Rev., Aug 5, 2019.
This is another deep summer piece. Spoiler alert, recommended viewing movie first, it’s on Amazon Prime.
Once more, a consideration of the murders on Cielo drive on August 9, 1969, this time involving the not bad movie, The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019), which, surprisingly, had several strengths to it. This is especially true, since dreaming seems to be at the core, in the dreamlike nature of some of the proceedings. This starts out early. The movie does an excellent job of suturing in a location of a house or houses that look pretty much like the now demolished house on Cielo drive, for this it makes a clear statement of intent that it believes something about the hills and canyons of the surroundings contributed to the strange rendering of the deaths. In my way of thinking, the movie does this by moving out from the strictly hypnagogic, to the ambient, where things spin around the perimeter. This then creates a mental space between the core of the hypnagogic mind and the locale of the ambient, things spinning like earworms in the head up at the edges, which opens up a lot of paths from inside to outside, to capture a feeling. This starts early, when as the movie recaps the events with headlines, etc., we get a very strange crawl, still, in the title, as the camera comes through a gate, and a path curves to the left in front of us.
then it breaks out into the open, with pool on the left, LA opening up wide in front, we see the body of Abigail Folger.
then the camera spins around over her, with more shots of the canyon, we come on the body of Woytek
In this case, the movie circles the house, between the house and the canyon. The geography is a bit off, as in real life the lawn at Cielo sloped down to the driveway, on the way out, where here it seems to dead end at the edge of the cliff, no way out, but it signals that there is a spinning, ambient spirit to this outing, that will be important. Indeed, the movie is filled with wide open shots of the hills, the canyon, and LA in the distance. We introduce the day, and it lets us know we are in the canyon
we get to night, and the view goes on the town, in whole, the whole overlook
when Sharon and Jay talk over her suspicions that Roman is having another affair, it is over the view
as the day before the killing comes, I think, there is even a shot that is telling us, this is going to be told backwards, it is the dOOdWYLIOH (“dude, woytek is a liar”) sign, this is good movie making (the roads too echo the strange cthulhulike Ouija board they used the night before too).
Sharon and Abigail go for a walk in the canyons, talking things over
the beautiful valley
but then we are reminded, it is wild, her dog, Saperstein, is killed
on the day of, ominous clouds
the full moon, its baleful sentience
in the murders, a surprising emphasis on the escapes of Woytek and Abigail, into the view
a view of the second Manson girl killing
again, the next night
when the actual murders occur, as in The Helter Skelter Murders (1971), there is Tex in the wildernessness of it, breaking the seal of sacred ground, as I analyzed it in that movie.
in an effect which weaves into others, which I talk about in a bit, Susan walks the perimeter, as if circling her prey, and house, trying to terrorize from without, in ambience, in encirclement.
then, the morning after
a great and meaningful shot, given what comes next, the HOLLYWOOd sign is ghostly in the fog
more scenery, wide, with a weirdly significant day moon, the High Light
Three things. First, just as a man standing over a view of a city from his penthouse office represents power, so too this wide ambient view emphasis puts the emphasis on Sharon’s star nature, and the fact, which is mentioned here, the only time I have heard it made mention of, cielo means heaven, this IS a device that, here as in the 1971 version, makes Cielo drive into a goddess’s temple.
Two, the American flag is used quite a bit in this movie, to symbolize the fact that the crime was an affront, or an embodiment of America at the time, it is America, this is about America. In real life, the American flag was placed there by Manson after the fact, precisely to make that point, this is me tearing down America, somehow it has survived as a primary trope of the killing, so that the killing, and the body of Sharon Tate, is symbol of the decline or whatever of America. This involves creating a simple nexus between a positive and a negative, to by their interactive spin, twist each over the other, positive over negative, negative over positive, to give the event a graphic pingpongy significance. Since the sign that the Romans carried in front of troop are called signa, I call this too, as I have before, a signa set up.
it is the same thing with the view, the view of LA, it says, at all times, when it backdrops the foreground shot, this is about LA in 1969, it is allegory of that time, it represents what LA was all about, it creates a nexus in the meaning of the events which elevates them for them to comment on something bigger or greater in the culture as a whole. Thus, it has that symbolic purpose, the creation of a signa, as the flag did.
