Tuesday, June 27, 2023

God is a Maggot Brain


I went to the movies last night to see God Is A Bullet. My viewing experience was uneven - I'll be trying to unpack that below - but one scene about halfway through won me over, and a large part of the reason why was its use of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain." 

The first time I heard this, I was on LSD in high school. Hanging out at a friend's. When this came on, everything just kind of stopped. The entire album is fantastic, but it's one where there is such a hard line between the eponymous opener and everything that comes after it; one is dark and meditative, the other is uproarious and celebratory and sometimes just completely insane in that crazy, George Clinton way. But it works. Boy does it work.


As I mentioned above, last night I went to a 9:35 PM showing of Nick Cassavettes new film God Is A Bullet. I posted this a while back, but for the sake of the current conversation, here's the trailer and below I've basically pasted my Letterbxd review verbatim:


What I wrote last night directly after seeing the film:

I'm still unpacking how I feel about this one. First, some of the ugliest subject matter and subjects I've seen in a long time. Almost to the point of contrivance. This is a well-made film, and the performances are intense. However, I'm just not sure about the script. This is an adaptation of a novel by Boston Teran. There are quite a few things in the film I am fairly certain work better in the novel, but also, I (maybe mistakenly) get a "Bob Sagat" vibe from the film. What I mean by that is, if you've ever had the unfortunate experience of seeing Sagat's stand-up, he goes so over the top vulgar in an obvious effort to distance himself from being 'The full house guy,' it ruins any chance of him being anything but that person he tries so hard to unmake. In that same way, I feel like maybe the director's motive was to make the starkest, most horribly disgusting film he could just to blot out being known as 'the guy who directed 'the notebook.'

After sleeping on the film:

I'm not sure how much of my opinion has changed, but the way I'm processing this definitely has. Which is the mark of a good film. But it's not quite that simple...

In combing through this in my subconscious, I think I've discovered something about myself. That sheer ugliness on display in God is a Bullet, both content and characters, actually scares the living sh*t out of me. The subject matter is disgusting - the scariest, most disgusting idea at play in the world of humans. And the costuming and make-up likewise scare me. There's something about people with heavily tattooed faces that produces fear from an almost atavistic place in my brain. I remember having a conversation about this once as a bartender, and the person speaking with me about it summed it up as such:

"You see someone with ink on their face, I mean, like a lot of ink, like spiderwebs and shit, that person gives absolutely zero fucks, and probably has nothing in this life to lose. To tattoo your face like that, it sends a very clear message."

Obviously, I'm paraphrasing a bit here, but not by much. Also, I don't mean to say that anyone who has facial tattoos is a sicko, but the practice definitely sends that message, so at some point they were thinking they wanted the world to fear them on sight...

That element of contrivance I mentioned when thinking about it last night? Now I'm wondering if Cassavettes - in what I would call a pretty deft maneuver - wasn't trying to make a more 'Earthly' version of the Cenobites, because suddenly, there's something very Clive Barker about a lot of this film to me. It's long, though, and that gets lost in the experience. There's a grittiness here that, although Barker's stuff is grotesque and Horrific, has a fantasy underlining that softens the blow. God is a Bullet is real all the way through, so there's nothing fantastical to soften its blow.

Anyway, I've debunked a similar prejudice before with other Horror movies I slighted or ignored. Specifically, Catholic Devil Possession flicks. Reflecting on my snobbery toward a recent flick like Prey For the Devil was what catalyzed the epiphany. Prey looked 'dumb' to me in the way I remember thinking 2012's The Devil Inside looked dumb. But did they really look stupid, or is that a defense mechanism? I'm not religious, wasn't raised Catholic, and the textures of that stuff are as far away from my daily life/belief system as possible. Yet, William Friedkin's The Exorcist is the scariest film I know. I always say, after I watch that film, I believe in the devil for three days. So maybe that Catholic Possession stuff really gets under my skin, so I turn up my nose and walk by with an air of superiority - without watching what I'm criticizing - previously oblivious to the fact that what I'm really doing is cowering at the prospect of another flick that might terrify me the way Friedkin's does. Same too, then, for God is a Bullet, because elements of this film frighten me to my core, even if I still do have some issues with the film's overall execution. And for clarity, it's not the Satanic Cult that frightens me, but the trafficking side of their operations.

Overall? Three stars and a heart, even if the heart may flicker on and off like a bad fluorescent bulb in a dingy motel on the border.


Forhist - Eponymous
Fear Factory - Demanufacture
Blut Aus Nord - Hallucinogen
Holy Serpent - Endless
Ruby the Hatchet - Fear is a Cruel Master
Silent - Modern Hate
Uniform & The Body - Mental Wounds Not Healing
The Body - I Have Fought Against It, But I Can't Any Longer
Ghost - Infestissumam
Drug Chuch - Hygiene
Funkadelic - Maggot Brain


• Six of Swords: Science
• II: The High Priestess
• Queen of Cups

Harmonious thinking/interpretation comes from a co-mingling of influences opposite to my own today. In other words - and as usual, I take the insight here to be a direct commentary on my current writing project - I'm trying to write female characters and probably need to ask for a female's perspective on some things. That's something I would have done down the road anyway, however, I'm a little bit stuck and could probably do with an outside perspective. 

No comments: