Friday, 31 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Dracula 3D (2012)

Dario Argento's Dracula 3D (2012)
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini and Asia Argento
Running Time: 110 min

 During the 70's and 80's Dario Argento could do no wrong.  Directing chilling horror classics like "Deep Red", "Suspiria" and "Phenomena" but after the "Stendhal Syndrome" in the 90's, his work seemed to take a strange twist and became really spotty at best.  I dug his "Masters of Horror" work and "Mother of Tears" was passable but then he returned with "Giallo", I found he was back to schlock.  I'm hoping that the re-imagining of this classic will be the kicks start of another great series films by this impressive director.

  After sneaking away and having sex with a married man, voluptuous peasant girl, Tania walks back home through the forest on a dark and scary night.  She is then attacked by a rather large owl, that happens to be Dracula and he drains her of her life in the usual fashion.
  The next day, Jonathan Harker arrives in Passo Borgo and is met by his friend, Lucy.  She asks if his wife and her bestie Mina will be arriving soon and Harker lets her know that she will be here in a few days.  Harker thanks Lucy and lets her know that he appreciates her getting him the librarian job with Count Dracula.  Lucy tells him that it's no problem, anything to bring him and Mina closer to her.
  That night, in the cemetery while the married man from earlier, some guy and a constable are burying Tania, a thuggish simpleton name Renfield attacks them.  Tearing some guy's ear off and then killing the married man with a shovel, Renfield is finally taken down by the constable and brought to jail but the body of Tania has disappeared.
  The next morning, Harker goes to the castle where he meets Tania, who is a voluptuous vampire now and his new master, um boss Count Dracula.  He is shown around the castle and the amazing library where he will be working.  Harker shows the Count a picture of Mina and tells him all about her, including that she should be arriving in town soon.  The Count is taken by the picture and tells Harker that he can't wait to meet her.  Eventually,  Dracula takes out Harker and turns him into a vampire as well.
  Shortly after this,  Mina arrives and spends a lot of time with Lucy, instead of going to visit her husband.  When she finally does go to Dracula's castle she runs into a group of the happiest wolves ever and they are thwarted by another angry wolf.  Mini fear gates the better of her and she passes out.  When she wakes up, she is in Dracula's castle and he is tending to her.  She asks to see her husband, but he is on, trip, and won't be back... for a couple of days.  Anyway they have a nice visit and in the morning, Dracula watches her off safely for the door of his castle as she heads home.
  Meanwhile, Lucy has become in effected with something and eventually dies.  Finally, Van Helsing shows up and fills Mina on what the deal is with Dracula and how he killed her best friend, probably her husband and has turned them into vampires.  Can the two of them stop this bloodsucker from destroying this small town or is it to late and has Dracula sunk his fangs in to far to be stopped?

  This had to be one of the most dullest Dracula films I have ever seen.  It was so boring and it took so long to get where it was going.  I feel bad for Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist, Hostel Part III) because he has to be the most lackluster Dracula ever!  Instead of the horrific Nosfertau that was given to us by Murnau and Herzog, or the charming and seductive Dracula of Browning or even the strange and over the top vamp, whose shadows were just as fun to watch by Coppola, we get this guy in a jacket and with a low key attitude.  Yeah, I'm Dracula, yep. I want a memorable Dracula, not the hipster everyman Dracula.  I want a cape wearing, girl charming, neck biter that is scary as hell.
  Also, this story that has been done dozens upon dozens of times, why is it all the over the place?  It's frustrating to watch because none of the characters or there stories seem to be connecting with one another.  Does Renfield work for Dracula or is he in love with Tania, or both?  Why doesn't Mina want to see her husband after so much time has past?  When did Lucy get bitten and how long has she been under Dracula's spell?  Is Mina mesmerized by Dracula and why does she feel so much sympathy for him after he just killed her best friend and husband!?!?  The characters just seem so disjointed and in every other Dracula movie, people come together to stop this evil menace but in this story, everybody just splinters apart.  It really makes you not care about these people and you just wish they would all die, so you can watch something else.

  I watched this in 3D and it was the worst and most pointless use of this effect that I've come across.  Most 3D used for depth enhancement that I've watched really tries to blend the effect to make 3D seamless in the scenes.  Not here.  A lot of scenes look like pages from a pop-up book and it just pulls you out of the movie.  I found it so intrusive and distracting that it just added to my frustration from the already horrible experience with of this film.
  Also, there is a surprisingly large body count and it really isn't as impressive as I was hoping.  These bloody scenes were mostly done using CGI and most of it looks really cheap.  The vampires turn to electronic dust and killings have painted in blood.  There are some scenes that are familiar to some of Argento's older films, for instance, there is scene when a window bursts open and the thousands of flies buzz in, which of course reminded me of Phenomena.  Unfortunately, with all the computer wizardary in this scene just didn't have that same impact as the older one with the practical effects.

  I think the only good thing about the film was Rutger Hauer (The Hitcher, Flesh+Blood), not because his acting ability swept all the shitty parts of this movie under the rug but to watch him try and interpret the lines and get them out with a straight face, was incredible.  The Van Helsing character reminded me more of the Hobo that he played in "Hobo With A Shotgun" than of Van Helsing's in the past.  He seemed as confused as I was, about what he should and how to go about it.
  Near the end, there are some unintentional funny bits, like Dracula turning into a terrible CGI praying mantis and they way that Dracula finally meets his demise is rather ludicrous but it had me in stitches.

  I can see this film on future lists of terrible movie to watch with the likes of "The Killer Shrews", "Robot Monster" and any/all of the Reb Brown films but for me, right now, it's disappointing for me.  This is a terrible interpretation of Bram Stoker's classic by one of my favourite horror directors, the acting is stilted, and the effects are far below par.  So, if you're really brave and dig watching bad movies then you may dig this, otherwise stay clear and keep this film experience locked in the cellar.


Thursday, 30 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Torture Garden (1967)

Torture Garden (1967)
Director: Freddie Francis
Starring: Burgess Meredith, Jack Palance, and Peter Cushing
Running Time: 93 min

  What I find interesting about this anthology of terrifying tales is that the whole film was written by Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho.  Also, this film has a great cast with two of my favourtie actors, Burgess Meredith (Batman: The Movie, Burnt Offerings) and Hammer films super-star, Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein, The Horror of Dracula).  As well as Jack Palance (Alone In The Dark, Cyborg 2) who is a great actor and should really be frightening in this movie.

