Monday, November 30, 2009

Music Monday: One Of These Days Edition

From Twitter 11-29-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-28-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-27-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-26-2...
  • Games Workshop: does not deserve anyone's money.
  • New blog post: El Castillo De Las Momias De Guanajuato (1973): Dr. Tanner (director Tito Novaro), another of the do...

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

El Castillo De Las Momias De Guanajuato (1973)

Dr. Tanner (director Tito Novaro), another of the dozens of dastardly mad scientists who plague Mexico, is dying of an incurable illness. The only way to save himself is to acquire a large amount of blood taken from people under duress. But how does a man get at this nectar, when he lives and works in a cellar lab and has only three midgets and one slightly larger skinny guy as henchmen? First, he needs to kidnap another scientist and his son (Alex Agrasanchez again), for no good reason I could make out other than to raise the interest of some luchadores.

Then, he plays his mean magic organ while his henchmidgets sacrifice two cocks in a graveyard to raise a group of undead minions (who really aren't the mummies of Guanajuato, whatever the film's title may promise). Easily controlled with a dog whistle, these walking dead are exactly the help Tanner needs, because they might be so slow even my Grandma could outrun them, but have the useful ability to induce instant loss of consciousness in women. Let the mass kidnappings begin!

The not very dynamic trio of the life-draining void named Superzan, the shirtless wonder Blue Angel, and Tinieblas (the mentally less developed person's Mil Mascaras) had already taken some kind of interest in the disappearance of the Professor, but were too distracted by their new girlfriends Lita (Maria Salome) and Nora (Zulma Faiad) and the need to get beaten up in the ring to do much about it. But when they stumble onto one of the mummy kidnappings (and lose one of the girlfriends to the mummy fainting magic), the ancient enmity between luchador and mummy kicks in, and they really try to find out what is going on.

As always, Agrasanchez Productions don't make it easy for anyone to like their films. As if the cast of two c-list luchadors and the unbearable Superzan wasn't bad enough, half of Castillo is just dreadfully boring and possibly even slower than the two Superzan solo outings. It is of course the fault of scenes upon scenes of filler, padding and padding to pad out the filler. Friends of lucha cinema will of course know that this is one of the Agrasanchez trademarks, but three plot-irrelevant wrestling scenes, one musical number (that was at least filmed in the presence of the wrestlers, which would be kind of a plus if not for the fact that it is also especially painful) and much driving, walking and more driving are still hard to take. It doesn't help that our protagonists are not doing anything important for more than half of the film, and really can't make up for it through charisma. Perhaps potential female viewers will at least like the Blue Angel beefcake?

Confusingly enough, the other half of the film is quite awesome and creative in the thoughtless yet effective way I have learned to love.

There are earnest scenes of wrestlers doing research in musty old tomes (always a favorite) and interviewing priests, the absolutely hilarious grand mummy resurrection scene (complete with the shaking of dead cock into the camera), a score that always drifts off into freeform freak-out mode as if played by a talentless Sonic Youth with acoustic guitars and way too tired to try anything fancy, the patented mummy single file, a very campy torture scene and the unforgettable sight of Superzan biting through a young boy's ties - all things which make my heart rejoice and put a spring into a mummy's steps.

I also couldn't help but wonder about the film's sexual politics. What is up with the three wrestlers apparently sharing two women? Is Blue Angel a secret member of the Village People, as his perpetual state of shirtlessness suggests?

I'd love to say something about Tito Novaro's direction this time around, but except for an unhealthy love for the colour red and some groovy camera movements in the resurrection scene, he's just doing point and shoot here. Well, at least he's not making the shoddiest mummy make-up of the series up to this point too obvious and keeps the things we are supposed to see in frame. I'd love to treat things like this as prerequisite for any film, but I'm not that naive anymore.

So, how do you call a film half brilliant, silly entertainment and half snoozefest (apart from "an Agrasanchez Production")? A typical 70s lucha movie? Probably. In that case, El Castillo De Las Momias De Guanajuato is an archetypal 70s lucha movie.


From Twitter 11-28-2009

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  • New blog post: In short: Fu-Rai (2005): aka White Panic (This time, I will not be able to avoid spoilers for the f...
  • A Farscape binge? Really, brain? Alright, alright, I'll do as you say.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

In short: Fu-Rai (2005)

aka White Panic

(This time, I will not be able to avoid spoilers for the film's ending. Be warned!)

Four young people - three men and a woman - awaken naked in an empty white room full of something that looks suspiciously like flour. They all remember that they were assaulted in their respective apartments and kidnapped, but have a hard time imagining why they have been brought to this strange place.

Since this is a Cube-alike, they immediately start to bitch at each other for no good reason at all. From time to time, their discussions are broken by the lights turning blue, gas being pumped into the room and guys in white hazmat suits forcing them to swallow a mysterious fluid.

After some time, at least three of the young people form a reluctant coalition and try to find out why they have been kidnapped and how to get away. Turns out that they all share a feeling of guilt for one parent.

With this pooled information strengthening their resolve, they manage to escape from the room, only to spend the rest of the movie crawling through air-ducts and running through corridors and stairways, all the while evading a handful of exceedingly silly death traps like the Mousetrap of Being Stuck and the Foot-Cutting Wire.

It's no wonder these traps are so silly. They have after all been invented by the same scriptwriter responsible for the film's twist ending, such as it is. You see, our protagonists' feelings of guilt notwithstanding, those feelings aren't the reason they have been kidnapped, rather, they have been chosen because nobody will miss them when they end up as food in the giant microwave oven of an evil corporation trying to solve the problem of overpopulation while making tasty treats.

Fu-Rai is an ultra-cheap imitation of Cube, but one which, unlike the films it copies, is stupid enough to commit to a reason for the things happening to its characters. The cooking angle is of course patently absurd, the earnest and dramatic way the film treats it making the ridiculousness just worse.

This is not the film's only problem. Its production design tries hard to let the cheap and shoddy look minimalist and stylish, but seems to give up after the first twenty minutes or so, and just goes for the usual airduct/corridor/warehouse stuff.

With a running time of 68 minutes, Fu-Rai is also at least half an hour too long, like a classical Twilight Zone episode artificially bloated by flashbacks and people screeching at each other.

While all this does not for a good movie make, I can't help but appreciate that director Shugo Fujii is at least trying to make an earnest and interesting little film, something that puts it automatically above too much of the direct to DVD market in Japan or elsewhere, which is full of films made by people who just don't give a shit about movies or their audience.

With a bit more cleverness, a slightly better sense of pacing and little less (or much more, of course) silliness, this could have been a neat little movie. As it stands, Fu-Rai is just not interesting enough to overlook its flaws. It is also a case where I find myself having a hard time laughing about a film's unintentional humor. It would be a bit like laughing about a one-legged man's troubles with stairs.


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From Twitter 11-27-2009

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Friday, November 27, 2009

On WTF: Hantu Jeruk Purut (2006)

The Indonesian part of the Asian horror boom is often ignored by Western horror fandom, undeservedly so, as not original but fun films like Hantu Jeruk Purut prove. There's long-haired ghost women and headless priests, oh my!


From Twitter 11-26-2009

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  • New blog post: In short: Mikadroid (1991): To the surprise of no one, Japan was trying to build a cyborg soldier du...

