- 02:10 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:10 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 04:10 New blog pos.. tinyurl.com/czfraa
- 16:18 New blog post: To Let (2006): Clara (Macarena Gomez) and Mario (Adria Collado) are a young pair in.. tinyurl.com/dnby66
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Clara (Macarena Gomez) and Mario (Adria Collado) are a young pair in desperate need of their own living space. Until now, they've been living with Mario's family, but Clara is pregnant and now seems to be the best time to find a place of their own. It's just not too easy for a pair with limited finances to find something adequate. So it's a nice surprise when someone pops an advert for an apartment into their mailbox that seems like a very good fit.
The first disappointment hits before they have even set foot into the building where their potential future home is situated. The building lies in the outskirts of town in what looks like the brownest, greyest post-industrial catastrophe zone imaginable. When they follow the landlady (Nuria Gonzalez) inside, their mood isn't getting any better. The building is dilapidated (and probably smells less than ideal), with mannequins lying about as if Thomas Ligotti was planning on popping up every second, and still the woman gushes about the beauty of their surroundings and does not treat them as potential tenants but as if they had already decided for renting her apartment.
Which is in fact very far from their minds. When Clara has an episode of pregnancy-caused nausea and the two are left alone in the bedroom, Mario finds a pair of old shoes he threw away some time ago. Clara tops this puzzling find with the photo of Mario and herself she finds, though.
Most people would now probably try to get away as fast as possible, but Clara and Mario are very special movie people and try to get an explanation out of the woman. All they really get is a toaster colliding with Mario's head and a crazy landlady chasing Clara through the house.
Turns out the good woman is a little loony and in the business of populating her house with people. Even if she has to tie them up and gag them. Or probably even kill them.
To Let is Jaume Balaguero's contribution to a Spanish TV anthology of shortish horror films called Six Films To Keep You Awake and awake it most certainly kept me. It's quite difficult to fall asleep when you're confronted with this much screaming, camera shaking and running around. After the first quarter of an hour, during which the film makes a very convincing case for Balaguero's love for Argento, Bava and (at least colour-wise) Fulci, it turns into a very typical tour de force horror piece.
On the positive side, it's technically very well made. Clever framing and excellent editing come to Balaguero so natural that they look like easy achievements.
But a fast and hysterical carnival ride (and not a very effective one at that) is all the film is. The characterization is non-existent to laughable. Without some very game actors trying their best to let nothing look like something the film would come crashing down under a big dollop of "who cares"; as it stands they barely keep the film believable enough not to be completely annoying. The revelation of the madwoman's motives is the moment when the film just loses me - it would have been better to have no explanation at all than something this superficial.
To Let also contains some very puzzling directorial choices, like a short dream sequence in which Carla dreams that her experiences in the house have been just a dream, and that she is in fact just arriving there, threatening to go all Ground Hog Day on us, just to awake again with the first half hour of the film still having happened. Nothing of this is going to be important for anything during the rest of the movie. Also quite beyond my understanding is the question why Balaguero decided to make such a slow, moody beginning only to let the film drift into turned up to 11!!! mode as soon as the opportunity shows itself, without ever trying to build up to the inevitable escalation.
Of course there is also the obligatory odiously obvious twist (OOOT) to cope with, a genre tradition that always manages to annoy me when I encounter it.
When the film finally shouted itself to the end, I was nearly crying, although it were only tears of laughter threatening to drop. The film had become a victim of the fate of many other stories mostly occupied with topping themselves - once you have reached a certain point, the tense easily transforms into the ridiculous. The point at which this happens is very different for every viewer, though. I found myself with the same reaction to the finale of Inside (from the moment on the cop shortly revives), so your mileage may very well vary.
Still, I'd rather recommend Balaguero's own [Rec] as a film that achieves the tour de force effect a lot better and that finds more time for the kind of tension that's not based on screaming and running around.
- 02:10 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 04:10 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 05:31 Thoughts abo.. tinyurl.com/d8nwsk
- 10:24 Sometimes, I do love Mr Doctorow tinyurl.com/aucyrc
- 13:11 Mutant Chronicles (the movie): what a mess! Note to writers - introduce characters before trying to wring pathos out of their deaths
- 13:12 And I don't mean by the exposition sprouting you are so fond of. Also: Ron Perlman with an oirish accent is patently ridiculous.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
- 04:10 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 05:31 Thoughts about game pricing to which I agree tinyurl.co.. tinyurl.com/bj4n3x
- 07:28 Alan Moore really needs to go to see a movie more often tinyurl.com/ctw9cu
- 08:08 New blog post: Fantastic in more than one sense: One of my favorite small presses specialized in f.. tinyurl.com/af5pw5
- 15:15 New blog post: In short: Captain Apache (1971): Indian US cavalry Captain Apache (who knows if he .. tinyurl.com/c7noqx
- 19:54 Today is obviously coyright idiocy day tinyurl.com/d3gxbh
- 19:56 And suddenly, I feel no inclination to buy anything that's bringing Conan Properties LLC any money anymore.
- 20:32 RIP Philip Jose Farmer. Bah.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Indian US cavalry Captain Apache (who knows if he has a real name, he's played by Lee van Cleef in any case) is sent to the border between America and Mexico to solve the murder of the local contact between Indians (who knows which tribe?) and the US government. The man's last words was the mysterious sounding phrase "April morning". Apache is not the only one bound to find out what that means. There is also the local big man Griffin (Stuart Whitman), the woman of dubious character (Carroll Baker), a freshly crowned Mexican bandit general and various freaks and geeks. All seem to be tangled up in something big and mysterious.
Captain Apache is one of the weirder Euro Western. A British-Spanish co-production, it does its best to look as much as a Spaghetti Western as possible - there's mud, eye-squinting, an obvious lack of personal hygiene, Lee van Cleef, the works.
The film also sports a gloriously silly disregard for logic and sense that would make even the writers of the The Stranger movies proud. I don't think they left any possible bad joke about a Western cliché out.
Fortunately, the actors are game and play the whole mess just short of breaking out in giggles - I've never before seen van Cleef so close to a plain grin (and really, what would you do if you had to wear the absurd leather jacket with fringes and fur collar he sports for large parts of the movie?).
Just add to this mess two outrageously bad songs sung by our lead actor himself and a complete disconnect in dialogue, tone and direction style, and you have yourself a winner.
Winner of what, I'm not sure.
One of my favorite small presses specialized in fantastic fiction, Small Beer Press, is putting its catalogue on Scribd. If you go here, you will find a bunch of excellent books - so excellent in fact, that I can't single out one or two of them for recommendation.
Of course, if you like them, buy them afterwards.
- 05:31 Thoughts about game pricing to which I agree tinyurl.com/ak7wym
- 05:56 Gawd, it's Tolkien not Tolkein. Can it really be that difficult?
- 20:15 Thinks I don't get, no.99: People calling a book "disturbing" and thinking they have said something negative about it.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Well, this wasn't as bad as I was lead to believe. Whenever the film concentrates on its strengths - unhealthy humor and splat-happy violence - it's pretty entertaining. Ray Stevenson is also physically perfect as Frank (and is able to act when it is necessary), so I can't complain there either.
The only trouble comes when War Zone errs in one of two ways. First among them a useless effort to make Frank relatable and humanize him, when every reading of the good part of the film's source material (that is, the various Punisher comics written by Garth Ennis) should scream at a scriptwriter that the point of the character is that he is not human and not relatable. The second and especially irritating flaw are the moments when the film is rather earnestly arguing for vigilantism, which is something a film about a frigging serial killer with a body count going into the thousands wearing a white skull on his body armour should just avoid like the plague.
