Saturday, December 31, 2011

BLEEDER, Nicholas Winding Refn's 2nd feature film


BLEEDER (1999)
D. Nicholas Winding Refn
Import DVD
1.85


After I saw the movie DRIVE this year I became a little obsessed with seeing other films from director Nicholas Winding Refn. I had previously seen BRONSON (2010) which I was very impressed with, and had caught up with his Viking epic VALHALLA RISING (2011) just before seeing DRIVE. But I had not seen any of his older films from when he was primarily still working overseas. So I took a plunge and placed a large order from Amazon UK (grabbed some other dvd's I had been looking for too) and picked up this one and his PUSHER trilogy. This was the first of that bundle I watched and I was suitably impressed.

BLEEDER is a street level drama about a group of friends and how their lives change when the core couple of the group become pregnant. Leo (Kim Bodnia) and Lea (Live Corfixen) have discovered they are going to have a baby, but Leo really lacks the maturity to handle the situation. He hangs out with his video store owning buddies Lenny (Mads Mikkelson who went on to play the villain in CASINO ROYAL) and Kitjo (Zlatko Burik) watching movies all night long, or trailing behind Lea's fairly dangerous brother, low level gangster Louis (Levino Jensen). Louis is not crazy about Leo anyway and he can sense that he is unhappy about the new situation. But as things progress, Leo begins to slip into a sort of psychosis, growing more and more reckless and dangerous, making bad decisions as if to purposefully cause problems for himself until it hits the middle of the film and a huge problem that will impact them all.


The second tier of the story is less tense, and what I suspect is more personal to the director. Lenny, who is obsessed with movies and practically lives at his job at the video story has fallen for the pretty girl who works at the greasy spoon diner around the corner. The problem is that he has no personal communication skills at all. All he can do is talk movies. His friends are used to him, but in the real world his is awkward, even backward to the point that he might even be suffering from Aspergers or mild Autism. His only connection to the real world is through what he knows in the thousands and thousands of movies he watches. So he struggles to connect to this girl, who is actually not too different than he is, because she loves books in much the same way.


The first part of the story grows increasingly tense as the characters play out the situations until it reaches the last act of the film and why it is called BLEEDER. It is not what you think, I guarantee it, and it is far more disturbing that you imagine, But it is thankfully tempered by the second story of Lenny's quest to connect with this young lady.

The movie is told with a constant roving camera, almost always on a steady cam, but never obtrusive, and like his later films, using modern music as a way to punctuate the proceedings and introduce characters and give them an immediate voice. This was Refn's second feature film but his vocabulary was already in place.As his acting company, almost all who were in PUSHER and return here playing mostly very different characters than in that film.


One thing that I will say I have found a little frustrating with his films is that they tend to be a little light on the female character's motivations. He simply doesn't write the most detailed females. His male characters are always fully developed and complex, while his females are always kind of by the wayside, or just plot mechanics to move things forward. With that said, BLEEDER is the one film of the bunch I have watched of his work that suffers the LEAST in this aspect with the two female characters being pretty close to fully formed here. Much more so than the women in BRONSON and PUSHER for sure.

Right now BLEEDER is the hardest of his films to see, but it is for certain worth the effort.

Review
© Andrew Copp

Sex, Demons, Euro Breasts, & Death

SEX DEMONS AND DEATH AKA DIABOLICAMENTE... LETIZIA (1975)
D. Salvatore Bugnatelli
One 7 Movies – DVD
16X9 Anamorphic


This isn't exactly a lost classic or anything, but as far as some fun little bit of Eurosleaze goes, this is certainly fun enough to keep you entertained. It isn't up to par with the kings of the genre, or even the third or fourth tier rip off artists such as Bruno Mattei,.. Think the New York porno one day wonders if they were trying to do something a little classier with some Euro flavor and a supernatural bent and you might come up with this goofy mess.


Our couple cannot have a baby, suffering from guilt of abandoning their fist child to be raised by other more wealthy family members when they were younger. Now that they are much more well off and suffering a lot of mental anguish they set out to meet their child child again, named Letizia in a remote villa. Letizia has grown into a beautiful young sexual woman who seems to be possessed of some hairy, Ed Wood styled demon and begins to set the family and servants against each other in a repressed sexual frenzy.


Where everyone almost fucks everyone else, until the mid point where her very presence causes a hippie caravan of young people to throw her onto a hood of a car and what seems to gang rape her (it is off screen, so we have to assume that is what happens). Once home all bets are off and every one is crawling into bed with everyone else for carnal adventure that lead to some killings and voodoo in the last reel.




Think of this as Pasolini's THEOREMA on a six dollar and fifty cent budget and a screenwriter who doesn't have a clue what it all really means anyway. As long as the actresses are dropping their clothes and crawling around on the floor in desperation it all is working just fine.


The print is in horrible shape, apparently cobbled together from surviving print elements. But a movie this skeezy feels like it should be viewed on the backroom wall of some abandoned VFW anyway, so that is ok. The only extra is a pretty impressive and psychedelic trailer.

Review © Andrew Copp

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best films of 2011

TOP 12 MOVIE OF 2011
By Andrew Copp

To try and shake things up a bit I have decided to not do a top ten, but a top twelve. Mainly because there were a couple of smaller movies I ended up liking a lot that I couldn't bring myself to not include on the list. At this point I still have not seen HUGO, which is the one movie people have told me I NEED to see. But I also really wanted to see TAKE SHELTER (I have no one to blame but myself for missing that one) which I suspect may have landed on the list somewhere too. But otherwise I am confident the list is where it should be... 

