Archive for the ‘International Films’ Category

Scorching the Retinas; Avalanche of Indy

collar dvd cover

Collar (2014 – Canada)
Writer/Director – Ryan Nicholson
Plotdigger Films
Unearthed Films
Runtime – 72 minutes

(Warning; this is more a stream of consciousness review I had fun scribbling in a groggy early morning hours state rather than the usual intricately planned, thought provoking, well-articulated article – ha! As if)

If you know anything about Ryan Nicholson, you know “Gutterballs”. And if you know that twisted chunk of celluloid you have some understanding of what to expect from this. However, if you don’t know Mr. Nicholson’s style, I’ll supply a few descriptive words.

Gratuitous Sex, depravity and Gore.

(Red Band teaser/trailer courtesy of Stephen Biro of Unearthed Films)

A definite “Deadbeat at Dawn” (A Jim van der Bebber classic cult slice of cinema) vibe gets this film out of the starting blocks, an introduction to a City (the seedier parts) and the films main character (but more on him a little later). For now, let’s just say he’s a homeless fellow who’s causing slightly more than a little disturbance behind the drugstore in the alleyway.  Two deviants who just so happen to be in the area have a penchant for filming ‘Bumfights’ (yes. Unfortunately, it was a “thing”) and have gotten excited as they believe they’ve stumbled upon a goldmine of sorts. Our homeless “friend” is an aggressive sort who likes to show off. Suffice it to say violence sells. Extreme violence brings in more money and sex. Well, you guessed it! These guys have zero morals even fewer prepared lines and it just so happens two full cell phone batteries. (God help us!) Add to the calamitous plot a pair of cops, a street walker a pimp and his sidekick and the story pretty much writes itself. Or, at least it seems like it has.

collar massive

uhhh- I need direction!

Let’s sprinkle in a little D’Amato influence ala the lumbering George Eastman (as The Grim Reaper or Anthropophagous [the Beast], depending upon which version you’ve seen) just think of the poor lobotomized fellow (played by Nick Principle who has a remarkable filmography to his name and appears as if he could play a decent Anthropophagous in a future remake) in a city setting rather than upon a Greek isle and add a delicate sparkle of a backstory. It appears ‘Massive’ (these fellows get inventive with their names) has a past filled with abusive at the hands of a clergyman and a rage fueled by his youth drenched in horrific experiences. Suffice it to say this gargantuan doesn’t speak much, has a dislike for pretty much everyone and treats his female company much like Walmart treats their employees (did I just say that? Whoops).

collar hungry

Do you happen to know my lines?

Naturally seems as this is a Nicholson helmed film the storyline is minimal, really just a thinly veiled excuse to depict carnage, atrocity and horrific abuse on film. And it needs be said homage to his influences. The D’Amato lumbering mindless killer vibe is strong even down to the near fetus eating scene (one of the main reasons the film was banned in so many countries for such a long time. It was a rabbit!) which appreciatively this film stops just short of. The acting is threadbare and the directing…well, surprisingly it’s passable, albeit raw, this is probably based on the fact Ryan has a few films to his credit (perhaps his style is getting more polished as it matures? Is it possible?) Now that’s not to say this is well written, it really isn’t. I’ll be Frank (…but only if I can be Sally later. Huh? What?) Collar is not in any way a great film. It’s horrific (but its far from the worst I’ve laid eyes upon). It has zero socially redeeming values, its dialogue is despicable (probably improvised throughout, with minimal script I don’t doubt) and the most expensive set piece is a haphazardly thrown together shed. It should come as no great shock therefore that I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. It’s doubtful that the casual B movie fan will find this amusing, it really has very little humor in it unless one counts the acting (some performers stand out more than others) the production values and the dialogue (did I mention the final scene is extremely quotable?) However, the sickest, most jaded among us will love this. Collar thrives on nudity and crimson. Actually, more than a little of the “red stuff”. When someone says “Gore” this is exactly that, far removed from merely blood spraying everywhere, this film gloats on scenes showcasing shattered skulls, dismemberment, people torn in twain and eyes popping from their sockets.

gutterballs dvd cover

An early poster for “Gutterballs”

In short, this is sure to please the most depraved among us. I’ll only watch it once, it’s left a mark on me. For all others, avoid this like the plague. It’s hard to watch, raunchy and “wrong” doesn’t even come close. More importantly it’ll make one want to scrub themselves clean following a view, this is the kind of film which makes most feel dirty… beneath the skin (yuck!) For all others, a rare few to be blunt, this is likely to rank and place among “Gutterballs”, “100 Tears”, “Flesh Mannequins” and “Necromantik” (although to be fair, this was more an art film about doing the nasty with a corpse) in the finest collections of the “connoisseurs” of the genre (that’s the nicest way to say it). Hopefully in a location perched far above the inquisitive grasping hands of the more impressionable (aka as kids), I was once one and this is unfortunately the way I was indoctrinated; wide eyed and fascinated.

