Reptilian aliens, shoegaze and the end of the world. Diet Soda Cineclub’s Teri Williams sets up our upcoming co-screening of Gregg Araki’s Teen Apocalypse Trilogy
Is Gregg Araki the patron saint of the alienated teen? His work, which now spans over three decades, has helmed a wave of new queer cinema that began with radical low budget films like The Living End and is now cutting through the abundant noise of shiny teen TV drama with the excellent Now Apocalypse, a hark to the trilogy that arguably started this whole beautiful mess: the Teen Apocalypse Trilogy. So pucker up, light up, and read on to find out more about how the godfather of rebellious youth framed a generation in neon rainbow colours that remains ever so relevant in this strange, doom-laden landscape we’re living in right now.
Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation and Nowhere were made and released in the mid-90s, when tie-dye and inflatable furniture was in, and Gen Z queer icons Amandla Stenberg, Chloe Grace Moretz and Hunter Schafer were mere twinkles in their parents’ eyes. It’s arguable to say that these three films, and Gregg’s subsequent features like Mysterious Skin and Kaboom! paved the way for a plethora of queer and teen-centric media today. He’s even had a guest director spot on a few episodes of 13 Reasons Why, one of the most talked about teen TV shows of recent times.
The Teen Apocalypse Trilogy was never seen as a critical success. Maybe because most of the film reviewers assessing them at the time were deliberately far removed from the worlds shown on screen – there’s nothing a middle-aged white man hates more than teen disenchantment, disengagement, disaffection. Not to mention all of that ambiguous sexuality, questions of gender identity and complete disregard for populist politics and society. Gregg’s films depict utter doom in the purest sense, where teens find themselves facing alienation and actual aliens, out to pull them free from the crazy world they’re struggling to fit into.
The first film in the trilogy, aptly titled Totally Fucked Up, stars Araki-darling James Duval, who we see throughout a large number of Gregg’s work. His inky black eyes, pouty mouth and Keanu-hair make him an instant pin up in the franchise, but what makes James stand out is his flat, carefree valleyboy accent, often used as narration, particularly in his starring role in Nowhere. He is part of a group of six young gay teenagers who have come together as a family of misfits. Largely filmed with a handheld video camera, the movie has a grainy, homemade quality to it reminiscent to the early work of the great John Waters, and as intimate as the talking head portions of modern reality TV.
The Doom Generation, which is a roadtrip movie, stars Rose McGowan and her iconic Mia Wallace haircut, hurtling through the desolate landscape of nighttime LA with boyfriend Jordan (James Duval) and new arrival X (Jonathon Schaech). Their blossoming triage-ship is wrought with jealousy, confusion, and terrifying encounters throughout the way,
The third film, Nowhere, showcases Gregg’s obsession with alienation in a comically literal sense. Its bisexual hero, again played by James Duval, is on a manic search for the alien race who is taking over his community and friends, stalking him as he navigates his failing relationship with girlfriend Mel and falling for new town arrival Montgomery.
So there you have it. Three films – a portrait movie, a roadtrip movie, and a sci-fi fantasy – each exploring themes of existential doom and teenage heartbreak that, each with their own rad, acidic soundtrack and palette of blindingly neon colours, paved the way for a multitude of queer cinema that celebrates the weird and subversive, an aloof middle finger to the mainstream. And maybe that’s what we need to celebrate right now.
Gregg Araki’s Teen Apocalypse Trilogy screens at the CCA Glasgow as part of Scalamara Glasgow on Thursday 26th September, 2019. Buy tickets here.
It’s the best Soviet-era Estonian sci-fi detective story you’ve never seen – The Reptile House on why you should book some time at “Hukkunud Alpinisti” hotell
There was a time when aliens weren’t cult.
Before the greatest show on earth (The X-Files), aliens were a personal invasion of mortal safety. They signified everything wrong with the universe we inhabited and implicated a mortal terror of the unknown we barely perceived as anything other than an “it’s fine, we’ll be fine” sipped through denied lips. As metaphors, sure, as physical entities, no fucking thanks.
