Archive for the Bizarro Movies Category

UPSTREAM COLOR (2013)

Posted in 2013, Art Movies, Bizarro Movies, Enigmatic Films, Experimental Films, Independent Cinema, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Mind Experiments!, Something Different, Weird Movies with tags , , , , on April 16, 2013 by knifefighter

UPSTREAM COLOR
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

upstream_color_xlgBack in 2004, director Shane Carruth made his debut feature, PRIMER. It was a little indie film about four guys trying to start their own computer company in a garage, and mysterious storage lockers, and time travel. The movie is told in such a way that you only figure it out a little at a time, but it was a terrific first film, and it made Carruth a director to look for. Unfortunately, it took him until 2013 to release his second film, UPSTREAM COLOR, and it is in very limited release in just a few cities. I hope it’s not as long a wait for his next one.

For some reason, I just like the title itself. UPSTREAM COLOR. Just a really cool name for a movie. So what is it actually about? Well, that’s a little tougher to explain. But I’ll try.

Carruth has a talent for enigmatic films that you need to really think about. In this vein, he’s a lot like David Lynch or David Cronenberg, although Carruth’s films are nothing like theirs. How much you’ll enjoy UPSTREAM COLOR depends on how strongly you feel you have to have all the answers, and how open you are to new experiences.

UPSTREAM COLOR begins with some kids drinking some weird concoction made from little grubs harvested from plants by a mysterious guy. Is he some kind of mad scientist, or something else entirely? When the kids drink the liquid, they are able to read each other’s minds – or it looks that way. When one kid tries to hit another, the other one is able to know exactly how to deflect the blow. Two other kids close their eyes and do the exact same hand movements in synch. What exactly are these grubs?

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The guy then kidnaps a woman at a bar named Kris (Amy Seimetz, who is actually quite striking in some scenes), using a Taser. He makes her ingest one of the grub/worms and then brings her back to a house where he proceeds to brainwash her. He convinces her that ice water is most wonderful reward she can get, simply by telling her it is so. He tells her she cannot look into his face, because it is made of the same material that makes up the sun, and it is too bright to look at. He makes her copy out long passages from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”  and fold the papers into links to a giant paper chain. He also gets her to take out a loan on her house and withdraw all of her money from the bank and give it to him.

At one point, when she’s in bed, she sees worms running under her skin, and tries to remove them with a kitchen knife.

We are then introduced to another odd gentleman, called simply The Sampler (Andrew Sensenig) in the credits. He performs an odd operation on Kris involving her and a small pig, the grafting of some of the pig’s flesh onto Kris’s body, and what looks like a blood transfusion between them. The Sampler also runs a pig farm, presumably stocked with pigs that have been used in similar operations. The Sampler gets his name because when he isn’t tending to his pig farm, he is wandering around the woods with a microphone and a synthesizer, recording all kinds of strange noises and sampling them to play back later.

After her bank account is drained, Kris gets away and tries to adjust to normal life again, but it’s hard to go back. She loses her job, and her personality becomes almost robotic. It is then that she meets Jeff (director Carruth) on a commuter train and they begin having conversations that eventually lead to a romantic relationship. And then she begins to realize that maybe Jeff has experienced a similar abduction in his past, because he has the same kind of knife marks on his leg that she does…

So what do Thoreau, pigs and the ingesting of strange worms have to do with each other? You’ll have to see UPSTREAM COLOR for yourself, and it may take some work to figure it out. UPSTREAM COLOR is the kind of movie that does not provide ready answers, but that’s okay. There are so many movies that try to explain every little detail of what’s going on, that it’s a relief sometimes to find a movie like this, that refuses to make it easy. I’m still not one hundred percent sure about every aspect of the movie, but I do know that I found the film to be very compelling, and I’m sure I’ll see it again at some point.

Kris (Amy Seimetz) undergoes a strange abduction in Shane Carruth's UPSTREAM COLOR.

Kris (Amy Seimetz) experiences a strange abduction in Shane Carruth’s UPSTREAM COLOR.

The direction by Carruth (who also wrote the script) is quite good, as is the cinematography (which, it turns out, is also by Carruth). It’s a visually interesting film, with minimal dialogue in its first half, and yet it might just captivate you from the moment it begins. Just go in expecting something completely different, and you won’t be disappointed. This is not like the typical Hollywood film. It’s another animal entirely.

And for that reason, because it plays by its own rules, I give UPSTREAM COLOR three and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives UPSTREAM COLOR ~three and a half knives.

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Has An Appointment with the DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, Action Movies, Apes!, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Bizarro Movies, Campy Movies, Mad Doctors!, Mexican Wrestlers, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , , on March 14, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963)

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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.

