Sunday, March 29, 2009
D. PASCAL LAUGIER
Wild Bunch (Production Company)
Genre tongue waggers are calling this one this year's answer to INSIDE because it is French, gory as hell, and uncompromising. While I liked INSIDE to a certain degree I also think this movie is far better written than that one with a good deal more on its mind. A lot of genre critics are accusing this current wave of French horror directors of a game of gruesome one up man ship as it seems each film from the land of golden fries takes the gore and brutality up a couple of notches than the one before it. But to say that ignores that each film has had their own distinct feel and approach to the genre. All of them may be gory and aggressive, with a lot of bad attitude, but they each have different things going on as well. With that said this one may be the richest in depth and story of the group I have seen (INSIDE, FRONTIER(S) and now MARTYRS, I still need to see MALEFIQUE).
The film opens suddenly with a young just barely preteen girl running out of a building. She is in her underwear, filthy, bloody, her head shaved almost down to the scalp. She is bruised and clearly hurt and has been held captive. We can hear a commotion inside the building she is running out of, but she hits the sidewalk running for her life. During the opening credits we learn what has happened to her as we get a super 8 police file footage of the crime scene investigation. She was being held captive in a small room, chained to a wall with enough length to slightly move around. She had one chair to sit in, that had a hole cut in the center so she could use the bathroom in the bucket below it. She was not sexually abused in anyway, but was clearly beaten repeatedly, and malnourished over the extended time she was held captive. Otherwise the girl is not talking. We also see file footage of her in the mental asylum she has been taken to, where doctors and other children cannot get through to her. They eventually get out of her that her name is Lucie and she makes friends with another girl there named Anna and they bond. After the credits Anna is being asked by the hospital staff and police to help them get through to Lucie to find out if she can help them find who was holding her captive. Anna says Lucie doesn't know, that she never really saw them. Later than evening Anna finds Lucie in their room with deep slashes on her arms, and she begs Anna not to tell anyone. She claims she did not do it to herself. That night we see a very twisted, old, naked, female shape crawling around the floor of the girl's room and hovering over Lucie's bed and Lucie clearly sees it too. Cut to black.
Then we meet a nice suburban family, two teenagers, a boy and girl, fighting over a love note. Dad trying to get them to settle down while he gets ready for the day and Mom working in the garden digging a dead mouse out of a pipe. The family basically gangs up on the boy because he is failing out of school and wants to move in with his girlfriend, who no one really likes. Apparently she wants to come by later and the family isn't too hip to that idea either. It is clear this family is going to play into the movie ahead in an integral way.
To go any further with a plot description will only go into spoiler territory that should NOT be discussed when seeing this film. I went in blind and was knocked senseless and so should you. Suffice to say that it does NOT go anywhere you are expecting it to. One plot element does play out in a way you sort of expect it to, but then that almost leads you to think the rest of the film will play out a certain way, and then it just steadfastly refuses to play by the rules from that point on. In fact this is a movie that just throws the rules right out the window and makes them up anew as it goes. This is sure to piss people off and annoy the shit out of some viewers. Other viewers my become bored at some points of the film as it certainly tries your patience at times. But the film is rich with rewards for those who stick with it. There is psychological and theological meat to chew on for quite some time after the film has ended if you choose to look at it closely enough. But to discuss any of this I have to talk about some spoilers. So if you have not seen the films. QUIT READING NOW. Come back after you have seen it.
The first half of the film is relatively straight forward revenge fueled splatter with Lucie all grown up killing the people who tortured her as a kid. But Lucie herself is being tortured mentally by the woman she didn't have the heart to save when she escaped. So in fact Lucie has continued to the torture started by the cult well after she escaped from them. They instilled the psychological steps, but she continued it all these years later. The question being, if she had not escaped, would she have died or became a martyr? Anna on the other hand once she experiences her friend (that she clearly loves) dying, she symbolically starts the process of saving not only Lucie but the old woman Lucie could never save. When she discovers the woman in the basement/laboratory she doesn't hesitate to free her, care for her, take off her shackles and face mask. She does everything to free this woman from her bondage. Something she never really could do for her friend. Nor that her friend could ever do originally either. And unfortunately not for this woman ultimately.
Once the cult arrive in the movie it takes a sharp right turn. Pacing wise this is very, very jarring as the first half had been very fast, incredibly violent and visceral. Now suddenly we are thrust into this philosophically based interpersonal torture and debasement session that is repetitious to the extreme. The friends I watched it with were evenly split down the middle. Half saying it was horrifying and effective as showing how the psychological torture and breaking down of the psyche worked, the other half being bored at the repetition and not empathizing with Anna's plight. I think most American audiences are going to go with the latter half of my friends who tuned out as it is at first grueling but most audiences are going to miss the point of the repetition, or just not care. thus throwing themselves out for the rest of the movie, which is near brilliance.
The last third is even more brutal as Anna is skinned alive and left to hang. But she finally hits the point of transcendence where she crosses over into life after death without dying. (clearly modeled after the photo they show in the film from the book TEARS OF EROS) She becomes a Martyr and manages to come back and tell the old lady who runs the cult what she saw. We the viewer don't know what she said though. Once the cult is gathered to hear what was said, the old lady sequesters herself away and shoots herself before telling anyone.
In the annals of pure nihilism, that ending has got to be close to the top. We've experienced true horror for this lead character. Horror that is not fake, not in her mind, not supernatural. Things that are actually occurring with the whole point being that she will hit a point of transcending the pain and suffering and basically see god, or something on the other side. But the down side to that is that since she is not dead, she comes back. She is stuck in the state of horror and disrepair these people have put her in to get her to that point. She seems to not be suffering after her Martyrdom, but who is to say that will last? The ultimate irony is that it really was for naught as the leader of the cult became selfish and capped herself once she had the knowledge of what awaited her. This girl's suffering was meaningless and just a tool. Every one's suffering was meaningless and just a tool to her own salvation.
Now apply that to just about any religion that has martyrdom as part of their doctrine...
Not an easy film to embrace. Not an easy film to watch or even like at times. But the more I think about it, the more brilliant it becomes.
