beautiful, as in Underworld. I like that about foreign films.
So anyway, this old lady starts to curse the woman and her unborn child after telling him it is a “sin” to kill the unborn. So, then the guy yells stop because he can’t bring himself to do it, and these spirit beings stop her from clapping her hands to finish the curse and the baby is safe.

So, this guy goes on to join the forces of light. Meanwhile, the forces of darkness are depicted as vampires. So by the time the hero has to help this kid twelve years later who is an “Other,” that is, he is sensitive to the spirit realm, the hero comes to realize that the kid is his own child. The girlfriend was not pregnant with another man’s child, but with his own! But for some convoluted reason the hero is deceived into thinking he must kill the kid for the good, and is stopped in mid stride by the bad guy. Then the child asks him why was he trying to kill him, and the hero replies that he would never try to kill him. To which, the child replies that he did try to kill him, TWELVE YEARS AGO when he used the witch to curse his unborn child. This desire to kill his own child is what causes the child to go to the forces of darkness instead of light. And that, my friends, is a VERY powerful life affirming story. Three cheers for the Russians!

Underworld: Evolution

Supernatural Horror. A sequel about Vampires versus werewolves that quite frankly, I could not describe because it was too complex too follow.

I don’t have much to say here. It was okay as far as sequels go, but it was excessively violent, as sequels often go, and too complex to follow, as I said. The first one was clearly about racism and I thought was very intriguing, but this one, ah, whatever.


Horror. A couple of American tourists happen upon a hostel in Europe that captures unsuspecting tourists and uses them as torture subjects for high paying mafia customers. Nihilistic survival of the fittest worldview. I walked out. These are the kind of movies that truly scare me, knowing that there are people out there, mostly kids, who are entertained by this, as it breeds heartless violence against people as entertainment rather than moral lesson. And I might add that this movie highly profiled Quentin Tarantino as its producer, which does not surprise me in the least, given his postmodern-nihilistic-B-Movie-video-store-clerk worldview.

King Kong

Epic Action adventure. The remake of the famous story about the huge ape who falls in love with a woman. All right, I loved it. The first hour was 2x too long, cheesy acting, poorly written with very unbelievable obstacles in each scene that made it feel inauthentic. And Adrien Brody as the “human” love interest and Jack Black as the greedy movie producer were serious miscasts in my mind. They cheapened the class of the film. But once Kong enters, the exciting story begins. The middle hour may well be the most amazing CGI dinosaur and creature feature movie ever. And I am a huge fan of the original. It inspired my love for movies when I was a kid. So despite its flaws this remake is a worthy remake in my mind that brings the story to a whole new generation in a legitimate way, unlike remakes of Psycho and others. Okay, the power of this story is in the mythic nature of Beauty and the Beast. The reason it rings so true is its metaphoric analogy to how beauty tames or “kills” the beast in the hearts of men. This theme is particularly meaningful to me because I absolutely love the beautiful. Kong is of course the absolute extreme of the “animal” nature in men, but as such, I really relate to him, with how my wife’s presence in my life tames the negative wild side of me in some ways. God, however is the ultimate tamer of my sin nature, but the beauty of my wife (and not merely her outward, but also her inward beauty) is a means of grace for me. This is the power of beauty for affecting us. And this understanding I think is neglected by many in a world of modernity with its rationalism and obsession with logic and science. Beauty can be just as much a carrier of truth as logic or reason. But our modern minds have been raped by Enlightenment Rationality and as the Romantics suggested, we reduce everything to machines and mathematics and chemicals, thus losing beauty, and with it, truth. Anyway, in this story, the point about beauty is made very clearly when Kong sits on his ledge overlooking Skull Island and the vast ocean and he just looks out and Ann Darrow, his captive, motions to him with her hand to her chest, a gesture that means “Beautiful” obviously a reference to touching the heart. Later, on the Empire State Building, Kong looks out over the vast sea of New York and does the gesture for beauty to her. A very touching and powerful moment of grace. The weakness of this incarnation of Beauty and the Beast as compared to the original, however, is that at the end of the story, Kong is still just an ape, an animal, and as such is not created in God’s image, and cannot make true spiritual human connection – which is why Jackson has a human love interest for Naomi Watts (Ann) in Adrien Brody, who overcomes his “male” animal-like inadequacy of not communicating, and runs into her arms after Kong dies. It is in the realm of the human where eternal transcendence is achieved. HOWEVER, seeing this as myth or metaphor lightens the load a bit. It is not realism. I just prefer the original Beauty and the Beast in its humanity.