But, finally, and more importantly, as I have worked it out, for a while, a horror movie has a certain tone based on where the scares come from, close or far from the core of life as experienced as the life force in the human body at the center of the action. If it is close, or “inside the head,” that is a hypnagogic horror movie, by far, overwhelmingly, the primary sight of horror movies; but if the movie spends more time worrying about the ambient forces circling it, then it is an ambient horror movie, American Werewolf in London, for example, is an ambient horror movie; it might cause problems in terms of reading the scares as scares, that they come in from ambient places; finally, there is the insentient, dark often natural or meteorological forces which sweep in, so as I have worked out in Argento’s Phenomena. This is an ambient horror movie, and if you sit down hoping for a hypnagogic one, then it is ambient, you are going to be off, in terms of catching everything. But, having put 10050 Cielo drive up in the canyon, high over the city, in the woods, basically in the wilds, the director has decided that it will be haunted primarily by ambient forces coming in on it. It is more like a cabin in the woods, than a house in the city.
But, now, the thing that probably confused viewers, and maybe did not seem scary to them, is that if you choose to make an ambient horror movie, then the scares must be in the currency, that is, of ambient scares. Thus, the scares which make Sharon more and more paranoid are primarily two.
First, she is annoyed that Manson has stopped by the house. She is freaked out by him, and when she learns that he has stopped by a lot, even been to a few parties, that is way worse. In real life, this incident happened once, only once, and it happened in March, 1969, it is conjectured that by this turnaway, Melcher having already moved, that, somehow, 10050 Cielo was converted into a symbol of everything that locked Manson out. But, here, we have it the night before the killing, this did not happen, though Manson did stop by after the killings on the night of, he knew where it was.
but we see Manson walk away, meaning that he is cast here, as her was not in life, as the bogeyman, whose spirit or evil vibe is encircling the house
this even causes her, in the movie’s least effective moments, to see him in the house, as a vision
the movie even suggests that Manson might’ve been there for the killings, he was not, but this part of it does not really work. Still, it is a haunting, it haunts her, it makes her feel trapped.
But, then, too, this also scares her because at the beginning of the movie she admits that a year in advance of the murders, she had a premonition, and it seemed a lot like the murders. She got up in the middle of the night
by her bed she sees Manson, so, in this aspect, Manson is simply a gray, or a hag attack figure, standing in the room of the sleeper, a nightmare, but seen as if real in a state of second-wake up hypnagogy.
but then, this figure has enough power to lead her into the main room
where she has a premonition of the murders.
This is possibly based on the premonition of danger that Tate felt in the Jay Sebring house, which is reported on Six degrees of Helter Skelter (2006), she did not have this at Cielo; or this version has moved up Manson’s stop bys, to become a major part of the haunting, in the process vacating the actual visit to Cielo drive by Manson, in March, at Cielo, and vacating that, they put a premonition dream into that slot, a simple rearrangement of the time frames. Still, it situates all hauntings as modelled on this premonition, with a gray of hag attack figure, embodied in this case by Manson, as the blueprint.
Then, when the hauntings based on this blueprint began to play out in the days leading up to August 9, there is a better aspect of it. She is woken up twice by the tape deck in Roman’s office going on and playing Manson’s song, this too freaks her out. But what this does is translate the ambient spin into a kind of haunting that would be classifiable as ambient, a sound, an acoustic haunting, an, in effect, earworm, which now spins in her head around her. in the first haunting, it is in the daytime, but the song makes her freak.
even worse, spinning the acoustic haunting back to the original haunting, that is, Manson roaming around the grounds, she finds not one, but a whole series of envelopes which Manson has left with Melcher, or at the door, mistakenly trying to get them to him that way, and they are scrawled with angry names, sickly, and there are a lot of him, that means that he has come here a lot, and Woytek is not telling her the truth.
this then fuels her feeling against Woytek and Abigail, and, later, the morning after her nightmare, she tears into them, in a very raw scene. Finally, Woytek has to confess that this man has been to a few parties (he never had, in life), but he did not know them.
But, though this haunting does not, in my view, yield any good hauntings, it is interesting, as an ambient spin.
This then also fuels a second ambient spin haunting when Sharon goes down to the trailer where Steven Parent lives as caretaker (in life, Garretson lived in a guest house, Parent stopped by the night of the murder over the sale of a tape deck, or something, then when coming out, drive right up to Tex, to get killed).
this is the occasion of the only back of head shot, which, as in Polanski’s Repulsion, and in so many other movies, means, all of this is in her head
she is following a paranoia that is in her headshe comes to Parent, to ask him to play the tape, to tell him if there is anything wierd about it. there is, he says it is coded, there is an encode.
this then clues into the use of subliminal messages, which was a thing then, for real in the 50s and early 60s, thought to be able to, then, in horror movies, brainwash people, like the Manchurian Candidate, but then it keeps going, it was a trope at the time, it is fun to see it here. This means that the evil tape deck really was trying to scare her, much like the evil music in Zombie’s Lords of Salem (2012).
