Sunday, May 31, 2009

In short: The Galaxy Invader (1985)

A green-skinned, warty alien (Glenn Barnes) crash-lands somewhere in the boons of Maryland. As you do when you crash on an alien, potentially hostile planet, the green warty dude putters about in the woods and invades people's garages.

All too soon, our alien friend makes contact with the dominant species in the area: alcoholic breast-hole shirt wearer Joe (Richard Ruxton). Obviously, Joe gets it into his head to catch himself a green man (no connection with Celtic gods, I suppose) and sell it to people in the big city.

So together with a bunch of his boozer friends he goes a-huntin' aliens. Alas/fortunately the alien has certain advantages over the deer the locals usually hunt. It knows how to shoot back. This can only end in a terrible tragedy.

The Galaxy Invader is one of the films of Baltimore's own king of locally produced monster movies, Don Dohler. Dohler was a backyard genius to some, a talentless hack to others.

It's far from being Dohler's best film, and, worse, it's also far from being one of Dohler's entertaining films. Turns out that making his monster something of a tragic figure goes far beyond Dohler's abilities as a director and writer and puts the weakest part of his films - the insipid dialogue and unfortunate talkiness - more in the foreground than I would call sane, making for a rather boring time.

Friends of bad acting will probably have at least a little fun with the amount of screaming and absurd line readings going on here, but that's something you get in Dohler's more exciting pictures, too. I also found the skewed conservatism of Dohler's world view at least slightly endearing. In Dohlermore, 1985 is still 1954 only with the haircuts of 1978 - most certainly not a place I'd want to live in, but coming for a visit from time to time could be fun.


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Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Lawless Street (1955)

Calem Ware (Randolph Scott) is the marshal of Medicine Bend, a frontier town just a few steps away from becoming part of actual civilization. As it is now, with the Oregon still a territory instead of a state, and justice still decided by the drawing of a gun, Calem is the only one who truly stands between the town and barbarism.

The aging gunman knows this very well, as he knows that one day one of the outlaws who regularly come to town to better the living legend he has become will kill him. Perhaps it will be someone who is just faster with his gun than the marshal, or it will be Calem's own guilt for all the people he had to kill in the course of his life that will defeat him.

Calem would have to be less tense - and certainly less lonely - if more of the people he is trying to protect would be of help to him, but those who don't hide behind him when trouble arises, are passing the time making bets on his death.

Things come to a climax when Calem learns that some of the good people in town seem to be paying the gunmen who are trying to kill him, for a town without law would be a lot more profitable for them.

At the same time when his estranged wife, the dreadfully untalented showgirl Tally Dickensen (Angela Lansbury) who is still in love with her husband yet can't cope with Calem's dangerous lifestyle or the things that lifestyle does to him, comes to town, the marshal's enemies acquire the services of his old enemy Harley Baskem (Michael Pate). For once, there is someone in town who is just as dangerous as Calem Ware.

When one thinks of great American Western directors, one usually does not think of Joseph H. Lewis. Lewis wasn't a bad director at all, but most of his films are a small yet decisive bit shy of excellence. A Lawless Street is probably as close as Lewis ever came to making a true classic.

Lewis, whose direction style is often a bit pedestrian, here finds a nice and dynamic way to present the film, with some very tensely filmed scenes early on and a lot of intelligently framed shots. Mostly, Lewis is doing his best to emphasize the work of his actors and the strong script.

Seeing how strong most of the actors acquit themselves, this is a excellent decision. Scott gives one of the best performances in a career full of great ones, as always a performance defined at once by humor, a sparseness (not lack, mind you) and nuance of emotion and knowledge of the importance of small gestures that is so typical for him. The bad guys of the film, Michael Pate as Calem's nemesis and Warner Anderson and John Emery as the not so morally upright pillars of community who want the Marshal gone are given a little less to do by the script than Scott, but are doing some impressive acting anyway. The only sore spot in the ensemble is Angela Lansbury, terribly miscast and prone to a shrill melodramatic tone completely at odds with everyone else in the film.

Kenneth Gamet's script is quite successful at talking about the old theme of barbarism versus civilization, while keeping everything character-based and a lot more honest about its characters' inner life than many American western manage to be. Really, how many films of the era or the country do you know in which a marshal and his estranged showgirl wife are discussing divorce? Or in which adultery (by the wife, no less) is something a marriage can survive without anyone committing suicide?

Despite the script's copious strengths, it is the same script that lets the film down in the end. A Lawless Street's conclusion is incredibly hastily handled, quite anticlimactic, of course cursed with a less than believable total Happy End, and very much at odds with the thoughtful consideration it gave its themes until then. It's as if someone had suddenly decided that the careful riffing on (the hateful) High Noon, the nuanced characterization and the comparative subtlety with which the film considered its themes just wasn't good enough anymore and instead opted for his old friend, the sledgehammer.

Which is of course an excellent way to demonstrate the difference between a classic and a near classic. Poor Joseph H. Lewis (unless it was his fault).


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Friday, May 29, 2009

In short: Ghost Dance (1980)

An archaeological dig in on Native American soil in the Southwestern United States excavates the mummified body of the cult leader and mass murderer Nahalla. Nahalla's spirit possesses the body of Aranjo (Henry Bal), himself a shaman who has seen his religious convictions falling out of style. Nahalla uses his fresh, athletic body to start up a new series of murders around the excavation. He also seems very interested in the leading archeologist, Dr. Kay Foster (Julie Amato).  You probably guessed when reading the word "mummy" that she looks exactly like Nahalla's former wife and killing spree partner.

As soon as the murders start, the tribal committee of the Native Tribe (that never gets a name) on whose land the dig and part of the killings take place, start to mutter all the typical "I told you so" warnings, putting aside the fact that they let themselves get talked into allowing the dig by Tom Eagle (Victor Mohica), one of the "moderns" and influential iconoclasts of their tribe and also Kay's boyfriend.

Tom isn't willing to accept a supernatural explanation for the murders at all. One can't help but think that his work for getting the dig permitted was mostly about proving a point regarding his own modernity and skepticism and to keep his own repressed memory of some quite supernatural deeds of the shaman Ocacio (Frank Salsedo) at bay. As it goes with skeptics in movies, Tom will have to get over his (oh so terrible, terrible) unbelief if he wants to help the less skeptical Kay to put Nahalla back where he belongs again.

Ghost Dance is (even if the IMDB wants to tell you otherwise) quite an interesting film. The slasher elements aren't too well integrated into the supernatural Native Americana (and could mostly be cut from the movie without it losing much of interest) and the pacing might be too slow for some, but ignoring these flaws leads to the discovery of quite a few creepy and clever touches. I'm quite enamored with scenes like the sequence in which Nahall turns into a cat to spy on Kay or the simple but nicely constructed finale.

