Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Four Horror Movies of The Apocalypse

Always a fan of an interesting blogathon, I found out about this one being hosted by “Cinematic Katzenjammer” thanks to The Gore Report over at “French Toast Sunday”. This one is especially cool seeing how it requires participants to pick four movies to represent each of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Despite the title, the rules of this blogathon do allow for movies outside of the horror genre to be chosen, which is something I have chosen to do here, while at the same time only choosing films I would write about here. So allow me to now present the movies representing the horsemen for me.

War - Starship Troopers

There is no doubting that “Starship Troopers” is the embodiment of war. Here is a film which takes frenzied battlefields aswell as the gruelling training of boot camp and transfers it into a sci-fi setting as we follow a group of friends recruited into various parts of the intergalactic war machine when earth enters into an interstellar war with the insectoid “Arachnids” in much the same way that James Cameron did for the Vietnam war when he made “Aliens”. Here though Verhoeven uses the underused sub-genre of Military Sci-fi to high certain aspects of American society as he plays around with fascist imagery while he also describes the movie “Let’s all go to war and let’s die”.

Throughout the film Verhoeven gives us various war film elements, even adapting his species of Arachnid to play various military roles from the swarming Bugs (Foot Soldiers) to the fire breathing and lumbering tanks (Heavy Artilery), elsewhere he fills the film with mock newsreels and propaganda films, while Verhoenen forever the agitator used Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film “Triumph of the Will” for inspiration when crafting the opening recruitment advertisement for the mobile infantry, something rather fitting considering how similar the iconography and uniforms seen throughout are to the Nazi’s especially when it comes to the intelligence division. All in all This is war, just on a very different battlefield.

Pestilence – Dawn of The Dead (2004)

Okay I know, I know I have no doubt committed a cardinal sin in opting for the Zack Snyder remake over the George A. Romero classic, but I do feel that if any film shows the chaos of an expected virus outbreak in the human population it is this film. Even more so when Snyder treats the zombie outbreak as a disease, with a focus on symptoms aswell as how the disease is transmitted all things barely glanced at in the original, which focused more on survival and containment.

Switching almost without warning from a suburban daydream to an apocalyptic nightmare, we are taken along with Ana as her world into thrown into chaos as she battles to escape from her house while all around her chaos reigns as the living soon succumb to this rapidly transferred zombie virus, while the sheet scale of the devastation is only further reinforced by the opening credits, which show cities falling into anarchy as the infection continues to be passed from one person to another, with no sign of salvation anywhere to be seen.

Famine – The Hole

Perhaps not the most extreme example of famine I could have chosen it’s true especially when the most obvious example would be to opt for Christian Bale’s shocking weight loss antics in “The Machinist” or perhaps Stephen King’s “Thinner”. Instead I opted for this film bizarrely over looked film which not only features memorable performances from both Thora Birch and Daniel Brocklebank but also memorably gruesome deaths for Laurence Fox and Keira Knightley which seeing how grating I find them, only adds to the appeal of this film.

Here the famine element is imposed on the group who duck out of a school field trip to instead hide out in an abandoned fallout shelter, while being locked inside by Liz’s (Birch) friend Martyn (Brocklebank). However when he doesn’t return to release them their supplies soon start getting low, a situation the film unflinchingly watches unfold as the group slowly begin to starve to death, especially the psychological aspects as the claustrophobic nature of the bunker only adds to the tension slowly being cranked up. At the same time though as the events are replayed by Liz it soon becomes apparent that not everything might not be as its seen, as the film slowly reveals what exactly happened in the hole.

Death – Kill Bill

True the most obvious choice would have been to choose one of the “Final Destination” films but if we are looking at one character who is essentially death incarnate it would be “The Bride” as she sets out on her quest for revenge against Bill and the members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. This comparison is especially true for Vol.1 where it seems that anyone who stands in her way is soon set to meet a painful end one way or another, be it a opportunist coma ward orderly Buck or the members of the Crazy 88’s whose battle with the Bride even now is still one of the standout moments (of oh so many) of Quentin Tarantino’s career.

Needless to say be it by by Hatori Hanzo sword or bootknife, The Bride certainly proves herself to be as deadly as she is beautiful, but like the black mambo she takes her codename from death is always close by.

Bonus: Conquest – War of the Worlds

Okay while most people would reel of War, Famine, Pestilence and Death if asked to name the four horsemen of the apocalypse, it would be unlikely that many (if any) would name Conquest who was part of the original line up, only to later be replaced by Pestilence (either that or he quit before they became famous). So perhaps if only as an excuse to include one more movie, especially this movie I choose to include it as part of my line up.

