“It’s all for you!” Whiteness as Monstrosity in The Omen trilogy

Coming on the heels of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, Richard Donner’s The Omen mined further the prospect of the Devil wreaking havoc on the ostensibly prosperous and peaceful West, specifically by using a child to accomplish the task. The Omen trilogy does not reference Nazism or the Holocaust directly, but the films chronicle the rise of the Antichrist in the venue where he can best destabilize civilization and unleash humanity’s worst instincts – politics. Damien’s adoptive family, the Thorns, are at the pinnacle of a mature capitalist economy governed by a handful of transnational corporations. Sociologist Neil Gerlach argues Antichrist films are critical dystopias revealing the weaknesses and corruption of modern social, political and economic structures, as well as institutionalized knowledge. Science can do nothing to stop the Antichrist; in fact it serves as an additional tool in his arsenal. That the Antichrist is a voracious capitalist make sense, Gerlach argues, because he is the embodiment of “the perfect post-Fordist man, waiting to transform society into his own selfish, ‘me generation’ image.”[i]

The Holocaust relied on science, law, technology, and a robust bureaucratic state – the hallmarks of the post-Enlightenment age. How else would a modern Antichrist achieve world domination than similarly undermine the institutions governing our existence, suddenly turning them into agents of destruction? It is not only effective, but utterly demoralizing. Moreover, the Antichrist will act with our consent. The Omen has no monsters, demons, or vivid apocalyptic landscapes, just a child nurtured in a familiar postwar power structure – corporations, government, elite military schools, and hallowed democratic bodies like Parliament. Consequently, it is difficult to fear Damien because his monstrosity is not obvious to us. In fact, we may be pulling for him to bring down the whole rotten artifice enabling his meteoric rise to power.

In the second Omen film, Damien graduates to an elite military school and soon takes over the enormous Thorn Enterprises multinational.

Damien’s racial and economic privilege is instrumental to his quest to become the all-powerful Antichrist. Satan obviously agrees since he arranged for him to be raised by the Thorns. “[T]his is a film about whiteness,” Andrew Scahill writes of The Omen, “It is a film about whiteness become monstrous, a film about white privilege and the invisible labor that upends it . . . .”[ii] From the governess who hurled herself out of a window at Damien’s fifth birthday party, screaming, “It’s all for you, Damien!” to the minions paving the way for him in school, corporate culture, and politics – sacrificing themselves and countless others – Damien ascends to the pinnacle of power on the literal and figurative corpses of his social inferiors. Why would anyone suspect Damien for benefitting from the system in place? Critic Wheeler Dixon mistakenly described Damien as “the blond young son” of Robert Thorn, noting the “Nazi-like precision” of Damien’s plotting.[iii] Damien is famously raven-haired, not blonde, but Scahill attributes Dixon’s careless mistake to our tendency to equate blondeness with whiteness. Damien should be blonde given his cocoon of wealth and privilege revolving around an elite military school and the global reach of Thorn Industries.  Damien’s path to power required eliminating rivals and subjugating the Third World to poverty and famine, Scahill writes The Omen II “explicitly invokes the iconography of the Hitler Youth movement to link education, white privilege, and colonialism.”[iv] Damien does not manipulate economic and power structures with shocking supernatural powers. The Antichrist simply must work within the established bounds of formal institutions.[v]

Entrenching Damien in the corridors of power, a precocious child who blithely casts aside inept adults powerless to stop him makes this antihero the implicit hero. Damien has a goal and ruthlessly pursues it, perhaps unintentionally providing a service by revealing the internal rot of our civilization. Audiences in the late 1970s could identify with this subtext. Robin Wood argues we root for Damien’s “systematic destruction of the bourgeois Establishment.” Furthermore, “The Omen would make no sense in a society that was not prepared to enjoy and surreptitiously condone the working out of its own self-destruction.”[vi] It is coincidental The Omen and The Boys from Brazil were released so close together, yet the two address similar themes integral to post-World War II horror –  feelings of anxiety, helplessness, and blurred boundaries between order and disorder.[vii] Moreover, the films suggest the next Hitler or the Antichrist could just as likely emerge from an American family as he could Hell or the dark well of history. The Omen is deeply unsettling, but also wryly amusing because Damien, Neil Gerlach concludes, “is what America is becoming in the late modern period.”[viii] Damien intends to enact genocide using the tools of a modern-nation state and the bottomless resources of an international conglomerate. The Holocaust is a model for the Antichrist and proof the past is prelude when it comes to genocide. It is not Damien, or even Satan who should frighten us; it is our complacency, our powerlessness, and ultimately our complicity in making the Antichrist’s victory inevitable.

[i] Neil Gerlach, “Narrating Armageddon: Antichrist Films and the Critique of Late Modernity,” The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, vol. 24, no. 2 (Summer 2012), 219.

[ii] Andrew Scahill, “’It’s all for you, Damien!” Oedipal Horror and Racial Privilege in The Omen Series’” in Lost and Othered Children in Contemporary Cinema, Andrew Scahill and Debbie C. Olsen, eds., (MD: Lexington Books, 2012), 98.

[iii] Scahill, 98.

[iv] Scahill, 100.

[v] Neil Gerlach, “The Antichrist as Multi-Monomyth: The Omen Films as Social Critique,” The Journal pf Popular Culture, vol. 44, no. 5 (2011), 1036.

[vi] Robing Wood quoted in Gerlach, “Narrating Armageddon,” 218.

[vii] Gerlach, “The Antichrist as Multi-Monomyth,” 1030.

[viii] Gerlach, “The Antichrist as Multi-Monomyth,” 1044.

The SS Comes to Appalachia: Joel Schumacher’s Blood Creek (2009)

Joel Schumacher’s Lost Boys (1987) reinvigorated the vampire genre by situating a teenage coming of age story in a small coastal California town beset by biker vampires. Starring a host of popular young actors, Lost Boys enjoyed tremendous commercial success and quickly entered cult status. Schumacher revisits the genre with Blood Creek (2009), a smaller and much darker film set in rural West Virginia in which a Nazi scholar torments a family and the surrounding countryside with bizarre occult rituals. The film begins in 1936 when a family of German immigrants, the Wollners, receive a letter from the German government offering desperately needed financial relief in exchange for hosting a visiting professor. The family accepts and await the arrival of Richard Wirth (Michael Fassbender), an SS academic dispatched to America in search of ancient runestones purportedly deposited in the area by Viking explorers.