  At a carnival, group of people enter the side show tent to see Dr. Diablo's Torture Garden.  After a few unimpressive scares, with the exception of Dr. Diablo lighting up a dummy in an electric chair, Dr. Diablo offers them all a chance to see something really scary for 5 pounds a piece.  Only 5 people from the tour take him up on the offer and he leads them to a secluded side of his tent.  There he introduces them to what looks like a fortune telling machine and calls it, Atropos the supervisor of fate, who he promises will give them a terrifying look into their futures and allow them to change their course in life, if they desire.
  A young skeptic goes first and he finds himself at his dying uncles house.  He has gone there to borrow money and when the uncle refuses, the young man demands to know where his inheritance is hidden and the secret to his uncle's wealth, seeing that his uncle has no job and never leaves the house.  The uncle refuses to tell and his health problems get the better of him.  Begging for his medicine, the young man refuses to give it to him until he tells him the secrets of his success.  Sadly, his uncles dies before he can find out and the next day, once the body is gone, the young man searches the house for the hidden treasure.  In the cellar, he finds a grave with a cat hiding in the coffin.  The cat escapes from the coffin and the cat using his psychic ability forces the young man to do horrible things to feed him.  Can this young man escape from this ferocious feline or has he been sentenced to the litter box of doom?
  Next, a young actress, Carla steps up to Atropos and she sees herself back in Hollywood with her roommate.  Her roommate is running late getting ready for a date with a producer, Mike Charles and the jealous young actress offers to help iron her dress, so that her roommate can jump in the shower.  However, while her roommate is in the shower, Carla ruins her dress and then goes on the date herself, instead of the roommate.  When they arrive at the restaurant, Carla and her date, producer Mike Charles see famous actor Bruce Benton and big time producer, Eddie Storm.  Charles insists on joining them, much to their chagrin of Storm and Benton, and he pulls Storm away for a chat, leaving Carla with her favourite Hollywood idol, Bruce Benton.  Storm and Charles have a disagreement and Charles storms out of the restaurant leaving Carla behind but since she is now with two A listers she stays for dinner and is offered a prominent role in Benton's next movie, after a few screen tests of course. ;)  The next day, Mike Charles is found dead and Carla gets the job on the film.  However, she starts noticing some weird things about Benton and Storm, like they don't seem to eat food, they're very secretive and when Bruce Benton is accosted by gangsters and shot in the dead, he comes back to work on Monday! Weird.  Will Carla find out the secrets of these Hollywood A listers and how far will show go to be a star?
  Then, another young lady steps up to the machine and finds herself interviewing a world famous pianist.  The two of them really hit it off and fall in love but there is only one problem, he likes to call his piano, Euterpe, after the goddess of music and song, and seems to really cares what it thinks of her.  Crazy....   Unfortunately the piano doesn't like her.  The piano then tries break up their relationship and to harm her woman any chance that it gets.  However, the young lady thinks that these are just coincidences and her fiance has just worked to hard and needs a vacation.  Will this young woman get the love of her life or she she been playing the wrong tune the whole time?
  Finally, an older man, Ronald takes his chance at the fates and finds himself at an exhibition of the works of Edgar Allan Poe.  There he meets another collector, Lancelot and is invited over to see his collection of Poe memorabilia.  That night the two have a few drinks and Lancelot, who gets a bit tipsy, offers to show Ronald some of his real Poe treasures that he has down in his basement.  The two go downstairs and to Ronald's cannot believe how complete and extensive Lancelot's collection really is.  First editions and manuscripts that even include a few newer stories of Poe?  Will Ronald find out how far this collector has gone to make his collection the best or is it to scary for the imagination?
   After everyone has taken there turns with the machine, Dr. Diablo still has a few tricks up his sleeve and shows them why he's called Dr. Diablo!

  This was a pretty decent set for stories, not as impressive as Asylum, which author Bloch penned a few years later but it's still very good.  Director Freddie Francis (Trog, Son of Dracula), who also has an impressive list of credits as a cinematographer, does a excellent job as well.  He has a great eye for shots and can turn even the most absurd ideas, like a magic cat or a evil piano, into something really scary.
  Also, Burgess Meredith (Rocky, Magic) is really great in this and really hams it up as Dr. Diablo.  You can almost hear his Penguin chortling at times and you can tell that he is having a blast being this evil character.  As well as Cushing, who plays Lancelot and Palance, who plays Ronald in the Poe segment are also fantastic to watch.  The play well off each other and bring a lot to the piece.

   Although the stories were decent, I think some of them dragged on a little bit.  I was surprised to see how long the first two stories took and was afraid that the other tales would just be crammed in.  They were still decent but it would have been nice to give the Piano story a little more time.  I liked it because it was kind of abstract but I wish that the story was a bit more developed.  Outside of just jealousy, I don't know why the piano hated that girl so much, she was the least evil out of the bunch.
  Also, I was expecting this film to be a little more gory or bloody than it was.  After seeing the "Tales From the Crypt" that Francis directed, with pieces like the maniac in the Santa suit and Blind Alleys, I was expecting more violence.  It's still good but there are more scary surprises in this film then there are hack and slash moments.

  Overall, this is a decent film and worth having a look at.  The stories are fun and have some interesting twists and unlike some newer film anthologies have a well done top story linking everything together.  This is a great film to see on a chilly afternoon or evening at home for some horror fun.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Return of the Vampire (1944)

The Return of the Vampire (1944)
Director: Lew Landers
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Frieda Inescort, and Nina Foch
Running Time: 81 min

 It looks like Bela Lugosi (Dracula, Island of Lost Souls) returns to familiar stomping grounds in this film but will he have the same impact and flare that he had the first time he donned the cape as the creature of the night?  I guess, we'll have to see.
  In a dark and foggy cemetery, a wolfman or man wolf returns to the crypt of his master.  Once inside the tomb, he opens up the coffin and awakens his evil master, a vampire and catches him up the whereabouts of their latest victim, which is at Dr. Ainsley's clinic/house.
  Meanwhile, at Dr. Ainsley's clinic/house, Lady Jane Ainsley has invited Professor Saunder's over to help her figure out the condition for her newest patient, who has a severe anemic condition and has left her baffled.  Before Lady Jane and Saunders can get into it though, their children burst in to say goodnight.  After a playful chat,   they say goodnight and send, their children Nikki and John to bed.
  Unfortunately that night, the vampire goes to the wrong room and while Professor Saunder's finds and devours a book about vampires by Armand Tesla, his granddaughter Nikki's blood is devoured by the vampire.  The next morning, Saunders presents his findings to Lady Jane and then find the anemic body of Nikki!  Quickly, they give her a blood transfusion right away to save her.  They then decide that they must stop this creature of the night before he can return to feed on Nikki or anyone else ever again.  So, the two of them go on a surprisingly easy search to find the vampires' crypt and they find it on the first try.  They open the coffin and put a nail in his chest, but as they start killing the vampire in the afternoon, the wolfman shows up and tries to stop them.  However, after the Saunders drives the stake into the vampire's heart, the wolfman is released from the evil power of the vampire and changes back into a normal guy.  Lady Jane and the Professor bury the vampire and that's it, the end. Or is it?
  Twenty three years later, The police may bring up charges of murder, that are twenty three years old, on Lady Jane for killing a man in a tomb because the police don't believe in vampires.  So, the detective and Lady Jane plan for a trip to the cemetery for the next day and then Lady Jane heads home, see her son John and his fiance Nikki.  World War Two has begun and the cemetery where they buried the body of  the vampire has been bombed by the Jerries and has brought the vampires' coffin above ground.  Two guys cleaning debris in the abandon cemetery find the body, remove the stake from the vampires' heart and are completely spooked by the body moaning, so they run away.  The vampire returns and now seeks to get revenge on Lady Jane and anyone connected with his impalement.   First, he gets his wolfman henchman back, who surprisingly hasn't aged in twenty three years, and concocts a plan to destroy them.  He will disguise himself as a Dr. Bruckner and steal the thing that Lady Jane loves the most, her son's bride, Nikki!  Can Lady Jane stop this vampire again or are her family and friends in terrible danger of the another neck-biting adventure?

