Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Killer, An Antimemetic World-Slayer, and Belle Epoque Investigations

November 21st, 2023 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.


In Which We Serve (Film, UK, Noel Coward & David Lean, 1942) Clinging to a life raft and periodically strafed by German planes, the captain (Noel Coward) and other crew members of the sinking destroyer Torrin recall the role it played in their lives since the beginning of the war. Coward plays against his bon vivant persona as a wholly admirable naval officer in this stirring achievement in British wartime propaganda.—RDL

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (Film, Italy, Luciano Ercoli, 1970) A chilling encounter with a spear-cane wielding blackmailer (Simón Andreu) leaves an ennui-ridden woman (Dagmar Lassander) thinking that her driven businessman husband (Pier Paolo Capponi) is a murderer. Giallo without gore killings exerts a strange hold despite its plot absurdities, in part via the stylish unease of its Ennio Morricone score.—RDL

The Killer (Film, US, David Fincher, 2023) Hit man (Michael Fassbender) who obsesses about process repeatedly finds himself improvising as his process hits the skids of unpredictable humanity. On one level a (perfectionist) film about a professional, on another a wry self-examination by a process-obsessed director. Its leitmotif of the killer concealed within (or emergent from) a commercial monoculture of sitcoms, gig work, and global branding seems almost beside the point. —KH

The Law According to Lidia Poët Season 1 (Television, Italy, Netflix, Guido Iuculano & Davide Orsini, 2023) In 1883 Turin, a law school grad who is forbidden to enter the courtroom (Matilda De Angelis) solves murders, aided by her stuffy attorney brother (Pier Luigi Pasino) and a handsome journalist (Eduardo Scarpetta.) De Angelis smolders with smarts, glamor and barely contained rage in a lavishly mounted historical case-of-the-week mystery show. YKRPG fans will appreciate its Belle Époque (or stile floreale if you insist) decor and costumes, particularly in the episode featuring spiritualism and a sinister masked ball.—RDL

Skinamarink (Film, Canada, Kyle Edward Ball, 2023) Preschool siblings wake up in the middle of the night to find their home transformed by an otherworldly incursion. Trance-inducing experimental horror, where figures appear dimly or obliquely when they occupy the screen at all, owes more to Stan Brakhage than it does to Tod Browning or John Carpenter. If you’re not on its wavelength after 15-20 minutes, know that it is going to stick with its aesthetic all the way through.—RDL

There Is No Antimemetics Division (Fiction, qntm, 2021) Marion Wheeler, the head of the SCP Foundation’s Antimemetics Division, battles an antimemetic world-killer in a series of layered, interrelated short narratives. Qntm takes a great spec-fic high concept and rings plenty of clever changes on it, while continuously raising the stakes from Clancyesque competence porn to Lovecraftian apocalypse. Mandatory reading for Madness Dossier GMs. —KH


Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World’s Strangest Brains (Nonfiction, Helen Thomson, 2018) Journalist visits people who live with such rare neurological conditions as mirror neuron synesthesia, clinical lycanthropy, and Cotard’s syndrome, whose sufferers believe that they have died. An eye-opening look at anomalies of the brain, padded with the anodyne anecdotes pop science editors insist on.—RDL

Satan’s Slaves: Communion (Film, Indonesia, Joko Anwar, 2022) Four years after their first brush with demons summoned by an infernal pact, a family faces a new incursion from beyond—this time, in a flood-threatened Jakarta housing project. The creepy slow burn plays more strongly than the conclusion in a second installment that establishes the series’ core evil as emanating from the sins of the Suharto regime .—RDL


The Medium (Film, Thailand, Banjong Pisanthanakun, 2021) Shaman discovers that her niece has been possessed by a malign entity. Pseudodocumentary is at its most interesting early on, transposing the tropes of the exorcism subgenre to the animist Isan culture, before it revs up into standard scare stuff.—RDL

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