Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Kink of Cthulhu

Did you ever notice that there is an above average percentage of geeks among us spanking bloggers and readers? I don't know why, exactly. Sure, we're on the internet and have largely the same demographics as all the other virtual communities. But I think that this is only part of the explanation. Beyond that, there seems to be an unusually strong correlation between kink and geekdom. Probably something to do with the fact that both types of people tend to have a fertile imagination and fantasize a lot. Maybe I'll write a lengthy study on it someday.

In the meantime, here is a "whipping scenes in movies" post geeks should love because it comes from the twisted, sanity-shattering world of Lovecraft horror: the 1986 B-movie splatterfest From Beyond. Be forewarned, the "kinky" scenes themselves are extremely lame, but the movie is interesting for a number of reasons. To begin with, it comes from the same team that created the outrageous horror-comedy classic Re-Animator: director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, screenwriter Dennis Paoli. Like its predecessor, "From Beyond" stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, was released by genre studio Empire Pictures and is loosely based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft. The two films can be watched as companion pieces, actually.

The plot bears little resemblance to the literary original: physics student Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) and his mentor Dr. Pretorius are experimenting with a so-called resonator, a machine that stimulates the pineal gland. Pretorius believes that the gland is a dormant sensory organ which would enable humanity to see beyond the borders of accepted reality. He succeeds, but the downside is that his resonator opens the door to a parallel universe inhabited by hostile alien creatures. One of them promptly bites off the doctor's head.

Tillinghast manages to escape, but is arrested as a murder suspect and locked in an insane asylum - obviously, the police dismiss his claims about unseen mysterious beings. However, psychiatrist Dr. McMichaels (Crampton) discovers that Tillinghast actually has an enlarged pineal gland and begins to believe his story. Together with the highly reluctant physicist and a policeman (Ken Foree of Dawn of the Dead fame), she travels to the Pretorius house to repeat the experiment and find out if her patient is crazy or not. As you can imagine, things go very wrong from there...

"From Beyond" isn't as over-the-top as "Re-Animator" and doesn't have the same relentless pace or dark comedic brilliance. But it's still a solid effort and recommendable for genre fans - campy, gory, with good effects considering the budget and decent performances from the leads. It's always great to see the one and only Jeffrey Combs cast as a nerdy scientist. Moreover, the movie has a lot of nostalgic value for me. As a teenager, I saw a heavily cut version on German TV and it was my first (albeit distorted) introduction to Lovecraft. I also developed an intense geek-boy crush on scream queen Crampton. Years later, I was in love with this blonde, glasses-wearing girl at university and I wanted to write something favourable about her in my diary. So I noted that she "looks a bit like Barbara Crampton in From Beyond", which was one of the most awesome compliments I could think of.

One notable difference to the original is that director Stuart Gordon adds a fair share of sex, as he usually does. This is of course totally against the spirit of Lovecraft, the puritan from New England who regarded pleasures of the flesh as bestial and primitive. But it works well as an exercise in deliberately bad taste. "Re-Animator" had the immortal, infamous oral sex scene with a severed head. Here, Crampton is once again viciously molested by the (literally) slimy monstrous villain. (Too much tits for YouTube, hence not in my clip - but I have to leave some of the good stuff out to make you want to rent the film)

"From Beyond" contains two elements of note: first, the machine that stimulates the pineal gland also increases people's sex drive. Which is a juicy concept in itself, something you would expect in a David Cronenberg film. Secondly, and this is where it gets interesting for us kinky types: mad evil scientist Dr. Pretorius is portrayed as having a taste for BDSM (see the clip). It's all very campy and cliché-ridden. According to his assistant, the doctor's whipping sessions were non-consensual (see clip at 1:09). It is later implied that he was impotent and couldn't get aroused from "normal" sex. Before long, Barbara Crampton finds herself under the influence of the resonator and dons some garden variety dominatrix gear in a lengthy but boring scene (clip at 2:37).

But I don't really mind the laughable stereotypes. We spankos always point out, rightfully, that our play and our fiction should be taken as pure fantasy, not as real abuse. I feel that, when it comes to the depiction of kink in schlocky horror films, we should listen to our own advice and not take everything we see at face value. It's obvious that Stuart Gordon doesn't have anything against BDSM and isn't making a serious statement of any kind. He just uses the "perversion" of whips and bondage for tongue-in-cheek shock value, to add a bit of flavour to the villain. I'm absolutely fine with that.

My only complaint is that he doesn't do enough with the idea. It never transcends the level of camp and doesn't even succeed there - the results are lame and not nearly as hilarious as the naughty bits in "Re-Animator". It's a pity - I think the notion of the mad kinky scientist had real potential. A man (or woman) for whom the five senses aren't nearly enough, who wants to experience more than any human being has ever experienced. And who gets obsessed by his pursuits to the point of insanity. If that doesn't sound like your typical CP fetishist, then I don't know what does - the two passions would seem to make a perfect match!

