Album Review—Green 15: The Jib Machine Records 15th Anniversary Compilation

by Ben Arzate

Jib Machine is an Ohio-based record company with a wide variety of artists from different genres. Established in 2004, this compilation celebrates their 15th year by collecting thirty different tracks from thirty different acts.

I had decided when I received this album to go in blind and I was surprised at how eclectic the artists were. From the first song, and the DIY look of the album, I thought it would be all punk. While that’s certainly a part of the album, it’s not the only one.

I want to first give attention to “Dragon Eye Girl” by Slammin Gladys, as I also received a copy of their single for this song. This song as well as the other two on the single are funk-infused hair metal that take me back to the kind of things that other kids’ young parents would listen to when I was over at their houses.

It’s no surprise that the band was first formed in 1989. While I’m not exactly nostalgic for that sound, I did enjoy this. Between the title song and “Hangin’ on to You,” the single shows them as excellent musicians with a great singer. The live version of “Color Me Gone” also shows they can get pretty wild when they play live. If you like the kind of metal Bill and Ted would listen to, the single is definitely worth picking up.

The other songs on the album vary, but they mostly fall under the umbrella of rock. The album opens with “Harley Girl,” a fast-paced punk song. I can’t say that it pulled me into it, this type of punk music isn’t my cup of tea, but I can certainly see fans of the genre enjoying it.

There is, however, plenty here that’s more to my taste. For example, “Cold” by Eli Fletcher is a country rock song with the kind of desperation that I like hearing in my country music. “Minister Sinister” by Pontius Pilot is a dark and brooding country song with excellent atmosphere. There’s also “Evel Kienevel and God” by Smf, a lo-fi folk song reminiscent of Daniel Johnston. My favorite song on the album is probably “The Major Fall of Minor Men” by The War Toys. This is an excellent folk song with poetic lyrics that has made me very interested in seeking out more from them.

Even as eclectic as this, there are songs that really stick out. “Old Skool X” by The Penfield Experience is a techno song straight out of the mid-90s and an enjoyable one if you have affinity for that type of music. There’s also “O Holy Night” by Philomena Gales. Yes, the Christmas standard. While Gales has a lovely voice, there’s nothing unique or interesting about her rendition of the song. This one stands out in a particularly bad way as it sounds so incredibly bland. It’s easily the worst on the album.

With 30 tracks on this album from many different genres, it’s guaranteed most who listen to it will find something to like. It works more like a sampler, as Jib Machine puts out too wide a variety of music to really pigeon-hole them as any particular kind of label, but it’s one worth picking up if you’re looking for new music. There are a few groups on here that I know I’m very interested in hearing more from.

Zebra Summer Item #4: Bloody Valentine by Stephen George

Book Review by Zakary McGaha

In Zebra Summer, Zakary McGaha (author of Locker Arms and Soothing the Savage Swamp Beast), chronicles a very specific portion of his summer reading-schedule: horror novels published by Zebra Books.

Whew…I took a little break from reading Zebra books. I’m glad I did. I read some awesome things like Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, The Pumpkin House by Chad Brown and The Manse by Lisa Cantrell, amongst others. Life is too short to just read bad books because you’re writing a series on a blog site for fun.

However, I ended up feeling like the time was right to get back to my old commitment, and a friend of mine had let me borrow some books, several of which were Zebra novels, so I decided to go for it.

Boy, did I regret it.

Stephen George is, by all accounts (even mine), a fine writer. His Zebra novel, Bloody Valentine, has so many good ingredients, but, for whatever reason, **cough cough Zebra overlords cough cough** wound up less than readable.

The novel’s main flaw is that it presents itself as a sort of bad ass whodunnit/slasher with supernatural undertones, but it’s apparent from very early on EXACTLY who did it! Now, to be fair, not every little detail about the supernatural slasher is known, but yes, the identity of the killer is clear.

