Halloween Streaming Recommendations 2022

Halloween is rapidly approaching, which means many cinephiles & genre nerds out there are currently planning to cram in as many scary movies as they can over the next month. In that spirit, here’s a horror movie recommendation for every day in October from the Swampflix crew. Each title was positively reviewed on the blog or podcast in the past year and is currently available on a substantial streaming service. Hopefully this helps anyone looking to add some titles to their annual horror binge. Happy hauntings!

Oct 1: Scream (1996)

“Having since caught up with virtually all of its reference points in the two decades since I first saw this film as a child, the namedrops now play like adorably clever winks to the camera. In the mid-90s, however, that list was a doorway to a world of horrors I would take mental note of for future trips to the video store. It was essential.” Currently streaming on Showtime.

Oct 2: Ginger Snaps (2000)

“There are plenty coming-of-age horrors in which a teen girl’s earliest experiences with menstruation & sexual desire escalate into bloodlust & supernatural mayhem: Carrie, Teeth, Raw, Jennifer’s Body, etc. This one just holds a special place in my heart for being the first I happened to see, so it’s always my first reference point when I see the pattern repeated.” Currently streaming on Shudder, Peacock, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 3: The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

“A misandrist horror classic! Plenty of 1970s women-on-the-verge psych thrillers out there where shit-heel men drive women to madness, but few are this committed to their psychosexual terror or bloody revenge.” Currently streaming on Shudder, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 4: White of the Eye (1987)

“A knockoff giallo that gets lost in the American desert for a while, then emerges as a sun-dazed erotic thriller. Incredible, unwieldy stuff.” Currently streaming on Shudder, The Criterion Channel, for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 5: Demon Seed (1978)

“Belongs to a very special subcategory of classic horror: I saw it parodied on The Simpsons long before I saw the movie itself. I put this one off longer than most, since the premise is so sleazy, but thankfully it’s less focused on the physical act of impregnation than I feared and instead finds a kind of wretched transcendence through retro computer graphics.” Currently streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 6: Hatching (2022)

“A great entry in the Puberty as Monstrous Transformation canon, along with titles like Ginger Snaps, Jennifer’s Body, Teeth, Carrie, etc. Stands out in that crowd by adding an extra layer about mothers living vicariously through their daughters in unhealthy ways. Also achieves a lot on what appears to be a limited budget, leaning into its cheapness to create the kind of plastic world you’d expect to find in a music box.” Currently streaming on Hulu.

Oct 7: Scream 2 (1997)

“It’s easy to downplay the first Scream as a Greatest Hits collection of slasher tropes, so it’s super smart for its sequel to replay exact scenes from it as the tropiest, slasheriest slasher of all time. Every clip from and reference to Stab is brilliant.” Currently streaming on Showtime.

Oct 8: Cronos (1993)

“There’s an extremely 90s-specific visual warmth to this that makes it instantly familiar, recalling cultural touchstones as varied as Tales from the Crypt & Wishbone. I definitely saw it once before in the post-victory glow of Pan’s Labyrinth, but it plays like something I watched hundreds of times on VHS, or heard repeated nightly as a freaky bedtime story.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Oct 9: Wishmaster (1997)

“Very much enjoyed this as a child who was technically too young to see it, and glad to see it mostly holds up as a dumb-fun practical gore showcase. Its quality & sensibilities are pretty standard for trashy novelty horrors of its era, but its “Careful what you wish for” evil genie setup allows its imagination to run wild from kill to kill instead of being limited to one kind of monster. Makes total sense as a Wes Craven production, since the nightmare logic of the Elm Street kills works the same way.” Currently streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi and Pluto TV.

Oct 10: The Lawnmower Man (1992)

“Had a lot of fun with this but it really pushed the outer limits of how much bullshit I’m willing to put up with to indulge in the precious Outdated Vintage Tech goofballery I love to see in killer-computer genre movies. Turns out the answer is ‘way too much’.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla.

Oct 11: Monkey Shines (1988)

“Romero’s killer helper monkey-movie crawled so The Lawnmower Man could transcend time & space.” Currently streaming on Shudder, Showtime, for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 12: Willard (2003)

“My favorite thing about the original Willard is how uncomfortably relatable I found Willard as a character; my favorite thing about this remake is how much Crispin Glover is an absolute freak.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy.

Oct 13: Scream 3 (2000)

“A Corman cameo??? Hell yeah. Parker Posey as comedic relief?? Right on. Jay and Silent Bob? Oh, oh no.

Just as much of a mixed bag as the second one, but it’s easy to enjoy the nesting doll effect of the Stab series as this chugs along.” Currently streaming on Showtime.

Oct 14: Deadstream (2022)

“This was a constantly surprising delight, getting huge laughs out of supernaturally torturing a YouTuber smartass with a sub-Ryan Reynolds sense of humor. It effectively does for Blair Witch what Host did for Unfriended, borrowing its basic outline to stage a chaotic assemblage of over-the-top, technically impressive scare gags.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 15: Malignant (2021)

“Feels like 2021’s The Empty Man: a seemingly well-behaved mainstream horror that takes some wild creative stabs in its go-for-broke third act; both earning instant cult prestige as ‘hidden gems’ despite their robust budgets, thanks to the dysfunction of COVID era distribution. I personally found The Empty Man the more rewarding experience of that pair, but you gotta appreciate these big-budget crowd-bafflers whenever you can find them.” Currently streaming on HBO Max.