Using the Wollners as test subjects, Wirth seeks to harness the supernatural powers of the stones in bloody experiments designed to achieve immortality. The Wollners trap Wirth in a cellar but are forced to sacrifice locals to sustain both themselves and Wirth for the next seventy years until one victim, Victor Marshall (Dominic Purcell), escapes. Seeking revenge, Victor brings his brother Evan (Henry Cavill) back to the Wollner house and unwittingly free the now monstrously deformed and powerful Wirth. The Wollners reveal their dark secrets to Evan, particularly the practice of kidnapping and draining victims’ blood to keep Wirth and the ageless Wollner family alive. The Marshall brothers forge an alliance of convenience with the Wollners and plot to kill Wirth. Once Wirth is decapitated, the Wollners rapidly age and perish, but not before revealing SS leader Heinrich Himmler sent eight additional agents like Wirth to retrieve runestones in the area. The film ends with Evan packing a car with weapons, maps, and the secret to killing the Nazi occultists bleeding Appalachia dry.

The Marshall brothers, one a veteran and the other a first responder, battle the sinister Richard Wirth on a West Virginia farm

Joel Schumacher called Blood Creek a “Nazi zombie vampire movie” inspired by the Third Reich’s obsession with the occult. An admirer of Fritz Lang, Schumacher approximates the look and feel of German expressionism.[i] The film’s disturbing premise is that the Nazis were right– blood is mystical, powerful, and the key to immortality. Wirth declares the runestone on the Wollner farm proof “Nordic Gods were here” and that “those who came before rule the blood.”[ii] The film unwittingly gives credence to Nazi mythology and occult pseudo-science by portraying Wirth as a superior being whose presumptions about the power of blood and the runestones were correct all along. Wirth’s ultimate goal is to acquire a third eye, a reference to the ancient Aryan religious belief that an inner eye provides perception beyond normal sight.

As an SS “academic,” the immortal Wirth knows the power of blood

Wirth acquires the eye and extraordinary strength by consuming the blood of the weak, who are captured and presented to Wirth in an abandoned metal boxcar resembling the distinctive red boxcars synonymous with decades of Holocaust representation. Wirth failed to complete his mission of providing Hitler immortality, but he wreaks havoc on American soil in a quest for racial superiority. The Wollners are not without blame even if they too are victims of the infernal plot. Victor condemns them for inaction. He drags Mrs. Wollner (Joy McBrinn) to a window overlooking the boxcar and forces her to admit she did nothing to help him.[iii] As Evan marks the locations of other runestones a swastika takes shape on his map. Resolved to extirpate the Nazi zombie vampires entrenched in his unique American sub-culture, Evan, a veteran, jumps into a pick-up truck with a sizeable American flag emblazoned on its side and disappears into the bucolic landscape. Blood Creek portrays Nazi atrocities on American soil, not just in the past when the Third Reich projected evil globally, but in a post 9/11 environment marked by fear of terrorism and internal rot.[iv]

[i] Joel Schumacher, director’s commentary, Blood Creek, directed by Joel Schumacher (Gold Circle Films, 2009), DVD.

[ii] Blood Creek.

[iii] Walter Rankin, “Blood Creek” in Pulliam, 19-20.

[iv] Weber, 72.

The View from Hell: Dominion, Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) explores Father Merrin’s origin story, firmly entrenching his trauma and temporary loss of faith in a Holocaust narrative. Directed by Paul Schrader, Dominion begins in 1944 with a young Merrin (Stellen Skarsgǻrd) serving as a parish priest in a small Dutch town. An SS unit arrives seeking retribution for resistance activity in the area and herds the townspeople into the square. SS Lieutenant Kessel (Antonie Kamerling) forces Merrin to choose a few victims for arbitrary executions or watch the entire town murdered. Anguished and praying futilely, Kessel mocks a prostrate Merrin, “God isn’t here today.”[i] Merrin relents and picks a few morally compromised men, but the episode breaks him and prompts the priest to abandon his faith.

A few years later we encounter Merrin in a remote corner of British East Africa excavating an ancient Byzantine church along with a young and devout priest, Father Francis (Gabriel Mann). The remainder of the film depicts Merrin confronting Pazuzu after the demon possesses a young crippled boy named Cheche (Billy Crawford). The encounter forces Merrin to rediscover faith and courage to save his colleagues, helpless tribesmen, and prevent a massacre, this time at the hands of the British army. In a crucial moment during the exorcism of Cheche, Pazuza seduces Merrin with the chance to rewrite his past and return to that fateful moment in 1944, but Merrin realizes making a different choice would have changed nothing. Merrin accepts there is no changing the past and returns to Rome with renewed purpose.

The Holocaust pursues Merrin to Africa when he befriends Rachel (Clara Bellar), a survivor of the Chelmno death camp who serves as the village doctor. Merrin and Rachel are connected through their shared tragedy and survivor’s guilt. Rachel processed her trauma and serves as a guide of sorts for Merrin, who is still embittered by his experience. Rachel’s thoughts on evil are both the product of living through the Holocaust and the incommunicability of experience. She acknowledges most people simply will never understand. Rachel also teaches Merrin he is not alone. “No one wanted to believe,” she tells Merrin. “It is so much easier to believe evil is random, an ogre, not that it is a human condition, something everyone is capable of.”[ii] Rachel’s guilt mirrors Merrin’s, and by extension all survivors who climbed out of the abyss while so many others perished. “It’s amazing what you’re capable of when your physical survival is at stake,” she shares with him, “things you think you could never endure.”[iii] Pressing further, Rachel tells Merrin, “We are the same, you and I.”[iv]  However, whereas Merrin condemns God and eschews human contact, Rachel’s faith is strengthened and renewed as she devotes her life to healing the sick and protecting the weak. Sensing Merrin’s rage and abandonment of faith, Rachel offered her own perspective, “Sometimes I think the best view of God is from Hell.”[v]

Pazuza, who is threatened by Rachel’s influence on Merrin and the villagers, tries to undermine Merrin’s empathy and attraction to her. “She never helped other prisoners,” the demon taunts, “she traded her body for food, she betrayed her friends.”[vi] Merrin is closest to defeat when the demon offers him absolution from guilt. “There is one thing you can do,” Pazuzu offers a shaken Merrin, “you can cease to care.”[vii] Ultimately, Rachel saves Merrin from a life of nihilistic self-loathing. Decades later when Father Karras asks Merrin, “Why this little girl?” during Regan’s exorcism, we know his answer originates with the Holocaust.

