Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cannibal Suburbia and bad reviews

When you make a film - particularly when you make a shoddy film for no money - you're bound to get a lot of criticism. Sadly not every review can say lovely things like "this unhinged exercise in bad taste will have you throwing up in your mouth, and swallowing it with a smile" or "fuelled by an appealing gonzo energy" (my personal favourite quote). Cannibal Suburbia gets horrible reviews. I could blame it on the awful DVD that the distributing company managed to crop on all sides and zoom it leaving it a pixelated, unwatchable mess. Or I could blame it on reviewers not understanding that Cannibal Suburbia is hardly a "real" film. But in the end, the blame has to fall on the film itself. And me. Luckily, I get a sick pleasure out of bad reviews. I would rather annoy and/or offend someone than have them walk away from my film feeling that they'd seen something simply mediocre. If they're going to hate it, let them really hate it.

I've tried to forget about Cannibal Suburbia since its DVD release. The release was such a completely awful experience and knowing that its terrible DVD is available on pretty much every online store seriously pisses me off. Not only that, but the version you can see on YouTube is also cropped and zoomed in! How that is possible, I do not know. But it's been hard to avoid Cannibal Suburbia. For some odd reason, it's been generating a bit of fury on the internet of late. So maybe it's time to revisit Cannibal Suburbia with a few chuckles and a handful nasty reviews. Here's a collection of the best...

First up, we have a review from The Witch's Hat found HERE. This review lovingly refers to Cannibal Suburbia as “Donkey Punch Disco and Secret Mango present Goofy Shit You’ve Seen Before but Now with an Australian Accent”, which leads me to believe that this guy has been watching a lot of scat porn. This review is not the worst we've had and actually sums up Cannibal Suburbia fairly well. Yes, it's a bit crap. The only wildly incorrect quote from this review is "the guys behind this one are fairly well-known in their country’s underground cinema". Um, no. We're not. I assure you.

The casual questioning of "what does it all mean?" followed by a not-so-caring "I’m not so sure" is a good start to any review. And that is how our next review - found HERE - from begins. I kind of like this review because of its cold logic. Jean-Luc's segment is referred to as "filler", the doppelganger story left him "wondering if the material might get any better" and the Snuff Machine part is swept over and referred to as new-horror torture porn. For the record, I wrote the original short of Snuff Machine before Saw came out and finished it before Hostel was around. The "torture porn" genre did exist before those films, believe it or not! This review loses me with the comment that we could "maybe even walk away with a Takashi Miike feeling if they refined there storytelling more". I'm offended that he would compare a Z-grade stinker in any way, shape, or form with the genius of Miike.

Finally, and best of all, a RECENT REVIEW that totally blew my mind with its awesomeness. This reviewer calls herself the B-Flick Chick and her goal is to watch 365 B-films in 365 days. Now, not to get sidetracked and turn this into a pissing contest, but 365 B-films? Big fuckin' whoop. I probably watch that many "B-movies" a year (and I review them) and I don't turn it into a "thing". Anyway, onto the review. I am going to copy paste quotes directly - the spelling and grammar errors are not mine. This review begins well with "I can think of tons of adjectives to describe this movie. But I will stick to just one word and it is just 'Shit'. Yes folks this movie is SHIT!" Yes, folks, apparently Cannibal Suburbia will go down "into the bowls of the worst films in movie history". Those damned bowls of the worst films! This review is great because the B-Flick Chick hates Cannibal Suburbia on a multitude of levels. Firstly, "the movie goes on juvenile extremes from poop, vomit and piss jokes to just being overly the top insulting". A B-movie with juvenile humour?! Who woulda thunk it? Secondly, "it is gritty, obnoxious and down right chilling as it is all to real". Wait, what? It's to[o] real now? And thirdly, "it also is a great popcorn and beer movie to make fun of with your friends". Oh, because friends just love watching shit that is too real. I bring all my pals around to watch double bills of Cannibal Holocaust and Africa Addio all the time! The B-Flick Chick concludes that Cannibal Suburbia is "easily digestible and easily toss able if nothing else", but too bad about the "man dog shit" scene. The what you ask? You know, the infamous "man dog shit" scene. In her words, "no scene is more disgusting that watching the man dog shit on the corpses face at the end". Man, do I hate watching the man dog shit on the corpse's face. I didn't plan to pick apart this review as much as I have, but Jesus H. Franco, it's called proofreading! And if you're going to get offended by a naked dude shitting on a dead body's face, don't watch "B-flicks"!

Phew. I got a bit out of control there. Sorry. Now, while I enjoy reading angry reviews, I do get a little annoyed as well. I don't mind that people think Cannibal Suburbia is garbage. In fact, I'm inclined to agree with them. What I do find confusing is the dedication of so much rage to a no-budget film made by a couple of young punks from Australia. I feel that true hatred should be projected towards the movies that deserve it. You know, the giant stinking turds from Hollywood. Go forth and rage about the latest multimillion dollar trash that Paramount farted out or Rob Schneider's next masterpiece!  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Last Week's Movies #27

I watch so many movies that my movie memory is started to overload. So I've decided to start doing short reviews for each film I've watched during the week. Often they'll be movies I'm viewing for the first time, but some may be favourites that are getting their latest re-watch.

Batman: Under the Red Hood
(USA, 2010, Brandon Vietti)
As soon as I saw Bruce Timm's name appear on the opening credits, I knew Batman: Under the Red Hood would be good. Timm, one of the producers of the excellent Batman: The Animated Series, has been involved in, as far as I know, every animated Batman film. And every one that I've seen has been brilliant - my favourites being Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. But I think Under the Red Hood may well be the best of the animated Batman films. It carefully adapts the demise of Jason Todd, the second Robin, and the rise of the Red Hood - an incredibly dark story in the comics. This is in no way aimed at a younger audience. It's violent, intense and - like the old animated series - deals with some pretty heavy emotional trauma. 

This movie raises a question for Bruce Wayne that is constantly brought up in the comics - why does he not break the rules once and kill the Joker in order to save hundreds of lives? It has always been one of the most interesting dilemmas that Batman faces and this film confronts it well. Under the Red Hood faithfully adapts villains such as the Joker (although I did miss Hamill's voice) and Ra's al Ghul, but Black Mask outshone them both. Black Mask (voiced by Wade Williams) is evil and aggressive with an excellent character design - it was great to see one of my favourite characters finally put to screen (I'll discard his incarnation in The Batman). Under the Red Hood is full of action on top of its intricate story and the animation is fantastic. The action set pieces become more exciting peaking with a stunning finale. I don't have many complaints about this one - perhaps I could have seen a bit more of Commissioner Gordon and Nightwing was somewhat unnecessary. But all criticisms are petty, this is a near-perfect movie.             

or How Long Has This Been Going On?
(USA, 1980, Ross McElwee)
Charleen has been a vital character in all of Ross McElwee's films, so I was interested to see this hour-long documentary where she was the focus. Charleen or How Long Has This Been Going On? is, like all McElwee's work, an engaging watch. It's made especially engaging by its central character. If you've seen McElwee's documentaries before, you'll know that Charleen is a hilarious, intelligent, sometimes infuriating, but always honest person. This film centres around her stressful preparation for a poetry concert. Watching Charleen, I felt that I got to know a completely new side to her. McElwee shows her at her best - teaching children and visiting her father are good examples - and her worst - her reaction to her young partner dumping her. Charleen stands out in the McElwee canon in the style in which it is presented. Generally, McElwee will narrate his documentaries and often he himself is the focus of the film or at least plays an active part. In Charleen, McElwee is silent, letting Charleen speak for herself. It also seems that he was not a one man crew and had a sound recorder, which perhaps is what stopped him from becoming more involved. While I appreciated seeing McElwee tackle this fly-on-the-wall style, I'm glad it's not one he repeated.          

