Archive for the Parasites! Category

THE BAY (2012)

Posted in 2012, Conspiracy Theories, Disease!, Faux Documentaries, Found Footage Movies, Gore!, Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Parasites! with tags , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by knifefighter

THE BAY (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

This one sounded interesting to me. A “found footage” horror movie by Barry Levinson, the director who gave us such memorable films through the years as DINER (1982), THE NATURAL (1984), RAIN MAN (1988), BUGSY (1991), SLEEPERS (1996) , WAG THE DOG (1997) and lots more. That’s one hell of a resume.

And I’ve actually enjoyed most of the “found footage” movies that have been coming out lately, even though the genre gets a bad rap. I was definitely interested in seeing what Levinson would do with the concept.

THE BAY (2012) got a limited release in a few cities across the country, and is also currently on cable OnDemand. Watching this movie, I found myself wondering why it didn’t get a wider release.

The “bay” in question here is Chesapeake Bay, which I read is “the largest estuary in the United States” surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The movie THE BAY takes place mostly in a small town called Claridge, Maryland. It relies mostly on tourism for its income. But there are also lots of chicken farms in the area, made possible thanks to a big desalination plant that makes enough water available to support the industry. But there’s the problem of animal waste and rumors that there might have been a nuclear waste leak years back, or so the movie tells us. And that chicken waste has a lot of chemicals in it like steroids and other stuff to increase the birds’ growth and meat production.

It’s the Fourth of July, and there’s a big celebration in Claridge, including a crab-eating contest and sailing and fireworks. But this year, something goes wrong. People start getting sick. They starts to erupt with boils and throw up blood, and develop wounds that look as if their flesh is being eaten away from the inside. People start to panic, and bodies start piling up in the streets.

What is causing this pandemic? We have clues as to the conditions that bred such a disease, but the actual culprit might surprise you.

Meanwhile, the movie is made up of footage that was being suppressed. A chunk of it is from the point of view of Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue), a young news reporter who got her “big break” that Fourth of July, when she thought she was just covering another small town holiday, but instead stumbled on something horrible. She just wants to get this footage out to the world before it happens again.

Not all of the footage is of Donna and what she witnesses, however. There’s also video of two researchers who were testing the bay’s toxicity;  a family (wife, husband and baby) who film themselves taking their boat to Claridge to meet the wife’s parents; and footage of Dr. Jack Abrams (Stephen Kunken), who first sees an emergency room waiting area with about 30 people who are infected with strange symptoms. Then he sees that number rise to 60 people, and more and more. His frantic Skypes to the Center for Disease Control don’t seem to be taken seriously at first, and by the time the authorities start to worry, it’s clear they want to cover this up and avoid a mass panic. We also see a few Claridge police officers making their rounds in COPS-like footage, and we see a girl on Facebook making videos, unable to get help, and afraid she might die alone. As the movie progresses, the symptoms of the people infected get more gory and disturbing.

Somehow, all this various footage meshes well together, and tells a compelling story about a horrible flesh-eating disease, and puts a human face on that disease.

Levinson does a fine job with the material. No matter how much I want to get sick of the found footage genre, movies like this pop up that keep it viable. I was pretty riveted throughout, wondering what was behind all this, and if it could be stopped in time. Levinson does a great job here building suspense. And the performances help him to sell the story. The acting here is all very good and the people are believable.

Keather Donohue plays reporter Donna Thompson, who is trying to get word out about what seems to be a killer disease in THE BAY.

There has been some hype about the fact that Oren Peli is one of the producers. He’s the guy who gave us the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise and the short-lived ABC series THE RIVER. And sure, Peli is the king of this kind of stuff. But THE BAY stands or falls on the work of a director named Barry Levinson, and while it might seem that he’s working with material that is beneath him, he pulls it off really well.

I enjoyed this movie, and it kept me glued to the screen throughout. I give it three knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE BAY ~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.

Quick Cuts: Favorite Movies by DAVID CRONENBERG

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

*****

 

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

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

*****

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

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

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

*****

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

*****

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

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

—-END—

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

Meals for Monsters: SHIVERS (1975)

Posted in 2012, 70s Horror, David Cronenberg, Jenny Orosel Columns, Meals for Monsters, Parasites! with tags , , , , , , on May 9, 2012 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: SHIVERS (1975)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

Considering his output for the past two decades, it’s easy to forget David Cronenberg was once the undisputed master of anatomical horror.  Before his more cerebral exercises like SPIDER (2002) and A DANGEROUS METHOD (2011) or his action movie dabbling like A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) and EASTERN PROMISES (2007), he made a career out of scaring his audiences with images of our flesh gone horribly wrong.  SHIVERS (1975, a.k.a. THEY CAME FROM WITHIN), his first feature, was a unique exploration into these fears, and was a sign of his greatness to come.