He then, LOL, names the technique
and that it says Helter Skelter
the Beatles are mentioned, it’s from the White Album.
then, of course, Parent ascribes supernatural force to it, because this is a horror movie, making Sharon even more afraid that she was being hypnotized by a subliminal backmask message in the magic stereo that came on by itself, meaning that in audition Manson was also actually haunting, indoctrinating, suborning and seducing, it’s a pretty good idea.
The real reference, of course, is to the fact that Manson developed his whole evil theory of Helter Skelter and the end of the world, by way of the Beatles white album, and the song of that name. This suggests that in addition to simply using the music as a bible, he made use of a technique he found in it, in what songs at present I don’t know, but maybe Revolution Number 9, and then from that he worked out the technique to turn it into a supernatural hypnotizing force. So the trope takes one fragment of idea from the reality of Manson’s interest in the Beatles, his exploitation of them; then marries it to another, and even to the broader idea that it was through backmasking on subsequent albums that the Beatles communicated to the world and its fans that Paul was dead, which is also a good idea, an interesting spin is made. And this works in this context because, again, an acoustic haunting is ambient, it moves in ambient space, it is, therefore, consistent, as a sharpening into focus, to a close level, of the ambient haunting of Manson coming round to the house time and again to deliver these angry unwanted unsolicited tapes. It is a very good (it also reminds me of the not good little movie, which I nonetheless rather liked for its one core idea, Revolution 666, in which a local Beatles fan extracts from Revolution Number 9, a code of some sort of create of a dead body a walking zombie who takes up the costume and horror of the walrus that John appears as in Magical Mystery Tour, and in the song I am the Walrus, it’s fun, this too). Finally, it also weaves in over that, the whole immediate blame frame that was put about the event, that there is Satanism afoot, and this is a technique used by Satanists to steal people’s souls, etc.,
Finally, maybe a step too far, a bewegigungsapparat, to make it plausible, he claims there were telephone calls, and they were death threats, so, from here, the whole lore is regrounded in reality by being an extended variation on the most very common of acoustic terrors that seem to afflict people, still today, online, or by phone, death threats.
Finally, the reason why fusing ambient scares with a filmic determination to emphasize the ambient bubble, as it were, in which the killings took place, is that, in Six degrees of Helter Skelter (2006) and other treatments in documentary of the story, it is repeatedly mentioned that the gunshots were not heard, or heard oddly, with no bearing on location; that the screams were heard, but, again, with no one able to tell where they were coming from because the canyons are in effect acoustic black holes or Bermuda triangles where acoustics sound out, but, then, have no bearing. Time and again, this idea has struck me as maybe the most impressively haunting aspect of the hills and canyons, that the acoustics removes one from the norms of acoustic expectations on earth, and one is caught in a strange echo chamber where you have no bearings as to where it comes from. It is a kind of dizzy, or lack of balance that the valley suffers, for which is accommodates murder. In my world, each black hole of acoustics would be a type of demon.
This then, finally, is pulled back into the hypnagogic space, by her hiding out in the bathroom, upset at others, too paranoid to even open the door for Abigail. Then she calls Roman and completely freaks out, basically, to him, rehearsing in its entirety the idea that they are trying to steal her baby, that is, whomever is the roving ambient encircling family, maybe even with Wyotek and Abigail’s help, she is out of it.
But as she does this, it is as if the phone, the vessel of death threats, emits its acoustic power, to cause the bath to turn to blood. It really overflows
there is in fact a screen wipe river of blood scene, as completes this as a kind of shower-bath scene, going back to The Shining,
She sees, then, in the mirror, blood writing, it is RETLEH RETLEKS, which could echo on, I don’t know, one of the souls of the Egyptians, after death, but it is backmasked, that is the point.
then it screams a warning to her, this is by no means as sensible as REdRUM spelled out straight as MURder (and one of the funny things about reading King’s novel, The Shining, is that it is repeated often, clearly with the idea that no one picked up what redrum meant, and did not realize it until, in shock, late in the story, it flips; this did not work this work, but I am ok with any bloody bath scene, too bad she was not in it.
