Saturday, October 6, 2012

Everything Is a Secret: House At the End Of the Street

If you haven't seen Mark Tonderai's The House At the End Of the Street, you're going to be mad when you read the spoiler below and wish you had gotten the surprise because it is, so far thusly, the most targeted, intellectual assault against socialism I have yet seen in films of the past year.  There has been creative and metaphysical screenwriting in films as of late, and HATES' David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow have certainly demonstrated their skills; not all will think so and I can understand complaints however I am genuinely impressed with their staged manipulation of my compassion and sympathy, then how they slam me with the reality reflected by this narrative. As usual, I am judging the film based on cultural context, not a general entertainment value; the 11% approval rating HATES has received on Rotten Tomatoes might be because it's so anti-liberal.
While this poster doesn't seem that impressive in design, psychologically, I think it's well done. First and foremost, a house always symbolizes the soul, because the body houses the soul the way an actual home houses the body so windows always symbolize "interior reflection" and "meditation" because self-examination of the soul can only be achieved by "looking inwards." So, what's Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) doing? She's looking outward, and that's the first key element that's important: part of our inner-growth depends on our exterior surroundings and how we understand what's going on. Where is Elissa standing? Within the frame, suggesting that she has "been framed" and, when the film ends, we know how. Also important is that well-placed piece of wood (the window frame part) going across her throat. Technically, Elissa is never in danger of being decapitated, as in The Omen, however, when we remember that the "head" symbolizes the "head of government" and how Ryan (Max Thieriot) tries coming between Elissa and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) even as he appears to be upholding Sarah's request that they not be alone together, we can see by the teaser-poster that Elissa is symbolically endanger of "losing her head" when she falls for the guy that everyone tells her she shouldn't. Next, the curtain on the left side of the poster has been drawn back. We saw a curtain being drawn back in The Chernobyl Diaries and I can say with confidence that symbolized the Iron Curtain of the Cold War; in general, curtains--especially during the Middle Ages--meant that knowledge was being kept hidden or knowledge was being revealed, especially mystical knowledge. Once Elissa has finally "pulled back the veil" and looks at the house at the end of the street (where Ryan lives) knowledge has been revealed and she's better able to reflect on where she is and why but only when Elissa willingly pulls it back herself, she won't let anyone else do it for her, so she's really framed herself.  Lastly, what does she see? The house, the house where the father and mother died, "Mr and Mrs Dead People," as she calls them, and the house is supposed to be abandoned, but they realize it's not abandoned because there's a light on there. Light symbolizes "illumination" because our intellect can't see and gain knowledge in the dark, so a house (symbolic of a soul) which should be abandoned has been illuminated? That's not completely satisfying, is it? Because there was a double murder committed there, a mother (the motherland) and a father (the founding fathers) we can take another typical understanding of a home and expand that, not to the "soul of an individual," rather, to the soul of a country or an institution and that yields a far more interesting and consistent interpretation when other aspects of the film are coalesced together. And the last last thing I will address is the shirt Elissa wears: why is it gaping open like that? Sex appeal? Possibly, but I think a more direct and rewarding understanding is that she's "been exposed" and since it's the area of her heart which is "exposed," it not only means her emotional involvement with Ryan, but also that she's exposed to danger because there is an attempt to stab/shot her in the heart.
What I thought the film would be about is Carrie Ann, a female child, symbolizing the future of America; killing the mother, i.e., the "motherland" would mean the changing of America from the old capitalist ways to the new socialist program and the killing of the father would be the killing of the founding fathers and the Constitution in favor of a new government, Karl Marx; Ryan, keeping Carrie Ann safe and alive, would be an unwilling patsy to the mayhem she was reeking but would be unwilling to put her in danger and he would have to make a decision that would show Elissa to be a model of liberal upbringing and progressive social thinking. Was I wrong!  (This is your last chance to stop reading and not spoil it!).
