Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fool's View (11/14 – 11/20)

Yep, back again. Needed to get the table cleared before the assault that is the Revenge of the Gobblers aka "Turkey Day 2011" is upon us. (For a look at previous TD butterball gorgings, visit http://www.kitleyskrypt.com/turkeyday.htm)

Well, this week marked the re-emergence of Netflix into AC’s life, having put my subscription on hold during my time in West Virginia. Despite their recent public relations disasters, rising costs and plummeting stock, I’m still a huge fan of the purveyors of the Little Red Envelope and I thank them for making endless cinematic opportunities available to me for a fraction of their retail cost. Over half of the Views this time around are currently streaming on NF and without exception, all are recommended. And yes, we leaned a little heavier in the civilian quarter, but sometimes you just gotta wash the blood outa our eyes, right?

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

Enjoy!

HORROR:


Human Centipede (First Sequence), The (2009)
(2nd viewing) d. Six, Tom
Presumably, many out there have already heard the jaw-dropping premise behind this notorious horror flick from the Netherlands. Roger Ebert felt it necessary to reveal the entire plot as a “public service announcement” to his readers in his attention-grabbing “un-starred” review, but I do not feel this is necessary and in fact, if someone could see this film without knowing anything about it, it would deliver the true impact that director Six deserves. Some critics have lazily dusted off the tired old “torture porn” label and slapped it on, but Centipede goes beyond that, and the intellect and skill on display are worthy of more than an easy dismissal or categorization. Six serves up a truly disturbing set piece that would ordinarily act as the crime to which the antagonist aspires, and which he nearly achieves before the heroes make their daring escape. But instead, Six allows the heinous act to occur…as the end of his first act. We, along with the hapless victims, are then forced to live within this nightmarish scenario for another 45 minutes. It is from this that the true nature of horror emerges – this is no easy jump scare nor gross-out tactic. Six is after something far more dangerous, and it’s no wonder that he has people scrambling for adjectives (or the exits). When I saw this last year, the audience sought escape through nervous laughter and catcalls at the screen, but it was clear they were attempting to avoid real contact with the subject matter. Those who are willing to sit and seriously commune with this brave new work will find something special, and though I can’t recommend this film to everyone, I do recommend it.




ADAM N’ BLEED
I first became aware of Adam Wingard’s name earlier this year, during my “seven Tiffany Shepis films in one day” festival (yeah, I know, I gotta work on a better name for that one), being that he was at the helm of her 2007 feature Home Sick. In my review, I called it an “ill-conceived gorefest with little to no plot or motivation,” so I wasn’t really in any big hurry to dive further into AW’s CV. But compadre (and indie filmmaker) David Schmidt gave a recommendation to the young writer/director’s follow-up, Pop Skull (streaming on Netflix), and when like-minded cinephile Jason Coffman dished a screener copy of Wingard’s most recent effort my way the same week that Rue Morgue featured an interview, it seemed the time was right…



Pop Skull (2007) (1st viewing) d. Wingard, Adam
The good news is that Wingard decides to work within rather than against his budgetary constraints, and his meticulous hyper-edited, shaky-cam sequences are intelligently combined with more lyrical passages, perfectly emulating pill-popping protagonist Lane Hughes’ mental state. Reeling from a recent romantic breakup, Hughes escapes into the haze of over-the-counter cold medications and booze, which may or may not account for his recent visitations by spirits from beyond the grave. As the viewer trapped in the junkie gaze, we’re never quite sure what is real, but the white-trash characters are compelling (if exhausting) and Wingard’s dynamic pacing and cinematic kinetics are flashy enough to keep us interested. It’s not surprising that the film picked up a number of grand prize awards on the festival circuit: it’s a show-offy showcase that never feels pretentious or precious.



