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November 1, 2018

Secondhand Smut #8: Analog Repulsion

The present installment of your favorite dirty column was inspired by The Films of Jess Franco, a collective book edited by Antonio Lazaro-Reboll and Ian Olney, which although it adds no new information or trivia, it does analyze the shit out what we already know; a great academic work that should be purchased by all connoisseurs of erotic cinema. But without further ado, on with the reviews!

The Image (1975)

Jean [Carl Parker from The Score (1974), which was reviewed in this column’s previous installment] and Claire (Marilyn Roberts) seduce Anne [Rebecca Brooke from Confessions of a Young American Housewife (1974)] into the world of BDSM and indulge into a series of erotic games that include everything, from whipping to chaining, and from feet licking to pissing.

Also known as The Punishment of Anne and The Mistress and the Slave this was directed by adult film auteur Radley Metzger (who also penned the screenplay, based upon the same-titled novel by Catherine Robbe-Grillet) and it aims high. Featuring the gorgeous cinematography of Robert Lefebvre (this was his last credit) and an impressive soundtrack, it rarely disappoints.

Sure, it may not be as good as, say, the similar The Story of O (1975) and the neo-noir approach of the voiceover is quite heavy-handed, but this is still a masterpiece and it must be seen by all connoisseurs of classic adult cinema.

Dr. Sexual and Mr. Hyde (1971)

The titular pervert runs an experiments clinic (which looks like a cheap apartment) that is also used for his several sexual escapades. His new project has him giving a magic potion to his assistant Prudence (the ever-hot Suzanne Fields, no introduction needed) who is immediately turned into a sex crazed maniac!

Directed by one Anthony Brzezinski, this quickie (its running time is barely over an hour, and it looks a one day wonder) is featuring the standard pimply performers of such cheapies and an array of (possibly penniless at the time) hippie girls (including one with an earring with the peace symbol) but it also comes with the occasional standout prop, including a candle that is used for sexual satisfaction and a few skulls that decorate the good doctor’s supposed clinic. It all ends predictably with an orgy and a murder, but aside from the regular clumsiness, this actually contains some challenging dialogue.

Foxtrot (1982)

Director Cecil Howard’s [Fantasex (1976)] film is ultimately boring, mainly because it is essentially a collage of sex vignettes with virtually no plot (apparently the screenplay was written by Anne Randall, who went on to work with the director in many more films), and somehow all of it leads to a finale which is a New Year’s Eve (the movie’s most interesting aspect).

It is dark; not in tone (the film is essentially a comedy, even if a little bit of a dark one at that), but in terms of cinematography (you can rarely see what’s going on), and the occasional unconventional sex act (including a foot-job) rarely managed to induce any excitement.

However, the film is not without its merits as it is featuring an amazing neo-noir jazz soundtrack and an array of favorite performers, including Veronica Hart, Samantha Fox, Vanessa del Rio, Sharon Mitchell, Tiffany Clark, Robert Kerman, Ron Jeremy, and Fred J. Lincoln. You should also stay tuned for a post-credits sequence, which I doubt it inspired Marvel in any possible way.

Afternoon Delights (1980)

A bunch of middle-aged friends gather (as they do every Tuesday, we are told) to play cards. But this time there will be a twist, meaning that instead of relying solely to poker for their entertainment, they will anonymously share stories of how naughty their ex-wives were. As each one of them narrates his story we are seeing the relevant vignette, none of which is very interesting (or original, for that matter) aside from one that is featuring a mistress bitch (played by Samantha Fox) dressed in a Nazi uniform.

Featuring the standard for the era driller obsession (that is supposedly a phallic symbol) along with an awesome soundtrack (the original theme song in particular is outstanding), this is one of the tamest films by writer/director Shaun Costello [Forced Entry (1973)]. Be sure to watch out for a copy of the legendary Screw magazine and a brief appearance of the equally legendary Capri porn theater.

Made on a $45,000 budget, this is also featuring an extraordinary cast that includes Serena, Vanessa del Rio, Bobby Astyr, Veronica Hart, Eric Edwards, and George Payne.

Dracula Exotica (1980)

Count Dracula (the always excellent Jamie Gillis) on his way (via ship, of course) to the U.S. is quick to find a secretary in the face of Vita Valdes (Vanessa del Rio, no introduction needed), and together they will indulge into some vampire business.

This epic (100 minutes of running time) was written by Kenneth Schwarz (who also produced) and directed by legendary smut-maker Shaun Costello, and it has some of the most impressive production values you are every likely to see in an adult film (both the real locations – including a castle and a ship – and the made-up sets look amazing; William Ivey Long is credited with the costume design).

