Saturday, October 31, 2009

In short: Midnight 2 (1993)

Abraham Barnes (Matthew Jason Walsh), the youngest member of the Satanist serial killer family we saw in Midnight, has somehow survived the events of the first film. He has changed his personal style from "country bumpkin" to "insanely annoying guy with a video camera" and is using said camera and a bunch of horrible pick-up lines that would get people much more attractive than he is punched in the face to finagle women into his house.

Theoretically, he is on the look-out for the one special woman to bear his children and clean up his act (and kitchen), but in practice he's more about killing the women who don't stand up to his standards (aka every woman). Exciting times lie ahead when he murders the friend of Rebecca (Jo Narcia). She has seen him and his camera and uses her script-derived charm to talk a cop (Chuck Pierce) into helping her investigate Abraham.

If I can believe the Internet, then John (A.) Russo's belated nominal sequel to his Midnight has "been sold both individually and as part of a "Young Filmmaker's Career-Starting Package" along with John A. Russo's book Cheap Thrills, legal forms, and the four volume videotape set "John Russo's Filmmaking Seminar"". It' was probably included as an example of how crappy a film can get, with big red warning signs reading "Don't do it this way!".

While the first Midnight sure had its share of problems, it was at least an honest effort at filmmaking on a budget. This shot on video sequel is just a lazy bunch of nothing, padded out with about ten minutes of footage from the first film. Those ten minutes are the best that's on offer here, really, the rest is sub-porn acting, painfully bad dialogue, cramped sets and the neverending monologizing of the insufferable Walsh. His performance, consisting mostly of mumbling and sounding like a badly behaved child, just screams for a very special award as the worst acted psycho I have ever seen on film or video. I hope he is proud.

Technically, it's all catastrophe all the time - the interiors are somebody's hobby cellar, the camera just points vaguely into the direction of the "actors", not even the synthie soundtrack (which sounds very very familiar) is any good.

Usually, I try (try is the important word here) not to take bad films personally, and this even is the sort of film whose ineptness might be somewhat endearing coming from someone with no prior filmmaking experience, but from an old pro like Russo, Midnight 2 amounts to the director suddenly appearing smirking in your living room and screaming "fuck you!" right into your face.

So, unless you just need to hear what Abe does with his throbbing hot camera, you'll be better off watching a Polonia Brothers movie. Those guys at least don't hate the people watching their films.

 

From Twitter 10-30-2009



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Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

3 Films Make A Post: In Space

Seven Warriors (1989): The all-star cast (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai! Jacky Cheung! Karen Mok! Adam Chang! Max Mok! Wu Ma! Philip Kwok! Lo Lieh!) is the only impressive thing about Terry Tong's version of the Seven Samurai template. I would have expected a Hong Kong variant of the story to replace Kurosawa's humanism and warm intelligence with relentless action and a whole lot of bloodshed, but instead it's replaced by a little sentimentality, a little more unfunny humor and a whole lot of nothing. One could think the plan here was to bore the viewer into submission. Except for the submission part, it worked on me.

 

Slit-Mouth Woman (2008): Not to be confused with Koji Shiraishi's rather good A Slit-Mouthed Woman (or Carved) from 2007 or the pinku The Slit-Mouthed Woman from 2005. This one shares a DVD with the dreadful Zombie Dead and gives that film a run for its money when it comes to bad acting and boredom. Finally, Japanese direct to DVD films can be just as bad as their American counterparts. Isn't it wonderful?

 

Roots Search (1986): After a spaceship nearly collides with a research station, the ship's only survivor Buzz and the crew of the station have to cope with an alien that has already murdered all of Buzz's colleagues. The thing likes to use the ole "transforming into the object of someone's greatest guilt" trick, but isn't above a little tentacle use when necessary. But what's that about the creature being a messenger of god?

This OVA isn't exactly a high point of anime film or of SF horror, yet it is solid enough to not make me rue the three quarters of an hour I put into it. I couldn't find anything special about it, even the design of the alien's different forms is anime standard. The attempts at a philosophical deepening of the plot are wasted, though. There just isn't enough time to develop something deeper.

 

From Twitter 10-28-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-27-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 10-26-2009: New blog post: Fr.. http://bit.ly/186TBO
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  • Torchlight: best Diablo-like ever or just most fun Diablo-like ever? (It's a first impression, so don't hit me.)
  • Did they just use CGI for an eye mutilation? Whatever is the world coming to!?
  • For a film with Lee van Cleef, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly & Jim Brown, directed by good ol' Margheriti, "Take a Hard Ride" is quite
  • disappointing. Too bad.
  • RT @FakeAPStylebook: Use the inverted pyramid structure for your story, as this pleases Apophis, the Egyptian god of darkness and chaos.


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pit (1981)

Young Jamie (Sammy Snyders) is a problem child. While he is highly intelligent (or so the script says, his actions speak a different language), he has not the best people skills and his sexual awakening turns in a direction experts would describe as "creepy". One is tempted to call him "future serial killer Jamie" right from the beginning.

It certainly doesn't help that everyone he meets during the course of the film treats him incredibly badly for no discernible reason at all, even those people who should know better. His only friend is his talking teddy bear Teddy. For reasons the film never bothers to explain we don't just hear Teddy talking with Jamie's voice, but also see it moving when Jamie is not around, so it is not just the projection of unconscious desires it seems to be.

Jamie's parents are planning on going away somewhere for quite some time (yes, I love precision, I really do), so they hire psychology student Sandy O'Reilly (Jeannie Elias, now doing a lot of voice acting) for a combined babysitting/housekeeping stint. Sandy is specialized on "exceptional children", and at first she seems to have some success at getting through to the boy, even though the crush he develops on her isn't all that helpful, and - not surprisingly - rather creepy.

But Jamie has a secret. If you can call something someone is willing to tell anyone who is not trying to punch him in the face a secret. He has found a pit in the woods. In this pit lives a group of shaggy grey-haired monster suits identified as troglodytes. Because they are his friends (that is, aren't actively mean to him), Jamie decides to feed them. Turns out the charming guys only eat raw meat. For some time, the boy feeds them with meat he buys from the local butcher with money he steals from Sandy, but when the girl gets wise to the trick, he needs some other food source. Teddy suggests to just throw all those mean people who plague Jamie into the pit.

One would probably think that a twelve year old boy would have some difficulty with the realization of this plan, but in The Pit's world there are no opticians and therefore a lot of people are just unable to see a freaking large pit directly in front of them before it is too late.

The Pit starts out perfectly nice, with decent, very late 70s looking photography, and seems to promise to be one of the weird psychological horror pictures the 70s and early 80s were full of.

The longer the film goes on, though, the more obvious it becomes that its director Lew Lehman just doesn't have the slightest idea what sort of movie he is trying to make. A psychological horror film about a disturbed child? Nope, it's just too stupid for that. A monster movie? No, too shy about the monsters. A Bugs Bunny cartoon? Well, only in the middle when Jamie feeds his friends. A completely random mess full of ideas nobody bothered to think through? Yes, that's more like it!

The plot sputters, starts, rolls on for a moment, only to drift into a completely different direction, without a care for narrative structure or common sense; I'd call it dadaist if I'd think I could get away with it. Up until the middle of the film, you could possibly think all this is going somewhere, but as soon as the sheriff takes control of the plot (such as it is) and Jamie disappears until the wtf ending (only seeing is believing), you realize that you are in the hands of filmmakers who produced their script by rolling the dice on a modified D&D first edition encounter generation table. Which is kinda awesome, now that I think about it.

