From the good to the bad, to the downright scary.
Lecturer in American Studies, Loughborough University
Oct 31, 2017
“Few holidays have a cinematic potential that equals Halloween’s,” wrote the American cultural critic David J. Skal. For over a century now, US film studios have exploited the commercial possibilities of All Hallows’ Eve as enthusiastically as any maker of frightening masks or baker of pumpkin pies. IMDB currently lists 200 titles featuring the word “Halloween” alone.
But it can still be hard to define a “Halloween film”. Skal takes it to be one in which the holiday is the “central subject”, rather than there merely to add atmosphere. But this still leaves open the question of genre. As it turns out, the Halloween movie is a highly elastic category. The five titles I’ve selected here show it ranges from horror to farce, and from parody to animation.
In the 1930s, the Betty Boop cartoons challenged mainstream America not only with their voluptuous heroine but with what animation scholar Paul Wells calls their “fantastical incongruities”. In this Halloween special, which lasts just over six minutes, the animators’ customary visual exuberance is given further license by Halloween’s permitted mischief. A scarecrow throws paint onto the wall and each time, creates a witch complete with broomstick. Meanwhile, a weird assembly-line in the kitchen sees bull’s horns being used to pierce pumpkins. Over it all Betty presides cheerfully, suggesting women could have roles in Halloween films besides that of the victim.
The Middle American town which is so familiar in many Halloween movies is left behind here, in what an opening caption calls a “Hallowe’en tale of Brooklyn, where anything can happen”. Ignore the plot that creaks as loudly as any haunted house’s staircase, and dwell instead on the film’s moments of tonal strangeness and blending of genres.
The main premise of this black comedy is rival serial killers who face body disposal problems at Halloween. In some scenes however, it forgoes good humour altogether and becomes genuinely disturbing. Several sequences are framed and lit as if they have been spliced in from horror cinema. Even the usually poised Cary Grant is seen in sweaty closeup.
Puritanical attitudes stalk this film as persistently as its serial killer antihero. Therapeutic models for treatment of psychopathy have no chance here against what film critic David Thomson describes as:
The certainty that the mentally disturbed are going to be dangerous until the end of time.
The plot sees three high school students brutally punished for having opportunistic sex. Laurie, their bookish and sexually inactive friend on the other hand, exemplifies what film theorist Carol Clover has called the “Final Girl.” This is a trope common in slasher films, and refers to the last woman alive to confront the killer. Laurie wards off her attacker with the gendered weaponry of knitting needle and coat hanger. But running against the film’s strait-laced politics is a mischievous humour, and a DIY aesthetic – director John Carpenter also scored the keyboard soundtrack as well as co-writing the film.
At the start of this animated musical, derived from a poem written by Tim Burton in his Disney days, Jack Skellington – master of ceremonies in “Halloween Town” – despairs of the familiar Halloween routine. He exclaims:
And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King / Have grown so tired of the same old thing.
Here the Halloween movie confronts its own possible staleness – by 1993, John Carpenter’s film alone had generated four sequels. But the danger of “the same old thing” is warded off here by fusing Halloween cinema subversively with its sentimental cousin among the seasonal sub-genres: “the Christmas film”. Jack finds a portal to “Christmas Town” and attempts to darken that festival too.
Scholars such as Rick Altman have argued that films tend to show genres colliding with each other, rather than staying separate. And just like the merging of comedy and horror in Arsenic and Old Lace, The Nightmare Before Christmas reveals this genre fusion at work in the Halloween movie itself.
Rob Zombie’s exploitation horror film begins in an “off-beat attraction” in rural Texas called Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen. The Halloween kitsch on display here includes tiny skulls with flashing red eyes, and it all serves to lull not only the quartet of young out-of-town visitors but also the unwary film spectator.
These early scenes present a commodified Halloween, one where terror is manageable, compared with the abiding horror that will soon confront the protagonists – and the viewers. The dead, who were traditionally honoured by both pagans and Christians on All Hallows’ Eve, are instead treated roughly in Zombie’s film. Bodies are fashioned into phantasmagoric, necrophile tableaus. The effect is highly disturbing: House of 1,000 Corpses ends as a new day breaks, but atmospherically we are still in darkness.
The head of the UN’s World Food Program warns that three million people face severe hunger in just one conflict region of Congo.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017
The head of the UN’s World Food Program is making an urgent appeal for aid to stave off a humanitarian crisis in Congo, formerly known as Zaire, where millions are struggling with food shortages brought on by conflict.
David Beasley began a four-day mission to the country on Friday and said more than three million people face severe hunger in the south-central Greater Kasai region.
He said several hundred thousand children could die within the next few months.
“It is heartbreaking to see 3.2. million people severely food insecure, who don’t know where they will get their next meal,” Beasley told CBC News.
“And we’re talking about several hundred thousand children there that will die in the next few months if we don’t get: first funds, and then second food, and then third, access in the right locations.”
On Saturday, Beasley met with conflict-displaced families in the region, where violence erupted in August 2016 after clashes between security forces and the Kamwina Nsapu armed group.