Peter F. Buffa's direction is mostly on a late 70s TV level. It's technically competent enough (if you can ignore the very dark night shots) but often not all that exciting, with some sudden bursts of creative framing or good ideas to jolt the viewer to attention as well as a few beautiful location shots that can make one forget the brown and ugly museum a few scenes too many take place in.

The Native American culture isn't explored deeply, but the film is as respectful as these things get.

It's all nothing to rock anybody's socks off, but if you're interested in horror films of the independent era and aren't afraid of slow and cheaply made but basically competent films with a few moments of excellence, Ghost Dance is well worth seeking out.


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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Qarqacha - El Demonio Del Incesto (2000? 2002?)

also known as Jarjacha - El Demonio Del Incesto

Please blame any errors and mistakes in the following on the lack of information about the film on the 'net and my doubtful Spanish.

A trio of scientists - Yvonne, Sebastien and Nielo - (they're anthropologists or ethnologists, I suppose) traipse through the Andes to study the culture of the people living in the poor mountain villages there. It's not the most pleasant of expeditions, it has to be said. Strange groaning noises in the night make the city people more than a little nervous, and when they have reached the village they're bound to study, nobody wants to open their doors at night to give them shelter. After meeting a rather panicked looking countryman holding a mirror up into their faces, they finally stumble into an unlocked building. Inside is a woman who cries over the body her dead son. Well, at least it's shelter from whatever may stalk the night here.

The next morning, the intrepid explorers meet Don Maximo, who I suppose is something like the mayor of the village (although he looks about twenty years to young for a position like this). He's very shouty and rather unhelpful, but at least he agrees to let the scientists stay in his house for the duration of their research.

His daughter - looking about five years younger than her father - is not too impressed by him anymore, it seems, and has started a rather unhealthy relationship with a relative (known to me as "the guy in the red shirt"), with beautiful highpoints of romance like red shirt guy breaking into her home while she sleeps and staring at her naked legs. Oh, and sex, I suppose.

Some time later, the three scientists see the older woman they met earlier, dragging the coffin of her dead son through the village, every villager pointedly ignoring her and closing their door. The three decide to help her carry the load to the local cemetery and bury her son. After he is put under, a man in a monk's robe appears, makes a few hasty gestures of blessing over the grave and runs away again. Which does not sound too friendly, but is still quite a bit nicer than the horde of screaming, sling-swinging villagers that now appears and wants to lynch the mourning woman for being an evil witch (who had sexual relations with her son?). The scientists give her the opportunity to flee, which the villagers seem to accept relatively peacefully, but when they return to the village, their baggage lies in front of Don Maximo's house. To no one's surprise, the other villagers don't want to take them in either, and they have to take shelter in an abandoned and ruined house, while they again hear the groans of something all around them in the night.

The next morning, the villagers find one of their own dead outside - it is obvious to Don Maximo that the man has been killed by a Qarqacha (or Jarjacha), a type of brain-eating demon that is half man, half alpaca people who have incestual relationships turn into, even after their death. It seems as if Qarqachas are also able to turn themselves into alpacas at night, and so a screaming horde of villagers descends on some rather unimpressed looking alpacas, ties them up and throws them into a barn. The next morning, the animals have transformed into two very naked people (red shirt guy and daughter, I think), who are stoned and beaten to death by the villagers.

This still isn't the end of the whole strange affair, though. A third monster is roaming the surroundings and attacks again the next night, spitting in its victims faces to paralyze them and then nibbling their brains. It also finally attacks one of the three scientists (while he is guarding Yvonne following the call of nature), whose inclusion in the whole affair never seemed all that necessary.

Fortunately, we learn, the Qarqacha is afraid of its own mirror image, giving the villagers a fine possibility to beat it to death.

Who knew that Peru had its own backyard film industry? As far as I could find out, this type of ultra cheap regional horror movie based on myth and urban legend is quite popular in the country and mostly sold on video tapes in the markets of Lima.

Much of Qarqacha speaks the international language of no-budget horror film we all know so well. It's shot on video (I don't think digital video, but I could be wrong), looks in parts as if it has been edited with scissors, is badly acted even when viewed by someone without the necessary language skills, not really directed in the sense you'd usually want to use the word, and based on a meandering script that mostly consists of scenes of people walking.

What makes the film worth watching apart from its obscurity and the opportunity it gives the non-Peruvian viewer to triumphantly scream: "I have seen a shot on video horror film from Peru, and you haven't!" is its strict regionalism. The film follows the old no-budget rule of "shoot what's there" and lucks into the fact that what is there in the Andes does look a lot more interesting and has been a lot less used in the past than the assortment of sub-urban houses and empty factory buildings its US-American and European cousins take place in. At times, the film takes on the feeling of a weird vacation tape, made in the places tourists usually don't visit, because they are poor and rather unpleasant.

What's also helpful for the non-Peruvian viewer here is that the myth the film is based on isn't too well known or documented outside the country, making its rules somewhat new and exciting for a certain type of person (me). And call me easily impressed, but I found a few of the scenes - especially the the monster hunting techniques pf the villagers - rather creepy in their rawness.

So, probably not a good movie, but an interesting one.


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I honestly don't know what to make of this

Is it a joke? Have I watched so many weird movies that I am hallucinating?

Just wait until you see the name of the director.


In short: Chandu On The Magic Island (1935)

Not much has changed since The Return of Chandu. The Lemurian cult of Ubasti still wants to abduct Princess Nadji (Maria Alba) to use either her body or her soul (the film isn't so sure about which) to revive their old high priestess, which will somehow also let Lemuria rule the world again, while very white mystic Chandu (Bela Lugosi) protects her - at least he says that he does.

Of course, being Chandu, he starts the film off with going away for unexplained reasons, leaving Nadji in the care of his annoying relatives, obviously leading to a near instant kidnapping. This time around, though, Chandu's rescuing work will be quite a bit more difficult, for the cultists at once have teleported Nadji to Lemuria itself. If they'd only used this trick before.

Our hero has only seven days to reach Lemuria, where he will witness even more abductions, kidnappings and re-abductions, all the while hindered in his heroic work by the "Black Curtain of Ubasti" that shrouds the island and (sometimes, sometimes not) nullifies Chandu's magical power of the Yogi phone. What luck that the bad guys are even more incompetent than he is!

Chandu On The Magic Island is a re-cut film version of the same serial The Return of Chandu was based on, and everything I said about that film still applies. The only thing that's different is that the editing and reassembling seems a little less slapdash here and that the whole kidnapping business reaches even more ridiculous heights, letting Chandu not look all that heroic anymore.