Then they get to the night of the killings, themselves, there is also woven in over it, an ambient spin, as noted. Again, in the actual event, the gang strolled right in. But, in this revised version, after Sharon has nightmare the actual, they barricade themselves, so the girls must try some psychological warfare on them, circling the house, ambiently, with an acoustic haunting, a creepy singing of a three little pigs song, which I didn’t know there was one, but which of course clues into PIG written on the door, and also again back to the White Album the Beatles song piggies (also to the aesthetic that the Beatles were getting ever deeper into, the pure folk song limerick like ditty). This, even though this movie outdoes others in showing the Manson girls as utterly spaced out obnoxious c*nts, I mean, really irritating.
but this “terror” made me laugh, because it does feed into Sharon’s idea that she lives in a fairy tale, she is, in fact, still a child woman, but then one of the core images that spooked me in my own childhood was an image in a Childcraft book of the wolf coming down the chimney crawlspace, who knows, maybe my interest in crawlspaces as sites of horror started there
that book also included some shots which terrified me as examples of what I now identify as lattice menacing shot, the still, menacing face, looking out over the image, the witch, a classic lattice view
Then, finally, to have it that Tex gets it in the ambient space, he comes to the trailer, to look for them, he is lead there by them having left Manson playing on the tape deck there, as he swings down, then circles around, we get an inside out shot, which, to me, is quite provocative, and atmospheric, he is walking to the Far Place door, the cursed door, he has splat, in nightmare, been injured, but now is walking a path over the roof as it were of REM, to the far door, swinging round.
and he meets his end way down at that far door, at the end of the property, Sharon taking the final head shot, and so by that protecting her property, and undoing the whole ambient spin of the haunting.
so, for all that, ambient hauntings make the movie, give it is special quality, but a quality which to some might seem obtuse.
But, then, there is, in fact, the hypnagogic core. This is symbolized by a very nice chthulike roulette eight ball tarot deck Ouija board which predicts the future. It symbolizes Sharon’s brain, really, it is an excellent symbol.
This amazing thing is, it is googlable, it is a transogram game from the 60s, Ka-bala
The movie is quite clear about this, it is a toy found in the basement
Here it is
they make all sorts of green crap, from the time, I can collect this , the green slime is close
A final detail of possible subscripted meaning here is that ka is a particular soul, the essential self, believed in by the Egyptians, and perhaps Bala is another, two together forming kabala, which, of course, this has nothing to do with, but Tate in the movie was reading a book about reincarnation, and theme is made use of the sew up the loose ends of philosophy at the end, so I would not put it past the movie having other occult references.
It is pretty funny, as a symbol of the central core, offcentered, caught in an in-between demon space, it speaks to the fact that she has mystic or occult beliefs, but they are also grounded in fairy tale beliefs, and as construed here as a kind of child-woman, which Hillary duff, former child star, would know of, and I think that it is that special intuition that made the movie work, she and Tate fusing, this is quite a perfect Strange Object, as well as the One Object that summarizes the whole movie. The fact that it is green, and part of a line of toys all of which made use of green, though they deferred from going to green miasmic ghosts in this one, it speaks to the green slime zone, meaning that we are in a zone where history can be rewritten, and that is just the way it is, it is haunted space, out over the ambient sea.
But it is also interesting that this Strange Object serves as a kind of clearinghouse for her anxiety, allowing for her to ask the game the kind of questions she has been asking her guests, upsetting them with all this talk. They play the game, with wine
they form a group, at that couch, near that American flag, and, in effect, offer another visual premonition of the killing, thus the game plays the part of the killing chaos at the center of things.
but, then, when they are called away to the door, Sharon looks away, and when asked if she will lead a long and healthy life, the game says no, Abigail and Jay mug a face at each other, don’t tell her that’s what came up. It is not unlike the moment of the drop of wine drop at the wedding in The deerhunter, a premonition that only we see, to give us the edge.
then the game spins out ambiently, back into the house, there is a knock at the door
Woytek goes to the door
with a close up on No, Sharon will not lead a long and healthy life, she does not see this because she follows Woytek to the door
we get the back of the head shot which equates her with the Ka bala, but says that this is all in her head
she assumes the famous position, to be seen by Manson (but, again, in real life, this happened during the daytime in March, not as part of a concerted three night assault on the place, culminating in the killings, so it is an entirely different harassment scenario
and by this shot, the black eight ball, with its eye, then supported by greenery, spins out to transfer back to Manson, seen as a blur.
then he goes back ambiently, to the car, the family in it, he drops the latest tape on the ground, leaving it (Woytek later admits they have been finding them all over the grounds, so almost like an airlift leaflet drop in a previous war, another form of ambient voiced acoustic spinning around the place), like a negative libation, a promise. a threat
it is a menacing act, I’ll be back, it says, it spells trouble (but, of course, all this is fictiona;). See Part 2.