Feast of Flesh
aka The Deadly Organ
(Argentina, 1967, Emilio Vieyra)
While I can see how Feast of Flesh would bore the living daylights out of most folk, I have to admit, I enjoyed it a lot. It's slow and plodding with a stupid plot and blabbering dialogue, but it has some fantastic scenes and a brilliantly thick atmosphere of dread. Explaining the plot coherently would give me a migraine, so I'll leave out the details. All you need to know is that a masked man is luring girls to his pad with the sweet sounds of music and the promise of heroine. He murders them and leaves their bodies for the cops to find. Some incredibly incompetent detectives search for the killer and, no joke, wind up being responsible for a death along the way (they use someone as bait and get them killed). I found Feast of Flesh fairly inspiring, so much so that I wanted to give it a higher rating than it deserved, but there's just too much dragging it down. It impressed me that a film of this budget could be so effective at times. The film's killer is surprisingly terrifying, despite the simple outfit. And the track used to lure in victims is quite hypnotizing. The plot, while empty and dumb, is strangely addictive. I wanted to know who the killer was, even if there was no logic in the answer. Feast of Flesh is a bad film, or at least a mediocre film, but it managed to put me in a trance and left me feeling pretty excited about what I'd seen.   

Hong Kong Godfather
aka Jian dong xiao xiong
(Hong Kong, 1985, Lung Wei Wang)
Hong Kong Godfather is a pretty darned good Shaw Brothers flick. While it lacks the schizophrenia of some of the wilder Hong Kongers of the 80s, it's full of violent action and possesses a shockingly tolerable story. The plot steals a little bit here and there from The Godfather, but it definitely becomes its own beast. The characters are all passable and watchable, but where the film really wins is its outrageous fight scenes. The leading gangster lads of Hong Kong Godfather don't seem to believe in using guns, except as a method of trapping other characters. All the fights involve machetes and other sharp objects. Not to mention a whole lot of kung-fu. The fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed, but also have a gritty cheapness to them. Hong Kong Godfather is not a pretty looking film - and I'm guessing it had a low budget - but this really works in its favour. Each gnarly fight scene leaves walls painted with blood and endless corpses in its wake. The final battle, which occurs in an office building, is amazing to say the least. Hong Kong Godfather also has no qualms about who gets violently killed - one moment, which I won't spoil, stands out as being one of the all time great offensive moments in Hong Kong cinema. Hong Kong Godfather is no masterpiece, but it's a good fun.  

The Horror of Frankenstein
(UK, 1970, Jimmy Sangster)
I've written about The Horror of Frankenstein before in my post 5 underrated films from Hammer Studios.

The Killing of America
(USA/Japan, 1982, Sheldon Renan, Leonard Schrader)
The Killing of America, an American film made with Japanese money, was supposed to be an exploitation film. The financiers expected it to be just another death film in the style of the terrible (terrible in quality, not in terms of nastiness) Faces of Death movies. But it's not an exploitation film. Written and co-directed by Leonard Schrader (the brother of Paul Schrader), The Killing of America is a provocative, deadly serious, shocking, cleverly manipulative and depressing documentary. Unlike Faces of Death, nothing is staged, so this is a very intense experience. I expected to be disgusted with the footage in The Killing of Amerca, and I was, but I wasn't disgusted at the filmmakers for showing me what it had to show.  

The Killing of America follows America's descent from the American Dream to violence. It uses the assassination of JFK as the starting point and moves into discussions of protests against Vietnam, cult massacres and even serial killers. The clips, taken from news stations and private collectors, are horrifying and, at times, incredibly stressful to watch (the man holding a shotgun to another man's head and parading him around the streets of his city stuck with me). As the footage is seamlessly cut together, the narration explains what we're seeing with coldness and logic. There is no hope presented in The Killing of America until its final moments, making it a draining watch. The Killing of America left me feeling furious about America's gun laws, despite not being an American, which I'm guessing is partly what Schrader wanted. While it is a depressing, upsetting film, it is also a work of genius that has not lost any impact since its release (or lack of release).    

The Satanic Rites of Dracula
(UK, 1973, Alan Gibson)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula has a bad reputation amongst fans of Hammer Studios. And I would have have to agree with some of the criticism leveled at it. It is, without a doubt, the worst in Hammer's Dracula series. But the Dracula movies are all quite good, so it has some tough competition. The Satanic Rites of Dracula is not a bad film. It is, however, an extremely odd entry in Hammer's Dracula franchise. It's even more bizarre than Dracula A.D. 1972, it's predecessor. Satanic Rites is a direct sequel to Dracula A.D. 1972, utilizing the newer incarnation of Cushing's Van Helsing and throwing in a few returning characters. But, despite having the same director, Satanic Rites is completely different in style and tone to the film before it. While Dracula A.D. 1972 was gleefully aware of its 70s backdrop and drenched itself in over the top goofy style, Satanic Rites feels more like a British cop show than a Hammer horror.   

The plot of Satanic Rites is a gloriously insane. Dracula (Christopher Lee in his final appearance as the Count) has reappeared - this time he doesn't have a lengthy reincarnation scene or any kind of introduction, he's just back with little to no explanation - and he's seduced a gang of powerful old men into helping him create a new strand of the bubonic plague. The old men think the plague is to use as a bartering item for taking political power, but Dracula has other plans. You see, Dracula wants to finally die and he's going to take down the rest of the world with him. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) with the help of Inspector Murray (Michael Coles) and Torrence (William Franklyn), a man in a special government branch, must destroy Dracula. It's pretty goofy stuff, but it kind of works. Dracula's plan may sound silly, but it's presented quite well and is one of the better aspects of Satanic Rites. The cast is another excellent attribute. Cushing is always great and this role is no exception, Coles does well reprising his role as Murray and Franklyn is perhaps the star of the show until he is unceremoniously taken out of the film. Lee is a treat, but, as per usual, has limited screen time. Joanna Lumley (of Absolutely Fabulous) shows up too, but spends most of the film unconscious. 

While the film is quite plodding, it is peppered with great, bizarre moments. My favourite is when Van Helsing confronts Dracula in a high-rise office building. Dracula sits behind a desk, shining a light at Van Helsing and speaking in a ridiculous accent. What is going on in this scene?! I don't know, but it's fantastically surreal. Satanic Rites has a cracking finale too, which left me feeling like I'd seen a better film than I actually had. There's many problems with Satanic Rites, but perhaps worst is its broken promises to its audience. By that I mean that often we are presented with exciting possibilities that never follow through. For example, Cushing is seen making a silver bullet from a cross and putting it in a cool looking gun. But he is never given the chance to use said gun. Similarly, Van Helsing's daughter spends the last twenty minutes of the movie out of action and is unconscious when the credits roll. And the aforementioned removal of Torrence from the film is irritating to say the least. In the end, Satanic Rites is a decent, but frustrating, watch. It's not a totally shameful way for Christopher Lee to leave the series, but it is a long way from Hammer's best.  

Tiger on the Beat
aka Lo foo chut gang
(Hong Kong, 1988, Chia-Liang Liu)
In Tiger on the Beat, Chow Yun-Fat plays a pants-wetting incompetent cop. Oh wait, no he's a competent pants-wetting cop. Or is he? I don't know. His character jumps from idiotic goofball to awesome action guy repetitively. Anyway, he's teamed up with a rookie cop (Conan Lee) who is really good at his job. Oh wait, no he's an idiot too. Or is he? Who is the straight man of this duo? I don't know! Argh! Anyway, the two idiots attempt to solve a murder and break up a drug trafficking ring. Tiger on the Beat is full of typical Hong Kong stupidity and woeful attempts at humour. Admittedly, this film had me giggling more than it should have. It's always a treat watching Chow Yun-Fat make a fool of himself and he does that regularly in Tiger on the Beat. To give you an idea of the quality of humour on display, most of the comedy comes from pants being removed. Where Tiger on the Beat shines is some exciting action and stunt work. The film scores major points for its awesome finale and the minor bits of action that lead up to it. It's not Hong Kong action at its finest or Hong Kong comedy at its worst, but it's definitely worth a watch for those that like their action from the East.

The Toy Box
(USA, 1971, Ronald Víctor García)
The Toy Box may be a pretty bad movie - hey, I'm not expecting cinematic brilliance from a softcore flick from '71... or am I? - but what it lacks in quality it makes up for in flat-out weirdness. In The Toy Box, a bunch of sleazy guys and gals make their way to a mansion inhabited by "Uncle". Uncle pays them to perform kinky sex acts in front of him. This time, however, Uncle is dead and they are attending his wake. Not to worry though, Uncle has requested that the couples act out their sexual fantasy pieces in front of his dead body. But is Uncle really dead? And is Uncle actually an alien? Hang on, what? Yes, The Toy Box is some weird, weird shit. It's also really boring. This is one hell of an endurance test. There's not much of a plot on display, well there is, but it's quickly discussed in the film's last act. Rather what we have is a series of sex scenes that range from odd to downright messed up. 

What I got out of this film was total confusion. Why does this film exist? Who is it for? None of the sex scenes are particularly sexy - I mean constantly cutting to a creepy dead guy during sex scenes would be enough to kill the boner of even the most perverted of 1970s perverts. And there's not enough horror to appeal to horror fans. I suppose it's for people like me that enjoy seeing how bizarre movies can get. And that's really where The Toy Box wins my accolades. It may be dull, but it's also fascinating. The Toy Box is also surprisingly well shot. What is not surprising is that the director went on to work on far more respectable projects as a cinematography, such as Twin Peaks. It's up to you whether you want to sit through this one. If, like me, you enjoy the occasional (okay, regular) pummeling of movie lunacy, films don't get much weirder than The Toy Box.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Funnies of the Week #37

Pierre sent me this hilarious skit from Kids in the Hall

The horrible things you find when searching for karaoke versions of songs

Not so much a funny, as it is incredibly satisfying to watch

Bit late with this Lonely Island treat, but this has to be one of their best

A seriously surreal cat video

A rarity for this blog... a dog video!

So, jerk, are you livin de life?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beautiful Turds: TOUCH OF DEATH

A Beautiful Turd is a title I only give to very special films. A Beautiful Turd may be misunderstood, unfairly maligned or simply ignored. But a Beautiful Turd may also be ridiculous, outrageous, full of contradictions, insane, deranged or confused about what it is. A Beautiful Turd is not necessarily a bad movie or even a so-bad-it's-good movie. But a Beautiful Turd is also not going to win any awards. No matter what, a Beautiful Turd is a film you'll never forget. 

This month's Beautiful Turd is...
aka Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio
aka When Alice Broke the Mirror
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Brett Halsey, Zora Kerova, Ria De Simone
Year of release: 1988     Country: Italy 

Generic titles for a not-so-generic movie

Italian horror and exploitation offers an endless supply of interesting directors. Some are visual geniuses, many are awesomely offensive and others are just plain cheesy. Deodato, Argento, D'Amato, Soavi, Bava (both of them), Lenzi and even Mattei are all names that horror geeks like myself will automatically relate to specific styles of filmmaking. Lucio Fulci is my favourite of the Italian horror masters. Fulci, long deceased, was fascinating, both as a person and a director. He had a reputation of being impossible to deal with, yet, in interviews, comes across as a brutally honest, but fair, man. As a filmmaker, he is known mostly for his gory horror films that many deride as pure trash. Those films may be his most visceral, but Fulci has mastered many genres. He has made unique westerns (Four of the Apocalypse, Massacre Time), giallos that equal and perhaps even outshine Argento's best work (Don't Torture a Duckling, Lizard in a Woman's Skin, The Psychic) and genuinely funny comedies (The Eroticist). However, it is Fulci's much maligned later work of the late 80s and early 90s that fascinates me the most. Fulci had always worked with much smaller budgets compared to filmmakers like Argento, but with his last few films, he was working with peanuts. Yet unlike Argento, his films did not degenerate into unwatchable garbage (well, let's ignore The Sweet House of Horrors and Sodoma's Ghost), they just got a hell of a lot weirder. And perhaps the most absurd of Fulci's final masterworks is Touch of Death.

Utter madness

Similar to the experience of Fulci's fictional filmic autobiography A Cat in the Brain, watching Touch of Death you have to ask, "what the hell was Lucio thinking?" In fact, Touch of Death not only shares a sense of delirium with A Cat in the Brain, it also shares footage. Fulci recycles some of Touch of Death's nastier moments - they are weirdly spliced between scenes of a mental looking Lucio Fulci (playing himself) stumbling around Italy. Mind you, those violent scenes feel just as out of place in their genre-jumping original format as they did awkwardly jammed into A Cat in the Brain. The plot of Touch of Death is completely mad, but on paper it doesn't seem to be the sort of story that would allow for extreme gore. Lester Parson (Brett Halsey) is a gambling man with a few problems. Every race he bets on he loses miserably. He owes some scenery chewing gangsters a whole lot of hard cash. The violence comes in through Lester's attempts at repaying these debts. You see, Lester kills rich ugly widows and steals their money. Occasionally, he even eats their bodies. While dealing with his day to day struggles, Lester also takes time out to chat to a tape recorder that gives him advice. The tape recorder sounds a lot like him. Insane, yes? And that's not even giving away the weirdest plot twist Touch of Death has to offer!

Lester chats to a tape recorder

You know Touch of Death is going to be special as soon as it opens. The credits are silent. White text on a black screen. Despite having seen this film several times, I still found myself fiddling with the sound assuming it was muted. After these unsettling bare-bones titles, the sound and visuals finally kick in. Only it looks like a home video. You see, the original print of Touch of Death is currently considered lost. Every transfer has that cheap and creepy VHS appearance. As the film opens, Fulci takes us into Lester's house where we're subjected to our protagonist eating a bloodied human steak. The camera moves away and into his basement. And here the gruesome gore begins. I've seen hardened horror fans look away from Lester's dismemberment of a corpse in these early moments of Touch of Death.

A disturbing dismemberment

The violence, while not exactly shockingly realistic, has a grimy, offensive quality to it. Touch of Death is minimal in its amount of death scenes (and the gore all but disappears after the film's halfway point), but the nasty scenes present are the definition of overkill. Touch of Death features what is perhaps the most prolonged and excessive murder scene Fulci has filmed - or at least equal to a certain scene in House by the Cemetery. Lester violently murders one his widowed victims at first poisoning her, then bloodily beating her (until an eye pops out), then throwing her into an electric oven where, strangely, she melts. The violence is brutal, primitive and mean-spirited. I get the feeling Lucio was not in the best of moods when he directed this one. 

Choice moments from a lengthy death scene

This drawn out death scene also reeks of misogyny. Now I'm not one to accuse Fulci of being a misogynist as many do. I have never found his movies especially hateful to women. Sure, there's a lot of female victims in The New York Ripper, but how is that different from the majority of giallos? There is, however, something else going on in Touch of Death. The treatment of women is disturbing to say the least. In a move that is totally irrelevant to the plot, the female characters are disfigured and presented as completely repulsive. Each woman has some sort of deformity, even the closest thing Touch of Death has to a romantic lead has a hair-lip. The woman who receives the extremely drawn out death sequence is the worst. The make-up department gives her sideburns, facial hair and hairy moles. We're also treated to some horrendous nudity of this character, which is clearly intended to disgust rather than titillate. Lester lets us know his thoughts on these women by his constant grimaces. Fulci's addition of disfigurements is strange, not to mention confusing - are they there for comic effect? No matter what the answer may be, it happily adds to the insanity and political incorrectness of this nutty flick.

