I don’t know about you all, but I am so goddamn sick of hearing and thinking and reading and talking and even writing about failed businessman and future dictator Donald Trump. Yet, this is the bind of our current moment. In so many ways, when popular culture fails me by focusing on some awful human unworthy of my thought or time, I simply ignore them. In 2016 our celebrities and our leaders have become one. Trump is not merely one of an endless parade of awful rich white people embarrassing us with their poor behavior and awful racism, he is now the leader of the free world. So as much as I would like to simply ignore his fat, idiot face, the reality is that his presidency will have disastrous effects for all of us. Whether he is a bumbling idiot, unable to handle even the most basic tasks required of a president, or some brilliant white supremacist leading our nation to a new fascist regime, Trump represents actual danger. Ignoring him won’t help, and yet for every one one of us raging and yelling and protesting, I still feel some sympathy for those seeking to avoid. Perhaps they should not avoid the everyday trash fire of our current political climate, but when the real world represents so much danger, so much potential for suffering, then surely our entertainment should be escapist. Surely now is the time for light spectacle, and avoidance of the dark and celebrating death. This response is understandable, and maybe even endearing, to react to the death of the real world by avoiding fictional death. Yet, here we are: I love Horror. I cannot stop loving it. I cannot limit my love for it to October alone, but in fact seek to understand it, to understand how it makes me feel and how it affects those who view it.
So here we are, with what is our most ambitious collaborative project: thinking yet again about Horror. Why do I love it so much? What draws me in? What are some of the trends and ideas that are revealed through Horror? I think, not just in this contemporary moment, but historically, the horror stories of a given time reveal something of the anxieties at play in that society. This is not a one to one relationship of course. For every Night of The Living Dead or Last House on the Left, visceral tales which almost subconsciously tap into the raging issues of their time, there are just as many cynical money grabs which may or may not manage to produce something worth watching. However, there is something to be said for the ways Horror can reflect, if even in a funhouse mirror, the various issues and passions of a given age. So how do we understand Horror now? For me, and I think for Destiny as well, the question of religion and Horror is not just a combination of personal narrative and morbid interest. Something is happening in modern religion, and maybe something in Horror can help us see it more clearly. The 87% of Evangelicals who voted for Trump: are these folks representing a new trend or a revelation of what was always true? I suspect we will be arguing about this for generations.
That is why, in a time when we are so interested in understanding the supposed end of religion in our culture, that horror films which deal with religion are so interesting to me. Recently, the folks over at Vice published a piece entitled “Why Are So Many Horror Films Christian Propaganda?”, and the piece took some time to explore the ways that religiously themed Horror often implicitly reinforces a faith tradition that itself seems in opposition to these tales of grotesquerie. The piece was, predictably, lacking much actual reflection on either the nature of religion or Horror. One could easily have pointed to the long tradition in medieval Europe of using horrific and terrifying imagery in order to convert folks or encourage deeper devotion, and that some of our most dramatic Horror traditions were not squashed but kept alive by the church. Of course, one could easily point to the concept of syncretism, and that the spread of Christianity across Europe meant absorbing many ancient European traditions, baptizing them as somehow related to a belief system in which these devils and creatures were actually entirely alien too. Then one must take a view that asks: what is modern Christianity? Is it not in fact a cultural tradition in which we are enmeshed regardless of personal beliefs and not an actual system of beliefs which has direct ties to the folks in ancient Israel? That is to say: religion is itself a difficult thing to understand, especially in a world where maybe we can begin to see past our limited viewpoint in the west. To add to this the concept of Horror, one must inevitably ask why scary stories even exist, and what they accomplish for us.
But I digress. What I think is most interesting is the ways in which the article is right. While the author is worried at the ways these horror films dangerously vilify other belief systems and identities outside of a Christian framework, they seem ignorant of the fact that at its base level Horror is fantasy. Thus, as a fantastical tradition, a more interesting question might be in what ways these very seemingly “Christian” narratives help us access more modern anxieties. This question is what keeps me up at night, not that I worry that the producers of The Conjuring are secretly trying to convert me to Jesus (though the Warrens were huckster criminals who should be in jail right now). Instead, I wonder: why do issues of alienation, possession, haunting, and the supernatural still matter in a world where we are all too familiar with other more salient and present oppressions? Not just the pain and murder that various religious traditions have perpetrated, but racism and patriarchy and capitalism have all brought mass horror beyond any cinematic scale to our planet. Despite the intense and material horror we need only watch the news to encounter, we still worry about intangible haunts, ancient prophecies, and unkept desires. All of this, I suspect, points to a deep ingrained inclination among modern people: the world is not as rational and understandable as we suspect, and our hope is that this inner chaos is some other force and not just ourselves.