To explain this flaw, I’ll need to explain the plot. Basically, a group of college kids participated in an experiment spearheaded by the FBI back when the profiling of serial killers was in its infancy. The experiment involved creating a false murderer from scratch in order to explain his motives and, thus, understand real serial killers. Soon afterward, real people start dying, and all of the deaths fit the fictional killer’s modus operandi.

It is then revealed that your first guess is actually the right one: yes, the college kids somehow willed this killer into being, and now he’s on the loose. Granted, there is a slight twist in this near the end, but this basic premise is the right one. In fact, early on the killer is shown in “ghost” form or something, so there’s no guessing…

which leads one to wonder why every character is trying to figure out who the killer is throughout the whole novel. Like, one minute everyone’s accepting the reality of the situation, then there’s denial, then there’s a supernatural occurrence, then “Oh, no! We were just imagining things,” then there’s another supernatural occurrence, and so on and so forth.

Throughout the bulk of the novel, the characters are running around in circles while in the dark whilst ignoring the glowing answer icon that’s screaming, “I’m here! I’m here!” Even when they finish second guessing themselves and accept that they’re dealing with something science can’t explain, which happens pretty late in the novel, they don’t do anything different. They run around in the same circles.

This novel went from awesome to flat-out boring QUICK. And the boringness stretched itself out til the very end.

The writing was awesome, and the characters themselves were interesting and well-drawn, but the boredom factor got in the way of everything. Literally everything the characters did was pointless, repetitive, and just flat-out stupid. At the very end, the main character actually does something useful, which leads one to wonder: why did Stephen George have all the characters do nothing important throughout the majority of the novel?

Let’s elaborate on this aspect: think of Bloody Valentine’s plot as a long hallway. At the very end of said hallway is the right door, which represents the obvious outcome (meaning that it has a bulls eye painted on it), but before said door there are countless other doors that lead to nowhere (and that much is posted on each door like an eviction notice). Well, instead of going to the door with the bulls eye, Stephen George opens every door along the way and fucks around for…oh, about the length of a 413-page novel, before finally getting to the right one.

I normally don’t like being harsh on books, and I’m sure Stephen George is a fine writer; his atmosphere, character development and all-around writing style are actually ABOVE typical Zebra standards, in my opinion…but the pointless fluff that filled the bulk of this 413-page novel simply made it way less than enjoyable.

2/5 stars.

What the hell my ratings mean: 1 star = I didn’t enjoy it, and I’m fairly certain I can objectively say the book sucks ass. 2 stars = I didn’t enjoy it at all, but I can’t , in good conscience, say it was an objectively bad book (in other words, I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone else loved it). 3 stars = a book I enjoyed quite a bit, but it had several flaws that made me unable to honestly say it was a great book. 4 stars = a great book without any serious flaws. 5 stars = made my soul feel tingly and changed my worldview (usually reserved for classics like Siddhartha and The Magic Mountain).

S. L. Edwards’ Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts: A Review by Justin A. Burnett

There is no true end to becoming. The future winks in the distance like a promise that the past whispered from the shadows. Bridging these ends is the present, an epiphenomenon resulting from the narrativization lent by consciousness to the messy business of being. Although depression might be characterized as the sense of letting the narrative strand go–the sudden dissolution of the past and future elevates the present horribly into naked meaninglessness–the narrative can’t truly disappear. The human enterprise is always teleological, and as such the story must go on. Undoubtedly, the strand may twist: turgid personal histories tug painfully against futures, limiting their range of potentiality; unhappy childhoods lubricate the atmosphere for fierce storms in later life; acts of extreme violence inject the circular causality of trauma into entire cultures, but the narrative never vanishes. More than anything, Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts is an account of narratives that feel broken but live on despite themselves.

