Friday, 19 June 2009

The Wizard of Gore

Title: The Wizard of Gore
Director: Jeremy Kasten
Released: 2007
Staring: Kip Pardue, Bijou Phillips, Crispin Glover, Jeffrey Combs, Brad Dourif, Joshua John Miller

Rating: 3 / 5
Plot: Edmund Bigelow (Pardue) is a reporter for his own underground newspaper, obsessed with the obscure and bizarre nightlife of the Post Punk LA he lives in. After watching one of the elaborate magic shows, put on by Montag The Magnificent (Glover) in which he seemingly kills members of the audience in various gory ways, only for them to appear unharmed at the end of the trick. However when these volunteers, start turning up dead with the causes of death similar to how they appeared to die on stage, Edmund decides to conduct his own investigation.

Review: Ok so with my last review I looked at the Ozploitation thriller “Long Weekend” (1978) a film that I personally felt was, slightly more than a challenge to review in my usual critical ways. So I was kind of hoping for something perhaps a little more straightforward with this review, after all how complex could a horror remake, that seems to be relying on the “The Suicide Girls” as one of its selling points really be?
Well guess what kids, it seems that, this very film would be just as difficult as the last to review (oh joy) and I have to give major credit to IMDB user “the-drummer” for his great notes on this film, which went along way to explaining what the hell I just watched. I should also state at this point that I am looking at this film, purely on it’s own merits, rather than drawing comparisons to the 1970 Herschell Gordon Lewis original, which I know so many of you hold dear to your hearts and are no doubt at this moment up in arms about someone daring to remake one of his films, but seeing how I last watched the original, a couple of years back and not being able to find a copy in time for this review, I have for this reason decided to just look at this film on it’s own.
So try here we go again as I attempt now to make give you my thoughts on this weird little film.

Opening with a blood drenched Edmund, as he staggers towards a strip club, clutching the latest issue of his newspaper, as Edmund’s Noir Esq. voice over gives us a quick background on his character, it’s safe to say this film hits the ground running, throwing us head first into this decaying Post Punk version of LA, which Director Kasten has chosen as the setting for his retelling of the Splatter classic. Still for some reason it would seem that Kasten wasn’t sure how he could tell a Noir style psychothriller, within this world he has created for himself, which might go along way to explaining why both Edmund and his girlfriend Maggie, are dressed like they are from the 1940’s with their tastes also stretching to their home life aswell, with Edmund’s apartment being decorated with various old fashioned items, while meanwhile the majority of the inhabitants of this world he has created are dressed more Punk or with the intention of causing offence, such as Hans (Bob Rusch) who appears during the first of Montag’s performances in a Nazi uniform, while during the opening party scenes we also get a quick shot of “Blood Wrestling”, which was ironically only added after several of the Suicide girls who had turned up to be party extra’s bugged Kasten, to have them killed in the film and as a compromise he instead created this scene, which actually works well in developing Edmund’s character, as he just smiles upon seeing this scene of naked women wrestling in blood, clearly having become immune at this point, from being shocked by this underground world, he has become fascinated with, while at the same time preferring it seems to remain an observer, rather than joining in and it’s Montag’s performance’s which actually manage to shock him, despite initially dismissing the act.

Montag’s performances are all equally bloody and gooey, as the (unwitting) volunteers appear to get killed in a number of horrible ways including being burned alive and death by bear traps. The volunteers played here by Suicide girls Flux Suicide, Cricket Suicide, Nixon Suicide and Amina Munster (who makes the most of having no leg in real life, by having it torn off in the film) are all very convincing as actors for the small amount of screen time which they have, especially Flux who actually has one of the more important scenes of the film, but never once do you get the feeling that, they have been used just because of their “Suicide Girl” links, which is after all one of the selling points of the DVD for weak minded men / women folk like myself, drawn in by the “Featuring the suicide girls” tagline on the DVD cover, along with the horror heavyweights such as Crispin Glover, Jeffrey Combs, Brad Dourif all of which are great in their respective rolls, with Glover almost hypnotic with his showmanship as the Magician Montag, as he prances around the stage while constantly addressing his audience with his random rants about the embodiment of self. Meanwhile Jeffery Combs is almost unrecognisable, until the end of the film as “The Geek”, spending the film dressed like a crazy homeless person, as he provides the warm up act for the show, biting the heads of rats and performing other equally disgusting acts, much to the intended repulsion of the gathered crowd. Brad Dourif is basically back in his usual crazy role as Doctor Chong, which he has really etched a groove, with his previous films, when he not providing the voice of the Psycho doll “Chucky” in the “Childs Play” films. Meanwhile the rest of the cast do a great job with Kip Pardue more than capable of playing the lead, keeping the audience intrigued, while never giving the final twist away, as he forces the audience to see only what Edmund see’s, uncovering the puzzle one piece at a time as he slowly puts it all together. I also should mention that this is probely one of the few films, were I havn’t been truly irritated by Bijou Phillips, who usually I find either too sleazy or just too annoying, but here I felt none of that and was totally sold on the apparent innocence of her character Maggie, who is clearly not as comfortable in this alternative world as Edmund seems to be, constantly sticking close to him when confronted with anything that invades her little world of innocence that she has created for herself, while often proving to be truely shocked at just how deep into this world Edmund has immersed himself.

The problem I have with this film though, is mainly with how it is many ways attempting to fight well above it’s weight, with the story often getting confusing with the numerous layers, which Director Kasten has chosen to add to his vision, meaning that we are often bogged down in confusing visuals, making it hard to distinguish between the dream world and reality, which is clearly his intention, with it being representive of the mental state of Edmund though perhaps in the hands of another director, more familiar with this dream like style of film making, as sadly it detracts from what is generally a very watchable film, despite Kasten not showing a Tarantino fanboy like love for the original, which makes it all the more intriguing why he would choose to remake the original to begin with. Still despite this I would certainly be interested in seeing more of his films, as the experience of watching “Wizard of Gore” certainly didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth, unlike so many remakes that are churned out these days, it’s just more of a confused feeling that I now have to contend with.

“Wizard of Gore” might get the backs up of the Herschell Gordon Lewis fanbase and will no doubt be stumbled upon by fans drawn in more by the names featured on the cover, but it is certainly a film that deserves a watch (or two) as it is a film that has managed to atleast escape the taboo of being a remake, to the point were it is a note worthy film on its on merits, even if it’s minus points will no doubt lose it more fans than it gain.

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