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Become “Well Viewed”: Contemplate TheMaster’s Grand Design

Become Well Viewed: Contemplate TheMasters Grand Design

This week: Satanic Movies

Call me old fashioned, but movies about Satan kick ass. For the most part, they’re suspenseful, well made, and well acted (well, except for Keanu Reeves in The Devil’s Advocate). They reflect our strange fascination with the darker shades of human nature and the supernatural, leaning a bit heavy on the vast array of occult symbolism and imagery that are embroidered deep within the fabric of the human psyche. In most every film where Satan is central to the plot, it is not good that triumphs over evil, but the opposite; the Devil prevails. That is what sparks our perverse attraction to these films, they speak the inverse of everything we have ever been taught, and we gladly relish it, like a kid who just stole a brownie from the kitchen counter and blamed it on his sister; the bad guy winning, the good guy losing, is a more faithful reflection of the reality in which we live and so these films touch a nerve that, despite our recoiling, we enjoy having touched. So, for your viewing pleasure and cinematic education, I bring you an unholy trinity of Satanic Movies.

The Ninth Gate (1999)Directed by Roman PolanskiScreenplay by John Brownjohn, Enrique Urbizu, and Roman PolanskiAdapted from the novel El Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Filmed entirely in Europe, due to director Roman Polanski’s inability to return to the United States for his past indiscretions (he fed champagne and Quaaludes to a 12 year-old girl during a photo shoot and then went down on her), The Ninth Gate is a film about a rare book detective named Dean Corso (played by Johnny Depp). Corso, acting out of selfishness, greed, and opportunism (qualities much revered by The Master) is the bad-boy of the bibliophile community, stopping at nothing to acquire the rarest and choicest texts to sell, both for himself and his posh clientele. One Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) hires Corso to authenticate a rare text in his possession called The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, which is reputed to conjure Lucifer himself. So, with a hefty advance to finance him, Corso trounces off to Europe to track down the other two copies of The Nine Gates and compare them with Balkan’s copy, encountering along the way a series of murders, revelations, and influential devil worshippers, all the while becoming more and more convinced of the legitimacy of The Nine Gates and the supernatural. This film is classic Polanski: paranoid, suspenseful, and a painstaking attention to detail (notice how Johnny Depp’s character gradually switches to Lucky Strike unfiltered). The Ninth Gate breathes new life into an age old story.

Angel Heart (1987)Written and Directed by Alan ParkerAdapted from the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg

Set in the years following World War II, Angel Heart is about a private detective, Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke), who is hired by an enigmatic lawyer named Louis Cyphre (played creepily well by Robert DeNiro) to track down a pre-war crooner named Johnny Favorite who never made good on a contract with Mr. Cyphre 10 years prior. Angel follows Favorite’s trail through Harlem, Brooklyn, Coney Island, and eventually New Orleans. This movie starts off like your typical Phillip Marlowe yarn, but soon you realize that there is way more to this movie than a bourbon-drinking private eye and his sarcastic comments. Part neo noir, part horror, and completely disturbing, Angel Heart is a suspenseful journey into the occult and the darkest recesses of human instincts and desires. I cannot elaborate anymore on the plot, dear reader, for your own benefit, suffice to say that although the terminus of most films offer the audience hope for the future, a sequel, or redemption, Angel Heart does not; it offers no hope, the utter finality of the climax leaves no room for a sequel, not even redemption. Quite the opposite in fact. Heads up for the sex scene with Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet (of Cosby fame) that almost got the film slapped with an X rating.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)Written and directed by Roman PolanskiAdapted from the novel by Ira Levi

Filmed in the Dakota Building in New York City (where John Lennon was shot in 1980), Polanksi’s first American release, Rosemary’s Baby, is considered a must-see for anyone who wishes to be well versed in the horror genre, or film in general. It’s a movie about a young couple, Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes), who move into the prestigious Bramford building and attempt to raise a family. Long story short, Rosemary gets pregnant (under some very weird circumstances) and she begins to suspect that Guy and their elderly neighbors, the Castavettes, are in a coven of witches out to use her unborn baby’s blood in one of their sabbaths. After a series of odd coincidences and other circumstantial weirdness, Rosemary’s suspicions reach a fever pitch. In true Roman Polanski style, Rosemary’s Baby is positively dripping with paranoia and suspense, enough to keep you guessing until the very end.