‘Viking Angel’: Hollywood Babylonia

Actually Huizenga in
If God is in the Hills and the Devil is in the details, then where does that land the glitz of Hollywood? The glitter is there, sure, sparkly, pretty but often masking layers of blood, semen and tears. But isn’t that glamorous too? The grime and soot are as much a part of the picture as the pretty polish and all this and more are explored in post-pop musician/video artist extraordinaire Actually Huizenga’s most epic creation to date, Viking Angel.

Auditioning beautiful, unsure but ambitious aspiring starlets, Mr. Bailey (Louis Oberlander), a blue eyed, bearded Russ Tamblyn-charismatic agent, greets the latest girl. Blonde, lovely and dressed in a sexy approximation of virgin white, the actress (Actually) shows up in his office. A weird tableau of superimposition hell plays on a TV behind her, displaying the legs of basketball players, a neon cross with the words “Jesus Saves” and a future version of herself, naked, bloody and crawling.

The audition, involving lines like “ordinary morality is only for ordinary people,” goes so well that she gets the part and is promptly put through the casting couch process. The film shifts into music video mode with “Male Fantasy” coming on as a Lisa Frank color palette scheme kicks in. A photo of the dismembered body of Elizabeth Short, the infamous “Black Dahlia,” is seen in the background as Bailey soldiers on with his humping. 

Soon, she is being made up and prepped for her big scene, as a newscast comes on a nearby TV. Real newscasts should take a cue from Viking Angel. Animated bats, smoking on the set and dialogue like, “Whatever Ryan, why can’t you just be happy about it?” and “They should be really helping. Not throwing children in the closet with demons.” makes real life news even more mediocre and borderline unbearable. It’s a sick, sad world, with six escaped muscle-bound, sex-starved convicts running around raping and killing innocent families. The newscasters bring on Officer Short (Socrates Mitsios) to discuss the series of new unsolved murders with a matching MO. All of the victims, beautiful and struggling actresses, who have been quartered and drained of blood, Dahlia-style.
Socrates Mitsios in
As they cue to the weather, the actress gets tied up for her “scene,” as an occult procession starts to roll in, complete with topless women asserting themselves into a fleshy Jesus Christ pose and a ritual sacrifice. Realizing that this is not part of the script, she starts to freak and as the blade starts to pierce her skin, Officer Short arrives and manages to rescue her before the wound gets fatal. Simultaneously, an Insane Viking Warrior (Daniel Pierce) shows up, complete with crazed eyes, ripped six pack and chain mail loincloth, as well as a sexy version of the goddess Freya who looks identical to the actress.

The Officer manages to grab the actress and they crawl out of a hole in the ground, which is flanked by a grinning, dancing gentleman (Gerald) twirling a cardboard sign stating “Sacrifice Here.” They run away, while being unknowingly followed by the Viking Warrior, who lets out a scream of the ages before going on the chase. Down the rabbit hole they go, encountering an S&M bar with whipped businessmen and masturbating Santas, coitus interruptus thanks to vivisection via electric guitar, mass stabbings, watermelon being pierced by a high heel and an ethereal pope figure. 
This is all gonna end in blood.
Viking Angel is a fluid ride into a universe that intertwines the harsh realities of a violent, superficial world and the dreamy, love-lorn paganism of mythology. The music is a terrific mix of electro-sex-pop with metal undertones, thanks to some stellar guitar work courtesy of Gabriel Tanaka. With Huizenga’s background being music videos and the experimental film work of the SoftRock series, Viking Angel is a seamless blend of these twin formats. There is Huizenga’s brilliant editing style, working superimposition like a well-oiled-acid-laced-machine. The visual layering that is utilized here is like the world’s most stunning pastiche, with the tone of sensuality, bloodletting and the occult playing out like the art-child of Kenneth Anger.

