13 Diabolical Movies for Halloween

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BY H.B.G. (Your Satanic Cinema Sommelier)

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Some of us struggle with our demons, others just want to cuddle. The Church, 1989

As Halloween – the ancient pre-Christian Celtic Pagan festival of Samhain – draws near, when the air chills and the vibrant leafy green signs of summery life are dressed in faded flame to kindle it’s dry surrender to the coming season of death, our mind turns naturally inwards – towards the darkness within – as a reflection to the deepening night without. The Season of the Witch is upon us once again and ’tis time to reflect upon the ebon mirror-screen to read the signs traced there by the cool fingers of Our Lady of Darkness. Many of our own home video screens will inevitably flicker with the cold fire of choice occult horrors, old and new, from cinema’s dreadful dream machine.

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Karloff leads a Luciferian cult in The Black Cat.

Connoisseurs of the genre are undoubtedly familiar with Cinema’s Unholy Trinity of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen. Others may already know Vincent Price as Prince Prospero in 1964’s Masque of the Red Death. Below we will present a modest list of 13 sorcerous and satanic ‘sin’ematic tales spun by film makers. We will point out some popular examples as well as draw attention to some of those which may be overlooked. These and many other examples appear in our growing list of Devilish movies: Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films.

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Hazel Court as Vincent Price’s mistress in The Masque of the Red Death, 1964,  brands an inverted cross on her breast in an act of devotion to Satan. This is the first instance of an inverted cross as a symbol of devil worship on film.

These films offer us the full congregation of evil: The Witch, The Cult, and The Devil Himself.

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Barbara Steele in Curse of the Crimson Cult, 1968

The Witch is a primal archetype of our collective unconscious; an image so ancient and long held that we still remain spellbound by her powers. The Hag, the child-snatcher, the cannibal crone in the gingerbread house, the satanic siren or seductive succubus licking her blood red lips… they all live inside us. She resides in that secret place from where dreams arise; that place most of us expend effort to avoid noticing. But she is always there, waiting, in our stories, fables, movies and fashion magazines.

The Cult is a nightmare that is often all too true in reality and even makes the occasional appearance on the evening news. Often formed by a group of devil worshipping acolytes in these movies, The Cult is most often hidden from view in plain sight. Their predatorial eyes stalking their victims with a cold obedience to a perverted sense of unholy and supreme evil.

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The Exorcist, 1973

The Devil …well, what can one say about the Old Man? The Opposer, The Adversary, The Tempter, Shaitan, Satan… the very embodiment of all that is evil, of all malice, of all we fear… and, simultaneously, all that we desire: Power, Wealth, Talent, Fame, Sex.. all are on the Demon’s auction table… for a hefty price, of course.

Some of these movies are crude attempts, some are jumbled fever dreams, cult films, a few are special masterpieces that linger long after the lights are out and the covers are drawn up… when dreams of primitive horrors etched in our ancestral DNA lurch and suddenly shamble towards you out of the dreaming dark… with claws extended.

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Evil Takes Many Forms in The Witch.

1. The Witch (2015)

Satanic Sommelier: Guiness, or an Irish red like Killians. The Witch is an atmospheric period piece set in 1630 New England. A  folktale saturated with fearful religious paranoia that inexorably tears apart a family of Puritan settlers trying to survive on the edge of a vast threatening forest after being banished from the safe confines of their colony. The fear of Satan’s power may be real or imagined, or seen as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are looking for jump scares or buckets of gore, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. This one is a slow burning thriller with committed performances and some unsettling imagery of classical witchcraft.

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Christopher Lee is great as a Satanist in almost every film he ever made.

2. Horror Hotel, AKA City of the Dead  (1960)

Satanic Sommelier: Chardonnay, chilled. Features Christopher Lee (who certainly holds the record for Actor Who Has Portrayed a Satanist or Appeared in More Satanic/Occult Films More Than Any Human Ever) as a college professor with more than a dabbler’s interest in Witchcraft. An atmospheric thriller that takes a cue from 1960’s PSYCHO in regards to the premature fate of it’s first main protagonist. Good atmospheric early piece of witchy cinema.

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You’ve never seen anything quite like Alucarda.

3. Alucarda   (1975)

Satanic Sommelier: A Spanish red. (Read the title backwards). This nunsploitation film has some great surrealistic set pieces, plenty of hysterical blasphemy, flagellation, sadistic monks, exorcism and…. bleeding nuns! But the tale itself, with its elements of lesbian vampirism, seems at least somewhat inspired by J. Sheridan LeFanu’s ‘Carmilla’ (1872). A young woman is brought to live at a convent where she encounters the mysterious Alucarda. The young women form a strange relationship and make a pact and become satanically possessed as part of Alucarda’s cursed history.

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More Nasassja Kinski, please.

4. To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

Satanic Sommelier: Blue Nun. Three reasons to watch this film: 1. Christopher Lee (starting to see a pattern here?!) as a Satanic priest (he does it so well! Look for that smile during a nasty scene near the beginning of the film). 2. A 15-year-old full frontal nude Nastassja Kinski  (we also love her dressed as a nun), and 3. some rather atypical Satanic ritual  imagery. Great cult film if you can somehow manage to ignore Richard Widmark.

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Jessica Harper in the original Suspiria. She also makes a cameo in the 2018 remix.

5. Suspiria (1977)

Satanic Sommelier: A fine Italian red wine.  Suspiria is a film that stands out in horror cinema and remains perhaps the most celebrated artistic horror film ever made. Director Dario Argento’s masterpieceThe Three Mothers motif is carried on in the sequels Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears (2007). The 2018 remake featuring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton is a thoughtful homage to some ideas inspired by the theme but is not nearly as fun as the original. We started #TheThreeMothers hashtags. Read our Occult-Horror geek articles on the original Suspiria here:

SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess; Part 2

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess, Part 3

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Sherri Moon Zombie breaks on through to the other side in The Lords of Salem.

6. The Lords of Salem (2012)

Satanic Sommelier:  Magic mushrooms with a gin & tonic, and a beer chaser. Rob Zombie’s hallucinogenic trip into the weird world of witchcraft is, like it’s creator,  certainly original. This film links back to ancient blasphemous heresy for starters before relocating us into modern Salem, Massachusetts where young DJ Heidi (played by Sherri Moon Zombie) is ensnared in the ancient sorcery of a family curse while trying to break free of a heroin addiction. Worth seeing for Meg Foster, Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson and Patricia Quinn (Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as witches, and some bizarre artistic moments.

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THE SENTINEL 1977 with horror veteran John Carradine as a blind priest. Jeffrey Konvitz wrote the book.

7. The Sentinel (1977)

Satanic Sommelier: Whatever your poison may be, drink plenty of it! The gateway to Hell requires a vigilant ward. The requirements for the position are a particular sin. The Sentinel is kind of like a blend of ‘Hell House’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ with some Law & Order mixed in. If it feels tedious at times you can amuse yourself by spotting the many big names in it, enough to give even a jaded movie goer pause: Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Jose Ferrer, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Chris Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, John Carradine, and Beverly D’Angelo in…. well, an unforgettable scene. Make-up effects by the legendary Dick Smith of The Exorcist fame. This gritty ’70’s devil movie has a politically incorrect climax to creep you out.

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Mickey Rourke stumbles into a diabolical mystery in Angel Heart.

8. Angel Heart  (1987)

Satanic Sommelier: Jack Daniels or Jim Beam (any way you like) for you “Hairy Angel” types.  Or try Toots Sweet’s favorite Twin Sisters Cocktail: Ingredients: 1/2 oz. light rum 1/2 oz. spiced rum 1 dash lime juice 1 dash Coca-Cola Directions: Shake with ice and strain into shot glass. Atmospheric film with an excellent cast. The story pulls you in and won’t let go. Mickey Rourke in his prime as Harold Angel (“Hark! The herald angels sing…”) and Robert DeNiro as Louis Cyphere (wink). Based on the novel ‘Falling Angel’ by William Hjortsberg. The novel is centered in New York and never travels to New Orleans like in the film. The book  depicts a gritty Black Mass that takes place in an abandoned New York subway. Well, that scene didn’t make it into the film, but we get some good Voodoo ceremony here along with a (at the time it was released) controversial and passionate sex scene with the lovely young (and underrated) Lisa Bonet. Actress Charlotte Rampling appears as a mysterious old flame into more than just star-gazing. A horror mystery with a real twist at the end.

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Masks, Death Masks, & Sadistic Face Lifts in The Sect / The Devil’s Daughter, 1991

9. The Sect,  aka The Devil’s Daughter   (1991)

Satanic Sommelier: Italian red wine or German Riesling. (Italian title: La Setta), is another Italian horror film co-written and produced by Dario Argento and directed by Michele Soavi. The film stars Kelly Curtis (sister of Jamie Lee Curtis: ‘Halloween’ 1978) who has a destiny with the devil’s crew.  Herbert Lom also stars. It’s a weird film with some echoes of Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, but embellished with some truly bizarre twists, some surrealistic, dreamlike and nightmarish imagery, along with some gore. A creative departure from the standard.

the-house-of-the-devil-original.jpg10. The House of the Devil   (2009)

Satanic Sommelier: A good Californian red wine to go with your “mushroom” pizza. Inspired by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s; the story feeds on the deep psychological fears people had at that time which manifested in a widespread social panic. The film takes place and even appears like it was filmed in the ’80’s. A very good, slow burning thriller with a Grand Guignol finish. We highly recommend this one for the simple story and great acting by a small cast. Like Rosemary’s Baby, it shows how effective storytelling, great acting, and very good filmmaking can create so much suspense with minimum special effects.

Unknown-311. Hereditary  (2018)

Satanic Sommelier: Whiskey with a cola chaser. The ripple effect of Hereditary is still being felt even as director Ari Aster’s latest release Midsommar is gaining much critical acclaim for these well formulated, suspenseful and artistic horrors. Demonolotry is not a typical thing to inherit from one’s family …unless you’re in a horror film. Forget the haters who criticize it, Hereditary is a very good film with superior performances and an unsettling punch-to-the-gut story that leaves much to ponder regarding the fine line between demonic horror and family drama.

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The occult symbolism overflows in 1989’s The Church.

12. The Church (1989)

Satanic Sommelier: Italian red wine. (Italian title: La chiesa),  is an Italian horror film directed by Michele Soavi. It was produced by Dario Argento (along with a list of others). Asia Argento is a young girl in the film. Some nice set pieces, demons, Satanic rituals and plenty of gore. Visually captivating. There are some definite nods to ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ including an uncanny homage in a Devil Rape scene (compare the music for these scenes in the two films), and an old couple that seem patterned on Minnie and Roman Castevet that tour The Cathedral. You should definitely go to The Church, it’s good for your soul.

evilspeak-2013. Evilspeak (1981)

Satanic Sommelier: A very good beer. This one is unique as it is the first (and perhaps only) film to use the high-tech-demon-summoning-computer-motif  by the bullied young man out for revenge. Think Stephen King’s ‘Carrie,’ but with a male misfit instead of a young woman in the lead, who turns to the Devil for unholy revenge. Practically in a category by itself, innit?

Enjoyable but often overlooked for it’s eccentricities, Evilspeak is a rare 80’s gem that is delightfully nasty. The scenes of the cruelties by young men in a military academy who gang up on a weaker one (played by Clint Howard – brother of director Ron Howard) are especially unpleasant with gratuitous shame. This film carries some rather heavy Satanic  motifs with a vicious and gory climax to boot (effects are a little dated, but so what?), which caused it to be banned for a number of years in the UK. One of the few Satanic horror films which draws upon the less popular porcine symbolism of the Devil. The “evil” Egyptian god Set is associated with pig iconography (among other animal totems). Almost want to take a shower / bath after watching this one… almost.

Remember to find out about more devilish films from the Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films.

May your Halloween be less than harrowing!

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THE DEVIL, Key XV from the Tarot. From the Smith – Waite Tarot. Art by Pamela Coleman Smith.

Inspired by the Gods: Artist Rafael Espadine

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Rafael Espadine @ Dakshineswar Kali Temple near Calcutta

Rafael Espadine at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple near Calcutta, India.

Devil in the Details is proud to share this interview with Rafael Espadine, an artist and Philosophy student, researcher on the occult and ancient spiritual cultures. He works in the field of Indian culture in his native Brazil. He is also a fan of occult horror and was the first contributing writer to Devil In the Details with his thought provoking Suspiria inspired piece: Susanna Bannion (or the power that lies in a name). The pictures of artwork accompanying this interview are those by the hand of the artist, courtesy of Rafael Espadine. More of his fine art work may be viewed at his site: Spadini Arts , and @r.spadini on Instagram. 

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Hekate painting by Rafael Espadine

Devil In the Details: Have you always been creative or interested in art?

Rafael Espadine: My earliest recollections of myself and the world around me always involve art. My mom often says her womb is probably full of frescoes. She was and is my greatest sponsor, the first to ever buy me paints and canvases and papers etc. She is a ballerina and can draw and paint and sing very well, so I guess it’s kind of… Hereditary… (drums a rimshot).

Devil: How do you approach making a piece of spiritual art?

R. Espadine: For me sacred art has to be truly inspired by the spirit, touched by a bolt of light, emotionally and intellectually moved and it must bring a fresh glance into something that is by nature, timeless. Some of my best works came out of nowhere and involved physical reactions that could be compared to trance states. I like to be respectful to the spirit of the character or symbol being represented. I’m a lover of tradition and traditional iconography and my experience has proven to me that one can innovate in style and approach and yet retain the traditional spirit. I guess it is high time to leave fantasy art to RPG books.

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Ugra Tara (Kalika) – a fierce form of pregnant Kali. Original creation inspired by traditional design; by Rafael Espadine.

Devil: What are some of your artistic influences or inspirations?

R. Espadine: Artistically speaking my inspirations would be the Renaissance period and the Symbolists and Pre-Raphaelites, but I always go back to Pompeii’s frescoes and Egyptian art in general but mainly from the Ptolemaic Era. The timeless character exuded by ancient art is unmatched and a big part of my work pays tribute to such aesthetics. Oh, not to mention the East as Indian art has always fascinated me and the art produced during the Pala dynasty is my all-time favorite Indian art.

Devil: You are a culturally well-rounded individual and kind of a Renaissance Man. You also have an impressive singing voice.

R. Espadine: Oh, thank you so much for listening! Music is a big part of my artistic expression and I have always being involved with vocal groups and solo experiences. Dance too, as I have been exposed to ballet and practiced northern Indian classic dance (Kathak) but music, or better saying, the art of singing, is–in my humble opinion–, the only art you can truly carry with you in a most natural way that does not depend on external tools and conditions and that characteristic is amazing. The songs I managed to compose myself are usually short and inspired by ancient folk ballad tunes. Opera is where I meet almost a perfect combination of all those experiences and expressions and I am a coloratura aficionado.

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Oberon by Rafael Espadine; from his Instagram page.

 

Devil: Where else do you find the touch of Spirit?

R. Espadine: Besides the artistic inspiration, I would say the obvious: Nature is the highest inspiration. Subject wise I would say that mythology, fairy lore and witchcraft are my favorite subjects.

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Witchy Deity sculptures by Rafael Espadine

“Evil for me has always been a desmesure, an unbalanced excessiveness.”

Devil: When were you first drawn towards the horror genre? Through what medium?

R. Espadine: I guess I have always been fascinated with the supernatural and I see the horror genre, in cinema above all, as the only genre that deals with the subject in all its natural turmoil, especially of its darker shades.

Devil: Do you feel that the horror genre touches upon spirituality?

R. Espadine: Spirituality for me has never been a rigid experience, but a vivid dynamic one. I believe that the world of Spirit has a natural grip to our deepest emotions and I think that good supernatural horror is the best genre to induce that in a cinematic experience. We sometimes need extra doses of shock to question what we see around and inside ourselves and the symbolic language of supernatural horror can be a good way to cathartically express that.

Devil: What diabolical or occult horror films or books have impressed or made the biggest impact on you?