Oct 16: The Seventh Curse (1986)

“I normally don’t vibe with Indiana Jones-style international swashbuckling at all, but this Hong Kong action mind-melter hits the exact level of bonkers mayhem I need to get past that genre bias. Overflowing with imagination, irreverence, explosive brutality, and shameless copyright violations in every scene. Far preferable to any actual Indiana Jones film, even if it would not exist without their influence.” Currently streaming on for free (with ads) on Crackle & Plex.

Oct 17: Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968)

“Presented as an alien-invasion creature feature, but really more of an anything-goes descent into chaos in which “the whole world’s gone insane” (mostly as an anti-war metaphor). One of those constantly surprising low-budget novelties where it feels like absolutely anything can happen at any time, while most of the actual imagery between the special effects shots is just a handful of characters debating a plan of action in a single room.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Oct 18: Mad God (2022)

“Both a for-its-own-sake immersion in scatological mayhem & an oddly touching reflection on the creative process, the indifference of time, and the cruelty of everything. It’s meticulously designed to either delight or irritate, so count me among the awed freaks who never wanted the nightmare to end.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 19: Viy (1967)

“The five-minute stretch that makes good on its long-teased witchcraft & devilry—boosted by an importation of Silent Era special effects into a 1960s filmmaking aesthetics—should leave an intense impression on your psyche that overpowers any minor qualms with its build-up. This is a quick, oddly lighthearted folk-horror curio with a fascinating historical context and an eagerness to wow the audience in its tension-relieving climax.” Currently streaming on Shudder, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 20: Lisa and the Devil (1973)

“Besides the gorgeous, lustrous cinematography, I will forever treasure this as the only film I know of with a haunted European villa and a haunted plane. I would 1000% watch Lisa descend further into madness in a surreal plane-centric sequel.” Currently streaming on Shudder, or for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy.

Oct 21: The Wailing (2016)

“Expands the rage-virus horror of 28 Days Later into opposing directions of operatic crescendo & goofball slapstick, refusing to be tethered to any one specific meaning or tone and finding abject terror in that ambiguity. An ideal vision of what mainstream horror would routinely look & feel like in a better world.” Currently streaming on Shudder, Peacock, for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy & Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 22: The Medium (2021)

“In the abstract, a found-footage update to The Exorcist for the 2020s sounds like it would be tedious at best, but this manages to feel freshly upsetting & emotionally engaged while never drifting outside those genre boundaries. Big-scale blockbuster horror on a scrappy indie budget.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 23: Scream 4 (2011)

“A good argument that this series only thrives with breathing room. The first is still the best, with at least two decades of slasher tradition to catalog and pull apart. 2 & 3 felt thin & rushed by comparison, then this one snaps the whole thing back into shape with another full decade of horror trends to riff on.” Currently streaming on Paramount+, Starz, for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 24: All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

“A delightfully vapid, shockingly cruel horror comedy about undead cheerleaders seeking supernatural revenge on their school’s misogynist football team. Much, much better than its reputation & promotional material suggest, but maybe still dead last on the list of films of its ilk worth prioritizing before you get to it: Heathers, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Ginger Snaps, The Craft, Jennifer’s Body, Sugar & Spice, Jawbreaker, Teeth, Buffy, etc.” Currently streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 25: A Cat in the Brain (1990)

“Really fun, chaotic self-reflection on how the brutality of the horror genre is often flippantly overlooked by cheap-thrill seekers but still takes a toll on our psyches (of which I’m just as guilty as Fulci). Feels like a crude precursor to what Wes Craven would soon be working through in A New Nightmare & Scream, except that it doubles as a Greatest Hits montage of Fulci’s recycled gore gags.” Currently streaming on for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 26: The Visitor (1979)

“The greatest sports movie of all time, by which I mean it only briefly pretends to be interested in basketball before indulging in a chaotic mix of aliens, killer birds, and Satanic blood cults (with a little gymnastics & ice-dancing tossed in for balance).” Currently streaming on Shudder, Peacock, for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy & Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 27: Lifeforce (1985)

“It would have been more than enough for the soul-sucking nudist space vampires to turn Earthlings into exploding dust zombies & blood sacks, but what really made me fall in love is how they start the process by hypnotizing their victims with intense horniness. I’m always a sucker for supernatural erotic menace, so 5 stars; instant fav.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 28: Return of the Living Dead (1985)

“I need to stop thinking of Dan O’Bannon as the nerd who wrote Alien and start thinking of him as the absolute madman who somehow made Return of the Living Dead & Lifeforce in the same year; two deranged gems I should’ve sought out a lot sooner.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 29: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)

“Besides its obvious charms as a ribald horror comedy about witchcraft & titties, it’s also an expert demonstration of kayfabe in action. Elvira never breaks character, gets billed “as herself”, and continues to work her job as a B-horror hostess even as she gets tangled up in a one-woman war against small-minded small towners.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime, for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 30: Scream (2022)

Stab has become a cultural phenomenon in Scream‘s world, and that world has now entered the era of The Snyder Cut, wherein groups of fanboys feel that the media belongs to them, so they want to course correct back to the ‘original concept; by enacting a new series of murders in Woodsboro to inspire the Stab franchise to return to its roots. It’s not as clever as ‘movies made us do it,’ but it’s just as cohesive.” Currently streaming on Showtime.

Oct 31: WNUF Halloween Special (2013) & The Great Satan (2019) Double Feature

WNUF Halloween Special does a great job in remaining authentic to local 1980s TV broadcasts, but smartly sets its spooky news show in a fantasy world where only a couple commercials are miserably repeated every ad break instead of all of them.

The Great Satan doubles as both an unrelenting flood of metal-as-fuck vintage ephemera and as a sickening overview of Christian America’s moral rot, especially in the Satanic Panic era. If you can stomach a little edgelord pranksterism, it’s wonderfully fucked up.

