July 27, 2014

"THE PURGE: ANARCHY" (2014) + "THE PURGE" (2013)

THE PURGE: ANARCHY

USA / France, 2014
Director: James DeMonaco

7/10











As you can see below, I wasn't exactly a fan of "The Purge". In fact, I hated it and it even made it into my "Worst of 2013" list (see here!). Yet, due to the fact that the trailer for the sequel looked strangely compelling (and far better than the trailer for the first part), AND due to the fact that  I once again had way too much time on my hands, I decided to check out a "Purge Double Feature" in the lovely "Artis" movie theater in Vienna with two of my festival friends (Hi Flo! Hi Lena!).

Okay, "The Purge" still sucks, but... holy shit, "The Purge: Anarchy" was really, really fun! It's still not the badass over-the-top exploitation masterpiece I hoped for, but it's at least a fabulously entertaining, superbly action-packed violence-romp and a MAJOR improvement over the first part. Massive kudos to director / writer James DeMonaco. It seems as if he listened to all the complaints and really tried his best to deliver the movie we all hoped for when we first heard of the ridiculous-but-cool "Purge"-concept - and he succeeded.


Nearly all of the good characters are likable and sympathetic. You care for them and don't want them to die. The bad ones are all assholes, but they're all far more interesting (at times even fascinating) than every single douchebag in its predecessor, doesn't matter if good or bad. The acting ranges from decent to damn awesome; loved the performances of Frank Grillo as tough and taciturn Sergeant, cute Carmen Ejogo as anxious waitress, Jack Conley as gun-crazy Big Daddy and Michael K. Williams as some kinda Samuel L. Jackson imitation ("Motherfuck the Purge!") - plus: a nice cameo of Edwin Hodge, the homeless stranger
from the first part.

Nathan Whitehead's score is impressive and sooo much cooler than what he composed for the first part, the editing is terrific and effective (Todd E. Miller, "Joy Ride" & Vince Filippone, "I Am Number Four") and the entire production design looks just fabulous (Brad Ricker, "Bad Boys II"). Also: gone is all the 'Murica pathos crap, replaced by a strong, powerful and believable political rich-vs-poor | pro-Purge-vs-anti-Purge | Republican-vs-Democrat message,
and some thought-provoking stuff about terrorism, faith, fear, humanity and necessary/unnecessary heroism.



Yet, the best thing about it is obviously all the action. Holy mop, now that is what I wanted! [SPOILERS!] There's the huge truck with the insane gatlin-gun-guy on the loading dock, the chubby girl on the roof with her machine gun, screaming that she is "the virus", rich people buying poor old people to chop them up at home, the flame-thrower hunt in the subways, the ass-cool gang with their ass-cool masks, the rich-kill-poor hunting-ground hall etc. etc I cheered and applauded everytime we got to see some serious purging - which obviously makes me a bad person, a Purger, a dirty scumbag. Damn, I'm so easy to manipulate ;)

A few scenes in the middle are clearly too slow, too dull, several plot points are a bit far-fetched, and I think the whole film should have been 15-20 minutes shorter. Other than that, "The Purge: Anarchy" is definitely a step into the right direction. A very well entertaining potboiler that makes you forget about the shitty original. Bravo, Mr. DeMonaco!




THE PURGE

German Title:
The Purge - Die Säuberung

USA, 2013
Director: James DeMonaco

2/10









(Review from June 2013)
Half an hour into the movie, my friend Jue said: "This is probably the most American movie I've ever seen.", and I think this describes this piece of 'Murica-dreck almost perfect. It's not that I had any high expectations for it, since the basic concept is so ridiculous and so absurd, but I thought that this could be at least 90 minutes of good, silly fun. I mean, the "New Founding Fathers of America", "1% Unemployment", "Annual Purge", "All crime is legal for 12 hours once a year" - this all screams out for a good ol' exploitation romp.


Imagine this would have been directed in the early 80s by, let's say, Sergio Martino or Mark L. Lester. It would have been a badass and over-the-top exploitation potboiler. Unfortunately, it was made in 2013 by writer/director James DeMonaco ("Staten Island") who took the whole thing WAY too serious, and filled it to the brim with utterly stupid moral / ethics crap, semi-subtle and unnerving 'Murica-pathos, and pointless, senseless black/white | rich/poor
| left-wing/right-wing dilemmas.

Every single character is the very definition of a "superfluous cardboard character": they're all unlikable, they're all stupid, they're clichéd as hell, and you wish them all to die. The good guys make one terribly ridiculous decision after the other, while the bad guys wear rather stupid-looking masks and act like they're demented circusclowns (for no apparent reason).
Ethan Hawke delivers the worst performance in his entire career, while Lena Headey constantly looks as if she has no idea what she's doing here (at least, she's still hot as hell). The other actors: all weak, especially the awfully bland Adelaide Kane. Also, horrendously amateurish editing, a super-boring score, god-awful pacing and a completely shitty ending.


The settings all looked pretty good and the performance of Rhys Wakefield was entertaining ("Tootaloo!") - aside from that, "The Purge" is an utter trainwreck that made me wanna "purge" the shit out of the filmmakers.

Guts & Grog's David Lynch Week: "INLAND EMPIRE" (2006)

Just two months after the "Two Extremes" blogfest, "Guts and Grog" mastermind Eric Martin a.k.a "God of Blogfests" came up with a new theme week: the DAVID LYNCH WEEK, one week centered around the weirdest, yet most fascinating filmmaker of all time.

