It is 1972 and Linda Lovelace has become the first American porn star. The horror awaits.

The foundation of any good horror film is not about the theoretical appearances of evil monsters, demons, vampires, werewolves, zombies, or super-powered serial killers, but is centralized on the inner evil outwardly expressed by one human being towards another. 

Some of my favorite and scariest horror films use this method. “The Mist” focuses on a government experiment gone wrong, releasing thousands of extra-dimensional creatures to wreak havoc on a neighboring town. The true horror does not descend from the creatures themselves, but from the revolting humans locked inside of a supermarket. They battle for power, manipulate and kill each other, losing their humanity in the process. 

“Pans’ Labyrinth” is not necessarily scary because of the disfigured monsters that show up, but because of the murderous acts of the evil step-father towards his wife and child. 

“Shaun of the Dead” is a horror-comedy that is filled with blood curdling zombie scenes, but does not become a real horror film until Shaun is forced to kill his own mother.

Horror film victims are always succumbed by some force of evil that preys on the weak. “Lovelace” fits into the horror genre, revealing a plethora of emotional “gore” on a weak human being.

Horror films were a sensation in the 70’s. They brought a new image to repulsion, violence, and fear, often cutting in futile nudity and sex scenes. “Lovelace” opens with the feel a 70’s horror flick, harshly lit and washed with a light-orange tone. We see two girls in their twenties sunbathing, Linda (Amanda Seyfried) and Patsy (Juno Temple) while discussing their sexual endeavors. Patsy foreshadows the films focus point when she hints to Linda that “oral” sex is always an option when in a relationship. Linda dismisses it as being "gross".  We are introduced to Linda’s parents (Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick) who keep her on a strict curfew and short leash, due to her unplanned pregnancy, resulting in her being forced to give the baby up for adoption. Linda convinces her parents to let her go to a party where she meets Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) who sweeps her off her feet with his charm and wit. We discover Linda’s negative image of herself, as she curses her stretch marks. Chuck is there to lift her self-esteem and take her away from her “imprisoned” small town life. Then the film breaks into two perspectives.  

Perspective #1 – Glamour

Linda and Chuck fall in love and get married. After a night in jail, Chuck convinces Linda to audition for a porn film when hard financial times befall them. Acquiescing, Linda is cast in the film “Deep Throat”, playing her newly given on screen identity, Linda Lovelace, who thrills the audience with her “orally” sexual talents. The film is a huge success, becoming the highest grossing X-rated film of all time. Linda finds herself on the red carpet, giving radio interviews, partying with Hugh Hefner, and appearing to be on top of the world. We see pieces of her body-conscious character break away. She is highly praised by the photographers, directors, actors, crew, and the viewers, boosting her confidence. She says, “I feel free” during a topless photo shoot. We see the glamorous side of being a porn star. Then the film takes a turn, by rewinding itself all the way back to Linda and Chuck’s wedding night.

Perspective #2 – Horror

Linda thought she was free, but was actually another prisoner. Each glamour scene that was shown before is now revealed in its true light. We watch Chuck rape his new bride, threaten her at gun point, beat her profusely, and prostitute her off to a gang bang. Chuck is the villain, the monster, the demon, the horror of Linda’s life. He is a sex addictive, drug abusing, psychopath who preys on Linda’s weakness to fulfill his own estranged feelings of manhood.

Repression and Marital Obedience

Serial killer, Ed Gein, is credited for the influence of sensational film villains, such as Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs), and Norman Bates (Psycho). It is known that Ed Gein’s mother used religious preaching to instill a fear of women in him. She fed him a great big bowl of Repression for breakfast every morning, ultimately resulting in his obsessive desire to flay women and literally wear their skin (no joke...he wore a body suit).

Repression is a powerful force. Imagine internalizing every feeling of joy, anger or frustration, every sensation of excitement and pleasure. This too is a horror presented in “Lovelace”, but brought about through Linda’s mother. When Linda breaks curfew, she throws her out of the house without hesitation. This damages Linda because she moves from an emotional prison to a physically violent one, in the arms of Chuck Traynor. Linda’s weakness comes from her repressed upbringing and the lack of communication within her family. At first, she feels free from their tight grip, but finds that a noose has been tied around her neck during her relationship with Chuck. She flees back to her mother, begging to take her in and reveals Chuck’s abusive nature. Rather than acting with love, Linda’s mother condemns her for misbehaving and disobeying her husband. She knowingly sends her back into the arms of the devil.

