Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Wow....that's the most apt word that comes to mind right now. Chrystal is a mind blowing movie, and I loved every second of it. I saw it when it came out, and I just had my 3rd viewing last night, and it hasn't lost a bit of it's power. It's one of those films that sticks to you and haunts you for days. It really is quite sad that Ray Mckinnon(director and actor) and his wife Lisa Blount(actor) did not win Academy Awards for this film, because it's a far superior film to last year's Precious, it just goes to show how much clout Oprah has. This film has been described as Southern Gothic, and I think that is a perfect description. It has moments of Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams, and this is the only role that I have liked Billy Bob Thornton in aside from Sling Blade.
Joe(Thornton) and Chrystal(Blount), and their little boy, Joe Jr, begin the film by running from the law. We don't know what they are after Joe for, but Chrystal seems concerned. Perhaps too intoxicated, Joe over corrects a turn, and they slam into some trees and down an embankment. Joe is thrown a few hundred feet and knocked out, but otherwise fine, Chrystal is thrown through the windshield, she suffers a broken neck, and several more problems. Little Joe's body is never discovered, and he is presumed dead.
Cue 20 years in the future, and Joe is released from prison, and returns to home to Chrystal, to try and get forgiveness from her. Aside from her physical ailments, Chrystal also has had some brain damage, although it's nothing too serious, she is prone to outbursts at times. One of the earliest scenes, shows Chrystal in the back seat of her car, allowing 4 teenage boys to take turns on her in the backseat. She explains at a later date, that sex is the only time that she is not in constant physical pain(and probably emotional as well). Joe comes back, they hardly ever speak, he sleeps on the porch, and starts cleaning up the land and gets himself a welding job. Meanwhile Snake(Mckinnon) wants Joe to return to growing pot like he did back in the day, and Joe refuses to do so. Mckinnon sets up Joe, and the DEA comes and raids their house. Joe disappears into the woods......cue another year in the future.
Snake vows to take revenge on "Crazy Chrystal" as he calls her, little does he know that Joe is still watching over Chrystal from the woods. There are so many amazing scenes in this film, that it would take forever to detail. But the fight scene between Joe and Snake is amazing. Part Three Stooges, and part Deer Hunter, is amazing how much emotional depth that the filmmakers have put into this film. Many "southern" films feel so fake, but Chrystal is the real deal. I could watch this film once a week, for the rest of my life, and still get something out of it. To avoid spoilers(which I hate), I will leave it that. But if you love real films, with emotional depth, and amazing performances from all involved(also includes Harry Dean Stanton, Grace Zabriske, and Johnny Galecki), please rent or buy Chrystal, you won't be sorry. It's just a shame the Academy didn't notice it.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
This is the second installment in the series of reviews for the After Dark Horrorfest 2010. After starting out with a bang with ZMD, I was eagerly awaiting the next film. I had heard good things about Dread, and knew that it was adapted from a Clive Barker short story, and figured it was a win/win....boy was I wrong. Dread is the kind of film that makes me really angry because it was full of such promise. There was so much that the director could have done with this fantastic story. Unfortunately, he chose to make the film plod out at a snail's pace, and never really develop the characters. A few of the actors(Jackson Rathbone, Hanne Stene, and Laura Donnelly) are quite good, and add some depth to the character. But the other male lead(Shaun Evans) has the best back story to deal with, and turns it into a ham-fisted unbelievable portrayal. I really, really wanted to like Dread, but it just wasn't in the cards.
Steven(Rathbone) and Quaid(Evans) are grad students who decide to do their thesis on dread. A clinical study of actual fears that scar and ruin the lives of their beholders. Seems like an awesome concept, huh? It is a little Elm Street-ish in it's premise, but could have been so much more. They start interviewing students and each other to find out what really scares them. We find out that Steven has a phobia of cars, due to a fatal accident involving his older brother. Cheryl is scared of meat(tisk, tisk), her father worked in a meat factory, and the smell has scarred her to this day. Abby's phobia is rather apparent, as her face and body are half covered by a very black birthmark. The most interesting story belongs to the annoying Quaid, who witnessed his parents slain by a maniac with an axe, when he was a child. The whole process of creating the thesis seems to be awakening demons in all of it's creators. The inevitable happens and Quaid snaps and decides to make all of his comrades "face the beast", which involves facing what actually scares them.
I can't stress enough, how much I liked this concept, it just utterly fell in execution. If the director cut out about 20 mins of dialogue, and added some more of the fears that were featured in the story, this would have been a contender of the year. But as it stands, I can only recommend this to ADHF completest, or to someone who has to see all of the Barker adaptations. This makes Midnight Meat Train look like The Godfather in comparison. Proceed at your own risk........