Rachel assures Merrin he is not the only one who lives with guilt, grief, and regret.

Dominion, Barry Langford observes, suggest Nazi crimes “are simultaneously a manifestation of eternal, atavistic evil and the ‘entry point’ for this endlessly circulating malevolence to interfere in human affairs. Thus, an ‘explanation’ of sorts is proposed for the Holocaust, an event whose enormity renders it explicable only in metaphysical terms.”[i] Pazuza does not need the Holocaust to exist and thrive, just prolonged periods of human despair, weakness, and depravity. The Holocaust is the ideal portal through which an eternal evil can enter modernity and guide us towards our well-deserved apocalyptic end.

[i] Langford, 120.

[i] Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist, directed by Paul Schrader (2005: Warner Brothers), DVD.

[ii] Dominion, DVD.

[iii] Dominion, DVD.

[iv] Dominion, DVD.

[v] Dominion, DVD.

[vi] Dominion, DVD.

[vii] Dominion, DVD.

Banshee (2013-16): An Appreciation

Welcome to Banshee, a scenic wonderland best described as a demented Brigadoon. This small town in rural Pennsylvania acts like a black hole, attracting various international criminal overlords, drug cartels, neo-Nazis, heavily armed Indian racial activists, renegade Army units, and one ex-con jewel thief posing as Banshee’s sheriff. The world of Banshee runs on a magical dark energy – violent, chaotic, hypersexual, and relentless. Cinemax’s Banshee (2013-16) resembles the immensely popular Sons of Anarchy (2008-14), Kurt Sutter’s Shakespearean biker gang soap opera. Both shows seem to occur in an alternate universe where the normal rules of civilization, physics (when it comes to bullets and fighting), and narrative logic seldom apply. Like Banshee, SOA also features an endless parade of violent encounters in a similarly mythical town called Charming. In this northern California enclave, criminals, terrorists (the IRA for some reason) and inherently corrupt law enforcement leave piles of bodies in their wake week after week.

Banshee’s opening credits is a menacing sequence, part horror, part southern Gothic.

The drama in both shows revolves around a rough, charismatic anti-hero. Banshee’s is Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), whose real name is never revealed. Released from prison after fifteen years and on the run from his crime lord boss Rabbit (Ben Cross), the enigmatic master thief tracks down his ex-lover Anastasia (Ivana Miličević), Rabbit’s daughter, in Amish country.

On his first night in town he witnesses the new sheriff murdered during a robbery gone bad. Seizing the opportunity, the ex-convict assumes Lucas Hood’s identity to both hide from Rabbit and buy time to reconcile with Ana, who is now Carrie Hopewell. Ana is married to the district attorney and has two children, one of who is Hood’s. Hood struggles to maintain his new identity as a lawman while still embracing crime alongside his partners Job (Hoon Lee) and Sugar (Frankie Faison). Ana even comes out of retirement, drawn to Hood yet committed to preserving her safe, suburban idenity. Hood quickly runs afoul of the local kingpin, Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), a wayward son of the Amish community who built an impressive and enduring criminal empire in the heart of little Banshee.

Banshee criminal overlord Kai Proctor and niece Rebecca conduct business in the slaughterhouse

Whether it is evading Rabbit’s hordes of Eastern European hitmen, Proctor’s golem-like freak bodyguard Clay Burton (Matthew Rauch), or Redbones tribal gang leader Chayton Littlestone (Geno Segers), Lucas Hood acts as an unwitting agent of chaos for Banshee, simultaneously attracting and repelling threats to his adopted town. 

Its good to have friends (and accomplices). Sugar and Job save Hood from himself more than once.

Why do I love Banshee? Of course it is frivolous, escapist fare. Maybe that’s the answer, but its more than that. Banshee revels in its own absurdity and commits fully to crazy storylines in which this picturesque town becomes the center of the criminal universe. There are amazingly choreographed fight scenes between Hood and several monstrous men who could snap him like a twig in real life; equally energetic love scenes with women who, while stunningly beautiful, are complex characters with all the advanced fighting skills of their male counterparts; and Hood’s brooding and dark past, while cliché to an extent, is strangely compelling. The performances are strong. Antony Starr and Ivana Miličević are a smoldering ill-fated couple. Proctor’s excommunicated Amish niece Rebecca Bowman (Lili Simmons) is much more than a pretty face, she’s Proctor’s equal when it comes to ruthless Machiavellian maneuvers. Fans of The Wire will love seeing Frankie Faison as Sugar, the ex-boxer bar owner who becomes Hood’s confidante and ally. And Job, the trans computer genius played by Hoon Lee might have the most passionate fan base of them all.

What draws Lucas Hood to Banshee? Anastasia, aka Carrie Hopewell

Maybe because I just finished a re-watch of Mad Men, but I can’t help but think of Lucas Hood as a Don Draper character, and not just because they both steal someone’s identity to escape a disreputable past. We know Don Draper is Dick Whitman and as Mad Men unfolds Don’s armor is stripped off of the character, leaving him a painfully vulnerable, sobbing mess. Too many lies, too many reinventions, but perhaps the series’ conclusion suggests Don Draper has finally reconciled with Dick Whitman. True growth and a chance for happiness might exist.

Don Draper might finally be at peace with himself.

Hood became Hood to recapture a love that can never be with Ana. Like Don, Hood brings much of the chaos on himself, although the turmoil in Banshee is decidedly external and rarely internal. Banshee ends with the menacing Proctor finally brought down by his own avarice, at enormous cost, and Hood finally leaves Banshee on his Harley for a fate undetermined. Sugar urges Hood to open himself up to life, not just run away. “The past has kept you locked up long enough. Today, there is really one question left to ask yourself. What are you going to do now?” This seems to be the sentiment guiding Don Draper’s exit as well.

It is not exactly meditation and the ding of a bell signaling commercial nirvana, but there is optimism for a character who has suffered (and has caused so much suffering). Maybe Hood can leave one destructive identity behind and find some peace with himself. The Banshee Chamber of Commerce no doubt wishes him a long overdue farewell.

“Filth! Horror! Right in the middle of it and you don’t know it”: Traumatic Memory in The Pawnbroker (1965)

Sydney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (1965) is a searing portrait of a Holocaust survivor immersed in the desolation of an East Harlem pawnshop in the early 1960s.  Approaching the anniversary of his wife’s murder in a concentration camp brothel, Sol Nazerman (Rod Steiger) is flooded by debilitating memories of his murdered family as events force him to confront his complicity in the seedy underworld of crime and prostitution.  Nazerman’s only human connections outside the endless stream of “pathetic creatures” unloading what’s left of their lives for a few dollars is Jesus (Jaime Sánchez), his enthusiastic and idealistic Puerto Rican employee, Tessie (Marketa Kimbrell), the beautiful but broken widow of Nazerman’s deceased best friend with whom Sol carries on a passionless relationship, Mendel (Baruch Lumet), Tessie’s decrepit and dying father-in-law, and the kindly Marilyn Birchfield (Geraldine Fitzgerald), a social worker who tries to befriend Sol amid his spiraling crisis.  Sol’s American relatives live in a faceless Long Island suburb and bicker excitedly over a trip to the “old country” which claimed their family.  Living off of Sol’s ill-gotten wealth, the family is oblivious to his turmoil, let alone the incommensurable horror of the Holocaust.  Sol is in “a self-imposed exile in a soulless graveyard of memory. . . .”, to quote one discerning review.[i] Once a professor of literature in a verdant and welcoming Germany, Sol lives out his days in the ghetto channeling two millennia of antisemitic stereotypes.  A pawnbroker, the Wandering Jew, Sol agrees to teach Jesus “gold” and crushes the youth’s spirit when he exclaims bitterly that money is the only thing that matters in the world.  Nazerman’s body is still here, but his spirit, his humanity died in the camp.  The Pawnbroker explores the post-traumatic degradation of the individual measured against the wider degradation of society.

Marilyn Birchfield tries and fails to connect to Holocaust survivor Sol Nazerman

Sol’s environment is ostensibly far removed in time and space from the concentration camp, but Lumet’s use of flashbacks conflates the two in Sol’s mind.  Sol exiles himself daily to the impoverished ghetto community of East Harlem as if subconsciously seeking out an American variant of the human misery he left behind in Europe. Sol’s American relatives badger him into loaning them money for a European vacation, desiring the “sights, sounds and smells” of old Europe.  Sol quips bitterly, “Rather like a stench, if I remember.”[ii]  But the stench is not in the past, on another continent; it is his present as well.  Sol toils amid pervasive violence and crushing poverty as his clients wander into the pawnshop hawking anything and everything while he impassively absorbs their sad stories.

  Lumet, Frank Cunningham observes, “visually reveals both the pawnbroker and the street youths as similarly victims of their social and psychological environment.”  Lumet films Sol and his wretched customers as if trapped behind the bars of the pawnshop.  Sol is as much a prisoner of his circumstance as the “creatures” he trades with, although he has the means to escape.  “The cage of Nazerman’s experience is visually reinforced at several places in the film’s narrative,” Cunningham concludes.[iii] 

Sol Nazerman’s pawnshop helps launder money for a criminal named Rodriguez, played brilliantly by Brock Peters. Rodriguez’s money comes primarily from prostitution and theft.  Sol presumably knows this, but he is indifferent to this reality until his traumatic memories begin to intrude.  Sol’s wife was raped repeatedly by SS officers in a concentration camp brothel before succumbing.  In one flashback Sol is forced to watch.  When Jesus’ girlfriend (Thelma Oliver), a prostitute, tries to seduce Sol, disrobing and asking for money, Sol’s trauma sends him reeling. He loses himself in a city whose collective misery he finally begins to see and feel.  Summoning some semblance of courage, Sol goes to Rodriguez’s pristine white apartment and confronts him about their arrangement.  Rodriguez is a cultured, wealthy, homosexual criminal dressed in a tailored white suit who seems to know and admire Sol despite the unequal relationship.  Rodriguez insists on addressing Sol as “professor,” which makes Sol wince every time he hears it, a painful reminder of a past life.  Rodriguez clinically and cruelly dissects Sol’s sudden burst of moral righteousness.

In a perverse sense, Rodriguez is Sol’s spiritual navigator by virtue of demolishing what’s left of his heretofore impenetrable wall.  It is not the kindly Marilyn Birchfeld or the eager protégé Jesus who returns Sol the land of the living – it is the icy gangster Rodriguez. The Pawnbroker never tries to conflate the Holocaust with urban blight and systemic racism in America; Lumet is much more subtle and talented for that. However, the film does remind us the root of all evil is indifference to other people’s suffering.

[i] Celluloid Liberation Front, “Senses of Cinema, Auschwitz-Harlem:  Post-Traumatic Economy in The Pawnbroker”, Senses of Cinema, Issue 59, June 2011, http://sensesofcinema.com/2011/feature-articles/auschwitz%c2%ad%e2%80%93harlem-post-traumatic-economy-in-the-pawnbroker/ [accessed July 3, 2019].

[ii] The Pawnbroker, directed by Sydney Lumet (1965: Artisan Entertainment, 2003), DVD.

[iii] Frank R. Cunningham, “The Insistence of Memory: The Opening Sequence of Lumet’s Pawnbroker”, Literature/Film Quarterly 7, no. 1 (1989), 295.

“Look at the flowers, Lizzie”: Moral Injury in The Walking Dead

All characters in The Walking Dead (TWD) suffer from moral injury, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder common in extreme situations like warfare or genocide.  “Moral injury,” George Hagman notes, “implies that one’s experiences are not just inconsistent with previously held moral expectations, but have the power to negate and possibly pervert them.”  The truly frightening and tragic realization in TWD is that moral injury “is a legitimate and understandable adaptive response to real experiences of moral collapse, or worse, the perpetration of ethically nihilistic acts, or outright evil.”[i]  Those who take pleasure in killing walkers or use them for any number of unorthodox purposes are portrayed as abnormal and dangerous.  The Governor deployed walkers in gladiator games meant to amuse Woodbury’s residents; he kept severed walker heads in fish tanks so he could watch his enemies suffer in eternity; and he hid his walker daughter in a secret compartment, feeding her raw meat.  Negan also uses walkers as weapons against the living and depraved decorations.  An educated audience surely recognizes similarities between this abhorrent behavior and the horrific stories of Nazis collecting trophies from murdered Jews, displaying human skin lampshades, extracting gold teeth, and forcing Jews to perform or compete in twisted games for the SS’s pleasure.  

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan; group – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The effects of moral injury in TWD are most dramatically manifested in children, especially Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino).  Like many children Lizzie is disconnected from the old world and its attendant rules and ethics; the only life she knows is the zombie apocalypse.  Consequently, Lizzie and her younger sister Mika (Kyla Kenedy) sympathize with the walkers, seeing them as pets or a different incarnation of people they once knew.  Traumatized concentration camp prisoners, George Hagman writes, similarly experienced “an almost fatal state of desensitization accompanied by identification with death and the dead.”[ii]  Hagman argues convincingly that Lizzie, a vessel of the values and ethics signifying the new post-apocalyptic world, “may be the most terrifying person in the series.”[iii]  We first encounter Lizzie and Mika behind the fences of the prison Rick’s group has transformed into a functioning society, complete with gardens, livestock, an improvised school, library, and hospital.  Carl catches them waving and naming the walkers pressed against the perimeter fence.  “They’re not dead,” Lizzie says, “they’re just different.”  Carl, who bears the scars of his own moral injury, admonishes the sisters, “They’re not people, and they’re not pets.”[iv] Carol (Melissa McBride), who begins the apocalypse a cowering housewife before becoming one of the shrewder and more resourceful characters, adopts the girls as her own after their father is killed by walkers.  Carol is intent on preparing them for life’s harsh realities.  When Lizzie tells Carol the walkers are just people who come back, Carol is slow to grasp how delusional Lizzie has become.  Carol assures her, “People aren’t who they were.”  Lizzie is adamant, “Yeah, but they’re something. They’re someone.  We all change. We don’t say the same as we started.”[v]  For Lizzie, walkers are part of the circle of life, a rite of passage for all of us. 

Lizzie and Mika are children of the apocalypse suffering from deep moral injury.

Months after the Governor destroys the prison and scatters Rick’s group to the four winds, Carol, Tyrese (Chad Coleman), Rick’s baby Judith, and Mika and Lizzie fend for themselves in the Georgia countryside.  Lizzie is getting worse.  We see her contemplate smothering Judith to keep her from crying.  One evening Lizzie asks Carol about her daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz), who is killed soon after the apocalypse.  “She didn’t have a mean bone in her body,” Carol says.  Lizzie is perceptive, but chilling in response, “Is that why she isn’t here now?” [vi]  Lizzie later entices a walker to the farmhouse they are residing in temporarily, dressing it in flowers and playing “tag” on the lawn.  Carol destroys it, sparking another Lizzie outburst, who again will not accept that the walkers are dead.  In her mind Carol “killed” the walker.

Walker and Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) – The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

  Lizzie commits arguably the most horrific act in the series when she plunges a knife into her sister Mika to “bring her back” and prove to Carol and Tyrese that being a walker is natural, better.  Carol and Tyrese discover Mika’s white corpse and Lizzie with knife in hand, ready to murder baby Judith next.  Carol knows there is no recourse.  Carol walks Lizzie into a grove of flowers, offering her soothing and comforting words, and shoots her in the back of the head.  Hagman writes the “combination of loving support and murderous intent in this scene is terrifying.”[vii] 

Lizzie is irretrievably damaged in a world populated by the damaged, but we are also stunned by Carol’s decisiveness.  Carol realizes Lizzie violates the boundaries between the living and the walking dead by inviting the walkers into the broader post-apocalyptic community.   

[i] Hagman, 9-10.

[ii] Hagman, 15.

[iii] Hagman, 15.

[iv] “30 Days Without an Accident”, The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 1, Netflix, directed by Greg Nicotero, October 13, 2013.

[v] “Indifference”, The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 4, Netflix, directed by Tricia Brock, November 3, 2013.

[vi] “The Grove”, The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 14, Netflix, directed by Michael E. Satrazemis, March 16, 2014.

[vii] Hagman, 15.

“Sink back into the ocean” The Affair (2014-2019) as Dystopian Parable

The opening credit sequence to Showtime’s The Affair (2014-2019) features Fiona Apple’s haunting original song “The Container.” The lyrics and the imagery portend a woman’s death as she “sinks back into the ocean.” The ocean is more than just a picturesque backdrop for this relationship drama set in the Hamptons town of Montauk; it is associated with the unrelenting grief and sorrow of its protagonists and the rapid decline of civilization itself.  The Affair explores the far-reaching consequences of an affair between Noah Solloway (Dominic West), a frustrated writer summering in Montauk with his in-laws, and Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson), a local waitress tormented by her son’s drowning death. What begins as a moment of passion and connection between two damaged souls profoundly alters the lives of their families for generations. From the painful consequences of divorce and second marriages to the more extreme scenarios of manslaughter, imprisonment, and even murder, The Affair expands its universe of suffering and family drama with each season, culminating in a final season partially set decades after Noah and Alison first meet.

I have no interest in relating all of The Affair’s twists and turns over the course of five seasons. I am trying to be as spoiler-free as possible, but I do want to highlight the ways in which the series connects the destructive aftermath of Noah and Alison’s extramarital relationship to a dystopian future characterized by chronic environmental disasters like wildfires and, of course, the coasts sinking “back into the ocean.” It is telling that The Affair was plagued by its own drama, specifically Ruth Wilson’s mysterious sudden departure from the cast after season four. Wilson later claimed the set was a “hostile environment” where she was pressured into uncomfortable sex scenes and excessive nudity. Her character’s violent death seems disturbingly personal on the part of the showrunners. Alison is assaulted by a love interest who finishes the job by, you guessed it, drowning her in the ocean. Her death ruled a suicide, which no one has a problem believing, Alison leaves a daughter, Joanie, who was conceived with her ex-husband Cole (Joshua Jackson).

Noah and Alison begin an affair with far-reaching consequences.

Season five is a story of redemption for Noah, who reconciles with his ex-wife Helen (Maura Tierney) and his estranged children. The second storyline concerns an adult Joanie (Anna Paquin) traveling to Montauk and discovering the truth about her mother’s murder. Although separated by thirty years, Noah and Joanie come to grips with their demons amid environmental disaster. It is as if the disintegration of these families is mirrored by the humanity’s own self-destructive spiral. Joanie contends with her own existential despair working as a coastal engineer and grappling with her issues as a disinterested mother and wife. Joanie is watching the planet die, as her visit to Montauk proves. Once a beautiful locale for the rich, Montauk is now a gloomy and eerie wasteland surrendering to global warming. The scenes with Joanie remind me of dystopian 70s sci-fi films and at first seem strangely out of place with the rest of the series. But what if this wrenching drama was really about the end of the world all along?  

