Mini Film Review: The Devils (1971)

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Ken Russell’s film “The Devils” is currently playing on Shudder. Naturally, as a proponent of free speech, I was drawn to this film, as I am a sucker for anything that is banned and or controversial. This film originally received a “X” rating and was subsequently banned here and in the UK. It has never received an uncut release (except in bootleg versions), and is still difficult to obtain, even censored.

I was disappointed to learn that even Shudder’s version omits some of the more controversial scenes and once I looked up what they omitted…holy shit…I would LOVE to see an uncut version! That said, this is a BRILLIANT film. Simply brilliant. And a BIZARRE film at that! That’s putting it mildly, really. Russell also made ‘Altered States‘ if that gives you any indication, but from the opening scene all the way to the credits, ‘The Devils’ is as brilliant as it is surreal – like an acid trip.

It’s billed as a horror film but really, it’s much more than that. What makes this film so horrifying, you realize, is that it’s all true! As brutal and grotesque as this film is, and trust me, (this is one fucked up movie), it becomes even more so when you realize it’s all historical…this film left me thinking about it, long after, in the middle of the night, when I kept replaying scenes over in my head, particularly the ending, which is just goddamn brutal, and haunting.

The editing on this film is magnificent and plays on your subconscious, hence the LSD reference above.

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Without delving too much into the plot (17th century France and sacrilege/heresy), I would suggest either just diving in and watching it yourself, or Googling it and looking up the history that the film is based on – both are shocking, literally. Seriously, do some research, it’s crazy!

Again, what makes this film so goddamn terrifying is that it’s all true, even documents from the event still exist and they’re nuts! These characters all existed and the events actually happened. I realize I’m repeating myself, but once you watch it, you’ll understand why. Truth is, after all, stranger than fiction.

A word of caution: this film is not for the squeamish or easily offended! If you’re devoutly religious I would avoid it if I were you…

That said, I challenge you to watch it and NOT ask yourself: what the fuck…Oh! And Roger Ebert hated it! HA!

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker (2015) St. Martin’s Press

I recently finished reading The Scarlet Gospels, by famed horror author Clive Barker. I usually like Barker’s work and have been a fan of his for a long time but this book was a huge let down. I haven’t always liked everything he’s done but usually the darker stuff he creates is great. The last Barker book I read was Mister B. Gone and I loved it. His descriptions of demons and Hell in that book are a world above what he penned in Gospels.

I’ve read several reviews on The Scarlet Gospels now and they range from utter disgust to elation – there seems to be no middle ground. I’ve also seen several people accuse Barker of using a ghost writer for the last 2/3 of the book. After reading it, I’m not so sure about that theory but I will tell you this: it sure ain’t the Barker of old!

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I learned a few things about Clive Barker over the past few years that changed my opinion of him. Probably the biggest thing that shook me was learning that he loathes what the Hellraiser film series has become.

One of my favorite books is an anthology called Hellbound Hearts, which has Hellraiser as a theme with short stories by various authors. It’s an amazing book and one that I did not want to end. I cannot say the same about The Scarlet Gospels. I had hope that Gospels would be as good as Hellbound. Alas, not even close.

If you read the introduction to The Books of Blood 1-3, Barker tells us that he hates being known as the “horror guy.” He’s spent the past few years delving into other subject matter, including young adult fantasy fiction. So when news broke that he was returning to Hell, I was both shocked and skeptical.

Still, I also learned that Barker almost died and I know that kind of experience can change everything about a person, including their creativity flow. Not to mention that he lost his parents, his longtime partner and another friend he considered a son as well. Oh, and he’s also revealed that he was a male prostitute for a time, early in his writing career when he was struggling to make ends meet.

So it’s no surprise then that The Scarlet Gospels feels like anything but Clive Barker because the man who wrote The Hellbound Heart is not the same man and that’s okay.

What’s not okay is The Scarlet Gospels. It sucks.

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