Equally awesome is Sammy Snyders' acting. I am willing to cut child actors some slack, but Snyders here gives one of the most annoying performances imaginable, mugging like a Hollywood comic trying to act dramatic, with a line delivery like chalk on a blackboard. It's fabulous, but it hurts so bad.

I think I might have already mentioned that sense and The Pit parted ways a very, very long time ago, but let me restate it: holy shit, this could nearly have been made in Italy.

If you read that as the compliment it is meant to be, you should probably spend some time with The Pit. It's a truly perfect piece of silly nonsense from start to finish, additional proof of my theory that two wrongs do in fact make one right.

 

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From Twitter 10-27-2009





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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In short: Midnight (1982)

aka Backwoods Massacre

Doubting Catholic schoolgirl Nancy (Melanie Verlin) runs away from home after her alcoholic cop stepfather (Lawrence Tierney following the smell of an alcohol providing paycheck, no doubt), tries to rape her.

She falls in with two poor college boys (Charles Jackson & Tom Hall) on their way to Florida. And these guys truly are poor. Their money is just enough for keeping their car in gas, but to acquire food, they are stealing from small grocery stores along the way, a tactic which could bring a mixed-race buddy pair into more trouble than would be appropriate in the middle of Rednecklandia.

Doing this with their under-aged guest and in an area from which the soon to be deceased Reverend Exposition (Bob Johnson) tried to warn them away isn't exactly going to improve their survivability. As it turns out, a hasty retreat from the police only leads the trio into the clutches of a family of backwoods satanists trying to resurrect their mum through female sacrifices.

Nancy's the lucky one of the three, with a nice direct line to a white-bearded lady above (I do understand the concept of prayer right, I hope?) and a drunk stepfather with a guilty conscience on her trail.

John Russo's Pittsburgh based Midnight is a more interesting film than I had suspected. Russo's script tries its hardest to enrich the backwoods slasher genre thematically by giving it a slight social realist bend. It mostly does this by adding a more complex background to the victims than is common and by first placing them in the way of horrifying real world danger and confronting them - unsubtly, it has to be said - with things like casual racism and poverty. Of course (keeping Russo's background as scriptwriter of Night of the Living Dead in mind this should come as no surprise) there's also a healthy distrust of authority figures in there.

Unfortunately, Midnight is not as successful as it is interesting. As a horror film, it lacks in emotional impact. It goes through all the motions of classic backwoods slasher films, but is seldom convincingly nasty or brutal.

The death scene of our two male college kids being executed by two of our backwoods maniacs dressed up as cops is the only true exception to this. The very casual violence committed by cruel people in uniform resonates, but also makes a promise the rest of the film isn't willing or able to deliver on. What follows is mostly genre-standard, just less gory and hampered by Russo's awkward and stiff staging of violence.

Most disappointing is that Russo doesn't integrate the themes he has brought up earlier into the slasher business. As soon as the usual mad killer stuff starts, everything else is forgotten.

But at least it is a film with a few ambitions.

 

From Twitter 10-26-2009



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  • RT @YSDC: 'The Lairs of Cthulhu' - Treadwell's Lecture by James Holloway now available from Yog-Sothoth. http://is.gd/4BqIz
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Music Monday: Babies Edition

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From Twitter 10-25-2009



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  • Today's the 5th anniversary of John Peel's death, so I'll do the appropriate thing and listen to Pulp. Thanks, Mr. Peel!
  • Paul McAuley is clever. http://tinyurl.com/yhyna5v


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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kiltro (2006)

The young Chilean Zamir (Marko Zaror) is the leader of a rather un-thuggish gang - or are they just a youth club? - known as (the) Kiltro(s).

After he rescued the young "Korean" girl Kim (Caterina Jadresic) from two rapists and got a kiss as reward, he of course fell in love with her. For two years now, he has been dogging each of her steps, punching every man who just so much as looks at her in the face. For some completely unfathomable reason, Kim is unimpressed by this kind and gentle courting and chooses instead to go out with a nice, blocky young gentleman known as The Maniac. It's enough to drive a stalking thug into depression.

All this is going to change when Max Kalba (Miguel Angel De Luca) returns to town and proceeds to kill some of the older men of the community, taking vengeance for past troubles which will be explained in exhaustive flashbacks throughout the film. For us, it will be enough to know that all of Max's victims belong to the martial arts sect of the Zetas and that Kim's father (Man Soo Yoon) is the one among them Max likes the least.

Soon, Zamir has a little run-in with Max when trying to protect Kim who has unfortunately learned nothing at all about fighting from her father. Of course, Zamir is thoroughly beaten, all his friends killed and Kim's father kidnapped (don't worry, Kim herself will be kidnapped soon enough too).

The dwarf Nik Nak (Roberto Avendano), another Zeta, takes care of Zamir and Kim, and sends our hero on the usual training journey so that he can learn how to better kill people and return to give Max a thorough killing to finally get his girl. Yay for feminism!

Kiltro is the first cooperation between writer/producer/director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and his star the actor/martial artist Marko Zaror. Both would very soon go on to make the excellent Mirageman together.

People who like to talk about stuff like that call Kiltro "the first Chilean martial arts film". That may well be true, it's just too bad that Kiltro isn't a good Chilean martial arts film.

Most of the film's problems can easily be explained through the inexperience of everyone involved and the usual lack of funds, but that doesn't make the thing much easier to watch.

It all begins with the acting. Zaror hasn't yet developed anything beyond a slack-faced stare into the camera, which makes it difficult to sympathize with a character who hasn't a lot of personality anyway, and who kills a lot more people in the course of the film than the supposed bad guy does. The other actors are even worse. Jadesic might be pretty, but is cursed with terrible "Asian" make-up and a role purely as an object that is to be rescued or kidnapped. Everyone else is mostly dreadful in one way or the other.

If the fights were numerous and good enough to distract from the acting, all this wouldn't be much of a problem in a martial arts film, but there isn't really all that much fighting going on and what is there is filmed in a mix of shaky cam and bad editing that shows as little as possible of what is going on. Which is somewhat ironic in a film whose best assets should be the martial arts skills of its lead actor.

Then there's the script, a Joseph Campbell inspired mess mostly consisting of scenes you know from other, better realized movies, stitched together without much of an idea about how to make a narrative out of them or how to merge the film's comedic aspirations with the melodramatic plot. Especially annoying are the repeated flashbacks that show the backstory in useless detail and stretch the film's budget and my patience as a viewer to a breaking point without any pay-off. And how could I forget one of the longest and most boring training sequences in martial arts history, cleverly consisting of Zaror's naked behind and lots of would-be philosophical talk, but little physical activity?

Basically, Kiltro shares the enthusiasm about filmmaking and the love for genre film that Mirageman would go on to channel into an extremely fine film, but does everything wrong the later film would do right. There are a few promising moments in here - a handful of cleverly set-up shots, thirty seconds of a fight scene, a few jokes that are actually funny, that sort of thing - but nothing I'd even mention without the knowledge of how good Espinoza and Zaror have shown themselves at learning from their mistakes.

I really can't recommend Kiltro unless you are such a big admirer of Mirageman that you just have to see what Espinoza and Zaror did first. Mirageman however...

 

From Twitter 10-24-2009



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Saturday, October 24, 2009

3 Films Make A Post: A New Beginning

Taste of Killing (1966): Tonino Valerii's Spaghetti Western about a bounty killer (Craig Hill) protecting a load of gold from the bandit (George Martin) who once killed his brother starts out promising enough and looks quite stylish throughout. Alas, it also suffers from a script that permanently brings up enticing details about its characters without ever making much use of them or finding a unified theme. As it stands, the film is a series of Spaghetti standard situations done well enough, but without the intelligence that makes the best part of the genre so interesting and without much that holds the single parts together.

 

Goemon (2009): Either I am finally getting too old for this shit, or this is the most horrible, candy-colored mess of a CGI fest I have seen in a long time. I found its director's Kazuaki Kiriya's other big CGI mess Casshern with its wish to be every possible film at once much more worthwhile than the critical consensus says it is, but Goemon is nigh unwatchable.

The insanely broad acting with human actors who are less subtle than your typical anime character alone would be enough to kill the film, yet Kiriya insists on adding the insulting dumbness of his self-penned "script" and the already mentioned terrible CGI. I don't know the words fit to describe this vortex of absolute suckitude.

 

Kakurenbo (2004): A bunch of kids from a future, retro-futurist Japan comes to a ghost "town" (we'd call it a city, I suppose) to play a hidden, secret game of hide and seek - some of them to find out where all the other children who have disappeared before them went, some of them just for kicks.

This digitally animated one-man project by Shuhei Morita is an exceptionally beautiful anime with a visual style that is at once based on traditional Japanese designs and symbols (the fox masks the children wear, the basic designs of the demons who hunt them) and part of an already aged and lost future. It's a truly inspired piece of work, with every scene hinting at the basics of the film's future without ever actually revealing them. I tend to find storytelling techniques like this highly effective, consequently I am quite awed by the film's perfect and personal style and Morita's choice to let the (at times very creepy) mood do the explaining.

 

From Twitter 10-23-2009



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  • New blog post: On WTF: Mardi Gras Massacre (1978): See a bad night's sleep and Jack Weis' epochal.. http://bit.ly/11A2uH
  • Very much looking forward to this one http://tinyurl.com/ygxk3a6
  • American independent/local horror cinema of the 70s & 80s is still amazing
  • It's great how much PR for things happening in New York I get. Just too bad that I'm living in Germany and don't give a toss.
  • Holy shit, I think Tales From The Quadead Zone is my new favorite movie.
  • This might be the most gorgeous thing I've played this month. http://jayisgames.com/cgdc6/?gameID=9


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Friday, October 23, 2009

On WTF: Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)

See a bad night's sleep and Jack Weis' epochal Mardi Gras Massacre turn into a fantastic time for me and my old buddy Friedrich! Be astonished by the brownest of browns! Thrill at the answer to the question "Are you evil?"! Only in my newest review on WTF-Film!

 

From Twitter 10-22-2009



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  • I welcome our new, be-tentacled overlords! I'm sure nobody's gonna be eaten. #mylasttweetonearth
  • So, the high concept for Doghouse was "a (mostly) unfunny Shaun of the Dead - but for assholes!"?


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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Brought to you by the people who made "Casting Call of Cthulhu" & "Elder Sign"

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In short: Invitation Only (2009)

Wade (Bryan Chang) works as a chauffeur for unpleasant rich people, while dreaming of a future of fast cars and models.

His luck seems to change when Yang (Jerry Huang), one of his bosses, gives him an invitation to the sort of party a poor guy like Wade would never be allowed to visit. Yang even gives him a change of wardrobe for the evening and money.

It's a special sort of party, it seems, taking place in an abandoned warehouse, with much talk of special gifts for first timers like Wade, a girl named Lin (Ma Guo-Xian) and a few other people.

After the contractually mandated sex scene with guest-starring Japanese AV-idol Maria Ozawa (not playing herself, at least), Wade is granted his greatest wish: a Ferrari. Truly, this is the best party ever.

So it is a little unfortunate that Wade, Lin - who will turn out to be a competent final girl - and the other new party guests will spend the rest of their evening being chased through the warehouse by Mister Yang and his goons, all for the entertainment of the other, evil, rich party guests. Nobody will be surprised that there will also be torture.

Invitation Only, which was as far as I know quite a hit in its native Taiwan, is billed as "Taiwan's first slasher movie", but it is more of a cross between slasher tropes, The Most Dangerous Game and the ever popular torture porn. Although, seeing how much of the film consists of people running around in a warehouse, I have a mind to call it a warehouse horror film.

And for a warehouse-centric piece of cinema, this isn't too bad - the acting is reasonably competent, the filmmaking reasonably well done, the script makes a reasonable amount of sense, the torture scenes are reasonably nasty.

I have seen much worse films and enjoyed them. The sad truth is that I have also seen much better films, films a bit more willing to take their themes a little further than "rich people are like, soooo evil, you know". Now, don't misunderstand me, Invitation Only is quite alright in its way, but I'm reasonably sure that if you watch it, you will soon afterwards have forgotten everything about it. Everything except the fact that it is a perfectly reasonable movie.

 

From Twitter 10-21-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-20-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 10-19-2009: You know what I'd like to see again? ... http://bit.ly/NgVCm
  • New blog post: Khamosh (1985): A small film team under director Chandran (Sadavish Amrapurkar) has travelled to a sup... http://bit.ly/oouZN
  • Damn, I forgot to watch something appropriate for Bela's birthday yesterday.
  • It's time to go and do the dishes when you start to agree with Angry Internet Men
  • RT: @Paul_Cornell: it's Ursula Le Guin's 80th birthday today. Wouldn't it be great if it became a trending topic? #happybirthdayUrsulaLeGuin
  • (Although I have the impression she doesn't like the Internets and her people much)
  • Oooh, they set Death Rally free and made it Windows compatible! http://tinyurl.com/yjddxse
  • The problem with Battlefield Baseball? Not enough battling or baseball!


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Khamosh (1985)

A small film team under director Chandran (Sadavish Amrapurkar) has travelled to a supposedly picturesque part of the Indian countryside to film part of a highly exploitative drama. If you ignore the usual squabbles, the project runs as well as can be expected, until actress Soni Razdan (Soni Razdan, playing herself weirdly enough as murder victim) is murdered and found hanging from a tree.

The local police takes it for a suicide, and close the case without any investigation whatsoever, but fortunately (and very suddenly), a nameless C.I.D. inspector (Naseeruddin Shah, with a very agreeable moustache and doing more sunglasses acting than David Caruso) appears and proceeds to sniff around, convinced the actress' death was in fact murder.

He has quite a bit of work to do, because nearly everyone on set had some reason or other to wish Soni ill, except for the very upright heroine Shabana Azmi (as herself) and Soni's fiancee Amol Palekar (also as himself, but with a twist I'd like to see a Hollywood actor repeat). The film's producer Mister Dayal (Ajit Vachani) wanted to have a little casting couch romp with her, and only got a public slap in the face, extra Mrs. Bahal wanted Soni's next role for her daughter Meenu, the producer's brother Kuku (Pankaj Kapoor) is a junkie with a crush on Soni, the waiter Ghulam Hassan (Kamal Chopra) is a freeform creep, the director of photography wanted Soni to be "nicer" to him and the dialogue writer likes to put dead animals into the beds of people who displease him. It's possible that I forgot someone, but you get the gist.

Turns out that the Inspector has quite a secret himself - he isn't a cop at all but Soni's brother playing amateur detective. And an amateur detective or better two, if you include the very helpful Ms. Azmi, is really needed here, even moreso when more people start to end up dead.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Khamosh doesn't want to have much to do with the usual stylistic flourishes and techniques of mainstream Hindi cinema, so there's a decided lack of long, florid speeches, delectable singing and dancing or eye-popping colours.

