Archive for August, 2012

Suburban Grindhouse Memories – Double Feature of MOTHER’S DAY (1980) and NIGHTMARE (1981)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Bad Situations, Disturbing Cinema, Gore!, Grindhouse Goodies, Indie Horror, Intense Movies, Killers, Murder!, Nick Cato Reviews, Nightmares, Slasher Movies, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , on August 31, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES:
“If You Survive the Day, Will You Survive the Night?”
By Nick Cato

Sometime in 1983 (despite racking my brain, I can’t recall if it was March or October), a double feature hit the NY/NJ area that turned out to be one of the most brutal experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater. Someone had decided to re-release 1980’s MOTHER’S DAY and 1981’s NIGHTMARE (a.k.a. NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN) on the same bill, and this young gorehound couldn’t have been happier as I had missed each one upon their initial release. I couldn’t find the actual newspaper ad, so I attempted to recreate one (see above), only a tag line placed above the twin posters said “If You Survive the Day, Will You Survive the Night?” And by the time the second feature ended, I saw that a few people almost didn’t!

MOTHER’S DAY ran a wicked late night TV ad campaign when released in 1980; horror fans thirsted at its promises of Drano and electric knife attacks (YouTube it if you don’t believe me) and in my case, my parents had said “Who the hell do they make these movies for?” I silently said “ME!!!” Needless to say, I was psyched when I entered the (now defunct) Fox Twin Cinema and the first feature began to unreel.

If you haven’t seen it, MOTHER’S DAY is not exactly a pleasant film, despite its few instances of dark humor and the three entertaining antagonists (two murdering/rapist sons and their slightly unbalanced mother).  The plot is pure exploitation: Three girlfriends go for a weekend get-away camping trip and become victims to the crazed clan. After the two sons (named Ike and Addley) kidnap the girls by making their sleeping bags escape-proof , they dump them in the back yard of their isolated two-story home and proceed to rape them under the moonlight…as their spooky-looking, elderly Mother cheers them on and takes pictures. The audience, which was made up of mostly high school-aged patrons, remained silent throughout this uncomfortable sequence. To this day I list this as one of the top ten most disturbing scenes of all time, mainly due to the mother’s gleeful facial expressions during such a horrific attack.

The film does build some fine tension; after being raped and severely beaten (one of the girls is even killed), the two survivors plan their revenge, and this is where MOTHER’S DAY becomes more than a standard rape/revenge film: it turns into a slasher/revenge hybrid and features the aforementioned scenes of Drano being poured down one brother’s throat, a TV being smashed over another brother’s head, a plugged-in electric carving knife put to good use, plus an antenna shoved into one brother’s throat, and more mayhem than you can shake an amputated arm at. AND…just when our ladies think they’re safe (SPOILER ALERT!), a mutated sibling of the brothers named Queenie hops over some hedges to extract her own revenge in a genuine shock ending.

Brothers Ike and Addley are ready for total mayhem in MOTHER’S DAY (1980).

There’s a lot of goofs in this one (even during the infamous opening decapitation scene, where blood splashes across a woman’s face even before her boyfriend’s head is hacked into!), but its flaws still don’t hurt its overall intensity factor. MOTHER’S DAY is one of the most brutal R-rated horror films I’ve ever seen, evidenced by the audiences’ complete silence throughout the film.

Next up was 1981’s NIGHTMARE (known more commonly as NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN), a film I remembered seeing TV commercials for, but never paying it much mind. By the time it was over, I had become a head-over-heels fan, and have written extensively about it over the years on top of showing it to countless people on both VHS and DVD. And the odd thing is, NIGHTMARE is a standard, by-the-numbers, “psycho released too early from a mental institution” film, complete with bad acting and a couple of tedious stretches. But for some reason, it WORKS in ways few other slasher films do.

George Tatum is released from an institution after being placed on experimental medication (which is barely explained in the film). He travels from somewhere north of New York down to Florida to murder his family, wasting innocent bystanders along the way. Unlike most films of its kind, NIGHTMARE’s graphic gore sequences are actually scary and hard to watch, especially the infamous double-homicide finale where George flashes back to the time when, as a child, he murdered his dad and his mistress with an axe…a scene that’s shown in quick hints throughout the film, making it nearly impossible to handle once it’s finally shown in full. It was the first time I actually SWEATED watching a horror film, and afterwards, I saw about six people standing outside the theatre, leaning against the wall, actually collecting themselves over the insane images they had just seen. How many FRIDAY THE 13th or HALLOWEEN sequels ever did that to someone?

You better hope George Tatum isn’t calling YOU! From 1981’s NIGHTMARE!

This grueling double feature was unique from all of my other grindhouse experiences due to the fact both films kept the crowd in submission: both were serious doses of hardcore horror that—at the time—no one was expecting, other than those who had seen them a couple years earlier. My friends and I agreed we felt like someone had punched us in the face for the past three hours, and with a very few exceptions, we had not gone through a single or double feature quite this barbaric since.

Both of these films hold up well today, although they may not be as intense to hardcore horror fans in light of some of the ultra-graphic splatter films that have come after them. But it’s not just the gore FX that made MOTHER’S DAY and NIGHTMARE so gruesome and horrific: each film was a rebellious work of no-holds-barred anarchy that’s seldom seen in the theater today, in any genre. They’re films today’s multiplex crowds just won’t get to behold.

(MOTHER’S DAY will be released on blu-ray in a deluxe edition in September, 2012, and NIGHTMARE finally came to DVD the summer of 2011 and quickly sold out. Today it can be found on the second hand market for as high as $99.00).

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Mama just loves her boys! From MOTHER’S DAY (1980)

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Quicks Cuts: TURKEY DAY IN AUGUST

Posted in 2012, Quick Cuts, Sequels, Staff Writers with tags , , , , , on August 31, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  TURKEY DAY IN AUGUST
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  It’s August, the month where Hollywood studios seem to release their bottom- of- the- barrel material – unwanted horror movies, action flicks, and comedies, movies they wouldn’t dare release any other time.

In short, it’s Turkey Day in August, time for the movie turkeys to be released.

It’s also time for us to have some fun at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.

 

On today’s QUICK CUTS, we ask our panel, if you could come up with your own August Movie Turkey, what would it be?

Would it be PIRANHA MEETS SUPER CROC?  A reboot of MAGNUM P.I. starring Steve Martin?  Will Ferrell in a musical?  G.I. JOE MEETS THE EXPENDABLES?

What’ll it be?

*****

PAUL MCMAHON:  I came up with three.

PUMP UP THE MUZAK: THE RETURN OF MARK HUNTER
Mark Hunter (Christian Slater) is released from political prison, an older man with little education and no money. He finds shelter in a halfway house and is encouraged by his probation officer Paige MacPhereson to finish his GED and apply to communications school.

The management of the halfway house changes hands and Mark again finds himself under the sadistic hand of Ms. Loretta Creswood (Annie Ross). His locks himself in the office only to discover the only music at hand is elevator musak renditions of the best songs from his favorite punk bands.

Is it time for a sequel to PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990)?

HALLOWEEN III: PART II
Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) is an old man now, hiding where he can in a country overrun with insects and androids. Every TV and radio station broadcasts a looping call from Conal Cochran (a computer-generated holographic and CGI reproduction of the late Dan O’Herlihy) to Dr. Challis to surrender.

The story takes place in a very “I Am Legend” fashion, with Dr. Challis breaking into laboratories in schools and government facilities, trying to invent a machine that will release a sonic pulse and neutralize any android within a hundred feet of him. Even if he succeeds, he’ll have to deal with the swarms of insects and snakes and scorpions that continue to chase him and are growing in size with every generation.

THE LITTLE LEBOWSKI
Jeff Bridges and John Goodman return in this laugh-a-minute sequel to THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Dude is forced to team with Jesus Quintana when Walter is suspended from league play. In the middle of a competition, a young boy (Justin Bieber) barges into the bowling alley and calls Dude “Daddy.” Dude has more than he can deal with as Jesus offers “Little Dude” the chance to touch his hair net.