It was shot by cinematographer Bill Markle [cinematographer of my all-time favorite adult film, Water Power (1977)] on 35mm, but unfortunately the copy I had to deal with was so scratchy that it looks like the thing was shot on 16mm instead.

It is misogynist at times as the words ‘whore’ and ‘bitch’ are uttered casually by members of the cast, and the imagery of rape is uncomfortable too, but I can’t name too many adult films from the era that weren’t that naïve.

On the plus side, Dracula’s narration throughout the entire thing is very charming, and other ‘what the fuck’ moments that include necrophilia and a gun shoved up a guy’s anus and fired at, make this an exceptionally important addition to the list of the classics from the Golden Age.


The cast is stellar too, and aside from the performers mentioned above you will also see Samantha Fox, Eric Edwards, Bobby Astyr, Herschel Savage, and an un-credited Ron Jeremy. Not to be missed.

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October 29, 2018

Movie Review: Cinema Paradiso (1988)


Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Salvatore Di Vita, or "Toto" lives with his mother in his small Sicilian fishing village. His father mysteriously absent, Toto looks to the kindly, grandfather-like figure of Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) for a male role model. The town’s film projectionist for the town’s sole movie theater, the titular Cinema Paradiso, Alfredo instills a love of movies in the young boy. The theater plays a vitally important role in the local community. Cutting across political and religious beliefs, the townspeople treat the theater as an important gathering place where they can all get down to the very serious business of watching movies. The small but humble theater has its vocal detractors: As some of the less tolerant villagers point out, motion pictures forms a gateway desire to life beyond their regional way of life, but this attitude fails to turn them against purchasing tickets. There is a price to pay for all this artifice, as a fire tears through the theater and leaves Alfredo blind. Toto remains at Alfredo’s side as an avid helpmate, until he is counseled by Alfredo as a young man on the way to college to pursue his dreams away from the village. Later in life as a successful filmmaker, Toto returns to the cinema, now in ruins, to unearth a hidden reel of film that is almost too heart-breakingly poignant to watch … 
Perhaps the world’s most heartfelt valentine to film watching, undisputed masterwork of world cinema Cinema Paradiso arrives on Arrow Video with a plethora of extras. It is here that this reviewer will play the Devil’s advocate. Included in this special release is the Cinema Paradiso’s more well-known 124-minute international release as was presented at Cannes, and director Tornatore’s 174-minute cut. In your reviewer’s humble opinion, the longer cut offers little more than the protagonist’s budding romance with a local girl that adds relatively little to the story. The theme of the film is how art can transcend the most mundane of surroundings and inspire others. The protagonist’s love life as an adult, as revealed early on, is of little importance. “I would call you, and a different woman would answer the telephone each time, and by their tone of voice, I could tell that none of them loved you,” his mother witheringly breaks to him upon his 30-year return to the village.

Among the many audio extras is an audio commentary with director Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus, wherein Tornatore explains how his own small
town upbringing inspired the film. Also included is the essential “A Dream of Sicily,” which features the director’s early home moves. The 52-minute documentary also includes interviews with director Francesco Rosi and artist Peppino Ducato, accompanied by an original musical score by the iconic Ennio Morricone.

The 27-minute documentary “A Bear and Mouse in Paradise,” features interviews with actors Phillippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio, is included. Trying to keep this review spoiler-free, in regards to the hidden reel that the adult Toto discovers before the theater’s demolition, “The Kissing Sequence” dutifully lists all the film’s used in the concluding montage. Many will be surprised and pleased that the majority of clips are from classical American films.

There is also the film’s original theatrical trailer, as well as the trailer used for the recent Anniversary release; the sparkling print on display is from the original camera negative; audio consists of both the uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options and there are optional English subtitles.

There is no better time to wither view or revisit this masterpiece of international cinema, and is required viewing for everyone who has ever glimpsed a world of blossoming possibilities upon the silver screen.


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October 1, 2018

Secondhand Smut #7: Living Dead Format



 Your favorite dirty column, Secondhand Smut, is back and will be reviewed random old porn with no particular order or reason; just for your eyes only. The column’s return was inspired after the author read Pete Chiarella’s A Whole Bag of Crazy: Sordid Tales of Hookers, Weed, and Grindhouse Movies. And another noteworthy book that recently came to my attention was flesh trade: tales from the uk sexual underground, in which writer Bruce Barnard goes on a mission to explore as much of the British-based sex work as possible; I liked the journey, but not its conclusion. But anyway, without further ado, let’s dive deep into the film reviews.

