Sunday, 28 September 2014

Balls Deep in Madness! Moebius (2013)

Moebius (2013)
Director: Ki-duk Kim
Starring: Jae-hyeon Jo, Eun-woo Lee, and Young-ju Seo
Running Time: 89 min

I love South Korean horror films, they have taken up where J-Horror has left off and are some of the most inventive, interesting and of course, the strangest films that I've seen of late.  Also, in the last couple of years, directors like, Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Stoker), Joon-ho Bong (Host, Snowpiercer) and Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil, The Last Stand) have had a chance to work with some great "Hollywood" talent or have had their films optioned for North American remakes, like "Oldboy" and more recently, "I Saw The Devil".  So I was looking forward to seeing what kind of ultra violence was awaiting me in this film.  

Housewife/mom(?) has found out that her husband is cheating on her.  She follows him out one night and listens to her husband and his girlfriend copulating in the car outside their house.  When her husband gets home, she grabs a knife and tries to cut off his penis while he is sleeping.  However, her husband cock blocks or is it block cocks on her and shoos her away.  Still enraged and angry the woman decides to do the next best thing, which is to mutilate her teenage son and cut off his penis.  Makes sense right?  This time she succeeds and the teenage boy wakes up with a horrifying scream and a hand full of blood.  The woman also eats the penis to make sure that the doctors cannot reattach it. Thanks mom!  The father throws the housewife/woman/peniseatingmachine out of the house and brings his injured son to the hospital.
  After a night at the hospital, the father feels awful about what has happened because he feels that it's his fault this happened to his son and he begins to look up on the internet penis transplant methods.  You can really find anything on the web.  At school, some bullies find out that the boy has no penis and start picking on him.  Fortunately/Unfortunately (?), a group of rape happy hoodlums rescue him and he becomes a member of their gang.  His gang and him then rape the shop girl, who he has a crush on and they're all sent to jail.  While in jail his father discover on the web that if you rub a rock on your hand or foot enough you can have an orgasm and rushes to the jail with this information to his son.  And then the movie gets weird.  Will the loss of this boy's penis lead everyone down the even wronger path or will someone finally have the balls to stand up and stop this mayhem?

  It's a pretty crazy film and has some very strange intense scenes that may not be for everybody.  Veteran director Ki-duk Kim (3 Iron, Pieta) really pushes the boundaries with multiple, yes multiple penis mutilation scenes, gang rapes and a really weird incestuous relationships that leaves your head spinning.  Also, there is no dialogue in the film, so people who complain about subtitles, you'll be happy to know there are none.  There is sound but aside from the grunts, groans and the painful screams of the characters, Kim has chosen to somewhat masterfully tell the this story visually and using sound to complement each scene instead of words being the focus.

  Luckily the cast is up to the challenge with Jae-hyeon Jo (Bad Guy, The Weight) and Eun-woo Lee (Twilight Gangsters, An Ethics Lesson), who play the parents with such maddening perfection that they don't need words to push across the screen their characters emotional volatility and remorse.  As for the son, played by relatively new actor Young-ju Seo (The Thieves, Juvenile Offender), he becomes the real star of the film by giving the complexity and authenticity to the character that is necessary for the film to work and look forward to seeing him in future roles.

 However there are a few issues that I had with the film.  **Spoilers** Although, I like the idea of not having dialogue, it's difficult to gauge the relationship status of the women character that Eun-woo Lee plays.  If she is the mother, which I assume she is then the relationship with the son at the end is more unfitting and sick but if she is a girlfriend or step-mother then it doesn't seem as gross, still inappropriate but not as twisted. Also, I was surprised that the love interested for the boy, the girl in the shop was so willing to take him back after he fake raped her (he had no penis) with his buddies who did rape her.  Loved may conquer all, but I don't know about that.  I still think that it was a bit of a stretch but there are so many weird things going on here, that the leeway on things are obviously there. **End Spoilers**

    This is an interesting film for sure but I don't know if this will be up for a remake any time soon.   For an art house type film, it very cohesive and director Kim tells a very puzzling story that will have you mesmerized to your screen wondering what the hell is gonna happen next.  It's different, so it pushes the boundaries of film making and decency but isn't that the best kind of film. 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

An Interview with a New Zealand Vampire & His I.T Friend? (Jemaine Clement and Stu Rutherford)

The Bite's On: What We Do In The Shadows (2014) by Tina H.