The next day, Jeffery Lebowski (a returning David Huddleston) contacts Dude to say his grandson has been kidnapped by “Pornographers.” He insists Brandt (this time played by Seth Rogan) travel with Dude and Walter as they investigate the case. The first thing they learn is that Jackie Treehorn has died and willed his empire to his son JayJay (Will Ferrell). JayJay still wants the money owed to his Dad by Bunny Lebowski in the first movie, and he doesn’t believe for a minute Dude is not the one who owes him.

Follow the Dude as he dodges police, gets high, collects clues, bowls, argues with Walter and drinks more than his share of Caucasians… all the while trying to keep Jesus Quintana from molesting his son and trying to determine why no one will discuss the whereabouts of the boy’s Mother, Maude Lebowski.

(Note: Sam Elliot wouldn’t reprise his role, so this time The Stranger will be played by Ted Danson. “Some days you eat the bar….)

*****

L.L. SOARES: 

DARK SHADOWS OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Tim Burton mashes together two of his worst films to give us perhaps the worst movie of all time. Johnny Depp, as an extremely prissy Barnabas Collins, takes a rocketship to the future, where he teams up with astronaut Mark Walhberg to take on a planet of humanoid apes! This time the ending is an even bigger shocker – the Lincoln Memorial reveals that ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A VAMPIRE HUNTER and we later learn that George Washington was an Ape!!

With a special appearance by Helena Bonham Carter as an ape Helen Keller!

SUPER BALLISTIC: FREDDY VS. JASON VS. ECKS VS. SEVER
Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu are assassins. Freddy and Jason are monster serial killers. Everyone is so confused they don’t know what to do or who to kill, so the movie ends with a big Bollywood-inspired dance number. Directed by Uwe Boll.

Ecks and Sever are back!

BATMAN: YOU’RE SO SWEET!
Finally, a Batman movie to make you smile!

George Clooney returns as the Batman with nipples on his costume, but this time he takes on the Candyman, played by Corey Feldman in a costume made of black liquorice! At first they fight, but then they fall in love, dancing through forests full of lollipop trees and chocolate rivers.

Warning: if your’e diabetic, don’t attend this one, you might go into sugar shock.

Warning # 2: Everyone sitting in the first five rows will get splashed with cherry –flavored Kool Ade.

Directed (of course) by Joel Shumacher.

*****

MARK ONSPAUGH:

THE DARKEST KNIGHT, EVER
Hoping to cash in on Dark Knight fever, cut-rate producer and schlockmeister Samuel L. Bronkowitz commissioned James Ellroy to write a Batman adventure that was gritty and excessively violent and bleak. However, Bronkowitz’s wife won the script in a divorce settlement, and had her lover Gilbert Gottfried “punch up the script” with jokes. Then it was sent to her cousin, director Ewe Boll, who decided to make the whole thing a musical with songs by two extras from Glee.

The original title was BAT-MANNY the MUSICAL, and stars Tom Arnold

as Manny Abramowitz, a vigilante who works out of a deli in Gotham City’s Crime Alley. Manny meets a clubfoot, hunchbacked shoeshine boy (played by Pauly Shore), who becomes his sidekick Hobblin’ the Oy! Wonder.

The whole thing is loathsome in its bloodletting and depictions of deviance, and none of the jokes are funny, since Arnold and Shore ad-libbed much of the dialog.

Songs include “Whenever There’s a Murder or Rape, I Just Grab My Cowl and My Cape”, “Do These Tights Make Me Look Fat” and “Oy, a Cave is No Place for Love.” With the forgettable villains Ice-Maker (Dolph Lundgren), the Piddler (a Czech extra who doesn’t speak English) and Pussyfoot (Joan Rivers).

Filmed in the Czech Republic and Barstow, played for one week then closed due to court injunctions. A sequel is planned.

Is it time for the Darkest Knight…ever?

*****

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Here are my three:

-Sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s THE HAPPENING called IT’S STILL HAPPENING.  Mark Wahlberg returns.

Is it still HAPPENING?

-Yet another haunted house movie, this one called THE HOUSE IN BETWEEN TWO OTHER HOUSES, about a happy young couple who move into their dream house only to find it’s haunted by a demon.  The gimmick here is that it’s taken from footage from the peeping tom neighbor who lives in the house on one side of them and films everything his neighbors do, and from footage taken by the pesky teenager who lives in the house on the other side of them, who’s filming the peeping tom neighbor in action filming everything his neighbors do.

-Tim Burton tackles GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, starring as Andrew Garfield as Gilligan, Will Ferrell as the Skipper, Woody Harrelson as Mr. Howell, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Howell, Emma Stone as Ginger, Ashley Greene as Mary Anne, and Johnny Depp as the Professor.

And that’s it for this week’s QUICK CUTS.  Thankfully, September is right around the corner, with better movies ahead.

Thanks for joining us, everybody!

—END—

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 80s Movies, Action Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, Martial Arts, Nazis, William Carl Articles, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982)

Fantasy Mission Force

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

Every once in a great while, a film comes along that is so weird, so twisted, so indescribable that you can only sit back and marvel at it. . . hopefully while inebriated.  I caught this week’s offering, FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982) or Mi Ni Te Gong Dui, at a double feature chop-sockey martial arts festival with a group of disbelieving friends.  Now, as I re-watch it, all I can think is “What.  The.  Hell?”  This is no typical martial arts film.  This is no typical film at all.  What it is could best be described as a whirlwind homage to every genre known to man.  If every past and future Quentin Tarantino film were placed in a blender along with several Tex Avery cartoons and a Three Stooges short, you might just get something like FANTASY MISSION FORCE.

In some unknown time period (in various parts the movie looks like it could take place in the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, or the 1980s), the Chinese and the Japanese are at war.  A Jeep with the brave Lieutenant Don in it gets through several booby traps, machine gun wielding Japanese in blackface, some bombs, and arrives at the tent of two other Chinese generals, General Johnson and General Thompson (!).  A group of Western generals, including Abraham Lincoln (again, what?), have been captured by the Japanese and are being taken from Luxemburg back to Tokyo to use in propaganda films for WW2.  According to the generals, Snake Plissken’s been dead for years.  Rocky isn’t suitable for action, and James Bond has gone missing.  It’s up to Lieutenant Don to recruit a rag-tag ‘Dirty Dozen type’ of group of commandos to set the generals free before the Japanese convince the world they have won World War 2.

Then, the titles start over “la-la-la…wooo wooo…lalala….wooo wooo” Chinese pop music from the 1960s that I swear I heard in BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1963).  A group of singing and dancing waiters, led by a Chinese man dressed like a Mexican Bandito (I ain’t makin’ this up folks), all drink tons of beer during an insane musical number (“What a way to treat a wife…la-la-la ha-ha-ha!”)  A black man in a tuxedo and a red headband tells the bandito to call him Pappa then gives him a gun, which he uses to rob the restaurant.  The Frito Bandito is actually a friend of (now) Captain Don, and he joins the force.

The Frito Bandito as an action hero?

Next, we find a group of prisoners working on the chain gang, and after a brief martial arts fight, a gun battle, and a pick-axe fight, one prisoner named Greased Lightning escapes.  He discovers an elegant candle-lit banquet table full of food in the woods.  While he eats, he is recruited by Captain Don and the bandito.

Next, we have a wrestling match between “the killer from Japan” and, from New York City, “the China Doll Sammy,” played by none other than Jackie Chan (RUMBLE IN THE BRONX– 1995, RUSH HOUR – 1998).  Rumor has it Chan owed the director a favor for saving him from a Triad, so he played a small part for star power in the flick, but his boxing match is a great scene and a fun highlight.  His beautiful consort (and partner in crime) Emily wears all black with huge plastic boots up to her knees.  During the entire scene, I kept thinking of the Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs fight The Crusher.  There’s even giant cigars that explode and sumo jokes, and it’s genuinely hilarious!  As they run off with the money, Sammy and Lily are stopped by corrupt military police, bribe them, and escape.

Jackie Chan wrestles under the name “China Doll Sammy.”

Next, in a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) type of drinking contest, in which a beautiful woman and a man take turns drinking shots then shooting away a tied-up woman’s clothes, the woman wins with her terrific knife-throwing skills.  Turns out it was a sting operation, and her partner, the man, and the half naked girl, all have to fight their way out of the bar.  A Wayne Newton look-alike comes for her, and they slap the crap out of each other while confessing their love, despite the fact that he can’t remember her name…Lily.  She is played by the terrific Brigitte Lin (POLICE STORY1985, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR1993, and CHUNKING EXPESSone of my all time favorite filmsfrom 1994).  After a tender love scene between Wayne and Lily, Captain Dan offers the guy a job, and Wayne Newton leaves Lily tied up and gagged as he takes up the Captain’s offer.  She, of course, doesn’t take kindly to this, so she does what any woman would do.  She grabs every weapon known to man, armors herself up, and uses a bazooka to take out their house and all his possessions!

The lovely Brigitte Lin.

Suddenly, we’re in a Benny Hill skit with Chinese men dressed as Scots doing maneuvers in fast motion in kilts to bagpipe music.  (Still not making any of this up.)

Back to Lilyour heroine takes out almost the whole Scottish army base while doing fabulous gymnastics all the while.  She captures Wayne Newton at gunpoint, but she is also recruited along with two inept Chinese “Scots” (the Laurel and Hardy of the East), the Mexican Bandito, Greased Lightning, and Wayne Newton.  This is the group that’s going to rescue Abe Lincoln?

Off they go in jeeps to Luxemburg (from China?).  Along the way, Jackie Chan and his girlfriend attack the group of misfits.  They are defeated and leave again.  High jinks and shenanigans ensue.  The two Scotsman seem to be developing a love affair.  The group spends a night in a haunted house, complete with floating ghost heads, the soundtrack of Walt Disney’s “Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” on the soundtrack, hopping vampires, ghosts playing mah-jongg, a beautiful female seductress who turns into a living skeleton, a monstrous toilet,  a Midnight Mass, and demons!  Turns out, ghosts and monsters blow up real good when hit with a bazooka shell!   A group of sex-starved Amazon Ninja women who use brightly colored bolts of cloth to capture everyone, takes the group hostage.  They’re led by a tuxedo clad cad who is an artist who destroys everything imperfect around him.  Luckily, just as a new musical number starts with all the Amazons in leopard skin mini-dresses, Jackie Chan shows up and leads a bloody revolution with our heroes blowing up everything in sight.

Scotsmen from China??

They finally arrive at the Nazi headquarters in Luxemburg (which is in a desert?  The things you learn. . .), where huge swastikas fly, one on an orange banner and one on a lime green banner.  They find all the Japanese dead, and the generals are missing.  However, Jackie Chan and his girl Friday show up!  Out of the night drive the Nazis in weird Mad Max cars, rigged out with all kinds of crazy weapons and swastikas spray painted on the sides.  And the Nazis are all tricked out like they’re about to enter Thunderdome! And they’re all Chinese!   Once again, I just can’t make this stuff up, folks.  It’s all there on the screen to see.  If you dare.

The group discovers a hidden stash of money in the Nazi headquarters.  It’s going to be a fight to the finish.  Whoever lives through the battle gets a share of the money.  The following eight minute battle scene is an insane mélange of explosives, machine guns, sword fights, car chases, tanks, bulldozers, and more.  Even though the music is the silly song from the beginning, it looks an awful lot like THE WILD BUNCH (1969).  Most of our heroes don’t make it to the end, the death scenes accompanied by a slow, sad harmonica version of Camptown Races!  Doo-dah!   Doo-dah!  Then, there’s a surprise twist ending!

Evil Nazis are the bad guys in FANTASY MISSION FORCE.

FANTASY MISSION FORCE moves so fast, it’s quicker than the speed of thought, because if you think about any of it for more than a second, it makes no sense, but if you just let it flow over you, the gags are pretty funny, the girls are just pretty (even with weird 80s hair and Pocahontas headbands), the action is deftly handled, and the Nazi muscle cars are pretty bad-ass.  It’s all a lark, just as if someone gave the director a whole lot of drugs and money and said “You only get to make one movie; so you’d better put everything you like into 80 minutes!”  And so was born the world’s only martial arts, World War Two action, romance, adventure, prison escape drama, ghost story musical!

Speaking of the director, it happens to be Yen-ping Chu, who has directed more than forty films and is still at it.  I haven’t seen any of the others he has done, but their titles (such as ANGEL HEARTS1995, SEVEN FOXES1985, and ISLAND OF FIRE1990) make me suspect he moved on to more mainstream fare.

Our heroes, humiliated by Amazons.

Adding to the fun is the dreadful dubbing of the movie.  Whoever rewrote the script (originally by Hsin Wei), knew how silly the whole thing truly was, and they had great fun with reworking the dialogue.

Some favorite lines:

“Wow.  You’re pretty when you kill.”

“The nice people are always the first to die.  Do I look nice?”

“Is THIS what you call horniness?”

FANTASY MISSION FORCE is very poorly edited.  It’s as if an axe was taken to the film and it was all scotch-taped back together.  I’m not sure if it was this way to start, or if the foreign distributors have hacked away at it over the years, but the poor movie looks terrible.  This in no way diminishes the fun to be had with such a crazy flick.  This is the exact movie you want at hand when your buddies come over for a night of drinking and movies.  You are guaranteed to have a good time.

I give FANTASY MISSION FORCE three and a half Frito Bandito musical numbers out of four.  And that’s saying something!

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

The Geisha of Gore Attends THE NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL and JAPAN CUTS 2012!

Posted in 2012, 60s Movies, Anime, Asian Horror, Atomic Accidents, Based on a True Story, Cannibalism, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Cop Movies, Film Festivals, Gangsters!, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Kung Fu!, Samurais, Yakuza Films with tags , , , , , , , on August 29, 2012 by knifefighter

THE GEISHA OF GORE Takes On:
THE NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL AND JAPAN CUTS – 2012
By Colleen Wanglund

Once again I, your Geisha of Gore, attended this year’s New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and the Japan Cuts film festival, although this time as a legitimate member of the press. During the month of July I experienced some very cool films from all over Southeast Asia and in varying genres—not just the horror that I’m so overwhelmingly fond of. The NYAFF, which is put together by Subway Cinema and The Film Society of Lincoln Center, just celebrated its eleventh year, and it’s bigger than ever. Japan Cuts is a festival of contemporary Japanese cinema held every year at The Japan Society in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan and is in its sixth consecutive year. NYAFF movies are shown at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, The Japan Society (where the two festivals overlap and support each other) and sometimes a midnight movie at the IFC Center. Both film festivals are run by some very cool people, who welcomed me into the fold officially this past July…and that was due to the help of my wingman from another website, Stan Glick, who knows more about Asian films than most people I’ve met.

Opening night was a blast, as Stan, fellow Knife Fighter Nick Cato and I saw the comedy VULGARIA (Hong Kong, 2012) about a producer who is desperately trying to get his porn film made—an ambitious remake of a Shaw Brothers 1970’s sexploitation classic. Not only does the movie get made, but the producer ends up creating a viral marketing campaign that makes his movie a huge hit. The movie’s director Pang Ho-cheung took questions from the sold-out audience, telling us that the film is actually based on true events—which makes it that much funnier. It was filmed in just twelve days on an extremely low budget, and the script was written by almost everyone involved as it went along! It’s a raunchy comedy without actually being visibly raunchy or vulgar, which is quite the feat, considering the subject matter. I truly laughed so hard I cried. VULGARIA stars Chapman To, who starred in INFERNAL AFFAIRS (2002), INFERNAL AFFAIRS 2 (2003), and TRIPLE TAP (2010), and has had a long career in Hong Kong cinema. There is also the very interesting character of Popping Cherry, played by Dada Chan, who will do just about anything to get into the movies. How she got her name is priceless.

VULGARIA (2012)

Afterwards, everyone was invited into the theater’s gallery where we enjoyed some complimentary Kirin beer to celebrate the opening of NYAFF. The next afternoon I was lucky enough to participate in a press conference with Choi Min-sik, star of OLDBOY (2003), I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) and his latest, NAMELESS GANGSTER (2012). NYAFF held a four-film mini retrospective of Choi’s films, including OLDBOY, NAMELESS GANGSTER, FAILAN (2001), and CRYING FIST (2005). Choi Min-sik is one of the biggest stars in South Korea and for good reason—the man is a brilliant actor. I was thrilled to meet him and be able to ask him at least one question during the conference.

