Saturday, 31 January 2015

Horrors of 2014: Tusk (2014)

Tusk (2014)
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Justin Long, Michael Parks, and Haley Joel Osment
Running Time: 102 min

  I think Kevin Smith can be a really brilliant story teller and I've seen his one man shows and I've dug most of his films, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he does in more of a horror vein.  I like the concept of this film because it's dark and there are so few walrus type films available. Maybe Smith has opened a door to a whole new world of terror.

  Podcast superstar, Wallace Bryant and his co-host Teddy Craft discover a video of kid accidentally hacking off his leg with a samurai sword.  The video has gone viral and Wallace has landed an interview with the "Kill Bill Kid" for the next episode of their podcast.  However, the "Kill Bill Kid" lives in Canada, so Bryant packs up his bags and flies up there alone, even though his girlfriend, Ally begs him to take her along.  Sorry doll, this is a one pod caster man job.
  When Wallace arrives, he heads over to the "Kill Bill Kid"'s house only to discover that all this hoopla and internet stardom has driven him to kill himself.  Disappointed that he can't get the story, he calls Teddy to give him the heads up and tells him that he'll try and find another Canadian weirdo to interview for the show.  Conveniently while Wallace is pissing, he comes across an ad for a room for rent but in the ad, it mentions that home owner, Howard Howe has led a fascinating life with many strange and exotic stories that he is willing to share.  Bingo! Thank you bulletin board above the pisser!
  Wallace stops at a convenience store for a bug gulp and to get directions, the teen girls working there give him the directions and diss him for being an American.  Wallace jumps in his car, calls Teddy to give him the good news and drives over to home of Howard Howe.  When Wallace arrives, Howard offers him some tea and jumps into some fantastic stories about him and Hemingway and the second world war.  Gripped by the stories and gulping down the delicious tea, Wallace is mesmerized by a piece of memorabilia on the wall.  Howard tells him that it is the bones from a walrus penis and starts to tell him the story about how on one of his adventures, he became stranded on an island and his only friend he had was a walrus named Mr. Tusk.  Unfortunately, the drugs in the tea start kicking in and Wallace passes out during this harrowing tale.
  When Wallace wakes up, he is missing a leg and is strapped to a wheelchair.  Howard explains to him that he loved that walrus, Mr. Tusk and that he is going to use Wallace to recreate him.  Basically, he is going to turn Wallace into a Walrus.  Luckily, Howard is distracted momentarily and Wallace is able to send a message to his Ally and Teddy but before they can respond Howard takes the phone away from Wallace.  Can Wallace escape this deranged walrus lover and avoid getting tusked or is this the fate of the poor young pod caster, to turn into a spectacular story that his listeners would love?


   There are elements in this film that are really enjoyable and hit there marks.  Surprisingly, Justin Long (Accepted, Going the Distance) is great as this smarmy podcast douchebag guy and there are some moments that you actually feel sympathy for the character here, mostly when he does get turned in a walrus.  Nobody should be turned into a walrus, not even Justin Long.  Also, Michael Parks (Red State, Argo) is brilliant in this as Howard Howe.  He is spot on throughout the film and plays the character perfect.  He makes the character smart and sophisticated, then demented and unhinged but with the same kind of gentle charm.  For no other reason, besides seeing Justin Long get turned into a walrus, watch this for Michael Parks performance, it is fantastic.
  The horror and drama aspects in this are really great.  Smith can turn up the tension and there are some disturbing scenes that you wouldn't expect from such a funny guy.  After seeing this film, I think Kevin Smith has a serious dark side.  Watching the transformation scenes reminded me a lot of "Boxing Helena" and the only thing that would have made it better would have been if Smith took more time with the surgeries and made it a little slower.


  What I thought didn't hit the mark was some of the comedy aspects of the film.  Smith uses some really tired cliches aboot Canada and Canadians and they just fall flat.  Yes, we are polite and we say eh, and aboot, and maple syrup is delicious but it's just sad that someone who is so witty and funny can't think up something better and is forced to be so trite.  There is some darker humour with Long & Parks but it's more insane weird funny then the regular humorous prattle between characters that you expect for a film with the description comedy.
  Also,  Johnny Depp's character, Guy Lapointe was terrible and boring.  Johnny Depp (Mortdecai, Transcendence) plays yet another eccentric character that jabbers endlessly in the hopes that something the character says is funny or relevant.  His character is a french hunter that has been searching for Howard Howe for a long time and ends up trying to help Teddy and Ally find Wallace before it's too late.  This character takes up too much screen time and wastes it.  Depp doesn't even take the time to learn how to pronounce french words properly for his french character. Tres Tres terrible.


  I think this film had the potential to be an awesome, weird ass horror movie and could have been a classic in the same vein as Browing's "Freaks" but right in the middle, the film veers into this nonsensical Depp character film that we've seen dozens of times.  I, understand that this is a movie about someone being turned into a walrus but honestly, this is one of Justin Long's best performances in a while and Michael Parks kills it in this and it's such a shame that it gets wasted with the other nonsense.  This isn't a great movie but for Kevin Smith, it's good enough.  So if you finally want to see what Justin Long looks like as a Walrus and love seeing Johnny Depp as the same character as ever other movie he's in, then this is the fish for you. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Horrors of 2014: A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, and  Marshall Manesh
Running Time: 99 min

  I'm looking forward to seeing this film for a couple of reasons, one that it's shot in black & white, which has been coming back into style now and even though it is shot in California, all the dialogue is in Persian.  Which I think is pretty cool.  Also, it's tagged as "The first Iranian Vampire Western", so who can't be excited about that.  Hopefully it's so scary, I won't be able to walk home alone at night anymore. (Like I ever would be that anyway)

