Weird Writers Recommend Bionic Exotica Bands: A List by Cody Goodfellow

BIONIC EXOTICA

While exotica is fondly remembered as a borderline-novelty post-WW2 pop genre where white people made asses of themselves exploiting indigenous music, it was also an inevitable dialogue between traditions that genuinely inspired sincere converts and cut them free of western assumptions about how music should sound. For every Martin Denny or Les Baxter (who rhapsodized the South Pacific without once leaving the San Fernando Valley), there was an Esquivel, a Korla Pandit or an Yma Sumac to reflect our colonial fantasies back at us.

While the kitschy crap carries on wherever tiki torches burn, the musical backwaters are still rife with artistic seekers who went native and started reverse-cargo cults, building tribal compounds and sacred spaces out of oscillators and echoplexes. These are some of my favorites. I’d love to know about yours…

6. Nortec Collective

First brought to light in a compilation series that spotlighted Tijuana’s scorching retro-synth scene in the early 2000’s, Bostich & Fussible have emerged as a kind of Norteno Daft Punk. As their name implies, there’s a particular Yello influence working to invert the colonial exotica model; the duo use norteno brass and accordions to add heat to the suave coldness of Europop.

(see also Plankton Man, Hiperboreal, Pinker Tones, Mexican Institute Of Sound)

5. Cumbia Cosmonauts

If the innovation and spark feels like it’s missing from modern electronic music, maybe it’s just been hiding below the equator. Australian Moses Iten takes his Cumbia very seriously. Having just completed a crowdfunded ethnomusicological survey of Mexico and Colombia, he’s a staunch acolyte of the deceptively sleepy dance tradition he wires up so effortlessly to relentlessly juicy techno grooves, highlighting the common thread of hypnotic rhythm and vivacious bombast inherent in both genres. His last release was an extended collaboration with Radio Africa Band, a syncretic confection that juices the African roots of Latin pop to scintillating effect, and as a DJ, he’s a tireless advocate for the unbelievably rich sonic veins he’s mining.

(see also Buraka Som Systema, Deela, pretty much everything on the Hawaii Bonsai label)

4. African Head Charge

Conceived by Adrian Sherwood in response to Brian Eno’s pretentious claim to having evoked a “psychedelic Africa” with David Byrne on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, African Head Charge promised and delivered the real thing. A collective formed around the nucleus of Ghanaian percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah, the muddy, sun-blasted expanses of densely layered polyrhythms reject the empty utopia of afro-futurism and embrace a bionic Now. Thirty years strong, they were supposed to play a show in London with Italian dub-maestro Gaudi only last week…

(see also John Wizards, Burundi Black)

3. Secret Chiefs 3

Secret Chiefs 3 is another fluid collective, revolving around former Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance, that injects rigorously authentic middle Eastern instrumentation into their diabolical mix of surf rock, death metal and epic spaghetti western soundscapes. Taking Bungle’s legendary jigsaw-style and stop-on-a-dime-and-melt-it intensity, Secret Chiefs 3 is what they’d play to break down American POW’s in Al Qaeda black sites, if the tables were turned.

(see also Estradasphere, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Axiom Label, Beats Antique, Pentaphobe)

2. Ratatat/White Flight/Abuela/Kunzite

When I asked them about it once during a brief interview, they just shook their heads and told me they had no idea what I was talking about, but from the Andean-inflected “Montanita” to the synthesized hurdy-gurdy sound of “Tacobel Canon,” Ratatat’s Classics is peerless modern exotica. While one of Ratatat’s interminable sabbaticals, bassist Evan Mast went to South America with White Flight super-hippie Agustin White to sample ayahuasca and Inca atmosphere as Abuela, and now White and Ratatat guitarist Mike Stroud have mutated into Kunzite. While Hawaii-based Kunzite’s Birds Don’t Fly radiates indietronic stoner vibes, standout islander tracks like “Pressure” take Caribbean dance hall skank to places Lee Scratch Perry couldn’t find in his Black Lodge, and make Bob Marley sound like the guy in HR who really wants to know why you can’t take your lunch breaks at your desk.