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

In short: Mikadroid (1991)

To the surprise of no one, Japan was trying to build a cyborg soldier during World War II. Just when the war is lost, the Japanese government decides to close down the project. They needn't have bothered, because the building in which the project is based is destroyed in an air raid. Before that, the lead scientist manages to help two not completely converted soldiers escape, while the real prototype in its full early Iron Man glory is buried under the rubble.

45 years later, a building with a parking garage and an underground disco has been built on the site. One day, Iron Man awakens and kills a few people. Fortunately, his old soldier colleagues haven't aged a bit in the intervening years and are coming to kill him.

A young electrician (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, yes the director) and an office drone (Yoriko Douguchi, who still has a career in Japanese genre film and has also played in a few Kurosawa films) will be very thankful for their help.

Mikadroid sounds more interesting than it actually is. Apart from the intriguing Kiyoshi Kurosawa connection and a handful of neat visual ideas, there's unfortunately not much about the film.

There isn't happening enough for 73 minutes of film, the plot would barely be enough for 45, and while the cyborg soldier's design is nice and truly looks like I'd imagine a cyborg made in pulp '45 would, the two directors (Satoo Haraguchi & Tomoo Haraguchi, the latter mostly a special effects guy with a few films like the dreadful Kibakichi as a director) never manage to do much with him. The film does not manage to build the necessary feeling of menace and is also much too slow to ever build up enough momentum to become exciting.

The script is nothing to write home about either. It never bothers to explain why cyborg soldier is going on a killing spree, leaving what is happening too abstract to have emotional impact. The film's tendency for undeserved pathos does not help its case - there is too much baseless melodrama here, too many moments when we the viewer is told to feel something the film doesn't bother to make her feel.

Still, I am not completely down on Mikadroid. Most of its problems are obviously based on a lack of experience and a lack of funds, and I am willing to live with them to a degree when a film at least tries to be professional.

There are also a few slightly surreal sequences making up for some of the film's flaws. Seeing Kurosawa act alongside Douguchi is quite a neat thing to watch, too.

So while I can't really recommend it, Mikadroid has its intriguing aspects.


From Twitter 11-25-2009

  • RT @pollinatewildly: RT @FakeAPStylebook The rules for numbers below ten do not apply to 6. He is not a number, he is a free man.
  • Huh, I found "Jennifer's Body" to be a lot better than the critical consensus says it is. At least funnier.
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  • Just completed Dragon Age. An utterly lovely experience.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Slaughter High (1986)

It's April Fools' Day somewhere in the trenches of the American high school. A group of jocks lead by a certain Skip (Carmine Iannacone - watch out for his dramatic mugging in the second half of the film) and Carol (Caroline Munro, at age 36 wee bit old to be in high school, yet even with her 80s hair still too classy for the film, even though she doesn't seem to be trying very hard) play a series of especially cruel jokes on the local nerd Marty (Simon Scuddamore).

Despite their best efforts, the funny people don't manage to electrocute or drown their victim, but have no fear, Marty himself is stupid enough to take a (of course spiked) joint from some members of the group and will have a terrible disfiguring acid accident which also lands him in a padded cell.

Years later, Carol is an upcoming, coke-snorting actress, but still has time to visit her class reunion. It's a rather strange reunion at that - only the members of her old clique seem to have been invited and the school is more or less deserted.

A complete lack of guilty consciences and utter stupidity are the reasons why our group of victims still decides to have a party, but what do you know! Someone in a high school jacket wearing a fool's mask and hat is slaughtering them one by one in creative ways, and there's no way out of the school anymore. Will Carol be the world's first mean-spirited, coke-snorting Final Girl? Or will our friend Skippy rise to the occasion? More importantly, do you want them to?

Slaughter High came late in the first slasher movie cycle, but I can't say it had learned any important lessons from its million of predecessors, or rather, not one of the three(!) directors deemed it necessary to do any directing as we usually know it. Why this shoddy, derivative mess needed three directors at all is anybody's guess. I'm just going to blame the cocaine. Or perhaps someone somewhere thought that the combined efforts of three talentless hacks would somehow reach the level of the work of one barely mediocre craftsman. Turns out they don't.

While it, like all slashers whose only ambitions lie in being loose collections of murders, isn't in any way scary or exciting (please put words like "mood" right out of your vocabulary when it comes to films like it), the film at least succeeds as a cheesy collection of silly bits and stupid pieces. There are many joyful (or painful) moments you can only get in a shoddy production from the tail end of the slasher boom like this, be it the outrageous hideousness of the killer's victims or some of the sillier kills. At least the sex-electrocution (while talking dirty) has to be seen to be believed.

There is also the ending to mention, or rather the way in which it effortlessly manages to go from killing off the (theoretical) Final Girl to a stupid Twilight Zone pastiche to a "it was all a dream" cop out to a supposed shock ending in the space of five minutes. It's aweinspiring in its insipid and annoying way.

Apart from Caroline Munro as the only professional actor on screen, the producers also managed to rope Harry Manfredini in to do the music. In revenge, he composed them a bizarre mix of his usual synthie stuff, some idiosyncratic strings, cock rock and an annoying "humorous" jingle theme thing I will probably never get out of my head again.

So, if you are looking for quality in your movies, you should probably make a wide berth around Slaughter High. If your mind is instead set on witnessing more of the special brand of cheese that only grew (much like especially big-haired fungus) in the 80s, you will feel right at home with it.


From Twitter 11-24-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-23-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-22-2009: Thank you Hantu Jeruk Purut for bei...
  • New blog post: In short: The Shackle (2000): Screenwriter Yuchool spends most of his time writing lurid screenplays...
  • Internet gone for a few hours again. Can't recommend 1&1 to you Germans.
  • So, what is supposed to be so bad about Squeenix doing the CGI scenes for Deus Ex 3 & Thief 4. They're good at that, you whining gits!
  • Unless you are against cinematics on principle
  • Ah, comments threads suggest it's a racist bias against all things Asian & fear of androgynous people at work here. God how I hate "gamer".

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In short: The Shackle (2000)

Screenwriter Yuchool spends most of his time writing lurid screenplays his producer doesn't want to touch because they are supposed to be too artsy. Not that he needs the job - the death of his parents some time ago has left him with quite a bit of money.

The rather disturbed man seems to have spent a part of it on his hobby room in the basement. There, he has space for alone time with his beloved mannequins and the women he first kidnaps, shackles and then rapes and kills every Sunday.

On weeknights, he plays the voyeur, watching his neighbour Sulchee and her husband making love. Sulchee is an important part of the creep's fantasy life in her role as is only great and secret love.

While Sulchee is friendly but obviously not at all interested in him as a lover in real life, her visiting sister Dalchee is (like some other women he completely ignores) just all over him. That's unfortunate for her and leads her to an early death when she says the wrong things about her sister to him.

After that killing, it won't take long until the psychopath feels the need to finally get close to his "beloved".

Myeong-hwa Jo's Saseul tries very hard to follow in the footsteps of the less pleasant parts of the Japanese pinku genre or some of the roman porn films of Yasuharu Hasebe, but somehow gets stuck at an awkward place just a bit too far from being truly disturbing and too close to being complicit with its protagonist.

There might be a very unpleasant streak of identification with the deranged main character running through the film, but at the same time this streak never gets strong enough to make one squirm while watching it.

