30 September 2015

Asian Quintuple Review: LOVE & PEACE / TOKYO TRIBE / YAKUZA APOCALYPSE / FIRES ON THE PLAIN / OFFICE (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

LOVE & PEACE

Japan, 2015
Director: Sion Sono

8/10











Sion Sono ("Suicide Club", "Cold Fish") is undoubtedly one of the cleverest, most talented, and most versatile active Asian filmmakers, and his constant high-quality output is just fascinating. "Love & Peace", one of two Sono films I've seen at this year's /Slash, is yet another fantastic Sono-movie, a slightly insane, yet absolutely wonderful blend of from-zero-to-hero rockstar-musical (a bit in the vein of "The Apple"), heartwarming Christmas-themed comedic drama and hilarious Kaiju flick, following misfit office worker Ryo Suzuki who unexpectedly becomes an extremely popular superstar, while his pet turtle Pikadon becomes part of a lovely underground community that consists of pets and toys that were thrown / given away by people who didn't want them anymore.

With apparent ease, Sono manages to constantly switch between utter absurdity and adorable sweetness over the entire 120 minute runtime without ever letting the movie become boring, stupid or bad. For every scene that is hilariously over-the-top and/or plain bonkers, there's a scene that is splendidy amusing and/or marvellously tearjerking. There's Kaiju turtles that are ten times more charming than Gamera, earwormy J-pop tunes you could hum/sing all day long, high amounts of cute kitties, rabbits, toy robots and plush cats, one of the most interesting Santa Claus characters in movie history etc. etc. A movie for everyone, old and young, female and male, fans and non-fans of Asian cinema.
Bravo Mr. Sono!




 TOKYO TRIBE

Alternate Title:
Tokyo Tribes

Japan, 2014
Director: Sion Sono

8/10








If you don't like, dislike or even hate any kind of hip-hop music, you should stay far, far away from this movie. Everyone else: hello and welcome to "Tokyo Tribe" (adapted from the Manga series of the same name), an uber-epic and insanely eclectic hip-hop musical that could be described as "West Side Story" on Speed, or epic rap-version of "The Warriors", following various warring street gangs who team up in order to fight against a new dangerous clan who basically tries to conquer the whole of Tokyo.

"Tokyo Tribe" is two hours of super-cool rhymes and ultra-phat beats, badass guys and insanely hawt girls, boobs and nudity galore, gore, violence and brutality galore, hyper-awesome martial arts sequences, wicked DJ grandmas, ridiculously awesome beatbox ladies, fat, obscene and bizarrely behaving yakuza bosses, lots of talks about the importance of dicks in the rap game, myriads of pink balloons and outstandingly stylish settings... damn, it's nearly impossible to properly review a movie like that. Just go and see this genius piece of awesomeness. I fully agree with Imdb user OverlordFresh: "I think it's safe to say that Sion Sono is the new Takashi Miike." - Word! Nerimuthafuckaz!




 YAKUZA APOCALYPSE

Original Title:
Gokudou daisensou

Alternate Title:
Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld

Japan, 2015
Director: Takashi Miike

4/10





"Yakuza Apocalypse", the latest film by Grandmaster Takashi Miike ("Audition", "Ichi the Killer"), is not just a massive disappointment, it's also one of Miike's weakest movies so far, an incoherent and surprisingly unfunny piece of silliness that tries to be an oh-so-over-the-top mix of comedy-horror (Yakuza vampires), martial arts action ("The Raid" star Yayan Ruhian + some guy in a bonkers frog costume) and Kaiju parody (huge frog monster), but ultimately fails to entertain because it's all just too stupid and idiotic, and contrary to Sono, it seems as if Miike lost his ability to properly merge various genres into one masterpiece.

The first 30-40 minutes are quite solid, especially the scenes with the knitting group or the blood-drinking, but then it quickly gets stupider and stupider with every single minute. Countless scenes and characters that are way too daft, countless scenes that seem to go on for like forever, and an overlong finale is so fucking boring, I just couldn't wait until it was finally over. Rubbish.




 FIRES ON THE PLAIN

Original Title:
Nobi

Japan, 2014
Director: Shin'ya Tsukamoto

5/10








"Fires on the Plain" is not a remake of Kon Ichikawa's anti-war-film classic of the same name, but a new adaptation of the novel it is based on (written by Shōhei Ōoka), following a Tubercular soldier who experiences the horrors of war while stumbling through the Philippine jungle during World War 2.

I like the work of director Shin'ya Tsukamoto ("Tetsuo", "Nightmare Detective"), but I'm not a fan of war-themed films, and so I obviously couldn't do much with this war drama that felt a bit like a low-budget version of "The Thin Red Line". There's some unbelievably brutal and extremely impressive gore scenes, a terrific performance by Tsukamoto himself and a pretty intense finale, but in between, there's too much repetitiveness, too much slowness and too many scenes that plod along in a pretty boring an uneventful way. Simply not my kind of movie.




 OFFICE

Original Title:
O piseu

South Korea, 2015
Director: Hong Won-Chan

4/10








The debut feature of Hong Won-Chan starts out as gripping and eerie office-themed horror-thriller (a bit in the vein of the underrated "Redd Inc."), but ends up as messy, predictable and tedious slasher with an unimaginative twist ending that is both frustrating and moronic. The build-up in the first half is excellent with unexpected deaths and a great dose of suspense, but in the second half, the entire thing suddenly explodes into too many different directions at the very same time (supernatural horror, revenge thriller, slasher) which totally doesn't work. The added criticism on work ethics / pressure at work in South Korea is interesting, but not elaborated enough, and ultimately pointless.

29 September 2015

THE HALLOW (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

THE HALLOW

Alternate Title:
The Woods

Working Title:
The Good People

UK / Ireland, 2015
Director: Corin Hardy

6/10





"The Hallow", the debut feature of Irish filmmaker / music-video director Corin Hardy is a solid, yet slightly underwhelming creature feature, taking place in a remote Irish area where a conservation biologist and his family fall prey to an odd parasitic fungus, as well as to a couple of fairy-like creatures that live in, and protect an age-old near-by forest.