Repression was common in the 70’s as it was a transitory generation from the feminist movement and gender equality. American women were taught to “obey their husbands” as the bible said, but was never explained that it was not meant to be taken literally in circumstances of domestic violence and sexual degradation. It seems that husbands were not made aware of the next verse in the scripture passage from Ephesians 4, which told men to “love their wives as Christ loves the church.” This holds husbands to a higher responsibility over their wives, where they must die to their own selfish desires and live for their spouse. Linda could have been spared from the abuse, if only she had a mother equipped to listen. There is a redeeming moment for her that comes at the end of the film; however, in that moment when she forces Linda to go back to her abusive marriage, you see her as a purely evil figure.

Hugh Hefner

The genius of “Lovelace” comes from its manipulation over the viewer, creating a sense of excitement for Linda’s success and buying in to a false perception. It is only when the film backtracks that we are able to see the unpleasant cost of working in pornography. The films trailer deceives the viewer from thinking it’s going to be another “Boogie Night’s”, but cleverly uses sex to reveal that “the truth goes deeper than you think” (the films tagline). It is a comment on the adult film indus
try and its destruction of the human person, male and female. The kind of people involved in the business, who are glorified, are portrayed in their proper light. The film does not go into much detail about “Deep Throats” real life ties with the mafia, but hints at it through the character of Anthony Romano, who ends up whipping Chuck with his belt in a Mafia-esque scene. We also see stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Hugh Hefner (James Franco) who obsess over Linda. Hefner was, and still is, seen as one of the fathers of the sexual revolution. He launched PlayBoy magazine to a sexually curious generation, resulting in an explosion of pornographic media. In the film, during Linda’s premiere, Hefner coerces her to perform oral sex on him in his private screening room. The film presents a side of Hefner that is often ignored, his objectification of women.

The Porn Industry is far from Glamorous.

Out of the Darkness

The film is very hard to watch at times because of the intensity of the actors and the horrific circumstances it presents, but is still filled with hope. Through her nightmare, Linda faces her fear, transforms herself into a strong character and vanquishes the demon. She is praised throughout the film for her courage in entering the porn industry, but becomes a true heroine when she musters up the courage to leave it.  She writes a book, on which the film is based, called “Ordeal” and tells the world the real story of Linda Lovelace. Despite her honesty, the book was not praised as it should have been. She spent 17 days in the porn industry and would spend a lifetime healing from its wounds. It was a sign that in 1980, the culture was still not ready to embrace true feminism.
Linda’s story resembles that of Shelly Lubben’s, a former porn actress turned author and motivational speaker, who left the industry in the 90’s. Her film “Out of the Darkness” premiered at the 2011 Most of the people who join the porn industry come from broken homes. Many of the girls are sexually abused. So the porn industry actually lures in these kind of people to exploit them.” If that  isn't real horror, then I don’t know what is.
John Paul II International Film Festival here in Miami and talked about her time spent in porn. She shared similar experiences as Linda, where the film directors would call her a star, motivate her, and feed her a false perception. She says, "

I recommend watching this film for the Oscar worthy performance of Amanda Seyfried and the haunting performance of Peter Sarsgaard. It will be difficult to watch at times, but pays off at the end.

Here are the Trailers to “LoveLace” and “Out of the Darkness” including some links to Shelly Lubben's sites.

I was fortunate to see one of the first cuts of The Investigator last year when it was submitted to the JP2 Film Festival. I immediately fell in love with it because there was something deeper going on with the film. I have, since then, seen the film at least 5 times, including the most recent release, and continue to be inspired by it.

Why is this film so unique? Within it, contains the elements of a classic film, including it's ability to morph into multiple genre's. It reveals a compelling lead actor, who makes it difficult to stop looking at, and is written and inspired by the life of Richard Romano, the beloved brother of comedian Ray Romano. 

I hate labels and genre's for many reasons, but mainly because of the restriction they place on a film or piece of music. I am a huge fan of "Christian" music, sticking to the current genre's, and it's unfair that these musicians are not considered for regular Grammy's. They are placed into one category, Best Christian/Gospel album, even if the albums are completely different in style. A "genre" is based on the musical style of the album, Rock, Pop, Rap, etc. The "Christian" genre refers to the content of the lyrics rather than the style of music. There is "Christian" Rap (Lecrae and Toby Mac), Rock (Switchfoot and David Crowder Band), Pop (Hillsong and Chris Tomlin), and AMAZING (Gungor and Audrey Assad)...J/k, but not really. The point is that you should not base your genre on the content. The same is applied to film, they are called "Faith-based" films. Yet, "Faith-Based" film is not a genre that speaks to the style of the movie like, Comedy, Drama, Horror, and Sci-Fi do. It places a restriction on the film because of it's content. 