K. Gordon Murray strikes again!  The infamous importer of Mexican kiddie matinees has delivered another badly dubbed (at Soundlab!  In Coral Gables, Florida!) arrow to my heart with a film I love beyond any reasonable credulity.  It’s truly awful, but in all the right ways.  I should turn away in horror at this vivisection of artistic film, this shadow of celluloid, but I can’t take my eyes off the terrible thing.  It goes beyond bad cinema to become one of the most entertaining stinkers of all time.  Yes, I’m talking about that “gorgeous ladies of wrestling versus the mad scientist south of the border” opus, DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963), aka ROCK ‘N ROLL WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC APE, aka THE SEX MONSTER!

The amazing movie begins with a pre-credits attack on a woman by what looks like Captain Caveman, followed by two rather burly gals wrestling in a ring and stock footage of an enthralled, applauding audience.  Gloria Venus, the winner, has a moment with her sister, Alice.  Then we’re suddenly in a mad scientist’s laboratory, where an obviously mad scientist tries to perform a brain transplant on the girl who was kidnapped by the hirsute horror, whose name is Gomar.  The operation is a failure, because the brain they transplanted wasn’t strong enough.  The doc believes this is because they’ve only used women with low IQs, and they need to find an intellectual woman with a stronger brain.  The mad doctor keeps Gomar locked in a basement.  Gomar is a man with a transplanted gorilla’s brain, a perfect half man / half beast, his animal instincts dominating the human in their the symbiotic relationship.  Yes, one day, Gomar will turn into a real gorilla.

How lady wrestlers train.

How lady wrestlers train.

The next morning, the papers proclaim “Mad Scientist Strikes Again!”  Alice works in a scientific laboratory, with a Professor Ruiz who really, really likes her.  Two detectives are on the case of the Mad Scientist Murders, discovering the fourth female with her brain scooped out of her skull.  The short one  is intended to provide the dubious comic relief.  Really, the flick is funny enough without his shenanigans.

Next, we are in a room where two men wear strange white masks that resemble KKK hoods.  One of them, the mad scientist, instructs a room full of crooks to go with Gomar and his nifty new bullet-proof mask and shirt, and kidnap a smart woman….and it’s ALICE!  Sure enough, she’s easily hijacked, shoved in a cab, and Gomar has a long fight with patrolling officers before escaping.

Back in the lab, the masked surgeons operate on Alice and, even though she’s an intelligent woman, she also dies on the slab.  “Isn’t there any human being who can survive the shock?” the mad doctor asks.  His partner suggests an athlete, a powerful woman . . . like a lady wrestler?

The taller detective goes to the lady wrestler training gym.  He asks Gloria Venus (who is in training) to accompany him.

“It’s your sister,” he says.

“Is she sick?” she asks.

“She’s suffered a very bad accident.”

“Alice is hurt?”

“Would you accompany me?”

“To the doctor’s?”

“To identify her.”

“OH!”

Yes, the dialogue is certainly on par with that of Robert Altman.

Alice’s boss, the scientist (a scientist . . . hmm. . . ) mourns the girl, offering his services if the police need any help.  Gloria Venus is understandably upset, but the detective tells her, “You must trust in the local police.  Although, we haven’t got a single clue.”  Yeah, I’d trust them with that kind of confident revelation.

Back in the training gym, Gloria Venus gets a new partner, Golden Rubi, when a fight breaks out amongst the lady wrestlers.  Both women have that glamorous 1960s look, and they look nothing like any real female wrestlers.  Gloria Venus is a dead ringer for Elizabeth Taylor and Rubi resembles a ponytailed Marie Windsor.  They decide to shack up in an apartment together (now that’s more like the lady wrestler’s I’ve seen in the past) and they win their first tag team match together soon afterwards.  The detectives are in the audience to watch the match, falling for the two women in the process.  This match goes on for a good five minutes, and the choreography is pretty good, actually.  It ends happily, with dinner and dancing between the foursome!

And in this corner..Golden Rubi and Gloria Venus in DOCTOR OF DOOM.

And in this corner..Golden Rubi and Gloria Venus in DOCTOR OF DOOM.

Later that night, the girls awaken to discover several kidnappers climbing in their apartment window, and they proceed to beat the hell out of them!  This disappoints the hooded mad scientist.  The cops recommend they allow themselves to be kidnapped if these men try it again (What?  What?  What?).  The cops will follow them and arrest the bad guys.