I'm not saying that the movie's basic plot / folklore concept is entirely unique, but Hardy gives it a fresh and clever spin that makes it distinguishable from, and more original than most creature flicks of the last years. Too bad that the writing and the overall execution isn't strong enough, otherwise this totally could have made an almost "Babadook"-like impact on audiences.


In terms of mood and atmosphere, "The Hallow" reminded me a lot of the underrated Irish 2010 flick "Wake Wood", though while this little gem was thoroughly quite satisfying, "The Hallow" is a mixed bag, due to the rather haphazard and messy screenplay [written by Hardy and Felipe Marino ("Madame Bovary")], too many worn out jump scares, illogical plot points, twists and character decisions, as well as some dull pacing in the middle. There are several scenes that start out extremely suspenseful, but quickly become a tad boring, as well several scenes that simply last too long and deliver utter boredom
instead of a 'bang'.

Gladly, Hardy also gives us a high amount of stunningly designed creatures and terrific practical effects in the second half (best of all: the incredibly realistic-looking creature-girl!), plus some impressive lighting, unexpectedly intense body-horror and a pretty emotional climax. The acting is also damn fine, most notably the performances of Joseph Mawle ("The Awakening") and the wonderful-as-always Michael Smiley ("Burke & Hare"). All in all, not an uber-must-see,
but definitely worth checking out.

BASKIN (/Slash Filmfestival 2015) + BASKIN (2013 Short Film)

BASKIN

Turkey, 2015
Director: Can Evrenol

4/10











What do the 2011 cult classic "The Raid" and this year's "Baskin" have in common? At first sight, not much. "The Raid" is an Indonesian martial-arts action film, "Baskin" is a Turkish horror film - but if you look closer, you realize that not only did both movies seemingly came out of nowhere in August / September and received an incredible hype in a minimum of time ("The Raid" in August / September 2011, "Baskin" in August / September 2015), but also that "Baskin" is actually the Turkish word for "Raid" (mind blown)!

Well, while "The Raid" totally lived up to its hype and surpassed all of my expectations, "Baskin" turned out to be one of this year's bitterest disappointments. The debut feature of Can Evrenol (based on his 2013 short film of the same name), which follows a group of policemen who stumble upon a black mass in an abandoned building, is a super-weird mess that can't decide what it wants to be: the Turkish "Hellraiser"? Some kinda Lynchian surrealism-fest in hell? A simple plot-twist mindfuck? Whatever Evrenol wanted to achieve with "Baskin", it just didn't work out.


"Baskin" starts out really great with fun dialogue, a couple of one-dimensional yet interesting characters who share an immensely believable chemistry, super-eerie atmosphere, shitloads of stunningly gorgeous visuals and a vibrant soundtrack that consists of moody electro music and Turkish pop songs. Yet, after the first half, the tense and intriguing build-up breaks down completely, thanks to some frustratingly slow pacing, annoying flashbacks and a finale that is just weak. Evrenol seemingly builds up to a scary and shocking gorefest-climax, but when he finally reaches that climax, he suddenly pulls out and instead of giving us total fucking insanity, he just gives us some lame cannibalism, some even more lame semi-rape, lots of boring talks about hell and sins and keys and stuff that we basically already heard in "Hellraiser", as well as a final twist that is not just rather foreseeable, but also completely pointless - and even though Mehmet Cerrahoglu (basically the Turkish Michael Berryman) gives a fab performance as the movie's, erm, main villain, he can't save the movie from being a massive letdown.

The only other Turkish horror ilm I've seen so far is "The Voice", a conventional and not-so-imaginative supernatural scarefest, yet overall so much more satisfying than "Baskin". Don't believe the hype!


BASKIN
(11minute short)

Turkey, 2013
Director: Can Evrenol

8/10






I loved the short film before I've seen the full feature, and I love it even more now that I have seen the full feature. The "Baskin" short simply delivers. Captivating atmosphere, gripping suspense, splendid eerieness and a fantastic ending that is wild and brutal and in-your-face, incl. wonderfully aggressive music, slightly unpleasant images of mad creatures straight outta "Martyrs" and an overall shockingness that is just genius.

The absence of any explanation or clarification works perfectly and makes you even more scared, while the full feature spends way too much time explaining it all in detail. Evrenol is obviously a talented filmmaker who knows how to pull of a badass short film, but turning his short into a feature via a screenplay that was written by four(!) different persons... well, that wasn't exactly a good decision.

"Baskin" short rules! "Baskin" long fails.

26 September 2015

Bernard Rose's FRANKENSTEIN (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

FRANKENSTEIN

Alternate Spelling:
 FRANKƐN5TƐ1N

USA / Germany, 2015
Director: Bernard Rose

5,5/10








Claiming that "Candyman"-director Bernard Rose returns to his horror-roots with his latest film is not right, because even though he spent most of his career making Tolstoy-adaptations ("Anna Karenina", "Ivansxtc", "The Kreutzer Sonata") or films about composers of classical music ("Immortal Beloved", "The Devil' Violonist") he also made at least two low-budget horror films ("Snuff Movie", "Sx_Tape") over the last 10 years, though admittedly, both of them received nearly no attention.

His newest movie is obviously his biggest horror film since "Candyman", though looking at the upcoming big-budget vehicle "Victor Frankenstein" with Daniel Radcliffe, I have a feeling that it will get lost in the shuffle. Bernard Rose's adaptation of Mary W. Shelley's "Frankenstein" is one of the the most radical, most unconventional Frankenstein-filmizations ever, following a modern-day married scientist couple who create an artificial human via a 3D bio-printer.