For "Two Extremes", I already did a little write-up about Lynch's debut feature "Eraserhead". This time, I dedicated myself to Lynch's last feature so far: "Inland Empire", one of the most un-understandable, yet absolute most fascinating mindfucks in history. [GutsAndGrog.com/Maynard-enters-Inland-Empire]




INLAND EMPIRE

Alternate Title:
Inland Empire: A Woman in Trouble

Alternate German Title:
Inland Empire - Eine Frau in Schwierigkeiten

France / Poland / USA, 2006
Director: David Lynch

9/10






"I can't seem to remember if it's today, two days from now, or yesterday."

In some kinda way, that's almost exactly how I felt when I saw "Inland Empire" for the very first time. After I completely and utterly fell in love with his uber-masterpiece "Mulholland Drive" in 2001, I just couldn't wait for a new Lynchian mindfuck. 5 years later, David Lynch delivered - oh boy, how he delivered!

"Hey! Look at me and tell me if you've known me before."

Hmm. Hard to tell. Is ist the same Lynch as always? I'm not sure. "Inland Empire" is basically as Lynchian as all of his more uber-bizarre movies, like "Eraserhead" or "Lost Highway", though it's surprsingly even more convoluted, complicated and fucked up than everything he has ever done. It's not easy or pleasant to watch, it's not fun or entertaining... hell, at times, it's really tedious and painful. It's three hours long and only the first hour seem to make sense, while the remaining two hours penetrate and rape your brain with an eagerness that is almost disturbing - but at the end, the very end, you realize that you just experienced another piece of Lynchian awesomeness, maybe not as sastisfying as previous efforts, but satisfying enough to make you cry everyday for the fact that he hasn't made another feature since 2006.


"I figured one day I'd just wake up and and find out what the hell yesterday was all about."

I hope that one day, I will wake up and understand every single second of this movie... this nightmare of a movie. This bizarre phantasmagoria. This somewhat traumatising succession of inexplicable events that happen to a woman in trouble... or is it two women? or even more? There is Nikki Grace (stunningly played by the great Laura Dern), an actress who makes her comeback in a film called "On High in Blue Tomorrows" which is actually a remake of a German film called "47" which was never finished because its lead actors were murdered. Nikki goes so far into her film character Susan "Sue" Blue that it not only changes and confuses her life, no, she eventually "transforms" into Sue!

As Sue, her life falls into a downward spiral. She becomes involved with drugs and alcohol, disastrous relationships and a husband who has weird connections to a mysterious Polish circus, as well as to a Polish organisation that consists of pimps who deal with prostitutes. In the end, she herself accompanies a group of prostitutes on Hollywood Boulevard where she gets stabbed by Doris, the wife of her film lover Billy (wonderfully played by Justin Theroux). And suddenly, we're back on the set of "On High...", Sue somehow transforms back into Nikki (or not?) and then, some more REALLY weird shit happens.


But that's not all: there's "The Phantom", a dangerous and slightly creepy hypnotist who often walks around with a light bulb in his mouth. A sad woman, called "Lost Girl" who constantly watches an unsettling semi-sitcom where a family of humanoid rabbits talks in riddles. American hookers flashing her boobs, dancing to Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion". Polish hookers in Łódź during the 1930s. A Hispanic and a Japanese woman talking about bus stops and drug addicts in Pomona. Nastassja Kinski, Ben Harper, Laura Harring, a lumberjack, a monkey and a one-legged man singing and dancing to Nina Simone's "Sinnerman".
Oh, and a freaky Polish woman rambling about "brutal fucking murders", telling two old Polish folk tales:


A little boy went out to play. A little girl went out to play.
When he opened his door, Lost in the marketplace,
he saw the world. as if half-born.
As he passed through the doorway, Then, not through the marketplace
he caused a reflection. - you see that, don't you? -
Evil was born. but through the alley
Evil was born, behind the marketplace.
and followed the boy. This is the way to the palace.

If you think I have any idea what this is all about, you're wrong. It could be "simply" a complex mix-up of various stories centered around Laura Dern's character, it could have something to do with parallel dimensions or Möbius strips, it could be a dream/nightmare within a dream/nightmare within a dream/nightmare - or maybe it's just something that I am too stupid for.
There are many, many nods to his earlier films, especially to "Mulholland Drive" (struggling actors, Hollywood clichés, red lamps & curtains...), but obviously that doesn't explain anything either. Doesn't matter. It's as Lynchian as it could get and that alone makes me love the hell out of it.


"I've been going around, meeting my new neighbors. I think that it is important to know one's neighbors. To say "Hello!" to them."

Lynch's direction is excellent. He gave a fuck about everything, didn't care about filmmaking rules, didn't care about a proper plot or narrative, didn't care about the audience. He just did whatever the hell he wanted to do. The digital camera work is at first pretty awkward, but once you get used to it, you realize how well it works, you realized its surreal effect on all the weird shit that is happening.

As I already mentioned, Dern and Theroux are both excellent, but there are other great performances too, like Grace Zabriskie as the eerie old woman, Jeremy Irons as nice director, Harry Dean Stanton as the director's strange assistant or Krzysztof Majchrzak as the Phantom.

The soundtrack consists of fabulous tunes like Beck's uber-cool "Black Tambourine", Etta James' wonderful "At Last" or Nina Simone's breathtaking "Sinnerman", as well as some awesome classic stuff from Krzysztof Penderecki and Boguslaw Schaeffer.


