Thursday, December 17, 2009

Horror's best of 2009-You can't stop progress

My personal feelings? This was a good year for our beloved genre. Not necessarily the studio, well-marketed stuff but for the indies, there was some definite success. Despite the fact that Rob Zombie took a big, wet dump on the genre that made him, other's in the horror world strove to create something exciting and entertaining. So, I will gladly lay out my personal opinions for no one to read or care about, except a few of my geek friends who love horror or are film snobs who don't like anything. Enjoy! Note: some of these films weren't necessarily 2009 releases but DID get released on DVD this year, thus qualifying them in my, shut up.

1.Martyrs-I've sucked this film off in several public forums and this one will be no exception. It actually kinda disappoints you when you know you've just watched the best movie you'll see all year and it's only like March or April. Nonetheless, I love it. It's excessive, dreary, bleak, and mean-spirited. And hopefully, it's a sign of things to come from the French. Mr. Laugier is a name I fully expect to be hearing quite a bit.

2.Book of Blood-I'd reckon this one was a long time coming, and I feel like it being good, is pretty cut and dry. The story is a combination of 2 of Clive Barker's short stories and it screams of that. The setting gives us a rainy dark back drop w/ a very simple premise-if you lie, you suffer. The last few years, Barker's stories have become popular fodder for screenplays (again) as a lifelong fan, I am glad it's happening.

3.Offspring-So, I am apparently on a island of my own in liking this one. I don't think I've read but a few favorable reviews, and I find it surprising considering the source of material. Jack Ketchum novel, feral humans, unsuspecting victims-HELL YES!!!! It's hilarious and repugnant, full of ultra gore, rape, incest, cannibalism, and all around nastiness. plus, dude from Porky's is in it! It's so completely ridiculous that it couldn't be anything but a blast to watch and clocking in at around 75 minutes, it doesn't eat up any of your time. Not for snobs or elitists, but definitely for the hardcore gorehound.

4.Drag Me to Hell-I was a skeptic. I was nervous. I was downright terrified. Fortunately, Sam Raimi proved why he is still one of the most highly lauded filmmakers of our era. YES, he's the man who made the Evil Dead series, but shit- Tobe Hooper made Texas Chainsaw Massacre and let's be honest, not much great has followed, barring a few high notes. And maybe the lesson I learned is the one all geeks should learn: You don't get that kinda pay without having done something right. Essentially, he pulled a Jay-Z move-shit was going bad, and he had to come back and remind people why he was the king. It's a truckload of fun and is highly recommended!

5.Grace-I was amazed out how much this movie got to me. Actually, no-no, I wasn't. As a parent, the notion that you will do anything for your child resonates with me quite strongly. But it's a subject I don't worry too much about when watching horror movies because I don't run acrossed it's path too often. The film kind of plays out like a Polanski film-very few set pieces that narrow down to one, a beautiful blond lead who just so happens to be VERY emotionally fractured, minimal dialogue and an evil antagonist. It's a bleak story w/ very little room to find hope and it has some darkly comic moments but overall, Paul Solet figured out how to make a strong entry into horror. I am greatly anticipating more from him in the future.

6.Black Devil Doll-With a tag line like "He's a lover, He's a killer, He's a Muthafuckin' Puppet!", I expected only the best. From the fellas that brought the world Rotten Cotton horror t shirts, comes a hilarious story about a Black Panther serial rapist/killer who's soul is reanimated in the body of a marionette puppet. I don't think I need to tell you how funny this is. This minor description should be enough of a sell. I laughed harder at this film than any film I've seen all year. It's offensive, vile and brilliant. Please, PLEASE keep making films, Lewis Bros. and I will keep buying your shirts!

7.Laid To Rest-It's a rare commodity anymore that someone could make a slasher film that's not only original but is hopeful for having a future. It's got all the trappings of success with it's masked, nameless killer and moronic victims. The dude that made this made a film called Lightning Bug a year or two ago that was okay but I didn't think he had this in him. It's a damn shame he couldn't get a really good budget and marketing because I think he's created a character that could come into his own aside Freddy, Jason, and Michael. Lots of blood and guts and a great pace.

8.Splinter-Monster movies are a tricky, tricky beast. If you do it right, you've got a potential icon on your hands. If you do it wrong, well...Uwe Boll, anyone? There's almost been a resurgence in this sorta stuff. I would link it back to Pan's Labyrinth doing so well, but regardless it's not an easy feat of accomplishment. Guillermo Del Toro has got monster ability in spades but not all guys get that kinda budget to work with. So, they do what they can to make it powerful (a good example would be JT Petty's The Burrowers, from last year) and when those filmmakers get it right, it's an awesome trip! Splinter would be such a film. It's got such a thick layer of slime and gross on it, you can practically wipe it off with a squidgy. It'll make any new young lovers rethink that camping trip. And I may be the only one who noticed this, but I like how they made the lead character out to be a spineless wuss until he absolutely needed courage, ala Ash in Evil Dead. Another one that's fun and probably a good date movie. At least, in my world.

9.Trick R' Treat-To prove that this was a kick ass film, you need to look no further than my wife. See, my one and only love has been the unsuspecting victim of many years of my genre film ingestion. She's suffered through hours upon hours of schlock and occasionally is rewarded with a film that she loves! This is one such film and she has gone on record as saying this may be her favorite horror film she's ever watched (barring the classics which she DOES love). It's an incredible amount of fun and I think will become the next big thing, so to speak, when it comes to actual horror films that are about our beloved holiday. If you're a horror fan, you'd already been waiting on this film for a few years and it was sweet, sweet justice when it landed in our laps this last fall. Funny, scary, and exciting. This is a horror film that non horror fans would love.

10. Let The Right One In-I wasn't going to count this one, as it had it's "theatrical run" in 2008 but most Americans didn't see it until this year. This is a film that falls into the category of films that I enjoyed watching with my wife. By now, most of you have heard and read plenty about this film and so I'll spare you the recap. I will, however, tell you that this Swedish gem has so much emotion wrapped up in it's cold and miserable package. If it doesn't rip your heart out of your chest when watching it, you're not alive. There are more than enough terrifying and vile moments to last a lifetime but the true story here is a love story. It's beautiful and beautifully shot by a genre first timer. I don't need to tell you anymore than you've already heard. Just see it.