  In the almost deserted city of Bad City, Arash finds a cat and brings him home to his junkie father, who is having a confrontation with his drug dealer because he owes him money for junk.  Of course the father has no money, so the dealer takes the only thing that Arash owns and loves, his car.
  Pissed that the dealer took his car, that took him 4 years to save up for, Arash tries to find another way to get the money his father owes.  Unfortunately, the only option he sees is to steal a pair of fancy earrings from one of his landscaping clients beautiful daughter, Shaydah.  He swipes them and that evening tries to get the dealer on the phone, so he can get his car back.
  Meanwhile a girl is getting ready to hit the town, she dances around and when the night hits she's ready to go out.  She wanders the street searching for just the right person and tonight, Arash's father's dealer seems to be the perfect choice.  She bumps into him on the street and they go back to his place.  Then when he starts to get friendly, her fangs pop out and she feasts on his blood.  Once she finishes him off, she takes some jewellery and hits the road.
  Shortly after she leaves, Arash wanders into the dealers apartment and finds him dead.  So, Arash takes his money, drugs and drags the dealer into the Bad City dead body pit.  I'm not kidding, there is a pit in that town just for dead bodies, which is kind of gross and awesome at the same time.
  Anyway, Arash quits his landscaping business and becomes a drug dealer full time.  He ends up going to a really posh costume party, dressed as Dracula and runs into his dream girl, Shaydah.  He sells her and her friend some drugs and everything is going fine until, he pops a pill and tries to dance intimately with her.  She pushes him back and her boyfriend starts dancing with her.
  Bummed out and really really high, Arash wanders home but he ends up getting lost.  While staring at a tree, the vampire girl runs into him and they get to talking, well he is jabbering at her.  She brings him home and they end up really liking each other and holding each other all night.  Has Arash and the vampire girl finally found the love that they have been searching for all this time or will this romance turn ugly when they both find out that the other preys on the weak and helpless?


  This is a great love story and has some interesting artistic flare.  This is director Ana Lily Amirpour's first full length film and she totally kills it.  The look of the film is gorgeous and there are some things about it that reminds me of 50's & 60's French New Wave films, like movies from Godard, or Truffaut. Even the choice of music, which is brilliant, is reminiscent of that time period but in an updated Iranian way. It makes sense if you see that film.
  The story is good, it is too lost lonely souls whose paths finally intersect and find each other.  However, long it will last who knows but they have each other now.  The reveal at the end is perfect and I like how naturally the story plays out before the credits start to role.
  This film has some violence, which I'll touch on after, but what is more interesting is that there is some good humour in the film.  At one point, the vampire girl is mimicking Arash's father's movements, in a cartoon type homage that is really funny.  Also I like that the vampire girl travels by skateboard, that made me chuckle every time she rolls up.  It's not a bad thing because this is such a bleak world that Amirpour has created, it is nice that there are some scenes that pull you out of the dread and make you smile.


  As for the violence, there is some but it very moderate.  This is not a blood bath vampire picture.  It is a taut modern gothic love story with some blood sucking.  The story focus on the characters and not so much on a body count or how many gallons of blood is sprayed.  However it is not "Twilight" either, no one sparkles and people die, then get thrown in the town dead body pit.  Which is awesome!
   Also, I can appreciate what Amirpour is aiming for but I think she goes a little too far in the artistic art house flare a bit in one part of the film, when she has a character dance around with a balloon.  I think this is the only scene, where she lost me because there was a person dancing with a balloon and I was like wtf?  However after that short piece of artistic flare, she was able to get back to the story and continued on without any other weird, weirder hiccups.


  This was a fantastic film and enjoyed most of the nuances and strangeness of the piece.  It has a sad, but somewhat uplifting and scary story of two people trying to find love in dying town.  The cinematography is gorgeous and I loved the music as well.  So, if you are looking for a good horror story to rekindle that love of terror, then cuddle up with this film and let the hell fires burn.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

J-Horror January: The Sylvian Experiments (2010)

The Sylvian Experiments (aka Kyôfu) (2010)
Director: Hiroshi Takahashi
Starring: Yôko Chôsokabe, Mina Fujii, and Momoko Hatano
Running Time: 94 min

  This is a film from director Hiroshi Takahashi, who was on the writing team for most of the Ringu/Ring film series.  This looks like this is his second feature but he has done a ton of writing for other directors. Let's see how well he can put his own ideas across into the cellusphere .

  Dr. Hattori and her husband, Dr. Hattori, are watching a 16mm film about an experimental brain surgery that has been found in the basement of an abandoned hospital.  That's where all the best movies are.  Their young daughters, Miyuki and Kaori join them to see what the hub bub is about and are immediately fixated on the white light that eventually envelopes the screen.
  Years later and long after their father's suicide, Kaori goes looking for her sister who has gone missing.  Unfortunately, Kaori doesn't know that Miyuki has joined a suicide club and is in the process of killing herself.  Luckily, one  the members of the suicide club is not really into suicide at all, but a plant.  When everybody in the van goes under and think they are dying from carbon monoxide, he and a team of doctors grab the unconscious bodies from the deadly van and load them into there not so deadly white van.  Then, they are then brought back to the basement of a hospital, told that they are dead and then have brain surgery done on them. Yea..?  
  However when Miyuki is taken to surgery, she discovers that it is her own mother, Dr. Hattori who is doing the experiments.  The doctor proceeds on her daughter, explaining to her that she is trying to discover if there really is an afterlife and that Miyuki taking one for science.  Unfortunately, the experiment goes too well and Miyuki begins to show signs of having some unnatural powers now.  So she and another experiment girl, Reiko escape the hospital.
  Meanwhile, Kaori is still searching for her sister, but she has the help of Miyuki's boyfriend, Dr. Motojimi, as well as the help from the police.  Kaori and Dr. Kotojimi eventually find out that Miyuki has been abducted by crazy old mom and has been experimented on, but that she is now lost and has some incredible powers.  Can these people find Miyuki before she and Reiko become to powerful to stop and they destroy the world or is it too late for mankind and it's sciences' fault... again? Damn you science!