 This movie is pretty hokey and really runs on a very thin line of being campy and just bad.  This is not the official sequel to Universal's Dracula but the people at Columbia would like you to think it is.  They brought in Bela Lugosi (White Zombie, Bride of the Monster) to play "Dracula" in all aspects except for the name.  Lugosi is great in this but he does have a rather bad script to work with.  The writers put the vampire into weird schemes, that seem a bit silly and beneath for such a powerful and noble creature of the night.  I also found it amusing that this character is the same person who wrote the book on vampire lore, Armand Tesla and who later fell prey to vampires.  If you look quick enough, the book even has a picture of Lugosi in it.
 Also, the wolfman character played by Matt Willis (So Dear To My Heart, The Burning Cross) is amusing at best, because he his wolfyness follows absolutely no werewolf logic.  As mentioned earlier, he can be a werewolf during the day and in the second half of the film, he seems to be able to change whenever he wants or feels the need to.

 However bad the script is, I was really surprised at how well director Lew Landers (The Raven, Terrified) was able to use the wind and smoke machines to create such a wonderful eerie effect of the vampire moving unseen or have that feeling of an evil presence in his scenes.  Also, his use of shadows in this are great in this as well.  Especially, when he first arrives in Nikki's room, you can't see Bela but only a large imposing shadow that hangs over Nikki. It;s quite creepy.
  Also, the sets are also fantastic.  The graveyard looks like it came from one of Ed Wood Jr's wet dreams. A huge set, with gnarled trees and billing with smoke, which give this film the right atmosphere.

  This has some really good elements but the film is so hokey that it's hard to take it seriously at times.  I think that the actors do the best job that they can with what they were given but at least  director knows enough about horror to make it lot convincing.  It's a fun watch but I don't think that it will scare your socks off.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: The New York Ripper (Lo Squartatore di New York) (1982)

The New York Ripper (Lo Squartatore di New York) (1982)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, and Howard Ross
Running Time: 93 min

Ah, Lucio Fulci.  I have serious love/hate thing for this director.  He can come up with some of the most gruesome scenes in the world but sometimes I find his stories are just so disjointed that they are completely maddening to watch.  I've seen most of his "classic" films and some of them I love, like "Zombie (aka Zombi 2)" and "Don't Torture A Duckling" but I find some of his other films that are lacking any linear & cohesiveness to them.  Hopefully this will put me in a New York Groove.

An old man is walking his dog, along the East River in New York City and the dog finds a human hand.  So, Lieutenant Fred Williams takes on the case and identifies the hand belonging to a dead prostitute named Ann-Lynne.  Back at the station, he interviews the victims nosy old landlady and discovers that the last person Ann-Lynne was talking to was a man who sounded like Donald Duck.  Disney should be proud.
  Across town, while a ditzy female bicyclist heads down to the ferry, she loses control of her bike and scrapes the side of a car.  She apologizes but the man is still upset and tries cursing her out, so like any good cyclist,  she just shrugs her shoulders and bikes away.  Once on the ferry, she locates the car that she scraped and decides to get some justice for the driver being upset with her.  Although it was her fault.  Anyway, she gets in his car and using her lipsticks starts to leave a message on his windshield.  However, she is stopped by the duck voiced killer and is mutilated.  Lt. Williams is not happy about this and goes across town to gets help from a pathologist, Barry Jones who helps him link this killing to the Ann-Lynne murder.
  That night a mysterious man with two fingers takes in a sex show, and sitting across from him is a beautiful lady who is recording the sounds of the live sex act and pawing at herself.  When the couple on the stage finish, the man notices that his sexy friend down the aisle has disappeared.  As for the actress(?)/woman who was just on stage having sex, she arrives back stage to a dark dressing room and is murdered and cursed at by a duck voice.  However after this killing, the duck voiced killer calls Lt. Williams at his prostitute girlfriend's apartment and informs him that there will be more killings.
  The next night, a young woman, Fay sees a mysterious man with two fingers on the subway.  She thinks he's creepy and tries to change cars but the door is jammed, so she decides to gets off the train.  She sees that he man gets off as well and she runs away scared for her life.  She ends up in a dark alley being slashed by the killer.  Luckily, she survives and wakes up in the hospital.  Fay believes that it was this man with two fingers that attacked her, and her boyfriend encourages the police to go and get him.  Can Lt. Williams find this killer before he strikes again or has the New York Police department finally met their match in this duck sounding villain?

  This wasn't too bad and was pretty coherent most of the way through the film.  Fulci for the most part, follows the main characters and he builds up a good giallo picture, touching on a number of interesting suspects throughout the film.  He gives these secondary characters, like Jane, the girl who records the sounds of sex acts, the two finger man, and even the Barry Jones, who is helping the police investigation different motives and opportunity to commit the crime and you never know who the killer could be until the very end.
  Also, the gore in this is pretty remarkable and well done.  These are gruesome scenes that Fulci concocts and are extremely chilling to watch.  He has a plethora of violence like evisceration, eyeball gouging and even throws in some nipples getting cut off.  He truly was a a master of gore and this film is another example of his twisted talent.

  Issues with the film, well the story does start to go off the rails at the near the end.  **SPOILER**  Like in a lot of Fulci films that I've seen, he bombards you with new characters and information about the existing characters at the very end of the film.  It seems that he withholds this information, so you don't suspect who the killer is but then he leaves you scratching your head and thinking wtf?  There is a difference between a well done reveal in a movie and just shoehorning information in suit the purposes of a surprise at the end.  It has the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the groin.  Also, the reasoning and motivation for the killer is pretty weak and this is what frustrates me with some of Fulci's work.  There is no mention or build up and even the character closest to the killer seemed surprised by some of these revelations.  As well as there is a definite downer ending, even though they have caught the killer, they seem to leave his/her motivation both scared and alone. **ENDSPOILER**
  Also there is a lot of nudity and sex stuff in the film.  This doesn't really bother me because it works in this sleazy world that Fulci depicts and fits in perfectly with the story that he is trying to create.  However, many countries did have an issue with the "adultness" aspects of this film and have banned it or had it heavily censored, removing the naughty bits out.  The film's first uncut version wasn't released until twelve years later and in Holland on laser disc.  Even in 2002, the UK still hadn't released a full version of the film bu luckily in more recent years, Anchor Bay and Blue Underground have released full versions of the film on DVD and Blu-ray.

  This is an alright film if you're looking to get into more of Fulci's catalouge after you've seen Zombie.  The story is somewhat decent with an interesting mystery and there is a lot of nasty gore.  Not my favourite but it has it's moment and it's certainly not my least favourite of his films.

Monday, 27 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Gore Gore Girls (1972)

The Gore Gore Girls (1972)
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: Frank Kress, Amy Farrell, and Hedda Lubin
Running Time: 81 min

Huge fan of producer/director Herschell Gordon Lewis work!  For what movies like "Blood Feast", "The Wizard of Gore" and "Two Thousand Maniacs" may lack in budget, sometimes cohesive scripting and acting, they certainly make up for it in camp value, seriously twisted gore scenes and a hell of a lot of fun.  I can't wait to check out a film that is still banned in Australia, even after 40+ years.

  After of the vicious murder of stripper Suzie Cream Puff,  "Globe" journalist Nancy Weston approaches infamous private detective, Abraham Gentry on behalf of her editors.  Her proposition is that they will pay him twenty-five thousand, if Gentry can find the killer and the "Globe" can have exclusive rights to his story.  Gentry agrees and starts his investigation right away.  He reluctantly takes Weston with him to the strip club where Suzie Cream Puff last worked to get some background on her there.  When they arrive, he has words with the waitress Marlene, who doesn't care for his snobby attitude.  However once his verbal jousts with her are done, he gets right to work and through another stripper, he gets a lead about a creepy cat named, Joseph Carter who was "stalking" Suzie Cream Puff.  He pays the girl for the information and gives Marlene on last verbal jab as he leaves.
  As Gentry is following up on this lead, another stripper, Candy Cane is brutally murdered.  Luckily, she worked at the club that Gentry and Weston were going to visit next.  How fortunate?  Anyway when they arrive, it seems Marlene is working there to.  Gentry and her mince words and then he notices a man crushing fruit at the bar.  The odd man draws a face on each of the pieces of fruit and then he smashes them.  Gentry speaks to the bar tender and finds out that this crazy man is a Vietnam vet named Grout, who works as a bouncer at the bar.  While Gentry is talking to the bartender, a mob of women libbers storm the strip club!  Gentry rushes to the stage and saves the girl stripping and brings her to his car and then rescues an intoxicated Weston and sends her drunk ass home in a cab.  He drives the stripper home and pumps her for information, which is she gladly gives up and once he has the information he needs, he bids her adieu. Unfortunately just after he leaves, the killer attacks her and gives he ass a good pounding with a meat tenderizer.  Will Gentry and Weston ever find the killer and save these strippers or will this be the last dance for all of them?

  This is great movie and it happened to be Mr. Lewis's last picture for 30 years.  The story is kind of sleazy and trashy but the plot is somewhat solid.  Unlike "Bloodfeast", from what I remember or "Wizard of Gore", this story is pretty straightforward and there isn't a lot of head scratching between scenes.  There is a killer on the loose and Gentry is trying to find him.  The ending is convoluted, but we'll get to that later. 
  Also, I like the characters, I think Frank Kess (The Gore Gore Girls), does an alright job playing the arrogant Gentry.  He has some good banter and it's funny watching him try to ditch and avoid the charms of Nancy Weston, who is played by a very charming Amy Farrell (Airport).  Even the Russ Badger (The Gore Gore Girls), who plays the Lt. Anderson has a couple of good zinger.  I was most surprised that they were able to get legendary comedian Henny Youngman (Goodfellas, Amazon Women on the Moon) as a sleazy strip club owner but I guess everybody's got to work.  These are not Oscar winning performances but they know they're lines, the motivations of their characters and are fun to watch.
  Finally, the best part of the whole film is the gore.  In the first couple moments of the film, the killer destroys the face of Suzie Cream Puff by smashing it into a mirror and I was totally hooked.  Each murder was more brutal then the last and the effects were done pretty well.  There are hot irons to the face, nipples being cut off, faces mangled and as I mentioned early, asses being pounded into ground beef.  Director Lewis really goes all out on the gore on this film.      

But... this is still a a B-movie and there are some things that may not sit well with people.  They spend a lot of scene time in the strip clubs watching the dancers.  I know this is a movie about strippers but they could have had more time for a couple murders or some witty bantering with Gentry or something.  This does the boost the level of trashyness and if your into 70's style dancers then more power to ya.
  Also, even though most of the story is solid, Lewis makes the killers motivations and Gentry's discovery of the killer's identity unnecessarily complicated.  It concludes with an irritating double ending, which make the picture feel really awkward.  As well as how the killer was handled at the end of the movie was really quick and it seemed almost comical.  It's a weird end to a strange movie.  

  Anyway, this is one of Lewis's best films that I've seen and I'm sad that it took him 30 years to make another.  This film is fun and trashy and has some of the goriest scenes that you'll encounter for this time period from an American director. This is not for the faint of heart, but would you want to watch it, if it was?


Sunday, 26 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort (2014)

Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort (2014)
Director: Valeri Milev
Starring: Anthony Ilott, Chris Jarvis, and Aqueela Zoll
Running Time: 91 min

  Well, everybody's favourite hillbilly cannibals are back for a 6th, yes people, there are six of these movies, and they are probably looking for more victims to feed on.  This is, surprisingly, the longest running new horror franchise and I blame us all for this.  I think these are a guilty pleasure for a lot of people and to tell you the truth, I didn't even mind the last film.  It had Doug Bradley, as well as some seriously gross and humorous kills. So, I'm little excited to see what the boys have been up to.