Three Extremes

Japanese horror trilogy. Two of the stories were just too esoteric for me to appreciate. One on the damages of incest that was a Kabuki like drama, and the other was a killer who traps a movie director but I wasn’t sure what it was all about. But the first one, called Dumplings was the most incredible film about abortion that I have ever seen. I am reminded of A Modest Proposal, a satire by Jonathan Swift written in 1729. Here is it’s full title: “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public.” Swift was a Christian man whose satire addressed the English attitude toward the Irish with biting sarcasm. Dumplings is a Chinese “Modest Proposal.” It is the story of a woman in China who sells a special meal of dumplings to Chinese women who are seeking to revitalize their youthfulness. The dumplings are in fact made from chopped up aborted fetuses. This film portrays abortion as the cannibalization of the young, for the benefit and convenience of older women. The woman in the story is trying to win back the love of her husband who is seeking younger women for his pleasure. At first, she has a hard time eating the dumplings, swallowing them with difficulty, but after a few times, it becomes a delicacy to her. And then she wants a more potent version of the food, so she gets a late term abortion of a little boy, to which we are shown the abortion and how the young girl dies from the secret abortion she receives from the dumpling woman. But the filmmakers are not arguing to make abortion illegal because of the “back alley” consequences, but rather they are saying that the abortion industry is cannibalistic. And finally, though the woman is past childbearing age, the unholy concoction works and she conceives a child. But in the end, she is so consumed by her selfish pursuit, that she commits her own abortion and eats her own child. It is a truly gruesome in concept, but a very poignant and biblical kind of prophecy, something Jeremiah or Isaiah might proclaim to our modern culture of death.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Highly Recommended. This is a story based on an allegedly true story that occurred in Germany in the 1970s. It’s been updated to today and place in America. It’s the story of a trial of a priest charged with negligent homicide in the death of a young girl, Emily Rose, in the midst of her exorcism. In our modernist world of naturalism that presupposes the negation of the categories of the supernatural, this movie is a welcome counterbalance to Enlightenment pseudoscientific bigotry. I enjoyed the unpredictable mixing of genres, horror and courtroom drama. A legal and logical examination of the issues punctuated with the terrors of supernatural experience. Which makes this movie very postmodern. A story that counters reason with experience, and experience is forced upon the rationalism of modernity as something that CANNOT be ignored any longer. Our precious naturalistic assumptions about reality and proud rationalism are just not adequate to address all of reality. This is of course, the good side of postmodernism in challenging modernity. The dark side of the pomo worldview, well, I’ll talk about that in a moment. I know the director and he has said he is a postmodern Christian. So this is a conscious attempt to break through the ignorance and prejudice of modernity. The heroine, played by Laura Linney, is the attorney who defends the priest and she is an agnostic who decides to use demon possession as a defense in a court of law, not because she believes it to be real, but because her client does, and that this is, in an HONEST court of law, a legitimate consideration, the sincerity of the believers. To assume that the girl’s death (by self-inflicted and other bodily injury) MUST be negligence because “as we all know” demons are simply religious fairy tales, is itself an ignorance of prejudice. And this is exactly what the prosecutor embodies when he claims that a witness’s testimony of demonic possession should be struck down on the basis of “silliness.” And of course, most audience members at that point would agree with the prosecutor. How can we allow this kind of “faith” testimony in to our system that is supposed to be based on fact? And that very assumption is perhaps the most revelatory ignorance of the modernity we are current victims of: The assumption that EVERYTHING has a natural cause in physical chemicals. As the defense lawyer proves, even science itself is based on faith. The very claims of Emily’s demonic symptoms being reducible to psychotic fits of epilepsy are shown to be NOT FACTS, but beliefs or guesses of so-called medical scientists. Because the fact is, science and medicine are not only based on faith commitments, but they are merely observational interactions with symptoms. Much of the time, they have no clue how or why a drug is working, they are merely creating explanations that they BELIEVE is the reason. Thomas Szaz has written extensively on the fraudulance of the medical drug culture as well as psychotherapy in The Myth of Mental Illness and Pharmocracy. So the doctors notice a certain drug results in suppression of symptoms, so they theorize that the problem is therefore reducible to