Butterflies (1975)

Denise (Swedish starlet Marie Forsa) is terminally bored by her unexciting life in the country where she lives with her equally unexciting boyfriend and decides to leave all that behind, go to the big city and make it to the luxurious and exciting world of fashion modeling. It is there that she meets club owner Frank (Harry Reems, no introduction needed) and the two fall in love, until the lady is disappointed when she finds out that her rich man is a womanizer.

Written and directed by Joseph W. Sarno (again, no introduction needed), this comes (quite expectedly, to be honest) with stunning camerawork and impressive visuals, but its soap opera-like plot is tiresome and the end result is ultimately boring. Watch out for a hilarious sex scene in which Reems pounds in fast forward!

Score (1974)

Set in Leisure, Europe, Jack (Gerald Grant) and Elvira (Claire Wilbur) decide to go on a swinging rampage which is supposed to start when they meet Eddie [Casey Donovan from Boys in the Sand (1971) and Boys in the Sand II (1984)] and Betsy [Lynn Lowry from The Crazies (1973)].

Directed by Radley Metzger (no introduction needed), this is featuring the expected impressive camerawork of Frano Vodopivec and stunning performers. However, the sex is vanilla and the screenplay by Jerry Douglas (based upon his off-Broadway play, which was featuring Sylvester Stallone, albeit the man does not make an appearance here) is so soap opera-like that it will bore you to tears. At its best (when it becomes comedic) it resembles the works of Russ Meyer (albeit with smaller breasts) and it is daring enough to have been refused a U.K. certificate upon its original submission to BBFC, but still that doesn’t say much.

Madam Satan (1970)

This U.S. production by Tom Gordon (who also directed) finds a bunch of Americas (mostly middle-aged men and young ladies) gathering in some sort of Satanic cult while none of them looks like the type that would join one. Nevertheless they do some black magic mumbo-jumbo (one of the guys insists on doing the devil’s horns often whilst watching other performers bang each other) amidst supposed torture (featuring slave training etc.) and lame sex, all of that within the space of empty-looking apartments.

For a film that is supposed to give you a boner this is pretty melancholic, but most of the performers look well attractive, especially considering the apparent minimal budget (evidently, this should have been a one-day wonder). The dialogues are unintentionally hilarious, and this cheapie does not outstay its welcome as it runs for less than an hour.

I Told you not to Call the Police (2010)

The synopsis on the DVD’s back cover reads ‘This experimental movie depicts a serial rapist in a new way. Instead of showing the man behind the mask, he is almost never seen. There is no attempt to humanize him in your eyes. Instead, the bold camerawork puts YOU in his place. You see the crimes through his eyes. It’s the opposite of what is done in horror movies – those movies put you in the victim’s place – there is no such point of view here. Another experimental aspect is that the crimes are not fast-forwarded, as is usually the case with taboo material. No. You must suffer in long, demented, detail, what it is like to witness such a fiend play with his prey.’

Well, if ‘experimental’ is the new word for shit handheld camerawork then the synopsis is right, and if using a rapist’s P.O.V. is somehow dehumanizing him, instead of fetishizing his actions then I think I’m getting paranoid.

Writer/producer/director Bill Zebub’s [better known for Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist (2004), but he has made dozens of zero-budgeted videos] film is not unlike the custom-made rape-fantasy videos that litter the dark corners of the internet, the only difference being that it is long and tedious (at approximately 90 minutes, it’s a torture), an ultimately boring exercise in following an unseen man raping a variety of gothic-looking girls.

Speaking of these women, I wonder what convinced them to subject themselves to this, but the acting is amateur throughout, so I don’t think they passed on the next Hollywood production in order to be in this.

On an interesting note, the serial rapist is at some point wearing a t-shirt of Dario Argento’s Opera (1987). On a disgusting note, at some other point he says that there are worse things in life than rape. Yeah? Like what? The film goes as far as showing forced incent and forced impregnation.

Although I envy the determination of some people to go that far, these videos are not for me.

Assmonster: The Making of a Horror Movie (2006)

As(s) it is thoroughly explained in the film by Bill Zebub (who plays himself) an assmonster, is a human monster (as in predator) that craves ass. Cameraman/editor/writer/producer/director Zebub’s comedy is about a bunch of filmmakers that try to put together the eponymous movie despite their lack of budget and talent.

It was inevitable with an experience of many years and several films that the team behind them would at some point make a parody of themselves, but the joke is that this amateurishly-acted long exercise in bad humor (the best gag in the film is a fart joke that involves a mobile phone) is actually better than the films it pokes fun at.