  Danny has inherited a spa/hotel in the hills of the Appalachians from a mysterious Aunt. So his hot girlfriend, Toni and an excessive number of his friends have decided to go with him to check it out and offer up moral support.  It's hard on folks when they inherit a hotel from someone they never knew. However, Danny, who was a stockbroker, had made some bad decisions in the past and lost a lot of people's money, which in turn lost him a lot friends and his job.  He seems really depressed and is looking for a new opportunity in his life and if this doesn't pan out, who knows what he'll do, right?
  Anyway, the Danny and this gaggle of friends arrive at the spa and are greeted by the hotel staff, a brother and sister duo, Jackson and Sally who seem to be closer than a brother and sister should.  They are also as surprised as we are about the amount of friends Danny has brought to take a look at the hotel, but there is room in the hotel since the touristy season is over.  They give everybody a quick tour of the hotel and Jackson invites Danny out to go hunting and so they can talk.  Much to the disappointment of Toni, Danny agrees to go and ditches all the people he came with to go hunting with his new best friend, Jackson.
  While hunting, Jackson gives him this whole spiel about family and Danny is just eating it up.  He kills a doe, a deer, a female deer and this starts a bond between them.  Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Toni and some members of Danny's entourage are exploring more of the hotel and find a hidden creepy sex room with a table with stirrups in the centre and a peanut gallery for people to watch.  Toni feels really uncomfortable and is made to feel even more uncomfortable when she finds out that Sally was listening to them talk shit about her, her brother and there hillbilly background.  Toni starts wondering what the real motive is behind them bringing Danny up here and sends an interchangeable, secondary character to bring Danny back from his hunting expedition.  
  Unfortunately, this character discovers that the are not alone in the forest and spots one of the cannibal brothers dealing with, sadly, a dead animal and gets frightened.  As he is running away, he knocks over Danny into a bush of barbwire.  They get Danny back to the hotel and Sally "tends" to his wounds and basically throws herself at Danny.  Toni arrives just before they start making out and is now more concerned about the intentions of Jackson and Sally.
  Eventually, people start going missing, Danny never wants to leave and he has to make a choice between his new family and hillbilly cannibal friends or his old life.  Can Danny make the right choice for himself or will his hillbilly cousins make the choice for him?

  Well, this is certainly a different take on this series than the last two outings and it seems like Three Fingers, Sawtooth and One Eye take a back seat to this story.  **SPOILERS** Sure, there are a couple of memorable kills, like the female cyclist with barbwire at the beginning, the bitchy entourage girl being pulled apart or the nerdy pot smoking friend, who has a fire hose shoved up his ass and has his stomach explode but the brothers don't seem to be the main focus of this film. **ENDSPOILERS**  Which is sad, because I think that writer/director Declan O'Brien (Joyride 3, Wrong Turn 4,5) used humour, exceptionally gory scenes and had a stronger focus on these characters that kept this franchise alive.  Director Valeri Milev (Re-Kill, Code Red) and writer Frank H. Woodward (Black Forest, Men In Suits) have distanced the audience again from them and made it more about these fleeting characters that nobody gives a shit about.  I wasn't excited about this film because I wanted to know if Danny was going to find a new family.  What I wanted to see was these cannibal brothers back a messing people up.
  Also, there is a considerable amount of sex in this movie, that is really unnecessary and the scenes go on way to long.  I like sex and violence, but there were times when I thought I was watching a soft core porn and it reminded me of Joe D'Amato's "Emmanuel and the Last Cannibals", which is more enjoyable.  **SPOILERS** I get it that Sally and Jackson brought Danny down there to help repopulate the hillbilly tribe but we don't need to see Sally pawing at herself all the time and the "love" scenes are just so excessive.  Also, the last scene, couldn't that just have been left to the audiences imagination.**ENDSPOILER**  This is the most sexual Wrong Turn movie that I've seen and that's not why people watch these films.
 Finally, there is a story here but it's a very lackluster one.  Danny's character is sad, pathetic and I don't know why understand why he's looking for a new family.  Was he an orphan, where is his mom and dad?  Wouldn't his biological family help him out here?  His friends are all generic characters and frankly, they all look the same to me.  I wasn't sure who was who a lot of the time.  Is that his girlfriend Toni's handsome brother the filmmaker, or is it Danny's handsome friend the archivist, or is it the handsome evil boyfriend, who Danny lost all the money in the stock market, so why the fuck is that guy even there.  The only friend I recognize was the guy who smoked pot all the time.  Which is another generic character into itself, but at least he was recognizable.  Also, what relevancy do the cannibal brothers have here?  Outside of being part of the "family", they have nothing to do with the story.  They are filler and seem tacked on, which wrecks the whole point of this being a Wrong Turn film.

  Shit! I forgot the make-up for the brothers wasn't even that great!  Especially for Three Fingers!  Was Three Fingers tanning all summer?  Saw Tooth and One Eye, they weren't even on camera long enough to notice how they were done up.  I know that there are slight changes with the look of the characters as each film progressed, but this is probably the worst that I can remember.  The work on the death's and other stuff were good but I can't believe how far off the mark they were on the main characters of this over all series.

The special features on the Blu-ray are pretty weak as well.  There is the "Inheritance" video, with the character Jackson inviting Danny to come see the hotel/spa and telling him about this windfall.
  Also, there is a piece called "All the Kills in Them Hills", which shows all the kill scenes of all the Wrong Turn films and lets you know how many people were killed in each film.  At the end, it shows you which film had the most kills. **SPOILER** It's not this one. **ENDSPOILER**
  Finally, there is a featurette called "Hobb Springs: A Place to Rest... In Peace", which is a look behind the scenes and it talks to the actors about the project.  It's somewhat interesting and gives you some insight to why this film turned out the way it did.

  This isn't a horrible movie but it feels like a bit of a bait and switch.  This feels like somebody had written a horror movie and then shoehorned the cannibal brothers into it, just so that it would get made.  In this film, I feel that the brothers are the side dish, not the main entree and in a cannibal movie series, I want a full course of their disturbing diabolical disemboweling deeds.  This a disappointing film for the series and I hope any future endeavors will be put the focus back to where it belongs.  These dudes killing and eating people.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Crazies (1973)

The Crazies (1973)
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, and Harold Wayne Jones
Running Time: 103 min

  I've seen the remake of this film but it has taken me forever to actually watch the original, although George A. Romero has been one of my favourite for a horror directors for a long time.  I'm not even sure what to expect for this version, all I know is that there is an air born contagion that is making people crazy and getting a copy of this film has been really tricky, so I hope it's good.