Joanie Lockhart returns to dying Montauk as a coastal engineer in The Affair’s final season.

Noah’s storyline begins in contemporary Los Angeles. His moment of truth occurs during one of the many raging wildfires consuming California every season like clockwork. Noah and Helen negotiate fiery highways, scorched hills and burning neighborhoods, barely escaping death while watching others meet theirs. The two make amends after Noah admits all his failures stemming from the fateful affair. The story comes full circle at their daughter’s wedding in Montauk, but the final scenes bring together a very old Noah and his one-time step daughter Joanie. It seems Noah bought the Lobster Roll, the restaurant where everything started in The Affair, and still operates it despite Montauk being a wasteland. The two characters sit at the same table Noah first met Alison and tell their tales. Noah helps bring Joanie some kind of closure and maybe a chance for happiness.  Noah is a widower now, but his children are back in his life and flourishing. In the final scene Noah remembers the wedding where he reconciles with Helen and does a little dance to Fiona Apple’s happier “The Whole of the Moon” on the site of his in-laws’ old house, now swallowed by the ocean. It is bitter-sweet.

Noah Solloway dances amid the ruins of the once mighty Montauk coastline .

Many people gave up on The Affair after Ruth Wilson’s departure, and I get that, but I was moved by the last season and its admittedly muddled subtext. Just because the world is a disaster doesn’t mean you can’t extract some joy out of life before its all over. After all, we all sink back into the ocean.

“Whatever happened to Rosemary’s baby?”

Rosemary’s Baby, the second film in the Apartment Trilogy and arguably one of Roman Polanski’s best directorial efforts, is drawn from Ira Levin’s novel.  Levin took his own anxiety about impending fatherhood and crafted an engrossing and darkly comic story about young New Yorkers becoming parents to Satan’s child. When Paramount producer Robert Evans acquired the rights he sent the novel to Polanski assuming the Holocaust survivor would have a unique perspective on evil.[1] He was right. “I don’t have a relationship to evil,” Polanski said in a 1999 interview. “I’ve never believed in occultism or the Devil, and I’m not at all religious. I’d rather read science books than something about occultism. When it comes to cinema, evil is simply a form of entertainment to me.”[2] Taking its place among the greatest horror films ever made, critic Rich Cohen credits Rosemary’s Baby with giving birth to a genre that includes The Omen and The Exorcist. “It now seems less like horror, more like social commentary,” he writes. “It’s not about the devil and it’s not about madness. It’s about men and women and when they do to each other. It’s our world in microcosm – that’s the curse. It says more than it wants to. In the way of great art, it captures a beast it did not know it was hunting.”[3]   

Whatever happened to Rosemary’s baby? Damien might be the answer.

The film begins with Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) moving into the Bramford, a Manhattan apartment building with a colorful past, namely cannibalism, murder and witchcraft.  The ambitious and artistic couple soon meet their elderly and eccentric neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer). Rosemary befriends Terry (Victoria Vetri), a young woman and recovering drug addict living with the Castevets, but Terry soon hurls herself out of a seventh-floor window to her death (a theme in the trilogy). Once Minnie learns Rosemary and Guy are trying to get pregnant, the Castevets take an active interest in their lives, securing for them an exclusive doctor, providing Rosemary a tannis root “good luck” charm, and preparing special drinks and meals infused with herbal supplements. As Guy struggles to make it big as an actor, Rosemary is left isolated in the increasingly menacing and strange apartment and forced to accommodate Minnie’s incessant meddling. In an abrupt turnaround, Guy welcomes Minnie and Roman’s friendship and begins landing lucrative acting jobs. One night, Rosemary has a horrifying nightmare about being raped by the Devil on John F. Kennedy’s yacht, but the next morning Guy assures her he simply had sex with her in her sleep to keep their schedule. Now pregnant, Rosemary experiences months of pain and disorientation while the Castevets become more intrusive than ever.  Hutch (Maurice Evans), a family friend who warned Rosemary about moving into the troubled Bramford apartment building, urges Rosemary to abandon the regimen prescribed by the Castevets and their doctor, Abe Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy).  Hutch begins investigating the Castevets and discovers their long history with the occult and satanism, but he falls into a coma before he can reach Rosemary. When Hutch dies Rosemary comes into possession of his research and discerns the truth about the Bramford, the Castevets, and her pregnancy. The Castevets and Sapirstein are part of a coven, and Guy made a pact with the Devil in exchange for fame and fortune. At first Rosemary believes the witches want her child for evil purposes, but the film concludes with the horrible realization that her son Adrian is the son of Satan. With the coven assembled in the Castevets’ apartment, Rosemary warily approaches her demonic son in his black bassinet and cradles him, smiling.

Rosemary and Guy in simpler times.

The genius of Rosemary’s Baby is that, like the protagonists in Repulsion and The Tenant, we are watching a woman’s slow descent into insanity, but this time the Rosemary’s fears seem warranted. As Rosemary cries out during her surrealist rape by the Devil, “This is no dream. This is really happening!”[4] Everyone from her husband, the annoying neighbors, to the kindly old Dr. Sapirstein seem to have Rosemary’s best interests at heart, yet an immense conspiracy envelops the hapless young woman to the point she loses her mind. We believe her, but the rest of the world either dismisses Rosemary as a hysterical woman or is in on the Satanic plot. Every time she tries to leave the apartment and seek help Rosemary is dragged back to the sanctum to perform her only role, birthing Satan’s son. The horror in this iconic film unfolds slowly and from unexpected quarters. The only overt sign of monstrosity are the piercing yellow eyes of Rosemary’s rapist, the Devil himself. Although we do not see Adrian, Roman assures Rosemary, “he has his father’s eyes.”[5] Rosemary is suffocated by the apartment, her duplicitous husband, the neighbors, male doctors who are accustomed to compliant female patients, and society’s timeless expectations concerning what constitutes maternal behavior, as evidenced by the film’s ambiguous conclusion. “Rather than fight the oppressive rule of her captors,” Nick Yarborough writes, Rosemary “appears to have finally surrendered—content to be a prisoner of the apartment if it means being with her baby—consequences be damned.”[6] While Damien “The Omen” ascends to the top of the socio-political hierarchy simply by maneuvering existing institutions, reinforcing the patriarchal foundation of the civilization he will conquer, Rosemary is a disposable pawn used by the patriarchy to perform one function – birth the Antichrist. “Whatever happened to Rosemary’s baby?” audiences asked in the years after the film’s release. Perhaps The Omen trilogy is an answer.   