(see also Ott, Yeasayer, Liquid Stranger, Early Worm, Rainbow Arabia)

1. Kava Kon

Long after the lounge-exotica boom of the late 90’s, there’s still no shortage of kitschy combos wanking out Martin Denny/Les Baxter pastiche to move bespoke tiki mugs, but only one nails the awe and savage beauty of the Pacific Islands. Kava Kon’s latest (last?) full-length release, Maritime Mysteries, is a moody masterpiece that goes beyond corny bird-calls and frog croaks to convey real tropical chills. In a better world, they’ve already been airlifted out of LA and marooned on Molokai until the next one is done…

(see also Ixtahuele, Don Tiki, Javier Diez Ena & His Theremins)

Greetings from Doomsday: “The Raving, Flailing Wingnut”

It’s a damp, dreary morning in the bloated intestine of post-Gatsby Long Island and I’m motoring down Wellwood Avenue, past boarded-up storefronts, bound for The Botanist, New York’s finest medical marijuana dispensary. CSNY’s “Teach Your Children” is spewing from my tired car radio and I’m smelling things I haven’t smelled in years.

The air is no longer choked. The stale fart stench of Swindlehurst factories has been replaced by a fresh scent, an earthy aroma that is inviting, until I ponder its meaning. If you’ve ever spent time in the wilderness you recognize the fragrance at once—the grass is screaming and the trees are being flayed for fretwork in one of Suffolk County’s many lumberyards. Essential businesses and all of that.

I only have one mask and four gloves to spare on this trip, so I’ll have to make it count. I take the Huntington off-ramp and gun it down Broadhollow Road into Sweet Hollow Country.

This is where the urban legends live, where a whorish teenage specter named Bloody Mary is said to appear when you shine your light on her grave. It’s where the gates once read, “Life, How Short.” It’s the home of Mount Misery and curious sightings of Men in Black.

Today, I will not be pulled over by some mythical ghost cop who’s missing the back of his skull. I will not see any teenage whores hanging from an overpass or meet an enigmatic gypsy dressed in crimson.

As “Teach Your Children” is replaced by Marilyn Manson’s “Deep Six,” I zip past what remains of the Walmart entrance, now a heavily barricaded, steel-enforced complex cloistered with cars and caravans of people in surgical masks and handkerchiefs. Some of them are zigzagging between mini-vans with shopping carts overflowing with paper towels and charcoal briquettes, their body language as screwed as their eyes.

I think of the lyrics still lingering from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s classic tune and I wonder what these people will tell their children when they recount this bugfuck period in our history. Will they mention the woman who sunk her teeth into an elderly man before kicking the dick out of him for 24 rolls of toilet paper? or the man who murdered a dude for the same?

Probably they’ll omit the fact that every American could have had a roll of shit paper just based on what Walmart sold to a select number of people in one 5-day period.

No doubt there are a lot of details we won’t bother to rehash, if for no other reason than they demonstrate something we aren’t ready to admit.

It’s a bizarre world, and we are bizarre people.

It’s been almost 50 days since Governor Cuomo signed the PAUSE Act in New York State and guys in big rigs still pull up to 7-Elevens without masks or gloves, smirking at their masked counterparts as they hustle their balls and sidle up to the counter to buy lottery tickets and cans of Skoal.

Some persist in believing that 5G is responsible for the novel coronavirus … despite living more than 200 miles from a 5G tower. Many insist that this is all a “libtard” hoax to control the masses while other people are robbed of closure when a loved one succumbs to the illness and they are forbidden from attending funeral services. The victims of this thing are dumped into the ground like snitches in ditches, denied a proper burial. And this isn’t even the weirdest shit we’ve seen.

A 32-year old mother of two drinks splooge smoothies containing her boyfriend’s jizz because she thinks it is fortifying her immune system against COVID-19. Aaaaand this just in: Coronavirus traces have been found in the spunk of survivors who were “severely infected.” This does not bode well for Baby Batter Betty of Aylesbury.

A strange bacterium is killing so many olive trees across Italy, Greece and Spain that Southern Europe might lose more than $20 billion.

Call me funny, but if I can’t get a decent pasta dish in the future because of an olive oil shortage, I may just end up like that lady in the Walmart parking lot, nipping at the ankles of some septuagenarian and beating the balls off a stranger for some Aglio e Olio.

The thought of it is enough to get my pressure up, which is hardly uncommon for an overweight 37-year old drunk with a serious pasta addiction. But you’re at risk too, buddy. That’s right!

No, the kids aren’t okay. Toddlers all across the country are covered in welts and hideous rashes from this thing and the millennials are not impervious. Otherwise healthy thirty-somethings are stroking out, surely from the stress of quarantine as much as the virus itself. Happy Hypoxics (dig that adorable nickname!) who should be gasping or “seizing” are strutting around like they just pounded a six pack of Monster Energy drinks.