When the police came and they asked what happened, I told them: "He's reaping what he's been sowing, that's what.
They said: "Fucker been sowing some pretty heavy shit."


"Inland Empire" is the very defintion of a Lynchian mindfuck. It could be described as a masterpiece - it could be described as utter rubbish. It may be cinematic perfection - it may be amateurish bullshit. It's art - it's crap. Some love it - some hate it. Whatever.

If you try to enter "Inland Empire" expecting it to be a "simple" film - go away.
If you try to enter "Inland Empire" expecting it to be Lynchian a.k.a weird as shit through and through - hello and welcome, enjoy your stay!

Wiki ~ Imdb

July 24, 2014

ANNA (a.k.a Mindscape)

ANNA

Alternate Title:
Mindscape

USA / Spain / France, 2013
Director: Jorge Dorado

6/10









Even though "Anna" is radically different from what I expected, it's sadly not the film I wanted. The debut feature of Jorge Dorado (third assistant director of "The Devil's Backbone), produced by Jaume Collet-Serra ("Orphan", "House of Wax"), follows a 'mind detective' with the ability to observe people's memories who gets assigned to a case that is much more difficult than he expected: Anna, a 16-year-old girl that seems to be deeply traumatized and desperately needs help - but there is more than meets the mind...


What starts out as almost "Inception"-like mystery-thriller with a unique plot and a few fascinating characters, soon descends into familar thriller territory, at times a bit in the vein of 90s cinema (yay!), at times as meh and disappointing as slightly similar-looking films like "Julia's Eyes" (nay). Dorado's direction is pretty solid, but the screenplay is a god-awful, frustrating mess. I guess Guy & Martha Holmes were so busy coming up with super-surprising plot twists, they simply forgot about creating smart characters, an intelligent story and an ending that makes sense.

The twist ending... oh damn... not only is it dumb and pointless, it's also COMPLETELY foreseeable, thanks to the lazy and unimaginative writing, as well as to some weird editing in combination with clues that are so obvious, it's laughable. [MILD SPOILERS] You don't need to be a film expert to recognise two really important elements around the 21-22 minute mark (the appearance of a weird character + the main character says a significant sentence to Anna) that actually reveal the entire twist! It's shocking how obvious it is.


On the plus side, we get to see some excellent acting by Mark Strong (who somehow reminded me of the great Luis Tosar), Taissa Farmiga (superb performance, even though her character is quite unsympathetic)
and cutie Indira Varma. The violin-driven soundtrack by genius Lucas Vidal ("The Raven") is as great as everything I heard from him so far, the editing is pitch-perfect (Jaime Valdueza) and the entire production design is simply awesome (Alain Bainée, "The Machinist").

An original story + ok direction + a horrible screenplay = "Anna", a mixed bag that could... no, that should have been so much better. There is a modern classic hidden within, but the filmmakers weren't able to bring the movie's true potential into the light of day...


Thanks to Kelly Williams (Greenleaf + Associates) for the screener!

July 23, 2014

THE QUIET ONES

THE QUIET ONES

UK / USA, 2014
Director: John Pogue

5/10











Seriously, when John "Big Brother" De Mol restarted the legendary Hammer Film Productions in 2007, did anyone expect Hammer 2.0's then-upcoming output to be as awesome as in the 60s? I guess not.
Now in 2014, we can wholeheartedly say: nope, the new Hammer didn't exactly deliver. Aside from the breathtaking "The Woman in Black" and the eerie "Wake Wood", the new Hammer films are all rather meh. Same for "The Quiet Ones".


Based on a screenplay by Craig Rosenberg ("The Uninvited") and Oren Moverman ("I'm Not There") - [which was based on a script (draft?) by Tom de Ville ("Lexx"),
loosely based on the parapsychological Philip Experiment (1972, Toronto)]
- director John Pogue, the man behind the highly underrated "Quarantine 2: Terminal", created an interesting but ultimately underwhelming and rather forgettable supernatural horror thriller following a charismatic university professor and three of his students who conduct an experiment on a young girl that is able to generate inexplicable paranormal phenomena.

Boston Globe critic Peter Keough perfectly nailed it when he said that "The Quiet Ones simply has nothing to say." The entire film feels as if it wants to be something really special without actually delivering anything special. The plot is thinner and more shallow than it seems at first, the characters aren't as interesting as they appear in the beginning, and the ending... as unforeseeable as it is, it's far from being outstanding. It's just another plot twist ending, no more and no less.


The movie's 70s look is gorgeous and could be described as mixture of "The Legend of Hell House", "Audrey Rose" and "When the Lights Went Out", at least that's how it looked and felt to me. The acting is sublime (especially Jared "Moriarty" Harris, Olivia Cooke & Sam Claflin), the music is at times absolutely fantastic (Lucas Vidal, "Sleep Tight"), especially the insane part during the scene where Erin Richards lies in the bathtub, cinematography / camera work is very solid (Mátyás Erdély, "Southcliffe"), and most of the special effects look rather good, especially the Ectoplasma attack.

Nevertheless, "The Quiet Ones" is far too bland, far too unspectacular to go down in history as classic. It's watchable but not exactly recommendable.

