Godsend

Not recommended. Another thriller that is so mediocre that I really don’t have anything to say about it. Except it’s moral implications. The story is about parents who clone their dead child in order to replace their lost love with a child who would be exactly the same. This is a fine premise, one that rings true and is worthy of exploration. The worldview behind the story is physicalism: there is no such thing as human transcendence, and everything is reducible to physical properties, even memories and soul. Physical cells in our bodies contain the memories of our abstract experience. So cloning our cells will create a complete replica of our old selves, not merely physical twins, but a full replica, complete with the same memories. Talk about silly medieval superstition. So what happens if you mix some DNA of an evil boy with the DNA of a good boy? You get a split personality boy who is alternately good and evil. And that’s what happens. This is just irresponsibility if you ask me. There are no “evil genes,” and this entire physicalist naturalist movement is a gargantuan shift of blame away from the human will onto genes. Don’t these people realize that when you negate morality and human responsibility, you create a society of monsters and cruelty? This is not a game, folks. Kids are raping and shooting other kids in schools because they’ve been taught there is no morality, everything is reducible to physics and chemistry and everything is relative; they are merely evolved machines. Well, evolved machines in an amoral universe destroy other evolved machines that get in their way. If morality, soul and even ideas are reducible to physical and chemical properties of the brain or body, then no behavior is ultimately “wrong” or “evil,” just statistical variation. This is Nietzsche’s “beyond good and evil.” Well, if kids (indeed everyone) are being taught they are Terminators, then why do we wonder why they are acting like a bunch of Terminators? Duh. So the movie, when deconstructed, becomes a conflicting contradiction. It is a moral tale about how morally wrong it is to apply science to amoral physical machines called humans. I like the moral part, but the movie undercuts itself with the physicalist worldview. And plotwise, it is just totally stupid that the doctor who helps the couple clone their son, secretly adds the DNA of his own dead son I order to reproduce him. The problem is that this doctor’s dead son was a monster himself who killed his own mother and burned down the house. But the doctor is not portrayed as malevolent himself, but misguided. So why in the world would he want to reproduce his evil son if he is not himself with evil intentions? It just doesn’t make believable sense.

Dawn of the Dead

Not recommended at all. Wasted potential. Okay, I apologize for seeing this movie. A buddy wanted to go see something and I had seen most everything, and I was NOT going to see Taking Lives again, no way. Here’s the thing, zombie movies tap into an underlying nightmare we often have: the whole world is against us, or society is totally insane or inhuman, and we fear being all alone against the world. I feel that way right now in our society, where wrong is right and right is wrong; where many people who look human on the outside, housewives, businessmen, neighbors, are actually monstrous zombies who have no problem with murdering millions of preborn children. We have a society full of zombies who hate their own people and defend murderous terrorists. We have a society of insane fiends who hate God and want to rip Him out of everything from government to education, and then wonder why their children are murdering and raping other children in school, the legacy of their monstrous ideas. You see my point? Zombie movies have some real moral potential in being socio-cultural statements of the inhumanity in society. The problem is that they are often just plain too grotesque in their violence to accomplish the good purpose. They show too much. They exploit. They breed their own violence. Ah for the days of The Omega Man, with Charlton Heston. Now there was a great zombie movie with a strong morality to it and not over the top grotesque detail. Dawn of the Dead is too much. Unlike another zombie movie, 28 Days Later, which I think is not quite as bad, and actually has a deep theme to it that is rather worthy. In 28 Days Later, the escaping humans find an outpost of military guys who have commandeered a mansion and have bunkered down in a way that the zombies can’t get at them. But when the military guys see the women in the hero’s company, they degenerate into monsters and want to use the women for their own sexual gratification. The hero then has to save the women from these “zombies within.” It really is a parable of how normal people, or at least macho maleness, can be as evil and inhuman and soulless as zombies. Not bad, actually. And Dawn of the Dead attempts some shallow thematic spiritual morality. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver. In the beginning, there are a couple of statements by the characters in the hysteria that this virus that is killing people and turning them all into zombies is a judgment from God. They even play the great Johnny Cash song “The Man Comes Around” about the return of Christ and Judgment Day over a montage of the virus spreading (Which doesn’t work by the way, because it doesn’t quite match in style). Someone says a statement that really doesn’t make any sense, but sounds spiritual, “When hell is full, the dead walk the earth.” What does that mean? Hell is overflowing? Why? But it’s all just shallow window dressing and is never developed. Okay, there are some characters that are selfish and survival oriented, “Survival of the fittest,” that turn into self-sacrificing heros, giving their lives to save the others. That’s good. And there is the sarcastic selfish sucker, who never changes, and he gets his doom. But I would argue that this movie is an example of a movie that exploits violence in such a way as to stain the otherwise potentially good morality in the story.