Friday, March 26, 2010
The Peanut Butter Solution is one STRANGE children's movie! I have always loved it, I remember my sister and myself discovered it via repeat viewings on HBO. Later I bought the VHS from a video store where I worked in High School. I have always been a fan of fantasy oriented children's films like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and Clash Of The Titans. But there was something different about TPBS, it has such a claustrophobic atmosphere and dreamlike aura, that left you wondering just what you had witnessed. Recently while doing some research on IMDB, I found a small army of 20 and 30-something's that have been left scarred by this movie. The reoccurring theme amongst all of them, seems to be that they could only remember fragments of the film, and they all thought it had been a dream. Many of them said that they had tried to describe the movie to others, and that people thought that they were making it up, or on drugs. While it didn't scar me as much(I was 14 when it was released), I can certainly attest to it's hallucinatory effect.
The Peanut Butter Solution is a low budget Canadian film, in fact, it looks as though it could have been made by PBS. Michael is about 10 and lives with his father, who is an artist, and his sister Suzy, who may be a few years older. One day Michael helps out a homeless man with a few dollars. Later in the day, he sees the hobo going into a burnt out old mansion. Michael follows him into an upstairs window, and sees something so frightening that it causes him to lose all of his hair! While passed out, he is visited by ghosts that give him a recipe that will restore his hair again. Michael makes up a batch of the oogy mess made up of you guessed it, Peanut Butter, and few other nasty things. He spreads the glop over his head, and when he wakes up the next morning, he already has quite the head of hair. The solution actually works too well, and after a few days his hair is trailing on the ground. The hair causes him to get into all kinds of trouble, and kids love to pull it, and tease him about it. Michael's best friend, the uber adorable Conrad or Connie for short, convinces Micheal to give him some of the solution, which he applies "down there". Needless to say, Connie's pubes are coming out his trousers soon.
The movie takes a sinister turn at this point. The children's eccentric art teacher, The Signor, kidnaps Michael & Connie to use their hair for "magical" paint brushes that he is manufacturing. He has a warehouse set up, and tons of children that he has taken to use as slaves in this factory. These brushes are indeed magical, and when they are used to paint, the images become real. It is now up to Michael's sister and his father to track down the kids and solve the mystery. Michael also has to figure out the mystery of what he saw that caused him to be in this predicament. I have never seen a more "out there" film that was made with children in mind. I often wonder if the makers of the brilliant "City Of Lost Children" had seen TPBS solution a time or two? Unfortunately, this has never had an official DVD release. You can find DVD-R transfers of it(that's what I have) or a cheapie import that Amazon stocks sometimes. The VHS can get quite expensive, so if you see it cheap, pick it up, you won't regret it.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
This is the first film that I have seen in this year's batch of After Dark Horrorfest films. And for better or worse, I plan on reviewing all of them this year, so it was great to start out on a high note. I think After Dark started out as a big joke amongst Horror fans, and slowly but surely are making small steps to rectify that. Last year had a few surprisingly decent films, and I heard buzz that this year's batch was supposed to be the best, so I am taking the challenge.
Zombies Of Mass Destruction is being marketed as a "political zomedy", and while those words make me want to barf, it's a pretty apt description. In my opinion, this is a more interesting film than either Shaun Of The Dead or Zombieland. The story is simple enough, a small island town called Port Gamble, is being infected by a Zombie outbreak. The interesting part of the story is the characters, most of them are actually likable, and each character represents a social group, and how bigotry still remains prevalent during such a crisis. Call it Towelhead meets Dawn Of the Dead for a good description.
Frida, who is an American born Iranian gets her share of bad treatment in ZMD. Her dad runs the local diner, and desperately wants Frida to marry an Iranian, and continue the traditions of her heritage. She however, like any American teenage girl wants to date a bad boy, and party her nights away. When the outbreak comes, it is immediately blamed on terrorists, and of course Frida is the local object of scrutiny. In the mean time, Tom has returned home to Port Gamble with his boyfriend Lance in tow, to come out to his widowed Mother. By the time he gets to do so, Mommy has been infected, and Tom still feels the need to confess, this scene is comedic gold. The local church thinks that the outbreak has been brought down by all of the evils in the world, primarily homosexuality, so when Tom and Lance ends up barricaded in the church with them, things definitely get tense. This is not a prefect film by any means, but it is so nice to see a film where a gay couple is portrayed in such a positive light, it warms the heart. I'm sure that there will be Internet warriors up in arms about how the zombies look, and remain completely oblivious to the said social commentary that is introduced in this film. That's really sad, I would hope that everyone, would come out of the film a little pissed about some of the injustices in the world. Good job, After Dark, now I am looking forward to.......Dread.
