Saturday, July 15, 2017


Now Showing Marquee 3

I was about to complain that I’m still knee deep in the work-year from Hell, but since I’m the one who spent all that time praying for a way to keep paying my bills, I don’t think I can honestly say the bad place is to blame for my crushing work load. Ah well, at least I’ve managed to find time to squeeze in a few reviews for Aleteia, including ones for Spider-Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes. I also revamped one of my old articles about Horrifying Masks from the Movies for SCENES. Around here, though, pickings have been slim. Fortunately, there are some other sites out there talking about movies and religion to compensate for my lack of content.

To start with, there’s Bradford Walker’s article at SuperversiveSF in which he reflects fondly on The Last Starfighter. Sure, the movie may be a bit of old school 80s cheese chock full of video gamer wish fulfillment, but according to Mr. Walker, it’s also a praiseworthy tale about the necessity of accepting responsibility. Grig would be pleased.

Not quite as positive is Matthew Walther’s take on the HBO series, Game of Thrones. Writing for The Week, Walther puts forth the argument that the show is nothing more than “ultra-violent wizard porn” that’s ultimately bad for your mortal soul. I’ll have to take his word for it as (GASP!) I’ve actually never seen a single episode.

I also somehow missed the 2015 insect horror flick, Bite, a low budget gore fest with overtones of Cronenberg’s The Fly. However, my curiosity is raised by Thomas M. Sipos’ post at The Hollywood Investigator in which he assures me (and everyone else) that Bite is a surprisingly conservative Christian allegory on the dangers of fornication. Guess I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

Speaking of bugs, Philip Kosloski has a short piece up at Aleteia in which he ponders the role of spiders in Christian art and whether or not the hideous venom-filled things deserve their reputation as sinister creatures?

While you’re at Aleteia, you might also want to check out Matthew Becklo’s review of A Ghost Story, the new film in which Casey Affleck dies and comes back as a spirit who wanders around wearing a sheet with eyeholes in it. Apparently it’s thoughtful and touching and not at all as stupid as it sounds.

More somber sounding is John Macias’ musings on Logan at Crisis Magazine. Now that the film is out on home video, it might be a good time to take in his thoughts on the film and its themes of Technocracy and the Abolition of Man.

And finally, in honor of of the release of the aforementioned War for the Planet of the Apes, here’s a picture of some nuns feeding a monkey. Everybody likes monkeys.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017


This isn’t the first time we’ve sampled The Apple here at The B-Movie Catechism, but the simple fact is that Menahem Golan’s gonzo musical/biblical allegory is a crap-filled cornucopia that never runs empty. For instance, in our review of the film we didn’t even get around to mentioning the brief sequence in which the entire movie comes to a screeching halt so that every single person on the planet can take part in a daily state sponsored exercise routine. Behold, if you dare, the national BIM Hour.

At first glance, this would appear to be some sort of government run torture program. I mean, “Hey hey hey, BIM’s on the way!” repeated ad nauseam for a straight hour. That’s worse than water boarding, right? But the citizens seem to love it, so that theory doesn’t really work. I suppose BIM Hour could be a national health care initiative, as the dialog hints at. After all, a fit populace would definitely cut down on expenditures. But no, there seems to be far too many portly participants for that to be the case. If the exercise hour is some part of BIMcare, it’s definitely one that’s not working.

That leaves ritual. As behavioral scientists Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton noted in a recent post at Scientific American

“People engage in rituals with the intention of achieving a wide set of desired outcomes, from reducing their anxiety to boosting their confidence, alleviating their grief to performing well in a competition – or even making it rain…. Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective… What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work… Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true.”

Okay. So, what is the desired outcome BIM is hoping for with their daily dose of mandatory jazzercise? Well, in an article for the journal, Cultural Anthropology, sociocultural anthropologist Barry J. Lyons suggests rituals play an important part in discipline and the maintenance of social order. He states, “Anthropologists have long regarded ritual as a way that societies make cultural assumptions tangible and impress social structural principles upon participants.” Given that, the ritual of BIM Hour is most likely a way of reinforcing the populace’s collective voluntary submission to BIM. It’s the Nuremberg Rallies via way of the dance floor.