Later, after the women work out, Gomar stalks the two girls in his bullet-proof duds, and he easily overcomes them and places them in the crooks’ car.  The detectives follow, but they set off ‘the danger signal’ at the lab.  They are assaulted by the criminals, but they fight back.  Gloria Venus awakens on the slab, and she gets Rubi and they join in the fighting.  They unmask one of the white hooded scientists and discover it is Boris, the assistant to Alice’s boss, the professor.  Boris demands police protection.  They want to know who the main mad doctor is.  He stand, says, “The mad doctor is… is… argh!”  He has a heart attack! During the autopsy, they find a needle in his skin covered in poison.  It was murder, and it was the killer was someone in the policeman’s office at the time!

The chief mad doctor (still at large and still disguised under a hood) orders his number one crook to find three or four other bad guys and kill those two detectives.  The guys give the wrestling gals watches that have transmitters and locators in them.  Within twenty four hours, the two detectives are kidnapped, and the girls are going to have to locate and rescue them!  Feminism thrives in low-budget Mexican horror films!

The boys are taken “to the death chamber,” locked in a room near Gomar.  Suddenly, the walls grow spikes and start contracting towards each other.  Soon, they’ll be speared and squished, but they turn on their transmitters, and the gals drive the streets of Mexico City until they find them at the same warehouse/laboratory where they were nearly brain-transplanted.  They break in and are immediately attacked by teams of bad guys in black, wearing black hoods.  Let the brawling begin!  They save the day just in time.

The detectives chase after the mad doctor while the girls attack his new assistant, splashing acid all over his hooded face and setting the place on fire.  They leave the mad doctor to burn to death (not very sportsmanlike, but, hey, he tried to take out their brains), but Gomar breaks loose and saves his creator from the inferno.

Later, the girls find out one of their fellow lady wrestlers has been missing for several days, taken by the professor, Alice’s boss, who is the remaining mad doctor.  Well, duh, who else could it have been?.  Sure enough, she’s been kidnapped by the crazed quack, and he has transplanted Gomar’s brain into the woman’s head.  “She’s alive!  She made it!”  He names her Vendetta, and he commands her to destroy Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi in the wrestling ring in front of thousands of spectators, wearing a nifty cape, Spandex leotards, and a cool lightning mask. Hahahahahahahahaha!

Who will win the match?  Will Alice’s death be avenged?  Well, this is a family film.  What do you think?

The movie is capably directed by that Mexican auteur Rene Cardona, who supplied the world with Taco-Trash flicks for decades.  He made such inspired exploitation films as SANTA CLAUS (1959), NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES (1969), the soccer players-turned-cannibal epic SURVIVE! (1976), and numerous Santo masked wrestler flicks.  Interestingly, his son Rene Cardona Jr. has continued the exploitation tradition, upholding his family name with such hits as GUYANA, CULT OF THE DAMNED (1979), TINTORERA: KILLER SHARK (1977), BEAKS:THE MOVIE (as opposed to BEAKS: THE STAGE MUSICAL? 1987), and the ultra-trashy CYCLONE (1978).  Ah, the grindhouse family tradition continues.  It almost brings a tear to one’s eyes.

Apeman Gomar models his new bullet-proof duds.

Apeman Gomar models his new bullet-proof duds.

The wrestling women are quite beautiful.  Gloria Venus is played by Lorena Velazquez, who is still working today in Mexican soap operas.  She’s much better than the material here, although the dubbing makes nearly everything she says amusing.  She can also be seen in PLANET OF THE FEMALE INVADERS (1967), SANTO VS. THE ZOMBIES (1962), and the great SHIP OF MONSTERS (1960).   Golden Rubi is played by American Elizabeth Campbell, who co-starred with Velazquez in several Luchadoras (female wrestler) movies in Mexico before dropping out of sight and returning to America.

DOCTOR OF DOOM is an insane movie, full of campy dialogue and wrestling women thrashing the crap out of each other.  It has bumbling cops and robbers, brain transplants, pretty women in short nightgowns, great jazzy bongo-filled music, tacky comic relief, a finale atop a water tower with police shooting at Vendetta, and Gomar the ape-man.  Honestly, what else do you need in a cheap movie? A lot happens in only 80 minutes, so there’s never a boring second.

Plus, there’s a sequel, THE WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)!

I give DOCTOR OF DOOM three half-nelsons out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013)

Posted in 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Bizarro Movies, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Dark Comedies, ESP, Fun Stuff!, Heightened Abilities, Highly Stylized Films, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Monsters, Plot Twists, Psychic Powers, Something Different, Twisted, Unusual Films with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013)
By L.L. Soares (with a guest appearance by Michael Arruda)

John-Dies-at-the-End-poster

(THE SCENE: An all-night Chinese restaurant at midnight. DAVID WONG —looking a lot like actor Chase Williamson—sits in a booth. MICHAEL ARRUDA and LL SOARES enter and sit down across from him)

WONG: I didn’t think you’d make it.