physical origins or causes. But the defense gives an entirely legitimate counterfactual that the drugs suppressed Emily’s mental and physical capacity to withstand the demons, thus contributing to her death. What Derrickson does extremely well here is to fairly portray both sides in the courtroom. In fact, he does this so well, that when each side presents its case, you find yourself changing sides in what you think the answer is. This makes for truly good drama. What I liked about the demon possession was how “realistic” it was. That is, it was not driven by gory special effects but more accurately the kind of effects that have historically been connected with real possessions. And that could be explained through medical physiological explanations as well. Even though there are the usual multiple voices, strange contortions, etc. Scott does the opposite of typical demon possession movies. Rather than the white eyes with a tiny pupil, he has an enlarged pupil which was totally scary in a new way. Surprisingly, there are no foul cuss words that I remember coming from the demons, as is the usual fare with horror movies of demons. Thus proving you can be scary without the foul language. Scott’s scare tactics were all based on simple old techniques of suspense, the shadow we barely see, the noise in the hall, whispering voices. But he does it so well that once again it proves we don’t need more gore and pushing the envelope of impropriety to be scary. The whole moral of this story is simply spoken through the agnostic lawyer’s summary that this is a story about “possibilities.” A story that makes us consider the reality of the supernatural to widen our understanding of reality. It is not the “believers” who are blind to reality, it is the proud anti-supernaturalist, who assumes so much by faith that he doesn’t even realize it. That he doesn’t see the demon right in front of his face. Of course, this isn’t presented with a propaganda approach because in fact, most every demonic encounter is presented in flashback, testimonial form, complete with some variation, thus reminding us that even this is not absolutely certain. Although I would argue that experience gets a stronger edge here. Which is of course the weakness of postmodernism. The strength of the modernist prioritization of rationality does prove the fact that experience can be interpreted differently depending on one’s worldview, AND ALL PRESUPPOSITIONS ARE NOT EQUAL. Some are provably wrong. And that people can be deceived because of their presuppositions. Let’s face it, the history of medicine does show that certain religious beliefs DID blind some people to the truth of infectious diseases etc. So the good that anti-supernaturalism brought was the unveiling of much superstitious ignorance and even charlatanry. But of course, two wrong extremes don’t make a right. The sword cuts both ways in blindness, and Christianity is the only true balance that started modern science and medicine by acknowledging the lawlikeness of God’s ordered universe without ignoring the spiritual side. But I digress. I like the idea of via negativa, “way of the negative,” that is, proving God’s existence by proving the existence of evil supernatural. If there is an antichrist evil spirit, then there is the ultimate Good Spirit of God. One Roman Catholic nun reviewing the movie said that this fear orientation is a medieval means of getting people saved. But of course, this is more autobiographical of that nun and her postmodernity than it is the Bible. So Jesus was medieval when he used fear to scare people into the kingdom? (Matt 10:28; 5:22; 5:29; Luke 12:5) In fact Jesus used fear so much as a motivation in his parables about wailing and gnashing of teeth and eternal darkness etc. that I would wonder if this nun, and those like her, even read their Bibles (assuming she even has one.) And was God himself an irrelevant medieval peasant when he commands us to FEAR him over 200 times in both Old and New Testaments – more than he commands us to love him? Well, I would certainly NOT say that fear is the only draw to salvation, but it is certainly a part of the BIBLICAL GOSPEL, though it is not a part of the modern or postmodern gospel. We SHOULD fear hell and love God. Both fear and love are equally ultimate truths in the Bible (sometimes described in the same paragraph or sentence – Matthew 10:26-31). But at the end of the day, one simple movie CANNOT CONTAIN the entire Bible in it’s theology. There are plenty of movies available that do express love as a motivation to salvation (Bruce Almighty). We need some that deal with fear too. So there. What I didn’t like about the movie: Well, there are some serious theological issues I have with it. I do not argue that these are reasons NOT to see it or reasons to reject the movie, but simply reasons for discernment and disagreement. You don’t have to agree with everything in a movie to see the value of it. And it doesn’t have to be theologically perfect to accept the good that it does bring in context with the culture. First, a very minor thing (not theological) was that I thought the appearance of a cloaked figure in the distance was not at all consistent with the heart of this story. It was out of place