Beasley said the violence is “something like you’d see in a horror movie.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this. We literally have 12-year-olds and 10-year-olds killing others and chopping their heads off,” he said.
“We’re asking for the government and all parties involved to bring peace so that we can save innocent children and try to bring some stability to the region.”
A regional tribal leader who had defied the government of President Joseph Kabila died during the clashes.
Officials say the number of people displaced by conflict has nearly doubled in the past six months to 1.5 million.
This is what evil looks like in 2017. Look at their faces, that is what evil looks like. Ignorance, stupidity, and greed changes a human being. Rot in prison failures of humanity.
Ten men and one woman belonging to the Rooney family were convicted at Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday for exploiting vulnerable people on a site in Drinsey Nook, Lincolnshire.
Nine members of the family were sentenced to jail for a total of almost 80 years in prison.
The family recruited unemployed, vulnerable, often homeless men from across the country to work for meagre wages in their various businesses.
Almost all of the 18 victims were found to have mental health or drug and/or drink problems.
The court heard the victims, all adults aged between 18 and 63, were beaten and left without running water and toilet facilities while living in squalid caravans.
In one case, a man had been exploited by the family for 26 years. He said he was once made to dig his own grave in case he failed to pledge life-long servitude to the family.
In another case, a victim told the police he sometimes felt he was treated no better than one of the family’s dogs, as leftovers were thrown at him to pick up from the ground.
In sentencing, Judge Timothy Spencer QC called it the “wholesale exploitation of vulnerable men”.
He told the family: “Violence is a consistent theme in this case.
“Your victims had reached a position where they were cowed into submission.
“They knew that any resistance to you was futile – it would have been met by you recruiting more family members to deliver more violence.
“These offences are chilling in their mercilessness.”
The judge also compared the family’s lavish lifestyle to the debased one of their “labourers”.
Senior investigating officer from Lincolnshire Police Chief Superintendent Nikki Mayo said: “While their ‘labourers’ were suffering, this family were [buying] luxurious holidays to Barbados, Australia, Egypt and Mexico…high performance BMWs, spa days and even cosmetic surgery.
“The greatest positive of this case is that so many of the victims have now got their lives back, they’ve got a real second chance at some peace and happiness and to grow and flourish in their communities – it’s very much deserved,” Mayo said.
Khadija, who came to Syria from Tunis to live in Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) Syrian stronghold of Raqqa for three years, told RT that she saw plenty of cruelty and injustice, but no genuine pursuit of religion or Islamic law.
“My husband and I made a huge mistake by coming there. And I advise you not to believe those who say that ISIS is an Islamic state, which preaches Islam and Sharia and lives pursuant to the teachings of Prophet Muhammed and the Koran,” Khadija said.
The militants do not tolerate any dissent and opposition to their reign, she noted.
“Everybody, who takes a stand against them, they behead. And people don’t know when this is going to happen.”
“They are not on righteous path. This is the state of tyranny and Satan. My husband renounced them, and told me to do the same,” Khadija went on to say, adding that she and her husband escaped Raqqa running south to the town of al-Mayadeen and then to Turkey.
But before she made her escape, the young woman got to know IS’s darkest side with its ever-depreciating cost of human life, and in particular, of that of the most vulnerable, women and children.
“There was a lot of evil in the places where women live. Children were suffering from scabies, lice. When children were ill, they did not receive treatment at hospital,” Khadija said.
If women were found to be in violation of the strict code of conduct, imposed by IS, they were locked up in prison-like detention facilities by female watchers, put in charge of “women dormitories.”
“It was sickening to be there,” Khadija said, recounting stories of women in labor seeking help and receiving indifference at best. Women were routinely denied maternity care and forced to deliver babies on the spot.
One woman bled to death during labor after the dormitory’s superintendent refused to help her.
“That poor woman went to the garden, while bleeding heavily, stayed there till morning in a rainy and cold weather. Nobody paid attention to her. And in the morning her husband came, saw her body lying in the garden and passed by, without paying any attention, as nothing happened, as if [she] were a dog,” Khadija said.
In another case, a woman became crippled after her plea to be sent to hospital was rejected despite her saying that he leg was rotting.
While it appears that for a lot of women the life under IS was a living hell, it was not uncommon for the militants to have a sex slave in addition to a wife.
According to Khadija, women who are not sex slaves, are not subjected to the so-called “sex jihad.”
“You go to the city hall and get married. If you have been married and your husband got killed, you just got married to another man,” she said. The completely different story is, however, when a woman is captured and turned into a sex slave.
As a sex slave, a woman is considered to be the property of her owner, to do with as he pleases, for instance, to sell or give as a present.
“The wife and the other woman live separately. He lives with them in turns – one day with one woman, and the other day with another,” Khadija said, noting that despite their superior status lawful wives sometimes envy the Yazidi slave women.
“Many men love Yazidi girls more than their wives,” she said.
A 20-year-old, Nur Al-Khouda, originally from Tripoli, Lebanon, said her husband first joined a Salafi group where he was indoctrinated with IS ideology and left for Syria.