Below is a brief synopsis of some of the other films that screened at NYAFF and Japan Cuts.

NAMELESS GANGSTER (Korea, 2012)—Choi Min-sik stars as a crooked customs inspector who is about to go to prison, but finds a stash of confiscated cocaine and ends up a gangster, using his family connections to stay in power for quite some time. When he faces his impending downfall, he has no problem betraying some of those same family members who helped his rise in the Korean underworld. The movie is brilliant and if you get a chance, go see it!

NAMELESS GANGSTER (2012)

NASI LEMAK 2.0 (Malaysia, 2011)—Directed by and starring rapper Namewee, NASI LEMAK 2.0 is a comedy surrounding food….namely the national dish of Malaysia. At its core, it is about ethnic division in the country using kung fu, Bollywood dance numbers, outrageous stereotypes and surreal comedy in an attempt to get across a message of unity. Not my favorite of the festival movies, but funny and entertaining, nonetheless.

THE KING OF PIGS (Korea, 2011)—An animated film employing washed-out, muted colors and harsh lines to set the tone, THE KING OF PIGS tells the story of the effects of bullying on young school boys and how it continues to affect their adult lives. It is at times a brutal and unflinching look at how class plays a role in Korean society. Directed by Yeun Sang-ho, the film isn’t the most graceful anime I’ve ever seen, but it is based on some of Yeun’s own experiences while in middle school and displays its darkness effectively.

KING OF THE PIGS (2011)

HARD ROMANTICKER (Japan, 2011)—Written and directed by Gu Su-yeon and based on Gu’s own childhood growing up in a Korean ghetto, the film is a hard-ass look at loner Gu (Shota Matsuda—whose father was a star of 70s yakuza flicks) who causes trouble and attempts to elude payback among different gangs. He’s also hounded by a cop looking for Gu to rat out others, but just feeds the cop info on low-level drug users instead. HARD ROMANTICKER is fast, furious and violent, but an entertaining film for those who like the gangster genre.

ASURA (Japan, 2012)—Another animated film, ASURA is about a young boy surviving as a cannibal in war-torn Medieval Japan, who is then befriended by a young woman who shows the boy compassion. The Lord of the village is determined to find and kill the boy and things get dangerous for everyone involved. The film uses an animation process that involves 3D characters over a 2D painted background. The result is a beautiful watercolor effect with an amazing depth. The story is brutal and bloody, but heartbreaking as well.

NO MAN’S ZONE (Japan, 2012)—A moving documentary that was filmed by a crew that basically wandered around the 20-kilometer exclusion zone affected by the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear reactors. It is a few months after the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster, but some of the small villages and towns have yet to be evacuated. It is both heartbreaking and infuriating to see the devastation and the lack of response by the government.

NO MAN’S ZONE (2012)

TORMENTED (Japan, 2011)—Directed by Takashi Shimizu, Christopher Doyle was Director of Photography on this follow-up to THE SHOCK LABYRINTH (Japan, 2009). While not a sequel, TORMENTED (orig. title: RABBIT HORROR 3D) contains some of the same elements and places as THE SHOCK LABYRINTH and a scene from SHOCK is included at one point in TORMENTED. It’s a huge departure from Shimizu’s famous JU-ON films, but a fantastic effort.

HENGE (Japan, 2012)—Directed by Hajime Ohata, HENGE, which translates to metamorphosis, is a short film that clocks in at just around 54 minutes. It is a disturbing film about a man who suffers violent seizures and speaks in an alien language. Over time the man transforms into a bloodthirsty insectoid creature, but his wife stands by her man, even luring victims to the house for him to feed on. It’s gory and worth a watch, IF you can find it. Unfortunately it’s tough for shorts to get decent distribution deals. The film was shown with two other short films as part of “The Atrocity Exhibition.”

LET’S-MAKE-THE-TEACHER-HAVE-A-MISCARRIAGE CLUB (Japan, 2012)—Another short film that was part of The Atrocity Exhibition, this disturbing film follows a group of middle-school girls led by the psychologically damaged Mizuki. Mizuki decides that the girls’ pregnant teacher is dirty and her pregnancy must be ended as a punishment for having had sex. What makes this film even more disturbing is that it is based on true events. This is a fantastic film that will unfortunately not see a distribution deal because of its length, which is an even 60 minutes.

And these were just the films I got to see during the festivals!

Other wonderful films that were screened during the two festivals and must be seen, if you haven’t already (and seriously, what are you waiting for?) included OLDBOY (Korea, 2003), the cult classic starring Choi Min-sik; the bleak horror film GOKE: BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (Japan, 1968); INFERNAL AFFAIRS 1 and 2 (Hong Kong, 2002/2003), the far superior original versions of Martin Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED (2006); FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (Hong Kong, 1972), one of the best kung fu films ever made and one that established the genre; ACE ATTORNEY (Japan, 2012) based on a popular video game and directed by Takashi Miike; THIRTEEN ASSASSINS (Japan, 2010) a samurai film, also directed by Takashi Miike; and ZOMBIE ASS:TOILET OF THE DEAD (Japan, 2011) the latest offering from Sushi Typhoon and directed by Noboru Iguchi.

The Japanese classic horror film, GOKE, THE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968)

NYAFF and Japan Cuts combined to showcase new movies, classic films, special guests, and parties. There were almost 100 films screened between the two festivals, and they get bigger each year. Some of this year’s guests included Donnie Yen, Choi Min-sik, Michelle Chen, Yoon Jin-seo, and Jeff Lau. I’ve looked forward to the festivals every year since I first began attending over three years ago. Samuel Jamier is the head programmer for Japan Cuts and would love to see the festival become one of the biggest showcase for Japanese films of all genres in North America. Some of the cool people involved with the New York Asian Film Festival are Ted Geoghegan, Grady Hendrix, Rufus de Rham, and Goran Topalovic.

© Copyright 2012 by Colleen Wanglund
LINK TO PREVIOUS COLUMNS:

The Geisha Reviews OLDBOY and Chan-Wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy

The Geisha Reviews I SAW THE DEVIL

The Geisha of Gore reviews GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL

The David Lynch Chronicles: ERASERHEAD (1977)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2012, Bizarro Movies, Classic Films, Cult Movies, David Lynch, Enigmatic Films, Just Plain Weird, Midnight Movies, Nick Cato Reviews, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel Columns, The David Lynch Chronicles with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2012 by knifefighter

The David Lynch Chronicles (Volume Three):
“A Dream of Dark and Disturbing Things”
By Nick Cato and Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

Nick Cato: It was inevitable we’d get to David Lynch’s famous first feature, ERASERHEAD (1977) for this column. However, we didn’t think we’d tackle it so soon. At first, my Lynchian sister and yours truly felt the film had enough coverage over the years, and for Lynch fans, is simply played out. But upon further thought, we agreed ERASERHEAD is the kind of film that can never have enough written about it, and its historical significance as both a classic midnight cult movie, as well as Lynch’s first feature, make it more than worthy of a closer look.

ERASERHEAD initially played at NYC’s Cinema Village, where it premiered in the fall of 1977 and played as a midnight attraction until the summer of 1978, when it switched over to the Waverly where it played for 99 consecutive weeks, becoming a genuine midnight cult hit. Today, the Waverly Twin is now known as the IFC Center, where they show the film about 4 times a year. Over the past few years, I’ve seen the film there 3 times and Sheri has seen it 6. There’s a certain aura that comes with seeing ERASERHEAD in the same theatre where it has earned its reputation and dazzled, baffled, and just plain freaked-out countless people over the past 34 years…so this column begins with a 35mm midnight viewing we attended there on a hot August night in the summer of 2012. The film print was a tad scratchy, but nonetheless beautiful, and as soon as it began (despite this being at least my 20th viewing), I still had goosebumps running all over me. And two minutes into it, I again felt as if I was experiencing something I had never seen before.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: Although I’ve seen ERASERHEAD more times than I can count, I always get the feeling I’m experiencing something truly remarkable each time I view it. Seeing it at the place where it all began has a special significance. The 35mm print we saw in August added to the nostalgic beauty of the David Lynch experience.