Naturally Hollywood is remaking it. I simply cannot see how they can do this. Even if I was okay with the idea, and I am NOT, I cannot see how the story can be pared down, sanitized, and made user friendly for US audiences. But then again FUNNY GAMES was remade pretty much frame for frame, so I guess anything is possible.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Sexual Freedom In Denmark (1970) *** - This new DVD from After Hours Cinema finally releases one of the most famous of the 'white coat' porn documentaries from the era right before porn became legal. In the moment in time when this was made a filmmaker had to justify the sex on screen by surrounding it with social and scientific wraparounds to make it seem redeeming to the public. The term 'white coat' is from the fact that usually a faux scientist or doctor in a white coat appears on screen rattling off factoids to support the sex. This film doesn't have a doctor. Instead we get an intrepid reporter on assignment in Denmark circa 1969 when all pornography was legalized. All pornography. He goes about asking people how they feel about the proliferation of pornography and most seem to think it is a good thing. He goes on to ask a teen age girl about her sexual practices, her opinions on birth control and finally porn. Her answers show a positive, well adjusted attitude to all things sexual. He then visits the set of a porno film with a gaggle of giggling females. he breifly talks to the director, weilding a microphone that looks more like a giant food mixer. he finally gets to talk to the naked girls about there relationships, how old they where when they started having sex, if they make a living with the work and if they think that pornography is okay. Once again the attitude is pretty positive. A different narrator gives us factoids claiming that since the ban on porn was lifted sexual crime has lowered by 25% in Denmark. He also says that most of the sales of sexual materials now go to the tourist trade. Cut to a woman in a sex shop putting away a penis enlarger and gigantic fake vagina. The rest of the movie movie is mainly dealing with other forms of sexuality such as nudism or strip joints. I.E. excuses to show big tit gals shaking their stuff. There is a bit on hippie body painting that has some gorgeous busty girls that will knock your socks off. Then about two thirds of the way through it flies full throttle into mondo film territory as it focuses on the body, reproduction and disease. A close up of a syphilis ridden penis is sure to sober you up fast. A run down of the male and female anotomy/physiology includes so many micro close ups of both sets of genitals that it becomes almost like surgery. Though the gal doing her Kegal exercises is pretty fascinating to watch. Then the last ten minutes become the only real pornographic content in the movie was it becomes an 'marriage manual' on different positions that a couple can have sex in. this segment isn't really erotic, But it IS really informative. Especially the information about having sex while pregnant. Oh yeah there is some startling footage of births, including a breech birth, that could be a bit much for wimps and expectant moms. The last image is beautifully enough, Uschi Digart and her fabulous bosoms. Though this functioned as pornography upon its release in 1970, iti s really much more of a Mondo/Documentary style sideways look at sex with a very little titilation thrown in. It sits nicely along side something like Mondo Cane more so than say Deep Throat. the new DVD looks great, with the print being extrordinarly clean and blemish free. After Hours finally did what fans have been asking by putting an original aspect ration 1.33 edition on disc #1 and the reformatted 1.78 edition on disc 2. So you get a choice instead of cropping like in some instances. There is a second feature from the same director, John Lamb, called Sexual Liberty Now which mainly focuses on the government's investigation into pornography. but I need to watch it still. A really nice disc of an interesting time capsule. First time seeing this.
There used to be a trailer for this on You Tube, but SURPRISE it is gone now.
Oh yeah...fuck My Space....
SNUFF: A Documentary About Killing On Camera (2008) - Completely bogus, filled with bullshit 'mockumentary' about a subject that is endlessly fascinating to those of us who have love for the grindhouse movies of the 70's. This movie purports to be a documentary about the origins of the snuff film but never even trots out the Ed Saunder explanation from his book The Family about the Manson Murders which is where the term originated. Instead the play the entire ending murder scene from the movie Snuff and actually have on screen text asking you to decide if it is real. Of fucking course it isn't real! It was shot in Carter Stevens' studio in New York and tacked onto the Roberta Findley movie to spice it up and cause controversy. But they don't interview the easily accessible Carter Stevens who could have told them that. Instead they get a bunch of 'independent' filmmakers, all of whom have no actual IMDB credits that are supposed to be experts. Ummm, if they wanted some credibility they should have had Fred Vogel and Me in the movie talking about this shit, but I digress. The talk a little about Faces of Death but once again do not talk to the director, who is, once again, fairly accessible. They cover the standard stuff dealing with the Leonard Lake and Charles Ng Murders complete with pirated footage from a crime show, and how the Iraq war has bumped up the availability of death footage thanks to all the beheading videos (which they show some of). The showpieces of the movie are two long interview segments with a dude named Mark Rosen who claims he used to work for Byanston films in the seventies (the mob outfit that released Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deep Throat). He tells a story about a Russian pedophile ring busted in 2000, that made snuff films that some corroboration can be found online for. But the sources online are a little questionable at best. Yet this story has a bit of a ring of truth, or at least the possibility of truth to it. The the movie ends with Rosen getting all teary eyed recounting how he saw a Filipino snuff film in the 70's. The story smacks of bullshit, though his recounting of it is pretty convincing. Most suspect is that he is the producer of this film so it is in his best interest to have a killer story to end on. The trailer for this movie on you tube has a production assistant talking about how on their last day of production they got an actual snuff tape with the word 'enjoy' written on the label. Nothing of the sort is in the movie. Once again just hyperbol to sell this thing. One last thing, one of their 'experts' is a dude named Raymond Whalen, who I'm sure is a beautiful person in real life, but his 'performance' in this is so bug-eyed and wildly over the top that you want to throttle him any time he is on screen. Every other word he utters he has to empathsise like its his last. His delivery reminds me of those people in chats rooms that type in all capital letters. Funnily enough he is the only one in the movie with actual IMDB credits as an actor and screenwriter. If you are interested in this topic of Snuff films and the myth behind them check out The Dark Side of Porn: Is Snuff Real. It is an excellent 45 minute BBC documentary that gets all the details right and doesn't skimp on interviewing people. Then read Killing For Culture by David Kerekes and David Slater which is due to be revised and re-published sometime soon. But this movie is pretty much a waste of time. First time seeing
Friday Oct 3rd 2008
Bad Biology (2007)**- Frank Henenlotter's (Basket Case) long awaited return to the screen starts off strong, but ultimately ends on such a sour note that it can't be considered anything but a huge disappointment. The film covers ground that underground filmmaker Scooter McCrea has already mined (in a much more serious way) in his brilliant movie Sixteen Tongues. Oddly enough McCrea is editor on this film. Bad Biology tells the very loopy tale of a girl that was born with seven clitorises in her vagina. So she is basically in a constant state of arousal and needs sex all the time. But she gets so aroused during the act that she sometimes kills her partners. She is also an artist/photographer and likes to snap pictures of these anonymous men while they are in the throws of passion and/or death. Then the really weird part is that she also has a sped up metabolism that causes her to conceive and give birth to mutant babies within two hours of each fuck she has. But since these babies are basically mutated monsters, she just dumps them in the trash. The second prong of the story deals with a young man who has a mutant penis. Seems when he was born his genitals were deformed and as a young man he began injecting them with growth hormones to make them normal. But instead it not only made the organ enormous, but gave it its own consciousness. So it demands sex and more drugs all the time. Naturally these two will meet, but the conclusion is highly disappointing. All this sexual loathing and body dismorphia is prime material for Henenlotter and for at least half the movie he has an uneasy balance of really sick humor, nasty sex and a weirdo dirty street vibe. But about two thirds of the way through the film it starts to just rehash Brain Damage with the Elmer monster replaced with a mutant dick. Then it goes into territory that was done recently in the film Pervert, but done there with a lot more humor and charm. The final joke is so resoundingly not funny that you end up angry you just sat through the whole movie. I wanted to like this movie much more. I LOVE Henenlotter's other films. I think he is one of the most interesting directors around and his world view is incredibly unique. His love for weirdo trash is unparalleled. But this one goes was astray before it is over. Watch for Tina Krause oddly enough playing herself! First time seeing this.
Sat Oct 4th 2008
Ator The Blade Master (1983) *1/2 - Joe D'Amato's second film in his Conan rip off series featuring big old wooden ass Miles O'Keefe is bottom of the barrel cheese with a side helping of Velveeta topping. This is about as low budget as these things get with skimpy costumes, a cast of about a dozen including extras, maybe two or three horses (when they have to travel across country they are just shown running through fields on foot!) and the same three villainous guards over and over again. But the piece d' resistance is a battle with the lamest giant snake in film history. This thing has to be made out of felt and cloth with no mechanized movements at all. It's just a head and neck teetering around a corner, with a tongue glued down inside the mouth, otherwise it would be flailing in the breeze. I distinctly remembered this from seeing this as a kid and it was even better than I remembered. Seen this before.
