Thursday, December 20, 2018

Fool's Views (12/1 – 12/15)

Howdy, folks!

I know, it’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of another year, and even harder to believe that I’m actually only a few days behind schedule. It’s a doggone Christmas miracle, I tell ya.

Speaking of which, I kicked off the month with a solid smattering of holiday-themed horror ('tis the season, after all), as well as catching up on some buzzed-about recent genre efforts both older (Green Inferno) and new (Upgrade), classic (Kwaidan) and clueless (The Laughing Dead). I hope you dig the slay ride…

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



The Green Inferno (2013) d. Roth, Eli (USA) (1st viewing)


Kwaidan (1964) d. Kobayashi, Masaki (Japan) (2nd viewing)

Extraordinarily beautiful on every level, Kobayashi’s anthology of four supernatural tales is culled from the works of Lafcadio Hearn, with each chapter possessing a feel all its own, creating its own individual shiver along the spine. “The Black Hair” tells of a selfish young samurai who abandons his wife to increase his social status by marrying the daughter of a rich lord, only to regret his decision. “The Woman of the Snow” is a beautiful vampire-like spirit who agrees to spare a woodcutter’s life if he promises to keep the story of her existence a secret. “Oichi the Earless,” the most horrific of the tales, revolves around a blind minstrel boy visited by the ghosts of a vanquished samurai army, wishing him to eternally sing the song of their fateful battle while “In a Cup of Tea” tells the story of an aging samurai who sees another man’s face reflected in his teacup.

Winner of a Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Kwaidan contains amazing battle scenes, astonishing outdoor sets built entirely on soundstages, sumptuous costumes, and captivating performances, with its only potential drawback being the healthy three-hour running time that may test the limits of fidgety viewers (who might do better watching in installments, easy to do considering the episodic nature).

The Laughing Dead (1989) d. Sucharitkul, Somtow (USA) (1st viewing)


Trog (1970) d. Francis, Freddie (UK) (2nd viewing)

Often employed as a punchline or a “how the mighty have fallen” reflection on Joan Crawford’s career (this was her final screen appearance), perhaps the most surprising thing about this B-movie programmer is how professional and polished (if formulaic) it actually is. When a “missing link” Neanderthal is discovered thawed out and thriving in an underground cavern, anthropologist Dr. Brockton (Crawford) leads the charge to protect this historic find from small-minded townsfolk (personified by Michael Gough’s supremely intolerant Mr. Murdock) who view it as a menace to public safety and/or a Gospels-flouting abomination.

There’s no denying how many pages screenwriters John Gilling, Aben Kandel, and Peter Bryan steal from the King Kong/Creature from the Black Lagoon playbook, nor the fact that our monster is clearly just a guy (Joe Cornelius) wearing an admirably well-articulated monkey mask, but taken on its own terms, it’s a sturdy enough programmer with everyone doing their best with what they’re given. Francis, director of numerous Hammer efforts, keeps things admirably on track. (Special thanks to Raymond Fox, who also brought The Star Wars Holiday Special into our lives a few weeks back, for programming this and for inviting me to the party.)

Upgrade (2018) d. Whannell, Leigh (USA) (1st viewing)

Set in a not-too-distant future of self-driving cars and automated kitchens, Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), a technology-shunning mechanic, finds himself drawn into a web of revenge and futuristic horror after his wife is murdered in an assassination-style hit that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down. Creepy brainiac Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson) offers the grieving widower a chance to walk again with an experimental surgical procedure that introduces an A.I. microchip (known as STEM) into his spine, one that optimizes every physical move he makes. The downside: as with all artificial intelligences, once sentient, the little buggers seek independence and dominance! While Grey and his backseat driver collaborate well in the vengeance department, with STEM turning Grey into a perfect killing machine, when it comes to who’s ultimately calling the shots, things start to get a little murky. Solid action sequences punctuated by pleasingly splattery executions support writer/director Whannell’s don’t-think-about-it-too-hard sci-fi premise, well-performed by an ensemble of lesser-known players.


All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018) d. McKendry, David Ian / McKendry, Rebekah (USA) (1st viewing)


Christmas Blood (2017) d. Kiil, Reinert (Norway) (1st viewing)


Red Christmas (2016) d. Anderson, Craig (Australia) (1st viewing)

Dee Wallace headlines as a matriarch hosting her last big holiday shindig at the old place before selling it off and downsizing. Her incredibly complex family gathers ’round, laden with more issues than the back office of the Wellington Gazette: there’s the super-pregnant hedonist couple, the barren Bible-thumpers, our laid-back and inappropriate uncle, the Downs Syndrome-afflicted son, and a certain skeleton in the closet that shows up in the form of a deformed young man claiming to be Dee’s cast-off offspring. There’s a lot to chew on, but at the end of the day, it’s a body count movie and the tally is high high high and the chances of survival are low low low. Too dark for harmless fun and too gleefully gory to deliver any emotional punch, it wavers uneasily in the middle until everyone’s dead and/or dismembered and then asks us politely to take some leftovers and get out. Also available from Artsploitation Films.

Silent Night Deadly Night (1984) d. Sellier, Jr., Charles E. (USA ) (3rd viewing)


Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987) d. Harry, Lee (USA) (2nd viewing)


Slay Bells Ring Again: The Story of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (2018) d. Beahm, Justin (USA) (1st viewing)

Winning, good-natured feature-length doc covering the genesis and legacy of the oft-mocked and maligned sequel might give viewers pause for reappraisal. Or not. Either way, it’s a fast-paced and informative look behind the flick that made "Garbage Day!" a holiday phrase. Found on Shout! Factory’s 2018 Blu-ray release.


Collateral (2004) d. Mann, Michael (USA) (3rd viewing)

Tom Cruise is a hit-man in town for one night and Jamie Foxx is the unlucky cabbie that picks him up. It’s Michael Mann, so there’s a lot of flash and style and build and release, and the two leads are more than capable and the supporting cast (Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Javier Bardem, Bruce McGill) is above reproach … so why doesn’t it pack the punch that it feels like it ought to?

Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me (2014) d. Keach, James (USA) (1st viewing)

Documentary about the country superstar wrestling with Alzheimer’s during his farewell tour, accompanied by his family (several of them onstage with him) and supportive friends definitely tugs at the heartstrings, although I would have appreciated seeing more clips of Campbell in his prime so we could truly appreciate what we/he had lost. But then again, maybe that is Keach’s approach – to lose the past, leaving only the hazy present to cling to.

Slap Shot (1977) d. Hill, George Roy (USA) (4th viewing)

Re-teaming with his Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting director Hill, Paul Newman has a high old time as a past-his-prime hockey player/coach who plans to make his last season a memorable one. When he inherits three sibling goons, “The Hanson Brothers,” the ensuing mayhem on the ice invigorates the sagging squad and its fans, giving them one final shot at the big time. Bone-crunching action sequences and raunchy dialogue are dished out by the lively ensemble, resulting in one of the most enjoyable sports movies of all time, full stop.

2018 Totals to date: 321 films, 201 1st time views, 164 horror, 41 cinema


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