Lost in the Movies: The Devil Rides Out & Brawl in Cell Block 99 (LOST IN THE MOVIES podcast #35)

The Devil Rides Out & Brawl in Cell Block 99 (LOST IN THE MOVIES podcast #35)

After preparing what ended up being the second part of this double feature for a December episode, I realized it was too short to justify a full podcast on its own. Looking for something to pair it with, I dug into my archives and pulled out The Devil Rides Out, Hammer's take on occultism among the aristocracy (obviously influenced by Aleister Crowley). Fascinated by what this Christopher Lee-led horror film takes for granted in terms of storytelling and the villain's behavior, I drew connections to Twin Peaks and explored the history of Dennis Wheatley, the original novel's eccentric author. The narrative concern with Satanic youths run amok in the British countryside is also colored by World War I, since the book was written in 1934 (the year that the similarly-themed The Black Cat was released). However, its theme of generational divides and the fight to uphold virtue and tradition against a decadent challenge of "do what thou wilt" also resonated in the sixties, when the film was produced. That said, the evil Mocata remains surprisingly gentlemanly in his pursuit of the heroes, following the manners and methods of high society despite his ends. Ultimately, his prey must gather inside a circle drawn on the floor to guard themselves when assaulted by the spirit world.

One of my shorter reflections, on S. Craig Zahler's neo-exploitation prison film Brawl in Cell Block 99, nonetheless packs many observations into its ten or eleven minutes, including an emphasis on formal as well as narrative elements. Early on in my Patreon podcast, when I was recording "films in focus" based on patron suggestions, someone recommended this then-new release starring Vince Vaughn as a drug dealer forced to descend further and further into maximum security prisons (in order to fulfill a ransom request of kidnappers who are holding his pregnant wife hostage). At first I wasn't sure what to make of this odd mix of realistic textures and cartoonish plot points, but with time I warmed up to the film's cheerfully crackpot extremism and was fully on board as soon as Don Johnson appeared onscreen to ham it up as a psychotic warden. That same patron also recommended the even more gonzo Bone Tomahawk, a sci-fi(?) western horror film which I also reviewed but did not have the opportunity to publish. Unfortunately, I didn't save that recording (it would have made a good double feature with this) but that discussion dug further into the ways Zahler's films coyly flirt with right-wing tropes without fully committing to them, a fascinating and sometimes frustrating dance. If you've seen Zahler's films and have your own thoughts on them, please share below (or anywhere else you can find me) so we can continue the exploration in upcoming episodes...

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Illustrated companions (w/ individual podcast links) for Lost in Twin Peaks #6 & 7
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