Wiki ~ Imdb

July 22, 2014

THE CEMENT GARDEN

THE CEMENT GARDEN

German Title:
Der Zementgarten

UK / France / Germany, 1993
Director: Andrew Birkin

9/10









British author Ian McEwan's debut novel "The Cement Garden" (1978) is my favorite book of all time (next to "American Psycho" and "Less Than Zero").
I first read it in 2002 and since then, I must have read it at least 15 times. It's an incredible book that possesses an incredible atmosphere without equal; depressing, chilling and haunting. I've never read anything like it. McEwan is a splendid writer and most of his output is simply fantastic (especially "First Love, Last Rites" and "Atonement"), though IMO nothing comes close to the intriguing splendidness of his very first masterpiece.


In 1993, director / writer Andrew Birkin ("Omen III", "The Name of The Rose", "Perfume"), brother of Jane Birkin, turned the novel into a feature - and thank goodness, he did an absolutely excellent job. "The Cement Garden" is an impressive and breathtaking adaptation, almost as great as the source material, thanks to the fact that it follows the book very closely, very faithfully and totally captures the unique atmosphere that makes the book so fucking awesome. Only a few minor changes and a handful of added scenes. Other than that, it's a near-perfect adaptation.

"The Cement Garden" tells the story of a strange family - father, mother, two boys, two daughters - living in a deteriorating environment outside of an English town, almost cut off from the outside world. Over a short period of time,
both parents die.
The father's death is barely noticed, but the mother's death has an incredible impact on the children, especially because Mom constantly warned them of orphanages and Foster families before she died. So instead of reporting her death, the children decide to bury/hide her dead body in cement down in the cellar, and try to continue their lifes as normally as possible...


Yes, the story is disturbing and scary, but also pretty sad and somber, highly thought-provoking and deeply fascinating; at times, even a tad entertaining and funny. The film is as excellently paced and constructed as the book, due to the very well developed screenplay and Birkin's super-striking direction.
The cinematography is eye-gasmic and perfectly captures the bleak semi-post-apocalyptic area with all its torn down houses (Stephen Blackman), while the haunting and somewhat surreal orchestral score with its recurring horn-theme creates an incredible eerieness (Ed Shearmur, "The Skeleton Key").

Best of all, especially for fans of the book: the tremendous cast. Damn, every single actor was fully able to bring McEwan's strange characters to life: the outstanding Andrew Robertson (who did only a handful of feature performances) as the aloof and awkward Jack, the strangely beautiful and totally adorable Charlotte Gainsbourg ("Antichrist") as the strong-willed Julie, Alice Coulthard as the bookish Sue, and Ned Birkin (the director's son) as the family's youngest. Also worth mentioning: Sinéad Cusack ("Eastern Promises") as the mother and Hanns Zischler ("Ripley's Game") as the father.


Highlights: the family's bizarre-looking house with its even more bizarre cement garden, the powerful opening with the father's slow-motion death, the nerve-tingling scene where they bring the dead mother into the cellar, Jack outside in the rain, the gardening-gloves attack, and of course, the infamous incest-scene which is actually much more beautiful than you may expect.

"The Cement Garden" is certainly not for everyone, but true arthouse fans and Ian McEwan aficionados will love the hell out of it.

July 20, 2014

REINCARNATION (2005)

REINCARNATION

Original Title:
Rinne

Alternate Title:
Reincarnation: Death is Only the Beginning

Japapn, 2005
Director: Takashi Shimizu

9/10





Before Japanese director Takashi Shimizu ("Ju-On 1+2", "The Grudge 1+2") decided to destroy his career by shooting 3D films about flying plush bunnies and shit, he created one last J-Horror masterpiece, and undoubtedly one of the greatest and most impressive Asian horror films of the late 00s: "Rinne" (="Reincarnation"), a twisted and incredibly complex tale about a young and hopeful actress who gets the leading role in a horror film based on a brutal real-life massacre that took place in an old hotel. When the cast and the crew arrive at the now-abandoned place, the present suddenly collides with the past and the horrible events start to happen again...


I'm surprised about the vast amount of reviewers who compare "Rinne" to "The Shining" which is rubbish. Just because there's a girl running through an old hotel doesn't mean it's Kubrick. Duh! "Rinne" is something completely different. It's a very Japanese, very Shimizu-esque horror film, packed with creepy close-ups of eerie faces, unforeseeable scares that make you go shriek or jump, bizarre and highly fascinating plot twists, and many, many haunting-looking locations.

Contrary to many of Shimizu's other movies, "Rinne" stays in a somewhat linear time, though that doesn't mean it's easy to watch: the first time I've seen it, I was slightly confused and didn't understand the whole thing. After seeing a few more times, I realized how damn complex this chiller is. It's not a mindfuck, but there's just a whole load of stuff going on, past and present overlap, dream and reality interweave, people die, people resurrect, people reincarnate. Difficult at first, but once I figured it all out, I started to adore this movie like crazy.


There's a killer who kills his victims in a ruthless and clinical way, always carrying a Super 8 camera with him, filming the kills. He could be described as modern-day "Peeping Tom" and his appearances are very eerie. The camera makes loud buzzing sounds, almost like a chainsaw. Whenever I hear that sounds, I get shivers down my spine.
There's also an immensely... IMMENSELY scary doll popping up several times throughout the movie. Forget Chucky, screw Annabelle. THIS is the real shit. Seeing her sitting on a book shelf, slowly turning her head... seeing her slowly walking up the stairs... BRRR!!

