Friday, September 27, 2013

666 (Beware the End is at Hand) (Nigeria, 2007)


As someone who’s recently been forced to confront his own mortality, I’ve had to face some uncomfortable questions. “What will the end look like”, is one of those that both all and none of us want answered. Then again, I suppose, it depends on who’s doing the answering; as a devoutly secular person, I wondered what succor the Christian church might offer me on the topic. Of course, I turned to a Nigerian evangelical Christian exploitation movie to find out. And the answer – that we’re all uproariously fucked – did, I have to admit, offer a little bit of a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Pastor Kenneth Okonkwo, the producer of 666 (Beware the End is at Hand), clearly intended it as a sincere work of evangelicism, yet still knew which side his bread was buttered on. Thus he takes us straight to Hell before subjecting us to the interminable shot-on-video sermonizing that will take up so much of 666’s running time. The battle for man’s soul, according to Okonkwo, will take place in the suburbs of Lagos, and there, for the most part, in a church basement. That, at least, appears to be where Hell is located in the film, which means you religious folks should take it very seriously when your preacher or wizard of whatever talks about what’s down below. It’s right down there! They can totally hear you!


Emeka Ani, who plays Satan in the film, takes a very Harinam Singh approach to expressing his malevolent authority, in that he simply parks himself on a throne for the entire movie and declaims at the camera with wild eyes while referring to himself in the third person a lot. His studio audience is a congregation of female minions who laugh in unison at his shtick in a manner that suggests the laughter bag being very quickly opened and closed again. Between heavily accented proclamations of the End TImes, he sends his emissaries to Earth to “win souls” for him. This mostly consists of lots of fully clothed gay sex, but also consists of one devotee forcing a hooker to lick an open lesion on his ankle, which results in her arriving in Hell and being thrown into a chicken wire covered fire pit.




But, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I give you the impression that any of these interesting things happened in any kind of close succession – creating, as it were, a sense of some kind of propulsive narrative drive -- I must point out that they in fact served as intermittent interruptions to the aforementioned sermonizing by Okonkwo’s Pastor Chucks, who walks the coffee stands, beer halls and marketplaces of the city, preaching the gospel to the seemingly deaf ears of the populace, who quite manifestly just want to enjoy their various beverages. Granted, there is some buoyant Afro pop that plays during these scenes, but, as it is always the same exact cue, it quickly comes to contribute to, more than alleviate, the monotony.

Thankfully, relief comes in the form of a horned demon child who is born to an Earthly woman, at which point 666 (Beware the End is at Hand) (I swore I was only going to write that full title once) really kicks into its own somnolent version of high gear. There’s actually a flash forward to eight years later! At this point, it is clear that this is a very bad kid, as evidenced by a long, unbroken shot of him playing somewhat normally, if a bit brattily, with a bunch of kids in an alley. At his worst, he sprouts a single, chalky horn and throws glowing energy orbs at people, but even in repose he must shock the gentry by openly drinking and smoking at public cafes. The only problem is that the kid who plays him, with his perfectly round head and little pot belly, is kind of adorable – and the fact that he employs that same barking laughter bag laugh while trying to sound like a menacing adult doesn’t help matters.

This is all of little consequence, however, as a holy man quickly comes along and destroys the little bastard.

Until 666 (Beware the End is at Hand) 2, that is.




Wait, did I not mention that 666 was, at least, a 2 parter -- its roughly hour long increments likely determined by that of the average VHS tape? Well, it is, and part 2 begins exactly where 1 left off, with the resurrected Devil Boy discovered crying by the roadside by the kindly Pastor Chucks, who takes him home. Devil Boy makes quick work of possessing the Pastor’s niece and hoodoos her into strangling him. From there he goes back to his usual devilry. In fact, of the two films, part 2 is the one that delivers most generously on the exploitation thrills, will all manner of low rent video effects being put to the task of realizing the Dark One’s fiendish magic. In the end, a confusing montage depicts the beginning of Satan’s reign on Earth with much wicked but strangely abrupt laughter drowning out the lamentations of the populace.

Yet, as the credits rolled over Kenneth Okonkwo’s smiling face, I had to wonder, was this really the end? IS THAT ALL YOU GOT, PASTOR OKONKWO? And perhaps that is the message of 666: (Beware the End is at Hand) (dammit, there I go again) – that, in life, there is not always going to be a 666 (Beware the End is at Hand) 3 to come along and set things right; that THE END is not always just sequel bait, but sometimes just that -- and, as such, a call to get straight with ourselves and our God.

Which is not to say that I’m not trolling the internet for the next installment, as horrible as it might be. And in this, too, is a metaphor for life.

1 comment:

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