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January 10, 2022

Monsters in the Closet (2021)

Even though this film’s trailer intrigued and excited me, I still had that uneasy feeling that comes with most indie films. It’s not often that these flicks succeed and I was worried my hopes would be dashed against the rocks of mediocrity. Fortunately, my psyche experienced only slight battery over the 88-minute running time.

Monsters in the Closet is about a recluse writer who suddenly dies. His estranged daughter goes to his house to do what all surviving family members do – rifle through his shit. Interrupted for only a moment by her father’s publishing house representative about getting their hands on his last work, Jasmin gets to her dad’s house to find a laptop with a recorded video, just for her.

Aside from not taking any responsibility for his aloofness and terrible parenting skills, he wants to tell her about his latest project. It’s going to be a HUGE success! You see, he found a seventeenth-century book on black magic that teaches the reader how to cast spells by writing stories about them. And once you read them aloud, the characters in each story come to life. Imagine, having a real vampire in your house!

Not sure that’s so great, but go on, Father…

What follows is her dad telling four different tales. And as you might guess, an element from each story comes to life in the house where Jasmin sits, ALONE, watching her father’s final video.

 I do love a good anthology film. And while the execution is lacking, overall I have to say I enjoyed it. It’s definitely a comedy/horror mash-up and each story is quite unique from all the others. Not saying the individual stories themselves were particularly original, but I’m glad they didn’t all blend together with shared tropes.

We’ve got zombies, a serial killer, a mad scientist, and just good, old-fashioned, isolated mania. While some of the acting is horrible, I gotta give props to John Paul Fedele and his ability to sell the idea of having sexual relations with an…assembled woman. His story was my favorite as it had me laughing the most often. And I wish I could remember the character names to shout out the actors, but the pair playing the couple who bought their first fixer-upper house in the second segment balanced hyperbole and believability so well! This was a close second place behind the mad scientist story as the humor hit home more often than not.

Something's missing. I can't quite put my finger on it...

The mixed bag of CGI did little to help. Some looked completely realistic, and others were obvious cheap computer programming. But it didn’t detract too much from the movie, making it easily forgettable.

Thankfully, the acting was better than I expected. The worst of it came in the weakest story, the third segment called “The One Percenters”. Cliché, obvious and terrible, and I’ve forgotten most of it. The performances in the main/wrap-around story were lackluster at best, awkward at worst, but not so bad as to make me want to shut it off. The good acting in the rest of the film absolutely made up for anything lacking elsewhere.

If you like to give indie films a try, despite that nagging feeling you might be setting yourself up for a long night of binge drinking, check out this one. I don’t think you’ll be sorry!

3.5 Hatchets (out of 5)




 

 


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January 1, 2022

A Binge too Far #20: Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight duo (2020 – 2021)


Frame from Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (2020)

Happy new year! For me New Year’s Eve is always about changes and setting new goals. Well, for starters, I thought I’d change the way my posts work in Cinema Head Cheese. You’ll still be getting one post per month by yours truly, but whereas both my columns were bi-monthly, for 2022 you’ll get A Binge too Far posts on the 1st of January, February, April, May, July, August, October, November, and you’ll get Static Age posts on the 1st of March, June, September, and December. In other words, for every two A Binge too Far posts, you’ll get one Static Age post. I decided upon this new arrangement in order for Static Age to grow a bit bigger and include more content each time (I’m thinking more than 1,500 words per post), while of course A Binge too Far will remain pretty much the same, with a couple of reviews crammed in each post. Got it?

 

Nobody Sleeps in the... (2020)

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight
(2020)

 

Directed by Bartosz M. Kowalski (his second feature) this Netflix original from Poland, is about a group of internet-addicted teenagers (aren’t they all?) that join a reform camp in the woods of the aforementioned country in order to take some time offline; but it looks that someone or something is taking them off – period – in the most gruesome of ways.

 

Featuring an original concept (as it becomes apparent from the film’s premise) that is also quite convenient (mobile phones in horror films have been a problem since the device’s inception), this does not manage to stay away from the slasher tropes and quickly ends up being formulaic. The villain owes a lot to the Hatchet film series (2006 – present) and the tone is mostly reminiscent of the Wrong Turn franchise (2003 – present).