LS: We’re professionals. Of course we made it.

WONG: Did anyone follow you?

MA: No, I made sure to drive erratically to throw anyone off our trail.

LS: You drove like that on purpose?

MA: Of course I did.

LS: Yeah, sure.

WONG: Enough of your bickering. I only have a limited time to tell you all about the soy sauce and the creatures from another dimension and the remarkable Dr. Albert Marconi.

LS: No need. We just saw the movie. We’re all up to date.

WONG: Are you sure? Did you watch the right movie?

LS: Of course we did!

MA: Calm down. Why don’t you tell him what you saw?

LS: Okay, sure. The movie JOHN DIES AT THE END is the tale of David Wong, who looked just like you…

(WONG nods)

LS: Wong is in a restaurant, just like this one, telling his tale to a reporter named Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti). It’s about how he was pulled into a secret plan to save the Earth, along with his friend John (Rob Mayes), who sings in a punk rock band called Three Armed Sally.

Wong’s story begins with a chance meeting with a Jamaican guy at a party named Robert Marley, who tells David several things he should not know. Later that night, or rather the next morning at 3am, David is awoken by a call from his friend John, begging for help. He goes to help John battle some supernatural baddies and then ends up in a police station where a detective tells him that the night before, a bunch of people went to the trailer of a certain Robert Marley after a party and four are missing, the rest are dead, and John is a suspect. David has no clue what is going on, but a phone call from John (that was made the night before but just reaches him now) tells him he needs to get out of there. But he has to fight a man who appears to be a cop (but isn’t) first.

To explain beyond this (early) point would be kind of pointless. JOHN DIES AT THE END isn’t that kind of linear, straight-forward movie that caters to an easy synopsis. Suffice to say that David Wong goes on an adventure that involves a girl named Amy (Fabianne Therese) who has one prosthetic hand, her dog Bark Lee, Dave’s friend Fred (Jimmy Wong), a white rapper wannabe named Justin White (Jonny Weston), the world-famous magician Dr. Marconi (Clancy Brown), and John, who dies early on in the movie, but doesn’t exactly stay dead.

The catalyst for all this is a drug called “soy sauce” (because that’s what it looks like). When you take it, either it creates vivid hallucinations or opens your mind to realities we aren’t normally aware of. I’m not saying which. It’s also alive and when ingested it either kills you, or uses you for its own purposes. And those purposes ultimately involve a plot by people in an alternate world who worship a living machine called Korrok (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson), and their desire to enter our plane of existence and make our world like theirs—a horrible place that lives only to serve Korrok.

The movie was based on the novel by David Wong…

(WONG nods)

LS: …this is getting a little confusing.

The movie is pretty good. mainly because you’re never sure what is going to happen next. I liked the fast, witty repartee in this one, and the rapid-fire pacing. A lot of times critics compare certain movies to amusement park rides, like roller coasters, but this movie lives up to the comparison.

It was directed by the great Don Coscarelli, who also gave us the classic PHANTASM (1979), THE BEASTMASTER (1982) and BUBBA HO-TEP (2002), and he does another cracker jack job here, bringing the novel to life.

The cast is pretty solid. I liked Chase Williamson as Wong a lot, he was a strong central character here…

(WONG nods)

LS: And the great Paul Giamatti rarely gives a bad performance. He’s good here, too, but his character is mostly around so Wong can tell him his story (and in the process, tell us). Rob Mayes, who plays John, might be familiar to some people from TV shows like the new version of 90210 and THE CLIENT LIST. And Clancy Brown, as the all-powerful Marconi, has been in tons of stuff from THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BONZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984) to THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) to STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) and lots of television shows. I thought he was especially good in the sadly short-lived HBO series CARNIVALE (2003 – 2005), where he played Brother Justin Crowe.

Other recognizable faces include Angus Scrimm (the “Tall Man” from the PHANTASM movies) as a priest named Father Shellnut. And Doug Jones—mostly known for roles where he’s not so recognizable, including Abe Sapien in the HELLBOY movies, the Faun and the Pale Man from PAN’S LABYRINTH, 2006, and the Silver Surfer in FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, 2007—plays a strange alien being named Roger North.

The cast is really good and the story gives us a good mix of thrills and laughs. The sheer unpredictable nature of the movie is what makes it so unique and enjoyable. Not everything is perfect—but for the most part I thought it worked really well. I give it three knives. People should check this one out.

WONG: Just three, huh?