I totally missed out on Titus Andronicus the first time around, when they released their first record, The Airing Of Grievances. I still have not yet heard that record, so I cannot comment on how much the band has or has not matured from that record to the record we are now discussing. All I can really say is that this record kicks ASS!! It recaptures an era of nostalgia that hasn't been tapped by the deluge of retro indie-rock bands now flooding the CD bins(or I-Tunes, if you prefer). TA have elements of many other bands in their sound, but sound like NO one! The vocals are almost a dead ringer for Connor Oberst of Bright Eyes, in his earlier days, and this to me is a good thing. He is one of the few that you could actually hear the angst of his age shining through his vocals, and TA singer Ian Graetzer embodies the same qualities. The music in my opinion is similar to prime-era Pixies, and maybe The Hold Steady without the annoying keyboards. The Monitor is a concept record about The Civil War, and although I have yet to wrap my head around the theme or storyline, that does nothing to hamper my enjoyment of this amazing record. If Bruce Springsteen grew up in 80's/90's indie rock scene, I bet he would write a record like this. Every song is a keeper, and some of them will stick in your head for days. The bands titular song "Titus Andronicus" just repeats the phrase "the enemy is everywhere" for it's 1:49 duration, and it will stick in your brain, and you will sing it endlessly. The closing track is called "The Battle Of Hampton Road, and it's 14 minutes long, and you will relish every second. That is not an easy feat to make a song that long interesting from start to finish, but these boys(and girl) do it. I could tell you all sorts of neat moments in each song, but it would be wiser of you, just to buy the CD.....remember, I told ya so!
After reviewing Black Demons a few days back, I decided that I needed to do more Lenzi reviews. He is definitely the underdog of Italian Horror cinema, always mentioned after Argento and Fulci. Yes, he has made a few stinkers, but so have the aforementioned directors. Ghosthouse made in 1987, always get slagged off as one of the bad Lenzi films, when in fact, it's one of the best. There are some strange details about Ghosthouse, like Lenzi directed this film under his American alias Humphrey Humpbert, for reasons unknown. I've read that he thought the film would resonate better with American audiences if the director had an American name. I guess no one bothered to tell Mr. Lenzi that the alias was as ridiculous as they come. Also, the film was released as La Casa 3 in Europe, this was translated into Evil Dead 3. I think that this is one of the primary reasons that people have been so bitter towards the film, as it hasn't nothing to do with Raimi's films.
The film starts out with a flashback, of a little girl, playing with a creepy clown doll. Her father starts ranting at her, and the next thing you know, light bulbs start morphing in size, strange noises happen, and the girl's mother and father are brutally murdered. Cue to the future, and a couple Martha & Paul, receive a strange Ham radio message that sounds like someone being murdered. Paul is a Ham Radio expert and traces the message to an old house in the outskirts of Boston(where Lenzi shot the whole film). They find that a group(2 brothers, their sister, and a tag along girl) has broken down in their RV, and are camping out on the grounds of the sinister old house. They play the message for them, and it's found out that the voices on the tape is from one of the brothers and the sister. Everyone seems frightened that it is their voices and no such event has happened.......yet.
The rest of the film is of the youngsters wandering in and out of the old house, and many of them reaching gruesome demises. The appeal of the film lies in it's atmosphere, and creepy score. The clown doll, that makes several appearances, sings out this eerie nursery rhyme from Hell. If you have seen this film, you will most definitely remember it. It's one of those things that gets under your skin, and creeps you out for days. Even though this would fall into the "supernatural slasher" sub genre, the gore remains in the classic Italian tradition. Several scenes are very claustrophobic and suffocating, and that gives the film it's originality. Although you can figure out whats going on well before it's revealed, the motives behind the actions are very shocking. If you are fan of Lenzi's or Italian splatter, I suggest you dig this one up. It has not had an American DVD release, but there are DVD-R's, and there is a Region 2 release. Plus, the VHS turns up on Amazon and Ebay for cheap time to time, so definitely check this out, it's one of my faves.
Today was the perfect day to revisit this record and review it. A severe thunderstorm was pounding my surroundings into submission while Mortualia did the same to my ears. The second album by this Finnish one man "Depressive Black Metal" act, is the closest thing to sorrow on disc, as I've ever heard. Mastermind Shatraug(also of Horna) completely tops the brilliance of his self titled album a few years back. I know that I say the phrase "this isn't for everyone" a lot, but it really is applicable here. This is raw and unnerving and beautiful and desolate all at the same time, and casual Metal listeners might be thrown off by the sincerity of it all. The record consists of 5 long tracks, all of them are in the 10-12 minute range, so if you are not digging on the sound, you won't be able to make it through one of these epics. Like a Metal equivalent to Joy Division, or Pornography-era Cure, not in sound, but in the depressive nature of the music, and it's ability to project those feelings onto the listener. Not one of the tracks are bad, and this is definitely a record that you want to listen to as a whole, and not spilt up on an Ipod or shuffle player. I was thinking that it might be an experience to listen to this record while watching an old Bergman film without the sound, the black and white starkness of his films would match beautifully with this depressive symphony. It also sports one of the most "beautiful" record covers I've ever seen in Metal. As always, this isn't for everyone, but for those lost souls who can revel in such negativity, I can't recommend this enough.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Umberto Lenzi has made some really good movies, like Make Them Die Slowly and Ghosthouse, but he has made some stinkers as well. I would say that Black Demons is somewhere in the middle. In some places, this had been retitled Demons 3, but has absolutely nothing to do with the Demons saga. This is about an American brother and sister, and the girls boyfriend who go to Brazil for reasons that are never explained, I think it's to take pictures? The brother is obsessed with Black Magic, and sneaks off to take part in one their rituals. He becomes possessed by an evil spirit, and wears an evil serpent amulet to prove it. He has recorded the ritual on a cassette and listens to it over and over. The party's Jeep breaks down and they seek refuge in a huge, dilapidated villa, with a couple that they have met on the road. The couple has a maid that is schooled in the ways of Black Magic as well, and recognizes that Tommy is possessed.