This may sound like a good thing, but I don't think it really is. Trying to get the viewer to identify with the psycho, to feel queasy about sharing the position of the voyeur with him while being disgusted by his violence would be the trick that's needed here to get this jaded exploitation fan to feel more about the film than a combination of slight exasperation and boredom. Intellectually, I should have felt bad about sharing Yunchool's experiences, but instead just co-ogled the naked women, watched his mugging and felt slightly embarrassed.

There's something lacking in this film (and it's not the lack of empathy) I find difficult to put into words, I must admit. I suspect The Shackle just needed a few more scenes which tried to achieve some sort of twisted poetry, or violence that felt either more real or more artificial, something, anything to drag it out of the mire of slightly artsy, slightly unpleasant sexploitation into the weird, the wild or the dangerous.

I'm looking for a something committed to a little more than just breasts and chains in my exploitation. Alas The Shackle never really dared to deliver more.


From Twitter 11-23-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-22-2009: Thank you Hantu Jeruk Purut for being the first film I have seen in the las...
  • New blog post: Music Monday: At Least You Can Buy His Albums In Germany Edition: Technorati-Tags: music,music monda...
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Music Monday: At Least You Can Buy His Albums In Germany Edition

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From Twitter 11-22-2009

  • Thank you Hantu Jeruk Purut for being the first film I have seen in the last few days that has been worth my time.
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  • New blog post: Dead Girl Walking (2004): Japanese schoolgirl Yuri (Ayaka Maeda) one day finds her heart stopping an...
  • Why is it that people talking about videogames as art always want the "Citizen Kane of videogames"? There are other worthwhile films, yanno
  • And reducing the achievements of a whole art form to one film is so reductionist it makes my brain hurt.
  • I'd want the videogame to be so broad that there's room for a Kane & a Plan 9 & a Manos & a Sholay & a Die Hard & a In the Mood for Love
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dead Girl Walking (2004)

Japanese schoolgirl Yuri (Ayaka Maeda) one day finds her heart stopping and the world around her turning from colour to black and white. The doctor her family calls pronounces her dead, yet she's still thinking, talking and walking around like everybody else.

At first, her family just finds her state rather inconvenient, but as soon as Yuri starts to rot and stink (as dead people do), they decide to stop the nuisance by burning her. That's what you do with dead people after all. The scene turns accidentally bloody.

Yuri flees from home to walk around forlornly, from time to time shedding body parts and thinking if formaldehyde wouldn't be of use in her state.

While she wanders around, she meets and is rejected by her former classmates, has to flee a rude gardener and is shortly displayed in a surreal circus.

Dead Girl Walking is a short film based on a manga by the obsessive horror mangaka and director Hideshi Hino, who also delivers a very hokey introduction. It's part of a series of such films, all of them shot on digital video for very little money. As always, I'm not entirely sure if these films were done for the video market or TV; it doesn't matter much anyway.

This episode was directed by my secret Japanese horror director crush Koji Shiraishi (who directed the good Ju-Rei, the excellent Noroi & A Slit-Mouthed Woman aka Carved, the less excellent Grotesque and a bunch of other films I really want to see on subtitled DVDs right now) and is as good as this crushee had hoped for.

It might feel more like a metaphorical little art film using horror tropes than a pure horror film, but since its basic metaphor describes the horrors of growing up, it still ends up being quite horrifying if one is responsive to these special horrors.

The film is all about the fear of rejection (by family, friends, random strangers), the feeling of being a freak and the loss of the will to live that made being a teenager so much fun for many of us. Shiraishi is using the living dead angle to show the terror of the situation more clearly. Interestingly, he also chose to break the nightmarishness of his material up through the use of black humor (mostly based on the loss of body parts), showing acceptance of the silliness that lies buried under his film's view of teenage life and the general drama of its premise.

This laughter is not necessarily a liberating one - it is much too knowing for that. Still, it is laughter, and without it the film's final, weird moment of hope would just seem campy. With the laughter in mind, I'm just about willing to accept it.

Stylistically, the film mixes obvious influences of early David Lynch (the terrifying, nightmarish black and white absurdity of Eraserhead), Carnival of Souls and expressionist silent movies, just with even less money to spend. The silent movie influence is especially strong thanks to the soundtrack's synthesizer version of "typical" silent movie music (I'll spare you a digression on why "typical" silent movie music isn't in fact typical for silent movies but for modern interpretation of them) and the title cards that show us Yuri's thoughts, not to speak of some very fine uses of shadow and weirdly angled sets.

Some viewers may find the bluntness of Shiraishi's use of all these elements and the obviousness of his symbols somewhat off-putting, but I don't have this kind of qualms. A symbol that is so cryptic that nobody not reading the artist's mind can understand it does of course have its own charms and uses; Shiraishi seems more interested in communicating what he means than in making communication impossible (very un-Lynch of him, I know), or in making the difficulty of communication the theme of his film.

My tastes run - as they so often do - in both directions at once, so I'm satisfied, as long as a film does what it is trying to do well. Dead Girl Walking does do it well.


From Twitter 11-21-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-20-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-19-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-18-2...
  • New blog post: In short: Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater: Death-Make (2005): The operator of a website specialized in ...
  • RT @YSDC: RT @BigJackBrass 'Chivalry & Sorcery' 1st Edition available as a free and legal PDF.
  • Films like Feroz Khan's Yalgaar make me glad I don't review everything I watch.
  • First film directed by Khan I didn't like. Long, with some terrible acting (Khan is good as usual, though) and a bloated script.
  • Well, the finale is kinda awesome. Belongs into a much better film.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

In short: Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater: Death-Make (2005)

The operator of a website specialized in the paranormal makes some kind of deal with a local cable TV show and carts a bunch of "sensitives" into the empty warehouse where every second cheap horror flick takes place, ahem, I mean where a group of young girls supposedly disappeared years ago.

The group builds four walls out of white sheets and does nothing of interest, until mildly strange things start to happen. Soon, the intrepid explorers into the paranormal find themselves in another dimension or some such, not hunted by the expected ghost, but by a shitty looking crabmantisspider.

Death-Make (whatever that is supposed to mean) is one part of a series of short films either made for Japanese TV or the direct to DVD market, based on manga by the loveable excentric Kazuo Umezu aka Umezz. Unfortunately, this one has not been helmed by a real director (for example Kiyoshi Kurosawa) like some of the other episodes, but is directed by the series' main special effects guy Taichi Ito, who is really bad as his job.

The monster looks so terrible that I would find it difficult not to take it as a personal affront, if not for the fact that the rest of the effects is just as bad. Therefore, logic suggest a case of incompetence and not of malevolence.

Of course, I would gladly be willing to just ignore the crappiness of the effects if the plot, the acting or the direction would be any good. Alas, it isn't so.

I'm not going to come down too hard on the actors, though. There is only so much someone can do when given nothing at all to work with. As it happens, "nothing to work with" is exactly how I would describe Death-Make's script. There's no rhyme, no reason, no characterisation and not even enough plot for the 50 minutes of my life this thing has stolen from me. Worse, every potentially neat idea (all two of them!) is destroyed bei Ito's direction.

I would not be surprised if the man had learned (or rather not learned) his trade making videoclips, what with his love for nonsensical jump-cuts, useless black and white footage, puzzling rewinds and digital filters only a blind man would find appropriate. Ito's direction is just astonishingly bad, at once completely without an ability to build mood and filled with the sort of self-important "look at mah wicked stylez!" stunt directing you can only get away with when you know exactly what you are doing. Ito surely doesn't.