Together, they make the perfect Halloween Night VHS nostalgia mind-melter.

WNUF Halloween Special is currently streaming on Shudder, and The Great Satan is currently streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi.

-The Swampflix Crew

Podcast #169: Willow (1988) & Fairy Tales

Welcome to Episode #169 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of fantasy films & fairy tales, starting with the 1988 Warwick Davis star-maker Willow.

00:00 Welcome

02:25 Vengeance (2022)
09:20 Barbarian (2022)
12:50 Seconds (1966)
17:05 Ghost in the Shell (1995)

22:05 Willow (1988)
44:30 The Singing Ringing Tree (1957)
1:02:17 Gretel & Hansel (2020)
1:17:17 Belle (2022)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Podcast #167: Hillary’s America (2016) & Political Propaganda

Welcome to Episode #167 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of political propaganda films, starting with Dinesh D’Souza’s anti-Democrat screed Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (2016).

00:00 Welcome

02:00 Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
06:23 Switch (1991)
11:11 Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)
14:00 Inu-Oh (2022)
17:30 A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

23:15 Hillary’s America (2016)
51:15 Hail Satan? (2019)
1:10:30 What the Health (2017)
1:31:05 It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives (1971)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Podcast #166: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) & Remakes

Welcome to Episode #166 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of movie remakes, starting with the 1981 erotic thriller version of the classic noir The Postman Always Rings Twice.

00:00 Welcome

01:31 Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)
07:17 Menace II Society (1993)
12:45 Mad God (2022)
18:25 Gigli (2003)

25:25 The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
47:05 Scarface (1983)
1:05:00 Father of the Bride (2022)
1:28:00 The Blob (1988)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Movie of the Month: White of the Eye (1987)

Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before and we discuss it afterwards. This month Britnee made HannaBoomer, and Brandon watch White of the Eye (1987).

Britnee: If you’ve ever wondered if a Southwestern giallo exists, I am here to tell you that it does, and it’s 1987’s White of the Eye. Its director, Donald Cammell, was a gifted painter, and his artistic eye makes every scene in White of the Eye a visual feast, the way you’d expect to see in gialli. Neon blood splattered across a white table, uncomfortable eyeball closeups, modern desert homes shot through a voyueristic lens; it’s all so mesmerizing. Also, his wife China Cammell co-wrote the screenplay (based on the novel Mrs. White by Margaret Tracy) and appears in the small role of Ruby Roy. I thought that wife/husband collaboration was sweet at first, until I realized that China was 14 when she met the 40-year-old Donald, so their relationship wasn’t really a healthy one. It turns out that Donald was a gross creep like so many other male directors (and like the villain of his own movie).  

White of the Eye stars David Keith as Paul White and Cathy Moriarty as Joan White. They’re a young married couple who live in Arizona with their daughter, a 5-year-old who looks like a 30-something kindergarten teacher. David is the town’s go-to sound system installer. He has a bizarre gift where he hums to pinpoint the exact, perfect speaker placement in every room. At least that’s what I think he’s doing. There’s a lot going on in this movie that I can’t fully make sense of. As we peek in on the family’s daily routine, there’s something sinister going on in the background: a serial killer is brutally murdering wealthy women in the area, and there’s a strong possibility the killer is Paul. Cathy has to determine if her husband is really who she thinks he is or if he’s a psychotic monster. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but just know that it descends into pure chaos by the end and it’s fascinating.

This film has one of the wildest opening scenes. A well-to-do woman returns to her home after a shopping trip and is slaughtered by a killer lurking in her kitchen. During their struggle, there’s slow-motion headbashing, blood splattering, glass shattering and, most memorably, a tiny goldfish flopping around a raw rib rack on the kitchen counter. When I first saw this movie, I thought about that scene for weeks. To me, it’s the most impressive imagery in the entire film. Brandon, what are your thoughts on the camerawork in White of the Eye? Did any particular scenes stick with you after the movie ended?

Brandon: That opening, bloodspattered tour of a Southwestern suburban kitchen is, without question, the most visually striking scene in the movie, and it’s the one that’s stuck most in my mind as well.  However, I’m not convinced it’s the camerawork that makes it such a stunner.  If we’re going to contextualize White of the Eye as an American giallo, we have to acknowledge that it looks like a giallo shot by the TV crew behind Walker, Texas Ranger.  Whether it’s a result of the sun-blazed setting or the Golan-Globus production funds, there’s a daytime TV cheapness to the look of White of the Eye that cannot be overcome through Cammell’s . . . unusual choice of imagery.  Where he overcomes that cheapness isn’t in the camerawork so much as it’s in the editing, which is what truly gives the movie its unwieldy, dreamlike tone.  There are isolated, static images in that kitchen sequence that look absolutely bizarre, but mostly because they’re presented as rapid inserts your brain doesn’t have enough time to fully interpret: flowers falling from the countertop, legs kicking in purple tights, that goldfish flopping on the raw meat, etc.  I was likewise struck by the long, aimless establishing shots of the desert outside these suburban homes, which linger just long enough to breach into Lynchian territory of moody unease.  Again, there’s nothing especially beautiful about those exterior shots’ composition or execution; they’re just edited into a flabbergasting sequence that I could never fully wrap my mind around (not least of all because they’re frequently repeated at full length).  The entire movie borders on looking & feeling mundane, and yet it’s electrifying in its off-kilter presentation.