In the "Ju-On" & "The Grudge" movies, Shimizu perfected his very own scare-technique by showing us a ghostly character, a pale hand, a bunch of black hair that suddenly "pops up" and scares us half to death. Here, he takes this technique to a whole new level: we get to see something popping up, but before we can clearly see it, Shimizu switches to a completely different scene. So, the scare never "materializes", but the viewer remains in a state of dread, a state where even the unscariest things can frighten the shit out of the viewer. There was a scene where we get to hear a mobile phone's vibra-call - christ, this sounds came so sudden, I almost got a heart attack!


As I aready mentioned, the settings are marvellous, especially the awesome design of the hotel with the red rood and all its eerie corridors. Ok, I admit there's at least one eye-catching reference to "The Shining": a room with the number 227 - um, Room 237 anyone? ;)

However, the hotel wouldn't be as eerie without Takahide Shibanushi's ("Ring 0") insanely amazing cinematography that has a certain "European" feel to it. The tracking shots, the panning, the camera angles, the steadicam... it all reminds me of late 70s / early 80s Dario Argento. Massive kudos to Kenji Kawai's ("Ip Man 1 & 2") subtle and super-creepy score, and the superb editing by Nobuyuki Takahashi ("Ringu 1 & 2"). Also, terrific acting by Yûka, Karina Nose, Atsushi Haruta and Kippei Shiina.


"Reincarnation" is a fantastic J-Horror film and one of the few examples that Shimizu needs no Ju-On, no Kayako, no Toshio to create a clever and marvellously creepy feature.

Wiki ~ Imdb

July 18, 2014

Urban Legend Double Feature: KILLER LEGENDS (2014) + CROPSEY (2009)

This review was written for Film-Arcade.net (click here!). Thanks to Anthony Thurber for the screener.

KILLER LEGENDS

Original Title:
The Urban Legend Project

USA, 2014
Director: Joshua Zeman

7/10








It's five years since direcor Joshua Zeman impressed us with his excellent documentary about the urban legend "Cropsey" (see below!) and the real life serial killer Andre Rand. Now, he has a new documentary out, and unsurprisingly, it also deals with urban legends, though this time with a few of the better known and more 'popular' ones.

"Killer Legends" (I somehow like the working title "The Urban Legend Project" more) focuses on 4 different legends: the killer with the hook, the Halloween candy-poisoner, the babysitter murderer and the killer clown. Together with researcher Rachel Mills, Zeman travelled all over America to find out the shocking (or not-so-shocking) truths behind these modern myths.


Segment #1 deals with the "Moonlight Murders" that took place in the town of Texarkana in 1946, murders that were probably the origin of the legends about the 'hook man' who threatens teenagers on lovers' lanes, which later got turned into the faux-documentary horror-classic "The Town That Dreaded Sundown". Zeman compares the real kills with the fictionalized ones in the film, goes into details about the film's impact on Texarkana itself, and explores the originations of the killer's nickname "The Phantom". Very solid segment!


Segment #2 is about Ronald Clark O'Bryan, better known as the "Candy Man" or "The Man Who Killed Halloween". A father who took the legend of the poisoned candies to cover up the fact that he killed his own son with Cyanided "Pixy Stix", only to claim his son's life insurance money. Starts out strong, but ends up rather dull because it's simply too long and gives us too much boring footage
of O'Bryan talking.


Segment #3 is undoubtedly the strongest one and deserves to be expanded into a full-length documentary, as well as into a fictionalized film version. As infamous as the legend of the "Babysitter Murder" is, we get to know that it's far more popular in Hollwood ("When A Stranger Calls", "When A Stranger Calls Back", "Halloween"...) and hardly ever happened in real life - aside from one forgotten case in Columbia, MO in the late 1940s, where two babysitters have been raped and strangled with an electric cord. Back then, a mentally handicapped man was found guilty and eventually executed. Case closed. However, Zeman and Mills now found out that this man was probably innocent, and the rapes/murders could have been committed by someone else, some guy who knew both women personally. This segment kept me on the edge on my seat. The scene where the German profiler brings up a previously overlooked clue... goosebumps!!!


Segment #4 tells us everything we need to know about killer clowns - which actually isn't too much. Some stuff about Wayne Gacy Jr., some Chicago-based child abductions done by clowns with white vans, and some footage from "It" and "Poltergeist". The most interesting facts we get to know are the ones that deal with Chicago's very special clown-history, as well as with the "Showmen's Rest", a mass grave in Illinois where the bodies of more than 60 clowns lie buried, clowns who were killed in the "Hammond Circus Train Wreck", one of the worst train wrecks in history.

"Killer Legends" is a worthy "Cropsey"-successor, though it could have been way better if Zeman skipped the Halloween part and focused on the three other legends. Recommended to fans of urban legends and documentaries per se.




CROPSEY

USA, 2009
Directors: Joshua Zeman & Barbara Brancaccio

9/10










When I first heard of "Cropsey", I thought it's an homage to 80s slashers or a prequel/sequel/whatever-quel to "The Burning", the legendary slasher classic about the horribly burned killer "Cropsy".
Far from it! "Cropsey" is actually a chilling documentary about an urban legend I haven't heard of before, even though it was the main inspiration for "The Burning".


The directorial debut of filmmaker Joshua Zeman explores the origins of "Cropsey", a New-York-based urban legend about a boogeyman-like figure that kidnaps and kills children, and connects it to the real-life serial killer Andre Rand, an ex-custodian at the infamous Willowbrook State School (an institution for disabled children) who supposedly raped, kidnapped and killed several children on Staten Island during the 70s and 80s, even though it's not entirely clear
if he really was the culprit.