Fans of Gothic horror and old-school Frankenstein - stay away. "Frankenstein" (what an unimaginative title) feels more like directed by David Cronenberg or Paul Haggis, taking place in the suburban areas of Los Angeles where Frankenstein's monster stumbles around between lonesome forests, ghettos areas and fucked up hotels. The movie starts out unsettling and almost claustrophobic in small, ugly laboratory settings before going out into the outside world which at first seems to be a paradise for the artificial creature (nature, animals, no humans), but then he enters the harsh reality of the L.A. city limits (humans, ruthless policemen, dirty ghastliness everywhere) and his "life" becomes kind of an ordeal.

On the technical level, it's a superb film with great cinematography, effective music and brilliant gore & make-up effects. However, acting-wise, it's a mixed bag. There's some really great performances from Carrie-Anne Moss ("The Matrix") as mother-like scientist, a stunningly hilarious Tony Todd ("Candyman") as super-cool blind blues-playing beggar, and Jeff Hilliard as indescribably asshole-ish police officer - but there's also a super-lackluster Danny Huston ("21 Grams") as super-lackluster non-Victor, as well as a bizarre Xavier Samuel ("The Loved Ones") whose acting isn't bad, but his take on the monster... *sigh*, at times it feels like he's playing a wild animal (thanks to my gf for noticing!), at time he's babbling and behaving like a retarded child. The fact that his ability to speak is limited, while at the same time, we get to hear his inner thoughts in the form of original quotes from Shelley's literal source (Baz Lurhmann style)... it was distracing and constantly took me out of the movie.


Also, the whole thing was unexpectedly gory and brutal, at times so extreme, even me, an old-school gore-hound, was irritated by it. The added police brutality was interesting, but ultimately went nowhere, the scenes with the hooker reminded me of the god-awful "Frankenstein '80", the semi-nods to James Whale's "Frankenstein" (Victor screaming "He's alive!", girl at the lake) were simply pointless, and aside from a few intense scenes in the middle, there was hardly any tension or suspense.

Overall, an interesting but ultimately underwhelming attmept to create some kinda 21st century Frankenstein. Kenneth Branagh's adaptation remains the uncrowned king of all "Frankenstein" films...

24 September 2015

Remake vs. Original: KNOCK KNOCK (/Slash Filmfestival 2015 Surprise Movie) + DEATH GAME

KNOCK KNOCK

Chile / USA, 2015
Director: Eli Roth

2/10











I guess this is typical Eli Roth humor. That old bastard takes an old movie from the 70s that no-one knows or remembers, remakes it with Keanu Reeves as the lead, gives it a funky title and basically sells it as his very own movie. So, what may look like Eli Roth's interpretation of "Funny Games" and "Fatal Attraction", is actually an unimaginative rehash of "Death Game" (1977), which was already remade in 1980 by Spanish exploitation director Manuel Esteba under the title "Vicious and Nude".

The story is simple: whene a devoted husband/father/architect is left home alone for the father's day weekend, two young and sexy women unexpectedly knock on his door for help. What starts out as a kind gesture results in a dangerous seduction and a deadly cat-and-mouse game.


"Knock Knock" actually starts out pretty cool with a few really hilarious Keanu-makes-shenanigans-with-his-family scenes, a suspenseful build-up, marvellously photographed shots of the suburban areas in Santiago de Chile, and some neat acting of Reeves who made it back on my radar earlier this year with his striking performance in the badass "John Wick".

Then after the first half hour, the movie starts to drag in a pretty unnerving way. Endless dialogue, superfluous scenes (DJ Keanu), and a sex scene that looks like the poster for "The Human Centipede" - but that all isn't so bad compared to what comes after: unbelievably annoying and way-too-aggressive scenes with the girls going bonkers, followed by more boredom with Keanu going back home, followed by the girls coming back, doing Un-Funny Games with Keanu, shrieking, screaming, destroying half the house, while Keanu's acting gradually becomes worse and worse. To me, he was always a hit-or-miss actor, but here in the movie's second half, he's hitting a new low point by giving a performance that is so frustratingly over-the-top, it makes you think that Nicolas Cage in "The Wicker Man" actually wasn't so bad at all.


But it's not just Keanu's fault. It's (obviously) mainly Roth's fault. He always had a fucked up kinda humor that is more stupid than amusing, though what has worked for me in his incredible debut "Cabin Fever", and hasn't worked so well in his two "Hostel" films, here in "Knock Knock", it doesn't work at all. Stupid jokes, horrid gags, inane lines. It's all as funny as cancer. But wait, there's more: the two girls are a pain in the arse and their behavior is way too exaggerated. The performances of Lorenza Izzo (Roth's wife) and Ana de Armas are below-average at best, the whole overlong quiz show segment is almost unbearable, the attempted semi-feminist and slightly anti-misogynistic message doesn't work at all, and the mind-bendingly lousy ending incl. some of Roth's absolute worst jokes is just dreadful. I admit, I laughed at the Fun-with-Facebook moment, but it totally doesn't save the movie from being another Roth-dumbfest.

Hell, there would be so much more to rant about, be it the predictable and unimaginative screenplay by Roth and his newest best friend Nicolás López ("Aftershock"), or the unbelievably shitty scene where some guy prefers to save some work of art instead of saving Keanu... but I don't wanna waste your time. "Knock Knock" is bad, and its awfulness will knock you off your socks.


DEATH GAME

Alternate Title:
The Seducers

German Title:
Tödliche Spiele

USA, 1977
Director: Peter S. Traynor

5/10




 
So, this is it. The original. "Death Game". Next to "Evil Town", the only other movie directed by Peter S. Traynor, and the only movie ever written by Anthony Overman and Michael Donald Ross. The movie has the same story as "Knock Knock": family father, alone at home, two girls knock on his door, sex, terror, etc.

Is it better than "Knock Knock"? On a technical level, no. You can easily spot that it was shot on a tight budget and primarily made for drive-in cinemas, and it's also pretty obvious that the director isn't the most talented filmmaker in the world. Yet, for various reasons "Death Game" definitely worked better for me.