“He persuaded me that there’s nothing bad there and I trusted him as his wife so I arranged all the documents and I joined him in Syria,” the young woman told RT.
The slave trade is a booming market in IS, she said.
“They paid a lot of attention to women’s looks. They bought makeup to sell them for $15,000, the virgins were priced at $30,000.”
Young girls also became a mere commodity once they are in hands of jihadists, she added, recounting that the militants planned to sell a 10-year-old girl for some $10,000.
It was reported the girls as young as 8 are sold at such slave markets. Some 3,000 to 5,000 Yazidi women are believed to be held captive by IS as sex slaves.
Wow, the Israeli government and its military is composed of a bunch of sadistic turds, isn’t it? This is disgusting Israel. No wonder the world hates you. Relocate to Florida where you belong ye pathetic psychopaths.
Imagine how you would react if this happened to you or your loved ones.
When Israel passed a new counter-terrorism law last year, Ayman Odeh, a leader of the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens, described its draconian measures as colonialism’s “last gasp”. He said: “I see … the panic of the French at the end of the occupation of Algeria.”
The panic and cruelty plumbed new depths last week, when Israeli officials launched a $2.3 million lawsuit against the family of Fadi Qanbar, who crashed a truck into soldiers in Jerusalem in January, killing four. He was shot dead at the scene.
The suit demands that his widow, Tahani, reimburse the state for the compensation it awarded the soldiers’ families. If she cannot raise the astronomic sum, the debt will pass to her four children, the oldest of whom is currently only seven.
Israel is reported to be preparing many similar cases.
Like other families of Palestinians who commit attacks, the Qanbars are homeless, after Israel sealed their East Jerusalem home with cement. Twelve relatives were also stripped of their residency papers as a prelude to expelling them to the West Bank.
None has done anything wrong – their crime is simply to be related to someone Israel defines as a “terrorist”.
This trend is intensifying. Israel has demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop paying a small monthly stipend to families like the Qanbars, whose breadwinner was killed or jailed. Conviction rates among Palestinians in Israel’s military legal system stand at more than 99 per cent, and hundreds of prisoners are incarcerated without charge.
Israeli legislation is set to seize $280 million – a sum equivalent to the total stipends – from taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, potentially bankrupting it.
On Wednesday Israel loyalists will introduce in the US Senate a bill to similarly deny the PA aid unless it stops “funding terror”. Issa Karaka, a Palestinian official, said it would be impossible for the PA to comply: “Almost every other household … is the family of a prisoner or martyr.”
Israel has taken collective punishment – a serious violation of international law – to new extremes, stretching the notion to realms once imaginable only in a dystopian fable like George Orwell’s 1984.
Israel argues that a potential attacker can only be dissuaded by knowing his loved ones will suffer harsh retribution. Or put another way, Israel is prepared to use any means to crush the motivation of Palestinians to resist its brutal, five-decade occupation.
All evidence, however, indicates that when people reach breaking-point, and are willing to die in the fight against their oppressors, they give little thought to the consequences for their families. That was the conclusion of an investigation by the Israeli army more than a decade ago.
In truth, Israel knows its policy is futile. It is not deterring attacks, but instead engaging in complex displacement activity. Ever-more sadistic forms of revenge shore up a collective and historic sense of Jewish victimhood while deflecting Israelis’ attention from the reality that their country is a brutal colonial settler state.
If that verdict seems harsh, consider a newly published study into the effects on operators of using drones to carry out extrajudicial executions, in which civilians are often killed as “collateral damage”.
A US survey found pilots who remotely fly drones soon develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress from inflicting so much death and destruction. The Israeli army replicated the study after its pilots operated drones over Gaza during Israel’s 2014 attack – the ultimate act of collective punishment. Some 500 Palestinian children were killed as the tiny enclave was bombarded for nearly two months.
Doctors were surprised, however, that the pilots showed no signs of depression or anxiety. The researchers speculate that Israeli pilots may feel more justified in their actions, because they are closer to Gaza than US pilots are to Afghanistan, Iraq or Yemen. They are more confident that they are the ones under threat, even as they rain down death unseen on Palestinians.
The determination to maintain this exclusive self-image as the victim leads to outrageous double standards.
Last week the Israeli supreme court backed the refusal by officials to seal up the homes of three Jews who kidnapped Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem, in 2014 and burnt him alive.
In May the Israeli government revealed that it had denied compensation to six-year-old Ahmed Dawabsheh, the badly scarred, sole survivor of an arson attack by Jewish extremists that killed his entire family two years ago.
Human rights group B’Tselem recently warned that Israel has given itself immunity from paying compensation to all Palestinians under occupation killed or disabled by the Israeli army – even in cases of criminal wrongdoing.
This endless heaping of insult upon injury for Palestinians is possible only because the west has indulged Israel’s wallowing in victimhood so long. It is time to prick this bubble of self-delusion and remind Israel that it, not the Palestinians, is the oppressor.
A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.