Another way do articulate this might be to compare S. L. Edwards’ debut collection to The Shining. There’s a certain lack of artifice that inhabits Whiskey, a willingness to forgo the trappings and rhetorical nuances of the kind of writing that thinks of itself as “literary” in favor of a steady gaze towards life at its most repulsive. Stephen King famously opposed Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, which, in my opinion, appeared to obscure Jack Torrence’s struggle against alcohol under a distorted lens that prioritized mystification over character motivation. Kubrick’s tendency towards obscurity is actually a groping towards something similar to what Frederic Jameson calls “formal contradiction” in his discussion of Mahler, that unanswerable question that “secures the work’s position in history” (loc 1325). Kubrick, in other words, aspires to reach beyond King’s novel into the realm of high art. While much has been said online about King’s reaction to Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, one observation stands out as particularly relevant to Edwards’ work. While I can no longer remember or locate the source, the formulation went something like this: “while Kubrick approaches The Shining as an artist, King’s first concern is always man.”

In the context of this opposition, readers can expect much more of King than Kubrick in Edwards. That isn’t to say that Edwards wields the stripped stylistics of Brian Evenson or Cormac McCarthy, but that Edwards deploys every narrative device in utter deference to the human concern he wishes to explore. “I’ve Been Here a Very Long Time” isn’t about a monster in the closet; it’s about abuse and the hideous scar it leaves on a life. It’s about dreaming into existence a different life, that omnipotence childhood pretends to in its most painful moments; it’s about disappointment and reluctant acceptance, things that many of us have somehow lived through. It’s never truly about Edwards’ “simple premise” to which he admits in the author’s note following the story: “the monster in the closet loves you” (30). We can dismiss that with a chuckle, since the “monster” never seduced us–it slithered into the light to perform its mechanical duty and vanished, moving the plot to the next plateau of despair. The horror here is the impotence of the child amidst the violence of its parents. Edwards concern is always with the repulsively human rather than the supernatural.

There’s something deeply admirable in Edwards empathetic concerns, despite the fact that art can never be life (it arises from life, certainly, and nuances our life perspectives without a doubt–it is never, however, being in and of itself, and shouldn’t aspire to be). Nevertheless, the strongly human locus has led to brief moments of narrative weakness. The lower functions that devices of “horror” play throughout Whiskey do, at times, come with a price–the darkly supernatural Golden King in “Golden Girl” supports a depiction of the rather pedestrian anxiety of physical attraction. Here, without the backdrop of a historical or strongly-felt personal trauma, the narrative pressure is intensely focused on the supernatural aspect. Every writer has an Achilles’ Heel, and, in this collection, the supernatural isn’t Edwards’ strong suit. “Movie Magic” is a unique point in Whiskey that, lacking a deeply-felt human struggle, relies entirely on truly effective horror and spends a lot of time covering very little ground. What’s missing in these stories is what could be termed  “The Call of the Void.”

I would be tempted to advocate the use of l’appel du vide to represent the central attraction of weird fiction if the term weren’t associated now (rather indelicately) with mere “suicidal impulse.” I associate it with the strange magic of immense spaces, the soft conjurings that truly immense weirdness makes when we stumble across it. In this sense, weird fiction is characterized by the reader’s seduction by the otherworld, or, as in Ann and Jeff Vandameer state it in their introduction to The Weird, “the pursuit of some indefinable and perhaps maddeningly unreachable understanding of the world beyond the mundane” (loc 211). Although this seduction does surface in Whiskey–slowly in “Cabras,” and fiercely in the beautiful “We Will Take Half,” a story that still fascinates me–readers shouldn’t go into Whiskey expecting pure weird fiction.

What readers would do better to expect is a solid debut that owes more to the author’s reading of humane authors like Tolstoy rather than the cold but brilliant Ligotti. While I’ve noted the places where Edwards’ focus extracts a fee, we should by no means consider his focus a weakness. Writing–particularly in the short story form–is always a matter of sacrifice, and often Edwards does so to strike a magnificent balance that forces the otherworldly to enhance the gritty concerns of life. I’ve already mentioned “Cabras” and “We Will Take Half,” two effective stories about war; “Volver Al Monte,” “When the Trees Sing,” and “The Case of Yuri Zaystev” neatly complete this category, and it should be noted that Edwards deeply empathetic perspective makes him admirably suited to engage in themes of universal import.