Tommy later goes to an ancient cemetery, and plays the ritual tape on his Walkman. This brings to life 6 black zombies, the corpses of slaves that were killed by the evil hands of the white man! This all sounds like it would be a hoot, and sometimes it is, but Lenzi adds so much dialogue, and illogical padding that they film ends up being pretty boring. It's a shame because the black zombies(not really demons at all) look really cool, and the film has some very atmospheric shots. The gore is pretty good, although the ripping out of eyeballs gets really overused in this film. It's actually not dubbed, which lets you see how atrocious the acting really is. So be wary of this film, it's only mediocre, and I only recommend it to Lenzi or Italian completest. That really sucks, because I want to love this film, it looks really good for being shot in 1990. If Lenzi wouldn't have added so much silly dialogue, and added a few more kills for pacing, this would have been a B-movie masterpiece! Caveat Emptor.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
I am still on a late 80's kick, and I knew sooner or later it would get me in trouble. While going through old VHS to watch, I stumbled across Halloween Night, and didn't recall seeing it, so I threw it in. Soon enough, I realized that I have seen it, and have it on DVD under the title Hack O Lantern. This was directed by Indian born Jag Mundhra, who also helmed Open House, and countless soft-core thrillers. Halloween Night is one of the most unintentionally funny horror films since Sledgehammer. The acting is so OTT, it seemed as though the actors thought they were trying out for Days Of Our Lives. In fact, the "top billed" actor, Hy Pyke(awesome name), acts more like a drag queen than the "satanic grandfather" that he is supposed to play. Still the sadist in me lapped up this overwhelming pot o' cheese, like it was an elixir of life.
The story centers around a young boy named Tommy. In the prologue Tommy is met by his grandfather(the aforementioned Hy Pyke), who gives him a pumpkin, a rubber skeleton, and a satanic amulet. He tells him not to show the amulet to anyone, and not to let them know it came from him. When Tommy's mother finds out that the pumpkin came from her father, she smashes it to bits, and tells him to never see the grandfather again. She then tells her husband what happened and goes into a tirade about how she hates her father, and all of the evils he has caused. The husband takes it upon his self to go and threaten the Father to stay away from young Tommy. When he arrives, he stumbles upon a satanic ritual in the barn, and the grandfather smashes his brains out with a hammer, and burns the father in a car.
Cut to the future, and Tommy is supposed to be a teenager, although he looks to be 35 at least. He still lives with his Mother, who is still trying to keep him away from her father, who is rearing Tommy to be the high priest of his Satanic coven. It is Halloween, and Tommy's sister is gearing up for the big party, and Tommy's little brother is now a policeman. The usual hijinks occur, and all of the teens start showing up dead, and you can probably figure out who is responsible. The performances are just so ridiculous, that it's impossible to look away. There are also some random, WTF moments that make this film laughably great. In one scene Tommy puts a cassette in Walkman, and is transported into a Heavy Metal video by the band, D.C Lacroix(yeah, I missed out on those guys too). It's one of the most cheesy and garish moments in any horror movie ever, and reminded me of the White Sister segment in Killer Party. Also, there's a random comedian that shows up at the Halloween party, and delivers the lamest performance ever. It all had me wondering just exactly what the hell the director was smoking while making this movie? I am not saying that this is a good film by any means, but if you like retarded cinema as I do, this is perfect fodder for "bad movie night".
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Believe it or not, I have had some complaints about me covering and reviewing Metal and Avant-Garde Cd titles. If you have followed the blog from the beginning, I have always stated that it will NOT just be about Horror Movies. Yes, I live and breathe horror movies, but I also love music just as much. I guess the "internet horde" would call me a "hipster", because I love so many kinds of music. When I grew up it was cool and very accepted to have a wide palette in regards to music. I never wanted to stick to one kind of music, that would be like eating carrots for every meal. Now on to the CD, this is the 4th release from France's Alcest. I will refrain from calling Alcest any genre, because they have a very wide scope of sound, and have experimented quite alot. The first release, Les Secret, was a 2 song EP, that was very Black Metal. Although being planted in that genre in the beginning, they were already experimenting with song structure, and atmosphere. The next release was a split CD with fellow countrymen Les Discrets. This continued in the same vein, but Neige's vocals began crooning along with the metal backing it. The metalheads starting crying "sell-out" as they always do. The first full length CD, Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde came out, and I fell in love! Although they retained the metal framework, the vocals, now male and female, were sang beautifully, and there was no Metal growling to be found. They sounded like a Metal version of Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, and I loved every minute of it. At this stage, they gained a new group of fans, mostly indie kids brave enough to search out something different. Surprisingly, a lot of Metal fans really loved it, although they really wished they would return to a more Black Metal sound again.
