Archive for the Extreme Movies Category

THE COLLECTION (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Disturbing Cinema, Elaborate Murders, Extreme Movies, Gore!, Killers, LL Soares Reviews, Madness, Medical Experiments!, Mutilation, Psychos, Sequels, Torture with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT Presents:
THE COLLECTION (2012)
Review by L.L. Soares

The Collection (2012) Movie Poster

(THE SCENE: an abandoned hotel full of cobwebs. L.L. SOARES is climbing the stairs using a flashlight)

LS: I’m starting to think MICHAEL ARRUDA isn’t here at all. I’m sure this is all a prank.

(His cell phone rings, playing Bernard Herrmann’s music from the shower scene of PSYCHO)

LS: Hello?

MA: LL, is that you? I’ve been waiting for an hour now.

LS: What are you talking about? I’m here now, at the Argento Hotel, just like you told me. I can’t find you anywhere.

MA: Oops, I meant the Argento Steak House. My bad.

LS: That explains a lot.

MA: Well, while I have you on the phone, how was that new movie, THE COLLECTION?

LS: I was just going to start the review. I guess I have to do this one solo.

(SWITCH to Michael Arruda in a restaurant. A waiter brings a delicious meal to his table)

MA (making noises with his mouth): Oh no, I’m having phone problems. LL are you there? I can’t hear you?

LS: Yes, I’m still here.

MA (makes more noises): Oh no, you’re breaking up. I’m going to lose you. (MA shuts off his phone)

LS: Dammit! I hate bad connections. And it always happens when I’m in spooky places like this.

So where was I? Oh yes, I was going to review the new movie THE COLLECTION. I guess I’ve got nothing better to do.

(LS sits down on a comfy chair in the hallway of the old hotel. He brings the flashlight up to his face, turning it on, making himself look spooky)

LS: Gather round the fire, kiddies, and I’ll tell you the spooky story of THE COLLECTION. First off, it’s the sequel to the 2009 movie THE COLLECTOR, which was also directed by Marcus Dunstan.  He also co-wrote the screenplays for SAW IV (2007), SAW V (2008) , SAW VI (2009) and SAW 3D: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2010) as well as FEAST (2005) and its sequels, with his writing partner, Patrick Melton. This is a busy guy.

Anyway, in case you didn’t see the first one, it was a about a thief named Arkin (Josh Stewart) who breaks into a house to steal some money and valuables, and instead finds a house of horrors. Someone else has gotten there first, and has turned it into a booby-trapped filled torture chamber, and the family (who was supposed to be on vacation) suffers horribly at the hands of a masked murderer known only as The Collector. They call him that because, whenever he attacks someplace, he kills everyone except one person, who he kidnaps for his “collection.”

The first movie ended on a suspenseful note, as Arkin was captured by the Collector, and then the end credits rolled.

The new movie, THE COLLECTION, continues where the last one left off. Sort of. This time around, we find out that the Collector has been up to lots of mischief since the last time we saw him. Not only is he making random home invasions, now the number of people he’s killed is off the charts, and the police have no clue how to stop him. The city is in a panic. So what does teenager Elena  (Emma Fitzpatrick) do? She goes to a rave of course, in an abandoned building that no adults know about. When she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her, she runs away from the dance floor to an empty room, with a trunk in the middle of it.  She’s crying when suddenly the trunk moves and starts to make noise! There’s someone inside it. As we know from the previous movie, this is the Collector’s calling card, and if you open a trunk, it puts all kinds of horrible things in motion. So of course, she opens it, letting out Arkin (Josh Stewart again), our hero from the first movie. Only this time he is bloody from having been tortured for weeks.

His being set free sets all kinds of weird traps and pullies in motion, and a giant wheat shredding blade descends on the partiers, chopping them all to mulch. Another group of people, including Elena’s friend, Missy (Johanna Braddy) get locked up in a cage where the ceiling is crushing down on them.

Somehow Arkin escapes, and Elena gets nabbed by the Collector before he can save her. She is the only survivor of the massacre, and, as we know, the Collector always takes one victim away from the crime scene alive.

(LS gets up from the chair, just as a huge metal spike drops down from the ceiling and stabs where he was just sitting)

LS: Arkin wakes up in the hospital, where he is interrogated by a guy named Lucello (Lee Tergesen), who appears to be a cop, but isn’t. He works for Elena’s rich father (Christopher McDonald) and will stop at nothing to find Elena and bring her back to her father. Even if that means forcing Arkin to retrace his steps to find where Elena is being held (he has marks carved in his arm to determine where he was taken to last time).

Lucello and his team of Black Ops agents then invade the Hotel Argento (get the funny homage to horror director Dario Argento?) where the Collector rules over victims driven insane by their horrible treatment and who have been turned into crazed zombie-like creatures. Oh, and there are tons of booby traps and mazes and bear traps and time bombs. Let’s just say that Lucello has no idea what he’s in for, and poor Arkin is forced to go along for the ride, even though he’s endured these particular horrors before.

There are also lots of “collections” throughout the hotel. From the usual butterflies and insects in frames, to giant tanks full of bizarre sculptures made from human body parts.