  I am sitting in a shadowy room somewhere downtown Toronto watching a private screening of  What We Do In The Shadows; a new horror-comedy film by New Zealander comic duo Jemaine Clement (Flight of  the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Academy Award Nominee, Two Cars, One Night)  - who both wrote, directed and starred in it.

  This mockcumentary is set in Wellington, New Zealand which follows three vampires ‘living’ together as flatmates (that’s roommates for our North American vernacular). A camera crew is granted permission to film them before the Unholy Masquerade Ball -- a ball for the Undead and Non-human citizenry of Wellington to converge for bloody cocktails and deadly dancing. With the arrival of ‘fresh blood’ new vampire Nick and his human best friend, I.T. Specialist Stu; the vampires are thrown into the modern world of computers and internet, martial arts and 'fresh virgins' at the local nightclub. All batty mayhem ensues.

Twenty minutes into the film, What We Do In The Shadows has aspects which remind me of "An Interview With A Vampire" having a sleepover at “The Osbournes” --  but heavy on the mid-century Euro accents, and possibly with more leather pants.There are moments of absurd hilarity where the vampires have a meeting to discuss housework misappropriation using a chore wheel. There are also poignant moments too. Imagine the normalcy of everyday interactions dealing with interrelationship conflicts, regrets and longings. Now throw in a few vampires who's been around the block a few centuries; it makes for very unhappy, unfulfilled vampires.
The humour really comes from seeing the different vampires and their egos, earnestly attempting to understand and balance our real world values with their old world charms - and failing dismally. As Deacon, one of the vampires confidently asserts with a grin, "When you become a vampire, you become sexy!"

   Based on a short film project Clement and Waititi created back in 2005, actual filming only began in 2012. I chatted more with Jemaine Clements who plays the vampire Vladislave, and Stu Rutherford who plays himself, a human I.T. specialist that 'helps people put their computer systems together'.

---------------- How did the idea of a vampire mockumentary came to be? ---

Jemaine: Taika and I…a couple of times played vampire characters, once on stage at a bar, at comedy night and once at a party we went to - a Halloween party - where no one else was dressed up as anything.[Laughter] Even then it looked funny, just vampires walking around and everyone else was normal…which was kind of the whole idea of the movie. But separately I wanted to make a vampire movie and Taika wanted to make a mockumentary movie.

---There was a sense that the Vampires were bored. They struggled to keep to their ‘old ways’ but ended up doing more ‘normal human things’. The introduction of ‘fresh blood’ Nick and human I.T. Stu gave the Vampires a new ‘lease of life’ and perspectives. Were the Vampires having a mid-life crisis and did they find the meaning of life? ---

Jemaine: When we first had the idea, I don't think so but by the time we filmed it we were middle-aged [laughter]…so it did seem that the idea of…you know….what have you done with your life and when will you let things go and move on. So it did keep coming to be more of that than what we original had thought. I think some of the vampires dealt with their issues…but my character is still stuck doing his thing.

--- The film was primarily based on ‘improvisation’ and that you seldom shared the script with the cast. Certainly with the character Stu, there was no specific script developed for him - it was entirely based on the actual persona of Stu Rutherford (Rutherford was a roommate of Waititi and was asked to be in the original 2005 short film). ---

Stu: They kind of go like this…here's the script [motions hands forward and back quickly]. Yeah I never really got much. There were a couple of scenes that I was kinda told what to do but apart than that, they would just say "go to that room, sit down and be yourself".