Horrible Way to Die, A (2010)
(1st viewing) d. Wingard, Adam
What starts out as a fairly straightforward serial killer flick edges into an intriguing character study terrain, then unraveled by its own attempted cleverness. But that’s mostly the handiwork of screenwriter Simon Barrett, who deserves kudos for attempting to humanize A.J. Bowen’s psychopath without necessarily explaining him while at the same time exploring the emotional toll exacted upon Bowen’s unsuspecting girlfriend (Amy Seimetz) after learning what sweetie was up to while she was sleeping. The performances are relatively strong across the board, and it’s unfortunate that Wingard felt the need to distract from his cast and scribe’s clean lines by constantly shifting his lens and focus around to the point of madness (the director also served as camera operator). Presumably his purpose was to keep viewers as off-balance as the characters, but what worked with his previous feature (Pop Skull) achieves the opposite result here – it’s an annoying, attention-pulling stunt that undercuts the scenes’ dramatic power. Wingard’s careening camera smacks of unnecessary compensation – Barrett and the rest of the creative team deserved a little more trust.




CIVILIAN:

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
(4th viewing) d. Spielberg, Steven
As someone who never had the chance to see this on the big screen as a youngster, it’s nice that the Fates (and the Music Box) finally allowed this 30-years-older kid to experience the wonder of Indy and his cohorts in all its widescreen majesty. That said, my tolerance for John Williams’ particular brand of musical overexertion has certainly diminished over the years – many was the time I thought to myself, “Shhhhhh, shhhhhh, not so much, not so loud.” Ah well.





ROLLIN’ WITH THE NOLAN


















Dark Knight, The (2008)
(2nd viewing) d. Nolan, Christopher


Inception (2010) (2nd viewing) d. Nolan, Christopher







What can I say that hasn’t already been said? I enjoyed both of these mightily the second time around (yes, I had only seen TDK once before, in the theater), and as someone who enjoys less and less of what Hollywood chooses to spew at its so-called public, I’m pleased at Nolan’s propensity towards legitimately engaging and well-executed popcorn blockbusters that are dense, action-packed, skillfully performed, and gorgeous to look at. It’s worth noting that the stylish Brit got his start doing small, character-based films like Following and Memento before exploding into the eye candy and action set pieces. Take note, studio execs: It ain’t all in the CGI Ka-Pow!



YOU GO, GIRL

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. Oplev, Niels Arden
Girl Who Played with Fire, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. Alfredson, Daniel
Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. Alfredson, Daniel
After spending a little over 7 hours in the company of novelist Stiegg Larsson characters, I can understand the excitement in literary and cinematic circles alike. I haven’t done enough backward reading to learn what the alleged “controversies” might have been, but Lisbeth Salander is a fascinating character and in the inspired hands of actress Noomi Rapace, her damaged but resilient nature crackles with danger and pain. It will be interesting to see what David Fincher and Co. do with the same material later this year. I was struck by how conclusively the first film ended, and the effort to resuscitate the characters and plot was temporarily felt, but the story woven was engaging enough that I was happy to follow.


PATTON OSWALT, SERIOUSLY…


Big Fan (2009)
(1st viewing) d. Siegel, Robert
Young Adult (2011) (1st viewing) d. Reitman, Jason
I had been meaning to catch up with Big Fan (the directing debut of The Wrestler screenwriter Siegel) ever since seeing the trailer a couple years back, but opportunity and inspiration had yet to combine to make that happen. Thankfully, I was privy to a sneak preview screening of Young Adult, the new Charlize Theron film which follows an unpleasant, divorced, alcoholic ghost writer of children’s books as she returns to her small Minnesota hometown with machinations to steal her former high school sweetheart Patrick Wilson away from his wife and newborn. While I was less than wowed by the caustic comedy, I fell hard for Oswalt’s sterling turn as a man trapped – within his own body, within his own nerdish desires, within his blinkered burg, within people’s misconceptions – and yet despite the anger and frustration that simmer beneath the surface, he has remained a funny, charming and good person. YA is not a bad film, but were it not for the presence of Oscar-bait Theron and Reitman, there would be no way that this should be receiving the critical attention/anticipation it is – feels to me like a high-falutin’ version of this summer’s Cameron Diaz vehicle Bad Teacher aka “Watch how awful the hottie can be and still (*giggle*), you just gotta love her, right?”