and a bit too melodramatic and literal. Secondly, the heroine starts as an agnostic and ends as an agnostic very clearly, which makes this an unsatisfying story in terms of character. It is an elementary necessity of good storytelling to take the hero from one pole to another, the character arc. If a hero starts out an unbeliever, they need to in some way at least, end with a seed of belief. If they start a believer in something, they must end up skeptical of it. If they start selfish, they should end selfless, and on and on. This is the stuff of great storytelling. By the hero’s journey, the truth of the story is incarnated. So the audience can journey with the hero. So to have a hero that does not change is not only anathema in storytelling, it is unsatisfying. But not only that, I would argue it is counterproductive to Derrickson’s own worldview of Christianity. It is fine to have some characters not change, but NOT the hero. They must change or the audience is left hanging. This is perhaps where Scott’s postmodernism gets the best of him. His story INCARNATES the suggestion through the heroine’s lack of change, that religious beliefs are not important, what IS important is her professional ethics. Because this is where she does change, in her ethics. But Agnosticism is not a viable or even good worldview. So if the heroine would have at least made an indication that she saw the world differently now, that would have been enough. I’m not saying she should “accept Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior,” but merely that her life is truly changed because of her journey. But alas, the only thing she changes in is in her professional ethics, and this is no doubt good. Yes, she quits a bad legal firm and shows character, but the real issue of the movie was NOT the politics of the legal system (that was a subplot), but the reality of the supernatural. In simple terms, she starts ignorant and ends ignorant. Not a satisfying story. One theological difference I have is that the very heart of the Roman Rites of exorcism do not have biblical foundations. Now, I’ve talked to Scott about demon possession and he claimed that there is so little in the Bible that we cannot make dogmatic claims either way. While I acknowledge there is certainly freedom in this area to service the story (I do so in my upcoming supernatural thriller), I nonetheless am persuaded that what the Bible DOES say about it, little as it may be, is still truthful and relevant. And in the only place where exorcism occurs in the Bible is Acts 19, where the sons of Sceva were exorcists and they had no power over demons who ended up beating them up. It seems that everywhere in the New Testament, demons are simply cast out in the name of Jesus Christ by faithful believers (sometimes requiring prayer, but not ritual). I suppose you could make the argument that this movie supports that because they never did exorcise her. She died after all! On the other hand, I certainly admit that ritual is more cinematic and dramatic. In fact, one executive reacted to my movie, that has demons cast out of people, by saying that they cast the demons out too easily. Well, that was because we have been so conditioned by the Roman Ritual view that we don’t realize it is more real (Biblical) for believers to simply cast them out! Anyway, I do acknowledge that the priest does eventually call on the name of Jesus Christ in his attempts and am surprised that the studios let Scott do this. Another major concern is with the entire purpose of the demon possession. It is portrayed as God’s intent to show the world the reality of the supernatural through having one of his believers (supposedly) possessed by a demon. But it is one thing to have demons taunting believers, that’s true. It is quite another to completely disregard the reality of the Holy Spirit that is supposed to be within the believer themselves! Believers in Jesus Christ possessed by a demon is simply and seriously unbiblical (1 Cor 6:19). A contradiction in terms and reality (1 John 4:4). As are visions of the Virgin Mary which is supposedly how she received this purpose. Talking to the dead is strictly forbidden by God (Deut 18:11; Isaiah 8:19), so it strikes me as odd that this is portrayed positively in the movie, as if God does communicate through this means. It could be argued that there was no indication that Emily was a true Christian, but this doesn’t square with the context of the movie. It is certainly strongly implied that she is. And another important element is the arbitrariness of the possession. There is no indication of how the demons were able to get into Emily. The history of demon possession indicates that demons do not willy nilly enter people. There has to be some occultic or pagan involvement or opening up to the dark side. The Exorcist did this extremely well by having the child play with a Ouiji Board. But in Emily, they just take her without provocation or invitation. Too arbitrary storywise to be satisfying. You know, it’s interesting, I wouldn’t be as picky if this was fictional, because fiction is intended to be metaphors or parables of something else. The reason I would be so picky is because this is claimed to be based on a true story.

