Tagged Addiction

What if Nietzsche Sucked Blood?— Morality in Abel Ferrara’s THE ADDICTION

Abel Ferrara's THE ADDICTION is a philosophical vampire film about choosing good over evil— and vice versa.

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The Dark Half: One Part King, One Part Romero Equals a Sweet Bit of Horror

The Dark Half. 1993. Directed & Written by George A. Romero; based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name.
Starring Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, Julie Harris, Robert Joy, Kent Broadhurst, Beth Grant, Rutanya Alda, Tom Mardirosian, Larry John Meyers, Patrick Brannan, Royal Dano, Glenn Colerider, Sarah Parker, & Elizabeth Parker. Orion Pictures.
Rated R. 122 minutes.

POSTER I’ve long said that George A. Romero and Stephen King go together like coffee and pie. Is that a thing, is that what people say? Well, I like coffee and pie. A nice treat. Just like I dig some Romero and King. They’re sweet together, as sweet as horror can get. You fans know what I’m talking about. Usually people associate Romero with the zombie sub-genre, and rightfully so: he single-handedly reimagined the zombie in modern terms giving birth to a trend that’s still going on today, which will undoubtedly continue until the end of time. Yet Romero made some really good work outside of the zombie structure. Long before 1993, too. But The Dark Half is one of those King-Romero collaborations that isn’t only interesting on paper. The whole film is a dark, gorgeous joy. Previously the two powerhouses of scary shit did well working on 1982’s Creepshow. Most will say that’s their best work together. I love that one, have it on the shelf alongside this and other Romero, as well as other King. I have to say, this one is my personal favourite of the two movies. Most of all because the book is so good, and for better or worse this adaptation nails most of the important aspects right on the head. The visual style is quite what we come to expect from the master of horror in Romero. King’s story matches the darkness of the director in his story examining duality, the lure of addiction in the sense of it creating an entirely other identity in one person, a quasi-monster movie about a man’s evil side literally appearing out of thin air. This is on the top of my lists for favourite King adaptations. There’s a lot to enjoy, even if it isn’t perfect. In the second half of the film things get riveting. Romero always goes for the jugular, this is no different.
Love the idea of duality. We’ve seen it many times before in literature, most famously in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. What’s most interesting about the King novel and this adaptation is how we look at the dual identities of George Stark v. Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton v. Timothy Hutton). This is a parallel of several things. Of course on the surface there’s the idea of literally mirroring King and his own pseudonym, Richard Bachman. This whole film can act as a metaphor about how King and his feelings of the success involved with Bachman’s writing, in that it became this whole other entity that needed to be dealt with, and King’s wild imagination concocts this whole story. On a deeper level there’s the fact King wrote The Dark Half right before going sober. His own feelings of the drugs and the booze taking over, the addiction becoming an entire entity all of its own, his need to rein in control as himself and be a sober man going forward, these are the biggest drive for the ultimate differences between Thad and George.
The whole visual difference between Hutton as Thad and George is awesome. When I read the book I really got such a feeling of uncanny terror when imagining the two versions of this one man. Particularly later on when things get very intense, the practical makeup effects used make the divide between Stark and Beaumont bigger. Added to all that there’s Hutton. Now apparently he was a horror to work with, even quitting the production at one point. Can’t say he doesn’t play the part to near perfection. He has the feeling of a writer torn in two from the start, not sure whether to keep riding on the success of a part of his identity which clearly causes trouble in his real day-to-day life. Then as we get further into the plot Hutton’s able to seamlessly transition from just a writer in distress to a man having one devastating existential crisis.
Something I’m very interested in personally is the Eastern belief in the concept of tulpa. Essentially, this is the concept that the mind is so powerful that it can will something into existence through pure thought. Further than that there’s often the idea that collectively, enough people might be able to will something into existence due to the amount of people expending mental energy on conjuring it up. Such is the case today with phenomenons like Slender Man and others. Certain occult thinkers might suggest these entities can become real, of flesh and blood, if enough people believe in them and will it so. In a way, George Stark is such a tulpa. Thad has not only thought him up, he’s effectively become a real person in that Beaumont hands his work over to the pseudonym, making him a part of the world. Then there’s the fact Thad had a malformed twin in his skull as a boy, this plays into more ideas about duality and further almost twists this into a monster movie – horrific images in the mind conjured up concerning a leftover bit of brain, bits of human matter not fully formed, waking up and growing into a whole man, wreaking havoc on a town in Maine. King, adapted well by Romero, takes a wild look at what happens if a murderous, hateful, vengeance seeking guy like Stark were to be willed into existence. There’s an equal part of camp much as there’s depth to the story. It’s all great, though there is quite a good helping of a sort of 1950s-style. There’s nothing wrong with that. Mostly it comes in the form of Stark who is appropriately a sort of typical 50s gangster with a razor blade, a slick-haired, leather jacket wearing, kinda Elvis copy. He’s no West Side Story sort, he’s much more dangerous than that. Along with his creepiness comes an awesomely throwback sense of camp that adds a dark humour to many of the kill scenes. All in all, the way King’s story and characters bring out the idea of the tulpa is lots of fun. Romero does his best to make that work and does a bang up job.
I can forgive a movie’s mistakes if most everything is compelling enough. King wrote a great novel, one to which I found myself glued until the last page turned and that back cover slapped shut. The Dark Half is in good hands with Romero. His directorial choices match his capabilities as a writer, each side complimenting the other. More than that I think he does well with adapting King. Not everyone can fit a novel of his into one screenplay properly, though I’m inclined to feel as if Romero does just that. Rather than make this into a half-assed attempt at jamming every little idea King had in the novel into the script, Romero opts to choose the best material, condense it, then make sure the lead character and his story gets brought out powerfully. The adapted screenplay works, and Timothy Hutton sells the Thad Beaumont character, in turn doing a fantastic job with George Stark in a highly opposing role; all the duality rests on him here, he carries that responsibility nicely. Throw in some nice effects, a couple nasty horror kills and blood to boot, this keeps things on the level for those genre fans out there. I forget how good this movie is then each time I put it on I remember, so quickly. If you’ve not seen it and call yourself a King fan, or one of Romero’s legion, then get on it, now. This is better than many will try and tell you.