"It's a long way back to Chicago," Sarah tells Elissa as they wait for the owner of their new rental to arrive and let them in at the start of the film. Chicago is a major city in the US, but we also have to consider films invoking Obama's hometown, like Lawless and The Vow; if these two came from Chicago, they probably are Obama supporters, but having left Chicago, they are now in a position to leave Obama. Why is this shot of Elissa slanted? Somethings "askew" such as there is something askew about Elissa that we wouldn't know if the director wasn't using this angle to communicate it to us, in other words, we are being alerted to something "off center" about Elissa and we discover from Sarah that Elissa tends to take someone she finds broken and tries to fix them. In and of itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this in real life, yet this is a work of art, so this characteristic takes to a new level especially when we discover more about Ryan. It's an important angle in the film that Elissa is a singer/songwriter because HATES adds another vote in the cinematic battle on art and capitalism or art and socialism; whereas films such as Men In Black III and The Artist, The Raven and The Words argue that art is better off under capitalism, while films such as Arbitrage argue that art is better without capitalism.
What the film, in my estimation, is really about, is the way people who voted for Obama/International Socialism started being drawn to him and defended him from the "unrealistic" and "harsh" criticism of people only concerned about their property values and money because he was trying to do something good and better for America but now, going through the trash that he has done and said, people have started to piece together that he has kept socialism alive in spite of it having died so long ago, and socialism has constantly resurrected itself killing "new governments" to keep up the image that it's still a living form of government and possible today. Only by "illumination" will those "shackled" to Obama be able to free themselves and stop the threat he poses to this country. This is what I am confident the film is saying, now let me demonstrate how and why, because this is the fun part!
In this scene, Ryan and Elissa look at a tree in Ryan's backyard; Ryan tells Elissa, my mother said everything was a secret, secrets are everywhere waiting to be found, and he shows her how the tree they stare at "has a face" hidden within it. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn't see the face, and neither does Sarah at the end when Elissa asks her about it, but the invitation to "see a face" is an invitation for us to see a face in the film, and I certainly saw that in our President. Because the film tells us that "secrets are everywhere, waiting to be found," that includes secrets within the film itself, waiting for us to peer into them deeply enough to discern the features they have created.
It's important, as you saw in the trailer above, that Elissa first meets Ryan "on the road" as she walks home and she first rejects the ride he offers, but then it starts raining and so she gets in. Elissa had been at a party with a group of the rich kids from school who were partying and Tyler hits on her while he's drunk, so she decides to walk home; this scene is the heart of the film. Symbolically, this is all a great way to understand what happened in 2008: Tyler, the overachiever and upper-class jerk wanting to "get it on" with Elissa, can be seen as the Republican party who was drunk on power--having held the presidency for so long--and turned off voters more drawn to the offer of Obama, here symbolized by Ryan who shows up "during a storm" (the economic problems) as voters disillusioned with the Republicans "got on board" with the new guy and the blunt stating of "Your parents died," by Elissa refers to how--at this point in the film, with the information we have--the electing of Obama changed history (the motherland of America) by adding a black president to the long list of white presidents (the white founding fathers) and altered the race relations of Americans.We eventually realize how mis-informed we have been and a "reliable narrative" becomes imperative (after having listened to so many lies, people are entitled to the truth).