I don’t know though, and I wanted to think on it more by examining some classic religiously themed horror films and talk about what is lurking in them under the surface. I knew I could not do this alone, so I invited my friend Destiny to join me. Destiny is an artist, designer, model, and writer. She has a history with the church like myself, so I knew would be able to bring some of that insight and pain to this conversation. But I suspect she is more skeptical about all that than I am, so she will balance out my optimism as well. Who knows! She loves Horror, she is way more punk than I, and she is one of those folks in punk and hardcore that I can talk to about race and the ways our scene fucks that shit up all the time. HER WEBSITE
Ganja & Hess
Watching Ganja & Hess really gave me a lot of cerebral flashbacks of being a young black girl in a black church. Ganja & Hess is grossly unsung as a iconic and groundbreaking black horror film, but it is one that still makes a large and impressionable statement. Bill Gunn, the writer, director and first victim in the film created Ganja & Hess Hess as a direct artistic reaction against exploitative black cinema that American audiences grew accustomed to. During this time, stereotypical and exaggerated forms of blackness sold and sold well.
Ganja & Hess is a rich, experimental art film about addiction, blackness and their relationships in the context of Christianity. Christianity in relation to black people in America specifically speaks to white supremacy and westernization.
I grew up in a pentecostal church where speaking in tongues, demons, possession, angels, and supernatural things were acceptable and constantly spoken about. The Holy Spirit is something that you can invoke just like the devil in a horror movie, or with a ouija board. But in the pentecostal church, everything that was holy was seen as positive and light, and not in the same vein. I really enjoyed Ganja &Hess because it seemed to start blurring that rigid line.
Growing up in such a militant church and in the Black community in general, most Black people will not critique Christianity in anyway, especially artistically. Bill Gunn was a superhero for that, in my personal opinion. As an artist who dreams of being as bold as I wanted to be about my atheism and disdain for abrahamic religion outside of listening to black metal would change everything all together. Thank goodness for examples of courage like these.
Dr. Hess Green, the main character, is an upper class black anthropologist who studies ancient cultures in the African Diaspora. The specific culture in the film was the Myrthians, who were obsessed with blood and its consumption. After violent circumstances, Green himself becomes an immortal vampire.
It is quite interesting to notice that throughout the film’s entire dialogue the word vampire was never spoken or mentioned. I believe that this in particular elevated this movie beyond just a normal vampire Horror, becoming more about blood and its religious and symbolic relevance to black people in regards to faith and their humanities.
In black churches blood is a popular spoken subject. Nothing but the blood of Jesus will wash away sin, the blood of the lamb will restore peace and justice…Jesus’ blood is the ultimate sacrifice and execution of love. Are the so-called vampires in the film actively seeking religious and spiritual freedom and therapy through their victims blood? Is it good or bad that Hess eventually seeks refuge once again at the Black Church?
Ganja Ganja & Hess Hess is truly a landmark film. I agree, the avoidance of the standard vampire tropes in the film, instead exploring this idea of addiction and obsession was really a brilliant move. The film also has an undercurrent that I think you point to: the story of religion in the narrative of blackness. What does it mean that Christianity is a narrative of blood, of blood flow and blood shed and blood consumption? Once more, what does it mean that Gunn has also injected a Pan-African aspect into the film. During key moments there is an African musical queue, often during moments of extreme action or passion or moments that are violent or dreamlike. It is a moment that suggests something underneath, an anxiety of some sort of otherness beyond Dr. Hess’ bougie formality.