All of which leads me back to Big Fan, writer/director Siegel’s brilliantly personal character piece, featuring Oswalt as a parking garage attendant who, along with knucklehead buddy Kevin Corrigan, live their lives for the Sunday matchup between the New York Giants and their weekly gridiron opponents. With his squat face and body, Oswalt perfectly captures the associative enthusiasm of the social misfit, the idea of belonging to a community even as it rejects him (in spite of their common interests, he fails to click with the parking lot tailgaters). He writes out his “spontaneous” calls to the local sports-talk radio shows, while his family barely conceals their contempt for his passions. The worm turns after Oswalt tails his favorite player to a strip club and, after a horribly uncomfortable exchange, is mercilessly beaten up. The emotional drama that subsequently plays out is sharp, honest and perceptive in a way that few indie dramas are, and how ironic that a performer generally recognized as a stand-up comedian (his “Death Bed” routine is a riot) is the one who tears your guts out. After nearly two decades of bit parts and supporting roles, Oswalt breaks out as the perfect leading man for Siegel to hang his story on. Highly recommended (and currently streaming on Netflix).

2011 totals to date: 536 films, 328 1st time views, 307 horror, 47 cinema

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dig, You Sucker... (i dig your blog award)

Hey troops,

I'm already overdue to post the latest batch of Fool's Views (funny how I managed to post nearly every single day during the October Challenge, and now I'm back to my accustomed practice of dithering and dawdling).

I also owe you guys a recap from the awesomeness that was HorrorHound Weekend Cincinnati 2011. Yep, still working on that.

In spite of all this, my good online pal Jude Felton (aka The Lord of Filth) decides to lay this on me out of the blue:



Now, apparently there are some rules that go accepting this award. Luckily, they are the kind of rules I can totally live with.

1) Gratefully accept this award. (Done)
2) Link to the person you received it from. (Done)
3) Post 3 interesting facts about yourself. (Um, I'll try)
4) Pass this award around to at least 5 blogs you dig. (See below)
5) Notify said 5 bloggers (Done)



THREE INTERESTING FACTS

1. I was born in 1968, the same year as Night of the Living Dead, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rosemary's Baby, Witchfinder General, and Destroy All Monsters. Is it any wonder I'm a horror fan?

2. I have visited every U.S. State except Alaska.

3. Everywhere you look in my house, there is either a monster, monkey or dinosaur represented in some way.




FIVE BLOGS I DIG

1. Kitley's Krypt - Not technically a blog, but since Jon provides an amazing weekly scroll of what's going on in his world of horror, complete with Mystery Photos, reviews of horror books, DVDs and soundtracks, lessons in horror history, and upcoming events, I'm willing to make an exception.

2. Krell Laboratories - You want smart film criticism? I mean, like, REALLY FREAKING SMART? Stop by the lab and prepare to have your mind blown and vocabulary expanded.

3. The Framing Business - Gavin Schmitt is a firebrand with a bear-like personality: big and cuddly one minute, tear you a new one the next. This mercurial nature keeps things lively. He's a horror fan with a big brain and a bigger heart (check out his Fight Fear with Fear fundraiser).

4. Video Junkie Strikes Back from Beyond the Grave Will Wilson and Thomas Simmons dish out some of the finest commentary on the lowliest of flicks, from Italian exploitation to the bargain basement big box bastards. Seriously, if you're looking to venture off the beaten track, this is the place to be.

5. A Stuffed Legless Duck Production Film reviews as smart and absurd as the title suggests, Craig J. Clark covers everything from the latest art films to the trashiest that cinema has to offer. He's a true cinephile, embracing the moving image in all its guises, and while his opinions are always his own, they never fail to entertain.