Jemaine: Yeah. Not very often we shared the script…if it was complex like if there were two of the characters talking to each other, we'd show them the shape of it…say the Werewolves…in the van on the way to filming, we'd let the Werewolves see the script….[laughter] one of the very few times.
--- So you ended up with a large amount of footage from the improvisation. From the extra footage, how did you decide which scenes were funnier, and which to keep in the movie? ---

Jemaine: Well most things we wrote ended up in the movie. A lot of times we thought about what our favourite comedy movies are, especially the big, wacky comedies….like Monty Python's The Holy Grail and Spinal Tap….those kinds of movies. 

--- Stu, there was a particular scene when you were teaching the computer and internet to the Vampires; you had a perfect look on your face when I.T. people are dealing with non-IT people.  ---

Stu: The Vampires were a bit slow. Yeah…I still work part-time in I.T. At that time [shooting of the movie] I was doing the exact job I said I was doing in the 2005 short film. At that time, I was basically working part-time in I.T….doing twenty hours a week…helping  people set up their systems.

---Jermaine, there were a couple of scenes between the Vampires and Werewolves, which reminded me a lot of the Westside Story, between 2 gangs. Did you think about adding any original music? Would you consider making a musical-movie? ---

Jermaine: No, it wouldn't fit into the documentary I think, it would be too weird…but maybe if someone makes a stage version, they can do that. Yeah, I hope so. I really want to.

--Any new projects on the horizon?---

Jermain: [Stu…you going to take out the viruses out of my computer?] [Laughter] Yeah…me and Taika pitched a show to HBO, they got us to write a few episodes of the idea. So I am writing that at the moment…and Taika is too.

Stu: I am working on a lighting system with a friend, he is a photographer. So we are building the platform…basically it's like a thing to make special effects…so it's kind of combining film with software development and hardware.

What We Do In The Shadows premiered recently at the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness, and won the People's Choice Award. A win for all vampires still living in the shadows.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Honeymoon (2014)

Honeymoon (2014)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Starring: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, and Ben Huber
Running Time: 87 min

Believe it or not, I know how hard and stressful it can be to plan a wedding.  To some, there is nothing scarier than getting all the preparations done or the service itself but once all the cake is eaten, then it definitely should be time to relax on the Honeymoon.  Unfortunately not here, first time director and co-writer Leigh Janiak has taken thoat breahing room and turned it on the its head for this young newlywed couple.

  Bea and Paul are in love and they just finished their reception, so they are excited to head off to a cabin in the woods to enjoy their Honeymoon.  They spend the first day doing what newly married couples normally do, fishing and taking a walk into the town to get some food for lunch.  When they get to the "Restaurant", it's seems deserted but luckily there is one person there and it happens to be Bea's ex-boyfriend, Will, who seems really grumpy.  Will starts to chill when he realizes it's Bea, but this level of calmness only lasts a few moments when Will's wife, Annie shows up looking like a battered doll.  Will gtrabs her by the elbow and asks Bea & Paul to leave.
  Paul & Bea get back to the cabin, talk about what could be wrong with Will & Annie and then go to sleep.  Later that night, Paul wakes up to find Bea gone from the bed and searches the house to no avail.  He heads out into the woods and finds her standing naked in the woods, scared and confused.  He brings her home, tries to find out what happened but she is resistant to tell him anything and she claims that she was just sleepwalking.  However the next morning, Bea seems really different, like she doesn't know how to make french toast or coffee and she doesn't think his lame jokes are funny.  Welcome to marriage, kid!  Anyway, these aren't the only things because Bea seems to be forgetting who she is as well and Paul notices her practicing lies about why she doesn't want to have sex and writing down what her name is.  Also, there seems to be a weird light at night and Paul thinks that there might be some sort of connection.  Can Paul save Bea and his marriage or has he lost Bea to some sort of outside force that he can't even begin to comprehend?

