Friday, January 12, 2018

Your Will Be Done, Amen

Psalm 8:2 in the Bible reads, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thy enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger." (The Enemy and the Avenger would be a great title for a comic book, wouldn't it?) Anyway that Psalm's been shortened with time and laziness to the bumper-sticker proverb "Out of the mouths of babes," which basically means that wisdom wise beyond its years often tumbles accidentally out of those who don't know any better. Simplicity cuts through the bullshit - there's an aura of "Ignorance is bliss" to it even, if you're eyeballs are smartly coated with cynicism at least.

The Strange Ones feels somewhat Biblical - there's a potent Revelations gloom to it, as if The Rapture is happening simultaneously, a parallel story, in slow-motion; like this is what you'd see if you looked to the left as all the good people are floating away. It has the feeling of the sermon a groggy preacher might speak - the last act appearance of the actor Gene Jones, so memorable as the cult leader in Ti West's The Sacrament and here seen as some sort of woodland missionary lording over a batch of lost boys, only underlines the feeling of liturgical allegory, splitting apart at the half-sewn seams.

Pregnant zooms, portent pans - they give us pause. The babe mouthing this story, musing our wisdoms, is not to be trusted, and the movie knows it. Jeremiah, known as "The Weeping Prophet" of the Old Testament, is the name that our main character of Sam (James Freedson-Jackson), a quisling of indeterminate teenage years, takes upon himself - a name every person he tells it to echoes back at him. Jeremiah's lamentations, the destruction of the temple and the kingdom - that's a lot for a kid to happily take upon himself, but Sam seems purposefully up to the task. He carries apocalypse well; it gives him better posture.

Who is the older man (Alex Pettyfer) accompanying him? A brother? Another mother? What violence follows? Why does the campground they're always heading towards disappear at the horizon like a dot, a carrot on a string? What of the fire we watched Sam stare down at the start - have they salted the Earth behind them?

What is and what isn't - The Strange Ones has a good time unraveling and re-raveling itself into new fashions. Even when you think you've maybe got a grasp on Sam née Jeremiah's stories and all of their unsettling implications - "Who shot who in the Embarcadero, August, 1879" - you surely don't; the heaviness of a slow zoom nods its solemn head in another direction. It's a puzzle picture, meant to puzzle, meant to take up headspace with its sundry riddles - a pair of omniscient, ominous eyes looking down into the oblong caverns of the space where your soul should be, but isn't, never even was.


sfdgdfg said...

Found myself fascinated with this one.

Shawny said...

Yes, Gene Jones made The Sacrament worth sitting through. It was a very nuanced performance in a half baked film. Can’t wait for Ti West to get back to doing horror.

Basti said...

i really liked it. it did have a lil bit of a 1997 lolita vibe to it. a great performance by JFJ.