A Sound of Thunder

Not Recommended. This is a movie based on the famous short story about time travel by Ray Bradbury about time travelers who go back into the prehistoric era and step on a butterfly, which changes the entire course of history. I love this premise of the “butterfly effect” and I love time travel movies which are all about changing bad choices in the past to avoid the bad consequences in the present. A worthy premise. But this movie, even though it had a budget of 80 million looked very B-movie with terrible cheesy blue screening and a B-plot rip off of Jurrasic Park but with evolved Baboon-reptile creatures instead of Raptors. There are a lot of deus ex machina moments like the subway collapsing on the sea monster just as it is about to eat Ed Burns, the hero. Oh, it’s not all that bad, it’s just a B-style execution. But worse than that, it is an atheistic evolutionary fairy tale that is deeply dissatisfying. The idea is that when they disrupt something in the past, they don’t affect the future right away, but rather time waves occur bringing instantaneous change every day or so, that climbs up the evolutionary ladder. So, the time travelers kill a butterfly, but when they get back, everything is the same, until a time wave occurs and the vegetation sprouts around the city, taking it over, then some animals start appearing that evolved because they never went extinct supposedly. And of course, it becomes a game of survival until the hero can get back in time to stop the moment where the butterfly was killed. It all just felt like gimmicks and scare tricks rather than an actual intense story. Oh, and the humans turn into fish like amphibian creatures, what a hilarious laugh. But here’s the real goofy kicker: The angry female scientist who rants and raves about scientific responsibility to the greedy capitalist business man who is using the time machine to make money. She is all morally indignant and yells that “If you mess with this time travel, you mess with the whole of evolution,” and she tells the hero, “You have to set things right.” As if there is a right and wrong in evolution?!!? Hello?! There is no right or wrong in evolution, people! There is just change. To make a moral judgment on people meddling with evolution is ludicrous within the evolutionary story. A gazelle thinks it unfair that a crocodile kills and eats it. So, the crocodile thinks Gazelles have no rights. So humans kill off species and devastate rainforests. So do fires and parasites. So what? These atheist evolution stories make all these moral judgments of human behavior as if there is some kind of moral system they are supposed to be following other than their natural drive to destroy, exploit, and eat. Meddling with time travel cannot be wrong upon atheistic evolutionary presuppositions. Evolution is simply the universal fact that everything changes, sometimes slowly, often times through cataclysmic destruction. So a volcano destroys an entire ecosystem. Do these self-righteous self-appointed guardians of evolutionary morality yell and complain to volcanos about their moral responsibility or how about the plague carrying insects that wipe out whole populations or all the animals that make each other go extinct? Then why in HELL are they griping at man when he disrupts the ecosystem? He’s just another animal in the chain of being who adds cataclysmic effects into the equation. How is that wrong or immoral in a universe of matter in motion without morality or right and wrong? There is only survivors and change. So, man kills off a species and then another survives in its stead. So what if man kills everything? The bacteria and viruses will survive and evolve into new organisms cause that‘s just the way it is. So man eats up everything like sharks, I don’t see anyone protesting shark behavior. So humans trample over the environment like a herd of elephants. I don’t see anyone protesting Elephants. If man is no more special than any other animal in the great chain of evolutionary being, then you made your bed of genocidal atrocities, now sleep in it.