Bringing back fond childhood memories every time I watch it, while also being a sold adaptation of one of my favourite books, this well-known tale of invaders from Mars invading the Earth only to be defeated when mankind seemed doomed by microscopic bacteria is perfectly brought to the screen, even if the tripods are exchanged for sleek flying machines (some argue they use invisible legs) while also bringing the books setting forward to 1950. The aliens here care little for co-habiting Earth, having burnt out their resources on their home planet, their focus is solely on the conquest of Earth and making it their new home planet. These ideas would later be carried over and explored further in the TV series, but when it comes to conquering alien forces “War of the Worlds” is the definitive story.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Class of Nuke 'Em High

Title: Class of Nuke ‘Em High
Director: Richard W. Haines, Lloyd Kaufman
Released: 1986
Starring: Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard, Pat Ryan Jr., James Nugent Vernon, Brad Dunker, Gary Schneider, Theo Cohan, Gary Rosenblatt, Mary Taylor, Rick Howard, Lauren Heather McMahon, Arther Lorenz

Plot: Strange things are afoot as Tromaville High School, with nuclear radiation leaking into the school from the power planet next door, things only get weirder when Warren and Chrissy are unwittingly given radioactive pot.

Review: The films of “Troma Entertainment” have always been an acquired taste to say the least, as despite frequently feeling the wrath of the critics with each new film they release, they have at the same time continued to be supported by a rabid fan base. After all what other studio can boast its own free festival promotional team made up completely of its fans? Equally Troma owner Lloyd Kaufman has frequently played a similar role to Roger Corman in assisting up and coming directors and actors in getting their first breaks in the industry including “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn (Tromeo and Juliet), “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker (Cannibal! The Musical) and even J.J. Abrams (Nightbeast) to name but a few! At the same time Kaufman has been equally keen to inspire others to make their own trash movies with his now dated due to their focus on shooting on film, but still amusing “Make Your Own Darn Movie” series of books.

Needless to say a Troma film is always a unique experience and this is none the less true here, with the film opening with nerdy student Dewey (Lorenz) accidently drinking nuclear waste out of a drinking fountain before suddenly freaking out and punching classmates before finally throwing himself out of a window, where he proceeds to melt into a gooey puddle on the concrete. Still this incident pales in comparison to the general issues that Tromaville High School has, with the hallways lined with random horny students constantly making out, while the debate team have turned into a psychotic biker gang called “The Cretins”, while look like rejects from “The Warriors” with their truly random styling, including Gonzo (Dunker) who dresses like a tribal warrior and even welds a bone while wearing a stupidly huge nose ring. Still within this mass of random characters none of whom seem to belong in the same movie, we have the young and innocent (well compared to their classmates) lovers Warren and Chrissy who after smoking the radioactive pot, which the Cretins are marketing as “Atomic High” picked from the nearby power plant they soon find themselves suffering from bizarre side effects with Warren soon gaining super strength, while the two are soon overcome with overwhelming horniness.

No doubt this all sounds random enough, but this of course is before you take into account the genre hoping antics taking place within the film as it switches between a horror, teen sex comedy and even superhero elements as Warren set out to take out the members of the Cretins, in a scene which comes across like a throwback to Troma favourite “The Toxic Crusader” as he appears with a mutated head and toxic waste squirting out of his ears. However despite this radical change he randomly be back to normal by the next time we see him. Still this is all without mentioning the mutant monster which Chrissy vomits into the school toilet only to later come back in its adult form for the finale where it soon sets about making short work of the remaining members of the cast.

The film is packed with the trademark splatter the Troma has over the years become renown for, all of course done with old school effects which are certainly creative to say the least, especially when they include Warren jamming his arm down one gang members throat, while another gang member gets his head punched through by Chrissy’s monstrous offspring. These of course just a few of the gory delights contained within, with Kaufman once again showing his ability to stretch a budget which is not limited to him intentionally changing the original name of the film from “Nuke ‘Em High” in hopes of people mistaking it for “Class of 1984”, with his crafty financial ways even making the mutant monster seem impressive despite it being incomplete at the time of filming, meaning that you never see the full creature only it’s hands and face, it still comes off pretty impressive and even more when you compare it to the CGI creations of late.

Moving at a rapid pace there always seems to be something happening throughout the film, even if it frequently fails to make a whole lot of sense, while the frequent bouts of gore and violence, provide most of highlights especially when the story so frequently feels like they are making it up as they go, which could knowing Troma be all so true. However the film in best b-movie / exploitation style does show you things you things you’d be unlikely to see anywhere else (and often with good reason) with the Cretin’s taking over the school and riding their motorcycles through the halls being especially memorable, much like the drug fuelled dreams of Warren and Chrissy which not only feature mutations aplenty, but also Warren sporting a monster (literally in this case) erection as he makes not so much a tent but a marque with his bed sheets. As with the majority of Troma’s output it is hard to recommend this film, as like most of John Water’s early film it is more a case of challenging you to experience it and make up your own mind, as this film is no different as its one you will either love or hate. Needless to say someone clearly did love this as it spawned two sequels which I guess I have doomed myself to watching at some point, much like I did by watching “Leprechaun” and while your regular movie goer will no doubt despise this, bad movie fans should atleast give this a look even if it does largely linger around the ass end of okay throughout.  