Monday October 6, 2008
Hard Target (Workprint) (1994)*** - Sam Riami produced this Jean Claude Van Damme Vehicle which was supposed to be the introduction to American audiences of John Woo. The theatrical cut was pretty good for a Van Damme film and retained some of the stuff that made Woo movies special. But once this workprint started making the rounds it became clear that a hatchet job had been done to the film as 20 minutes had been hacked loose from the flick. Including a lot of splashy violence, a better ending that had been entirely re-shot for laughs and a lot of Woo's trademark slow motion character work. Word spread that Raimi was the guiding force to the re cutting wanting a more 'American' product, as well as something more palatable to the MPAA. While still not a classic, this workprint shows that the movie was much closer to the kind of films Woo had made previously in Hong Kong. Of course none of this explains the piece of shit Broken Arrow. Seen this before.
Tuesday Oct 07, 2008
Capturing the Freidman's (2004) ***1/2 -- Excellent documentary about a tightly knit New York family that is torn apart when the Father is arrested for receiving and owning child pornography. But the investigation from this charge leads to further charges of him and his son supposedly molesting dozens of children in the sleepy community. See this old man, a teacher by profession, taught after school classes in his home for computers in the 80's giving himself ample time to commit these crimes. What makes this documentary unique is that the family had a habit of documenting their lives with camera even during the meltdowns so a majority of the film is stuff that was shot from the inside as it were. And it is that footage that is the most emotionally raw and hard to watch. The movie draws on some tough issues in a situation where there is not a lot of easy answers. The Dad is not completely innocent as he did have child porn and eventually admits to being a pedophile and having relationships with minors in his. But he swears to have never done anything with the kids he taught. His son swears the same and several parents int eh community come forward claiming their kids were not harmed either and that the police questioning was rather leading at best. Even though Pops is guilty of something, it seems it isn't of the crimes here. But that won't stop the runaway justice being forced into place, now will it? A fascinating and infuriating indictment of our hysterical culture. Seen this before.
Saturday October 11th 2008
Home Sick (2007) *1/2 - The first film that Synapse Entertainment has actually produced turns out to be pretty dire unfortunately, mostly do to the atrocious acting. Which may not entirely be the actors fault. Home Sick seems to be trying to be intentionally weird and off beat and doesn't attain either quality very successfully, especially in the intentionally over the top acting. Instead the characters become tiresome and annoying making the movie harder and harder to get through irregardless of the messy story. The story as it is deals with a group of slackers whose get together is crashed by a man with a suitcase gull of razor blades. He asks them all to name who they hate and one numb skull says he hates everyone at the party. Naturally everyone starts getting killed by some unseen assailant, including people who were never named by anyone like on girls mother or a neighboring pedophile. None of the kids react with any kind of fear, but only act in self preservation and selfishness as the movie moves forward in fits and starts, sputtering to the next scenes. Sometimes it has a jarring otherworldly effect, but most of the time it is just confusing and frustrating. The movie is shot well and edited nicely (though not narratively) and has some really splashy gore effects but the nonsensical story and really bad acting make this a disappointment over all. First time seeing this.
Sunday October 12, 2008
Night Of The Creeps (1986) ***1/2 - this is one of the unheralded classics of the 80's and it is a crime that there still isn't a dvd of this. I managed to get a HD ltbxed rip of this and fell in love with it all over again. It is amazing that this is Fred Dekker's first feature film because the direction is so self assured and well handled. The camera work is always moving but motivated, the characters are rich and believable, especially the relationship between the two friends, and the horror is gooey but always fun. The film manages to wink at the audience but never insults or plays down to them in anyway. Its a serious shame that Fred Dekker has not directed more movies. This, The Monster Squad and unfortunately Robocop 3 which was pretty much never his actual project. Then he was squeezed out of Hollywood. The dude was mega talented and deserved so much more.
Jive Turkey aka Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes (1974) *** - I had never heard of this nifty little blaxsploitation oddity before but decided to give it a try since it was in the Mill Creek Drive In Classics 50 pack. I was immediately taken with it's no budget charms. From the get go this is not quite like the other black action picture of the era, instead setting the action in 1956 Chicago (though the budget clearly doesn't allow for any real vintage set pieces, clothing and only one or two cars). The plot deals with a numbers runner named Pasha who is being put under the gun by the Italian mob and the Mayor's task force. Both of whom he had been in good graces with previously. Seems the main mobster he had grown up with, but is now being leaned on hard by the higher ups in the family, and the Cops whom he had always kept paid off and are being leaned on hard by the Mayor who is up for re-election. To show that Pasha don't take shit laying down he lets his main assassin, a six foot rather mainly dame (or is she? Surprises are in store), slit the throat of a mafia enforcer in a shocking moment. But Pasha makes it clear he is a gambling and numbers man, he don't play in the narcotics business and that is what he is trying to keep out of his community. Seems the who neighborhood is in the numbers game and everyone loves Pasha. He's a Father figure and a respected man who treats the neighborhood right. But when his people start getting killed, he pushes back. Highlights include the scene where the amazon assassin beats two hitmen to death with her high heeled shoe, and a scene where Pasha hides his car during a car chase in a waiting U-Haul van. But what makes this work is the very real sense of community and people. Yeah the feel out of place to the time period, but it very much feels like these are people who know and live with each other. Everyone on screen feels lik ethe real deal, from the little kids to the old barbers, this oozes legitimacy. The movie moves at its own pace, which is never very fast. Instead it sort of just lets you tag along with Pasha and his gang as they outsmart those trying to do them wrong, with some very graphic violent moments along the way. Some will slag the movie for its low budget, hell even a credit is misspelled on the front of the movie, but I think this is a unheralded little gem of the era. First time seeing this.
Monday October 13th, 2008
Breeders (1985) *1/2 - Tim Kincaid directed this as part of his multi-picture deal with them reigning king of no budget horror/exploitation Empire Pictures. His former days in the porno trenches (both straight and gay) are pretty evident here in just the amount of skin alone in this picture as all but one female cast member doff their clothes. The whiff of a plot is about some alien that can possess men, is attacking and raping virgins in New York city in an attempt to spread its seed. think of an Urban Humanoids from the Deep but without the intentional humor or style and you're close. Truthfully the script is typical B-movie hokum and not that terrible. All the naked girls end up in the monster's lair in what loks like fifty five gallons of sperm that they writhe around and bath in. Sort of baking themselves as they ready to become monsters themselves.What sinks this is the stinky butt acting. No matter what is happening the reaction shots of the actors are the same blank stare. Now maybe that's the director's fault and he just shot all the reactions on the same day. The monster effects pretty much suck the big one too, with one of the worst rubber suit monsters from any era. Though surprisingly the gore and transformations are okay comparatively speaking. Ed French did the make up and his work is not known for quality. Tim Kindcaid went directly from this to the anti-classics Robot Holocaust (recently shown on satellite in a LTBX heavily matted remastered print) and Mutant Hunt, then a something called The Occultist. then hit a sleaze gem with a movie called Riot on 42nd Street which everyone should see. First time seeing this.