  This wasn't too bad, director Leigh Janiak creates an interesting slow boiling film that pays off pretty well in the end, well for the audience at least.  The pacing reminds me of T.I West's "The House of the Devil", where little weird things are happening in the beginning and the story really crescendos at the end.  The casting is very good and it's interesting to see Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones, Now is Good) as Bea, who seems more demure in this role but still with a feisty edge to her.  Also, Harry Treadaway (Cockneys & Zombies, Penny Dreadful) plays Paul, the loving and attentive husband, who is seeing the love of his life disappear and doesn't know why.  With such a limited cast, these two had the film on there shoulders and they both carried really well.

  However there a couple issues I did have with the film; I don't know if it was intentional but the lovey dovey newlywed thing does get a bit annoying at the beginning but maybe I'm old I forget how obnoxious love can be.  It's just a bit much, luckily it doesn't last that long.  **SPOILER** Also, when it starts to get gory, like when he's pulling that thing out of her vagina, there doesn't seem to be a payoff and it doesn't explain anything.  As far as I can tell nothing came out.  There should have been something, a baby demon, claws, an alien or a least a fucking ham sandwich!  Something that would let the audiences know what they are dealing with but it just ended up being reels of umbilical cord and looked like a cheap gag from "The Wizard of Gore".  Likewise, I've noticed in films lately, there are no explanations why but things just are the way the are.  Which is an interesting concept because it forces the audience to just except what has just happened and you are not going to find out why, who or what is going to happen next.  This is kind of how the film ends and I think it may be polarizing for people who see the film.  I do like the ending, but I would have liked to know more about what/who did this to Bea and why, but not enough to dislike it. It's more of a mild annoyance.  **END SPOILERS**

  Overall this is a good film that is definitely worth checking out.  I'm looking forward to seeing what's next for director Leigh Janiak because this is a terrific script that she created with co-writer, Phil Graziadei and I'm sure this isn't the only one.  There are definitely some intense and WTF moments going on here that will have you gripping the armrest, as well as some moments that you really feel for the Paul & Bea character, as their love and sanity slip further and further away from them.  So, if you want to avoid sleeping in a cabin after your wedding, watch Honeymoon with your potential mate and scare the idea out of their mind.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Dexterity in Death! 5 Spellbinding Horror Films with Maniacal Magicians

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

  I've always dug magic.  I remember sitting next to the stage at a Sigfried & Roy performance, so close that if a raised my arm I would have been able to touch a passing tiger.  Looking back on what happened a year later, maybe this wasn't the best seat in the house.  However, Watching a good magician is like watching a good film, there's a set up or the pledge, then an issue arises or the turn and then the resolution or the prestige, which should gives the viewer a new insight or a feeling of satisfaction.  This is an age old formula that is used for most scripts, so with that in mind, what if you combined the two? So, I searched for horror movies that had evil magicians thwarting revenge on people, society and the universe and this is what I found.

Here are 5 Spellbinding Horror Films with Maniacal Magicians

5. Two on a Guillotine (1965) - Famed magician Duke Duquesnes' daughter Cassie, returns home after his death.  Since her mother "abandoned" the Duke, she was sent away to live with an aunt in another state because the Duke was having mental issues.
  After the funeral and the reading of the will, Cassie discovers that she has inherited everything but she most live in the haunted magic mansion for a week to redeem her prize or the house, the money and all the fabulous prizes go to her fathers' two business associates, Dolly Bast and 'Buzzy' Sheridan.
  When she arrives at the house, she is greeted there by Val Henderson, who claims to be a architect or something but he is secretly, an ace reporter trying to get the scoop on the old Duquesnes place.  Anyway, they go inside and there are a number of spooky and comical traps that the two fall for and Val ends up staying the week to look after Cassie.  Can these two survive the traps that crazy Duke has set or is there more hidden in that house than a skeleton on strings?
  This really wasn't what I expected.  This story plays out more like a rom com than it does a horror film up until the end.  Director William Conrad (My Blood Runs Cold, Brainstorm) seems to focus more on the Cassie, played by Connie Stevens (Back To The Beach, Dragstrip Riot) and Val, played Dean Jones (The Love Bug, That Darn Cat!) falling in love than they do on the haunted house or the stipulations of will.  Anytime things get "scary", it ends up just being some sort of cheap gag, until **Spoiler** the Duke, played by Cesar Romero (The Thin Man, Batman (1966)) returns, then it actually gets scary but that isn't until the end of the film. *EndSpoiler**  This film is alright if you're looking for something light but it isn't death defying in the least.

