Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THE B-LIST: 11 MOVIES FEATURING EVIL SEVERED HANDS

I’ll admit, even on a good day, the humor on this site can be a bit obscure. For example, last week I posted a cartoon about religious prejudice and crawling severed hands. Definitely not an SEO post.

The reason for the religious angle you can probably guess pretty easily. But as for why the hands, well, that depends on whether or not you know you’re familiar with all the killer hand flicks released throughout the decades. Let’s take a tour of that particular genre’s cinematic history with 11 movies featuring evil severed hands.

Beast With Five Fingers, The

The Beast With Five Fingers (1946)

The granddaddy of all crawling hand movies! Peter Lorre chews up the screen in this tale of a deceased pianist whose hand isn’t ready to stop playing yet.

Invasion Of The Saucer Men

Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

A needle sprouting severed hand AND little green men with bulbous heads who kill their victims with alcohol poisoning? Yes, please!

Crawling Hand, The

The Crawling Hand (1963)

Okay, so it’s actually an astronaut’s whole arm crawling around instead of just his hand, but that only makes this MST3K staple all the more silly.

Dr. Terror's House Of Horrors (2)

Dr. Terrors House of Horrors (1966)

One of the stories in this venerable anthology features Christopher Lee as an art critic tormented by the disembodied hand of the artist he drove to suicide. A bit of wish fulfillment fantasy from the writers of bad movies perhaps?

And Now The Screaming Starts

And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)

The poster prominently features the “dead hand that crawls”, but most folks just seem to remember the woman who gets assaulted and impregnated by a ghost. Go figure.

Hand, The

The Hand (1981)

A film about a cartoonist’s severed hand putting the squeeze on people starring Michael Caine and directed by Oliver Stone? Yes, it happened. And oddly enough, it’s not considered Stone’s worst film.

Evil Dead 2 Dead By Dawn

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

If you don’t already know about the evil crawling hand in this film, you probably arrived at this site by accident.

Severed Ties

Severed Ties (1992)

Another film with a full arm, but this time the experiment gone wrong grows a tail as well. Scientists never learn, do they?

Waxwork II Lost In Time

Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992)

Technically, the sinister severed hand in this story made it’s debut in the first Waxwork, but it gets a lot more screen time in this one. Bruce Campbell shows up for a few minutes, as well. Guess he likes these hand movies.

Quicksilver Highway

Quicksilver Highway (1997)

An anthology composed of stories by Stephen King and Clive Barker sounds like a no-brainer, right? It would, if  only those stories didn’t feature a set of killer chattering teeth and a bunch of hands that rise up against their oppressive human overlords.

Idle Hands

Idle Hands (1999)

And finally, it’s the part killer hand/part 90s stoner horror comedy that no one was asking for. It always reaches this point, doesn’t it? If this setup had been done in the 40’s when the whole crawling hand business had just gotten started, it would have been an Abbot & Costello movie. Without all the marijuana, obviously.

So, as you can see, the severed hand genre has been around for a while. Still, we haven’t seen any new evil crawling hands at the theater for some time now. Where’s our reboot of The Beast With Five Fingers? Maybe the lack of dastardly digits in cinemas is because modern writers haven’t figured out an angle to approach the subject matter yet. I mean, what is it about disembodied hands that is supposed to be so unnerving anyway?

It’s possible the whole genre could just be filmmakers playing around with the notion of “Limb Phobia”, the irrational, constant fear of losing a part of your body (not to be confused with Apotemnophobia, the fear of people with amputations). The problem with that is Limb Phobia would account for the horror in seeing the hand cut off, but not so much in its coming back.

Another psychological explanation might lie in Freudian analysis. In his work, The Uncanny, Sigmund Freud discussed Wilhelm Hauff’s fairytale, The Story of the Severed Hand. It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that the good doctor reached the conclusion that the amputation in that story “certainly has an uncanny effect, and we have traced that effect back to the castration complex.” Basically, anytime a body part comes off in a story, Freud blames it on the author’s unconscious fear of castration as punishment for inappropriate sexual urges. That’s our Freud (cue laugh track). Again, though, the problem with that hypothesis (one of the problems anyway) is that it only accounts for the fear of losing the appendage, not in having it return.