It takes a certain boldness in a writer to put war to paper; it’s a theme much larger than God, and that Edwards can successfully evoke it without cheapening it is an event worth celebration. In “When the Trees Sing,” a man comes back from Vietnam to infect a loving family with the destruction the war wrought on him. When supernatural voices call him sweetly to the void (l’appel du vide again, literally this time), one can still tie the narrative strand back to the primal trauma a continent away. Nothing is subtracted from the human horror in the manufacturing of the otherworldly; in fact, it heightens the weirdness of the war itself, locating both on a plane beyond the immediate, where they rightfully belong. Despite the terrors the soldier has committed, we feel his loss is fated by the blind mechanisms of violence rather than deserved.

The “stories of war” uniformly follow suit, combining the blind force of the supernatural almost allegorically with the senseless cruelty of war. The others are (with only a few exceptions), “stories of growing up.” Although war and maturation seem thematically distinct, Edwards’ strength is his ability to underscore the universal aspects of both. In lieu of the division between “war” and “maturation,” we could posit the “communal” and “individual”–nothing would be lost, and we could still note with astonishment that Edwards is at home in either affective realm.

In “Whiskey and Memory,” a father towers ferociously over a young man’s life. The young man, true to trauma’s circularity, learns to replicate the transgressions for future generations, creating a dark stain that descends through time with the persistence of an inheritance. A cursed bottle of whiskey is the supernatural mechanism here that revives the father in all his terrible majesty, allowing him to loom in the flesh as the bloody idol that suffering and memory built to withstand like a sphinx the ages. The father is like war in Whiskey; both swell monstrously with the individuals they swallow; both are beyond hope, and carry with them the chiming doom of the inevitable.

Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts admirably aspires to be one of those immortal debut collections of dark fiction, such as Michael Wehunt’s Greener Pastures and Nadia Bulkin’s She Said Destroy. Only time can tell if Edwards succeeds in this. What can be said is that Edwards’ efforts are well worth experiencing, so long as we appreciate the deeply empathetic soul of this collection. Given the current rift in political and socioeconomic perspectives, something should be said about fiction’s empathetic responsibility; no better case could be made for this collection than the stories themselves. Do not plan for escape. Prepare, instead, to engage.

Justin A. Burnett

Red Lights on a Lonely Road: An Interview with Stephen Graham Jones

I’ve recently heard Stephen Graham Jones’s writing voice described as an acquired taste. I hadn’t heard that term, “an acquired taste” since I was a kid—this is how black coffee was explained to me after my first ever bitter sip. Beer was the same (what parent doesn’t give their kid a swallow from the beer can just to get them to stop asking for some?). Acquired tastes. Later in life, I recalled the saying when I started a long stint of smoking cigarettes. I suppose wine is also an acquired taste, as is seltzer water. So when I heard SGJ described as an acquired taste it really hit home…all these memories of various tastes I became addicted to for long chunks of my life (still way into coffee and seltzer water, to be honest), and the fact that Stephen’s one of my very favorite authors—it all adds up. Hell yes SGJ’s an acquired taste, and one you should probably start sampling if you haven’t already.


Austin James: Ice breaker—congratulations, you’re a superhero! Your superpower is the ability to shapeshift into three different animals (as well as human). Which animals would you choose, and why?

Stephen Graham Jones: Some deep-sea thing, first. Something that can do way deep but also surface. So probably a whale of some sort. I want to see what’s down there, but I also want the rush of rising. Next . . . maybe an Irish Elk, because they were around a long time ago, and, looking through those eyes, I could see a Neanderthal or a Denisovan, maybe. That would be so exciting. Third, um, let’s see . . . well, an eagle or hawk or falcon, right? Who doesn’t want to fly, and eat the occasional rodent? Or, I want to be whatever bird can fly the highest. And I don’t want any birdwatchers looking at me either.

You’re widely recognized as the foremost zombie expert in academia and beyond. In fact, you even teach creative writing classes just about zombies. Based on your extensive knowledge, if you could take just two weapons into the zombie apocalypse, which two would you choose? Why those specific two?