R. Espadine: The Exorcist is for sure one of my favorites. It is the Maria Callas of horror. I was lucky to read the book before I saw the film, and the book was a very impacting experience. Just the opening transcriptions of human atrocities would be enough as a glimpse into the problem of evil. However, The Omen had the biggest impact on me as a film in my childhood because the implications were easier to understand at that time. Later on I could understand better the so many substrata present in The Exorcist – including the political ones and even the possibility that poor Pazuzu had nothing to do with poor Regan… – but as a kid The Omen made me think and question deeper theologies (and also to look for a certain birthmark under my hair…). Even later on Rosemary’s Baby proved to be a most instigating root of that type of plot and a much more elegant and disturbing one. I like the depiction of the supernatural within the apparently ordinary life that doesn’t call for too much gore or CGI to convey the message.

“The Exorcist is for sure one of my favorites.

It is the Maria Callas of horror.”

Devil: What were your earliest religious or spiritual influences?

Rafael Espadine: As a kid I was never told that there were fixed parameters to be followed or a single universal true that should be blindly accepted by all. When I asked my mother “how God is?” , and she said “it is Energy,” to which I replied, “I’m gonna make a drawing of God”, which I did. The result was a drawing of a bearded strong man seated on a cloud… but naked and holding a trident, so I can only guess that there are things that we simply bring within ourselves to this world somehow.

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Roman Isis, From a statue of the Hadrian era (117 – 138 AD).  25cm high. Sculpture by Rafael Espadine.

Devil: How would you describe your present spiritual path?

R. Espadine: I am an initiate of, and in, many spiritual paths – all duly practiced, although not at the same time and not all continued. I have always tended to the mystic ways within the greater spiritual traditions – or the alternate ones. At this point it is clear to me that the ancient mystery and magical traditions are my stronger strands as they normally coexist without clashing and are more open to personal gnosis, although I also tend to like things traditional in essence as I do in art. Philosophically-wise, I would say that Buddhism and (Indian Tantric) Kaula metaphysics are the most compelling ones to me. I’m a nature lover and the acceptance of this world and nature as a whole and as divine in itself is a basic tenant to me. Despite all that, I have the strong impression that Art is itself a valid expression of spirituality and it can be a full-fledged spiritual path like any other and such an achievement is a main goal for me. Above all, if I should have a God that would be Nature Herself in all its splendor and darkness.

Devil: Now, a Devil In the Details question we wish to pose to any one we interview, as a way of getting different views on our diabolical horror theme. What do you consider evil in today’s society?

R. Espadine: Evil for me has always been a desmesure, an unbalanced excessiveness. Think of it: a nation trying to expand territory at all costs, a virus, a cancerous cell, an animal out of its environment, a mind that can’t focus in the present time, excessive worry, man trying to be superior to Nature, a person who tries to get a promotion at all costs, etc. It’s always related to expanding and having more and more and more. It was true in the past and it is true today. Knowing our place and our potentials and trying to reach and do more but only as much as possible and in harmonious ways is mandatory at all costs.

Devil: Thank you so very much Mr. Espadine. It has been a delight getting to know you  and we will certainly be keeping an eye on your artwork and other creative endeavors as something to look forward to.

Rafael Espadine: Thank you so much for this interview. It is a big pleasure to contribute to this website in any possible way since this is one of my favorite places on the internet.

Please view more of Rafael Espadine’s fine artwork at his website Spadini Arts and you can also find him and more of his art on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/r.spadini/

Susanna Bannion (or the power that lies in a name)

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By: Rafael Espadine

Rafael Espadine is an artist and Philosophy student, researcher on the occult and ancient spiritual cultures. He works in the field of Indian culture. He is our first contributing writer to Devil In the Details. His work may be viewed at: Spadini Arts  and @r.spadini (Instagram).

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Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion, Suspiria 2018.

Luca Guadagnino’s rebooted Suspiria (2018) has certainly surprised both followers of the cult classic and newcomers alike. It is a beautiful, lengthy, haunting, multi-layered and dreamy depiction or better saying, experience. And it has witches. That’s the very rare combination that every admirer of the occult expects to see when going for a supernatural movie. Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) — I’m not calling it “the original one” on purpose, for both films are too original to be compared — has that quality of attracting the esoterically minded too; and it stands at its own place of honor for that occult taste as well as for its aesthetics, among other reasons. Whereas the first film shows the two sides of the story by clearly dividing the good girls from the bad ones in a more typical representation of good versus evil, the new  take of Suspiria leaves much space for questioning, but it seems that “space”, and how it may or may not be filled, is precisely one of the key words of the reinvented plot. By not totally following the new trend of completely rectifying the story of well-known villains by portraying them as betrayed, and unjustly vilified creatures (as done in the plots of Maleficent and Wicked, for instance), perhaps what Guadagnino’s  Suspiria remarkably does is to show us a type of horror — for lack of a better term — that, we could say, is almost an unavoidable part of Nature itself. This horror is  beyond most any human comprehension of the cosmos and is not just a mere fruit of human cruelty although mixed with it at times. It presents what could be easily seen as opposite sides of a coin, blurring frontiers; and how the two sides really look to be parts of a single coin now!

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After this brief appraisal, what’s presented next is a short analysis that aims to stir a possible new interpretation for the central and unique mystery of the new version of Suspiria out of the symbology present in the name of the character that goes through the deepest transformation, while also causing major changes around her: Suzy Bannion.

I’ll assume that the reader of such a focused analysis is a connoisseur of both films and that the two works can be treated as classics (yes, even the new one already), so major plot details are freely discussed here.

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Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion. Suspiria (1977).

The name: Susanna, Suzy, Susie

Sources are varying in the spelling of the short version of the name, but if we are to trust the official records and the subtitling, the full name of the main character would be Susanna Bannion, with short forms varying from Suzy in Argento’s production and Susie in Guadagnino’s version.

Now Susanna, a feminine personal name widely used across the globe, is itself very interesting. Derived from the Hebrew Shoshannah (שושנה), with the most common spelling coming to us via Greek form Σουσάννα (Sousanna), making the S letters softer, this Hebrew word is also transliterated as shūshan, shōshan and shōshannā, and means simply “lily”, the flower (while lily is derived from the Latin lilium). Many flowers in the past have been designated by that name, including the so-called water lilies. Now the implications of the lily as a symbol, the heraldic fleur-de-lis (which literally means “lily flower” in French), the symbol of the six-pointed star, its connection to moon spirits and deities, the annunciation of the Virgin and Mary herself , Lilith — besides royal families and bloodlines — are endless (and who needs another book on that?). For those acquainted with the plot, the final discovery of the first heroine is through a very similar flower: an iris; whose shape also follows that of the fleur-the-lis pattern, i.e., three petals turned upwards, and three petals turned downwards. The flower seems to be missing in the new version (although one room is named iris in the new film as an obvious reference), but isn’t the new Susie haunted by a nocturnal flowering light in her bedroom that will lead her way to her final discovery/empowerment? A side note: Cinematic-wise we may cite another contemporary dance themed psychological thriller that also hints at Lilith’s disruptive power as a dark independent feminine principle that promotes drastic changes: Lily is the name of the lavishly sensual ballerina from Black Swan that so shockingly contrasts with the fragile and candid Nina and who also paves the way for the latter’s transformation. Her name leaves very little to be revealed…

“Lilith is the universal rule breaker”

The Lilithian theme seems to fit the character of Susie very well, especially the new Suspiria. The theme is that of the shattering of the old order by means of a rebellious behaviour, and that is the biggest fear of Western civilization and it’s created illusions of continuity, valor, and rigid legacy. If it comes from women then, there’s even more to be feared, given the millennia of prejudice against women and against the feminine in itself. Lilith is the universal rule breaker. However, as pointed by the Italian occultist Fulvio Rendhell, a renowned medium and magician still active in Rome, in his ‘Lilith la terrorista cosmica’ (Lilith, the cosmic terrorist ) — part of the book Lilith, la Sposa di Satana nell’Alta Magia a rare and authoritative treatise on the dark feminine — any revolution stiffens, gets institutionalized as norm and establishes new rigid dogmas and therefore, will have to be destroyed in due course by another revolution and so on and on endlessly. In astrology, Lilith is, among many other possible interpretations, an aspect of the non-normative: wherever she rules the aspect she is presiding over must irrevocably be fulfilled by unusual courses of action for the usual ones simply won’t work out.

In various philosophical approaches, the end of something and its transmutation into something new is the very way life itself manifests; and if we could perceive every transformation, we would see it happens all the time, and that every instant is made of that: an eternal “becoming”. The insistence in connecting the basic theme of the Three Mothers and Alchemy, both in Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) are quite revealing: the mothers could be symbols of the alchemic stages of Nigredo, Rubedo and Albedo. Besides that, sighs could be seen as a negative manifestation of air, tears of the inner emotional turmoil, and darkness as the opposite to light and an all-encompassing factor, essential for the symbolism of the dark feminine in various cultural and spiritual backgrounds. Curiously the Kabbalah recognizes three basic elements: air, water and fire. Earth in this interpretation would be a gross manifestation resulting from the amalgama of the other three elements mentioned.

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The surname: Bannion

According to genealogical records, the surname “Bannion” and its other forms are Welsh and derived from the personal name Eignion or Enion — from ‘einion’, stability, fortitude, the name of a clan ancestor — with the patronymic prefix “ab” added to it. The prefix would be later assimilated into the surname itself and from ab-Enion it would become Bannion. As a masculine name Enion may also mean “anvil”. An anvil as a symbol and allegory is very interesting in itself, but we are about to see a feminine version with most appealing implications: we will now briefly step into the very mystical universe of William Blake (1757–1827). In that rich and mesmerizing universe Enion is a character of the Gnostic mythology of Blake. She is an Emanation paired with Tharmas, one of the four Zoas, beings created from the division of the primordial human, Albion. Tharmas is an allegory for the sensations, whereas Enion of the sexual impulses and desires and both should be reunited after the Final Judgement when Enion will then consummate a sexual union. Blake’s Enion seems to be all “why is everyone so ready to think the worst is over?” in her every line, especially here in these selections from ‘The Four Zoas’.

[The Wail of Enion]:
(Four Zoas, Night II, ll. 595–626.)
I AM made to sow the thistle for wheat, the nettle for a nourishing dainty:
I have planted a false oath in the earth; it has brought forth a Poison Tree:
I have chosen the serpent for a counsellor, and the dog
For a schoolmaster to my children:
I have blotted out from light and living the dove and nightingale, 5
And I have causèd the earthworm to beg from door to door:
I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just:
I have taught pale Artifice to spread his nets upon the morning.
My heavens are brass, my earth is iron, my moon a clod of clay,
My sun a pestilence burning at noon, and a vapour of death in night. 10
What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song,
Or Wisdom for a dance in the street? No! it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath — his house, his wife, his children.
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
And in the wither’d field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain. 15
It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer’s sun,
And in the vintage, and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn:
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted,
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,
To listen to the hungry raven’s cry in wintry season, 20
When the red blood is fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs:
It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements;
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughterhouse moan;
To see a God on every wind and a blessing on every blast;
To hear sounds of Love in the thunderstorm that destroys our enemy’s house; 25
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, and the sickness that cuts off his children,
While our olive and vine sing and laugh round our door, and our children bring fruits and flowers.
Then the groan and the dolour are quite forgotten, and the slave grinding at the mill,
And the captive in chains, and the poor in the prison, and the soldier in the field
When the shatter’d bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead: 30
It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity — 
Thus would I sing and thus rejoice; but it is not so with me.

Yes, dear Enion, we know… it’s all a mess. The one out there, the one in here.
In another interesting passage from the Four Zoas entitled Night the First, Blake’s poetry says a little more about Enion’s powers and strong personality that causes her to hurt her own creations:

“…Then Enion in jealous fear
[240] Murdered her, & hid her in her bosom, embalming her for fear
She would rise again to life. Embalmed in Enion’s bosom.
Enitharmon remains a corse — such thing was never known
In Eden, that one died a death never to be revived.”

While reading this passage it is difficult not to think of the living dead victimized students of both Suspirias, above all those of the new production, kept by the witches in an embalmed intermediary stage between life and death serving the witches mysterious purposes.

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Sara (Mia Goth) falls under the spell of The Three Mothers in Suspiria.

A relation between Enion’s wails and the Mother of Sighs is easy to notice as both are presented as principles that predate all history (“pre-Devil, pre-God”, as explained by the character of Dr Klemperer in Guadagnino’s Suspiria). But a relation between this Enion and our good friend Suzy Bannion can also be made: Both Susie and Enion are anxious to bloom as perfumed lilies and they are making anything possible to achieve that.

I have mentioned Blake as a literary source as his mythology stems from the genius of a writer’s mystical imagination, — the same case as with the mythology that would be created later on by Thomas De Quincey, of which we will be talking soon.

After this small exercise of possible symbolic references, it’s time to get back to the film and stitch together a few parallels between the two scripts. As we wouldn’t be able to cover all possibilities in a platonic dialectic process to reach the aporias of this subject, I’ll briefly go through factors that might have been perceived in the first Suspiria and carried on to the new screenplay by David Kajganich — only explored through a different angle:

The Suzy/Mater Suspiriorum factor was always there.
Yes, in the 1977 film itself, hidden in plain sight, shrouded in delicate mystery. The background for the new version may arise from an interpretation of very subtle facts and passages, some listed below: 

When the newcomer Suzy finally manages to join the dance academy, Mrs. Tanner, one of the instructors, promptly introduces her to Madame Blanc, the vice-Director of the Academy who then says that years ago in New York she knew a great benefactor of arts called Carol Bannion, which Suzy reveals to be her aunt.

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Suspiria 2018’s Susie Bannion is a rule breaker and catalyst for transformation.

Suzy’s name itself, besides the possible symbols it carries as discussed above, could be a good hint as well. The film seems to try to show that when Olga while bullying Sara and the newly arrived Suzy says that she once heard that names that start with the letter “s” are names of snakes, and the snake is referred to later on. Moreover, we can’t deny that Suspiriorum and Susanna share initials.

Suzy decides to find answers and reasons for the strange facts happening around her and while being informed by experts on occult matters about the true nature of the Markos academy and its director Helena Markos herself, Suzy expresses that what is being told to her by Dr. Frank (played by a young Udo Kier) is familiar to her, as if she already knew about all that. The elder expert Dr. Milius (Rudolf Schündler, do you remember him as the butler Karl in The Exorcist? We do; and we know about that crucifix, Karl) also tells her that “a coven is like a serpent”, when explaining that the head of a coven is its source of power and when a coven has no head it is totally inoffensive like a headless cobra.

The final sequence shows an enraged Madame Blanc (played by a marvelous Joan Bennett) on her throne inside the hidden rooms of the academy, saying that the American girl must vanish. In the final confrontation, Helena Markos herself tells Suzy she’s been “expecting her” — now that sounds like more than just an ordinary desire for witness elimination, and maybe the coven had knowledge of an old prophecy of sorts about someone who would come for them, so they were trying to act in Herod’s manner to secure the throne (this Herod factor fits well the Snow-White tale which inspired Argento) — or maybe they just realized how powerful and clever Suzy was and decided to get rid of a potential predator and competitor.

Finally we see the first Suzy also putting an end to a passe order of witches, anyway, however doing it by flames (and you can tell how joyful she is when she leaves the academy in a most perfect “mission accomplished” expression!).

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Suzy (Jessica Harper) escapes at the end of 1977’s Suspiria.

If these and other possible connections are conscious deliberate decisions taken after some genius interpretation of the original plot or if these are some of the finest examples of unconscious manifestations of symbolism, is yet to be known.

Daria Nicolodi, co-author of  Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) – the stylish continuation of Suspiria which was successful in keeping up with the atmosphere of the first film of the trilogy of the Three Mothers in which Daria also plays the part of a countess – is actually responsible for the plot of a school that hides an occult background (which is, according to her, something that happened in her family) and also for the insertion of the Three Mothers mythology to the plot. She expressed in an interview that she is the only person who knows the end of the story and that there is another Mother to be explored: Levana. Daria says she was not consulted for the making of Mother of Tears, the third episode of the trilogy, and that the film is not the actual conclusion of the story (we dare to say the film is not a conclusion to anything. Period. And let’s not even mention the Levana from the incredibly messy Il Gatto Nero (1989) aka Demons 6: De Profundis, but, oh, we just did…).