  This was a little dull and maybe a little too high concept for me.  I like the idea that it's a mad doctor searching to find out if there is an afterlife but I found that the story gets lost and confusing at times.  I think that director Hiroshi Takahashi (Sodom the Killer) has maybe bitten off more than he can chew here and the story just isn't cohesive enough.
  Also there is a lot of wandering around scenes, which anyone knows from watching B-movies or anything from "The Asylum", that they are just padding for time.  There doesn't ever seem to be that much going on and no one ever seems that pressed for time to find Miyuki.  Endless walking and existential talking but nothing that intense or scary really happens until the end.


  The ending is certainly interesting and the epilogue is better.  Takahashi does know how to end a film well, he seems to hold the story tight to his chest and saves any of the action until very end but I don't know how patient the rest of the audience can be.
  Also, I did like the brain surgery footage bits.  It's kind of gruesome but not enough to save the whole film for me.


  Wasn't crazy about this one and found it kind of dull.  The story is interesting but I think it's wasted on wandering around and searching on Miyuki.  There are some disturbing touches and the ending is interesting but I think it's too little, too late.  So, if you want to experiment with other films from the writer of "The Ring", then this may not be the place to start.


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Horrors of 2014: Housebound (2014)

Housebound (2014)
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Starring: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, and Glen-Paul Waru
Running Time: 107 min

  I've been scanning a number of lists and this film keeps popping up.  This is the first feature film from writer/director Gerard Johnstone, who was one of the creators/writer/director/etc for the very funny New Zealand show "The Jaquie Brown Diaries", so it will be interesting to see how well he transitions from television to cinema and comedy to horror.../comedy. 

  After a very amusing botched job, attempting to rob an ATM machine, Kylie Bucknell is sentenced to house arrest and sent back home to her mother's.  She has to stay with her mom, Miriam and her mom's boyfriend, Graeme for the next 8 months.  Kylie is not impressed with this situation and shows her disdain to being there by acting like a petulant child and a thorn in everybody's side or bottoms. How fun.
  One night while listening to a talk show about ghosts on the radio, she recognizes her mother's voice talking about how she thinks there may be specters living in their house.  Kylie leaves the room to give her mom a hard time about the radio show but Miriam reminds her that she is not the only one, who believed that there were ghosts in the house and Kylie reminds her mom that she is not 12 years old anymore. 
  However, after a number of weird occurrences, like a talking toy bear attacking her, phones getting lost and a creepy hand grabbing her in the basement, she slowly starts believing that the house may indeed be haunted.  What puts her over is that she finds out that a teenage girl was murdered in her room and the case was never solved.  Is Kylie and her family being haunted by this teenage ghosty and is there any way that she can be convinced to break on through to the other side or is Kylie having a slow mental breakdown and it's just her imagination?


  This movie is incredible and I can see why it's on so many top lists.  It's smart, it's funny and best of all it's pretty scary.   Writer/ Director Gerard Johnstone takes elements from so many good movies from the past and fuses them into this roller coaster ride of laughs and genuine scares.  Did I just say roller coaster ride, fuck me.  This movie has so many good twists and change ups and it is good to see likeable characters that have motivation and seem real, which is a nice change to see.
  Morgana O'Reilly (Rebecca 2, We Feel Fine) is perfect in this as Kylie.  She doesn't even have to speak, but can convey her contempt for the system and her predicament with just a sneer.  She is a tough character, but is likeable and knows when she has gone to far and O'Reilly is able to put these emotions across really well.  My favourite character is Kylie's mom, Miriam, played by Rima Te Wiata (Send a Gorilla, Alex).  She is the perfect comic relief and has the most brilliant timing.  She nails the dotty, simple mom to a tee with just the right gestures and looks of disappointment and concern.  
  Also the music is perfect for the film.  Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper creates a stunning soundtrack to this film.  There is a part at the end that has similar look to a scene in "Hellraiser" and the music is very similar. It's a nice homage.


  The only issue that I had with the film is there is a bit at the end, which is a little confusing.  I don't want give anything away but I thought a character had died but he/she ends up being okay which I was surprised by, considering how they died or I thought they died.  That's the only part the threw me. 
  Other than that, I really enjoyed this film and after seeing it, there is nothing else Gerard Johnstone or the cast could have done to make it any better.


  This is an outstanding film and a must see for anyone, whether they love horror or not.  It has an amazing story with some great plot twists and turns, the acting is fantastic and it gets very scary.  So, if you looking for a great haunted house thriller or just a really great film, go see this! It's amazing!


 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Indie Horror: I Fall Down (2013)

I Fall Down (2013)
Director: Christopher White
Starring: Emma Houghton, Tom Antoni, and Tom Beddow
Running Time: 82 min

 I should really watch more of these independent horror movies and going forward, I'm going to try and review at least one a month.  This is film is from Edmonton and is currently hitting the festival circuit.

  A woman sneaks past some abortion activists and gets into the clinic.  When she sees the doctor, he tells her that she is too late and that he cannot legally abort the child.  She begs the doctor and he eventually agrees to perform the abortion after hours.  She comes back later in the night and he removes the fetus from her womb.  She thanks him and leaves but before the doctor can throw out the fetus, it makes some noise and the doctor has second thoughts about what he has done.
  A few years later, the doctor is gunned down behind the abortion clinic and his house goes up for sale.  Months go by but nobody wants to have anything to do with the doctors house, except for the parents of a little girl named Annessa, whose dad is on the way to the top in the business world and thinks that the house is a steal.  While doing the walk through, the realtor and Annessa's family are surprised to find a child's room furnished with the name Charlie painted on the floor.  The realtor didn't think the doctor had any children but it doesn't matter because Annessa's father is buying the house. Ha-zah!
  A few months/years go by and Annessa's dad is not doing so hot.  He's on the verge of getting fired, he's drinking, and his wife wants to leave him.  This sounds like an old country song.  Worst of all, he may be molesting little Annessa when he tucks her in at night.
  More years go by and it's now only drunk old dad, out of work and looking to get his loans extended and Annessa, who is in school with a bunch of shitty kids who hate her, except for one guy in her class that likes her, kinda of.  Anyway, her life's miserable and while wandering out behind her house she finds a run down, cobbled together shack and a really creepy dude who lives in it.  He calls himself Charlie and Annessa realizes that he must be the boy for the house.  Although he looks monstrous, Charlie is very gentle with Annessa and wants to run away with her from their shitty lives.  Will the friendship between Charlie & Annessa blossom and find a way to save them both or will this friendship turn into a nightmare that they will lead down a darker path?