So, there you have it. Dive in deep, fellow fiends.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fool's Views (11/1 - 11/6)



Hello True Believers,

Well, the Challenge d’ Octobre that left 115 nightmares in the minds of the Foolish has faded into memory, but like any marathon runner, it’s best to keep walking for a bit in order to avoid cramping up. At least that’s what I told myself as I continued my viewing spree into the next week, consuming another 13 features before Sunday rolled around. However, the notable thing about the past week’s vidddying (aside from the fact that there were actually a couple civilian films back in the mix) was that all of them came from the shelves of fellow fiends as opposed to the hallowed halls of Chez AC, Netflix or even the public library. Nope, these were all straight from the school of “Dude, you need to watch this,” discs and tapes that had been sitting on my to-watch pile, some literally for years. So, high-fives to Joe Foust, Craig J. Clark, Rom Barkador and especially Jason Coffman for spreading the wealth and expanding the consciousness.

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

Enjoy!

HORROR:


Howling: Reborn, The (2011)
(1st viewing) d. Nimziki, Joe
Not really a sequel or a prequel to Joe Dante’s 1981 lycanthrope classic, but then again, this is no surprise when looking at the Howling franchise en toto. Introverted high school nerd Will Kidman secretly pines for rebellious bad-girrrl hottie Lindsey Shaw, and is understandably shocked when she suddenly takes a liking to him during finals week. Writer/director Nimziki does a little bait n’ switch about halfway through, turning Shaw from predator to prey after Kidman starts lupus-ing out, but in the end, this is a serviceable wolfman flick for the Twilight crowd, with a surprisingly welcome amount of hairy practical effects amidst the requisite CGI.

Let's Kill Uncle (1966) (1st viewing) d. Castle, William
Relatively tame if enjoyable gray comedy with Pat Cardi’s young thrill-seeker finding himself the target of drolly homicidal uncle Nigel Green after the lad inherits a fortune from his late father. It’s all very much kiddie fare with Green smilingly declaring his murderous intentions, even creating “safe zones” and “rules of conduct” as he pursues his adolescent quarry. Based on a novel by Rohan O’Grady, this is one of producer/director Castle’s minor efforts, comparable to his 13 Frightened Girls in both tone and thrills. Still, a shark-occupied swimming pool provides a lovely taste of Castle’s special brand of charming cheese and Green’s lively performance is more than worth checking out.

Silent House, The (2010) (1st viewing) d. Hernandez, Gustavo
Undeniably the first horror effort from Uruguay I’ve ever seen, but it’s also one of the very few (if any) “real-time” fright features I can recall. A young lady (Florencia Colucci) and her father (Gustavo Alonzo) spend the night in an old house they have been enlisted to clean and rehab, one which reveals itself to not be as vacant as originally believed. Colucci becomes our main point of focus, as she wanders the house seeking the source of random creepy noises, with Hernandez’s camera prowling about and around her. The ever-changing POV and handheld cinematography is a little off-putting at times, as is the relentlessly padded-out narrative (how many times must we go up and down the stairs?) and the “unreliable narrator” plot twist. But the illusion of one continuous shot is quite mesmerizing and deserving of kudos, while the claustrophobic atmosphere amidst dusty relics and shadowy mirrors generates chills aplenty. Well worth your time (Hollywood clearly agrees, since an American remake is already in the works with Martha Marcy May Marlene breakout Elizabeth Olsen in the lead role).

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011)
(1st viewing) d. O'Brien, Declan
The ongoing adventures of those West Virginia inbred mutants never seemed to necessitate a backstory, but since that’s only the pre-credits sequence of this gory slaughterfest, so the subtitle is a bit of a misnomer. Apparently the trio of misshapen murderers were originally inmates at a mental health facility, but in classic prison break tradition, they escape and lead a revolt that leaves the staff and most of their fellow loonies dead and shredded. Flash forward 30 years to present day where a group of horndog co-eds take a…wait for it…wrong turn while on a snowmobiling adventure, eventually taking shelter from the blizzard-like conditions at the presumably deserted hospital. Writer/director O’Brien, who also helmed WT3, is clearly a slasher gorehound at heart, because the splattery kills are only worthwhile aspects to be found – there’s not a single worthy character onscreen, shrill protagonists and grunting antagonists alike. Ultimately, the whole enterprise is equally dumb and nasty throughout, with a wrap-up ending that may leave your forehead bruised from the inevitable face-palm.