There is a LOT of indie movies on this list, in fact it is ALL indie movies depending on how you define it. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES came really damn close to making the list, as I REALLY liked that movie a lot. As far as Hollywood summer sci-fi goes it really was truly an amazing film. I have no issues recommending it to people and may very well buy it at some point. I also really enjoyed IMMORTALS, though so many other people seemed not to, but I would have no issue recommending that to friends or loved ones either. Of course THE MUPPETS found their way onto the big screen with a very respectable movie that pretty much captured the magic that wowed us as kids and keep us returning to those characters so much. So those movies are movies I had a good time with and enjoyed. But they didn't make my top twelve. They came close. In fact if this was a top fifteen then maybe they would be there. Maybe. But as this list rolls out, this is how it looks... 


12) AMER -(D.Helene Catett, &Bruno Forzani) - This Spanish art-cum-horror modern day Giallo sexual coming of age thriller is a unique vision if there ever was one. I can fully see where it would frustrate easily distracted horror fans looking for cheap thrills, or art house fans who are unprepared for the reckless explosions of brutal gore in the last reel. But for those of us who love the Italian Giallo genre this is a treasure trove of atmosphere of tightening sexual tension, virtuoso camera work, and breathless style that takes you back to an era that is simply dead. Argento hasn't made a movie this good in twenty years. The movie deals with a woman's sexual awakening and thus, sexual repression, as we experience three distinct periods of her life and the very weird instances that shape them. The tension in the film can (and ultimately IS) cut with a knife and is very disturbing, but is distinctly sexy on ways that will make you feel very unclean. Bravura film-making on nearly eve every level. 


11) RUBBER -( D. Quintin Dupieux)- I have a huge bone to pick with what I have termed "hipster" film. The trailer to this movie sold it as such. A movie made specifically for a crowd of movie fans that have elevated themselves to that ironic detachment of only finding something entertaining if they can look down upon it and the audience that would find it fun in the first place. So thank god that instead what RUBBER actually delivers is a terrifically clever deconstruction of film as a viewer's medium of interaction. From the opening scene where the movie explains that it is indeed interacting with US the viewer and that within the movie is another audience that is participating in the outcome of the action on screen it changes the dynamic of everything. The whole psychic tire thing is purposefully silly and played for laughs, but not the slapstick dumb-ass type, but more the sly, fun type that I have not seen enough of since the heyday of Alex Cox in his prime. Plus it was a hoot to see Wings Hauser in a movie IN THE THEATER again. I look forward to this director's next movie. RUBBER is way smarter than it has any right to be. 



10) RED WHITE AND BLUE -(D. Simon Rumley)- The less said about the plot of this the better. But this is probably the most EMOTIONALLY brutal movie of the year. RED WHITE AND BLUE takes horror into social boundaries I had not seen many, if any, other films go, and it really kicked my ass. The first two thirds actually function as a really dark drama, yet deliver more terrifying real terror than most horror films ever do. While too many modern horror films feel the the need to go far over the top with explicit gore these days in a useless game of one up-man-ship, they really need to look at this movie to see how EMOTIONAL IMPACT can be done and how it is FAR more devastating. This movie wrecked me more than anything in the stupid HUMAN CENTIPEDE movies. The final reel dips into far too familiar horror terrain and there far is a bit of a let down, but up until then, it is among the most refreshing, terrifying and original horror films to date. Fucking haunting is really the only way to describe it. 


9) THIRTEEN ASSASSINS -(D. Takashi Miike)- Takshi Miike goes all classical on your ass with his attempt to make a Samaria film, and he proves himself more than capable to walk in the footsteps of his Japanese masters. The film is both a sweeping historical epic and an incredible balls to the wall action film with a climax that literally last a full on non-stop 45 minutes of bloody swordplay. But it is still a Miike film and has his twisted worldview and occasional bizarre humor, so that oddball flare that marks his work, while subdued this time, is by no means absent. It also has one of the most despicable villains in recent screen memory which really marks it as the kind of action film you love to cheer along with. Some critics may call this his masterpiece. While I would hardly go that far, it IS his most accessible mainstream film, but still retains his insanity. The perfect entry point to his work for newbies, but an incredible new Japanese classic is born as well. 


8) TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL -(D. Eli Craig) - Horror comedies are so hard to do right. Personally I am even harder on them than the average person (for example I am not such a fan of SHAUN OF THE DEAD which seems to be the recent high water mark for the sub-genre). But this very low budget piss take on hillbilly backwoods cannibal massacre horror films is pretty brilliant on multiple levels. It manages to have its cake and eat it too by being a really smart deconstruction on the genre, while still being insanely gory, still has an actual horror story at the core, and most importantly has a HUGE heart and likable characters at the center. Which is what makes the whole thing tick. I am loath to say anything will become a genre classic anymore because in our sound byte culture nothing actually does, but if anything deserves to, this movie is it.


 7) TREE OF LIFE -(D. Terence Malick) - Probably the most difficult movie on my list. People seem to either love it or hate (or are completely too fucking stupid to understand it...Signs having to be put up in theaters explaining to people it is an art film and you can't have your money back.. podcasts about it being the dumbest movie people saw all year? Seriously you people disgust me...) Honestly it is a movie that makes some demands on the audience asking them to ponder some pretty heavy questions to follow along with what in some ways ultimately is not a huge question, which is accepting death as part of life. But the movie pushes you to examine things, things about the universe, life and how life is put into action, about how we interact with each other and life in the universe. About growing up, our specific moments that shape us, about memory, and those fleeting wisps that will be there at the end. What all combines to make the tree of life? What will be there for those we love when we pass on? It is profound stuff, frustrating and oblique, and deeply beautiful. Yet it didn't make it higher on my list? It just didn't touch me as much as I thought it would. I found it more of an intellectual exercise for me than an emotional one. That is a personal thing that reflects me more than the actual film (which is also why MELANCHOLIA is not on my list at all and it is on many people's top ten. It is a beautiful film, but didn't touch me the way Lars Von Trier's previous movie ANTICHRIST did). 