That brings us to the brand new release, Ecailles De Lune, and metalheads around the world can rejoice.....the growling is back(at least on half of the record). I must say that I like the record alot, but I am probably the only fan that wishes the band would have continued in their new "metalgaze" direction. The only thing I can think of is that Neige is trying to satiate both groups of fans. The music is still in the vein of Souvenirs, but a bit more hard edged. The vocals, as I mentioned are primarily growled like the Les Secret EP, although a few of the tracks have Neige's signature crooning. Since he sings in French, I haven't been able to tell if he uses the "glossiola" singing like the first record. This was a method created by Liz Frasier of Cocteau Twins, and also used by Sigur Ros, where the sing phonetically, and not using real words. I find experimentation like that brilliant. There are 6 songs on Ecailles, 5 really long songs, averaging about 8 mins a piece, and one short interlude. I am hoping that it grows on me a bit more, I have only been spinning it about a week now, but right now, it's not as good as Souvenirs. Again,I am probably in the minority in thinking that. If you have an open mind, like metal, and aren't afraid of some experimentation, Alcest might be your cup o' tea.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Late 80's horror and slasher films are a different flavor of cheese altogether. Most of them stuck to the template laid by the cheese classics of the late 70's and the early 80's. The problem, in my opinion, was the attempt to add humor and cultural references. Where the earlier films you can look back at the fashions and chuckle to yourself and remember yourself as a young tyke wearing the same kinds of clothes. The fashions in the late 80's were so horrendous, that nobody wants to own up to wearing such atrocities. I mean c'mon neon, MC Hammer pants, and hair bigger than a New Jersey debutante, if you ever sported any of these, you are not gonna confess to your friends. For those reasons, I think that late 80's horror, and even the early 90's, are particularly hard to take serious. Only die hard horror/slasher fans can find something redeeming in most of the films of this era. I myself, as you may know, am a sadist, and can usually find something to gleefully cheer/cringe about in these films. Off the top of my head I can think of a few that I still like, and revisit often: Happy Hell Night, Rush Week, Pledge Night, and Primal Rage(damn, they all have the college theme).
The film that we are discussing today, is from 1988, and is one of the most hated films of that era. As per usual, I disagree somewhat with that sentiment. The American Scream is not a great film, but it's not as bad as the legion of internet armchair critics would have you believe. The plot, more akin to a Twilight Zone episode, was a welcome deviation to a overcrowded genre, already crumbling in it's former glories. A normal middle class family, their 2 children, and two of the kids friend's, go on a family vacation to the winter town of Wilson Creek. The town is an ancient society that offs it's children, and now families go there, to "dispose" of their children. A simple plot, but like I said, vastly different than the usual DTV fare of that era. The murders aren't particularly gruesome, but not badly done either. The actors aren't very bad at all, so I can't really figure out why people hate this fun little flick so much. George "Buck Flower" has a small role, and hams it up as usual. Blackie Dammit(aka John Keidis aka Anthony Keidis father), is the "Evil Priest", who does a majority of the killings in the film. He is fun as always, and I have been a fan since he played Walter Baylor in National Lampoon's Class Reunion. Also the actor that plays the father, Pons Maar(now that's a name), really takes it over the top. He acts like he is auditioning for a role in an early John Waters film, he is insane, and really fun to watch.
So, The American Scream is a fun watch, it may not be something that you feel the need to watch once a year. It may not be something that you want to shell out a lot of money for, but if you get the chance to check it out, for free or cheap, it's definitely worth a look. Completest who have to see everything from certain era's, will like me, probably find that it's an enjoyable view, and who doesn't enjoy good campy 80's fun?
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I was a little hesitant to see this film, and then review it, just because of the hype surrounding it. Yeah, I am one those guys. Hype, deserved or not, can ruin a movie experience for me. For that reason alone, I do not have any desire at at all to see Avatar. Precious was a little different, my partner Jeff, had been waiting on this since it came out, because it never played in our town. I have nothing against a heavy drama, and I actually like Monique quite a bit. So last night we got a copy from Netflix, and our best girlfriend came over for a tear-fest.
Most people know what Precious is about, she is a 16 year old, pregnant with her 2nd child by her father. Her home life is simply horrible, Mary, her mother(Monique), is a vile beast, full of hatred and disgust towards everyone, especially Precious. Mary throws things at her, knocks her out, talks to her like a subhuman, and even molests her as well. This is the kind of film that sticks with you for days. I had dreams about the film all night, and truly, it was far scarier than any horror film. Real life demons are far scarier than movie monsters. Coming from a family that was no prize itself, I can relate to some of the things that Precious felt, and the way that she coped.