But all in all, I had my fun with it and I don't think we'll ever get to see a thoughtful Punisher film, or one that gets more of Ennis' interpretation than the jokes and the violence - not as long as Hollywood scriptwriters and producers stay what they are, at least.
- 03:03 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:07 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:06 New blog pos.. tinyurl.com/akf3a2
- 09:57 The plush of Cthulhu tinyurl.com/b5yhus
- 10:04 How sweet! tinyurl.com/aveke3
- 17:51 Bissette about William Seabrook srbissette.com/?p=3047
- 23:04 New blog post: Dororo (2007): It's not going well for lord Daigo Kagemitsu (Kiichi Nakai) during o.. tinyurl.com/c2l7lt
Saturday, February 21, 2009
It's not going well for lord Daigo Kagemitsu (Kiichi Nakai) during one of the many Japanese civil wars - wounded and alone, he comes to a temple containing 48 demon statues. He is trying to convince the slumbering demons of a pact with him; turns out they are in fact willing to give him the power to conquer the world (which seems to mean Japan), if he promises each of them one body part of his soon to be born son.
Kagemitsu's a rather unpleasant man and agrees without much hesitation to the demons' proposal.
His son is born without much of a body, yet still he is alive. Daddy wants to kill his offspring, but his wife Yuri (Mieko Harada) convinces him to do the Moses thing and set the child adrift in a river.
As Destiny would have it, the baby is found by the only person able to help someone in his state, a magician/scientist who slowly starts to build a body out of the dead bodies of children (killed in the perpetual war waged by the little one's natural father) for his foster child. He also hides useful weaponry in the boy's - now called Hyakki-maru - extremities and trains him in the martial arts.
The boy (growing up to be played by Satoshi Tsumabuki's sole facial expression) has a destiny to fulfill - to search for the demons that stole his body parts and kill them. Each killed demon gives Hyakki-maru one part of his body back.
Years later, after the death of his foster-father, Hyakki-maru meets a young female-but-acting male (says the script, not me) thief (Kou Shibasaki). At first, she is out to steal one of his swords to help her fulfill her own vengeance (and just guess who her intended victim is), then she steals one of his names, Dororo, for herself, and soon she is becoming Hyakki-maru's only real friend and helps him out in the demon hunting business. Until some day the confrontation with Kagemitsu can no longer be avoided and concepts of vengeance and filial duty will just have to clash.
Dororo is based on an unfinished manga by "father of the manga" Osamu Tezuka and is keeping surprisingly well in Tezuka's spirit. As one should know, one of the master's typical stylistic strategies was a (not necessarily subtle) attack on his readers on as many fronts as possible at once. A typical day in the land of Tezuka starts with (sometimes maudlin, sometimes damned teary-eyed making) sentimentality, suddenly shifts into slapstick humor (with a weird tendency to actually be funny), only to spurt some very interesting bodily fluids a few moments later and then ends with some philosophical discussions of the nature of humanity. Dororo's director Akihiko Shiota tries very much the same with his film - not every single scene will work well for everyone, some might even find the film's tonal shifts grating, but I think it would be difficult to deny how emotionally touching and willing to engage with ideas the film often is. Some of the dramatic scenes are a little too much in keeping with the "oh the humanity!" style of melodrama, the film taking its themes (what it means to be human, friendship, the choices necessary to be human etc) sometimes more seriously than is good, but every melancholic stare soon makes way for some very broad humor and/or a rather clever character moment and/or some spurting gore from some demon or the other.
Ah, the demons! I have seldom seen a stranger mixture of rubber and the digital. I don't think anyone working on the effects for the film was interested in letting the monsters look realistic at all - every creature is as fake as possible, be it rubber fake-bird-guy or digital tree-with-a-head-woman, but the creatures are still beautiful in their singular design and in the sense of fun they and the fight scenes show. It's a very Japanese direction to go in, and one of which I highly approve.
The script also has some surprises. Especially the final fourth of the film does not work out as one would expect, neither in the way the vengeance plot line works out, nor in the thoughtful way the film handles its final meaning of what it means to be human. I was also quite happy that the film doesn't make lovers of its two protagonists when it would be the convenient and expected thing to do. Instead, it lets people be friends when they so choose.
- 02:07 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:06 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:07 New blog pos.. tinyurl.com/cccedd
- 11:30 Someone stop me from buying another costly edition of Dracula, please tinyurl.com/bt4r7u
- 11:48 An easy way to start loving George R.R. Martin grrm.livejournal.com/75053.html
Friday, February 20, 2009
- 02:06 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:07 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 11:31 Umm. Finally.. tinyurl.com/c8psr8
- 10:38 The first game that actually makes me kinda sad not being rich enough to own a PS3 - a 4€ PSN game. tinyurl.com/cvzrlv
- 10:45 Chimp-sized horror www.connpost.com/ci_11726079
- 10:51 Developing a healthy dislike for bloggers shilling for votes in the Rondo Hatton awards for themselves.
- 16:09 New blog post: Bog (1978/1983): Somewhere in the provincial wilds of Wisconsin there's a nameless,.. tinyurl.com/bps3re
- 19:51 Clowns, evil. tinyurl.com/bs24s3
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Somewhere in the provincial wilds of Wisconsin there's a nameless, boggy lake. Under its surface dwells the most amazing of creatures - a beautiful (your ideas of beauty may vary) swamp monster. The monster - let's call it Elroy - spends most of his time sleeping, when he's not injecting the local swamp hag (Gloria DeHaven) with his blood to make her his willing sex slave (well, as far as a PG rating allows, which isn't all that far). Elroy, who failed at evolution, can only procreate with the help of a female human, you see.
One sunny day, a backwoods fisher wakes the poor dear through his misuse of dynamite, making for a pissed off monster and a dead fisherman. As luck will have it, no sooner is the man dead (and his blood sucked, in case you were wondering), than two bitchily married couples arrive at Elroy's home for a fishing weekend.
All the bitching, drinking and noisy berating of partners seems to piss Elroy off even more (I'd say he's not feministically inclined). It doesn't take long until the women fishers are also sucked dry, while their husbands suddenly feel the barbaric urge to buy really big guns and shoot themselves a monster. These two yahoos shouldn't be too much of a problem for a real monster like El, but the local police under Sheriff Rydholm (Aldo Ray, who else?) is a completely different story.
With the scientific help of (and I quote) "local sawbones" Dr. Wednesday (Marshall Thompson - good Lord, is there a retirement home for aging B-Movie heroes around!?) and Ginny Glenn (Gloria DeHaven, in a double role without any discernible reason), a scientist from the conveniently situated local marine research lab, we soon learn all there is to learn about the monster, namely that it's a relation of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, just with cancer cells instead of the vegetable part, a proboscis for sucking blood and other stuff (some part of it is made of tungsten???) that doesn't make any sense.
After some (useless) fun with explosives, a middle-aged love interlude and a few more deaths, our scientific scientists finally develop a method to catch the monster. They build a Blood Scent Generator (TM, I suppose) to lure poor Elroy out and mistreat him with fire extinguishers until he drops down unconscious. Alas, not every old movie hand will survive this little escapade!
Having caught the true hero of the film with still nearly twenty minutes of runtime to fill, what better way to do this than by flying in ichthyologist John Warner (Leo Gordon!) - just to sprout a little more "scientific" nonsense.