  I liked this, it reminded me of a modern "Hunchback of Notre Dame" and to some degrees "Frankenstein".  The film has a lot of heart and Tom Antoni's portrayal of the character, Charlie is very touching at times.  It's not a romantic relationship that brings him and Emma Houghton, who plays Annessa together but a need for love and acceptance that is unconditional.  These are two misfits who have been dealt a crappy hand and when they find each other, it finally gives them some hope.  I think writer/director Christopher White does a very good job putting these emotions across on film.
  Also, I like the look of the film, it's shot beautifully on Super 16mm Black & White and it gives the picture a Lynchesque look to it, which is reminiscent to "Eraserhead at times.

 
  I think this is a great first film, the only thing I'd be more careful with is time (months/years/days) changes at the beginning.  There are a number of years that happen quickly at the beginning of the film and it's a little hard to follow the time line but once the film focuses on teenage Annessa, its full steam ahead.
  Also, I would have like to see a conclusion or confrontation about Annessa's child abuse issues.  It seems to slip into the background or is forgotten as the film moves ahead.  If this is one of the reasons that Annessa is the way she is, then it should have been addressed by the end of the film.


 Overall, this is a great first time feature by Christopher White and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next for this young director.  This a very moving modern Gothic story, it has some scenes that people will find disturbing and the film has a lot of heart.  If you get a chance, this is good film to check out.


Willl be playing at  the Censured in Canada Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario on Sunday, January 25th at 4:00 pm in the CineCycle Underground Cinema (129 Spadina Ave)

 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

J-Horror January: Zoom In: Sex Apartments (aka Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi) (1980)

Zoom In: Sex Apartments (aka Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi) (aka Zoom In: Rape Apartments)
(1980)
Director: Naosuke Kurosawa
Starring: Erina Miyai, Yôko Azusa, and Yûko Ôsaki
Running Time: 68 min

  I get a lot of weird stuff at work and originally when I was scanning through this title "Zoom In: Sex Apartments", I thought it was going to be your usual Japanese erotic soft core porn.  Boy was I wrong,  when I got to the part in the film where a man sets someone's genitals on fire, I thought dammmmn, and by the time the bizarre ending arrived I was totally sold into having to watch the whole thing.  So, I'm putting on my fire proof pants and checking out the Sex Apartments.

  Before Saeko's husband leaves on a business trip, he wants to get randy with her for good luck.  She obliges and lets him hump and grunt on her until he is satisfied and then he grabs his bags and waves goodbye!  Frustrated, she climbs on her bicycle and heads out to her friends place but on the way there, her bicycle gets hit with a rock, which knocks her off her bike.  A man comes over and using a what looks like an awl, forces her on the ground, blindfolds her and then rapes her.  When he is done, he leaves and after a few minutes, she gets back on her bicycle and continues to her friends apartment.
  When she arrives at her friends, no one is there but luckily she has a key, so she lets herself in.  After a few minutes, Sachi arrives home and is surprised to see her there.  Apparently, they had been lovers and Saeko left him without saying goodbye and only recently, had they seen each other again at the train station.  She thanks him for sending her a key in the mail, but she tells him that she must return it and she is happily married and then the have sex. I guess she will be keeping the key.
  That night, a school girl is on her way home from somewhere and she is attacked.  She is thrown on the ground and the attacker, who happens to have the same awl looking thing, stuffs a gasoline doused rag in the girls' genitals and then lights her on fire.  Sadly, this isn't the only attack like this in the area and over the next few days, there are a number of women being attacked and set on fire.
  During this time, Saeko discovers that Sachi is a piano tuner and he has a similar tool to the awl that the rapist/killer is using.  Could it be that she is in love with a sick killer or is this just a strange coincidence, he can't be the only piano tuner in town, right?


 This movie is totally messed up and is an incredibly violent pink film.  It is a cross between an explicit soft core porn and extremely violent horror film or an ero-gro, (erotic-grotesque) and reminds me a lot of "Entrails of Virign" which have a similar amount of sexuality/violence in the film.
 Considering the theme and the content, it's hard to say that this movie was fun but there is some extremely weird shit that goes on here that I think director Naosuke Kurosawa must have been using to lighten the tension.  At one point, a girl is peeing in a garbage dump area and she sees the killer trying to stuff a women into a furnace.  Instead of being terrified and running for help, she watches intrigued and starts eating the garbage around her. Wtf?  Also, the ending and epilogue are pretty messed up too.  The ending comes out of nowhere and is a little shocking and then epilogue goes from horrendously violent to a somewhat brilliant looking artistic nightmarish love scene. It's just really really bizarre.
  I should note that this film isn't like "I Spit On Your Grave", where a person or people are being raped constantly through out the film.  There is only on rape scene in the film, which is at the beginning with Saeko and the rest of the killer/rapist's victims are only shown being either being burned or the results of the burning after the bodies are found.  The majority of the sex scenes in the film are with the Saeko character having consensual sex with many, many people while her husband is away on a business trip. 


  The story starts off very interesting but as it progresses, it really goes downhill.  Director Naosuke Kurosawa sets up a very terrifying set of circumstances but like the rest of the audiences, he gets lost in the sex and forgets where he is going with the horror angle.  Characters show up out of nowhere and even the ending is somewhat confusing and it just seems to be tacked on because Kurosawa doesn't set up any of the outcomes in the beginning or in the middle of the film. 
  Also, there are some scenes that kind of make sense but are badly done.  Like the one with Sachi, who is getting in shit for not tuning the piano either fast enough or correctly.  A woman is humiliating him by yelling at him for his shoddy work.  This is suppose to be a scene where you might be getting reasons that Sachi could be the killer, but the whole scene is done with a wide shot and you can't really see the anger, frustration or rage that may or may not be on his face as he is being reamed out by this female character that we don't know if it's his boss, client or just a crazy lady who likes to yell at people for no reason.  The whole scene loses it's purpose when you don't know who the people are and the shot is so flat with one camera angle.