Oscar-nominee Seymour Cassel ("Faces") delivers a terrific performance, not just because he's clearly a much better actor than Keanu, but also because he plays his character in a much more believable way and it's just amusing hearing him shouting lines like "You have the manners of an alley cat!" at the girls.

The girls are pretty much as over-the-top and annoying as the chicas in "Knock Knock", but the actresses here are way more talented - Oscar nominee Sondra Locke ("The Heart is a Lonely Hunter") and the wonderful Colleen Camp ("Game of Death", "Police Academy 2+4") - and some of their characters' behavior is much more comprehensible, especially during the courtyard-scene which works so much better than Roth's dumb quiz-show scene. Also, the movie's weird dream-like atmosphere makes the whole thing more intriguing than I expected.


Okay, the pacing is awkward (at times too quick, at times way too slow), the direction is clearly all over the place, the title song is a bit too silly ("Good Old Dad" by The Ron Hicklin Singers) and the supposed-to-be-surprising ending is rather daft, but all in all, I totally prefer "Death Game" over "Knock Knock". Traynor 1 - Roth 0.

23 September 2015

NASTY BABY (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

NASTY BABY

USA / Chile, 2015
Director: Sebastián Silva

9/10











Even though I've only seen two of his movies so far, Chilenean director / writer Sebastían Silva is now the #1 filmmaker on my movie radar. His super-odd, yet incredibly intense previous movie "Magic Magic" was one of the biggest surprises in 2014, and this year, he surprised me again with the almost uncategorizable, yet totally brilliant "Nasty Baby", a truly mysterious and mystifying movie that revolves around the lives of gay couple Freddy and Mo, who try to have a baby with their best friend Polly. As the trio navigates the idea of creating life, they are confronted by unexpected and very unpleasant harassment from 'The Bishop', a mentally handicapped and particularly aggressive neighbor...


Telling more about "Nasty Baby" would not just be spoilerish, but also very unfair because... well, you just have to see for yourself what happens throughout this absolutely fascinating gem. Silva gives a complete crap about any kind of genre conventions and made a movie that is for the greater part some kinda hipster-comedy (incl. various drama/dramedy elements) with some kinda dark cloud hanging over it, before going into totally sinister territories in the last third. The tone is light-hearted and slightly amusing, but Silva's constantly reminding you that there is something wrong, something that eventually turns the movie completely upside down and culminates into a really bizarre climax that is actually much more subtle than expected, but makes you feel really awkward and leaves an unbelievably bitter taste in your mouth, just like "Magic Magic" kept me brooding for hours.

The main reason for why everything works so absolutely well is the incredibly realistic, incredibly believable depiction of the characters, as well as the breathtakingly intense acting. Silva himself is fantastic as the leading man, a hipsterish and not-really-talented artist who is actually way more unpredictable than you initially expect him to be. "TV on the Radio"-frontman Tunde Adebimpe is equally fantastic as cool, calm and stunningly sympathetic fellow, who - Chris Bumbray from JoBlo nailed it - "subverts all the gay stereotypes Hollywood bombards us with, being a man's man who just happens to be gay". Yet, the movie's most impressive highlight is Kristen Wiig as self-assured, self-contained single woman. Her performance is so goddamn real, it never feels as if she's just playing this complex character. She is that woman.


More great performances from Reg E. Cathey as the unreckonable and slightly frightening 'Bishop', Mark Margolis as strange gay neighbor and Neil Huff as odd gallery owner who could be best described as "interesting quasi-asshole". Camera work, editing and music are all marvellous, especially the intense tribals during the movie's 'turning point', and I absolutely love how Silva's messing and trolling with morals and ethics, as well as with our expectations. Everything and everyone has a dark side, nothing and no-one is as you expect it to be. Oh, also worth mentioning: one of the cutest kitties I've ever seen, and (next to "500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be)" in "Burke & Hare") the most unexpected end title song ever.

If you enjoyed "Magic Magic", you will definitely enjoy "Nasty Baby" too.
Damn, Silva rocks!

EMELIE (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

EMELIE

USA, 2015
Director: Michael Thelin

3/10











"Emelie" is an incredibly stupid horror-thriller, that, like many other films at this year's /Slash, starts out absolutely terrific, but ends up so indescribably bonkers, it's hard to say anything positive about it. The movie takes place in the house of the Thompson family (obviously not to be confused with "The Thompons") where the new babysitter Emelie (a replacement for the regular one who couldn't make it) turns the three kids' supposed-to-be-fun evening into a nightmare.

The first half is just splendid, thanks to a wonderfully intriguing and brilliantly paced "Babysitter Wanted"-like set-up, a haunting performance by Sarah Bolger ("The Moth Diaries") that reminded me a bit of Isabelle Fuhrmann in "Orphan", three wonderfully natural and surprisingly non-annoying kids (stand-out: the adorable Thomas Bair), and a few hilariously nasty scenes where Emelie shows the kids their parents' sex tapes or force them to watch her feed a hamster
to a snake.


Then after the first half, the motivations behind the babysitter's behavior gets revealed and from one minute to another, the movie becomes so unbelievably stupid, it feels as if the second half was made by a completely different director. Horrid character decisions, even more horrid plot twists, stupidity all over the place, suspense quickly turning into tiring tediousness, the slightly over-the-top and slightly "Home Alone"-like finale is at times unintentionally ridiculous, at times indescribably frustrating and cringeworthy, and also annoyingly predictable. Anti-highlights: the WTF-car-crash, the completely pointless turning out of the lights and the headscratchingly dumb vomit-scene.

Not recommended. Watch "Babysitter Wanted", "The House of the Devil", "Halloween" or any other babysitter-themed horror film instead.

22 September 2015

DEATHGASM (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

DEATHGASM

New Zealand, 2015
Director: Jason Lee Howden

6/10












"Deathgasm" is the debut feature of New Zealand filmmaker Jason Lei Howden, following two metal-loving boys who, after forming a band with fellow misfits called, well, "Deathgasm", and stealing the sheet music for some kinda black mass, accidentally summon a powerful ancient demon AND turn their whole hometown into raging maniacs. Shit happens!