LS: Errr…Tell him what you thought of it, Michael?

MA: I didn’t see it.

LS: What are you talking about? Of course you saw it. You were telling me all about it in the ride up here.

MA: Sorry. You must be mistaken.

(MA begins to make strange noises)

WONG: I think there’s something wrong with your friend.

(MA suddenly turns into a gooey monster with writhing tentacles)

LS: That wasn’t Michael at all! I’ve been tricked!

(WONG pulls out a gun and blasts the creature, which disintegrates.)

LS: Whew. That was a close call.

WONG: Your mission has been compromised. They’re on to us.

LS: I guess that means I better leave, huh?

WONG: Do what you want, but I’m out of here.

(WONG disappears)

LS: Wow. Neat trick.

(LS waves waitress over and lifts a menu)

LS: I’ll have number 4 and number 15 to go, and make it quick. Okay?

WAITRESS: Right away, sir.

LS (to audience): Well, at least this wasn’t a total loss.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives JOHN DIES AT THE END ~three knives.

BRANDED (2012)

Posted in 2012, Bizarro Movies, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Conspiracy Theories, Dystopian Futures, Giant Monsters, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Parasites!, Satire, Weird Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: BRANDED (2012)
By L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: L.L. SOARES is walking down a street in Moscow, when he sees a bunch of people running)

LS: What are you running from!

PEOPLE (speaking in Russian): Brand Names are trying to kill us.

(They are pursued by giant signs for MCDONALD’S and COCA-COLA. Watching this, LS scratches his head)

LS: Well folks, this is going to be a weird one.

I left the theater after seeing the new movie BRANDED, and I was scratching my head then, too. I am going to try to explain this one, but it’s not going to be easy. I am also going to have two ratings this time around. One for mainstream, normal audiences, and another for people who like movies that are especially…weird. Because BRANDED is not going to appeal to everyone. I’m still not even sure what I think of it.

First off, when I saw the trailer for BRANDED, I thought it was a science fiction movie where weird aliens were using brand name products and advertising to control and feed off us. I went in expecting scary flick set in a future where everything is out of control. (See the BRANDED trailer, here).

But, sitting through the first 45 minutes or so, I thought I walked into the wrong movie. Because nothing horrific happens; nothing bizarre takes place. Instead, we get a pretty standard story about an advertising firm in Moscow. Misha Galkin (Ed Stoppard) gets out of the debt of a failed advertising agency when an American businessman named Bob Gibbons (Jeffrey Tambor) buys him out and hires him for his new firm. In return, Bob asks Misha to record everything he sees when dealing with their clients. As Misha describes it, he’s kind of an “advertising spy,” and the whole thing is a little odd to him. But he’s doing well. He’s winning advertising awards, making lots of money, and hovering near a promotion. The one thing Bob insists is that Misha not get involved with his daughter, Abby (Leelee Sobieski), who has an eye for him. Misha says he won’t, but of course, he dives headlong into a passionate love affair with her. Bob goes nuts and fires him.

Meanwhile, a group of fast food CEOs are at a conference table in some kind of mountain retreat to see a kind of advertising demigod, called the Marketing Guru here (and played by Max Von Sydow), complaining that their profits are dwindling and people don’t seem to want fast food anymore. The Guru tells them he has a plan to turn their fortunes around. Instead of their changing to meet the needs of the world, the world will change to become more reliant on their products. They will make it “cool” to be fat, and burger joints will become desirable again. It sounds far-fetched, but it begins to work. They start out in three “third world” markets to test it out. One of these is Russia, where Misha is.

Fired from his job, Misha becomes the producer of a reality show Abby is putting on Russian television. It involves finding an overweight girl and having her undergo a series of surgeries to become thin. But something goes wrong, and she falls into a coma during the procedure. Public outcry causes the police to arrest Abby and Misha for a while.

Misha (Ed Stoppard) and Abby (Leelee Sobieski) are lovers in a world gone mad. Or is it just Misha who has gone mad?

After he gets out of jail, Misha decides to leave the city and herd cows for a living. Several years pass.

Eventually, Abby finds him again, but he has changed. After trying to convince him to come back with her to the city, and failing, she leaves.

It is up to this point that I was very puzzled about BRANDED. Just what kind of movie was this? Where were the strange monsters/aliens from the trailer? Was this just a straight-forward drama about advertising and disillusionment?

Misha has a dream. In this dream, he is told how to build a bizarre platform/altar to perform an ancient pagan ritual that involves the slaughter of a red cow. When he does it for real, he is overwhelmed by the power of the ritual and passes out. Abby comes back for him and brings him home to Moscow with her.

It is in this part of the movie that things start to change from normal to just plain weird.