There are bizarre sculptures made from human body parts throughout the hotel, like this one.

There are bizarre sculptures made from human body parts throughout the hotel, like this one.

(LS continues walking down the hallway. Hatchets are hurled at him and keep missing him.)

LS: THE COLLECTION is in limited release and its official release date was December 1st, except that week it was only playing in obscure movie theaters out in the ‘burbs, so I couldn’t see it. This weekend, it got a slightly wider release and made its way into the city. Because I enjoyed the first movie, I was looking forward to seeing this one, so I made sure to check it out before it disappeared.

Let me state something for the record. I like “torture porn.” That might be the first time you have ever seen a critic say this out loud in public, but the truth is, when the genre is done right, it can be pretty compelling. I think the first two HOSTEL movies, for example, are terrific. I was less-than-enthusiastic about all the SAW movies, because I had a problem with the Jigsaw character.

You see, our old friend Jigsaw had this agenda where his elaborate murder scenarios were meant to give the  bad people who survived them a second chance. He was  trying to change their lives. He was trying to redeem them, by making them thankful to be alive. This was all a bit hard to swallow, and I’m sure you found this all to be as much bullshit as I did. Also, Jigsaw didn’t like to get his hands dirty and watched the violence from a control room. His “victims” had to make decisions about which door to open, or which lever to pull, while he watched from safety.

The Collector isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He is more than happy to resort to hand-to-hand combat when his more elaborate methods don’t finish everyone off. He’s a skilled fighter, knows his way around a knife fight, and is lethal as hell. And there’s no pontificating about changing people’s lives. The Collector simply thirsts for blood and uses his weird,  elaborate killing methods to quench that thirst. Plus, he wears a cool, black Mexican wrestler’s mask to keep his identity a secret. Let’s just say that the Collector would kick Jigsaw’s ass in a fight.

THE COLLECTION is gory as hell. It pushes its R-rating to the limit. And it’s very suspenseful. You never know what is going to happen next, and who will die. Which is just the way a good horror movie should  be. Sure, not all of it makes sense, and you really start to wonder how anyone can set up as many crazy booby traps as this guy does throughout  the hotel—it just doesn’t seem possible—and then you realize, “hell, it’s just a movie.” And there are lots of blockbuster action movies that make even less sense.

And the cast is top-rate for this kind of thing. Josh Stewart, who was so good in the first movie, does an equally good job here, reprising his role as petty thief  and “Collector expert” Arkin. Emma Fitzpatrick is tough and unflinching as Elena (she reminded me a bit of Natalie Portman). Lee Tergeson (who you might remember as Beecher from the HBO series OZ) is solid here as Lucello, and his team of mercenaries includes Andre Royo, who was so great as the homeless guy Bubbles on another excellent HBO series, THE WIRE (it seems like more great actors have come out of OZ and THE WIRE than any other TV shows put together). Believe me, the actors involved are above-average for this kind of thing.

And the ending is actually pretty satisfying this time around. So make sure you stay in your seat until those end credits roll, because there’s a kick-ass epilogue to the story.

(LS stops in front of a doorway, and a pie hurtles at him, hitting him in the face)

Beware! The Collector wants to add you to his COLLECTION.

Beware! The Collector just might want to add you to his COLLECTION.

LS (wipes cream off his face and licks): Mmmm, banana cream!

Sure there’s horrible violence. Sure, people get tortured. There’s blood and body parts galore. But it works. There’s this incredibly sadistic bastard trying to kill as many people as possible, and a group of people trying their best to stop him. If it’s “torture porn,” and it certainly fits the bill,  then it’s one of the better examples of the genre. Unfortunately, the genre itself is in decline, no doubt thanks to all of those SAW movies that amounted to a great big example of overkill. They milked that cash cow as long as they could. So there’s a good chance THE COLLECTION might be the end of this particular franchise.

I am not expecting THE COLLECTION to be a big hit. In fact, I’m sure it won’t do very well at all, especially since it’s in such limited release. But I’m telling you, if you’re not squeamish about this kind of stuff, you might just enjoy the hell out of it. I know I did.

I give THE COLLECTION ~ four bloody knives.

(LS dials his cell phone, and Michael Arruda picks up on the other end, enjoying his steak dinner)

MA: Hello?

LS: I know you gave me the wrong info on purpose. I hope you’re enjoying your dinner.

MA: Er…I am.

LS: And I hope you enjoyed the ground up glass in the mashed potatoes.

MA (touches his mouth and coughs up blood): NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

LS: What? I can’t hear you. We have a bad connection.

(FADE TO BLACK)

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE COLLECTION ~ four knives!

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II: FULL SEQUENCE (2011)

Posted in 2011, CKF On the Edge, Controverisal Films, Extreme Movies, Gore!, Indie Horror, Madness, Nick Cato Reviews, Psychos, Sequels, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , on October 11, 2011 by knifefighter

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE (2011)
A Bigger, Grosser Centipede…
Movie Review by Nick Cato

Let’s get one thing straight: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (2009) was made for one reason…to shock its audience. Despite its nearly non-existent plot, its scenes of torture and alternative surgery run amuck have gained a loyal cult following. So, naturally, director Tom Six had his work cut out for him when he set out to top his original with THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE.