I know Max Brooks warns against swords and katanas, so I’ll nix those. I guess, first, would just be a good camp knife. I mean, it’s a weapon when you’re in close and that’s all you can grab, but there’s going to be a lot of doors to pry open a lot of canned food to be cracking into. A good camp knife can really help you live. If you have some big Rambo job with serration and a compass in the butt, all that, you feel cool, yeah, but you’re also going to slice your finger half open trying to get the syrup those peaches are swimming in. So, a good camp knife is one. The other weapon . . . Daryl’s already got the crossbow called, and those seem to blow up in your face enough anyway, and a recurve, while elegant, will still probably require more maintenance than I could really keep up with in the post-apocalypse. So, I’ll go with Rick, just keep a revolver strapped to my hip. They only hold so many rounds, sure, but they also don’t jam. When you’re hip-deep in gore and sinking fast, you need something reliable like that. You’ve still got to scrounge cartridges all the time, but scrounging is the name of the game once the zombies rise.

Zombie stories are generally categorized as “scary zombies” and “humorous zombies”. Having read both The Gospel of Z and Zombie Bake Off, you’ve clearly written about zombies from both angles. Do you think there are any freedoms for a writer unique to each type of zombie story? What core elements do you think remain the same regardless, and why?

I think one of the most important aspects of the zombie, whatever kind it is, is that we can’t negotiate with them. We can’t lie to them, we can’t make deals with them. They’re just shuffling locusts, come to cut us down to size. And, the freedom you have, writing about zombies, is that surprise deaths of main characters is the name of the game. So if, at any point, a character gets troublesome, you just whack them. It’s kind of fun.

You’ve said (in much more eloquent terms) that zombie culture is popular because the undead, zombie apocalypse, etc., creates this massive void that can be filled with pretty much any metaphor and meaning—from political, to social, to personal, to dealing with our ultimate mortal fate, and everything in between. What did the zombies represent to you in The Gospel of Z? What about Zombie Bake Off?

Hm, never really thought about that. Or, with my own stuff, I just write it, feel it, don’t really subject it to analysis or any of that. I don’t know. I guess, with ZBO, the zombies were supposed to be the obvious opposite of these soccer moms. But it turns out the soccer moms are the real killers, of course. With The Gospel of Z . . . can I just say ‘locusts’ again? Or, I mean, yeah, I guess they could kind of be a warning against heedless progress or something, but, I don’t know. Wasn’t really thinking that. Was just thinking the usual thing, that zombies are cool, let’s write about cool stuff. Really? I wrote that novel during Bush’s second term, when I was getting quite nervous about church and state stuff. So I cooked up a novel expressing my fear of that. And it had zombies in it.

You grew up a Generation-X kid in small desert towns. Back then, kids adventured outside more often than they seem to now…maybe up to more mischief, ending up in places they didn’t belong. Not saying you were one of these troublemaking kids, but it wouldn’t surprise me—I can relate having grown up outdoors in small towns myself (seems like there was always some kid or another starting fields on fire, for some reason). What was the single weirdest thing that happened to you, or that you witnessed, while growing up in West Texas?

Friend and me in my truck, coming home on a lonely road round about two in the morning. The cab kind of glows blue and red, and we both clock the mirrors, sure it’s a cop pulling us over. But we’re still alone. But there are lights in all the mirrors. Our best and last guess is that there’s a plane coming in behind us to land, that’s it some emergency situation. We can clearly see the line of lights approaching. But then that memory just ends, with us turning around in our seats to see what’s happening.

You’re a professor in the MFA programs at University of Colorado at Boulder, University of California Riverside – Palm Desert, and occasionally at the Institute of American Indian Arts. What do you find to be the most rewarding part of teaching others?

That they teach me as well.

What’s the craziest thing one of your students has done in class?

Not in class exactly, but after class. Like, months after. I’m up for a big award, and, surprise, there’s one of my students on the ballot with me. And? She wins. As she very much should have—amazing writer, Helen Marshall. So cool when someone in your class is suddenly beside you on the shelf, and then past you. Kind of the dream.