In that way I wonder how much this film connects with anxieties surrounding class. Hess lives a removed existence not only because he is addicted to human blood. He is removed by his money, his privilege, his high class existence. This is no more clear than when he descends to hunt, mixing with those to whom he seems almost entirely foreign. His own estate feels more than rural, almost wild in nature. He seems to live as royalty, and yet as this protected and removed person, he must descend to feed. In these scenes he is often surrounded not just by folks who are different, but folks who too often embody the stereotypes and caricatures populating too often the other black cinema of the day. To come at it directly: I wonder how much of Ganja & Hess is meant to remind the audience of Du Bois’ “double consciousness” idea. I may be reaching, but it feels to me as if, even in the relationship of our two titular characters there is this struggle between how one sees oneself and how one is perceived. How is Hess seeing himself, and what anxieties does he feel about what both his addiction and his religion say about him? Is there a primal, powerful, and yet somehow shameful past animating him? I do not mean a personal past, but the anxiety colonized peoples feel about their own heritage as mitigated through their European dominated existence.
I am thinking about this because of your question. What does it mean that Hess arrives back in the church? I am not sure that looking for a grand statement about anything as complicated as Black Christianity serves this film well. Ganja & Hess is a unique, intersectional, and anti-colonial Horror experience, but it is still a horror film. It is still a scary story, and while it creates a fruitful space for exploration of this complicated terrain where religion, race, obsession, and fear intersect, it is not meant to answer or even make a statement about anything. It is a truly dreamlike experience, vacillating between experimental and impressionistic footage and moments of cinema verite played for both humor and Horror. It is not a film of character revelation, but of visceral visual cinema, and yet it has some haunting and powerful lines, things I cannot stop thinking about days after this recent rewatch. Gunn has created a space where I am watching what should be familiar, most ancient story of those who live from our blood. Yet it is entirely unique in that it allows us to wonder at the modern state of Blackness, of living with dignity in a world which proscribes something else to you, and the complicated relationship this creates with yourself. Add to that this dimension of the church, and Gunn has really put something powerful together that should be reckoned with.
That is an incredibly deep perspective and is why I love having conversations like these! Which means I have to rewatch this again and again. I thoroughly appreciate and admire this film for several reasons, some of which are because of Bill Gunn’s visual language and layered plot. It is not just a simple Dracula-esque tale, but a descent into a conversation about mental illness, pain, suffering and pleasure in relation to black bodies. It seems as if Gunn poured his heart into this film. It wasn’t received as well as he hoped and his cinematic contributions were cut short. He was proud of being an independent artist and did not want to perpetuate commercialism in his work.
In the conversation of Horror and religion, Ganja & Hess is a unique and subtly intersectional film about the diversity of blackness in both its pain and in its glory. Shot beautifully and intentionally, I recommend this to anyone who enjoys Horror beyond predictability and conceptualism.
The Omen is almost too familiar to be frightening. Anyone who is a student of horror films knows how frightened folks have been, even in the seemingly irreligious Horror community, of the end of the world. The Omen explores perhaps the most engaging aspect of this mythology: the idea that the great adversary will at some point be born among humans, and will raise up to destroy the world. Damien is that child, and The Omen focuses not just on him but on those around him. What must it be like to be related to the one who will destroy the world? What does it mean for us as people that we still believe in this, or that we at least want to be scared by it? There is a deep anxiety, I believe, in these religious horror films connected to identity. Each one of these figures in Damien’s life are given signs and symbols, long before fate takes their lives, that something is wrong. It is, in a sense, their skepticism and the skepticism of the world they operate in that allows for the evil that Damien represents to grow and fester. Damien himself is not so much a force for evil, as he is simply a location for it, a point around which various forces of death seem to hover. Thus, while there are a few nefarious characters throughout, often the villain or adversary in the film is intangible, a kind of power for destruction which manifests in random acts of violence.
In this way, The Omen could be read as a kind of Christian allegory, nnbut to do so I think it not to take seriously two things. One is simply that fearing evil is a common idea that is not rooted in any specific theological context. Second is that the makers of this film have no interest in even the vaguest form of apologetics. That is to say, what exactly is the fear or anxiety expressed in this kind of religious themed horror film? It seems, at some level, to be anxiety about the nature of modern life/humanity. I have made this claim elsewhere, but it bears repeating. The religious horror film trope, exemplified so perfectly in The Omen, is not about orthodoxy or faith as such. It is the outgrowth of a deep suspicion in the modern (white) psyche that suggests that, despite the imposition of rationality upon the world through science and secularism, the world and by extension the modern (white) human is still fundamentally irrational. Not only that, but the rational secularism we do cling to only serve to distract and confuse us about ourselves, about who we are and what kind of people we are. In today’s America, where a white fascist has been elected leader, and every day attacks upon marginalized populations have been discredited or ignored, it is hard to take this concern seriously without recasting it in a different light: it is not warnings of the devil outside, but the one within, the specter of white patriarchal capitalism that we are ignoring to our eventual doom.