Honorable Mentions:
-Tokyo Gore Police
-The Butcher
-Friday the 13th (yep, I loved it!)
-The Hills Run Red
-Twatlight (I will go on record as saying that this may be the funniest thing Chris Seaver has ever done)
-Terror at Blood Fart Lake

Non-Horror Films that I loved this year

1.Inglorious Basterds-Next to Martyrs, may have been the best film I watched. Yes, I am about to say this: Tarantino NEVER misses. EVER.

2.Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince-As time goes on, these films get smarter, more mature and more exciting. I unabashedly love Harry Potter films and I don't care how lame it is.

3. Away We Go-A beautiful love story that is totally realistic. Who'd have known John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph were so perfect as a couple?

4. Observe & Report-I've heard a few differing opinions but mine is in favor of this flick. I think that this is a high point in Seth Rogen's career. Jody Hill & Co. are every bit as funny as the Apatow gang but have a little bit more of a dark side. It's marvelous.

5.The Hangover-Yes, we all saw know why? Cuz' it's damn brilliant! Can Very Bad Things and Bachelor Party be combined? Yes. And can said movie also feature Mike Tyson and a tiger? Yes.

6. UP-C'mon, dude it's Pixar. Of course, it's good!

7.Star Trek-HOLY SHIT! If you'd told me I was gonna love this flick as much as I do, I would've laughed at you and farted in your face. I hate Star Trek. Hate it! But this movie makes it into bad ass territory right quick with kick ass actors (Eric Bana is the shit) amazing effects, and not to mention another fantastic dive into JJ Abrahm's head. Great story, great film.

Another great thing about being a horror fan is having films that were thought to be lost, re-released onto DVD. This year, I was fortunate enough to have some of my favorite films from my past resurface and pepper my sick, pathetic life with a little bit of joy.

1.Hardware-Richard Stanley is one of my favorite filmmakers ever. To see his first film finally get it's just desserts is beautiful. Great transfer, excellent extras and gorgeous packaging. Nice work, Severin!

2.Combat Shock-Arguably one of the most depressing films ever made. it's tension and misery still hold up all the way to it's appalling climax. Plus, there are some bitchin' extras. Looks like Troma used some of that Poultrygeist cash and gave Buddy a well-deserved makeover.

3.Night of the Creeps-I don't know a single horror geek that wasn't erect with glee when you heard that we were finally, FINALLY getting this 80's horror masterpiece for mass consumption. It lives up to our expectations and the EXCEEDS them. Kudos to the cats at Sony/Tri Star for noticing that a brotha needed some action. Maybe, in our new, wonderful world Fred Dekker's gonna get another shot at a feature.

4.Happy Birthday to Me-I love Canada and Canadian people. This film would be a shining example as to why I do.

5.Cat in the Brain-Lucio Fulci is a god among men in our genre. This, one of the auteur's latter offerings, gave a glimpse into his mind while making his gore epics. Underrated and overgored, this is a nice posthumous postcard on a legend's career.

And now, lastly, there are those films that I didn't quite get to in time but plan doing so very soon, so here's a list of films I assumed I would've loved this year:

-I Sell the Dead
-Dead Snow
-Samurai Princess
-The Road (seriously, how has this not opened wide yet?!)

Thanks for paying attention. See ya' in 2010!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Halloween II

Not much to say other than we all know what's coming out this weekend. It's a promise that this movie will be utter garbage. His mom's a fucking ghost?! Is he NOT wearing a mask?! Dude, your wife's a SAG member-she'll find work. She died in the last flick, she doesn't need to show back up.
Look, I like Rob Zombie...a lot. He's always incorporated horror themed elements into his music and stageshow as well as making a couple of films that were kinda fun. House of 1000 Corpses was this cartoonish head trip and I thought it was a lot of fun. The Devil's Rejects on the other hand was a much more grim, realistic, but fun movie to take in. Either way, the guy was doing his best version of Texas Chainsaw in both instances but it wasn't like it wasn't respectful. But this Halloween remake bullshit is getting kinda old. He's already PROVEN that he's better than that. Now I'm hearing that he's doing a possible remake of The Blob?! Ugh...
As I'm finishing the latest Gary A. Braunbeck novel (which is brilliant), it begs the question: Why the FUCK isn't anyone developing original screenplays?! Sooooo many great books written that are ripe for development yet remain untouched as we rehash every single damn slasher that's existed in horror. Please tell me life will get better...
The Wolfman trailer DOES look badass, though...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Where the HELL have I been?!

Oh christ, it's been a dragon's age since I've hit the blog. I know, I know, I'm lazy, etc. Well, truth be told, I've been balls deep in horror just stuff. My band has just finished writing and recording 2 songs for horror movie soundtracks. The first is for a film from a Jersey company. It's called "Only Go There at Night: Darkness Rising" and I couldn't be more excited to have music on the soundtrack (apparently, they are using 2 other songs off of our last record as well). In addition, we will have a song on a TROMA flick!!! Yeah!!!! It's a Low Budget Pictures/Troma release called "Teenape vs. the Nazi Zombie Army" or something along those lines. We wrote the title credits track. Either way, It's been bitchin' to work with some of these folks. We're very excited. And speaking on behalf of a lifelong horror geek, I'm pretty giddy at the notion of having a song on a Troma movie....
But I digress. Fear not, I will be hitting the blogs a little harder coming up, being that I'm gonna be hitting prime horror season. The unfortunate thing about 2009 is that I've already seen my favorite film of the year in Martyrs, but I just saw "Inglorious Basterds" on Sunday which will surely make the top 10, not to mention, Drag Me to Hell, Splintered, Last House on the Left (remake), and some others have made me quite happy. Oh, and Friday, I will see the WORST film of the year in Halloween 2. Promptly after which, I will spray salty soapwater into my eyes for putting myself through that. Ah, life...
Anyway, fall fastly approaches and I will be doing a couple of lists coming soon (Including best drunken, halloween party flicks) PLUS I will be visiting Cinema Wasteland in October, so I'm sure I'll have some stories to share. I mean, porn legend Jamie Gillis and star of "Maniac", one of my top 3 favorite films, Caroline Munro will be there. I'm pumped. To tide you over, here's a short list of things that let me know my favorite time is coming:

1. I get in the mood to watch Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and Return of the Living Dead.
2. My son begins talks of costume choices (we're down to Draco Malfoy, and Brobee from Yo Gabba Gabba)
3. I listen to Danzig a lot.
4. Smoking a cigarette, drinking a coffee and watching my breath fade with the sun.
5. My wife and I begin taking out our fucked up decorations that insure we will NOT have trick or treaters, and start drinking a lot more alcohol...than usual.
6. Fake Blood!!!
7. Cinema Wasteland
8. Another shitty Saw sequel that I will complain about and which will lead to a tyraid.
9. I will choose a costume that NO ONE will get (Last year it was Joe the Plumber. Not the douchenozzle from the election, but the guy from The Beyond. You know, the dude that gets his eyes ripped out.)
10. Tru Blood. That's a new one, but it's a current obsession.