Rosemary’s is controlled by men, from her husband to her doctors to Satan himself.

 As in most of Polanski’s work, Rosemary’s Baby does not reference the Holocaust or antisemitic imagery directly, but the film features “Jewish” characters and characteristics. Minnie and Roman’s personality and mannerisms, particularly Minnie’s passive aggressive nudging of Rosemary throughout the pregnancy are coded as Jewish. Sapirstein is an authoritative and avuncular doctor resembling a more rotund Sigmund Freud.  Furthermore, the cabal is engaged in a vast conspiracy involving witchcraft and the theft of children. After receiving Hutch’s research, Rosemary’s eyes widen reading about coven rituals in which an infant’s blood is drained. The manuscript is reminiscent of the infamous blood libel accusations plaguing Jews since the medieval era. Polanski plays with the stereotypes not to inflame passions, but to achieve a comical affect. That a coven of eccentric yentas and octogenarian professionals can hatch such a conspiracy in the comfort of their living room is absurd, yet strangely convincing, especially from Rosemary’s admittedly frantic perspective.

Roman Polanski’s adeptly invokes the peep hole once again in Rosemary’s Baby

The most unsettling aspect of the film is not that Rosemary is victimized by Satanists, but that she surrenders, that she is complicit. We also cannot dismiss the idea that the entire episode is in fact a hallucination. When interviewers observed Polanski’s characters are “always helpless at the end of your films,” the director replied that showing your hero triumphant “leaves the audience satisfied. And there’s nothing more sterile than the state of satisfaction.”[vii] Perhaps by necessity given his experience as both a victim and perpetrator, Roman Polanski observes the world through an absurdist lens, and from a distance. “I’m interested in what makes you tick,” Charlie Rose said, pressing Polanski to reveal more in an interview. “I know you are,” Polanski replied curtly, “But I’m not.”[viii]

[1] Rich Cohen, “‘Rosemary’s Baby’ 50 Years Later,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2018.

[2] Cronin, 175.

[3] Cohen.

[4] Rosemary’s Baby, directed by Roman Polanski (1968: Criterion Collection), DVD.

[5] Rosemary’s Baby, DVD.

[6] Yarborough.

[vii] Cronin, 44.

[viii] Cronin, 188.

Hiding in the Shadows: Outpost (2008) & Outpost: Black Sun (2012)

Outpost (2008) and Outpost: Black Sun (2012) pits contemporary mercenary soldiers against reanimated Nazi apparitions in a bunker deep inside Eastern Europe. These military horror films combine Nazi occultist pseudo-science, zombie/ghost super soldiers, and unscrupulous capitalist ventures into the plots. The story begins with a shady businessman, Hunt (Julian Wadham), approaching ex-Royal Marine turned mercenary, D.C. (Ray Stevenson) with a lucrative offer to escort Hunt to an abandoned bunker inside unspecified hostile territory. D.C. gathers his international unit of mercenaries and arrive to find the Nazi outpost littered with body parts, shaved and naked corpses, and an undead SS battalion. Ghosts methodically stalk and kill the soldiers in the shadows. Hunt admits his real goal is to acquire a Nazi device he calls “the holy grail of physics,” a machine capable of altering reality by bending space and time, creating an “alter reality.”[i] The mercenaries screen old films comparing the Nazi experiment with the failed Philadelphia Experiment, but the Nazis were apparently successful. The SS soldiers pop in and out of the bunker, inhabiting multiple dimensions, and picking off the intruders one by one. We learn the mountain of corpses are not victims of cruel experiments or atrocities, but German soldiers sent to destroy the outpost before it was overrun and used as fodder for the machine. D.C. and a few survivors stage a last stand against the ghost battalion, but their plan to use the machine against the apparitions falls apart. Outpost concludes with a NATO team arriving at the bunker to face the reenergized (literally) SS soldiers.  

Mercenaries hiding their own dark pasts confront Nazi ghost soldiers in Outpost (2008)

Outpost is awash in what can only be described as a Holocaust aesthetic – the look and feel of the bunker, its secluded location in the woods, and naked corpses stacked like cordwood in cold, brick rooms. This murderous space in a place time forgot is one we have seen before. The SS battalion is caught between fields, projecting themselves in the present with phantom gunfire, Beethoven music, and animated films portraying the super soldiers overtaking North America. That Nazi science could accomplish what Einstein and the Allies could only speculate about – unified field theory – awards the Third Reich a posthumous victory over “Jewish science.” Hunt’s relentless search for the magnificent invention underscores corporate greed and a cavalier disregard for World War II’s horrible legacies. Without Hunt’s corporate patronage the SS battalion would never have left the isolated and dormant bunker. D.C. and his band of rough mercenaries clearly have a dark past of their own, each hailing from a different corner of the blood-soaked globe. Their confrontation with the ghost battalion is a metaphorical battle with themselves, their atrocities, and the myriad reasons why none of them can ever go home again. As the absurdity and hopelessness of their plight sinks in, the gaunt mercenary, Prior (Richard Brake) quips to D.C., “We’ve killed everyone else. It’s about time we touched gloves with some Nazis.”[ii] Prior knows a reckoning is near, and perhaps dying at the hands of Nazis is poetic justice for the lives he and his comrades chose.  

Outpost: Black Sun provides the backstory for the ghost battalion by introducing SS scientist General Klausener (David Gant), the genius behind the time and space bending device inside the bunker. Lena (Catherine Steadman), a young Jewish Nazi hunter intent on avenging her family’s murder in the Holocaust, interrogates one of Klausener’s associates dying in an old age home in South America and discovers information leading to the bunker. Neurath (Michael Byrne) scoffs at Lena’s pathetic search for justice, but hints at the true power of Klausener’s invention: “The Reich of a thousand years has not been hiding from the likes of you. It has simply been hiding in the shadows.”[iii] Lena learns Neurath and Klausener dispatched Hunt to secure the bunker on their behalf and previous missions disappeared without a trace. Lena travels to Europe and meets Wallace (Richard Coyle), a physicist who cautions her against following him to the bunker.  She insists the two join forces with a professional NATO unit sent to destroy the ghost soldiers. Wallace tries to convince Lena killing Klausener is not enough. “They’ll always be somebody else,” he says, “Another Klausener . . . .” Lena is indifferent at first, “Yeah, well, the next one won’t be my problem.”[iv]