Still, it's good enough fun.


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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Black Magic Rites (1973)

also known as The Reincarnation of Isabel

So, there's this castle somewhere. In the castle lives this guy with a mustache (Raul Lovecchio) who is often bathed in green and red light and who reads books that contain sentences like "Vampires need blood that's not contaminated by human semen.".

His cousin (possibly one of the dozen characters stumbling through the film, or not) sells his half of the family castle to another guy with a mustache. Second mustache guy moves in with his fiancee Laureen (Rita Calderoni) and a horde of people including Laureen's mother (I think) and a dozen or so young women (relation to everyone else unknown) who are really really into dropping their clothes, fetishistically fondling shawls, screaming hysterically and sex. Especially sex.

Unfortunately, the castle's cellar has a direct connection to The Underworld, where four guys dressed like the Satanist version of the Three Supermen (but with face paint) are performing sacrificial rituals to revive the the witch Isabella (also Rita Calderoni), who hangs crucified on a wall of The Underworld.

There are also vampires around, or one vampire who is possibly Count Dracula himself (Mickey Hargitay) or rather his reincarnation. Turns out everyone in the castle is the reincarnation of someone connected to the witch's death some centuries ago, therefore stuff happens to them. Some get killed, some are dragged into The Underworld, some get buried alive, all get naked (yes, even the ugly pudgy dude, sorry). Other stuff happens. The end.

I admit defeat here. Usually, I am able to distill a small amount of sense even out of the most bizarre Italian sleaze fests, but this thing beats me. I suspect Black Magic Rites was directed by Alfonso Brescia's even more insane evil twin after stealing the identity of Italian filione director Renato Polselli, but as far as I can tell, it might have been made by Nyarlathotep himself.

Though there is much going on during the course of the movie, nothing of it makes any sense at all, be it on a plot level, on a metaphorical level, or just on the level of plain human sanity. When the film "explains" what is happening (after about 50 minutes of flashbacks, dream sequences, possible dream sequences, sudden scenes of Italian sex farce stuff and, well, other stuff), everything makes even less sense.

Even if one starts from the theory that Polselli had a bunch of actors, a cool looking castle and a camera, but most certainly no script as mankind understands the word yet still proceeded to make a film just for the love of the naked female breast, this does not explain the obvious care put into the bizarre flash cutting, the film's sometimes meandering, sometimes jumping between "reality", "dream" and scenes that make no sense as either "reality" or "dream". Or, you know, anything else about this thing.

Really nothing about this film seems explicable in any sense of the word I know of. If the film's goal was just to show us as many naked women as possible, wouldn't there have been easier ways to do it? If the goal was to make a horror film, wouldn't even the Italian style of doing things quick and on the cheap have called for a bit more sense (or sensibility)? Why write a script (if there was one) in which every utterance makes no frigging sense at all, neither in the context of the things we see, nor in the context of people usually using language to communicate something or shout at each other on the Internet? Why set your actors up to act only through blank zoned-out staring or screaming melodramatic hysterics?

In the end Black Magic Rites comes to us as a true enigma, a "film" seemingly made for no audience one could conceive of, consciously or druggedly using stylistic techniques to put its viewers into a state of pure befuddlement, puzzling and bewildering even for the most hardened lover of puzzling and bewildering things. I probably don't have to say that I loved it in all its glorious, sloppy, nonsensical, breast-loving majesty.

Now, some of you, my (mostly silent) readers, might think that this write-up makes no sense at all. You might even feel a tad confused by it. Please be assured that this is only a fraction of the effect the film itself will have on you.


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Music Monday: Norwegian Silent Movie Edition

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gentleman Killer (1967)

A small US town close to the border with Mexico is plagued by the activities of the Mexican border bandit "Colonel" Ferrerres (Eduardo Fajardo). The only thing that stands between the exceptionally unwashed and evil man and his gang and the riches the town and the federal bank with its federal gold could provide is a troop of cavalry soldiers under the command of Captain Reeves (Vidal Molina) - at least until the redrawing of the borders between Mexico and the US is finished, at which point the town will become Mexican territory and Ferrerres' playground by default anyway.

The bandit leader is not willing to wait this long, though, and sets in motion a plan to get at the gold a bit earlier. First part of this plan is to slaughter the cavalrymen who are supposed to relieve the current protectors of the town. The military in this part of the world functions in a rather strange way, and so the absence of their relief doesn't hinder the soldiers from leaving their posts. All of them but Captain Reeves, whose job it is to represent the US government and to keep order in town until the new blood arrives - whenever that may be.

Under these circumstances, it's not much of a surprise that Ferrerres' men are killing the good captain quite effortlessly and with a certain amount of sadistic glee.

Nobody could have expected that the newest arrival in town, the professional gambler and gunman Gentleman Jo (Anthony Steffen), is the good Captain's brother, nor could anyone have expected that Jo is as good at posing as his own brother, making friends with the whore with the heart of gold (Silvia Solar), laying ambushes, backstabbing, setting bandits against each other and other special talents useful for the hero of a Spaghetti Western, as he turns out to be when properly motivated by a wish for vengeance.

Giorgio Stegani's Gentleman Killer has a lot in common with the actor playing its hero. Anthony Steffen will hardly be anyone's favorite Spaghetti Western hero, but one wouldn't want to say he's doing a bad job at anything that is required of him. He has the swagger, he has the stare, he knows how to let the small muscles around his eyes do much of his acting and he is convincing in his action scenes. It's not his fault that there are people in the business who are even better at it all, yet still he'll never be remembered as fondly as Van Cleef, Eastwood or Nero.

It is really much the same with the whole film. Stegani's direction is certainly not flashy or very remarkable, but he keeps everything tight, grimy and tense. Not much of what is happening during the course of the movie will be a surprise to anyone, but Jaime Jesus Balcazar's script keeps the "when" and the "how" of the plot open enough to keep the film interesting. I was even surprised by the ending which manages to involve a deus ex machina that is for once neither annoying nor stupid and instead pushes the film in a direction that puts its own anti-Mexican ressentiment into question in an unsubtle yet effective way.

Friends of the gentlemen Nicolai and Morricone (this time around with Nicolai listed as composer and Morricone as conductor and musical director) will be glad to hear that the score is of their usual standard; surely not their best work, yet still sounding pretty damn great to my ears.

Gentleman Killer is definitely no Spaghetti Western masterpiece, not the sort of film I'd recommend to people who just want to get a little taste for the genre or who haven't already seen at least some of the films of the Sergios. It is rather the sort of movie that can keep someone like me in love with a genre even after I've experienced most of its high points and some of its hidden diamonds, a film that provides exactly what one would expect in a genre film and that won't be ashamed of it.