In urban Canada, an apartment complex stands alone on an island, an insulated haven for its residents.  There is an on-site store, dry cleaners, even a medical center.  They never have to leave, if they don’t want to.  It’s the perfect environment for Dr. Hobbs to conduct his latest experiment—a parasite that will rid humans of (what he believed to be) their false pretenses of civility, and bring out our basest instincts for pleasure.  This parasite was supposed to remain contained to one girl—his sixteen year old lover.  However, the parasite is spread sexually, and she has started the epidemic.  One by one, the residents are infected, becoming thoughtless hedonists themselves.  And, as each becomes a sex-crazed zombie, they spread the infection on to new victims, and the rate of infected multiply.  Can the one doctor stop the parasite before the entire complex falls victim?

SHIVERS is different from most horror films, because there is no killer.  People aren’t fighting any great monster or psychotic murderer, but rather their own base instincts and desires.  And what’s more frightening: losing your body or losing your soul?

That’s really a question that only the individual can answer for themselves.  All I know is a movie that steeped in the id deserves a delicious, indulgent meal with perhaps one or two aphrodisiacs.  After all, why should mindless nympho Canadians have all the fun?

Two things that can increase the libido are champagne and strawberries.

CHAMPAGNE AND STRAWBERRY COCKTAIL

Make sure the berries are very ripe (almost to the point of being over-ripe), and smash them in a bowl.  Add a couple scoops to the bottom of the glass and fill with sparkling wine.  As you drink, the bubbles will help break down some of the strawberry, mixing it in with the beverage.  After the liquid has been drunk, the berries are even tastier after absorbing a bit of the alcohol.

The main course is where you can really fill your loved one full of mood-enhancing foods.  Some of the most popular (and perhaps most effective) are asparagus, pomegranate and scallops.  They can become a fun, wonderful meal.

SCALLOPS WITH POMEGRANATE AND WINE SAUCE

Cook a batch of plain white rice.

In a small saucepan, combine ¾ cup rose wine (such as white zinfandel), a cup and a half of pomegranate juice, a pinch of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil, and continue to boil at medium heat for twenty minutes.  Just before serving, whisk in ¼ cup butter, one tablespoon at a time.

Season scallops (I used smaller bay scallops, but the large sea scallops will work fine) with salt.  Sauté in olive oil until opaque.  Place on a bed of the rice.  Top with a few spoonfuls of the sauce and thinly sliced fresh basil.

For the asparagus:

Rinse the asparagus and break off the tough, woody bottoms.  Wrap them in bunches of six or seven with a slice of prosciutto.  Sprinkle with a little bit of red pepper flakes. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about fifteen minutes, or until the prosciutto is crispy. There is no need to add salt, because the prosciutto is salty enough, and since the fat renders off with cooking, you will not need to add oil or grease the pan.

For dessert, one of the most popular aphrodisiacs for women is chocolate.  Home-made truffles may sound difficult but are surprisingly easy.

HOME-MADE TRUFFLES

Put chocolate chips in a small bowl (any kind, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, even white chocolate works fine).  Heat heavy cream over medium-low heat until just before boiling.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate a little at a time, stirring until the chocolate is melted and the cream is incorporated (it should take between ¼ and ½ cups for your standard size package of chocolate chips).  If it cools before the chocolate is completely melted, microwave for fifteen seconds at a time.  Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator until just set.  Roll the chocolate into balls (this is a VERY messy step, so if you are planning on making this a hot date, you might want to prepare these before putting on your nice shirt).  The truffles can then be rolled into any number of coatings.  I used cocoa powder and chopped pecans, but coconut flakes, rainbow sprinkles, even bacon bits can be delicious.  Keep the truffles refrigerated until serving.

SHIVERS was an amazing directorial debut, and a perfect introduction to the “body horror” Cronenberg would build his career on.  By the time he got to such masterpieces as VIDEODROME (1983) and DEAD RINGERS (1988) he had nearly perfected his sense of style and dread.  It’s a damn shame he seems to have moved away from terrors of the flesh.  If we’re lucky, he’ll come back to the genre.  But in the meantime, at least we have SHIVERS and a tasty meal to keep us going.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel