BASKIN: Six Visions of Hell

baskin_09
I’m not sure what I’m looking at, but it’s not good. Not good at all.

Baskin premieres tonight, promising a tale of police officers who are unfortunately dragged through a portal to Hell while breaking up a cult ritual. We’ve been here before, fellow Acolytes of Madness. So it seems like a good time to smudge the room, raise the four quarters, draw a pentagram on the floor in chalk and take a look at some other cinematic visions of Hell–from within a protective circle of salt of course.

If Baphomet suggests you don’t bother with the circle of salt, don’t listen. Baphomet says a lot of things.

See? Always saying things.

The Hellraiser series has a lot of interesting ideas about hell. The paramount being, you don’t really want to go there. Not even people who think they do want to go there. In fact, they find out that they SO don’t want to go there that they’ll find a way to sneak back using other people’s blood to make a new body and then steal someone else’s skin and live even the most boring of lives after that if they have to. In Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1987), we see a little more of Hell itself. It’s very neat and it’s both very Escher and kind of German Expressionist. One can imagine Kafka spackling and tidying it for eternity.

If you look closely, you can find Cesare from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari wandering around here.

And floating above the labyrinth of Hell is unfortunately not Tim Curry

But a big ol’ geometry problem that abhors any kind of chaos and really thinks you should get with its program of boring architecture and chains that fly out of nowhere to tear your soul apart.

Huge ass jerk.

In Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond (1981), Liza inherits a cursed hotel. It has things like “The Seven Doors Of Death,” which I assume was not listed as legally required. One of them is a gate to Hell, and Liza accidentally opens it with a combination of fixing up the place and The Book of Eibon. There is a whole lot of trouble at the hotel. Aside from demons in the plumbing and people dying and mysterious acid attacks, there creepy painting by an artist murdered by a mob in her otherwise quaint, b’n’b ready hotel. Seeing the painting, Liza does what any sane person would do and decides to leave. Ha ha, no sorry, she decides that even though looking at the painting makes her bleed, she’ll barge right into the one room she’s been told to stay out of.  And that’s where she finds The Book Of Eibon, which I assume is bound in human skin. Long story short, turns out Hell is in her basement.

I don’t know, maybe a dehumidifier would help.

People can’t leave ancient tomes alone in The Gate (1987) either. The Gate is a Canuxploitation classic directed by Tibor Takács. Stephen Dorff–I assume his character has another name, but we all know that The Gate is the true story of Stephen Dorff’s life. Stephen Dorff and his friend discover a cursed  geode beneath a lightning blasted tree in Stephen Dorff’s yard. It’s a good one and I really can’t blame him for taking it home. But there is an accident during excavation and the Blood of Stephen Dorff is spilled upon the Earth beginning the summoning of cute little demon guys.

But even these little guys don’t know better than to leave ancient cursed texts alone.

There are a lot of demonic shenanigans. Dead people reappear. A dog dies and is deposited in the geode hole. Teenagers listen to heavy metal. Demons rearrange the family VHS library and eat the last piece of cake. But you know, with a combination of the Bible and a rocket, the kids set things right. Well, mostly right. The house is a wreck but the dog’s okay. So the lesson of The Gate is really, buy your geodes at those stores that sell pewter wizards and enamel dragons’ eggs, kids.

I always forget that Paul W. S. Anderson directed Event Horizon (1997). Anyway, the event horizon in Event Horizon is that of a black hole and an experimental ship that mysteriously disappeared. And also, probably Hell. After receiving a signal, a rescue ship is deployed carrying Dr. William Weir,  the engineer who designed Event Horizon’s experimental black hole-powered drive. Weir is played by Midnight Madness alumnus, Sam Neill (Daybreakers). When the rescue team arrives, they discover everyone on board Event Horizon dead in really horrible ways. And the Event Horizon’s gravity drive powers up on its own. People start having hallucinations. And, most importantly, Sam Neill’s Dr. William Weir has hallucinations. About this time they discover the ship’s video log which records the Event Horizon crew losing it and the captain saying, in Latin, “Save yourselves from Hell.” Latin is always a bad sign. It turns out that the ship passed through a Hell dimension and came back possessed, but they’re real problem turns out to be a possessed Sam Neill.

Nobuo Nakagawa’s Jigoku (1960) is chock full of sinning and people just doing plain crappy things to each other, but it’s all a prelude to theology student Shiro’s journey to rescue an infant who has floated on the river running through the underworld into Hell. Not just any infant, but Shiro’s child who died with his fiance in a car-wreck. Shiro (Shigeru Amachi) has a lot of issues. And I don’t think he feels any better as he travels through Hell seeing the specific punishments for each group of sinners. Shiro is like Dante without Virgil–though maybe he does have a Beatrice. And the Hell Shiro travels through is made from each suffering soul’s own sense of guilt. Oh, and it’s another film with a painting of Hell in it.

“Just turn left at the sing. You can’t miss it!”

In High Plains Drifter (1973), a stranger (Clint Eastwood) rides into town full of people hiding their sins and being all casual about having whipped the previous marshal to death. the Stranger kills people easily, and doesn’t seem able to die. When the men the town had hired to kill the marshal are due out of prison, the people of Lago get understandably nervous and they hire the Stranger to help them. He makes them plan a big party, paint their town red and paints “Hell” in red letters on the town sign. High Plains Drifter is an inversion of Pale Rider, with (maybe) the Devil–sometimes called, “The Strange”–coming to town and sorting things out himself.  But even if it’s not exactly literally Hell in the sense that Hellraiser is about Hell, High Plains Drifter is worth pondering.

And I’m pondering what Can Evrenol’s vision of Hell will be in Baskin. But I must tell you, my friends. My mind unquiet. I can’t help thinking, “But what of The Chickening?”

Is this not Hell?



Baskin screens:

Fri, Sept 11, 11:59 PM RYERSON

Sun, Sept 13, 4:00 PM SCOTIABANK

Thu, Sept 17, 6:00 PM SCOTIABANK

THE CHICKENING with GREEN ROOM Final Screening:

Sat, Sept 12, 2:15 PM BLOOR HOT DOCS

 

This post originally appeared on the official blog of the Midnight Madness program at TIFF.

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