Now Levana, this Roman deity that rules over childbirth was associated with the goddess Artemis in her role as protectress of childbirth and is the character that appears in the title of the essay from where the names of the Three Mothers were taken, “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow”, part of the fragmentary and unfinished collection of fantastic essays from 1845 by the English writer Thomas De Quincey grouped under the title of Suspiria de Profundis’ (sighs from the depths). De Quincey imagines the character of Levana accompanied by three sisters that mimic the triplicity of the Parcae, Furies and Graces: Mater Lachrymarum, Mater Suspiriorum and Mater Tenebrarum, Latin names for Mother of Tears, Mother of Sighs, and Mother of Darkness.

Levana’s role in child birthing is related by Quincey to the reality of sorrows: to be born is to realize the nature of this world. However, Levana, from the Latin levare (to uplift) was represented by the act of raising up the newborn by one of the people present as a life affirming act. De Quincey goes on to explain that Levana was tutelary of human education as well. The plots for the Suspirias (and Inferno, for that matter) surround educational centres and its students, i.e., the dance school and the music college in Rome where Mark (lived by the splendid Leigh McCloskey of whom we should talk one of these days) studies. However, as De Quincey explains, Levana’s educational program is not that of the grammars and schools, but an internal one and she is aided by the ministries of passion, strife and temptation to achieve the ends of her syllabus. “If, then, these are the ministries by which Levana works, how profoundly must she reverence the agencies of grief.” says the text.

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Mark (Leigh J. McCloskey ) is a witness to the agencies of grief in Inferno (1980).

Interestingly, the Hebrew term levanah (לְבָנָה) is a word for “moon”. Notice how similar it is to the Latin name Levana or even to the Latin word for moon itself, luna. This word can also be seen in the monthly Jewish ritual of the sanctification of the new moon, or the Kiddush Levanah, a ritual performed in obedience to Exodus 12:2 as a form of saluting the Shekhinah — the Divine Presence, an aspect long regarded by Kabbalists to be feminine, a concept not be taken lightly in contemporary neopagan or psychoanalytic views, though. Influential occultist Dion Fortune (whose real name, by the way, was also that of a flower, Violet) recorded in her celebrated occult novel The Sea Priestess — yet to be made into a glamorous film one day — that:
“Our Lady is also called the Moon, called of some Selene, of others Luna, but by the wise Levanah, for therein is contained the number of her name.”

The Lilithian theme is visible in De Quincey’s essay when it informs the reader that “every captive in every dungeon; all that are betrayed and all that are rejected outcasts by traditionary law, and children of hereditary disgrace, — all these walk with Our Lady of Sighs”. Well, that we believe could be the very definition of the Lilithian image of witches: outcasts that are powerful by being outcasts.

Back to cinema, we see that both Suspirias – as well as Inferno – are tales about the strife of growing up and the self-blooming through the suffering, the tears and the grief that comes along with being born. In virtually all spiritual currents it is told that initiations bring about some good amount of suffering, for there’s no true learning without pain (Nietzsche has just winked) since the simple fact of becoming aware means being able to see the sorrows of this world in a clear cruel way. In Inferno, Mater Tenebrarum makes clear that she is bringing about Mark’s transformation. De Quincey’s Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness, finishes her soliloquy saying:
“So shall he rise again before he dies, and so shall our commission be accomplished which from God we had, — to plague his heart until we had unfolded the capacities of his spirit.”

Yes, we know all of this is a bit of a cathartic textual musing with huge chunks of pure speculation (as is almost any creative exercise) and once again I must go back to the beautiful words of De Quincey, as he wisely puts it: “Theirs were the symbols; mine are the words.”

In the end we all realize that speech is silver, but silence is golden, and that, dear reader, is another fairy tale for another bedtime.

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Suspiria Reborn: Revisioning A Vintage Horror Classic

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A witches dance? Hecate Triformis? Goddess Kali? Suspiria (2018) will leave you gasping and sighing.

A Spoiler-free review

By: H.B. Gardner

“We were truly impressed by what we saw.”

Horror remakes have been around since the old days. Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Freddy Kruger, The Omen and many others have all been resurrected and redone. But in recent years many filmgoers have understandably balked at the idea of horror film remakes due to the obvious increasing lower artistic quality being sacrificed in favor of quick financial gain by studios which habitually crank out bubblegum films for the masses; films with superficial excitement but no lasting flavor and are disposed of and forgotten in a very short time. It has embittered some genre fans to see their treasured cinematic touchstones smeared as it were by the hand of corporate greed, incompetent acting and shoddy CGI.

Well, we viewed director Luca Guadagnino’s passionate 2018 revisioning of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic ‘Suspiria’ on it’s opening weekend here in Japan and will try to write, while still fresh in our minds, our thoughts on the subject of Horror Remakes – without any spoilers! (We plan to do a deeper occult analysis of this new Suspiria in a future article after we’ve had the chance to view it again …and again).

We are not only a longtime fan of Dario Argento’s original 1977 cinematic masterpiece Suspiria, but have spent considerable time meditating upon a key piece of inspirational source material, namely the essay called ‘Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow,’ from ‘Suspiria de Profundis,’ by Thomas De Quincey, where the title of the film and the idea of The Three Mothers were born. These Three Mothers – Mother of Sighs, Mother of Tears and Mother of Darkness are at the dark heart of the Suspiria universe. We being steeped in witchcraft, the occult and the horror genre ourselves ….well, our keen anticipation for the new Suspiria has been considerable. We went in with an open mind and with no expectations but to witness, as in jazz music, an improvisation on a theme.

We were truly impressed by what we saw.

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Mia Goth plays Sara.

Many, if not most of the popular movie-going populace, will not “get” this film, and at least two or three viewings may be needed to fully appreciate it. Suspiria 2018 is an artistic horror film. Those who expect a standard sort of remake, or who prefer their horror to be spoon fed to them with a smattering of jump scares, will likely be disappointed; and those with tastes reared on shallow bubblegum entertainment designed for those with short attention spans will be left impatient and bewildered. Luca Guadagnino’s film represents a deeper artistic turning into the profound regions of psychology, dance (as art), and witchcraft in the sense of The Black Arts than the more  typical horror film fare. The disturbing horror element is lasting in contrast to the superficial jump-scare formula that has long plagued the horror genre and it’s numb audience. Whatever your opinion of this new Suspiria, you must admit it is still a much more sophisticated and worthy sequel than Argento’s own 2007 Mother of Tears.

Learn about The Three Mothers by clicking the link below to another of our occult horror geek articles:

The Three Mothers & SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

Guadagnino has stated that:

“I hope that the movie comes across as a relentless experience that’s going to go deep into your skin all the way down into your spine,” the director shared with The Hollywood Reporter. “I want the movie to perform as the most disturbing experience you can have. The movie is about being immersed in a world of turmoil and uncompromising darkness.”

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This he has succeeded in doing. The film has indeed gotten under our rather jaded and genre toughened skin. The palpable after-effect of this unsettling film reminds us of a few other Art House films with an unsettling vibe.

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Japanese poster

What we liked about the movie:

The Dance scenes. In 1977’s Suspiria, dance was a rather insignificant aspect of the story, and did little more than provide a setting for the murderous mayhem. In the remake the dance is an esoteric key to the story. Art and The Black Arts are melded into a united force of Witchery heretofore undeveloped in film. Esoteric readings of the film abound with occult and witchcraft symbolism in unfamiliar yet traditional manifestations. This aspect will be explored more thoroughly in a future occult-horror-geek article.

The story, in a way seemingly disjointed or random at first (though not quite as so dreamlike as the original psychedelic Suspiria),  is actually held together throughout and underneath it all by an umbilicus of deeper psychological interpretation and esoteric continuity. A Psychological reading of the film will immediately highlight  the mother-daughter complex throughout, and within a few differing configurations (Suzy and her mother, Suzy and Madame Blanc, Helena Marcos and Madame Blanc etc.). The fuller background given for Suzy couldn’t have been better and adds a whole other  dimension to the story. There is also the wider scope offered of interpersonal relationships especially between women: sisters (Suzy is a twin), the status of older and younger woman, the naturally inspired novice and the experienced teacher; all added into the general theme of female empowerment – though mostly in it’s negative, or darkest, devouring Mother sense.

“The fuller background given for Suzy couldn’t have been better and adds a whole other  dimension to the story.”

The witches of the dance company are intriguing characters and deserve a mini-series in their own right.