You’ve got a long publishing history. Which writer(s) would you love to be published alongside, whether in an anthology or a co-written piece, that you have not yet had the pleasure of doing so?

Be neat to have a piece in an anthology that’s also running a reprint of some Philip K. Dick story. I’d copy that TOC out, put it on my wall.

I know you like to think of monsters in ways that feel more realistic and relatable, rather than living in castles with bottomless bankrolls. In this light, “The Night Cyclist” is a great piece of innovative vampire fiction with an interesting take on how being a vampire could be problematic in certain aspects of modern life. What inspired you take this specific angle?

I guess two things. The first is biking home at night, and always looking behind me, sure a Night Cyclist is pacing me, is waiting for a quieter, more lonely place on the trail for us to maybe share a moment. Second is . . . it’s midnight, I’ve been writing for hours, need a break, so I take my dog out for a walk. Everything’s going fine, fine-ish, anyway—I’m always terrified, alone in the dark—but then, walking super on the dark sidewalk by an elementary school, no life or lights anywhere, like I’m the onliest person there is, I get a kind of prickly sensation and turn around to see did someone just step onto the street a block or two back. Wrong. What’s happening is this guy is doing that . . . I don’t know, that thing where you walk so close behind someone that you’re practically touching them, like you’re their shadow, your feet in their footsteps, all that. I flinch ahead, no clue how he got there, did that, and—

I don’t know. That memory ends there.

Let’s close this out with another random question…what are the two most ridiculous things someone tricked you into doing or believing? How long did it take you to realize how ridiculous they were?

Got into a nightlong argument with my wife once about whether Pennsylvania was in Pittsburg or Pittsburg was in Pennsylvania. I was arguing for the first way. And I think she eventually gave up, let me believe that. For two or so years, until, looking at map, I had a certain kind of dawning awareness. But I still can’t keep all those states in the northeast straight. The West makes sense to me. The East, eastern American, not so much. I mean, when I’m up there in the northeast, the highway exits don’t even work the same. Like, stores and gas stations aren’t clustered like I’m used to them being. There’s just, I don’t know, Dunkin Donuts every third step, and too many trees for me to figure anything useful out.

Also, though this probably doesn’t really count, I always default-think that Scarlett O’Hara played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. And this somehow involves me having no clear grasp on who exactly Audrey Hepburn is, or what she maybe looks like. It’s like a tiny lemur got into my head and started unplugging wires, stabbing them in at complete random into stupid places, so that now I can no longer think my way out of this bad, kind of hopeless situation I’m forever in.

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen and a half novels, six story collections, a couple of novellas, and a couple of one-shot comic books. Most recent are Mapping the Interior and My Hero. Next are The Only Good Indians (Saga) and Night of the Mannequins ( Stephen lives and teaches in Boulder, Colorado.

Austin James writes obscure and uncomfortable fiction.

“Attack in LA” is a Nihilistic Skullfuck That Everyone Needs to See

by Bob Freville

Inspired by John’s Colter’s Run, Attack in LA (formerly Parasites) is a harsh take on class war, culture shock, homelessness and blind hatred. Written and directed by our friend Chad Ferrin (the filmmaker behind Breaking Glass Pictures’ legendary cult horror epic Someone’s Knocking at the Door and the man at the helm of the forthcoming splatter comedy Exorcism at 60,000 Feet), ‘AiLA’ tells the story of three privileged friends who find themselves stranded on Skid Row after their luxury car gets a flat tire.

Of course, the plot is far more complex than all that; once you get past the amateurish and inaccurate cover art that suggests a triumphant uprising of the proletariat via assault rifles, you find yourself in an immersive picture where you are running right alongside the film’s terrified protagonist.

To say that Attack in LA is gritty would not be a fair description since critics hurl that word around so much that it’s lost all meaning. A better summation would be to say that Attack in LA looks and feels like a swim through a kiddie pool full of someone else’s sick…and that kiddie pool is brimming with syringes, spiked boards and piss.