If White of the Eye is a giallo, it’s a knockoff giallo that gets lost in the American desert for a while, then emerges as a sun-dazed erotic thriller.  It’s a high-style, low-logic murder mystery in the way most great gialli are, but it’s one that actually has something to say after the final reveal of its faceless killer, which most gialli don’t.  That’s why I think it’s important that we do spoil the third-act twists of the plot in this conversation, since it’s largely what makes the film special.  In the same year that the literal war of the sexes reached its misogynist fever pitch in Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction, White of the Eye offered a much more realistic source of unhinged mayhem at the end of its erotic thriller rainbow: an entitled, woman-hating white guy.  It turns out David is not only psychotic for the way he treats tuning audio systems into a spiritual ritual & guiding way of life; he’s also a violent misogynist with some very strange, far-out theories about why all women are evil and deserve to be murdered.  Once White of the Eye fully devolves into a sunlit slasher in its final act, David starts ranting at length about the interplanetary war between Men (from Mars, duh) & Women (from Venus, obv) in a way that doesn’t sound too far off from the kind of unhinged babble you’d expect to read on modern subreddits for MRAs & “gender-critical” TERFs.  Hanna, what did you make of David’s sudden swerve into hateful, faux-philosophical gender politics?  Did it make him a scarier villain or just a more confounding one?  And how does that choice of villain communicate with other war-of-the-sexes thrillers of this era?

Hanna: I was really torn on Paul’s turn initially, but I appreciate it the more I think about it. Despite all of the glaring signs to the contrary, I was somehow expecting some other candidate to pop up and pronounce themself the killer (maybe because Paul seemed too obvious, and unfortunately I’m a sucker for the kind of guy with an obsessive relationship with sound equipment). Initially I was disappointed because it wasn’t surprising, but ultimately I don’t think the film suffers for it. Of course the hot audiophile with a primal temperament sustains a lethal, cosmo-misogynist belief system, but it still took Joan almost the entire film to get to that conclusion, partly because he’s so dang charming and partly because she’s loved him for a decade.

As far as its relationship with other “Battle of the Sexes” genre films, I appreciated the different relationships presented between and within women. Fatal Attraction set up a war against a very particular type of woman (ambitious and career-driven with an angular, gender neutral nickname), while propping Beth up as the sweet, domestic caretaker in comparison; she wins her husband’s affections in the end and Alex is killed. White of the Eye shows major and minor competition between the various women of Globe, Arizona (e.g., Ann Mason’s affair with Joan’s husband, the petty gossip Joan and her friend share about Lisa on the Globe strip), but Paul is the equalizing destructive force. Not only that, but she is the winner of Paul’s heart, and it’s a horror rather than a triumph. I think that was one of the most interesting insights from this movie – I get the feeling that the kind of guys with Paul’s obsessively hateful and lustful ideology think that women should feel lucky to be the object of love and idolatry – that it should make women feel special and superior to other women – but in reality, it’s alienating and horrifying.

I do think that the turn was a little too jarring for me, though; he really goes from mysterious seducer to all-out zealot in the span of an evening. Maybe I was also seduced by the sound equipment, but I don’t feel like I got the sense of any of his crazed personality. Maybe that was part of the point, though, since we’re hearing this story from Joan’s point of view, who can’t help but see him as her partner and father to her child (and was also blinded by his bestial charms). I loved the explosion of chaos at the back half, but it definitely caught me by surprise. Boomer, do you think ending was deserved (narratively and politically)? Was the film cohesively simmering to this point throughout the runtime, or did it come out of nowhere?

Boomer: I have to say, this movie was a stunner. Maybe it’s just that all those Argento movies warped my brain, but I genuinely felt like this was one of the best movies I’ve seen in years … until the ending. I wouldn’t say that it was cohesive up to that point, per se; it’s certainly a film that captures verisimilitude in the sense that none of this feels like characters in a narrative so much as it feels like we stepped into a desert town full of eccentric people, all of whom have relationships and communication styles that are already in play and which we, as newcomers here, have to figure out with very little in the way of exposition. It feels like we’re missing some important information here, but it’s not in a “this screenplay is underdeveloped” way (like many gialli do); it’s a hard concept to try and delineate in prose, but it’s as if we the audience are merely eavesdropping on the events of the film. In the same way that you can sit in a diner booth and hear the people at the next table—be they classmates who hate the same professor, lovers coming to the end of their time together, or a parent and adult child—and hear a fascinating narrative play out, but one which is inherently incomplete. That conversation isn’t being performed for you and therefore there are details that are left out and names that are dropped throughout and you just have to try and guess at the larger story from your small window into it, and White of the Eye feels like a film version of that. That having been said, I don’t disagree that the ending feels like a swerve. The film’s tone makes it clear that there’s an explosive confrontation that’s inevitable, but I didn’t expect that explosion to be so literal, or for things to change so suddenly. 

There’s something strange happening here with regards to race. It’s not something that European gialli can’t do necessarily, but it is something that I don’t think we’ve ever seen them do: we have a white killer appropriating indigenous American myth. The Wikipedia page for the movie states that post-Jokerfication Paul “paints his face in a form reminiscent of both Kabuki and the blood pattern of diving headfirst into a deer carcass,” but it clearly has something to do with some half-remembered legend from the previous occupants of the lands before white men came. Detective Mendoza (Art Evans was also a detective in Fright Night, which always makes me want to pretend that they’re the same character) says to his partner, “What we have here, Phil, is an ancient Indian compass. This goes back before the Vikings.” As someone who grew up around and among hunters, there’s a bizarre familiarity to Paul; my family was steadfastly and fanatically Christian, so there was never any “soul of the kill” stuff happening with them, but there were plenty of people who hung around the deer camps who did happily participate in the easy self-justification that came from “honoring” their animal prey through a muddy mixture of various lores from a dozen different tribes with just a twist of New Age mysticism. Paul is like a weed dealer you met in college who believed a bunch of crazy conspiracy nonsense and had also convinced himself he has some kind of a special, even supernatural ability to really feel the music and where it “wants” to go, maaaaaan. Given how many of those folks have fallen for #stopthesteal rhetoric or fallen under the sway of algorithm-driven ragebaiting, it shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise that Paul looks like the QAnon Shaman by the end. Then again, maybe that’s verisimilitude, too. Inevitable, but at such a strange acceleration. 