  After a father goes bananas and kills his wife, then sets their farm house ablaze, which traps his children inside, local firefight and ex-Green Beret, David manages to crawl out of bed from his pregnant wife, Judy and stumbles down to the fire station.  Judy, who is the town's... nurse, gets called in to work as well to help the doctor with the crispy children.  When she arrives, she is surprised to see that the doctor's office is filled with military personnel and they demand that she helps them inoculate the soldiers with a serum that will protect them against the virus.  What virus, you ask?  Well apparently, a plane crashed with an experimental biological weapon called "Trixie" and has contaminated the water supply of this town.  "Trixie" will either kill a person after some time or turn them into raving murderous lunatics!  So, the military has now blocked all roads leaving this small town and declared a state of martial law.  Also, the army is rounding up the citizens and stuffing them into the high school gym, even the nerdy ones, to contain the contamination, while they search and develop a cure for this deadly virus.
  However, the town doctor doesn't like this idea and is worried about Judy and the baby.  So, he gives Judy enough of the vaccine for her and David and tells her hide out far away from town.  The pregnant woman gives the army the slip and heads out to find David.  Luckily, David and his buddy, Clank think that fighting this fire is for chumps and take off to find Judy and learn the truth about what is going on in their back water town.  On the way into town, they run into Judy, as well as the army and they are all thrown into the back of a truck to be brought to the high school gym.  Inside the the back of the truck, they meet a man and his daughter and some other old coot that claims he has the bug.  Judy gives everybody the scoop on what's happening but unfortunately, their captors took the vaccine she had for David.  On a brief stop, David and Clank overtake their captors, steal the truck, and ditch the old infected coot behind.  They head out to the hills and try to find safety with there new friends.
  There not the only ones army is having a hard time containing because this the revolting townspeople are fighting back and the army can't determine whether it's the virus or just people standing up and against them.  Is there any way that the military contain this cluster fuck that they created and get a cure out pronto?  Can David and Judy avoid the not only the Army but the virus as well and live happily ever after with their baby in a boarded up house built for two? Will we ever find out why that dudes name is Clank? That's a sound, not a name!

  There are certainly some similarities to George A. Romero's earlier classic "Night of the Living Dead" in this film but the focus of the film doesn't seem to be on the survivors, but more on the military and how they are trying controlling the out break.  Which is interesting, because unlike "Night", they know what the virus is and they are trying to develop a vaccine using the rudimentary tools of a high school science lab and the it's almost amusing that the bureaucracy of the military is not only getting in the way and slowing down the efforts but it is causing detrimental issues with finding the cure.  They voice recognition checks are the most frustrating, because although this may be a good idea, the process in 1973 seemed slow and arduous. 
  Also, I think that is funny that some of the soldiers are taking things, like fishing rods and stuff when the are rounding people up or when they are pilfering the corpses and dividing it amongst themselves, after they've burned the bodies.  Unfortunately this makes these characters more human for me.  I know these actions are wrong and abhorrent but I'm sure that this as happened more often than one wish to believe.
  Finally, Romero has some good twists in the plot at the end and I was surprised about some of the taboos that he begins to touch on three quarters of the way into the film.  He really starts getting nasty near the end with some subjects that I haven't seen him delve into before.  It's kinda gross but it does add that sick splash to make the picture just right.

 However, this was not the rampaging, crazy, people, bloody, tear down, repulsive, gore driven film as I was expecting, but I don't think that it's George's fault.  The idea to focus on the military was the idea of the producer Lee Hassel.  He liked the army aspect of Paul McCullough's screenplay, "The Mad People" which spent most of the story on the survivors and maybe 20% of the time with the army.  He wanted it flip flopped with more army stuff, so Romero rewrote it for him.  In some ways, this is more of an action thriller and there isn't as many murderous lunatics as I would have liked, but there are still some very gruesome scenes with people head's exploding, grannies with knitting needles and there are lot of people getting shot in the head.  Aim for the head!
  Also, there are some issues with audio because it is hard to here an actor's lines when they are wearing a gas mask.  Some of the dialogue is just barely audible, when these soldiers are giving orders and or just chatting.  Luckily, there isn't really that much narratives and it's mostly filler, so it isn't that important but still, those lines were written for a reason. Future filmmakers remember this!

  Still, this is a very good film and I think Romero fans will not be disappointed.  It's a slower pace than his other work and a lot more talky but there is definitely a good story here and it has some disgustingly fun effects.  So, if you are spent from watching all of Romero's "Dead" films and not brave enough to watch "Knightriders", then go crazy and throw this on, you'll probably find it infectious!


Friday, 24 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: A Chinese Ghost Story (aka Sien Nui Yau Wan) (1987)

A Chinese Ghost Story (aka Sien Nui Yau Wan) (1987)
Director: Siu-Tung Ching
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wang, and Ma Wu
Running Time: 92 min

  Sadly, I haven't seen as many horror movies as I really should from Hong Kong.  Most of the older ones that I've seen involve hopping zombies and lots of martial arts sequences, which I'm okay with.  The director, Siu-Tung Ching has worked as a stunt Co-ordinator on films like John Woo's The Killer and Sam Raimi's Spider-man, so it should be interesting to see how he incorporates these skills into this ghost story.

  A young tax collector, Ling Choi San travels across the rural country sides empty landscapes and the rainy weather to perform his job.  Before coming to the next town, he witnesses a swordsman getting his revenge on some bandits.  After murdering the bandits, the swordsman causally offers the hungry Ling some bread, which he accepts in fear and runs away from the swordsman to then continues his journey into town.
  When he arrives in town, he learns that the rain has destroyed his ledgers and none of the merchants will pay their taxes because he has no proof of what they owe.  Broke, he asks the people in the town if there is any place that he can stay the night for free and jokingly someone recommends the Lan Ro Temple, which is suppose to be haunted.  Unfortunately, Ling has no other choice and heads to the temple to stay the night.  On his way, he is chased by wolves and when he arrives at the temple, he finds himself into the middle of a battle of two swordsman.  One is the swordsman that he met early on the road to town and the other, Lip Siu Sin seems to be living at the temple as well.  Luckily, they're brothers and they were just practicing, so Lip tells Ling that this is not the best place to stay because it isn't safe but Ling doesn't care and heads to the other side of the temple to get some shut eye.  The other swordsman leaves the temple and is seduced by a beautiful ghost.  As they are making out, an evil tongue interrupts and the swordsman has his soul sucked out of him. Dang.
  Later that night, Ling meets up with the same beautiful ghost and she tries to seduce him too, but Ling is too nice and misses all the signs.  She realizes that Ling is too nice a guy to be murdered and lets him off by telling him the temple is too dangerous to stay in and he should leave in the morning.
  Eventually, Ling and the ghost become friends and he finds out that he must help save her soul before she has to marry the Dark Lord of the Mountain.  Can this poor humble tax collector save this beautiful ghost for the torments of marriage and free her soul or will they both suffer this abominable after life together under this demons control?