Estonian folklore leans a lot into the idea of host-taking and shapeshifting. The Kratt for instance, is a creature borne of hay and tools, brought to life by blood to work for its master. A Sentient used to dig, run chores, exist as a slave. Imitating human life, but being only a homunculus to the will of whoever would deal with the devil to will it into existence. Pitchforks and sinew, trowels and skulls, bread and ladder. A hollow being desperate to work, pretending its existence isn’t an abomination of magic, thirsty for work or else it would turn on its owner. For some, the Kratt was a helper, turned into a nightmare. Given tasks so dangerous that the owner would actively seek to give it work that would knowingly kill it to save themselves the agony of its hand in death. A bite too much of Satan’s hand.
Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel (“Hukkunud Alpinisti” hotell, Grigori Kromanov, 1979) leans hard into its native folklore stories of host-taking but gives it a newly found sci-fi bent, mimicking Soviet-era ideas of internal invasion, gender non-conformity and country (if not world) changing ideas of appropriation and accidental exposure to life beyond comprehension.
In the snow-capped high-altitude nowheresville of mountainous Europe, Inspector Glebsky (Uldis Pūcītis) is anonymously called in to investigate a murder pertaining to a mountaineer and his dog. His location is that of a gorgeously nestled wooden hotel on what feels like the crown of earth and its inhabitants. They’re odd, one sentence sideways, unhelpful and too helpful. As labyrinthine as the hotel itself, which is itself questionable in its intent. An oblique, neo-noir Bauhaus building left to percolate and evolve on its own, becoming puzzling and obsidian. An impenetrable tableau for a mystery that the physical world can’t comprehend: aliens exist.
As an audience, we’re given the exact same amount of work that the inspector is given but with extra detail once he’s left the room. Making us more equipped to exact ourselves on what’s happening but also, somehow, feeling even more confused with what’s happening and who these people are. Why were we shown that extra eyeline? Who is whispering? What is GOING on in these mountains?
The soviet “alien” and “robots” idea is less hammy western ideals of spooky wee guys from beyond but more ideas of assimilation and folklore-bred notions of humans not as humans. Robots aren’t mechanic techno-menaces but rather fleshy familiar. The aliens are shapeshifters making us feel accidentally comfortable while they find safe passage. Their gender and sexuality are fluid, almost androgynous, to the point that their misunderstanding of the concept of biology and sexuality are critiquing our own confusingly rigid viewpoints on both.
In the hotel, it feels like tenants are both arguing with each other and harmoniously disrupting your work at decoding, so that when the reveal hits, you feel astounded at its meaning. Especially with how the film chooses to frame its core end message: if aliens exist on earth, what would it mean to the integrity of human life? And if you kill one, what kind of corruption would that cause to the human soul knowing you killed possibly the greatest discovery of Man’s existence? Is it duty of fear?
It’s extremely hard to spoil Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel, because almost everything in its filmmaking relies on your experience of its atmosphere and pace. Glacial, soothing, weird, quixotic. The first time I ever watched it, I knew it was my favourite foreign film. How could I not? Written by the legendary sci-fi math-brains Strugatsky brothers who (in the same year) had their novel Roadside Picnic turned into cult classic Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky and later Hard To Be A God adapted twice into messianic epics, Grigori Kromanov-directed Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel has their heady, huge themes built into it, but it’s minimalistic and restrained. Enjoying every second, it teases you into each gentle unzip. Don’t ask, don’t tell, just watch.
There’s a weird essence about the whole thing that feels like it was a sci-fi noir film made for aliens BY aliens and their secret existence on Earth, but we just accidentally found it. A true, bonafide classic.
Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel screens in association with The Reptile House at Matchbox Cineclub’s Weird Weekend on Sunday, 01/09/2019 at CCA, Glasgow
The Reptile House is a cult movie/music/art/weerd/oddball zine full of articles, film comparisons, poems, short stories and other lost and found miscellaneous junk. Everyone is welcome, because everyone belongs. Its print it out on shitty work printers at 6am when no one is in because I want it to be affordable for everyone! Any money made goes directly to local charities. Please do not tap the glass.
Scotland’s cult film festival returns to CCA Glasgow this month, with three days of strange and unseen cinema from around the world.