Although it's an emotionally devastating film, there are some nice moments, and moments that will put a smile on your face. Precious attends an "alternative" school, after being thrown out of Junior High, for being pregnant. The teacher(Blu Rain, what a cool name) and the girls in her class befriend her, and make her feel loved for the first time in her entire life. The classroom shots are great, because you feel so happy for her, knowing that she is finally learning to read, and for a short part of the day, not being abused. When things turn bad for Precious, she slips into daydream mode. She envisions her self many things, a thin white girl, a video vixen, a movie star, and it's in these scenes that Director Lee Daniels really takes the film to another level. The supporting cast are all really good, and I was very surprised at the performances of Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz. I could go on and on, at how many different shocking acts that Precious and her 2 children are exposed to, but I won't. As I always say, you will know if this kind of film is for you. It's a completely different genre of film, but it actually left me feeling like I did after watching Schindler's List, or even Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer. It's that disturbing.
Films like Precious need to be made. When they are backed by heavyweights Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, a lot more people are going to see it than otherwise would. Real films make a mark on your life, leave you with something, or teach you something, I think that Precious has done all of these. Also, Monique really did deserve the Oscar for this performance. She made me absolutely loathe her, and that's hard, because she is such a like able and jovial person, true acting indeed. It also makes up for such horrible films like Tyler Perry pumps out in the name of Black Cinema. This is a remarkable film, if you can handle such devastation, I recommend it whole-heartily.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Sparklehorse is an amazing band that no one has ever heard of. Even though The Flaming Lips and Radiohead worshipped Mark and his songs, success never found him. Sadly, over the weekend, Mark shot himself in the heart and ended his life. Depression is a killer(no pun intended), and people who aren't afflicted with it, don't know just how bad it can be. Now we have lost Vic Chestnutt and Mark Linkous, within months of each other. Both of them kindred spirits, bot of them wrote beautiful songs, that not many people ever bothered listening to. I hope you are at peace finally, Mark.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
I am not an Oscar kind of guy. I don't usually watch the ceremonies, and it makes no difference to me if a film wins this coveted statue. But I did want to say a few things before they go down in about an hour or so. First, I think that it's a crock of shit that they have 10 films up for Movie Of The Year. This is just ridiculous, and I think it's the Academy's way of kissing ass to as many different film makers as they can. I also think that it's ridiculous that certain films are nominated because of how successful they are(Avatar). You cannot tell that if this film was not made by James Cameron that even a quarter of the people that saw it, would have done so. And had it been made by another film maker, would it have even been nominated? Lastly, I would like to say that I haven't seen many of the films that have been nominated this year, but I hope that The Hurt Locker wins! Not only because Kathryn Bigelow would be the first woman to win the award, but it's just a damned good movie! It honestly made me tense the whole film, and it let me know what those soldiers go through every day, fighting such a silly war. I would really like to see Crazy Heart, but I just don't go the cinema anymore. Now that people spend the duration of the film either talking(to each other or on the cell phone),texting, or eating a full course meal, it just detracts from my movie going experience, so I elect not to go. I would rather enjoy it in the comfort of my home, where I can be transformed to any magical place that director wants to take me.
I have decided to review some of may favorite horror films, especially ones that I always go back to again and again. Superstition, like The Final Terror, is a very underrated slasher film. In the case of Superstition, I think the fact that it has a supernatural element, kept it from being bigger than it was. Had it been a psycho in a dollar store mask, killing these people, rather than an unseen supernatural force, I think people would still be talking about it today. But it does have it's fans(I'm talking to you, Amanda By Night), and the people that worship this film, really do feel passionate about it. As far as I know, it was the first horror film that had a death by microwave(correct me if I'm wrong). It also features a young Billy Jacoby(aka Billy Jayne), who went on to be in Cujo, Just One Of The Guys, and Bloody Birthday. I honestly can't think of any reason why this film isn't talked about more and revered by slasher fans.
Reverend Leahy and his family inherit an old house and property as part of his new job, and move in and find out the house has a history of strange goings on. For one, there is an old gypsy lady and her son that live on the property, and more than one person think that the son is a maniac. In fact, he spends most of the film in hiding, because the police think that he has murdered some teenagers who use the property as a make out spot. Also, there is a lake on the property, and it is the home of an ancient witch, that was imprisoned there by religious zealots, hundreds of years ago. Not long after their arrival the blood begins to shed. In one of the films most memorable killings(aside from the microwave), an elder reverend is killed when the blade flies off of a saw, that has no power, and it eats it's way through the old mans chest. The father of the family is a drunk, so he spends most of his time hiding away getting drunk while his family is tormented by the evil forces.