  This is a great horror, action, comedy film.  It really has everything, like some very incredible wire work, there's some awesome martial arts/sword battles, it's got ghosts, demons, the undead and some very funny situations, that had me laughing out loud.  Director Siu-Tung Ching (Witch From Nepal, Duel to Death) tells an incredible fun story with some very out there visuals that are not to be missed.  Ching definitely brings his years of experience as a stuntman and embeds it into the film, with some incredible high flying scenes and a fantastic battle at the end of the film.
  Also, what really brings this home is how funny the film is.  It's the over the top silliness that just pops up in some of these scenes that make this so enjoyable to watch.  The comedic timing and facial expressions that Leslie Cheung (Farewell My Concubine, A Better Tomorrow) (RIP), who played Ling Choi San, had at times were just incredible.  Along with, Joey Wang (City Hunter, Ming Ghost), who played the crusty swordsman Lip Siu Sin, who plays well off not only Cheung but the creatures in the film as well.  
  Finally, there are so many great production elements in this film, like a stop-motion sequences of the dead growing in the temple after Ling arrives, or the make up and special effects team sucking the soul out of the swordsman and there is a fantastic tongue monster, that will make you chuckle and terrify you at the same time.  And this incredible talent all culminates in the last battle, which is a tour to force and the true highlight of the film.
  There isn't that much to complain about here.  However, this isn't your typical horror movie here though but a film that takes from a lot of different genres to tell a great story.  It spends some time developing the relationship between the Ling character and the ghost, which creates of a rom com feel to the film but it's necessary for the film because this relationship makes the ending that much better. 
 Also, it isn't extremely gory and the human body count is minimal.  Which is alright because the cast is small and most of them are already dead.  The zombies/undead have a more dried up look to them, like a mummy which is still pretty cool.  However, there are a ton of them smashed to bits in the end.

This is a fantastic film for any horror fan who enjoys Hong Kong cinema or a good ghost story.  Again, it has some incredible battle scenes and the ending is really impressive.  It's a charming ghost story that you don't want to miss and it's worth reading the subtitles to.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Frankenstein (1910)

Frankenstein (1910)
Director: J. Searle Dawley
Starring: Mary Fuller, Charles Ogle, and Augustus Phillips
Running Time: 14 min

  This was the first film adaptation of one of horror's most prominent monsters, Frankenstein.  It is an incredibly short take on Mary Shelley's classic but back then, this was probably considered to be a long film and not for the faint of heart.

  Frankenstein leaves his fiance and family to go to college.  Then, after 2 years, he has discovered the secret of life. Beer!  Wait, not beer, but with some help from his helpful skeleton buddy, Frankenstein with malice in his heart literally stirs together the magic potion of life and pours it into a cauldron.  Like any good baker, he watches his creature rise in his scientific oven and hopes it doesn't crap out like his past souffles of fear.  After he hears the ding of the timer, kidding, his monster is created.  Unfortunately, since Frankenstein had malice in his heart, the creature is evil.  I wonder if there is a non evil glutton free recipe for monsters?  Anyway, the monster ends up roaming around terrifying Frankenstein until Frankenstein decides to moves back home.   
  Although he created a monster out of nothing, Frankenstein returns home a beaten man but with the help of his fiance and family, he is on the road to recovery and becomes a happier man.  He also gets married and shortly after that the monster returns, probably wondering why he didn't get an invitation to the wedding, they were so close in college.  Anyway, is there anything that Frankenstein can to stop this hideous monster that he created or will his "experimentation" in college lead to his downfall in this button down world of 1910?

  I can't believe this film is over a hundred years old and it is still enjoyable to watch.  J. Searle Dawley (Bluebeard, Snow White) was an accomplished writer/director when he made this and had adapted a number of other novels & stories for the Edison Studio, so he knew how to condense a story into a good short film.
  There are some terrific special effects in this, well, at least one.  The stop-motion piece of the monster souffle is done surprisingly well and very creepy to watch even now.  The make up for the monster is good, it's not the Jack Pierce/Karloff face that we associate with the monster today but it does have a desperate and twisted look to it.

  Again, this is an old movie and the technology just wasn't there yet for these filmmakers, so of course there are a few things people could moan about after watching this.  Like the beginning shots of the picture don't seem to be in very good shape but once you get past the first minute or so the grain and dust go away and the picture is pretty stable.  I've looked at number of versions of the film and each restoration seems to have the same issue at the front, which is a shame but it doesn't affect the picture as a whole.
  Also, there are some weird edits, but they didn't have Adobe Premiere or a Final Cut back then.  These people were pioneering the film landscape and everything was new to them, so effects, transitions and cuts aren't going to be as smooth.
  As well as the ending of the story is a little confusing because **SPOILER** the monster just disappears when it comes face to face with Frankenstein at the end.  So, was the monster real or was the monster really Frankenstein? ** ENSPOILER**  Which is an interesting concept but difficult to project in a 14 minute piece and not having the luxury of sound/dialogue for 20 years.

  This is a fun horror film, it's only fourteen minutes and it's public domain, so it's available on the Youtube for your consumption.  It is a different take on a classic story and has a terrific stop-motion scene that will send shivers up and down yer spine.  So, stop watching that cat playing the piano video for a moment and check out a piece of horror history.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: V/H/S: Viral (2014)

V/H/S: Viral (2014)
Director: Various Directors
Starring: Emmy Argo, Amanda Baker and Rim Basma
Running Time: 81 min

Much like the "ABCs of Death" franchise, I can appreciate what the "V/H/S" series is films is doing for young and upcoming talent in the horror biz.  Unlike the ABCs, these directors are given longer segments, which means there are fewer spots in the program.  To be honest, I haven't been that crazy about the V/H/S films, there has been some interesting pieces by Ti West, Radio Silence, Jason Eisner and the team of Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, so I'm really hoping that this collection of terrifying tales is going to be great.

The first story and the continuous thread that ties these shorts together, is about a young couple who are in love and one night while watching TV, they see a police chase is going to drive down their street, so the boyfriend decides that if he can video tape this ice cream truck being chased by the cops, then he will become famous with a viral video.  So, instead of going outside right away, the couple argue and when they finally get outside, it seems like they missed their opportunity. Shucks!  But luckily the evil ice cream truck is doing another loop and when it does, it scoops up the girlfriend.  Now armed with a video camera and a bicycle, the boyfriend pursues the evil ice cream truck with hopes to save his girlfriend and be an internet sensation or vice versa.
  As the boyfriend chases the truck, his cell phone flickers with screams from his lady friend and we are swept into a story about a shitty magician, Dante The Great" that finds a magic cloak and soon becomes the most amazing magician ever!  What is his secret, probably the magic cloak but what else is happening to all his assistants that are mysteriously disappearing?
  Then, it's a story about a gentlemen who builds an alternative universe machine and discovers that things may look the same on the other side but in reality are a lot different.
  Next is a story about a some skateboards who are trying to make the greatest skate video alive and go to mysterious skate spot in Tijuana.  Unfortunately, they get more than the bargained for when they arrive and have to fight their way out to survive!
  Finally, it cuts back to the original story of the young couple and whether or not he can save his girlfriend from whatever the ice cream trucks deal is.

 I think the highlight piece of this film has to be, "Parallel Monsters" by Nacho Vigalondo (Extraterrestrial, Time Crimes).  This is a captivating story with an excellent twist that will have you on the edge of your seat until the reveal.  For a found footage film, the cameras aren't as intrusive and there aren't any moments, when you get pulled out of the story.  The reveal is great and the make up and effects stuff is very cool as well.
  Also, I dug the the make up and special effects in Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's "Bonestorm" as well.  There is a lot of blood and I liked their nod to the "Tombs of the Blind Dead", with the hooded priests. 

