Monday, 19 January 2015


The occult has long been an object of fascination for many horror fans, particularly those with a supernatural bent.

The allure of it has to do with the idea of accessing secret or hidden ('occult') knowledge and the power it contains. Also, there's a morbid curiosity that maybe ("I seriously doubt it, but just maybe") there really is a hidden hand that grants such power. A dark hand with claws. But in reality, 99% of the time, the occult is practiced by earnest (though perhaps a bit off-kilter) folk like you and me who manifest no supernatural phenomena (save for personal interpretation) nor have any intention of doing so.

Many of the popular horror films of the 1960's and 1970's skirted around the subject of the occult, using guess-work and imagination regarding what rituals actually look or feel like and the overall effect is campy more-often-than-not. If you're looking for authentic occult, look no further than Lucifer Rising and the works of avant garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger.

Lucifer Rising is an occult film. It seems to describe an occult ritual, couched in esoteric visual terminology. If nothing else, it is a marvel of surrealist filmmaking. And behind it all, it is the movie equivalent of a haunted house. At different points the film stars a murderer, a satanist and the brother of Mick Jagger. To get those esoteric elements just right, the "Thelemic Consultant" on the film was Gerald Yorke, an associate of Aleister Crowley, an early cut featured an appearance by Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey and the soundtrack was composed by Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil while in prison for murder (he's still serving that sentence (more on him later)). You couldn't possibly have had a more notorious pedigree at that time, one simply didn't exist.

The 28-minute film was completed in the early 70's but not distributed until 1980. Lucifer Rising is, at its core, about the dawning of a new age, the Aquarian age. However, to summarize the storyline would be to catalog the moments of a madman's dreams. Rebirth, lightning, resurrection, volcanos, revelation, clouds, decay, pyramids, souls depicted as UFOs in ancient Egypt, this is one weird film. But in the context of Anger's filmography, it's eminently watchable, because the kaleidoscopic storytelling moves along at a good pace and there's always something captivating on screen. It may or may not feature a classic linear storyline, but it's more accessible than Anger's other films, like Puce Moment, Invocation of my Demon Brother (essentially an early cut of Lucifer Rising) or it's homoerotic antithesis Scorpio Rising.

For all intents and purposes Lucifer Rising is a silent film. The musical accompaniment was originally composed by Jimmy Page but wasn't used in the final cut after Anger, living in Page's basement at the time, got into an argument with Page's wife Charlotte and was subsequently thrown out of the house. Former Anger associate Bobby BeauSoleil then wrote to Anger from prison and petitioned to take over the project. The score he composed is alternately haunting, trippy and rocking. I bought the soundtrack album from iTunes many years ago and it's still something I whip out every now and then. It's not frightening, but it's specific. Much like the soundtrack to Under the Skin it sets a specific mood, in the case of BeauSoleil's Lucifer Rising, that mood is wall-eyed fascination. It's murderous psychopathy with the twist of child-like innocence. The soundtrack to a back-alley "ripping" in the way a child might try to flush a cat down the toilet or pull the wings off a moth. I'm speaking about the piece that you'll at about the five minute mark in the video below.

Watch Lucifer Rising, right here:

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