Performance wise, Actually is pitch perfect both as the beautiful starlet who spends ¾ of the film caked in blood during her infernal journey, as well as the strong Freya-type doppelganger. As Mr. Bailey, Louis Oberlander is the epitome of blue-eyed Hollywood sleaze as he leads the sex & death show. Mitsios is charismatic as Officer Short and speaking of which, Gabriel Tanaka is equally striking as both the literally killer guitarist and the ghostly, androgynous Pope.
Glitter & Grue
The biggest challenge about Viking Angel has nothing to do with the film itself, but the multi-boundary pushing going on. Art crowds will get fussy about the blood and pop music. Horror fans could grouse about the art and pop music. Pop music fans will recoil from the grue and metal undertones, but you know what? That’s why this work is so wonderful and so needed. If your own boundaries are not pushed, then someone is not doing their job. Playing it safe is the last thing any artist should do, while playing it true to their work and vision is the absolute first thing they should do. Actually Huizenga is the real deal and has created a world that is striking, beautiful, nightmarish and complex with Viking Angel. Lucky for both fans and the curious, Huizenga has an upcoming multi-media tour highlighting both the film, the new tunes, as well as an additional performance by cult music wunderkind Ssion. Dates are not yet confirmed but will be posted on her website as soon as they are set.

Posted by Heather Drain
04:31 pm
‘Fleshworld’: Actually Huizenga’s SoftRock Series
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Actually Huizenga in SoftRock III
The worlds of film and music can be so simpatico to the extent of being fraternal twins. This is why a format like music video can be jewel-like, when done correctly. Of course, nowadays most music videos look more like ads for Pier One or the lamest nightclubs in the world. But in the sea of mediocrity, one underground artist stands out and her name is Actually Huizenga.

I first found out about Actually when I discovered the music video for her song Don’t (from her self titled album, which is quite excellent, by the way) via Tumblr. One happenstance click and I was floored both by the music, which was very much in the mold of what I like to call “sin-synth”, but also by the video. Shot in Greece, it was both stunningly beautiful, with Actually looking like a sexual revenant in parts. The themes of power play, the beauty of lust and the darker recesses of human love and eroticism are ones that come up again and again in her work, but nowhere are they more strong than in her short film series, SoftRock.

Made in collaboration with uber-talented photographer and partner-in-crime/co-star, Socrates Mitsios, SoftRock eschews the safer sound of pop and focuses on a landscape that Huizenga has phrased as “snuff pop”. The first segment, SoftRock I, mainly centers around Huizenga and Mitsios. Fragments of coupling with hints of violence, all edited in a way like it’s the recollection of a memories of the dying. The soundtrack, a sonic collage consisting of scraps of musicality (including something that might be a sample from Burzum’s Dunkelheit) sewn in with borderline white noise, reflects the beautiful wrongness of it all.

The nightmare of Eros continues with SoftRock II, picking up where the first one left off. In addition to the figures of Mitsios and Huizenga, there are others spotted, including a thin brunette terrorized. The horror hinted at in the first one has grown both gothic and gritty, with images of Actually, wide-eyed and holding melting candles to scenes of queasy sexual aggression. It’s this combination that will undoubtedly throw off a lot of people, but the reason why it is so compelling and even pure is for that same reason. Human nature, all of its light and dark facets can be alternately glowing and greasy, which is demonstrated so strikingly here.

Rounding off the initial trilogy is SoftRock III, with everything that was brewing in the first two come to a head.  For starters, there are the repeated scenes inter-threaded throughout of Actually running naked through a wooded area, mouth red with blood,  looking all but like a heroine from a Jean Rollin film. The sexual violence aspects come up alongside this, all playing out like a pagan ceremony gone awry. Yet amidst all the darkness and depravity, one of the last images is also one of the sweetest, revealing a message of love in a sea of lurid drives and dark intention.

SoftRock stands out for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s highly unusual to see an artist from a pop music background not only get directly involved with film making (right down to the editing) but on top of that, create something that by its very DNA is going to alienate most mainstream audiences. Even better, the power couple of Huizenga and Mitsios have created something entirely arty and uncompromising. It’s a feverish nightmare chock full of rich colors, grainy footage that looks like an outtake from Fleshworld magazine, but with love, fear and exorcism thrown in for good measure. With rumors of a fourth installment, not to mention news that Actually is working on follow up to her debut album, it will be exciting to see what future art emerges. Whatever shape it takes, like a lipstick smear on a cocktail glass, it will be evocative, a little sleazy and hard to erase.

Posted by Heather Drain
01:43 pm