The Knick – Season 1, Episode 1: “Method and Madness”

Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 1: “Method and Madness”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

* For a review of the next episode, “Mr. Paris Shoes” – click here
The first shot of the premiere opens with a faded view of white shoes, no socks underneath. A prostitute wakes Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen). They’re in an opium den. Outside at the carriage, John asks to go the long way over to his place of employment: The Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City. In the back of the ride we see who John is – to come down off the opium high, he injects cocaine in between the webbing of his toes. No wonder he didn’t have any socks on; easy access.
What’s most interesting about the opening of The Knick‘s first episode is the style. Not only do we get rich, gorgeous looking cinematography immediately, the score from Cliff Martinez readily pounds you. The electronic sounds mixed with the period piece story and the cinematography absolutely engages you from the first scene onward.
At the hospital, Dr. Thackery sets about his work. He’s an innovator in his own right, but works under Dr. J.M. Christiansen (Matt Frewer), the leading surgeon. In comes a pregnant woman, and BAM – Steven Soderbergh, Jack Amiel and Michael Begler take us quickly back to 1900, only a little over 100 years ago, when even pregnancy was a possible death sentence, for both mother and child. On the operating table, Drs. Christiansen and Thackery attempt to do a C-section, along with Drs. Everett Gallinger and Bertie Chickering (Eric Johnson & Michael Angarano) helping at their sides. But things go from bad to worse, to terrifying. Soderbergh and his team show us exactly what it was like for surgeons in the early 20th century, going by the seat of their pants, not always successful in their efforts. The blood is very present, the practical makeup effects are at times gruesome, raw. An excellent way to start off a new series.