Just before the scene described above, Sarah and Elissa have been to a neighborhood party and heard what the neighbors had to say about Ryan and their understanding of how Carrie Ann died. Whereas all the neighbors are against Ryan, Sarah and Elissa feel sorry for him, and let me tell you, I, as a viewer, did not want to sympathize with the neighbors and their complaints, and this is a part of the screenwriting genius, because these are exactly the people who end up being right at the end, the same way liberals mock Republicans and the Tea Party for being "racist" against Obama and his policies. It would be typical of us, jaded as we have become by excessive Hollywood sexuality, to see Elissa's constant wearing of tank tops and shirts hanging off her shoulders, to be titillating and a mere means of enticing men to come see the film; however, there's a great conflict structured upon Elissa's sexuality vs. her mother's, Sarah's. We passively discover through Elissa's outburst of anger against her mother that Sarah was a slut in high school, supposedly getting pregnant by Elissa's father, marrying him, and then divorcing him years later because he was always gone. Sarah assumes that, because she was sexually active in high school, Elissa is or will be as well, and Elissa makes the clear case that she's not, and we see her "protection" of her body when Tyler hits on her and she refuses his advances. So, does Elissa wear rather tantalizing clothes to be a tease? No, they accurately describe "who" she is in the film, the future of America. Please note, for example, that Elissa's arms are usually bare throughout the film: arms symbolize strength, and not just physical strength, but stamina and determination, which we see in Elissa several times, not only while escaping from Ryan, but before, when she defends him from everyone. Elissa wears two tank tops, the bottom one being a faint pink, symbolizing femininity, which accurately re-enforces her role as the earth/America, and is again re-enforced by the necklace of open, round circles (circles are traditionally feminine, and if you don't believe me, please watch a funny monologue by Will Smith in Men In Black III).  The white tank top Elissa wears symbolizes purity, innocence, and this accurately reflects history: the future of America is innocent of why socialism is so deadly and even evil, because they don't have real experience with what occurs in socialist societies, whereas Sarah--the previous generation--does. (I'm going to discuss Sarah's role a bit further down in relation to Ryan's mother).
Let's go back to a previous scene: during the first night at the new house, Sarah wakes up around 3 in the morning and sees a light go on in the house across the street, Ryan's house. She didn't think anyone lived there, but the second scene is the next day at a neighborhood party when Elissa finds out more about Carrie Ann and about Ryan still living in the house all by himself, which shocks them. The neighbors discuss how they offered to buy the house to raze it because their property values were being dragged down by it (that's an important point in identifying who is who in the film). What is the light going on in the house that should be deserted? Symbolically, the institution of socialism shouldn't have anyone still living in it after after the fall of communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union because that proved that socialism is an untenable means of government,... didn't it? The light being turned on in a house that should be abandoned means that someone is still "turned on" by what some think socialism "illuminates" about society and politics. It's particularly interesting that it's from her landlord, an owner of personal property, that Sarah finds out Ryan still lives in the house.
The first day at the new house, Elissa takes a walk in the state park (yes, read government sponsored program here, not that there is anything wrong with state parks in reality, but in art, during a socialist takeover of the American government, a state-run park is important) and she sees a blanket and pillow on the ground in the woods, like someone had been sleeping out there. Why is this important? If you think about the film, and how we see Ryan keeping Carrie Ann locked up, whenever she does get out, he immediately goes after her, so she wouldn't just be "living off the land" as we are led to believe in this encounter in the woods or in this shot above, when Elissa peers into the woods wondering "If someone could really live like that" in the wilderness and we, the viewers, see someone move, knowing someone has been looking back at her without her knowing this. Is this a inconsistency in the film, or are the film makers inviting us to peer into the dark woods and discover something? I like the invitation, personally, so, going off that this can't be Carrie Ann, who can it be? Well, as I discussed in Trailers: Ingenious & Mama, in the upcoming Mama film with Jessica Chastain, there have been a number of films as of late using the idea of "living in the wilderness" and both socialists and capitalists have employed it to degrade the other side. This person we witness peering back at Elissa with Elissa seeming to be aware that someone is there is like The Chernobyl Diaries when Uri finds the smouldering camp fire and realizes there must be someone there in the "abandoned" town with them, and the Fallout Zombies are watching the group's every move, unknown to them (please see Extreme Tourism Through History: The Chernobyl Diaries for more). In other words, in spite of the capitalist revolutions of the 1990s and the "Fall Of Communism," socialists were not murdered, they just moved to the margins of society, like the wilderness, to wait for "the perfect storm" to move back in again. So this "person" in the woods isn't Carrie Ann, and that's part of what's eerie about it, because we never meet this person although they are watching everything that's going on, and I think that's the "underground socialists" waiting to take advantage of the situation in America and turn the political socialist revolution into a more October-styled Russian revolution. (Analysis on this point continues below under a shot of Ryan).
Let's go back to Ryan.
