Saturday, October 29, 2016

Shocktober '16 #3

Nightmare Detective

Fashioning a narrative around dream logic allows one to play by their own rules, inserting visuals and modes of storytelling that are counter-intuitive and surreal. So is the case of Shinya Tsukamato's "Nightmare Detective" in which a killer communicates with (and kills) people in their dreams. The ultimate J-horror spin on "Nightmare on Elm Street", the drawback of this unique dream logic is that the portions of the film that take place outside the dream setpieces rarely make much better sense. Filmed on DV and featuring the very basic paradigms of J-horror filmmaking (i.e. herky jerky cinematography and a confused backstory of childhood trauma), "Nightmare Detective" starts out promisingly before deteriorating into a jumbled mess.

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell

"Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell" is a delirious carousel of fantasy/horror film tropes. Touching on oozing slime, vampirism, alien invasion and the simple deceptive tragedies the human race perpetrates upon one another, it also takes a stance against the Vietnam War! After a plane crash, a group of survivors has to deal with all of this in a pop colored universe of blood red skies, dancing camera filters and sandy dunes. It can be eye-rollingly bad at times and indicative of the easy potswings of late 60's Japanese cinema, but its fun and ends on a perfectly great image.

The Theatre Bizarre

The good thing about anthology films is each new episode can swerve in a different direction, exploring the depths of humor, drama, surrealism or grotesqueness. The great thing about anthology films is the length of each episode. If it sucks, it'll be over soon. This template is followed in "The Theatre Bizarre" in which 6 short films dart between the above mentioned motifs and offer a bevy of ideas and emotions. Featuring somewhat famous directors (Richard Stanley and Buddy Giovinazzo) mixed with relatively unknowns, the stories are just as varied. The best, including one called "Vision Stains" in which a killer finds a way to transfer the victim's final sights into her own eyes, explores an idea that could be extended to feature length form with perverse intelligence. The worst- including the bumper episode with Udo Kier as some sort of mannequin controlling the stories, probably belong in 20 minute versions only. I can say this film is at least better than recent anthologies like the disingenuous "Southbound" or lackluster "ABC's of Death". 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Shocktober '16 #2

Witching and Bitching

Pretty typical Alex de la Iglesias hyper-confection of comedy, horror and action. It's never meant to take itself seriously and, judging by the 4-5 other Iglesias films I've seen, he fancies himself a sort of Spanish John Waters. There are a few scares in this heist-film-turned horror when a group of bank robbers (with one of the men's young son in tow) run into a coven of witches intent on eating them. Compared to "Day of the Beast", this one is definitely more interested in the wham-bam aesthetic.

Return of the Evil Dead

In the second film of four "Blind Dead" entries, more isn't better. In fact, after the quasi-fun of seeing the first 'skeletor' Knights Templar exacting revenge from the grave, "Return of the Evil Dead" is pretty lackluster in every facet this time around. I think the same footage of the undead rising from their graves is used here, which reveals alot of the motivation and creativity involved.


After the unmitigated success of their international shocker, "Inside" (2007), which still ranks as one of the best horror films of the last 25 years for me, the sky was the limit for French filmmaking duo Julian Maury and Alexndre Bustillo. "Livid" is that follow-up and while it's not the violent masterpiece of their debut effort, it is a spellbinding exercise whose scattershot ellipses to black and perfectly attuned atmosphere feel like someone breathlessly whispering a gothic fairy tale into your ear. It's also the home-invasion-turned-horror-house that Fede Alvarez's "Don't Breathe" so desperately wanted to be. It's calm mixture of gory shock, palpable dread and wisps of the fantastic all add up to a hugely satisfying and underrated horror flick, barely released here in the States and still only available on a Region 2 DVD. Seek this one out.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Current Cinema 16.19

Deepwater Horizon

With two disaster films this fall (the other being "Patriot's Day", which deals with the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing), Peter Berg is quickly becoming this generation's Irwin Allen. Before "Deepwater Horizon" devolves into mindless pyrotechnics and fireballs, it maintains quite a masterful tone of intelligence and even a lean procedural tilt as it builds up to the reasons for the BP oil rig disaster in 2010... all of which means I much appreciated its first half infinitely more than the second when it becomes forced to uphold its blockbuster trappings and create superheroes out of its ordinary 'Mericans. Yet, despite its faults, the film slightly won me over in its clear-eyed explanations for the faulty science and corporate inefficiency (personified by John Malkovich as a BP executive so smarmy, he can't even remember to hold his cajun accent throughout) that ultimately doomed the working class on board the mechanical giant. Bad accents notwithstanding, "Deepwater Horizon" is probably Berg's best film since "Friday Night Lights".


Not only does Mick Jackson's drama effectively stand up as a courtroom thriller, but it hones in on an especially nasty subsection of World War II- that being the revisionist (and utterly racist) view that the Holocaust didn't happen. Top performances from Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall aside, "Denial's" real ace-in-the-hole is Tom Wilkinson who, by this point in his career, does this type of sturdy, solemn turn with ease, yet here he mines a resonance and gravity in the role that should earn him an Oscar nomination. Rooted in fact and based on the book by Deborah Lipstadt (who herself went through this process), "Denial" weaves together a variety of ideas about the forensic proof of the Holocaust, yet its ultimate message is the one that cannot be proven, which is to say the scars on so many people who experienced it.


Marcin Wrona's Polish language film begs the question: who's really possessed? The groom, seemingly inhabited by the spirit of a dead girl whose bones he uncovers or the numerous wedding goers, lubricated by drink and dance and whose bodies twist and contort in the same way as the groom?

Full review on Dallas Film Now

Limo Ride

A country-fried bender to end all benders. Full review on Dallas Film Now

Monday, October 10, 2016

Shocktober 2016 #1


Mickey Keating's obviously micro-budget black and white horror doesn't tread any new territory in the genre, but its so ominously spliced together and jarring in its music and shot placement, that it feels somewhat inspired. Yes, it begs, borrows and steals from everyone ranging from Polanski to modern indie maestros like Ti West, but "Darling" still managed to creep under my skin. The story- about a young girl (Lauren Ashley carter) whose mental state slowly deteriorates while house sitting a lavish but haunted New York apartment- grows more discordant and eerie as things progress. Couple that garish visual style with quick subliminal editing and terse music and "Darling" succeeds in generating low-fi terror without explaining (or showing) a whole hell of alot.

Tombs of the Blind Dead

The first film in Amando de Ossorio's "Blind Dead" series sets the stage for its twisted spin on history by turning the revered (but curious) Knights Templar legacy into a line of blood-drinking vampires who rise from their tombs at night and wreck havoc on the Spanish countryside. The usual horror tropes aside- i.e. a pretty girl who goes it alone in the chapel, some pretty awful decisions made by people running from the VERY SLOW moving creatures- "Tombs of the Blind Dead" is effective in its image making of shadows and skeleton bodies slinking in the night. 


Not since Rob Zombie's "House of 1,000 Corpses" has a horror movie shocked me quite like "Baskin". It progresses- in its final third- into something so violent and demented that it's nightmarish landscape of hell made my stomach churn a bit. That's tough to do. The story in and of itself about five Turkish police officers who answer a distress call and become unwitting witnesses to some sort of devil incarnate gateway isn't the progressive thing here. It's the embodiment of evil that one mini-man character inhabits and the sheer willingness to hold nothing back in its provocation of torture and disturbing images. It's one of the few times I wholeheartedly recommend the warning of "not for the faint of heart".