You don't need to be a metalhead to watch this movie, although I'm sure it helps because this movie is totally aimed at people who dig all things metal. To make it clear, I like Metal and I'm a big fan of bands like Opeth, Bolt Thrower or Blind Guardian, but I like sooo many other musical genres as well, and I always thought that listening to too much metal is quite tiring - just like "Deathgasm" is actually a bit tiresome.

Don't get me wrong: it's a highly amusing flick, packed with funny gags and hilarious lines, wonderfully silly metal hoaxes (one of the band's songs is called "Intestinal Bungy Jump") and lots of nods to gore-classics like "Braindead" or "The Evil Dead", but director / writer Howden's creativity is simply too huge and there was no-one to stop him from putting all of his ideas into this movie, so, as hilarious as the first half is, the second half quickly becomes tedious and way too over-the-top, because there's just too much of everything. Too much silly humor, too many uber-bizarre kills, too much fun-with-metal.


I also thought that the screenplay is too foreseeable, and the basic plot is disappointingly unoriginal and reminded me too much of 80s rock/metal-horror classics like "Trick or Treat" or "Black Roses". Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it. The acting is thoroughly good, the insane amount of good ol' Peter-Jackson-like practical effects is awesome, the soundtrack is badass and several scenes like the 'decapitation repetition', the icecream-in-the-park scene or the outrageous scenes where we get to see what goes on in a metalhead's head when he listens to his music via headphones, made me laugh like crazy.

Final verdict: solid New Zealandian horror comedy, but I enjoyed "Housebound" and "What We Do In The Shadows" much, much more.

21 September 2015

1 meh, 2 blech: BODY / EXCESS FLESH / I STAY WITH YOU (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

BODY

USA, 2015
Directors: Dan Berk & Robert Olsen

4/10











"Body" follows three mid-twenty girls who break into a huge mansion on Christmas eve for partying and having a good time. All is fun until an unexpected visitor appears, who eventually falls down the stairs and dies, leaving the girls with a massive problem to deal with.

The movie actually starts out marvellous with hilarious talks about weed and food coma, a wonderfully Christmassy atmosphere that strongly reminded me of the still-underrated remake of "Black Christmas", and the near-perfect chemistry between the girls who all deliver absolutely terrific, incredibly believable, incredibly natural performances (Helen Rogers, "V/H/S" | Lauren Molina, "ABCs of Death 2" | Alexandra Turshen, "Piranha Sharks").

Unfortunately, after the incident, "Body" becomes so frustrating, it completely damped my spirits, and destroyed my initial wish to give it a 8/10, because instead of keeping up the fun mood and maybe going into a stage-play-scenario à la "The Gazebo" or "Jo", the directors decided to take all the fun away and turn the whole thing into an irritatingly serious thriller, with supposed-to-be-uber-intense scenes that are just lame, and unbelievably ridiculous character decisions that could have worked if the movie would have kept up the humor - but it didn't, and so these decisions are either cringeworthy or just stupid.

Genre legend Larry Fessenden's quite fascinating performance in the second half saves "Body" from being a total disaster, and the fact that it's only about 75 minutes helps because the movie is over before you become pissed. Still, this could have been so much better.




EXCESS FLESH

USA, 2015
Director: Patrick Kennelly

-/10











Contrary to yesterday's "México Barbaro" or the movie below, I simply didn't want to give this movie a proper rating. It would have be a waste of time giving Patrick Kennelly's debut feature a proper rating because it simply doesn't deserve a rating. What could have been an interesting, intriguing, intimidating and/or illuminating examination of eating disorders (Bulimia nervosa, Anorexia nervosa) and/or modern beauty / model standards, ended up us tedious and at times absolutely unbearable overlong arsty fartsy not-really-shocker, that fails so hard to create a new perspective on these very real problems, and instead goes into a lousy shock-sploitation direction that is both unnecessary and dumb.
[Plot: overweight girl imprisons her sexy roommate in their apartment in a twisted attempt to somehow bring them closer together].

Throughout the movie, there are several glimpses of brilliance, some scenes and moments that are actually pretty impressive, such as the main girl's very first night binge (a really intense scene), or the bizarrely humorous 'sex duel' dream sequence (at times super-funny, at times super-unsettling), but instead of creating more like that, he takes this glipses of brilliance and just throws them into an endless maelstrom of annoyance, consisting of supposed-to-be-shocking scenes, Nine-Inch-Nails-y sound effects and moments of utter stupidity, including a final semi-twist that was not just extremely foreseeable, but also comes way, way too late. In addition, the nonexistent narrative structure and the director's general ignorance to deliver anything to cling to, was maddening, and even though the acting was good (most notably Bethany Orr's superb performance)... well, I'm repeating myself, but it just does not help when your main characters are
unlikable as hell.

Oh btw: bravo /Slash Team for selling this movie as disturbing and disgusting piece of yuckiness - which it's not. The program described is as movie about "binging, purging and shitting, not about living, not about feeling" which is complete rubbish. Thanks for trolling.

Matt Donato from We Got This Covered put it in a nutshell: "'Excess Flesh' has a story to tell, but it’s convoluted and far too slight. If you revisit 'The ABCs Of Death' and watch 'X is for XXL', you’ll see almost the same exact idea trimmed down into a five minute short that packs a whopping final blow." Amen to that.




I STAY WITH YOU

Original Title:
Me quedo contigo

Mexico, 2014
Director: Artemio Narro

-/10








In my entire life, I've never witnessed so many people leaving a movie theater during a movie. Never. But in this case, fully understandable. This Mexican 100-minute piece of garbage is so completely unwatchable, even I had to leave at the 70 minute mark, because, just like the majority of the audience, I couldn't stand it any longer.

"I Stay With You" is about 4 women who party, spontaneously kidnap a man, torture and kill him. The end. The first 20 minutes or so are somehow entertaining, but as soon as we get into party/torture-mode, the movie becomes more and more unbearable with every single minute.