While this may sound less than encouraging, I suspect that the outright stupidity of the script, the inept effects and Ito's interesting ideas about film direction could make for something well worth pointing and laughing at in an intoxicated state.

Too bad that I was astonishingly sober while watching the "film", as always.


From Twitter 11-20-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-19-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-18-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-17-2...
  • Dear Insomnia, I'd really prefer to be asleep right now. Yours, DK
  • Gamers who play games for the challenge are looking for SM. Me, I like to cuddle.
  • Did I just write that? Really need to get some sleep.
  • First insomnia, then hours without Internet - this is officially a crap day.
  • New blog post: On WTF: Project: Metalbeast (1995): In which a mid-90s cheapo turns out to be quite an entertaining t...
  • There's one exception to the "don't use 'we' in reviews" rule - Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

On WTF: Project: Metalbeast (1995)

In which a mid-90s cheapo turns out to be quite an entertaining throwback to the era of classic suitmation films.


From Twitter 11-19-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-18-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-17-2009: The remake of "The Prisoner" is as ...
  • New blog post: Ratman (1988): What will those mad scientists think of next? Well, this film's mad scientist is all ...
  • Oh boy, I am excited about the Dragon Age DLC? Well, so much for my immunity against stuff like that.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ratman (1988)

What will those mad scientists think of next? Well, this film's mad scientist is all for winning the Nobel price (seems to be quite easy these days anyhow) by creating a hybrid between rat and monkey.

One day Mousey (Nelson de la Rosa) - as the mad scientist calls his creation - escapes from his cage and starts to teleport around the tropical island he was born on, killing young women and the occasional man left and right without anyone caring or noticing or trying to find out how he can cover incredible distances on two very short legs in no time at all.

Some time later the American Terry (Janet Agren) arrives on the island to identify the dead body of her sister Marlis (Eva Grimaldi). In front of the airport, she meets the mystery writer Fred Williams (David Warbeck) who will at once become inseperable from her and tag along everywhere, even to the morgue. There, Terry learns that the local police isn't good for much. The dead body she is supposed to look at isn't her sister at all! It turns out that Marlis is on a photoshoot with the photographer Mark (Werner Pochath) somewhere in the jungle and just hasn't returned by now.

This doesn't hinder the cops from showing Terry another dead body a little later, for no reason I could comprehend.

While Terry and Fred are looking at corpses and trotting through town with no particular ambition for doing anything worth watching, Marylin and her photographer friend delight us with a weird photoshoot scene before they find more dead bodies and witness another murder. They flee to the home of the mad scientist. Will this turn out to be A Very Bad Idea?

When you take a look at "the world's smallest actor" Nelson de la Rosa in his Ratman (and no, I don't know what makes a rat/monkey hybrid a ratman) get-up, you might very well think to yourself that this is going to be a rather creepy piece of cinema. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. While Nelson really looks the part, the film never bothers to make much use of that fact.

In truth, there's just not much happening at all - there are some murders, some cheesy photo shoot scenes and our "heroes" traipsing around finding some corpses, then flying back home, and that's it for excitement.

I have to admit I was hoping for something a little better from the last film Giuliano Carnimeo directed. Carnimeo isn't one of the big Italian genre names, but he has some fine, entertaining movies like Exterminators of the Year 3000 or The Case of the Bloody Iris in his filmography, so I had certain expectations of, not exactly quality, but entertainment value.

Ratman completely wastes the excellent duo of Warbeck and Agren and doesn't allow them to do anything of interest besides walking around. It's such a shame.

On the film's plus side are the insane ravings of the mad scientist, the scene where Mousey climbs out of a toilet and the insane ending I am now going to spoil: Mousey hides in the dead Marlis' handbag (not without killing a police clerk without anyone noticing) which is taken by Terry without a look inside or a comment on the weight of the thing, then goes through customs without a problem and causes a freeze frame shot of a plane with screams on the soundtrack. Take that City of the Living Dead's ending!

Now, you could argue that the toilet scene and the movie's ending alone are enough to make it mandatory watching for the friend of cheap Italian crap, and I certainly wouldn't contradict you, yet I still can't help but feel disappointed about the misuse of Warbeck and Agren and the terrible feeling of meh the rest of the film left me with.

Of course, when someone will ask me in a few months what I think about Ratman (this sort of question comes up all the time, doesn't it?), I'll only remember that Agren and Warbeck are in it, the way Nelson looks, the toilet and the freeze frame plane, and call the film completely awesome.


From Twitter 11-18-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-17-2009: The remake of "The Prisoner" is as painful as I expected. I could cope with...
  • New blog post: Dead Air (2009): It looks like a typical night in the working life of immensely popular self-righteo...
  • Yeah, that one put me in quite a foul mood.
  • Oh look, EA is up to its old tricks again, closing down a studio they just bought a year ago.
  • How not to start a blog post: "You should probably skip this blog." You know, that's exactly what people'll do.
  • A Kane & Lynch sequel? Really?
  • RT @YSDC: RT @unclebear 'The Call of Cthulhu' by H. P. Lovecraft -- a new old time radio production
  • All the cursing about the new reply system makes me glad I do my twittering not on the site.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dead Air (2009)

It looks like a typical night in the working life of immensely popular self-righteous audience-hating talk radio man Logan Burnhardt (Bill Moseley). Only he, his on-air sidekick Gil (David Moscow), his producer and ex-wife Lucy (Patricia Tallman), tech guy Burt (Joshua Feinman) and coloured security guard Tanner (Anthony Ray Parker) are in the station when the unthinkable happens (and would you believe that the black guy dies first?).

About a dozen bombs blow up in sports stadiums across the USA. The bombs are just the carriers for the true problem, namely a 28 Days Later-like virus which transforms its victims into rage zombies. While Logan is trying to keep his listeners informed, the usual stuff happens around him.

Oh, and one of the (sigh, yes, evil Muslim) terrorists sneaks into the station to get Logan to first blame the Muslims, then the US government for the attacks, an idea I'd leave out of my zombie virus terrorist attack plans - mostly because it's really stupid and just makes no fucking sense.

So, this is what happens when actor has-been Corbin Bernsen tries his hand at directing (and not for the first time, I might add, so that you can avoid his other films as well) the dumb person's version of Pontypool. Not that Bruce McDonald needs to be afraid of the competition; crap like this lets the original film just shine that much brighter.

The film's problems are manifold, but I - keeping in the spirit of Dead Air's script - am much too lazy to get into all of them.

But let's talk about the script a little, or rather its mindnumbingly stupid politics. It's the sort of film that on one hand wants its evil muslim pulp terrorists to be totally evil yet on the other tries its damndest to keep up a puzzled liberal face of the "why, oh why do these people hate us so much?" variety. And it even gives an answer: they like killing, and all their motives are just excuses. Which brings me back to the word dumb, because, honestly, if it's so hard for a scriptwriter to get into other people's heads, he should probably try to find another job. Ideologically even more puzzling is the "people are mean, you know" monologue at the end which has fuck all to do with the film we saw, in which there never was much room for someone being mean in a meaningful way beside our supposed hero and the evil muslim pulp terrorists. It does, however, fit quite well into my theory that neither Bernsen nor his writer ever bothered to think anything about their film through.

I'm kind of puzzled why the zombies are in the film at all. The thematic work (such as it is) is completely done through blunt and obvious dialogue between Burnhardt and Evil Muslim Guy. The zombies here aren't a metaphor, they're just there because nobody involved in the production had enough talent to write a film "only" about the aftermath of a large-scale terrorist attack or a regular biological agent. Why, without the zombies, you'd need to make use of your characters as characters instead of keeping to the usual cliches.