To get to an idea that includes both separation and return, it might be helpful to look in the Bible. Jesus is quoted in a couple of places as saying, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” He was speaking metaphorically, of course (only certain atheists take stuff like that literally). It was a clever way of telling us we need to completely detach ourselves from whatever sinful habits we may have or immediately remove ourselves from occasions of sin we may find ourselves in.

But as anybody who has ever tried to kick a habit or break an addiction can tell you, that’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. Whatever sins troubled us in the past always seem to find a way to come back and try to snare us again. As the Catechism puts it, “If we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin.”

And that’s the subtext likely to be found in a number of these movies. Evil Dead 2 and Idle Hands are the most obvious examples, with demon possessed paws coming back to cause more trouble even after their owners have lopped off the offending appendages. But it works for most of the others as well, with miffed off mitts returning to exact a toll for past sins. Oh sure, you get the occasional social allegory such as with Barker’s story in Quicksilver Highway, but for the most part, crawling hand movies do a fine job of visualizing the difficulty in escaping those parts of our inner selves we’d be better off leaving behind.

All those who agree, please raise your hands. If you’ve still got them, that is.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

NOW SHOWING AT A BLOG NEAR YOU

Now Showing Marquee 3

My review for Aleteia this week was for Calvary, John Michael McDonagh’s new film detailing what happens after a good priest receives receives a death threat from a former victim of child abuse during the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s intense, somber, and bleak… and I really liked it. So did The Happy Catholic and she scored a brief interview with the director.

Speaking of serious movies, we’ve mentioned the Vatican’s list of important films before. Well, it looks like R. Jared Staudt, Ph.D. at Catholic Exchange is taking a shot at watching as many as he can.

Moving a little closer towards the stuff we usually discuss around these parts, CNS reports that Archbishop Charles Chaput has gone gaga over the new movie, The Giver, calling it “well above standard ‘family’ fare in quality, rendered by an excellent cast.”

I guess the same can’t be said of Revenge of the Nerds, a film which Catholic Skywalker has decided must be one of the most morally corrosive movies of the 1980s.

For something a little less harsh (okay, not by much), why not head over to the Acton Institute where Joe Carter believes he’s discovered the proper way to understand Snowpiercer, Song Joon Ho’s sci-fi post-apocalyptic action film in which all of humanity lives aboard a giant speeding train.

And finally, in case you haven’t heard about it yet, well known Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin has started a new blog in which he intends to review every single episode of Doctor Who ever made.

Well, that’s enough reading for one week. We’ll see you next time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

SHORT FEATURE: THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ON OPRAH

I reviewed the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Aleteia this past weekend and, unless there’s a bug on the site, it seems to have inexplicably become the single most shared thing I’ve ever written. Why? Beats me, it’s just another average review for an average movie. The Internet just doesn’t make sense sometimes.

Of course, there are lots of things involving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that don’t make any sense, like, say, their appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show back in 1990. That went way beyond senseless to… to… I don’t know what. You’ll just have to watch for yourself. Be warned, the video stops around the 3:30 mark and doesn’t return, which is probably merciful.

Um, did Oprah just suggest that April O’Neil should engage in bestiality? Seriously, is there any sexual deviancy daytime talk show hosts won’t approve of? Maybe it’s just because that of the four states in which Oprah owns residences, three of them don’t have laws outlawing getting amorous with animals (the things I research for this blog). Not really surprising in California and New Jersey, I suppose, but Colorado?

Oh well, no matter what the law does or doesn’t say, zoophilia has been a big no-no in God’s eyes since the beginning. Leviticus 18 unambiguously states, “You shall not have sexual relations with an animal, defiling yourself with it; nor shall a woman set herself in front of an animal to mate with it; that is perverse.” No wiggle room there.

Besides the fact that the idea of bestiality is just kind of gross to the majority of people, such a rule also makes sense if you have a good understanding of chastity. Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary defines chastity as “the virtue that moderates the desire for sexual pleasure according to the principles of faith and right reason… Chastity implies an opposition to the immoral in the sense of lustful or licentious. It suggests refraining from all acts or thoughts that are not in accordance with the Church's teaching about the use of one's reproductive powers.”