Exactly right Liam. horror movies often explore what is normally viewed as innocent and harmless and then perverting those images. What is scarier than the potential of things and people known to you becoming capable of causing you extreme pain? Them having the control over your fatality, being someone you were bonded with or trusted on some level? Damien represents that in several manifestations during the film. Like you said, he is definitely not the only villain in this movie. Gregory Peck’s character secretly adopted Damien behind his wife’s back. He assumed complete control over his wife’s reproductive choice and agency. When the doctors first break the news to Peck, he responds as if he is in the process of correcting an issue, rather than dealing with the unfortunate and untimely death of his newborn son. I recently also found that Gregory Peck’s own son died tragically before the crew began filming. I wonder how difficult it was for him to play such a stoic individual while experiencing such real and devastating emotions in personal life.
It also seemed as if Peck’s character continued to gaslight and undermine his wife’s experience, played by Lee Remick. She felt serious disconnect with Damien before his evil intentions showed in the movie, yet Gregory Peck often dismissed her (to hide his secret).
And on a side note as an intersectional feminist and stoner: I never quite realized how much white privilege is written into and awarded to characters in horror films. The new nanny who came after the infamous “It’s all for you Damien” babysitter death just strolled up with “references” and vague conversation. She was immediately hired and welcomed into the home. The white supremacist notion of complete innocence desperately plays a tumultuous role in this film and in others. Moral of the story: Don’t trust everyone, even if they’re a smiling white lady with a posh British accent.
So true Destiny, I cannot believe they would just welcome this awful woman into their home and assume she WASN’T a servant of the Dark Lord. I have never seen a more nefarious looking white woman besides Ann Coulter in my life. Seriously though, there is an underlying critique in the film of two things, whether intentional or unintentional, that need be addressed. One is class. These people are out of touch, living in extreme privilege. They have no idea what the world around them is like, and when they have to interact with normal people it always seems awkward. That, in the end, is how they can be so easily controlled. The nanny is such an important figure in the lives of rich white folks that really she is all the help Damien needs to find his way to the dark realms.
The second is, in fact, sexism or rather, specifically, patriarchy. This is a struggle of men against men, but also not really. The men in this movie are clueless and detached, and unaware of the way their power affects the world around them. Meanwhile, Damien’s mom is ignored and then murdered, her concerns written off as hysterical. Damien’s nanny is a force to be reckoned with, but the men around cannot be bothered. The film shows again and again, intentionally or not, that male patriarchal authority is both insufficient and yet also a means for destruction. The man, in their sexist assumptions is played, while the women are ignored to the detriment of those around them. It is not a political film, but it highlights this issue brilliantly.
I’m glad you brought up patriarchy and sexism, because in Thirst I felt that this was definitely an underlying theme, or at least that’s how I perceived it. This poor woman, a descendent from Countess Bathory being kidnapped and forced into a blood cult against her will? What is more terrifying and historically true than women being forced against their will to do something with their bodies? An outside force, that could represent the church and the state is forcefully trying to impose their own will onto the feminine body and mind. Scary stuff, considering it happens everyday. Not long ago Ohio attempted to limit abortions to 6 weeks and the current climate of people who need reproductive health care being denied is growing. It is a very glaring comparison to sexism in that way for me.
Kate Davis, the main character, is continuously terrorized and kidnapped by a cult called The Brotherhood. While the movie isn’t drawing blatant parallels to Christianity, one can make their own assumptions with the fixation of blood and The Brotherhood as a powerful and religious institution. Kate desperately wanted her own independence and choice in life, despite her royal bloodline. I don’t know about you Liam, but after growing up in a very religious household, one of my biggest fears is predestination. I love the idea of having choice…and to take that away from someone based on their beliefs about you is terrifying indeed. The Wicker Man is full of the same parallels, I believe.