  This film is definitely not for everybody and there may be too much sex or excessive violence for some horror fans.  Also it lacks a cohesive plot line, that can seem ridiculous and weird, which then makes it humorous and silly at times.  However, there are some impressive visuals and some very bizarre twists and kills in this film, which makes it hard not to enjoy.  So, if you dig pink films and you're cool with seeing people being set on fire, then you should definitely check this out but if you don't think that's your bag, then you should avoid this film. 

Head up, this is an 18+ trailer, you've been warned humans.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

J-Horror January: Premonition (aka Yogen) (2004)

Premonition (aka Yogen) (2004)
Director: Norio Tsurutau
Starring: Hiroshi Mikami, Noriko Sakai, and  Maki Horikita
Running Time: 95 min
 
  Let's start off by saying this is not the Sandra Bullock movie.  So, I'm looking forward to seeing this because it is an adaptation of a manga comic by Jiro Tsunoda called the "Newspaper of Terror" which is such a rad name, I'm a little bit sad they didn't use as the title of the film.  Still, if they take the time to make a film about an evil newspaper then I feel I must watch it and I will predict that this is going to be a great film.

  Hideki Satomi, his wife Ayaki and their daughter Nana are driving back from a visit from their relatives and everyone is having fun but Hideki.  He is busy worrying about work and begs his wife to turn around, so they can drive back to a gas station and he can use a payphone to upload some paper work.  She does this but only on one condition that he has to sing along with them, which he grudgingly agrees to.
  When he gets to the payphone and his paperwork is being uploaded, he finds a piece of tattered newspaper in the phone booth and it has an obituary of his daughter, with her picture in it.  Confused, he leaves the phone booth in time to see a semi truck plow into his car.  Luckily his wife had just gotten out of the car to see him, but their daughter, Nana is still in the backseat, unable to escape because of a faulty car seat! The car is on fire and it then it explodes, killing Nana.  Hideki can't believe it and tries to tell his wife that the newspaper predicted it but she is too distraught over the loss of their child and thinks that he is crazy.  Also, he has lost the tattered piece of paper and cannot prove that there was any sort of premonition.
  Three years later, Hideki and Ayaki have divorced and are not speaking to each other.  Oddly enough, Ayaki is doing a study on psychics and comes across a woman, Satoko who not only knows about "The Newspaper of Terror" but she knows of somebody who disappeared trying to research it.  Meanwhile, Hideki is still working as a professor but he is having terrifying premonitions about the victims of a serial killer, who has been on a killing spree as of late.  After the news of the first murder from his premonition becomes true, he follows the next one but is too late to save the girl, however the murder is caught.
  After these new findings from her research and from the information for the psychic, Ayaki call Hideki to tell him about "The Newspaper of Terror" and they get together to discuss notes.  The decide to search out the friend of the psychic, Rei Kigata, who went missing after researching the evil paper and eventually find that his home is filled with a series of newspapers and tapes detailing his progress with his investigation of the evil newspaper and premonitions of people dying.  Apparently, if he let things go and allowed the murders or deaths to occur, the pain of knowing that he could of stopped it weighed on him so much that it began to drive him mad but if he did try to stop it and was able to save the victims of a killing then he was rewarded with a big black pus sore.  The more people he saves the more sores he gets and he eventually disappeared.  What will be the fate of Hideki and his premonitions, will he go mad like so many others with the regret of letting so many lives slip away or will he take on the sores and pains of these victims until he withers into oblivian?


  This was a really great film and the ending gets pretty crazy.  Not so much crazy violent, which I usually love, but into this weird reality shifting time thing that director Norio Tsurutau (Scarecrow, Ring 0: Birthday) keeps a good handle on it, allowing the ending to blossom into a very touching moment at the end of the film, while keeping it incredibly bleak and horrifying at the same time.
  I like the concept of the film, not just because the title is the "Newspaper of Terror" but the idea of being given a choice and still losing no matter what.  There is no explanation why these people are chosen, which is good because it doesn't matter and there isn't endless pontificating as too why.  What matters is that it's happening at the moment and the characters have to deal with it in the moment and the now, kind of. ;)
  Also, I was a little worried that this film would fall into the same troubles as most adapted manga films by trying to put too much into the film and have  the audience get lost in under developed characters or subplots that don't go anywhere but Tsurutau keeps it together and stays focus on the main aspects to the story, the relationship between Hideki and Ayaki, the loss of the their daughter and the premonitions.  There are times that the story starts pulling but he is able to pull the reigns in and keep everything straight and going forward. 


  There wasn't that many issues that I had with this film.  Like a lot of films I've been seeing lately, this is very strong psychological thrillers and although there isn't a lot of hacking and slashing in this, there are some very disturbing imagery and terrifying situations that hit right to the bone.  Hana Inoue, who played Nana the daughter, nailed it and that was one of the tenses scenes that I've seen from a child performer.  As well as the make up job for Rei Kigata character deteriorating as very good and creepy.
  Also this film is a little out there and weird, not like "Uzumaki" or even close to "Rubber" out there, but it's a very different kind of concept that some people may not dig, especially at the end with the time shifting realities.  That's okay, I know some people get confused and annoyed when this happens in films, so I'm just forewarning you or giving you that premonition vibe about these things. Damn it, now I have a black pus sore. :(
  On a side note, I'm really surprised that there was no sequel to this movie.  I think the concept is very strong and there is so much you can do with this idea.  More people with the same premonition issues and you could also do a whole back story to this.  I mean if they can make a second Paul Blart movie, then how does this not have a sequel.



  This was an awesome film with just the right amount of strange/scary mixture.  It has a very original story, some bizarre and twisted visuals and an ending that is very moving and may even touch any the coldest blackest heart of any horror fan.  So if you're looking for a weird film about newspapers that can predict the deaths of your friends and family, than this is it and it's ready for you to subscribe, baby! 