In one of the films funnier scenes, a younger reverend, who is at the house to help out the family, watches the reverends teen aged daughters swim in the family lake. They are really scantily clad for preacher's daughters(we have all heard stories about them, haven't we?), and the young preacher almost salivates all over himself checking out their rumps. The film has loads of atmosphere, and is very creepy. It looks like it could have been filmed in Spain or Romania, even though it was lensed in Canada. The gore is handled very well, and most of the killings are very gruesome. The flashback scenes pertaining to the witch, and her demise, give the film a Hammer feeling, or something that Paul Naschy would have made. If you are fan of the genre, and haven't seen Superstition, maybe you aren't such a big fan? Anchor Bay released a bare bones DVD of this 4 or 5 years ago, but I think that it's long out of print by now. It can still be found on Amazon and Ebay though, the VHS was put out by the kings of horror and cheese, Vestron Video. It would be cool for another DVD company(not Code Red), to re-release it, with a better print, and some extras, but I'm not gonna hold my breath.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
The Final Terror is one of my favorite horror films of all time. As I said in my underrated slasher series a while back, it also has a very bad rep among horror fans. Perhaps it's my deep love for this backwoods slasher that keeps me from understanding the complaints levelled at this movie? Boring....absolutely not, in fact, not only do I find the story to be entertaining, but it's also believable, something that doesn't happen too often in slasher films. The acting is very good for a film of this type, in fact, it had several stars that had done bigger films(Mark Metcalf,Adrian Zmed)and some that would go on to do bigger things(Rachel Ward,Daryl Hannah,Joe Pantoliano). Another element that makes The Final Terror amazing is the shooting location. Shot in the Redwood Forests of California's National Park, it looks very sinister, and only second best to the woods in Just Before Dawn. The other criticism that I hear in reference to this film, is that it's dark. What I think most people do not understand, is that has been a problem with transfers. If you see a good print of The Final Terror, it's not dark at all. The only scene that I recall that is dark, is the ambush of Daryl Hannah, and I think that adds to the atmosphere.
When a group of forest rangers and some girlfriends go the forest to do some work, and more relaxing, they run into a killer that doesn't want them there. Yes, I know, it sounds like about 327 other slasher films that came out in the 80's. I will not argue with you there, and I am not purporting this to be high art or anything. It's just an above average entry to the "killer in the woods" sub genre. The film offers up several red herrings, and keeps you guessing, until we get the first glimpse of "the killer". This element alone separates The Final Terror from many of the others. The killer wears a very unique disguise, that I like to refer to as "forest camo". It's a suit of moss, and forest debris, which helps it blend into the trees and against rocks. Some of the most effective scenes in the film are of the predator emerging from hiding and you see that it's been watching the rangers.
As I said above, the plot is believable, the rangers tell the obligatory campfire story that is always a description of who is stalking them. This story was about a teen girl who was raped by her uncle, impregnated, and then put in an asylum, to waste away all those years, until her son comes and rescues her many years later. Unable to deal with the wild woman, he leaves her in the woods to be away from from a society that she can no longer cope with.It seems that the woods happen to be where the campers are right now. This story prompts Eggar, the bus driver(Pantoliano) to freak out and lash out at the rangers for telling such a horrible tale. He leaves, with the bus, and the campers are at the mercy of the woods, and the wild woman. There is atmosphere aplenty, and that is ingredient numero uno for me in horror films. The characters are all very like able, and you care about most of them. If you haven't seen it, definitely search it out, it doesn't have a huge bodycount, but that doesn't matter in the least. It also defies the "final girl syndrome", by having multiple survivors. It has been released under many other titles like Campsite Massacre, Carnivore(how stupid),The Forest Primeval(a good one actually), and Three Blind Mice(????). Are there any other fans of one of the best sleeper-slashers ever?? We don't wanna hear any haters!
Friday, March 5, 2010
Most fans have stopped thinking they know what to expect from the mighty Darkthrone. They are the most respected Black Metal band, and have more "quality" releases under their belts than any other band in the genre. At one time they were also the most predictable, but since their music seems to be produced in waves or phases, I am really glad that Circle The Wagons ushers in a new phase for these Norwegian Metal masters. The debut album(Soulside Journey) was a well constructed, albeit boring, slice of technical death metal. The next three records saw them switch gears and start playing the most primitive and grimy form of Black Metal. This period is what made them Black Metal stars, if such a thing can exist. Following their masterwork, Transilvanian Hunger, they switched gears(and labels), and put out three more records(one was an unreleased record from the Death Metal period), of slower more groove laden Black Metal. After a little sabbatical(well deserved)the duo returned and released three records of more thrashier, obtuse, and a little technical Black Metal, this is the period that lots of "fans" turned their back on the boys. Perhaps tired of all the scene politics, and bullshit Metal "codes", Fenriz and Noctuno Culto entered their "punk" phase! This was punk in the literal sense, but crusty Black Metal, with punk song structures. This phase of the band left many a metalhead scratching their heads in wonder, and I ate it all up with a fork.