Yes, I am perfectly aware that you can have well-written characters and zombies as a metaphor and cool gut-munch action in one film, or that you can make an excellent movie with just one of those three elements. Unfortunately, I don't think Bernsen is aware of that. We are in the land of people who think making a genre film is an excuse for being lazy here. People, I might add, who aren't some guys making a film in their backyards with their family and friends doing the acting, but supposed professionals.

The good thing about the momentary flood of zombie films is that it makes it unnecessary for the zombie fan to tolerate films like Dead Air just because their direction reaches vaguely professional levels and they have zombies in them. If you're set on watching something with everyone's favorite monster in it, there's a world of better films to see, and not much reason for anyone to waste his or her time or more words than I just did on this one.


From Twitter 11-17-2009

  • The remake of "The Prisoner" is as painful as I expected. I could cope with it being utter shite, but does it have to be so insultingly
  • stupid and ignorant of what made the original so great.
  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-16-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-15-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-14-20...
  • New blog post: In short: Escape From Coral Cove (1986): A group of young, rich, boring idlers spends some summer day...
  • Marketing? Well, I giggled.
  • Is this how the grand new online plan of The Comics Journal will proceed? Doesn't bode well.
  • Spring-loaded rat! The height of creativity.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In short: Escape From Coral Cove (1986)

A group of young, rich, boring idlers spends some summer days in the beach resort of Coral Cove. They waterski. They dive. They are jealous. They are potential final girls. One of 'em is called Four-Eyes (Louis Kong) and has a little brother.

After hours of painful "excitement" with them, a friendly dead guy (Roy Cheung) starts to kill off the annoying people. Instead of thanking the dead guy or making him president of the yacht club or something, a security guard calls his uncle, a buddhist exorcist.

Too bad for him that he's a crap exorcist, and doesn't survive the meeting with dead guy. Four-Eyes is better at the job and explodes the evil monster with his little brother's science project. The end.

Even if you keep in mind that the Ocean Shores VCD of Escape From Coral Cove, which seems to be the only way to watch the film, has gotten rid of nearly every bit of blood, there's still no good reason for the film to be this boring. It is in fact so boring that I highly doubt that an uncut version would be more worthy of my time.

Coral Cove's prospective viewers should bring with them a love for long waterski and diving sequences and many many scenes of young healthy people presenting their bodies (in bathing suits, oh friends of nakedness) to a leering camera. Which is all nice and well but really not enough to keep one awake for more than ten minutes. Take the hour of the stuff the film provides, and you have a wonderful medicine against insomnia.

I usually try to find at least something positive to say about a film. Coral Cove doesn't make it easy, because there just isn't anything of interest to discover on screen. The direction is just there, the script easy to ignore (that's what the film's writer did, too), the acting is of the "acting" variety, so what is there to praise? Well, Leung Yuen-Jing is kinda cute, but that's not really the film's responsibility.

Oh, I know! The scene where the bad guy bleeds water! That is something to praise.


From Twitter 11-16-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-15-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-14-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-13-2...
  • I suppose it has something to do with the suckitude of WB that I can't find a full,embeddable version of the Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?"
  • New blog post: Music Monday: Highway Goddess Edition: Technorati-Tags: music,music monday,mercury rev
  • So, Edward Woodward's dead. Shame.
  • RT: @Agent_M: 1st 4 issues of Stray Bullets, a masterfl crime comic by @DavidALapham now online for free:

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Music Monday: Highway Goddess Edition

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From Twitter 11-15-2009

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  • New blog post: Raigyo (1997): Noriko (Moe Sakura) absconds from the hospital where she is being treated for her panc...
  • And on with the movies of dubious quality
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Raigyo (1997)

Noriko (Moe Sakura) absconds from the hospital where she is being treated for her pancreatitis. Dressed in black and carrying a knife and the photo of a child in her handbag, she drifts through the outskirts of a Japanese industrial town, trying to connect to either her husband who is now living with another woman or the lover she betrayed her husband with or both via phone - as in many things, the film isn't forthcoming with clear explanations for what is going on.

At the same time, Yanai, an office worker who takes a day off from work to sleep around while his wife lies in pregnant in hospital, is desperately trying to find one among the astounding number of women prepared for a quick fuck in his little brown notebook actually willing to indulge the sleazy bastard.

When Noriko has been rejected completely and Yanai doesn't find any woman willing to put up with him, a dating hotline connects the two lost souls. They meet up, and after a short bit of sex, Noriko stabs and strangles him to death in the shower of a cheap motel.

The police suspect her of the murder, but aren't able to prove anything. The only witnesses who have seen Noriko and Yanai together are a mentally handicapped girl and a gas station attendant (Takeshi Ito?). The latter would very well be able to identify her, yet chooses not to, so that he can ask her for an explanation how it feels to kill someone, hoping for closure for the traumatic death of a child in his past, or perhaps something else he isn't able to grasp or articulate.

Raigyo's director Takashi Zeze is known for his especially bleak variation of the pinku, and this austere but strangely beautiful drama should be proof enough.

The film is set in the bleakest part of the Japanese province, an industrial area where nature itself seems contaminated by humanity's presence. Long shots of dead fish and sickly green and yellow places abide, putting the characters into a setting that is nearly empty of humans but without any of the calming influences of nature.

Places like these can only be populated by people unable to connect, to their own emotions, to each other, to the world or even the motives for their own actions. Raigyo does the same thing many other of the art-minded pinku films do for Tokyo, namely making its provincial location look like a place where sex and death seem to be the only possible ways for people to connect to each other or themselves. Yet even these things don't seem to bring any peace of mind to Raigyo's characters.

Zeze treats his characters much like parts of the landscape, letting the viewer gaze calmly at them from the outside, but never inviting her into their heads. The way he never provides any direct information about the characters' inner lives might be infuriating to some; I found that it perfectly mirrored the disconnection between the film characters and the world they inhabit.

At the same time, the actors, especially Moe Sakura (and that's a bizarre name in the context of this film if I ever heard one), very ably project the feeling that there is much more to their characters than there appears to be - quite possibly much more than they themselves are conscious of. We as viewers are never given enough knowledge of their inner life to make a completely coherent picture, just as in real life.

All this might sound like an exceptionally depressing experience, and it certainly isn't the sort of film that makes you want to party, or live much longer, but at the same time Zeze finds a weirdly abstract and appropriately numb core of beauty in the bleakness of his film's locations. It is as if through the act of looking at them, the corruption of nature and the disconnectedness of things don't lose their terror, yet somehow gain a quality you can't help but appreciate.

However, if you appreciate this quality too much, you might possibly end up like one of Zeze's characters.


From Twitter 11-14-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-13-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-12-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-11-2...
  • New blog post: In short: La Radice Del Male (2006): aka The Roots of Evil The painter Andrea Spiegelman (Zora Kero...
  • Should probably write a manifesto. Trouble is - how do you do that when you know you might very well be wrong?
  • You're favorite comic is "Tarot"!? Well, that was a nice chat, but I think I have to run now. Very fast and very far.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

In short: La Radice Del Male (2006)

aka The Roots of Evil

The painter Andrea Spiegelman (Zora Kerova) has lost her memory and half of her face in some mysterious accident.