This supposed-to-be-feminist semi-shocker is just bullcrap. If it would have been 4 men torturing, raping and killing a woman, everyone would be oh-so-upset, but here it's 4 women doing these awful things with a man, so it's okay, or what? Fuck that. This movie is an insult to both men and women. The women are represented as dumb bitches, the man as innocent victim who hasn't done anything. Nah, it just doesn't work that way to make a feminist statement by simply switching the gender roles, especially because everyone, the women and the man, they are all obnoxious douchebags. Message? Resolution? Nothing. Some talk about how you can do everything when you have the money, which could have been interesting, but the director decided to focus on fake dicks, pole-dancing and Tequila instead. The man is dead. The women carry on. Wow.

Maybe stuff like that works in Mexico, but here in Europe, it obviously doesn't work... AT ALL. Watch the "I Spit On Your Grave" films instead. They're actually soooo much more feminist that this trash.

20 September 2015

Bad Bits & Pieces: NINA FOREVER / SOME KIND OF HATE / MÉXICO BARBARO (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

NINA FOREVER

UK, 2015
Directors: Ben & Chris Blaine

3/10











What could have been an artsier, deeper and more elaborated version of dead-ex-girlfriend-comes-back-to-life films like last year's "Burying the Ex" (great!)
or "Life After Beth" (bad), turns out to be a slightly original, yet dead-boring, overlong and pretty lifeless semi-comedy about a quasi-love-triangle between a young checkout girl, her co-worker and his dead ex who comes back to life whenever they have sex.

"Nina Forever" could have been a fun short film, but in its final 100-minute-form, it's just cinematic torture, due to the two directors' inability to cut straight to the shit and come to the point. The overall artsy-for-the-sake-of-being-artsy execution is unnerving and highly unsympathetic, the extreme focus on symbolism is distracting and unnerving, the sex scenes feel repetitive as hell, and the countless endings (they obviously couldn't decide on how to end it, so they simply put all of their imagined endings in it... ALL OF THEM) made me wanna yell at the screen "Please! Stop! I want this to be over! Now!"

The acting is solid, especially the believable chemistry between Abigail Hardingman and Cian Barry (even though Barry's character is so unlikable), the make-up was done beautifully and the overall camera work is just superb, but, as you already guessed, this all couldn't help saving it from being a total drag. "Nina Forever" is as unnecessary as an annoying ex-girlfriend who doesn't get that it's over, that the relationship is dead & buried.




SOME KIND OF HATE

USA, 2015
Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer

1/10












"Some Kind of Hate" is some kind of revenge-movie about some kind of bullied teenager who gets sent to some kind of reform school where he gets bullied by some kind of assholes until some kind of revenge ghost-girl pops up and saves the day, or not. Ugh. What Fangoria calls the "turning point for the slasher genre into the new millennium", is actually some kind of new low point for both, the revenge genre AND the slasher genre; some kind of movie that is so laughable and so abstruse, my pal Daniel had to put a sleeping mask on during watching because he just couldn't stand it anymore. Not joking.

It actually starts out pretty interesting as raw indie-horror in the vein of "Blood was Everywhere" or "Red White & Blue", but when the supernatural twist kicks in, the whole thing plummets down faster than you can say "Haunter" and suddenly explodes into hundreds of different directions at the same time with hundreds of different tones all over it because the director / writer obviously had no fucking clue what he wanted to do. An oddly funny scene, followed by a dark one, a disturbing one, an artsy one, an uber-cool one, a funny one, et cetera, ad infinitum. I'm shuddering just thinking about it *brrr*

The characters range from meh to fucking annoying, the actors range from solid (Grace Phipps) to unintentionally hilarious (Sierra McCormick), the character decisions range from "What the hell?" to "Are you fucking kidding me???", and... well, a movie about bullying that can't decide if its basic message should be "bullying is bad", "revenge is bad" or "everyone has to die" is hard to take seriously. Also, absolute worst in-between-credits scene I have ever seen. The only cool thing about it is the name of the director: Adam Egypt Mortimer - damn, what a name!

Some kind of bullshit... nah, wait: some kind of bully-shit.




MÉXICO BARBARO

Mexico, 2014
Directors: Jorge Michel Grau, Lex Ortega, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Ulises Guzmán, Aaron Soto, Isaac Ezban, Laurette Flores & Edgar Nito

-/10







 

In my /Slash "The Black Fables" review, I jokingly made a silly comparison to the god-awful "Treasure Chest of Horrors"-films. I take it back. "The Black Fables" is a masterpiece compared to this piece of shit which totally feels like the Mexican version of "Treasure Chest of Horrors" = a movie that tries to come off as oh-so-cool horror-anthology, although it's actually more like various amateur YouTube short films lazily cobbled together.

I can't give the movie a proper review/rating because we left during the 4th segment, not because it was already pretty late (2am), but because we were speechless about how awful this movie was. One episode was shot on a cheap home video camera (not found footage) with the most horrible acting and the worst-looking fake blood I've ever seen. Another episode offered so many oh-how-gorgeous-the-sun-looks and oh-how-haunting-these-shadows-look shots/images, it made us consider "visual masturbation" as a serious crime.

We decided to leave during the segment where a young virgin girl got raped by an ugly forest monster who also really loved to vomit yucky yellow fluids over her boobs. It was not just very disgusting, it was also extremely aggravating and almost unwatchable. Horrible. "México Barbaro" is a movie that has absolutely no business being shown on a quality festival like the /Slash *shakes head*

THE BLACK FABLES (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

THE BLACK FABLES

Original Title:
As Fábulas Negras

Brazil, 2014
Directors: Rodrigo Aragão, Petter Baiestorf,
José Mojica Marins & Joel Caetano

5/10







"The Black Fables" is a Brazilian horror anthology, consisting of 5 black fables, all based on classic Brazilian folklore. The movie was made on an obviously pretty low budget, but with lots of heart and soul. Unfortunately, that doesn't help much. While it's easy to see how passionate the four directors were, it's even easier to recognize that they were much more interested in creating shitloads of oldschool gore, splatter and monster effects, and not so much in creating likable characters, gripping tension or coherent stories, resulting in a pretty mixed bag that feels too much as if the fables were just various short films cobbled together, just like in one of those terrible "Treasure Chest of Horrors"-flicks - though, of course, "The Black Fables" is far, far from being as terrible.