Wear a seat-belt, don a mask (fingers crossed this Covid shit goes away sooner rather than later) and keep this away from the kiddos (these are my words of wisdom for today) But most of all steer clear of this if you’re easily offended.

That’s it, I’m out!

Watch at your own risk!

Cult

Collar is available to watch on Tubitv and can (probably) be found online to purchase at a wide range of prices, it’s best to shop around before you start to supply those credit card deets.

Ryan-nicholson

Parting words; In October of 2019 Ryan passed after a lengthy battle with cancer. His career includes numerous directorial duties (namely Gutterballs, Hanger, Live Feed and Collar for Plotdigger Films) and prolific often award winning FX work for such films as Scary Movie, (the most recent) The Predator, The 13th Warrior, Reindeer Games, Mission to Mars, Final Destination, Dreamcatcher, Elf, The Chronicles of Riddick, Blade: Trinity, Ghost Rider and Blair Witch. His films, which are always shocking and often controversial, have left an indelible mark upon the genre joining the fight to eradicate censorship within cinematic realms and the art world.

He shall be missed. RIP.

 

Scorching the Retinas – Avalanche of Indy

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore (2014)
Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore (2014)
Italy
Director – Lorenzo Fascina, Marco Giangiareli
Runtime – 59 minutes
Bayview Entertainment
Widowmaker Films

 

How Pizza delivery and Slasher cinema collide I have no idea. Perhaps I should confer with Axe Slasher (a band from California with much the same interests whose work can be found here https://axeslasher.bandcamp.com/) or Werewolves in Siberia (who provided the soundtrack for “Slice” https://werewolvesinsiberia.bandcamp.com/album/slice-original-comic-book-soundtrack an online comic book with much the same premise) before I continue. Regardless, this vignette collection opens with a Pizza delivery person (whoops, I nearly said “boy”) navigating hasty drawn directions. The chosen mode of transport is a skateboard and this is the first indication that this might be a different than normal excursion into cinematic depths.

(trailer courtesy of DirtyTapeProduction)

With the “package” securely fastened cheesy deliciousness is on its way. However, it isn’t as easy as all that. The directions aren’t as easy to follow as believed and an obstacle hampers the deliveries progress; It’s a VHS tape. But more on that later.

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore - Ghost

Whoa – You have cold fingers!

 

Scuffed up and bloody the courier believes he’s found his destination. Indeed, he has. Bludgeoning replaces the traditional tip and the movie has an introduction. Cut to the first segment; “Whispering Ghosts”. A shared file proves to boast more than merely something for the eyes to discover, in fact its influence is undeniable. This is “The Ring”, hardly as polished, but in shared file form rather than VHS format. Be wary what you download, check its origin first folks.

The second segment; “Devils in the Night” amps up the skateboard element and adds a Punk rock/metal aura. By this point I’ve realized the movie hasn’t any SUBS.  Surprisingly, there’s hardly any dialogue other than an ominous figure narrating in Italian, a presence much like the Crypt keeper (though more sinister, add a Satanic aura) from the infamous Romero/King helmed “Creepshow” franchise. His narration would I can only imagine would add weight to this particular segment as it merely plays out as a Capture/kill in gruesome ways for little reason short with an arrival at the end which could well tie the reasonings together.

 

creepshow soundtrack

Most probably the first of many Creepshow images this article will boast. (This is a limited edition soundtrack on vinyl)

“Alone in the House” is the following segment. As you can imagine it is exactly that. A solitary female discovers a mysterious intruder, hides, then confronts said intruder (with a knife). Words aren’t needed here; the story is rather self-explanatory. The addition of symbol laden flashes is a nice touch as well the protagonist’s reflection in the knife she wields in a shaking grasp. The ending is a little odd but provides a gruesome climax for those wanting such. If only the lighting were better the FX could have truly shined.

