Embracing the Melodrama Part II #91: A Reason to Believe (dir by Douglas Triola)

A Reason to BelieveThroughout the late 90s, a rather obscure film from 1995 called A Reason To Believe used to show up on Cinemax fairly frequently. I was 11 when I first saw it.  At the time, I was indulging in my rebellious streak by secretly staying up past my bed time and sneaking into the living room, where I would watch whatever forbidden sordidness what being aired.  Because I didn’t want to wake anyone up, I would watch with the volume turned almost all the way down.  Hence, when I first saw A Reason To Believe, I literally had to sit less than an inch away from the TV just so I could hear the dialogue.

And I remember that, at the age of 11, A Reason To Believe really blew me away.  I thought it was one of the greatest films that I had ever seen.  The fact that the film involved college students made me feel like I was both watching a movie for adults and getting a preview of what life would be like when I was older.  All of the sex and the language made me feel like I was getting away with something while I was watching it.  At one point, there was a shot of Sharon (played by Holly Marie Combs) putting a condom on Wesley’s (Danny Quinn) erect penis and I found myself glancing over my shoulder, convinced that at any minute a responsible adult was going to enter the living room and say, “WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING!?”

So, when I recently rewatched A Reason To Believe, I did so wondering how the film would hold up now that I’m an adult.  Not surprisingly, a good deal of the film now seemed to be heavy-handed.  For every good line in the script, there was a line that was way too obvious.  Characters who were funny when I was 11 — like dorky stoner Potto (Keith Coogan) — now seemed to be annoying.  And, of course, my more experienced eyes immediately realized that Holly Marie Combs was putting that condom on a prosthetic penis.

And yet, A Reason To Believe is still fairly effective and probably deserves to be better known than it actually is.  Usually, I refuse to give extra credit for good intentions but I’m willing to make an exception for A Reason To Believe because the film deals with a subject that, now more than ever, needs to be dealt with.

Charlotte (Allison Smith) is a student at an unnamed generic university.  When her boyfriend, Wesley (Danny Quinn), has to go away for the weekend, he asks Allison not to go to Viking, an annual party thrown by his fraternity.  Charlotte promises that she won’t but then goes anyway.  At Viking, she hangs out with Wesley’s best friend, Jim (Jay Underwood).  Jim is also dating Allison’s friend, Judith (Kim Walker).  Realizing that she’s had too much to drink, Allison attempts to leave the party but instead, Jim leads her into his bedrom.  He kisses her.  She says no but Jim forces himself on her.  Repeating all the old bullshit excuses (i.e., Charlotte was flirting with him, all girls say no when they mean yes, and all the rest) Jim seems to truly believe that the sex was consensual.  Charlotte knows it was rape.

At first, Charlotte doesn’t want to face what happened.  When she finally does go to the university administration and reports what happened, the frat — including her boyfriend — comes together to protect Jim.  Charlotte’s friends — like Judith — abandon her.  Her only supporter is Linda (Georgia Emelin), an anti-fraternity campus activist who is more interested in Charlotte as a means to an end than as a human being.

A Reason To Believe held up fairly well.  Yes, it’s heavy-handed and a lot of the dialogue is too spot-on and literal.  I could have done without the scenes featuring Obba Babatunde as a bombastic professor.  However, Allison Smith and Jay Underwood both gave excellent performances in the two lead roles and the film deserves a lot of credit for not shying away from just how misogynistic the fraternity/sorority culture can truly be.  Ultimately, flaws and all, it’s a valuable, realistic, and angry portrayal of rape culture and it deserves to be seen for that reason.

It can currently be viewed on YouTube.

Gloriously Insane Action That Is Kung Fury

Kung FuryThe Insanely Glorious Action That Is Kung Fury

I grew up during the 1980’s and I do remember how it was a decade dominated by martial arts films and cop action films. Even looking back through rose-tinted goggles, I will admit that for a majority of films released under those two genres most were quite bad. Yet, they were bad and enjoyable in their own clumsy and low-budget way.

The short comedy action film Kung Fury arrives on the web today. Why a short film and not a full-length? Well, while it’s kickstarter campaign more than passed it’s goal of $200,000 dollars it failed to reach a stretch goal of $1,000,000 to turn the film into a full-length feature film. While I believe a full-length film would’ve been nice to see, I think this film works best in it’s short film format.

Kung Fury (written, directed and starring David Sandberg) is a pastiche of all the over-the-top action beats action film fans love about the genre during the 1980’s. It throws everything it could think of onto the screen and blends them together with no thought in mind of how ridiculous and insane it turned out. It’s a film that’s a homage and a parody of those very 80’s action and martial arts films that we know and love so much.

Yet, for all the insanity that occurs in the film there’s actually a weird logic to the film’s narrative that reaches a nice pay-off in the end that screams and begs for a sequel. What better way to end a film that’s a love letter to all things 1980’s action than making sure it ends in a blatant cliffhanger that screams sequel and franchise building.

If there’s one film you should see this weekend that doesn’t involve costumed superheroes, post-apocalyptic marauders, acapella throwdowns, and the next disaster porn then it should be the 30-minutes of insane martial arts, time-traveling, police action film called Kung Fury.

Neon Dream #14: Blut Aus Nord – Epitome XVIII

The dream has to end somewhere. Science fiction seems to agree on that. Futuristic technology produces what biology could not: logic-based systems so functional and adept at survival that humanity becomes obsolete. Whether we assimilate into a borg colony or a zerg hive mind, imagination is pretty screwed. Our best bet might be something like The Matrix. Perhaps some utility will compel our robot overlords to spare the sheep who spawned them. Yay!

I cannot say what it must feel like to be enslaved by a post-human species, but I fancy it would sound a lot like the 777 trilogy by Blut Aus Nord. Between 2011 and 2012, these French black metal legends offered up a journey through a world that was beyond dystopian. Discordant melodies and unorthodox rhythms taken to the extreme are usually a recipe for disaster–the tools of technically proficient but creatively deprived math rock and avant-garde musicians I would only listen to under duress. Blut Aus Nord masterfully avoided that pitfall by envisioning a coherent aesthetic framework and driving the music forward as a consistent conceptual progression across 18 tracks. Radical experimentation joins forces with dark industrial grooves to place the listener in a futuristic, post-human world where mechanical gods rule apathetic over mortals bred in gestation crates.

The trilogy does not actually offer any textual insight into what its world is supposed to be. The minimal lyrics are highly esoteric, and Blut Aus Nord ultimately leave it to the instrumentation to tell their tale. You might not experience it as a futuristic world at all, but rather as some bleak corner of hell from which a lost soul digs through the madness and witnesses his overlord. But as far as it speaks to me, the 777 trilogy is the vision of a feckless human slave awakening from his dream into terrifying, incomprehensible world. He slowly comes to understand his master and, perhaps, ultimately assimilates into the hive mind. The final track, “Epitome XVIII”, is a grim, cold trance in which a soulless machine reigns on triumphant.