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Title: Konga
Director: John Lemont
Released: 1961
Starring: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Claire Gordon, Austin Trevor, Jack Watson, George Pastell, Vanda Godsell, Stanley Morgan

Plot: After his plane crashes in the African jungles, a year later after being presumed to be dead British botanist Dr. Charles Decker (Gough) suddenly comes back, while also having found a way of growing plants and animals to enormous size. Accompanied him aswell is his pet chimp “Konga” who is soon playing an important part in the doctors plans for revenge.

Review: For most people Michael Gough will always be associated with playing Batman’s butler Alfred and true it’s easy to understand why as he did truly own the iconic role. At the same time there are those who view Gough as an under the radar horror icon with his appearances in “Horrors of the Black Museum” and “Satan’s Slave” and it was during this horror period that he also made this film, which set out to give Britain its own version of “King Kong” which interestingly would also be the same year that we got our own version of “Godzilla” with the enjoyably daft “Gorgo”.

Unsurprisingly producer Herman Cohen while seemingly being inspired by “King Kong” it would be more precisely the idea of making a giant ape movie in colour that inspired him the most when it came to making this film, while developing the film under the working title of “I Was a Teenage Gorilla” a nod to his earlier success “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” regardless of how nonsensical the title would seem against the finished film. So paying RKO Pictures $25,000 for the rights to the name Kong with a focus purely on making an exploitation film, the end results are decidedly strange to say the least.

Right from the start it is clear that Dr. Decker is up to something as he is shown breeding man-eating Venus flytraps in his greenhouse lab as part of his tests of his serum which soon sees him testing it on his pet chimp Konga, turning him from a playful chimp to a man in a questionable Gorilla costume. Yes I know gorillas and chimpanzees are completely different breeds, so either Dr. Decker’s Serum changes an animal’s breed as well as causing monstrous growth or more likely Director Lemont just felt that the audience wouldn’t notice the difference. Still this is not any old gorilla suit, as it also belonged to legendry ape actor George Barrows who amongst his many ape roles also played the memorably unique looking Ro-Man The Monster in the trash classic “Robot Monster”. However Lemont only hired his gorilla suit rather than Barrows himself, only to return the costume in less than perfect condition, much to the distain of Barrows while only raising more questions as to what Lemont had been doing with the suit during the shoot?

Having grown so used to Gough in his Alfred persona, it was quite a thrill seeing him playing such a devious role, more so perhaps because of seeing him as this loveable old man and faithful butler to now see him scheming and sending his killer ape off to kill his enemies and it's a role he plays well, especially the more he gets caught up in his scheme especially as he frequently hams it up clearly knowing the standard of film being made,  hardly masking his evil genius as we are barely ten minutes into the film before he start dropping hints as he potters around his home laboratory while also finding time to letch over one of his pretty students Sandra (Gordon) who soon unwittingly become central to Dr. Deckers plans, especially when he is sending Konga off to kill her boyfriend.

The idea of Dr. Decker using his killer ape for murder through the power of hypnosis might be a slight disappointment for a film essentially sold as a giant ape on the rampage movie, though it does still provide a fair amount of unintentionally amusing moments such as Konga hiding in the bushes and generally looking like he should be wearing a trench coat and trilby hat, especially when he has such a shifty expression on his face. Still giant ape fans should fear not as the finale finally gives us our giant ape, as Konga gets a super-sized dose of serum causing him to grow to a monstrous size before heading off on a mini rampage while Dr. Decker also receives the Fay Wray treatment before they soon encounter possibly the most well prepared group of soldiers to ever be featured in a monster movie and all without the need of a giant map or lengthy discussion between Generals while they push small models around the map. So surprisingly prepared for the threat of a giant ape I half expected someone to pipe up with “This is what we prepared for boys!” especially considering how quickly they stop the giant ape threat and disappointingly before he has had chance to cause much carnage, but then seeng how the film is seemingly set in a quaint little village there is only so much damage he could really cause, while the film ultimately as a result misses a trick by not being set in London, which could have seen Konga climbing Big Ben or even Nelson’s Column swiping at Spitfire’s.