Because of the ritual, Misha can now see “the truth” that no one else sees. And what he sees is living brand names that are controlling our lives and desires. Misha finds a very different world than the one he left. A fast food franchise called The Burger dominates the world. A majority of the planet’s inhabitants are now extremely obese (of course, Misha and Abby are still thin and attractive). Misha even finds out that Abby gave birth to a son he didn’t know he had – a dim-witted, obese little boy who is always asking for money for hamburgers.

Misha begins to freak out because he sees the “living brands” everywhere. They are horrible, gigantic monsters that attach themselves to every human being, and hover like behemoths above the city. Misha thinks he is going insane and almost kills himself. Abby and his son leave him. But then he has a change of heart and  goes back into advertising, intent on using his newfound knowledge of living, breathing brand names—the monsters —to start a war between the monsters. He begins by taking on a vegetarian Chinese food chain as a client, and taking aim at the creatures behind The Burger.

From here, the movie just gets stranger.

What the hell is going on in BRANDED?
“Don’t ask me.”

There are some interesting images in BRANDED. From that strange cow-slaughtering ritual (that seems like something out of an Alejandro Jodorowsky film) to the huge, balloon-like CGI monsters that Misha sees, sitting on the roofs of all the tall buildings in Moscow. There’s a weird scene where Misha walks out on a balcony during a rainstorm and just starts screaming all of a sudden. And there’s another strange scene where all of the advertising in Moscow disappears, making it look like an ancient city again.

Needless to say, BRANDED is not for everyone. It is not a conventional, normal narrative film. There is a narrator who pops up every once awhile to give us voice-over explanations of what is going on (the voice of Mariya Ignatova). And I think it’s trying to be more of a satire on the advertising business than a literal science fiction/horror film.

There weren’t a lot of people at the showing of BRANDED I went to. It hasn’t had a very strong promotional campaign—and after seeing the movie, I can see why. Several people in the audience I saw BRANDED with walked out half-way through. Many of the people who stayed were shouting at the screen by the end.

But I can’t say I didn’t like BRANDED. I’m a big fan of strange cinema, from the movies of David Lynch and Jodorowsky, to surreal odysseys like BEYOND THE BLACK  RAINBOW (2010),  to oddities like Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM (2003). So BRANDED struck a chord in me. I’m actually surprised a movie this quirky got a fairly wide release in movie theaters.

The acting, for the most part, is pretty good. I like Jeffrey Tambor (probably best known for his roles on the TV shows ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW), and Leelee Sobieski (previously in JOY RIDE, 2001, and the awful remake of THE WICKER MAN, 2006)  is pretty good in this one (didn’t she seem to disappear from acting for a while?). Ed Stoppard (also in THE LITTLE VAMPIRE, 2000, and NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS, 2010)  as Misha is the heart of the movie, and keeps you watching throughout. And how can you not love an appearance by the legendary Max Von Sydow? The script and the direction on the other hand are very strange. It took two people to direct this one – Jamie Bradshaw and Alexander Doulerain in their English feature film debut – and they both wrote the script as well. The production values are a little stilted at times. The CGI monsters are so unreal and weird looking, that it makes them look both very fake and sort of disturbing.

It’s rated R, but aside from a few f-bombs, there’s no real reason for the rating. Even during the movie’s most passionate sex scene, Stoppard and Sobieski keep their clothes on.

For mainstream audiences, I give this movie one and a half knives. I don’t think most people will like it. It’s just too strange. And I wasn’t even sure if I liked it at first.

For people who dig really weird movies, I’d give it three and a half knives. Just because it’s so off the map. A movie so far removed from the kinds of films Hollywood is doing that it deserves a look as a curiosity. Like going to an old fashioned freak show.

Personally, I think I liked it. But like BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, which I saw earlier this year, I can’t tell if it’s a bad movie made by inept directors, or a low-budget masterpiece that simply didn’t have the money to match its big ambitions. And therefore, it kind of ends up somewhere between the two extremes of bad and good.

I guess you can tell, based on this description of the film, whether or not it sounds intriguing to you. So it’s up to you whether you’ll be seeking this one out on Netflix when the time comes.

(LS’s cell phone rings)

LS: Hello?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  It’s Michael. Where are you?

LS: I’m in Moscow. Where are you?

MA: Madrid.

LS: So I guess it’s an International Monday here at Cinema Knife Fight.

MA: So how is it there?

LS: A little weird. I’m reviewing the movie BRANDED. But, aside from a Coca-Cola sign ripping some people to shreds, it’s pretty quiet.

MA: Okay, meet you back at headquarters. See you next week.

LS: Later.