When Elissa first meets him, he's driving and he mentions that it's his father's car he inherited. Because a car symbolically signals a "vehicle" for a character (something that drives them in life or spurns them onwards), we have to ask who has inherited a "vehicle" from their father? President Obama's memoir Dreams From My Father discusses what ideals he inherited from his father that "drive him" to be the man that he is and, knowing what a communist his father was, this all makes perfect sense (the car plays an important role in the film, discussed below). So Elissa initially doesn't want to ride with Ryan, but when the rain comes--read "the economic disasters of 2008"--she does, and she finds something that seems inconsequential, but is actually quite interesting.
In this scene, Elissa is getting ready for the Battle Of the Bands at their high school; whereas she had been in a band in Chicago, members of her new school found her information online and were able to access a sample of her singing and decided to invite her to be a part of their band and help them compete in the upcoming competition. This competition is inherent and imperative to capitalism, because it brings out the best in artists and creates an environment of exchange and inspiration, professionalism and reward. As we saw with the skateboarders in Dredd who were practicing a skill that, in America's capitalist economy can become a profession for them with their unique talents and skills, so Elissa in competing in the Battle of the Bands, is preparing her future for a career in music, but Ryan's plans for her are terribly different, as he tells her, I want you, but I need Carrie Ann, and that means no more Elissa. Just below, I discuss how Elissa finds a copy of STP's Core in Ryan's car; in my post Tongues: Rock Of Ages, I examine the difference between Rock and it being the artistic ammunition against communism during the Cold War, and Alternative music being a turning in on ourselves and replacing ourselves as the enemy after the fall of the Soviet Union. Alternative music's intense self-examination of ourselves, found in the music of groups such as Bush, Pearl Jam, REM and Nirvana, is a psychological study in our inner-weaknesses and, what is it that Ryan is studying at college? Psychology, and over the "failed dinner" Sarah stages to get to know Ryan better, Elissa throws out that Sarah went through therapy after she left Elissa's father (symbolic of the founding fathers of America that were "left" in the 2008 election, more on that below in the discussion on the Penn State girl). To know your enemy, you study their weakness, and to put it bluntly, no other music genre has been so philosophical and meditative as the Alternative genre of the early 1990s. Ryan, in other words, feasts on the buffet of our own self-hatred preserved in the music of STP (which was cathartic at the time) but which he (as a socialist) intends to use against us (as a capitalist country).
When Ryan picks up Elissa in the rain, it's ten miles to their street, so Elissa goes through Ryan's cassette tapes and picks up his copy of Stone Temple Pilots' 1992 album Core (which I recognized because Core is one of my favorite albums); what does this mean? Two things. First, it's a commentary that Ryan's taste in music is being contrived because, unlike myself who was in high school when Core was released, Ryan is 19, so he was born in 1993, a year after Core's release, so he was introduced to this alternative band somehow (it's probably by his father--who would have really been too old to listen to Alternative music , having two kids--so, why does Ryan's father listen to music intended for teenagers and young college students?); Core was released just months after the fall of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, so Ryan is "stuck" in this warp of the Cold War's ending and hasn't been introduced to any new music. This is typical of socialist states where, because there is no competition, art tends to stagnate and fails to evolve because the avant-garde is considered decadent, like Adolf Hitler's burning of degenerate art. Further, that Ryan is still listening to cassette tapes, demonstrates a tendency of socialist countries to fail in adapting new technologies and mediums (please see notations in caption of image above for more on "artistic competition").