Some of the leading beauties from Touch of Death

Fulci gets some goofy performances from his cast. Brett Halsey is the star and hams it up something shocking. Halsey has never been a good actor, but he is definitely a treat in Touch of Death. Halsey wanders blindly through the film, as if Fulci gave him no direction whatsoever. As Lester, his reactions and facial expressions are bizarre and seem to be totally random. His eyebrows raise and lower almost constantly and he seems to be in a permanent combined state of both stress and relaxation. Lester seems to take most bad news with a shrug and a smirk, only occasionally falling into a nervous stuttering panic. Fulci makes Halsey do some pretty reprehensible shit in his performance including kicking a cat named Reginald and revealing his hairy barrel chest. Zora Kerova - who, of the female characters, receives the most screen time - is equally odd as Virginia. She has a smugness to her performance that makes us think she knows Lester's secret... only she doesn't. Kerova is also, like many Italian performers of the late 80s, a prop actor. Thankfully, Fulci provides her with some great props to mess with, most excitingly a stuffed swan.

The many faces of Brett Halsey

Halsey and the rest of the cast generally perform their roles as if they were in a comedy. And I guess that's what Touch of Death is attempting to be. Touch of Death has some incredibly inane comedy set pieces that would feel more at home in a Bud Spencer flick. There are two scenes of Lester dumping the bodies of his victims, both of which are played for laughs. Firstly, we see Lester having trouble fitting a body into the trunk of his car. Halsey acts out the scene with his eyes rolling as he repetitively puts the legs that keep falling out of the trunk back in. Even the scene's bloody conclusion is intended as a knee-slapping punchline. The other body dumping scene is even more outrageous. Lester places a corpse in his passenger seat and, when a cop shows up, has to pretend she's asleep. Halsey seriously hams it up here. Even in horrific scenes, Fulci throws in the laughs. For example, during the disturbing dismemberment scene, Fulci overlays some goofy music as Halsey rocks back and forth with an expression of confused bliss. The comedy in Touch of Death is about as funny as a car crash, but it's kind of amazing too. The fact that Fulci wanted his audience to laugh makes Touch of Death all the more reprehensible.    

Comedy gold

I'd like to say Fulci was working with an awful script, and he was, but that's no excuse. Fulci wrote the story and screenplay for Touch of Death, which not only adds to the theory that this film was about exercising some demons, but also shows how brilliantly mad Fulci was in his later years. The script's dialogue alone was enough to get me both cackling and scratching my head. The chuckles come fast and hard as Halsey delivers lines like "I don't play guessing games on the telephone" with his brow covered in sweat. Even better is Halsey's romantic line of "how can you talk business in front of our noble crustacean guests?" before preparing a lobster dinner. Stunning, stunning stuff. There's also the awesome lack of logic and explanation, especially when it comes to Lester's character. Why is Lester casually talking to himself on a tape recorder? Is this film one long dream sequence? Best of all is the film's final twist. The last two minutes of Touch of Death, where all is revealed, is one of the most mind numbing finales in Italian cinema history. It will have even jaded trash movie viewers in tears. 

Lester prepares some "noble crustacean guests"

Touch of Death is as schizophrenic as the most schizophrenic of Hong Kong films, which is really saying something. There's violence played for laughs, uncomfortable misogyny and insane plot twists. I wouldn't use the word "evil" to describe many films, but it is the perfect adjective for Touch of Death. Unlike Fulci's gory films of the late 70s and early 80s, there is something truly wrong about Touch of Death. It's the filmic represention of all of Fulci's bile and hatred for the world and for cinema. It says more about Fulci's state of mind at the end of career than even Cat in the Brain does. Touch of Death is Fulci without Fabio Frizzi, without Sergio Salvati and without Giannetto De Rossi. Yet it is still a Lucio Fulci film. That's more than I can say about many old school horror directors and their output in the 90s. Fulci may have gone a little bonkers, but he stayed true to his style. Touch of Death is a dehumanizing, sickening turd, but it is still a damn fine watch!  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

100 Kisses for 100 Boys

An awkward moment from the reality television series "100 Kisses for 100 Boys" screening in episode 3 of Fever Dreams.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New page for reviews!

Hey gang. You may have noticed that each week I write a few mini-reviews in posts called Last Week's Movies and once a month a long review in Beautiful Turds (this month's one will be out this week). Because I review such a stupidly large amount of movies, I spent the weekend linking them into a page for reviews - check it out!

Last Week's Movies #26

I watch so many movies that my movie memory is started to overload. So I've decided to start doing short reviews for each film I've watched during the week. Often they'll be movies I'm viewing for the first time, but some may be favourites that are getting their latest re-watch.

(USA, 1951, Bill Clifford)
It doesn't feel right to review Birthright. I mean really, it's barely a movie. Essentially, this a semi-sleazy, super-stupid, Georgia government funded educational film about venereal disease. Well, the VD winds up taking a backseat to a tale of the ups and downs of chicken farming. While Birthright is total garbage, it's also pretty darned entertaining. The performances are hands down some of the worst put to film. It's a hilarious challenge to try and determine whether a character is angry or happy as every line is delivered entirely deadpan with little to no facial expression. Then there's the mumbling Georgia accents. Some characters are completely incoherent - often a conversation will sound like gibberish with the occasional "chicken" popping up here and there. And when you can understand the dialogue, it's often unintentionally disturbing. Birthright's finest dialogue exchange is when a grandmother casually talks to her husband about losing three babies a week after their birth. Frightening stuff. Now, perhaps I wasn't paying enough attention and I'm imagining this, but Birthright seems to have no respect for its audience. At one point, two characters enter a building, we cut to inside and see two entirely different actors in a sex scene, then we cut back to one of the original characters walking out. Seriously, what the hell were you thinking, film commission of Georgia? Was that supposed to be the same characters? I'm so damned confused! Birthright climaxes with an upsetting scene of real birth footage that is completely awful and somehow funny with its blabbering voice over. This trash comes recommended to fans of absurd educational films.          

The 'burbs
(USA, 1989, Joe Dante)
I'm sure I've said it many times on this blog, but Joe Dante is my childhood. And I didn't even realize it as a child. The Gremlins films, Innerspace and Explorers were viewed to death during my childhood and later, in my teens years, Piranha and The Howling became favourites. However, The 'burbs always slipped me by. Watching it now, I can happily report that it slots in wonderfully with Dante's best. It's difficult to talk about The 'burbs without giving its twists away, but, to keep things brief, Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) and his suburbanite neighbours become obsessed with the new family that has moved in next door to Ray. Their obsession grows and grows until things get seriously out of control. 

Like any Dante film, The 'burbs features beautiful cinematography and a superb soundtrack courtesy of Dante regular Jerry Goldsmith. Dante's sharp wit is present with the film's subtle commentary and the not-so-subtle, but entirely hilarious, humour. This film was also a nice reminder of the days when Tom Hanks was a funny guy. I think he is much better suited in comedies than his current dramatic-actor-with-occasional-bad-rom-com career. In fact, the entire cast of The 'burbs are perfection in their roles. Rick Ducommun is fantastically irritating as the paranoid Art. Corey Feldman reminds us that the film is from the 80s and gives a few dated, but fun, laughs. Carrie Fisher looks a little haggard, but does well as Ray's wife. The always amazing Henry Gibson is fantastic acting alongside an equally great Brother Theodore. But best of all, is Bruce Dern as the militant Rumsfield. Dern really cuts loose with this role and looks to be having a blast. The 'burbs is the sort of film that could only exist in the 80s - a fun, colourful flick that's not smug in its cleverness.                 