Weird Weekend, Scotland’s cult film festival returns to CCA Glasgow this month with three days of strange and unseen cinema from around the world, beginning Friday 30th August and ending Sunday 1st September.
Weird Weekend2019 features extremely rare screenings of lost masterpieces, brand-new restorations and UK premieres of future classics. 13 films and events over three days include a 35th anniversary, 35mm screening of the long unavailable Bill Murray sci-fi comedy Nothing Lost Forever(Tom Schiller, 1984), a rare outing for Tilda Swinton’s quadruple-role tour-de-force Teknolust (2002) and a 30th anniversary outing for the workprint cut of The ’Burbs (Joe Dante, 1989), with extended scenes and an alternative ending. Joe Dante will join the audience via Skype for a post-screening Q&A.
The film programme also includes: Brand-new 2K preservations of I Was A Teenage Serial Killer (1993) and Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Anymore (1997) from the sadly departed “Queen of Underground Film” Sarah Jacobson, in association with Pity Party Film Club; Vibrations (Mike Paseornek, 1996); Freak Orlando (Ulrike Ottinger, 1981) in association with Scottish Queer International Film Festival; The UK premiere of AGFA and Bleeding Skull’s The Neon Slime Mixtape; Jane Arden and Jack Bond’s Anti-Clock (1979); Věra Chytilová’s Wolf’s Hole (1987); Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel (Grigori Kromanov, 1979) in association with The Reptile House; and the 2K-restored, extended cut of Chris Shaw’s Split (1989).
Matchbox Cineclub also welcome prominent Deepfake creator Ctrl Shift Face in person for the panel event, Weird World of Deepfakes in association with Trasho Biblio. A specially-curated feature length programme of Deepfakes will play on a loop in CCA’s cinema throughout the festival weekend. Finally, The Arrow Video Cult Film Quiz returns for the second year, with much swag up for grabs.
All films screen with open captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and tickets are priced on a sliding scale, from £0-8. You judge for yourself what you should pay, with reference to our sliding scale guide.
You can browse the full Weird Weekend programme on Issuu, and all tickets and passes are on sale exclusively in our online shop.
Read Helen Wright of Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF)’s presentation on making your film screenings and events accessible to everyone
At the July Scalarama Glasgow meet-up, Helen Wright (Scottish Queer International Film Festival) gave a presentation and led a discussion on accessibility for film screenings. Helen covered basic principles, and practical access measures for screenings and for marketing film events.
Helen has very kindly allowed us to host the PowerPoint (above), which formed the basis of her presentation. Material from all of 2019’s Scalarama meetings/workshops in Glasgow, including guides to licensing, venues, tech set-up and social media, here.
Scalarama Glasgow is running monthly meetings in the lead-up to September’s season of DIY film programming. They’re aimed at helping exhibitors brand-new and experienced alike to put on films, and each month has two invited experts on different aspects of film exhibition. They’re free and open to all, full details here.
Basic principles, dos and don’ts and tips for promoting your film screenings online
This is intended to provide basic principles and practical tips for making the best use of social media, as an independent film exhibitor. It’s not intended to be definitive, or a magic wand to conjure likes, shares and follows. Different things will work for different exhibitors and different events. If you have any tips or advice to add, please let us know!
Basic Social Media Dos
Have a clear identity for your page
Have a clear idea who you want to appeal to
Be concise – keep it short and economical
Be as visual as possible
Be discoverable – use hashtags (appropriately)
Be responsive – if people engage with your posts, engage with them – and reply to queries ASAP.
Be a real person – e.g. post a picture of you putting up a poster, rather than the poster itself
Use active language and calls-to-arms (Buy, try, “get tickets”, “check this out”)
Post regularly (keeping in mind the requirements of each platform)
Tailor/adapt your content and tone for different platforms
Pay attention to what works well for you, your page and your events
Research – see what other exhibitors, venues, platforms are doing that works and suits you
Experiment – most platforms share information with you so you can easily find what works and what doesn’t
Develop a strategy based on all of the above
Plan and schedule posts
Ask people or accounts to share your content and share theirs
Basic Social Media Don’ts
Post/talk only about yourself/your event(s)
Panic cluster-post at the last minute
Tag random (or friendly but not immediately relevant) people or accounts in tweets and/or pictures
Re-use (i.e. steal) content without attribution
Overuse hashtags, especially “comedy” hashtags
Content | Always ask the distributor if they have marketing material available. This can include stills, posters, trailers, press releases which you can draw quotes and/or additional information from, and also any guidance to follow, especially if it’s a new or recent release – much better to adhere to their release campaign strategy, if there is one. If it’s an older film, you should still ask if there’s material available. There are also various resources online. Look for the website of the marketing team company, if there is one, which often will host marketing materials for download. For posters in particular, try wrongsideoftheart.com, impawards.com or cinematerial.com (the latter requires a small subscription fee). Don’t use images or material from other people’s screenings, at least without permission.