Sure, it gets boring watching metal fans with long hair, mustaches, and beards, talking to each other in high-end houses in expensive New Jersey neighborhoods, but the girls are hot, which I am sure is enough reason for many to purchase the DVD. Hell, I could be watching those girls’ stills for as long and never regret the time spent!


The death metal music featured therein is annoying (you even get a cameo from Cannibal Corpse), and the t-shirts the guys are parading with are obvious choices [and range from mainstream metal bands such as Amon Amarth to cult classic movies such as Nekromantik (1987), The Stendhal Syndrome (1996), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), and House on Haunted Hill (1959)], but these people that make those films have their hearts in the right place, and therefore they deserve our respect.

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September 21, 2018

Singularity (2017) Movie Review

Okay, Moyers. I’m drunk and ready to view this movie. It better be as terrible as you said.

(SPOILERS AHOY because, basically, I can’t be bothered to filter through the entirety of this shitsack to protect you from ruining the story - you’ll thank me later. Oh yes, you’ll thank me.)

Singularity is about VA Industries, which creates a bunch of robots for human use (read: military) to stop all wars. Riiiiiight. Trouble is, the CEO of VA, Elias Van Dorne (John Cusak) has a breakthrough: Kronos. Kronos is Van Dorne’s AI creation that will save humanity from itself. Riiiiiiight.

Eventually, Kronos realizes that humanity can go eat a bag of dicks and, therefore, must destroy it, so the world will have a better chance of survival. After Elias downloads himself and his bro into Kronos, making the most awkward three-way EVAR, Kronos kills everyone.

Well, almost everyone. 97 years later... As in every single other man-vs-machine film, there are small bands of survivors scrabbling out a living, killing each other to steal supplies, or trying to reach Aurora, the last stronghold of humans that aren’t total dick knockers.

Andrew (a character we met went all this shit went down 97 years ago - I know, just wait) wakes up in an unknown building, completely freaked out, and crosses paths with Calia, a young woman trying to find Aurora. Though he has no idea what’s going on and is so obviously not from around here, she trusts him for some odd reason, and travels with him to find the human haven.

Eventually we find out (via ALL CALIA’S FUCKING NARRATION) Andrew is not Andrew. His mind belongs to the kid we met at the beginning, but it’s been put into an artificial body. He honestly BELIEVES he’s human, which is why Calia didn't realize it right away (she needs one of those dogs from Terminator.) Andrew was programmed to fit in with humanity in order to suss out Aurora so Kronos can obliterate it.

That's bad touch, Mom. BAD TOUCH!

He’s recaptured by VA, and his programming is fucked with a bit more, so he’ll target Calia and maybe force her to give up Aurora’s location. But once she kisses him, his programming glitches and...fuck, who cares? Anyone watch Divergent? Same thing, when Four is ‘programmed’ to kill Tris. BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Let’s wrap up this abortion, shall we? Aurora isn’t a city, it’s a planet. And Tris and Four....I mean, Calia and Andrew, hijack a spaceship and blast off toward a planet that looks suspiciously like Earth. But don’t worry - Kronos is hot on their asses so it can destroy the last remnant of humanity from the galaxy.


ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

I almost didn’t believe Kevin when he posted on FB about how awful this film is. He basically dared me to watch it, hoping I’d rip it apart. Though my brain urged me to RUN AWAY RUN AWAY, my heart and gut said the same, but what do they know?

Quick and dirty analysis: It’s like I, Robot, Divergent, Hunger Games, Terminator, and every other dystopian trope that’s ever existed, fucked over a long weekend in some abandoned, haunted psychiatric hospital, and birthed a bastard offspring that was raised by inbred halfwits in the mountains of Virginia.

That is not hyperbole. I’m not kidding. Really. This is not my jokey face.

You know...KROOOOONOOOOOOS.

So trite; so boring; so ridiculous; so inconsistent; so unbelievable (and I mean the characters and their actions, not the AI because that shit’s coming for us all, people...); so much exposition - seriously, I never had to watch the screen because Calia pretty much narrates half the film, or has to explain to Andrew what the fuck is going on in the world; so much story that made absolutely no sense.

John Cusak is probably one of my all-time favorite actors, but I just can’t figure out why he did this film. He doesn’t even have that much screen time, considering his character CREATED the gods damned AI that’s destroying the world and monitoring everything that’s going on. He’s got his virtual fingers in everyone’s virtual pies but that’s okay, let’s get back to Calia being groped by a smudgy, sweaty, band of rogues ‘cause women folk is awfully sparse these days and ain’t no POH-lice to tell me I can’t fiddle their bits when I want to.