If COVID Toe doesn’t get you then you may just drop like a sack of fruit while coping with price gouging. And who could blame you, really? It’s not just Generation Wuss that’s incapable of withstanding these batshit times.

Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy has croaked. The dude who got ate by a giant tiger and survived has succumbed to ‘Rona. Stick that in your skeptic’s spliff and smoke it! Even the Architect of Rock and Roll, Little Richard, has sung, “Goodnight, Irene.”

As the great wicks are snuffed out and the hand sanitizer dries up, we’re left to do all that we can. Hunker down. It’s easier said than done, to be sure. You’ve seen the memes. “Can you blink quieter, you fucking cunt?”

We’re all of us losing our shit. And where there is shit there needs to be shit paper.

It’s like a stranger had a key, came inside of my mind

And moved all my things around.”

Ah, Marilyn. How right you are. Invasive thoughts burrow into one’s skull like tapeworms into soft tissue. If mortality isn’t on your mind right now then you probably don’t have one.

Earlier in the week, I had to make a run to 7-Eleven for disposable masks and coffee. On my way I passed a middle-aged woman in a soiled sweatsuit. She was flailing along Montauk Highway, cursing at someone who wasn’t there.

But of course, I thought.

Now I am the one cursing at all the Sunday drivers flooding the roads on this overcast morning as I make my way to The Botanist with the last of some Rainforest Clarity in my system. If it weren’t for clarity we’d all be setting fires by now, but as a wise cynic once told me, “Why burn when the whole world’s in ashes?”

That was in a different time, a simpler one. It was somewhere after the Y2K panic and before the Iraq War. The sage who spewed it was a crackhead and a known felon, but he was also a gentleman. By that, I mean he shared his drugs and his aphorisms if you were willing to sit through them. And if he spit when he talked, he was courteous enough to keep a wide berth.

The same cannot be said of the denizens of 2020. The Year of the Rat has brought us the Toilet Bowl Challenge, public spit attacks and unbridled gluttony. A man drove to 11 different Wendy’s locations twice in one day when he heard about their free 4-piece chicken nuggets. This tri-state excursion netted him 88 free nugs.

This story was presented in the mindlessly good-humored fashion typical of mainstream news. How quirky and quaint, right? And maybe it sounds pretty silly on the surface…until you think on it for a minute.

The post I came across included a photo of Skweezy Jibbs—the man’s all-too-appropriate Twitter handle—as well as his Tweet which reads, “Times is [sic] tough so when I heard Wendy’s was [sic] givin’ out free 4 piece nuggs today I knew I had to hustle. I hit every damn Wendy’s twice within 17 miles across 2 states. It took 5 hours but now we eatin’ free 4 [sic] a week.”

One look at the gristled face of this gnarly liquid shit, and the man panties draped about his bristly throat, perfectly illustrates the primitive avarice that our gut bug of a president has inspired if not outright encouraged.

This is ‘Merica and it’s great! It belongs to me and I gets mines and if you take everything for yourself and leave nothing in the cookie jar for the next dumb sumbitch? Well, that’s called winning, Loser!

I seem to have digressed somewhere along the way, perhaps as a result of contemplating this man’s photo which will almost certainly be the one used for campaign purposes when he runs for office in the future. I mean, nothing says American Resourcefulness like a neckbeard wearing a pair of dirty drawers as a face mask.

It isn’t hard to imagine this mugshot of a default pic becoming the face of American Politics or, at the very least, the cover shot on a textbook. This face is Amerika.

It’s the same grill as that demented, flailing woman in the soiled sweatsuit. I ponder this as I scurry out of The Botanist with my indica vape cartridges and lock myself in the relative safety of my ’99 Nissan Altima. And as I load the chamber of my brand-new Ccell ® Palm with revolutionary ceramic heating elements and aluminum alloy housing (Made in China, it’s worth mentioning), I alight on the greatest horror that I’ve faced today.

We are all that slobbering, raving lunatic you see marching along the street, flailing and cursing to themselves.

How can we help it?

Our loved ones have mastered the Art of Irritation while strangers have abandoned fundamental social cues, and it’s the first time in most of our lives where we’ve had to decide whether that extra wipe is worth the cost of running out of hand soap.

What’s worse, we’ve all but lost the industry that we rely on to distract us as reality looses a wet one on our chests. There are only so many stories to binge and only so many times you can hear about 90 Day Fiance: The Other Way before your brain turns to parfait and your tongue flops out.

As streaming services have shit the bed and gullible fools have fallen off cliffs in celebration of illusory freedom, Israel has been carefully coming up with a COVID antibody that will undoubtedly result in another Thousand Year War with Palestine. A cabal of obscenely moneyed Plutocrats will surely buy the rights to their development like that filthy rich dick weevil who owned the lost Wu-Tang album.

As we wait, more black lives are taken by the sort of individuals who always turn national crises into a real world sequel to The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. In Georgia, a 25-year old man named Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot by a father and son who tag-teamed his ass with a handgun and a shotgun … for jogging.

Many see this all as our status quo. Another pair of jingoistic hilljacks running down an unarmed black kid. Business as usual.

I see it as the latest in a series of events which confirm what some of us have long suspected—the earth would be better off without humans.

As I drove home with some fresh Rainforest Clarity and that earthy aroma smacked me in the face once again, I remembered that the grass is screaming and I smiled.

“Maybe the earth is finally getting ready to spit us out.”

Esto perpetua.

Predictions for the week ahead: Walmart employees will get hip to the book section in their store and learn how to fire their own boss. More Amazon executives will resign. A rise in temperatures and a consequent rise in alcohol poisonings, hand sanitizer poisonings and poisonous insects will occur.

Allergy sufferers will go to their physicians’ offices with the sniffles and be told to jerk off in cups. One hundred Coronababies will be conceived while at least fifty existing children will be traded for two-ply.

Monday will see the President declaring a luxury tax on Charmin and a ban on press photographers. The CDC’s top ground personnel will be fired and replaced by former members of America First Action and HFZ Capital Group.

The Lincoln Project will finds its signage vandalized to read The Lincoln Log Losers Club in gold spray paint. Jimmy Fallon will receive Trump’s nomination for the next Mark Twain Award on the same day that he’s caught strangling his youngest daughter to death on the Tonight Show – Home Edition.

Business as usual.

Weird Video Games Showcase: Suda51, by Vincenzo Bilof

Video games might be a surprising reference point when we’re discussing art, especially since many people struggle to perceive video games as anything other than a silly game for kids, much less a sport in which people can be paid handsomely to compete against opponents around the world. One of the craziest and most original video gamed directors out there, Goichi Suda, often referred to as Suda51, created a brand of games that are often offensive and exploitative, though there is no discounting the originality in the art design and gameplay mechanics that are hallmarks of his often controversial games. Severed heads and penis jokes are two of the most recognizable features of Suda51 games, in addition to scantily-clad anime women who wield great power. Here are the games that I’ve enjoyed most from Grasshopper Manufacture.

Shadows of the Damned (2011-Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

This particular game’s narrative is one long joke about penises, though the art design and gameplay are almost enough to ignore this shortcoming. The main character, Garcia Hotspur, uses a talking gun called Johnson; he wields the weapon in multiple forms, including as a torch and a shotgun. Garcia is on a quest to rescue the woman he loves from demons, so the game doesn’t stray from colorful settings and an interesting “darkness” mechanic that introduces puzzles for the player to solve in order to progress. Garcia is able to restore his health in the game by drinking alcohol! As with the majority of Suda51 games, some of the quips are actually clever and add flavor to the game world and characters. Boss fights and specific gameplay elements don’t become repetitive, which allows for the game to remain fresh as you progress. The game has a horror vibe to it, though it’s more in line with Army of Darkness in its approach to humor. Shadows of the Damned isn’t mean to be scary, but it sure is a fun ride. Shinji Mikami helped produce this gem of a game; Mikami directed The Evil Within and a game that is often considered a classic by many in the gaming community: Resident Evil 4.