The point is, I am getting ready for the fall, for Halloween, and for fun. See you all soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Vomit Factor: A list of the grossest films I've ever seen...

The one true consistency to horror has been it's ability to draw certain physical/emotional reactions from it's viewers. For the longest time, it lived specifically off of the "BOO! =AHH!" theory, which is obviously still it's bread and butter. But as time has gone on, we've calloused as a people and need a little more stank on our scares. Enter H.G. Lewis and the word gore into our everyday vocabulary. With the introduction of blood and guts, horror made some HUGE changes in it's approach to scares. Sure, there was gore, in one capacity or another, before H.G. Lewis's films, but never in such a visceral, colorful, and tasteless manner. For some folks, it was the end of a "classier" era. Regardless of which side of the argument you stand on, the entrance of true gross-out gore altered the course of horror's history (and it's many sub genres).
For me, I stand on the side of gore. I'd love to give you a long, arrogant dissertation as to how much gore has crippled the genre, but frankly, I love blood and guts. Being a voyeur as I am, there's something soooo exhilarating and titillating about watching any nameless victim disemboweled in the name of film. Gore introduces a different kind of fear. It plays on the physical rather than emotional, to draw it's reaction. That physical reaction being the gag reflex. Gore has been a source of contention for the better part of 40 years with film fans, but still is one of the largest draws to a box office. Classics like The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Dawn of the Dead as well as lesser known genre favorites like Snuff, Maniac, and Blood Feast had people clamoring for a chance to see what sent people "running from the theatres puking". Marketing gimmicks like barf bags and menacing pre-film disclaimers piqued curiosity and became a lucrative format to work within. And have we become snobbish sophisticates who are above such juvenile pratfalls? Hell no! Hostel, Hannibal-you name it, just a couple modern pop culture pieces that have banked and bled all over their audience (the latter of the two drawing a lot of heat due to it's Academy-award winning cast.). It's here to say, and has had a strong resurgence over the last 5 years, gaining a new moniker (gornography). This same pallet by which fans judge a classic or not (at least, nowadays) is the reason for this latest blog o' mine. This is a list of the grossest films I've encountered. Some are gross for strange reasons, some are obvious. Either way, over time I've experienced some sick shit and these are the standouts. Grab a garbage can and enjoy!

Baby Blood aka The Evil Within (1989)- The French have become some of my favorites when it comes to gore as of lately. Where there obsession with over-the-top effects started, one can only guess but I know where it started with me. This sick little bastard, which I first viewed on VHS under the title "The Evil Within", featured some repulsive action. The story is centered around a carnie of sorts (played way too strongly by Emmanuelle Escourrou) who becomes impregnated by a demon parasite from the dawn of civilization who needs to be reborn into a human body: the catch is, the demon needs to be nurtured into it's full bloom by human blood (duh). Against her will, our expectant mother goes on a killing spree to nurture her little evil seed to life and the blood is provided via loads of horny, greasy, sweaty Frenchmen. It's a hilarious ride through this sleazefest that comes with gallons of blood and for some reason, a lot of really unattractive actors and actresses who incessantly sweat. The first time I watched this, I was eating pizza (hand of god) and lost my appetite for it. I broke out the DVD a few months ago and it's still gross. Seek this one out for a good laugh. Imagine early Peter Jackson and Evil Dead tactics set in an angular French slum and you've got the trappings for a fun one.

Feed (2006)-Okay, so this is one of those gems that caught a buzz in internet horror circles and caught me, like a sucker, but paid itself in full. I'm not a big fan of director Brett Leonard but it made up for his track record of shitty movies with this puker. The film is a modern setting revolving around a detective from Australia (?) who investigates bogus/dangerous cyberporn. He stumbles upon a fetish known as "feeders/gainers", which involves VERY large women who are loved and adored by men. Loved and adored too much perhaps, as the film's antagonist streams a live feed to paying viewers who get to witness the fattening up and eventual death's of these women. As you would expect, the eerie anonymity of the web becomes the true bad guy in this flick as our cop hero is lead on a wild goose chase to find our modern day Buffalo Bill.
This film owes alot to flicks like Seven and Silence of the Lambs but unlike those two arrogant twats, is not afraid of being a balls out gross horror film. The "gore" in this film is not so much whats on the inside being ripped out as it is what's on the outside being forced in. Some of the force-feeding and visuals of food were almost too much for me to bear at points. I distinctly remember watching this film with my wife during her pregnancy and both of us being outright repulsed. Leonard was able to tap into a modern vein with the internet-driven story and do up some truly disgusting visuals. Definitely not for those of you with an easy gag reflex.