What attracts Elissa to Ryan? He's sweet, gentle and misunderstood. We see, however, his incredible strength and even brutality when Carrie Ann escapes her room and runs out into the night, rushing upon a couple making out in their car until Ryan grabs her and drags her to cover, breaking Carrie Ann's neck. What does this scene mean? The couple in the car are only concerned with having sex, and totally unaware of the danger they are in, a typical horror genre device, but still a powerful one, because that could be any of us, going about our private, intimate lives and being in the middle of terrible danger and completely unaware of it. It's unclear, knowing what we know of Carrie Ann by the end of the film, if she is going to them for help or she's so drugged out that she really could kill them. What is clear is that we think Ryan has been protecting her but he's really been keeping her hostage at his own will and he kills her (by the strength of his rage) when she has threatened to break his hold on her and expose the truth. In this shot above, Ryan wears a blue shirt over a red one because blue is the color of depression, which we can see Ryan having, and red is the color of love usually, but it's also the color of wrath/anger ("I'm so mad I'm seeing red," as the saying goes) so Ryan dresses himself in depression to hide the rage which propels him on. This is a bit of a stretch and I admit, but because of the way blue is used on the Penn State shirt, we can also say that Ryan/Obama came dressed as a Democrat (blue is the party's official color) but was really a "red communist" underneath (red being the official color of the international socialist movement). Just one last little nugget referring to the Cold War: when Elissa sees all the food Ryan has bought on the table, she smirks, "Stocking up the fallout shelter?" Fallout shelters were important during the Cold War because people never knew if a nuclear attack was going to come from the Soviet Union or not. Fallout shelters are not a part of the American experience Elissa is familiar with--the way kids in the 1950s-1970s were--so Elissa has been "introduced" to the idea of fallout shelters (television or history books) the same way Ryan was introduced to the Stone Temple Pilots, and her alert reaction means that she's not as ignorant of the harms of socialism as first thought,...
One last reason why this relationship between socialism and art is so important: the "courting of Hollywood" by Obama, and all the stars who seemingly support him. While art hasn't played a big role in films of the last year (with the exception of Arbitrage) art has played a consistent role in films, everyone commenting to a greater or lesser degree on what is the best environment in which to produce art/film, and juxtaposing Elissa's cutting edge singing and her self-marketing on the Internet against Ryan's cassette tape from 1991 is a definite statement of how poorly art fairs in a socialist society and how art becomes a weapon in the hands of our enemies. In other words, the artists Obama has been courting (like the love songs we hear Elissa singing about her waiting for love), and have supported him so much (like Elissa defending Ryan) are the ones in danger of suffering the greatest loss and oppression because of their art and lifestyles. Now, it's time to talk about Carrie Ann and why Ryan symbolizes a socialist state.
Again, Ryan's car, being inherited from his father, references Dreams From My Father, and the vehicle which Ryan uses; before we fully realize who Ryan is and what he has done, the film makers show us the jerk Tyler and his friends smashing Ryan's car and attacking him, then they turn to beat up Ryan and he snaps Tyler's leg and escapes.Tyler's mom tells the cop that Ryan is a monster and is sick of him defending Ryan all these years, but then we realize that Tyler and his mom are right: the trashing of the car shows Republicans "trashing" Obama's bail out programs and how he has retaliated against criticism by the Tea Party and Republicans: he has "broken their will" (snapping Tyler's leg) by using the Constitution's power for the president. When Tyler's friends set fire to his house, that's conservatives trying to "burn down" the house of socialism Obama has been building. In the picture above, Ryan has explained to Elissa how he wants to rebuild his grandfather's house and sell it, i.e., the system of thought created by Karl Marx and spread it throughout the world.  In his political commercial, Obama has former impeached president Bill Clinton talk about "rebuilding America from the ground up," and that means taking down the structures of capitalism and replacing them with the ideas of socialism.
Towards the end of the film, after finding tampons and blue contact lenses in the garbage, as well as a green wallet from Peggy in the diner, Elyssa starts to realize that--in spite of being told that Carrie Ann had drowned in the surge during the storm in which she killed her parents--Ryan has been keeping her below the basement in a underground cellar (a basement usually symbolizes where we keep our dark desires, our base appetites, but Carrie Ann is kept even further down than the basement). The truth is, Carrie Ann died when she was a little girl on the swing set, Ryan's father buried her and the parents turned Ryan into "Carrie Ann," causing him to kill them in rebellion of "being punished" for revolting at not being his dead sister. The "Carrie Anns" we see in the film are girls Ryan had kidnapped and forced into the identity of Carrie Ann and this, as we also see in Resident Evil, is the primary means of identifying Ryan as a symbol of socialism: Carrie Ann is wholly dependent on Ryan for all her needs, and he frequently drugs her, just as in Resident Evil, The Bourne Legacy and Dredd. When we finally discover the truth about what Ryan had been doing, the entire film is cast in a new light.