Vibroboy(1993) * - Jan Konen french director of the action cult favorite Dobermann got his notice from this expensive and very well shot and directed short feature. Too bad it is so hateful and homophobic that it leaves a terrible taste in your mouth. But then again the only thing I've seen from this director I really liked was the short film he made about the souped up witches chases each other through the city streets on brooms. This thing is about a transvestite who brings his female friend a Mayan relic for her birthday. Her abusive screeching gearhead boyfriend (who abuses both of the other leads in the movie and is the HERO!) is convinced the other two are sleeping together. The relic breaks and inside is an ancient dildo. He thinks his wife is supposed to let the transvestite use it on her, so he puts it on the end of a pneumatic power tool with the intent to fuck her to death with it. Through events too stupid to try and recount he ends up blowing up their trailer and she mourns his death and blames her friend for losing her husband. He raises from the dead as a Tetsuo/Robocop rip off machine man hybrid wielding the dildo/fuck machine power tool with full intent to rape the both of them to death. Oh yeah this is all played for laughs and slick MTV visual styled coolness, so when it ends with the transvestite about to be raped to death with the dildo machine in his mouth and the monster singing to him, its supposed to be funny, cause he deserves it. Why? Cause he's gay, get it! The production value of this thing is amazing, and Konen has a fantastic eye for visuals. But the world view exposed here is pretty gross, especially how it is so uber-cool in its casual hatefulness. He hasn't been very successful in his career overall, and I can't say I'm too sad. First time seeing this.
Wed October 15th 2008
Friday October 17th, 2008
Hell's Highway ***1/2 (2002) - Amazing documentary about the classroom scare film and more specifically the grotesque and savage driver's ed films that haunted several generations of high schoolers. These films were made by a little company here in Ohio called Highway Safety Films that was a branch of the Highway Safety Commission in the late fifties through the seventies. This documentary talks to the surviving members of the company, several of the cops involved, Mike Vraney from Something Weird Video, Rick Prelinger of Archive.org and some people who saw these as teens. Everyone speaks intelligently and has lots to say, except maybe the private investigator who tries to tell us that the company was a front for embezzling and porno which seems highly unlikely. There was however a brush with salacious sex when the company did a film for the Mansfield Police Dept as part of an Investigation into the murder of two young girls that had then staking out the men's room in the town square with cameras. the film they shot caught all kinds of homosexual goings on, some of which is briefly shown here. And probably were the rumors or porn came from. Be warned though, this is rough stuff as they not only show the most hardcore footage from the driver's ed films such as Signal 30 and Mechanized Death. They pretty much show ALL the mangled corpses, twisted bodies and morgue photos from these movies and the other movies from competing companies as well. It can be greuling stuff to sit through at times. The story they tell about finding the baby in a wreck is pretty horrible, they fact there is footage of it shown, is near unbearable. The fact it made it into a film that was shown to school kids is outlandish. And it is shown in this film. I remember an amazing ex girlfriend of mine and I watched a tape of these driver's ed films ina hotel room at a convention a long time ago. She had bad memories of that exact same film with the baby, and low and behold this tape we had just bought and were watching had that scene in it. We fast forwarded. you may end up doing the same. It doesn't make you a wimp. Seen this before.
Saturday October 18th 2008
Teenape Sex School (2008) ***1/2 - An extra on the Film Crew/Wet Heat DVD from Tempe and Chris Seaver's Low Budget Pictures that has the legendary character of Teenape up to his typical shenanigans with a busty lass in a hotel room showing us the audience the ways he gets the ladies. Teenape as played by Casey Bowker is usually pretty amusing and has grown on me over the years. But what makes this short so fucking great is simply the actress in it. She is not credited so I have no idea who she is, but she simple has the nicest boobs I have EVER seen. And I am an expert on these sort of things! I could bury myself between those and live there until I am old and Grey and be happy for the rest of my days. If Roger Ebert can give good reviews to movies because he likes busty women, so can I! And this gal has the best rack since Uschi Digart! ( . ) ( . ) She's a nice looking young lady too. All I can say is WOW! First time seeing this.
Wet Heat (2008) ** - Chris Seaver of Low Budget Pictures returns with his love letter to 80's action that references everything from Escape From New York, and The Terminator to such extreme classics as Never Too young To Die. The story is even more convoluted than the typical LBP flick though with several storylines playing throughout that all literally come crashing together for the final shootout at the end. The beloved Teenape is let out of prison to go on a special opps mission to save the President of Entertainment who has been kidnapped by a transvestite evil madman (shades of Gene Simmons in Never Too young To Die) who wants his life story made into a movie. Along the way there will be rebels, a ninja, a cute chick who thinks she is a Freddie Mercury impersonator, a female terminator out for Teenape's blood, a hand puppet and other assorted goofy characters. Its an everything but the kitchen sink approach, throw it all at the wall and see what sticks, and some of it does. The opening To Catch A Predator spoof is funny, and Seaver's wordplay is at work here as usual. There's a shit ton of digital effects, mostly gunfire and gore, some of which is fine, some of which is pretty low budget looking. But I guess that suits this movie okay considering. Over all this is a pretty decent time, has a some good laughs, but lacks the consistent zest of say Mulva 2 or Carnage for the Destroyer. Still you could do worse. First time seeing this.
Return To Sleepaway Camp (2008) ????? - Sleepaway Camp is one of my favorite bad film classics. I've seen it more than an human rightly should. A lot of people love the sequels, but I only think they are okay at best and really don't hold a candle to the original. Here we have the original film's writer, director Robert Hiltzik taking the reigns again and he delivers another movie that is straight from the planet only he lives on. Without a doubt this movie is terrible. Completely and insanely terrible. But it is forehead slapping, laugh out loud, so bizarrely terrible that you can't take your eye off it. How or why the decisions made throughout the movie were thought to be a good idea are so unfathomable that it just becomes immensely enjoyably to watch this play out in a cruel way. Maybe it takes a little masochism (and sadism too) to appreciate it. The story takes place 25 years later and Camp Arawak has reopened under a new name and new owners except for Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo from the original) the speedo wearing muscle head form the first film. Apparently the kids here ar all from penitentiaries or something because they are the worst behaved, most sadistic, mutated, mean spirited, spiteful little fuck ups EVER to grace a movie screen. the main character is a fat, greasy, troll named Alan is introduced picking on littler kids, cursing people out, pulling girls hair and generally being an asshole. But as the movie progresses we are supposed to become sympathetic to him because everyone else in the movie is a BIGGER asshole than him. They all pick on him, and I mean ruthlessly. Almost every remaining frame of film is taken up with someone fucking with Alan in some way and him cursing and screaming at them. The movie becomes almost like primal therapy as we watch this kid be tormented. But the problem is that he is set up to be such a jerk from the get go, that you don't really feel all that bad for him. I give the actor Michael Gibney credit for playing such a total fuckin spaz. He goes all out. Oh yeah there is someone killing people too, but its almost an after thought to people picking on Alan. It is also painfully obvious who the killer is fromt he get go. And to those who loved the cop with the electrical tape mustache in the original film (I know I do!) there is a cop in this one with a just a ludicrous paste on beard that will have you howling. But it at least plays into the movie. Felisa Rose and Johnathan Teirstan make appearances in their original roles as well. There is one really impressive kill involving a literal bed of nails that is almost worth the whole wait. I'm sure I've done a piss poor job of describing how bizarre of bad this movie is, but it is also one of the better times I've had watching a movie in a while. First time seeing this.