Then there's the resonator, a machine that can turn vanilla people kinky - at least it worked in the case of sexy Dr. McMichaels. Wouldn't that be a neat gadget to have? Off the bat, I could think of any number of people I'd like to use it on. I'm sure you could, too. Let's roll it into parliament when they debate their latest police state law against "violent porn". Or I could invite some of my female vanilla friends, just for fun. The ones in the "potentially interesting, too bad they aren't fellow perverts" category. Ah, the joyful possibilities...

So while "From Beyond" gets mediocre grades for execution, and while the whipping scene (if you can call it that) doesn't amount to much, there is some food for thought here.



"Did you ever notice that there is an above average percentage of geeks among us spanking bloggers and readers?"

I don't know about you "toppy" types but amongst the bottoms and subs there does seem to be a tendency to have people who have a higher end IQ, this may explain the geeky association.


Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Coombs has also starred in several Star Trek episodes, in both DS9 and Enterprise.

(I'm not only a geek, I'm a trekker as well...)

PallidBust said...

"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die."

I remember when I was a boy and first discovered old H.P. It was wonderful. A new, more visceral definition of "we have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Perhaps you already know this, but perhaps also your readers don't. In any case, I'm here to help with three foisted sources:

This book on the life of Lovecraft by Michel Houellebecq is pretty good. I'm not a nihilist myself, but that's no reason not to enjoy good, well researched work.

The movie "In the Mouth of Madness" is more of a "Lovecraft Feel" than an enactment, but it stars Sam Neil and Charlton Heston, and is bad ass to my inner teenager. I think that the "Das Boot" sub captain is also in it as a sorta quasi-modern mad Arab. I admit it's been awhile since I've seen it, but anyway, John Carpenter is always fun.

Plus, to get back to the kink, "The Halfway House" childishly cites the book written by the Mad Arab. However, the film also enjoys a smoking hot red head that gets paddled by a spanko priest. Some other girls get a little correction as well. Damn, though, that red head is hot. Good times.

Loved the article. Keep up the good work.


Indy said...

I think the key is that there are lots of geeks among spanking bloggers and their readers. My (admittedly somewhat limited) experience attending spanking parties is that we're about a quarter to a third of the spanking population. That's probably higher than our occurrence in society at large, probably for the reasons you list.

My sci-fi interest extends only to Star Trek and an adolescent fascination with Heinlein, but I promise I'm a true geek anyway.

Indy said...

p.s. My blog reader tells me it has been five (gasp) days since you last posted. I do hope you're feeling okay.

Ludwig said...

Prefectdt: There seem to be different definitions / takes on what, exactly, a geek is, and I'm not sure how central high IQ is. It's a factor for sure, but overall, it seems to be more of an attribute of nerds. Geeks are intelligent, too, but it's probably not that essential. Geekdom is more about weird cultural interests, I think, while nerds are the tech wizards. Of course you can be both at the same time.

Having said that, I'm not sure that I have fully mastered the geek vs. nerd distinction. Some people use the two terms interchangeably while others postulate significant differences like the above.

My own definition would be something like, if you've seen more than one movie based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft, you're very probably a geek! If you still own (and use) a Commodore 64, you're a nerd. And if you spend time seriously wondering about the distinction between geek and nerd, the exact criteria etc., then you are probably both!

Smallhanded: A trekker? Wow, that's the next advanced stage, isn't it? That's being a super-geek!

For some reason, I never got into the whole Star Trek thing. I've seen quite a few of the really old episodes with Kirk and Spock et al. and I liked them well enough. But the new generations passed me by. Generally, I prefer "dirty" science fiction like the Alien series (I even liked the third film, but the fourth one really sucked!).

Pallidbust: Thanks for that info. No, I didn't know that Houellebecq has written about Lovecraft. That sounds like quite a combination. I know "In the Mouth of Madness" and it does indeed star Jürgen "The Captain" Prochnow. Haven't seen it in a long time, but I agree, Carpenter is always worth watching. Well, almost always.

The scene from "The Halfway House" sounds interesting, cheers. I haven't seen that one, but I'll check it out and you'll probably hear about it on the blog one day.

Indy: Stark Trek and Heinlein, that definitely qualifies as a true geek. Your estimate that we are about a quarter to a third of the spanking population sounds about right to me.

And thanks for asking, I feel okay, I was just busy with vanilla duties and had to skip a post.

Anonymous said...

I roleplay Call of Cthulhu in the 'nilla when I joined the spanking community, roleplay came easily...I will have to rent the movie. Thanks!

der_Wolf said...

OK this post is oooooold, but nevertheless an enjoyable read. But time doesn't matter since for Lovecrafts great old ones.... :D
Both Re-Animator and From Beyond were not available in Germany for years in their fully uncut versions, so I was very pleased to find both movies uncut and remastered on DVD just a few months ago.