Demons of the Mind
(UK, 1968, Peter Sykes)
Demons of the Mind is an offbeat take on the werewolf tale with the supernatural elements removed and replaced with science. Rather than a family cursed by turning into werewolves, director Peter Sykes presents us with a family with unstable minds in a time before science could explain their madness. Robert Hardy is Zorn, a rich widower who has locked away his two children, Emil (Shane Briant) and Elizabeth (Gillian Hills), in fear that they will inherit his wife's madness. Patrick Magee plays a disgraced doctor who is brought in to cure them. I wanted to like Demons of the Mind a lot more than I actually did. I really appreciated the ideas put forth by writers Frank Godwin and Christopher Wicking. The film is also beautifully shot by Arthur Grant and its director, Sykes, delivers the story as best he can. But unfortunately, not everything falls into place quite so neatly.

I'm not sure what it is precisely that lets down Demons of the Mind, but I think firstly it is its script. The script may contain some interesting ideas, but it is certainly sloppy, or perhaps it was ruined by studio interference. The film takes too long to reveal its plot and seems uncertain whether to completely abandon supernatural concepts in case it loses its horror watching audience. Characters are often awkwardly introduced or disappear for long periods of time with little explanation. Other characters are thrown in randomly as if they were ideas not quite fleshed out. Specifically, I relate this to the priest character that seemed to represent religion's role in demonizing the mad, but it wasn't particularly coherent. The performances are a mix bag too. There are no truly bad performances, but more a lack of consistency in acting style. Robert Hardy and Patrick Magee are loud and big in their delivery. Magee, as he always is, is very over the top as he contorts his face into some absurd facial expressions. Similarly, Hardy is flamboyant and yells most of his lines. These performances on their own are actually quite good. But when put alongside the quiet performances of Shane Briant and some of the other cast members, they seem off. It's not a great film, but Demons of the Mind is certainly a fascinating watch. I enjoyed it more than some of the later Hammers that are perhaps better films, but not quite as ambitious.    

The Ghastly Ones
(USA, 1968, Andy Milligan)
I won't lie. The Ghastly Ones is an endurance test. At least for its first forty minutes. This fairly well known Andy Milligan flick is an irritating mix of mystery and gore... and period drama. A gaggle of cackling dames, who are all sisters, and their dumb fuck husbands head off to their old family house upon the request of their father's will. They have to stay there for a while living in "sexual harmony" and then will get some cash at the end of the ordeal. Blissfully, the morons start getting knocked off one by one soon after their arrival. The Ghastly Ones would be a minor masterpiece if it tore out the mystery and drama elements and focused on the slashtastic killings. The set up is so fucking painfully drawn out. It took me three sittings to get through - that's pretty much unheard of for me. I just kept falling asleep. Seriously, nothing interesting happens for the first forty minutes. Well, expect some gag-reflex-inducing performances. But as soon as the murders begin, The Ghastly Ones becomes what it should be. A fun, stupid gore film. I must pay respect to Milligan. The gore here is cheap, creative and bloody. Just as it should be! The film stays gory and great in its second half and actually left me feeling like I'd had a better time with The Ghastly Ones than I actually did. If you can tolerate the opening half of The Ghastly Ones, there are certainly some bloodied rewards for your torture.     

Mondo Cane
(Italy, 1962, Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi, Paolo Cavara)
I sort of watched Mondo Cane a long time ago. I say sort of because I watched it in Italian with no subtitles and skipped through chunks of it in frustration. I'm glad I revisited this famous and important piece of cinematic exploitation, because it really lives up to its reputation, both the negative aspects and positive. Mondo Cane will be familiar to most exploitation fans and movie buffs. But just in case, in a quick summary, Mondo Cane is a pseudo-documentary that presents footage, both real and fake, of cultural weirdness from around the globe. From lighthearted stupidity like baby chickens being dyed different colours to intense bull decapitations, Mondo Cane is a wild trip, despite its probable lack of authenticity. Directed by Jacopetti and Prosperi (who also gave us the infamous Africa Addio and Goodbye Uncle Tom), Mondo Cane looks absolutely stunning. The footage, staged or not, is shot with skill and cut cleverly scene by scene. It also features an excellent score by composer Riz Ortolani. Strangely enough, Ortolani went on to compose Cannibal Holocaust, which is, of course, an aggressive commentary on Jacopetti and Prosperi's questionable filmmaking. I wonder if that was a deliberate choice by Deodato? Mondo Cane is also disturbingly racist. The smug voice over loves using words like "savages" and "primitive". And his scoffing comes through loud and clear. But Mondo Cane's offensiveness is part of its fascinating appeal. It's amazing to think that this film could even exist, let alone create an entire genre. Mondo Cane may be hard to watch at times and at others times feel dated and politically incorrect, but it is a definite must-see.           

The Punisher
(USA/Australia, 1989, Mark Goldblatt)
Ignore the bad reputation that 1989's The Punisher has, it shits all over any recent adaptations of Frank Castle. Sure Punisher fan boys weren't pleased with the lack of skull on Castle's t-shirt and the general changes made from the comics, but you know what? Fuck 'em. The Punisher is an awesome, low-budget 80s action film and better yet, it's an Australian co-production! First off, criminally underrated tough guy Dolph Lundgren is a far better Punisher than Thomas Jane could ever wish to be. He's huge, genuinely frightening and has actual fighting skills! Unlike Jane's incarnation, Lundgren presents Castle as a true brooding bad ass. The Punisher isn't afraid to kill people, which is something that made the Jane flick really suffer, and this film delivers on the action and violence. There is very little screen time that isn't filled with Dolph shooting villains or punching guys. 

The stunts are very impressive too. The Punisher builds to an awesome action-packed climax, which allows Dolph to team up with the always fun Jeroen Krabbé of The Fourth Man. The Punisher is not perfect though. One of its major downfalls is its locations. While it excites me that this is an Australia co-production, Sydney was a terrible choice for a filming location. Frank Castle should be in New York, not Luna Park. There's also some weak characters on display, most notably Castle's infuriating rhyming sidekick Shake played by Barry Otto. Still, this film is quality action. The Punisher may not appeal to some fans of the comic, but I personally feel it is more in tune with the spirit of the comic than the crappy 2004 movie.

(Japan, 2000, Higuchinsky)
Uzumaki, based on the manga, is a horror-comedy about... uh... spirals. The inhabitants of a Japanese town become obsessed with spirals. Some residents turn into human snails, others develop strange hairdos and one even meets his demise in the spin cycle of a washing machine. It's all very odd as the film moves from fairly disturbing scenes of horror to goofy ridiculousness. I'm not quite what to make of Uzumaki. The mix of comedy and the horror mostly works, although at times it can be jarring. It was certainly an enjoyable viewing, but the film has its share of problems. Firstly, Uzumaki doesn't really go anywhere. We have two passive lead characters that watch their town get progressively worse as they muse about leaving repetitively. The structure of Uzumaki is just that simple - everything gets worse, with no solution. While the film's final moments are effective, sometimes it feels like certain shots were thrown in for the sake of style rather than having any actual meaning. 

And talking about style, Uzumaki is all over the place. Sometimes it feels like director Higuchinsky is onto something good with his occasionally unique visual flair - the long eerie shots and colour filters work nicely. But other times, it feels a little cheap and pandering - the constant cross-dissolves and intense editing was quite draining. The cast is also hit and miss. Ren Ohsugi is always a treat and he gives a great performance. But the two leads, Eriko Hatsune and Fhi Fan, are both fairly dull, especially the monotonous Fan. Despite its many faults - and not to mention that there is a wealth of better comedies and horror films from Japan - Uzumaki is certainly not a waste of time. The film's concept, while kind of vague, is bizarre enough to hold onto its novelty value for the film's duration. The execution is certainly flawed, but I must respect its moments of creativity. Certainly, this is worth a watch for those that like their Japanese horror wacky.          

