Aileen Wournos’ presence is captivating. Prostitutes are often scared for their lives, but Aileen was a sex seller who was terrifying in her own right. Her anger burned at a level that stripped her feeling for other people completely. Aileen Wournose was born on the fringes of society, abused and rejected. This was not a world built to favor Aileen Wournos, so she became a monster. But, was that an inevitability? Most people who grow up in devastating circumstances don’t become monsters.

“If a man could learn to fly, why could he not learn how to live forever?”
– Charles Lindbergh

The heart beats on rhythm rippling electric red through the body, a wet erosive machine. As if on cue the animal breaks down, eventually. It’s born strange and confused and grows into a sleek engine, skin taunt and muscles primed. The full grown animal seems beautiful and perfect to our eyes, and it’s a sorrowful notion that it must inevitably wither and degrade.

There must be a way to save it.

In the early hours of November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. methodically shot six members of his family, including four of his younger siblings, while they were sleeping in their home on in the Amityville, NY. The family had moved into the sprawling Dutch colonial on 112 Ocean Avenue a few years ago, and though their home life was rife with abuse and drama, the house had been a symbol for a fresh start. The dad, Ron Sr., even named the house High Hopes, a chillingly ironic moniker for an estate that would be rife with such pain, horror, and a haunted legacy.

What does it mean to own land? That’s one of the questions at the heart of the gorgeous western Hell or High Water. In the film two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) scour the dry and lonesome West Texas landscape robbing multiple branches of the bank that’s threatening to foreclose on the family ranch after their mother died. On the surface, their cause seems righteous: familial morality in the face of heartless corporate greed, but as the story lingers on the moral lines smudge into the gray confines of the human condition. Complete moral dualism is an illusion, and every fight to secure something for your own family, your own tribe, can lead to unintended consequences for everyone.

Humans want to know answers and we yearn for comfort in an uncomfortable world. Answers to any question are fairly scarce and only point toward more questions. That’s why cults are so attractive. They give us clear answers and then cut us off from the well of more questions with the force of Authority. The faucet is blocked, the flicker of curiosity sated by clean lines of certainty’s illusion.