Terrible, awful, no good, very bad film that should never have seen the light of day. In fact, whoever had the idea to chop out good bits from other films and sew them together to create an amalgamation that would make Dr. Frankenstein shake his head in dismay, and the person who green-lit the whole project, should be marooned on a desert island with only each other’s shitty ideas to keep them company. Well, maybe a Kraken can come visit from time to time and slime them, then they’ll know how the rest of us feel after watching their monstrosity of a movie.

5 Middle Fingers to the Eye (out of 5)






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September 1, 2018

Static Age #1

Static Age(named after The Misfits’ song about television is a new column in which I will be talking to you about all sorts of genre television. Each installment will start with its spotlight in some classic or not-so classic title that doesn’t get the love it deserves and I had neglected seeing so far. Then we’ll proceed on discussing more recent shows. And in the end, we’ll be chatting about all sorts of random stuff, from mainstream film to film books. I hope you enjoy!

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to the 1st (and only) season of RoboCop: Prime Detectives (2000) which is essentially four one hour and a half movies, and whilst their satire is welcome, its predictions did not prove very accurate, while the special effects have not aged very well. Often, the soundtrack is reminiscent of westerns. However, it contains a lot of action and it is much better than what people have told you.

I also managed to catch up with the following recent shows…

The 2nd season of Peaky Blinders (2013 – present) find the same-named Birmingham gang and its leader Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) coming up against with “bigger fish” as their reputation reaches London.

The 1st season of Narcos (2015 – present) is about the real-life story of infamous smuggler Pablo Escobar (played here in excellence by Wagner Moura) who used to make a lot of money smuggling a variety of goods, but really made millions when he started exporting cocaine from Columbia to the United States of America. I am a scholar of the real-life case of Escobar, and rarely have I seen a TV show being so true to the facts (real news photos and videos from the era are employed as well, making for a peculiar blend) while also remaining very entertaining.

Witch-hunts are aplenty in the 2nd season of Salem (2014 – 2017) which is better than the previous one, but there is still not too much story to keep you interested, so the creators rely mostly on scares, and they are very successful on those. Lucy Lawless appears as a rather morbid guest star on several episodes, whilst Joe Dante directs one of them. Still, Janet Montgomery steals the show with her unmatchable beauty.

The 1st season of French television sensation The Returned (2012 – 2015), created by Fabrice Gobert, is about a school-bus road accident that left many kids dead, that several years later return from the dead, much to the terror of the people that knew them. The beautiful and haunting score is by renowned band Mogway. Aside from the violence, there is also a lot of nudity and sex to be found here. This slow-burn subtle horror masterpiece is a remake of Robin Campillo’s same-titled movie, and it went on to be remade as a series for U.S. television as well, but we’ll discuss this in a subsequent installment of the present column.

The 2nd season of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017 – present) is set in a near future, in which women have been bared of all human rights and are enslaved and forced to reproduce, because… religion! This is June Osborne’s (Elisabeth Moss) tale of survival against a totalitarian state of fundamentalist lunatics. By far this year’s most intelligent show, it raises questions on the dangers of organized religion and how easily it can turn to terrorism and eventually take control. It also doesn’t hurt that it is in essence the most feminist series in the history of the medium.

In the 1st season of In the Flesh (2013 – 2014) we are introduced to a post-post-apocalypse world where the zombies have rehabilitated and they try to fit back into the wretched society. However, trouble is still prevalent as a paramilitary group of vigilantes is roaming the streets, hungry for the blood of the undead. Severely British (be aware that it goes as far as having an aunt talking about having tea, with a zombie, no less), but also quite original, this three-episode masterpiece will have you rooting for the living dead, rather than the despicable humans.

But, I also caught up with a few mainstream films…

Director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018) is about the titular hero (Chadwick Boseman) who is the King of Wakanda, a peculiar African country, and his struggles against a very powerful opponent who seeks for revenge. Groundbreaking for being one of the very few superhero films in which the male lead is black, it was a hit with audiences as it grossed more than $1.3 billion, proving that even mainstream audiences like diversity, even when it comes to race.

A film I fell asleep while watching it was Alfie (1966) directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Michael Caine in the eponymous role (a pathetic womanizer). It actually reminded me how sad British cinema is.

Director Johannes Roberts’ The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) may be a very good and strong sequel, but it came a little too late and not many noticed and even fewer bothered. Still, it is even darker than the previous entry and it must be seen by fans of realistic horror.