Most surprising, though, is later after the failed surgery when Dr. Christiansen decides he can’t take the failure any longer, he can’t be a part of medicine, nor the world either. I wasn’t expecting such an intensely morbid opening, yet here we are – in the thick of it. And really, it’s such an effective way to introduce the characters. Now, this obviously fragile man in Thackery is left with his mentor of sorts gone, the burden resting on him. Even further, at the outset (I’ve seen all the episodes of both seasons at this point) I expected Christiansen to play a large part in the first season at least. Amazing how the story lured me in quickly, then switched so brutally and fast. This whole opening ten-plus minutes was the grasp I needed. Every second, every frame hooked me.
Dr. Christiansen: “It seems we are still lacking
An amazingly clear Thackery delivers a eulogy for Christiansen. It reveals his hope for the future, for the future of himself and of medicine.
Afterwards, we’re introduced to Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), as well as Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb). Cornelia’s father owns the hospital, but she doesn’t get the deserved respect as a woman when he sends her to deal with the board. Barrow is a money man of sorts, running around worrying about funds for the building; worried over the “$30,000” deficit they’re tallying up. Little bit later there’s also Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) who drives the ambulance, and wouldn’t do too bad in a scrap either.
Things get shaken when apparently Cornelia’s father has ideas about who ought to be Deputy Chief of Surgery at The Knickerbocker. While Thack thinks Gallinger should have the position, Robertson rule says Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) is going to take it. We’ll see how Dr. Thackery sits with all of it. If he does.
The history in this series is already super interesting. Cleary basically has to fight people to get paid, so he can be the ambulance who takes the fares back to the hospital. Wild to imagine a sort of capitalistic struggle on the streets of New York between ambulance drivers.
Furthermore, there are lots more good makeup effects. We see Thackery, Chickering and Gallinger go see a patient whose wounds are still healing, stitches coming together, and so on. The early days of modern medicine are on display, from the method of the ambulances, the way the hospital works, to the procedures and surgeries themselves.
So much of the period comes through in each scene. When a Health Inspector named Speight (David Fierro) heads into an apartment building, the look of the place is pure 1900. Even the air itself hangs in front of you, foggy, dim, the lights barely giving any of the rooms the light they need. It’s impressive work on the technical side, as well as the tight writing and solid acting.
Finally, Dr. Edwards arrives at The Knickerbocker. He meets with Dr. Thackery, who is busy putting together improvements for surgical instruments. Algernon and John don’t exactly get along. Not that I suspect John is racist, I just really don’t see him as a man wanting to take on the responsibility of innovating in racial relations. Edwards leaves, unimpressed, as Cornelia wonders what to do next.
Inspector Speight meets with Barrow. They talk of infectious disease; tuberculosis, in particular. The two make a deal, ensuring any further patients with the disease end up at The Knick. We get a good bit about tuberculosis here, as well as a dip into early doctor-patient relationships and patient rights. Cornelia has to give a woman terrible news, made even more terrible by the fact it has to be translated by her little daughter. Emotional scene, but also gives us more of that history I’m digging. Also, I can already tell Cornelia has a good heart and hopes to do good throughout the city, as best she can anyways.
We get confirmation of my theory – Thackery confirms he doesn’t want to “lead the charge in mixing the races“. He sees it as too progressive, a “social experiment” he won’t have in his life. So, maybe he has a little racism kicking around. Or lots.
Dr. John Thackery: “You can only run away and join the circus if the circus wants you, and I dont want you in my circus.”
Thackery reminisces of being introduced to injection by Christiansen. Then, he was bright eyed and bushy tailed. Cut back to his bloodshot eyes, his weakened state. It’ll be interesting to watch the progression of Thackery over the course of Season 1.
Meanwhile, Drs. Gallinger and Chickering examine their earlier patient, as Dr. Edwards is brought in and introduced. Bertie doesn’t have much issue with it, though, it appears Everett is slighted. Even more than that, Everett won’t have any of Edwards butting in on his patient. Lots of tension already starting, only bound to ramp up as time goes on.
Interesting scene sees Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) sent off to find Dr. Thackery. He’s at home, blunted to the bone and higher than any bird in the sky. She finds him in a terrible state, shivering, sweating in bed. Turns out he’s in withdrawal and needs an injection. This brings Nurse Lucy into the fold of his addiction, his dirty little secret. He was “trying to spend the night without it“, but obviously failed. This scene shows us the other side to John – there’s his brilliance and his determination as a surgeon, then there’s John the addict who rolls around in bed, sweaty and full of collapsed veins except for the one in his dick. There’s an intensity to this scene, which becomes quite personal, quite intimate, in a nasty way.
Flying back to The Knick, there’s Dr. Thackery in the operating theatre. They have to work on the aforementioned patient. He has bowel problems, specifically septicemia. Thack decides to inject a cocaine solution into the man’s spine. More intense moments, of a different kind, as the doctor goes about hi work. Very quiet, subtle bits here watching Thackery slowly inject the solution into this man’s spinal column. Great, great cinematography and wonderful writing, both bringing out the interesting days of early 20th century surgery. Fractured FX really give the goods here on the makeup effects, showing us the brutality of young modern surgical work in 1900. Even as a horror film buff, these scenes are some trying stuff. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

The finale of “Method and Madness” sees Dr. Thackery back in a carriage, full circle to the opening moments. He’s headed into Chinatown, Mott Street, apparently. At the same time, light is turned on at The Knick, the electricity up and running; all after Dr. Edwards was successfully welcomed into the fold, or well, unwelcomed.