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bad Australian television adverts

Australia makes some bad, bad television advertisements. We've never been great when it comes to the moving image in any form. The Australian film industry is a global embarrassment and I'd struggle to name more than a handful of decent Aussie telly shows. But far-fucking-out! Do we make some stinky adverts or fucking what? Not to say they're all bad, I'm sure there's some very talented folk out there in advertising land. Too bad they couldn't offer their assistance on these ads. Here are a few of the worst I've seen of late...

First up we have this incredibly distressing Woolworths ad brought to my attention by my pals Joe and Dan. This ad raises so many questions. What is this woman rambling about? What is wrong with her teenage children? What does she say "woolishees" instead of "woolies"? Is she a real person or an actor? And if she's an actor, why did they hire her?!  

Next up we have a super disturbing advert by Kellogs for their LCM 4D chocolate bars (already lame with a name like that). A YouTuber comment sums this one up pretty nicely: "mute it and it's the story of young Johnny and his adventure in a world of shit". Hell, I was thinking that with the sound on. Even if you don't have a foul mind like mine and didn't instantly think "diarrhea party", why is this poor kid being forced to eat copious amounts of liquid chocolate? They're dumping it onto his face and he's practically choking on it! This really puts me off ever eating a LCM 4D bar. And let's not even get started at the embarrassing pandering to the teenage market, which, by the way, is completely out of date. I assure you no teenager will think this advert cool! 

I enjoy the following ad in the same way I would enjoy a bad movie. I really can't complain too much about an advert that begins with a toddler rapping "when you wanna do poos and wees" to the tune of MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This". That is genuine genius. Clearly MC Hammer hasn't seen this commercial yet because I haven't heard reports of him putting a gun in his mouth and blowing his lack-of-brains out. To be fair though, this is probably the closest thing he'll ever have to a comeback. As an added bonus, the baby back up dancers swaying in the background is an awkward sight, as is our pint-sized rapper's odd hand gesture to the camera. What is with that?

And finally, the most ill-thought-out advert on television. This is a McCain advertisement for their cruddy sweet potato fries, which I'm sure taste as bad as their regular fries. Now, the awfulness of this advert is far more subtle than the previous three. When I mention this commercial to most people, they laugh off my accusations. But I'm sure - 100 percent sure - that the father in this ad beats his wife and kids. You can almost taste the tension. The sweet potato chips are presented to the quietly psychotic dad. The family goes silent as the father complains. A husband or boyfriend gives a knowing awkward look (surely, he's heard about the dad's violent past). Finally the father tries a chip and he likes it. The sense of relief can be felt straight away. But how long till another new and different McCain product threatens to push this domestic villain to physically harm his family? Ah McCain, you blew again.  

Funnies of the Week #36

Without a doubt, the funny of the week

I must be losing my funny cat video touch, a student introduced me to 
this awesome cat pal who is almost as hilarious as Maru

And I thought last week's weird walking cat video was unbeatable!

Once again, TV's Michael De Robbio digs up funnies from the internet's darkest corners

I'm going through a bit of a Seagal thing at the moment
(you might have noticed from my latest movie reviews)

And if you crave more Seagal, here's some oldies that I don't think I've posted before

Monday, August 15, 2011

Last Week's Movies #25

I watch so many movies that my movie memory is started to overload. So I've decided to start doing short reviews for each film I've watched during the week. Often they'll be movies I'm viewing for the first time, but some may be favourites that are getting their latest re-watch.

Angel Heart
(USA, 1987, Alan Parker)
I'm glad I finally got around to watching Angel Heart. It was as good as I hoped it would be. But the problem with reviewing a film like Angel Heart is that any hint of what this film is about will ruin things a bit. So I'm going to keep this one short. With Angel Heart, Alan Parker gives us a slow-burning and quite nightmarish film. I was surprised looking at Parker's filmography that it wasn't filled with brilliant films, but mostly mediocrity. His subtlety and style in presenting Angel Heart is quite impressive. I wonder why he went on to direct average crowd pleasers like The Commitments? Here he is aided by some brilliant performances from Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro. While De Niro's screen time is minimal, I'd rate this as one of his best and most unusual roles. The film also contains an excellent score, which I think may have been a minor influence on Eyes Wide Shut (in fact, there's lots of similarities between the two films in tone and style). Angel Heart should be talked about a lot more than it is. Watch this one without reading any plot outlines.   

aka À bout de souffle  
(France, 1960, Jean-Luc Godard)
I've seen a lot of Godard films, but Breathless, probably his most talked about movie, has taken me a while to get around to. As with all his early work, it is pretty stunning stuff. I was shocked to see the year of release was 1960... I'd forgotten how ahead of the curb Godard was (I'd like to say "is", but I find his latest stuff unwatchable). Breathless has all the playfulness of a debut feature, but with the skill and intelligence of a far more established director. I still blows my mind that Godard and his New Wave pals could create such amazing first features - I guess it comes from drowning themselves in cinema before making their own movies. 

Breathless follows the relationship of Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and Patricia (Jean Seberg), which is somehow both complex and incredibly simple. Michel is a criminal, making front page news for his murder of a cop. Patricia is trying to decide whether she loves the arrogant Michel or not. The plot is strangely structured and, to me at least, its concept and story is very much secondary to both Godard's aesthetics and the lead performances. I find Breathless more interesting in how it is presented (that includes its odd structure), rather than what is actually presented. Godard shoots mostly hand-held and edits this film like jump cuts were going out of fashion. The editing is inspiring and is in a style that is often imitated and almost never pulled off. The budget of Breathless was tiny, but there is so much visual ingenuity on display that it's really not noticeable. Seberg delivers a great performance, but Belmondo steals the show as the likable scumbag Michel. He really should be a detestable character, yet I loved every moment he was on screen. Breathless is not my favourite Godard - I prefer both A Woman is a Woman and Vivre Sa Vie - but it is perhaps his most important film and essential New Wave viewing. Shame on me for waiting so long to watch it.     

Escape from the Bronx
aka Escape 2000 aka Bronx Warriors 2
(Italy, 1983, Enzo G. Castellari)
I have to admit, I'm not a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I compare it to having a laugh track on a sitcom. I'd rather watch bad movies with a bunch of pals where we can deliver our own commentary. My other issue with Mystery Science Theater 3000 is that is seems to have some odd ideas of what deserves an insult session. Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik? Really? Escape from the Bronx is certainly not a masterpiece, but I don't think it really deserves the Mystery Science Theater treatment. Enzo G. Castellari may not have had a budget, but he has the imagination and energy to deliver a decent enough flick. 

Escape from the Bronx is, I guess, Enzo's take on John Carpenter's Escape from New York. It involves a president's kidnapping (although not the president, rather a company president) in a semi-apocalyptic version of the Bronx. The kidnappers are 80s-futuristic punks, except here they are the heroes. Sort of. The film scores points for its cheesiness, its ambition (there's clearly no budget, but Enzo is trying his hardest for a big budget look), its outrageous amount of explosions and the presence of b-movie kingpin Henry Silva. However it falls flat at times and never quite reaches the exploitation heights that it should. There's a lot of problems - the slightly too irritating heroes, the complete lack of squibs (seriously, at least throw some blood on the corpses), the repetitiveness and, worst of all, the weak villain pay offs. I never thought I'd say this, but there's too many explosions in this movie. Two of the antagonists are simply blown up as they drive off in their cars. Super disappointing. Escape from the Bronx is far from the best Italian action and exploitation has to offer, but if, like me, you're getting down to the dregs, it's not a bad time.     