In Gerald’s Game (2017) middle-aged white yuppie couple Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) and Jessie (the ultra-gorgeous Carla Gugino) attempt to spice up their sex life by spending a little time on their own in a secluded house, with the help of Viagra and handcuffs. Unfortunately though Gerald dies before the act and Jessie is left handcuffed on a bed in the middle of nowhere, facing death by starvation and dehydration. However, things are not that simple as paranoia lurks and the poor woman starts talking with herself and the dead husband. Right now cinema is going through a Stephen King renaissance, as more and more of the author’s works are adapted into successful movies, which is stunning, considering that King’s books were believed to be an 1980s thing, even if he never stopped churning out product. This is another adaptation of one of his works, this time by screenwriters Mike Flanagan (who also directed) and Jeff Howard. The same-titled 1992 book was also thought to be King’s most un-filmable one, but the filmmakers did miracles here, because although it is essentially a drama about two actors in one room, what we have here is great material, nicely delivered. Sure, most of it is an art-house exercise in subtle terror, but the ending becomes a full-on horror affair. It is slow and even a bit boring at times, but nonetheless the work of a master.

Director Kevin Philips’ Super Dark Times (2017) is about a small group of high school students that go on about messing in the woods with weed and a deadly weapon (a sword, to be precise), but the fun and games end up with an accidents that leaves one of them dead. Driven by fear and panic the rest of them cover up the crime, but paranoia lurks, essentially giving them the message that you can’t get away with murder and from murder. This is a slow-burn affair that got a lot of love from prestigious film festivals and critics alike, but other than its expert cinematography (by Eli Born), I couldn’t find much else to like here.

My Friend Dahmer (2017) by writer/director Marc Meyers is based upon the 2012 same-titled graphic novel by John Backderf and is about the childhood and teenage life of convicted serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (here played by Ross Lynch) before he went on a murder spree during which he offed at least 17 young men. At 107 minutes long I found it to be boring and overlong, without adding too much to a character that true-crime aficionados already know pretty much everything. The whole film feels a bit too comic book-like for its own good as well, making the end result seem awkward. Premiering at the prestigious 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, and gaining positive reviews and audience reactions, it strangely bombed at the box-office, grossing a mere $1.5 million.

Truth or Dare (2018) by director Jeff Wadlow is about a bunch of American teenagers that holiday in Mexico during Spring Break, when a mysterious man (Landon Liboiron) proposes a game of – you guessed it – truth or dare. The problem though is that the game results in the death of those who play it. What’s more, even after stopping playing the initial match, the kids are followed back by it and they are forced to engage in it again. This is a typical meta-slasher, in the vein of Final Destination (2000) when the air of doom is a little bit more inexplicable than, say, a regular serial killer, but the unfortunate fact that the eponymous game itself is really boring, the outcome couldn’t be a great film. Still, although it is Blumhouse’s weakest entry in a series of recent exciting horrors, it is way above the similar films of its ilk from competitor studios. Overlong at 100 minutes, this becomes torturous when some of the ‘truths’ and ‘dares’ have to do with who slept with who or who loves who. Essentially, this is an actors’ screenplay, but the acting personnel on display is not strong enough. Made on a modest budget of $3.5 million, this went on to gross an outstanding $94.8 million. Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness (1986) was way better.

Kung Fu: The Movie (1986) by director Richard Lang, finds Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine) meeting the father of a man he had killed, and who will seek revenge by using Caine’s son Chung Wang (Brando Lee, in his acting debut). A lot of so-and-so choreography will be employed in order to solve the conflict, and much more bullshit philosophy that seems hilarious, now, more than thirty years after this TV-movie’s initial airing. Also featuring Martin Landau (no introduction needed) and William Lucking (whose acting skills are lacking). This is my first foray with the franchise, and although I’m not quite excited about it, I understand its historical importance in the 1970s and 1980s martial arts-craze, and therefore I promise to come back soon with a lengthier text in regards to its television series, via this very column.

John Travolta plays legendary gangster John Gotti in the aptly named Gotti (2018), which is nowhere near as bad as reviewers have told you, nor is it anywhere near as good as its marketing department has told you when it went on to attack the critics back in a surprising if original tactical move. It is simply meh, and quite boring at that too. As far as gangster biopics go, you should give this one a pass. Directed by Kevin Connolly.

BH Tilt’s The Belko Experiment (2016) is about the same-titled social experiment which finds 80 office workers unwillingly trapped in their job’s yuppie building where they will have to eliminate each other in order to survive. James Gunn’s screenplay (who also produced, with Peter Safran) is anti-capitalist at its core, and it comes complete with anti-corporate irony when it uses relevant signs/messages as a backdrop for mayhem and cruelty. Director Greg McLean delivered quite the masterpiece here.

