Guts and Grog Tooned Up

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Dark Side of John Mellencamp: A Look At Blue Velvet


                                         "Well I was born in a small town
                                         And I can breathe in a small town
                                         Gonna die in this small town
                                         And that's prob'ly where they'll bury me..."

                                                                                         John Mellencamp

The small town. In the worlds of John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and country music
singers, these slices of Americana are the place no one wants to leave (or if they do, they always come back).  If you didn't come from a small town, you were hopelessly backward and out of touch. It's the place where families pray, stay, believe in the red, white, and blue without question or exception. Leave it to director David Lynch to knockdown this antiquated stereotype with 1986's Blue Velvet.

On the surface, it's a film noir. Kyle McLaughlin searching for the owner of a severed ear, aided by Laura Dern whose father is a local police detective. Soon, he is drawn into the evil underbelly of his hometown of Lumberton. The dwellers of this slice of Hell are Isabella Rossellini and the hideous but brilliant Dennis Hopper. The noir turns itself into
a surreal display of sex, beatings, drug abuse, huffing ether, Dean Stockwell lip-synching to Roy Orbison's In Dreams. All for the love of a kidnapped child.

Why does this work? Lynch is so brilliant in welding his organized insanity with the backdrop of small town America. Also, he tells the truth. Many small towns I've lived in have beatings, drug abuse, sexual violence while trying to maintain a veneer of safety and comfort. The linchpin holding this together, however, is Dennis Hopper. Frank Booth is just a pure grade son of a bitch, and he doesn't care if you know. His performance is rather comparable to Heath Ledger's Joker in many aspects. You don't root for Frank, you hate his guts, but you enjoy seeing what he does next.

If you've not had a chance to watch this movie, I highly suggest you do. Any hopes you hold of beautiful small town American life will crawl away like ants from a severed ear.

-by Eric Polk


Eric Polk is a lifelong horror fan from the days of the VHS and mom and pop video store. He is
the author of several short stories including The 12:07 to Stoningham and Blitz. In addition, he co-hosts the Dollar Bin Horror Radio podcast with Rhonny Reaper.

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