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Saturday, May 23, 2009

In short: Skinner (1993)

When Kerry Tate (Ricki Lake), the wife of truck-driving never home douchebag Geoff (David Warshofsky) puts their home's spare room up for rent, she seems to hit the jackpot as far as tenants go. Dennis Skinner (Ted Raimi) looks like a shy, sweet, nice if a little strange guy, exactly the kind of person a girl could really take a shine to.

Little does Kerry know that mild-mannered Dennis has the rather unpleasant hobby of hunting women, skinning them and wearing their skins on his next hunting outing.

But there are also some things Dennis doesn't know - Heidi (Traci Lords), a victim who somehow got away from him with a good half of her face missing, has become obsessed with finding him and punishing him for what he did to her. Heidi has somehow managed to trace Dennis and now diligently trails each of his steps. Well, when she's not sitting in her hotel room, in her underwear, shooting up what I suppose is meant to be morphine.

Skinner's director Ivan Nagy is probably better known for the fun facts about his sexual life we learned through the Heidi Fleiss scandal some years ago. Well, when this is a director's best work, he can't complain all that much.

There are really only two words necessary to describe this film: sleazy and seedy. Friends of early 90s neon blue sleaze will have quite a time with the blue and seedy hotel rooms, blue and seedy streets, blue and seedy factories and blue and seedy studio sets the film takes place in.

Apart from this very special time capsule effect and a sometimes quite outrageous unpleasantness, the whole mess hasn't too much to recommend itself for more quality oriented viewers. Or was that less depravity oriented?

Everything is just a little bit off in the wrong way. Raimi's performance is a little too pouty to be menacing or believable, the rest of the actors (yes, even Lords) may do their best to bring a dramaturgically sloppy script to life, but get no help at all from a director who on one hand takes his time to show us a long and pointless sequence of Raimi dressed in the skin of a black man prancing through the urban wasteland doing his abominable ethnic stereotype shtick that's just in there to offend, and who on the other hand just doesn't bother even with the simplest attempts at plotting, or the thirty seconds of characterization that would make Lords' character at least two-dimensional, and therefore vaguely interesting beyond her neat style and her absolute ineptness as a vigilante. And don't get me started on the idiotic ending.

Still, it is interesting to watch in its own unfriendly way. It's just too bad that you can sometimes nearly see the minor classic this could have become with a little more care taken in its writing and a better director, or with the truly terrifying identification with its killer that films like William Lustig's Maniac bring to the table.


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Friday, May 22, 2009

Rodan (1956)

After a relatively minor break-in of water in a coal mine in the Japanese Kyushu province, one of the miners is found dead, killed in a hardly explicable way and bearing the strangest wounds. Still, the only suspect for the death is another miner called Goro who disappeared during the break-in and has had quite a history of violent altercations with the dead man.

Neither Goro's sister Kiyo (Yumi Shirakawa), nor her boyfriend, the young mining engineer Shigeru (Kenji Sahara) believe the miner to be capable of killing someone, though.

They are soon proven right, when more people are killed, all bearing the same, inexplicable pattern of wounds. What really killed these people is a giant creature that looks rather like a cross between a caterpillar and a crab. Since this is Toho's Japan, there is little skepticism towards the existence of giant monsters and so an early involvement of the JASDF and the biologist Professor Kashiwagi (Akihiko Hirata) in the plot.

Shigeru, who turns out to be quite a heroic young man, is buried alive during the JASDF's fight against the murderous creature which itself doesn't seem to survive the clash with its human food source.

Shigeru is thought dead, but a small earthquake frees the lucky engineer. He must have seen something terrible while he was trapped in the mines, and now suffers from amnesia. When he finally starts to remember what it is that he has seen, he relates a frightening tale of a mine full of the creeping caterpillar things and something worse - a gigantic egg from which a winged reptile hatches, a thing itself so big that it eats the caterpillars the army had such difficulty fighting like small snacks.

One can't help but think that the things Shigeru has witnessed have a connection with the gigantic unidentified object that has been witnessed flying over parts of Asia with a speed no plane could reach and eating planes for breakfast.

Based on Shigeru's description and an out of focus photograph, Kashiwagi develops the theory that a combination of chance and radiation has caused the development of a biological mutant and the meaner and bigger brother of the Pteranodon, the Radon, has returned out of the past.

Rodan is the the third (or first, or fourth, depending on the way you count them) of Toho's kaiju eiga and the first to be made in colour. Directed by the great Ishiro Honda, it is a strikingly beautiful film that would probably be worth watching for some of the colour compositions alone.

To the kaiju fans delight, Rodan (which should be called Radon, but had to be renamed to avoid trouble with a toy making corporation), is also quite a brilliant piece of writing. Sure, you'll have to ignore the weak explanation for the existence of the film's giant monsters, but if you are unable to do that, no giant monster film will ever find your approval. What the script by Takeshi Kimura and Takeo Murata does oh so right is the use of escalation. From one murder to an unseen monster to the caterpillars to the army fighting the caterpillars to Rodan to something I am not going to spoil, the film never stops making everything bigger and every stake a little higher, putting the kind of stuff people like Jerry Bruckheimer do today to shame. I was surprised how thrilling in the way modern blockbusters often try to be a fifty years old film I must have seen a dozen times as a child still can be (at least in its Japanese cut - the eight to ten minutes cut from the American version can't mean anything good).

The film also has the fortune to have come quite early in Toho's kaiju sequence, affording it an obviously high budget and a certain sense of unpredictability of the proceedings.

Rodan has a feeling of freshness about it. Nobody behind the camera had already made a dozen films of the same type, and everybody was at the top of his game, making something new and exciting here. Honda's direction is as meticulous as always with tighter pacing than in many of his later films. Honda also shows a subtle sense for smaller gestures made by the actors, something that you can in fact always find in his films, if you are willing to look for it.

The actors don't have all that much to do, of course, but everyone on screen is more than able to make her or his character credible.

That Tsuburaya's special effects are splendid and Ifukube's music excellent barely needs to be mentioned.

The only thing I find myself able to criticize about Rodan is the film's lack of depth when compared to the original Gojira, but complaining about this seems to me rather like someone complaining that the diamond he got as a present just isn't big enough.