One thing I find especially endearing about viewing ERASERHEAD in a theater setting is experiencing it along with others, some of whom may be seeing it for the first time. ERASERHEAD is, for the most part, a very dark film with disturbing imagery and a thread of despair running through it. Even so, there are absurdly hilarious moments. Hearing a few people laugh uproariously during those moments really made the experience meaningful to me.

ERASERHEAD is as hard to categorize as it is to forget. Part post-apocalyptic tale, part horror flick, part art film, it could be one of the most polarizing films ever made. Some critics pooh-pooh it as nonsensical garbage. Fans see it as a masterpiece. I’m of the mind that almost everyone can take something away from this film. The message may not be pretty. It’s not intended to be a lighthearted tale. But sometimes reality is hard to swallow.

Nick Cato: The first ten minutes of ERASERHEAD are perhaps the most surreal and unusual among all of Lynch’s work. And it’s within this opening sequence where audiences are either drawn in or turned off.

We begin with a strange-looking man’s head seemingly floating through space. We eventually learn more about him (the main character, Henry Spencer), but here we don’t know what to make of this guy wearing a business suit with his hair piled high above his forehead. As Henry’s face coasts in and out of the frame, we see what looks like some kind of asteroid or planet floating behind him, and soon the scene shifts to a room where another strange-looking man sits looking out his window, pulling heavy-looking mechanical levers. Cut back to Henry, as a ghost-like embryonic creature comes from his mouth and begins its own otherworldly drifting.

After multiple viewings, this odd introduction can be taken many ways. It’s apparent the man pulling the levers represents God, or at least a god, and Henry is somehow seeking him, or aware that this being is not only watching him but “pulling the strings” of his life. The embryonic creature is Henry’s child, who comes in to play a bit later in the film. We later learn Henry and his girlfriend Mary had the child out of wedlock, so perhaps the entire opening of the film is a huge portrait of both Henry’s guilt and growing apprehension of fatherhood.

It should be noted that Lynch’s musical score—which at this point consists of odd-sounding winds and crashes—makes this sequence as eerie as it is fantastic. These sounds have become a staple of Lynch’s films, but here they’re raw and add a sense of uncomfortable surrounding. The film has barely begun and we’re already in a world we’ve never been in before.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: The sound for ERASERHEAD came courtesy of sound pioneer Alan Splet, who also did the sound for BLUE VELVET (1986) and DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989). If you’ve seen several Lynch films, you’re probably familiar with the eerie buzzing noise present in the background, just low enough to cause disquiet, and sometimes building to drive home a particularly stress-inducing scene. An interesting side note about Splet. Apparently, Mr. Lynch keeps some of Splet’s ashes in his studio.

The noise is the perfect background for our introduction to Henry (Jack Nance). In contrast to Nick’s interpretation, I’ve always felt that Henry doesn’t realize he’s being watched by the Man in the Planet (Jack Fisk). The man, who is decrepit and weary, could be a direct symbol of God, or perhaps he’s symbolic of predestination, those things over which we have absolutely no control. I’ve never felt that Henry realized that his fate was being decided by this God-like individual. Henry has set these things in motion, of course, by having sex with his girlfriend, Mary (Charlotte Stewart).

One thing I find fascinating about this film is that it is told in chronological order, despite the surreal circumstances. Many of Lynch’s later films do not necessarily follow a linear storyline. ERASERHEAD starts, albeit symbolically, right at the beginning, when that sperm is released, and the wheels are set in motion for a nightmare.

We then see Henry stumbling along in a bizarre city. He has to walk over muddy hills against a backdrop of poverty and industrial waste. He lives in a dingy, tiny apartment, in between the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall (Judith Roberts) and a brick wall. The girl across the hall tells Henry that a girl named Mary called for him on the payphone and left a message for him to come over for dinner that night.

His apartment is small, that of a bachelor. It’s a one-room apartment just large enough for his bed, which is covered with a hole-riddled blanket. We later discover that those holes came from Henry’s nervous habit of picking at the material. In fact, Henry maintains an exasperated, desperate expression throughout. He always looks like he’s being chased by a monster.

Nick Cato: After we see Henry at home in his apartment, he goes to his girlfriend’s house for dinner, where he meets her truly bizarre family. Mary’s mother is a ball of anger, waiting for the opportunity to confront Henry about the baby Mary recently had. Her father, in contrast, is quite happy, despite being a bit irritated on the state of their town’s plumbing (he claims to have laid every pipe in the city over his lengthy career). And in the kitchen we meet Mary’s grandmother, who we’re never quite sure is dead or alive, like the grandfather in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). Mary’s mother helps the seemingly deceased senior to mix the salad, and even places a cigarette in her mouth which we never see her inhale.

Once dinner is served, Mary’s father asks Henry to carve the chickens. They’re small game-hen-sized birds, and when Henry begins to slice, the chicken begins to bleed out, as its legs kick in stiff spasms. If ever there was a film that portrayed the awkwardness of meeting your girlfriend’s parents, ERASERHEAD nailed it, albeit in a most unusual fashion.

When Mary’s mother takes Henry away from the table, and asks him if he is responsible for Mary’s baby, the house turns dark. Henry’s paranoia and guilt begin to bubble, especially when he’s commanded to marry Mary. And in this one crucial sequence, we see Henry accept the fact his single, lonely life is coming to an end, although he assures Mary’s mother he loves her daughter, despite the continually apprehensive look on his face.

Sheri Sebastian Gabriel: Life for the newlyweds is anything but happy. Their baby is a horrific monster—literally! The baby, who was born prematurely, is wrapped in bandages and cries all day and night. Mary can’t handle it, and bails on Henry. She heads back to her parents’ house.

The infamous baby from ERASERHEAD. Henry’s pride and joy.

Henry seems to handle the kid well enough, but every time he tries to leave, the baby goes berserk. This scene rings true for anyone who has ever made it through the body-sucking, brain-draining first year of a child’s life. You can’t leave. The fear of being trapped is played out very well here. Henry, the man who lives between temptation and a brick wall, can’t even step outside without his baby screaming.

Marriage is another trap for Henry. We see Henry and Mary, who has apparently returned to their apartment, battling it out over the bed. Mary, sound asleep, takes up the majority of the bed, nearly knocking Henry off. She chomps her teeth and rubs her squeaky eyes. It drives Henry mad. Again, the fear of being trapped and having to deal with someone else’s quirks is portrayed here. Henry is drawn in the night to a mysterious sperm-like object he found in his mailbox and put on a shelf. It’s a symbol with all the subtlety of a brick to the head. Your sexuality is on a shelf now, pal, because you’re married and have a baby. It’s all over.

It’s hard to tell if Mary is really back, or if we’ve just witnessed Henry’s own dream-world perception of his new wife. The girl across the hall then appears, and Mary is gone. Seems the girl across the hall has locked herself out of her apartment. She asks Henry if she could stay with him. Then things get really weird.

Nick Cato: And I think this is where the film loses most people. It’s a dream sequence taken to surreal heights as only Lynch can do it, although at times during it, it seems we shoot back to reality for a few moments, and then back again. After staring into his radiator and dreaming about an odd-looking woman who promises—through song—that, “In heaven, everything is fine,” Henry is now seriously contemplating suicide. His own personal Angel of Death (the singing radiator woman) has assured him there’s nothing to be afraid of and that what lies beyond his current world can only be better.

‘In Heaven, everything is fine….”

In the middle of this sequence, we flash back to Henry’s room where he attempts to have sex with his neighbor, all the while trying to distract her from his hideous child who’s just across the room atop a dresser, wrapped in a dirty cloth. Henry’s neighbor seems to make eye contact with the creature, but as they begin to consummate their short-relationship, Henry and the woman begin to melt into the bed, bringing us to another dark sequence where we follow a worm traveling around the rock-planet seen at the beginning of the film.

It is here where we also discover why the film is called ERASERHEAD: when Henry loses his head while listening to the radiator woman sing, it falls on the stage floor and eventually finds itself on the street in an industrial area, where a young boy brings it to a factory. The head is examined and it’s discovered it’s made of the same material used to make erasers in pencils. The boy is paid for his find. Perhaps this is Henry feeling his new, standard existence as a husband and father, illustrated in a most bizarre and comical fashion?

While this off-beat section of soul-searching symbolism still causes me to scratch my head, in the end Henry wakes up…he has denied his angel’s offer of the after-life (despite the vivid, eerie dream) and decides to go on with his child.

Albeit not for too long.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: The scene at the pencil factory really drove home the full message of this film for me. When I initially saw ERASERHEAD, I believed it was about the pure fear of becoming a parent, which is terrifying enough. After a few viewings, I realized that it’s really about the futility of life itself.

Henry’s head pops off to be replaced by the grotesque head of his child. Henry’s head is used to make assembly line pencils, all exactly alike. The message is clear to me. We are only here to reproduce and become as useless as Mary’s grandmother. I don’t necessarily think Lynch meant it to be prophetic. Perhaps it was meant as a way to urge people to break away from the futility of existence, to be individuals rather than accept our role as reproducers. The act of reproduction doesn’t have to mean that we lose our own identities. If we allow ourselves to live in this manner, to be replaced by our children and to become useless, the only way out of our inevitable unhappiness is suicide. It’s the feel-good movie of the 20th Century!

Nick Cato: As if the film couldn’t become darker, Henry survives his dream and is now alone in the apartment with his child. He wonders if his dream was real and knocks on his neighbor’s door, only to find no one home. He paces his apartment a few times, looks at his child, and then hears his neighbor in the hallway. He opens the door he sees her with a male friend, then closes the door and spies on them through his keyhole, a picture of Henry going back to the common adolescent practice of voyeurism. His life is now quickly unwinding.

Henry begins to come to grip with reality (something few audiences do during screenings of this). He’s a father…for all he knows, a single father as Mary seems to be gone for good. He’s no longer his own man. There was no sexy neighbor in his bed last night. He looks back at his child, or what passes for a child, and decides to grab a pair of scissors, where he cuts it free of its bandages…then its life.

Upon the release of ERASERHEAD, critics cited the ending as grotesque, classless and disgusting. Perhaps it’s a bit of each. But what few took the time to understand is that, when Henry stabs his child to death, he’s really killing himself (proved by the final shot of Henry embracing the woman in the radiator). He has finally agreed that the next life is where he belongs, that he has become the norm and the norm isn’t where he wants to be. For the sake of the film, his child has been put out of its misery; for the sake of Henry, he has gone on to better things. It’s a dark, depressing statement, yet, in its own way, one full of beauty, especially in the brightness of the film’s final shot.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: In fact, the final shot is the only time in the entire film in which we see Henry smiling. He’s free. If life means being trapped, death is the happy solution.

I think that Henry killing his child really drives home the point that you can’t take back your actions in life. You can’t undo what’s been done. After the heinous act is completed, some horrible infection begins spilling from the baby’s guts. The baby’s gigantic, disembodied head begins popping up throughout the room, as if to say that this solution was not for Henry to decide. If things are predestined, as Lynch seems to believe given the existence of the Man in the Planet, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Nick Cato: Some may wonder what has drawn so many people to multiple viewings of film that deals with such depressing, bleak topics. While on the surface ERASERHEAD may seem like a dingy, gloomy freak show, created only to cater to acid-taking crowds, when you let its simple messages sink in, it actually becomes a celebration of life.

I know many people who consider ERASERHEAD to be too strange and that it makes no sense. This is hardly the case. While Lynch may have used unique symbols and methods in telling his tale, when you take away the bizarre imagery, it’s basically a look at one man’s fear of fatherhood and marriage, and of the mistakes he has made in life. And unlike your typical by-the-numbers Hollywood movie, Lynch’s nightmare-ish vision only improves and has more to offer with each viewing. As far as debut films go, ERASERHEAD is simply incredible.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: I’d like to go on record as saying that ERASERHEAD is not for everyone. Some people see movies for an escape. Some enjoy a good action flick to get away from the doldrums of everyday life. Some people love romantic comedies because they provide some solace for the downtrodden. ERASERHEAD is a film for those who like to ponder big questions.

The broader appeal of Lynch—to me, at least—is that he gives you something you can sink your teeth into. Each time I watch ERASERHEAD, I pick up another layer. There’s always something else just below the surface that I didn’t pick up the last time I saw it. If you’re looking to escape the harsh realities of life, this film—and possibly most of Lynch’s films—would not appeal to you. But if you’re looking for something that will make you question existence, something that will force you to dig a little deeper, there are few films that come closer to perfection than ERASERHEAD.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato and Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

(NOTE: although ERASERHEAD is easily available on DVD, it is strongly suggested you seek out a midnight screening. The film continues to screen in theaters around the globe to this day).

 

Henry (Jack Nance) sits abandoned by his wife in his small apartment, contemplating fatherhood and his future.

THE APPARITION (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Demons, Ghosts!, Haunted Houses, Paranormal with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE APPARITION (2012)
By Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

(The Scene: A darkened room full of electronic equipment. Three college students sit around a table, looking intense and frightened.)

STUDENT #1: We must concentrate on this statuette. (Plunks figurine onto table that looks strangely like GOOFY). This is a 3D interpretation of the undead spirit we are trying to contact. Our combined brainwaves, amplified by those electronic amplifiers, will stimulate the spirit, draw him out from his world into ours, and then with those containment machines over there, we’ll be able to harness and contain the evil spirit. Why and for what purpose? Because, by using this electronic equipment, we’ll be able to prove that the supernatural exists!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Have you guys heard yourselves lately? (ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES burst into room.) Contacting evil spirits using brainwaves, amplified by electronic devices. The last time I heard this much scientific mumbo jumbo it was Christopher Lloyd talking to Michael J. Fox about fast cars, lightning, and time travel!

L.L. SOARES: What college did you guys go to? The Colin Clive School of Electronics?

MA: My dog makes more sense when he barks!

STUDENT #1: It’s not our fault you guys can’t follow an intellectually challenging topic like this.

LS: So now we’re dumb? Okay, Einstein, explain to us how this equipment works then.

STUDENT #1: Well, I press that button over there and— um.

LS: I thought so.

MA: Marty Feldman with a hump on his back makes more sense than you guys!

STUDENT#1 (hurt): Gee, why don’t you tell us what you really think?

LS: I think you’re a bunch of idiots! Can we go home now?

MA: That’d be too easy. Love it or hate it, we have to review today’s movie.

LS: Why don’t you start then? I’ve got some college students I’d like to scare. (Makes weird faces at the students sitting at the table.)

MA: Sure. Today we’re reviewing THE APPARITION (2012) a new horror movie starring Ashley Greene—Alice in the TWILIGHT movies—as a young woman who, along with her boyfriend, runs afoul a nasty evil spirit in their new home. Sound familiar? Of course it does! It’s PARANORMAL ACTIVITY all over again, or at least it tries to be. It plays more like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY “lite.”

THE APPARITION gets off to a muddled start, as first we see film footage shot in the 1970s of a group of people holding a séance of sorts trying to contact the spirit of a dead man, and I’m thinking, this is going to be a “lost footage” movie, but this footage only lasts a few minutes.

LS: Thank goodness. But the funniest aspect of the footage is that it’s supposed to be a group of “psychologists.” Boy, what a serious scientific experiment this is! And they’re all laughing and making goofy faces. Looks more like a prank to me. They call it the “Charles Experiment,” since they’re trying to contact a recently-departed friend named Charles in the séance. They even have a really awful hand-drawn picture of him on the table during the whole thing.

MA: The movie then jumps to video footage from today, of a group of college students in a room filled with electronic apparatus as they attempt to repeat the 70s experiment, this time using electronic equipment to help them contact the dead. When this experiment goes badly, the film then jumps ahead to the story of a happy young couple Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan), who have only just recently moved into a new home in sunny California.

LS: Ben was one of the college kids in that second video we saw, along with his friends Patrick (Tom Felton) and Lydia (Julianna Guill), by the way, where they conjure forth some kind of entity from the netherworld! And this time, instead of a bad picture of Charles, Lydia made a statue of him because a “3D representation has more power” or some such gobbly gook.