4. Wizard of Gore (2007) - Rich hipster Ed Bigelow puts out a small paper in L.A and is always looking for a story.  One evening at a street party, he and his girlfriend, Maggie catch wind of an incredible underground magic show.  They go to the show at an abandoned amphitheater and are astounding by Montag the Magnificent and his style of gruesome magic tricks.  Ed becomes obsessed with the show and returns to see it night after night.  However, after the first couple nights, the girls who have been "pulled from the audience" to "help with the illusions" are popping up dead in the morning papers with horrible and familiar sounding deaths.  Can Ed discover the mystery of Montag and stop his monstrous magic show or will he get pulled on stage and be made a spectacle himself?
  This was okay but you can tell that the budget was tight on this one.  There is some talented people on this like, Crispin Glover (Reuben & Ed, Back to The Future) who plays Montag, Bijou Phillips (Bully, Hostel 2) and Kip Pardue (Stag Night, Hostel Part III) who plays Ed but I think at times they are wasted on green screen looking sets and a hipster storyline that is kind of hit or miss.  Also, the magic gore scenes are done with CGI and done with a "Magic Mirror" in front, which is kind of lame.  I do like the idea of adjusting the story into a Horror/noir but there aren't really any likeable characters in this.  This film definitely has some gruesome effects that are worth checking out but I prefer my magic less digital.

3. Magic (1978) - After overcoming a rough first time in front of an audience and then having his mentor die, Corky Withers, an aspiring magician and ventriloquist, hits the big time with their manager, Ben Greene.  Unfortunately before the studio signs Corky, they would like him to have a full physical for insurance purposes.  This freaks Corky out and he vamooses to his hometown to hide from the physical, all the money and an amazing career.  Good work Corky, good work.
  While in hiding in his old hometown, he runs into Peggy Ann-Snow, the girl he had a crush on in high school.  He stays at her smotel and impresses her with his lewd ventriloquist act.  What a classy gal!  The sad thing is that Peggy is married and what's makes things worse is that Fats, Corky's dummy starts making threats on Peggy's life if he stays with her.  Can Corky get the girl, the dream job and the fame or will Fats, the dummy, kill, literally, all his chances of being happy?
  This was a really weird film and I can see why you don't hear about it that much.  This is a surprisingly disjointed film by famed actor/director Richard Attenborough (Ghandi, Cry Freedom)RIP.  The focus, like in "Two for A Guillotine" seems to be on the relationship between, Corky, played by Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs, The Elephant Man) and Ann-Margaret (Viva Las Vegas. Tommy) and the horror element seems to fall wayside.  However, the scenes with Fats, the dummy and Hopkins are very interesting, well played out and can be very creepy. However,  I wished that they could have focused more on this element.  There isn't a huge death count, but it's an strange film and very scary if dummies creep you out.