Sunday, 18 January 2015

If You Thought the Nuptials Were Scary! Honeymoon (2014) DVD Review

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

  I originally saw this when it came out in a limited release to the theatres in September and I remember digging it.  This is a very low key film and is a bit of slow burner but it has an ending that pays off pretty well.  I'm glad that I get another chance to check it out.

  Bea and Paul are newlyweds and they head up to Bea's family's cabin for their honeymoon, which is in Canada, eh.  When they arrive everything is perfect, they are in love, are alone and having a great time.  There is a mild squabble when they talk about having baby comes up but is resolved right away.
  So everything is good until they head down to the local eatery called "Restaurant" and discover an angry gentlemen there who tells them that they the "Restaurant" is closed and then he smashes a lamp to stress the point.  Luckily, Bea recognizes him as her old friend and "playmate", Will and he calms down and apologizes for this lamp smashing ways.  He gets them some food to go and Will's wife, Annie pops up.  She seems disoriented and Will tries to delicately manhandle her out of the dining area and gives the food to Bea and Paul.  They then walk back to their cabin with a feeling of unease and bad for Will's wife Annie, who seems to be in an abusive relationship.
  That night, Bea can't sleep because of the Will incident, but Paul puts her mind to rest with the promise of never being like that and a fresh fish breakfast. Mmmmm, yum! Paul's alarm goes off at the wrong time and  he discovers that Bea isn't in bed. Nor is she in the cabin at all, so he frantically searches the forest until he finds her naked and alone.  Well, hello... . I mean, she is dazed, confused and scared, so Paul brings her home and tries to get her to tell him what happened.  She has no idea and just wants to go to bed.  So, Paul puts a pin in it and everyone goes to bed.
  The next morning, Bea seems really off because she has forgotten how to make french toast and coffee.  Paul thinks it's weird but let's it go because of the shit that happened the night before.  They go out canoeing and Bea exhibits more strange behaviour, like jumping into the cold lake, which she wouldn't do the day before, and finding Paul's eating a large frog jokes not funny and considering them bad taste.  Bad taste no, not funny yes.  What seals the deal that there is something wrong with Bea, is that Paul overhears her thinking up excuses to not have sex with him and when he does try and have the sex, he hears the lines that she had memorized.  Also, he finds some weird bites on her upper thigh, which she claims are from mosquitoes, which are abnormally large in Canada, eh.   Will Paul ever discover what happened to Bea in the forest that night and will he be able to get the real Bea back or did something so evil, vile and ruthless do something to her that night, that there is no coming back from it?


  I enjoyed this film the second time around as much as I did the first time.  Director/co-writer Leigh Janiak puts together an effective sci-fi/thriller that will put shivers down your spine.  Janiak builds the tension up so much that when the story climaxes, you finally have a mild sense of relief, which is short lived because it leaves you with an uneasy feeling of, well what's next? 
 Also, after seeing it a second time, I noticed more of the transformation imagery that she uses carefully throughout the film.  This is effective because as Bea begins to change there are other things that change or morph into other things.  It's a nice touch or accent to the film in general.
 I still wish that Janiak went a little farther with the horror element of the picture.  There is a terribly gruesome scene that doesn't pull any punches near the end of the film, which is well done and graphic but I still wasn't 100% satisfied with the outcome and I wish that she would have taken it one step further.  I understand that she is leaving this element to the audiences imagination but part of me just wants to the the what's at the end of the cord.


  As for the features on the DVD, they are pretty standard.  There is an interesting interview with Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway.  They talk about the production, learning accents and the feel of the film. There is like 3 different versions of the trailer and a couple of amusing outtakes on the disc but I think the most interesting interview is with the director Leigh Janiak. She gives some good insight into her thought process in writing and directing the film and after watching it, I had a better idea of where she was going with it and better appreciation for the picture.
  I was surprised and disappointed that there wasn't an audio commentary during the film because I have come to really enjoy this aspect of owning the disc and hearing all the behind the scenes stories.  It's a shame especially after such a good interview with Janiak in the Extras area, I wanted to hear more about the filming.

 
  I think this a great film and a welcome addition to any collection.  More of a sci-fi thriller than horror but it still has enough blood and goo at the end for any gorehound.  It has an slow burn feel to it and the ending erupts in a haunting twisted wtf moment.  So, if your looking for a graphic tale of love and loss, than this DVD might be what you need.

  

Friday, 16 January 2015

J-Horror January: Meatball Machine (2005)

Meatball Machine (2005)
Director: Yudai Yamaguchi, and Jun'ichi Yamamoto
Starring: Issei Takahashi, Aoba Kawai, and Kenichi Kawasaki
Running Time: 90 min

  I been watching a lot very serious horror films and I'm looking for something a little lighter and fun with lots of blood, in the vein of "Tokyo Gore Squad".  So, I grabbed this because it has the writer from "Versus", which was weird and fun, Yudai Yamaguchi, and the special effects guy from "Tokyo Gore Police" and "Machine Girl",  Yoshihiro Nishimura.  So, this should be pretty crazy.

  Yoji is a lonely guy who goes to work everyday.  He doesn't fit in with the rest of the guys at work and spends his lunch hour, alone, watching his dream girl Sachiko hanging up laundry. creepy.  However, while Yoji is contemplating asking his dream girl on a date, there are these tentacle creatures attacking people and taking over their bodies to create these monster cyborgs that battle and then devour the flesh of the fallen competitor!   !   ! 
  It's after one of these battles that Yoji finds a mysterious shell and brings it home to try and crack it open.  Unfortunately it doesn't open, so Yoji decides to bring it to work the next day and use his drill press on it after work.  Disappointed again when it doesn't crack open, Yogi heads home and sees Sachiko with the guys from work wandering around the city.  Luckily, he follows them because the main douchebag from work takes Sachiko into a dark alley and tries to rape her.  Yoji stops him from raping her but he gets beaten up for his gallantry.  However, Sachiko does helps Yoji get home and appreciates him coming to help her from being violated by his co-worker.
  Back at Yoji's place, Sachiko tells him that she only went with those guys because she was hoping that he was going to be there as well.  Yoji smiles and then Sachiko starts telling him about her scars and how her dad beats her and rapes her, and how she has almost killed him but now she has to take care of him because he is an invalid.  While she is divulging way too much information for a "first date" scenario, Yogi's mysterious shell bursts out and with it's many many tentacles holds down Sachiko and penetrates her.  This is now the worst date ever.  Terrified Yoji watches the shell turns Sachiko, still his dream girl, in to a monstrous cyborg and so, he runs for his life.  Is there anyway to save Sachiko from this horrible dilemma, so Yoji and her can find true love or is it too late for Sachiko and has this dream girl turned into a nightmare?