“Wood” is next up. And is blatantly another segment plucked from the aforementioned “Creepshow” ala “Hitchiker” but with a difference, the moniker nods at not only its location (if you catch my drift) but also at this segment’s erotic nature, in part anyway. However, the mood soon transforms when the pairs vehicle collides with…something. One of the most inventive segments on offer “Wood” changes direction veering from predictable realms and yanks its viewers into WTF territories. Suffice to say this is one of my favorites here showcasing one of my favorite actors within this feature; the quite delicious Bunny Roberts, who sadly only has one acting credit to her name (even fewer pictures online), such a tragic waste of talent. Again, the lighting is abysmal leaving many of the FX, action and character in murky shadows and much of the details up to one’s own imagination.

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore VHS

Now imagine this has a life of its own and makes humorous noises as it moves around quite comically

Lastly, “Killer Tape”. Serving as the dark humor book end of the piece it gives live to a VHS tape when its owner decides to about face, change personalities from a comic book loving nerd into more a Collegiate Jock and bin bag all of his previous bits and bobs into the nearest trash receptacle to be replaced by various, cliched, sports paraphernalia.

Zero dialogue again in this piece other than grunts, groans (issuing from assorted bedroom activities) squeals, screams and a myriad of cutesy noises one might associate with Gremlins or creatures within features of similar ilk.

Several elements make this my favorite segment here. The tapes movements coupled with the noises it makes and the overall absurd nature propels it into fantastical realms and the fact that it pines over its ripped-up cover is the icing on the cake. Add to this a scene in which it comes face to face with an arch enemy and you have all the makings of a classic segment. I only wish I could say the same for the entire collection.

Bad taste one sheet

Any excuse to add a Bad Taste image and I jump on the opportunity.

“Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore” has its moments and lovingly embraces a camera style which fans of “The Evil Dead” and “Bad Taste” will be quick to appreciate but only leave them wanting more. The tie ins from several of the segments are clever, especially the Introduction and last segment, though not all seem to fit the puzzle leaving several questions which demand answers. The acting surprisingly isn’t horrid and fits the overall mood of the collection. Even sans conversation the collection makes sense, largely, although subtitles would be useful in working out what the enigmatic narrator is saying, a factor perhaps which might also explain somewhat his place in the proceedings and undoubtedly heighten the flow of the overall feature. Apart from the undeniable channeling of vignette collections before it (namely “Creepshow”) this overall shows promise for the filmmakers involved, although using the word “Gore” dominantly in the title might leave many wanting more. Yes, it has a few scenes of grisliness, though not nearly as many as one might imagine.

hjeavy metal soundtrack

Obviously, this is the  most famous film with a “metal” soundtrack

The ideas are there, the direction is there (the easy to embrace up close somewhat quirky style – the homage in part) and the lighting, well, I believe I’ve mentioned that a few times. The use of Thrash/Speed metal as part of the soundtrack is a nice touch (a love it or hate it element really) which many Independent pioneers are embracing. Sure, the writing requires tightening up, experimental avenues need exploring, but that’s all part of the ongoing filmmaking journey and honestly, I’ve witnessed a great deal worse than this in my past viewing of Independent (low budget) films. All in all, this leaves me curious as to what comes next from the creative team involved. I’ll keep my eyes and ears to the ground.

5

Cult

best horror quotes

Exactly!

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore is available on DVD (Region 1: US and Canada) courtesy of Bayview Entertainment from most online retailers including Target, Walmart and Amazon (and I would imagine complete with English subtitles which this screener was absent of).

It can also be purchased here; https://www.familyvideo.com/creepy-tales-of-pizza-and-gore-539471

 

For all those interested “Slice” the online comic can be found here https://stela.com/

 

 

Scorching the Retinas – First Love

First Love (2019)
Japan

first love poster art

Writer – Masa Nakamura
Director – Takashi Miike
Runtime – 108 minutes
Well Go USA Entertainment
Hanway Films
Recorded Picture Company

Takaschi Miike has made over one-hundred films. The “Centennial” was recently marked by his Samurai epic Immortal Blade. His work blankets many a genre, ranging from the bizarre (Visitor Q) to Crime epics (the Dead Alive trilogy, Ichi the Killer), Samurai features (overflowing with homage to the classics 13 Assassins is a must watch) to Yakuza films with many others scattered in between, one cannot seriously forget the cult hit Audition. In instances Miike’s films even veer toward the family friendly arena. First Love, the film in question here, is must definitely not of that variety (obviously parenting styles vary dramatically, let’s just say this isn’t a film I’d let my youngest lay eyes upon anytime soon).