If you paid attention you might have noticed that a) the monster is still alive and b) Elroy hasn't abducted a female cast member yet. I think you can draw your own conclusions about what will happen next.
After the mainstream and the producers of B grade schlock had deserted the traditional American cheap monster movie with a guy in an even cheaper monster suit sub-sub-genre, it was time for the heroic efforts of local filmmakers to fill in the hole AIP left in our hearts. Often, this lead to films with merits even more dubious than the merits of the worst of early Roger Corman, but from time to time it gifted us (slimy, stinking) pearls like Bog. Now I'm not saying Bog is a good movie (although I kinda do, because I kinda think so). It's just an absolutely perfect specimen of its kind (at least as perfect as Elroy).
Bog's awesomeosity, let me count your ways:
- Terrible cheesy theme song, that has nothing to do with the film? Check.
- A monster suit so ugly you'll see more frightening things on Halloween (even in Germany)? Check.
- "Science" that even I know is oh-so-wrong? (Also, science that lets a bunch of dead scientist rotate in their graves so heartily that the Earth's roation itself is changing?) Check.
- Dialogue so phony you can't help but admire the actors for not giggling? Check.
- "Acting"? Check.
- Plotting written with two "d" and making no damn sense at all? Check.
- More local colour than you can shake a (swampy, slimy) stick at? Also, offensive backwoods people clichés and sudden appearance of not racistically written black person? Double check!
If you need more reasons to not walk, but run, to the nearest den of iniquity that sells films like this, I'm not just not able to help you anymore, I'm frankly not willing!
- 02:07 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 11:31 Umm. Finally: 11 on the idiocy scale reached! tinyurl.c.. tinyurl.com/boxbq4
- 11:40 Things I hate about current videogame mainstream sites, chapter eleventeen:Rounding indie games up in columns or round-ups instead of
- 11:41 engaging with them in actual reviews. As long as the marketing budget of a game is more important than its quality to get a review,
- 11:42 mainstream game sites will stay the mire of mediocrity they now are.
- 11:45 Yeah, I am a grumpy old man.
- 11:56 New kaiju alarm! tinyurl.com/cltobb
- 16:14 New blog post: In short: Gonggoi - The Beast (2002?): An unnamed Professor of archeology is workin.. tinyurl.com/cuqfz7
- 19:42 Online director's commentary for the surprisingly good Alien Raiders tinyurl.com/bem2tu
- 21:00 I don't know what I could possibly say to that www.lennonmurdertruth.com/
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
An unnamed Professor of archeology is working as artifact hunter - mostly by traipsing round the Thai jungle and stumbling over empty villages full of mutilated people and little cursed statuettes, it seems.
Fortunately, a jungle passersby gives the Professor a magical piece of cloth to keep the evil spirit of his newest cursed object jailed.
Rather less fortunate are the good Professor's security measures when he's back home again. They're more or less non-existant (and the Prof rather dense anyway - he never even misses the cursed thing), so it's no problem for a visiting friend of the old man's daughter Yoyo to steal it. Of course the young man is going to remove the cloth and of course all will culminate in a (minor) bloodbath at Yoyo's birthday party.
Gonggoi's the right film for everyone who has always criticized modern Asian horror as just too classy, stylish and thoughtful. It proudly stands in the grand and hopeless tradition of films shot probably on a single digital camera, featuring 60s sexploitation film acting ("Just act naturally", the director probably said) and some of those ultra erotic fully clothed necking sex and lacking any kind of sense whatsoever.
This Thai beauty of a film even adds a few classy touches of its own in the form of people "dancing" (and one can't use the word loosely enough here) to bad cover versions of the greatest hits of the 80s (I was especially enamored by, that is laughing like a loon about, the "Theme from Footlose") and the nature of its monster.
Ah, the monster/spirit/whatever...It acts like a killer in a slasher movie, full of dislike for young people and sex, but looks like your classic guy in a ratty gorilla costume (with glowing red eyes!), while jumping around like a rabbitt and gutting its victims in small fountains of very rubbery gore. Oh, and it also has the ability to take the form of its victims (plus glowing red eyes, obviously), not that this leads to much plotwise, yet I still appreciate the creative flourish.
For friends of the inept and gorilla costumes this is a minor recommendation. Just don't expect something as transcendent as Shaitani Dracula or the always beloved Eegah!.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
(A comment on an earlier post put me in a mood to revisit this. So I did.)
It's the end of the world again. A far future post-apocalyptic world has regressed into a fun mix of the Old West of the Spaghetti Western and European villages of Gothic horror movies. For some reason, demons, werewolves and funny mutants of all sizes and shapes have returned to plague the rest of humanity, most dangerous among them the vampire nobility. The creatures of the night are barely held in check by so-called hunters, who usually seem to specialize in one type of monster.
A vampire hunter called only "D" comes to a small community that lives in the shadow of the castle of an especially old and powerful Noble, a certain Count Lee (unfortunately not called Christopher, but Magnus).
Doris, a young woman taking care of her kid brother Dan alone after their parents have died, has been nibbled on by Count Lee. The Count, who is one of those bored excitement-seeking vampire types, has set his mind on kidnapping Doris and making her his vampire bride (I give him bonus points for at least wanting to make everything legal by marrying the girl), whatever his speciescist daughter Lamika has to say about that, or (more importantly) what his chosen bride thinks about it.
Doris hires D to save her from becoming a vampire and kill the count. Obviously she's bound to fall in love with the aloof and taciturn hunter, as obviously as he is harboring the rather dark secret of being a half vampire, a dhampir, himself (killing his own kind! Oh noes!), making for the mandatory bits of melodrama between lots and lots of scenes of D cutting even more lots of monsters and mutants into gory little pieces with (you probably guessed it) his over-sized sword.
Ah, what fun! Vampire Hunter D's plot is nothing to write home about, to be sure. What elevates the film above many other films of its type is the amount of style and verve that has gone into it. It shows a deep and infectious love of mixing the Western and Gothic tropes and visual signifiers with your basic weird Japanese monster carnage, never explaining something that does not absolutely have to be explained (so, our hero has a talking, sarcastic face in the palm of one of his hands? - not something that needs an explanation, surely), instead throwing as much weird and cool shit at the viewer as possible, yet also never overstaying its welcome.
The real trick (or the real art) here lies in the film's design sense. Its elements may be disparate on paper, but the visuals do an excellent job of unifying those elements until there's no question in your mind that yes, cyborg horses, vampire counts, golems, mutants, the powerful man's sadistic son out of each and every Spaghetti Western ever made and drifting heroes do in fact belong together in the same world and the same film. What seems to me to be the most important difference between Anime and much of Western animation is very helpful in this regard too - where Western products prefer the slick and/or the naturalistic, anime lives from an aesthetic that accepts rough edges and doesn't usually try to distract its viewers from the fact that what they see on screen is in fact drawn, making it easier to just go with the things one sees and enabling anime to use approaches (like, you know, using actual drawing styles) to its material Western animation can't afford.
Add to this excellent pacing and gloriously over the top monsters, and you have a very fine piece of animation.
Monday, February 16, 2009
All is quiet and normal in a supermarket in Bucket Lake, Arizona, until a bunch of masked and highly armed people marches in and starts a peculiar kind of assault. It's not your usual hold up, though - the perpetrators under their leader Aaron Ritter (Carlos Bernard) aren't out for money, they are looking for people infected with an alien parasite and they're convinced that the alien "king" is inside of someone in the market.