I’m going to have to say that I disagree with Brandon here, at least a little bit, and say that there’s a lot more going on with the camerawork than he’s giving credit. If you go back and watch that first kitchen-set murder scene, there are actually very few static images; there’s constant motion and change, not just in the editing, but in the composition as well. The shot that establishes the presence of a fish in the kitchen does so in a close-up that then zooms out and then takes in several other pieces of visual information: an orbiting shot of copper-bottomed pots, a pan up a refrigerator, etc. In those rare moments in which the camera stops moving, the frame is still filled with motion: glass falls into frame and shatters, a chunky tidal wave of something washes over a table and scatters the ephemera there in powerful kinetic motion, a pupil that fills the whole screen dilates. That sense of movement combined with the quick cuts is what gives this movie the overall music video aesthetic that really made it work for me. That Rick Fenn/Nick Mason collaboration on the soundtrack is an artifact that dates the movie just as much as all the customized stereo talk, but White of the Eye has the slick camera motion and quick-tempo editing that would dominate music videos of the next decade, combined with Cathy Moriarty’s performance, which is positively dripping with 70s New Hollywood energy (more on that in Lagniappe), and it renders the whole thing timeless. 

Lagniappe

Brandon:  If you want to see Donald Cammell fall even further down the erotic thriller rabbit hole, his next (and final) feature is a much more-straightforward entry in the genre.  1995’s Wild Side plays like Tommy Wiseau remaking the Wachowskis’ Bound, with a sublimely unhinged Christopher Walken in the Wiseau role, squaring off against Anne Heche & Joan Chen (Josie from Twin Peaks) as the undercover lesbians who upend his criminal empire.  Cammell started his filmmaking career collaborating with prestigious arthouse weirdo Nicolas Roeg, and he ended it making trashy thrillers for the likes of Golan-Globus.  He never lost his weird streak on that journey, though; the tonal & editing choices in White of the Eye & Wild Side are just as bizarre as anything you’ll see in the more respected Cammell titles Performance & Demon Seed.

Boomer: I love giallo, but I would also argue that this film fits into my other favorite genre: women on the verge. The desert setting called to mind 3 Women (another Britnee MotM selection), and there were moments in this where Cathy Moriarty is channeling Faye Dunaway in two of my favorites of her performances: Lou from Puzzle of a Downfall Child with her slowly unraveling peace of mind, and the title character of The Eyes of Laura Mars, in which she is confronted by the fact that (spoiler alert) the serial killer running loose in her social and professional circle is actually the man she’s taken as her lover. 

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This performance is powerful, and I loved every second that she was on screen. There’s an exhaustion that she exudes, but it’s the kind of contented tiredness of someone who’s found themselves in unexpected but nonetheless amenable circumstances, like she’s an angel who’s barely tethered to the earth. “You think I care what people think?” she asks Paul at one point, in the interrogation room. “I’m from the fucking city, I don’tgive a shit about small-town talk!” She’s like Sissy Hankshaw in Tom Robbins’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, just this side of ethereal, who just can’t quit that dick. You know, queen shit. 

Britnee: While I’m not super familiar with desert life (I’ve only visited New Mexico for a short time), it’s obvious that the weather during the shoot was extremely hot. What’s fascinating is that there are still multiple characters wearing luxurious fur coats in that scorching desert. Joan, who has exquisite fashion taste, sports a short fox fur coat while chatting it up with Mike at the gas station. She also wears a short peacock feather coat in the flashback scenes when she’s dating Mike and meets Paul. If I’m not mistaken, she puts it on again towards the end of the film in present day. Another fur is worn by Ann, another woman who’s extremely horny for Paul. She wraps herself in this massive floor length fur coat while sipping on a cocktail. It was such a great look that Brandon made it his Facebook cover photo! 

Hanna: Every one of Cathy Moriarty’s looks is an absolute stunner, especially that peacock feathered jacket in the first flashback. I also couldn’t help being tickled by Paul’s hotdog explosive vest, one of the many outrageous fashion pieces on display.

Next month: Brandon presents All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

-The Swampflix Crew

Podcast #165: RRR (2022) & New Releases

Welcome to Episode #165 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of new releases from the first half of 2022, starting with S.S. Rajamouli’s ahistorical action epic RRR.

00:00 Welcome

01:00 Nope (2022)
05:00 Alexandra’s Project (2003)
08:00 Elvis (2022)
18:00 Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

23:45 RRR (2022)
52:33 Fresh (2022)
1:11:11 We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2022)
1:27:11 Vortex (2022)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Podcast #164: The Great Dictator (1940) & Charlie Chaplin

Welcome to Episode #164 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss four classic comedies directed by Charlie Chaplin, starting with the anti-fascist satire The Great Dictator (1940).

00:00 Welcome

00:57 Elevator to the Gallows (1958)
05:25 Last Night in Soho (2021)
09:45 Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
13:05 Studio 666 (2022)

18:50 The Great Dictator (1940)
38:30 City Lights (1931)
47:00 Modern Times (1936)
1:01:45 Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Podcast #163: Donkey Skin (1970)

Welcome to Episode #163 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, Britnee, and Hanna discuss Jacques Demy’s anti-incest fairy tale musical Donkey Skin (1970).