MA: In no time, strange things begin to happen to this happy couple in their new home, as doors open in the middle of the night, bureaus move, hideous mold appears in unexpected places, and strange noises are heard, all things that the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies did a much better job with. So, what’s going on? Well, it turns out that since boyfriend Ben was part of that college experiment to contact the dead, the evil entity they called forth has followed Ben to his new home. Why? How? Who knows!

Who cares? I certainly didn’t. The rest of the movie is about Kelly and Ben’s attempts to get rid of the spirit that doesn’t seem to want to leave them alone, and really, this sentence is more interesting than the events which occur in THE APPARITION.

LS: Yeah, that evil spirit must have a really good GPS, because why else would it go all the way from the college to Ben’s house just to torment him? Of course, the killer line here is when Patrick shows up later and tells Ben “It’s not the house that’s haunted, it’s you.” Which is pretty much the same line that was used in one of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies! Can you say “big time rip-off?”

(The lights flicker, and the room goes dark. When the lights come back on, LS and MA are no longer in the room full of electronic equipment. Now they are in an unfamiliar apartment)

LS: Huh? Someone needs to pay the electrical bill around here.

MA (unfazed): THE APPARITION is a sad excuse for a horror movie. Talk about nothing happening in a movie!

(Suddenly, JERRY SEINFELD enters room.)

SEINFELD: It’s a movie about nothing! (EXITS)

MA: Well, that may have worked for Seinfeld and his classic TV show, but it doesn’t cut it in a horror movie. Something better darn well happen—but in this case, really, nothing does.

It plays out like a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY wannabe, but without any serious frights. I wasn’t scared, and I didn’t get the feeling that the rest of the audience I saw it with—a silent audience—was scared, either. As a result, it’s a standard haunted house tale that is completely forgettable.

LS: Yeah, it’s like they took a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie and, instead of presenting it as “found footage,” they just made it as a typical horror movie. In fact, it’s so much like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, you’d think that the creators of those films might have grounds for a lawsuit. The only difference is the silliness about the “Charles Experiment,” which is a total joke. People have had séances for centuries, but all of a sudden, add some electronic equipment, and you might just open the doorway to hell. Or purgatory….or Disneyland!

The movie INSIDIOUS (2010) did something similar—telling a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY type story in a traditional movie format without all the security cameras— but at least it made things different enough to keep it interesting. THE APPARITION doesn’t even try to be original.

MA: Plus I remember INSIDIOUS being scary, or at least the first half of it was, anyway.

(KRAMER from the SEINFELD show suddenly charges into the room. An unseen audience applauds madly. He makes a bunch of goofy faces and then leaves)

LS: What the hell was that about?

MA: We may have opened a portal into the SEINFELD show.

LS: Oh my god!

MA: THE APPARITION is also a different story than the one depicted in its trailers. The movie’s tagline is “Once you believe, you die,” and the implication was that this was going to be an evil entity created by the human mind that gained power when people believed in it, but the story in this movie hardly touches upon this at all. The evil entity in THE APPARITION feeds off energy, and it uses this energy to enter our world. How exactly it does this isn’t properly explained, and when the characters in the movie try to explain it, they sound unconvinced, and their dialogue comes off as phony and contrived, like a bad script in a bad horror movie, which of course, it is.

LS: Don’t even mention that awful trailer to me! Not only does it present us with a totally different movie, based on how the story is presented in the trailer, but it gives away the ending! I’ve never seen such a blatant cheat like that since they did the same thing in the trailer for QUARANTINE (2008). If the only scary scene you have in a movie is the very last scene, don’t use it in your trailer and ruin the ending for people who actually pay to see the movie! Hell, maybe this just means your movie sucks, if it’s the only scene you can use in a trailer to generate interest!

MA: Yeah, THE APPARITION is another movie where, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the final shot of the movie. What a rip-off is all I can say! I won’t say which scene it is, but if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen it.

LS: I think most people who have seen the trailer can figure it out.

(A disembodied voice starts talking in the background)

LS: What the hell is that?

(Voice gets clearer. It’s a tinny voice, like someone talking through an old intercom)

VOICE: Jerry, can you buzz me up? Jerry?

MA: It’s George Costanza asking to be buzzed up on the SEINFELD show.

LS: Who knew SEINFELD could be so damn scary?

MA: Well, this is certainly scarier than THE APPARITION!

LS; Kramer’s hair is scarier than THE APPARITION!

VOICE: Jerry, you there? Jerrrry!

MA: I have nothing against the basic concept of THE APPARITION. I’m a sucker for even the most contrived plot devices, as long as the movie does a good job selling the concept to me. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), for example: what a ridiculous concept! Yet the movie succeeded in convincing me Abraham Lincoln really was fighting vampires and it made perfect sense, even while I recognized that, in reality, it made no sense at all. THE APPARITION does a lousy job selling its concept. It’s as if screenwriter Todd Lincoln simply hadn’t thought this idea through, and it shows in the final product.

LS: This is Todd Lincoln’s first time as a director of a feature film. Before this, he only made a few shorts. He also wrote THE APPARITION. As a director, he has potential. He gives us a (mostly) coherent story, and he had decent production values. As a writer, he’s not so hot. THE APPARITION is completely unoriginal, silly, and—sadly, for a horror movie—completely lacking in scares. Maybe with a better writer, Lincoln could give us something worthwhile. But THE APPARITION is not going to put this guy on the map.

MA: Was there anything I liked about THE APPARITION? Yes, there was one thing, and that was the performance by Ashley Greene as Kelly. She’s the only reason I’m going to give this movie even one knife. Greene is stunningly beautiful, and she can act as well. She’s on screen for most of this film, and that’s a very good thing, because while I sat there and waited endlessly for something to happen to move the god-awful plot along, at the very least I got to watch Greene, and she’s easy to watch. I actually liked her more here than in the TWILIGHT movies.

LS: That is actually scary! I was going to say the same thing. Greene is hot, and I could watch her all day, especially in the scenes where she’s in a bikini or in a sexy nightie. Hell, it didn’t even matter that this was a lame horror movie with nothing scary in it, as long as I got to see Greene walking around with her butt cheeks showing. But that only goes so far. And beyond that, THE APPARITION has nothing! By the way, the reason she’s better here than in the TWILIGHT movies is because, in those movies, she’s just another supporting character in a vampire soap opera. Here, she’s the lead. And even if the movie is a complete piece of crap, Greene shows us that she can carry a film.

MA: Agreed!

(Another disembodied voice is heard in the background. This time a female voice)

VOICE 2: Jerry? Where are you? We’re down here waiting to be buzzed up.

MA: It’s Elaine from SEINFELD.

LS: I thought she was the Vice President now.

MA: No, that’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s new HBO show, VEEP.

LS: Why are we promoting that show? It’s awful.

MA: I’m not promoting it. I was just answering your question.

VOICE 2: Jerry, can you hear us? Are you there at all?

(VOICE trails off)

MA: Sebastian Stan is also pretty likeable as Greene’s boyfriend Ben, although I still don’t understand why he doesn’t come clean with Kelly immediately and tell her as soon as these weird things start happening to him, that this had happened to him before. It’s not like he’s scared or anything, because he’s certainly not acting scared. It seemed like just a forced plot point to have the two leads argue, to generate some dramatic tension in the movie. Someone needed to generate tension. The ghosts certainly weren’t doing it!

LS: Yeah, he has all this ghost-detecting equipment in the garage, and he doesn’t tell her. What’s the big secret? It’s not like she won’t believe him, once things start getting weird. In fact, Kelly is the only one here who makes any sense, because the first time things get really weird, she just gets up and leaves! Finally, a logical reaction to this ghost crap. So it’s not like she’s hard to convince. Ben also gets numerous phone messages and emails from his friend Patrick, warning him that another experiment to trap the entity (which Ben didn’t take part in) failed, and things have gotten more dangerous, and yet he completely ignores them. He doesn’t respond to Patrick (until much later in the movie) and doesn’t tell Kelly. Why? Doesn’t he think this might be an interesting topic for conversation? Ben is just a moron. So yeah, actor Sebastian Stan is likeable enough, but his character is a dope, and hard to care about. There’s also something odd about Stan, like he’s a foreign actor in a dubbed movie—like he’s one of those odd actors you see in a Mento’s commercial. I can’t fully explain it, but there’s something just off about him.

