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Fowler’s Flix 09.17.19: Religious Horrors

Film Movement
Young Seth comes of age in the surrealistic and impressionable 1950s in "The Reflecting Skin."
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The more I see people who commit terrors in the name of God, the more I believe that that’s the real horror in this life, from Hell Houses to holocausts. Beyond misinterpretation, the sheer pain and suffering people have been put through because a God enlisted and commanded someone to spread his love through the sword is the basis for the fictional religious horrors of this week’s Fowler’s Flix.

Where David Lynch’s skewed view of Americana left off, British playwright Philip Ridley’s delirious continuation The Reflecting Skin (Film Movement) goes one step further with a nuanced eye that, perhaps being a Brit, he caught more rapidly than really Lynch ever could. Taking place in a rural town in 1950s Idaho, impressionable Seth (Jeremy Cooper) leads a tortured life with his religious zealot mother and closeted father; his hobbies including stalking his next-door neighbor who may be a vampire and finding the remains of an ossified baby in his barn.

When his brother Cameron (Viggo Mortensen) returns home from the army—working on secret radiation plots for the government, natch—he falls in love with the creepy neighbor to Seth’s absolute horror. With alien locales and even more alien locals, the creeping terror that underlies every single scene of well-lit tension makes The Reflecting Skin so hard to watch, but fascinating enough not to take your eyes off of.

The Australian classic The Devil’s Playground (Artsploitation) is also a tale of youthful indiscretions in the 1950s, this time in a religious seminary that is, most times, overloaded with a form of pure Catholic sexual guilt, from something as simple as talking to a member of the opposite sex to young men dealing with an adolescent sexual yearning that, sadly, will continue until the day they die.

Young Tom (Simon Burke) is one such student, a kid that is listening to conflicting spiritual advice from a handful of woefully different brothers, each one coming into direct competition with his burgeoning feelings. From his nascent bedwetting to the death of a schoolmate that might have been suicide, director Fred Schepisi used his own memories of his religious upbringing to tell this spiritually dark tale.

A sequel to Lucky McKee’s The Woman—a film I admit I’ve never seen—star Pollyanna McIntosh takes over the director’s seat in the stylistically depressing Darlin’ (Dark Sky Films). The descendant of a feral family of cannibals that roams the countryside, the original Woman’s daughter Darlin’ is found at an area hospital and is taken to a Catholic orphanage where her world is upended with stories, both good and bad, from the Bible.

Darlin’, however, is also pregnant and after learning about the Devil, believes that there is an evil inside her that she has to get rid of. McIntosh (who also takes a side-seat reprising the Woman) does a credible job as director, crafting a tale that questions what we not only consider “civilized,” but also how we pick and choose different Biblical lines and themes to simply get our own wants met, no matter how evil.

If only that evil would stay on film instead of creeping out into our own religious and spiritual lives…

Next week: Breathtaking Asian cinema!

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About the Author

Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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