While the film moves at a quick place to set Dr. Decker and his schemes in motion, with everything pretty much in place by the first twenty minutes, it does however drag in other places, as we are forced to endure mind numbing conversations between minor characters such a Sandra’s boyfriend and his parents, which had me eager to see him taken out as quickly as possible, so I didn’t have to ensure anymore of his yammering. Meanwhile for a man so focused on revenge Dr. Decker’s targets are actually pretty minimal and more to do with personal snubs or threats on his research than any real form of planned revenge.

Ultimately the film never seems to know what it want to be as it skips from one B-movie genre to the next as Gough hams it up with his mad scientist antics, before it switches to being a killer ape movie, before finally giving us the long awaited giant ape on the rampage which the poster promises us. Still when you in the mood for a man in a hokey monkey costume this is one of the better ones and certainly more entertaining than my previous attempt at finding one of these film with the ho-hum “Bride of The Gorilla”. Still if you want to see us Brit's rip off someone else's monster movie personally I would stick with "Gorgo" or maybe just watch the originals.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Curse of Chucky

Title: Curse of Chucky
Director: Don Mancini
Released: 2013
Starring: Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, A. Martinez, Brennan Elliot, Maitland McConnell, Summer H. Howell, Chantal Quesnelle, Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent

Plot: Set four years after the events of “Seed of Chucky”, where wheelchair bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) mysteriously receives Chucky (Brad Dourif) in the mail looking surprisingly the same as his original good guy doll form (you know prior to the amount of damage he picked up over the course of the previous films). Unaware of whom sent him or even what he is, disregards the doll who after Nica’s mother mysteriously dies from apparent suicide ends up in the hands of her niece Alice as the Nica’s sister Barb with husband and nanny in tow arrive to handle their mothers funeral. However mysterious deaths soon to befell the group as Nica soon begins to suspect that the may be more to the doll than first suspected.

Review: Entering into this sixth film in the “Child’s Play” franchise there is certainly the nagging question of what the saga really had left of offer? A question certainly relevant at this point in the series now we have seen the living doll serial killer get married and even somehow spawn a son  (still not sure how that really worked). So with this in mind where could the series possibly head next with it only looking more likely that the series be sent to one of the possible franchise graveyards such as putting Chucky into space or perhaps Hawaii (a suggestion previously posed by Director John Waters when he cameoed in “Seed of Chucky”).

Certainly the future for the series did look bleak after the last film, which ultimately turned out to be a car crash of half-baked ideas and random casting. So you can only imagine my surprise to hear that at Frightfest this year there would be a new Chucky film premiering, something only added to by the news that this would not be a remake or even a reboot, something which seems to the current favourite approach to milking established franchises these days, so credit really has to be given to director and series creator Don Mancini for bucking the trend and not only finding a way to continue the on-going Chucky saga, but for also for somehow breathing new life into a franchise which by all appearances was dead and done. True it is a direct to video release, making it the first of the series to not see a theatre release (aswell as the first shot digital) which only makes it more of a shame considering how it is also possibly the strongest entry since my personal favourite “Child’s Play 2”.

Now for the established fans of the series there may be a sneaking feeling of Déjà vu, especially seeing how similar the plot might seem to that of the original film, what with Alice having secret conversations with Chucky and the grown-ups generally disregarding her comments as being part of a game she is playing. Meanwhile Chucky sneaks around in the background and randomly appears at various locations around the house. The fans should however fear not for while there might be similarities in plot framework this far from a remake or reboot trying to rework memorable sequences from the original into a new film. At the same time Mancini makes the ballsy move of using a slow burn reveal for Chucky, something unheard of especially when the character is so well known at this point in the series, the idea of pushing them into background appearances and brief glimpses hardly sounds like it would work, much less the fact that Chucky waits until around the 40 min mark to reveal himself to the group, yet surprisingly this really works as Mancini not only returns the series to its horror roots, despite having over the course of the last few films gradually moved the tone of the films more toward comedy. Here however he successfully reminds us how scary Chucky can be, especially when he more reknown for being a wise ass these days than an object of terror, again thanks to Mancini tweaking his character while the removal of Tily, removes the back and forth banter from were most of his comedy elements were gained from.

Brad Dourif is once again on great form (but does anyone want to name a film were he isn’t?) as he returns once more to voice Chucky and even though he is given less to say here with Douriff recording all his dialogue in a day, his presence however is still as memorable as always with all the usual mannerisms and memorable laugh all still kept faithfully intact. Elsewhere despite the more serious approach to his character Chucky still manages a few moments of murderous mischief including a round of guess who’s getting the bowl of rat poison chili, which will no doubt have you trying to figure out which character is going to get it in a scene played out gleefully with maximum misdirection and bluffs.

