Hereditary

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Honoring your father and your mother is the first commandment with a promise, reads Paul’s letters to the Ephesians. It has to be, since family can be the most brutal thing that can ever happen to anybody. No dynamic on this earth can better nurture grief, resentment and rage like a family one; tragedy keeps unfolding from one generation to the next, every child inheriting their parents demons.

Hereditary¬†is an uncommonly unsettling picture. It’s monsters are the ones we are familiar with if we’ve been foolish enough to inflict pain on a loved one, or have been on the receiving end. By and large this is a family drama, whose characters carry their resentments on their skin. A broken marriage, a fragile parent-child relationship, an indifferent sibling connection; the film forces the viewer to witness the tragedy of a family in shambles. It is terrifying to behold.

By the time the supernatural elements manifest themselves in full to terrorize the Grahams, one can’t help but wonder if it was always meant to happen. When does a family go wrong? What decisions did the members take at one point that has led everybody down such bleak a path? Or were they condemned from the start, the sins of their forebears too heavy a burden?

When six years ago I made the decision to walk with Christ, one of the realizations I had was that I was becoming my father. I hated the old man, and in my sinful determination to get rid of all the influence he’d had on me, I was turning out to be just like him. I have long since forgiven him, although I continue to struggle with, as this movie would call it, his inheritance.¬†Hereditary¬†made me keenly aware of how grateful I should be that the chains of the past are being broken, and that I will not be suffocated by them.

A

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The Devil’s Candy

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The Devil’s Candy is a maniacally disturbing horror movie in which the devil is literally in the details. An art gallery by the name of Belial, a t-shirt that reads “Master of Puppets”, a hostess in a smoking skin tight red dress.
By placing the action in an environment in which the demon seems to have total dominion over, the proceedings feel disturbing as hell up until the very last shot, in which the skies clear, light shines and Satan appears to retreat, at least until next time.

B+

Black Death

black deathA professor of Theology was recounting the time when one of the students at the seminary he teaches at suffered the loss of a loved one. The student visited the professor at his office shortly afterwards with questions regarding God’s purpose in such mindless tragedy. According to the professor, the student left his office in high spirits. A year later however, the professor received an email from this same student, with more questions regarding a good and loving God in the midst of a cruel and unloving world. The professor replied to the best of his abilities. Two years later, while visiting the blog of this same student, he encountered a post discussing the loss the boy had suffered many years before. “I finally understand the purpose of all this”, the post went. “It means there is no God.”

The quest at the heart of Black Death is a spiritual one. The swords and shields the characters wield play second fiddle to their true weapons: faith and prayer. There is an extraordinary scene set at a dining hall, in which Ulric (Sean Bean) stands up, his companions soon rising along, and recites the Lord’s Prayer. Because it is implied that everybody else in the room is a devil worshiper, the scene has unbearable tension, with the camera cutting between Ulric praying and everybody else, looking as if their cover is about to be revealed and demons will spill forth from every corner of the room.

Black Death is a bleak a movie about faith in God as I can recall. At the start of the picture, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) is shown kneeling at the cross, crying. The doubts the monk harbors are not about the existence of a higher power, but about the role he plays at the monastery, and whether or not he is the right man to serve the Lord. Osmund is in love you see, and not exactly with Jesus Christ. Osmund’s passions are of the flesh, as he is in a romantic relationship with Averill (Kimberley Nixon).

The movie progresses and Osmund suffers the sting of loss, but the filmmaker is wise enough to not show his increasing theological doubts to the audience firsthand. It is Langiva (Carice van Houten), the witch that Ulric and Osmund have been seeking for the entire time, who comments on Osmund’s new state of mind. Langiva, who holds sway over the entire village, understands the effect that turning a man of the cloth away from God would have on her people and on the Christian crusaders that have arrived to claim her life. It is exactly why the scenes in which she taunts him are so effective. Audiences know the toll the battle that is being waged in Osmund’s soul must be having on him.

“Why did you believe her?”, a crusader asks a heathen about the witch.
“Because she was beautiful”, he replies. “And real.”
Of his own faith, Osmund is not so sure about the real part anymore. At the end, he is kneeling at the cross again, but there are no tears on his cheek this time. Much like the kid at the seminary, he seems to agree that the reason for all the madness in the world is because there is simply no God.

B