What Ryan and Elissa are doing is forbidden, not by my Puritanical morals, rather, by the film itself: Sarah explicitly stated that she didn't want Ryan and Elissa alone together, and Ryan agreed, but here Elissa is and they are making out, just as Carrie Ann, locked up below, under the basement in a cellar, is getting out. Now, what else in the film is "forbidden?" Stone Temple Pilots' album, Core, the title of STP's album, Core, refers to the apple core from the Tree of Forbidden Knowledge in the Garden of Eden (to which is what their song Wicked Garden also refers) and that's why Carrie Ann escapes when Elissa is in a state of disobedience, the "crazy" socialism is let loose when the guard is down and the motherland has been disobeyed. We are led to think that Elissa is in danger and that's why Ryan wants her out, but in reality, Ryan is in danger of being "found out" for what he's done and is afraid of his Carrie Ann getting away.
Let's take another look at the opening sequence.
The first thing we see in the film is a house under water in a snow blizzard, then realize it's a house in a snow globe and it's Carrie Ann holding it; she puts it on a shelf, walks down the hall, trips on a power cord and she knocks over a lamp; there is a storm going on and her mother comes out and Carrie Ann takes her out with a hammer, then kills her father on his bed with feathers flying everywhere, she then runs out into the woods. This sequence is presented as the truth of how Carrie Ann killed her parents, but it's not truth because Ryan killed his parents, so why are we given this story? Because this is the story we the voters have been given in America. The house in the snow globe symbolizes how voters in 2008 thought America was "drowning" and "underwater" and the "new America" (Carrie Ann) did away with the old motherland (the mom) to build a new America (the hammer murder weapon, in contrast to Thor's hammer of justice he uses); she then killed the founding fathers in their luxury (the feathers) and went "natural" and to the government (the state owned woods outside the house). This isn't what happened though, and the film wants us to know that this isn't what happened.
Like the Disney film Brave, HATES also demonstrates the intense conflict between mother and daughter, the older vision of America and the future in opposition. (Please see Brave: Two Bears & the Lessons Of Soviet Union for more).
The reality of Ryan killing his parents goes back to the reality of how Carrie Ann died: when they were little, she swung too high on the swing set and he was holding her hand and she fell backwards. Ryan's mom was freebasing drugs when the accident happened; Ryan's father buried Carrie Ann and his parents started calling Ryan "Carrie Ann" in a fit of denial about her death, then Ryan later killed them for punishing him for not going along with their act. What does this mean? Like Elissa being the future of America (Carrie Ann and Elissa are competing models of America's future, and Ryan chooses Carrie Ann) Carrie Ann, in this part of the story, is the future of socialism, and the swing is the swing of revolution (because it's like a pendulum, going one way and then going in the opposite--political--way) and Ryan is the bearer or carrier of socialism, a future father to spread the seed of socialism. His mom doing drugs symbolizes the "death" of socialism in the Soviet Union and the world because the motherland on socialism (the Soviet Union) was drugged (like in Dredd and The Bourne Legacy) on glasnost and perestroika which led, eventually, to the death of communism there, the "swing" from communist to a capitalist system. It's the tight "hold" on a socialist country that the Marxist philosophy has to have in order to keep it working (Ryan holding Carrie Ann's hand as she kept swinging higher and higher) but the lessening of restrictions and censorship (the mom not paying attention to the kids) meant the "communist revolution" died. The parents transferring "Carrie Ann's" identity to Ryan shows that socialism has to have a country, a government to exist, it's not sufficient to be just a bundle of ideas, socialism wants to be in the world, governing.
The doomed dinner. Sarah has invited Ryan over for dinner so she can better keep track of what Elissa does, the exact opposite of Ryan's mom who is free-basing drugs when the original Carrie Ann dies. Sarah makes it clear that she doesn't want Elissa and Ryan alone together; Elissa manages to fool Sarah by having the calls on the home phone forwarded to her cell phone so Sarah will think she's at home. What does this mean? Elissa isn't taking the "call" of her destiny seriously because a phone symbolizes the "call to action" we are meant to make in our lives which fulfills who we are and what we believe (please see My Favorite Zombie: Night Of the Living Dead on the importance of "the call" in art).