00:00 Welcome

03:07 Exotica (1994)
08:50 Sling Blade (1996)
16:00 Demon Seed (1977)

21:50 Donkey Skin (1970)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Podcast #162: Field of Dreams (1989) & Dad Movies

Welcome to Episode #162 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss their dads’ favorite movies, starting with the Kevin Costner baseball fantasy Field of Dreams (1989).

00:00 Welcome

01:40 Crimes of the Future (2022)
08:22 Flux Gourmet (2022)
14:42 Brahms: The Boy II (2020)
19:56 The Shout (1978)

26:26 Field of Dreams (1989)
56:56 Seven Samurai (1954)
1:15:40 Dumb & Dumber (1994)
1:35:25 Tommy Boy (1995)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Movie of the Month: Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before and we discuss it afterwards. This month Boomer made HannaBrandon, and Britnee watch Embrace of the Serpent (2015).

Boomer: “The world is full of fishes,” Theo says. “We cannot possibly end them.” 

“You have no discipline,” Karamakate says, shortly thereafter. “You will devour everything.” 

El abrazo de la serpiente (Embrace of the Serpent) is a 2015 Colombian film about an apocalypse. It isn’t one which comes with neither the fire nor ice of Robert Frost’s poetry or the heat or cold death of the universe that is hypothesized by modern science, nor a dumb superhero movie sky beam, nor is it one of clashes between heaven and hell (although they each certainly play a role). The film is a fictionalized synthesis of two real-life accounts written by German ethnologist Theodor Koch-Grünberg (1872-1924) and American ethno-botanist Richard Evans Schultes (1915-2001), embodied here as two separate men who are taken on a treacherous Amazonian journey by an Indigenous man named Karamakate, the ostensibly last survivor of a village that was destroyed by colonizers exploiting the natural resources of South America. Koch-Grünberg is reimagined as “Theo” (Jan Bijvoet), who, with his “liberated” manservant Manduca (Yauenkü Migue) approaches the young Karamakate (Nilbio Torres) in 1909 and asks him to be his guide to the sacred yakruba plant, a fictional sacred plant with healing qualities that Theo hopes will save him from his unnamed, wasting disease. Although he is initially hesitant, Karamakate is convinced to join this endeavor when Theo tells him that he has seen other survivors of his same tribe. The character inspired by Schultes, Evan (Brionne Davis), appears to the older Karamakate (Antonio Bolívar) in 1940 and claims that he has never dreamed and hopes that the yakruba will heal this missing part of him, working his way into the Indigenous man’s good graces by claiming to be devoted to plants, although his true goal is to secure disease-free rubber trees for American manufacturing for the war effort. 

Readers who have never seen the film may be asking themselves how this can be an apocalyptic story, if the latest time frame envisioned by the film is nearly eight decades ago, but for many of us, that is ignorance born of privilege as the descendants of colonizers and settlers, who can denounce the violence of our ancestry but nonetheless continue to benefit from it every day. As Pam Oliver once said, “If your ancestors cut down all the trees, it’s not your fault, but you still don’t live in a forest.” To put it another way, the (unfortunately now inactive) IndigenousXca Twitter account once posted a statement that lives in my mind perpetually: “something I don’t think occurs to settlers is that Indigenous people already are living in a post-apocalyptic world.” For the peoples of the Western Hemisphere, invaders came from another world, pillaged their natural resources, committed mass genocide, and drove the last living remnants of a whole world from their ancestral lands into reservations. For mass media created mostly by and mostly for white people, this is a common “apocalypse” narrative, wherein we are meant to empathize with and cheer for our mostly white heroes as they defend themselves against invading Soviets (ex.: Red Dawn), machines of our own creation (ex. MatrixThe TerminatorBattlestar Galactica), and aliens (ex.: Independence DayWar of the Worlds). Because we’ve been fed American exceptionalist propaganda for our whole lives by that same system and, frequently, our educational institutions, this results in a kind of psychic disconnect wherein the same people who are cheering the heroes in those works for fighting back against colonization and genocide will also show up to school board meetings frothing at the mouth to make sure that their children never learn about redlining or that Aunt Gloria was actually one of the girls who screamed the n-word at Tessie Prevost.

The river on which Karamakate spends his existence is a post-apocalyptic world. That the men he finds in his old village greet him with “We’re toasting to the end of the world” isn’t an accident. The “world mover,” as he is called by others, has been so traumatized by living through the (ongoing) destruction of his world that he considers himself to have become a chullachaqui, an empty shell that looks like a person but who lacks a living animus. The throughline of Indigenous destruction at the hands of profiteers, priests, and plantation-owners who come to “save” the “pagan” peoples of the jungle from “cannibalism and ignorance” is at the heart of Serpiente as, alongside Karamakate, we bear witness to the scars of exploitation on both the land and bodies of the people thereof. This is made manifest in the film’s final scroll, which is dedicated to those South American Indigenous peoples “whose song we never knew.” This is made most manifest in a pair of sequences that both take place in a Spanish Catholic Mission, in both 1909 and 1940. 