(The camera follows LS as he continues to walk down the city street. He suddenly raises an umbrella and opens it up, just in time to protect himself from a downpour of blood as a giant monstrous BURGER KING devours some customers)

-THE END-

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

For Normal Audiences, LL Soares gives BRANDED ~ one and a half knives.

For assorted weirdos and people who appreciate strange films, LL Soares gives BRANDED ~three and a half knives.

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.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (2010)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, Bizarro Movies, Cult Movies, Experimental Films, Highly Stylized Films, LL Soares Reviews, Mad Doctors!, Mind Experiments!, Paranormal, Psychedelic Films, Telekinesis, Visions of Hell, Weird Movies with tags , , , , , , , on June 13, 2012 by knifefighter

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (2010)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

After watching Ridley Scott’s new blockbuster, PROMETHEUS, I took a train to the other side of town to see a movie that was, in many ways, its complete opposite. Low-budget, often badly acted, and just plain bizarre, Panos Cosmatos’ new film, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is a viewing experience of a completely different sort. But I don’t want to give the impression I didn’t like it. There were some parts of it that I liked very much.

Supposedly made in 2010, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW has recently been doing the midnight movie circuit in some cities. I originally saw it listed as part of the Boston Underground Film Festival a month or so ago. I’d wanted to see it, but couldn’t. And now it’s back for a few weekend showings at a local art theater. So, for many people, it’s a new release. I know, for me it was. I also know that, based on the title alone, and a brief synopsis that highlighted a psychedelic storyline, I really had to see this one for myself.

The movie begins with an instructional video from Dr. Mercurio Arboria, for the Arboria Institute, which promotes emotional happiness and peace of mind. Supposedly, a visit to the foundation will include pharmacology, meditation and other fun stuff, in a regimen designed to help people find true inner happiness. Sounds pleasant enough. This video looked a bit dated and reminded me of the instructional videos that were made by the Dharma Initiative on the TV series LOST. Kind of an interesting way to start things off.

The movie’s credits begin, showing a giant, pulsating eyeball, with the actors and crews’ names coming forth from the eye’s pupil. It’s actually a cool opening credit sequence, and a cool image overall. I thought it was a good sign this was going to be a lot of fun.

Then the movie starts. It’s 1983. The foundation is being run by Dr. Arboria’s associate, Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers). But strangely, despite that cool promotional video, there’s only one patient in the whole building—or, if there are more patients, we never see them. The patient’s name is Elena (Eva Allan), and she’s a young girl around 19 or 20, who is dressed in a hospital gown and has long, brunette hair (she almost looks like those long-haired ghosts from movies like THE RING and THE GRUDGE). Elena does not speak, and appears to be in some kind of depressed/almost comatose state. Each day she is brought into a room to sit on a plastic seat, while in another, facing room, separated by a sheet of Plexiglas, Dr. Nyle talks to her. He talks and talks, but she never responds. He must have a lot of time to spend trying to help her, since there don’t seem to be any other patients for him to attend to.

For the first half of the film, this takes up most of the time. Elena is repeatedly brought into the room, Dr. Nyle repeatedly talks to her and gets no response. There are point-of-view shots of us going down an orange, antiseptic hallway. Its repetition seems almost aggravating at times. The dialogue is actually kind of silly, and the acting isn’t very good. There were more than a few times when I laughed out loud. Everyone else in the audience was quiet. I don’t think they appreciated the movie’s goofiness.

A few times, Dr. Nyle goes home to his wife Rosemary (Marilyn Norry), whom he either lectures or ignores. When she speaks, he makes goofy faces. There doesn’t seem much of a point to what’s going on.

Dr. Nyle (Michael Rogers) controls everything in the Arboria Institute.            Or does he? (from BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW)

There is a female nurse who clearly dislikes Elena. And we eventually learn that Elena has CARRIE-like telekinetic powers. There are also strange robots, that look like men in space suits with television screens in their bellies, called Sentionauts (it says so on the computer screen that activates them). They patrol the foundation’s halls after hours, especially if Elena leaves her room.

Then, about half-way through, something happens. We go back to 1966. Dr. Arboria, along with a female assistant, are shown in reverse negative (everything is strikingly white, and we can barely see people’s features). Dr. Nyle is prepped to enter another dimension, or at least that’s what it seemed to me. All white, he submerges himself in a giant puddle of inky blackness, and goes out the other side, where he turns different colors and his skin melts!! When he comes back, he is transformed. Slimy and black with ooze, he infects the female assistant, and she gives birth to a baby, before she suddenly dies. Could this baby be Elena? (!).

Back in 1983, Dr. Arboria, the head of the foundation, has become an drooling invalid/drug addict, who isn’t capable of doing much for himself. Dr. Nyle has to look after him, and even administer his heroin (morphine?) injections. Dr. Nyle has the true power at the institute and he clearly likes to manipulate those around him.

At one point, Dr. Nyle has kind of a breakdown and removes his wig (revealing a shiny bald head) and puts on a strange leather suit. While he is gone, Elena attempts to escape the facility.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is a mixed bag, but I could definitely see it becoming a cult movie over time. Parts of it are so bad, it made me think of movies like Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM, and I think RAINBOW could benefit from an audience that interacts with it. It might make for a much more enjoyable experience. There are other times when the imagery is actually pretty interesting. But never once did I feel that the movie lived up to the promise of that great title—except maybe for the very strange events that occur in 1966.

The music, by Jeremy Schmidt, is mostly a droning synthesizer score, and it does get repetitive at times, but overall, it works. There are even parts where it gets more animated. The music was one of my favorite parts of the film, and definitely complemented the psychedelic feel of the proceedings.

The over-use of different kinds of filters in the film, and negative effects, seem like an amateur’s attempts at creating otherworldly visuals—or someone trying to transcend a miniscule budget—and there are moments when it feels like a student fim. There are also lots of close-ups on inanimate objects that go on a little too long. Despite the fact that it really is not a very good movie, there were parts of BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW that I enjoyed despite myself, and, as I said, there are several times when I found myself laughing—even though that probably was not what the director intended.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, for the most part, might be one of those “so bad they’re good” movies for a new generation. It plays things completely straight (to its benefit), but is probably campy enough to attract a rabid audience.  I haven’t seen anything this odd (and yet enjoyable) in a long time, and it reminded me how movies like this were much easier to find in the 1970s and 80s. It made me miss those times.

A movie like this is hard to rate, because it’s clearly not meant to be a normal, mainstream narrative film. And, even as I write this, I find myself enjoying the movie now more, in retrospect, than when I was sitting in the theater. Despite its very obvious flaws, I give BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, two and a half knives. And I’m sure its imagery will grow on me over time and this rating will improve…..

This might just be the kind of film that deserves to be revisited on Blu-ray.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW~ two and a half knives! But it’s such an odd movie, that rating may change over time.

RUBBER (2010)

Posted in 2011, Bizarro Movies, Campy Movies, Dark Comedies, Indie Horror, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Weird Movies with tags , , , , , on December 30, 2011 by knifefighter

RUBBER (2010)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

 

Some movies straddle the line between the absurd and the just plain silly, and it’s a tough line to walk. RUBBER tries this feat, and while it’s not a complete failure, it has a really hard time keeping its balance.

RUBBER is the story a discarded rubber tire that comes to life. One day it simply lifts itself up and starts rolling around the desert, overcoming everything in its path until it comes upon a rabbit. At this point, it starts to rumble and vibrate, and the rabbit explodes! The tire learns how to harness this psychokinetic power until it works its way up the food chain and can eventually cause human beings’ heads to explode (like something out of Cronenberg’s SCANNERS, 1981).

In the meantime, the tire falls in love with a nameless woman (Roxane Mesquida) and follows her around, leaving a trail of corpses along the way.

There is a “movie within a movie” subplot. As the movie begins, a group of people have been dumped in the middle of the desert with binoculars. They are supposed to be “the audience” and watch the tire as it becomes sentient and then goes about its killing spree. At one point, the audience is fed some poisoned turkey, and the “actors” finally feel like they can stop the movie since no one is watching, but one lone spectator in a wheelchair (Wings Hauser) survives, and they have to go on with the show, begrudgingly.

The movie has a lot of fun with narrative and point of view, and the self-awareness on the part of the characters can be funny at times, but it can also be annoying. For most of its running time, I didn’t care for RUBBER all that much. But by the end, the concept had grown on me a bit, and I didn’t hate it completely. That said, RUBBER is far from a home run. It’s the kind of movie that thinks it is much more clever than it actually is.

And (seemingly) endless scenes of the tire rolling along don’t help.

I did, however, enjoy the character of Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella), who early on gives a speech about how every movie has something in it that doesn’t necessarily make sense – something that has “no reason” – but while I liked him, I didn’t like the rest of the cast, and the film itself, as much.

Director Quentin Dupieux should at least be commended for trying to do something completely different. The “idea” of this movie is pretty clever, in a “bizarro” kind of way. Unfortunately, the movie itself is not as good as its initial idea. It’s too much of a one-note joke.

I really wanted to like this one, but, I was left wanting something more.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

This poster looks so cool, it's better than the actual movie.