Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DEATHDREAM (Bob Clark, 1972, USA)

A mother’s suffocating love permeates the humid jungle air, crossing a distance measured in prayers, breathing a tepid half-life into her son’s rigid corpse. Director Bob Clark films a subtly malignant masterpiece of existential dread and spiritual abandonment; he creates a seemingly passive family melodrama that becomes corrupted by war and disillusionment…and a dead son who shoots-up blood like a vampire junkie. 

This subversive film undermines Patriarchal convention as the father and son becomes helpless; both men dominated by a mother and her unyielding selfishness, unable to be set free from this emotional bondage, victims of love’s cruel tempest. After the opening salvo, Clark films in tight shots, often isolating the father while framing the mother and daughter together, a visual cue that will explain the fractured nuclear unit which proceeds to implode. It also projects a gruesome anti-war message; filmed during the Vietnam War, it is a biting metaphor concerning the dehumanization of young soldiers, trained to be mindless automatons, mechanized killing machines whose homecoming is kept secret, hidden in the dark shadows, drug-addled zombies whose only peace is the grave’s soft embrace. 

The score is a bombardment of frantic strings and eerie whispers that keeps the narrative unnerving; a perfect juxtaposition to Andy’s monotone and flaccid condition that resurrects moments of ghastly suspense. The film also exposes the drug culture, a young man addicted to the needle and the damage done, injecting an arterial high to obfuscate his inhuman condition. Though Andy is presented as a creature that stalks the midnight boundaries, he is ultimately victim and deserving of our sympathy. As he wishes for death, it’s his mother who can’t let go, she who makes his existence an everlasting nightmare, even as his rotting hands desperately claw the soft earth, digging his own grave. 

Final Grade: (B)