It is already a year after the accident, but she still hasn't recovered. At least she is finally allowed to leave the clinic where she spent the last year of her life. Her doctor (Lionello Gennero) and husband Valerio (Giancarlo Previati) think it best for her to recover in a country house she inherited from her uncle (Peter Sheperd) who killed himself some time before Andrea's accident.

The painter isn't a happy woman there - her husband isn't exactly the nicest man she could have married (when he is home at all), she has lost all drive to paint and her doctor doesn't want to prescribe her any more morphium.

It seems like a stroke of luck when she finds some notes and tape recordings her uncle left her. In them, the hobby botanist describes his experiments with the psychotropic drugs he produced from the plants he grew in his greenhouse - up to the point when he took his experiments too far and committed suicide, of course.

Andrea, with really nothing better to do and in dire need of chemical improvement, starts to repeat her uncle's experiments. At first, it's all fun and games and pretty pretty colours, but soon Andrea has difficulty telling hallucination from reality. It seems as if rather strange things are happening in the house, as if the servants and her husband have secrets from her, but who can say what of the things Andrea sees is the truth and what an hallucination?

Things reach a violent climax when the disturbed woman tries a plant extract which is supposed to help one regain lost memories.

La Radice Del Male is a very low-key Italian low budget thriller that doesn't contain an ounce of originality.

Nonetheless, I found myself nodding in agreement while watching it. Sure, the plot twists should surprise nobody, and director Silvana Zancolo isn't exactly inspired, but she(?) does a straightforward enough job with the film, just telling her story without trying to impress overtly. I think that sometimes there's something to be said for the work of diligent craftspeople like Zancolo. Watched in the right mood, a simple story told in a simple way like this one can be thoroughly satisfying.

Zora Kerova, whom you might know from a handful of the more extreme Italian genre movies of the 70s and 80s like Cannibal Ferox and Anthropophagus does a fine job in the role of the disturbed heroine. It is refreshing to see an actress who has aged in the graceful way of people who haven't given in to the nightmare of unmovable facial muscles we know as botox and is therefore still able to use her face to emote.

It's also just nice to see a thriller whose main characters are in their Fifties instead of teenagers, living a grown-up life not too often seen on screen.

Still - as I said - this film won't land on anyone's list of timeless classics. It's just a nice, solid little movie deserving of some respect.


From Twitter 11-13-2009

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  • New blog post: On WTF: Colin (2008): A much hyped shot on digital for lunch money British zombie film. Can't be any...

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Friday, November 13, 2009

On WTF: Colin (2008)

A much hyped British zombie film, shot on digital for lunch money. Can't be any good, right? Surprisingly,

I found myself falling in love with the film, as my rather long-winded and overexcited piece on WTF-Film shows.


From Twitter 11-12-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-11-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-10-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-09-20...
  • New blog post: In short: Love Bites (2001): Not to be confused with other rather forgettable films called Love Bites...
  • Normally I don't do "buy this" tweets, but: Sanitarium on GOG! Possibly my favorite adventure game. Go buy.
  • And now for more obsessive side-questing in Dragon Age.
  • What a lovely thought. RT: @Pentadact: Last week Torchlight outsold Modern Warfare 2 pre-orders on Steam - by revenue?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

In short: Love Bites (2001)

Not to be confused with other rather forgettable films called Love Bites.

The young Parisian Antoine (Guillaume Canet) spends his nights freeloading at any party and club he can talk himself into, and sleeps through the day in the fitness club where he lives.

One night, he pretends to be the friend of a certain absent Jordan (Orazio Massaro) to get into an upper class party. A mysterious older man (Jean-Marie Winling) is very interested in their supposed connection, since he is trying to get a hold of Jordan. Even after hearing that Antoine doesn't even know how that Jordan person looks, the weird stranger still decides to hire the nightlife specialist to find the guy. For one million Franc, Antoine can hardly decline the offer.

But even with the help of his friend Etienne (Gerard Lanvin), who is well-connected in the world of the sleazy and the slimy, Jordan is a very difficult man to find. The things Antoine hears about his target aren't too promising anyway - he seems to be in the business of biting people in the neck. And he's only ever seen by night. My, whatever might his secret be?

Finally, Antoine manages to run into Jordan's sister Violaine (Asia Argento), herself known for sometimes taking a bite out of people. Nonetheless (and not all that surprising seeing that she is played by Asia Argento after all), our hero lands in a hotel room with her, but being drugged up and finding himself scratched and roughed up on the street the next day was probably not exactly what he was after.

Still, he is clearly fascinated by Violaine, and isn't even willing to stop his investigation when it is starting to get rather dangerous.

Love Bites could have been quite a film - a comedy about vampires as part of the Parisian nightlife sounds promising enough, at least.

Unfortunately, neither the film's script nor its director Antoine de Caunes seem to have much of an idea what to do with their basic concept, sidelining the vampire angle completely, instead concentrating on showing us Canet's Antoine not doing much in a lot of bars and clubs. The actual plot could be condensed to about thirty minutes of film.

This is not to say that the rest of the film is completely forgettable, but for every neat (if irrelevant for either mood, plot, character or theme) little joke and amusing absurdity, there are two or three scenes whose use in the film I can find no explanation for.

It would probably be easier if I'd find Antoine as charming as he is supposed to be, but Canet plays him with a combination of smarminess and blandness that is never anything else but punchable.

So the main weight of the acting has to be carried by Asia and Gerard Lanvin. Unfortunately, the former might be as sexy as ever, but isn't allowed to do much else. A small wonder when you keep in mind how seldom she is actually present, because another scene of nothing happening is deemed more interesting. Lanvin for his part is just the friendly character actor giving support.

Still, I found myself mildly entertained by the film - the scenes which work really do it quite well, and I'm always happy to find a comedy that doesn't absolutely annoy me.

Just don't expect more of the film than mild entertainment, and you're good.


From Twitter 11-11-2009

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  • Wait what? Kissinger collecting a "Margaret Thatcher Medal of Freedom"? That's too much irony even for me.
  • New blog post: Shoot, Gringo, Shoot! (1968): Somewhere in Mexico. The American gunman Stark (Brian Kelly of Flipper ...

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shoot, Gringo, Shoot! (1968)

Somewhere in Mexico. The American gunman Stark (Brian Kelly of Flipper fame), having been betrayed by his partners in a robbery, is incarcerated in a Mexican jail. Thanks to a nice and effective performance as a leper he manages to escape. His new-found freedom only leads him into a confrontation with one of his ex-partners. A dead ex-partner and a minor shoot-out with the forces of the local potentate (Folco Lulli) later, Stark is captured again and bound to hang very soon.

Fortunately for him, Gutierrez, as the potentate is called, has a sudden change of mind about his destiny. If Stark would help him with a little problem, he'd just forget all about the small legal matter, and pay the gunman even $5000 for his work.

Gutierrez' son Fidel (Fabrizio Moroni) has run away from home to live the exciting life of a bandit with the gang of a Civil War veteran usually just called "The Major" (Keenan Wynn), but his father, and even more so his mother (Linda Sini), would very much like to have Stark bring their son back again. Of course, this is an offer Stark won't refuse, especially since it turns out that he himself is a friend of the Major and does not have much trouble getting into contact with the gang.

Stark is not straight with the Major or Fidel. Instead, he makes up a nice possibility of robbing a gold transport and takes Fidel with him on reconnaissance to kidnap the young man. As it goes, everything is becoming rather more complicated between the two men, and before Stark will be able to deliver his victim/friend, there will be the usual game of one or the other getting the upper hand, but everyone's plans getting thwarted again and again by unpleasant circumstances. Somewhere in between, there will also be time for the shortest romance subplot with Erika Blanc ever.

Sergio Corbucci's brother Bruno did a lot of work as a writer (often enough for his or with his brother), but he also has quite a number of directing credits. Shoot, Gringo, Shoot! is one of them, and while it never manages to achieve the heights of Sergio's best work, it still is a very fun movie to watch. This Corbucci is not a brilliant director, but a sure-handed one, perfectly capable to play around his two rather weak lead actors to provide some Spaghetti Western goodness. He also has a real knack for using nature and outside locations to set the mood of a given scene, keeping his film far away from the slap-dash look some of the cheaper Italian Western can get through over-use of rather boring looking sets.

His script isn't as successful. What starts out cleverly getting rid of the potential revenge plot, setting a light and humorous tone, with some moments of comic relief courtesy of the Major's gang and their leaders disturbing love for a duck I'd rather not have witnessed, seems to slowly turn dark when Stark and Fidel are starting their travels together, but never dares to go all out emotionally. Instead the film's focus shifts on an episodic series of adventures and mishaps that don't share enough thematically to be wholly satisfying, or are given too little room to be believable (like the romance plot). Then it all ends in a cleverly thought out, but random feeling darkened final stretch which then again turns into some sort of happy end.

Now, I am the first to admit that life itself is rather random, but I'm not too sure art should mirror this part of life and I'm absolutely not sure that Shoot, Gringo, Shoot! is out to talk about the randomness of life, as satisfying a thought as that may be.

What seems to be a better explanation for the movie's state is that Corbucci and his writing partner Mario Amendola had some great locations, all these actors on contract - some of them like Blanc and Wynn probably only for a few days - but only had little time to churn out a script before shooting began, so they put all the clichés that make up a typical Spaghetti Western into it, some of them with neat little twists. They just never had enough time to make a final re-write and polish it all up. That's my theory at least.

Fortunately (for me), I am well able to overlook silly little problems with a film like a lack of coherence of its parts, an overabundance of clichés or the lack of a thematic throughline if and when the non-cohering parts are in itself interesting and fun. Shoot, Gringo, Shoot!'s parts are, and while they don't cohere into the psychologically deep, depressing and plain exciting masterpiece the film's set-up promises, they make for a fine genre picture, no more, yet most certainly no less.


From Twitter 11-10-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-09-2009: New blog post: Music Monday: All Metal Videos Are Doomed To Ridiculousness E...
  • Oh hi, I grew you an organ for making babies
  • New blog post: In short: Number 13: The Cambridge historian Anderson (Greg Wise) comes to a small country bishop's s...
  • Monkey Island outtakes, right from the source
  • Oh look, SF writer still John C. Wright still hasn't driven away enough potential readers through his vileness
  • And yeah, that was possibly, just possibly, one "still" too many

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In short: Number 13

The Cambridge historian Anderson (Greg Wise) comes to a small country bishop's seat somewhere in Britain to do some research in the church's archive.

He is soon fascinated by newly found accounts from Cromwell's times that put the local bishop at that time in a rather disturbing light. He and a mysterious foreign friend seem to have been the leaders of a witch cult. At least that's what the documents say.

Anderson's interest doesn't please the clergy too much, and they decide to disallow him further explorations of their papers, so as not to stir up things better left untouched.

The now rather exasperated historian has other problems anyway. Every night, he hears strange noises and laughter from the hotel room next to his own, noises that seem inexplicably not to come from his actual neighboring room, but from the absent 13th room of the hotel. If he'd just look a little closer, he'd also realize that his room changes its dimensions after dark.

The strange occurences surrounding Anderson come to a head when he learns that his hotel once was the house where the bishop and his mysterious friend were reputed to host their black masses.

As far as M.R. James adaptations made for UK TV go, this is one of the weaker ones, not comparable to the much better ones made in the 70s as "Ghost Stories For Christmas".

While there is no single flaw I could put my finger on and call the reason why the short film doesn't work for me at all, there is a timidness about the everything in it James' work doesn't deserve. Number 13's director Pier Wilkie makes some small attempts at modernizing the tale, but transplanting it from Denmark to Britain and putting about thirty seconds of suppressed sexuality in is neither here nor there.

What is also missing here is a an attempt at actually building the mood of the story. The only thing we get is some mediocre sound design, as if putting an echo on a little otherwise unprocessed laughter was the epitome of that craft.

Neither the ironic distance of James nor the very undistanced creepiness of the author's tales comes through here, instead everything is rather harmless and quaint, both things which don't make for a frightening or entertaining ghost story.


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From Twitter 11-09-2009

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  • Wait, a Charlie Huston-scripted comic in which all the "fucks" and "shits" are visually censored. Sounds like a self-defeating concept to me
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Music Monday: All Metal Videos Are Doomed To Ridiculousness Edition

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From Twitter 11-08-2009

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blood Beach (1980)

An elderly woman is eaten by the Los Angeles beach she is walking her dog on. Since there are no eyewitnesses for this somewhat strange occurrence, the police think she must have just gone away somewhere. That is what people of a certain age always do, right?

Her daughter Catherine (Marianna Hill) sees things quite differently and returns to her native LA to find out what happened to her mum. Catherine has help in the form of Harry Caulder (David Huffman), her ex-boyfriend from long way off. The harbor patrol man can't help but find the disappearance of a woman whom he'd talked to just minutes before she vanished into thin air very strange indeed. And if spending some time with Catherine while looking for her mother can help him and Catherine get back together, then that's all the better for him. It doesn't seem to matter much to him (or the film itself) that he is already in a relationship. What a stroke of luck that his girlfriend is soon eaten and very fast forgotten anyway.

Yes, the monster living under the so innocent looking beach continues to strike. A decapitated dog, a mutilated woman and a de-phallused rapist later, even police captain Pearson (John Saxon) can't help but go with the monster theory. There's also a police scientist played by Stefan Gierasch who sprouts some pseudo-science, but he speaks so frigging slowly that I have never been able to puzzle out what he is trying to tell us. Something about mutations, and the thing just having crawled from the sea and probably going to learn to walk in the future, I think.

Now it is only a question of time until the authorities find the creature's dwelling place and everything will be alright again.

For a film about a beach that eats people Blood Beach is surprisingly anaemic. I suppose all the blood went into the title, until the most colourful thing you get to see on screen is Burt Young doing a groan-worthy Harvey Bullock shtick as a certain Sergeant Royko and Saxon getting a single good scene in which he chews out some politicians.

Jeffrey Bloom, the film's writer and director, mostly worked in TV, and if not for a little nakedness, the dog head-munch and the most sedate penis loss in the history of humanity, he could have fooled me into believing this was a TV production too, with all the worst things people usually say about the quality of TV movies this once coming absolutely true.

The thing that truly kills the film is its glacial pacing, with scenes often going on much longer than necessary or good and other scenes, like the supposedly comical one in which the wife of one of the monster's victims describes in excruciating detail how her man was dressed, that should have been cut completely, especially in light of the fact that nothing at all seems to be happening for most of the time. Even worse, when something theoretically exciting is happening, Bloom's direction is so bland and lacking in imagination that even attempted rape and scenes of the beach monster dragging people under and nibbling on them come over as dry and boring as watching someone do her bookkeeping.