Secret Window

Not recommended. Although it was well done for a Stephen King adaptation, and well-acted by Johnny Depp, this thriller about a writer haunted by a violent hick whose story he claims the writer stole is a real downer. It turns out that the hick is killing people, and he is a figment of the writer’s imagination, which means the hero is the villain, and he gets away with murdering people in the end. Not morally or story satisfying.

Dracula 2000

Rommended with Extreme Caution. Okay, if you don’t like horror films, you won’t like this formula horror flick. But if you don’t like horror, then you should read my article, “A Theology of Horror Films”.

Anyway, the reason why I recommend Dracula 2000 for the strong of stomach is because it has a strong Christian theme. That’s right. You heard what I said. And not merely a nice “moral theme” but a blatant Christian concept of redemption. It is a return to the origins of modern horror that E. Michael Jones writes about in his excellent book, Monsters From the Id. Here is what I wrote to someone about this book: “I wanted to recommend Monsters from the Id by E. Michael Jones. It is a brilliant book about the origins of modern horror as a reaction to the Enlightenment worldview (unconscious or conscious) with its rejection of the supernatural and the worship of science with the elevation of man’s “natural” impulses. His historical context of Mary Shelly and Byron is really quite illuminating in proving his premise. And his explanation of how religion fits in is also poignant. His take is a bit different from yours. Rather than the “sacred” creating the monster, it is the “negation of the sacred” that does so. That is why the sacred is usually part of the solution. The crucifix (sacred) protects against the vampire, MacNeils’ naturalism (in The Exorcist) makes her defenseless in the face of real supernatural, so it is her lack of the sacred that makes her family prey. Rosemary’s lack of a sacred understanding of evil (In Rosemary’s Baby) makes her prey as well. Even the point of 28 Days Later is that the zombies are a metaphor for the lack of civilization and order within the modern social/nationalist mindset (the testosterone military men are no different than the zombies in their bloodlust).

Jones points out that the Enlightenment rejection of the supernatural and the exaltation of man’s primary urges and scientific hubris create Frankenstein, Dracula, Hyde and Jekyll, and even surprisingly so, Cronenberg’s monsters. And Frankenstein was really an expression of Shelly’s own horror in her life. Even many of the slasher films illustrate the residue of this Enlightenment created monster that wreaks havoc. It is the rejection of the sacred order that creates these monsters, not the sacred itself. That is why the promiscuous kids die and the virgin often lives. Of course, this is mostly relevant to traditional horror, and can break down in current horror, like Scream that deliberately defy convention. But I found his thesis rather rich in understanding and breadth.”

So, if you don’t want the major plot point twist to be spoiled, then don’t read on…

What is so great about the movie is that Dracula is revealed to be the undead soul of Judas Iscariot prowling the earth in vengeance against his own perdition. His unsatiable lust for blood, the blood he cannot have in Jesus’ blood of forgiveness, the silver abhorrance, a reflection of the 30 pieces he betrayed for, and of course, crosses and wooden stakes through the heart as elements of the cross of Christ. It is brilliant and a reminder of what I wrote above, that horror should be the result of rejecting the truth of God. Unfortunately much postmodern horror defies these conventions. And I must say, that this brings me to The Addiction, a true Christian themed vampire movie, even better than Dracula 2000, one of my top five favorites. But be careful here, because it too is not for the squeamish. But it uses vampirism as the perfect metaphor for man’s total sinful depravity. Sin is the addiction. Anyway, it is interesting to note that Wes Craven, the producer of Dracula 2000 went to Wheaton College and has a Christian background from which he has most likely fallen. So it is revealing that he, like Paul Shrader and others, tend to reach into their Christian past to draw out images and concepts.