Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Even with not staying up to see the late night Pickwick Theatre screenings on Friday (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) and Saturday (Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), by the time Sunday morning came around, I was pretty G’d out. But I rallied myself to make the trek one last time, even getting there in time to catch the latter half of Robert Scott Field’s “Japan Update” panel.
Looking back at my recollections of Friday, I mused aloud that “it looks like a bunch of people sitting behind tables.” While the panels are in fact an integral part of G-FEST and where my particular proclivities lie, there’s a lot more going on than just idle/idol chit-chat. The dealer rooms are chock full of multicolored G-Fans and G-Fare, videogame tournaments are in full flower alongside how-to modeling threads and filmmaking sessions.
Recapping from 2012's G-FEST report:
Back in the early ’80s, there was a group of independent Japanese filmmakers, headed up by director Shizuo Nakajima, who wanted to make their own kaiju movie. The difference is that these folks either worked at or had friends who worked at (wait for it) Toho Studios. As a result, they were able to gain access to materials and designs not usually made available to the general public. Case in point, they were able to make an incredibly detailed reproduction of the 1962 Godzilla suit (as used in KKvG) as well as an impressive giant werewolf costume who would serve as the big G’s opponent. The rumored film is known by several names, Godzilla vs. the Wolfman, Legend of the Superbeast, Godzilla vs. the Giant Wolf Beast, Legendary Giant Beast Wolfman vs. Godzilla, etc., but no real evidence of it has ever surfaced. Only some poster art and one production shot have kept the mystery alive...
Monday, July 29, 2013
Following my grand adventure in 2012, I had been looking forward to G-FEST XX with more excitement and anticipation than any other convention I can recall. Last year’s introductory (for me) experience was a bit of a revelation: G-FEST is much more than an autograph show (which many horror cons have regrettably turned into), but rather a genuine assembly of like-minded aficionados eager to commune with their brethren in the immersive kaiju-lovin’ atmosphere conjured by G-FAN editor J.D. Lees & Co. I had been unable to stick around for the entire weekend’s offerings due to pre-existing obligations, but I made a point of clearing the calendar this time around and was primed to soak up all the radioactive gigantism-related Japanese escapism to be had.
Hands of the Ripper (1971) d. Sasdy, Peter (UK)
In the waning days of the Hammer heyday, the studio cranked up the flesh and the blood in an attempt to hold the attention of their horror fanbase. Even their Dracula and Frankenstein flagship franchises were losing their allure for audiences to a bevy of scrappy independent efforts who were willing to shed more blood and show more flesh. After enjoying success with their trio of sassy Karnstein bloodsuckfests (The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil), they danced out a pair of Jack the Ripper-themed costume dramas in 1971: the gender-bending Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and the (slightly) more grounded Hands of the Ripper, which posits that the offspring of Springheel Jack, traumatized by the sight of her mother skewered in front of her, will grow up to be a ticking time bomb primed to plunge sharp implements into tender flesh.
Q (aka Q: The Winged Serpent) (1982) d. Cohen, Larry (USA)
Small time crook Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) is having a very bad day. Having not worked in months, he is bullied into handling getaway car driving duties for a low-level jewelry heist, a caper that goes awry leaving Quinn with a banged up leg and minus the loot. Escaping from the law, he seeks out legal assistance from an old friend in the Chrysler Building, but upon finding the office locked, he hightails it upstairs to the observation decks where he encounters an enormous bird’s nest with a correspondingly gigantic egg sitting smack in the middle. This discovery provides him with a very unique opportunity, luring his understandably peeved criminal cohorts to their crunchy doom and demanding that Gotham city officials pay him for his exclusive knowledge about a certain winged menace that’s been getting a lot of press lately.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
World War Z (2013) d. Forster, Marc (USA)
Ostensibly based on Max Brooks' bestseller, one has to wonder why producer/star Brad Pitt even bothered to option the rights considering how far the final product strays from its source material's tone and structure. That said, as far as epic Hollywood undead extravaganzas go, this one gets far more right than wrong in doing what it sets out to do.
Conjuring, The (2013) d. Wan, James (USA)
Celebrated real-life paranormalists Ed and Lorraine Warren, central to the investigation of the Amityville Horror case, are the focus of this atmospheric if slightly generic haunted house/possession thriller. The two are presented as level-headed researchers, keen to find the natural causes of strange noises and/or unusual happenings but with a firm belief in the supernatural and prepared to use whatever tools necessary to suit the situation. Their latest case comes to them in the form of a Massachusetts residence recently inhabited by a struggling young family, the Perrons, with numerous bizarre and increasingly violent events taking place within after they uncover a hidden stairwell leading to an abandoned cellar filled with the former owners' possessions (pun intended).
Street Trash (1987) d. Muro, Jim (USA)
In spite of its status as one of the great "melt movies" of our time, it's important to remember the title is not "Tenafly Viper" - the noxious brew that leads several unfortunate souls to their oozy doom - but Street Trash. It's at its heart a character piece, one that in no small way resembles Elmer Rice's Street Scene in its presentation of a memorable motley band within a subculture that usually occupies the periphery rather than center stage. That such shocking and reprehensible incidents of necrophilia, murder, rape, theft, assault, shoplifting, racial slurs and blatant misogyny are handled with such buoyancy and glee is the film's secret weapon, especially when presented with such artistic flair.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Men in Suits (2012) d. Woodward, Frank H. (USA)
As any discerning horror fan knows, practical effects will always rule the day over those plinked out on a keyboard. There’s something about the physical impact of a space-occupying element that cannot be denied, and one of the best examples comes in the form of a genuine monster on set. Be it a Predator, the xenomorphs from Alien, or even Robot Monster’s awesome diving-helmeted lovelorn extraterrestrial, there is nothing quite like a guy-in-a-suit flick. Now, at long last, filmmaker Woodward, who cut his documentary teeth on Anchor Bay’s Masters of Horror behind-the-scenes featurettes, has created a fascinating and compelling 90-minute lovefest for the unsung heroes beneath the fur, flippers, fangs and zippers of some of the genre’s most memorable creations.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Manson Family, The (2003) d. VanBebber, Jim (USA)
I first heard about The Manson Family, and its uncompromising creator Jim VanBebber, in 2005 when it made its DVD debut courtesy of DarkSky Films. Through the various press articles that surrounded the completion of this legendarily extended gestation process (principal photography began in 1989), as well as a terrific article in FAB Press’ Flesh and Blood Compendium, I slowly formed an image of VanBebber as a mad genius who either couldn’t or wouldn’t allow his passion project to leave the nest. Upon finally catching up with the film proper, I was impressed with the man’s attention to detail and his vision, although a little put off by the somewhat ham-handed modern-day bookending device. The final evaluation: This was a worthy effort, certainly a suitable companion piece for 1976’s celebrated TV-movie Helter Skelter, which was promptly filed away in the DVD library under “M” and thought little more about. Until now.