Shadows of the Damned

Lollipop Chainsaw (2012-Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

An old-school beat-em up game featuring a cheerleader outfit who wields a chainsaw and carries her boyfriend’s severed head, Lollipop Chainsaw could have been anyone’s guilty pleasure. Juliet, the protagonist, is still a popular template for cosplayers. Who doesn’t want to kill hordes of zombies with a chainsaw? On the surface, the game has a very simple design, with several challenges and unlockable power-ups and costumes for Juliet (of course you want to dress her up, and even change her hair color!). This game revels in what it is, and the boss battles can often prove a challenge for hardened gamers. It’s simple, visceral fun.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Killer is Dead (2013-Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

This game’s unique art style is worthy of a Google Images search. The dialogue is often poetic and dreamlike, a quality that I loved in Suda51’s most infamous game, Killer 7. It’s best to just copy the basic plot from Wikipedia: “Killer Is Dead is set on a near future version of Earth, where space tourism and cybernetic enhancements have become a reality. A key element of the story is Dark Matter, a malign energy stemming from the dark side of the Moon that negatively affects weak-willed humans and generates mindless monsters called Wires. It is the job of a government-funded group dubbed the Bryan Execution Firm to kill those infected with Dark Matter using people known as ‘Executioners’, although doing so will inevitably lead the chosen Executioner to be overwhelmed by Dark Matter.” The plot is as nonsensical as it gets for a video game, and the narrative threads are very loose, but it really doesn’t matter. The slice-and-dice gameplay is a ton of fun, and of course, there are the Gigolo Missions, where Mondo goes on a date with a cell-shaded vixen and is granted awards and points for buying gifts and flirting, a game mechanic present in many Japanese-Anime-style games. I’m not sure anything in this game makes sense, as it’s a combination of several different elements from Suda51 games. Regardless; the game is surreal and fun.

Killer is Dead

Killer 7 (2005-Gamecube, Playstation 2, Microsoft Windows)

This game, in many circles, is considered a cult classic—or it’s been dubbed unplayable garbage. The gameplay is often on the rails, and you choose to take on the role of one of seven distinct personalities that supposedly dwell inside the mind of wheelchair-bound Harman Smith. During a given mission, you will assume the role of several (if not all) of the seven different assassin personalities. If the plot of Killer is Dead seemed far out, Killer 7 will never make sense. Organ trafficking, children trained to become assassins, conflict between Japan and America that becomes a sort of metaphor; there is a very deep story, and the game unfolds as a surreal poem. The visuals are interesting and the dialogue is incredibly unique; severed heads and serial killer philosophies abound. The fact that the game is very linear—you always know where you’re supposed to go—only serves to allow the player to experience the wild setting and story. The game was recently remastered for Windows in 2018, and it’s worth checking out if you want a truly unique gaming experience. And yes, it happens to be a favorite of mine.

Killer 7

Final Thoughts

No More Heroes, a game that most gamers have heard about, is a series from Suda51 that I personally haven’t played through; I tried the first one and didn’t finish it, but I recall several different game mechanics mashed into one game. While I haven’t played every single Suda51 game, the four I’ve discussed here—especially Killer is Dead and Killer 7—are games that I’ve personally enjoyed and finished. I often find articles on different websites regarding video games from people who haven’t played a lot of games or even finished the one they’re writing about; rest-assured, video games are a big part of my life. I see lists and articles from people who just love their click-bait, and I couldn’t help myself when offered an opportunity to write about Suda51 from a position of love. I hope you found at least one of these games interesting enough to try!

by Vincenzo Bilof

Weird Writers Recommend Silent Films: A List by Madeleine Swann

If you’re a weird film fan I imagine you’ve seen, or at least heard of, German Expressionist horrors Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, the nightmarish documentary Haxan, early science fiction Metropolis and Un Chien Andalou, the most well-known silent Surrealist film.

Instead I wanted to share films you might not know. I had to be really strict with myself, there were so many I could have included such as The Passion of Joan of Arc, Hitchcock’s The Lodger, The Unknown, Within Our Gates and anything with Clara Bow (all highly recommended). And then there are modern offerings like Call of Cthulhu, The Artist and anything by Guy Maddin. However I decided to share my personal favourites, the ones I would show on a first night if I opened my own art deco cinema.

cinema

Pandora’s Box (1929)

The traditional German story of Lulu has her ruining all men who have the misfortune of falling in love with her. GW Pabst doesn’t go for this simplistic narrative, a fairly common trope at the time. Instead Lulu, played by Louise Brooks, is a free spirit who carelessly does what she wishes, whether it’s leaving one man for another or quitting a dance show for a circus. The men in her life project their wants and desires onto her, ruining themselves, until eventually they ruin her too. Considered extremely taboo (there’s lesbianism, sex work, murder and a hint at incest), it was frequently chopped to pieces in cinemas.

Here’s professional curmudgeon Mark Kermode discussing it:

Curse of Quon Gwon (1916-17)

A Westernised woman marries into a traditional Chinese family. Directed by Marion E Wong, she also appears as the film’s antagonist and members of the family make up the rest of the cast.

The lack of intertitles and the film’s incompletion make it difficult to know what’s happening. An accusation is made and the main character wanders off into the woods, then wanders back, and… I don’t know. The reason I like it so much are the little touches, like the main character secretly brushing her fringe back out after her hair is arranged in the Chinese way. It gives a timeless feel to the experience of acclimatising to new countries and new cultures.

The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928)

Made a full year before Un Chien Andalou, Germaine Dulac’s beautiful, dreamy images are a stark contrast to the violence in Dali and Bunuel’s film (which are also good, don’t get me wrong). At the time the other Surrealists dismissed it completely but these days it takes its rightful place as the first Surrealist film. Also check out her earlier feminist short The Smiling Madame Beudet.

The Goddess (1934)

Ruan Lingyu plays a mother who must slip out at night to earn money through sex work. She navigates her way through police, pimps and hurtful gossip. Although beautiful in traditional Chinese dress, she’s cool and rebellious. Then, when she holds her baby or goes to his play when he’s older, she’s warm and loving. Ruan Lingyu, like Louise Brooks, was a naturalistic actor which audiences didn’t always understand at the time. This, along with hurtful gossip of her own, contributed to her suicide in 1935.

Gallery of Monsters (1924)

The opening scene, with the whole circus onstage, is fantastic. The editing and visuals throughout feel very modern. However, for the characters, it’s the world’s worst place to work. A clown who looks like a Tim Burton creation and his wife are concerned for their ill baby, but the ringmaster doesn’t care. He’ll blackmail and threaten his performers into doing his bidding, and up their rent. Not only that, every time the goth clown is out of the trailer, the strong man tries to assault his wife.

It’s enjoyable also for the presence of Kiki de Montparnasse, a well-known figure among artists and filmmakers of 1920s Paris.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find one with English subtitles

The Wildcat (1921)

Ernst Lubitsch is a well-known, well-loved director for a reason. The Wildcat is an explosion of pure joy and fun with surrealist moments, fantastical moments and bits that made me proper belly laugh. A lieutenant is due to marry the Commander’s daughter but a member of a band of robber’s, Pola Negri, sneaks in and steals his heart instead. The end doesn’t go where you think it will, which makes for a better film, but I was still sad.

A Page of Madness (1923)

Also lacking intertitles, this wasn’t found until the 70s. This experimental film was made by Shinkankakuha, or the School of New Perceptions. Wanting to do away with all natural style they created a visual assortment of bizarre images which translate really well into gifs. The story doesn’t really matter – a man enters an asylum to rescue his wife – it’s the eyeball treats that are the reason to watch.

Our Modern Maidens (1929)

Made as part of a trio of unrelated films, Our Modern Maidens is known as a squib, meaning a silent film with a scene or two of sound.

Before Joan Crawford became the monster of Mommie Dearest, before even her face became the mask we think of today, she was a feisty flapper with wonderful outfits.

Our Dancing Daughters is a better film but I prefer this one. Joan looks beautiful, especially during a dance at a party, Douglas Fairbanks Jr is fun, and the story is quite racy for the time (he gets another girl pregnant and it’s not frowned upon). Also, the final romance between Joan and the man she chooses… let’s just say, if it was me, I’d have run a mile.

So there we have it. I hope you enjoy and that it leads you to search out more, I enjoy having people to chat with about silent films. Toodle pip!

by Madeleine Swann

Weird Writers Recommend Weird Films

Richard Thomas: Under the Skin (2013)

What some are calling an arthouse flick, Under the Skin is probably Scarlett Johannson’s best film to date. Without spoiling it, this eerie, creepy surreal movie starts with an opening that rivals 2001: A Space Odyssey. The music and soundtrack go a long way toward creating an atmosphere that is unsettling, as well as emotional. Now and then the movie slides into the abstract–showing elements that are not clearly defined, but filled with symbolism and sensation—black pits of liquid, a flowing red substance, a series of orbs and circular objects, etc. There is a sense of the uncanny, or something above and beyond the everyday rituals that our protagonist goes through, as she lures men into her van, leading to their demise. This haunting, touching, and visceral film should be seen on the big screen, but even at home it has power and impact. This movie asks a lot of questions about how we see ourselves, and others, how we treat people, how we identify, and what base, primal urges lie underneath it all—and how dangerous that can be. One of my favorite A24 films to date.