This is where the girl from Penn State comes in, Peggy.
After burying a "Carrie Ann," Ryan goes to a diner where he's given a piece of pie and glass of milk "on the house." Perhaps that's why he decides Peggy will be his next Carrie Ann, because she likes to give things away, the popular conception of a socialist government. Ryan takes her, because of her kindness, and forces a new identity on her, that of his dead sister. When we later see the blue Penn state shirt in Carrie Ann's room, reminds us that in the 2008 presidential election, Pennsylvania voted for Obama, and Peggy's brown eyes made blue by Ryan reminds us of Hawkeye in The Avengers when Loki puts him under his control. In other words, the actions of Ryan in controlling Carrie Ann, taking girls and altering their identity, drugging them, keeping them locked up and dependent upon him for all their needs, then being ready to do that to Elissa, illustrates what history proves socialist governments do to those they control: they control them.
Ryan has captured Elissa and tied her up in the Carrie Ann room. She will knock over the lamp on her right to burn through the bandages after getting her legs untied while Ryan is off killing the cop who has come to check on her (the cop, as an embodiment of the "law of the land," symbolizes the Constitution protecting the socialists--the cop is always sticking up for Ryan--even as socialism threatens to destroy the country).
It's only after most of the film, and Elissa hearing everyone call Ryan a "monster," that she finally digs through the trash--all the things Obama has "thrown away"--and learns what Ryan has done (the trash containing the real identity of our country, our wealth and home values--symbolized by Peggy's wallet, which Ryan says belongs to him because socialist governments believe everything belongs to them, not to us--the tampons symbolic of Peggy's ability to bear children that she won't bear because a socialist system "doesn't bear fruit" and, the contact lenses being a piece of plastic that covers the eye--the window of the soul--because socialist governments put Materialism over religion and individuality so people cannot reflect on their own being (which is part of the reason why art does not thrive in socialist countries).
When Ryan ties her up, Elissa has to free herself after she's discovered the truth (like Obama supporters who refuse to examine all he's done since being in office and see where he intends to take the country). Elissa being tied to a chair shows she's in a "seat of power" (voting) but she frees her legs first, that is, her will power (she's determined not to be lied to anymore) and then, like Carrie Ann in the opening sequence, she trips the lamp (the light of illumination) and frees her arms from the shackles that have bound her but she has to endure the pain of "being burned," that is, as the lamp burns the shackles and her skin, she has to admit she was wrong and was lied to.
The tagline, "Fear its secret," is meant to be taken seriously: what secret? That socialism never died and intends to take over the whole world, including the United States. In 1966, The Quiller Memorandum, with Alec Guinness and Max von Sydow, was released, and its thesis was that, in spite of the Nazis being defeated in World War II, they were still everywhere and teaching in the schools and planning a comeback; people believed it ridiculous but it was precisely that incredulous behavior allowing it to recover from the War; HATES has many similar elements to it and its attempt to uncover how Obama is using the same tactics.
Like Elyssa and Sarah renting their house, we are only renting America, it's a land always owned by the future generations which we have to turn over to them, and we have to be the good tenants of today so there is an America for them tomorrow. HATES tries to show what has happened, and importantly, how we have been lied to four years, what we need to do to escape and what will happen to us if we don't. 
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
"Fear reaches out, for the girl next door." This is an interesting poster because, if you will kindly note, there is an open door (we can tell by the door knob in the lower-center of the poster and the light illuminating the back of Elissa's arm). So what door has been opened (like the opened, bolted door in The Apparition or the opened box in The Possession, or the box in The Odd Life Of Timothy Green)? The door to America has been opened to socialism and a way we can tell is the gold highlights on Elissa's body, probably here referring to the great wealth of America that is now at risk because of who is coming through that door to put an end to it (Elissa is trying to avoid being killed by Ryan in this scene).