6) RED RIDING TRILOGY - This trilogy of British crime films technically came out in 2010 but didn't make it to American shores until 2011 so I am counting it. I am also counting all three films as one long interlocking film as they all play together as a long very staggering, brutal, storyline. Though all three films do work independently of each other as well. Each movie which take place a few years apart starting in 1972, dealing with a real life serial killer of children and weaves a very distressing story of police corruption and social discord in 70's and 80's era London. This is seriously hard boiled crime fiction here folks, gritty and street level as it comes with brilliant action at every level. While 2010 and 2011 saw THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO films get praise across the globe, these movies are actually the real deal. The movies that deserved the praise those over-hyped movies got. Seek these out, you will not be disappointed.


5) I SAW THE DEVIL -(D. Jee Woo-Kim)-  The pinnacle of the current crop of Asian horror films. Perhaps almost too brutal for most people to bear, this is lean, mean and savage horror that plays by its own rules. Featuring Min-sik Choi the hero of OLDBOY as a rapist serial killer who finds himself being hunted when he picks off the fiance of the wrong man, someone with the tenacious nature and means to put him in the cross-hairs and make his life's work a dedicated matter of pursuing him. But not for a quick capture. Instead it is all about a slow stalk to make him suffer as much as his victims have. What sets I SAW THE DEVIL apart is that although it certainly IS one of the most violent movies in recent years, the director Jee Woo-Kim still knows when it is time to draw back. For example there is no wallowing in the sexual violence in the film, even though it IS about a rapist killer. That element is left more or less to the imagination of the viewer. The movie knows when tact is a good thing to have and when the sheer brutality serves the film. Which is often. Breathless, mesmerizing and agonizing, this is a primal scream of rage of horror that will leave you on the floor.


4) PEARL JAM 20 - Cameron Crowe is a filmmaker I frankly am not crazy about. But apparently he is a much better documentarian, and this dealing with the Seattle music scene cannot be denied. This is a carefully constructed, no minutia left unturned look at the last twenty years of this band and why they just work. The movie doesn't just start at the beginning but well before the formation of the band, as it looks back at the TWO bands before PEARL JAM was formed. But for me this movie hit me emotionally as PEARL JAM was one of my favorite bands throughout the 90's when I was in my 20's a very formative time in my life. So watching this documentary was almost like watching a documentary on my life in a lot of ways. But even more importantly it reacquainted me with the band again because I had stopped listening to them in 2000 when I went through a horrific break up with a women to which PEARL JAM was one of the few things we really shared. So I thank this movie for bringing them back out of the foot locker after ten years for me and reminding me just how much I loved them, and how terrific of a band they are. I've watched it three times already.


3) BELLFLOWER - (D. Evan Glodell)  This one just came out of nowhere and knocked me for a loop. I knew nothing about what this was about except it was a love story about two guys who loved MAD MAX and were building a flamethrower. Which is actually really exactly what it is about. But it is SO MUCH MORE. The first half is just that, Woodrow (Director, writer,editor, Producer Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Co-Producer Tyler Dawson) are life long friends who have moved to L.A. and are sort of emotionally lost and skimming through life. They spend their days palling around, watching THE ROAD WARRIOR and building stuff like cars and a home made flame thrower. But when Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman) it seems like things are going to get weird between the two friends. Maybe their friendship might suffer. But it doesn't, instead things go a much, much different direction at the film's mid point and it plunges into a much darker place. The film can be described as a love story that becomes the apocalypse, but that only touches one level. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the technical aspects of BELLFLOWER which is visually the most spectacular looking film on the list, with a unique and stunning style unlike anything else this year. A look that was achieved because the filmmaker BUILT HIS OWN FUCKING CAMERA... You hear that other low budget filmmakers?


2) SUPER - (D. James Gunn)- James Gunn's love letter to super hero movies, insanity and love lost is in a lot of ways the most brutally HONEST movie I saw this year. Rain Wilson has moments in this movie that are frighteningly raw in his portrayal that really made me uncomfortable because I recognized myself in them. Moments that some audiences will laugh at and say "what a fucking goof" but lots of other people will nod their heads in understanding and sympathy. While SUPER is a jet-black comedy on the surface, it is also a hugely sympathetic film about outsiders and people with mental illness trying to find a place in society where they are unwanted and can never fit in. A world where you put on a super hero suit and people magically love you, are at least in a diseased mind that thinks God touched you, that is what you believe. The kind of mind where the rules of society still hold meaning, where the bad guys STILL have to pay, and those rules STILL have to apply. Where order HAS to be applied to chaos and where you have to make your own best days, somehow. 



1) DRIVE -(D. Nicholas Winding Refn)- Before 2011 I had only seen one NICHOLAS WINDING REFN movie, which was BRONSON. A movie I liked a great deal. But Now I have caught up with almost his entire filmography thanks to falling in love with DRIVE (and VALHALLA RISING, and revisiting BRONSON). I've discovered he is a filmmaker that in many ways is very close to my own heart. He understands that it is okay to have flights of of poeticism and surrealism, massive explosions of extreme violence populate his films as punctuation. He uses popular music as a way to say the things the characters often are not saying (or unable to say) for themselves (few directors are good at this, Michael Mann is the king of it, P.T. Anderson does it very well too). He likes to have his characters say less and the action on screen say more. All of this is in FULL EFFECT in DRIVE a movie that subverts action movie expectations from the opening frames with a car chase that takes place almost entirely inside the protagonist's car, then proceeds to have almost a half hour or more where the lead character probably utters ten words. But thanks to the impeccably chosen music we totally know who he is, what he is about and how he is feeling. We also love the movie thanks to the insanely well chosen cast of characters, beautifully played by people like Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks,Albert Brooks, Ron Pearlman and Oscar Isaac.The galvanizing lead performance by Ryan Gosling is simply hypnotic It is the one movie I saw this year when it was over, I honestly did NOT want it to be over. 