 

However, by aiming for an old school approach – the special effects are awesome in all their practical glory – and employing inventive kills, this is a winner. Special mention should be given to Radzimir Debski’s score, which would not be out of place in any 1960s Italian exploitation, and it could in fact have been composed by Riz Ortolani.

 

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight 2 (2021)

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight
 2 (2021)

 

Following the events of the first film, this sequel helmed by returning director Bartosz M. Kowalski (who also penned the screenplay with Mirella Zaradkiewicz) leaves aside the original’s teenage-centric sensibilities and opts for a love story involving monsters.

 

Featuring wilder practical special effects and set-pieces, this loses steam with its enhanced comedy elements (apparently Poland is a country in which it is still relevant to make jokes about the connection between prostitution and HIV, or small dicks and swastikas). Elsewhere the Abbott and Costello approach fails miserably, making the end result seem tired, lifeless, and too self-conscious for its own good. However, it is still visceral enough to guarantee for an at least interesting visual experience, while some of its references are interesting [signaling Maniac Cop (1988) is always welcome].


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December 20, 2021

Breeder (2020) Movie Review

Okay, this flick is even more recent than the last one I reviewed so I will definitely not spoil anything. Though, honestly, the further you get into the movie, the more predictable it becomes so you’d probably figure it out long before I could spoil it.

*shrug* It is what it is.

Breeder is about a mad scientist who’s trying to find a cure for the aging process. And yes, she sees aging as a disease, not a natural course of existence. That kinda gives you an idea of what we’re dealing with here. So she decides the best way to find just the right procedure is to kidnap young women and experiment on them via torture and…fertilization.

Interpret that anyway you want. All will be revealed by the end.

Thomas is the financial guy for this corporation and he’s keeping A LOT of secrets from his wife, Mia. Which, as any human will know, the more a mystery presents itself to us, THE MORE WE MUST SOLVE IT. This leads Mia to becoming part of the experimentations and discovering exactly what this corporation and mad doctor are up to in order to keep the human race young and beautiful.

Beauty is pain, so they say, but dayum…

 

That’s all I’m going to tell you.

The good things in this flick are the acting and the cinematography. Thomas, Mia, Dr. Ruben, and one of the doctor’s henchmen, The Dog (yes, that’s his character name) have the most screen time and are the more important players. I think Mia and The Dog are the most interesting and somewhat complementary. That may seem weird as The Dog is a misogynistic sadist and she’s a housewife/athlete with some unfulfilled kink desires. But they play off each other so well. I have to contribute that to the talents of Sara Hjort Ditlevsen and Morten Holst. Thomas and Dr. Ruben are a bit more cliché but it works for the storyline. Anders Heinrichsen and Signe Egholm Olsen play them beautifully, even when you want to punch them in the throat.

I would have to say that of all the captured women, the one who never speaks emotes more anguish and anger than any of the other victims. She’s pretty powerful, emotionally speaking. And the final shot of revenge against one of the henchmen is very satisfying to watch. No words, just animalistic brutality.

Does that make me a bit of a sadist, too? Maybe…

There is a scene at the end that absolutely made me weep but I can’t really tell you about it because that does give away a bit of the story. You’ll have to watch for yourself.

Every woman's POV at the OBGYN.

The cinematography is brilliant. While the suburb where most people live is pleasant and pretty, and the face of the corporation is enticing, the building where this experimentation is going on is appropriately disgusting. Dark, dank, filthy, claustrophobic, inescapable. It reflects Dr. Ruben’s mania, her henchmen’s brutality, and the victims’ hopelessness.

Once place where this movie fails is the pacing. It didn’t need to be an hour and forty-seven minutes. They could have cut out at least twenty minutes of scenery or running or meeting with investors for the project. I checked my watch twice during the viewing so that’s not a good sign. It’s almost expected for a movie to lose a viewer’s interest once (usually around the halfway mark) but consistently through every act? Less than optimal.

Another issue I had is the story. Some of the twists were predictable to a degree, others just made me scratch my head. The whole anti-aging procedure…I’m pretty sure there are easier and LEGAL ways to do what Dr. Ruben wanted. I don’t know if this was supposed to take place years before STEM cell research was even a thing or getting genetic material from women was taboo or illegal or what. I can’t remember for sure but I think people had smart phones so…that would mean present day.

