Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fool's Views (11/7 – 11/13)

Greetings, my friends.

Sorry for the downtime, it’s been a weird time of finding my feet after the madness that was October. Honestly, it’s all a matter of building new habits, of reviewing as we go – you know, like we did last month. But then the morning gets away from me and then I’m more in the mood to watch a movie than to write about it… blah blah blah. Anyway, here we go.

This week in question was a wild and woolly one, composed almost entirely of brand spanking new releases – in fact, most of the films examined below are currently in theaters or are still seeking distribution! Even in the case of the two non-HorrorHound Weekend horror flicks with an earlier than 2010 time-stamp, Mandy Lane is still tied up in distribution hell and Rituals only found its way to legit silver disc status this year. So, color this edition of the Views the freshest we’ve ever unleashed on the unsuspecting hordes. Many thanks to Jason Hignite and Aaron Crowell over at HHW for curating such a terrific lineup for the Cincinnati faithful – it was the closest I’ve ever been to attending a film festival before, where of the seven titles consumed, I had never seen any of them and even more remarkably, had only tangentially heard of two! Most excellent.

So, without any further adieu…

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR:


All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) (1st viewing) d. Levine, Jonathan
After watching it sit in the “undated” section for literally years on Fangoria’s Film Forecast – only to disappear completely – I reached out to fellow fiend Jason Coffman who had acquired a copy through means fair or foul (I don’t ask questions) to see what all the fuss was about. Bottom line: this is a reasonably accomplished slasher about a small town hottie (a then-unknown Amber Heard) who generates below-the-belt interest from the opposite sex, whilst a not-so-mysterious suitor goes around knocking off the competition. There’s nothing groundbreaking or taboo-busting here, so how is it that A Serbian Film and Human Centipede are out there for public consumption while this remains out of reach? According to Fango’s Michael Gingold, after purchasing this reasonably accomplished, highly-buzzed-about slasher flick, the Weinstein boys didn’t know how to market it and decided to sell it off to Senator Entertainment…which subsequently went bankrupt, leaving the film tied up in litigation. However, perusal copies made the Hollywood rounds – Heard is now an established star while writer/director Levine is rubbing elbows and lenses with the likes of Ben Kingsley & Famke Janssen (The Wackness) and Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50). Still, it’d be nice to see Boys eventually get outside to play.




Rituals (1977) (2nd viewing) d. Carter, Peter
Hal Holbrook leads a quintet of vacationing surgeons out into the woods for a little R&R, only to find themselves hunted down by a mutant killer. Listed as one of Rue Morgue magazine's “101 Alternative Horrors”, there’s no denying the Deliverance influence, but the fine performances and gritty atmosphere allow it to survive the comparisons admirably. Veteran character actor Lawrence Dane pulls double duty as co-star and producer, with Peter Carter in the director’s chair. Previously only available via muddy, edited public-domain versions under its Stateside release title, The Creeper, Code Red finally released this in 2011 (after numerous delays) in a semi-cleaned up version (apparently the original negatives for the closing reel were damaged, so this is as good as it gets, folks).



HORRORHOUND WEEKEND – CINCINNATI 2011


Chillerama (2011) (1st viewing) d. Green, Adam/Lynch, Joe/Rivkin, Adam/Sullivan, Tim
This anthology is a love letter from four of indie horror’s brightest boys, all of whom possess an appetite for outlandish gross-out humor, with bodily fluids painting the walls, floors, ceilings, backyards...you get the idea. Lynch handles the wraparound structure (“Zom B Movie”), setting the events at veteran character actor Richard Riehle’s to-be-demolished drive-in theater, while his compatriots’ featurettes make up the triple bill screened. Rivkin’s effort, “Wadzilla,” concerns the fallout from a Viagra-like drug whose side effects involve increased sex drive, groin pain and, oh, GIGANTIC MUTANT SPERMATOZOA. Sullivan delivers a way-gay riff on the 50s werewolf mythos with “I Was a Teenage Werebear,” with lots of slippery, leather-clad hardbodies and musical numbers amidst the occasional bloodletting. But it’s Adam Green’s “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” that delivers the biggest laughs, not surprising when one takes the Hatchet-man’s early comedic shorts features into consideration. With Joel David Moore and Kane Hodder as a insanely shrill Hitler and a reanimated puzzlehead named “Meshuggenah” respectively, this is a well-crafted piece of absurdist amusement. Yes, all of the segments probably go on a bit longer than necessary, but if approached with the good-natured spirit that the enterprise is presented, even that mild complaint is easily brushed off.