Aaron had planned on getting in fast, letting the only one of them who is easily able to recognize the infected identify the alien, killing him or her and getting out again. That plan goes out of the window when the spotter is killed by a cop. Now more radical measures are necessary to find the alien. Too bad the police is already arriving outside.
As long as you are able to ignore the terribly generic title, Alien Raiders does a lot of things right. It's the surprising case of a Direct to DVD low budget film that's trying to emulate many of the virtues of classic B-movies - short run time, tight if not original plotting, solid acting, these kinds of things. It's the old-fashioned way of not having money for much, but trying to do the few things one can afford right (instead of doing them lazy, but calling it ironic).
That's not a way to win Oscars, or make a deep metaphorical statement about the nature of existence, but works out nicely as a really entertaining genre piece one can watch and enjoy and recommend.
The script has it's flaws - some people will be annoyed by the lack of exposition (I see it very definitely as a plus - you don't have to explain every detail in this kind of set-up), others by the glaringly obvious twist ending. I didn't mind the ending all that much - I'm always willing to ignore the too obvious when the pacing leading up to it is right.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
- 02:03 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 04:11 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 11:20 My shopping .. tinyurl.com/clgu5o
- 12:26 He quotes Letson! tinyurl.com/bx9peh
- 12:27 Disclaimer: I find venerated SF/F critic John Clute's language inherently ridiculous.
- 12:44 One of the reasons I'm glad to be more of a cult film than a horror blogger:Less moaning about the fact that modern horror is marketed to
- 12:45 teens - you know, just as it has always been. Horror films marketed to grown-ups have always been exception, not rule.As much as it may
- 12:46 irritate us adults sometimes.
- 12:54 I'm not one for ads, but Steam sells Left 4 Dead for half the price this weekend,
- 21:06 New blog post: In short: Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961): A small horde of Japanese children le.. tinyurl.com/d4gpms
Saturday, February 14, 2009
A small horde of Japanese children led by His Supreme Annoyingness Kenichi - him of the weird facial expression and the genetic relation to the head of the most important Japanese research center - are doing their childly duty of being annoying and repeatedly singing the film's theme song ("Iron, iron, iron, iron sharp"), when they witness the landing of the mighty Neptunian invasion force - one rocket full of guys with very funny giant helmets (with blinking lights and small rotating thingies!), stumbling about as one does when one can't see much through one's headwear. Nevertheless, those nefarious Neptunians make with the grabby hands, probably in an understandable bid to stop the kids from repeating their song. It is quite fortunate for the children (if not for the viewer's future hearing) that a flying rocket car appears and a (also sillily behelmeted) masked hero jumps out and gives the aliens some kind of (rather lackluster, but it's enough for them) thrashing.
What the children (who will turn out to be nearly all knowing regarding everything else that will follow) don't know is that their new beloved hero Iron Sharp (do not try to think of tentacle porn too much) is in truth Tachibana (a very, very young and puppyishly enthusiastic Sonny Chiba), assistant to the Japanese head scientist, and sometimes their teacher. Not that the plot will get intricate enough to make that important - in fact, it will never be actually revealed to anyone.
The rest of the film consists of various attempts of the Neptunians to subdue the world, be it through provocation of World War III (also once called World War IV here), the creation of real bad weather or the more satisfying solution of a flying saucer attack, which are of course all thwarted by the children, the awesome might of Japanese science (like the electromagnetic shield) or (unfortunately not often enough) Iron Sharp himself.
I was fortunate enough to see this in a fan-subbed version with Japanese audio, thus avoiding a gratingly bad dub from hell.
Seen in this way, Invasion is a typical kid's matinee film. There's nothing too exciting here and the on-screen children are as annoying as Charlton Heston talking about gun control, yet the film still has some of the charms of pulp SF - silly science and paper flat characters are definitely a plus and not a minus here.
I would have preferred spending more time with Chiba's costumed hero than with the children, but I found some of the aliens' attacks to be entertaining enough to keep me watching. I also don't think it would have been dignified to squee "Kawaiiii!" at Young Chiba more often than I already did, so his low profile was probably for the best.
Koji Ota's direction is quite snappy, which is all one can demand from a film like this and some of the effects in the final "flying saucers blast Japanese town" phase do look rather nifty, so I haven't much reason to complain about the aesthetic side of things. It's all very charming in its early 60s quaintness. Today, that's more than enough for me.
- 04:11 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 11:20 My shopping skills scored me two v cheap copies of Fall.. tinyurl.com/dzdycj
- 09:06 You're putting some your Cruise in my Cronenberg. tinyurl.com/bmx838
- 09:07 Note to self: Do not Twitter when not really awake.
Friday, February 13, 2009
- 11:20 My shopping skills scored me two v cheap copies of Fallout 3 and Drakensang. I see very sparse blogging days in my future.
- 13:02 New blog post: Trailer Madness: After some problems with their old host Vimeo (basically, Vimeo do.. tinyurl.com/dj7b2x
- 13:31 Uwe Boll's just trying to tire us out with his trillion movies a year now, right?
- 13:35 "Don't believe the hype" does not necessarily mean the hype's never true.
- 13:47 New SF&F writers 1990-2009 tinyurl.com/c5hfob(Also, read more Elizabeth Bear)
- 13:52 What's this kerfuffle about George R,R,Martin finishing or not finishing his next book?I'm old-fashioned:I'd prefer the book good,not early
- 13:52 And it's not like a prospective reader had already paid for it anyway.
- 19:06 New blog post: A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die (1968): Clay McCord (Alex Cord) is a man with pro.. tinyurl.com/benzsm
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Clay McCord (Alex Cord) is a man with problems - he's a very capable and rather good-natured outlaw, but so popular with the bounty hunters (who are all a bunch of amoral sadists) he can hardly find a place to rest for a second. He has been able to cope with a life on the run for quite some time now, yet he has also developed an ever increasing case of shaking fits that make his weapon hand very unreliable and - what's probably worse - bring traumatic memories of his epileptic father with them. Until now, Clay has been able to hide his weakness from those nice people around him, but his health has reached a point where this won't be possible for much longer. Of course, there's always the outlaw town of Escondido to hole up in. Trouble is, Escondido's sadistic town boss Krant (Mario Brega) and McCord aren't the best of friends, either and the doctor Clay put his hopes in is hanging from a noose.
How fortunate then that the governor of New Mexico has declared an amnesty for people like Clay. They only have to ride into the next town and deliver their guns. There's even fifty dollars in it for the amnesty-willing.
Alas, Clay's streak of bad luck continues, with "the next town" being a place called Tuscosa, full of good people who aren't much for giving others second chances. Tuscosa's sheriff Colby (Arthur Kennedy) does everything in his power to make sure nobody ever reaches his town alive to get his amnesty. He even goes so far as to set up a blockade around Escondido, that lets no-one in or out - women and little children dying of hunger be damned.
It looks very bad for Clay and the poor people of Escondido, until the the governor of New Mexico himself, Lem Carter (Robert Ryan, allowed some scenes of ridiculous but great bad-assitude), comes to town to ensure that his amnesty law does what it is supposed to do. He also takes a real and helpful interest in Clay.
Franco Giraldi's A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die is a rather strange film. It stands with one foot in the territory of the classic and morally clear-cut American western, while the other is planted firmly in the greyish mud of the Spaghetti Western.
This lends the film something of a schizophrenic mood of having two incompatible ways to look at the world at once - not in the productive way that would bring the two Western styles into some kind of dialogue, but rather by jumping from one tone to the next, sometimes in a single scene. Ryan's character is very much the traditional, honest and honorable cowboy character he seldom played in American films, while Cord and Kennedy are typical products of the Italian tradition.