Presentation | You can optimise your images for presentation on the various platforms (i.e. a portrait-oriented poster won’t display fully on Twitter). Twitter now offers automatic cropping of your images in three styles on its new desktop version. Otherwise, you can make reference to the Always Up-To-Date spreadsheet for social media image sizes, which will give you the right sizes for various uses across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and Tumblr. There’s also a free-to-use online re-sizing tool, Landscape, which you can instruct to automatically resize and download images you upload to whatever specifications you need. Sprout Social have produced guides on presentation for images (here) and videos (here).
Any links you use, you can trim so that they don’t display all the unnecessary detail and they will still work. E.g. “https:// matchboxcineclub.com/weird-weekend” can become “matchboxcineclub.com/weird-weekend” and still work as a hot link on all social media platforms. Better yet, you can sign up for a free bitly.com account and, if they’re not already taken, create shortened links, with customised back-halfs, for free. E.g. bit.ly/WEIRDWEEKEND. On Facebook, you can also tag your events in posts the way you would a person, typing @ followed with the event name to find it.
Finally, you know how sometimes a link from another website won’t present properly, i.e. with no image, or the wrong image? That’s often because it’s never been shared before, and you can get around that by testing the link with Facebook’s debugger or Twitter’s card validator.
Timing/frequency | To boil it right down – post once or twice a day on Facebook, a similar frequency for Instagram and as often as you like on Twitter. Facebook in particular would like to encourage you to pay to boost posts or create sponsored posts, so it’s designed to discourage a wide audience for anything you share that involves a ticket link or an event page. You’re less restricted in posting Stories. Likewise, you have freer rein when posting in Facebook event pages – and it’s a good way to keep people interested between announcing your event and it happening. Beware over-posting, though, because non-stop notifications for attendees can be a drag. Getting the best from Twitter requires investment of your time above all else. A tweet has a half-life of about 30 minutes and to get people to engage with your posts, you also need to engage with theirs. In all cases, its good to share content that isn’t about you or (directly) about your event.
You can also use some statistical information to guide when to get the best response from your posts – Sprout Social (NB otherwise a subscription service) offers some insights for the various platforms. Read their “Best times to post on Social Media for 2019” post here.
Subtitles/Captions | Providing these is necessary to make your posts accessible. It’s also a very basic way to increase engagement, since videos are automatically muted on most platforms. Subtitles draw people in. Facebook and YouTube will auto-generate subtitles which you can then edit, or you can upload them as a separate file. There are also ways to create subtitle files separately and burn them into the video. For more advice on any of that, email email@example.com. Free subtitling software includes: Aegisub, Amara, Belle Nuit Subtitler and Subtitle Edit (Windows only).
NB “Subtitles” describe what’s spoken, while “Captions” also include sound and music labels and speech identifiers, etc.
Alt-text for images | This is a very straightforward way to make your posts accessible for the visually impaired – you add text separately describing the images (but not GIFs or videos) you post. On Twitter, you have to enable the feature via Settings and Privacy > Accessibility. On Facebook, it’s a universal feature, although the alt-text is extremely limited in terms of character count. Read Twitter’s guide here. Read Facebook’s guide here. Read Instagram’s guide here.