By doing tons of interviews with parents/relatives/friends of the dead kids, police officers, witnesses and people who live/lived in or around the area, and by visiting all the case-related locations (abandoned buildings, creepy forests), we get great insight into the whole scenario. Things that happened, might have happened or didn't happen at all. Rumours and speculations about wild stories of satanic cults, weird people that live in underground tunnels and bizarre necrophilia, as well as hard facts about actual incidents and evidence. Was Rand guilty? Was he innocent? Was he a lone perpetrator? Was he the leader of a whole gang of murderous perverts? Or was it someone else, someone who had nothing to do with Rand? It's all up to the viewer.


Zeman's direction is simply fantastic. He creates an eerie atmosphere that captivates and mesmerizes you, drags you in and throws you into the darkest and most frightening places all over Staten Island. The scene with the kids in the woods feels a little staged, but it's so well made, I was really, really scared. Also, the disturbing 70s footage of the desolate sanitarium, Rand's weird letters, as well as the images of his drooling face - scary shit!

"Cropsey" is a fabulously made documentary that will creep the hell out of you, better than anything I've seen about usual serial killers like Gacy or Dahmer so far.

July 16, 2014

CRAWLSPACE (2012)

CRAWLSPACE

German Title:
Crawlspace - Dunkle Bedrohung

Australia, 2012
Director: Justin Dix

7/10








If I wouldn't have checked director Jamie Blank's Imdb-site, I probably wouldn't have seen this nice little Oz-gem. No, Blanks didn't direct, but he composed the score for it and that's reason enough for me to check it out, because I'm a big fan of his work and try to see everything he's involved in - and glad I did!

"Crawlspace" (not to be confused with the 1986 Klaus Kinski horror-thriller of the same name) is a pretty cool horror/sci-fi thriller that evokes a glorious 70s/80s vibe, thanks to shitloads of scenes and settings that look like / reminded me of / pay homage to "Alien", "Aliens", "The Thing" and the early works of David Cronenberg (plus: certain scenes somewhat reminded me of the little-seen "Death Warmed Up", but I guess that's just me).


The movie takes place in the top-secret underground military base Pine Gap (a.k.a the Australian Area 51) where a group of elite soldiers tries to save a science team that came under attack from unknown forces. Little do the soldiers know about the paranormal experiments that took place here, and before they even know, they're in the middle of a frightening paranormal psycho-battle.

According to the reviews, not everyone enjoyed the way "Crawlspace" develops, but for whatever reason, that's exactly why I liked it so much. It starts out as semi-creature-feature with a Gorilla-monster attacking the soldiers, but soon descends into a slightly absurd but highly entertaining parapsychological/paranormal chiller, filled with powerful and claustrophobically intense crawlspace-sequences, ghastly images of gore and creatures, [SPOILER] and one of the coolest head-explosions since "Scanners".


Several scenes are a bit far-fetched, a bit implausible, and the ending is rather underwhelming, but other than that, I had a great time with this flick. The cast is fairly good (especially hottie Amber Clayton, team leader Ditch Davey and Eddie Baroo who looks more like a biker than a soldier), Justin Dix' direction is great, Blanks' score is - as expected - terrific, the gritty production design is a treat for the eyes and the special / make-up effects all look very well.
"Crawlspace" rocks!

THE SLAYERS (2014)

THE SLAYERS:
PORTRAIT OF A DISMEMBERED FAMILY

UK, 2014
Director: Alex Poray

3,5/10










Eerie images that look as if "Begotten" was shot in a ghost train, followed by images of a rather amusing dysfunctional family... a movie that starts out that way can't be bad, can it? Actually, it can. The debut feature of British filmmaker Alex Poray starts out as promising mockumentary centered around a murderous and cannibalistic family, a gruesome murder and a supposed-to-be-real snuff film
- but ends up as tedious and horribly executed snoozefest that fails on almost every single level.


The first half hour consists of dreadfully boring interviews with with the black sheep of the family (an unnerving douchebag wearing a pig mask - how original...), constantly interrupted by super-annoying inserts. The remaining 40 minutes consist of footage showing the family kidnapping, torturing and ultimately
killing a young woman. The younger family members are all frustratingly dumb and pesky (especially the long-haired jerk who loves to do wank gestures and silly grimaces) and the oh-so-poor woman acts as if she doesn't care about being tormented and murdered.

Most of the acting is lame, except David Poulter who delivers a cool and believable performance. The editing is all over the place and I wasn't too intrigued by the semi-atmospheric music that seems to be a tad too inspired by Burzum's ambient stuff. At least, photography and camera work are pretty good, and it's packed with gorgeous and slightly impressive visuals.


Nevertheless, "The Slayers" didn't do much for me. The family that slays together, fails together...

July 15, 2014

Short Film Spotlight: THE NEST / DANIEL / BLACK SPOT / GODDESS OF TIME

THE NEST
(9minute short)

Canada, 2014
Director: David Cronenberg

8/10




Now this came as a massive surprise! A few months before David Cronenberg's latest feature "Maps to the Stars" hits theaters, we get to see a brand-new short film by the Canadian maestro: "The Nest", commissioned by the EYE Film Institute for a David Cronenberg exhibition in Amsterdam.

For about 9 minutes, we get to see a surgeon talking to a bare-breasted woman who wants to have her left breast removed because she's highly convinced that it's infected with insects. The surgeon tries to talk her out of the removal, but the woman insists on it...