The story follows Marshal Colter (newcomer Sean Samuels) as he and his pals are subject to a forcible search and seizure by a cadre of cruddy street people who live in the tunnels of Downtown Los Angeles.

Although it’s unlikely, we get the impression early on that Marshal and his friends might get off with little more than a protracted scare from these hobos and some soiled pairs of undies…if they could just keep their elitist opinions to themselves. Naturally, that’s not what happens.

I won’t spoil the details, but suffice it to say that things go sideways fast after their corpulent Frat boy friend Scottie (Sebastian Fernandez) runs off at the mouth and gets that mouth filled with more than he could have anticipated.

I’ve long loved flicks that explore the crazy shit that can happen when the average worker drones are asleep. Whether we’re talkin’ about Scorsese’s sublime and surreal After Hours, Joe Carnahan’s retro throwback Stretch or the 1993 urban crime thriller Judgment Night, the most exciting stories almost always occur after the sun goes into hiding.

Such is the case with Attack in LA, a sort of Judgment Night reboot that’s a more overt meditation on the caste system and racial politics. This might be Ferrin’s most fully realized picture and, certainly, his only film with a clear message—Be careful holding yourself in higher regards than others because you might end up in their position.

On a fundamental level, this movie is a classic story of a war waged between Good and Evil, except in this case “good” is an entitled, well-educated young black man and “evil” is an addle-brained old war veteran ironically named Wilco. The curmudgeonly vagrant is played with grimy vigor by the chameleon-like character actor Robert Miano (Donnie Brasco, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).

This pic is as ugly and nihilistic as most of its director’s canon, but it may also be his most beautifully shot and well-executed. That it was relegated to Amazon Prime without any proper fanfare is a crime worse than anything committed in its brief running time.

What we see as the film progresses is the sheer prevalence of abuse that people in the so-called underclass take and the “lows” that the privileged are willing to stoop to when they are put under pressure for the first time.

Ferrin’s choice to feature extensive full frontal male nudity was something I would have automatically applauded as someone who recognizes that the film industry has been both exploitative and hypocritical when it comes to gratuitous female nudity for far too long, but I applaud it here because I think he had a deeper reason for doing so.

So far as I can tell, Ferrin is saying that it doesn’t matter if you have a big, swinging dick…even if you’re packing a fucking war club between your legs there will always be someone out there ready to cut you down to size.

From a purely narrative standpoint, the filmmakers definitely owe a debt to John Carpenter’s cult actioner Assault on Precinct 13, but the gravity with which each kill is depicted owes more to Jean-François Richet’s 2005 remake of the same.

None of this is to say that Attack in LA is unoriginal; the picture’s unflinching treatment of the subject matter is something that is rarely seen in film today and in Ferrin’s hands it is presented with stark clarity. While the cinematography can be as dizzying as running for your life the picture is as sobering as brass knuckles to a drunken head.

The soundtrack is fire from the synth score to the incredibly subtle but totally on the nose cover songs (“House of the Rising Sun,” et al.) all the way down to the third act’s haunting originals.

What ‘Attack’ shows us more than anything is the importance of acceptance. Were it not for one unnecessary and badly timed comment the three boys central to the film’s first act would likely be okay. Nothing inflames more than ignorance. The sequence in which our protagonist is mistaken for a homeless person and is subject to a paint balling attack by millennial vloggers is painfully reminiscent of the Bum Wars craze.

The racism of Attack is nothing new, of course, but it seems particularly striking in 2019. Without getting at all political on the subject, I can say with some semblance of authority that the reason behind that racism is clear—the self-appointed messiah of these mole people is a man who was all too happy to be lord and personal savior to his fellow hobos. Once they questioned his instincts they became what they always really were in his eyes—“bitches,” “cunts,” “gooks,” “Taco eaters,” etc.

‘Attack’ has the ending that Get Out should have had, the kind of ending that doesn’t satisfy but pisses people off. And that’s saying something in an age where everyone plays it safe.