The perhaps bewildering inclusion of so much focus on Dr Klemperer the character of the psychologist, pining for his loving wife he lost during the Nazi regime, who gets pulled into the web of witchcraft also highlights this psychological interpretation of Suspiria. He spends his time counseling those he meets who have been consumed by the devouring mother of the Markos dance company. He also spends a great deal of time crossing the border between East and West Germany. He is placed in the neither-neither realm of not being firmly in one world or the other: East and West Germany, past and present. He is already situated at the witches twilight crossroads and is thereby already under the sway of Mater Suspiriorum. This split, or division, is also accented within the Marcos Tanz company where a rivalry of sorts is brewing and the developing tension, suspicions and paranoia of listening through walls echoes that of  East Germany at the time of the setting. It was a time of turmoil, much like today.

With an unsettling atmosphere woven through with anxious sighs, fearful tears,  brooding darkness, and a good dose of body horror, Guadagnino has created a chilling and angst-ridden atmosphere of pain evocative of the late 70’s or very early 80’s. The inclusion of the psychologist’s story as a prominent rather than cameo role brings an added measure of De Quinceyan depth and poignancy undeveloped in the original.

Seeing it in Japan:

We are at a disadvantage as far as viewing new horror movie releases here in Japan. It usually takes several months for most films to make their way here to the Far East with their accompanying Japanese subtitles. Also, the cinematic experience in Japan was a little less than we had hoped for in that the theater was of quite a small size, the screen being no bigger than our own living room wall. We had viewed Hereditary just last November in a very nice, new spacious theater with a big screen in another part of Osaka. However, Toho studios must have got exclusive rights to show Suspiria in Japan as it was only viewable in a Toho theater which required a visit to Umeda in the heart of Osaka. We were able to purchase a Suspiria souvenir movie booklet at the cinema (in Japanese). It was a packed theater that first Saturday of it’s release in Japan. We were unprepared for a substantial amount of the dialogue to be in German or French so deciphering these languages amidst the Japanese subtitles was a bit perplexing. Surprisingly, however, this anglophone handicap did not mar the visual storytelling. We are anticipating multiple future viewings on blu-ray.

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Tilda Swinton works magic in three seperate roles !

The acting was the best we’ve seen in any horror film in a while. The performances were believable even amidst the often unbelievable mayhem going on.

The filmmakers took the original ‘Suspiria’ and spun it in the darkest and deepest directions it could possibly go.

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Dakota Johnson is amazing as Suzy.

A lot of thought and passion was obviously put into this rendering of the story and the art and crafting of it. The filmmakers took the original Suspiria and spun it in the darkest and deepest directions it could possibly go. This is a very different Suspiria from Argento’s. There is no comparing the two, each being a very different creature telling the same myth in a different way. While the original Suspiria remains a classic of the genre it may be said to feel a bit dated or even to contain a bit of camp, especially as viewed from our jaded eyes 40 years after the fact (consider the bat scene!). The new Suspiria never descends into the current trend of torture porn or detours into outright camp. The psychological tension is at first subtle but present right from the start; and the horror and mystery wrap slowly and insidiously about and clings like a viscous, membranous veil. There is suspense, mystery, striking imagery, dark fantasy, dread, horror, gore and the grotesque but it never really seeks to terrorize with mere cheap thrills in the way commonly done nowadays. The story is crafted to leave you unsettled and disturbed afterwards, recalling in this way Cronenberg’s films like Dead Ringers,  or like 1999’s The Reflecting Skin, and the more recent Hereditary. It also echoes the original source material from English opium eater Thomas De Quincey who, as already mentioned, originally conjured The Three Mothers in his work Suspiria De Profundis, in a brief essay titled Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow.

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Tilda Swinton gives compelling performances as three separate characters.

Due to our mistrust of Hollywood – having lost faith with expecting studios to deliver quality horror, along with the tastes of the masses of film goers having seemingly devolved to the level of a 14 year old with a superhero fetish – we sadly suspect that this film may be greatly under appreciated. The original Suspiria has two sequels – both directed by Dario Argento, the first of which Inferno (1980) is a worthy successor. Mother of Tears (2007) despite having three Argento family members and Udo Kier involved in the production remains an unsatisfactory conclusion to the baroque, oneiric drama of the first two. Could we see a trilogy develop from this recent Suspiria remix? one that would focus on each of The Three Mothers? Only time will tell.

Guadagnino’s Suspiria has given us hope. While the pacing may feel a little slow or the story seem to try to encapsulate too much, we think it is an epic dark horror fantasy that brings one to meditate on the condition of a world that seems to so often feed off of pain and misery; whether this be on the level of interpersonal relationships, or of the individual to a group, or the warring sides of a fractured society.

…it is an epic dark horror fantasy that brings one to meditate on the condition of a world that so often seems to feed off of pain and misery.

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Tilda Swinton is a phenomenal actress.

“The Year One”: A Rededication

By: H. B. G.

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Actress Hazel Court, as the Lady Juliana, betrothes herself to Satan in Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, 1964. This is the first instance in cinema history where an inverted cross is used as a symbol of Satanism.

We have managed to maintain this WordPress-fueled website for one whole year now. We are delighted at this meager accomplishment by one man (who may, or may not, be possessed by many incubi). What started off as an obsession with the film Rosemary’s Baby and an intention to make a single blog post delineating the minor characters in it has expanded into a repository for our occult horror obsession – here: Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films and on our Devil May Care Facebook page , as well as our Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook Page.

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Mia Farrow and Victoria Vetri (aka Angela Dorian) in Rosemary’s Baby.

This past year we have, out of our own zeal, interviewed a surviving cast member of Roman Polanski’s film of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ( An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ) and have been keeping a correspondence with the actress Victoria Vetri (aka Angela Dorian) who played Terry Gionofrio – the Castevet’s ill-fated houseguest in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ – from her prison cell in a California Institution, but who is now nearing a release date.

We have never before been a collector of autographs, but 2017 was our year for them due to our commitment to our writing on this site.

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Our Holiday card and an autographed picture from actress Victoria Vetri who is nearing her release from prison.

This month, We rededicate ourselves to this project. So, in the spirit of Rosemary’s Baby (the 50th Anniversary of the Satanic classic film thriller is this year) and “The Year One”:

Black candles are lit, the chalice is filled, and the cross-shaped brand smolders in the brazier…

We remain committed to keeping this site as a means of exploring the diabolical, the occult, and religion (and the things it demonizes) in horror films – and in reality – out of our own pleasure, and as a serious interest in the sway that religion and the mysterious, unseen forces of existence inspire and motivate the minds and hearts of individuals, groups and nations worldwide.

We have managed one year with at least one monthly contribution to our site, some are in-depth articles such as our explorations of Suspiria ( SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock , SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess; Part 2 etc..)

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We were able to get Jessica Harper’s Suspiria autograph with a modest charitable donation to the Houston Food Bank last year.

and Rosemary’s Baby ( ‘Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ , An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ , ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 ! ), etc…

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Ernest Harada was very kind to give us an interview as well as autograph a photo for us.

Some other posts are much lighter fare but are hopefully at least entertaining brain candy for the diabolically inclinedAll of Them Witches: A”Who’s Who” in Rosemary’s Baby , Women From Hell: Cinema’s Greatest Ladies from Hades , ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ 2017 Fantasy Remake & Dream Cast.

Indirectly related to all this is the work we started in 2017 with the Arcana Tarot Study Group in Osaka, Japan where we currently reside. This group’s mission is to help spread knowledge of using the Tarot via the medium of English; and to improve the skills of English students via the Tarot, here in Japan.

As a father, husband, teacher, writer, reader, mystic and artist, our energies are rapidly absorbed, day-by-day, by our esoteric interests and the gaping jaws of Time; yet we inevitably find ourselves drawn back to exploring the shadowy realms of occult horror, like a sincere Seeker of Truth…, or a dog to it’s vomit.

“But whatever lies behind the door, there’s nothing much to do,

Angel or Devil, I don’t care,

For in front of that door… is you.”

                                                    – Bowie     ‘My Death’

 

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 !

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By: H.B.G.

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Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes toast to an imminent conception with far-reaching effects.

Caution: This article contains some spoilers! If you have not read the novel or seen the film (what the Hell are you waiting for?!) you might want to save reading this article until after you have!