The Investigator breaks it's typical "Faith-based" label because it is infused with multiple styles and feelings, opening itself up to multiple genre's. It's light humor can place it as a comedy, the baseball scenes categorize it as sports drama , the gripping investigation of the homicide of Jesus plays like crime action, and the moving theme of unity makes it a family film. At the end of the day, The Investigator is exactly what it should be, a great film, not a just  "Faith-based" film that only Christians should watch. 

Wade Williams
A film is only as good as it's actors and The Investigator introduces us to an amazing lead whom brings Richard's life to the big screen. Wade Williams plays James Buanacore, a detective forced into retirement after a police stakeout gone wrong. Wade transforms himself into a multi-layered character playing a strong willed seasoned detective, a soft hearted husband, a paternal baseball coach, and an uncomfortable school teacher. He carries the film from scene to scene with a great supporting cast. It's not just Wade's performance that sets this film apart, but the innocence of Carlos Garriga, who plays Stephen the school's underdog, and the gut wrenching emotional performance of Nicole Abisinio who plays Stephanie, James' wife. This film hits its mark in the performance category.

Richard Romano
In film, the mise-en-scène (everything on screen) can be affected by an abundant of factors, including a characters past roles. While Richard Romano has not played a lead character, his own life has been portrayed in exaggeration on his brother's show "Everybody Love's Raymond". As an audience member, knowing the character of Robert, this film comes to life in a completely unique and indescribable way. It opens our hearts as viewers because we think we know Richard by watching so many years of Robert. The film introduces us to the real Richard, winning our love through his vulnerability and sincerity. The fact that we can take what we know about Robert, that he is a cop, and apply it to James, a detective, the entire movie is a once in a lifetime experience.

I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Richard last year when he screened The Investigator at the John Paul II International Film Festival. It took home the audience award for Best Feature Film and received an amazing reception. You forget that what you are watching on screen actually happened to Richard, including the scenes that seem like they were added for Hollywood effect, such as the Baseball fight. No, that actually happened. The script was extremely well crafted in order to tell Richard's story.

A Film for Everyone
The Investigator succeeds at showing the unity of Christianity, in a positive light. The only other film that I have recently seen that does this is "The Mighty Macs (the 2009 JP2IFF Audience Award Winner). The Investigator reveals actual human struggles with God, suffering, and death. As a Catholic, it can be easy for me to dismiss life's difficulties and tell someone to just pray about it, however, that's not always the right answer. Sometimes we want to be angry with God and have every right to be. In the case of The Investigator, James suffers the loss of his child, job, and faith. He has a right to be angry and vocalizes it. He throws the bible to the floor and blames God for everything that happened. By voicing our concerns to God, it actually strengthens our faith because it opens up communication within a relationship. It is what ultimately fuels James' investigation on the existence of Jesus.

The Investigator is a film that can be seen by anyone of different faiths, religions, or creeds because it provokes one to investigate their own beliefs. Accepting the faith that your parents gave you without question, no matter what it is, creates "on the surface" believers who risking having no depth. It takes the investigation, the doubting, the disbelief, the challenging of a faith in order for one to truly own it. When you have questioned your own beliefs and persevered is when you can say that you have taken ownership of that faith. Until then, your faith has been on lease, with the option to buy...figuratively (You cannot purchase heaven!). In the film James investigates the homocide of Jesus Christ using circumstantial evidence and all of his talents as a detective. He takes ownership of his faith and helps others do the same.

In conclusion, The Investigator is a great film for anyone who loves sports, crime dramas, struggles of faith, and stories with strong family themes. It is the launching pad for anyone, of any religion, who is struggling with their faith to help investigate their own beliefs. It breaks all cliche's of a "Faith-based" films, is superbly acted, and tells the real life story of Richard Romano. 
Breaking Bad - The "Gray Matter" between Good and Evil

I have never done drugs, but have recently acquired an addiction...Breaking Bad!

I don't know why it took me so long to start watching, but I am here and am finally on the same roller coaster ride as everyone else.

Why is this show so addicting? What lures the audience in? Certainly it has a lot to do with the incredible acting, cinematography, and episodic cliffhangers, but there is something deeper at work here. Breaking Bad crosses the ethical boundaries of human morals, pushing the audience to it's threshold of their own relativistic ideologies. Breaking Bad shows the dangers of moral relativism, individual pride, and passive aggression.

If you haven't seen the show here is a short synopsis. Around his 50th birthday, Walter White discovers he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Holding two jobs, one as a high school chemistry teacher and another as a Car Wash attendant, he realizes he will not be able to provide for his pregnant wife and teenage son whether he goes through the treatment process or after he passes away. Hiding the truth from his family, including his Brother-in-law, Hank, who is a DEA agent, Walt recruits a former student, Jessie Pinkman, to start making and selling Methamphetamine(Crystal Meth) on the streets. Thus Breaking Bad begins.