 This was not the light gorefest that I was expecting.  Still very fun, but it was more of a dark and brooding kind of film than a good time splatterfest.  The story and the characters are sad and have had shitty things done to them but creatures actually use these bad memories and feeling to their advantage in the battle suits, which is an interesting twist in the script and well thought out.
  Most of the battles are enjoyable, lots of gore and blood splattering everywhere.  It looks like directors Yudai Yamaguchi (Deadball, ABC's of Death) and Jun'ichi Yamamoto (Kuchisake onna Returns, Kabuking Z: The Movie) really dug the film "Tetsuo" because they replicate a lot of the effects from it.  Which, I don't think is bad but it just a bit of a more obvious nod with the "Necroborg" suits and the tentacles everywhere.
  I also like the creatures that pilot the "Necroborg" suits.  I think they have a nice charm and personality to them.  They are creepy as hell to look at, especially, when they come out of there shell.  It's pretty gross.

 
   Even though the film is only 90 minutes, I thought that the final battle went a little long.  It was a little much and getting a bit dull.  The special effects were still great and all but I think it could have been either edited a little tighter or they could have brought more emotion or something into the battle.  Watching to lumbering giants hit each other does get tiresome after a while.
  Other than that, I thought the rest of the film was okay.  Some people may find the story really out there but it's about aliens who invade human bodies to battle one another, it's not Shakespeare, so relax if there may be some inconsistancy.  Also, I like the ending, which could have been a little tighter as well but still very fun and imaginative.

  
 Although this is not the light bloodfeast I was expecting, it was still amusing and was inventive enough to keep me interested and entertained.  It has a decent story, great special effects and a lot of bloody gore with a lot of WTF moments that only films from Japan can offer.  So, if your looking for an alien infection film with monstrous creatures that look like "Tetsuo" in it, than this is it my friend.


 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

J-Horror January: Hell City Shinjuku (aka Monster City) (aka Demon City Shinjuku) (aka Makai toshi Shinjuku) (1988)

Hell City Shinjuku (aka Monster City) (aka Demon City Shinjuku) (aka Makai toshi Shinjuku) (1988)
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Starring: Hideyuki Hori, Bradley Lavelle, and Hiromi Tsuru
Running Time: 82 min

  I love Japanese animation and what I love about it is that for years it has pushed a lot of boundaries of horror and sometimes good taste.  I remember, as a teen, marveling at the ultra-violent, "Fist of the North Star" and "Vampire Hunter D"; as well as shaking my head in awe and disgust watching tentacle penises attack people in "Urotsukidôj: Legend of the Overfiend".  So I thought I'd take a look back and watch one I hadn't seen before.  With that many titles for one film, it's got to be good.

  Genichiro is battling the evil villain Rebi Ra to stop him from opening a portal into the demon world and take over the city of Shinjuku.  Rebi Ra has a plan, that if he can take over this small town with his demons now, then in ten years, he will be able to unleash more demons and take over the world.  This is referred to playing the "Long Game"  Genichiro is trying to stop this, but unfortunately since Rebi Ra has sold his sold to the devil, he is too powerful and Genichiro dies trying to save the city of Shinjuku. Genichiroooooooo! In a very "Highlander" looking sequence, Rebi Ra enjoys his victory and unleashes this demon on the city, not the world, just the city. Small steps when taking over things with demons.  This portal opens up and causes a disastrous earthquake to the city, in addition to releasing a shitload of demons.
  9..., 10 years later, Genichiro's son and lazy roustabout Kyoya is watching TV at a bar and sees that the President of the World and his daughter, Sayaka are arriving in Japan after finally putting to bed some long time foreign conflicts.  Unfortunately, Rebi Ra has taken this opportunity to attack the President of the World with a bouquet of Demon tentacle flowers!  The world is shocked but Kyoya doesn't care and heads back home to practice his martial art style, Kempo on some pop cans.
  While practicing cutting cans with his wooden sword, Kyoya is visited by his father's teacher and bodyguard to the President of the World, Aguni Lai.  Aguni Lai asks Kyoya to help to save the President and the World from Rebi Ra.  Kyoya refuses saying that Rebi Ra is too powerful and that he would get massacred.  Aguni Lai tells Kyoya that the president's daughter, Sayaka will find him and that she needs help stopping Rebi Ra.  Kyoya tells the old man to get bent and leaves.
  However after he leaves, Kyoya runs into Sayaka and she begs him to help her but again he refuses and tells her to give up and go home.  She knows that she can't and tells him that she must at least try and save her father and the world, then storms off in a huff, by herself.  She walks all the way to Shinjuku, which is pretty much in shambles since the earthquake of demons hit them 10 years ago.  The property value there really plummeted.  Anyway, she finds a guy who says he can help her and knows where Rebi Ra lives.  She follows him into a dark alley and then is accosted by the guy and his cyberpunk buddies.  Fortunately, before it gets all rapey, Kyoya shows up and deals with these scoundrels.  He then agrees to help Sayaka find Rebi Ra and try to stop him and his demon army from taking over the world.  Can they do it?  Can this everyman character and beautiful girl stop a city full of demons or will the world finally feel the wrath of the 10 year plan that Rebi Ra has been so incredible patient to unleash?