That goes along with the “let’s just make this über extreme so people know how fucked up this is,” as if kidnapping women and hiring a sadist as their guard wasn’t enough to let us know. It screams of trying too hard, you know? Especially the garbage can reveal. Trust me on this one. *gag*

Overall, it’s a decent thriller with some horrific and gross elements. And just listening to the actors speak Danish is fun (I love listening to foreign languages which is why subtitles don’t bother me one bit). It’s nothing groundbreaking or spectacular, but it is a spectacle at times with great acting.

 

2 hatchets (out of 5)




 

 


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December 13, 2021

Achoura (2018) Movie Review


Most of you here know that modern horror isn’t exactly my bag. More often than not, today’s indie horror movies suck major donkey dick. So it’s kinda nice to be pleasantly surprised from time to time with a decent horror film made after 1985.

Ladies and gents, I give you Achoura.

SPOILERS: I will do my best to make this a spoiler-free review, but as I’m drinking coffee with Baileys right now, I guarantee nothing.

Achoura is actually the name of a Moroccan religious celebration, also known as Child’s Night. Kids get to run around, play, splash water on each other, dance, gather around a bonfire, and have a night to revel in pure innocence and joy. The movie begins with such a celebration that happened “a long time ago.” A young girl and boy, obviously quite infatuated with each other, run off to the corn field to have a deep conversation. Bashira (who is A CHILD, I will remind you) is married to a man who’s probably older than me. The boy (I don’t think his name ever comes up), promises to take care of her if they run away together. She gives him a flute she made for him, saying he should blow that every time he thinks of her.

Daaawww. Honestly, they’re adorable together.

But before they can make plans to run away, the ball and chain comes looking for the pair. The young kids hide in an abandoned house in the middle of the cornfield. While hiding, the husband, acting like the gross pedophile he is, is shuffling through the house, threatening to beat Bashira when he finds her. Her boy crush bursts forth to fight the old man but gets the man’s belt around his throat for his trouble.

Luckily, Bashira jumps out and hits her husband over the head with a two-by-four. Saving her crush, they smile until…a dark, smoky mass on the ceiling forms, reaches down, and takes Bashira!

And that is the opening of the film, before the credits even begin to roll!

Flash forward to present day. Ali and Nadia are a married couple with issues. Ali is a police officer who works too much and blames himself for not finding a serial kidnapper; Nadia is a teacher exhausted by her husband’s lack of presence; their son, Youssef, is caught in the middle. Their friend, Stephan, invites them to his art exhibit where his work depicts some quite terrifying imagery. Stephan has remembered something from their past and it’s time for them to remember, too.

Kid, you are on my LAST nerve.

And everything comes rushing back to their collective memories once Samir, Ali’s brother who disappeared twenty years earlier, shows up. The film bounces back and forth between this present day and to the horrible afternoon twenty years earlier when Samir vanished and the group encountered the monster that took him, a monster that feeds on the innocence of children. Now, they must work together to figure out where the creature is, how they can trap it, and how to destroy it.

 

Okay, that’s all the detail I’ll give. I probably gave away too much about the opening scene anyway.

First let me say that this is the first horror movie I’ve watched/reviewed that’s based on Moroccan folklore. The opening scene is spoken in Arabic (I’m not sure which style of Arabic it is, or if it’s Amazigh, aka Berber) and the present day and twenty-year flash back scenes are spoken in French. So there’s just culture flying all over the place here. I also appreciate that the writers created the character of Bashira’s husband. My guess is child marriages were common at the time (even though we don’t have an exact timeframe, based on character development we can infer around 70 years ago), and child marriages do still happen today. Not sure if writer included this as a protesting statement or trying to imply it only happened ages ago.

*shrug* It’s just a cultural difference that many of us, I hope, have little to no experience with.

The whole opening scene built great tension. First we’re scared for Bashira as she and her friend talk about her husband; then the husband looking for them through the house and attacking the boy; and finally the black creature that snatches up Bashira.