In director Mark L. Lester’s Commando (1987) a South American gang makes the mistake of kidnaping John Matrix’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) daughter along with killing some of his friends from his time in the Black Ops. Now they will have to face the consequences of the armed commando who will kill all their peers in an amazing spectacle of shootouts and explosions. A crescendo of hard-boiled action, probably the best of its kind.

Writer/director Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018) is about the loss of a child (and it echoes the you-know-which film from the 1970s), but it goes even deeper, when the leading family has to face séances and the revelation of dark secrets. It is surely the slow-burn horror masterpiece of the year, and it doesn’t even become tiresome at over 2 hours long. Another winner from game-changers A24.

In Djinn (2013) Salama (Razane Jammal) and Khalid (Khalid Laith) have recently lost their child in its infancy and after a bit of consulting with a psychiatrist (Soumaya Akaaboune) they decide to move to Ras al-Khaimah, only to get terrorized by their neighbours that are actually monsters. Or, is the female lead going mad, as David Tully’s screenplay so cleverly is teasing? There is no doubt that this is Tobe Hooper’s worst film but it is unfair to expect from a 70 year old man to make masterpieces in 2013 the same way he did them as a 31 year old youngster in 1974 – these were/are different times. However, the film is not without its merits, as when the horror settings become familiar, such as in the car trap scene, the fear becomes realistic and quite effective too. Produced by Tim Smythe and Daniela Tully on a $5 million budget and shot on location in the exotic Dubai, it was then acquired by Fortissimo Films in 2011 with a plan to be released in 2012, but this plan was never materialized. There is a lot of speculation on why the release was held up, with contradictory information being all over the internet if you are interested. However, sales were finally launched at 2013’s Berlin International Film Festival Market. It officially premiered in Abu Dhabi Film Festival later in the year. To this day, it has only be released on physical media in Germany (on BD), although it is available on V.O.D. in the U.S – you can rent it on Amazon, which is what I did.

In Pet (2016) Seth (Dominic Monaghan) is the usual pathetic loser that is stuck on a dead-end $9/hour job, feeding animals in a small (and quite seedy) Animal Control facility. Upon returning home one day he meets gorgeous waitress Holly (Ksenia Solo) at the bus and charmed he tries to start a conversation but she politely ignores him. Seth has a friend at his job, security guard Nate (Da'Vone McDonald) who gives him advice on how to approach women, and this just what he does when he visits the diner that Holly is working, but things still don’t work and he is left disappointed. The stalking continues, until one day Seth breaks into Holly’s apartment, drugs her, puts her in a box and drags her to the Animal Control facility’s basement in which he locks her in a pet cage. As he says, he will try to save her by keeping her there. The screenplay by Jeremy Slater is centering on the psycho at hand, but is he the only true nutcase here? Whichever is the answer (which you’ll not get from me, you’ll have to see this for yourself) this is still an one-man show by Dominic Monaghan and contrary to what the poster would have you believe, it is a film about performances. This goes even further, as the audience is asked to keep an eye out to the various dynamics and mechanics that are built between the brilliant cast. If you watch Pet, you agree to be taken on a journey to a study of the psyche of loneliness, essentially an assessment of how a paranoid person proceeds with his stalking business (the second half is indeed about imprisonment, but the first half is about the hunt of the prey – and in none too adventurous way at that, the mood and the tone here are low-key). The dialogue is kept at a minimum as this is a totally visual (and thereby cinematic) experience; all set-pieces are brilliant, and it is made quickly apparent that director Carles Torrens is a true master. As such, the deeper we go into the concept of how (if we are not too careful) one day we may wake up in some sort of a jail (and frighteningly it seems that not only the state has the power to do that). Still, it is a film about a girl in her underwear locked inside a cage, which may be too strong imagery for certain audiences, but I take my hat off to the filmmakers for avoiding to employ the expected by such films rape scene. Produced by Nick Phillips and Kelly Wagner, Pet after premiering at South by Southwest, was a major box-office disappointment, as it grossed a pathetic $70 bucks from one theatre; this makes it the lowest grossing film of the year, which tells a lot about us, as audience members, and how much we don’t appreciate original material such as the one under review.