W.T.F. x3: NOT YOUR EVERYDAY HORROR
Death Warrior (aka Olum Savascisi) (1984)
(1st viewing) d. Arkin, Cuneyt/Inanc, Cetin
Absolutely bonkers Turkish martial arts extravaganza with superstar secret agent Cuneyt Arkin trampolining over hill n’ dale, smashing the bad guys and smooching the women. Less of a plot than a grab bag of WTF sequences that will have you picking your jaw off the floor while scrambling to put your eyeballs back in your head. Only tangentially a horror flick by virtue of a yeti-like beastie menacing Arkin’s inner circle, but anyone who embraces low budget/high insanity factor frolics will find much to love here. (Note: the entire film is on YouTube for your viewing pleasure here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SIWc_Z7z7Y

Eyes of Fire (1984) (1st viewing) d. Crounse, Avery
Curious little feature that’s two parts historical drama, one part mystical horror flick as settlers fleeing from the religious hysteria of their village (adulterous priests shall not be tolerated, thank you very much) encounter Native American wood spirits in the form of faces in trees and spectral children. There’s some admirable atmosphere cultivated, although the frequent speedy fades-to-black undo the spell time and again. Also in Crounse’s script’s favor is its venerable unpredictability, introducing new characters and situations with abandon. Leaf monsters, exploding tykes and Irish witches gambol about our intrepid band’s woodland stronghold, and while it’s never really scary, it’s never dull either.

La Blue Girl: Revenge of the Shikima Realm (1995) (1st viewing) d. Kobayashi, Yo
Tentacle-raping alien descends upon a trio of Japanese schoolgirls in this live-action version of the classic hentai anime, delivering the goods in nubile slimy fashion. There’s no shortage of female nudity as the extraterrestrial lothario plies his kinky trade, with white cotton undies and plaid skirts left a-fluttering to the floor, until the resourceful young ladies reveal their inner ninja in a climactic sword-slinging finale. Definitely not for the conservative type, but for the adventurous and lascivious, this is a mind-blowing, pulse-raising specialty dish not often found on the cinematic menu.




SHINE THAT PUPPY UP GOOD
Laid to Rest (2009)
(2nd viewing) d. Hall, Robert
Prolific f/x artist Hall (Buffy, Firefly, The Burrowers, Quarantine) takes the director’s chair for his sophomore outing (following 2004’s personal coming-of-age story Lightning Bug), delivering a relatively satisfying old-school slasher flick. However, while it features some undeniably nifty/gory kills & thrills – as well as a unique visage for his masked maniac ChromeSkull – there’s an inordinate amount of suspension of disbelief required of the audience, and the “mystery” of busty amnesiac Bobbi Sue Luther’s (Hall’s wife, who also produced) identity is underwhelming, to say the least. Kevin Gage (Strangeland, Chaos) co-stars, with a welcome cameo from genre stalwart Richard Lynch. Considerably more enjoyable on a second viewing, but still no classic.

Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011) (1st viewing) d. Hall, Robert
Seems like director Hall might have taken the criticisms about his psychotic antagonist’s vague backstory to heart, as he and co-writer Kevin Bocarde have worked overtime to provide an inordinately complex (and implausible) organization to assist Chromeskull in his sanguinary showcases, headed by twitchy protégé Brian Austin Green and cool-as-ice personal assistant Danielle Harris. Unfortunately, where the original LtR was an old-school slasher, the follow-up feels like a stale later-stage entry in the Saw series, complete with a police task force tracking the killer and underground lairs filled with equal parts technology and analog sharp-edged implements. This change of tone and scope will annoy or delight fans of the original, depending on their disposition. (Consider me in the “annoyed” camp, though at least Hall & Bocarde took great pains to resurrect their thoroughly vanquished hero rather than claiming amnesia.)