The cinematography is great, but I love films that take place in locations I’ve never been. We get to see a country’s landscape – natural and man-made – and how the day/night affects the story within each setting. The original musical score blends well with each scene and never pulls the viewer out of the action.

The acting is fantastic. The two reunion scenes, between Ali and Samir and Stephan and Samir, moved me to tears. Omar Lotfi as Samir does an excellent job portraying a man who’s been captive since a boy and can’t quite pull off being a normal adult. Younes Bouab as Ali is a little one-dimensional, but then I think Ali doesn’t have much depth in general. He’s a typical gruff police detective with anger issues. And that’s okay! Even the child actors playing the four friends in the flashback carried their scenes well.

Do NOT make me use my mom voice.

The pacing starts to drag about halfway through, but most films do to be honest. Once we get to the final third of the film, the action picks back up. I will say, though, the final scenes leading to the climax of the film are VERY reminiscent of the book and movie, “IT”. The whole idea of long-ago friends having to get back together and go down underground to face the monster they encountered long ago…yeah. Just instead of a cosmic spider monstrosity, picture a pale-faced, 10-foot-tall black-eyed demon. Cool? Cool.

The little bits of CGI in the film aren’t great. They aren’t the worst I’ve ever seen but they did knock me off my suspension of disbelief bridge. Though I have to say it wasn’t difficult to climb back on and continue., especially since the demon itself is tits.

One of the best elements of this movie, though, is the story. Not just the Moroccan folklore, but the idea that evil can never be stopped; it can only be contained. As we watch the main characters battling this terrible demon, in the end, there’s nothing they can do but make the most heartbreaking decision possible to save the rest of the world.

Ow. My heart.

So, if you’re not opposed to reading subtitles (not sure if there’s an English dubbed version out there), I highly suggest taking a bite out of this little slice of Moroccan horror. You won’t regret it.

Four hatchets (out of 5)





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December 1, 2021

Static Age #19: Ultraman Ace (1972 – 1973) [Complete Series 05]

Ultraman Ace (1972 - 1973) BD box art

 

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Ultraman Ace (1972 – 1973), ‘Ambassador from the galactic federation’ as per the front cover tagline of Mill Creek Entertainment’s excellent Region A Blu-ray box-set [Complete Series 05], which contains of all 52 episodes in their original Japanese (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) with optional English subtitles and a stunning 1080p High-Definition 1.33:1 transfer. The set also comes with a booklet that is featuring an introductory article to the series, and several guides (hero, episode, kaiju, character, and key technology).

 

Riding high on what is now defined as the second wave of kaiju entertainment from Japan, this new Ultra incarnation is significant because for the first time the series employ a story arc narrative that is prevalent throughout its entire run, instead of the usual one-offs or two-part episode format of the previous years. Said story arc finds the mean Yapool and his “Terrible-Monsters” experiments (kaiju much more powerful than what we were used to) attempt to push forward their plan for world domination, and it is up to Ultraman Ace to stop them!

 