Sunday, October 19th 2008
Tropic Thunder (2008) ***1/2 - Near brilliant action/comedy/satire from (I can't believe I am writing this) Ben Stiller that just about made my laugh my nuts off. my Moms who is in her mid sixties laughed harder than I did! The movie opens with a set of fake commercials and trailers just like you would when you normally sit down in the theater. In fact it you are one of Dayton's many asshats that always arrive ten minutes lat cause you had to find your 'bling' then you would have thought the movie wasn't on yet. These bits were clearly inspired by Grindhouse's experiment with the fake trailers and none of them are nearly as successful as those were. Only the trailer for Satan's Alley a riff on Brokeback Mountain and In The Name of the Rose really shines. When they show Tobey Maguire and say' Winner of MTV's Best Kiss award'' right after the other character's five time oscar wins, it is one of the most spot on nailing of our current culture. And funny as FUCK! What the trailers do DO however is set up the characters we are about to see by painting thumnails of their work, most of it mediocre, as well as their badboy images. It's a smart bit of character shorthand. The movie starts proper with a excruciatingly bloody Vietnam battle sequence with people being disemboweled, limbs blown off and a guy shot in the head with no one, but no on can stop the four foot blood spray. Ben Stiller saves the day even though he's been shot like nine times by knocking a live grenade out of the way of the helicopter with his hands. When the smoke clears his hands are just shredded meat as him and Robert Downey Jr. (Who happens to be a black man, more on this in a moment) Share a tender moment about brotherhood and bonding. Then someone yells cut and chaos explodes as people try to do there jobs and money is being spent on every second. The movie gets complicated from here with Stiller's character needing this war film to be a big hit to save his failing career. Downey did a huge chance to delve 'deep into character' by having special plastic surgery done to turn him black. And since then he will not drop character. The Director and Nick Nolte as the grizzled vet whose book it is all based on, decide the only way to take these bunch of fuck ups to work is to drop then into the jungle and make them think they are fighting a real war and shoot it reality TV style with hidden cameras. But the minute the rules are set by the director, he steps on a very real, very old Vietnamese landmine and is blowed up real good. So there are out there on there own...and... with a terrorist organizational responsible for most of the uncut heroine that makes it out of Asia. Oh yeah there is Jack Black too. Normally I hate him with a passion. But he spends the entire move in pain from heroin withdraw, sweating, puking, hallucinating, biting heads of bats, and begging to suck dick to get drugs. Its his best performance ever. Lots of big stars get in on the act, Matthew Maconahay plays Stiller's agent and has a couple of the best scenes ('I killed the one thing I love most in the world' 'What? Oh my god you killed a hooker!' 'No not a hooker a panda!' 'Amanda that's probably not even her real name, you know these whores... ' No a cute fluffy, playful attacking with hate in his eyes Panda bear!') Then there is the complete transformation of Tom Cruise. I had to tell my moms it was Tom Cruise playing the head of the studio. His going so deep into the role can only be comparable to Johnny Deep in Fear And Loathing in Las vegas when he played Hunter S. Thompson. Something Tells me Cruise is playing a real guy too. The manurisims seem to perfect to not be someone he studied and is Mimicking perfically. There is some shit that doesn't work, or at least not super well, such as the whole simple Jack retarded kid movie. I see the point they were trying to make with it, but at times it still felt a bit tacky. Even if they do make their point about the academy and how they work picking winning performances. There's maybe one or two too many musical montages as they travel down river bits too. Another convention of the type of movie it is I know, but that's a joke that frankly is lost on the audiences seeing it, so why waste the time. Otherwise, this is one of the best times I've had in the movies in a while. A huge surprise too me. Too bad I had to come home afterward to my real life.
Friday October 24th 2008
The Incredible Melting Man (1977) ***- This was surprisingly the first time I had gotten to see this incredible bad movie masterpiece, and seeing it with an audience was something sublime. An astronaut arrives in the rings of Saturn ("You haven't lived until you've seen the sun through the rings of Saturn!") and gets radiated for his trouble. Soon he is back on Earth melting away. No explanation of what happened to his co-pilots. You know this movie is out of control as soon as the scene involving the chubby nurse running towards the camera screaming happens. In slow motion! She then busts out a plate glass door just like a stunt man. Awesome. But not as awesome as the performance of Dr. Ted Nelson played by Burr DeBenning. This guy has a monotone that will have you in stitches. His freakout where he pours his heart out to his wife, only to stop deadpan and ask her for crackers is amazing. The direction by William Sachs is breathtaking in its stilted way as everything seems to take about 30 seconds longer than it needs to. Each shot, line delivery or action seems to linger just a bit too long. The scene where Ted Newsom and his buddy discuss his pregnant wife while riding this weird lift is just one bizarre little aside you have to see to understand. Rick Baker's melting effects are very good, and there is some splashy gore to be had. I was under the misinformation that this was PG rated but its not. I'm not sure why i thought that. Great fun for the whole demented family! First time seeing this.
Alligator (1981) *** - John Sayles wrote this pretty great little giant animal on the loose tale that could be Jaws in the city. Well directed by Lewis Teague who would go on to direct another animal horror movie with Cujo. And starring the great Robert Forster and the very hot Robin Riker. It is just all the way round a solid little horror flick with good performances and likable characters, nice writing, a good monster that you sometimes can root for, and taught direction. Sometimes the low budget shows in the effects but what are you gonna do? Henry Silva almost steals the movie as a big game hunter called in to hunt the giant gator. Seen this when I was a little kid.
Mother of Tears (2007) *1/2 - I liked this even less watching it on the big screen than when I saw the bootleg of it last year. Certain things looked better on the big screen such as the gore effects (well most of them, the vagina to mouth spearing looked pretty fake on the big screen), but Asia Argento's horrible performance, hell, Everyone's horrible performance's, the nonsensical story, even for Argento, the flat direction and just plain goofy shit all were magnified ten fold. The scene where Asia is menaced by a mean old MONKEY is the stuff for compilation mix tapes it is so goofy. And the witches of the world that are so evil and menacing are basically goth chicks who just stepped out of some Bauhaus concert? I'm not buying it. The occult mumbo jumbo that is relayed in the reams of dialogue could be interesting, and the fits and starts of the movie kinda sorta work in moments. I see what Argento was trying to do. But I hate to say it, its a failure and a terrible way to end the trilogy.
The Final Terror (1981) **1/2- Perfectly serviceable teen slasher/backwoods survival movie is a little too slow going to be called good, but it has its charms too. Plenty of rising stars are on board from Darryl Hannah, to Jon Pantalatano, Rachal Ward and fuckin Adrian Zmed. Its directed by Andrew Davis who would go on to direct Steven Seagal's best movies Above The Law and Under Seige as well as The Fugitive. The movie is more of a suspense than horror but has a couple of gory moments and a surprise ending that has more people surviving that you would expect. Over all pretty decent. First time seeing this one.
Saturday, October 25th, 2008
Bangkok Dangerous (2008) **1/2 - Surprisingly decent action/crime remake of the Pang Brothers Chinese film of the same name. The same directors made this remake with Nicholas Cage starring as a hitman who is in Bangkok working on a series of four hits that will be his last. He has a code of ethics that have him not getting involved with any people, killing anyone he comes in contact with for his job to leave no trail. But he finds that his life is changing and he doesn't want to stop it. He takes on a student, a young street punk. He starts to date a deaf/mute pharmacist girl. Naturally hits start to go wrong and he finds himself on the wrong end of the spectrum having to hunt those who originally wanted him to hunt for him. After a row of turgid movies where Nicholas Cage either overacted or barely registered at all, he finally gets back to basics here and delivers a nicely shaded performance as a man enshrouded in loneliness. Someone who loses control of their life simply because they need to reach out to someone else. He finally shows us he can act again. The story is nothing special, we've seen it all before, but it is directed well, with a minimum of hyper stylized theatrics and a more street wise feel. The ending is especially grim and surprising for a Hollywood film. I was surprised at how okay this movie was. It is like a solid little B-picture, and nothing more. First time seeing this.