More interestingly though is that Dourif himself also makes an appearance in the film the first since the original film as he appears here as Chucky’s former human form, as we also get to learn more about Chucky’s past and how it links to Nica’s family as his random appearance into Nica’s life slowly starts to become less random, which in turn is only further credit to Mancini’s writing that he is not only able to craft here a clever mystery, yet also being able to tie it into the rest of the Chucky timeline, so much so that I frequently found any gripes I had regarding characters seemingly being written out or even regarding the seemingly new Chucky model being covered as the film, almost as if Mancini was reworking the film as I was watching it to handle those gripes.

While on the subject of Dorif though, it is certainly worth mentioning his daughter appearing opposite her father here as the feisty Nica whom being confined to a wheelchair not only provides the film with numerous interesting situations to overcome such as trying to get to the top floor of the house when the power to the elevator has been cut. Equally the idea of a paraplegic heroine is certainly something that’s never been seen before, with handicapped characters, usually being confined to supporting characters than the lead, especially in the case of horror and here it gives the film a shake-up which combined with the slowly mounting tension, with scenes such as Chucky using a blackout to stab here in the leg, before returning to his doll form, Nica of course not being able to feel him stab here there left looking confused as to how she got the wound is cleverfully used while Chucky continues to hide his presence as he shows the kind of restrain not seen since the first film, which of course only further keeps the audience guessing on how things are going to turn out.
Despite more directors these days favouring the use of CGI over practical effects it is refreshing to see this film staying true to its roots and one again using animatronics for the majority of the Chucky effects and only using CGI for the more complicated sequences which see him running around in the background or walking slowly down the stairs, it’s really another example of how CGI should be used in film making as an assist rather than the sole means of bringing fantastical creations to the screen, with the presence Chucky still maintains as a result of this process only being further evidence to the argument.

While the rumours continue regarding a studio reboot for the series, Mancini has here given the story once more potential new directions for the story to go, which certainly makes me hope the wait won’t be as long between this latest edition and the next, especially when Mancini has reignited interest in the series for even the most jaded of fans.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Hobo With A Shotgun

Title: Hobo With A Shotgun
Director: Jason Eisener
Released: 2011
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, Pasha Ebrahimi, Jeremy Akerman, Peter Simas

Plot: A nameless Hobo (Hauer) arrives in Hope Town via a freight train box car with plans of buying a lawnmower and to start a new life for himself. However when he soon discovers that Hope Town has long since decended into lawless chaos, with the locals now referring to it as “Scum Town” while being ruled by the ruthless crime lord “The Drake” (Downey). Now arming himself with a pump action shotgun the Hobo sets out to dish out his own brand of vigilante justice.

Review: It’s true I might be alittle behind the bandwagon for this one, seeing how it was greeted with much excitement upon its release as it marked the start of the second wave of Neo-grindhouse movies being released in the wake of “Grindhouse”, a film I’ve already commented on numerous times previously due to its distribution being screwed up by the Weinstein’s figuring that British audiences (and pretty much everywhere outside of the states) were too dumb to get the format and split it into its individual films, rather than give us the true experience. Still it the legacy of the film and the Neo-Grindhouse genre it kick startednnot only gave us the trailer which spawned “Machette” aswell as “Machette Kills”, but also gave the world the first glimpse of this film as it appeared as one of the fake trailers on some prints of “Grindhouse”.

Right from the start director Eisener who makes his feature directorial debut here clearly likes to wear his influences on his sleeve, which in this case would seem to be largely gained from the OTT style of Troma Studios while mixing it up with the splatter and social satire style of Paul Verhoeven, all of which is clear from the opening scenes, which includes a barbwire decapitation and fountains of blood while the crime ridden streets of the streets of scum town seem to have been transplanted from Verhoeven’s classic “Robocop”. Still even the briefest of looks at the trailer alone highlights that like his inspirations, Eisener is not the sort of director who does anything subtly making the Neo-Grindhouse genre the perfect playground for his style, especially as its audience come expecting violence and splatter and here Eisener delivers both in spades.

Still there is thankfully a brain behind the splatter (if a delightfully sleazy one) as while he has certainly crafted one of the more splatter heavy films of recent years, Eisener still bothers to craft a half decent tale before getting distracted with unleashing carnage. On the downside his approaches to the material is with so excitable and frenzied, it can feel at times like you’re watching the product of a kid with ADD while on a sugar binge. At the same time he frequently stumbles when faced with the slower paced sequences as seen during the more tender moments between the hobo and aspiring school teacher turned prostitute Abby (Dunsworth) who despite seemingly having nothing in common, the Hobo recognises her innocence despite the world around them which continually threatens to corrupt her innocence.