THE WORST  

Can't have a good year with out crapping on the floor. I honestly make an effort to stay away from stuff I know I will hate. I have friends who watch everything. I know I will hate say, the TRANSFORMERS movies, so I will not waste my energy on them. I've never seen one of them, and never will. But however I do have a weakness for low budget horror and exploitation and try to find even the smallest glimmer of hope when it comes to the part of the genre. So I more often than not get burned there. my worst films tend to come form that end of the pool... 


DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK -(D. Soska Sisters)-  People keep touting the Soska Sisters as some kind of no budget saviors of the DIY school of indie horror filmmaking. This movie comes complete with plastered comments from Eli Roth, and was picked up for midnight theatrical distribution by IFC. I saw it before all that shit happened and it has the ultra, ultra rare distinction of being one of the ONLY movies I have ever turned off before it was over because it was insulting my intelligence. I can put up with a movie being terrible, I can put up with being completely stupid if it is entertaining or fun. But this was neither, it was grinding in its in your face style of abrasive stupidity, flaunting things like logic, forward momentum, and simple story coherence all in the hardcore need to look and act hip and cool for the camera. Sincerely, if this exact movie had been made by two males it would be the laughing stock; no one would let it off the hook for being as bad as it is. For example, when one of the girls gets her arm knocked off by a semi truck they sewn back on with Fishing line. Mind you, this is not supposed to be a fantasy movie, not a supernatural film, or a parody, but an edgy, street level hard DIY crime movie... That is when I checked out.(and for real this trailer is edited way better than the actual movie is.) 



HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 FULL SEQUENCE -(D. Tom Six)- Honestly this isn't much better. BTW I am gonna spoil the ending of this raging pile of poop so if you want to see it, skip this small write up. Seriously, Tom Six, this is my message to you... STOP being a showman, and go take a workshop and being a screenwriter. Or better yet, get you a co-writer. You have the horror community watching your every move now. You've done what you set out to do. So why can't you write a script that is above the level film 101? Yeah, this is disgusting, maybe some of the most disgusting stuff you are going to see. But really, who cares if the script is so lame? And REALLY, who cares when the final reveals the whole god damn movie turns out to be a fantasy in the lead character's head? Seriously, that is the biggest cop out of a lazy screenwriter. And in this case of a director who has begun to believe his own hype and is only using this movie to pat himself on the back. All I felt at the end of this was like I wasted my 90 minutes. 



FRIGHT NIGHT -(D. Craig Gillespie)- I unfriended someone on Facebook who posted that they thought this was better than the original classic. Seriously? This is well made enough, but it commits the cardinal sin of any horror film, being boring. It has a weird lethargy that I have a hard time putting my finger on, almost like everyone involved couldn't get behind it and knew it was just going through the motions. Colin Ferell is especially wasted here in a role that he seems to be in a hurry to be done with. Watch him in a movie like IN BRUGES where he is fucking fantastic, then watch him here were he looks like he is on the verge of literally falling asleep at any given moment. At least they didn't jettison the gay undertones of the original, but they don't better them either. It just doesn't have anything new to offer and just lays there like a fish gasping for water. 

And finally, the one I expect the hate mail over 


HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN -(D. Jason Eisner) I actually already reviewed it HERE. But needless to say I found this to be a hollow, soulless exercise. I keep seeing a lot of people claiming this does what the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse film failed to do, but it really doesn't at all. It is just a hyped up Troma film on meth. This is what you get from a generation of horror fans who grew up watching this stuff on DVD who think movies like this were like from the old days. It is gory, it has bad attitude to spare, but it is so abrasive and unpleasant, so filled with ugly characters, and screaming into the camera that after a while you can't even care. It is all completely calculated to give you what you want and left me wanting to turn it off and watch THE EXTERMINATOR or VICE SQUAD or even a Jess Franco film so I could experience the real thing.

So that is that. 2011 in a nutshell. See you in 2012 if the Mayan's let us live that long!!! 

All Material © Andrew Copp

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Introducing the EXPLOITATION NATION WEB SERIES!!!

That's right, I have gone and done it! I have started an actual on camera series! For those of you who do not know I did this for almost 8 years on public access in a very similar format with a show called NEON MADNESS, so this is not new to me. I have been wanting to revive it for a long time, and finally got off my butt. This is the test pilot, so to speak, and a lot may change, or may not. Who knows. But take a look...

I review SYNAPSE'S FRAT HOUSE MASSACRE and SOUTH OF HEAVEN, check out what is happening on the NETFLIX STREAMING with the 80's British anthology SCREAMTIME, take a nostalgic look back at MY BOOTLEG LIFE with a take called VIDEO SCREAMS, and finally sit in the VHS corner with that lovely piece of shit ZOMBIE GANG-BANGERS. So set aside 45 minutes and take a look!

© Andrew Copp

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It is brutal TO BE TWENTY


TO BE TWENTY (1978)
D. FERNANDO DI LEO
RARO VIDEO
1.78 ANAMORPHIC


Italian director Fernando Di Leo has managed a small resurgence as of late thanks to the fine work of Raro Home Video's DVD's special editions. His large body of Italian crime thrillers have finally started to find their way into the hands of cult films fans who are discovering the craftsmanship of this little known (on this side of the pond) director. TO BE TWENTY is largely considered to be his most controversial and confrontational piece of work. A huge failure in Italy when it was released to the point that it was pulled from release and re-edited, it is a film that challenged audiences and critics alike.