Sunday October 26th, 2008
Saw V (2008) ** - The Saw franchise barely climbs up from the last one that was frankly a mess. It is no secret that I like these films, even though it is considered by most hardcore horror fans some sort of sacrilege to do so. They're like an ongoing TV show in the theaters, with continuing characters and story arcs that you go to see what happens next. With that in mind, they are far more well put together than say (boy am I gonna take some shit for this!) the Friday The 13th films where you just got the same movie every time. Saw 4 was a jumbled mess though where they tried to take several story arcs and put them into play in several time lines and it required that you have seen all the other movies just to keep up and it didn't work at all. But it was the goriest of the series and possibly one of the goriest movies ever released in a mainstream movie theater. Saw 5 however scaled back on both counts, taking the story back to basics with a group of people locked in a specially build maze of traps like in Part 2 and with a lot less gore. There are still several story arcs going, but they are far less complicated, and they make sure to fill you in with flashbacks from the other films. The problem is that it begins to feel like warmed over hash, instead of continuing the story in a consequential way. A big part of this is the fact that Jigsaw is dead and someone else is committing the murders. The backtracking to make this new killer part of the story doesn't really work. It makes the focus of the other films seems weaker. Plus Toben Bell really was the main voice of the films and with him only in flashbacks it feels a little hollow. One thing I did like about this one however is that the MTV editing was kept down to a minimum this time. Only two of the murder/torture scenes had it, where as the other films were filled with it. I've always hated that fast cutting, hyper stylized shit and this new director seems to not be comfortable with it either. In fact he seems to be almost wanting to make a thriller and not a horror film this time out, which is not really the best way to approach the material. And unlike the other films, this has a pretty anti-climactic ending. Its okay all in all, but the series is starting to have the law of diminishing returns go into effect. First time seeing this.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Surviving Edged Weapons (198?)
D. Dennis Anderson
Downloaded this off of Cinemageddon recently and what a great discovery it was.
This is a police training tape from Wisconsin on how to properly prepare and survive when criminals attack police officers with knives, machetes, swords and other bladed weapons. While there is some mondo footage of crime scene photos scattered throughout, the name of the game here is dramatic recreations. And boy are these AWESOME! It seems to me that someone on the police force really wanted to be an action filmmakers and just could give two shits about making a training tape as these things are just out of control, action packed over the top gore vignettes. This out of control hilarity starts with two cavemen fighting over some roasted rabbit. But one of them tricks the other one and pulls out a stone age knife and stabs the shit out of the other guy, thus showing that people have had the urge to cut the hell out of each other since the beginning of time. This 2001 epic opening sets the tone for this no budged nonsense. For the first maybe two thirds of the tape they at least have something to do with the material as the narrator will discuss a certain type of knife attack and we will see it go inevitably wrong and see the cop get slashed, gored, or run through complete with gushing and spraying blood and 70's styled freeze frames. A fantastic early scene has a detective go to a dues house and announce at the door that the cops are there an dhe needs to come out. Inside the guy is sitting alone, clearly disturbed. In the background by the door is a HUGE broadsword that would be at home in a CONAN movie. Before the cop can pipe up again the dude cracks the door and impales the detective on the sword, removes it and closes the door again. Awesome. As to be expected 90% of all the "criminals" on display are minorities I.E. African American's and Latin Americans just waiting to shank a cop at any given moment. And the couple of white guys are naturally hell's angels or drunken homeless. In fact the Hell's Angel has the most ingenious hidden knife I have seen in ages by having a concealed blade attached tot eh INSIDE of his gas cap on his motorcycle. If I ever hit my midlife crisis and get a bike, I'm sure as hell getting one of these for protection! By the last reel this thing has gone totally bonkers by having a shootout in a Latino drug bar that looks like they were trying to out do Walter Hill. Seriously the scene looks like an outtake of EXTREME PREJUDICE except without the skill, and has fuck all to do with surviving bladed weapons. They clearly just wanted to shoot a big gun fight with whores in tight dresses and squibs.
If all this wasn't enough you get tearful recantations of actual cops telling the terrifying stories of the various knife attacks they encountered on the job, including the one officers who got stabbed multiple times and punctures a lung, the female cop who got both of her arms cut so bad she almost lost both of them and the main cop who almost got his face literally carved off. you'll be asking yourself the whole time, where the fuck were their partners when they were getting craved up? The main badass got has the best lines when he says things like "I'm not gonna die in some god damned ghetto!"
Plus most of the criminals in the re-enactments have Canadian accents!
This one is a winner folks!
someone on You tube beat me to the punch and made a pretty sweet music video of the best scenes. Check it out. Before the fuckers at you tube have it removed for having copyrighted music...
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Angel of Heat (1983)
D. Merl A. Shreiberman
Full Frame DVD
This ridiculous starring vehicle for porn starlet Marilyn Chambers starts off promisingly enough. With ENTER THE DRAGON inspired opening credits that feature Chambers performing really shitty karate moves complete with the strobing effect from that classic. But since that clearly isn’t enough to hook an audience in they have Chambers go full frontal nude as well. Then add a weird effect that has her fade to sketches of herself periodically that have nothing to do with anything. I noticed right away that she has some odd looking tits. I dunno if she had some really early 70’s implants or just oddball boobs but they sit really far apart and seem rather hard. Like they don’t want to move from the perch on either side of her boney chest. Otherwise she’s an attractive lady. I’ve seen her in recent years at conventions and she still looks really good actually. Her new boob job is much nicer in fact.
The plot has her working for a secret agent cabal that does mop up missions for the US government that are so dangerous even they don’t want to know about them. Her group is called THE PROTECTORS and she is a perfect weapon, or so we are told. Mean while Mary Woronov and her goofy dude sidekick Stephen Johnson are assigned by another secret government agency to find out who is stealing high tech microchips and why. Woronov is a nymphomaniac who will bed down anyone and anything while Johnson is a goofy genius of the “aw shucks” variety. We get to see Chambers in action when she catches an intruder played by fellow porn star Randy West and proceeds to bang him. up until now the movie has been a little silly but relatively played straight. But suddenly it becomes a slapstick comedy with West badly dubbed with a Chinese accent AND subtitled in English with subs that don’t match what he is saying at all. It is a weird joke that really isn’t funny as much as it is disconcerting an disorienting. Plus my friends and I couldn’t figure out who he was and kept commenting on how he looked like Marjo Gortner.
Eventually our leads all separately end up on an island where a reclusive genius is working on some top secret scientific mumbo jumbo, More importantly he is the spitting image of a really strange dude who comes into my work, except this guy in the movie wears silk pants and a cape. though I could see the guy from work doing that too if people would let him. Johnson and Woronov go to a disco with the dudes stacked wife, but this disco has mud wrestling and naked dancing girls. Upstairs at the disco some sort of shenanigans are going on that we never actually see but hear about second hand that deal with blackmailing of employees to steal the microchips so dude with the cape can use them in his secret schemes to take over the world. Chambers tries to get into the club and has to get all hot with a midget who looks like Gary Busey and rides her like a pony (probably the movie’s highlight). She puts a Vulcan death grip on him and gets her info, which really isn’t anything at all. Eventually all the good guys end up working together and figure out the nutty cape man is creating androids (who love to have sex) to take over the world, and are controlled by sound. turns out his sexy wife is an android and she has fallen in love with Woronov after their heated round of mud wrestling at the disco. Lots of guys in thongs and speedos prance around as androids making my friend Mike really nervous and there is a lame climax with cheap ass melting robots and bad slapstick comedy.