August Underground's Mordum (2004)-This film series has gained itself quite a lot of notoriety over the last few years in the underground (no pun intended) with good reason. It's arguably, some of the most shocking shit that's been made in ages. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with the idea Toe Tag Pictures and it's cash cow. For an independent company who has kicked decency in the nuts, there seems to be a lot of self-importance attached to these folks and their movies. But alas, this is not about them but rather about it-it, being their film. Mordum was the second in this series of "snuff" films which follows a serial killing duo on their exploits, and at times, lack thereof. Shot digitally and then degenerated to give you a truly, grainy, realistic experience, the film doesn't have a title sequence. It doesn't role credits or back itself with an atmospheric score. It just starts like a home video and doesn't let up. Some of these effects and set pieces were so fucking intense, I almost wanted to look away (almost). Writer/director/producer/founder/star Fred Vogel doesn't try to create atmosphere. There's not a plot line to follow (I mean that in a good way) nor any character development to emotionally attach yourself to. The movie just assaults your senses over and over and over again. Vomit, feces, penile removal ala medical scissors, entrail penetration, necrophiliac pedophilia-NOTHING is off limits. Toe Tag's background in effects proved what they are strongest at because if one didn't no any better, they'd think they were seeing reality play out on the screen.
I can't recommend this film in good conscious, because, quite frankly I don't watch it in that state. It's a crowning achievement for these guys and in my opinion for the genre ( I say this, because I can't stand what they've done post-Mordum). Vogel really outdid himself on this one and challenges the best of horror directors by not letting up through the entire film. Just a few personal notes: Not only have I told people who've asked to borrow it no, but I also had this film sober up an entire day's worth of drinking for me. Plenty of my friends thought they were tough guys who could handle this film and asked me to turn it off. At some point in horror history, the AU films will go down in it's history as being waaay ahead of it's time. Until then, I will honor this film a modern gore masterpiece. Don't seek it out...

The Girl Next Door (2007)-There's a lot of different pieces to this puzzle that I'm gonna sort out for you before I start up. This film is based on a Jack Ketchum novel, which is based on a true story about the torture of Sylvia Likens and her younger sibling (the actual aforementioned story was the basis for a film called "An American Crime"). Already a story with some strong history, the film is gross because it's so real and so depressive. The masochistic way in which and entire neighborhood gangs up on a preteen girl and makes her their pariah is utterly sickening. But what's worse is the attitude taken by the rest of the people in the neighborhood. The film is set in the 50's/60's middle America lifestyle where ignoring the problem worked as well as solving it. I'm fully aware that this film exaggerates how the world conducted itself, but there is some truth to the story and it's just plain sad.
At any rate, The Girl Next Door is a film that poetically dissects the torture of a child. A woman who plays the aunt, watching out for the girl allows her children and others to abuse the girl, be it sexually, violently or otherwise. By saying this film is a mood killer is understating each and every frame of it. There are so many moments where the violence feels so real and grimy that you feel your own body tensing up as you watch. I'm certain most folks wouldn't classify this film as horror but it is in every sense of the word. The film also has merit because we are comforted in the hopefulness of knowing bad guys never win, right? Not necessarily. It plays out as an endurance race and whether or not the girl in our story survives is irrelevant. the damage is done and one never truly recovers from such atrocities.
I'll be the first guy to blow the whistle as a film that doesn't want to call itself horror yet has all the makings and "no shit" factors that make it one. But I don't want to mislead you into believing this is a horror film in the conventional sense. It's realistic and dense but reaches a point of divinity that makes you glad it's over. The sensitive viewer will definitely not be able to sit through the whole thing and all you tough guy gorehounds may shed a couple sympathy tears. All around, it's grossness factor is summed up in it's reality.

Make Them Die Slowly aka Cannibal Ferox (1981)-As I was trying to narrow down what would make my list, I knew that I couldn't get through it without a cannibal flick but I didn't want to be too obvious. I've made no bones about the fact that I feel Cannibal Holocaust is not only one of my favorite films ever but one of the best horror films ever. So, as much gushing as I do over that, I thought I'd give her retarded kid brother the spot light for a few moments.
In the timeline of my horror love life, I actually watched MTDS before I saw a true copy of Cannibal Holocaust. This was due to the fact that I knew no one with a proper copy and couldn't find one myself yet. So, with my cannibal film needs needing to be met, I turned to my Italian friends who never disappoint. MTDS follows a group of greedy ne'erdowells into the jungle in search of whatever, and guess what? They stumble upon blood thirsty "savages". Cannibal flicks are often viewed as racist and exploitative in their very nature and often times hide behind a thin veil of social consciousness. But really they just boil down to being good old splatter fests meant to test your puke trigger. Umberto Lenzi directed a film that not only cast some of the who's who of Italian horror but pretty much apes Deodato's concept, just much less effectively and much MORE humorously. It's cut exactly the way all the Italian cannibal flicks are cut: Jungles of some exotic land (Brazil in this case), gratuitous nudity and sex, reprehensible jackassish characters with their own self-serving agenda, scenes of stock footage with animals being slaughtered and eaten in their raw state of death, lot's of disgusting dismemberment and gore, penis removal-wait?! Another penis removal?! Yep, another dick being discarded in the name of gore. And who better to lose his dignity but Italy's whipping boy, Giovanni Lombardo Radice? In another role where he's treated as garbage, Radice is destroyed and exploited all for our amusement. Oh, and the legendary Robert Kerman is along for the ride (yeah, THAT Robert Kerman)...another cannibal ride. Again.
As much as I'm making fun of it, I do love this movie. It's over the top and no, it's not as good as it's predecessor, but it's not trying to be. MTDS is gory, nasty fun with a beautiful South American backdrop. The acting is extremely overdone and it makes the experience all the better. There's lots of shoddy effects which, somehow, makes it more disgusting. And don't forget, a dick gets cut off...

Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985)-We're headed back to the "snuff" well with this one. It's one of the notorious Guinea Pig films from Japan and it's perhaps the most notorious of all of them. For those who aren't in the know, this film was seen by Charlie Sheen years back and he thought he was seeing an actual snuff film and made an international stink about it. From this situation two things arose: Everyone realized how big of a douchenozzle Charlie Sheen was, and the world became acquainted with Japanese hyper-violence.
As far as the film goes, it really isn't driven by characters or storyline per say, but rather it takes that snuff approach. You basically feel like you're privy to something you shouldn't be seeing (hence the purpose of a snuff film). The basis of the movie is watching a guy dressed like an old samurai ( yeah, I don't know either) dismember his captive with surgeon-like precision. The effects are truly incredible looking and it feels like you're watching it happen. The filmmakers even had the wherewithal to have appendages seem animated as they are being removed from the victim's body. It's actually very visually stunning if you consider this was shot on video and technically shouldn't be the slightest bit shocking. But if you combine the incredible effects (seriously, for the time they were great looking!) with the weird atmosphere created by the lack of dialogue and music, it becomes a very jarring movie going experience.
The reputation these films garnered were, for the most part, well deserved. They were banned in several places in the world for a long time. In fact, I never saw the movie until Unearthed Films released their beautifully packaged box set about 5 years ago. I've found that watching this movie you will catch yourself or others around you turning up their lips as they see limbs sloooowly cut off (accompanied by very realistic sounds). It has all the credentials of being a shocking film and lives up to it's notorious name.