(Trailer courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment)

In typical Miike fashion First Love commences on the “slow burn” train introducing quite brilliantly the myriad of the film’s most important characters, the antagonists the protagonists (who change places on a constant rotation) in turn, their relationships to each (in many cases there isn’t, until much later in the film) and the films realistic, every day, locations.

first-love locations

Here we see a spot of greenery in Tokyo as well a troubled girl and a boxer

Among the characters; the Yakuza, the Chinese Triad, a “troubled” girl who is forced to pay off her father’s debt, a promising boxer who has suddenly become unable to fight and a dirty cop. Somehow and in riotous fashion their paths collide. As one might assume, as this is a crime/gangster film of sorts drugs are involved and the majority of the film revolves around those involved trying to get their hands on the case within which the powder resides. With wrongful accusations and fingers being pointed, on assumptions not facts, paths cross at an alarming rate climaxing in the film’s final showdown which takes place in a hardware superstore (of sorts).

Without throwing spoilers around wily-nily, much like t-shirts from a cannon (designed for such purpose) at a ballgame, I’ll remark upon what makes First Love such an enjoyable watch.

First Love suited Yakuza

May I introduce the clean suited rank and file of the Tokyo Yakuza

Somehow, Miike has managed to blend brutal underworld Yakuza shenanigans with that of a darkly humorous nature which lends the film an air of relatable reality. After all, not all carefully laid plans go accordingly and such is the case here. Criminals (usually the same one each time time) blunder into situations predicting the outcome only to have all manner of calamity slip into the mix. Of several standout scenes (the whole film blazes with a quality which is mesmerizing) one includes a kidnapper with deviant penchants finding his come-uppance when his face meets a high heeled foot rather the aroma, he wished his nose to bath in (this will make sense upon watching). Another includes the abrupt dispatching of an elderly roommate who just happened to walk in upon a scene involving sedation and duct tape.

First love yuris dad

Strike a pose. Vogue.

The “troubled girl’ mentioned above, Yuri, adds to many of the films “funnier” moments. She suffers from hallucinations and believes her abusive father is following here. Obviously, that isn’t the humorous part. Moments of levity exist as her companions realize she’s disappeared and choose to chase after her throughout the film, in fact many of the reasons why the film takes such turns is the cause of her visions and her reactions to such. One scene finds her listening to music and snickering as she sees her Father dance along to the tunes in her head.

First Love kick to the balls

How dare you want to sniff my panties

Although the film shines with standout moments, of which there are plenty, the dialogue is top notch serving up quotes aplenty in situations ranging from the absurd to the harrowing and horrific. Character portrayal and the acting showcased here is superbly executed, a staple I’m glad to report which exists in all of the Miike features I’ve previously enjoyed. The film flows at a beautiful pace and stays from confusing/hard to comprehend realms even taking into account the vast coverage (and exploration) of characters and their paths in order to pull the story line to its conclusion.

The soundtrack is in need of mentioning and in typical Miike fashion fits wonderfully adding depth where it’s needed and tension where appropriate. Even the sudden inclusion and interruption by maniacal jazz elements (which might first appear odd and out of place) heightens the sense of the chaotic experience.

*** Local Caption *** Hatsukoi, TAKASHI Miike, Japan/GB 2019, V'19, Features

May I have your attention shoppers. Shit is about to go down in aisle B1.

Much like any gangster feature this one is also expectedly bloody, though it doesn’t glorify violence by depicting in unflinching detail the brutality taking place. Rather it handles it in a classy manner, many nodding towards the director’s adoration of remarkable historic and fiction-based samurai epics from years past. The action/fight scenes are tight, choreographed as not to be too fantastically outside the realm of possibility and are directed perfectly straying from lengths which might make the more jaded upon us salivate in excitement. The film even features ‘set pieces’ to expand upon the boxers back story to reiterate that he isn’t a superhero but rather an innocent bystander pulled into a situation which is wildly unfolding around him.

first love poster (japanese silk art print)

In conclusion, because I believe I could waffle on about what makes this film do damn watchable at great lengths, First Love is a film which demands respect, is more than worthy of the acclaim it’s garnering and is a must watch. A blurb on the films cover (courtesy of Indiewire) states “violent, hilarious and violently hilarious” A statement I wholeheartedly agree with though only wish were my words.

tichashi miike

 

In closing, do not be like me. Don’t let this be a film you place on a shelf and forget about.  It warrants eyes upon it and pronto. Bathe in the mastery of Miike. He’s, simply put, a genius of his craft.

Cult