Sounds creepy - is creepy. Filmed POV-style, Cronenberg (who 'plays' the surgeon) films a terrific Evelyne Brochu ("Orphan Black") as unsettling character in a stunningly bizarre sutuation. Starts out rather unspectacular, but when we suddenly hear about the nest in her breast, things get really, really weird. We obviously don't get to see any frightening stuff, but just to imagine the things the woman describes... *brrrr*

Body-horror for your mental cinema. Good work, Mr. Cronenberg!
Watch it here!



DANIEL
(3minute short)

USA, 2014
Director: Peter Dukes

4/10




Director Peter Dukes' last short film "Little Reaper" was simply incredible. Unfortunately, his newest one is quite a disappointment. "Daniel" follows a little boy who hides in the closet because there's a brutal intruder in the house - but is it really all what it seems?

It's basically a mini home-invasion thriller, shot in a style that reminds me a bit of Andrés Muschietti's short "Mamá" with a foreseeable twist straight outta Ben Wheatley's "U is for Unearthed". It could have been a tense and gripping little chiller if it would possess more depth, and would have been at least 7-8 minutes long, but the super-short runtime doesn't allow any tension, the backstory is almost non-existent and the characters are just cardboard cut-outs.

Camera work and music are superb, and most of the acting is solid (aside from J.P. Giulotti's unintentionally ridiculous performance), but all in all, this is sadly more a miss than a hit...




BLACK SPOT
(6minute short)

UK, 2014
Director: Luther Bhogal-Jones

3/10




*sigh* The next short-film disappointment. After seeing director Luther Bhogal-Jones' spooky little chiller "Creak", I expected and hoped he would do some more creepy stuff. To my chagrin, he did something radically different, something that just don't work at all.

"Black Spot" takes place on a lonely road where a few rather insane manaics regularly attack innocent car drivers. Imagine a film-student-semi-remake of "Rest Stop" with really bad actors, annoying characters who constantly shriek and growl, over-the-top editing, blood that looks like strawberry jam and one of the most laughable strangulations in history.

There are three versions of "Black Spot": a 2D, a 3D and a stereoscopic version. According to this press release, the film was made "purely as a narrative test to try a £28 Aiptek 3D camcorder" - and that's exactly how it felt to me. Just a narrative test, not meant to be serious, not meant to be professional. Meh. Some atmospheric music, some highly amusing ending credits - everything else about it is merely a black spot in Bogal-Jones' filmography...




GODDESS OF TIME
(20minute short)

USA, 2013
Director: Gabe Rodriguez

3/10




So, there are two female cops, a young and tough one from Italy (for no apparent reason) who acts like she's in a bad buddy-cop-movie and her partner, a young and oh-so-clever one from Ukraine (for no apparent reason) who's basically the annoying smartass.

They meet a fortune teller who seems to speak every laguage in the world (for no apparent reason) and claims that she is a "Goddess of Time", which sems to be true because later, the smartass gets shot, but instead of dying, the Goddess sends her on a "Twilight-Zone-The-Movie"-like time-travel-trip through time and space.

Blech. This wasn't my cup of coffee at all. Gabe Rodriguez tries hard to combine genres like fantasy, mystery and war-drama into one original litle flick, but horribla fails due to an incoherent story, weird and implausible characters, some unnerving moral bullshit and an overall execution that is just too weird for my taste. Acting, camera work and music are all good, but all these elements aren't able to make me enjoy this.

Imdb

July 13, 2014

"A BUCKET OF BLOOD" (Chilling Classics 50 Movies Pack, #45) // THE DEATH ARTIST (Remake of "A Bucket of Blood")

A BUCKET OF BLOOD

Working Title:
The Living Dead

German Title:
Das Vermächtnis des Professor Bondi

USA, 1959
Director: Roger Corman

8/10






After the horrid Beatnik-infested "The Bloody Brood" (see here!), I wasn't in the mood for yet another Beatnik-sploitation flick - but the excellent reputation of this movie and the fact that it was directed by the mighty Roger Corman made me curious, and so I decided to give it a go. And Hell Yeah! This movie rocks!

"A Bucket of Blood" is the first of three* horror-comedy collaborations between Corman and screenwriter Charles B. Griffith ("Death Race 2000") shot in just 5 days(!) with a budget of only about 50.000 dollars, and only 66 minutes long.
 The film tells the story of Walter Paisley, a social weirdo who works as busboy at a Beatnik-frequented café where a bizarre poem-performance inspires him to become a artist. After accidentally killing a cat and hiding its body in clay, he suddenly becomes an acclaimed artistic sculptor-sensation - but one piece of art is obviously not enough: the beatniks want more, and so he gives 'em more...


Yes, it has its flaws and the low budget is pretty obvious, but that doesn't matter because it's such a well-paced and well-written film, you just have to love it. From the first to the last minute, it's fun and entertaining, tense and thrilling, at no times boring or tedious, thanks to the almost-flawless direction by Corman and the absolutely fabulous cast, led by Dick Miller, one of the most underrated actors of all time, best known for his performances in "Gremlins 1 & 2", "The Terminator", "The 'Burbs" or "Pulp Fiction". Miller is just hilarious and I laughed my ass off at seeing him trying to get a dead cat out of his wall, killing a cop with a frying pan, or sitting shitfaced in a throne, costumed as carnival fool.