Inside (2008)-Yes, a film this new has made that much of a lasting impression. As I stated previously, the french have a very sadistic outlook on film and are currently overthrowing the world horror market with their insidious and brutal films. Inside is definitely no exception to this new rule.
The film's premise is based on a photojournalist who loses her husband in a car crash. As if that memory weren't painful enough, she has a constant reminder in a child she's bearing that will be due on Christmas Eve. She heads home to be alone on Christmas Eve, essentially awaiting child labor, when she receives a very strange visitor. What follows is an explosion of violence unmatched by anything that came out last year. Insane violence takes place in the form of death by mirror shards, knitting needles (exceptionally gruesome), and the good ol' Lysol and lighter torch. Oh, and there's a little scene that involves a C-section via scissors. The amount of blood and gore that was shed in this film rivals Evil Dead.
I can't lie-I was genuinely shocked at how unrelenting the violence was. It starts with a first act that slowly develops characters then once the second act hits, everything goes shit house!!! Heads get blown apart, entrails pouring out of bodies, flying left and right, and a total malay ensues from each direction.
I've pointed some burgeoning horror fans in the direction of this film, all with positive results but one thing is constant in each reaction: shock at how disgusting the film is. Part of me wants to say "this is a great date movie" but I know that it probably won't get you laid. Sure she'll cling to you as the jump and scares start but a few moments later, she might be retching. It fires with both barrels and is generally unpleasant, but any gorehound looking for a newer flick to test their gag reflex, this one'll do it.

Pink Flamingos (1972)-Yeah, yeah, I's not horror. But this early John Waters picture is from the Grindhouse era and is every bit an exploitation film as anything else you're gonna find. I'm assuming most folks know of Mr. Waters work (Hairspray, Cry Baby, Pecker, Female Trouble, etc.) and if you're anything like me, you adore what he puts out there into the world. The tight-knit crew known as the Dreamlanders have been churning out schlocky exploitation for a long time, lead by their fearless director. If the phrase "this is the one that started it all" had any relevancy, it would apply to this flick. My guess would be if you are reading this, then you know who "the filthiest people alive" are. So, I'll spare you a synopsis and get straight to the goods.
I'm not entirely sure what compelled me to see this. The first of his films that I saw was probably Cry Baby, followed by Serial Mom. From there, I looked to keep pursuing his work. I'd guess to a certain extent, I was far too young to see what I saw in Pink Flamingos, but no one was stopping young folks from renting VHS tapes, were they? Aside from general grossness of Divine's antics, we have chicken's being decapitated during sex/rape, shit eating (literal shit fake turds here!), a nude contortionist who bears too much of his backside, a giant old fat woman covered in eggs, Divine's character performing oral sex on her get the general idea. Seriously, this movie rivals most of it's contemporaries with sheer shock value and general dirtiness.
As time has gone on, John Waters has ventured away from so much of the shock and awe but keeps his edge. His a pretty permanent fixture in our home and is beloved by my wife-beloved in the way Europeans used to react to Michael Jackson. Pink Flamingos doesn't push the envelope but rather wipes its ass with it. You'll laugh your ass off but there's a good chance you'll want to puke while your at it.

Dead Alive aka Braindead (1993)-Once upon a time, there was a director named Peter Jackson. He loved making really fucked up, gross out gore films. Then he made the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it was good. Then he followed that up with King Kong...that was not good
Look, if you don't know who Peter Fucking Jackson is and if you don't know his roots, then you probably shouldn't bother with reading any of this. Ever. It's a modern gore classic and it can be summed up to it followers in two words: Lawnmower Scene.

Emanuelle in America (1976)-Joe D'Amato is just as well known for this flick as he is for being one of those porn crossover directors. Emanuelle is a familiar name to any guy who's parents had Cinemax during his adolescence (my masturbating, red face included) but what Emanuelle became and what it was are two ENTIRELY different things.
Originally, Emanuelle was a series dedicated to the exploitation world. Played by the exotic and beautiful Laura Gemser, Emanuelle found herself in all the predicaments that grindhouse cinema could throw at her. She dealt with cannibals, nazis, evil nuns in convents, prison-the whole enchilada. Because it was a part of the beloved grindhouse era, it wasn't done for softcore romanticism, but balls-out sickness.
This particular film is the one that sticks out the most to me. Graphic, hardcore sex, Nazi prison camp sex torture machines, and a horse named Pedro...
Now do you see why it made the list? No one wanted to go there, D'Amato did go there, and I am a worse person for having witnessed it. I don't think I need to tell you what happened for you to know. It's disgusting and it's hilarious. This is one to whip out when you've got your dude's around and your drinking. I think the conversation usually starts with "You guys wanna see something really fucked up?"

Alright, so this may not be the most extensive list but it's one that tells you what's memorable to me. I chose these films because I like them. I didn't decide based on what some book or magazine may say, but I did decide based on having experienced these films and loving them. Check out the ones you haven't seen. Or don't...they're pretty fucking gross.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Martyrs: A Review and a Loveletter...