Great episode. Looking forward to watching all these over for the second time since the original episode run. The next episode is “Mr. Paris Shoes”, which is another spectacular chapter in this first season. Stay tuned.

The Knick – Season 2, Episode 6: “There Are Rules”

Cinemax’s The Knick
2, Episode 6: “There Are Rules”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

* For a review of the previous episode, “Whiplash” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Williams and Walker” – click here
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After the eerie end of the last episode, “There Are Rules” starts with a hypnotist (Jarlath Conroy) is working his magic on a stage, as Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) watches on. He’s looking in every possible direction for a cure to addiction, even if it means dipping into things like this. Any inspiration is good inspiration, I suppose. With a smile, Thack watches the hypnotist make a man afraid of a kitten, and other such fun. Over at another attraction, two conjoined sisters are on display, supposedly due to their mother, a situation involving a bear, and other foolishness about their history in Russia. John introduces himself to Lester Brockhurst (Fred Weller), the man in charge of the act, asking if he might examine the girls. For his own curiosity. Brockhurst is simply worried about money; naturally, this can be “definitely be arranged“, as Thack tells him. What’s Thackery up to with these girls?

Cut to Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr (Michael Angarano) and his mother Anne (Linda Emond), who is getting lots of treatments for her illness. The good son has also fully enlisted Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) to help with things; interesting note, Algie is now wearing glasses, which he says helps “a little“. They’re going through ways to try helping his mother, including surgical operations and such.
Then there’s Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken) still trying to get things moving best in his direction, away from the slow tide of his father’s unwillingness to get into the future. Henry also receives a nice sexy visit from Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson); a handjob visit. She wants an invitation to some big shindig, so of course stroking Henry off in the office is her best way to that end. I suppose it is, considering his love of pornographic material and all things fleshy. Plus, she leaves him hanging: good for you, Luce!
Down at the surgical theatre, Dr. Edwards shows D.W. Garrison Carr (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) around, along with Dr. Russell Daniels (Colman Domingo). Turns out, Carr needs surgery. Even more than that, Algernon is the first choice to do the surgery. And he plans on trying to get the surgery done there, even though as Carr puts it: “There are rules.” Algie is going to try bending Thack’s ear on the subject.

At home, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) returns home from eugenics and racism to his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan). Things aren’t happy, as she invited the doctor who butchered her over for a meal – Dr. Henry Cotton (John Hodgman). Everett talks at the man with no respect, though, he keeps speaking regardless if the man of the house wants to hear it or not. I’m not sure Everett has any room to talk, not any longer. He’s a few decades away from his rightful place in the Aryan Nation. Excusing himself early, Cotton is ill and leaves.
In a quiet room at the hospital, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Chickering (Jr), along with Betram Sr in attendance, begin a procedure on Anne to possibly remove the tumor that’s been nesting in her throat. The older Chickering can’t watch, though stays close by. Bertie braves through it, even refusing a drink after Algie suggests one might be good for his nerves. They’re injecting mercury into the tumor then applying a current to the areas injected. With a fine hand, Bertie works on the procedure. But they’re interrupted by a wandering orderly who balks at Chickering doing unauthorized surgery, and even more at Algernon. Soon enough, Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson) arrives and berates them all, before literally rolling up his sleeves and helping as best he can. Watching on in horror while Anne slowly loses a pulse, Betram Sr has to pull his son off his own mother: “Shes been through enough.” The entire sequence leads to young Dr. Chickering tendering his resignation, which at least is better than Zinberg firing him. Luckily, though, above all else – the father and son aren’t being torn apart; Betram Sr actually admires his son for trying to help.

Back to Thack, who sleeps on the couch at the home of Abby (Jennifer Ferrin). The woman on the boat in his dreams is Abby, before the syphilis and all that. Then, the young girl from the Season 2 premiere, the dreams and hallucinations of Thack, she returns. Over and over in his head.
Harriet (Cara Seymour) is still suffering the tortures of the damned on Earth over with the other working girls under the nuns. Yet she still tries to instill the young women with knowledge of a sexual nature. Bless her heart.
More Thackery – he’s trying hypnotism on Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), with help from the hypnotist at the show earlier. John and Algernon try to figure out what the hypnotism actually does. Thack wants to start trying to use hypnotism in aid of recovering addicts. Now, he begins to work on Tom and his tobacco pipe smoking habit. Waking Tom up, he puts them on for a minute before revealing he still LOVES the pipe: awesome, awesome moment that worked so well due to Chris Sullivan’s acting!
Afterwards, Algernon appeals to Thack about the surgery for Carr. Of course, John is willing to help, even reveling in the likely reactions of the board. Following this brief conversation, Bertie shows up in Thack’s office; he wants to come back, he needs “the speed” of The Knick, and needs a bit of Thackery, too. Glad to see Bertie finally admit: “I know now that this is where I belong.” He and Thackery embrace in a beautiful moment.