How alt-text works on Facebook, preparing to post an image:
How alt-text works on Facebook, after you’ve posted an image:
How alt-text works on Twitter (NB you can’t edit after posting):
Sponsored posts | These can be extremely effective compared to print marketing, especially for independent exhibitors who can’t rely on the same reach, footfall or press attention as venues, festivals or bigger exhibitors. Facebook and Twitter are both very good at targeting to specific people, whether it’s people who already follow your page (and may miss your posts due to the algorithm or the speed of constantly unravelling newsfeeds), or a particular demographic, e.g. people who live near your event, young people, or people who like horror films. Facebook is a lot more user friendly than Twitter, though both require experimentation and attention to get the best results. Some reluctance to engage with this aspect of social media is understandable, but keep in mind, if you’re doing it right, you’re showing people something they want to see.
NB If you’re participating in Scalarama Glasgow/West, Edinburgh/East, or Highlands and Islands, and you’re making Facebook events for September, please make your local Scalarama page a co-host. You can also add something along the lines of “Screening as part of Scalarama 2019” to your event description, and make sure to tag Scalarama in your relevant posts, tweets, etc, using the hashtag #Scalarama or #Scalarama2019.
This guide was made for Scalarama Glasgow’s July 2019 meeting, presented by Sean Welsh. Sean is responsible for Matchbox Cineclub and Scalarama Glasgow’s social media. He also planned and operated social media for Document International Human Rights Film Festival as Production Coordinator in 2016 and 2017.
Passes for Weird Weekend, our cult film festival, are £40 (weekend) or £20 (day), and single tickets are priced on a sliding scale, based on your circumstances – you decide what to pay, with reference to our guide. There are three tiers: Free/£2, £4/£6 and £8.
FREE or £2
• I frequently stress about meeting basic* needs and don’t always achieve them.
• I have debt and it sometimes prohibits me from meeting my basic needs.
• I rent lower-end properties or have unstable housing.
• I sometimes can’t afford public or private transport. If I own a car/have access to a car, I am not always able to afford petrol.
• I am unemployed or underemployed.
• I qualify for government and/or voluntary assistance including: food banks and benefits.
• I have no access to savings.
• I have no or very limited expendable** income.
• I rarely buy new items because I am unable to afford them.
• I cannot afford a holiday or have the ability to take time off without financial burden.
£4 or £6
• I may stress about meeting my basic needs but still regularly achieve them.
• I may have some debt but it does not prohibit attainment of basic needs.
• I can afford public transport and often private transport. If I have a car/access to a car I can afford petrol.
• I am employed.
• I have access to health care.
• I might have access to financial savings.
• I have some expendable income.
• I am able to buy some new items and I buy others second hand.
• I can take a holiday annually or every few years without financial burden.
• I am comfortably able to meet all of my basic needs.
• I may have some debt but it does not prohibit attainment of basic needs.
• I own my home or property or I rent a higher end property.
• I can afford public and private transport. If I have a car/access to a car I can afford petrol. • I have regular access to healthcare.
• I have access to financial savings.
• I have an expendable** income.
• I can always buy new items.
• I can afford an annual holiday or take time off.
*BASIC NEEDS include food, housing, clothing and transportation.
**EXPENDABLE INCOME might mean you are able to buy coffee or tea at a shop, go to the cinema or a concert, buy new clothes, books and similar items each month, etc.
Weird Weekend takes place at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, on Friday 30/08, Saturday 31/08 and Sunday 01/09/2019.
Guest writer Claire Biddles (Sad Girl Cinema) writes on female desire and fandom in German horror Der Fan ahead of our co-screening on July 21st. Beware spoilers!
“No letter today. I wrote to R over three weeks ago, and still no answer. Maybe he never got my letter. Maybe some jealous secretary got her hands on it and decided not to give it to him. Because she could tell I love him more than she does. Really love him.”
Although written and directed by a man – prolific German filmmaker Eckhart Schmidt – 1982 cult horror Der Fan is one of the most convincing depictions of female fandom, obsession and desire in cinema. Its descent into cartoon excess represents the heightened fantasy end point of pop star adulation, but it is grounded in uncomfortable truths.
Der Fan follows German teenager Simone, who is disengaged and almost catatonic as she sleepwalks through the drudgery of her home and school life. She barely speaks, but through her narration we discover the reason for her vegetative state: her every waking moment is devoted to intense thoughts of R, a new-wave pop star who she adores above anything else. Her bedroom walls are covered in monochrome images of him, and she listens to his songs via an omnipresent cassette Walkman that separates her from the real world. She no longer pays attention to schoolwork: “What’s the use? I can’t think of anything except R and how much I need him.”