Cold Sweat (2010) (1st viewing) d. Bogliano, Adrian Garcia
Terrific Argentinian thriller about a pair of geriatric revolutionaries who’ve gone from trying to change the world to the more modest goals of capturing and torturing local females. Throw in a love triangle of potential victims, vats of acid and a boatload of nitroglycerin (whose explosively lethal potential are exquisitely demonstrated for the uneducated), and you’ve got a deliciously debauched recipe for high n’ spicy tension.




D4 (2010) (1st viewing) d. Dickerson, Darrin
Borrowing handily in spirit from the Predator playbook, writer/director/star Dickerson unfolds the testosterone-jacked sci-fi tale of a nefarious government organization kidnapping epileptic children and transforming them into steroid-inflated musclebeasts. With his meager $35K budget, Dickerson achieves a blockbuster aura, utilizing his forest exteriors to great effect as his group of hired mercenaries attempt to infiltrate the covert governmental stronghold. A welcome blend of B-action, B-sci-fi and B-horror (available directly from the filmmakers at http://www.7-7-10.com/), and the pleasant surprise of the Weekend.




Down the Road (2011) (1st viewing) d. Christopher, Jason
A worthy entry in the nouveau slasher sweepstakes, with the surprising inclusion of a vengeful and articulate antagonist (well essayed by Brian Gallagher) who ends up being the most sympathetic onscreen character. Granted, considering the array of human fodder surrounding him, this is not as revelatory an accomplishment, but these are solid performances of annoying characters rather than the contrary. Impressive gore and body counts should make this a hit with the horror crowd, and I’m curious to see what else Christopher has up his sleeve. One quibble: Who lets their kid draw a hopscotch court in the middle of the freaking road? Bad Parenting 101.




Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) (1st viewing) d. Hartley, Mark
Cheap thrills/no frills filmmaking expert Mark Hartley returns to the fray, following up his deservedly acclaimed Oz-ploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood with this “ultimate B-movie feast from the Far, Far East.” During the 60s and 70s, there was no stunt too risky, no story too ridiculous and no article of clothing that couldn’t be shed in the name of lowbrow, drive-in entertainment, and the Philippines represented a mecca of exotic locales and lax safety regulations for bottom-line-minded filmmakers like Roger Corman, Eddie Romero and Sam Sherman. Tons of amazing footage combined with excellent talking head work by survivors Pam Grier, Chris Mitchum, John Landis, Pete Tombs, Gloria Hendry, Sid Haig and many, many more. A must-see for any card-carrying cinephile.




Puppet Monster Massacre, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Mills, Dustin
From the title card, hopes rise accordingly that we might experience something akin to the unhinged heights of Peter Jackson’s muppets-on-crack opus Meet the Feebles. However, PMM manages to simultaneously impress and disappoint: the low grade puppet effects and greenscreen f/x work a treat, with the occasional CGI bloodburst only adding to the charm, but Mills plays it terribly safe in the script department, content to regurgitate House on Haunted Hill…if Vincent Price and Co. were to endlessly rattle off tired, sporadically titter-worthy fart n’ poop jokes via lackluster vocal characterizations. It’s clear that one-man-band Mills is a huge fan of the genre and has the can-do spirit to forge his path, but in the future he would do well to bring aboard a cold-blooded producer that insists on a ruthless editor and a funnier screenwriter/cast. It’s true, puppet dying is easy – puppet comedy, on the other hand, is hard.




Sleeper, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Russell, Justin
There’s been a lot of talk about recent films that recapture the aura of an “old school slasher,” but the flash and f/x of most of these miss the point that half the charm of the 80s heyday were the cheapjack effects amidst underlit starlets and real-world locations. Much in the way that Ti West’s The House of the Devil captured the late 70s feel, writer/director Russell realizes an authentic atmosphere that genuinely transports the viewer to a bygone era. This is not to say that Sleeper is a legitimately “good” film – it’s filled with clichés, fair-to-weak performances, less-than-stellar f/x, unconvincing gore, and the tease of only one member of the underwear-happy sorority house willing to pop her top – but damn it, that’s the point, and one gets the feeling that died-in-the-wool slasher fan Russell knows this. Personally, I’d rather watch real-deal efforts like this than glossy pretenders-to-the-throne like Hatchet any day.