The film follows two twenty year old girls Tina (Lilli Carati) the brunette angry one, and Lia (Gloria Guida) the more angelic looking, quieter and calmer of the pair, as they go on various adventures over a week or so on holiday in the big city. Seems like a simple enough story, ripe for comedy or coming of age, until one realizes that Di Leo is much more interested in telling a story about how society of the late seventies, a time ripe with the burgeoning feminist movement, civil rights activism and other liberal activities, is simply not as free as it often purports to be. The two lead girls are the symbols of freedom as they rage against the old world society, the establishment and even their peers who seem to be using the various movements they supposedly believe it just to make a buck or lay around and get high. They dance through various adventures trying to find a place to fit in, and listen to the philosophy of a mime who explains about trying to find transcendence, the commune leader who is using the young people, and the sexually aggressive pseudo hippie who is actually an informant for the brutal cops. In one telling scene they go door to door selling encyclopedias to make money and are almost molested by a lesbian and a professor, but end up together finding a lonely old man they end up seducing on their own to ease his own loneliness as their good deed for the day. Another telling moment has a documentary filmmaker crash the commune and they spill their guts to his camera explaining their sad childhoods. With Tina raging about her bourgeoisie upbringing and how her parents make her sick, and Lia telling a sad story of growing up in an orphanage and later with a foster care at which she was molested by her caregiver. (In the extras director Di Leo explains these asides where actually the actresses ad libbing their own life experiences to what they thought was a separate documentary film crew, not fully aware it was ending up in the final film). 


Eventually the cops raid the commune and send the girls packing when they realize they have nothing to do with the actual day to day activities there, but they could potentially “become terrorists” due to being some what intelligent. On their way home to their home town they stop at a small diner full of blue collar workers and businessmen whose libidos their very presence happen to inflame leading to a shocking, devastating ending.

When the film was released the two female stars (who are stunning and gorgeous) were very popular in Italy so audiences were not prepared to see them in such a shocking and upsetting film. Once the word was out, people stayed away and the producers pulled it, cut some troubling moments in the center of the movie and vastly changed the last five or so minutes changing the entire meaning of the film. But that version flopped too. 


It is easy to see why. Not that it is a bad film. Far from it. But TO BE TWENTY is a vastly unpleasant one. It comes from that time in 70's cinema when movies were asking hard questions, and were very unafraid to just up and fucking brain the audience to get the point across. If that meant doing really terrible things to the young, beautiful, much loved leads, then so be it. But with this film it is much more, because TO BE TWENTY takes young, beautiful, vibrant and sassy freedom itself out into the woods and savages it beyond recognition. This is nihilism laid out to die alone with businessmen in three piece suits and their cronies walking out to fuck everyone else for another day. TO BE TWENTY is where freedom goes to die.

The DVD has both versions of the film in this 2 disc set. I only watched the directors cut. The second disc that is the Director's cut has some weird anomalies as it slips out of sync two times really bad. The sound stays that way for close to 30 seconds or more both times. There is also some pretty severe print damage along the way. But otherwise it is ok looking, certainly a huge step up from the smeary VHS dubs I have been used to looking at over the years.

Highly recommended for those who want to be challenged by their cinema. All other may want to be careful.

Review © Andrew Copp

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trapped IN A GLASS CAGE (Blu Ray Finally!)


TRAS EL CRISTAL (IN A GLASS CAGE) 1986
D. Agusti Villaronga
CULT EPICS
1:85 Anamorphic
Blu Ray and DVD

There are a lot of movies anymore that claim to be the most disturbing movies of all time. Last year A SERBIAN FILM sexually assaulted audiences, brutalizing them to the point that criminal charges were filed at a film festival in Spain. While that film is everything you have heard and more, it lacks a certain poetry; a lyricism to it's violence. So while A SERBIAN FILM manages to violate you, and scar your psyche, it fails to engage your soul. But there is another film that hit the scene twenty five years about that was the sensation of the time, that did all these things and more. A film that was so shocking when it came out that almost all film festivals refused to play it, leaving only Gay and Lesbian festivals to embrace it, and even there it left audiences shocked and destroyed. But it was horror audiences who found the film through the underground critical writings of Chas Balun who praised the film in his DEEP RED magazine calling it the only film to scar him on a spiritual level.



IN A GLASS CAGE is a film that is so distressing that it is a film that almost has to be confronted as much as watched. But unlike a film like A SERBIAN FILM, this is not simple shock machine, no aggressive attempt to piss in the audience's faces and make them feel sickened and disgusted. IN A GLASS CAGE is an honest attempt to look evil in the face, to explore the circular nature of evil. And even more distressing, it is a really upsetting love story.

The film opens with a scene sure to upset the hell out of those more sensitive types. An old man named Klaus (Gunter Meisner from THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL) has a naked teenage boy strung up in an old stone building. From the old man's behavior it is clear the scene has been that of a sexual nature. Someone is outside of the building watching through the window. The old man takes a two by four and beats the boy to death. He then heads to the roof and throws himself off. But not before who ever was watching could gather the books and diaries scattered about that the man left behind.