Segment 1 and 5 are easily the highlights of this anthology, both directed by Rodrigo Aragão ("Mud Zombies"). Although the first one, the comedic "Monster of the Sewer", is a bit too long and too all over the place, and the last one, the eerie "Iara's House", is way, way too short, both segments deliver beautifully haunting scenes, insanely awesome effects and many memorable moments + lots of hilarious humor (1st segment) and a few oh-my-gawd-wow!!-moments
(5th segment).


Segment 2, "Fierce Pampas", is a neat, yeat highly predictable and ultimately quite underwhelming werewolf story with effects that range from bloody good to bloody bad. At least, it's better than what you expect from a director who has titles like "The Vegetable Monster from Outer Space" or "Arrombada - I Will Piss in Your Grave" in his filmography (Petter Baiestorf).

Segment 3, "The Saci", was made by Brazilian movie-making legend José Mojica Marins ("Coffin Joe" trilogy), another okay, yet pretty disappointing episode. Its basic folklore roots (the one-legged "Saci" is one of the most popular characters in Brazilian folklore) are interesting, but director Marins seemed to had no idea what to do with the Saci, so instead of focusing on this weird creature, he decided to focus on a couple of characters who are all either annoying, or completely unsympathetic.


Segment 4, "Bloody Blonde", is undoubtedly the worst one. Brazil's answer to J-Horror, a lame and boring semi-variation of contemporary Asian horror classics. Too long, too tedious, at times gross like hell, at times just dumb. It's a mystery to me why they let Joel Caetano (who has only made one short film beforehand) direct such a long segment, actually the longest segment of "The Black Fables".

Final thoughts: decent, but unimpressing and forgettable anthology. Recommended only to fans of low-budget splatter and Latin-American Horror.

Imdb

Thanks to Saskia Pramstaller (Die Halbstarken) for the festival-screener!

UNCLE KENT 2 (/Slash Filmfestival 2015) + UNCLE KENT

UNCLE KENT 2

Opening Credits Title:
Uncle Kent 2!

USA, 2015
Director: Joe Swanberg (first 12 minutes),
Todd Rohal (remaining 61 minutes)

5/10








I'm not a complete expert on the work of Todd Rohal, but I think his 2011 movie "The Catechism Cataclysm" is one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen, and I'm also part of the minority who liked his segment for "ABCs of Death 2". So, now, Rohal, a filmmaker that I like, a filmmaker who, er, prefers the absurd side of filmmaking which makes him about as 'controversial' as the grandmaster of absurdity Quentin Dupieux (whom I really, really hate), shot a sequel to a movie that, like mentioned on the poster, "no-one has seen".


The basic meta-premise of "Uncle Kent 2" is as brilliant as it is downright bonkers and ridiculous: the movie follows Kent Osborne, the main actor of "Uncle Kent" (see below), who desperately wants to make a sequel to Joe Swanberg's film. Whilst travelling to a comic book convention, Swing Out Sister's "Breakout" and the oncoming singularity both make him realize that an "Uncle Kent" follow-up is no longer an option because the world's end is nigh. Oh btw, the first 12 minutes were directed by Swanberg, the remaining 61 minutes were directed by Rohal...

What sounds like the most outrageous movie anyone has ever shot, is actually a massive letdown, at least to me. It may have to do with the fact that "The Catechism Cataclysm" already blew my mind harder than a mental prostitute, but... I dunno. "Uncle Kent 2" just wasn't funny. I was constantly waiting for something to make me laugh my ass off, but aside from a few scenes that made me chuckle, including a marvellously amusing performance by Steve Little, a wonderfully shocking and brutal freak bike accident, and a super-bizarre finale that manages to combine male masturbation, 'Weird Al' Yankovic and "The Exorcist", I was more or less bored and unimpressed with Rohal's stream of ridiculousness.


There's some neat animations, dizzying effects and a few Lynchian moments, but they add nothing to the movie at all. Most of the supposed-to-be-fun dialogue aren't amusing at all, several jokes and fun scenes completely misfire, and even though the acting is pretty fine, I was quickly fed up by most characters, especially the ones that are so over-the-top, it's just not funny anymore.

The movie's funniest scene surprisingly takes place during the first 12 minutes, a simple yet extremely funny scene that involves a cyclist, two carrier bags and two six-packs of beer. It's the only thing that made me laugh out loud... actually, the only thing in both "Uncle Kent" movies that made me laugh out loud...


Thanks to Saskia Pramstaller (Die Halbstarken) for the festival-screener!



UNCLE KENT

USA, 2011
Director: Joe Swanberg

3/10











I like Joe Swanberg as an actor who usually pops up in productions by Adam Wingard ("A Horrible Way to Die", "You're Next", "V/H/S") or Ti West ("Cabin Fever 2", "The Sacrament"), but, apart from his very own and super-lame "The Sick Thing..." segment in "V/H/S", I haven't seen any of his 18(!) feature films he made between 2003 and 2015 - until now.


"Uncle Kent" is a way-too-weird and extremely unsatisfactory mumblecore-dramedy that follows the titular Kent, a kid's show cartoonist whose only interests seem to be his cat (yay!) and his bong (nay). One day, he meets a girl on ChatRoulette who decides to spend an entire weekend with him, even though her heart belongs to another man. Kent tries to have sex with her, though apart from talking about masturbation fantasies and kissing in front of a masturbating guy on ChatRoulette, not much is happening.