Lena, the avenging Jewish granddaughter of Holocaust victims, destroys the infernal machine resurrecting Nazi ghosts in Outpost: Black Sun (2012)

Lena changes her mind after discerning the magnitude of the danger and realizes killing one Nazi war criminal is insufficient. SS Brigadeführer Götz (Johnny Meres), who disguised himself as a victim in Outpost, strapped the still living Hunt to the device and expanded the energy field thereby enabling the ghost battalion to operate further away from the bunker.  Since the events of Outpost the battalion resumes terrorizing and massacring nearby villages like the Nazis of old. Lena and Wallace convince the tortured Hunt to sacrifice himself and finally destroy the device and the ghost army with it. Before initiating the risky plan, Lena tells Wallace, “Two days ago I thought all of this was about what these people had done. But its not, its only ever about what they were going to do.”[v] Lena, the millennial Nazi hunter realizes Neurath was correct – the Third Reich was hiding in the shadows, and presumably always will. Eternal vigilance is the only truly effective weapon in this war against an ideology that defies time and space.

[i] Outpost, directed by Steve Barker (Black Camel Pictures, 2008), DVD.

[ii] Outpost.

[iii] Outpost: Black Sun, directed by Steve Barker (Black Camel Pictures, 2012), DVD.

[iv] Outpost: Black Sun.

[v] Outpost: Black Sun.

Looking into the Abyss: The Keep (1983)

The Keep is a mesmerizing and incomprehensible arthouse horror film directed by Michael Mann.[i] Set in Romania in 1941, a Germany army unit led by Captain Klaus Woermann (Jürgen Prochnow) occupies a remote village adjacent to a strategic mountain pass. The village is home to an abandoned citadel known as the Keep. The Keep is protected by orthodox priest Father Fonescu (Robert Prosky), who warns Woermann about the consequences of disturbing its inner sanctum. Several German soldiers are killed and mutilated after trying to pry silver crosses embedded in the walls of the Keep. SS Sturmbannführer Erich Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne) arrives to root out suspected partisan activity and evaluate the Keep for a possible future death camp.[ii]

The “Good German” and the “Bad German” debate the nature of evil in The Keep

Unbeknownst to the Germans, the looting and SS probing in the Keep unleashes the millennia old demon Radu Molasar (Michael Carter).  Fonescu urges Woermann and Kaempffer, who clearly despise each other, to rescue a Jewish professor named Theodore Cuza (Ian McClellan) from a concentration camp because only he can decipher the Keep’s mysterious messages. Molasar reveals himself after sucking the essence of two Germans who threaten to rape Eva Cuza (Alberta Watson), the professor’s daughter. Molasar becomes enraged when he learns the Germans are terrorizing his people and disturbing the Keep. Professor Cuza, who is becoming younger and healthier after being touched by Molasar, agrees to acquire a talisman that can liberate Molasar from the Keep. The plan is foiled by the appearance of a stranger with supernatural abilities named Glaecken (Scott Glenn), an enigmatic figure who has a past with Molasar. Glaecken seduces Eva in hopes she will stop her father from helping Molasar.  Meanwhile, Woermann confronts Kaempffer about SS atrocities and claims Molasar is simply a reflection of the evil Germany is spreading across Europe. Kaempffer kills Woermann and flees the Keep, but Molasar finds him and massacres all the Germans in the village. Enraged by Eva’s allegiance to Glaecken, Molasar demands the professor kill his daughter. When Cuza refuses he returns to his withered state. Glaecken steps in and battles Molasar, weakening him enough that he is forced back into the Keep. Glaecken transforms into the Keep’s seal, ensuring Molasar will never return. The film ends with the villagers, now liberated from both the Germans and Molasar, caring for Eva and the decrepit Professor Cuza.

The Keep is an interesting meditation on evil and the moral dilemmas concerning vengeance. The inclusion of a character like Woermann to counteract the stereotypically sadistic Kaempffer demonstrates levels of complicity in the Third Reich without resorting to reductive representations of “good” and “bad” Germans. Woermann is jaded by war and indifferent to ideology, sardonically telling his idealistic young soldiers, “Now we are masters of the world.”  Woermann is a “humane man” in the eyes of the elderly Jewish Professor Cuza. Woermann demonstrates this by savagely ridiculing Kaempffer’s SS fairytales and evil global agenda: “Who are you meeting in the grim corridors of this Keep? Yourself.” Facing Molasar for the first and last time, Kaempffer is transfixed by the creature who will consume him, “Who are you, where are you from?” Molasar stares deep into his eyes, “Where am I from? From you.” If Woermann is not entirely bad, Professor Cuza is not entirely noble. Cuza views Molasar as a possible Golem to avenge the Jews, and like the myth, he is unable to fully control the creature. Father Fonescu accuses Cuza of being a heretic for considering Molasar’s offer, revealing his own religious antisemitism in the process. Cuza shrugs off Fonescu’s rant, “What happens in this world is worse than anything he [Molasar] could do.” As Molasar becomes stronger and the village descends into murderous chaos, Cuza realizes he was reckless and blinded by hate, “You are the same evil outside this place,” he tells Molosar, “You prove yourself to me!”[iii] It took the German army to disturb the Keep and the SS to unleash Molasar’s wrath. As the most reflective character, Woermann instinctively recognized the connection between the ancient, dormant evil and the modern evil sweeping the planet. Molasar assures Professor Cuza he will “consume their [Nazi] lies” upon learning of SS executions in the village. However, as the film implies, deciding to fight evil with evil endangers one’s own humanity in the process.   

[i] Chris Alexander, “In Defense of Michael Mann’s THE KEEP,” Comingsoon.net, October 29, 2015, http://www.comingsoon.net/horror/news/747457-defense-michael-manns-keep [accessed August 22, 2018]. Michael Mann faced numerous production problems and was forced to cut the length of the film in half, factors contributing to the illogical narrative and surreal atmosphere.

[ii] Fernando Gabriel Pagoni Berns, “Strategic Military Reconfiguration in Horror Fiction: The Case of F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep and Graham Masterston’s The Devils of D-Day” in Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin van Riper, eds., The Undead on the Battlefield: Horrors of War (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 176.

[iii] The Keep, directed by Michael Mann (Paramount Pictures, 1983), DVD.