UnXplained & Cults

DATELINE: Joining a Cult?

 Kookoo Bird Applewhite


Shatner’s compelling series was downright sickening this week on UnXplained.

We were eager to hear what this intriguing series might come up with here: oh, the usual ones like Heaven’s Gate and Jonestown. But we were hoping the latest dangerous cult of coronavirus killers, the Trumpists.

Yes, he meets the criteria for a madhouse cult, friends, leading society members into sure self-destruction. Alas, as a Never-Trumper, we have again been disappointed.

The show takes on a few we were unaware of, like the weird cult that women allowed themselves to be branded in the age of MeTooism. Truly fighting the trend, we presume.

It seems, from the historical background, that cults were not always considered bad, but often were a productive part of ancient societies, usually religious orders, looking for heaven. No, not asteroids that might be abandoned spaceships.

One infamous self-help guru was James Arthur Ray, using his name not to be confused with James Earl Ray, the assassin of MLK. They are all cut from the same cloth.

Today’s cults seem to attract people whose lives lack meaning—and they want to be among the elite who have the secret answer. Tribal indoctrination seems to be the key, according to the show—and it is the intangible but powerful thing called charisma that seems to exude from the cult leader.

Whether it is Charles Manson, Marshall Applewhite, or some weird woman from Brazil, these cults take people with strong social needs and give them a belonging. Shatner is amusing in questioning his own audience for their beliefs. The worry is how far the cult will go under direction of their leader.

More than any other episode, this one was the most unpleasant and uncomfortable—showing us satanic killers who target innocent children, but all of them from Jim Jones and others have ordered death to innocence. Politics and hate are the latest motives for cults.






Micro-Budget Thriller: Ascent, Going Up!

DATELINE: High Quality Thriller 

 Stephen Buchanan as suspect!


It was shot in two weeks with a miniscule budget, but without expensive special effects, you can have a shocking and well-produced supernatural horror. The Ascent will surprise, delight, and amaze.

With intense closeups and perhaps one of the cleverest screenplays this side of Sherlock Holmes, you have a Latino LA detective (Miguel Perez) playing Henry Cardenas whose brilliant psychological insights solve cases and bring criminal confessions.

He is on the verge of setting a new police department record of 75 confessed homicides: when he comes face-to-face with a daunting murder, allegedly committed by a koo-koo bird who insists he is Lucifer’s Kid Brother, making Charles Manson look like a fallen angel.

The performances are to die for:  especially Miguel Perez as the cardiac detective of heavy-set middle-age, not your usual Holmesian type. His banter and back-and forth with the suspect (Stephen Buchanan) as the egomaniacal suspect covered in blood is utterly fascinating.

You don’t need a big budget with sharp delineations and even crisper dialogue—as suspect and interrogator match wits and switch positions. You know something is amiss when the suspect knows the detective’s name is Henry without being told.

The Ascent  features a descent into hell by elevator that requires only improv acting style to achieve its horror.

Director and writer Tom Murtaugh will require monitoring in the future. We don’t know whether it will be possible to match this kind of style if he’s given a big budget to handle.

If you are in the mood for a smart movie that will test you, this is the gem of the year.

New Science of Hollywood Archaeology





 ImageScott Michaels


Scott Michaels is a collector of Hollywood memorabilia, but it is rather on the morbid side. However, his collection will intrigue anyone who wants to learn something about Hollywood history.  If you want to look under rocks for squirming lowlifes, then Six Degrees of Helter Skelter will make your day.


See the trailer here.


Michaels runs the most ghoulish, but knowledgeable tours of the dark side of the movie capital. So, if you want to know about the Tate-LoBianca murders by the Manson family, this man can give you the scoop of details unearthed by someone who knows the microcosm contains the biggest truths.


The documentary simply gives a staggering tour of the ties and connections of those who knew Manson’s gang and were touched briefly or fatally by their mad poison. What emerges is almost an incestuous name-dropping for ninety minutes. Everyone, it seems in those days, knew everyone else.




Scott Michaels is the new Heinrich Schliemann looking for the lost city of Troy.




Novelist Carson McCullers used to read the tabloid rags, not serious journalism, because if you want to know something about people, only in the dirty can you find the details a writer needs to comprehend his characters. Scott Michaels gives us the bizarre shards of lives lost 40 years ago during this movie tour. It is hypnotic.




No one in the movie or music business in those days was more than a few degrees removed for the most famous celebrities or the lowest cretins. Nearly everyone had connections to the hippie/drug culture permeating the Hollywood Hills, and even decades later archaeological evidence can be found in former places of horror.




Director Michael Dorsey seems to tag along with a man whose trivial knowledge makes a pursuit worth documenting. Yet, the film is no amateur hour, but a well-planned trip along one of the nightmares of history. Scott Michaels knows where the bodies are buried.




If no great insight is provided into the murders and psychology of the killers, we do perceive the ultimate in banality among the Glitterati of an era. Hangers-on have been the making of Boswellian history since, well, James Boswell chronicled his more famous friends.




This documentary may not satisfy most people, but will enthrall those who like peeking through lost keyholes.


William Russo has written some Hollywood history as well. Try his gossip-laden book called RIDING JAMES KIRKWOOD’S PONY for the truth behind a forgotten and unsolved Hollywood murder. Available in e-book and softcover on Amazon.com.