GIALLO DOUBLE SCOOP
Amer (2009)
(1st viewing) d. Cattet, Helene/Forzani, Bruno
A love letter to the stylings of a bygone era, with gliding cinematography, startling imagery, haunting eroticism, vibrant primary lighting schemes…and a nearly wordless narrative spanning three separate periods of a young woman’s sexual awakening. Some have called this a nouveau giallo, but while there are numerous nods and direct references to the subgenre (black gloved killers and shadowy figures abound), it’s more representative of the entirety of Italian cinema, art house and exploitation alike. Regardless of how one interprets the rich symbolism or which of the triptych is the most personally satisfying – I favor the spectral childhood-based chapter – there’s no denying the skill on display (though its loose narrative and “style over substance” approach will likely prove off-putting to general viewers). Cattet and Forzani are two names to keep eyes out for, and I for one eagerly await their next effort, an entry in the 26-part anthology film, The ABCs of Death.

Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso) (1975) (4th viewing) d. Argento, Dario
David Hemmings plays a English jazz pianist in Italy, who after a late-night set, witnesses a brutal murder and feels compelled to unravel the mystery. Considered by many to be the apex of the giallo subgenre, this is Argento in his 70s prime, with dazzling, dizzying camerawork capturing beautifully violent set-pieces, all set to the driving rhythms of prog-rock band Goblin (their first collaboration). Though the story is unnecessarily padded out with Hemmings’ interactions with Daria Nicolodi’s headline-chasing reporter (her character was severely trimmed for the U.S. release) and the theatricality of certain performances and shot selections may elicit more giggles than goosepimples from modern viewers, this remains an undeniably influential and important chapter in Italian horror and the genre in general.




CIVILIAN:
Insomnia (2002)
(2nd viewing) d. Nolan, Christopher
A worthy remake of Erik Skjoldbjaerg’s 1997 Norwegian thriller, Nolan’s follow-up to Memento (and precursor to his time in the Batcave) follows L.A. detectives Al Pacino and Martin Donovan up to Alaska during their “white nights” period as they attempt to track down a young woman’s killer. Hillary Swank co-stars as the local law, while a less-mannered-than-usual Robin Williams shows up for the second act to serve as foil to Pacino’s weary, ever-unraveling cop.

Winter's Bone (2010) (1st viewing) d. Granik, Debra
Jennifer Lawrence’s star-making turn as a young Missouri woman struggling against poverty, governmental machinery and a backwoods drug running organization is undeniably impressive, but director Granik and Anne Rosselini’s adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel is equally impressive in its straightforwardness and unapologetic tone for even the most rustic of characters. John Hawkes also received an Oscar nod for his tightly coiled performance as Lawrence’s uncle, a man of mysterious motives and methods.

2011 totals to date: 511 films, 308 1st time views, 296 horror, 35 cinema

BOOKS:

Shock Value by Jason Zinoman

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

SCARE-A-THON 2011 -- FINAL RESULTS


Hello Boils and Ghouls,

With that, we come to the end of another October Challenge. I gotta say, this was by far the deepest dive I’ve taken into the abyss (115 films!!!) and I sincerely thank everyone out there for their support, encouragement and feedback throughout the past 31 days of blood, babes and beasts. I was particularly proud of the myriad of mini film-fests and double features I was able to conjure, living out my programming director fantasy for Channel AC. Hope you dug it as well.

For those of you who came on board as donors to the AmeriCares fundraising drive to aid the unfortunate victims of Hurricane Irene, you are the ones who kept my eyes open into the wee hours at night…after night after night. Bless you. Please contact me at drach101@gmail.com to send in your corresponding pledge amount and let’s get these people some much-needed help. (A special word of thanks to Gavin Schmitt, whose own diligent fundraising efforts kept a persistent spur in my side – congrats to you, good sir.)

Below are the final statistics, as well as links to each day’s respective reviews. Hope you enjoy the walk back down memory lane, dark and dangerous as it might be. As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!