In The Visit (2015) Loretta Jamison (Kathryn Hahn) is a divorced mom and she decides she needs a little bit of time of vacationing with her current boyfriend. To ensure her privacy, she sends her young son (Ed Oxenbould) who is an unprofessional rapper (although I don’t know of any professional ones) and her teenage daughter (Olivia DeJonge) for holidays in the middle of nowhere, to their grandparents’, who they have never met. It is not long before one weird event comes after the other, in what is essentially one of the creepiest films from 2015, while also managing to maintain a necessary amount of humor throughout. The film’s original title was Sundowning and it was indeed under this title that it went into principal photography in February 2014. Shyamalan went to press commenting about the many different cuts that he had at several stages in post-production that were totally different among each other in regards to tone, and that the version released is an amalgam of all of them. The theatrical trailer debuted in April 2015. It was distributed theatrically by Universal Pictures in September 2015. It was released on disc on January 2016. It grossed more than $98.4 million, making it financially one of the most successful horror movies of the year. The festival circuit was equally generous as the film enjoyed a very healthy run.

Leatherface (2017) is set before the events of the first film and working as a prequel to that this is about a bunch of mental patients that just escaped from a mental clinic somewhere in Texas. We follow them on their wild and violent trip towards freedom and carnage, which is only matched by the similar story arc of a local ranger who is on a mission to avenge the death of his daughter. In essence there are not any distinctive bad guys or good guys here, just violent people trying to achieve their goals. And for once in a modern horror film, yes, the main characters have goals here and purpose behind their actions. The main mystery though is, who, among all the escaped mental patients will grow up to become Leatherface. This also happens to be the film’s greatest fault, as you don’t know who the focal character or villain is – all of them (including the cops) seem to be pretty terrible people. The film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be either, but for once, again, in a modern horror film, this works on its favor, as Leatherface is a stuffed salad that is mixing so many good ingredients that somehow the end result is delicious. And yes, I used the word ‘delicious’ for a film about a chainsaw wielding maniac that slays so much raw meat that I may get sued by vegans. Actually, this – with its Texas BBQ-flavored taste – is the one film you should not show to a vegan this year. Seth M. Sherwood’s screenplay is not so much impressive for its ‘coming of age’ sensibilities (this is a piece about a man growing up from being a maniac to more maniac) but for the research that it is apparent that was conducted as there is so much attention to detail here that every little character we have seen before is carefully represented and accurately portrayed. On the other hand the direction by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury is so stylish and calculated (in a very raw way) that it less reminiscent of any recent horror reboots/remakes/whatnot, and more in tune with the works of Quentin Tarantino or Rob Zombie. It also keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times and it has you biting your nails as this is the most stress-inducing modern film I’ve seen in a while. The truth is that it is cruel for cruelty’s shake (although it never breaks into the so-called ‘torture porn’ territory) but it is also so inventive with its violence (most of the kills or the overall violence is impeccably innovative) that you can’t help it but love the material. Sure, its approach is also style over content, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. Is it the best Chainsaw film we have seen in ages? Absolutely. Do not fail to see this.

And finally, I enriched my knowledge and bookshelf by purchasing the following books…

Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s Heavy Metal Movies is an enjoyable read and a massive tome really (more than 550 pages long) which aside from reviewing pretty much every movie that is about heavy metal (or any other kind of metal music) it also includes several other genre films, simply because they are awesome (the word metal here is often used as a synonymous for being awesome). Buy this and you will learn a lot of things, but most of all you will be captivated by the writer’s energized prose.

James Pontolillo’s The Unknown War of Edward D. Wood Jr. 1942 – 1946 is as you might have guessed about our favorite filmmaker’s time in the army. A lot has been written (and said by Eddie himself) about how heroic of a soldier he was, but this book proves otherwise, as documents reveal that Eddie was not much else other than an office clerk, whose most dangerous stunt was contracting syphilis from a prostitute. The amount of research that went into this study and the vast section of scanned documents provided is impressive, but unfortunately the little prose that can be found within its pages is suffering from the absence of an editor. Probably not too many would care about what a 1950s schlock director was doing in the army, but I did, so maybe a few other may too.


Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon: The Collected Reviews, as its title makes plain, collects many of the renowned writer’s previously published capsule reviews from his same-titled column that runs for several years now. As the writer admits in the end of the book, what presented here is only a small fraction of his output, so I hope we will see sequel books. Benefiting from Newman’s signature style, this is a blueprint of how short reviews must be written, wasting no space whilst delivering the necessary information. In fact, the writing here is so strong that the absence of pictures (strange for a film book) is almost unnoticeable. 560 pages long and quite inexpensive for its size, this is a must-buy for genre film aficionados.

Get books, comics, graphic novels and more at bunny17media.com. Use the code CHC at checkout for 15% off your purchase!

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