Monday, October 5, 2009

Day Four and Five left the hills stained in blood

Day Four and five of the Halloween Horror challenge... I was out of town for Friday October 2nd, so I had to watch two movies on Saturday October 3rd to catch up. Here is the results my kiddies...


After making the still unreleased (but very funny) STOP IT YOUR KILLING ME (2009) and the moderately successful THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING (2000) Dave Parker fell into directing the shit out of promotional videos for studio pictures like X-2 and SHOOT 'EM UP. His name is all over the SPIDERMAN movies, or more specifically the DVD's special features. He also is known for writing Uwe Boll's first American Horror film, the roundly hated HOUSE OF THE DEAD (which I have still not seen). Say what you want, but Parker is known far and wide for absolutely loving the the horror genr, so it is no surprise that his latest horror film is about film students making a homespun documentary about a long lost/forgotten horror film and it's director.

The movie follows a film student named Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrinck) as he sets off to find a legendary filmmaker and his rarely-screened film named THE HILLS RUN RED. Seems the movie only ran a select few times and freaked people out so much that it vanished into obscurity along with the director himself. A trailer exists, and some promotional materials, but that is all. So Tyler sets out to find the daughter of the director and make a documentary along the way. Meanwhile his best friend and girlfriend are fucking behind his back because they are both tired of his obsessions with the movie. He finds the daughter, Alexa (Sophie Monk), stripping in a club and hooked on heroin. He shacks her up in a hotel and helps her kick and in return she agrees to help him find her dad's lost film. But someone else is following them that they are not aware of: as his best friend and girlfriend join them as crew, someone in a baby doll mask is in the woods with them. Just like in the movie THE HILLS RUN RED.

It is a fairly standard slasher movie set up, and for the first half of the movie it's pretty much that, plus a lot of film references - some of which normal fans will get (the TWIN PEAKS stuff) and others will not (a majority of the set up seems to me to be a reference to LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET and now sadly departed Roger Watkins mysterious life for many years that film was know). But at the mid point of the film, once the killer is revealed, it takes a turn toward harder-edged territory, and the story twists around quite a bit into something a lot more dangerous and thoughtful. The last third of the film is downright mean-spirited, ugly and nihilistic, but also contains some very poetic images, and moments of outright horror that really manage to shock. The twists that come in the second half manage to be fairly surprisingly and successful as long as you do not think about them too hard, since a lot of the logic in the film will start to fall apart if you do. But for the most part, this is solid and fairly daring stuff with a boatload of startling, shocking imagery. Far more effective than the standard slasher movie it originally looks to be.

The acting in the film is average to exceptionally good with the always welcome William Saddler taking the roll of the legendary director. Sofie Monk, who is an Australian pop star (with lips that rival Angelina Jolie), is surprisingly good. I had no idea who she is, but after looking her up in IMDB it found out it is a huge deal that she is naked in this movie. And she is naked a lot. A whole lot. In fact it is surprising just how much nudity is in this movie for an R rated studio release. With that said it is also intensely violent and perverted, as well. How this got picked up by DARK CASTLE/ WARNERS is a mystery. But it has made it, so the movie can be seen by a much wider audience and hopefully Dave Parker can get in the position to make bigger movies. He's one of the real guys out there who loves the genre. So more power to him.

D. Mari Asato


This short shot-on-video feature is part of the HIDeSHI HINO'S THEATER OF HORROR series that I am not entirely sure was made for DVD or TV in Japan. For those unaware, Hideshi Hino is one of Japan's most renowned horror comic artists who did such amazing works as HELL BABY and PANORAMA OF HELL. He is most known here in the United States for being the mastermind behind the initial GUINEA PIG series.

This movie begins with Successful Surgeon Setsu (Maria Yamamato) and her son Daio (Misuru Akaboshi) being driven around the countryside by their butler enjoying the afternoon. Daio is hanging his head out of the car like a happy dog. When his hat flies off he doesn't notice an oncoming Semi truck and gets his head knocked right off, much to the horror of his mother. At his grave site she is approached by a decrepit old woman (apparently Japan is filled with these crazy magic spewing old biddies) who tells her she can raise her son from the dead if she slits the throat of another child over his grave with a magical tooth that she proceeds to give Setsu. So Setsu kidnaps a kid from he hospital, hogties him over the grave and does just that. But the problem is that Daio comes back as a bug-eyed, cannibal monster (played by a midget) who eats the old woman! Setsu being a good mother still takes him home and tries to cure him (with multiple brain transplants!), but he continues to sneak out at night and eat the locals.

This is a weird little movie with much of the grim nastiness you would come to expect from Hino's work. No one is spared. Women, kids, old people, everyone is fair game to be gutted, torn apart and killed in this universe by the mutant cannibal boy from hell. Yet like all of Hino's work the monster is really the soul of the piece and given a good amount of sympathy. The monsters in his work usually don't want to be the way they are, and that is the case here. Daio is driven to do what he is doing, but he cannot help it. We get flashes into his soul that show him being tormented in a hell scape where hundreds of other tormented souls scream around him in agony, and he has to silence them. These scenes are visually arresting and brilliantly done. Though shot on video, they are still some of the more intense things from Japanese cinema for a while and why we watch the cinema from across the sea in the first place.

The rest of the movie vacillates from being intense and well-shot to being weirdly goofy, with weird pacing. Some shots like all the moments at Daio's grave are composed like paintings are incredible, while some of his attack moments remind one of Monty Python sketches. Yet the whole thing still manages to be weirdly touching in the end.

This is largely due to the very good performance of Maria Yamamato who is really incredible. She limits her performance to much of a physical one, using a great deal of facial impressions to convey her angst and heart break as it dips into madness. Her serene beauty just crumbles as the movie goes haywire, she really keeps the movie anchored as it goes really wonky around her.

While the movie is cheap, and that hinders it (the Goblinesque, DAWN OF THE DEAD rip off score is for one a little annoying), it's still effective and I look forward to the other entries in Hideshi Hino's THEATER OF HORROR.

Here is a promotional video for the series.

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