Just the mere notion that something coming out in this era of horror that pushes people to "run from theatres vomiting" is enough to shake me to my core. It goes without saying, that it's a rare commodity nowadays. Gore and the gore film have all but flooded the market, usually with very little success. So, to await the release of what alot of folks in horror circles were referring to as one of the most brutal films they've ever seen, had me chomping at the bit. The wait was totally worth it, as Martyrs lived up to all the expectations I had.
"Martyrs" is a French film that literally transcends horror into an esoteric commentary on faith, humanity, and the strength of the human spirit. The film's scariest moments derive from how intensely your emotions get jerked back and forth. Your sympathies for the characters are somewhat confusing, considering some of the horrible atrocities they commit. But compared with the violence from their past, which brought them to this point, it's not entirely out of the question.
The film begins with a young girl, who we come to know as Lucie, running through the streets half naked, clearly from a place she never wanted to be. Young Lucie has ecscaped her torturers and taken into custody. Meanwhile, there is no sign of the ones who did the damage. She is taken into custody by a halfway house. The years of torment have completely dibilitated Lucie, making her unresponsive to any therapy. The only sign of life she shows is her bond with another little girl named Anna. Anna is the only person Lucie can connect with: She's the only person who can penetrate the dense wall of mental illness that Lucie has built. She sees things (namely, a dead girl) that prod and "attack" her. In short, Lucie is completely fucked and Anna is her only connection to true emotion.
We're lead to a 15 year cut-ahead of which leads to some VERY abrupt and realistic violence. Lucie has vowed to find the ones who damaged her and exact her revenge. Anna remains by Lucie's side throughout this entire ordeal which results in Anna becoming a victim of this same experiment that destroyed whoever Lucie once was. I use the word experiment because we find out that Lucie wasn't tortured for the sake of being brutalized. No, it was a test of human endurance, to find out what transfiguration truly is and when/how it happens. Granted, I'm giving you a very abbreviated version of a much more involved story (while trying to not give you all the evidence), but you can see it's heavy.
Not many films have the ability to emotionally exhaust their viewer, particular genre flicks. Generally, you run the same race you always run, with a predictable (but comfortable) outcome. Suffered a little, but got through it. Writer/Director Pascal Laugier doesn't work on that wave length. He'd rather exercise his demons through characters with more flaws than a fire-burnt home. Protagonist and antagonist are blurred and the ideas of good and bad are thrown out the window. And if you step away from it all, that makes sense: If everything you knew was completely fucked and you knew the outcome was grim regardless, would you toss it all into the sea, or suffer for your dignity? If that seems intense, it's because it is. Laugier was able to do what very few before him have done and that is to say, explode out of the gate with such ferocity, he may never be able to duplicate that intensity. It brings to mind what happen to guys like Tobe Hooper or Ruggero Deodato. They made films that so explicitly played on open nerves, that anything else they would put out after that was a letdown. And though with as much potential as I see in him (more than any other filmmaker in the last 5 years) making such a potent, ornate film, like Martyrs, can be fatal. Don't let this seem misleading-I mean all of this as a compliment. Martyrs gave me that same heart-wrenching feeling I had when seeing some of my favorite films ever made. It also gave me that overwhelming, uneasiness that only a true horror flick can give. Not leaving any stone unturned, but you don't leave feeling good. You leave feeling, dirty, sticky, and unkempt. Just how I like it.
Now, I don't want to paint a picture of how this film is draped in existentialism and what if's and no blood and guts. Quite the contrary, there's tons of the red stuff! The effects on this film were some of the best I've seen in ages. Benoit LeStang (whom I understand took his own life after this film wrapped) clearly had a knack for very visceral, realistic make-up effects. I've never seen someone who is meant to look as a victim of a beating ACTUALLY look like one. Some of these jobs were almost too convincing. That's a testament to the guy's work. It's what made legends of the notorious films made by the aforementioned directors. Being that torture porn is en vogue, to see a film that would qualify for that title move well beyond that into a memorable, intense film, shows promise for the genre as a whole.
Nothing I can say is going to really tell you how much I truly enjoyed this film. Based on what I know of films coming out over the remainder of the year, I doubt anything will trump this from my top spot. It has an unmistakable style that combines visceral, realistic violence with a noticeably, artistic French look and pace. Over the last two years, France has birthed some brutal stuff (Inside, Frontier(s) just to name a few) and Martyrs is the new king of the heap. Once it kicks in, it doesn't let up and whips you into allegiance of it's story. I can't in good conscience, recommend this as a film for the casual moviegoer. I can, however, tell you that if you are moved by intense emotional rides coupled with very realistic violence, please, PLEASE watch Martyrs...Viva La France!!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

10 Great Modern Horror Films

The fragility of horror loyalists is regularly tested by 2 major components: A lack of originality on the film industry's behalf and lack of faith on behalf of the loyalists' themselves. It's often times justified. Take the rash of remakes as an example: What could possibly be original about retreading ground that's completely worn, especially, considering the amount of great horror novels begging to be turned into screenplays? But, a lot of times rabid fans of any pop culture phenomenon react stronger than necessary (myself included). Fanboys cry about comic book movies not being EXACTLY what THEY think it should. Star Wars geeks jerked off for years over the possibility of more flicks. Then bitched like pregnant women when the new episodes came out. Though I must confess I don't care, because I don't give a shit about Star Wars...yep, I said it. And while we're on that subject, I don't give a fuck about The Godfather either. Think it's boring. But I digress...
The point is, as a horror fan, I can tell you that we're all as guilty (remakes not withstanding). But the point of this blog is not to bitch about what sucks about horror. No sir, this blog will now be the home of shedding light on what's GOOD about our beloved subgenre. As a victim of the VHS boom, I consumed movie after movie, good or bad. That would explain why I love Cannibal Holocaust as much as I love Grizzly. It all came from a primal corner of the mind and is consumed by those who dwell within those same corners. Voyeuristic tendencies be damned, we see it as entertainment. And that's what it's SUPPOSED to be.
But having said all that, there still was something about the 70's and 80's that we're just soooo damn enticing. And truth be told, those big ass clamshells were a doorway to a fucked up world that shaped my current taste. I can still remember cruising aisle to aisle, shelf to shelf, trying to decided which three movies would make their way back to my grandma's house in that dark brown plastic bag. Whether it were Italian cannibals or zombies, slashers, big breasted Nazi prison wardens, Troma's heyday of schlock-it was all fodder for my under-developed mind. Nowadays, the movie industry is a little bit different. And so truly great horror is few and far between. Gone are the days of Texas Chainsaw Massacre's and The Beyond's littering the movie theatre. At least, unless they have a West Coast-manufactured, prototype of a twentysomething passing as an actress. And, YES that was a shot at the mindless cunt, Paris Hilton. I seriously wished I believed in voodoo so I could stab her face with needles. Sorry, got off track again...
So, now since we're in the MTV editing era of horror (that includes PG-13 ratings and Japanese kids with white paint on their bodies crawling down hallways) we need to start being more thankful when the good ones do come along. With that in mind, I am going to present 10 films that I have deemed as great examples of why horror is still viable. If you've seen these flicks, then I hope you'll agree. If you haven't seen them, please make a point to check them out.
The only criteria I used was that they were NOT remakes and they were released within the last 10 years. Enjoy...