The signifiers of fandom are familiar, but the execution is unusual. Rather than a depiction of the (often communal) hysterical excitement of fangirls, Der Fan traces its solitary, destructive flipside. It’s telling that the film’s alternative English title is Trance: Simone’s desire is so all-encompassing that other people fail to register — her teachers, parents, more appropriate romantic suitors. Her unreciprocated obsession is so all-encompassing that it becomes destructive; cancelling out its mundane surroundings.
Simone’s desire has left her with a one-track mind in the centre of a void, wandering the streets in a fugue state. The film’s atmosphere is a dull ache: rain and suburban streets and municipal buildings. R’s music is the kind typically made by inhabitants of these post-industrial landscapes – the soundtrack by Düsseldorf group Rheingold recalls the driving empty urbanity of Joy Division or Bauhaus.
Simone has written R a letter to which he hasn’t responded. Every day she drags her feet to the post office in anticipation of his reply; a voiceover counting the days like a prison sentence. When she tires of waiting, she tracks him down outside a TV studio, and they finally meet. Simone is speechless — she collapses and he rescues her, taking her inside the studio to watch his performance being filmed.
The link between the devotion of pop fandom and the manipulative power of political dictatorship is often made in films about charismatic pop stars – most recently in Brady Corbet’s twin films Childhood of a Leader and Vox Lux. The allusion is sometimes clunky: in Der Fan, images of mass-saluting crowds are interspersed with images of R in Simone’s bedroom; in the television performance that Simone watches, R wears a militaristic uniform surrounded by saluting mannequins. The sinister creep of R’s power is more subtly expressed in the similarity between R and Simone when they finally meet, both wearing almost identical outfits of white shirts and dark leather trousers. This could be read as a symbol of R’s control over Simone (and others – his secretary is also seen in a similar outfit) but also of Simone’s desire to possess him so much that she literally starts to become him: an under-reported but fundamental manifestation of fandom.
This desire is made explicit (and then some) in the film’s audacious final act. After their meeting at the television studio, R takes Simone to his friend’s empty apartment where they have sex. After this ultimate act of wish-fulfilment, R disappoints Simone with his aloofness – his desire for a simple one night stand not matching up to her overwhelming need for him. The film’s final twist sees her react with extreme and perverted violence.
While committing this strange violence, Simone is single-minded and determined, her demeanour as trance-like as when she was yearning for R at the start of the film. She’s detached and withdrawn, an empty vessel. If obsession destroys everything around the object of desire, it’s no surprise that it will eventually start to erode the self, too. So much of Simone’s sense of self is constructed around her desire for R, and her desire for R is constructed around a fiction of her own creation. Like so many relationships between fan and fan-object, Simone projects her own base needs onto the empty vessel of a pop star. He can be anything she needs him to be. Even his single-letter name is ripe for projection – a hyper-concentrated version of the iconic mononymous pop star. Nobody knows what the ‘R’ stands for, so it could stand for anything. His post-punk voice is monotonous and anonymous, but Simone fills it with subjective meaning: “He always sings with that same voice, but to me it sounds different every time.” This projection is disrupted once Simone meets the ‘real’ R. When the fan-object disintegrates into nothing, the fan’s whole sense of self is in flux.
Although it presents an extreme manifestation of fandom and obsession, Der Fan’s depiction of desire as a nihilistic force is rooted in truth. It can also be argued as a subtly feminist film: its moral could be that female desire is deadly and destructive, something for men to be afraid of — but also that desire for men is destructive for women too. So many narratives around fandom are rooted in pop stars’ potential to ‘save’ their fans, but Der Fan suggests they can just as easily destroy them — or help them to destroy themselves.
Der Fan screens on Sunday 21/07 at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, followed by a panel discussion on obsession, fandom and thirst, moderated by Claire Biddles.
Tickets are on sale via Matchbox Cineclub’s online shop here, and are priced on a sliding scale, according to your means.
Keep up-to-date with the Facebook event page here.