Ritual doesn’t have to be so sinister, though. Discussing the Christian ritual of the mass, the Catechism explains that…

“Signs and symbols taken from the social life of man: washing and anointing, breaking bread and sharing the cup can express the sanctifying presence of God and man's gratitude toward his Creator.  The great religions of mankind witness, often impressively, to this cosmic and symbolic meaning of religious rites.”

In the case of religion, then, the purpose of ritual is not merely to establish some form of social order (although some secular leaders have almost certainly attempted to use religion for such reasons). The rituals of religion are meant to do no less than allow its participants to experience God. Of course, that only works if people actually show up and participate in said rituals. Might want to remember that come next Sunday.

Thursday, June 15, 2017



As long time readers of this blog know, ever since I first saw the trailer for Legion all those years ago, I have taken to periodically pooping all over the movie whenever the opportunity arises. Safe to say, the passage of time has done nothing to diminish my dislike for the film. Unfortunately, I’ve been busy, and I haven’t really had the chance lately to give Legion a good bashing. Fortunately, Brett Graham Fawcett has.

Brett has a Masters in Theological Studies from Newman Theological College and is currently studying to become a teacher, which just goes to show once again that most (if not all) of my readers are way smarter than I am. So, when Brett forwarded me a piece he had written contrasting the failures of Legion with the successes of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, I knew I had to share it with everyone. Enjoy.

Dawn of the Dead Vs. Legion

A guest post by Brett Graham Fawcett

I ridiculed the movie Legion for generally sucking. One of the most important factors in its suckiness was its crappy metaphysic. It should, I think, have gone for a straight dystheistic world where God is omnipotent, omniscient, and scary. Instead, it was some sort of lay Process Theology or Hollywoodized Open Theism where God means well but has fits of immoderate anger and an occasional really bad idea that his smarter angels need to reel him back from. Besides being dimwitted theology, I don't think it makes for an interesting horror movie.

Furthermore, His means of eradicating the human race, even in the context of "popcorn logic", is not only really bizarre and perplexing but not especially menacing. Plugged In's review of Legion states, "The angels in Stewart's vision are only slightly more intimidating than your average film ninja." This, I think, does a disservice to the average film ninja, who has the good sense to pull his more outlandish feats in relative invisibility, thus respecting a cardinal rule of suspense thrillers and horror movies (one which Alfred Hitchcock used to great effect): It's scarier when you don't really understand it and have to leave it to your imagination.  Legion attempts to do your imagination's work for it, and, predictably, fails.


That said, if you want an interesting contemporary contrast to Legion which in many ways hits the notes it was going for, I recommend you check out Zack Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead. Now, obviously (this should really go without saying, but whatever, I may as well cover my bases), it's really violent and if you aren't into that stuff you probably won't enjoy this film (or be able to discuss movies with me for more than twenty-four seconds or so). Everyone else reading this has probably seen his movie adaptations of 300 and/or Watchmen, and I don't need to tell you that, whatever you thought of those movies, Snyder is a very stylish director who can really paint a fantastic cinematographic picture. This is important for an end-of-the-world picture like this one.

I'm gonna tell you why.

Both Legion and Dawn of the Dead take place largely in very familiar, pedestrian settings, the former being set in a diner in the middle of a desert and the latter for the most part unfolding in a boarded-up mall. In both cases the world is collapsing around them, and because communication has been severed they can only learn this information "in snippets", so to speak. This feeling of being isolated in an insulated little spot and yet still being aware of the Apocalypse is, I think, a really essential one for creating tension. Yet Legion, despite all the potential afforded by its setting, has few if any really majestic wide shots that express the scope of God's curse descending on the world.  Dawn of the Dead, on the other hand, has at least two really evocative shots to this effect in its first five minutes, one of which is a helicopter shot of a car driving down a suburban road while mayhem ensues around it. Despite, strictly speaking, only communicating information about a very small corner of the world, this is all our imagination needs to flesh the situation out and get a sense of the chaos enveloping the globe.

Two other movies that also, I think, succeed at conveying this sense that the sky is falling without showing it (in its entirety, at any rate, in the way that a movie like 2012 does) are Signs and I am Legend. I often hear both these films disparaged as being "overrated" or (and this one makes me want to yell at anyone who says it before setting them on fire) "not scary". Seriously, if you're going to castigate either Dawn of the Dead, Signs, or I am Legend for not being scary, then you've severely missed the point in every case.