Intentionally bad movies are a particularly painful breed. Bad because you have no money, or no talent, or no patience for the production are all fine and good. Bad just because things didn’t work out in your favor and the odds were against you is fine too. But bad because you set out to make a movie that is intentionally stupid to try to get laughs is often just insulting and irritating. ANGEL OF HEAT is one of those movies. Occasionally it is amusing, mostly when Mary Woronov is on screen since she is always fun to watch and gives her all. But this is such a threadbare and embarrassing production that to have it all be so purposely inane makes it feel like being in a room with a friend who wants to get on your nerves.
Weirdly enough the opening credits actually read ANGEL OF HEAT: THE PROTECTORS BOOK #1 so it looks like they were wanting to launch some sort of low budget comedy/ espionage series. Clearly that didn’t happen. If they had played it more straight and went for a more action/exploitation feel ala Andy Sidaris they could have been onto something. But it missed the boat.
Friday, March 13, 2009
D. Zack Snyder
Could it be done is what the comic fans were asking? Could anyone pull off making a film of the classic comics of WATCHMEN? Many that who have read the comics thought that the material was simply unfilmable. In many ways they were right the complexity of the material, married with the high number of characters and back story made this something that one single movie would be extremely difficult to make happen. A mini series for HBO might have been better. But to my shock and surprise "visionary" (more on that later) director Zack Snyder has done the unthinkable. He made a Watchmen movie, and it is faithful. And not only faithful it is really, really fucking good.
Though it seems very few people have noticed. If there ever was a movie that people had their knives out for it was this one. The comic fans were split between those who were excited to see their beloved book coming to the screen and those who were mortified to see the holy tome being butchered by Hollywood. Then there is the mainstream movie goer who is not accustomed to something of this scope and depth. They want explosions every five minutes, they want rapid fire MTV style montages and hot guys with their shirts off prancing around to get jobs modeling underwear. Instead they get a movie where the first hour or so is just extended flashbacks explaining who the characters are and their motivations. A rich tapestry of character motivations, mixed with a new alternate history in which the film takes place. All of which is confusing to people not willing to put forth just a little work to follow it. People whose brains flunk out if there isn't something "happening" every thirty seconds. Then you have the angry parents. The dimwits who are pissed and screaming because this ISN'T for kids. No fucking shit. Why'd you bring 'em in the first place. The film is clearly rated R, the trailers were pretty dark and clearly showed a film that was not going to be compromising. Reviews stated all over that the film was filled with graphic violence, nudity etc. But still numb skull parents brought kids because they saw superheros in the commercials and the ads. That's all they needed to know. Superhero's. That's it. So basically you've ended up with a movie that will please almost no one at the end of the day. A movie that many people had decided before ever seeing it that it was a bombastic piece of shit. A lot of that came from the advertising claiming that director Zach Snyder is a "visionary" only after directing two films, one of which sucked balls (DAWN OF THE DEAD) and one that was mediocre but entertaining (300). The genre fan community turned on this film because of that hype.
So the real sad story is that the film succeeds where everyone expected it to fail. Snyder manages to be incredibly faithful to the source material, right down to minute details in set designs and backgrounds. The casting of the film is so dead on that you feel like these were the characters you have been reading all these years. Especially Jackie Earl Hailey as Rorschach who almost steals the movie and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian who is completely dead on. Big props to Billy Crudup too who manages to do a lot with his voice, since even his eyes are covered in make up, and make Dr. Manhattan feel very real. At the end of the day this is a character piece and if the the actors weren't top notch then it wouldn't work. But that is not the case here and it works beautifully. There is no camp in the performances, everything is played straight and to the bone making it feel lively and real.
A lot of people have shit on Zack Snyder's "style" saying it has ruined the movie but he actually has that reigned in very far in this film. Yes he uses a lot of slow motion throughout the film, which is now a trademark for him. But I would argue that slow motion intensifies a lot of the effect on screen, elongation sequences, so we fully catch what is happening. It also makes them feel more like experiencing a comic book panel in that we have time to absorb more of the information being presented on screen. Snyder's other "trademark" was shooting on green screen sets, which this movie has much less of than one would expect since it is set in the real world, though an alternate take on the real world. Instead there are some beautifully designed sets and the world designed here seems like a very concrete one. I've heard people bitch that Snyder used to much voice over narration, but that is right out of the comics, almost word for word in fact. I would argue that Snyder actually earns his "visionary" status with this film in the opening credits sequence which manages to run us through both the alternate history of America we are experiencing as well as the history of Superheroes and Watchmen. It is a brilliant sequence that divulges a tremendous among of information but does it stylishly and in a captivating way.
Not everything is perfect in the film. The music choices are clumsy and sometimes downright wrong. During a brutal Vietnam sequence where Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian are ruthlessly slaughtering people in the name of God and Country the musical choice is Ride of the Valkyries which sounds great on paper, but in the film it doesn't work. The piece is much too majestic and proud to fit the carnage of the scene. Something much darker was needed. Also there is a scene of Night Owl and The Comedian descending into a mob to break it up and The Comedian snaps and begins hurting people, shooting them etc. Another ins tense sequence. But the choice of music this time is "I'm your Bogey man" which sounds like it should fit because of the action on screen. But it doesn't. At all. Instead it contrasts the action to the point of distraction. Also during the final confrontation when the Night Owl and Rorschach have figured out what has gone down their big plan is to jump in and take on the "villain" in a fight when they know just how capable he is. Especially considering both of them are basically mortal guys, that seems rather foolish no matter how badass they are. I also was a little taken a back by how brutal The Comedian's attempted Rape of Sally Jupiter was. In the comic it is unpleasant and brutal, but in the movie it is even more ramped up and violent with her getting the living shit beat out of her on top everything. The problem this poses is that it makes other turns of the story even harder to accept and deal with, where as in the comic they were difficult, here they are much, much harder to believe. But all of this is minor quibbles for a film that seeks to do more than any blockbuster does. This is a film that challenges on many levels, brings up issues of social consciousness, parodies the virulence of both superheros and the pro war idiocy of the 80's (and last 8 years for that matter). It questions if peace is really even possible and at what cost. And most importantly it assassinates our preconceived notions of how we have been trained to accept movies should work and behave. For that it is an important film, and therefor doomed for failure.
And that's why I love it.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)
D. Thomas Alfredson
This subdued, quiet and haunting little vampire drama from Sweden has managed to cause quite a stir in the horror movie circles. Which is surprising considering how dumbed down the modern horror movie has become with all the remakes and exercises in extreme gore. The very fact that something this reliant on mood, atmosphere and tension would get noticed at all is no mean feat. Much less get international attention (unfortunately that means it is on the remake block for 2010, but I somehow think that will not come to pass).
The story deals with a 12 year old boy named Oskar who lives in Blackeberg, Sweden. He is not unlike a lot of boys his age, quite, reserved, backward, too smart for his own age. And because of all of this is, he is picked on by the school yard bully and his group of thugs. When we first meet Oskar he is alone in his room brandishing a haunting knife fantasising about how he will get his revenge and humiliate his tormentors. He sees his new neighbors moving in outside his window. A dark haired young girl about his age and presumably her father. It is not long before this lonely boy has met the girl who at first doesn't want to be friends with him. Her name is Eli and she's quite peculiar, not wearing a coat or gloves while outside, saying she has forgotten how to be cold. Eventually they bond over a rubic's cube because she seems to love puzzles and cautiously become friends.