That is not necessarily as bad a thing as you might think if you are going into the film expecting something more mainstream Bollywood. The potential viewer just needs to be able to keep her expectations in check and just go with the more Western style of filmmaking here. (And, as an aside, isn't it interesting that Indian films which are less commercially oriented look more conventional than their more colourful counterparts when seen from a Western perspective?)

Chopra's direction shows a strong influence of gritty semi-realist US and European 70s cinema, with all the dynamic camera work and brown tones this suggests, but he also finds time to add more than one moment of homage to Hitchcock to it, something that's certainly not to the film's detriment.

There's quite a bit of handheld camera work and just a lot more camera movement than I'm used to from pre-90s Hindi cinema, yet Chopra isn't overdoing it or just showing off, instead it looks to me as if he is trying very hard to distract the viewer from the lack of interesting sets or locations. For most of the time, the director is quite successful at this and it was only in the last third of the film that I started to dread the return of that damn rock by the water or of the house of repeated murder.

Chopra's direction is the film's strongest point. While the acting, especially the work of the always committed Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, is solid throughout, it is also seldom more, thanks to a script that never truly does something interesting with the shedload of elements and characters it contains, as if it was enough to just put a bunch of people in front of the camera without constructing a narrative or a mood to connect them.

I also have my problems with a film that waddles its finger in a highly moralizing way at oh so exploitative filmmaking when it itself exploits every stupid cliche about movie people, politicians and servants it can get a hold of. The word "hypocritical" comes to mind, especially when the moralizing is connected with the overtly serious tone parts of the film affect, when it in truth is just a rather silly murder mystery. Additionally, I was a little disappointed that the film first sets up every possibility for interesting meta-commentary with actors playing themselves, but then doesn't make much use of it, as if the courage and inventiveness Chopra shows visually had been completely absent when he was writing the script.

I would have wished for either more depth or more playfulness here.

Now, this doesn't mean I wasn't entertained by Khamosh, I was just expecting something a little less cliched and a little more clever. As it stands, the film is still an agreeable little murder mystery, just not the sort of film anyone should go out of his or her way to see.

 

From Twitter 10-20-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-19-2009: You know what I'd like to see again? Lance Henrikson in a film in which he i... http://bit.ly/25Ex0L
  • A return to Batman the gun-toting killer? No thanks. http://tinyurl.com/yzhpjzm
  • New blog post: In short: Blowback 2 (1991): The yakuza Joe (a comparatively skinny looking Riki Takeuchi) and Baku a... http://bit.ly/2gvm65
  • First making one very clever Indie RTS, then making enough money to buy yourself better graphics, then giving the graphics away for free to
  • other developers. Ladies & gents - that's AI Wars' Christopher M. Park, my new hero. http://tinyurl.com/ykzydpa
  • I love me indie developers, I do, but those guys whining about the massage "games" on XBoxLive just need to lighten up.
  • Am talking about Nietzsche in a write-up of "Mardi Gras Massacre". It's possible I am beyond help.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In short: Blowback 2 (1991)

The yakuza Joe (a comparatively skinny looking Riki Takeuchi) and Baku are on the run, carrying a suitcase full of money.

Their flight has led them to the Philippines, but their driver, a certain Lopez (Keishi Hunt), leads them into a trap.

The guerilla boss Yameneko (Mike Monty, known from more Italian genre movies than should be humanly possible) likes money, and he likes dead gangsters, so poor Baku's film life is cut quite short. Killing Riki is of course a different proposition. Getting riddled by bullets and falling down a cliff leaves the exceedingly manly Joe in pain but very much alive, perfectly able to make his way to Manila on foot until he finally loses consciousness in the bar of Baku's ex-girlfriend Rei (Mie Yoshida).

Just a little later, the pissed-off Yakuza begins to snarl, shoot and punch himself through Manila to take vengeance on his friend's killers, supported by Rie and the bounty hunter Ratts (Shun Sugata, whose hobbies are wearing sunglasses, grunting manly and throwing dynamite sticks) who wants to get at Yameneko too.

Atsushi Muroga's Blowback 2 is a typical early 90s direct to video Riki vehicle bound to the action film standards once brought down from some mountain or other by Charlton Heston himself, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Muroga (who would go on to direct the zombie film Junk and the first two Gun Crazy films - the watchable ones) clearly likes the genre he is working in, and while his film diligently hits all the required manly man cheapo action flick beats, it does so with more verve and style than would be strictly necessary.

I am not about to call the film big art here, or even a masterful little genre flick, but the sort of cheap and fun film that is made without the hatred for its own audience that marrs too many of its brethren and with clear knowledge of what it can afford to do and what it can't afford - artistically and financially.

The setting outside of Japan helps the film to a mood which is quite different from the typically claustrophobic and stage-bound Japanese direct to video standard of its time, with scenes full of astonishing things like daylight and mud. Obviously, Muroga uses this copious amount of outside locations for some time filling tourist shots and to stage a large amount of explosions, as it should be.

While all the shooting and bleeding to death is going on, there's also time for some well-placed homages to the Spaghetti Western (especially Django and the Dollar trilogy), the exploding huts of the Italian action film post-Rambo and even a bit of John Woo, all presented mostly in the spirit of good fun.

Add to this Riki doing what Riki does best (scowling and mugging), and the friend of a well-placed explosion will have a fun time here.

 

From Twitter 10-19-2009



  • You know what I'd like to see again? Lance Henrikson in a film in which he isn't the only good thing.
  • New blog post: Music Monday: Buy His New Album (Yes, I'm That Subtle) Edition: Technorati-Tags: music,music monday,g... http://bit.ly/1jlEvT
  • The Thermals - still pretty great
  • The Dark Mod means I have to re-install that dreadful Doom 3 to be able to get my sneak on. Too much media, too little time!


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Short Thoughts On IF Comp 2009 Games V

The Duel That Spanned The Ages: Episode One: The Age Of Machines: Apart from the unwieldy title, this is quite good.

The game is very much like an IF version of a SF corridor shooter (think Doom with world building ambitions). Now, that's not really the sort of experience I look for in my Interactive Fiction, but it is well paced and well done with simple and mostly logical puzzles and enticing hints at an interesting backstory (to be revealed in Episode Two, I suppose?). It's really rather fun in an action movie type of way. I would have wished for a slightly more flavorful implementation of the protagonist's physical state (two broken legs should be painful enough to colour every description of movement, and not just an impediment for jumping, for example), a few random spider attacks less (because shooting the first one already showed that I understood how to get rid of them - further repetition seemed a little boring), and a slightly grander feeling finale, although I approve of the importance of the "smash" command (insert appropriate "puny humans" joke here).

 

Beta Tester: What I have seen of the writing here is pretty funny, alas it being a puzzle heavy game (or so I suppose) without in-game hints or a walkthrough and me being bad at puzzles means that I got stuck very early on without any possibility to continue.

As an impatient kind of guy, I interpret this as "the author doesn't actually want me to play his game", hand out a low vote, and play something else.

 

The Believable Adventures of Invisible Man: Turns out that being invisible isn't all that it's cracked up to be. I was surprised to learn that getting around while being invisible is more difficult than it would be for a visible person - at least if you want to carry something around with you. The puzzles here are a mix of bad adventure game logic and tediousness. The nasty tone of the game's humor and its tendency to make something that should be exciting (I'm invisible, for Cthulhu's sake!) into just another chore to muddle through don't do much to endear it to me either. (Also, "undress" is a command worth implementing if the protagonist is going to drop his or her clothes).