Did he succeed?

By the boat load! (“Load” being the key word here).

New York City’s IFC Center held late night screenings this weekend (at both midnight and 12:15). According to a review in a popular magazine, this version of the film is two-minutes shorter than the one previewed by a London film board before they banned it from theaters and even DVD. I don’t think I need to see what could have possibly been edited. Both theaters were sold out, and one of the film’s publicists told the audience the film had sold out its midnight screenings in all eighteen cities across the country. At least I now know there are people out there as deranged as we New Yorkers. After a horror film trivia contest and the handing out of HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 barf bags and staple removers (!), the lights dimmed and the crowd screamed as if about to try out a new roller coaster.

And in a way, we did.

Mute, mentally-challenged parking garage attendant Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) spends his work hours scanning a wall of security cameras while simultaneously re-watching THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE on his laptop. The film has consumed him to the point he decides he needs to create his own bigger & better ‘pede . His bible is a scrapbook of pictures and articles about the film, and it also has his own crudely-sketched blueprints for his own twelve-person abomination. He’s also quite fond of star Ashlynn Yennie, who had the unfortunate roll of being the middle person in the original’s centipede.

Without wasting much time, Martin begins to kidnap his victims by shooting their calves and bonking them unconscious with a crowbar . He gets most of his subjects from the parking garage, causing me to wonder how slow business must be, as no one besides the victims are ever around at one time. And he’s an equal opportunity employer: victims range from prostitutes to housewives, Asian, black, white…no one is denied for any reason (although one child is left in a car, possibly showing Martin has some type of a conscience? The post-ending segment leaves this in debate).

After “renting” a filthy, isolated warehouse, Martin stores his screaming victims on the floor and begins to prep each one for their position on the hellish conga-line. I couldn’t help but think of Pasolini’s SALO, THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975) whenever our writhing captives were shown in long shots across the room (and I’m pretty sure the director did, too).

What I found more disturbing than the coming surgery and gore scenes were the depictions of Martin’s home life . He still lives with his elderly mother in a small London flat . A skinhead neighbor upstairs drives them crazy with his loud music, and a visiting doctor delivers a couple of truly bizarre sequences. Martin even keeps a large pet centipede in a glass cage in the living room, which is eventually put to gruesome use. The scenes around Martin’s apartment bring ERASERHEAD (1977) to mind, and not just due to the film being shot in black and white. If nothing else, director Tom Six managed to shoot this thing in a genuinely artistic manner, making me curious to see what else he’ll come up with when this grim trilogy is completed.

Martin, as played by the scary and hideous-looking Harvey, is a different kind of psycho. Besides his stunted mental growth, he suffers from a bad case of asthma and needs to take a hit off his pocket inhaler after subduing each victim. He moves slower than an old-school zombie and doesn’t seem like much of a threat, but he has a sinister way about him that makes him even more frightening than Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) from the first film. I’d love to know where Six discovered this guy.

The most clever idea comes when Ashlynn Yennie shows up in London thinking she has landed an audition for a new Quentin Tarantino film. But, of course, it’s just a ploy set up by Martin to make her the lead centipede.

The second half of the film is destined to become a holy grail for splatter and exploitation film aficionados: Martin pieces his twelve-person ‘pede together using duct tape and a staple gun…and NO anesthesia! While one person dies during the prepping process and a pregnant victim seemingly dies and is tossed aside, Martin soon has a ten-person ‘pede and begins to boss them around the dimly-lit warehouse (but don’t worry…you get to see EVERYTHING quite clearly).

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2:FULL SEQUENCE is vile, disgusting, and at times truly terrifying…but it’s also SO over the top I actually found myself laughing at most of the proceedings (when Martin injects all ten people with 500mg of laxatives, you KNOW the director had to be trying to bring some kind of dark, twisted humor into the mix). This is one of those films most horror fans will hate to admit they enjoyed…but I dare you NOT to.

If there’s one thing I’m truly afraid of, it’s what Tom Six has planned in his demented little mind for the third installment, titled THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE: FINAL SEQUENCE. Get your barf bags ready now…

Gore/Disturbing Sequences: 4 knives

 Story: 2 knives

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

 

(Editor’s Note: Warning: If it isn’t clear already, this movie is not for everyone. Certainly not for the squeamish or easily offended.)

Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) stops lead centipede Ashlynn Yennie from escaping in THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE, currently at midnight screenings in 18 U.S. cities. Coming to cable "OnDemand" October 12

CKF on the Edge: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN

Posted in 2011, CKF On the Edge, Dark Comedies, Extreme Movies, Gore!, Grindhouse, LL Soares Reviews, Vigilantes, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2011 by knifefighter

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011)
Movie review by L.L. Soares

When Rutger Hauer first appears, riding a train car into town, in HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, you have no idea how much of a wild ride you’re in for. Unless you know the movie’s backstory. Back in 2007, the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez team-up flick GRINDHOUSE was making the rounds, bringing back the movie double-feature and the spirit of the 1970s grindhouses. Part of the package was a bunch of fake trailers for totally insane movies. The funny thing is, some of these have been made into actual films. The first was Rodriguez’s MACHETE (2010). Now, we’ve got HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. If you don’t remember seeing that particular trailer when you saw GRINDHOUSE, it’s because the trailer only played in the Canadian version. But it’s been a Youtube  sensation since.