I found it difficult to get a real grip on the film - I wouldn't dare to speculate about the position it tries to take in the Western genre; to be honest, I'm not even sure if its ending is supposed to be a happy end or not. Which would be less of a problem if I thought Giraldi was out to shake the viewer up. Instead I'm afraid he just wasn't all that sure himself.
This doesn't mean A Minute to Pray... isn't worth watching. If you are just going with the flow, you will find some rough but effective filmmaking, some of the muddiest towns in any Western and mostly solid acting. Cord is a little problematic when he tries to be the calculating gunman most of his peers fear, yet very convincing when he's crying, whining, having fits or being tortured, and since he's doing much more of the latter, his performance works out fine.
He's just fortunate he doesn't have to share many scenes with Robert Ryan, who is not doing much acting-wise, and is still making every scene he's in his own.
After some problems with their old host Vimeo (basically, Vimeo does not care if you actually do own the rights to something when someone complains to them - so if someone wants to troll big media houses there, it's easier than one might think) beloved by millions DVD label Mondo Macabro has set up its own streaming site.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
- 02:04 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:02 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:58 New blog pos.. tinyurl.com/ckv22h
- 16:48 If you want me to give your movie a chance, do not describe it as "endearing", "enchanting" or "charming".If it really is, I'll get it.
- 16:50 Could the reason White Butterfly does not get much attention have sth to do with the fact that it's admirers describe the game as
- 16:51 "insanely difficult", "punishing" or "very, very hard"?
- 21:05 New blog post: In short: Vaastu Shastra (2004): ER physician Jill's (Sushmita Sen) family - her st.. tinyurl.com/b6b68a
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
ER physician Jill's (Sushmita Sen) family - her stay-at-home husband Virag (J.D. Chakravarthi, possibly the most boring actor alive today; at least he made me think wistfully back on "exciting" people like romantic leads in Hollywood 30s and 40s movies), their son Rohan (Ahsaas Channa) and her younger sister Radhika (Peeya Rai Chowdhary) are moving into a large house in the country. Here, they are closer to the hospital Jill works in and should be well away from all the classical evils of The Big (Evil) City.
Well, they probably are, the trouble is that the family's new jungle home is somewhat haunted. At first, the ghosts spend their time doing the usual ghostly things, like causing whoosh cuts and weird camera angles, befriending Rohan, killing the new, thievish and child-abusing nanny, and so on. But it does not take too long until they are widening their activities to attacks on the core family.
The Ram Gopal Varma produced Vaastu Shastra is a very typical example of contemporary Hindi horror. One is tempted not to call these films with their lack of musical numbers, short (under two hours!) running time and an aesthetic that reminds one much more of contemporary ghost horror from the rest of Asia than of the films of the Ramsays (or, for that matter, things like Shaitani Dracula) real Bollywood movies at all. (And, honestly, how do we define Bollywood movies, other than them being made in Hindi instead? I certainly don't know and am reluctant to tie "Bollywood" as genre too closely to a place).
This film is a rather nice example of the all-Asian horror style. Sure it's not as creep-inducing as the best films of Shimizu or as intelligent as the best of Nakata, but it sits nicely in the solid middle of the field. It's mostly a little too slick to be really disturbing and nearly ruins some visually creepy moments through overuse of incredibly corny sound effects, but director Sourabh Usha Narang shows himself quite capable of the fine art of escalation (and of the less fine, but important art of using creepy and creeping camera angles), something most contemporary American directors have never heard of.
The acting's mostly fine, too.
The only thing that is really holding the film back (besides the sound design) is Chakravarthi's performance, which is not a big problem before the finale of the film (he isn't all that important), but makes a silly ending more silly than strictly necessary. Ah, for the time when male leads were afforded to have more than one facial expression...
Still, for a completely derivative little horror flick, this is rather good fun - and who would have thought to see a Hindi movie with a final third that seems to be influenced by Night of the Living Dead and/or Carnival of Souls?
- 02:02 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 02:58 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 03:02 New blog pos.. tinyurl.com/azm4ge
- 11:58 Jesse Malin's cover album thing is supposed to be a joke, right? Right!?
- 12:01 New blog post: Music Monday 03: Technorati-Tags: music monday,music,the gun club tinyurl.com/dxawdg
- 12:19 Working thorugh a bunch of music a friend sent me. Good Lord, I think he hates me.
- 12:24 Can't stop following this minor Flame War www.librarything.com/topic/56265The excerpts are hideous.
- 12:24 Bah, wrong link www.librarything.com/topic/56265
- 14:08 I cry tinyurl.com/buqcu7
- 14:33 My kingdom for an Ash Tree Press book I can actually afford.
- 14:59 Another pet peeve: People calling things "broken" when meaning "not to my taste"
- 17:51 The Doctor Drinketh tinyurl.com/5eqvdq
- 19:14 Fucking inspiring tinyurl.com/cpfgfy
- 19:32 So, the Kindle 2's going to cost as much as 51 mass market paperbacks? Genius!
- 19:39 Dear Mr Lee of the New York Times,if you think the action in Chocolate is describable as "unexceptional brawls", you probably need new eyes.
Monday, February 9, 2009
- 02:58 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 03:02 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 08:08 Girl scout c.. tinyurl.com/bux6do
- 17:07 New blog post: In short: Lupin the Third - The Castle of Cagliostro (1979): Some time before Hayao.. tinyurl.com/azghcb
- 17:15 Yeah, BG&E is that good. tinyurl.com/djt5a8
- 17:57 Motown Records had their own comics label in 1996? Who knew?
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Some time before Hayao Miyazaki was HAYAO MIYAZAKI, he spent his time making films like this.
"This" being an adventure of the grandson of Arsene Lupin who has more or less gone into the family business as thief of the charming (and decidedly non-evil) persuasion. When a casino heist leaves Lupin and his partner Jigen with nothing more than a bunch of counterfeit bank notes, Lupin travels to the small European country of Cagliostro (stop laughing, or I'll deport you to Casanova), known as the secret center of international counterfeiting.
Once there, he finds something more interesting to do with his time than searching for fake money - there's a local princess to save from the clutches of an evil count and an ancient hidden treasure to find, while fighting against steel-clawed private armies, dealing with copious amounts of death traps and avoiding Interpol Inspector Zenigata. The counterfeits will also have a role to play, of course
First and foremost, The Castle of Cagliostro is just a whole bunch of fun, throwing together bits and pieces of caper movies, 60s spy films, bad melodrama Europeana, gothic kitsch and just about everything else Miyazaki could get his hands on with wild abandon and an undeniable sense of glee, mixed with charm and the sure pacing of the old pro Miyazaki already was at the time until everything coagulates into a ball of concentrated awesome. Just imagine an anime version of the ideal Eurospy/caper movie nobody ever made, multiply it with ten and you have this very fine movie.
- 03:02 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 08:08 Girl scout cookies, Wii and murder tinyurl.com/c5axpx 0.. tinyurl.com/d9nbq2
- 09:08 Things I hate in the morning:People (ok, Americans) calling movies that are not from US "foreign". Because there's no difference between
- 09:09 say Sweden and China, right!?