 

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Music Monday: Buy His New Album (Yes, I'm That Subtle) Edition

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From Twitter 10-18-2009



  • I love The Secret Knots, I really, really do. http://tinyurl.com/yhf6h3t
  • New blog post: La Cabeza Viviente (1963): The Aztec warrior Acatl (Mauricio Garces) must have been quite a guy. Betr... http://bit.ly/3jpkBP
  • A short review of Goemon: So much crappy CGI, want to poke my eyes out.
  • I boycott you! (Sorry, reading gaming sites always results in the wish to boycott someone - it's more like a compulsion, actually.)


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Sunday, October 18, 2009

La Cabeza Viviente (1963)

The Aztec warrior Acatl (Mauricio Garces) must have been quite a guy. Betrayed and killed by a treacherous priest, he gets one of the best burials ever - his head finds its final resting place on an especially nice tablet, the high priest Xiu (Guillermo Cramer) and the priestess of the moon goddess Xochiquetzal (Ana Luisa Peluffo) are buried alive with him to keep him company and an especially enthusiastic curse to keep away those pesky future tomb profaners is spoken, too. And that's still not all! Xochiquetzal gets to wear...THE RING OF DEATH, an eye-shaped, blinking monstrosity that will show exactly who has to be killed when tomb profanation time comes.

And, lo! 1963 a trio of archeologists under Professor Muller (German Robles) enters the tomb and takes everything with them that isn't nailed down, from Acatl's head to Xiu's mummy (which isn't visibly mummified at all, but has his obsidian dagger permanently fixed to its hand) to THE RING OF DEATH.

Nothing of the stuff lands in a museum, instead, Muller keeps it in his home and makes a gift to his daughter Marta (also Ana Luisa Peluffo) of the ring. Even ignoring how problematic this is from a legal perspective, there is also the problem of the curse to take care of. Not even Muller's inspired skepticism will help much when the first of his friends is sacrificed in a classic Aztec rite by the sprightly dead Xiu, with a hypnotized, sleepwalking Marta as a very active participant. Somebody has to carry Acatl's zombie head around on his plate, right?

Will the collective incompetence of Marta's fiancee Roberto (Mauricio Garces) and the police inspector Toledo (Abel Salazar) be enough to save Dr. Muller from his own daughter?

La Cabeza Viviente is a highly entertaining piece of Mexican horror. Its director Chano Urueta (known for more pieces of Mexican pulp cinema than one could mention, some catastrophically bad like The Brainiac, some rather splendid) doesn't delve as deep into Mexican gothic as many of my favorite Mexican horror directors do. Instead this is mostly a pleasant example of pulp storytelling with only the extremely incompetent heroes and the knack for the macabre pointing in a more gothic direction. But that's not much of a problem, since Urueta's direction here is more interested in cheap and friendly thrills than in mood and I'm certainly not one to complain about a film that succeeds at being simple, fast entertainment.

While some people (especially on the IMDB, the site full of people without a clue about cinema writing nonsense about it) might complain about a certain hokeyness of the chills and thrills the film offers, or about its lack of originality, I just can't see these things as much of a problem here. This is supposed to be a fast-paced, old-fashioned monster movie in the pulp spirit of the Hollywood serials, so subtlety doesn't need to apply.

Everybody involved obviously knows this. It shows in Urueta's simple, yet clever direction as well as in the pleasantly melodramatic acting. Especially Peluffo and (of course) Robles know exactly how thick to lay it on, and it truly is a pleasure to watch them really get into the whole silly business as if it were the highest drama. Taking silliness appropriately seriously is one of the great virtues an actor can have.

I wouldn't fulfill my duty as cult film blogger if wouldn't mention the best thing about the film: Garces performance as the disembodied head of Acatl, perfectly encapsulating how just plain wonderful it must be to have an afterlife much like the life of your typical cat. Being carried around on a plate by a pretty woman, taking many nice naps until the time comes to observe a sacrificial ceremony comes, then taking another nap, smiling wistfully, nodding bodilessly - that's what this head's life is all about. I, for one, can't help but wish for this sort of afterlife for myself.

La Cabeza Viviente truly is the best ad for a life as undead head on a plate I have ever seen, leaving the adventures of poor Nostradamus far behind.

 

From Twitter 10-17-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-16-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 10-15-2009: How cheery! "Secret House as a whole... http://bit.ly/2eTk5i
  • Born in the USA should always be sung by someone with a heavy Scottish accent.
  • Just had a little look at Gunda. I probably need to see this very soon.
  • Feel the need to post a really nasty and sarcastic reply to something I just read on LJ. As a clever blob once said: don't.
  • Oh great, so Machinarium puts is savegames in a folder your typical temp cleaning program scrubs clean. That's two hours game time down the
  • drain. Designers: please don't do shit like that!
  • And as nice as it is, I don't feel like repeating a third of the game in the near future.
  • So, evil religions encourage people by casual sex? I am utterly terrified.
  • And shouldn't that be "through"?
  • Great moments in subs: "Here's a little pocket money & these condoms might be useless too."
  • #beatcancer, also evil religion.
  • Wait, there's a Kim Fowley Halloween project? I shouldn't be surprised, I guess.
  • People like me will want to take a look here http://tinyurl.com/yg6j329


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Saturday, October 17, 2009

In short: Royal Warriors (1986)

aka In the Line of Duty 2 (or 1? My sources contradict each other on that point)

When a group of gangsters hijacks a passenger plane that is transporting a Japanese gangster boss to his new home in a Hong Kong jail, their plan of freeing the boss is thwarted by three law enforcers who are sharing the same flight.

CID Inspector Michelle Yip (Michelle Yeoh, definitely not stupid enough not to have a different first name than her character), the pea-brained sky marshal Michael Wong (Michael Wong, very possibly stupid enough to need to share his name with his character, and the worst actor this side of Keanu Reeves) and Japanese cop Peter Yamamoto (good old Hiroyuki Sanada) take the gangsters out with aplomb and a disturbing lack of surviving perpetrators. Still, the three are the heroes of the day. But their hijackers have a few surviving friends, two old war buddies, who are less than willing to forgive the death of their old friends and start a rather rude campaign of vengeance on the cops.

If I tell you that Yamamoto has a wife and a small child and is just in the process of giving up his police job to have more time for his family, you know what will happen next.

Royal Warriors is a very typical mid-80s Hong Kong action film. This of course means the characters are flat as cardboard cutouts and the plot is as thin as India-paper, but the action is so furious and ruthless that I don't find myself caring about the film's weak script.

Hong Kong films from (one of the Golden Ages of HK cinema) like this had a sense of absolute and wild abandon about them, milking the willingness of (probably mad) actors and stuntmen to do the damndest things (very much like some Thai action productions do today) without a care for anyone's health, good taste or realism. You can just watch your last hopes for the latter go up in flames with the homemade tank Yeoh drives into the finale.

Royal Warriors is also a wonderful showcase for the young Michelle Yeoh (at that time often billed as Michelle Khan), who is throwing herself into her role and the action sequences with the mix of athleticism, charisma, kicks to the face and plain talent that would make her famous. Of course she's just waltzing over her co-stars here, which isn't much of a surprise when it comes to Wong (who just can't act at all), but needs more of an effort with Sanada, who never was a Sonny Chiba to be sure, yet alright enough in his mere mortal way.

There really isn't more to say about this one. It is a movie as far from anything cerebral as possible, yet it is a fine choice if you crave some very Hong Kong adrenaline kicks in an 80s stylee.

