Purgatory Phil

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Think about Groundhog Day from Rita Prime’s (the Rita that continues to exist in Phil’s timeline at the end of the movie) perspective. She has this creep asshole that she works with. She knows he’s a selfish dickwad, he ignores her all day, shows how he has this secret life in this weird little town where everyone knows and loves him, then they go on ONE DATE and he says he’s happy because he loves her. They spend maybe 4 hours together total, he carves her face in ice from memory THEN TELLS HER HE LOVES HER. If these flags were any redder they would insist the means of production were controlled by the workers.

Now consider this: Phil has had somewhere between 5 and 500 years to perfect this one day. It’s  all he knows. He’s trained his mind and body to execute these particular moves, say these particular phrases, dance this completely choreographed 24 hours period all to trick this woman into liking his invented self and posses her fully based on his immortal Sysyphean fixation on her. What’s he going to do tomorrow? Be a normal dude who is not completely groundhog shit insane? Probably not. I submit to you that Groundhog Day is, in fact, a horror movie and though he may begin as the protagonist, before it is over Phil becomes the monster.

COMMENTERS: Can you think of any other movies, that upon later reflection are WAY creepier or scarier than they’re supposed to be?

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37 Comments

  1. We had some DEEP conversations about how long he was trapped in that day.

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    • In the original draft it was going to be hinted at that he was there for 10,000 years. They eventually decided that was too long for people to relate to.

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      • I read that somewhere too, and I remember thinking that it was pretty dark but not unrealistic that it would take that long to fundamentally change a person's core behaviors. I suspect they de-emphasized that timeline to lighten the movie, but I seem to remember Harold Ramis saying that was how long he thought it would take for a change of that magnitude.

        I was also highly entertained by his piano teacher at the dance saying "He's my student!" Funny because although true, her prime character had Phil walking in her studio for one day already knowing how to play and she's taking credit for it.

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  2. Wizard of Oz.

    Dorothy gets back home and all is right, except the next day the evil neighbor is getting the sheriff to come over and kill her dog. Nice.

    (Also see Peter David's excellent comparison of Wizard of Oz and Return to Oz here: http://www.peterdavid.net/archives/001354.html )

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  3. *insert the title of just about any Disney movie here*

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  4. Revenge of the Nerds – Lewis sexually assaults a girl by wearing a mask & pretending to be her boyfriend but it's okay because he was better in bed than said boyfriend.

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    • Yes. That is INCREDIBLY terrifying.

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      • For both the nerd and the girl.She is a Fuh-REEEEEEEEEAAAAAAK!

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  5. Sixteen Candles – 18 year old Senior Football star seduces 16 YEAR OLD. I assume they fuck on the glass dinner table with Farmer Ted watching from underneath.

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    • whats wrong with 16 year olds? (not every country is as slow as the US) :)

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      • Also depends on where in the U.S.

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  6. The day doesn't end until Phil not only stops being a dick, but also stops trying to make Rita love him. It's a Buddhist parable, not a rom-com.

    The interesting thing about the story is how he's somehow able to bring muscle-memory and calluses and such with him over the daily cycle. You don't learn how to play the piano or carve ice sculpture with your *mind* you do it by training your nervous system, your muscles, and sculpting your body to produce the right motions and conditioned reflexes to do the thing without much thought. Therefore, something more than the mind-soul of Phil is carrying over from cycle to cycle. Why doesn't his repeated suicide attempts do something truly horrible to him?

    I'm picturing Zombie Phil, his body put back together but his nerves utterly deranged, and mind unhinged from that first jump into the quarry. Maybe this is how zombie outbreaks occur – they cycle through one 24 hour period, killing more and more people within the loop, until an entire town is the shuffling undead, and snap! the cycle breaks. And suddenly the neighboring towns discover it's Night of the Living Dead. Oddly enough, both movies are set in western Pennsylvania, not too far from each other…

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    • "You don't learn how to play the piano or carve ice sculpture with your *mind* you do it by training your nervous system, your muscles, and sculpting your body"

      thought about this as I made the comic. This would imply that parts of his body age while others done. Weird.