INDEED! I did not grow up religious, but came to it later. In fact, prior to my conversion in high school, my view of ALL religious people fits these cultists. They are both irrational and rational, or rather, rational in their insane fundamentalist beliefs. Because of belief they do much evil to our heroine, despite all evidence that what they are doing is insane. In fact, even by their own understanding, their cause seems lost again and again. Yet their faith maintains them, forces them forward. It is terrifying for rational people, but especially because these folks have power and authority.
This is where I found the really anxious center of this movie, and while the movie is basically religiously themed, that was not the most anxious for me. The idea that this cult of wanna be vampires is not only in existence but in some way running the world. In that I found an anxiety, not just about class, but about an almost illuminati-like cabal running things we cannot see. This is, for me, one of the most chilling versions of the vampire myth made modern. In this film our secret society is less powerful and more kooky, but in some other versions we see vampires more as powerful game keepers, tending their human flock for culling and survival. This is so similar to how global economic elites actually live…it is truly disturbing.
However, in Thirst we have less of an evil powerful network, if only in that they seem crippled by their own beliefs. Why continue to pursue this one reluctant participant just because of her lineage. It is insane, and yet fits with one version of how faith works. The part which rings all too true is the feeling of purpose, that those who do this are not cynical manipulators. That enemy could be defeated, in theory, by revealing the truth of the situation to them. No, as true believers, they seem immune to truth claims, and need only the strength of their own convictions to destroy everyone else’s lives.
The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man is, in some ways, a difficult film for me to wrap my head around. Not that it is complicated, or that it has an intricate plot. Cop shows up, looks for “missing girl,” finds more than he bargained for. She is in fact the hare, the hare to lure him into the trap. It is clever, but not difficult. What Wicker Man nails so well, in fact exceptionally well, is create a tone. There is a subtle menace to the entire film, and each rewatching reveals more layers and ideas and themes. There is so much there to enjoy, to pull apart, and yet the film works entirely on the surface level. Still, the tone really gets to me. That is, if the film were about a community of heathens in which this moral Christian man was set loose, but in the end meant no harm and were just enjoying their life, well I would understand that film. On the other hand, if the cop were shown to be actually righteous and respectable and he tragically fell into the hands of awful, terrible devil worshippers, that movie also makes sense. In this film a self righteous prick, barely worthy of human compassion, runs around an island being offended by every little thing and generally acting a fool. This of course plays entirely into the villager hands as they were always planning to trick him into being their human sacrifice, the exact sort of insane behavior he suspects them of from the beginning. That is, the film seems to condemn the officer for his fears, while completely confirming them.
This is for me part of what makes the film so fascinating. There is of course the burdensome and futile question of intent. Am I, in the end, supposed to feel for this sacrificial lamb of the uptight cop? Is it just my inability to take seriously any of his hand wringing when so much of it is not only prudish, but irrational in a democratic and seemingly liberal society? Is the film suggesting that underneath all of our open minded posturing we are all, at base, prigs? Does it matter what the intent is when I am so sure that this film has no truly sympathetic characters at all? To me, Lord Summerisle and his minions are just a more dangerous and vile form of hippy, already gross and barely tolerable, but ones willing to murder to improve their apples, of all things! Granted, any ritual killing which involves murdering a character as tiresome as Sergeant Howie, especially as not only a judgmental monster but a cop as well, isn’t as bad as it could be. Still, what I see here is a clash of powers, of old and new, of two insane sets of beliefs, not the usual extraction from colonialism. That is, under the surface, what this story could be about. All pagans and heathens are merely the conquered, those subjugated to a faith that in theory preaches peace and yet so often finds the sword much more useful as a tool of conversion. Thus, lurking in many witchcraft and devilry stories are underlying fears of the colonizer, and thus are quite satisfying. Not so here: perhaps there may be some lingering self loathing around the common superstitions still present in English society. I suspect no though, that rather The Wicker Man is about how faith is so often an ideological battle field, some often loose.
The power of faith is definitely terrifying because in the wrong hands it can do catastrophic things, especially to the people in the way of those who believe. Through lens of Sergeant Howie for instance, this circumstance is full of nightmarish possibilities. He was a rigid and religiously devout policeman yoked to his life of uptightness, duty and lack of pleasure.