The movie proper starts, with credits playing over scenes of young boys in Nazi prison camps, letting us know the scene we had just watched was happening in during World War two. Then the movie picks up eight years later and Klaus is not living in a villa under the care of his wife, maid and young daughter Rena. He is confined to an iron lung due to being paralyzed from his suicide attempt. His wife, who is at the end of her rope from caring for him is in need for a live in nurse. A Handsome young man named Angelo (David Sust) mysteriously appears, and though his wife immediately hates him, he takes the job. Klaus and Angelo seem to share a secret that connect them in the past, and soon Angelo is tearing his way through the family. He begins to sexually abuse Klaus, turn on and off the iron lung, and repeat his more terrifying experiments form the prison camps with children from the surrounding neighborhoods.



The film is a terrifying look at how evil spreads from one incident, i.e. a war, or a moment of unmitigated sexual abuse, and spreads through time like ripples on water. Klaus and Angelo are destined to play out their dance of evil together to the point it almost feels like a love story. But also playing into that is the character or Rena, Klaus young daughter who does indeed fall in love with Angelo, to the point that she clearly sees the awful things he is preptrating in her home, to her Father. That she learns the evil that her Father once was, and that she too will perhaps inherit the cycle.

But make no mistake, IN A GLASS CAGE is no fly by nigh shock machine, it is a measured, thoughtful and at times hauntingly beautiful film that happens to deal with some of the most hopeless and sad material humanity could possibly offer. Agusti Villarongo has fashioned a truly disturbing film, that is also deeply poetic, visually stunning and achingly heartfelt. It is disturbing because it is so damn HUMAN. Human in that it shows the worst the human animal can offer.



Cult Epics new Blu Ray and DVD is a significant upgrade over their previous DVD edition. While that edition was naturally a HUGE step up from the washed out murky VHS available for years, there was some sync issues, and subtitle issues on that previous edition and a distinct lack of extras. This new HD transfer is much cleaner with nice accurate colors (though the black levels seem a little lacking in detail at times to me). The Steel blues and grays are all very well accentuated. The extras include three of Villaronga's older short films and two fascinating and lengthy interviews that shed some light on his goals in making this now infamous film.  

Review © Andrew Copp   

Monday, October 17, 2011

Halloween Horror Challenge Oct 13: RED STATE


RED STATE (2011)
D. KEVIN SMITH
LIONSGATE
1.85


Kevin Smith's controversial thriller is by no means a horror film, no matter how much he or his fans try to tell you it is. But much to my surprise is actually IS a fine little film. Mostly sure handed, offering no easy answers, exciting when it should be, brutal and ugly when it needs to be, and forces a lot of thoughtful ideas into the laps o an audience that probably would never give any of those ideas a chance had Smith's name not been attached. The movie only falls down in the last reel when it seems that Smith himself seemingly just couldn't handle not throwing in his typical smarmy smartass humor,and a final walk off image that simply doesn't work. But 90% of the movie that leads up to it is challenging stuff.

The movie begins with a small scene in a high school class room where a very liberal teacher goes over the first and second amendment briefly and how it applies to the FIVE POINTS CHURCH and their leader ABIN COOPER (in a galvanizing performance by Michael Parks). This church are basically a version of the Fred Phelps clan protesting any and everything to do with Homosexuals. That they are agents of Satan. In the High School class are three teen boys
Jared (Kyle Gallner), Travis (Michael Angarano)
and Billy Ray (Nicholas Braun) have been talking to a middle aged woman online about meeting her for group sex. On the way to meet this woman they run into a parked car, inside of which a gay couple are having sex. Which turns out to be the town Sheriff and his secret gay lover, This is a key point of interest later in the story. The kids meet the woman (Melissa Leo) at a trailer park and she drugs them and takes them hostage for the FIVE POINTS CHURCH and Abin Cooper who intends to slaughter them during one of his sermons as a sacrifice to the lord to show he is cleansing the Earth of the filth and sodomites. The Sheriff has sent his Deputy out to find who hit his car, more to see who might have found out his secret than anything. The Deputy finds something amiss at the Church and gets shot for his trouble, Leading the Sheriff to call in the BATF lead by John Goodman who have been trying to find solid evidence that the church have been hiding guns on the premises. But when the BATF get on the site and their commands go south once the shooting starts, the government's involvement is as questionable as the church's.

The movie is a clear acid in the face of the WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH and their evil protesting of Gay rights issues, soldier's funerals and everything else they do. RED STATE could be easily summed up as THE WESTBORO CHURCH discovers the second Amendment and becomes THE BRANCH DAVIDIANS. But what makes it so unique is that for the most part Smith is careful to not lay too much of the blame at one one particular door step. The fanatical church is clearly shown as misguided people, blinded by their religion. But when the government is called in the decisions made by them are really no less fanatical or humane. Once again no easy answers are given, and no chance at true living or presented. Just as much faceless slaughter is there.

Kevin Smith loses his focus in two sections of the movie. In the last ten minutes of the movie he slips back int his normal smart ass, snarky writing with several new major characters making useless sexual/ comedic banter that is very out of place. Also the plotting ends up turning on a very loose bit of very lucky plot devices that feel like he had painted himself into a corner and needed something o get out quick. Also the handling of the gay Sheriff character is fumbled pretty badly, making him a drunk, insecure character, which would be fine, but with him being the only openly gay character in the film to make him a laughing stock and a loser it sends a bad vibe to the audience. Also killing him of violently sends a nasty message to the audience. But my theory is the Sheriff is the stand in for Kevin Smith himself, the very in the closet gay guy who can't come out at all under in circumstances, that it would ruin his life if he did. So it is ok to make that character a bit of a laughing stock. At least in Smith's own eyes.

But those are the few small complaints. For the most par I still say this is Smith's most mature film, even with the small slip ups, and if he intends to keep making movies in the this vein I will be glad to see what he is up to in the future.