Let the Right One In (2008)-This ended up being my favorite film from last year. It has more atmosphere and a far more personal flair than the common genre piece, but it all adds to the purity of the film. Set in 1982 Sweden (which was still behind the Iron Curtain, if you don't recall), it follow a bullied, introverted 12 year old named Oskar. Oskar lives with his mother in an apartment, only kept entertained by reading, and an obsession of someday having vengeance over his tormentor. One bitterly cold evening, he meets a young woman named Eli, who eventually teaches him to not only stand up for himself, but to love without question. Oh, and did I mention that the young woman named Eli is also a several centuries old vampire trapped in the body of an emasculated/mutilated 12 year old boy. Despite her plight (which includes trying to control her need for blood, to no avail), Oskar stands at her side with fierce loyalty. Couple that with the best third act of a film I've experienced since seeing Audition for the first time, and you've got yourself a badass flick that will please both horror fan and potential piece of ass alike.

Hostel (2006)-A couple of years ago, Eli Roth was not a whiny bitch. And at that time, he made a fucking beast of a movie that brought a little chunk of the giallo that made Italy a force to be reckoned with all those years back. Though I'm sure several of you have seen this flick (which is evident by the box office receipt it racked up), it bears discussion. Wealthy businessmen pay assloads of money to purchase wet-behind-the-ears backpackers, of which they will torture and murder. Roth did a particularly excellent job taking you down a path where you're taking sides of one character but find out you hero is a completely different person. I'm trying to be vague, but the bottom line is this movie was everything good about horror that year. Excessively violent and visceral for the gorehounds, suspenseful and energetic enough for fans of action-driven stories. Hostel is a winner. It showed a potential that many of us haven't seen in a horror filmmaker in a long time. Being a fan of the genre makes him the perfect candidate for leading a new world order, as long as he can keep his ego in check...and stop making turds for sequels.

Audition (1999)-Takashi Miike is an elusive creature. He's one of those filmmakers that makes his movies with such obscure precision, you'd swear he's a horror veteran. The fucked up thing is, he couldn't care less about it. Maybe that's what makes him do what he does so well.
Audition is the film that sorta reignited my faith in films that were being made today. It moves at a pace that I can only compare to Lynch or Hitchcock. It builds as more of a drama about a widower and his "audition" process to find a woman he can be in love with. This inevitably goes wrong. And when I say wrong, I mean 30 of my favorite minutes in the history of the genre. So much of what makes this movie great is not obvious on the surface. Normal scenes of dialogue cut away to images, though not always violent, sickening. And if you can imagine what the combination of bonewire, tranquilizers, and acupuncture needles can do...yeesh. God willing, Hollywood won't fuck with this Japanese masterpiece.

Calvaire (2006)-Also known as The Ordeal, this Belgian film is a total mindfuck that starts out weird and doesn't stop being weird until the credits role. When I say weird, I really mean it. Bestiality, gallons of blood, inbred country folk, and just a whole lotta fucked up shit. I'm fairly sure I've only lent this film out to one friend and he brought it back with a "what the fuck dude?!" look on his face. It's justified. You'll never look at Belgium the same ever again. What makes Texas Chainsaw Massacre scare you and what makes your butthole pucker when you watch Deliverance (yep, that scene) are a lot of the same components that will make you wanna dodge certain parts of Europe.

Battle Royale (2002)-Alright, I'm sure this will cause some bitching. But facts are facts-when this shit started circulating in '02, I got a hold of (what was at the time) a bootleg, and I fucking loved it. Compile an entire class of high school kids on a island, strap explosives to them that will promptly detonate (killing them instantly) if non-compliance takes place. They're given each a backpack with a handful of different items that will be their only means of survival. May the strong survive isn't the proper description, but rather don't fucking die. Just don't fucking die. It's produced a sub-par sequel but this film holds up tenfold. From what I understand, the Hot Topic generation has taken a shine to this Japanese Import. Rightfully so, ya' eyeliner wearin' ninnies! Plenty of the red stuff and several moments that leave you wondering what the fuck is going on. I highly recommend.

Teeth (2007)-This is a well thought out film that plays on man's biggest fear-phallic removal. The story revolves around a young woman suffering from vagina dentata. Basically, a twat with teeth. After a sexual assault that doesn't end well for the young man involved, this girl is forced to deal with her "curse" of sorts. It pulls from the wolfman premise. The affliction isn't wanted but it's there, nonetheless. The story is definitely a women's revenge tale and can play up to that audience. But it's more than that. It's darkly funny, and a pretty great ride. I'm certain that if you have external genitals, you'll be recoiling in disgust and you're lady will no doubt be laughing her ass off.

The Abandoned (2007)-Here's a list of names you need to find out about: Nacho Cerda, Richard Stanley, and Karim Hussain. These 3 men were responsible for this dreary and unpleasant story. Nacho Cerda helmed this film (and worked on the script with the other 2 aforementioned names) after his collection of short films that earned him a spot in the Fucked Up Horror Director's Hall of Fame, he took on this gem. Not only was it chosen by the After Dark Film Festival but had a nice little theatre run for a week or two. It tells the abysmal tale of an American woman who sets out to find her birth parents but instead finds out that she owns a home set back in a very remote area of Russia. Upon visiting this home, she not only discovers a broken down farmhouse, that's beyond livable, but also a man living there claiming to be her twin. What begins to unfold is a series of events that will force them to revisit awful murders committed shortly after their birth. They also found out through these events that this home is where they are meant to die. The Abandoned is a miserable, cold, dank film. It's pacing reminds me of some of Bava's better moments as well as some of the British horror from the 70's. It's got some nasty images and the film looks incredible. Plus, a screenplay that came from the guys that made Aftermath, Intolerable Cruelty, and Dust Devil (which I will write about in the near future-it's a classic!) is destined to stray away from simple storytelling and make you feel gross inside. Some flicks leave you feeling good, other leave you feeling empowered. This one gives you no hope and doesn't give a fuck about your feelings. Not for everyone, but it's still a fine example of filmmakers that aren't getting the credit they're due.