‘Shine! The Five Ultra Brothers’ introduces us to Ultraman Ace, the fifth Ultra brother of alien saviors, who has passed his transformation ring to Seiji Hukuto (Keiji Takamine) and Yuko Minami (Mitsuko Hoshi), and the union of the couple upon cases of emergency will transform them to the superhero – and what do you know, the first emergency comes in the form of the fire-breathing monster Verokron that wreaks havoc upon the city of Fukuyama. A mysterious, oversized, silver egg that devours people makes an appearance in ‘Surpass the Giant Terrible-Monster’, before the ancient Chameleking monster shows up to battle with Ultraman Ace. In ‘Go Up in Flames! Terrible-Monster Hell’ the skies break and unleash the Vakishim monster. ‘A 300-Million-Year-Old Terrible-Monster Appears!’ is a very grim episode in which manga artist Mushitaro Kuri drugs Mikawa and keeps her prisoner in an attic with a dead body (such scenarios wouldn’t fly in today’s television), not to mention that he also unleashes the Garan monster. In ‘The Giant-Ant Terrible-Monster Vs. The Ultra Brothers’, young women disappear in moving sand as the ground opens in the middle of the city, and the only common denominator is that they all have type O Blood. An possessed-by-an-alien astronaut won’t remove his gloves because his hands have eyes in ‘Solve the Mystery of the Transforming Terrible-Monster!’. ‘Monster Vs. Terrible-Monster Vs. Alien’ is featuring an impressive monster showdown and the story continues in blood-soaked fashion in ‘Life of the Sun is the Life of Ace’. A pictures transforms a newspaper editor into the Gamas monster in ‘100,000 Terrible-Monsters! Surprise Attack Plan’. An evil version of Go is back in ‘Duel! Ultraman Ace Vs. Hideki Go’, but is it really him? In the otherworldly and a bit sexist ‘Terrible-Monster is Ten Women?’ the Unitang is really the women! The structurally unorthodox ‘The Red Flower of a Vicious Cactus’ has Ultraman Ace fighting the Sabotendar monster early on, before it transforms into a regular-sized cactus, albeit a carnivorous one. The series go Christian-themed in ‘Execution! Five Ultra Brothers’, in which the Ultra brothers get crucified, thanks to the Anti-Universe also known as Golgotha – the story continues in5 Stars Scattered in the Galaxy’, in which Ace-Killer also appears. ‘Summer Horror Series: Curse of the Black Crab’ is featuring Ultraman Ace sumo-wrestling a crab monster. ‘Summer Horror Series: Scary Story of the Cattle God-Man’ is about a man that transforms into the Cowra monster, a creature resembling a cow. The titular presence of ‘Summer Horror Stories: The Demon Woman of Hotarugawara’ causes car accidents. ‘Give the Pigeon Back!’ is featuring the Black Pigeon monster. ‘The Mystery of the Haunted Kappa Mansion’ is one of the best episodes in the series and it includes a terrible monster that comes out of a swimming pool and steals people’s bellybuttons (you can’t make this up!), while some of them also happen to be eerie robots on the inside! ‘Stars of Youth is the Stars of Two’ is featuring a flying ship, as well as the mandatory terrible monster, not to mention TAC team members’ disbelief of the former sighting, as if the twice-a-week destruction of Tokyo by numerous kaiju is not as strange. ‘I Saw a Vision of the Celestial Maiden’ is an episode about the aforementioned beauty becoming a monster. Featuring fascinating kills and an amazing terrible monster, ‘Vengeance Demon Yapool’ is truly one of the greatest episodes in the series.A Game Changer! Here Comes Zoffy’ is about old men luring children into ceremonial chants before they disappear (in today’s world this scenario wouldn’t fly, let alone in a children’s show); it’s your only chance of seeing a finale that has children falling from the sky, as if there was not enough bad shit in the air anyway.Behold! Midnight Transformation’ is featuring raining blood, but instead of the metal band Slayer, you get another awesome kaiju! ‘Pyramid is a Terrible-Monster Nest!’ is about Michiru and her dangerous red smoke games, until the story escalates to a Pyramid that is housing a Pharaoh-like monster. The five Ultra brothers finally meet their match in the form of the Hipporit monster in ‘Annihilation! The 5 Ultra Brothers’; the story continues in ‘Miracle! Father of Ultra’, in which the Ultra father saves the day. The landmark ‘Goodbye Yuko, Sister of the Moon’ episode is horror-themed, featuring a werewolf-like terrible-monster, as well as the departure of Yuko, leaving Seiji the sole Ultraman Ace ringmaster. The dangers of alcoholism, as well as a monster that comes out of a graveyard are covered in ‘The 6th Ultra Brother’. ‘You Can See the Star of Ultra’ is featuring the Red Jack terrible-monster.

 

And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…

 

Handmaid's Tale - Season 4

The 4th season of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017 – present) finds resistance leader June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) on the run after managing to organize the capture of several leaders of the tyrannical Gilead misogynist and fascist dictatorship. Boasting great drama as well as starting relevant discussions on freedom versus authoritarianism, this is absolutely one of the most intelligent, important, and relevant television series ever. What’s more this is the series’ best and most engaging season since its first.

 

Locke & Key - Season 2

The 2nd season of Netflix’s Locke & Key (2020 – present) and its seemingly complicated and difficult to achieve shoot had me thinking that cinema (and nowadays also series) is all about showing you things you hadn’t previously seen whilst maintain a conventional narrative, and this show completely succeeds at this. What is it about? Well, the teenage filmmaking team finds some success but also amidst a chaos involving memory loss, demonic powers, and the keys of course. Although, at the end of the day this is a show about people who lost their keys.

 

Doctor Who - Season 11

The 11th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) is original for both maintaining a story arc for most of its run and introducing the first female Doctor (the quirky and gorgeous Jodie Whittaker). It kicks off with ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ and introduction to the female protagonists and her group of sidekicks as well as an alien menace in the form of an impressive ‘man in a suit’ robot. In ‘The Ghost Monument’ the Doctor attempts to solve the mystery of the Desolation. In the excellent and touching ‘Rosa’ the Doctor and her sidekicks find themselves in 1955 Alabama where they meet Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Part U.S. election satire and part spider horror, ‘Arachnids in the U.K.’ is a fascinating episode. ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ is a decent monster-of-the-week episode. ‘Demons of the Punjab’ is a soapy episode about the marriage of an Indian girl to a man from Pakistan. Although ‘Kerblam!’ kicks-off with an eerie concept, it ends up blatantly preaching anti-capitalist messages – I mean, we already know the system sucks, and it looks a bit naïve having a BBC series to explain this. One of the season’s better episodes is ‘The Witchfinders’ in which the protagonist team finds itself in 17th Century Lancashire amidst witch trials. Set in Norway, ‘It Takes you Away’ is about a mirror that is also a portal to another dimension. The season concludes with ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’ and ‘Resolution’.

 

Also, please allow me to speak a word or two about some recent mainstream films…

 

The Addams Familly 2 (2021)

The animated The Addams Family 2 (2021), directed by Greg Tiernan and Cornard Vernon, finds the mysterious and kooky cast of gothic characters facing a new challenge, namely a lawyer’s demand for Wednesday to have a DNA test in order to prove that he is not an Addams, but rather the daughter of a mad scientist. Less dark than the first installment, but still a beautiful manifesto on being difference and how weirdness is good, it surprises me in a good way that these old comic strip characters still have an audience today, in a world that being alternative to the instagram-dictated norm is less and less relevant and tolerated.

 

Director David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills (2021) finds Michael Myers (a surprising but absolutely welcome and honorable return from Nick Castle – one of many tributes to the franchise’s original run) continuing his onslaught of murder and mayhem in Haddonfield, Illinois, preying upon his family members (Jamie Lee Curtis returning) just where he left them off in this trilogy’s first chapter (this being the second). Filled with numerous Easter eggs for fans of the series as well as unbelievable gruesomeness (it’s as if Blumhouse wanted to make the bloodiest entry – it succeeded), and a top-notch score by John Carpenter himself, this is a slasher masterpiece that should not be missed. Now, I can’t wait for the next one!

 

Stargate (1994) poster art

In Stargate (1994) the action kicks off in 1928 Egypt when a mysterious device is found during an expedition. Fast forward to the present day (i.e. 1994, when this was made) and nerdy linguist Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is approached by the military to decipher an ancient hieroglyph. He does so, only to find out that the code unlocks the device’s ability to transfer you in other planets. The scientist takes Colonel Jonathan O’ Neil (Kurt Russell) and his troops to another planet indeed where they find a civilization that worships Ra. Made on a $55 million budget and looking even more expensive and massive thanks to the ambitious staging by director Roland Emmerich [Independence Day (1996)] this takes the conspiracy theory-like plot [ever so prevalent in The X-Files (1993 – 2018) that was already a hit] and takes to another level of entertainment with its Indiana Jones-influenced approach. Grossing a massive $196.6 and defining a generation of sci-fi audiences, it spawned a massive franchise (mainly in television), in which we will dive further into in future installments of this column.

 

And finally, I would like to let you know that I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…

 

After criminally neglecting adding Stephen Thrower’s landmark Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci (FAB Press) to my collection when it first came out in 1999, I gladly did so with its new and updated 2018 massive hardback edition, which is chockfull of lavish design and high quality picture reproduction from a seemingly endless collection, but its real strength is the unparalleled text by its renowned author, generously unveiling years of hard work, research, passion, and knowledge. An essential work not only for the fans of Lucio Fulci, but also any fan of genre cinema in general.