This is a tedious, frustrating, unnerving and ugly movie by a director who makes movies about people who don't give a fuck, and he makes these movies for people who don't give a fuck, and he makes these movies in a "not giving a fuck"-kinda style that would even shock your average found-footage amateur-director. Uninteresting characters stumble from one uninteresting situation to the next, talking about supposed-to-be-hilarious-but-ultimately-completely-uninteresting topics, all filmed in a lousy-looking and unimaginative style via flipcam.


A couple of scenes look promising, scenes that feel like a fascinating sneak-peek into the world of shallow, lonely people living in a shallow, lonely world - but then you realize that you've already seen it in Rick Alverson's "The Comedy" and suddenly, all the fascination is gone. "Uncle Kent" is as boring and lackluster
as its poster.

BLOODY KNUCKLES (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

BLOODY KNUCKLES

Canada, 2014
Director: Matt O'Mahoney

3/10











"Bloody Knuckles" is the latest entry in the, erm, severed-hand horror-subgenre (you know, semi-classics like "The Hand", "Idle Hands", "Demonoid: Messenger of Death" or "And Now the Screaming Starts"), following underground comic-book artist Travis who gets his drawing hand chopped off by a Chinatown crime boss and his cronies who feel offended by Travis' extremely obscene comics. Luckily, the severed hands comes back from the grave and takes revenge on the baddies...


You could easily pass it off as trashy horror-comedy if it wouldn't try sooo fucking hard to ram a freedom-of-speech message down your throat, which makes it almost unenjoyable, at least for me. Although there's lots of fun gore and practical effects, silly characters and supposed-to-be-amusing dialogue, director/writer Matt O'Mahoney focuses so strongly on the cry for freedom of self-expression, you could easily call this "Charlie Hebdo - The Movie" or "Je Suis Charlie Canadien".

It would have worked so much better with a darker, more serious tone, or at least as a disturbingly offensive comedy - unfortunately, O'Mahoney didn't dare to go offensive and decided to do it in a slightly Troma-esque trash-comedy style that is both harmless and forgettable because there's nothing funny and nothing that stays in your mind. A retarded boy who drinks poison and ends up looking like "The Toxic Avenger"? A Nazi-dildo with a Swastika on it that makes "Sieg Heil" when you push a button? Ahahaha, very amusing. Really.


 The acting is decent, though nearly all of the characters are bland and fogettable (sole exception: Kasey Ryne Mazak as quite cool villain). The effects look neat, but often a bit too cheap, too tacky for my taste. The direction is lackluster, the pacing is too slow, and the story is too foreseeable. Do yourself a favor and watch a couple of "Addams Family" episodes instead, or at least any of the above-mentioned severed-hand films instead.

Imdb

Thanks to Saskia Pramstaller (Die Halbstarken) for the festival-screener!

18 September 2015

THE INVITATION (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

THE INVITATION

USA, 2015
Director: Karyn Kusama

9/10











How in the hell was Karyn Kusama, the director of crap like "Æon Flux" (2005) and rubbish like "Jennifer's Body" (2009), able to make such an incredible movie? Seriously, in this dreadfully lame horror year (so far, 2015 was just terrible for us horror fans), this is easily one of the absolute greatest horror highlights so far. Based on a fantastic screenplay by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay, two guys who are best known for garbage like "The Tuxedo", "Clash of the Titans" or "R.I.P.D.", Kusama created an irresistibly intense, magnificently mesmerising and decently disturbing horror-thriller, following a troubled man whose ex-wife invites him to an odd dinner party at his former home. Everything is fun and everyone is super-friendly, but the man soon realizes that there is something wrong and that his ex-wife + her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests...


Man, this is such an astonishing and impressively made movie, I'm still speechless. From the unpleasant opening scene to the weird party to the even weirder scene with the video, to the strangely eerie scene with the red lantern, to the big reveal and to the explosive, super-brutal finale, there wasn't a single moment where I was bored, or where I lost focus of what's going on. Every scene, every sequence, every single shot is so well thought out, so deliberately paced and so stunningly put together, it just blows you away, especially at the end when you realize how often you've been tricked by the director. It's one of these movies, like "Goodnight Mommy" or early Shyamalan films, where it doesn't matter if you guess the twist or not, because even if you guess it early on, the movie still works because there's so much more to enjoy about it, be it the intriguing story, the amazingly realistic characters, the intense music, the fabulous photography or the absolutely flawless editing.


I wouldn't mind if "The Invitation" would have been called "Worst Dinner Party Ever", because that's what it's basically about. A dinner party in your old house where something terrible happened, something that still depresses you, a party with people you haven't seen in like ages, peope who act friendly... too friendly, people whose behavior is just awkward because they seem to hide something... something that just isn't right. No-one can be trusted, not even the main character. Even the most unobtrusive guests are weird. In reality, it would be a terrifying nightmare. As a film, it's just wow, wow, wow.

There's tons of pretty unforeseeable twists and turns, tons of shocking little shocks, and when finally all is revealed (Eat your heart out, Ti West ;-), the awesomeness continues and descends into indescribably brutal madness, including one of the stupidest, yet most uncomfortable suicides I've ever seen, as well as one of the most fascinating endings in a very long time. The final shot is so... I don't know how to describe it properly. Mystifying? Appalling? Flabbergasting? Hm, maybe something in between...


Main actor Michiel Huisman, who looks like Caleb-Followill/Tom-Hardy-hybrid, delivers an oustandingly believable performance, same for the great-as-always John Carroll Lynch ("Zodiac") as eerie weirdo, Michelle Krusiec ("Saving Face") as entertaining party-girl, Lindsay Burdge ("Frances Ha") as super-scary semi-party-girl, Logan Marshall-Green ("Prometheus") as sinister semi-asshole and Tammy Blachard ("Blue Jasmine") as the most bizarre party host ever.

Anything else to say? Yes, "The Invitation" is one of the best movies of 2015.
Bravo, Ms. Kusama! More like that, please!

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