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    • I did a search for Groundhog Day and found a link where someone estimated that he was in the loop for maybe 40 years, and a comment on that thread said that what we think of as "muscle memory" is still something that happens within your mind, so there's no reason to think that he shouldn't be able to bring that over. It was a compelling argument to me.

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    • "Mind" and memory are both functions of the nervous system as well. Magic is funny in that it follows the rules it needs to follow to work.
      Also, I seem to recall reading that the writers or director or whatever intended for him to have been reliving the same day for 10,000 years.

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  7. The kid in "Big" has sex with an adult at one point, doesn't he? He looks adult at the time, but that's still messed up.

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    • Yes. He's 12. Also, spend maybe 5 minutes thinking about what his mother is going through and what the rest of her life is going to be life even after he comes home and nothing about that movie is funny.

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      • He went home and tried to explain what happened to his mother early on, didn't he? She didn't react very well at all and now probably thinks he's the one who abducted her son. What do you think will happen when he grows up to look exactly like the man she thinks took her son away?

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  8. "He’s trained his mind and body to execute these particular moves, say these particular phrases, dance this completely choreographed 24 hours period all to trick this woman into liking his invented self and posses her fully based on his immortal Sysyphean fixation on her."
    Nah, man. That was what he was doing at the midpoint when he tried to recreate the magic of the date where they played in the snow with kids and almost kissed. And the lesson when he failed was that you can't fake something like that. The date that breaks the cycle is not about tricking her. It's about him letting go of trying to trick her and just being real. So I don't see why he should revert to his self-centered ways now that he's out of the loop.

    Now that's not to say things are going to be perfect. He's spent hundreds, maybe even thousands of years (the screenwriter thought it may have been in the thousands) in the same situations, he must have insane PTSD from trying to do anything different. His old weatherman life must seem like a distant memory. It's very well possible that he ends up in an insane asylum where he explains that he just doesn't understand why every day has to be different.

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    • Some of these comments remind of a Cracked article about messed-up movie endings.

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  9. "If these flags were any redder they would insist the means of production were controlled by the workers."

    I just love that line.

    I think that many comedies are incredibly horrific in retrospect. Also I feel like Leia and the Alliance should be a LOT more traumatised by the whole Alderaan thing.

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    • That's the thing – tragedies are about bad things happening to good people, comedies are about bad things happening to bad people. The only difference is in the protagonist.

      Imagine that Phil was a decent man and a hard-working reporter – watching him go through the same day over and over again would be a very different experience, one of a man suffering from a punishment he most likely didn't deserve (I'm not talking "he looks wholesome but is secretly an arsehole", no, a genuinely good man) and has even no idea about. Talk about Kafka.

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      • tragedy is when the characters lose socially, comedies are where they gain socially.

        humour is what amuses. drama what involves.

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      • Your definition of comedies and tragedies reminds me of how a lot of FX Original dramas work: the protagonists seem to be awful people doing awful things. So they're supposed to be funny?
        I ask because I read that "flags so red" line and I'm watching THE AMERICANS, the new show bout Soviet spies in 1980's America.

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    • Don't get me started.
      Okay, I'll start a little.
      The way Leia reacts in the movie when everyone she cares about gets snuffed out is the way I would react if I was saving the last donut for later and you totally ate it in front of me. Man, that's upsetting. In reality, she should have reacted like they were disemboweling her. The woman who did the radio drama really brought the trauma (of both that and the interrogation droid scene). It should have been the defining experience of her life, like when Bruce Wayne lost his family. It should have fundamentally changed her forever.
      As far as the Alliance, the loss of Alderaan should have been way bigger than 9/11 is for us. Even if it was mostly a garden world, probably hundreds of millions of people died at once. It should have had a lifelong effect on everyone in the galaxy, galvanized the Alliance more than any other "tyranny" they had suffered up to that point, and been *foremost* on their mind for at least a few years, if not decades. Like 10 million Alamo's. I'm not sure it's ever mentioned again, even when mustering the pilots to take on the Death Stars (like "We're going to make sure there's never another Alderaan!").
      I don't have any explanation for it. It's not like we invented horrific tragedies sometime after 1977, so the actors had nothing to draw upon. Genocide is OLD.