This brings us to the brand new release, Circle The Wagons. Once again, this record sees the boys shifting gears and entering a new phase. I am personally elated at this change, as much as I liked the "punk" phase, it had started to wear thin after 3 records. Immediately fans will notice the difference in the sound of this record, they are definitely not subtle. The new sound is definitely more HEAVY METAL, with very few traces of Black Metal in their sound. The songs are all constructed like classic, sing a long, Metal Classics. I'm not talking about "normal" Metal like Judas Priest or Black Sabbath. Fenriz has a mighty record collection, and it sounds if they have been taking some cues from obscure, but fucking incredible bands like: Manilla Road, Griffin, and even Metal Church! Hell they even have clean vocals on this record, and you know what? They sound amazing! I will always hold dear to my heart the "classic" Black Metal records, but everyone gets older, and if this is the direction that Darkthrone are headed, I will follow them to the ends of the earth. There is not one filler song on this record, that isn't something Darkthrone could claim since releasing Panzerfaust. Some things will sound familiar, so don't think this is a 180 degree turn, it's all within the realm that they created a long time ago. Hell, in the track "I Am The Graves Of The 80's", there is a riff that sounds like a variation on the classic "Transilvanian Hunger" riff. I can already tell that this will be a CD that I spend a lot of time with, and just in time for summer. Hail to the true Metal!
In a few short years, Deer Tick has became one of my favorite bands. Their blend of country, bar rock, and 50's music, is so pleasing on my ears, that their CD's usually stay in player for months. This little EP(4 songs) is so addicting, I can listen to it 5 or 6 times in row, without it becoming a nuisance. Since it is only 4 songs, I will give a track by track description:
1.La La La: This song, in my opinion, is the best song Deer Tick has ever recorded. It's too bad that it only clocks in at a measly 2:16. It's a very upbeat number, with beautiful backing harmonies supplied by drummer Dennis Ryan. It's the kind of harmonies not heard since the heyday of Gram Parsons tenure with The Byrds. I defy you to listen to this song, and not dance or tap your feet.
2.Dance Of Love: Another short(1:53) upbeat number, but this one has a more rock n' roll feel than La La La. This wouldn't have sounded out of place on their first record, War Elephant.
3.Axe Is Forever: This is my second favorite song on the EP. A little slower than Dance Of Love, but rocks out even harder. In the real world(if it wasn't obsessed with ghetto-culture), this song would be blaring from every radio in the country, yes, it's that damned good!
4.Straight Into A Storm(Live): This is a live version of my favorite song from their last record, Born On Flag Day. It is a barnburner, full of piss n' vinegar, it's just too bad that the recording isn't so great. It's a bit muffled, and that's a shame because drummer Dennis Ryan busts out some crazy blast beats in this song.
If you are a newcomer to Deer Tick(if so, please rectify that)this is perfect place to start. Sometimes short EP's are great introductions, because the listener doesn't have to devote that much time to get into it. This whole record only clocks in at about 11 minutes, and if you don't have 11 minutes to get into a great band, then maybe you shouldn't be listening to music. These guys should be huge, and mega stars, but in a country that worships shit like Lil' Wayne and Beyonce, a band with real talent doesn't stand a chance! Please spend some time with Deer Tick!
To say that Ganja and Hess is a polarizing film is a huge understatement! It's one of those films that I have heard and read about for years, but never had the opportunity to see. I thought that it was gonna be your typical "blacksploitation-horror" film, maybe along the lines of Scream, Blacula, Scream. What I got was a black version of an art-house/mind fuck film! This film is beautifully shot, very slow in places, and pretty damned confusing. Not to say that it's not enjoyable, because you can't look away in fear of missing what comes next.
The confusing storyline, from what I can tell, is about a Dr. Hess, who is stabbed by an ancient bone, formed into a knife of sorts. This bone has some sort of power that turns it's victims into vampires. These are not typical vampires, as all of the victims killed in this film, are stabbed, then bled out, and the blood is lapped up off the floor by the vampire. Dr. Hess meets the mysterious and beautiful Ganja, and he marries her and transforms her into a vampire as well. Everything else that happens seems like the effects of an LSD trip or something. I will say that the director came up with a different way of disposing of vampires, which Dr. Hess uses to dispatch himself. Other than that, I can't really "describe" what this film contains, or is about. You will know if this kinda thing interests you, and if so, you should seek it out.
From what I have read and heard, Bill Gunn, the director, was hired to make a typical Blacksploitation film. When he turned this film in, the producers were furious, and cut the film down substantially, and retitled it Black Evil, and later Blood Couple. The new DVD by Image Entertainment is the first time that it has ever been released uncut and the way that Mr. Gunn intended it. There has been lots of speculation about the metaphoric intentions of this film. It has been widely guessed that the film itself, is one big metaphor for slavery. Gunn said that once that blacks were freed from slavery, they once again enslaved themselves with crime and drugs. The character names could be a reflection of that, Ganja, of course, means Marijuana, and Hess is a slang word for Hash. I am sure that this was not a popular viewpoint with the black audiences that thought they were seeing a schlocky horror B-movie. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say that it has a lot in common with the films of Andy Warhol, and his acolytes(Paul Morrissey), and maybe the earlier films of David Lynch, in particular Eraserhead. Last night was my first viewing of the film, and I still don't know what to think of it, but it hasn't left my mind yet, and that is the kind of film that interests me. I am hoping that further viewings will unlock more mysteries about this odd little film.