More excellent acting by Antony Carbone as Walter's boss, Barboura Morris as his love interest Carla, Myrtle Vail as his landlady, bombshell Judy Bamber as obnoxious model,
and of course Julian Burton as bearded poet Maxwell H. Brock ["Life is an obscure hobo bumming a ride on the omnibus of Art. (...) Creation is, all else is not. What is not creation is Graham crackers. Let it all crumble to feed the creator. (...) Bring on the multitudes with a multitude of fishes. Feed them with the fishes for liver oil to nourish the Artist, stretch their skin upon an easel to give him canvas, crush their bones into a paste that he might mold them."].


Also worth mentioning: the delightful music by Fred Katz ("The Wasp Woman"), the scary loking statues, all the kills (especially the strangeling), the strangely unsettling ending, a high amount of super-funny dialogue ["I saw a statue once. It was called, 'The third time Phyllis saw me, she exploded.'" - "Man, what kind of statue was that?" - "I dunno. It was made of driftwood and dipped in fluoric acid. Very wild."], and the fact that it was not only a satire on the Beatnik scene, but on the whole art scene per se.

"A Bucket of Blood" is actually a bucket of laughter that will give you one helluva fun time, guaranteed. Corman knows best!

Wiki ~ Imdb

*The other two were "The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)" and "Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)"



PS: In Germany, it was acually released as a sequel to "House of Wax (1953)"!!!
German Title of "House of Wax"
: Das Kabinett des Professor Bondi
= The Cabinet of Professor Bondi
(yes, the changed the main character's name Henry Jarrod to Henry Bondi for no apparent reason...)
German title of "A Bucket of Blood":
Das Vermächtnis des Professor Bondi
= The Legacy of Professor Bondi

You may ask how that worked out? Well, believe it or not: the German distributor Mercator Filmverleih shot a 9-minute prologue with an old and ugly actor (who totally doesn't look like Vincent Price) as burnt and disfigured Professor Bondi talking to a wax figure, rambling about his achievements and wondering if his son Walter would be able to continue turning human bodies into wax figures. He opens the window, calls his son and gets struck by lightning. The title card pops up and we finally enter "A Bucket of Blood". And yes, Walter Paisley's name was changed into Walter Bondi...


As you can imagine, the footage is stupid, makes absolutely no sense and doesn't fit the rest of the film because it looks more like a leftover from the then-popular Edgar Wallace adaptations. Nevertheless, it's slightly hilarious to see how hard Mercator tried to create a connection to "House of Wax" just to cash in on its success. Oh, those Germans... ;-)



THE DEATH ARTIST

Original TV Title:
A Bucket of Blood

German Title:
Bloody Secret - Die Kunst zu Töten

USA, 1995
Director: Michael McDonald

7/10





In the mid 90s, movie legend Roger Corman teamed up with the Showtime Channel to produce a few remakes of good old Corman classics. Next to new versions of "Piranha", "Wasp Woman" or "Humanoids from the Deep", they also made a remake of the 1959 classic "A Bucket of Blood", written and directed by "MADtv"-actor Michael McDonald , co-written by Brendan Broderick ("Turbulence 2") - and to my surprise, it's almost as entertaining as the original.

The 1995 "A Bucket of Blood" - which is much better known under its VHS title "The Death Artist" - is very true to to the original and could be even described as semi-shot-for-shot remake with only a handful of changes and new stuff. The Beatnik scene got replaced by the pseudo-intellectual hipster art-scene of the 90s, the busboy-goes-madman is much younger and in some kinda way creepier than Dick Miller's character, and there are a few sillier and more over-the-top so-called-artists doing outrageous artsy performances.


Other than that, it's basically the same movie, though due to McDonald's very solid direction and the wonderful cast, it ends up as excellently diverting redo that perfectly captures the original's wit and black humor, despite the way too polished made-for-TV look and the rather mediocre-looking clay sculptures.

The kills are a bit gorier but not much, there's a great amount of full frontal nudity that I didn't expect, and the music by David & Eric Wurst (not to be confused with Conchita Wurst) is simply fabulous. Also, it's packed with amusing dialogue like:
~ "Do you think I look like a Beatnik?" - "Darling, you reek of Bohemia!"
~ "See, I spell the word 'feel' with an extra 'e' to emphasize exactly how much... and, also, I spell the word 'class' with 'k'. That's worth something different... uh, it was to paraphrase Moliére. 'It takes one to no one',
you know, if you've seen Tartuffe."
~ "Man, you mean you don't even remember your own poems?
Oh, that's so... Goethe!"
~ "Who the hell are you? What do you want?" - "Life... is NOTHING... but a homeless man... on the bus of art." - "Huh?" - "Let them all crumble so that they might FEED the creator." - "You're drunk. Move along, pal." - "All else is rice cakes!" - "Get outta here, you freaking freak!"


Anthony Michael Hall ("The Dark Knight") is fabulous as the busboy who accidentally becomes a 'killer artist'. There's the three hotties Deena Casiano ("Emmanuelle: First Contact"), Darcy DeMoss ("Friday The 13th Part VI") & Sheila Travis ("The Unborn II"), radio host Shadoe Stevens as pretentious poet, Justine Bateman ("Satisfaction") as fun Italo-girl, as well as John-Waters-regular Mink Stole and Roger-Corman-regular Paul Bartel as older Bohemian couple - plus: Will Ferrell in his very first role!

"The Death Artist" is a good example of a remake done right. A shame that it still hasn't been released on DVD yet...



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