- 12:28 Excellent writing about Las Vegas tinyurl.com/bjvr9j
- 12:29 Future of the past tinyurl.com/cvbogm
- 12:55 Apocalypse Hoboken tinyurl.com/cdua2h
- 14:01 New blog post: Peekers: is a small, obviously independently produced horror short that manages to .. tinyurl.com/ashefx
- 17:02 New blog post: When The Raven Flies (1984): During the reign of Harald I in Norway, a Viking raid .. tinyurl.com/c94pzg
Saturday, February 7, 2009
During the reign of Harald I in Norway, a Viking raid on the coast of Ireland leads to the death of the parents of young Gest and the abduction of his sister. Gest himself keeps his life only thanks to a (as it will turn out to be) rather ill-advised moment of compassion of one of the raiders.
Years later, a conflict with Harald has driven the Viking clans who were responsible for the deed into exile in Iceland. Their leaders, Erik (Flosi Olafsson) and Thor (Helgi Skulason) are blood brothers and are trying to eke out a living on the inhospitable island.
One day, the merchant ship that connects them with what one hardly wants to call civilization, brings not only the usual load of goods and slaves with it, but also a young man (Jakob Por Einarsson) who soon turns out to be the grown-up Gest, out to find his sister (who is now Thord's wife and mother of his son) and out for revenge.
The revenge part of his mission works out nicely, thanks to his adept use of throwing knives and the total lack of empathy Gest shows towards his enemies (or, for that matter, the man who once saved his life). Erik, Thord and their men are still too many to take them on all at once, but cunning use of the distrust and barely controlled hatred the two Viking clans harbor for each other and some rather mean games with Thord's religious convictions will see their numbers whittled down soon enough.
Most sources on the Internet seem content with calling this a "Viking film" and comparing When the Raven Flies with the sagas of its cultural context, which is stating the obvious, but failing to detect the other (and let's be honest, just as obvious) reference point of the film: the Spaghetti Western. I'd even go so far and call it a "Viking Western", a film that uses the aesthetics of the Spaghetti Western to tell a story about medieval Iceland in the same way the Spaghetti Western tells a story about the Old West. When the Raven Flies seems just as disinterested in historical accuracy as its Italian counterparts are - it's all about defining a mood, showing a lot of unwashed people who don't like to talk much, and wallowing in lots of mud (some of it of the metaphorical kind).
Director Rafn Gunnlaugsson's film doesn't have to hide from the better representatives of its sister genre - technically, it might be a little raw, but this rawness only strengthens its grim mood. Gunnlaugsson has a way of making Iceland's landscape say the things his characters are just too taciturn to say.
It is also very much one of those revenge movies which are as much about the terror lying at the core of revenge as about the revenge itself. Gest has good reasons for the things he does, but the unflinching gaze of the film is clearly conscious of the fact that its anti-hero's deeds are just as bad as what has been done to his family. The film's ending is less about revenge fulfilled as about revenge perpetuated.
Additionally, there is a very Italian sounding soundtrack that gives the film a certain kind of rhythmic backbone I always like in my movies.
I'd recommend When the Raven Flies for it's "Spaghetti Western in Iceland" conceit alone, but it's a film that uses this potential gimmick as a starting point for something much more harrowing and quietly intense that is worth experiencing.
is a small, obviously independently produced horror short that manages to be pretty damn disturbing (if you're me at least).
Since it's streaming right here, there's no good reason not to watch it.
- 08:08 Girl scout cookies, Wii and murder tinyurl.com/c5axpx
- 09:34 New blog post: Daily Twitter Terror: 11:06 So, American presidents are so underpaid they have to m.. tinyurl.com/bndtdr
- 12:49 Fangoria Online's "Against the Dark" review contains spoilers. How is that possible? There is nothing happening that could be spoiled.
- 12:51 Recommends the "cool fights" and "cool gore" as good aspects. Reviewer obv has never before seen a movie fight or gore.
- 12:57 Um what - "S. Darko" the DTV sequel to "Donnie Darko"? Say it ain't so, Ma.
- 22:01 New blog post: It's all true: After the extensive, philosophical groundwork that has already been .. tinyurl.com/cgl7ws
Friday, February 6, 2009
After the extensive, philosophical groundwork that has already been laid concerning that unachievably rich piece of cinema we know as Shaitani Dracula, this humble blogger has no further insights pertaining its nature to offer. But, as anyone confronted with a moment as historically important as the arrival of Shaitani Dracula in this part of the Internet will understand, seeing it brings with it the responsibility to bear witness.
So: I saw Shaitani Dracula, I was touched by it, I was changed by it and I will never be the same thanks to it. Praise be, brothers and sisters! Praise be Shaitani Dracula! You should see it too, and I promise you, you shall never forget it and you will not want to live without it anymore.
- 11:06 So, American presidents are so underpaid they have to make cucakes? Who knew?
- 16:50 670 words about the new Steven Seagal film. Most certainly 670 words to many. tinyurl.com/chm6xr
- 17:12 Holy crap, the new Willie Nelson record is great (if you like Western Swing, that is, but who doesn't?)!
- 17:40 Now that's what I call a cover. boxart.tumblr.com/post/75841566
- 20:14 Am trying not to dive into the Camelot Project www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/
- 20:25 Free books are always good, right? ccfinlay.livejournal.com/142908.html
- 20:32 Next time you get killed, make sure to inform your landlord beforehand. www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29025876/
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Sometimes, I start to doubt my love for Very Bad Movies and can't help but ask myself if watching things like the newest filmic ejaculation with Steven Seagal isn't just my own way of turning my brains to mush without having to ingest costlier types of narcotics. Usually, these kinds of doubts are soon dissolved by the soothing balm of a lucha movie or just about anything with Vincent Price, alas, I am not talking about Santo or Mister Price right now, instead I have taken it upon me to report on the newest achievements of Buddha (re-)incarnate, Steven "I'm not fat, I just can't move" Seagal.
This time, the barely living (movement is part of the definition of a being alive, as I remember from Biology class, so I'm not sure if the word still applies to Seagal) mound of flesh is one of the lucky survivors of the zombie apocalypse (the film calls them vampires, but it's not my fault the "scriptwriter" - and I have to use quotation marks here to protect real scriptwriters, even the sort that writes for Jerry Bruckheimer - doesn't even understand the difference between a fast zombie and a vampire) and is now the leader of a team of rather non-descript dudes and dudettes of so-called "Hunters". A hunter, it seems, is someone dressed in tight black leather (and believe me, that is a fashion style Seagal should best try to avoid in the future, lest he wants to continue looking like a less than appetizing sausage with a sword), armed with an illogical and inappropriate combination of firearms and melee weapons, who slowly, very very slowly (or "in Seagal time" as the professionals say) strolls through empty corridors and has some boring fights with randomly appearing zombies, like the main character of the least interesting survival horror videogame imaginable.
And there you have the "plot" of Seagal's epic adventure: He (well, most of the time it's his body double, but I think I'll just let that slide - one should be thankful for less Seagal in Seagal movies) and his team are slowly waddling and bore-fighting through something that is supposed to be a gigantic, empty hospital (although you could have fooled me into thinking it's a small warehouse), while another bunch of badly played "survivors" (deserving their quotation marks by somehow not having armed themselves even weeks or months after the start of the zompocalypse and being inhumanly incompetent even at the only thing they do - strolling slowly through empty corridors) has delightful adventures during the other two thirds of the running time. Delightful adventures that (as you might have guessed if I hadn't already mentioned it in parentheses) consist of slow movements through corridors, sometimes broken up by some really boring zombie attacks. Well, that, and having a little sit-down.