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Things I learned from "Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus"

  • "Megalodon" is pronounced "Meggledonn"
  • Smell is a most powerful thing
  • A marine biologists' work consists of mixing a multitude of multi-coloured fluids. And stealing submarines
  • Female marine biologists like to call themselves "mermaids"
  • Green fluorescent fluids are the best - just ask Dr. Herbert West
  • Lorenzo Lamas has paralyzed facial muscles which give him the power to say the most inane sentences without breaking down in insane bouts of laughter & he still has to hide his face for half of the movie
  • Meggledonns can jump as high as the flying altitude of a passenger plane, which proves to be very beneficial for a species hunting airplanes
  • Somewhere, my old Commodore Amiga is used to make CGI effects
  • Airplane fishing is a hobby meggledonns and giant octopi share
  • Oirish professors are oirish, lassie
  • Einstein and Oppenheimer and people who hunt giant monsters are somehow the same
  • If you want to kill a meggledonn or a giant octopus, you'd best do it as close to a famous landmark and/or a highly populated area as possible
  • Two very big sea monsters = one global catastrophe
  • If "Thriller in Manilla" is your description of your film's endgame, either the shark or the octopus must be Muhammad Ali, and therefore be the hero of your movie
  • "Only a hate stronger than their combined survival instincts can lead to such a result"
  • The laws of physics apply!
  • We are hoping for a bloodbath
  • Japanese people all talk in heavily accented English with each other
  • Even an Asylum production has a 2nd 2nd assistant director
  • The rip-off artists of The Asylum are perfectly capable of making a watchable piece of crap like this when they want to


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yakuza Demon (2003)

The smallish Yakuza group of the Date has taken on more than they can handle when they trespass onto the turf of the considerably larger Tendo group. One things leads to another, and the Tendo start attacking some of the Date's lower tier of members in retaliation.

The leaders of the Date think that it will all work out like it usually does in their business - both sides killing off some footsoldiers and then making up again with slightly redrawn borders between their territories.

Times like this are also a very fine opportunity to milk one's underlings dry "to finance the war". One of these underlings is Muto (Koichi Iwaki), himself the leader of a small sub-"family" of the Date group, consisting only of himself, Seichi (Riki Takeuchi) and Yoshi (Hideki Sone). Their little family unit once was completed by Muto's bar-owning girlfriend (Yoko Natsuki), but she left them a short time ago, wanting her man to go legit.

Trouble is, Muto hasn't the money his superiors want from him. With not much of a way out, Muto promises to assassinate a higher-up member of the Tendo to keep up his reputation. Seichi is dismayed at the thought of his father-by-choice going to jail for fifteen years (that's the typical muder sentence in modern day yakuza films) or dying in a futile effort to kill someone, and gets Muto jailed for two years for some smaller crime. He also delivers the money they want to his bosses, money that he has stolen directly from the war chest of the Tendo group. Of course, that's not enough for them to make up for Muto's supposed cowardice of landing himself in jail, so Seichi makes up for it the only way he knows and kills the highest boss of the Tendo (the Emperor of the Universe, Tetsuro Tanba).

Which obviously leads only to a further escalation of the conflict into an all-out war the Date never wanted and most certainly will not be able to win. It won't be long until the Date group is going to expell Seichi to somehow finagle out of their little war.

Yakuza Demon is supposed to be one of Takashi Miikes weaker films, but I don't think it weak at all, unless one only appreciates Miike's films when they're trying to be as mad as possible.

This one's a very different sort of film, a classicist Yakuza film that replaces most of Miike's typical absurdism with classic, stoic gangster film existentialism. Yakuza Demon is mostly a film about love and family as seen through the eyes of people who are nearly completely unable to express their feelings through anything else than violence or the seething anger and frustration Riki Takeuchi is so good at showing through his glare.

It is also a very slow film, with many static camera set-ups that often position the viewer as an audience sitting one or two tables away from the characters. Miike consciously ignores many possibilities for kinetic violence. This time around he's more interested in watching his characters when they are not spilling anyone's guts (and noodle soup) on the floor. In many aspects, it is much more painful to watch the characters never directly express anything they feel than watch them kill and die (although there will be more than enough dying before the film is over).

As much as I like Miike's madder outings, Yakuza Demon is something very special, akin to Kinji Fukasku's Graveyard of Honor and similar classics of the jitsuroku eiga or the bleakest, saddest film noir you could imagine.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Return of Chandu (1934)

Frank Chandler (Bela Lugosi), master of the mystical arts of "The Orient", and therefore also known as Chandu the Magician, brings his friend, the Egyptian princess Nadji (Maria Alba) into the supposed safety of his Los Angeles home.

Poor Nadji is quite the popular girl, you understand. Especially the Lemurian cult of Ubasti is very interested in acquiring Nadji's body as the vessel to carry the soul of an ancient high priestess of their goddess. This kind of soul transfer is only possible into the bodies of members of the Egyptian royal family, and Nadji, being the last of her line, is the last hope the cultists have to get their high priestess reincarnated. Why they didn't try their luck a few centuries earlier is anybody's guess.

The traveling time between Lemuria and California will certainly not be enough to hinder their plans, and soon Chandu and the cultists are playing a merry game of kidnap/rescue the princess. It is quite possible that Chandu is not the most competent of heroes, what with his permanently letting his charge alone or in the care of his nephew Bob (Dean Benton). The latter amounts to a fate worse than death - being in the same room as Bob, at least until he runs off to do who knows what and leaves Nadji to be kidnapped again.

Chandu, you have changed! While the first Chandu film featured the less than fascinating Edmund Lowe in the title role and (house favorite) Bela Lugosi as his nemesis, the excellently named Roxor, this sequel promotes dear Bela into the unusual role of the hero, an opportunity the great man seems to have relished.

As was so often the case in Lugosi's career, he is also the only one on set who does any acting at all, unless one wants to call Maria Alba's excellent work at cowering in fear and being unconscious acting.

Compared to the first Chandu film, Return of Chandu is a much impoverished outing, with sometimes sloppily arranged, cheap looking sets, the already mentioned non-acting, not too many stunts and an effects budget that doesn't allow for much more in the way of magic than a little invisibility (no moving objects here, obviously), Bela's patented hypnotic gaze and the Yogi phone - Bela calling his mystical master WITH THE POWER OF HIS MIND to get great advice like "keep the faith" combined with a little magical GPS. Which I'd call something of a problem in a film about a magician.

This and other of the film's problems, like the repetitiveness of its plot, or a certain lack of transitions, have their reason in the sad and tragic truth that The Return of Chandu isn't a real feature film at all, but a fix-up of the first six parts of a twelve part serial, and a cheap one at that, quite naturally not leading to the slickest of experiences even in the hands of a genius of editing.

Still, it isn't all bad - the opportunity to see Bela for once as a film's hero is a fine thing, and his charisma and presence definitely is preferable to anything your typical white-bread serial hero actor could bring to a film, the few stunts that are there are fun enough, the plot has a certain pulpy drive, even if it does not make much sense, and the evil rituals are quite charming.