 

Stephen Thrower’s excellent mammoth work Flowers of Perversion: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco Volume Two (2018, Strange Attractor Press) is as you might have guessed (in case you live under a rock and haven’t yet heard of this delicious book) covering the second half of anarchist Spaniard director’s lengthy career. By combining academic (but genuinely interesting) analysis with deeply-dug historical fact, all filtered via the witty writing of its ace author, each review is pretty much the final word of the film tackled (the final analysis, as well as the ultimate thesis). Although Jess Franco’s work is so multi-dimensional that I doubt that we will be short of further analyses in the future (a book on the auteur by Tim Lucas is long due), it will be hard for Thrower’s input to be matched. Come to think of it, and in regards to the apparent continuum of Franco’s work – something that is well aided in the book as the films are presented in the order they were shot – I couldn’t help but feeling that it is a pity that his career of excesses and liberation had to end at some point (the moment of the director’s death), because the ideas in his films are like the ‘time’, they just go on infinitively. There are only a few pieces in the puzzle of his filmography that I have not yet seen.  Also included in the limited edition of the package – aside from postcards etc. – is another 100+ pages hardcover book with scanned reproductions of abandoned Jess Franco screenplays and their translations, appropriately entitled The Sinister Case of Dr. Franco.


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November 1, 2021

A Binge too Far #19: Horror Reservoir

Frame from Critters Attack! (2019)


 

Becoming a successful actor is a trap! Whereas when you start your career on small independent films you shoot a protagonist role in 2-3 weeks and the critics love your performance, while when you become part of the system and employed in big-budget films it takes that amount of times to shoot a merely bit-part and the critics will hate your guts. Not that this advice to aspiring young actors has anything to do with the present article, but I couldn’t come up with any more relevant introduction.

 

Critters Attack! (2019)

Critters Attack!
(2019)

 

Unable to entertain Trissy (TV actress Ava Preston), Jake (TV actor Jack Fulton), and Phillip (TV actor Jaeden Noel), their babysitter Drea (Tashiana Washington) takes them to the nearby park, where they discover a good (and white) Critter which they take back home with them. The problem however is that myriad of bad (and black) Critters have also landed in the area, and they are causing mayhem with their three rows of teeth and arrow-throwing backs. Dee (franchise favorite and overall horror icon Dee Wallace) will come to the rescue.

 

On the wake of the box-office success of the Gremlins duo (1984 – 1990), the Critters franchise (1986 – ongoing) proved to be the best competitor of sorts and its cult following is huge up to this day. However, the last we heard of from Crites (as the monsters are called in the film by many of the main characters) was back in 1992. That is until Critters: A New Binge (2019) was released to not too much acclaim (I haven’t seen it, but from what I heard it’s pretty bad). This was quickly followed by the feature under review, which although it did not cause a stir either, it is quite enjoyable.

 

For a film called Critters Attack, a few words about the attacks should be written, and be assured that those are well-staged, in a ‘don’t show too much’ kind of thriller way, an approach that was most likely taken due to budgetary reasons, but it works aesthetically in spades (The attacks are also quite gory, resulting in the film’s R-rating, whereas all the previous installments were rated PG-13). A Critters film should also be about Small Town, America, and this is indeed the set-up here too, and although it delivers exactly what we wanted as fans, I couldn’t help but wonder how cool it would be to see our favorite monsters in a metropolis one day. Hein de Vos’ cinematography is dark and very appropriate with the film’s thriller tone. Plus, all your favorite gags are here and then some. A winner that is highly recommended.

 

The rebirth of the franchise was announced by the SyFy Channel (whom it sounds like that would be interested in making more installments, much to our pleasure) in October 2018 and this first film started principal photography (in secret, no less) on February 2019. A trailer was made available a couple of months later, and the film itself was made available online on July 2019.

 

Apostle (2018) poster

Apostle
(2018)

 

Set in 1905, this is about Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens, mostly known for his TV work) who lands on a secluded Welsh village, the habitants of which have kidnapped his sister (Elen Rhys, also mostly known for her TV work) and demand money for her return. The male lead soon discovers that the village’s history is built upon superstition, religious dogmatism and fanaticism, violence, corruption, hypocrisy, and what’s more, the prevailing cult may be hiding some literal monsters as well.