The beginning has a real 1970s vibe, from the music to the time-worn weariness of Hauer’s face in that boxcar. But that changes fast. I was kind of hoping for a homage to 70s vigilante flicks like DEATH WISH (1974) and WALKING TALL (1973), but HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN has more in common with those over-the-top Troma films of the 80s. In a way, I was sad to see it get so bizarre and unreal so quickly, in another way, it never stopped being a fun flick. And a big part of that is Hauer’s performance. You can tell this is a man who used to be an A-list actor, since fallen on hard times, just like that Hobo.

So Rutger Hauer walks into town, and finds himself in the middle of hell. The first person he sees is a guy filming bum fights, offering Hauer a ten dollar bill to join in. People openly brutalize other people in the streets, and the proceedings are lorded over by the town kingpin, Drake, who turns all this carnage into a kind of reality show. When someone crosses him, he puts a manhole cover around their necks, drops them into an open sewer, and then decapitates them using a barbed wire noose and the fender of a speeding car or motorcycle. His thug sons hold guns on the onlookers, demanding they applaud  the goings-on.

This sounds awful grim on paper (or on a computer screen), but it’s played so over-the-top that it’s downright cartoony (is that Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman I see among the bystanders?), and that’s kind of what saves this film from being a complete downer.

The Hobo is one of the witnesses to “The Drake Show” and he is horrified by the utter anarchy that surrounds him. This is even worse than the Wild West. Anyone can die at any time, and many do. The majority of the populace are so horrified, they don’t lift a finger to stop things, and most of the police force are on Drake’s payroll.

The Hobo has a dream. He is going to buy a lawnmower at a local pawn shop. He is going to start his own business and stop traveling the rails. He is going to settle down and make a home for himself. What the hell is this guy thinking? This is not the kind of place where you settle down!

After being brutalized himself, and saving the life of a prostitute, who almost becomes another casualty at the hands of Drake’s son Slick (the other son, Ivan, is a complete idiot muscleboy who gets high on hurting people), the Hobo decides to fight back. Instead of that lawn-mower, he buys a shotgun on the wall for the same price. And then he goes about using it.

He starts to make news. He’s single-handedly starting to clean up this hellhole. One man begins to make a difference. Drake is so infuriated he first declares it open season on homeless people, hoping to get rid of the Hobo, then he hires a couple of metal-clad killers who call themselves The Plague to finish things (they look like two low-rent Iron Man wannabes).

The performances are actually pretty good for this kind of thing. I already sang the praises of Hauer, who is pretty much the main reason HOBO exists. Throughout this movie, I found myself wondering why we don’t see him more in big budget Hollywood pictures. He’s certainly good enough.

Brian Downey as the evil Drake is a force of nature. This is a role that is pretty one-dimensionally evil, and could be annoying, but Downey is just terrific. He pretty much steals every scene he’s in, and is a lot of fun, in his own psychotic way. A movie villain can make or break a movie like this, and Downey does his part to make HOBO work.

Molly Dunsworth, as the hooker Abby, is also pretty good. She’s the one Hauer’s hobo decides to protect, and while their relationship isn’t really a romantic one, she makes you believe that Hauer would be so concerned about her welfare. And when the going gets tough, she’s not afraid to help with the fighting.

Director Jason Eisener (with a script he wrote with John Davies and Rob Cotterill), took a simple concept, originally meant to be a joke, and turned it into an entertaining feature film. It’s not a great work of art, but it’s not meant to be. It’s a lot of gore and violence and vengeance, and we’ve seen this kind of thing before, but somehow, it works, in the same way that over-the-top gore cartoons that have been coming out of Japan lately, like TOKYO GORE POLICE and MACHINE GIRL (both from 2008) work. Live-action cartoons where anything can happen, and the camera lens gets splashed with blood a few times along the way.

If you’re into this kind of thing, then you’ll dig HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. It’s like eating your dessert before dinner, but don’t expect it to have much in the way of nutrients. If this sounds pretty awful to you, then just avoid it. It’s not meant for you, anyway.

Me, I give it three knives.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

Note: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN has been playing some film festivals around the country and is currently available on cable OnDemand in some cities. I’m not sure if it will get an actual theatrical release or if it will go straight to DVD.


Rutger Hauer is mad as hell in HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.

LL Soares gives HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN3 knives

CKF On the Edge: SELLA TURCICA

Posted in 2011, CKF On the Edge, Extreme Movies, Gore!, Low Budget Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2011 by knifefighter

CKF On The Edge: SELLA TURCICA (2010)
DVD Review by L.L. Soares

Some of our readers may be familiar with Toetag Pictures, an underground horror movie studio based in Pittsburgh. They started out making some of the most extreme films ever made, like the notorious AUGUST UNDERGROUND series, which play like the home videos of serial killers. But recently, they’ve been dabbling in more traditional, narrative directions, starting with RESDIN TOWER (2006), as well as 2009’s MASKHEAD (which, while it has a narrative story, is still pretty extreme) and now SELLA TURCIA (which came out late last year on DVD).

SELLA TURCICA is the studio’s most accessible film yet. It’s the story of Sgt. Bradley Adam Roback (Damien Maruscak), who comes home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. Right off the bat, we know something bad is coming. It’s not long before Brad’s face is pasty white and he looks sick, even though he insists he’s fine.

His family has turned his homecoming into a celebration, gathering everyone for Brad’s big return. This includes Brad’s mother, Karmen (Camille Keaton, the star of 1978’s I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE); his sister Ashley (Jade Risser) and his brother, Bruce (Sean P. McCarthy). Everyone is really happy to have Brad back, but they’re also concerned about the fact that he doesn’t seem too healthy.

Brad tries to fit in with his family, but clearly he’s having some trouble adjusting to being back home again.  The movie pretty much covers a 24-hour period, as Brad’s behavior slowly gets more erratic—from smashing a plate at the dinner table to vicious headaches—and when he goes to bed, blood starts leaking out of his ear and he has convulsions.Things only go downhill from there, until we reach the violent and (very) bloody finale.

SELLA TURCICA reminded me a little of Bob Clark’s 1974 classic DEATHDREAM, which is also the story of a soldier who returns home drastically changed by the war. But the films are very different in tone. DEATHDREAM, a real favorite of mine, has an almost nightmarish, surreal quality throughout. SELLA TURCICA shoots for a more realistic look and tone, right up to the filming on high-def video, and it works fine.

For the most part, the cast is pretty good. It’s great to see Keaton back making movies again, and the rest of the family seems believable, even Ashley’s annoying DJ boyfriend, Gavyn (Harvey Daniels). Damien Maruscak is especially good as Brad. And the direction by Fred Vogel is effective throughout.

For the most part, SELLA TURCICA is nicely paced, subtle and builds tension. You know things are going to end badly (and things get very gory), but you’re not really sure what’s going to happen until the end. In the meantime, the movie is a character study of the various family members.

There was at least one scene where it was clear Brad needed medical attention, yet no one calls an ambulance (when they call Brad’s doctor, they “only get an answering machine,”). Why not call 9-1-1 instead? But otherwise, the movie is engrossing and keeps you watching.

The acting keeps the story going, and the plot keeps us wondering what’s wrong with Brad, and ultimately what the “secret” of his illness is.

SELLA TURCICA is a cool title, but what does it mean? Well, the dictionary tells us it’s “a saddle-shaped depression in the sphenoid bone of the human skull.” It’s where the pituitary gland is located. And while this sounds like a pretty odd thing to call your movie, it actually makes sense by the time the end credits roll.

Sella Turcica is a good film that should expand on Toetag’s audience.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

DVD from Toetag Pictures
SELLA TURCICA
106 minutes
Directed by Fred Vogel
Starring: Camille Keaton, Damien Maruscak and Sean McCarthy
Not Rated

CKF ON THE EDGE: THE WOMAN

Posted in 2011, Extreme Movies, John Harvey Reviews, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2011 by knifefighter

CKF ON THE EDGE
THE WOMAN Is Not for the Faint of Heart
Movie review by John Harvey

THE WOMAN is an extremely disturbing, emotionally-draining film that you should not recommend to friends lightly, or without a great deal of preparation. Even if a particular friend boasts casual ease at viewing franchise extreme horror (think SAW and HOSTEL), you still need to explain to them “Oh no … this is something else entirely.”

On that note, though you probably have not seen THE WOMAN, you might be familiar with the controversy surrounding the film’s premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In a nutshell, at the tail end of the showing, a man in the audience was so entirely offended by the film’s subject matter that he went a bit nuts and had to be escorted out of the theater. You can see the videos (which went spectacularly viral) here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Frliyp33sM and here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3lUAZLB4JY.

Aside from handing the film a massive amount of free publicity, it’s also obvious that this man didn’t get the film at all. THE WOMAN, written by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee (who also directed), tells the story about a brutal, sadistic psychopath of the most terrifying sort (one who blends into our society) and the women he abuses and oppresses at home. Outwardly, Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) is a successful and well-liked elder care and estate lawyer in northern New England, but it becomes clear pretty early on that he’s not wired like your average upper-middle class husband and father.

Cleek goes hunting near his home one day and encounters a feral Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh in an amazing and savage performance) washing herself in the river.  He’s aroused in all the wrong ways, and quickly forms a plan. Once back home, he “remodels” the root cellar near his barn and cheerily tells his family he’s got a surprise for them. His family also gives off a strong whiff of being completely broken, but hiding it for appearance’s sake. The wife, Belle (Angela Bettis who also starred in McKee’s MAY (2002)), and daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) exist essentially as cowed and helpless prisoners. Both actresses give great performances. I’m not sure if this is a compliment, but nobody gives you twitchy and train wrecked like Bettis. Cleek’s son, Brian (Zach Rand), on the other hand is … well … definitely his father’s son.