I also found myself absolutely enamored with the main bad guy's - whose name unfortunately gets lost through the terrible sound quality of the print - love for very big hats. I suppose he has other deficiencies that make wearing them necessary. He starts out with the biggest damn turban mankind has ever seen, but obviously levels up in the second half of the film and is then allowed to wear the Tower of Pisa on his head.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

Music Monday: Mistakes And Regrets Edition

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Three films make a post

Lord of Illusions (1995): The great lost Clive Barker film (if lost means, "nearly ignored by everyone") merrily mixing Barker's usual pain/pleasure/pointy things in people are awesome shtick with tropes of the hardboiled detective tale. Pleasantly slow-going, sometimes a little silly with its capital-E EVIL, but still a fine film full of honored character actors - and Scott Bakula, but oh well.

Stardust (2007): Matthew Vaughn's Stardust hollywoodizes Neil Gaiman's novel somewhat fiercely, yet as charming, funny Hollywood fantasy romances go, it is still a successful film by virtue of often actually being charming and funny and most definitely a romance. In addition to the expected big set-pieces, Vaughn's direction also shows a pleasant affinity for the importance of smaller gestures.

Home Movie (2008): Another fake found footage horror film. This time around, we are watching the home movie's of a small family living "deep in the woods" with two kids growing steadily creepier. The plot unfortunately hinges on the viewer's ability to ignore the fact that a reverend and a child psychiatrist really should be able to be a little bit more decisive and competent when it comes to diagnosing their children as completely fucked up. Honestly, they don't talk, they don't smile, they don't laugh, they make sandwiches out of their goldfish! I couldn't bring myself to put my brain this deep into hibernation, so the whole film fell flat on its face early and often, never to recover. Adrian Pasdar's highly annoying performance as the even more annoying reverend and dad didn't help much.


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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eyes of Fire (1983)

It's the early days of the colonization of Northern America. Two girls - a teenager and a younger child - are found by soldiers in the French territories under rather strange circumstances. The girls tell a rather strange story of how they ended up in a crate drifting down the Algonquin River.

Will Smythe (Dennis Lipscomb), a British preacher freshly arrived in the small wilderness settlement the girls lived in, has to flee from the wrath of the townspeople. It seems shacking up with the half-mad "witch" Leah (Karlene Crockett), whom he had brought with him from England and Eloise (Rebecca Stanley), the wife of trapper Marion Dalton (Guy Boyd), while breaking certain biblical laws is not a good way to endear yourself to the people of a town, even when you are the sort of charismatic bullshitter with a strong belief in your own lies that Smythe is.

In fact, Smythe would be quite dead if not for the very real magical power of Leah. Still, he and a very small group of followers take some of the settlement's resources and try to make their way down the river, into the Promised Land the preacher rambles of.

They are soon followed by Marion, who was not in town when the trouble (or the adultery) happened, and who loves his wife too much to just let her disappear into the wilderness.

It's the group's good luck that he does. The "Promised Land" turns out to lie on Shawnee territory, and the tribe is not very keen on the small group of religious settlers suddenly appearing on their land, as harmless as the group may look. Marion can't do much else to protect the group than to lead them into a valley that is taboo to the tribe.

The valley contains some derelict huts, obviously the dwelling place of an earlier group of settlers trying to live there that has disappeared without a trace.

There is in fact a very good reason for the Shawnee avoiding the valley - it is the dwelling place of an evil spirit who captures the soul of anyone who tries to settle in the valley.

Marion doesn't completely believe in tales like this, but he very much believes that the valley must hide some rather unpleasant things, pressing the preacher to risk a trek through Shawnee territory and move on. Smythe, in the grip of his very own religious rapture, doesn't listen, of course.

The only one who can protect the settlers from the things which very soon start stalking them is Leah. The young woman will have to wrestle with the evil spirit, but her magic alone won't be able to protect her friends from their own weaknesses.

Eyes of Fire, directed by Avery Crounse, is quite a special little film. Obviously made for very little money, with some rather ropey performances (especially by the child actors), it has a whiff of being made by someone who has seen quite a few of the films of Werner Herzog, yet who also has a certain affinity for special effects and genre storytelling trying to make a horror movie about the concept of the genius loci, and succeeding against the odds.

One could criticize the loose plotting of the film, or its slow pace, but both are very much part of its allure. The film is a mood piece, relying completely on the willingness of its audience to accept the film's rhythm, to let the spirit of the place and the time it tries to convey work on it. If this does not work on you, you probably won't find much to like about the film.

I am of course predisposed to get insanely enthusiastic about things like this, even more so when the film in question embraces (its own interpretation of) Native American mythology as thoroughly as The Exorcist embraces Catholicism. It is rather fitting that Christian religion is not of much import for the defense against evil here, but rather a useful tool for keeping the settlers in place. The actual fighting is done by two Spirits of Nature and the Spirit of Man.

Somehow Crounse avoids to make the film as hokey as this might sound. The metaphors are very obvious and very blunt here, much more so than I usually prefer, yet the film has enough of a feeling of physical reality, of taking place in a concrete time and place, to it to keeps its metaphors grounded.

To mention the inherent oppressiveness of the woods in Missouri Eyes of Fire was filmed in or the creepy (if somewhat rubbery) design of its evil spirit, seems almost beside the point for something as heavily invested in Big Questions as this but Crounse's film (all metaphorical work aside) is still quite an effective piece of horror film making and it is still a film which very much wants to be a horror film. And it's an effective one at that.


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Friday, May 15, 2009

In short: Plague Town (2008)

An American family on a "family unit strengthening" vacation gets stranded in the terrible and dangerous wilds of Ireland as represented by Connecticut. Little do dad Jerry (David Lombard), slightly gothy daughter with a never explored, used, or clearly defined history of mental illness Molly (Josslyn DeCrosta), annoying bitchy daughter Jessica (Erica Rhodes), future wife/step-mom Annette (Lindsay Goranson) or Jessica's new British boyfriend Robin (James Warke) know that they have stepped into the territory of a village full of murderous, mutant children, and insane adults on the look-out for outsiders to "clean their seed".

I don't think I have to explain anything of what happens to the tourists in detail. You have seen it all before.

Plague Town is quite a disappointment. On a technical level, it's extremely solid - the acting is perfectly fine, the make-up effects go from solid to brilliant (in the case of Rosemary), photography and editing are excellent. But not much of this technical expertise is put to any use by a script that seems to go out of its way to avoid anything that could be interpreted as originality, intelligence or the truly weird. Instead, the viewer is presented with a series of scenes taken word for word out of the scripting handbook for backwoods horror films.