Unsurprisingly the film is far from the deepest of viewing experiences with Eisener having a good eye for characterisation as he crafts some truly memorable characters, who are truly brought to life here with some great casting choices, with Hauer as the nameless hobo full of pure grit and snarl while Downey makes a perfect counter as the ruthless and sadistic Drake, whose love of showmanship and theatrics makes him the perfect centre piece in the collection of villainy and scum that Eisener has filled the streets of Scum town with. Oh and what a collection of scumbags it is, for like “The Toxic Crusader” these streets lined with the likes of the paedophile Santa and the director making bum fights style movies, all of which soon find themselves soon enough on the business end of the hobo’s shotgun as he sets about cleaning up the town and with such a black and white devide behind good and evil, there is no real moral questions raised regarding the hobos methods. Even more so when The Drake responds to the Hobo’s actions by carring out a mass hobo genocide in one of the films splatter centrepieces. Sadly he does miss a trick by underusing “The Plague” a pair of hired gun and full blown psycho’s hired by The Drake, who also dress like the medieval version of Daft Punk. However they are only introduced in the final quarter, leaving kind of disappointed that they are not used more, especially when they are such a unique and fun creation and generally hoping that Eisener finds some way of reusing them.

While most of the film is generally a care free exploitation throw back with Eisener generally flipping the bird to the censors and mainstream Hollywood, there are however a few moments were I felt the film perhaps overstepped the mark perhaps slightly too much and these were in the few scenes which saw children being openly threatened, while a school bus of kids being incinerated by a flame thrower to the strains of Disco Inferno just comes off as tasteless, even if it does makes a suitable setup for the death of one character whose soul we seeing being metaphorically dragged to hell in the same burning school bus.

As always the case with any film junkie who uses their expansive film knowledge in their film making the need to draw comparisons between them and Tarantino seems almost inevitable like Adam Green, but here Eisener seems only concerned with using the films which influenced this film as a reference point for his shooting style especially as he shoots the film in saturated and shifted colours rather than trying to reimagine scenes from the films he draws inspiration from. The soundtrack itself is also a throwback while also baffling including Lisa Lougheed’s “Run With Us” which let’s not forget was memorably also used on the 80’s childhood favourite “The Racoons” yet surprisingly it works rather well here.

A frequently grimy and hyperactive debut feature, but a noteworthy addition to the Neo-grindhouse genre, while were Eisener will go next is till unclear but providing he can dial back his over brimming enthusiasm slightly he could certainly be an interesting director to follow, especially if this debut is anything to go off.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Strangely Beautiful Character Posters of Nymphomaniac

While I might tend to keep this blog largely review focused, rather than cluttering it with news updates and daily musings, it was the release of this latest collection of character posters from the maverick director Lars Van Trier's  latest offering "Nymphomaniac" which filled me with the urge for this post, if only to collect together this curious yet strangely beautiful collection of posters.
A saga of flesh and sex in which Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Joe, a young woman recounting her sexual history after being found beaten in an alley, the film is currently be set to be released in both a soft and explicit cut, while also being developed as a two film project in what is certainly one of the more intriguing forthcoming releases, with this new poster only adding to the curiosity.
Slated for a curious Christmas Day release in Norway and Denmark, the rumour mill is currently hinting at a XXX release in Cannes. In the meantime though why not enjoy these posters which only further highlight the tantalising mixture of talent involved, so why not let me know which one is your favourite.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Title: Stoker
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Released: 2013
Staring: Mia Wasikowska, Dermot Mulroney, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode

Plot: India Stoker (Wasikowska) solitary and privileged life is thrown into a tailspin by the death of her father Richard (Mulroney). Left with her estranged and mildly unstable mother Evelyn (Kidman), who upon meeting Richard’s charming and charismatic brother Charlie (Goode) at the funeral invites him to stay with them, unaware of the secrets he is hiding.

Review: There is always going to be a certain amount of hesitation whenever  one of the heavy hitters of foreign cinema decides to make a stab at the English speaking market, especially when there is the prospect of their style not translating to a Western audience, let alone the inevitable meddling from studio bosses. A fate which has sadly befallen many a great director with Guillermo del Toro’s  “Mimic” certainly being a prime example of such meddling.  Now Park Chan-Wook throws his directing hat into the international directing ring, after wowing us previously with his Vengeance trilogy, which included the soon to be (unnecessary) remade “Oldboy”, while he also showed us a lighter and more playful side with the sadly overlooked “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK” which he made for his daughter. Both showcased his visual flair with frequent love for unconventional plot points, such as the sign language sex scene in “Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance”.  Needless to say I was curious to see how his style would translate, while equally interested to see if his style would be forced to be toned back to suit a western audience. Thankfully Chan-Wook fans can rest assured that he has lost none of his visual flair in the transition from his native Korea, with this Hitchcock influenced tale.