  With this series, I've come to expect to be disappointed by the continuous thread piece and I was not let down on this one as well.  In "Viscious Circles" director Marcel Sarmiento takes an unlikeable couple and puts them in a situation I could care less about.  The only person that the boyfriend seems to be shooting video of, is his hot girlfriend and I'm surprised that this character would take the time and energy to go out and shoot a police chase or even go after his girlfriend if she was kidnapped.  Also, there are shorter vignettes within the thread that are kind of necessary... but are just kind of lame and that time could have been better spent to put towards making the thread piece more interesting.  **SPOILER**  The look of the end piece of this is actually interesting in a "Videodrome" sort of way, but there is absolutely nothing leading to this and it just makes it seem, disjointed and sloppy.  It's looks like the just tacked it on.  **ENDSPOILER**
  I really like the concept of Gregg Bishop's "Dante The Great" with the magical cape but the very beginning of the piece is so all over the place, that the story becomes irritating.  It jumps to past and present and I don't know why anyone would still video tape themselves doing terrible things.  **Spoiler** Why would any one with the prestige that "Dante the Great" have continued to video tape himself committing murders and feeding people to the cape.  It's ridiculous.  Also, the police saw the videos, so why wouldn't they take the cape off him when he is arrested in the first place?  Isn't that a given?  He gets the power from the cape, so fucking take it off.  **ENDSPOILER**  The short does actually redeem itself halfway through, but the beginning is just so aggravating that it spoils the piece as a whole for me.
  As for "Bonestorm", I liked this story because it reminded me going to mysterious skate spots and although there wasn't any ritual sacrificing there, except for our boards at times, we still had some spooky sessions back in the day.  Anyway, what put me off at times with this film was the use of the helmet cams.  **SPOILER** During the battles with these monks, there are a lot of shots of the main characters faces and not enough smashing and killing evil monks.  More violence, less faces being scared please. Also, I found this very reminiscent of the "Safe Haven" piece from the previous V/H/S outing, which sadly makes it somewhat derivative and tame.**ENDSPOILER**  Like I mention earlier, the make up and FX are worth checking out because they're decent but I wish the story could have been a little more original and we didn't see the characters faces so much during the battle with these evil monks.

  I really wanted to like this and there are some aspects of this film that are really great, like "Parallel Monsters" and some of the writing and special effects but a lot of the stories seem rushed and not as well developed as they could or should be.  I think that this is a building block type film because there is a lot of good raw talent here, that just needs the time to develop and I'm glad that "The Collective" and "Bloody Disgusting" are giving these guys this opportunity to get their work out there.  I'm not crazy about this film as whole, but it does have some redeeming qualities to it. 


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Shogun's Sadism (1976)

Shogun's Sadism (aka Tokugawa onna keibatsu-emaki: Ushi-zaki no kei) (aka The Joy of Torture 2: Oxen Split Torturing) (1976)
Director: Yugi Makiguchi
Starring: Yusuke Kazato, Rena Uchimura, and Akira Shioji
Running Time: 80 min

This is a period samurai film from Japan, but this film hasn't been noted for it's cinematic beauty or classic storytelling but it is noted for it's scenes of disturbing cruelty and explicit violence. So, this should be fun.   

After an interesting opening roll of perhaps the funkiest music from a 70's Japanese film ever, under a collection terrible pictures of torture,  we are then shown another quick collection of torture methods causing death  reenacted and told by a narrator that torture has been around for a long time.  Groovy.
  The film then focuses on it's first story, in ancient Edo, Japan.  A young samurai, Iori is bitten by a snake and a beautiful peasant girl, Toyo saves him, by sucking out the venom.  The two then fall in love and on Iori's days off, he spends them with Toyo.  Unfortunately, Iori's boss is a sadistic shogun and as of late, he's been trying to wipe Christianity of the face of Japan.  He's been trying to find new and exciting ways to make the Christians to renounce their gods through extreme torture methods.
  One day, guess who shows up in the shogun's office, it's Toyo and her family!  The shogun notices that Iori knows and loves the the girl Toyo, so he decides to make Iori his right hand samurai man and forces him to watch him rape Toyo and torture and kill her family.  What a great guy!  Is there any way that Iori can save his true love or is fate in the hands of this sadistic shogun?
  The second story, also in Edo, is about a man, who is forced into servitude at a brothel, after spending an evening there and he was unable to pay.  While there, he learns about how cruel this lifestyle is, from seeing the vicious catfights amongst the girls, their extreme method of birth control and what happens to people when they try and run away from there.  Ah, penis mutilation.  So, he finds the prostitute that he loves and they plan an escape to freedom, so he can pimp her out.  True love!  Can this couple get out of this brothel world and make it work or will they be strung up, beaten and have their privates removed like all the others?

  This movie is crazy violent and depressing.  There is no silver lining in any of these stories and I was really surprised at how far director Yugi Makiguchi (Nuns That Bite, Rashamen) was able to push the envelope for some of these disgustingly disturbing scenes.  Makiguchi and his team come up with some incredibly inventive scenes of killing people off and the camera does not shy away.  They boil people, the half quarter them by pulling there lower halves apart using oxen, pregnant woman stomping, they slice, they dice and it's just so, so nasty at times.
  Also there is a considerable amount of rape scenes in this as well.  Which I guess I was expecting  but maybe not to this extent.  These scenes are very hard to watch and they even do a double rape with two guys on a girl at the same time.  I don't think I've ever seen that, so bravo?  Unfortunately, unlike in most rape revenge films, there is a certain amount of justice but not here, at least not for everybody.
  However, as mentioned above the film is extremely gruesome but the effects are very well done.  Makiguchi and his team may have some very cruel and disdainful ideas but there is tons a of blood and body parts flying all over the place for any gorehound to appreciate.

  Issues with the film, being bombarded with horrific images that I will probably never forget, I didn't have time to look for flaws.  Just kidding, I did but it is filmed well and the stories are coherent.  There is no confusion about the characters or their motivations and what was occurring in the scenes.  The only thing I wasn't crazy about was how the stories turn out. **SPOILER**  They are depressingly realistic and it's unfortunate that none of the characters, more so in the first story, don't get a better ending that is fair or the revenge that they really deserve.  The second story, they get what they get and it's deserving but the demise of the one of the character is just so random, that it's almost comical in a dark humour kind of way.  **ENDSPOILER**

  To say it mildly, this film isn't for everybody.  This is one of the cruelest and deplorable films out there and it can be very difficult to watch at times. It does have some excellent gruesome effects work and a number of incredibly bleak and at times heartbreaking scenes.  I don't know how this wasn't on the nasty list because if you are looking for something disturbing to watch, this is as nasty as it gets.
(I couldn't find a trailer for this, so here are the funky opening credits)