Oh, I nearly forgot, they all have to get out of the hospital before the generator cuts out and locks the only entrance (well, the only one if you don't count the windows the people got in through in the first place, or, you know, all the other exits the hospital is bound to have) and before the US army "sterilizes" the area to kingdom come. You wouldn't think they are under any time pressure when you watch them of course - Junji Ito's slug people would probably beat everyone here in a race without breaking a sweat.
As the discerning reader just might have realized by now, Against the Dark is mostly a classic corridor stroller skiffy/horror "action" film with added Steven Seagal body double, which is to say, even more slow and boring than other movies of its genre, thanks to the unique presence of its "star" - a mass of unhealthy looking human meat without any facial expressions to speak of that can't frigging move anymore and is still trying to pass as an action film star.
To some, this might sound like a recommendation, and you know what? I can't help you there, sorry.
- 10:40 Things to like about Google tinyurl.com/cmv6ja
- 10:41 Meiko Kaji in smile sensation! tinyurl.com/aql5lh
- 12:36 Evolutionary stuff about whales blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/02/earlywhale.html
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
- 06:50 Cubecraft! www.cubeecraft.com/character065.html
- 08:23 Pre-code horror that tells why you should not hit children w be-tentacled pets tinyurl.com/bhzz5v
- 12:00 Outlander: quite entertaining when it keeps to its basic idea (vikings vs aliens!), a little less effective when the plot-o-matic rules
- 12:02 Bonus points for making Sarah Myles character not completely useless, bonus bonus points for Sarah Myles' face.
- 12:17 Rather fascinating interview with someone from a doubly fascinating development studio tinyurl.com/dgno4k
- 18:44 Cthulhu meditation: tinyurl.com/dmk3ll
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
A small troop (and don't ask this pacifist who is officially unfit to be drafted to use correct military terminology, please) of American soldiers in Afghanistan is ordered to watch a road somewhere in the desert for Taliban activity. Turns out it isn't their lucky day - the stone building they're supposed to use as their base is there, unocuppied but for two corpses, but there's no road in sight. A nearby village looks like it has been hastily deserted.
The situation isn't improved by the nightmares the men start to have, or the daytime visions of people for whose deaths they have been responsible, or the sandstorm that's bringing a strange woman (Mercedes Masöhn) with it.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Americans' vehicle does not work anymore and that the contact to their HQ is breaking down, either. And, as is so often the case in horror films, after the tools have broken down, it's time for people to break down themselves. If you believe in things like it, you could start to think there is a djinn having his fun with the soldiers.
Red Sands is a sister film to Dead Birds, a bank-robbers-in-the-Old-West-meet-Asian-style-ghosts-in-a-hut film by the same director/producer (Alex Turner) and the same writer (Simon Barrett), going for the same sort of brooding atmosphere as the earlier film, but losing most of the gore, while keeping much of the same plot structure and morals.
Instead of the gore, the film makers try their hand at playing with some very contemporary anxieties connected to the USA's occupation of Afghanistan, a feeling that those soldiers really do not belong where they are, as well as a very matter of fact conviction that a small war like this still brings huge amounts of guilt with it that somehow will accumulate until they grow into something well fit to bite someone in the backend.
Red Sands does not try to explore these themes very deeply, but it is still one or two steps ahead of the bulk of horror films about war or war zones which usually go the safer route of World War II (as not to annoy the conservatives or the liberals, I suppose).
The film was shot in Afghanistan itself (probably for not much money at that), giving Turner quite a few possibilities to milk the terror of large, empty spaces. A mood of oppressive forces gathering just outside of one's view is in fact its main strength, picking up the slack where rather clichéd characterization and mediocre at best special effects let the film down. Said mood, the seldom used background and a general vibe of film makers wanting to make an intelligent (or at least non-stupid) horror movie, are in my book more than enough to recommend Red Sands.
Colonial "Africa". Since the arrival of Webb Fallon (John Abbott) in the local community, a strange series of killings plagues the "natives". All victims have been partially drained of blood with no signs of physical trauma except for the classic small puncture marks.
The "natives" soon peg Fallon as the perpetrator, and are very much right in their idea of Fallon being a vampire. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, their first attempt to kill the vampire fails. Fallon - not one of the easy to frighten of his kind - does not use this as an opportunity for escape. He instead overpowers the (rather weak) mind of colonial-person-without-a-job-description Roy Hendrick (Charles Gordon) to push himself into the life of plantation owner Thomas Vance (Emmett Vogan), or rather Vance's daughter and Roy's fiancee Julie (Peggy Stewart). He is growing quite lonely in his old age and plans to make Julie his permanent companion. Now if only whiny, semi-hypnotized Roy could get off his ass and do something about the vampire problem...
The Vampire's Ghost (which should reasonably be titled The Vampire's Curse - there are no ghosts to be found here, but much talk of "The Curse of the Undead") is a hard to find, short, made on the cheap Republic film with a script by Leigh Brackett, directed by Lesley Selander, and it is really surprisingly good. Mostly filmed on very fake looking sets, it's not much to look at, but the script is rather intelligent and bloat-free, both qualities one doesn't find in films like this very often. Brackett has obviously spent a little more time thinking the rules of vampirism through than most of her colleagues of the time did, and so we have the pleasure of observing a vampire who has no mirror image while his clothes have one (realized in a neat little effects sequence), who does not take to sunlight all that well but is far from helpless by day and whose supernatural powers mostly lie in a form mind domination that seems to prey on the weak spots of his victim's psyche - all demonstrated in mostly subtle ways which show a degree of trust in the intelligence of the viewer that is still not too common today.
I was also positively surprised by the relative lack of racism in the piece. The "natives" here may be wearing the usual silly outfits, but they are treated as people throughout, without the terrors of bug-eyed "comic-relief" or "comic cowardliness". Actually, the film does not have any comic relief at all, a wonderful omission, if you ask me.
The acting is unfortunately a little flat, but "a little flat" is a lot better than is to be expected from an hour-long cheap programmer of the time; it's never getting bad enough to distract from the general neatness of the script which is more than enough to make for a fine hour of horror film on its own.
- 09:14 The history of Wonder Woman contains strange and beautiful things: tinyurl.com/95m2p9
- 09:17 D&D 4th Ed might not be your cup of tea (sure not mine), but designer Rob Heinsoo writes a hell of a blog tinyurl.com/da9kb5
- 09:39 Shadow Unit Season 2 Teaser: www.shadowunit.org/
- 10:18 Kick drugs the Batman way tinyurl.com/cwry7l
- 20:16 Programming/Literary Schools. Differences? Nah. tinyurl.com/dljhzc
Monday, February 2, 2009
A tourist river tour in the Australian Outback lead by Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell) goes pear-shaped when the boatload of tourists (among them non-adventurous travel writer Michael Vartan) follows a distress flair right into the territory of a Big Damn Crocodile.
Said crocodile is quite happy about having so many tasty looking snacks in jaw-reach and goes to work, leaving the soon boatless group stranded on a river bank and struggling for survival.
Rogue was directed by Greg Mclean whose previous film Wolf Creek was one in the seemingly endless chain of spam in a cabin films, although a nearly good one of that sub-genre if not for a certain disregard for the basics of logic and a tendency to lovingly hang onto a little too much of the "generic" part of the word "genre".
In a sense, Rogue shares this problem. The film is hitting every expected beat in the sort of survival story its telling, from the asshat locals to the woman willing to die if only her daughter can be saved etc etc. Much to my surprise I wasn't as annoyed about this as I was when watching Wolf Creek, mostly thanks to Mcleans very fine sense of timing and pacing combined with a real determination to not let the movie be slogged down by too much soap operatics.