Wolf Creek (2005)-Quentin Tarantino gets behind flicks all the time. He puts his annoying stamp on it. Don't misunderstand me. I love that man's films. But I would rather shave my balls with a butter knife than ever speak to him. But I definitely agree with him on this one. An Australian film that starts out as a road tripping movie for the MTV generation and turns into a kidnapper/slasher flick that gives slashers a much needed kick in the ass. My favorite part of this movie is the build up to the showdown. It's pretty mean spirited and the character that the filmmaker spent 2 acts getting you attached to, spend the 3rd act making you suffer for caring. It's exciting to watch and it's ridiculously entertaining. When this one came out, it really struck a chord with the horror audience and rightfully so. It's a laugh for horror fans who love the bad guys. Well fucking done, Aussies!!!

Black Sheep (2006)-Straight outta Peter Jackson-Land, this fucker's got style. Lots and lots of gore, tons of laughs. The premise is as dumb as it sounds. Gene-splicing and cloning attempts go horribly wrong on a sheep farm (that has a lab?!) and well, you can imagine what happens. It's definitely paying homage to some of those great splatterfests that Peter Jackson used to make before he started jerking off to his own King Kong fuckery. It's got as much to do with comedy as it does horror, and it's a riot! Very light-hearted and probably really great for drunk party nights.

The Devil's Rejects (2005)-Undoubtedly, I will catch hell for this from some of my friends. But I thought it over long and hard. I love this movie. It's fun to watch. YES, I think his Halloween remake was garbage, and YES I think House of 1000 Corpses looks like TCM mixed with a White Zombie video. But as a solitary movie, I love it. It's got a lot of the over acting and completely unrealistic dialogue that you come to expect from the 70's and people that love that era. It's got a real gritty, unpleasant feel and keeps you entertained throughout. All the naysayers have no real explanation as to why they don't like it other than for the sake of not liking what Rob Zombie does. Believe me, I don't like his music and I don't know why the hell he'd want to make Halloween sequels but he knocked it out on this one and it still provides a glimmer of hope that someone still give a fuck about horror. That's what I'm looking for

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A spastic gathering of incomplete thoughts...

Over the past week or so, I've made some really interesting discoveries. The first discovery I made was that our band HAS to get out of the country in order to do what we want to for any extended period of time. We've received several merch and c.d. orders from Italy, Germany, Spain, Ireland, etc. And these people are all soooo gracious and kind. Sending us artwork they've made us, email after email of praise for our music. It's really wonderful. I couldn't be more grateful. As I've been booking shows and getting ready for the next few months ahead, I've been getting excited about some newer places to play. These little road jaunts have been great and we've met/made some really great friends. But the new places allow for new experiences. Looking forward to making our way down to Kentucky for the first time, heading north to Canada with some really great bands. What seems to be the most disappointing aspect in all this is the mere fact that we can't play at home. No one around here goes to shows anymore, no one seems to give a shit period about seeing bands. I'm no better. I don't go out of my way to see bands. And it's not say that there aren't bands I want to see-I've got a busy life like anyone else. So, at this point, I suppose the point is moot. But either way, I think that we've hit a serious dry spell that needs to be remedied. There are great bands in the Toledo/BG area that no one is hearing or seeing as much as they could. What makes this most difficult is when you do show trades with another band. Getting the venue is easy, getting people to come...that's a horse of a different color. And you know what-maybe I'm completely off base here. Maybe no one gives a fuck about The Highgears or what we do. And I'm fine with that. I can't change people's minds or opinions, and truth be told. I don't really fucking care to. But we've gone to plenty of other states, played in plenty of other bars/clubs that were full of people and the people were there to take in the rock and roll spectacle. So, I don't foresee us giving up anytime soon cuz' we've got some really great opportunities right around the corner, but I don't foresee us hanging around here much either. I reckon it's better to go where people like you...
Another discovery made is maybe a little more entertaining. My son, Cash, is 2 years old. He's really growing and changing all the time, but he's still very young and very little. One of his favorite things in the world is monsters. He loves all kinds of monsters ( which has some sort of hope for the future thing attached to it!) and he doesn't discriminate. But recently we've discovered that he REALLY likes Godzilla. A lot. Every time we go to Micah and Amanda's, the first thing he wants is Micah to get the big Godzilla toy down. As we speak, I'm sitting here typing, burning the time until I can drown myself in NBA action all afternoon, and he's in his chair, eating a pop tart, watching Godzilla's revenge. He loves the whole lot. All the monster's of Monster Island (though, I think he's partial to the king) make his tiny life complete. And so for now, when he's scouring the endless wall of nerdom that is my DVD collection, daddy doesn't have to say "you're not quite old enough for those monster movies yet" every time. Cuz' we've got the mighty lizard from Japan to tide us over until he's ready for the greats.
As I've made a point to state, I have a spastic musical taste. I'm not alone in this. All of my friends, most of whom are musicians or filmmakers, are the exact same way. It sorta comes with the territory. I feel like it comes with just enjoying what not only sounds good but what moves you. That being said here's a listing of what happened on my iPod this week:
Wino-Punctuated Equilibrium (when one of your rock and roll heroes makes a solo record, you listen a lot)
ALL-Breaking Things
Bigelf-Closer to Doom
The Answer-Rise
Allman Bros.-Live at The Fillmore East
China Drum-Goosefair
Deadguy-Fixation on a Co-Worker
Dozer-Beyond Colossal
Bare Jr.-Boo-Tay
Lilly Allen-Alright, Still
Blood of the Sun-s/t
Mos Def-the New Danger
Amy Winehouse-Back to Black
Blood Ceremony-s/t
Mother Love Bone-s/t
Chamberlain-Fate's got a Driver
Cathedral-The Ethereal Mirror
Burning Witch-Crippled Lucifer
You know what's odd about this list? All the British female pop singers. I'm aware. My wife likes all of that stuff and over time, I've become a big fan. I wish I had a proper explanation. I wish I could say something that tells you why I like this crap. But I can't. I love their voices, the very un-American styled music, the snide trouble making. It's all very fun and intriguing to me. can't help it, seems like each one that comes out captures my interest.
Next Friday, a new Friday the 13th comes out. I will be there. With bells on. And I'm certain there will be lengthy blog. I'm one of the huge horror geeks who DOES blow the whistle on remakes. This would not be one. I'm not scared of this one...I'll tell ya' later.