Meanwhile her guardian, the man living in the house is murdering people. He kidnaps a teenager and butchers him in the woods, draining his blood into a large bottle but is almost caught when an inquisitive dog spots him and the owners are not far behind. Turns out he was gathering the blood for Eli and though it is not really spoken, it is made clear that she is a vampire.
But Oskar not a complete innocent either. He keeps a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of stories dealing with murders. It seems to be one of the few things that bring him joy in his life. He is far too obsessed with the idea of revenge and his hunting knife. Eli sees this in him and urges him to fight back with the bullies at school, to not let them humiliate him any longer. She also tells him that if he fights back and they progress further that she will be there to help him.
From here the movie becomes rather complicated with various murderous attacks being carried out to keep Eli alive. While these are very important to the plot construction of the film, the meat of the story is the blossoming relationship between the two youngsters. This is a story of two very lost souls who through the most obscene odds find each other. It is clear the Oskar is not at home in his own skin no matter who he is with, save maybe his Father from whom his Mother is separated. BUt even there tension arrives from a male friend (whom I got the feeling was more than just a friend to his Father) that upsets that balance. Eli is a true lost soul, the only person she has in life is her keeper, whom clearly she had a relationship with at one point but he has grown old and she has not. Once he has passed on she is left alone to fend for herself. So it becomes her and Oskar against the world.
The films most touching (and in western eyes maybe most troubling) moment comes after Eli has lost her Keeper/Father figure. She shows up at Oskar's window in the middle of the night. She makes it clear that she has to be invited in (remember vampire's cannot enter anywhere they are not invited). Once inside she strips down and climbs into bed with the sleepy boy cuddling up behind him. They talk about how she is so physically cold and does he think that is weird. He asks her to go steady with him, but she doesn't understand the term. So he explains to be his girlfriend, but she wants things to stay the same between them, she tell shim she is not a girl, but Oskar doesn't care. She agrees and they hold hands and fall asleep together. The seen is bittersweet because what lonely young boy hasn't dreamed of the girl whom he trusted/loved the most showing up at his window to hold him into the night? But it is creepy too because we know what she is and what she is capable of, though she clearly seems to not have any intentions of hurting Oskar. Then there is the unspoken child sexuality issue. We never see any nudity and there is no sex going on, but the fact that it is two kids cuddled together in bed, one of them completely nude, that makes people uncomfortable. Add to that the fact Eli's character is probably much, much older mentally and it becomes very weird indeed.
The movie moves into full blown horror territory in the last third or so with some other characters becoming vampires, a little bit more bloodshed and a revenge fueled finale that I'm not entirely sure I liked or not. This is a movie that worked best in the quiet moments between the kids as they try to figure out the danger between them, the new found feelings, the subtle eroticism an all that comes with it. How they try to reconcile that both of them have the capability to commit murder, only one of them has to do it to survive.
Let The Right One In is a strange little film, full of more questions than answers. Beautifully shot, lit and acted. For those looking for something different, this should hit the spot.
There is a shot in the movie that I'm not quite sure I understood. When Oskar spots Eli undressing he sees her nude pubic area and running across it is a large scar. Throughout the movie she keeps telling him she is "not a Girl" but I took that to mean she is a vampire. But after this shot I wonder if there is more to it than that? Anyone else got some clues or info?
Friday, March 6, 2009
D. Brian Paulin
Morbid Vision Films
Brian Paulin is the Nordic rock God of the underground Gore film scene. This mother has done it all and lived to tell about it. Survived shoddy distributors, done dangerous car and fire stunts, done his own effects, piled mouthfuls of worms and maggots, and even starred in all his own flicks. But even more importantly he has the ability to fly and battle vampire with a two gun salute ala John Woo (AT DAWN THEY WAKE), and take on the undead (BONE SICKNESS) and teach Misty Mundea to kick Mummy Ass (MUMMY RAIDER). He's fuckin supernatural man! The only thing left for him to kick ass on the children. And man if his new movie FETUS is anything to go by he must fucking hate kids!
FETUS is the underground gore movie taken to the extreme edge. Never for a second is it trying to be a "realistic" gore film like some of the faux snuff flicks out there. This is still supernatural horror flick stuff, but the gore quotient and violence so pumped up that only the most hardened gore fan will be able to take this on. The movie even opens with the tag "A Gore Film By Brian Paulin" to let you know what you are in for. The story deals with a man whose wife dies in childbirth (in a spectacularly bloody scene, with a guy playing a doctor that if he was my wife's Doctor I would have clearly went elsewhere!) It is very unclear if the baby survives or not. But our hero, played by the multi-faceted Paulin himself, is wracked with grief and horror. Once home he starts going a little crazy, seeing things and falling into a pit of despair and nightmares.
Before long he is calling on the occult in an attempt to bring his wife back from the dead and seek revenge on those he blames for her death. He buys a black magic grimiore and starts practicing the rituals and the explosion of violence begins. People start getting hacked with knives, axes and hammers. One poor slob gets his teeth knocked out and all the skin off his arm shaved off. Another guy pukes up his intestines (ala GATES OF HELL) and then his face explodes off! But he DOESN'T die! Paulin has to block his exposed windpipe and smother him before he will give up the ghost! There are decapitations, mutilations and a hallucination of a stacked naked girl shooting herself in the crotch. And it gets worse from there!
Once our hero realizes he has to inseminate a corpse for these spells to works, he kills a hot chick and humps her dead body. It gives him some sort of skeevy dick disease and his knob starts rotting off in graphic detail for the rest of the movie. I could recount the gore and horror of the rest of the film, but by know you probably know if it is for you or not. I will say by the end of the movie there is a black magick machine made out of severed baby heads, a snake/human demon and a rather ridiculous birth scene. This doesn't push the boundaries, it explodes them.
FETUS is a weird movie because there is almost no dialogue for most of the movie. Since Paulin is the main character and he is alone most of the time, he is silent and talking to no one. So the movie relies on visuals a lot which is interesting. The gore effects are really well executed and frankly better than the ones in BONE SICKNESS, but are lingered on too long and sometimes look just like what they are, effects. Then the acting is kinda what you expect form this low budget production. Mostly serviceable but there is a scene of a couple of guys talking outside there house, that get kidnapped and killed. The one black guy reminded me of Cleveland from Family Guy with his delivery.
The movie has a shitload of energy and is really short, moving at a nice clip. But at the end of the day it ends up trying so hard that it sometimes seems a bit absurd. Some of the scenes that are designed to shock and repulse end up being kind of funny because it is so over the top. But then that is Paulin's strong suit, he never stops without going full force. I respect that.
The DVD is available directly from Brian Paulin and his Morbid Vision Films Website. Please buy the film directly from him. He is taking a chance to self distribute and deserves the support. Also I have seen the movie on some torrent trackers that specialize in this type of movie and I think that's bullshit. This isn't some corporation that can recoup those losses, this is a truly independent filmmaker who is selling his films himself. Don't just snatch and grab his work.
WARNING ABOUT THE CLIP BELOW: Not only is this clip highly gory and disgusting, it contains major spoilers. But it is the only clip from the film I could find online. So watch at your own risk.