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.



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.

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.

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.)

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.

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


Shock Value by Jason Zinoman


  1. Gert Verbeeck (Vomitron G on the boards) told me about this after he saw it at the 2009 BIFFF and I've been dying to see it ever since. Here's hoping you get the chance sooner than later!