 
  This isn't my favourite anime horror that I've seen but it does have some cool looking visuals at times.  Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust) does create a sorted collection of unsavory demons and nightmarish creatures to inhabit the devastated city Shinjuku and there is even some sexy tentacle moments at times for fans of that style.
  Also, the battles are pretty good.  The animation style is very 80's, of course, but the battle at the beginning is pretty cool looking as well as the final confrontation.  This reminded me a lot of watching video game vignettes from like Final Fantasy VII and other adventure/action games.


  Unfortunately I did find the story rather bland and far too simplistic.  There is a bad boy with a heart of gold who helps a beautiful girl, who along with the help of a wisecracking sidekick and mysterious man in a long coat to battle/defeat the ultra powerful villain.  Although I may have just described every plot line from the 80's, there wasn't anything that really memorable about this story for me and left me wanting more.  I like the concept but the execution is forgettable. 
  Also, I was expecting so much more terrifying things with a city full of demons.  I just felt that there wasn't enough tension going on.  Sure, there was all these creepy creatures that were threatening but there wasn't a moment that I felt there was any real peril for the main characters.
  Additionally, I remember why I prefer subtitling to dubbing.  The most horrifying thing about this movie was the awful voice work.  I feel bad for the actors because the person translating the dialogue didn't seem to care to make the effort to make much sense of the words at times.  There are a lot of "fuck" added in to really push the envelope and make it seem edgy but it wasn't necessary.  I wonder if seeing it again with subtitles would make a difference? Just a thought.


  Overall, this film was alright but nothing fantastic.  The story was simple and characters were really flat but it does have some good visuals that will keep your interest for a while.  This wouldn't be my first pick, if I were looking for an anime to watch but it's not the worst pick either.



Monday, 12 January 2015

J-Horror January: Blind Beast (aka Môjû) (1969)

Blind Beast (aka Môjû)(1969)

Director: Yasuzô Masumura
Starring: Eiji Funakoshi, Mako Midori, and Noriko Sengoku
Running Time: 86 min

  I'm pretty jazzed because this film is another adaptation of a story by Edogawa Rampo, who's insane "Horrors of Malformed Men", I just saw the other week.  Also, this is by director Yasuzô Masumura, who has an impressive body of work and is best known for "Double Suicide of Sonezaki" and the sleazy samurai film, "Hanzo the Razor: The Snare" which I really should watch.  Anyway, I hope this is just as good and twisted as "Horrors of Malformed Men" because that sure is a tough act to follow.

  Aki Shima is a model, who recently posed for some sexy "Art" photos and sculptures for a local gallery.  The work has brought a lot of good attention to her and the artist, so he wishes to work with her again and invites her down to the gallery to talk about his new project.  When she arrives at the gallery, she notices a blind man groping and caressing the sculpture of her so intensely that she can feel his fingers all over her body.  She gets an icky feelingthat freaks her out and she runs away from the gallery, missing the appointment with the artist.
  Luckily, she is able to reschedule her appoint with the artist and after a hard day of modelling, she comes home and orders a massage.  When the masseuse arrives, she is surprised that it isn't her regular masseuse and that the man is blind.  No matter, she lies down on the bed and the blind masseuse starts to give her the most awkward massage ever.  He asks her if she is the model from the now famous pictures at the gallery and she says she is, the blind masseuse then gets a little more touchy feely than he is suppose to and she ends up asking him to leave.  Before he does though, he attacks her and chloroforms her mouth!  Once she is knocked out, his mother comes and helps him bring her lifeless body back to his studio.
  When Aki wakes up, she is a dark studio surrounded by enormous sculpted body parts on the walls.  The blind man introduces himself as Michio Sofu and tells her that he is a amateur sculptor and wants her to model for him.  He tells her that he wants to develop a new medium in the art world that focuses on touch and wants her to be his model and his muse.  She refuses and demands to be let go but he tells her that unless she will model for him, that she is never leaving, ever!  Can Aki escape this art school project gone wrong or will she have to submit to this blind man and his nightmarish creations?


  This was a great film, both story wise and visually.  What I really enjoy about these Rampo adaptations is that they lead you down one path and then veer unexpectedly into another.  Not in a jarring or a "whaaaat" kind of way, but in an unsuspectingly smooth transition, that allows you to think that this should be the natural progression of these twisted events.  This film starts out as a simple abduction film, follows that pattern and then turns into a very disturbing fetish picture, with intense pleasure scarring and eventually having limbs being hacked off.  It is as brilliant as it is unsettling and that's what makes it so enjoyable for me.
  Also, visuals in this film are incredible.  I love the studio and how it looks like these characters are in one of Dali's nightmare.  There are enormous ears, eyes, breasts, lips surrounding them and in the middle of the studio is two gigantic sculptures of a woman, one lying on her stomach with the buttocks exposed and the other a nude sitting and leaning back.  Director Yasuzô Masumura uses these sculptures if they were the ground, especially in the end when the characters are mutilating themselves for pleasure and gives the film a very unusual look and feel that one won't ever forget.


  This isn't the usual fare for most horror enthusiast.  We know who the "Beast" is and there isn't a large body count or splashes of blood flying across the screen but there is a very deep psychological terror that lies here and it really comes across at the end of the film.  How far will a person go to get the pleasure that they need.  Like drug addicts, the characters of Aki and Michio are trying every way possible to get that psychical high and are willing to hack and slash their own bodies to achieve that sensation. 
  Also, Masumura tempers is visuals and doesn't show a lot of the mutilation on camera.  He uses the "less is more" technique, where he shows the action about to happen and then cuts to a close up of the face in agony or another object which represents the injury to their body.  This doesn't take anything away from the film but some fans expecting a lot of gore and blood may be disappointed.


 However, this is a great movie and must see for anyone who enjoys horror movies from Japan.  It has a bizarre and twisted story, an unbelievable setting with enormous sculpted body parts and ending that will make you wince.  So, if you're looking for a terrifying tale from the art world, besides you're brother in law Steve's mountain of beer cans, then search no further for this sadistic sculptor in a frenzy of fear!