Okay at this point I probably have said too much about this film, as this is certainly one best seen blind. True this is no easy feat these days were information is but a mouse click away. I will also state right now that there is a high chance of spoilers ahead so consider yourself warned.  So save yourself now and go watch what is possibly one of the more original and rewarding releases of this year and then come back to read the rest of this review or potential ruin some of the surprises.

Scripted by Wentworth Miller who is no doubt better known as an actor especially to fans of “Prison Break”, but here he proves himself equally capable as a screenwriter, while equally keen for his work to stand on its own merits rather than due to his star power, as seen by the fact that he submitted the script along with a prequel, "Uncle Charlie" under the pseudonym Ted Foulke stating that

“I just wanted the scripts to sink or swim on their own”.

Despite the obvious assumption from the title to assume that this is yet another vampire movie, thankfully it isn’t despite the intentional nod to the grandfather of vampire fiction, "Stoker" is in fact a psychological thriller with horror undertones, with the title also being a literal indication of the role Charlie’s sudden appearance plays. It is worth noting though that this film is not one for the inpatient movie goer especially seeing how the first half is certainly a slow burn as Chan-Wook slowly moves the pieces into place, before slowly revealing the truth behind the mystery which hangs over the family as paranoia runs high over who Charlie really is. Even more so as he worms his ways further into the family through India’s mother who soon warms to his obvious charms and pretentious cooking skills. Goode really embodies the role and easily carries off the air of mystery which constantly surrounds Charlie, while equally chilling when he reveals his true colours in the second half.  Equally interesting is how the film is almost entirely shot around the family home, with only a handful of scenes being shot outside of this location, ensuring that the viewer’s focus is kept with these three characters only occasionally bringing in a supporting character, when required to drive the story forward or add another angle to their characters. Thankfully they are interesting enough for this strategy to work, while such maintained focus only serves to crank up the tension further, as Chan-Wook teases out his final twist, which is only further highlights that the only thing which has changed with Chan-Wook making this film in the Hollywood studio system is the language his actors are speaking.

The cast here are all perfectly cast in their roles, with Kidman continuing her love of working with  creative directors, having previously worked with Stanley Kubrick, Lars Von Trier and Baz Luhrmann, it would only make sense that she would eventually make a film with Chan-Wook and while it might be more of a supporting role than you would expect from such a big name actress. Meanwhile Wasikowska continues to mark herself out as an actress to watch, as she perfectly embodies the disconnected nature of India who actively distances herself from her classmates, while perfectly portraying her slow decent into a much darker side, as Charlie’s influence over her and her mother becomes all the more present.

It is worth noting for the establish fans of Chan-Wook’s work that the violence here is actually kept to a minimum, though still maintaining all his usual flair as simple acts like Charlie slowly removing his belt of India icily looking down the sights of her rifle, still showcasing that even when he isn’t shocking us he is still scarily effective at making even the most simplist of moments visually stimulating, especially with his long standing DP Chung-hoon Chung also present here to ensure that his trademark inventiveness behind the camera is present. This visual flair is non the more present than with the scenes between India and Charlie, especially during the more erotically charged scenes such as a duet they share over the piano which positively crackles with (questionable) sexual tension, much like the shots of her masturbating in the shower after despatching of a would be attacker while replaying the event in her head. Like the occasional burst of violence scattered throughout the film, these moments are so sudden and often without warning that the viewer is given no chance to prepare for what they are watching, which only makes them all the more effective.

While perhaps not as good as some of his previous films perhaps due to it being the first film which Chan-Wook hasn't written himself, it is none the less a positive start for his first venture into the English language market, while certainly giving us one of the more interesting films of the year.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Rewind This!

Title: Rewind This!
Director: Josh Johnson
Released: 2013
Starring: Atom Egoyan, Jason Eisener, Frank Henenlotter, Charles Brand, Cassandra Petersen, Mamoru Oshii, Shôko Nakahara

Plot: Charting the cultural and historical impact of VHS, as it changed the way films were not only made but distributed, while at the same time also meeting the fanboys who ensure that the legacy of the format continues to live on. 


Review: Previously as part of my review for “Xtro 2: TheSecond Encounter” I talked about my love of old school video shops, which sadly are non-existent here in the UK outside of Blockbuster who continue to fight on, despite pressure from the online rental brands like Lovefilm and Netflix who constantly threaten to take them over. These old school shops, as especially true in the case of my own local “The Video Bug” would rarely get rid of any tapes and instead just build more bookcases or stack them up to the ceiling, in turn providing a wonderland of colourful cases and frequently graphic covers and film stills, which I would spend hours just looking through these covers and imaging the delights which they contained within. Needless to say VHS like Vinyl has always had the kind of presence and strange allure that DVD or Blu-ray has never quite been able to replicate and it’s a love for this now defunct format that this debut documentary from Director Johnson sets out to explore.  