Review © Andrew Copp

Halloween Horror Challenge Oct 12: Adam Wingard Short Films


1000 YEAR DEATH (2005) and THE GIRLFRIEND (2007)
D. Adam Wingard
Synapse Films
35mm
Both are extras on the HOME SICK DVD


Both of these are extra feature short films on the DVD of Wingard's feature film HOME SICK. Both are in fact better than the feature film they are supporting.

1000 YEAR DEATH is a small short art film that quickly becomes a one joke movie that thankfully is a very funny joke. For the most part it is artfully short, erotically charged shots of four young teenage girls, two lesbians, and two other girls as they go about their day to day lives. A narrator begins to explain how these four girls are victims of a violent serial killer, That their lives have been cut short by his wrath that they will never go on to do the various things that young girls go on to do. We hear the lives of each of these girls WOULD have had, had they not met this violent man. We see them meet him, get strangled and drag their bodies to hide them. He narrates this while it is happening, especially that one of the girl's bodies will never be found. That is when a surprise ending comes to the forefront that changes everything we have just seen. Making it suddenly more of a comedy of errors than the brutal art piece we have been watching. But it actually IS very funny.

THE GIRLFRIEND is vastly different. A much more straight forward horror piece about a newer couple where the girl seems to be more committed than the man. She has convinced him to take her to meet his parents for the weekend, though it is clear he is not so into the idea. Pre-credits they stop at a late night convenience store so she can use the restroom and she runs into a some sort of evil entity that killed the clerk. Clearly what ever she ran into at the story has either possessed her or took over her body. Once they meet his parents the NEW version of the girlfriend charms his parents and is a much more erotically charged but clearly dangerous person. His sister, who seems to be more than a little bit sexually interested in him as well, seems to be clued into what is going on, but not before his family starts dying.

The first film is an exercise if formalism that gives way to suddenly comedy. THE GIRLFRIEND is a very creepy exercise in horror fully of atmosphere and tension. The performers and good, but it is the queasy feeling of ongoing dread and uneasy sexual tension that keeps this one alive.

Wingard shows a terrific visual mastery of the genre with these shorts. It is easy to see how they landed him enough dough to make a feature, It is too bad that feature was such a troubled production that it became HOME SICK. But I hear nothing but great things about his new film A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE. 

Review © Andrew Copp

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


ANDREW COPP'S THE MUTILATION MAN RETURNS
SPECIAL VHS COLLECTOR'S EDITION LIMITED TO 100 pieces!


Coppfilms is proud to release a very limited edition of Andrew Copp’s The Mutilation Man in a collector's VHS package. Only 100 pieces are being manufactured, each one hand numbered and signed by the director.
This new edition features a previously unseen longer edit of the film that includes 10 minutes of footage with slightly better visual quality than the older out of print DVD editions. The Collector's Edition VHS tape comes in a red clamshell case on an actual blood red VHS tape. The cover art comes in two different designs created by renowned underground filmmaker Andrew Shearer, each sold separately, with only 50 pieces available of each design for a total of 100 pieces. Extras on the tape include a previously unseen short film, trailers for other Andrew Copp films and a fun negative YouTube review for the film.
Andrew Copp’s The Mutilation Man came out in 1998 during the tail end of what can be considered the last wave of the 90's underground film movement. The film stars Terek Puckett (from My Sweet Satan) as a wandering performance artist in a burned out wasteland who does shows of self-mutilation to relive his miserable past of horrible child abuse. In flashbacks we see this abuse meted out by his drunken and psychotic father in a terrifying performance by underground filmmaker Jim VanBebber. The film approaches the subject matter in an obsessive, surreal manner that is comparable to the films of panic movement favorites like Alejandro Jodorowsky and Fernando Arrabal melded to the Italian gut slingers of the 80's.
"Andrew Copp's The Mutilation Man drags you, naked, over broken glass...The Mutilation Man is as hard to watch as it is impossible to look away." - HOLLYWOOD IS BURNING Yet, that same year on IMDB the film made the bottom ten worst films of the year with many casual viewers finding the film difficult, disturbing and just too much for them to stomach.
Due to the film being edited analogue and shot on a variety of film formats that were transferred to video for offline editing, the movie will probably never see a re-mastered HD presentation. This collector's edition may represent the last time the movie will be available to the public. So get them while they are still available; these tapes are already selling fast!
Price: $23 post paid in the United States. Overseas please add $5 more to cover extra shipping.


Halloween Horror Challenge OCt 11: VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL


VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL (2010)
D. Yoshihiro Nishimura, Naoyuki Tomomatsu

Sony
HD Video


From the directors and F/X teams behind the 2008 hit TOKYO GORE POLICE comes this outrageous gore, monster, comedy that, frankly, I don't even know how to begin to review. Is it a good movie? No, not really, but it IS a constantly inventive one. Watching VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL you are sure to see things you have NEVER seen before, and a few things you probably never will want to see again. Every frame of this movie is jammed packed with color, movement, texture and lots and lots of spraying gore. If ever there was a movie that was practically begging you to pay attention it is this one. It is NEVER boring, every second pops something new for you to lock your eyeballs onto. But Jesus, at some point it almost becomes sensory overload.



The movie opens with a crazy, crazy scene of our lead Vampire Girl (Yukie Kawamura) facing off with a trio of doll faced school girl monsters. She dispatches them them gorily, stripping their skin off in long spirals and popping their skulls out, stacking them on the beach before her boyfriend Jyugon Mizushima (Takumi Saitô) begins to narrate the tale ahead of how they met. Jyugon is the only real available boy in school and he is cornered by Keiko (Eri Otoguro) the pushy hot girl in class and soon he is her boyfriend. But the new transfer student Monami sets her eyes on him and gives him a chocolate candy with her own blood in it. Before he knows it he is craving blood and wanting to be with Monami the Vampire Girl. What none of them know is that the hot school nurse and school assistant principal are doing experiments in the basement. The two girls are out to fight each other over their new boy toy until he becomes a vampire too and Mizushima ends up with her head blasted open on the pavement. Soon she has become the experiment of the school staff and the nurse is murdering the best students of the school to collect the parts to recreate her as the best fighting monster possible.