MA: Tom Felton as Patrick, Ben’s college buddy who was in charge of the electronic séance to contact the dead, gets to utter the worst lines in the movie, things like “We tried to contain it, but it escaped, and now it’s more dangerous than ever!” and “With this equipment amplifying our brainwaves, it won’t be like four of us in this room, but 4,000 of us!” Way to go, Dr. Evil!

As you said earlier, THE APPARITION was written and directed by Todd Lincoln, and I can’t say that he made much of an impression. I didn’t like the script at all. I thought the explanation of the entity/apparition made little sense, and worse, what this movie suffered from the most, was a lack of a significant threat. The entity, or whatever the heck it is, is hardly in this film at all, and it’s not scary. I kept waiting for something scary to happen. I’m still waiting.

I found myself pining for some bloody monsters, some cheap special effects, and even some gory killings to liven things up. Instead, all I got was strange statuettes and weird silhouettes, and even without the pirouettes, that’s too many “ettes” for me!

LS: And don’t forget the creepy mold!

MA: I give THE APPARITION—a weak horror movie not even worth your time on DVD— one knife, and the only reason it doesn’t get zero knives is because I enjoyed Ashley Greene in the lead.

LS: Once again, the scariest part of this review is that we’re in complete agreement. I give THE APPARITION one knife as well, and for the same reason.

Todd Lincoln, you need to go back to screenwriter school.

(The lights flicker and go out. When they come back on, there is a large dark shape looming behind LS and MA. It has its arms outstretched and moves forward toward them)

LS: What the hell!

(LS and MA turn and face the terrifying entity. Which then removes its Grim Reaper-ish hood, to reveal its face. It’s really JERRY SEINFELD!)

SEINFELD: HAHA. I did it! I scared you guys! You should see your faces!

VOICE OVER THE INTERCOM: Jerry, are you there? Can you buzz us up PLEASE!

 

-END-

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE APPARITION ~ ONE knife!

LL Soares also gives THE APPARITION ~ONE knife.

Quick Cuts: Favorite Movies by DAVID CRONENBERG

Posted in 2012, 70s Horror, 80s Horror, Body Horror, Classic Films, Cult Movies, David Cronenberg, Disease!, Disturbing Cinema, ESP, Evil Kids!, Hit Men, Indie Horror, Parasites!, Telekinesis with tags , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS Presents: THE MOVIES OF DAVID CRONENBERG
Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, Mark Onspaugh, and Jenny Orosel

Director David Cronenberg has been giving us nightmares for over 40 years.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With the release of David Cronenberg’s latest movie, COSMOPOLIS (2012), we’ve decided to take a look at our favorite Cronenberg movies.

*****

L.L. SOARES: David Cronenberg is such an iconic director, and has made so many great films to choose from. But, without a doubt, my all-time favorite Cronenberg film is CRASH (1990), which happens to be based on one of my all-time favorite novels (of the same name) by J.G. Ballard. With an amazing cast that includes James Spader, Holly Hunter, Deborah Kara Unger, Rosanna Arquette, and Elias Koteas as charismatic anti-hero Vaughan, it’s the story of a man (Spader as “Jim Ballard”) who experiences a traumatic car accident and then discovers a strange cult-like group of people that fetishizes (and just about worships) car crashes. Cronenberg captures the cold, antiseptic feel of Ballard’s very bleak novel, and the movie was pretty controversial (like a lot of Cronenberg films) when it first came out.

(Not to be confused with the Paul Haggis film “Crash:” from 2001)

Cronenberg has made so many great movies. But my other favorites include:

DEAD RINGERS (1988) —With Jeremy Irons in one of his best performances ever as twin gynecologists who share a relationship with one woman (Genevieve Bujold), who can’t tell them apart. Then things start to get violent.

VIDEODROME (1983)—With James Woods as a man who finds a very disturbing cable TV channel that changes his life in scary ways. Including the famous scene where Woods has a VCR slot in his stomach. Also starring Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry.

THE BROOD (1979) —the first Cronenberg film I ever saw, and still a favorite, with little monster kids created from the rage of Samantha Eggar. With Oliver Reed.

NAKED LUNCH (1991) —The underground classic novel by William S. Burroughs was considered unfilmable, but that didn’t stop Cronenberg from bringing it to the big screen. He makes it coherent by mixing a lot of Burroughs’ wild imagery with biographical incidents from the writer’s life.

*****

JENNY OROSEL: I have a soft spot in my heart for CRASH (1990), seeing as I got my driver’s license in a CRASH t-shirt (I got my license late—I’m not that young). The humor was lost on my tester.

NAKED LUNCH (1991) blew me away because I had no idea how anyone could turn that book into a movie, and I think he pulled it off the only way possible.

*****

 

NICK CATOSHIVERS (a.k.a. THEY CAME FROM WITHIN) (1975) is my personal favorite Cronenberg film. It’s a genuinely scary tale of a parasite that turns the residents of a luxury condo into possessed sexual predators. It’s not his best technical achievement, but it gets the goosebumps going better than most standard horror films.

While I’d like to list VIDEODROME as my second favorite, that honor goes to CRASH (1996). Only Cronenberg can take such a bizarre subject (people turned on by car crashes) and make it a film that holds up amazingly well to repeat viewings. It’s unlike any film before or since.

*****

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Without doubt, my favorite David Cronenberg movie is THE FLY (1986), which is one of my favorite horror movies from the 1980s, one of my favorites of all time, and certainly one of my favorite remakes.  I love the performances by Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, the gruesome special effects, and how this film captured how it would really be to have your DNA mixed with the DNA of a fly, a concoction that would occur at the molecular level.  Cronenberg is masterful at the helm here.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

I’m also a fan of VIDEODROME (1983) and THE DEAD ZONE (1983).

*****

 PAUL MCMAHON:  It feels traitorous to choose only a single Cronenberg film as my favorite, so I’ll pick two.

First, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005). Its brilliance starts with the emotionless opening sequence of random cruelty that mirrors our fears. The film moves you through the realization of a specific act of violence and explores the way that one event changes the people involved. Violence shoves its way into your life and grows roots. No matter how you try to hide from the memory of such a traumatic event, it never goes away and never lets you forget. Cronenberg’s movie dramatizes this brilliantly, and is very uncomfortable to watch.

Second, and I’m just realizing this is another brilliant representation of trauma —THE BROOD (1979). This time the violence comes from divorce and the ensuing custody battle over a young daughter. THE BROOD features a progressive psychotherapist who has developed a way to make his patients’ internal and invisible pain manifest physically, where it can be seen and acknowledged. Cronenberg himself was struggling through just such a divorce while he directed this movie, and his pain bleeds through the screen. Like the patients of Dr. Raglan, David Cronenberg crafted a physical representation of his inner turmoil. He has said that it’s the one film of his that he cannot bear to watch again.

*****

MARK ONSPAUGHSCANNERS (1981) —So audacious and amazing! I remembered hearing something about this movie and my wife and I were at a theater where they showed a red band trailer. I whispered, “I think this is the movie where people’s heads blow up,” knowing she’d want to look away —she didn’t hear me —man, did she shriek when that happened! For months after it came out, a friend and I kept repeating Michael Ironside’s line, “I’m gonna suck your brain DRY!”

THE FLY (1986) —It was Cronenberg who layered in the romance into Charles Pogue’s script, elevating this movie from mere creature feature to a masterpiece of horrific tragedy. I don’t think Jeff Goldblum or Geena Davis have ever been better.

So many to choose from, including EASTERN PROMISES (2007), HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) and SPIDER (2002). If you want to take what amounts to a class in cinema, watch SPIDER with the director’s commentary – I don’t want to spoil it for those who didn’t see it, but there is a major change in the movie I didn’t even detect, at first – brilliant.

*****

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  And that about sums up David Cronenberg.  Thanks, everyone!

L.L. SOARES:  And thank you, readers, for joining us today!

—-END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, Mark Onspaugh, and Jenny Orosel