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...



July 10, 2014

ADJUST YOUR TRACKING

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

ADJUST YOUR TRACKING

Full Title:
Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector

USA, 2013
Directors: Dan M. Kinem & Levi Peretic

10/10








When it comes to VHS, I'm quite a philistine and I guess that every VHS collector probably hates me for this. Even though I grew up on VHS, I was one of these bastards who stopped caring about video cassettes when DVD came out. I still have a lot of tapes, but they're lying around in a cellar, gathering dust. Sue me. Shoot me. At least nowadays, I'm some kinda mini-mini-mini-rebel, refusing to go Blu, still buying lots and lots of DVDs, claiming that DVD is my Vinyl, my VHS.
*awaiting hordes of VHS collectors attacking me,
beating me to death with VHS recorders*

Nevertheless, I still remember the first time I entered a rental store in 1990 which became the #1 playground of my youth. I was 8 years old. It was a rainy day, my parents just bought their very first video recorder, and right after, they went with me to this place called "Kinothek" (=Cinematheque). The glass door opens,
3-4 small steps, touchdown. Welcome to the wonderful world of VHS. Videos here, videos there, videos everywhere. Large posters showing an ugly man with a burnt face standing next to a burnt baby stroller, and a man with a metal helmet on his face. It was a surreal but deeply fascinating experience... an experience that left me flabbergasted. After quite some time of looking and watching and touching as many covers as possible, we eventually left with 3 films
(yes, I still remember that)
: "Valhalla (1986)" for me, "Dressed to Kill" for my mother, and "Havoc 8" (car crashes galore) for my father.






The best part about the "Kinothek" was the horror section which was located in the basement where it always smelled a bit mouldy (believe it or not: I miss that smell). It was the most awesome place on the whole planet. I used to look at certain VHS covers for hours and hours and hours. I remember repeatedly looking at the awesome pics on the backs of "Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor", "Syngenor", "Mind Killer", "Night Angel" or "Anthony II (a.k.a The Cellar)". I remember having a hard time looking at the images of burning people on the covers of "Evilspeak", "The Sender (Teuflische Signale)" or "Tigerman (a.k.a The Final Alliance)". Back then I was afraid of fire and got scared when I saw stuff like that - a fear that (un)surprisingly stopped when I started smoking
a few years later :-)

You may ask why I'm telling you all about this childhood stuff? Well, all these memories came back to me and fully overwhelmed me whilst watching "Adjust Your Tracking", one of the absolute best and most entertaining horror-culture-themed documentaries I've ever seen. Not even Michael Stephenson's docu-masterpieces come close to the awesomeness of this genius gem. Its only flaw is that it's only 80 minutes long. It should have been at least twice as long.


Dan M. Kinem and Levi Peretic give us everything we always wanted to know about VHS, as well as everything we already know about it. We get to see many, many cool and fun hardcore VHS collectors telling us about the beginnings of VHS, its rise in the 80s, its downfall in the 90s (damn you, Blockbuster!!), the rise of DVD, the... um, "death" of VHS and its quasi-resurrection by film-maniacs who got sick of generic and ugly photoshop covers, too-perfect-looking re-masters and re-releases, as well as charmless, unattractive and somehow clinical-looking rental stores. Film-maniacs who miss the good old times of getting fooled by super-awesome VHS covers of super-shitty shot-on-shitteo crap-fests, getting amazed by the incredible-looking Big Boxes by Wizard, getting excited about entering an old-fashioned rental store and spending hours and hours browsing through all the videos.

There are people owning 15.000 or 20.000 tapes, people who prefer VHS over their girlfriends, people who constantly drive to the shittiest places (age-old video stores, yard sales etc.) just to check if there are some rare VHS gems on sale. There is a guy who re-built an entire rental store in his basement
(incl. Blockbuster gumball machine and mouse-less PC), a guy who spent about 700 dollars on a copy of the ultra-obscure "Tales from the Quadead Zone", and a guy who considers his "I Puke on your Grave" and "I Spit on your Corpse" tapes as films that "(...) aren't for fun. These are for real. (...) You're not the same person you were before you watched the movie."


Some of these guys are pure fun, some of them seem to be a little weird - but they all have one thing in common: they love, love, love what they're doing, they're proud of their collections and nothing can stop them from collecting more and more VHS tapes. Nothing can stop them from
*sings* "Searchiiiiing... seek and b-buy!" ;-)
Also, I fully understand each and everyone of them. Ok, paying shitloads of money for some age-old crappy VHS tape might be crazy - but haven't we all bought something fucking expensive at some point in our life? The unnecessarily overpriced sports car? The beautiful but rather useless MacBook? Overexpensive tickets for a U2 concert? Well, to the VHS collector, an ultra-rare VHS tape is the same as a shiny new Porsche, a pointless computer or two hours of bloated stadium pop-rock. He buys and it makes him happy, and he doesn't care about what the others think of him.

The look of "Adjust Your Tracking" is fabulous. A bit blurry and grainy, just like an old tape. There are lots of amusing gimmicks, like the collectors' names popping up on VHS labels, or when someone talks about VHS glitches, the film itself gets glitchy too. There's tons of clips from nearly-forgotten not-really-classics like "Black Devil Doll From Hell" or "Death Row Diner", lots of cool 80s-style music, TV ads, video logos, images of old VHS stores, some of the greatest VHS collections I have ever seen, as well as guest appearances by genre-heroes like Troma-boss Lloyd Kaufman or Fred Vogel ("August Underground").


The most impressive, most remarkable, most important documentary you will see this year. A must-see for fans of horror, VHS and the good old times when everything was a bit cooler than it is nowadays.

Imdb

VHS Cover Artwork scans were "stolen" from the OFDB:
Metamorphosis - Syngenor - Mind Killer - Night Angel
Anthony II - Evilspeak - Tigerman - The Sender


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