The grand finale is especially tense, gifting the viewer with the best fight between Man and Damn Big Crocodile I've ever seen. It's just too bad the "Man" here has to be male. I see no good reason for making Michael Vartan's travel writer (you know, a guy without any survival experience) the final hero of the peace when Radha Mitchell's tour guide is supposed to have actual Outback experience - except for a nearly neurotic need to fulfill the "generic" part again.
Still, this is a very entertaining movie and I am now officially waiting for Mclean's future features (possibly even with some of this "subverting expectations" stuff one hears so much about nowadays?).
- 05:51 Nothing fitting for breakfast in the house anymore. Will have to use rice cooker.
- 07:04 Excellent list of indie browser-based Flash games: tinyurl.com/b6g9ec
- 08:09 Oh, wait, that's snow outside...
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Up until 18 months ago, David Callan (Edward Woodward) had worked as a professional killer for an especially secretive branch of the SIS, tasked with the very democratic job of getting rid of undesirable people by everything from "just" ruining to outright killing them. His boss Hunter (Eric Porter) has retired Callan, though, feeling that his former best man's habits, among them alcoholism and a growing conscience, made him unfit for his work.
Callan's retirement bonus is a classic shit job in the office of an equally classic irascible little man who very much needs to be called "Sir".
Callan still fights with his alcoholism, his feelings of guilt leading to nightmares, getting parked in a nowhere job with no future to speak of obviously working on his self esteem (not to speak of his mood).
But - if fortunately or unfortunately is hard to say - Hunter would like to take Callan back into the fold, providing Callan has come round to being "reasonable" again. He will just have to prove his loyalty and abilities by killing a certain Schneider (Carl Möhner) without complete company backup. Funny, for some reason Hunter even insists on Callan getting himself a gun on his own. One could start to develop feelings of distrust towards one's superiors.
Fear of being used as a scapegoat is not Callan's only problem, of course: his conscience still isn't gone down the drain and makes the thought of murdering someone in cold blood abhorrent to him, something that surely isn't helped by Hunter's refusal to explain the reasons why he wants to see Schneider dead. So Callan's going to find that one out on his own. It's not getting any easier when he gets to know his future victim and finds Schneider to be a man very much like himself, damaged, dangerous, definitely not a "good" person but no monster.
Callan, directed by old TV and b-picture pro Don Sharp, is based on the pilot episode for a British TV show of the same name. As spy films go, this is very much on the dark, grim and more realistic side of the equation. You won't find any suave and smooth-talking ex-bodybuilders here, nor are there any gadgets around. On the other hand, the film's tone is a little too exciting, but also too skeptical when compared to the works of someone like Le Carre (whose world view is certainly not friendly, but still seems to be based on a conviction of the necessity and basic moral rightness of spycraft, a conviction Callan very much lacks) to be part of that wing of the genre.
In other words, it's a film seemingly written directly for my special tastes - the story of a man who is quite lost, damaged and trying not to lose the little humanity he has left, which is rather difficult for someone whose main talent is killing.
The film is very good at telling this type of story, with Sharp's direction not necessarily inspired but always capable enough to create a convincing atmosphere of claustrophobia and a subtle tenseness that sometimes erupts into short bursts of violence. Unlike what one would expect, the film isn't drenched (if you can call it that) in grey, its colours are instead a variety of many drab brown tones that are just as depressing. Britain here seems a very small and ugly place, even the relatively few location shots are carefully chosen to emphasize that mood. It's not a place you'd want to kill for, so much is sure.
The plot proceeds methodically and (for some viewers perhaps too) deliberately, while what action happens is kept short and rather naturalistic. There is a lot of subtle character work through details to be found here, kept low-key by excellent acting and a script that mostly (there are two or three moments of surprising bluntness) trusts in the viewer's ability to think.
I can't end this without mentioning Edward Woodward's excellent performance which alone would be enough to carry a film without much else to recommend. Here, Woodward's work is just one part of a very fine whole.
Kishan/Krishna/Krishen (Amitabh Bachchan) and Bishan/Bhutan/Bishen (Amjad Khan) have been special friends since they were wee little ones (badly) played by child actors. While Bishan is the son of a rich family, Kishan is the embodiment of the poor uneducated and stupid on the borderline of retarded but upright peasant. Some long-term money-stealing plans of Bishan's uncle (Jeevan) and the uncle's son Jaggu (Ranjeet) lead to Bishan being carted off (and I quote here) "aboard". At first I thought the slightly problematic subtitles here just had trouble discerning between "abroad" and "aboard" - later parts of the movie suggest to me that they actually put Bishan on a ship to get his higher education in a kind of swimming school of doom. Bishan, being as terribly in love with Kishan as he is, wants to take his friend with him, but proud Kishan thinks the son of a peasant should stay the son of a peasant and not get any education. Also, he promised his father something about the family farm that's neither explained nor makes sense in context.
Years later, when the two have grown into Amitabh and Amjad, Bishan finally succeeds to talk his friend into coming to the Big City with him. Bishan's plan is to use his money to make Kishan the biggest singing sensation of them all. After loads of the sort of wacky hijinx that wouldn't be out of place in a film with (please insert comedy actor even worse than Will Ferrell at your discretion), Kishan first annoying then totally charming the pants off his star teacher Komal (Neetu Singh), and other stuff too dire to mention, Bishan finally learns that he isn't all that rich anymore thanks to his uncle and co. making off with the family money. Of course, this is supposed to be an ode to friendship (on the borderline to slash), so Bishan takes out a mortgage on his house and his ship to finance Kishan's education, royally pissing off his wife who seems to think that he should try to take care of his son and her first (silly woman!).
As I may have mentioned before, Kishan is a complete idiot and only learns of his friend's own idiocy after his first big show in a gigantic stadium (that to me looked like a rather small gym like most schools should have), but makes up for that with more stupid melodrama than should be allowed, leading into even more melodrama, Mental Asylums, child kidnappings, amnesia, minor cries of "Nahiiiiiin!", fiendish plans that make neither sense nor are fun until the film finally, finally ends.
Don't let the decent IMDb rating fool you: this might very well be one of the worst Bollywood films you'll ever get to see. It's not that, say, the typical Ramsay Brothers film is so much higher in worthiness or technical accomplishment than Yaarana (although, really, it is), the problem is that those films are working hard at being fun, while Yaarana looks as if it was made during the shooting breaks of other, better films, for no discernible reason other than to trap the innocent viewer with the promise of Amitabh! Neetu! Amitabh ass-shaking like an idiot in a light-up suit! Dishoom Dishoom! Random appearances of other Bolly-favorites! etc while crushing her/his spirit under a bootheel of evil.
But it is a trap. The movie may contain these promising elements (yes, I find being crushed by a bootheel of evil promising; sue me), it might even be made by Rakesh Kumar who (as my co-watcher/co-torturee Beth assured me) has made much better films, but it slaughters all our hopes of any form of entertainment with a painful mixture of total randomness (in costume, choreography, music etc), unfunny humor that made me remember Dance of the Dead wistfully and a quite transcendent and quite surprising lack of any kind of charm.
I couldn't even begin to imagine what went wrong here during the production, I can only warn each and every potential viewer who might be drawn to Amitabh's light-up suit off: this is one of the least interesting, most annoying and dire pieces of crap I have ever seen.
And no, friends of the Z-movie, that's honestly not a recommendation this time.