For every small flicker of brilliance or strangeness, there's a dozen rote clichés, as well as a tone deafness about which of the elements of the film's world are truly terrifying and which ones just the usual tripe about mad country people that I found rather disheartening.

The film features two or three very creepy scenes, though, and for one or two minutes at about the hour mark I even had the feeling that director David Gregory would finally stop to repeat element after element and scene after scene I (and therefore probably everyone else who watches horror films from time to time) have already seen in so many other movies, show a little more trust in his own abilities and start making his own film.

Alas, whenever the potential of, say, feminist horror or all-out weird body horror appears, it all too soon slinks back into the shadows to be replaced by uninspired variations of the same old, same old, done competently enough, but deeply uninvolving.


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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Angry River (1971)

The martial world is struck by a series of cowardly attacks with poison darts. A large part of the survivors of the good clans meets up in the castle of the Lan to discuss how to find the perpetrator of the dastardly deeds.

The poisoner is no sloth, though, and attacks Master Lan right in his own castle, leaving the man on his deathbed. His only hope for survival is something called the Black Herb, a magically potent remedy that can only be found in Soul Valley.

The few martial artists who volunteer for the long and arduous journey to retrieve the Black Herb barely make it out of the castle's door before their hidden enemy strikes and kills them, until Master Lan's daughter Lan Feng (a very young Angela Mao) is the only fighter capable, willing and left standing.

The tough young woman has to trek through some of the more dangerous parts of China. with unsubtle but fitting names like the Angry River (a better name for it would have been "The Explody River", by the way) or the Merciless Pass, while fighting off the thugs and goons Poison Dart (Pai Ying) sends after her. Using a judicious amount of martial arts and willpower, Lan Feng overcomes these obstacles and arrives at her destination. Arriving at Soul Valley turns out to be not enough, though.

The resident hermit (I think played by Fung Ngai) insists on his visitors going through another series of tests (including a short but awesome tyrannosaurus rhino fight). Lan Feng doesn't do too well here, but the hermit is impressed enough by her courage and daughterly sense of duty that he offers her a dose of the Herb if she allows him to rob her of her martial powers. Being the good daughter that she is, the heroine agrees.

Now in possession of the herb, Lan Feng "only" has to return back home without any way to overcome anything more dangerous than a fly in combat and in the possession of a magical herb that not only heals all known poisons but can also be used to double a person's martial prowess. It's not difficult to imagine that there is quite a lot of people willing to kill for the possession of something like this, and soon Lan Feng is on the run from every thug and bad guy around.

Her toughness and intelligence will have to be enough to help her out of more than one tight spot. Fortunately, she also meets the chivalrous swordsman Leng Yu-Han (Kao Yuen) who is more than willing to lend her a hand and his sword.

The Angry River is an early Golden Harvest production with a very young Angela Mao in the lead, and there are more than enough people on the net willing to tell you that it is not an especially interesting or worthwhile film, being made some time before the production house's and the actress' prime.

I'll have to disagree with that quite a bit. Sure, the plot is bog-standard wuxia fare, but - as is so often the case with genre films - its qualities are lying in the execution of well-known elements.

And when it comes to the execution, there's not much I don't find praiseworthy (or, if not praiseworthy, then at least charming) about The Angry River. Mao's performance is not a subtle one, but it is as intense and enthusiastic as one could wish for, making the young and rather headstrong (in a good way) heroine the center of the film even when the script doesn't always trust her to be. The rest of the acting is solid throughout, the fighting performances are energetic, while the fights themselves are about as creatively choreographed as one expects (and sometimes surprisingly bloody).

What really makes the film though is Wong Fung's direction. When he is not overusing the camera's zoom lens, he's occupied with some spectacularly framed location shots, using natural light as beautifully as anyone I can think of, with nary a moment that isn't gorgeous in one way or the other.

But friends of cave sets (and who likes swordplay movies and isn't!?) won't be too disappointed. There is a short yet sweet scene in a rather pretty flower cave with pool and dinosaur that somehow fits tonally quite well into the less artificial looking world that makes up the rest of the film.

Most of the time, The Angry River is a semi-realistic wuxia film with only slight supernatural elements, but there are some short bursts of the sort of moments you'd usually find in a Weird Fu movie (yes, the dinosaur thing again, but also interesting geography like the Angry River itself), giving the film a judicious amount of spice.

It is really a rather exciting film, but one I find relatively difficult to write up as enthusiastically as it deserves, because it mostly does what you'd expect of a film of its type and period. It just does it exceedingly well.

So, if you are at all interested in wuxia movies, there's just no excuse not to grab the dirt cheap Joy Sales DVD and have some fun.


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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Road Killers (1998?)

Serial criminal and biker Thomas Pain (Jonathan Haynes) is gunned down by a cop after a successful and peaceful, if armed, robbery and dies. Fortunately or unfortunately (it depends rather heavily on the strength of your wish for this film to end early), two overacting, bug-eyed "scientists" (deserved quotation marks are in the actual movie, charmingly) have found an olde booke of magick and its little bonus content, the Potion To Raise The Dead. The lab-coated duo somehow manage to acquire Pain's corpse to take their research to the next level after illegal animal experimentation.

Mister Pain revives rather too well, kills the two cackling madmen and makes off with book and potion. He hasn't changed a bit since he was alive, so he gets his old biker troupe together to do the things people who tattoo their names on their fists are wont to do.

They start out (their plan for world domination? their summer vacation?) by grabbing themselves a nice shack in the woods near the small Southern town of Plain Dealing, killing the owner while they are at it. Stage two of Pain's master plan consists of terrorizing Plain Dealing.

Too bad there's neither time nor budget for a lot of terrorizing, so Pain and his troupe barely have time to kill the sheriff (who never heard the one about avoiding to let the badguy with the gun get behind you) and abduct another man and sacrifice him to Satan while everyone swills the magic potion before a quickly built vigilante force of local yokels under the lead of a not-Ash named Matt (Carl Weatherly) shows them the true meaning of Southern hospitality (perfectly incorporated in Matt's helpful advice to "shoot first, ask questions later").

Too bad there's still half a movie to go. So, things being as magically and undead as they are, the bikers are dying quite easily, yet the poor mudered murdering dears return from the dead a few surprisingly decomposition-free weeks later to take vengeance.

Will the excitement never cease!?

Road Killers, directed by a certain Derek E. Welch, is quite a peculiar little movie. Too backyard-produced to even have an IMDB page, possibly meant as a comedy, not funny in the way it is supposed to be yet very funny indeed, without any make-up effects for its undead and featuring undead people who may be called zombies by the supposed good people of Plain Dealing, but who always only act, move and look like your usual hobby actor playing a biker, the film is full of the kind of little wonders of stupidity that make humanity such a loveable mess.