Cornelia Showalter (Juliet Rylance) is out with her wonderful bleeding heart trying to figure out the trail to Speight’s death, or better put his murder. She finds an immigrant man in rough pain, hoping to get information from him concerning the ticket she located in the former home of Inspector Speight. With not much, Cornelia leaves.
Nurse Elkins and Dr. Chickering have their little reunion. Bertie apologizes for his anger and childish behaviour after their “falling out“; he’s forgiven her for any of the nonsense which went on between them. She only wants to be friends again. Lucy suggests Bertie ought to take his new “lady friend“, giving her time to get a new dress and prepare for things.
Henry Robertson is telling his father about the proposed surgery on Carr. August (Grainger Hines) doesn’t want to hear much about it, having trouble with “integration“. Mostly, it’s the board who are firm in their racists roots, as it seems August is at least willing to bet on Algernon’s skill as a talented doctor.
The meeting at the apartment sends Cornelia down to where the immigrants come into New York. The reference of bubonic plague earlier: could Speight have been onto something big that the upper crust didn’t want getting out? Either way, Cornelia is becoming embedded in issues of immigration, which are excellent and timely for a series in its second season during 2015 – a year rife with issues concerning immigrants.
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At The Knick, Thack receives Mr. Brockhurst and his conjoined ladies Zoya and Nika (Miranda/Rebecca Gruss). The whole thing is a money racket in Brockhurst’s eyes. But Thackery is merely interested in them for medical reasons. He whisks them off to start testing and examining them, as their manager heads out.
Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) has his mistress over at the new apartment where she’ll be staying. They end up having a bit of impromptu sex before being interrupted, briefly.
Examining the conjoined sisters, Thackery believes it may be possible to separate them in a healthy manner. They might possibly only share one organ, making it easier to take them apart. The girls tell him about meeting Brockhurst, their true beginnings being sold to a circus by their father, eventually coming to meet him down the road; they say he treats them “better than some“. John has a genuine heart in him, even for a degenerate man of medicine with raging addictions. He seems to be interested in helping them, seeing the pain behind their eyes as they speak. Clearly, the girls are under Brockhurst’s thumb to an inordinate degree, too. Such a sad story, revealing Brockhurst pimps the girls out, as if it weren’t already obvious from his mean spirited sense of acting and talking with others.

Cleary is out busting locks, entering clandestine into a building with Thack at his side. They’re out to get the conjoined twins, knocking Brockhurst to the floor with Cleary’s crowbar. Under cover of darkness, Zoya and Nika are released from their servitude to the awful man. At The Knickerbocker, they’re being cared for by Cleary, who is respectful even while asking questions like: “How do you two take a shite?” And they even giggle a little.
With Everett, Edwards, and Chickering in his office, with Zoya and Nika there as well, Thackery is laying out his plan to separate the conjoined parts of their body. I love all the excellent bits of modern medicine which come out, from the quest to cure addiction by Thack to the conjoined twins, and so much more.
At a lunch, Cleary and Harriet talk about her state of being. She feels broken, “useless, no good to anyone“. With the nuns now against her, all the girls banned from talking with her, Harriet is being driven inward, to madness nearly. Tom also says he’s been sending $3 a week, which she hasn’t been getting; the sisters aren’t letting it through. He wants her to leave, he wants her to stay with him like suggested originally, and keeps on mumbling “fucking cunts” under his breath, over and over.

Once more at Abby’s place, Thack talks with her about the twins. Then she tells him “I cant live with you here, John“. She clearly cares for John, loving him even. But she knows she “has no claim” on him and that they will not be together. He loves her, only going to her to talk. He has sex with other women. But there is something inside him which continually burns for Abby, regardless of anything else in his life going on: the drugs, the surgeries, the women. He loves her. We finish on a shot of them kissing, John embracing her face, not worried about superficial beauty or any of it.
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Can’t wait to review another episode, the following “Williams and Walker”. Stay tuned.