 

From Twitter 10-16-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-15-2009: How cheery! "Secret House as a whole, recalls a void, a sh.. http://bit.ly/4lrDiA
  • What's an Eternal Flame to do? http://tinyurl.com/yzue3gm
  • New blog post: On WTF: Prime Evil (1988): Being the further adventures of a somewhat young, possib.. http://bit.ly/V4BHf
  • Why do all Machinarium reviews start out as if there hadn't been any adventure games in decades?
  • I have more fun with The Spider than is reasonable. Hysteria! Killer robots! Blatant overuse of exclamation marks!


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Friday, October 16, 2009

On WTF: Prime Evil (1988)

Being the further adventures of a somewhat young, possibly be-tentacled man in the weird land of the late period pictures of Roberta Findlay, a woman with the gift of shooting very pretty pictures but without any kind of love for the films she does.

What will happen when the young man ventures forth into one of the lady's two Satanist conspiracy pictures of 1988? Find out on WTF-Film!

 

From Twitter 10-15-2009



  • How cheery! "Secret House as a whole, recalls a void, a shoreless pit, a slow nihilistic decent into absolute blankness."
  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-14-2009: New blog post: Seventh Moon (2008): The American couple M.. http://bit.ly/2ZtgS7
  • New blog post: In short: Rats - Night of Terror (1984): A post-apocalyptic gypsy punk rocker clan.. http://bit.ly/13alH6
  • Could someone with money please go and buy some of the man's books? http://tinyurl.com/yzjolky
  • RT @WoodsmanHans: this is just cool. if you like Horror. http://bit.ly/1wXpv2
  • Hypnotic, in its dada-loving way http://tinyurl.com/yd65sah
  • I hope everyone is already reading Jason Powell's extensive blogging about Chris Claremont's "X-Men" years http://tinyurl.com/ygmemm7


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Thursday, October 15, 2009

In short: Rats - Night of Terror (1984)

A post-apocalyptic gypsy punk rocker clan lead by a certain Kurt (Ottaviano Dell'Acqua) comes to a group of deserted houses (or is it supposed to be a city street?). Inside one of the buildings, in an interior that looks pretty much like a cross between an old Spaghetti Western saloon and a SF set too shoddy for Al Brescia, they find a large cache of food, a futuristic looking aquarium, I mean water distiller, and a shabby looking assortment of plants.

There are also a bunch of dead bodies hidden away to make for "shocking" finds, and a whole lot of rats. After a little clean-up, the nomads decide to stay there for a while and enjoy their new vegetable garden.

That was probably not their best idea, for in the first night the rats attack. And oh, these are fiendishly clever rats. Some rat commandos (or is it ninja rats?) sneak up on the group's vehicles and nibble through their wheels, leaving our merry band of heroes without the possibility of escape. Except by walking, of course, but the gang seems to be against just walking away on principle and decide with the sort of logic only the duo of Fragasso and Mattei can provide, after the first of them have been killed by those evil nibblers, to barricade themselves  in the same building where they first met their squeaking enemies. Would you believe that this isn't a very good idea?

Ah, "written by Claudio Fragasso", "directed by Bruno Mattei". Are there words better suited to frighten those familiar with the true depths of horror?

By Mattei/Fragasso standards, Rats isn't all that bad. Sure, the acting is atrocious and the way the characters act makes as little sense as the plot, but it's not as painful as it could be. If you can keep your compassion with the poor rats under control, the film has even some things to recommend it, or rather to point and laugh at.

I did already mention the acting and the plot, but inane dialogue also comes oh so naturally to Fragasso. It is a virtual feast of stupidity that culminates in a very special twist ending stolen from a Twilight Zone script as written by a drunken teenager. Afterwards, said teenager probably went on to write the motorcycle/samurai sword sequence in Demons, so I'm not going to blame him too much.

The most memorable thing about the film are its special effects. Absolute highpoint is probably the "rug o'rats", a plastic or papiermache contraption meant to embody a slow moving mass of rats, yet mostly effective in evoking giggling fits. Other moments of cinematic greatness are the adorable throat jumping rat dolls, an exploding (it's the rats, you know) corpse and lots and lots of footage of rats just going about their business, while our protagonists are panicking and describing the devilish evil of ratdom, without a care about the fact that the rats are just ignoring them. Unless a bunch of the poor animals is just thrown at a character's face - that's what goes under "rat attack" here.

Other moments of Magrasso magic include the wonderful scene in which a handful of rats break a barricaded door down by somehow crawling around in front of it and pushing a hollowed out corpse against it. It's probably rat sorcery.

Rats - Night of Terror truly is one of the great comedies.

 

From Twitter 10-14-2009



  • New blog post: Seventh Moon (2008): The American couple Melissa (Amy Smart) and Yul (Tim Chiou) h.. http://bit.ly/3eo1oy
  • Remake. 3D. *sigh* http://tinyurl.com/yh7oxxn
  • Okay, the Michael Chabon story is pretty crappy
  • Dear author, I understand that you'd like me to buy your stuff, but commanding me to buy it as if I was your servant won't make me.
  • Is that a zombie wookie I see there? http://tinyurl.com/yjccbvz


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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Seventh Moon (2008)

The American couple Melissa (Amy Smart) and Yul (Tim Chiou) has come to China for their honeymoon. If they had known that they were going to star in a horror film, they probably wouldn't have chosen the ghost month for the whole affair.

One night, out in the middle of nowhere, their tourist guide Ping (Dennis Chan) just leaves the two behind in his car. Supposedly, he has gotten lost and just wants to ask for the way in a nearby village, but he just doesn't return.

After some time, Melissa and Yul follow him, only to find themselves right in the middle of live animals put outside as if for a sacrifice and confronted by voices from behind the village's locked up houses which seem to send someone - or something - in their direction. Being some of the smarter horror film tourists around, the couple decide not to stay and wait until the mysterious someone arrives and make their way back to their car. Surprisingly enough, their vehicle is still alright, well, except for the mass of blood someone has splashed onto it.

The Americans aren't waiting up on Ping, wherever he might be, and just drive away, but they don't get too far. First a naked, pale and hairless figures crosses the road in a rather disturbing fashion and soon thereafter an injured man stumbles onto the road.

A little later, our intrepid tourists and the man manage to crash the car and have to go on the run from more of these pale figures, who really don't seem too friendly.

Seventh Moon is an American film directed by Eduardo Sanchez, one half of the Blair Witch Project director duo. It was completely filmed in Hong Kong with mostly Hong Kong talent behind the camera, and for the first two thirds of the film I truly wasn't sure why anyone would bother to go to Hong Kong just to make nothing more than a very standard vacation horror piece that could have taken place anywhere and anytime. The film's beginning is just dreadfully generic, with all the expected plot beats, all the bitching, screaming and running around I have seen oh so many times before, just filmed with a shakier camera and faster editing and therefore harder to parse than necessary.

Until fifty or so minutes in the film, a sudden shift in its rhythm occurred and a more individual voice came to the foreground. There's a moment when the film suddenly stops, its hectic pace turning into something much slower and a little stranger than what came before, as if Sanchez had just fulfilled his contractually obliged amount of "stuff all horror movies need to have" and was now starting to show us a more personal way to work inside the genre.

Even then, Sanchez still loves his handheld camera and fast editing more than will be dear to some, but now he uses them with much more control. From that point on, the film is not exactly surprising, but it has lost its genericness as if it never had been there, coming to a finale which fits the film and is not trying to do the mandatory schlock horror twist ending. I'd even go as far as to say that the film's ending has some emotional resonance, providing a little awe in front of the unknown.