2. The Mad Magician - Don Gallico builds amazing illusions and magic tricks for other magicians and he finally has taken the chance to perform the tricks himself.  Sadly on the premiere of his show, his evil business partner, Ross Ormond puts the kibosh on the show with the help of one of their clients, The Great Rinaldi.  They claim that the magic tricks do not belong to Gallico and the show must come to an end.
  The next day at work is awwwwkward to say the least and Gallico and Ormond argue about the night before.  Ormond reminds Gallico that not only does he work for him, that he stole his wife and that Gallico will never perform any of his own illusions as long as he lives.  Well thems the magic words, Gallico enraged kills Ormond.  He then disguises himself as Ormond and with the help of a college sports bonfire celebration burns the body.
  Gallico still disguised as Ormond rents a room from Alice Prentiss, a mystery writer and sets off on his plan to get revenge on his wife, Rinaldi and anyone else who tries and to stop his career in magic and murder!  Will the police be able to stop this savage sorcerer or will send his victims into periling acts of prestidigitation!
  Vincent Price (Madhouse, The Fly) as Galico is really terrific in this.  The illusions that they perform may be dated at times but are a lot of fun to watch.  Director John Brahm (Hot Rods From Hell, The Lodger) really marries the elements of Horror and Magic in this film.  Galico uses some of the most ingenious tricks, disguises and illusions to dismay, deter and destroy his rivals.  This film is really great if you enjoy classic horror films, it has sharp dialogue, fiendish plots and Eva Gabor (Gigi, The Rescuers), what more could you want?!

1. Lord of Illusions (1995) - In 1982, a cult leader and sorcerer named Nix, who also calls himself "The Puritan" and his cult, kidnap a young girl to sacrifice in a remote abandon house in the Mojave desert.  Luckily, Swann, a former member of the cult and Nix's star pupil, thinks that Nix has gone to far this time and with his crack team of other former cultist, they go into rescue the little girl.  Luckily, they arrive in time and defeat Nix but before they do, Nix uses his power to give Swann the vision of "Flesh with a God's Eye" that makes him see people as monstrous figures.  Nix is then shot by the little girl.  So like with any body, they chain the body up in metal and toss him in a hole in the desert, never to be seen again.  The end?
  Thirteen years later, private detective and supernatural magnet, Harry D'amour takes on a quiet insurance fraud case and flies down to L.A..  While tracking his perp, D'amour stumbles onto a what looks like ritual killing in a psychic parlour.  It seems has though former cult member and Nix's new second banana, Butterfield and his neo-nazi henchman have come looking to find where Nix's body is buried.  After battling with D'amour and the henchmen tossed out a second story window, Butterfield escapes.  After the cops arrive, the henchman has disappeared but D'amore is intrigued by this case and finding "The Puritan" which was one of the dying man's last words.
  Swann, however, is now a big time magician and lives with this wife Doreatha, who lets him know about the murder of their friend, Quaid, the dead man in the psychic parlour and suggests they hire D'amour to find the culprits.  They invite D'amour to one of Swann's performances and while watching the performance, Swann's new illusion goes wrong and is killed!  Can D'amour find the killers and stop Butterflied from resurrecting Nix or has the true lord of illusion have one more trick up his sleeve?
  This film was a lot better than I remember it.  This was the directors cut which has been released since the original theatrical and VHS offering.  Writer/Director/Master of Horror Clive Barker (Hellraiser, Nightbreed) directs a good horror/noir tale from one his Books of Blood series.  This focuses a little more on "real" magic and how it hides in the magic that us unsupernatural people know.  Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Enterprise) is actually pretty good as hard boiled detective, Harry D'amour and I had totally forgot that this was one of Famke Janssen's (GoldenEye, Taken 2) first major film roles as Swann's wife and mystery girl, Doreatha.   The computer special effects on this are bit dated but I like what Barker was trying to do. You have to remember that CGI was new and very cutting edge at this time but there are some extraordinary practical effect and gore in this as well to balance it out.  This is a definite must to revisit if you haven't seen it for a while, the directors cut is tighter, less confusing from what I remember and still has some very enjoyable horror magic in it.

So, if you're looking for some feats of heart pounding, petrifying prestidigitation, then look no further, these titles can pull fear out of a hat.  However, you may not want to look behind the curtain because that is where the true terror lies.