Once Chris and his family complete modifying the root cellar, Cleek pulls the cover back on his surprise: he traps the feral Woman and manacles her in the basement. Why? The family has a new project. They’re going to “fix her.” Of course, Chris Cleek’s concept of “fixing” has little to do with rehabilitation in any rational sense.

At this turn of events, the film begins to pick up a tone that verges on the absurd. Though not in a winking-at-the-audience, pandering sense. Ultimately, this movie frames the real horror of abuse by magnifying the scale and outcomes by a factor of a thousand. Though, one could point to multiple news stories about men who’ve trapped women and kept them locked up for weeks, months, or even years of torture, and argue that perhaps it isn’t absurd so much as it’s that rare horror movie that actually portrays abuse as stomach-turning and emotionally sickening. As opposed to most franchise extreme horror, where elaborate violence has become light entertainment.

And this is the point in the film where McKee really starts to gradually ratchet up the tension and discomfort levels. And though Chris Cleek is already revealed as a monster and a sociopath, McKee continues to show more and more about his (and his son’s) depravity to the point where it becomes oppressive. Also, it becomes obvious to the more thoughtful viewer that McKee and Ketchum have a feminist streak a mile wide. Though men in the film do horrible things to the women almost continuously, it’s not done with the titillating (and in some cases, just plain dirty) sensibility of the old sexploitation films of the 1970s. Rather, McKee and Ketchum exponentially exaggerate the disparity of power between men and women in this movie, and therefore the crime and horror that sources from that disparity.

The amazing thing is that throughout most of the film, there’s very little gore and flying buckets of blood. Now, be forewarned that this changes drastically in the film’s last half hour. But up until that point, McKee and Ketchum manage to disturb on the most profound level without resorting to the gross-out shots. This may sound odd with regards to a movie that is so profoundly brutal, but it’s an elegant way to make a horror film. Another elegant touch is that the movie manages, in a few strategically-placed scenes, to be distressingly funny. Distressing because, in most films, humor is used to diffuse tension, while in THE WOMAN the humor makes the film that much darker.

It should be noted that if you see THE WOMAN, you may come under the impression that you’ve missed some plot points. The fact is that THE WOMAN is a sequel to OFFSPRING (2009), a film that was also based on Jack Ketchum’s book of the same name. If you haven’t seen or read OFFSPRING, then you won’t have any problems following THE WOMAN, but there’s a few scenes in THE WOMAN that make a little more sense if you’re aware of the story that preceded it.

THE WOMAN is a film that will polarize both reviewers and rank-and-file audience members alike. I’d argue that THE WOMAN is not suitable for wide, general audiences. The fact is that most moviegoers don’t want to be profoundly disturbed and uncomfortable when they leave the cinema. They want to be entertained. And this is why McKee is the first person to admit that he’s got no future in commercial films with major studios. But if you are the sort of person who likes their horror films to adhere to the literal definition of the word “horror,” then THE WOMAN was made for you.

– END –

© Copyright 2011 by John D. Harvey

THE “GODFATHER OF GORE” FINALLY GETS HIS DUE

Posted in 1960s Horror, 2011, B-Movies, Classic Films, Documentary, Drive-in Movies, Exploitation Films, Extreme Movies, Gore!, Grindhouse, Herschell Gordon Lewis Films, Horror DVDs, Low Budget Movies, Nick Cato Reviews, Psychos, Slasher Movies, Sleaze, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2011 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES: MODERN MEMORIES
“THE GODFATHER FINALLY GETS HIS DUE”
By Nick Cato

After recently viewing the documentary AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE, where exploitation director H.G. Lewis has a brief (but memorable) appearance, my appetite was set for more from the “Wizard of Gore.”  Directors Jimmy Maslon and Frank Henenlotter do a phenomenal job of satisfying that appetite with HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE, a 106-minute look at the life and career of a man who is both worshipped and loathed in horror film circles.

There’s a lot of time spent on Herschell’s pre-gore films, which were mainly nudie movies.  Herschell’s old partner, David Friedman (who passed away this past February of 2011) shares some hysterical stories of what they went through when they got into the nudie film market, and confesses they were coming in on the heels of what Russ Meyer was doing at the same time.  But where Meyer shot his women in an innocent, almost artistic way, Lewis and Friedman always featured their women in ways that could more easily be taken as something more than a tame peepshow (and hence a precursor to their coming extreme horror films).  And the duo’s explanations of how nudies (as well as all independent films) were distributed back in the early 60s will give modern filmmakers a whole new appreciation for what Lewis had to go through to sell his product.

For those fascinated with the evolution of the “splatter” film, it’s simply amazing how Lewis came up with BLOOD FEAST (1963).  He and Friedman had wondered to themselves, “What is something that NO ONE else is doing right now?” (in the world of exploitation films).  They had been in Florida staying at a hotel with an Egyptian theme, and before long they started writing/shooting BLOOD FEAST on the fly.  Fans of the film will be glued to the screen when star Mal Arnold (who plays the film’s killer, Fuad Ramses) is interviewed (there’s even footage of some early nudie films he had done for Lewis), and when Lewis speaks of the difficulties they had working with Playboy Playmate Connie Mason, who had zero acting abilities and refused to do a nude scene despite being a Playboy centerfold.  There’s also much about actor William Kerwin, who plays BLOOD FEAST’s main detective (and starred in many other Lewis films) and was also  Lewis’s “do everything else” guy on several projects.  Kerwin died in 1989, and his presence as a commentator would surely have added to this film.