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In 1967 American culture was exploding on all levels. This was the year of the so-called “Summer of Love”.  The Civil Rights Movement headed by Martin Luther King Jr. was in full swing, as was the Vietnam War, the Sexual revolution, and activism for Women’s Rights. Andy Warhol was making instant movie stars in The Factory. Timothy Leary, a psychologist and researcher with the Harvard Center for Research in Personality who oversaw Harvard’s Psilocybin Project, instructed a crowd of 30, 000 hippies gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” LSD drenched Rock ‘n Roll and psychedelic art was unleashed as an endless parade of young, long haired hippies and flower children, defying all social norms, made transcendental pilgrimages – both near and far – towards a purple-hazy ideal of freedom. Young men were burning their draft cards and the youth in general were motivated towards social change while shaking off the grip of their families long-held belief systems. Things were drastically changing! Utopia was at hand!

An exotic and colorful bouquet of new cults, old religions, gurus and esoteric magic in the Age of Aquarius burst upon the scene: Moonies, Hare Krishnas, Occultism, TM, Scientology, Jim Jones, and the Process Church to name just a few. At the same time, Charles Manson was lurking in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Just the year before there was some publicity when Anton LaVey established the Church of Satan in San Francisco, the first legally recognized Satanic organization in history. Americans took notice of all this and wondered just what in the Hell was going on? The entire world had been turned topsy-turvy, seemingly overnight.

In the midst of this chaotic, sweaty, ecstatic rebirthing of the American Dream (which would quickly burn itself out and awaken into a full-blown nightmare) a book was published that March. Ira Levin’s thrilling best-selling suspense novel ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was born. A year later on June 12th, 1968 the faithful  film version directed by Roman Polanski was delivered to the world just 6 days after the assassination of Robert Kennedy. We feel it is not quite overstating the matter when we claim that the world has been feeling the effects of this counter-culture ‘Baby’ ever since.

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Hardcover 1967 edition

This was The Mother Of All Devil-Baby Films. It sent some people away from the theaters visibly shaken and muttering “Blasphemy!” under their breaths. It ushered in a flood of Devil and Child-of-Satan themed films and books of both epic and lowbrow proportions. Dozens of various evil incarnations of the premise have followed in the malodorous wake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, including a made for tv sequel (‘Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby,’ 1976) and a 2-night NBC primetime remake in 2014. Ira Levin himself wrote a sequel: ‘Son of Rosemary,’ (published 1997) which he dedicated to Mia Farrow, who so excellently portrayed Rosemary Woodhouse in the now classic film.

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A challenge to Christian faith

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ appeared at a confrontational time in American society. Remembering this may help explain the nerve that this story hit for many people who were floundering or feeling washed-up by the counter-cultural wave of the day. The most firmly established, traditional and holy things were suddenly no longer sacred. In the film, Rosemary herself says “I was brought up a Catholic, now I don’t know.” Indeed, a stark TIME magazine cover from 1967 plainly asked: Is God Dead? This smacked of sacrilege and blasphemy to the majority of church-going middle America. The 60’s were a time when more people dared to openly doubt and question, not only established religion, but everything they had been taught or told! The hippies were busy rejecting, exploring and unlearning. Everything having to do with “The Establishment” was in doubt. The popular American consciousness was awakening to it’s own sense of independent thinking regarding reality apart from traditional authoratative religious ideas about morality as well as the corruptibility of a once esteemed government.

While ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is a slow-building, intellectual suspense – horror film with practically no blood or violence, it was the climax – a definitive casting down of established Faith in the absence of any God – which sent some believers to confession and nudged some others towards the New Age. It spoke directly to those who felt ill-fitted and hypocritical sitting dutifully in church in their Sunday best as the white Christian  centered society they grew up in collapsed around them. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ threw down the gauntlet; it forced believers to think hard for themselves about some deep questions, the kind that matter: Is there a God? and, If so, where the Hell is He now?

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Abortion was a topic not much discussed in polite company back before the movements towards change in the 60’s and 70’s. It was practically a taboo word, only whispered by mothers gossiping about some unfortunate neighbor’s daughter. In the film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ the word is spoken twice within a few seconds, which in itself was quite significant for the time of it’s release. Of course even this splinter of dialogue takes place in a scene within which a few women are speaking privately in a kitchen, in hushed voices and with the doors secured. We are given even deeper insight into Rosemary’s thought processes in the final pages of the novel where Rosemary, after the diabolical revelation of the baby’s paternity, considers throwing first the baby and then herself out of the seventh story window. “Choosing life,” to use a pro-life phrase, had never before had quite the same dire intimations. Abortion, Suicide and Satan are all a part of the spell conjured by Ira Levin’s novel and Roman Polanski’s faithful cinematic version of it. I have elucidated a few of these aspects of the book and film in this article: Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Maybe that’s all a bit heavy. Plenty of people enjoyed ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ the film as art, and rightly so. It is still widely considered to be not only Roman Polanski’s masterpiece but a watermark in cinematic history, and not only for suspense and horror. It is quite possibly the best horror film ever made. The seamless hand-held camera work, the realistic performances, the perfect casting, the elaborate sets, the 60’s fashions, and the understated horror of it all weaves an effective spell that has rarely been rivaled in cinema since it’s release in June 1968. It has been critiqued, studied, and analyzed; it was also condemned by the National Legion of Decency.

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Cover for the 50th anniversary edition

Yet, despite it’s Hellish premise, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is not without it’s own darkling undercurrent of black humor. Even as  Rosemary’s painful pregnancy intensifies and the stranglehold of suspicion and paranoia increases into a palpable threat, there is a snide kind of wit that permeates the film, like a chalky under taste, right up to the very denouement. New York City in the Swinging Sixties – the materialistic agnosticism of urban culture influencing the good Catholic school girl from Omaha. The strange neighbors all but hiding behind carnival devil masks. Rosemary’s husband Guy Woodhouse is an aspiring actor focused on name, fame and wealth: he’s a materialist interested in the supernatural only for whatever material benefits can be gained by it. He makes fun about seeing the Pope performing a Mass at Yankee stadium on TV: “That’s a great spot for my Yamaha commercial,” he laughs, shortly before pimping his wife out to You-Know-Who. It’s the film’s realism, along with a judicious use of subtle irony and sly wit, that makes the psychological terror all the more palpable.

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L to R: Bruno Sidar as Mr Gilmore, Patsy Kelly as Laura Louise McBurney, Charlotte Boerner as Mrs Leah Fountain, Almira Sessions as Mrs Sabatini with her cat Flash.

And we can’t help but relish Minnie and Roman Castevet and the other lurid characters surrounding Rosemary. Polanski mostly cast theater people and prolific film extras in these roles as witches, so we get an odd feeling of something not-quite-right and familiar about them at  the same time. Ruth Gordon won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Minnie Castevet; a role she killed – leaving it impossible for anybody to match it. It is fun to think of the Castevets and some of the other extras as demons trying (a little too hard) to pass themselves off as human. We smirk at the irony  of a young, naive first-time mother’s helplessness before a coven of smiling, well-meaning old geezers who are (she thinks)  plotting against her and her baby. And, when there are no witches hovering around Rosemary, there are several authoritative men “mansplaining” things to her.

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“look at his hands!” Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet.

Want to know more about the witches in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’? Read our article: All of Them Witches: A ‘Who’s Who?’ in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Read our Interview with cast member Ernest Harada who appears in the film’s climax: An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 Years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

The deal is made with the Devil of course, but Rosemary, ignoring warnings from a dear old friend, has already sold her soul (and good sense) by falling in love with the old apartment building’s gothic charm and by begging her ambitious actor husband Guy to get them out of “the other lease” in order to take the apartment in the looming Bramford (need we mention the infamous Dakota where the exterior shots were filmed?). After moving in she does her best to redecorate the rather solemn interior with white and yellows; but as Rosemary remakes the Bramford’s interior to suit her tastes, the Bramford remakes Rosemary’s interior to suit it’s own sinister plans. That’s because Rosemary’s metamorphosis is America’s metamorphosis. Innocence is lost. Once the post WWII “high” of the 1950’s and ’60’s faded, the public  grew numb after numerous political and social upheavals, celebrity deaths and the consumer complacency which ushered in the 1970’s. Off come the pig tails, gone is the girlish smile, and a pain – “like a wire inside of me getting tighter and tighter” as Rosemary laments – settles in our core.