Moral Relativism
As the show begins, you find yourself rooting for Walt because you can empathize with him. It's easy for men to put themselves in Walt's shoes because their is a profound desire in the human heart to secure and provide for one's family. Somewhere along the line Walt begins to fade away from his own identity into his pseudo identity, "Heisenberg", a person he created to establish street credibility as a Meth Cook. Walt's Meth formula is the purest on the market and tints blue, creating a certain value and prestige. "Cooking Meth is an art", Jessie tells Walt. Well,
Walt becomes the Michelangelo of Crystal Meth.

Walt's decisions quickly drop him into a world of violence, drug addiction, power struggle and moral dilemmas. He murders a drug dealer in season 1, creating a surge of adrenaline in him he had probably not felt in many years. This adrenaline lasts through the entire series. With it he forces himself sexually on his pregnant wife, builds bombs, manipulates Jessie into committing murder, robs a train, poisons a child, and becomes obsessed with power.

Walt becomes a moral relativist, in the sense where his moral boundaries are no longer black and white. Evil, is necessary based on one's circumstances. He decides what is right and what is wrong. He assumes God-like power over Jessie, whom he convinces to do evil things and justifies them as moral. Walt's fall is like the fall of Satan, with an unquenchable desire for Power. He is the snake in the Garden of Eden. The whole series is a representation of Original Sin and the abuse of free will. The real sin for Adam and Eve was not that they ate some fruit, but they sought the knowledge of good and evil, being able to choose what was morally good and what was morally evil. Walt eats the fruit and chooses that his evil actions are morally acceptable because he is above the law.

What was Satan's downfall? Pride. He wasn't satisfied with the love of God, he had more desire for the love of himself. Walt is the same way. He sees himself as untouchable, irreplaceable, invincible, and even inferior to all the other characters in the show. Walt is not like this from the beginning, he is actually weak and passive. The testosterone fueled excitement that he receives from cooking Meth and creating the best product on the market, ignites the flame of pride in his heart. He refuses to allow anyone to cook his formula and becomes obsessed with the power that comes with being the best at it. He stops cooking just for money, but for a sense of accomplishment.

He gets involved with the drug trade because he wanted to leave his family with financial security, which he calculated to be $700,000. He finds himself still unsatisfied with money when he brings in over 7 million dollars. Jessie asks, "Are you in the money business or the Meth business?" Walt responds,
"I am in the empire business." 
Survival becomes his passion, not physical survival, but a legacy, an empire.  He is not concerned about physically living, but of leaving his imprint on the world, even if it is a negative imprint. He wants to be remembered for his talents, whether they be good or bad.

How many people can relate to this? When we feel unsatisfied with our lives and the choices we made, don't we yearn for acceptance? We yearn to stand out among the rest, to be unique. We seek to verify our own un-repeatability in a world that convinces us that we are all replaceable. Walt believes that cooking Meth is his only way of reminding the world who he is. "Remember my name."

Pride is Walt's biggest enemy because it is what digs him deeper into the drug scene. Where the devil is cunning, God is ever more gracious. Walt is given a way out of the Meth business so many different times in the show, yet he rejects all of them. His former partner, Elliot Schwartz (Schwartz means black) offers to pay for Walt's treatment. He and Elliot started Gray Matter together, a multi-billion dollar technology company. Walt sold his half of the company before it took off and he always resented that about himself. So he refuses to accept Elliot's "charity". His pride steps in and he feels compelled to make the money on his own, even if it means a life surrounded by drugs.
In season 4, Hank believes that Gale, the scientist hat Jessie murdered, is actually Heisenberg and credits him for Walt's Meth calling him a genius while at dinner with Walt and Skylar. Walt, filled with pride, convinces Hank that Gale was not a genius and that Heisenberg is still out there. This energizes Hank to investigate further and eventually leads to him discovering that Heisenberg is actually Walt in Season 5. Walt will not allow anyone to take credit for his chemistry. He needs someone to recognize him and his genius. He is a man longing for real recognition. He is the vengeful Cain, taking matters into his own hands and choosing his own moral responsibilities.

Passive Aggression

Walt starts out as a passive character that becomes very aggressive. His whole life he had been told what to do, what to feel, and how to live. The cancer frees him from his passivity, but explodes into his aggression. Everything that he held in for fifty years, pours out in a plethora of violence.. Walt is the epitome of what Passive Aggression can do to a person's personality. By holding everything in, Walt becomes, a "ticking bomb". Repression is a dangerous character trait, especially if it is unleashed in the subterranean drug culture.

Breaking Bad is at its best when you do not know who to root for, when the line between good and evil is vague, and when you can't distinguish your heroes from your villains. 

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