The success of BLOOD FEAST (despite horrendous reviews—some critics are interviewed) made Lewis and Friedman a lot of money, and set them on a course they never thought would catch on.

If you’re a fan of  Lewis’s second gore film, 2000 MANIACS (1964), you’re in for a treat.  Directors Maslon and Henenlotter cut footage from the original film’s opening sequence with new footage of Lewis and Friedman re-visiting the small Florida town where they shot MANIACS, making it look like the original cast is welcoming them back to town.  They visit the hotel and some rooms where the film takes place, and there are interviews with some of the cast (including and adult Vincent Santo, who played young Jimmy in the film).  Lewis says 2000 MANIACS is his personal favorite film, the one he wishes he’d be remembered for, although he knows BLOOD FEAST will forever hold that title.  There are also some great stories of what went on with some of the gore effects, and a near-fatal accident Lewis almost had while filming the infamous boulder-drop sequence.

One of the funniest interviews comes from director Frank Henenlotter.  He claims one of his favorite scenes in any movie—ever—is in  Lewis’s COLOR ME BLOOD RED (1965).  And when you see the scene he’s speaking about, you’ll laugh as hard as the audience I saw this with did.  Henelotter’s commentary is always interesting, as are memories shared by director John Waters (who shows off his rare novelizations of two Lewis films) and the legendary Joe Bob Briggs.  Former Playboy photographer Bunny Yeager shares some great stories and explains why she refused  Lewis’s offer to star as Connie Mason’s mother in BLOOD FEAST.

Being a huge fan of  Lewis’s 1970 epic THE WIZARD OF GORE, I was happy to see plenty of interview time with its star, Ray Sager.  Every time he imitates Herschell the crowd cracked up, and his story of a blooper he caused on the set of  Lewis’s JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT (1968) is priceless.

Every one of  Lewis’s gore films get coverage (there’s even a lot of time spent on A TASTE OF BLOOD (1967),  Lewis’s attempt at a modern Dracula film), and gorehounds will be happy to know they show all the blood and guts in all their karo-syrupy glory.  An audience favorite seemed to be stories told about THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (1967), as well as the dual nipple-slicing scene from THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972).

While I would’ve liked to have heard a bit about some of the director’s more obscure titles (such as 1969’s LINDA AND ABILENE), Lewis does spend some time explaining what caused him to “shoot” a kiddie feature in 1967 titled THE MAGICAL LAND OF MOTHER GOOSE (and it’s a doozie!).  There’s also no mention of BLOOD FEAST 2 (2002) or THE UH-OH SHOW (2009), two recent films directed by Lewis (which I found odd), although they do go a bit into his post-film career as a money-marketing expert.

There’s also a genuine treat IN the film itself:  Henenlotter and Maslon managed to get footage of a film Lewis never finished titled AN EYE FOR AN EYE, and pieced it together as a mini-movie (which stars BLOOD FEAST alumni William Kerwin).  It’s a supernatural-type thriller and actually seemed to be of higher quality than most of  Lewis’s other films.

I’m not sure how interesting THE GODFATHER OF GORE will be to the average horror film fan; surely the history of BLOOD FEAST and  Lewis’s early gore films should have respect from any genre fan, but it’s no secret that the majority of horror fans find  Lewis’s work too bad to watch and too cheap to even mention.  But love it or hate it, BLOOD FEAST started something (and yes, I know a film from Japan released in 1960 has recently been claiming the title as the world’s first gore film—but I’m willing to bet it’s not a quarter as entertaining—or gory—as  Lewis’s epic . . . and it didn’t inspire the slasher films to come in the 70s and 80s).

Packed with more gore and nudity than any documentary I can think of, THE GODFATHER OF GORE is almost like watching a “Greatest Hits” list of  Lewis’s films, so I’m hoping newcomers will be enticed to go back and check out these precursors to FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) and HALLOWEEN (1978), and the haters may see what a great guy (if not the greatest director) Herschell Gordon Lewis was (and still is).

Even though I’ve been a fan of Lewis since reading about him in the fourth issue of FANGORIA Magazine way back when, have read three books about him, and have met and spoke with him and David Friedman, I still learned some things about him in this wonderfully entertaining and educational tribute that any horror fan interested in the roots of modern horror cinema would be crazy to miss.

(The film is dedicated to the late Daniel Krogh, who filmed a few of Herschell’s later films and co-wrote the first book about him titled THE AMAZING HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS AND HIS WORLD OF EXPLOITATION FILMS [1983 Fantaco] ).