In 1909, Karamakate arrives with Theo and Manduca, after the three of them have already interacted with a man, for all intents and purposes an enslaved man, who has been violently disfigured by those who run the rubber plantations, and we see Manduca’s own scars from his time on one. They discover that the mission, which is implied to be a former plantation, has one remaining priest, and that this place is essentially a residential school in all but name, wherein indigenous children are abducted, renamed, prevented from speaking their “pagan” language (this is the subtitled translation, but to my ear it sounds like they’re saying “lengua demoníaca,” which is literally “demon tongue,” which I have no doubt is historically accurate and extremely telling); when Karamakate tries to impart some of their ancestral wisdom that weaves together both myth and medicine, the children are beaten mercilessly by the priest. The Amazonian River in 1909 is a place of both scars and fresh wounds; by 1940, there is only madness and death. The now-adult population, which may be the same boys whom Karamakate had met 31 years before, have descended into a full-on cult with a Messiah and everything. The beatings of the priest have devolved into a series of ritualistic sacrifices and self-flagellation, and the self-proclaimed messiah seems to have continued the priest’s tradition of kidnapping children, if I’m judging the age of his “wife” correctly. This can only end tragically, which it does. 

That colonization is inherently the antithesis of conservation is also an omnipresent theme in Serpiente. Before accepting Theo’s proposal, Karamakate sets out a series of prohibitions by which he must abide. To the western viewer, these first appear to be mostly the kind of “superstition” that we dismiss out of hand, but are a complex interweaving of thoughtful conservation, medicine, and defense alongside the spiritual, in a way that means that extricating one from the other is an exercise in self-sabotage. At the film’s outset, we’re never given a reason that Theo mustn’t eat fish or other meat. Shortly thereafter, they encounter Tuschaua (Marcilio Paiva) and his people, who have a prior, friendly relationship with the explorer, and Karamakate is surprised to learn that they eat fish even when they shouldn’t do so until a specific seasonal time has been reached, indicating that there’s an ecological element to the proscription. This is further emphasized during the first encounter with the Spanish Mission; Karamakate warns the children that “one day, [the colonizers] will finish all the food in the jungle.” The fish are like the rubber trees which are like the yakruba, all resources that are renewable but not endless. “The world is full of fishes, we cannot possibly end them,” Theo later says, but he’s wrong; Karamakate understands that they must abstain until after the rains end because there has to be a balance, and that Theo “will devour everything.” Further still, when Theo breaks this proscription, not only does he fall physically ill, he is also unable to further accept holistic medical intervention, as his body will now reject it. It’s spiritual, physical, and ecological, entwined. Theo’s inability to follow these rules are a demonstration that, to paraphrase the proverb, there is no ethical colonization, even when relations are friendly. When Theo discovers that Tuschaua’s people have taken his compass, he decries that leaving behind this (to them) advanced technology will, in time, supplant and erase their Indigenous cultural knowledge of an “orientation system […] based on the winds and the position of the stars.” What he can’t see, but that Karamakate does, is that contact with Europeans has already begun to undermine them, as evidenced by their preparation of fish despite the season being incorrect. Theo may truly believe he’s doing the moral thing by attempting to prevent further cultural contamination, but the first dominos have already fallen, and to introduce Tuschaua and his family, possibly the last generation of their people because of the intervention of profiteers, to a technological advancement and then deny them its use isn’t a kindness, but a cruelty. 

At the mission, Karamakate sees a plaque (in Spanish, which he presumably cannot read, and thus this is solely for the benefit of the audience) endowed by the Colombian government, which thanks the violent colonizers for “[bringing] civilization to the land of cannibal savages and showed them the path of God” (emphasis added). When sharing his knowledge with the children there, he warns them: “Don’t believe their crazy tales about eating the body of their gods.” Decades later, those same children now not only believe these tales to an extreme, but then do in fact eat their Messiah. I think that this can be interpreted in several ways—that wickedness often reveals itself in the way that it projects its worst aspects onto the proverbial other (like when the same people who ~allegedly~ participate in interstate sex trafficking also unironically tweet out #disneygroomer because a media monopoly reluctantly and sluggishly took a stance against a law that in practice is definitively going to result in a surge of domestic violence and rampage familicide), or as a contributing narrative thread in the overall tapestry of the film’s conservationist thesis. Hanna, what did you make of this during your first viewing? Did you get a sense of that, am I plucking at strings, did you interpret it completely differently?

Hanna: What a great point! I think I basically had the same feelings as you. In addition to receiving the message of holy cannibalism through Christianity, the heart of the mission is founded on the belief that the children are “cannibal savages” being uplifted through God; under the instruction of the priests, there’s no way for the children to find meaning for themselves outside of that narrative. What kind of identity can you form when you’re assured that you’re fundamentally inhuman at the core, and the “righteous” path you’ve been assimilated into is violent at its core? I definitely agree with the projection aspect as well. Like Karamakate points out, colonialism is inherently cannibalistic; the dominant culture is actively devouring the bodies and resources of the colonized people, destroying their way of life and the ecosystem on which they depend. To deny and rationalize cannibalism, the colonizers convince themselves that their subjects are not only inhuman, but that they would have no hope of redemption without the mercy of “civilized” people; you’re not a cannibal if you’re not eating people!

I think Embrace of the Serpent is, by far, the most nuanced, honest, thought-provoking movie I’ve ever seen about colonialism and conservation. The film is shot almost entirely in black and white, which works well with the narrative shifts between 1909 and 1940 – it kept the two time periods tied together in my mind as one artifact, and the film almost reads like a marriage of two old pioneering documentaries that someone salvaged. There’s no hint of sentimentality here. The Amazonian jungle is lushly rendered (even without color) and beautiful images abound, but the film is unflinching in its depiction of violence, whether it manifests interpersonally, physically (self-inflicted or otherwise), or internally. I’m always entranced by films that seem to have a tactile temperature; they tend to be meditative, slowly dragging you down into a maddening dream or nightmare. This was definitely a nightmare, but especially because it’s a lived reality.