So, since you can’t be married to an animal (not yet anyway, and certainly never in the sacramental sense) and you can’t naturally produce offspring with one (science is just speciesist in that respect), sexual desire for animals definitely qualifies as a huge sin against chastity. You’d think this notion would be common sense, but you know, some things are just senseless, especially when it involves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

THINGS TO COME: BELIEVE ME & LEFT BEHIND

Two trailers for faith-based movies showed up in my inbox today. Here’s the synopsis for the first one entitled Believe Me:

Sam (Alex Russell) stands on stage as thousands of fans go wild. Smart, charismatic, handsome, he moves them with his message, and when he calls for donations to his charity, the money pours in.  Only thing is, Sam doesn’t believe a word he’s saying.  Just months earlier, Sam was a typical college senior focused on keg stands, hookups and graduation. But when a surprise tuition bill threatens his dream of law school and leaves him thousands of dollars in the hole, he’s forced to think outside the box. He convinces his three roommates they can make a killing on the gullible church crowd and the guys start a sham charity, campaigning across the country, raising funds for a cause as fake as their message.  For Sam, embezzlement is easy compared to getting attention from the only person he cares about. When Callie (Johanna Braddy), the tour manager and Sam’s love interest, finally discovers the guys’ ruse, it’s Sam's moment of truth.  On the final night of the tour, before a packed auditorium and alone in the spotlight, Sam must decide what he really believes.

Here’s the trailer…

So, basically, Believe Me is kind of a Millennial take on the old Steve Martin vehicle A Simple Twist Of Fate, just with an overt pro-Christian storyline.

The other movie, which we’ve been awaiting for almost two years now, needs little introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, Left Behind starring Nick Cage…

Okay, so Catholics don’t believe in Left Behind’s premillennial rapture premise, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a film like this. It’s Nick Cage for crying out loud.

Now the interesting thing is, both these movies come out within a few weeks of each other. One is designed to start out seemingly making fun of the faith, but slowly teach a lesson about it. The other is designed to teach a lesson about the faith, but is all but predestined (see what I did there) to end up causing people to make fun of it.

Which movie do you think will probably get some actual mainstream press coverage?

INTERMISSION: WHICH STAR TREK CHARACTER ARE YOU?

So, I had a few minutes in between movies and thought I would take the “which Star Trek character are you” quiz? Can’t say I was expecting this as the answer, though.

Your results:
You are Will Riker

Will Riker
80%
James T. Kirk (Captain)
60%
Geordi LaForge
60%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
60%
Data
59%
Jean-Luc Picard
55%
Spock
49%
Deanna Troi
45%
Worf
40%
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
35%
Mr. Scott
35%
Beverly Crusher
35%
Chekov
30%
Mr. Sulu
30%
Uhura
25%
At times you are self-centered
but you have many friends.
You love many women, but the right
woman could get you to settle down.
Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character are you?" quiz...

Self centered? Okay, fine, I can accept that. Many friends? Um, does that mean Facebook friends, or actual face-to-face folks? I’m kind of a hermit, so there’s a big gap between the two. Love many women? Um, maybe three decades ago, but I’ve been married to the same woman for almost 25 years now. Guess that means I found the right one. And just look at that photo. I don’t even have a beard, for crying out loud! Either the accuracy of this quiz is in doubt, or… maybe I don’t know myself quite as well as I thought?

Commander Will Riker once asked, “How the hell do we defeat an enemy that knows us better than we know ourselves?” Not a bad question. Sounds like it would be a good idea to follow Socrates’s advice when he proclaimed, “Man, know thyself.” According to the old 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Socrates, he believed self-knowledge to be the starting point to all knowledge, because “the greatest source of the prevalent confusion was the failure to realize how little we know about anything, in the true sense of the word know. The statesman, the orator, the poet, think they know much about courage; for they talk about it as being noble, and praiseworthy, and beautiful, etc. But they are really ignorant of it until they know what it is, in other words, until they know its definition. The definite meaning, therefore, to be attached to the maxim ‘know thyself’ is ‘realize the extent of thine own ignorance’.”

Oh, well, that’s okay then. I can certainly recognize my own ignorance. After all, I display it often enough on this blog to know it when I see it. It’s a good thing too because, as the Catechism explains, “Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so.” And among those means the Catechism lists are practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God's commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, fidelity to prayer, and yes, you guessed it, self-knowledge.

So, basically, it’s easier to resist temptation if we have a firm grasp on just how dumb we can be sometimes. Fate may protect fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise, but a little self knowledge can protect your soul.