This write up doesn't even begin to do justice to the complete insanity of this thing. From the opening scene of over the top of comedic slaughter to the scene in the classroom where we meet the students which is the most racist thing I have seen in a movie since THE ETERNAL JEW. There is a subplot about a group of girls who have remade themselves a faux Black girls by wearing make up and fake afros and big cup lips and giant spears and every other horrible stereotype and racist thing you can think of. I guess I can reason it out as to be a commentary about people trying to go to extremes to be people who they are not. But my god it is terribly extreme and offensive. I guess that is the point.


There is also another subplot about ritual cutters, a group of teenage girls who cut themselves to be part of a group. They end up in a competition of who can cut themselves the most and best, complete with a trophy. The girls are all anemic and eat cabbage to keep up their strength.

But the meat of the movie is the battle between the girls. It becomes a big F/X battle with body parts switching places, blood becoming solid becoming actual weapons. It really is the epic battle the directors set out to achieve, even if it is kind of stupid. With severed arms becoming spinning rotors to make people fly and things like that. Frankly this movie would probably work a lot better if you were really really high. I rarely say that since I am not a stoner, but in this case, well it fits.


I was a big fan of TOKYO GORE POLICE because with all the insane imagery, way over the top gore, and bizarre psycho sexual set pieces, there was a strong political and social subtext tying it all together. With VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL it is almost like they set out to make some really weird teen movie and are only lightly touching on any kind of social context at all. The stuff that makes that other movie hang together is mostly missing here,and that is a shame.

I'm not a fan of the new Japanese insane cinema like MACHINE GIRL or ROBOGEISHA with cute girls with machine guns pupping out of their assholes and thousands of gallons of blood. That shit is amusing for about a minute but then the twelve year old in me starts asking for a context for it and gets severely disappointed. TOKYO GORE POLICE had the whole package. This movie almost has it, then goes back to the candy colored insanity. It is never boring for sure, but it is pretty empty unfortunately.

Review © Andrew Copp

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MORE BRAINS: A Return to The Living Dead Documentary


MORE BRAINS: A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD (2011)
D. Bill Philputt.

CAV RELEASING


From the creative team behind the award winning four hour documentary NEVER SLEEP AGAIN on the NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. series comes this in depth exploration of THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. But unlike that film this is only a look at the first film in the series. At least as far as the first movie itself is concerned. Once you get into the extras they delve into the first two sequels at length (and for my money get a little more interesting, but more on that in a moment).

So all the expected criminal minds are present from producer Tom Fox from the original screenwriter John Russo, the entire cast and lots of crew people to even Suzi Q to talk about her musical contribution. In fact the only missing contributor is obviously Dan O'Bannon because he had recently passed away (but there is a lengthy interview with him as a DVD extra) and oddly enough Tobe Hooper who had originally signed on as director by left the project before shooting began and then Dan O'Bannon signed on and totally recreated it from the ground up. Apparently there is some animosity there.

For me there wasn't a ton of new information, but then again, I have followed the film for years, through the various video and dvd incarnations AND read and re-read the CINEMAFANTASTIC article that went into major depth about the troubled production back when the movie was released. But for fans who haven't spent years reading about the film there is a lot of news here. Stuff I found of interest was finally getting to hear the controversy about the effects work from the mouths of those involved and seeing actual pictures of F/X man Bill Munns' aborted work. I couldn't believe how truly awful it was, for years I read about his dismissal from the film, but couldn't believe it could be as bad as the people involved claimed. He is interviewed here and admits it is not his best work, but the pictures tell the story and it is, well, embarrassing. I give the man props for being willing to take part in this documentary and own up to what went down.

The actors have a lot of fun stories, but oddly enough not very many people have a lot of nice things to say about Jewell Shepard, and she herself comes off pretty jaded about the production. There is also some pretty insane stories about Glu Gulager not getting along with Dan O'Bannon including him going after him with a ball bat and a big metal can. 


Not shockingly John Russo down plays the successful nature of the film in his interviews where it is clear he just doesn't get it, the humor or what they were trying to do with the movie. The mind boggles at what kind of immense piece of crap this would have ended up as if he and his buddy's would have stayed at the helm. He talks at length about how he would have opened the movie, which ended up in his raping and pillaging of the 30 Anniversary of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.


The extras include fairly in depth explorations of Part 2 and Part 3. Part 2 sounds like an abortion from the get go, from the fact that director Ken Weiderhorn who was hired because he had done a few other horror films, said on set he didn't like making horror. Though that entry had probably the best actual effects of the three it is the most uneven tone wise. It is basically a kids film, the comedy is all over the place and it seems the the set was miserable at best. The actors all talk about how they did not have a good experience being there. They also all talk about how terrible the script was.

Part 3 has a lot nicer things to be said as everyone seems to have had a much more pleasant time on that set and agree it is more unique film. Though the film was basically green lit from a farming out of ideas until they found one that stuck. Everyone involved agreed that an undead love story was a fantastic approach that took the series into a new direction.

The interview with Dan O'Bannon is bittersweet at best now that he isn't with us. But his enthusiasm is infectious and his final walk off line about loving all his fans is quite beautiful. It is a sentiment that everyone should remember about being famous.

If you are a fan of this series there is no reason you shouldn't pick this up. 

Review © Andrew Copp