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

Lewis and Friedman discuss BLOOD FEAST in THE GODFATHER OF GORE


CKF On The Edge: IMPRINT

Posted in 2006, CKF On the Edge, Controverisal Films, Extreme Movies, Japanese Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Takashi Miike Films, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2011 by knifefighter

CKF ON THE EDGE:
IMPRINT (2006) (An unaired episode of the Showtime series MASTERS OF HORROR)
DVD Review by L.L. Soares

I was pretty excited when the cable channel Showtime began showing their MASTERS OF HORROR series in 2006. The idea behind the show was great. Take some top-notch, and mostly A-List, horror directors and let them push the envelope and go further than past anthology shows. The result, however, was a mixed bag. Although I’d say that, in Season One at least, there were more interesting or downright good episodes than there were clunkers. (Season Two was another thing entirely)

Looking back on the first season, the one thing that struck me most is how Showtime reneged on their original concept. They shied away from truly subversive cinema by first censoring Dario Argento’s episode JENIFER (cutting an oral sex scene gone awry) and then refusing to air Takeshi Miike’s installment, IMPRINT.

Some of my favorite episodes of the season were John Carpenter’s stellar outing CIGARETTE BURNS, John Landis’s return to form in DEER WOMAN (a perfect blend of humor and horror that harkened back to his AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON from 1981) and Argento’s aforementioned, and totally twisted, mini-masterpiece JENIFER.

But after seeing Miike’s banned episode, I found IMPRINT to be easily the best of the bunch.

This wasn’t really much of a surprise. Miike’s film AUDITION (1999) is in my top 10 of best horror movies of all time, and he directs IMPRINT with the same kind of disturbed poetry that permeates his best work.

Billy Drago, the quirky, intense actor who has appeared in everything from B movies like the Chuck Norris flick HERO AND THE TERROR (1988) and Alexandre Aja’s remake of HILLS HAVE EYES from 2006 (as Papa Jupiter) to television shows over the years, from T.J. HOOKER to CHARMED, plays Christopher, an American who begins the episode taking an eerie late night boat ride, on a river full of corpses, to an island in 1890s Japan. He has searched all over the country for the beautiful Komomo (Michie Ito), his one true love, who he promised he would one day rescue and take away from her life of prostitution.

The island is full of prostitutes, and while Komomo is not there, Christopher is forced to choose someone else for the night. With dozens of women reaching out for him from behind barred windows, he chooses an isolated woman at the back of the room (Youki Kudoh), who it turns out is disfigured.

When he is alone with his choice, the woman sees right through him and knows that he pines for someone else. She gets him to talk about Komomo and his plans to find her, and then reveals that she knew his great love. The prostitute then goes on to tell him the story of how his beloved Komomo met her horrific end.

At first she tells him a story of how Komomo was the only one on the island to be nice to her, and how the other prostitutes hated Komomo because of her beauty. When the Madame’s jade ring is stolen, and Komomo is framed for the theft, the other women take great glee in finally having an excuse to punish the girl who is prettier and thinks she is better than they are. They all bring her to a punishment room, where they wait eagerly for Komomo’s comeuppance. What happens next is a long, drawn-out torture scene involving at first burning incense and then long vicious needles applied to fingernails and gums, which was probably a big part of Showtime’s reluctance to air the episode.

Once the disfigured prostitute’s story is over, however, Christopher knows that she is not telling the entire truth, and demands that she tells him everything. This results in her telling the story twice more, about her own childhood and about how she met Komomo, and Komomo’s torture and death. Each time, the story changes slightly. The structure of the episode is similar to the classic Japanese film RASHOMON (1950), except that instead of telling the story from several characters’ point of view, IMPRINT tells us multiple versions of the same story from one person.

I do not want to give too much away, but, as the story gets more horrific with each telling, we start getting into such taboo areas as incest and abortion (probably the number one reason why this episode did not air on American TV). Throughout, there is a strong surreal quality to the proceedings that make us feel as if we’re drifting through a nightmare, up to the ending which is completely bizarre, yet effective.

I thought the lead actors were all good, even Drago whose character is a little over the top. Drago’s performance worked for me, however, because its oddness added to the nightmarish tone.

Miike is a director who does not shy away from shocking images and truly disturbing subject matter, but he is also a visual poet, and there is as much beauty and strong use of color in IMPRINT as there is repulsive and terrifying imagery.

While I did think IMPRINT was a strong, disturbing film, and am not surprised by Showtime’s timidity in not showing this episode, I do not agree with their decision at all. IMPRINT is a very powerful episode and Miike is a true artist. Since horror is supposed to push our buttons, Miike succeeds in proving that he is a true Master of the genre. If it had caused more controversy by being aired, then it would have simply confirmed the promise of the series. A premium cable channel that claims to offer true freedom for filmmakers needs to stick to its guns. But I guess keeping subscribers from possibly jumping ship is the true bottom line.

I suppose we should be thankful that IMPRINT saw the light of day at all, and that we’re able to watch it on DVD (the DVD came out after Season One was over. But I find it supremely ironic that the one episode they didn’t show on television was the crown jewel of the bunch.

Directed by: Takashi Miike
Screenplay by: DaisukeTengan (based on the novel by Shimako Iwai)
Starring:
Billy Drago, Youki Kudoh, Michie Ito, Toshie Negishi and Shimako Iwai
Cinematography by:
Toyomichi Kurita
Special Effects by:
Yuuichi Matsui

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

(Note: A slightly different version of this article was first published on the Australian movie website DVD RESURRECTIONS in 2006)