The Cave

Not really Recommended. Alien under the earth. The movie is half decent as a survival genre story goes. I was rather surprised. It was an tale of atheistic evolution. The explorers go deep into the mountain caves of some Slavic country only to be hunted by predators that have evolved from humans previously trapped in there 30 years prior. And the source of the rapid evolution is a parasite that infects the hero, so we see him turning into one of the creatures as he helps them try to escape. Earlier, we see Byzantine murals of demons that fought the knights, only to discover that of course, in good naturalistic faith, the demons are merely the superstitious interpretation of the unknown scientific evolutionary process of this parasite. As far as the action goes, though, the story is well paced and scary, a decent survival movie.

Skeleton Key

Not Recommended. The story of a Northerner do-gooder nurse (Kate Hudson) who is hired to do some at-home hospice in New Orleans for an elderly stroke victim (John Hurt). When she discovers there are some dark dealings surrounding the “magic” oriented Hoodoo (As opposed to Voodoo) and a dark spiritual past for the house itself, she runs into water way over her head. This is a very well done supernatural type thriller. Very good suspense and surprises. Excellent acting by John Hurt as the elderly man stricken by magic, not a stroke, and by Gena Rowlands as the creepy old wife. And as supernatural thrillers go, it’s all there. My problem with it is that it is a negative ending that has evil win through revenge, which spoils the heart and soul of it. Let me explain, and thereby ruin the movie for you. It turns out that two Hoodoo black servants in the deep past of the house, were lynched for their magical Hoodoo ways by the white people who owned the house. But somehow, they managed to work their Hoodoo (I just can’t keep from smiling at how goofy the word sounds), and engage in a ritual where they can conjure up the ability to have their spirits move into another’s body and take over, so they can have another life. Well, after all the surprise twists, it turns out that this Hoodoo couple is continuing to snatch people’s bodies, and the latest is our young Kate. There is just nothing very redeeming about the story and evil wins in a way that does not seem instructive or tragic. Just because a movie is done well doesn’t make it worthy of viewing if it’s content is without redemption or truth.

Dark Water

Not Recommended. So many of these adapted foreign thrillers start out with a real scary premise and presence, but end up with weak stupid endings that don’t make sense. Dark Water is one of those, along with The Ring, and The Grudge. Anyway, Great slow build up of this single mother and her child trying to make it by moving into an old dilapidated apartment complex, while the mom works through her relationship with her divorced husband. So the dark water that starts to drip into the apartment and spread in stains on the ceiling is a metaphor for unfinished business that also turns out to be a supernatural thriller with a naturalized explanation. The whole thing is Jennifer Connelly, the mom, uncovering a child death that is the result of negligence, but then in a stupid ending, she has to allow herself to be killed to be the dead girl’s mommy for eternity in order to save her real daughter from being killed. What the..? Jennifer was neglected and the girl who died was accidentally abandoned, so Jennifer is supposedly redeeming herself by saving her daughter and taking up an abandoned daugher ghost. But she abandons her own daughter to do it! It fits logically, but not emotionally or psychologically. It just wasn’t satisfying. Great spooky build up and great thriller metaphor, but unsatisfying ending and moral. Excellent quirky character parts by John Reilly, Eric Roth and Pete Postlethwaite.