I just wish the film would have done this a little earlier, or that the actors would have done their Acting with less of a capital, shouty A (although Smart and Chiou are quite good at the end of the film), or that Sanchez would use the shakycam a little less outside of hectic and exciting scenes. All of these things, or just one, and I'd have an easier time recommending Seventh Moon. As it stands, I found the film's last third well worth going through what comes before, but I don't think this will be the case for everyone.

 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In short: Zombie Dead (2008)

An acting-impaired, semi-amnesiac young woman (Ai Kawanaka) wakes up in a deserted hospital. After some hospital-gown clad stumbling around, she meets a hair-impaired guy and steals five minutes of his and our lives looking for clothes, while he just wants to take her somewhere to explain something to her, or so he says.

Turns out there is an incredibly cost-efficient zombie apocalypse going on in there (highest zombie count: three) and some guys in especially ridiculous non-hazmat suits are keeping everyone (yes, all three people) in the hospital quarantined.

More corridor running follows, also more time stealing.

If you have ever suffered under the illusion that all Japanese zombie films are necessarily better than their Western counterparts, this one will cure you quite effectively, for the low, low price of one hour of your life you will never ever get back.

I hope you like pointless boredom, boring pointlessness, rubber-faced zombies who do not know if they are fast or slow zombies, non-acting and pervy "let's shoot her from below" camera angles. But wait, there's even more to make you wish director Kanzo Matsuura had never been born or at least never gotten near his digital camera!

The film also features the longest and most pointless zombie brain bashing scene in movie history. I have heard rumors people have died and returned as one of the living dead just by watching it, although it is certainly possible that the groaning noises just were snores. I, at least, have developed a sudden appreciation for the work of Bruno Mattei.

Dear reader, please don't watch this, unless a psychopath kidnaps you and it is this or slow bodily torture for you. Even then, I'm not sure which of the two choices I'd recommend.

 

From Twitter 10-12-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-11-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 10-10-2009: New blog post: Fr.. http://bit.ly/H6jv3
  • Amazon has given my merchandise to their partner for the shipping of large devices? Does that mean I'm getting a real Robot Titan of Gotham?
  • Umm, a review of the EyePet which complains about the lack of challenge? Wild theory: that's not at all what it is about.
  • New blog post: Music Monday: Welcome To Japan Edition: Technorati-Tags: music,music monday,les ra.. http://bit.ly/r4lxJ
  • New Mountain Goats pretty darn great. The biblical titles had me worried, but the man can't write bad songs anymore, it seems.
  • A history of idiocy. http://tinyurl.com/yhxkoqg
  • New blog post: Short Thoughts On IF Comp 2009 Games IV: The Ascot: For a CYOA-type piece in the r.. http://bit.ly/Q3VxV


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Monday, October 12, 2009

Short Thoughts On IF Comp 2009 Games IV

The Ascot: For a CYOA-type piece in the random weirdness sub-genre of fantasy that only reacts to "yes" or "no" commands, this is somewhat neat. It might be slight, but that is very much what it is supposed to be - a fun little diversion with a hint of charm. I could again complain about a lack of ambition, but that's not something I found myself caring about much while playing.

 

Condemned: Very much on the other side of the IF spectrum is this. It is not a successful piece of IF at all - the implementation seems spotty, the flow between the metaphorical level and the game's reality does not work as well as it should, the writing is spirited but too often wallows in rather overblown metaphors - but it truly has the ambition too many of the games I have played until now lack.

The problem here seems to me that the author is straining his writing and design abilities to the breaking point and just isn't experienced enough to reach his goals yet.

But do I need to stress that I prefer someone's flawed attempt at an ambitious goal to the games which aren't even trying to do something interesting?

 

Spelunker's Quest: The title threatens a certain amount of old-schoolness and the game keeps its promise. So you find yourself traipsing through a cave full of things the game doesn't see anything special about, collecting treasures and fighting monsters for no particular reason. I suppose it is quite alright for what it is - at least it seems clearly and semi-fairly designed and without major bugs.

The trouble is I don't think it is time well spent to design or play a cave-traipsing game that doesn't do anything different from all the other cave-traipsers (yes, I wish that to become the official genre name) that have come before. But that could just be me, in this case.

 

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Music Monday: Welcome To Japan Edition

From Twitter 10-11-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-10-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 10-09-2009: New blog post: Fr.. http://bit.ly/12RgJT
  • New blog post: Trick 'r Treat (2008): Oh look what Warner finally bothers to throw on the market... http://bit.ly/3mtiq7
  • Hm, a Canadian cross between Lynch & Wenders, you say? Doesn't that mean mixing the truly weird & cool with self-important twattishness?
  • Gosh, I am snarky the last few days


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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trick 'r Treat (2008)

Oh look what Warner finally bothers to throw on the market. At least they are getting the season right.

Trick 'r Treat consists of four interconnected stories, all taking place at Halloween in a small American town where the holiday is even more dangerous than in Haddonfield. First, we make the acquaintance of Steven Wilcox (Dylan Baker), school principal and seasonal serial killer with a Halloween tic. When he is not busy killing children and hiding their bodies, he also takes care of his little son.

The second story concerns a group of children visiting a rock quarry that is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of a (small) school bus full of children. What starts out as mean way to make fun of a slightly weird girl soon turns a bit more ugly.

The third story tells of the adventures of Laurie (Anna Paquin), a virginal girl pressed into looking for her first time by her big sister. Whatever could go wrong. On Halloween. In this town. When she is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood?

The fourth and final story finds Steven Wilcox' neighbor Mr Kreeg (Brian Cox) confronted with an unwelcome intruder in form of a child (or is it?) with a potato sack mask on its rather pumpkin-shaped head, and let's just say that it is not a friendly visit.

Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat is a fine example of a seasonal horror film. It does not do much that should come as news to anyone even slightly into horror films, but does it with such verve and style that it becomes something heartwarmingly special, in as much as you can call something inspired by the cruel humor of classic EC comics and episodic horror TV heartwarming.

Dougherty (who wrote the excellent second X-Men movie and the problematic Superman Returns for director Bryan Singer, among other big studio things) does a fine job at getting the spirit of the holiday as well as the colours of autumn into his film. Both does of course happen in an idealized way, but I wouldn't want to watch a film about the dreary reality of Halloween or a shitty, grey looking autumn if I could help it. The film is spending much of its energy on getting the feeling just right, and it shows.

Besides the film's merry and very enjoyable acceptance of, and very slight bending of, genre standbys, I did also enjoy the way the stories are interleaved, with small parts of one story drifting into the next and one episode's killer possibly the next one's victim. Excellently, Dougherty manages this without overdoing it to demonstrate his script's cleverness.

Of course, not all episodes in anthology films are created equal. In this case, the Little Red Riding Hood part is the weak one, and this even though Paquin knows how to wear a Little Red Riding Hood outfit and the episode's story is the one playing with genre conventions the most. The problem is the pacing, I think. It's the only part of the movie that takes a little longer than it should and contains some rather useless would-be titilating filler that could have been left on the cutting room floor without the film (or the audience) losing out on anything. It is enough to throw the film's near perfect rhythm off a little, but not enough to be a real problem.

On the acting side of the film, there is nothing truly memorable, but nothing to complain about either. Trick 'r Treat is not the type of film in need of actors deeply steeped in the Method or other semi-religious acting theories, yet it could well be ruined by actors adding too much camp. Since nobody does that here, I'm satisfied.