The two timelines vividly depict the ripples of alteration and destruction that invasion has wrought onto Karamakate’s community and the ecosystems that community depends upon. I agree that this is an apocalypse movie, and I think that (barring natural cataclysms) most apocalypses probably end up looking like this: a slow deterioration of life as it was until the old ways of existing are no longer possible. It seems pretty difficult to make a movie about colonialism that didn’t somehow feel like it was exploiting suffering for the sake of self-reflection, but Guerra apparently worked in close collaboration with Indigenous communities from the Amazon; I think the infusion of that perspective has a lot to do with the film’s success.

Like Boomer mentioned, the cultural exchange between the settlers or visitors and the Indigenous people is difficult to navigate; the contact has irrevocably changed the Indigenous people, but there’s no going back from that point, so withholding knowledge or trying to stem contamination is impossible and cruel. That being said, there are a few moments of true human connection that I really appreciated in this film; in one scene, Evan plays Haydn’s “The Creation” on his gramophone for Karamakate. It was hard to read Karamakate’s expression at that moment, but he seemed moved to me, and the music takes him back to a memory of Theo in his last days of sickness. The last scene of the movie involves an unbelievable gift from Karamakate marking the end of one civilization’s way of life, even in the face of a violent betrayal (the only scene with color in the entire movie). Brandon, what did you make of this ending? Did you feel any shred of hope for humanism and connection in spite of centuries of selfishness and violence, or did redemption die with the yakruba? 

Brandon: If we’re going to consider the present state of the Amazon post-apocalyptic, it’s difficult to read Embrace of the Serpent as anything but a tragedy.  If either timeline in the film were present-day, there might be room for hope, but we know that capitalist exploitation of the Amazon’s people & resources didn’t cool off after 1940.  The yakruba’s extinction at the end, although fictional, represents a wide range of decimated resources, and Evan represents a wide range of white colonizers responsible for that tragedy.  All Karamakate can offer him is a glimpse of the beauty & power that will soon be lost forever, in all its natural glory.

The film smartly undercuts a lot of its warmer, humanistic interactions in this way.  I’m thinking particularly of the sequence in which Theo & Manduca entertain a small tribe with a practiced song & dance routine around a campfire, a moment of communal delight that first warms Karamakate up to the idea of collaborating with white outsiders.  It’s the very next morning when Theo freaks out about his stolen compass, souring the possibility for positive cultural exchange with supposed ethical concerns about industrialized technology ruining locals’ more “natural” way of life.  There’s no way that interference from white outsiders won’t irrevocably change the local culture forever, so all Theo accomplishes is shielding them from any possible positive gains from the tragedy that will gradually consume them.  There cannot be any hope in these cross-cultural interactions no matter how personable & heartfelt they feel in the moment.

The sudden introduction of color at the end did make me think more about the film’s digi black & white cinematography.  The contrast between the deep shadows of trees and the sharp white voids of the sunlit sky is striking, but it’s definitely an unusual way of capturing the immense beauty of the Amazon on film.  Britnee, what do you think of the film’s visual style?  Does the sudden rush of color at the ending make you wish it had been styled differently?

Britnee: I thought about this for most of the film. Why would something as beautiful as the Amazon jungle be filmed in black and white? It wasn’t until the burst of color at the end that I understood that choice. As the Indigenous tribes and natural resources of the Amazon are destroyed, the Amazon loses its vitality. While the black and white imagery was stunning, it created a dreadful ambiance that really connected me with the emotions of Karamakate. Well, as connected as a white woman can be. I will never truly understand what it feels like to go through, as Boomer perfectly stated earlier, a post-apocalyptic tragedy. 

I had a couple of self-reflective moments while watching Embrace of the Serpent, but one that really struck me was during the scene where Karamakate asks Theo to get rid of all the luggage that is weighing them down during their journey. I stared around my room to look at all of the junk I’ve acquired throughout the years, and I couldn’t even imagine how it would feel to not value my possessions as much as I do. I associate memories with all of my belongings, but how would it feel to have the same attitude as Karamakate? I don’t really need all of this baggage to survive or maintain a high quality of life. I mean, I’m still probably not going to get rid of anything because I’m a garbage person, but Karamakate really hit me in the feels with that one.

Lagniappe

Britnee: This made me think of Fitzcarraldo, which we covered on the podcast a few years ago. The production of Embrace of the Serpent was definitely not as problematic though!

Brandon: We talked a lot about the evils of capitalism & colonialism here (always worthy subjects), but to me this registered most clearly as a condemnation of anthropology as a morally bankrupt field of study.  Theo’s attempts to interact with Amazonian locals without altering their way of life is pathetically misguided, as evidenced by the wide-scale destruction that follows in his wake decades later.   The real-life Theodor Koch-Grünberg’s research is a cornerstone of anthropological field work to this day, so that cursed corner of academia was never very far from my mind throughout the film. 

Hanna: Embrace of the Serpent was a difficult movie to watch and process, but I’m glad it exists. I really appreciate the director’s efforts to make a piece of art that honors and includes the perspectives of Indigenous communities, and from my perspective, he did a great job of honestly reckoning with the destruction of Indigenous life and the loss our world experiences (and will continue to experience) as a result.

Boomer: Unfortunately, the IndigenousXca Twitter account stopped posting some time ago, and the bio now indicates that it’s an archive for posts made from the account Oct. 23, 2014 – Dec. 3, 2020. In a post on the associated blog from March 2021, entitled “Social media burn-out, it’s not just you,” the author writes that this has a lot to do with the stresses of being very online and that it became overwhelming. The author’s personal Twitter, however, is still active, and you can go follow her now and keep up with her thoughts on contemporary politics, which are always insightful and thoughtful.

Next month: Britnee presents White of the Eye (1987)

-The Swampflix Crew