Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fool's Views (4/2 – 4/5) (pre-BIFFF)

Can you smell it, my friends?

In the days preceding the 30th annual Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival’s kick-off, my good friend and unassuming host Gert Verbeeck served as tour guide – not only to the countless sights and tastes that Belgium’s capital has to offer (of which there are many), but also unveiling the treasures of his rare and storied videotape collection (of which there are even more). With the exception of a certain Rondo-nominated documentary, all of the following Views are courtesy of the man, the myth, the legend known around the IMDb horror boards as Vomitron_G – one whose generosity and good humor are seemingly boundless. Glad to be spending the next couple weeks by his side and under his roof.

So, before we unfurl the madness that is BIFFF, we’ll indulge in a mini filmfest known as G-VHS. Hope you like…

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



Club, The (1994)
(1st viewing) d. Spencer, Brenton
During their high school prom, six diverse students and a lecherous teacher find themselves cast into a nightmare dream world where they are subjected to demonic mirth and menace in this relatively obscure ’90s offering. Screenwriter Robert C. Cooper weaves an engaging if not wholly original Breakfast Club meets Night of the Demons comedy/horror scenario, populated by Spencer’s not-bad cast (which includes a younger Rescue Me’s Andrea Roth and an older A Christmas Story’s Zack Ward) and veteran Brock Jolliffe’s intriguing array of special effects. Expectations for a flick of this sort to challenge one’s intellect are low; even so, a more satisfying narrative and conclusion would have been appreciated. As it stands, Cooper and Spencer don’t really offer more than a parade of flashy, forgettable visual set-pieces.

Haunted (1995) (1st viewing) d. Gilbert, Lewis
Aidan Quinn stars as a 1920s English college professor moonlighting as a charlatan-busting paranormal skeptic. Beckoned to allay the spectral fears of an aging country spinster, he finds himself embroiled in Kate Beckinsale’s bizarre incestuous family dynamic alongside his own troubled childhood memories. This is a handsomely mounted haunted house tale, with ample amounts of sexual tension and ghostly imagery to go around. It should be noted, however, Gilbert tips his hand a few too many times as to the true nature of the situation, such that the climactic reveal is foreshadowed approximately halfway through. To keep us distracted/occupied, there’s a healthy amount of sexy skin on display, although the majority of it appears to be courtesy of body doubles (whose faces are even seen at a couple points! Um, what’s the point, guys?). Not an unsung classic, but worth your while. Based on James Herbert’s novel.

Hunter's Blood (1986) (1st viewing) d. Hughes, Robert C.
Cut from the same “city folks vs. the vicious locals” cloth as Deliverance, Southern Comfort and Rituals (although using a much duller pair of shears), this schlocky violent survival yarn – based on Jere Cunningham’s novel – pits weekend warriors Timothy Bottoms, Clu Gulager and Ken Swofford against a nasty band of backwoods bad boys led by Billy Drago, Bruce Glover, Lee de Broux and, in his film debut, Billy Bob Thornton. Played exclusively for cheap thrills and gory gags (including a wow of a shotgun-meets-face splatter moment), Hughes’ flick doesn’t prompt the same Vietnam allegory discussions as its elder, wiser brethren, but still has its own sleazy, low-grade charm. Kim Delaney puts in an early film appearance as Bottoms’ blushing bride.

Rabid Grannies (1988) (1st viewing) d. Kervyn, Emmanuel
From the land of beer, chocolate and waffles comes this enthusiastically low-budget high thrills effort from Belgian writer/director Kervyn, whose whirling dervish cinematography and multicolored grue gags serve as the European counterpart to Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson’s early efforts. A bevy of greedy family members descend upon their aged aunts’ remote country estate to celebrate their birthday (and to stay in their good graces come inheritance time), with one branch of the family tree sending a mysterious box in his stead. Said gift contains an evil misty presence that transforms the old biddy duo into a pair of wrinkled, red, fanged and clawed demons who then proceed to messily devour and decimate their assembled obnoxious bloodline over the course of the evening. The over-the-top performances are matched by frenetic camerawork and gore geysers – in other words, it’s a Troma film (who eventually picked up the film for worldwide distribution) with an accent all its own.

Rejuvenator, The (1988) (1st viewing) d. Jones, Brian Thomas
Ably assisted by underrated ’80s makeup madman Ed French, director Jones and co-writer Simon Nuchtern revive the ol’ Wasp Woman plotline, as vain Hollywood actress Vivian Lanko’s attempts to harness the scientific engines to revive her aging looks. Her local mad doc and lover John MacKay seems to have tapped into the fountain of genetic youth via a serum distilled from human brain tissue; the downside is that the results are only temporary and each backslide is more horrifying than the last, with Lanko (earning major props by donning the extensive latex jobs herself) spiraling into a bloodthirsty hag-like existence, cracking skulls open like so many walnuts to get her fix. The simple formula – injection, followed by a few hours of flawless beauty until the serum wears off, then it’s monster time – works like a charm as long as you’re not expecting anything more than simpleminded splattery fun, which it delivers by the bucketful.

Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen era (2011) (1st viewing) d. Collum, Jason Paul
The three most influential, successful and beloved actresses ever to bear the title of “scream queen,” Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer, are given their rightful due in this insightful, good natured documentary which examines the ladies’ distinctive charms and the circumstances surrounding their respective rise to cult stardom. Assembling a startling amount of video clips and interview footage, Cullom (aided immeasurably by Derrick Carey’s pitch perfect editing) celebrates the charming femmes alongside various players in the direct-to-video 80s boom (Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski, etc), granting these artists some long overdue respect. Far from bimbos, the trio of top-popping thespians reveal themselves to be congenial, intelligent, well-spoken and self-aware women with no regrets about the legacy they’ve left behind. If you weren’t under their spell already, you will be come the final credits crawl.

2012 Totals to date: 121 films, 102 1st time views, 61 horror, 11 cinema

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