Great White
aka The Last Shark
(Italy, 1981, Enzo G. Castellari)
I fucking love shark movies. I love good shark movies and bad shark movies. In fact, throw a great white shark in a movie and - no matter how shitty it is - I'll probably like it. I particularly get a kick out of Jaws rip-offs. Great White (or The Last Shark) is everything I could ask for. It's a good shark movie in some ways and a very bad one in other ways. It impressively plagiarizes Spielberg's shark flick, so much so that legal action was taken. Hell, it could be considered a more faithful (and better) sequel to Jaws than the third and fourth official entries. So yes, this movie kicks ass... and it sucks. It's great (it's bad)! Oh, I'm so confused. 

So first things first, how's the shark look? Well, the shark is fake as hell, but it's also kind of awesome. The shark comes in three forms. Most often, it is shown in stock footage. Yes, that same stock footage we see in every single great white shark film. Filmmakers really need to pilfer some different documentaries for once. Secondly, we see the shark in its full body form. It looks totally ridiculous, kind of like a shitty toy floating around in a bathtub. Finally, we get the shark's tiny-mouthed head. It looks like its designed to bring to mind the Jaws poster. Only it looks stupid. And kind of cool. The shark is completely out of control. He likes to destroy boats and even takes down a helicopter at one point. Great White does suck a little when the shark isn't around, but kinda in a good way. Enzo plays up the melodrama and the script steals ideas from Jaws in bizarre ways. All the leads from Jaws are present (Hooper and Quint are blended into one character), except with all conflict and character attributes removed... you know, the stuff that make them work. The Brody rip-off, for example, is no longer a cop... so why the fuck is he in charge of killing sharks? They turn the money conscious mayor character into a hero. There is pretty much no argument amongst the characters - they all want to kill that stinking shark. Great White has a sluggish pace and long gaps between shark action, but fans of goofy shark movies will get a kick out of this. Those that don't enjoy a good (or bad) shark movie need not apply.      

Hard to Kill
(USA, 1990, Bruce Malmuth)
Gosh damn, that is a shitty looking poster. I guess it's appropriate, as Hard to Kill is a reasonably shitty movie. I'm being a little harsh. It's not that shitty. It's just that after watching the knee-slapping good Out for Justice last week, this Seagal vehicle seems a touch on the weak side. It's still totally watchable, mind you, and occasionally a lot of fun. There's plenty of unintentional laughs as Seagal runs like an idiot, spews out horrible lines ("the blood bank" line is phenomenal) and generally looks confused. The film's concept is pretty classic too - a vengeful cop waking from a coma to take down the villains. Seagal is terrible as expected, but that's part of the fun, of course. The rest of the cast is fairly forgettable, other than Kelly LeBrock, who puts in a weird over the top performance. I swear she has more one-liners than Seagal. Hard to Kill's biggest problem is that it's too light on the action and, more importantly, lacks the viciousness and violence of Out for Justice. A mediocre, but not totally worthless, action flick. 

The Sect
aka La Setta
(Italy, 1991, Michele Soavi)
If Michele Soavi directed more films and wasn't stuck in TV hell, he'd probably be my favourite Italian filmmaker. He was a protege of both Argento and Fulci. While it may be cinematic sacrilege to say this, I think in some ways Soavi is even more of a visual mastermind than Argento. I know, I know. I shouldn't even be thinking that, but I love the way Soavi shoots a movie. Soavi is also perhaps the only Italian horror guy that didn't make stinkers in the 90s (to be honest, I do love Fulci's 90s output, as cheap as it is). I'm yet to see any of his recent work (it's hard to find), but I desperately want to. The Sect was a reminder that I need to track down more of his work. The Sect, once again, explores Soavi's obsession with religion. This time the focus, or lack of focus, is on Satanism. Let the good times roll!

As you'd hope, The Sect is smothered in beautiful imagery and stylistic brilliance. Some may think that Soavi is stealing the style of Argento, but to me they are worlds apart. Argento will deliver a brilliant shot, but often it will often be at the expense of the flow of the film (I'm thinking the long shot in Tenebre). His films will literally be put on hold for an amazing visual moment. Soavi, for better or worse depending on your taste, integrates his stylistic choices in a different way. While Argento may put a film on halt to show us a killer's point of view shot, Soavi will constantly be cutting to POVs within a scene as if they were entirely natural shots. This happens a lot in The Sect and it works brilliantly whether we're seeing a rabbit's point of view or the point of view of a girl having her face torn off (yup). I'm not saying Soavi's technique is better than Argento's, I'm only defending him against those that might call him a style-thief! 

So visually The Sect is wonderful, but the plot is admittedly a mess. At first, it appears the film is simply meandering, but then it becomes clear that there is not going to be a lot of focus when it comes to structure and story. Once I accepted that, I began to enjoy The Sect a lot more. It helps that the film has a very strange protagonist - a character that is both weak and strong, but also a little insane too. That was an interesting touch that works in favour of the weirdly off pacing and structure. The Sect isn't the best place to start for Soavi virgins, but Italian horror fans who want to check out his work outside Cemetery Man and The Church will be impressed.   

200th Vomit Inducing Post starring Jay Leno!

Well, it's my 200th post. I got there a lot faster than my 100th post. So I was thinking, what better way to celebrate my 200th posting with a vomit theme. I mean, puke kind of sums up this blog, don't you think? My prose could be described as vomit-infused garbage and I spend most of my posts writing about movies that would make most normal people chuck. But instead of posting up a bunch of vom-vids, I thought I'd attempt to make you, fine reader, throw up. How? With the vile mix of Jay Leno and Doritos, of course! My pal Dan recently played me a hilarious Bill Hicks routine that shreds apart the awful Jay Leno. Hilarious, yes, but unfortunately it led to us searching for Leno's Doritos ads. Jesus fuck! And people say my Doritos ads are disgusting! I present to you now some of the worst advertisements ever created and I challenge you to watch these all without your mouth filling with chunder (or at least, a bit of gagging). And remember, as Jay Leno tells us, we're not talking brain cells, we're talking taste buds!

And the worst for last, my friends...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Funnies of the Week #35

Yes, that just happened

Thanks, Michael De Robbio, for allowing us to see inside your skull
(remember to check out Mike's Chuckle Hole)

Get Hollywood on the line!

I think I'm in love

Some good internet surfin' music for y'all

Monday, August 8, 2011

Last Week's Movies #24

I watch so many movies that my movie memory is started to overload. So I've decided to start doing short reviews for each film I've watched during the week. Often they'll be movies I'm viewing for the first time, but some may be favourites that are getting their latest re-watch.

Batman Forever
(USA, 1995, Joel Schumacher)
Urgh. Yuck. I never considered Batman Forever a great movie. Even as a kid, I knew it wasn't as good as the Burton entries. I did, however, find it enjoyable. And I thought, watching it again for the first time in years, that the fun factor would remain. I thought that all my Schumacher hate was because of Batman and Robin (aka The Worst Movie Ever Made) and that Batman Forever was not in the same bag as that stinky nugget. Boy, was I wrong. So, so wrong. Watching Batman Forever again was a huge mistake. The Nolan films have made the original Burton efforts seem a little cheesy, but at least they were competently directed, entertaining and fairly engrossing. Batman Forever makes Batman and Batman Returns appear like perfect Batman adaptations. Its awfulness is so intense that I'm still feeling angry as I write this. 