CIVILIAN:


Hanna (2011) (1st viewing) d. Wright, Joe
Saoirse Ronan, star of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, turns her sweet Susie Salmon persona on its arse here as an only child raised in the frozen Finland tundra by her ex-operative father Eric Bana, and by raised, I mean trained as an expert linguist, weapons specialist and survivalist. Of course, the day comes when she is discovered by evil government ice queen Cate Blanchett (wielding one of the most inconsistent Southern accents in recent memory) and our young flaxen-haired princess must fight the powers that be to discover her history and destiny. A whole lot of good here, although Wright’s propensity for camera kinetics gets a bit taxing. Ronan’s angel face as she disarms, disables, and destroys her opponents is priceless.




M.M.M.M.…GOOD. (NOW PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU)


Moneyball (2011) (1st viewing) d. Miller, Bennett
Brad Pitt in full-on Brad Pitt mode (which in my book is good news) as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, attempting to reinvent the team-building strategies of baseball with the help of analyst Jonah Hill. Considering that the film’s outcome is a matter of record (we know whether or not Beane’s scheme worked or not – just check the 2002 stats), it’s astonishing how much tension and excitement Miller and company manage to conjure. A real winner, whether you’re a sports fan or not.

Ides of March, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Clooney, George
Ryan Gosling does his taciturn thing as the press secretary of Clooney’s idealistic, “new hope” presidential candidate. A better straight-up thriller than the rabblerousing discussion starter that it seems to want to be – when the big lesson is that all politicians have dark sides, well, we all tested out of that class years ago. Still, worth your time.

Margin Call (2011) (1st viewing) d. Chandor, J.C.
On the other hand, this is the rabblerousing discussion-starting thriller that it wants to be. In a thinly disguised dramatization of the 2008 Lehman Brothers scandal, Zachary Quinto’s risk analyst discovers a disaster in the making according to various complicated formulas that – to the movie’s credit – seem plausible, comprehensible and beyond our reach all at the same time. When he brings it to his superiors’ attention (an extraordinary ensemble that includes Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons), decisions are made that basically boil down to this: If you’re a spinach company and you raise a crop of poisoned spinach, do you go bankrupt or do you sell the poisoned crop, kill your neighbors, and run away with the loot? Guess which option they take. Infuriating examination of the capitalist condition, and a superb drama to boot.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) (1st viewing) d. Durkin, Sean
Elizabeth Olsen arrives in a big, big way with her multidimensional portrayal of a young lady who leaves a modern day cult/commune, escaping to her sister Sarah Paulson’s country home in Connecticut but the demons of her mind continue to pursue her. Writer/director Durkin isn’t about providing easy answers and the unreliable narrator that is Olsen creates some incredible moments of paranoia and tension. John Hawkes, as the seductive Manson-like leader, equals his electrifying turn in Winter’s Bone without replicating it.

2011 totals to date: 525 films, 321 1st time views, 304 horror, 45 cinema

6 comments:

  1. You bugger! Just about every movie on here I want to see! Nicely done sir

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  2. It was a heck of a week, I gotta say! And rare 'tis that I get there before you do, chief...

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  3. Wish I could see a proper release of "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane". Sad to hear that my bet hope is to try to download it :S

    "Moneyball" was excellent. Remarkable.

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  4. Yep, I also hold out similar hopes. I emailed Fangoria about it, and they said they would be including it in their "mailbag" section in order to pass along the info to others. But yeah, I'd say it might be a long wait, so download 'em if you've got 'em.

    I'm a huge Pitt fan, so it was nice that two of my favorite films of the year have featured him in very different roles. (TREE OF LIFE being the other one.)

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  5. I watched Machete Maidens Unleashed! a few weeks ago on Netflix... loved it.. any chance I get to see John Landis do interviews I jump on.. he's one of the few directors out there that seems completely stoked about talking films and their history... like a kid in a candy store.. Have you done a review for Rare Exports yet? Its making a small theater run over the next month and hit DVD a few weeks ago. I would love to see your review on that.

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  6. Not sure if I can do the link here, but I'll try: http://horror101withdrac.blogspot.com/2011/01/fools-views-1129-1219.html If not, just cut/paste that bad boy.

    Yep, I really enjoyed MMU - totally agree with you on Landis, and he's so funny, b/c he is completely fearless - not scared of speaking his mind AT ALL.

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