More than once while watching this, I had to ask myself questions like: "Is the dry, inflectionless drawl of our hero supposed too sound so flat? Is it so flat to make it funnier? Is it written so flat as not to overtax Weatherly's dubious acting abilities? Why do I even think about this thing so hard? Oh, look, a decapitation!".

The quality of its direction is about what one would expect. There's one or two Evil Dead inspired shots, much camera on groundlevel or crotchlevel business, no attempts to place any of this in any reality I know of, no comical timing to speak of etc etc.

Which does not mean that this isn't entertaining or funny. It is actually both, just not in the way it was meant to be entertaining or funny. Road Killers is one of the very exciting cases of a horror comedy where the true hilarity of the proceedings is based on every joke falling flat, becoming a very different kind of joke (and funny!) through its own ineptness. Truly,this must be the kind of paradox some Greek philosopher-mathematician would approve of, hopefully forgetting all about turtles in the process!


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wendigo (1978)

Not to be confused with Larry Fessenden's Wendigo, but honestly, one couldn't.

A small party of people - photographer Eric, used car salesman/hunter Frank, Frank's girlfriend whose name I have already forgotten (and I'm most certainly not going to start the film up again to check, or - in fact - ever) go for an enjoyable time (a weekend? a week? a year?) in the (Canadian?) wilderness.

Their "Franco-Canadian" guide Defago and his Native Canadian assistant Billy are supposed to lead Eric and Frank to a moose (yes, exactly one), so that Eric can make a photo (yes, also exactly one) and sell it to a Big City magazine (look, I didn't write the script, so don't come complaining to me) and Frank can shoot it dead.

Of nearly equal interest to the city boys as the secretive and well hidden star of the animal kingdom, is the island with the old Indian graveyard which is situated in the area. It is possibly complete with hidden treasure (umm, jewelry made of bone?) and its own guardian spirit with a completely pointless backstory Defago will inform us in extensive, flashbacky detail about.

Too bad that the helicopter that brought the party into the wilderness crashes, leaving them and Mike-the-pilot stranded. Not that anyone seems even a bit concerned, don't worry, so everyone just goes about their business.

While I can promise you that nothing much will happen, the guardian spirit will still find a reason to get pissed off at the strangers. I think Frank's tendency to ramble on and on and on is to blame.

Oh boy, this is supposed to be an adaptation of Algernon Blackwood's classic story of the same title, but - apart from the character names - it very much isn't.

What the film instead is, is an especially dire example of the elusive creature we know as the late 70s local filmmaking/microbudget epic.

Even for one of those, Wendigo is exceptionally adept at boring its viewers to tears. The film's problem isn't that there's not much of import happening in it, its problem is that the not-happening does not happen in an interesting way.

Don't get me wrong, the 75 minutes of your life this steals won't be a total loss - for one, the film is very pleasant to have running in the background while one takes a nap, most probably thanks to the extensive amounts of completely inappropriate library music. Also commendable are some painful moments of something that is probably supposed to be sexual innuendo, an "Indian ritual" with following G-rated animal magnetism sex and lots and lots and lots of scenes of people talking, people walking and (for a change) people canoeing, all directed by a blindfolded man held at gunpoint by Canadian Mounties and their deaf wolves.

It is also quite a showcase for the different types of bad acting. There's Defago's "French cook or serial killer" accent, reminding me of nothing so much as of a certain skunk, combined with quite a few fine moments of eye-bugging; Mike's and Frank's complete lack of voice inflections or facial expressions, both men always droning on and on and on like underpaid telemarketing zombies; girlfriend's amusing interpretation of sexiness, which is what she's going for whenever she's not hysterical; and last but most certainly not least Eric's overacted star moose-photographer, as annoying as humanly possible for someone who isn't a mime.

It is in fact quite a shame that this ensemble isn't allowed to do a little more. Confronted with four or five scenes of plot, they'd probably be responsible for hours and hours of laughter.

As it stands, Wendigo isn't much of a film, even for someone with my somewhat lowered expectations, yet I know very well that the type of person who stumbles upon a film as obscure as this will watch it anyway, so it seems rather pointless to warn anyone away.


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Music Monday: Nearly Necrophiliac Edition

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lovecraft's Dagon, as machinima

made with Lionhead's The Movies.

via Grim Reviews

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

In short: Forbidden World (1982)

aka Mutant

Top troubleshooting space soldiering stud Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) and his trusty battle robot sidekick Sam (Don Olivera) have to postpone their vacation from being awesome ass-kickers when they are sent to a small research facility on a planet very far from Earth.

The lab is kept as isolated as possible to avoid any problems with contaminated research specimens somehow getting out - a reasonable precaution seeing that the scientists of the facility work in the exciting and dangerous field of genetic research to produce a new food source for humanity, a field of inquiry that usually leads to the creation of killer sharks or hideous mutations.

Well, "hideous mutations" are something one should probably expect when one experiments with implanting some very special genetic material into a human womb for no discernible reason. The product of that fun little idea is (surprise!) rather dangerous, but when Colby and Sam arrive on the planet, the creature has built itself a nice little cocoon and is safely isolated in a lab.

It's just too bad that Colby is too occupied with getting into bed with future "let's communicate with the hideous monster that has eaten all of my friends" specialist Dr. Glaser (June Chadwick), and that the rest of the crew consists of utter morons. So, yes, the creature escapes the merry bunch of idiots and horndogs that populate the facility and starts to wreak budget-conscious havoc.

Forbidden World is one of the attempts of Roger Corman's New World Pictures to produce an Alien rip-off, just without much of a budget, little sense and a surprisingly high NBPM (naked breasts per minute) index.

If you can ignore or love the utter stupidity (this script was definitely not written by John Sayles, but, oh, "story by Jim Wynorski", which does explain the amount of naked flesh) of everyone and everything, the silliness of the way the monster was created or will be killed, the blatantly stolen ideas and director Alan Holzman's rather loose idea of what exactly a plot is supposed to be, Forbidden World is rather good fun.

On a technical level, it's well made (he said, ignoring the often visible microphone) - the camera work is fine, the editing is inventive if bizarre (or is it possible that someone in the cutting room found sex really this icky?), the music is godawful synthie blubbering (as I like it) and the sets and monster are filmed in a way that makes the best of very little.

It probably helps if the prospective viewer likes women with transparent high-heeled shoes and/or without clothes, or likes to watch an alien monster thingie die by puking, but I cautiously promise a reasonably fun 70 minutes.