Ellen Datlow: Keiko Mask (aka, Kekkô Kamen) (1991)

Keiko Mask, (Kekkô Kamen) directed by Yutaka Akiyama, is a Japanese movie from 1991 about a female superhero who wears red boots and a red mask and nothing else. She stuns her opponents by flashing her ahem, privates at them, and as they’re struck senseless by its charms, she can kill them.

Johnathan Raab: Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)

A surprisingly competent gonzo Italian grindhouse gorefest with all sorts of uncomfortable subtexts. If you enjoy weird, foreign, or Eurohorror cinema, this is a must-watch. Just be prepared to be absolutely baffled and repulsed in all the right ways.

Nicole Cushing: The Freakmaker (aka, The Mutations) (1974) 

Donald Pleasence stars as a mad scientist trying to turn human beings into plants. Why? Because that way we can all be fed via photosynthesis. Therefore, hunger will end! The film also includes a scene or two ripped off from Tod Browning’s Freaks, and Tom Baker (yes, that Tom Baker, the future Dr. Who) costars as Pleasence’s henchman. I’ve seen many strange movies. This is one of the strangest.

Brian Asman: Prayer of the Rollerboys (1990) 

Mainstream Hollywood has a long tradition of trying to capitalize on the latest teenage fads with often-bland results (the video game-centric retelling of Rain Main, Fred Savage vehicle The Wizard, notwithstanding), but when low budget production companies try to do the same, the results are often magical. Enter Prayer, a post-apocalyptic tale of drugs, gangs, and in-line skating. The titular Rollerboys are a racist gang led by a guy named Gary Lee (played by Christopher Collet, whose first film role saw him get decapitated by Angela in Sleepaway Camp), who is ONLY ever referred to by his full name. Corey Haim plays Griffin, an orphan skate rat/pizza delivery boy raised by a kind-hearted ex-boxer, who’s just trying to raise his younger brother Miltie in an economically-depressed hellscape. When Miltie gets seduced by the girls, drugs, and rock-n-roll lifestyle of the Rollerboys, Griffin goes undercover to bring down the gang, working with a teenaged cop played by Patricia Arquette. While it’s sadly not widely-available at the moment, used DVDs and VHS tapes can be had on Amazon.

Ben Fitts: Deathgasm (2015)

A demonic, metal-themed horror-comedy, Deathgasm is a New Zealand film about a teenaged black metal band who’s so kvlt that they accidentally summon a hoard of body-stealing demons during band practice. It ends up being up to those very teenagers to save their town from the demons now inhabiting the bodies of everyone they once knew, all set to a kickass soundtrack of underground extreme metal bands. Full of off-beat humor, splatter happy fight scenes, an absurdist premise, and some moments of pretty genuine horror, Deathgasm is one of the funnest and most thoroughly enjoyable weird movies out there.

Emma J. Gibbon: Crybaby (1990)

I unabashedly, unironically, unashamedly love this film. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a musical comedy in the style of Hairspray starring Johnny Depp and Amy Locane. Depp plays Crybaby Walker, a rebel without a cause style character who falls in love with Locane’s character, Allison Vernon-Williams, one of the “squares.” There is so much to love about this—I mean it’s John Waters so you know what you’re getting—Iggy Pop in a tin bathtub, Traci Lords playing a rebellious teenage, Ricki Lake giving birth in the back of a car during a game of chicken (oops, spoiler), Patty Hearst is in it! Part of why I love it is nostalgia, this was my sister’s favorite film when she was a kid—she watched it every day (bless my parents and their complete lack of screen monitoring) and because she was so young she had no clue it was a parody so took the plot and characters completely seriously, which is the best way to view this. Also, I donate this DVD to the library I work at, and it gets stolen at least once a year. That’s how you can tell something is a cult classic.

Shoshana Frerking: Man Bites Dog (1992)

Man Bites Dog is a totally messed-up black comedy from the early nineties, and a commentary on how the media usually manages to insert itself into whatever story it is reporting on, particularly where the story involves heinous acts of violence. The movie was filmed documentary-style by two of its writers (André Bonzel and Rémy Belvaux), who accompany serial killer Ben on a murder bender. Ben is a very likable guy who loves to explain his techniques while he is slaughtering his victims. As the film progresses, the two filmmakers gradually start assisting Ben in the murders, in order to keep the documentary rolling. Some of it is a little hard to watch, but the film’s message about media coverage is bitingly clear.