We have a film with a horrible lead - Val Kilmer, but to be fair it was probably the idiotic direction from Schumacher that's mostly to blame for this rotten performance - and two embarrassing villains. Kilmer sleep walks, as does Nicole Kidman. Not that the script is doing them any favours. One scene of conversation is spoken entirely (I mean, entirely) in double entendres. It's repulsive. Much like The Mask, the Riddler role was clearly rewritten to suit Jim Carrey's comedy styling with absurd nonsensical one-liners (seriously, some of the stuff he says makes literally no sense at all) and exploding rubber ducks. Sadly, Carrey is probably the best thing about Batman Forever. He, at least, puts an effort in. Tommy Lee Jones, as Two-Face, spends his entire screen time laughing weakly at Carrey's lame jokes. As villains, they are completely non-threatening and the sight of a skin-tight-suit-wearing, lipstick-covered Carrey crawling over Tommy Lee Jones as if they're about to make out is disturbing to say the least. Then there's Chris O'Donnel's powerhouse performance as Robin. Sarcasm aside, he does provide the film's best moment - the laundry karate chopping scene. Wait. No, sorry, I'm still being sarcastic.   

The effects, which would have cost a packet, have aged horribly. I don't know whether it's Schumacher's neon-drenched, dutch tilted camera shots or the complete lack of creativity in the art direction that poured the money down the drain, but Batman Forever looks cheap as hell. The overuse of CGI doesn't help. Certain shots look like scenes out of Lawnmower Man. Yes, it's that bad. All the artistic goodness of Burton's films is sucked out by Schumacher's filthy hands. Gone is the noir and Gothic vibe of its predecessors and in its place are ridiculous futuristic buildings and glowing paint. Is Batman Forever supposed to be set in the faraway future? It's certainly not the same Gotham we saw in Burton's films. 

There's lots more to hate, I'm not sure whether I can get it all down. I'll try. There's the vomit-inducing soundtrack, the cookie-cutter action scenes, the complete destruction and simplification of Two-Face and his back story, the campification of Batman's suit, the ridiculousness of an adult Robin being adopted by Bruce Wayne, the pathetic riddles and Batman and Alfred's ridiculous riddle "solving" scene, the hammy references to the Batman television show - it is total fucking garbage. To return to the Batman and Robin's nipple-infested suits, I did laugh pretty hard when it was revealed that Alfred constructed the suits and therefore placed said nipples on the suits. The film scores a point for that. Another point is given for the brief presence of Ed Begley Jr. (and Jon Favreau if you look hard enough), I felt sorry for him being in this crud. Joel Schumacher should be ashamed of his contribution to the world of Batman. Batman Forever is may be borderline unwatchable, but Batman and Robin is the film that nearly destroyed comic book movies (and the comic industry). I don't think I can stomach watching that shit again. Fuck you, Schumacher.     

(USA, 1990, Frank Henenlotter)
Frank Henenlotter is an unbelievably great director. I wish he'd made more films, but at least those that he directed in the 80s and 90s are all completely brilliant. Frankenhooker is no exception. In fact, while it's not my favourite Henenlotter (that would go to Brain Damage), Frankenhooker is amongst his best and possibly his most flat-out entertaining. Henenlotter takes the tale of Frankenstein and his monster, but instead replaces Frankenstein with fast-talking Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) and the monster with his wife Elizabeth (Patty Mullen)... and a pile of hooker body parts. Henenlotter benefits from two excellent performances from his leading actors. Patty Mullen is fantastic as the awkward monster, but it's Lorinz that steals the show as Jeffrey. Lorinz is one of my favourite b-movie actors and this role is his best. His motormouth is in full effect as he rambles and spits out lines endlessly. He makes his character hilarious, insane and totally likable. Frankenhooker is full of sleazy settings and characters, but it never loses its sense of innocent fun. Even when hookers are smoking super crack and exploding, it's still quite lighthearted! Henenlotter builds layers of madness that reach their climax in a truly bizarre and perfect ending that will have slimy prosthetic effects fans squealing with glee. Frankenhooker is comedy-horror at its best. 

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
(USA, 1991, Rachel Talalay)
The poster for Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare tells us that "they saved the best for last". Well, "they" didn't or should I say Tank Girl's Rachel Talalay didn't. You'd think someone who has worked on most of the previous Nightmare films would give Freddy the respect he (sort of) deserves. But no, Freddy's Dead is a retarded mess of a movie. This is a stupid, stupid, stupid film full of stupid characters, stupid one-liners, stupid deaths, stupid effects, a stupid villain and an even stupider heroine. This is a film that drowns in its early 90s excesses, a horror film that allows its villain to acknowledge the camera repetitively, a film that probably gave Wes Craven a mild stroke. However, that doesn't mean it's not entertaining. 

Freddy's Dead is a hoot from start to finish, despite most of the hooting being aimed at its incompetence. Robert Englund is having the time of his life as Freddy as he kills kids in video games and parodies the Wicked Witch of the East (yup). He may be completely destroying a once scary character (a destruction that began at the fourth entry), but I couldn't help enjoying his performance. The rest of the cast is laughably bad and we get some ridiculous cameos from Rosanne, Tom Arnold and Alice Cooper. Freddy's Dead tries to be stylish like the previous entries, but winds up feeling like a television movie. The lighting is so clean and flat that it makes the expensive sets look cheap. I'm glad Talalay is now where she belongs: directing television. Freddy's Dead is a big dumb movie that is completely disrespectful to the franchise, but if you have a sense of humour, you'll get a kick out of it! 

Out for Justice
(USA, 1991, John Flynn)
I never got into Seagal films. I assumed they were all boring turds, like much of his later work seems to be (oh yes, I've seen Half Past Dead). I didn't realize that his early efforts were sleazy, violent gems! Out for Justice is an appropriate title. It has a shockingly simple A to B plot: Seagal is a cop, his friend dies and he gets revenge. There's little to no conflict. Never at any point does Seagal have trouble with his justice mission. In fact, he barely has a scratch on him by the end of the film. He casually beats the shit out of villains and I don't think a single return punch is landed. At one point, Seagal strolls through a bar beating the shit out of bad guys one by one without breaking a sweat. The action is consistent and awesome, but most importantly it's brutal as hell. Seagal plays a truly unpleasant cop who should probably be locked up for torture and murder. Seagal's performance is awful, which is both a plus and a negative. He really tries here. He puts on a terrible Italian accent and delivers long-winded monologues that drag down the film at times. At the same time, they're pretty funny. This is quality, sleazy fun times!

Return of the Living Dead
(USA, 1985, Dan O'Bannon)
Return of the Living Dead. I've seen it countless times. It's one of my favourite movies from the 80s. It's my favourite zombie film. It's one of the few horror films that blends horror and comedy perfectly. Yes, Return of the Living Dead is amazing and contains everything a growing horror fan needs. There's gruesome (and hilarious) zombies aplenty, Linnea Quigley's boobs, a rocking 80s soundtrack, Thom Matthews and James Karen hamming it up, zombies screaming for brains, split living dead dogs, quotable dialogue and a brilliant stable of funny and engaging characters. This is one of the few 80s horror flicks with an excellent ensemble cast - everyone puts in a great effort here, which elevates the film infinitely. Dan O'Bannon's script is witty and his visual style is mostly restrained with moments of brilliance. Return of the Living Dead never fails to stamp a goofy grin on my face from start to finish. If you've not seen it, do it! Now! Even if you don't like horror films!

Spirited Away
aka Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi
(Japan, 2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
Spirited Away is beautiful in the way that only a Miyazaki film can be. There is a sentimentally to this film that does not exist in Western animation. Not to say that there's anything wrong with Western animation, it's just completely different to Studio Ghibli's output. Ghibli is unique even amongst other Japanese anime studios. There is an intangible brilliance and whimsy that makes Ghibli special and I count Spirited Away amongst their best. I personally rank it alongside their masterpieces, in which I include My Neighbour Totoro, Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke. In fact, Spirited Away could perhaps be my favourite of the four, although my opinion always changes. This is perhaps my fifth or sixth viewing of the film. This time, I watched it with a class full of students on a cruddy school computer with terrible sound. Not to mention, I watched the dubbed version. Despite all these complications, I still found myself completely engrossed by Spirited Away. Pure Miyazaki genius.