I think the problem is in the genres we use to categorize these movies, or maybe in the way they're advertised. No-one I know thinks of Signs as a science-fiction movie, even though it's about aliens (the complaint is always that the aliens aren't scary- which, considering the way the film ends, is a really stupid complaint, in my opinion), and because Dawn and Legend are about zombies, the presumption is that they're "horror" movies. I think this is really unfortunate. It would be like if someone expected Driving Miss Daisy to be an action movie and complained afterwards that the two leads weren't attractive enough. On the other hand, I have never heard There Will Be Blood described as a horror movie; it's always labeled as a historical drama, or maybe as a thriller. Yet I found There Will Be Blood way scarier than almost any "horror" movie in the last decade, since it is a portrayal of a man slowly but surely losing his soul. It is a movie about damnation far more frightening than any of these silly unintentional comedies involving creatures "from Hell". That said, don't see Dawn of the Dead expecting to be frightened. It's an action thriller that happens to be about something monstrous and creepy happening to the human race. On that level, it works marvelously.

There isn't much more to say about the film except to stress that it handles its subject matter with much more subtlety and cleverness than Legion does. The movie, for example, never explains why the dead are coming back to something approximating life and engaging in cannibalism, with their strength, speed, and agility apparently increased. Rather than have a character show up to just flat out explain everything and provide guidance, this leaves the characters to fend for themselves, which obviously is much more interesting. Nevertheless, there are a few clues scattered deliberately throughout the movie. The (extremely well-edited) opening credits depicting the unraveling of civilization are set to the last song Johnny Cash ever wrote, "When the Man Comes Around", a sober proclamation of the Second Coming of Christ that closes with his raspy recitation of Revelation 6:8a from the King James Bible: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." Later, while the characters prepare to escape from the mall, "The Hangman's Song" by Tyler Bates plays in the background. The song opens with these lyrics:

"Armageddon time is coming soon,
Fires will turn us all into dust,
And we will be judged one last time,
You, your son and me.
Woe, woe,
Woe is me..."

These clues in the soundtrack are not the only hints we get of what's going on; at one point, one of the characters watches a televangelist announce that this zombie apocalypse is, indeed, God's judgment on the human race. "Hell is overflowing, and Satan is sending his dead to us," he explains. "Why? Because you have sex out of wedlock, you kill unborn children, you have man on man relations- same sex marriage. How do you think your God will judge you? Well friends, now we know." The televangelist is played by Ken Foree, who appeared in the original Dawn of the Dead as Peter, a character who at one point mentions that his grandfather, a voodoo priest from Trinidad, used to warn him that "when there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth". Foree's televangelist repeats this chilling line. No archangels descend to confirm or deny this theory. The seed is planted in the imagination, and the rest of the movie waters it with gore. This, I submit, is much more effective.


Ken Foree's role in Dawn of the Dead- the solemn bald black guy with the wise remarks- is taken up in Snyder's remake by Ving Rhames, playing a police officer named Kenneth Hall. Kenneth (note the homage in the name) is a church-goer who crosses himself when he sees corpses and at one point admonishes the film's other bald black guy (this one a shadier character who apparently steals TVs), who "saw hell yesterday" and is now "scared of going to hell for all the bad things [he's] done" to "go in the stall, say 5 Hail Marys, wipe your ass, and you and God can call it even!" Harsh, perhaps, but not as bad as the gay church organist who is openly and unashamedly atheistic.

Obviously, this isn't a film with a lot of character development (instead it has a lot of nice little performances that give these bones the flesh of relative believability and even charm) and it certainly has no philosophical pretensions, but it isn't stupid, either, and these faint suggestions that, in fact, God may finally be putting an end to His rebellious image-bearers in this grotesque fashion is enough to chill the spine a couple of degrees, if the viewer is willing to invest himself intellectually enough to pay these suggestions any mind.

I close by citing IMDb: "The DVD box text implies that the cause of the zombie plague is a virus. But in an interview on screenwriter James Gunn denies the virus theory, stating that a zombie bite is like a vampire bite. Thus the plague is supernatural, not scientific." This, I suggest, is an admission of sorts from the mind behind this story that this pestilence of zombification is a curse from some higher power, and this small revelation colours the whole film with an epic, Old Testament dimension of significance that Legion, for all its hour and half of ostentatious bloviating, was unable to achieve.