Howie is the type of person that I could relate to as a former devout and rigid Christian. All he wanted to do was the right thing, so much so that he rejected anything that he did not perceive to be just. For someone devout, sadism in terms of punishing your sins and achieving biblical levels of righteousness means constantly removing your pleasure and increasing your distrust in the world and those who don’t do the same. Freedom is considered a dangerous weapon. He was immediately skeptical, repulsed and offended by the actions of the community members but in this story — his skepticism was with great reasoning. But while you watch the movie, you can’t help but reject and/or feel like he is overreacting. People have different realities than you, many of which you probably dislike a lot, but you cannot control that. That however directly contradicts the fact that the villagers are responsible for a missing girl as well as other missing girls. The struggle between the morality of freedom and vengeance play tug of war throughout the entirety of the film. Should we be complicit towards the villagers since they’re just living their lives, or is there something more to this absurd lifestyle?
The apex during the May Day celebration begins as we see Sergeant Howie’s terrified face as he is trapped with no chance of escape, ready to be sacrificed and set on fire. What is scarier than your fears of the Devil becoming true? His uneasiness towards the villagers was justifiable, he realized in his own demise. Freedom in this case, was a dangerous weapon indeed.
What I have so much trouble with though, friend, is how unsympathetic Howie is! Yes, he was right: these folks really are the worst kind of pagans one could imagine, in that they are willing to sacrifice his life for better crops. Yet, I wonder if there is an implied capitalism critique here, or maybe a military one. That is to say, do modern regimes and economies not always do this very thing, sacrifice others for prosperity which might never actually come? Of course, doing some research on the film, I discovered that there are multiple cuts of the film, and some paint Howie more sympathetically than others, Yet, this doesn’t change my inner conflict with the film as a whole.
This conflict, this tension, is perhaps what the film is in fact about. The Wicker Man asks the question as to who we are, if by we one assumes modern figures, mostly white. Yet, this question still has some teeth. This Pagan past haunts all folk horror films, this idea that Christianity is nothing but a veneer, or perhaps a disorder, obscuring the true Pagan heart of Europe, but maybe even more Great Britain itself. That is, of all the religious horror films, folk horror seems to be the most about the inherent insecurity in whiteness. This Pagan past, May poles and dancing and sacrifices, is the past which haunts the edges of whiteness itself. This is in its essence colonialism, the encounter with the other is simply an encounter with the self, but the disavowed the self. The culture one encounters is not a unique group, but merely a reflection of one’s disavowed past. The Wicker Man is that past come to life, a world where Christianity has not washed away the inner violence and superstitions of Europe, when of course it never has. It is a clash of cultures, but internally, and thus providing the deepest anxiety. We who are so advanced, so futuristic, so cultured, do not even really know ourselves.
Nina Simone once said that it is an artist’s rightful duty to acknowledge the times in their art. I believe that these four timeless horror films remain relevant. Horror has done a better job than many other genres in leaving us to question and really analyze ourselves as human beings. We are often jolted and confronted with our deepest fears, our worst versions of ourselves. There is no better time than now to really analyze who we are and our place in this world and the universe. We must be held accountable for our actions and strive to be better, which inevitably is the sadistic and mostly accurate thing in religion. We look to Horror as a form of entertainment, but also to view ourselves in the proverbial mirror and stare deeply at our nakedness. Sometimes we do this to avoid the horrors we constantly face every day. The villainous side of humanity is often way more frightening than any movie, and maybe that is what makes Ganja and Hess, The Omen, Thirst, and The Wicker Man such classics. They all uniquely juxtapose the battle between good and evil, exploring the murky and mucky history and aspects of Christianity, faith and fanaticism that we ignore in our societies. Is faith more damning than positive, especially in a world where our humanity and standards seemingly continue to crumble? In a world where Donald Trump, the rise of fascism and the fall of capitalism are impending, is faith smart or necessary?
Destiny Washington (b. 1991) is an emerging mixed media artist born and based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work, under the alias of Brooklyn Waste, explores the complexities of life with multiple societal marginalizations and the “voluntary” marginalization of fascination to outsider interests.
Self proclaimed as afro-dystopian art, Destiny Washington confronts her politics, fears, doubts and realities through countercultural aesthetic and process like screenprinting, collaging, scanner/copy art and graphic design. Heavily influenced what is considered grimy, street and throwaway, Brooklyn Waste passionately advocates for the legitimacy of urban and counterculture. She is an avid horror movie enthusiast, metalhead and pro-wrestling fanatic.