The same goes for the technical part. Nothing about the film (except for the photography that could be filed under autumn porn, and that's a compliment) is fancy, but everything is unassumingly accomplished and done with conviction.

Which fits perfectly into my view of the picture, because its beauty for me really lies in its simplicity. The plan was obviously to just make a very good Halloween horror film anthology without too much ironic distance to the material, yet with quite a bit of black humor, just like one would wish more horror anthology movies actually were. And by the Big Pumpkinhead, that's what the film delivers.

 

From Twitter 10-10-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-09-2009: New blog post: From Twitter 10-08-2009: New blog post: Sh.. http://bit.ly/15TdDL
  • Thank you Bruno Mattei for all you have done for the cause of the cheap joke on your bill.
  • How can a writer be overrated when every 2nd thing you read about him states how overrated he is?
  • Also, "overrated" = "I don't like x, but other people do, so let's be an asshole about it"
  • New blog post: On WTF: OSS 117 Se Dechaine (1963): This week, my guest post at WTF-Film concerns .. http://bit.ly/Fiq3K
  • S
  • So, you have a female superhuman vampire killer and a whiny American teenager. Which character do you concentrate on?
  • Well, if you are the new Blood - The Last Vampire, you take the whiny one, of course to keep potential entertainment to a minimum
  • Yes, you can mess up "pretty Asian girl in school uniform kills vampires with a sword"


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Saturday, October 10, 2009

On WTF: OSS 117 Se Dechaine (1963)

This week, my guest post at WTF-Film concerns an early example of the Eurospy film, interestingly based on a literary character older than James Bond. It's very much "Eurospy - The Early Years". Read more at the obvious place.

 

From Twitter 10-09-2009



  • New blog post: From Twitter 10-08-2009: New blog post: Short Thoughts on IF Comp 2009 Games II: T.. http://bit.ly/Zwum6
  • New blog post: Short Thoughts On IF Comp 2009 Games III: The yearly IF Comp has started once agai.. http://bit.ly/akS5P
  • New blog post: In short: Offspring (2009): A few years ago, a small community in Maine had to sol.. http://bit.ly/3plnmh
  • It's official: you can win the Nobel Peace Prize without doing anything for peace
  • In the future, I too want to be "calm and plagiarism", whatever that may mean.
  • Videogames! http://tinyurl.com/yj8wsdb


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Friday, October 9, 2009

In short: Offspring (2009)

A few years ago, a small community in Maine had to solve some trouble with a clan of wandering wild cannibal madmen who had that whole stone age tribe thing going on.

Obviously, the cops missed a few cannibals then. Now, with the hippie cavepeople freshly returned from a Canadian tribe vacation, the murders in the area start again.

The young sheriff talks his predecessor George (Art Hindle) - the man who dealt with the problem the last time - into helping him. He and the locals will truly need it.

As happy as I am for Jack Ketchum to have found people willing to adapt his books for the screen (and that even based on his own scripts), I still would have preferred not to have seen this one.

I think I will just happily ignore the question why you'd adapt the sequel to Ketchum's Off Season before anyone has seen a cinematic version of that book, for Offspring is worse enough without me straining my little brains to understand the complicated world of movie deals.

Ketchum's script for the film doesn't seem to be all that bad, the pace is sprightly, the film is short (thank you for that, Mister Ketchum, honestly) and Ketchum even does some creative things with the the viewers' expectations about which characters will live and who will die.

Unfortunately, even the best script would lose out when confronted with the awesome non-talent of the film's director Andrew van den Houten. Van den Houten is a classical point and shoot type of director, ignorant of fancy concepts like "building a mood" or "using the visual palette to heighten the film's tension". In other words, the film looks much shittier than it needed to look, with some of the least effective nature shots I've seen in a long time and surprisingly crappy lighting.

Yet even under this conditions, the film Offspring could still have the planned effect to shock and emotionally stun the viewer with the 70s horror bluntness that fits Ketchum's books usually so nicely, as long as the cannibals are impressive and the violence nasty. Alas, the cannibals, in all their caveman hippie glory, with their tittering like crazed parrots, their snarling and bug-eye making are just one thing: ridiculous and therefore never for a moment believable as an actual threat to anyone not to speak of their believability as humans. Ah, the glories of bad acting.

Ridiculous is also a fitting word for the violence. I'm not sure how van den Houten does it, but the theoretically shocking acts of violence and gore the film features are never the tiniest bit shocking, lacking the weight of reality needed to make them effective. Of course, it does not help much that these acts are committed by the clown brigade.

The film just had me giggling throughout.

So, if you are an enthusiast of unintentional humor in horror, this one's definitely for you. I have to admit I would have preferred something a little less dumb and a little more like Ketchum's books deserve.

 

Short Thoughts On IF Comp 2009 Games III

The yearly IF Comp has started once again, and this time I'm going to try and judge again. Since my blog has changed a bit since the last time I did this, I'll keep this short and talk about more than one game per entry so as not to bore my non-IF interested readers to tears. Don't worry, my babbling about films will continue in its usual pace throughout.

 

Interface: A perfectly nice little romp, solidly written if a little ambitionless (that word again). The first game in the comp this year I have played that didn't seem out to annoy or bore me, so that's definitely a plus. The game is based on a design the author wrote when he was 14 and it shows in the silliness of the plot and a lack of complexity. Well, it's still a small friendly game.

 

Byzantine Perspective: Oh joy, another one puzzle game which doesn't make a lot of sense if you don't understand its puzzle. The Internet tells me what this is all about, but I can promise you, without it I'd still stare at the game and its walkthrough in disbelief and puzzlement. It doesn't help the game that it hinders you from doing perfectly logical things (like taking off your goggles) because that would ruin the puzzle (or help you understand what's going on on your own, which would make the whole affair fun for the slower among us, and we obviously can't have that).

It's decently written, but what's the use when the one trick the one trick pony does doesn't work for me?

 

The Hangover: I know, it's not nice to make fun of the grammatically challenged, but descriptions of "ill-loking" beds, fear of apostrophes and sentences like "I'm pitty you for the sole fact that you actually sleep there", not to speak of the author's misuse of the word "women" - you know, the sort of stuff a little spellchecking and editing could have avoided - don't leave me with much of a choice.

At least there's no hidden gem behind the terrible writing, instead, it's the sort of illogical mess you'd expect, full of exactly the same implementation problems every second comp game has had since the beginning of the comp. I'll never understand why someone would want to submit something like this, I think - there's a large amount of reviews online that should teach anyone willing to listen exactly what not to do and still we get pieces like this wasting our time.

 

Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort: This seems to be wholly written in a completely unfunny mock olde English and is therefore completely unpalatable.

 

GATOR-ON!: And another "trundling through barely described locations with no particular goals the game bothers to explain" game. The lack of signposting wouldn't be a problem if there was any feeling of exploration here, but the lack of descriptive depth puts a stop to that possibility. The puzzles are on the easy but tedious side. Tip: if you need the player to repeat a single command at nauseam, don't expect him to have any fun or interest in continuing. At least there are no typos or grammatical problems to speak of here, but you know what? That's not a feature, it's a matter of course.

(Yes, I am getting less tolerant and more sarcastic as the barrage of crap continues. Give me a game that's at least trying to be good, and I'll probably not mock it, but if you as a game's author can't even bother to use a spell checker or keep your game's critical path clear of game-breaking bugs or try to break my brain through tedious repetition, you can't expect to be treated better than a door to door salesman.)

 

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