Needless to say this is not going to be a documentary which is for everyone especially as it’s essentially a VHS fans wet dream, providing not only tantising clips of forgotten cult classics like Leslie Nielsen’s “Bad Golf Made Easier”, “Street Trash”, “Black Devil Doll From Hell”, “Crime Hunter” and Bubba Smith’s workout video “Bubba Until It Hurts” to name but a few of the wealth of titles featured here. Like  “Not Quite Hollywood” and “American Grindhouse” this is also a documentary fuelled by the wealth of footage it offers and the untapped enthusiasm from the diverse range of interview subjects from directors like Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case), Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell) and owner of Full Moon Features and cult cinema legend Charles Brand through to personalities like Cassandra Petersen (Better known as Late Night Horror hostess Elvira) and actress Shôko Nakahara (Visitor Q) who openly sites VHS copies of Jennifer Connelly movies as being the inspiration for her becoming an actress. Elsewhere the film is also rounded out by colourful interviews with collectors and bloggers who are often eager to share their favourite tapes from their collections as part of a subtle game of collector one upmanship.

These interview subjects are of course just really a taste, as to list everyone featured would no doubt add an extra page onto this review. The range of subjects though only continued to surprise me as the documentary went on, while certainly hitting a high with the inclusion of the always deliriously enthusiastic Frank Henenlotter who as always is on fine form here, as he proves himself not only a devoted fan but also a great source of insights while also providing many of my favourite moments as he disregards criterion covers as “Boring”, while citing the cover of “The House of Whipcord” as an example of a good cover. Still lets not forget though that he also gave the world the wonderful talking case for “Frankenhooker” which screamed “Want A Date” when you pressed the button on the case, something fondly remembered by several of the interviewees despite none of them including Henenlotter having a copy with a working button, no doubt due to them being burnt out by over enthusiastic film fans years earlier.

Despite Johnson clearly trying to ensure as diverse range of subjects are featured as possible, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of Quentin Tarantino who I felt would have been an obvious choice, especially with his video store background let alone his well-documented love for the films of the VHS era. At the same time critics such as Brad Jones (The Cinema Snob) and Noah Antwiler (The Spoony Experiment), let alone UK critics like Mark Kermode or my own film critic hero Kim Newman though he does include another of my heroes Tom Mes. While it is understandable that to stop the documentary spiralling off into a five hour film by trying to include everyone’s view point there has to be a limit, but despite this Tarantino’s absence is still left a puzzling one.   

Ignoring the traditional and preferred use of voice over to provide a framework, Johnson instead makes the bold choice of allowing his interviewees tell the story of VHS, with their individual stories coming together and frequently complementing each other to provide a rich history for the format, especially with Johnson looking at it from seemingly every conceivable angle, with even a brief look at how VHS took porn out of the XXX theatres by providing the discreet alternative for its clientele while in turn blowing the business into the multi-million dollar industry it has become today.

While this might be a nostalgic look back, Johnson still ends the film looking positivly towards the future as enthusiasts continue hold movie nights celebrating the forgotten films still only available on VHS. It is during this portion of the documentary that we also meet the force of nature which is David “The Rock” Nelson the rabidly independent film maker still shooting on video making ultra-low budget monster movies, earning him the reputation of being the modern day Ed Wood as he cranks out such colourfully titled shorts like “The Devil Ant” and “Dracula vs. Sodom Insane”. A truly unique personality to say the least, his appearance might be a little too much for some viewers and thankfully Johnson doesn’t allow his appearance to overshadow the rest of the documentary or run to the point of irritation, much like so many of the bigger personalities featured here who only come off the stronger thanks to Johnson maintain a strong focus on what’s important to the story he is telling and what is just fan boy over enthusiasm.

Despite being an obvious love letter to VHS, the documentary still remains accessible to the uninitiated who might be curious about what the fuss is all about, while at the same time providing enough insight into the phenomena that there is still plenty of interest to those like myself who still fondly hold onto their VHS, when most folks have already sent theirs to the great landfill in the sky, meaning that numerous titles which never got transferred to DVD could potentially have disappeared for ever, making the role of collectors only all the more vital as the documentary further serves to highlight as archivist Caroline Frick soberly points out while worrying highlighting the potential risk of lost titles should these tapes be left to deteriorate.

True the appeal of this documentary might be limited, but for cult cinema fans and converted VHS enthusiasts I can’t recommend this film enough, as its worthy of a place in your collection, while no doubt giving you a new host of titles to hunt down, which for myself is always the sign of a good movie documentary and while it might not be the most high profile release of the year it is none the less essential and well worth hunting down.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...