Monday, June 12, 2017


Well, the latest iteration of The Mummy has hit the big screen, and the critics have been less than kind to say the least. As of this writing, it currently sits at 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. That means there is probably more critics who would prefer to catch Mummy Crotch Rot (you’re welcome, D&D fans) than there are who would want to sit through The Mummy again.

Me, I was a little less brutal in my own review over at Aleteia, but not by much. It’s just so… average. Even the supposed novelty of a female mummy has been done more than a few times before, as noted in this list over at Wicked Horror. But even that list seems to have overlooked this little nugget starring Tom & Jerry from 1933…

Not quite the Tom & Jerry you were expecting, huh? Yep, there was actually another duo who went by those names almost a decade before the celebrated cat and mouse showed up. They were basically Van Beuren's answer to Mutt & Jeff, and they had a decent run of 26 shorts over a three year period. Even so, nobody really remembers them anymore thanks to the more famous Tom & Jerry who came along later.

Oh well, not everyone gets to be the headliner in the history books, even if they have the right name. Take Mary in the New Testament, for example. No, not that Mary. No, not that Mary either. Or that one.

You see, there are actually six women (possibly seven) named Mary in the New Testament. There’s Mary, the mother of Jesus, of course. Then you have Mary of Magdala and Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha, both of whom are pretty well known. There’s also the two other Marys who were present at the crucifixion, Mary Salome, the mother of St. James the Great and St. John, and Mary Clopas, mother of St. James the Less and Joseph. Finally, there’s Mary, the mother of John Mark, who’s only mentioned two, possibly three times (there’s a Mary of Rome referenced in Romans who may or may not be the same woman, hence the possibility of seven Marys).

The thing is, though, all six of the Marys in the New Testament, even the little known ones, are recognized as Saints by the Church. Sure, Mary, the mother of John Mark, isn’t really the patron saint of anything and you’ll have a heck of a time finding a holy card with her face on it, but she’s a Saint just the same. And in the end, isn’t that the real goal? What does it matter if anybody here remembers your name or not? As long as it’s on the guest list at the pearly gates, you’ll be fine.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017



S01E18 – The Last Flight

“A World War I flying ace flies through a mysterious cloud - and lands at a modern U.S. air base in the year 1959!”

Although Rod Serling had previously adapted one of Richard Mathieson’s stories for the Twilight Zone episode And When The Sky Was Open, The Last Flight represents the acclaimed (and for good reason) author’s first self-penned screenplay for the show. It also happens to be the first episode to take the show’s title somewhat literally.

According to the Twilight Zone Archives

The original phrase "twilight zone," came from the early 1900's, used to describe a distinct condition between fantasy and reality. The phrase then evolved into a term used to define the lowest level of the ocean that light can reach, and then as an aeronautical term used by the U.S. Air Force. When Rod Serling was asked how he came up with the title The Twilight Zone, he replied, "I thought I'd made it up, but I've heard since that there is an Air Force term relating to a moment when a plane is coming down on approach and it cannot see the horizon. It's called the twilight zone, but it's an obscure term which I had not heard before."

So, while not exactly in sync with the USAF’s use of the term “twilight zone,” this tale of a strange cloud in the sky that disorientates pilots is pretty close. Of course, said cloud doesn’t just discombobulate them. There’s a bit of time travel involved as well, a component which (unless they’re not telling us something) is not included in the Air Force’s definition. But while the time-hopping aspect of this episode might not apply to real life servicemen, the fear of dying during combat displayed by the main character certainly does.


The military does its best to prepare their troops for the stress of combat, but even seasoned soldiers can have moments of panic, extreme anxiety, or utter indecision. This type of short-term behavioral disorganization is officially referred to as Combat Stress Reaction (CSR), though ‘combat fatigue’ is the more common moniker amongst the rank and file. So it’s hard to completely fault Flight Lieutenant Decker when he momentarily freaks out and abandons his fellow airman in the middle of a dogfight. It could happen to anybody.

However, the fact that Decker’s done it more than once and keeps covering it up so that no one will look down on him, that’s a problem. As Walter Farrell, O.P notes in his Companion to the Summa Theologica…

It is not, of course, wrong to feel fear. A good ghost story should cause goose flesh and shivers; a mysterious noise at night might well make our knees knock and our teeth chatter. There are things that should be feared, things like snakes, broken legs and tornadoes; but we should fear those things reasonably, not suffering damnation in an attempt to escape snakes. For if, feeling fear as every man does, we allow that fear to take command of our action, then we are cowards.