We can argue that things are still changing drastically today, perhaps in even more ways than they were in ’67. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is now 50 years old and still walks among us like a smug iconoclast at a cocktail party – sneering and scoffing at our outmoded ideas regarding religion or morality – wearing a cheap Halloween Boogey-man mask as he laughs at our nervousness at letting go of our old fears and inhibitions. And yet we wonder after the final revelation at the end of the story: is it a happy ending or a terrifying one? The answer of course is “Both.” Rosemary’s baby is alive, safe, adored, worshipped; but that in itself spells certain doom to the world we know, or at least to the world we used to know “back then.”

– H.B. Gardner

SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock

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By: H.B.G.

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Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion in SUSPIRIA

Suspiria (1977) Is a film that stands out in horror cinema and remains perhaps the most artistic horror film ever made. There is so much going on in Suspiria that one blog post cannot cover all the occultism that saturates this film. The Three Mothers motif, inspired by the work of Thomas DeQuincey, will find it’s own exegesis in a separate post. For now, let us focus our dark-adapted eye upon a particular set piece and give the Devil His due. And please, don’t think us entirely mad until you have digested all what we are communicating to you here.

Suspiria 4When looking for the Devil in the Details in Suspiria, you cannot help but notice the sculpture of the Peacock in the film’s climactic scene. That such exquisite yet superfluous beauty as the male peacock exists at all in the world can be seen by some as proof positive of a beneficial Creator – a thumb print, if you will, of the work done by the hand of the Divine Artist. This echoes the Peacock as a symbol of Beauty, Vanity and, of course, Pride – Lucifer’s sin.

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The Fall

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equaled the most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Raised impious War in Heaven and Battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the Ethereal Sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,

From: Paradise Lost by John Milton

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The Fall

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A new opportunity presents itself…

In Suspiria, the presence of the Peacock with seven marble spheres at it’s feet recalls certain pre-Islamic religious traditions such as the Gnostic Manichaeism philosophy, or the later Yazidi tradition wherein which the ‘Peacock Angel’ – Melek Ta’usan entity often mistakenly confused with the evil entity known as Shaitan / Satan / Iblis by Judeo-Christian and Muslim interpretation – is responsible for the 7 created worlds, and the 7 Heavens.

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The Yazidis are peace-loving monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The Peacock Angel , vowing to bow only to God the Almighty, refused to bow to God’s human creations – Adam & Eve. By refusing this direct order from the Almighty, this so-called “Fallen Angel” is granted rulership over the created world and is given the task of challenging humankind with all the difficulties of incarnated existence with it’s endless parade of Sighs, Tears and Darkness.

In Yazidi (Yezidi) tradition, The Peacock Angel – named Azazel – as world-ruler, is Prince of this world – our created, material world; and if this world, with all it’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” is a shadow manifested by the deepest condensation of the divine light emanated by the Almighty, would it then be a complete error to call this entity the Prince of Darkness? Azazel is the one who causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God’s favour, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God. As observed by more than one occultist, the Devil’s power lies in that ‘He suffers.”

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A Yazidi emblem with the Peacock Angel presiding over the created world. There are 3 plumes on the head (The Trinity),  7 red feathers (The Heptad of Angels), and 12 plumed eyes (The Zodiac).

In certain Gnostic traditions a reconciliation is made between God and the Devil.

We find a peacock idol presiding over seven spheres in the climactic scene of Suspiria, just after we witness Madame Blanc, “the Vice Directress,” (wink, wink nod) of the Dance Academy and her coven of wicked witches invoking infernal powers. The presence of  this idol is either coincidence or somebody did their occult homework. Or, perhaps, the art director was influenced by other, unseen forces?

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Count the number of “eyes” on the peacock’s tail.

Archon: Gnosticism will give some insight into The Hebdomad, the Seven Spheres or Heavens, often recognized in popular Occultism and Kabbalah as: Saturn – Cronus, Jupiter – Zeus, Venus – Aphrodite, Moon – Hekate/Diana, Mercury – Hermes, and Mars – Aries all gathered around the Sun/Sol – Apollo. Seven colors are also expressed by the spectrum, the degrees of manifest Light – a peacock’s rainbowed fan of categorized material expression of Spirit. Further exploration into the esoteric significance of the peacock symbolism (Yezidi or otherwise) we will leave to those inspired to quest for it.

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Now, sometimes, when seeking out the Devil in the Details, you find the Devil looking right back out at you! Don’t drop your Tarot cards… but after a close observation of Suspiria  it appears the Peacock image in Our Lady of Sighs – Mater Suspiriorum’s – chambers has 15 “eyes” on it’s tail. Fifteen is of course the number of XV THE DEVIL card in the Tarot! Interestingly (by the way) 7 + 15 = 22, the number of Major Arcana cards in the Tarot.

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Whichever Tarot deck you use…

However you shuffle your cards…

THE DEVIL remains number XV !

The redemptive tears of the Peacock Angel…

Fifteen “eyes” on the peacock sculpture in SUSPIRIA…

THE DEVIL in the Tarot is numbered 15…

and, oh yes, the Hebrew letter attached to the XVth Arcanum of the Tarot – THE DEVIL card – is Ayin, which just happens to mean “an eye”.

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AYIN = Eye

The three DEVIL Tarot cards below (from three different packs) each carry a visible letter AYIN. We know our Tarot thoroughly and highly recomend it’s study.

Charms and decorations with eye-like symbols known as nazars, which are used to repel the evil eye, are a common sight across Armenia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Greece, the Levant, Afghanistan, Southern Spain, and Mexico and have become a popular choice of souvenir with tourists. But we digress…

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After crashing into said Art Deco peacock idol, Suzy Bannion – Our heroine in SUSPIRIA – manages to snatch a fallen peacock plumed stiletto from the overturned idol with which to dispatch the powerfully evil and wicked witch Mater Suspriorum, a.k.a. Helena Markos, by stabbing her through the neck. Mater Suspiriorum, Our Mother of Sighs, is pierced in the neck, the throat, the very reservoir of sighs! Silencing forever that corroded, blasphemous craw!

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Something about that Peacock just sticks in my craw !

But of course we do continue to sigh,

and to weep,

and to stare long and deep

into the gaping jaws of Time.

The religious persecutions and genocidal campaigns executed against the Kurdish Yazidi people of Iraq are horrendous and continue today. How often do you hear the name of the city of Mosul in Iraq in the news?  Mosul is the area closest to the largest Yazidi population in Iraq. You may recall the  2007 Mosul Massacre.

Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL

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Yazidi children have also been victims of Islamic terror and genocide.

For centuries the Yazidis have been tormented and accused of being “Devil-Worshippers.” Religious extremism in the form of the zealots of the so-called Islamic State and other forces in the region have caused untold miseries upon these people who have seen their people massacred and their children sold into sexual slavery. We must use caution so as not to pour gasoline on the fire by misrepresenting the Yazidi people as “Devil-Worshippers” in the Horror film sense of the term. Their tradition is an ancient one containing elements of Gnosticism, Sufism, Christianity and Islam – and yet is completely unique. Comparisons from a solely Christian or Islamic perspective can only result in misinterpretation and misunderstandings. It is it’s own Faith.  Please research the topic to educate yourself further.

Yazidi Woman Who Suffered IS Enslavement Lobbies Washington for Help : May 27, 2017

May we suggest:

If you have a taste for the Occult we suggest this video lecture:

Thelema and the Yezidi “Devil Worshippers”

Some few books are available…

‘Survival Among the Kurds; A History of the Yezidis’

by John S Guest

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Yazidi traditions have a strong emphasis on bodily purity.

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Yazidi gathering at their sacred site in Lalish.

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A Yazidi gathering. Yazidi traditions differ from those of their neighbors but they are most certainly not “Devil worshippers” as certain intolerant groups have claimed.

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Displaced Yazidis fleeing from genocide by the savages of the so-called Islamic State

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Islamic extremists give Yazidis only one choice: Convert or die.

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Yazidi genocide by Islamic zealots.

We await the apocalyptic splendor of a world without religiously motivated hate or genocide.

By: H. B. Gardner

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