It doesn't exactly help that our supposed lead characters a) aren't doing anything interesting b) are about as charismatic as umbrellas and (in the case of Harry) c) are morally deeply unpleasant, but I won't blame the actors for more than trying to keep their performances on the same neutral level as anything else in the film.

It's a shame the movie doesn't even seem to be trying, for Blood Beach could (and should) have been a whole lot of low-brow fun (The Beach That Eats People!) if it had just tried to emulate the classic monster movie formula that people like Roger Corman used in the 50s. That way, we would have seen much more of the ridiculous looking monster - whatever it is supposed to be, and wouldn't have to get through quite this much filler and utter slowness for no climax to speak of.


From Twitter 11-07-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-06-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 11-05-2009: We do live in the future. http://tin...
  • New blog post: In short: Toxic Zombies (1979): aka Forest of Fear aka Bloodeaters Two federal agents searching our ...
  • Title of this album is "And the ancestral pagan flame shall never fade"? I'm for renaming the band "Our sense of irony is not home, sorry".
  • 22.6 hours of Dragon Age since Thursday noon-ish? I can stop anytime, Doctor!
  • And that was it for the rest of the IF Comp for me, I think. Too bad I will not get to some of the warmer received games on time.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

In short: Toxic Zombies (1979)

aka Forest of Fear

aka Bloodeaters

Two federal agents searching our old friend, the deep American woods, for dope fields, stumble upon a handful of tents, shoot an unarmed female dope grower and are killed in return by her friends. The disappearance of the agents makes it quite clear to two evil government guys in Ma's basement Washington (one of them John Amplas of Martin, but far from that film's glory) where they have to search for the evils of Weed. Because they are evil government guys, they hire a random drunk pilot to fly over the area and dust the crop with an experimental poison (yeah, I don't know, either).

Turns out that the toxin turns hippies in tool-(even torch-)using semi-zombies with a lust for human flesh. The moaning and groaning lot doesn't need an extra incentive to munch on some camping tourists and a forest service guy (director Charles McCrann), his wife (Beverly Shapiro) and associate, in this, the most populated lonely part of the woods this side of Don't Go In The Woods...Alone. Of course there is also a sub-plot about the evil government guys trying to get rid of any witnesses to their wrong-doings. It's what evil government guys do.

Toxic Zombies is archetypal stumbling-through-the-woods horror, achieving everything this sub-genre promises, which is to say, it shows a copious amount of people stumbling through woods and not much else.

The acting is mostly decent and McCrann's direction shows signs of basic competence, but I am quite sure that a less competent film would be a lot more entertaining than this one turns out to be. As it stands, Toxic Zombies is just dreadfully boring, and not the interesting sort of boring that lets you see God, no, it's the sort of boring that just makes you want to close your eyes and sleep for five minutes or ten. You're not going to miss anything interesting anyway.

To be fair, it's not entirely true that the film doesn't contain anything worth seeing at all. There are one or two quietly disturbing shots of flies on rubbery gore and two short moments of neat hand-held camera work showing nothing at all - but in a creative manner, but those add up to five minutes out of ninety at best.

That's more than enough for me not to feel like I have wasted my time on the film, more sane viewers however should probably try to avoid this one.


From Twitter 11-06-2009

  • New blog post: From Twitter 11-05-2009: We do live in the future. my American friends:...
  • New blog post: El Robo De Las Momias De Guanajuato (1972): The evil occultist Count Cagliostro (Tito Novaro, who als...
  • New blog post: On WTF: Chaw (2009): This week on WTF-Film, I turn my gaze in the direction of a contemporary South K...
  • So, Kodansha is making its step into manga publishing by replicating the crappiest moments of Dark Horse? That's...just weird.
  • Add to that "in the USA" at the appropriate place, please.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

El Robo De Las Momias De Guanajuato (1972)

The evil occultist Count Cagliostro (Tito Novaro, who also directed the film) and the mad scientist Dr. Raymond (I think that's his name) have finally enough of always getting beaten by masked wrestlers, so they decide to team up and combine mad science and the science of witchcraft in their quest for world domination. Disappointingly, they don't think of a fitting teamname for themselves - personally, I would have gone with "The Dynamic Duo - of EVIL".

First up on their agenda is mining an element "stronger" than Uranium that can only be found in a deserted silver mine. Unfortunately, mining radioactive ores isn't all that healthy and the scientist's hired midget help would probably just run off. What are two evil men to do? The obvious, of course, which is to say, use an Egyptian rite to revive some of the famous and much beloved mummies of Guanajuato and let them do the work!

They would probably even get away with this blatant case of mummy exploitation, if not for a shoeshine boy (Julio Cesar Agrasanchez, most definitely related to the producers) witnessing the mummy robbery. While the authorities don't believe a single word he tells them about walking mummies, his grown-up shoeshining hobo friend knows an expert in the mummy sciences - the most fashionable of all wrestlers, Mil Mascaras.

Mil seems to have left Blue Demon and the shadow of El Santo behind after the indignities he was subjected to during the first Momias de Guanajuato film, and is now hanging out with El Rayo de Jalisco (really bad at fighting midgets) and Blue Angel (not a lot better at fighting midgets). Apart from the lucha business, the three also seem to have some sort of fitness studio exclusively for women wearing exceedingly short skirts.

Three luchadores and their army of aerobic groupies should be enough to solve the mummy and evil mastermind problem for good.

El Robo De Las Momias De Guanajuato won't go down in the annals of lucha cinema as one of the most exciting examples of the genre. On the other hand, it is an Agrasanchez production, and compared to other products of this most slapdash of all Mexican cult movie production companies, this isn't too bad a film.

First and foremost, Superzan is nowhere to be seen, and while neither Blue Angel nor El Rayo are of much interest, or really doing anything, they certainly aren't lifesucking voids like he is (Darkseid take note). Mil Mascaras, for his part, is Mil Mascaras. In other words, the most perfect luchador ever to wear the most eyegouging fashion outside of Bollywood with utmost confidence.

I also approve of the interesting life the wrestlers seem to lead, with their short-skirted what-ever-they-may-bes always just one blink away from oiling their manly chests. It's the 70s, oh yes.

Tito Novaro is solid all around. His acting is a little too professional and not scenery-chewing enough for my tastes in this context, but he's not too bad. He also gets to ride around in a weird little coach that is lead around by an animated skeleton with a scythe. I don't know what that's all about, yet I can't help but approve (again!) and put a coach just like it on my Christmas wishlist.

As a director, Novaro doesn't do much, but that seems to be quite fitting in a film where nobody seems to be doing all that much, and when he/she/it is doing something, they are doing it quite slowly. So slowly even that there is no need for typical Agrasanchez filler in the form of badly integrated musical numbers recycled from other movies or bad comedy in the film. I'm not completely sure why, but I think that's a win.

What entertainment value the film has rests on the shoulders of the natural awesomeness of Mil Mascaras, the typically disarming matter-of-factness in which the silly plot is presented (none of Blue Demon's mummy skepticism here) and the weird little details that naturally happen in any film concerning luchadores, mad scientists, mad occultists, mummies, groupies and midgets.

As a fan of lucha cinema, that's more than enough for me, your mileage however, dear reader, may very well vary. In any case, we all can learn something from the film: mummies make for very slow miners and making them invincible with the help of your newly built reactor can lead to explosive problems.