Decker knows that each time he enters combat he is going to turn tail and run, thereby increasing the odds that his comrades will die. And yet he keeps doing it, excusing his actions because there was a good chance those who perished were going to do so anyway. It is war, after all. But his little jaunt to the future shows Decker that his cowardly actions have ramifications far beyond the battlefield, that untold numbers of people who would otherwise have lived will now die prematurely because of Decker’s continued cowardice. No person’s choices rarely affect only themselves. This lesson learned, Decker is finally able to choose the path of courage and do what is necessary. He dies a hero. More importantly, as Farrell might put it, he doesn’t suffer damnation in an attempt to escape snakes.

Overall, The Last Flight is a solid episode and a strong debut for Mathieson, though his best are yet to come. It’s also an interesting one because Mathieson, despite his Christian Scientist upbringing, is usually considered much less of a moralist than Serling was. Maybe so, but you couldn’t tell it from The Last Flight.

Twilight Tidbits: The 1918 Nieuport biplane used in this episode was something of a star itself, having previously appeared in such films as The Dawn Patrol, Men With Wings, Lafayette Escadrille, and The Last Squadron.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Wasp Woman, The

Vanity, thy name is woman…

…is something William Shakespeare never wrote; he actually used the word frailty. Still, that hasn’t stopped people from using the misquoted ‘vanity’ line to disparage women for ages now. And that’s despite a rash of recent studies which have shown that men care more about their appearance than women do, take more selfies of themselves than women do, and look at themselves in the mirror more than women do.

All that’s minor league stuff, though. As we learn in The Wasp Woman, only a female has the testicular fortitude to go so far as to steal a scientist’s untested youth potion made from the jelly of a queen wasp and inject herself with it on the off chance it might make her look a few years younger.

Now, to be fair, there’s a little more to Janice Starlin’s choice to risk becoming a wasp-headed monster than just seeing some crow’s feet and frown lines in the mirror. You see, Janice also happens to be the head of a cosmetic empire whose success, in part, has been based on having her image plastered all over its products’ packaging. But now that Janice has the ravaged face of a woman in her forties (really?), it was considered necessary to remove her ancient visage from all advertising. Unfortunately, doing so turned out to be just as bad for sales as having a hag on the box, so profits are sagging anyway.

The film seems to imply that, along with all of the usual stuff, society places an extra burden on women to maintain their physical attractiveness more so than it does men. if they don’t, there will be emotional and financial consequences. Because of this, a number of reviewers have heralded The Wasp Woman as one of the first feminist monster movies.

I suppose if we view Janice as symbolic of all women, then there is something to that notion. But on a more individual level, what Janice is going through is pretty common to just about everyone, man or woman. Writing for The Atlantic, Joseph Burgo, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and the author of Cinderella: A Tale of Narcissism and Self-Harm, Why Do I Do That?, notes…

“In his [eight] stages of psychosocial development, the psychologist Erik Erikson identifies the ‘crisis’ of middle age as a conflict between generativity and self-doubt. Generativity means we come to place increasing value on guiding the next generation—as parents, educators, artists, or social activists. A person who instead remains self-centered, unable to accept the changing of the generational guard, grows increasingly dissatisfied and stagnant.  People who make contributions to the younger generation and to society at large tend to feel good about themselves at this stage and find it a consolation for the loss of top billing. They will grow old with a sense of grace and acceptance. Those who can’t bear the shift to a supporting role may become increasingly narcissistic in the unhealthy sense of the word. Even adults who haven’t seemed particularly narcissistic for most of their lives may become so as they age. They will ape the behaviors, clothing, and attitudes of the young, trying to preserve their sexual appeal. They may opt for plastic surgery. Socially, they become more self-absorbed and insensitive, demanding to remain the center of attention.”

In other words, people who live their lives in service to others tend to be happier as they age, while those who remain self-centered become increasingly miserable as time goes on. Heck, they may even start making stupid decisions such as injecting themselves with wasp queen jelly and turning into homicidal monsters. You know, it’s almost as if all those times the Pope has harped on the necessity of serving others (like here, here, and here, for example), he might have actually been on to something.