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  10. Luke Skywalker totally made out with his sister. And don't think that kiss wasn't masturbatory fodder for many a cold night on Hoth.

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  11. Pretty much any movie where the government is nice and an agency helps save the day

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    • I worked for the govt and we saved the day for people all the time.
      Maybe you're talking to the wrong agencies.

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  12. Marty McFly returned to a future that, while materialistically better that his original timeline, is also one that he has no real memory of. He will now spend his entire life among a family who are now in a very real sense strangers, in a world whose history could be differ from his own in innumerable unforeseen ways.

    Eventually someone is going to take notice of his profound unfamiliarity and he will be labeled mentally ill or an imposter, assuming that the crushing sense of isolation that surrounds him doesn't drive him to the brink of madness if he is unable to adapt to daily life in this new chronological strand of existence. He will be a man truly not of this time or place, and the stark reality of this may kill him.

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    • Plus, how is his mom going to treat him? He looks just like the guy she had a crush on all those years ago, who they apparently named him after? Talk about some sort of weird reverse-Oedipal complex.

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  13. Pretty much every rom-com has the protagonist doing things that would you locked up in real life.

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  14. I'd love to see a Groundhog Day sequel based on the monster movie theory. Let's face it- Batman acquired his skills in considerably less than one human lifetime. Phil has been alive longer than any human civilization, or maybe even the concept of human civilization, and any restrictions on his access to training are meaningless given how much time he has to teach himself anything he wants. Combine that with an obsessive focus on keeping things constant (which would probably lead to the conclusion that a dead world is an unchanging world) and he's freakin' terrifying.

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    • Maybe if he had had access to YouTube, he could have learned every human skill.
      However, he was in the dinkiest of dinky little towns, and he's lucky they had a piano teacher, much less Master Splinter or something to teach him the deadly arts.

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  15. "50 First Dates". Horrifying for herself and probably pretty horrible for her kid, too.

    I mean, can you imagine waking up in a strange place with a complete stranger claiming to be your husband, and oh, hey, this is your kid? Okay, he's got video footage of your wedding and stuff to "prove" it, but it's still waking up with two complete strangers who are apparently an intimate part of your life and expect you to reciprocate.

    And the poor kid, can you imagine every morning when your mum comes downstairs, she has NO idea who you are? Doesn't remember that you need to get on the bus soon, has no clue about your teacher or that thing she needs to talk to them about, doesn't know your birthday or what you like or hate or *anything*. Every morning, she wakes up, and no matter what happened yesterday, today you're a stranger again.

    Not to mention the first time (or every time, after a bit) when she wakes up and looks into the mirror, expecting to be 20-something, and sees a middle-aged or older woman reflected there? That would be *horrifying*. Or to see her dad as suddenly this old, old guy, or finding out anew every morning that he's dead…

    That was a horrible, horrible movie. My one consolation is that it's her short-term memory that was lost; we met a guy who'd lost his short-term memory in a car accident and if you hung around him long enough, you'd trickle into his long-term memory, and then he'd know you. Took about a week and then you'd start to look familiar.

    So I guess realistically, while it's entirely possible to lose one's short-term memory for real, hopefully one would only be living about a week or so behind the present, rather than never being able to form any memories at all again. Thankfully. Because, wow.

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  16. Belatedly: Multiplicity.

    Shudder.

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