 

Writer/director Gareth Evans (who also produced with Ed Talfan and Aram Tertzakian) invested in atmosphere and as a result he managed to deliver a slow burn masterpiece that becomes even greater when one considers the tricky aspect that it is in fact a period piece. Premiering at the Fantastic Fest in September 2018, it then quickly (approximately a month later) ended on Netflix, where it can now be appreciated by everybody, as indeed it does.

 

Afterword

 

My views on censorship and religion are very similar. If your religion does not allow you to do something, this is fine. If your religion does not allow me to do something, then you can both fuck off. Same applies to censorship of any kind. If you are offended by something you’re watching or you simply think that you shouldn’t be watching it because it is inappropriate, then this is fine. If you are offended because I watch something and you think that I shouldn’t be watching it, then you can fuck off.


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October 28, 2021

DEMIGOD (2021) Movie Review

I hate to admit that I’m leery of modern horror films. More often than not, they’re turds hiding in shitty CGI with no originality. But for some reason - maybe the slick trailer got me - I wanted to give this one a try. And I have to say, I’m not 100% disappointed. So, there’s that.

I will do my best not to reveal any spoilers as this movie just came out a couple of weeks ago. So this will probably be a short review!

The basic story of Demigod is this: After Robin’s grandfather dies, she and her husband, Leo, return to Germany, where she was born and lived as a small child. There they find a dark secret waiting for them.

 

It seems jumping on the pagan/witch bandwagon is a thing now. It was a huge trope in the sixties and seventies, where the witches worshipped Satan, killed babies, and put hexes on people. Then the nineties gave us movies like The Craft and Practical Magic which, at the very least, gave us some accurate basics of witchcraft and paganism. And then The VVitch came out and threw the witchcraft trial victims right under the horse cart and perpetuated the untruth of witches worshipping Satan and killing babies.

Fucking trolls.

At least the people of Demigod have returned to the more basic truths of paganism and witchcraft, and wrapped them in the folklore of Germany, specifically the Black Forest. Think deep dark woods, hunting, horned god, sacrifice, etc. You see where this is going?

That’s all I’m going to tell you because any more would really give away too much. So let me talk about the good aspects of the film.


Is there something on my face? Here? This side? Did I get it?
 


   The cinematography and location shoots are gorgeous. Atmosphere fits each scene and situation well. I never felt pulled out of the story because something was off in the surroundings.

   Pacing is just right. There is a good buildup with character introductions, backstory building, scene setting. Then at about the halfway mark, the shit hits the fan.

   Acting is excellent. I only recognized one actress (Rachel Nichols, who played Robin) but everyone else matched her skills. I was personally impressed with the child, Rachel Ryals, who played Amalia, and Miles Doleac who played Amalia’s father, Arthur. What really impressed me is that of the actors playing the German natives, only ONE was born there. Maybe she helped with dialect and accents but whatever the case, I really thought German actors were hired for this movie. Good job everyone!

   I did really like a few lines of dialogue: “The night has come to kill the day. Sleep well.” - Arthur (okay, thanks for creeping me out, dude). “I’m nobody’s servant.” - Robin. She ended up being pretty strong, not as bad ass as Amalia, but that line gave me goosebumps.


Da fuq did you just say to me?

And now for the bad.

   The actual demigod, Cernnous (I think that was the name - honestly, they called him a dozen different things) looked straight up like a guy running around in a bull mask. Bad CGI for his mouth movement, random use of glowing eyes, and a rambling speech near the end about ritual and servants and blah blah blah.

   Either too long establishing shots (walking up a path or whatever) and some long speeches about traditions and ritual and blah blah blah pulls the viewer out of the experience.

   Robin is a relatively smart character but it takes a lot of her asking “What?” “What do you mean?” “I don’t understand” before the story can progress, while the rest of us are waiting for her to catch up.

   Glomming onto the witch trend, making them evil and murdery (even if it’s explained as for a ‘higher’ purpose) still pisses me off to no end.

So aside from these few issues, overall the film is entertaining and interesting. I don’t think it was released in theaters but you can rent it on Amazon. Maybe you should check it out!

3 hatchets (out of 5)

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


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