Archive for the ‘International Horror Films’ Category

Scorching the Retinas – Manhunt

manhunt foreign cover

Manhunt 2008
(Norway)
Writers – Nini Bull Robsahm, Patrik Syversen
Director- Patrik Syversen
Runtime – 76 minutes
Fender Film
Norsk Film Studio
Euforia Film

Set around the same time as the original TCSM (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and in much the same location Manhunt commences with an initial soundtrack which strangely screams homage to other cult gems of around the same era. Young girls in pigtails, guys in leisure suits and a Volkswagon bus (boy, these things are worth some money these days) these kids are foot loose and fancy-free heading to the woods to escape the real world and responsibilities (lucky bastids). But there is strife early on, mixed feelings towards one’s attitude toward another and teasing to the point of annoyance, this might not quite be the idyllic outing they would’ve hoped after all.

trailer courtesy of jmacfarlane1234 on YouTube

Much like an early 80’s film with a bit of notoriety behind it the credits roll with all manner of names and ‘titles’ which I can’t make head nor tails of. I’m of the understanding, and hope, that subtitles rather than dubbing will take the helm. Thankfully it does and before long the main characters are introduced as well their idiosyncrasies and a few of the crazy eyed locals. An early indication of how this will no doubt transpire.

manhunt are you looking at me

Are you lookin’ at me? Wanna make something of it?

When the foursome offers a stranded female motorist a ride, after much deliberation, unease sets in. She’s scared, for some reason looking back in fear and only wants to leave the group’s current location. On the road her eyes move like a trapped animal’s, darting back and forth. Then the reason becomes apparent and the films feel abruptly plummets with a shotgun blast (most metal fans might immediately think MachineHead at this point) into the suburbs of both Harrowing and Terrifying. Only this isn’t the suburbs, the group is no longer smiling and carefree but puzzled, lost and strung up like animals. To make matters worse a ‘hunting horn’ suddenly blares away in the distance. What other choice than to run? Deeper into foreign realms, away from that which is familiar and further away from whatever is advancing (and did I fail to mention gunfire?)

manhunt - hide

Our legs are tired, we’re choosing to hide if that’s OK by you?

The film continues in a cat and mouse fashion displaying an excellent utilization of well-built tension and a myriad of well-placed highly effective camera techniques to heighten the suspense, often placing the viewer in the ‘hot seat’. There’s no doubting who the antagonists are as they are shown often, advancing, calculating and cornering their prey. Unlike, but much like, Wolf Creek the prey is the same, the arena is different (in its case the Australian Outback) and Jeff Jarrett remains a solitary hunter. There’s no arguing that these fellows enjoy larger game to that which usually requires a permit. But this is the middle of nowhere, it’s not like anyone is taking notes or will likely overhear or spy from their peripheral vision that which is happening.

TCSM classic poster

But who will survive (…and what will be left of them? To quote one of the original blurbs on artwork accompanying Tobe Hooper’s classic).

I’m not here to spoil things though I will mention that this film works surprisingly well on a variety of levels. For starters the subtitles only help the attention given to the on-screen action. The acting is far from what one might expect, as it is actually decent, relatable and utterly believable in the context. Strong well- written characters in effect bring the audience in closer to also feel the pain and frustration. Admittedly it’s easier to root for a character you care about the plight of. Translation and dialogue in instances seem a tad off and as a result shows the slight cultural differences between Norway and other countries. In regards to the antagonists barely a word is said only adding to the intrigue and mystery surrounding them and their reasoning for doing that which they enjoy. The direction is spot on. A grimy, gritty, edge is applied where it works in the best instance and close ups and well utilized techniques separate this from the typical runoff the mill affair also serving to elevate the tension level into stratospheric arenas.

david hess last house on the edge of the park

Standout scenes include eroticism with a brandished weapon (which replaces the obvious need for compensation) bringing to mind the quite brilliant, creepy and uncomfortable to watch David Hess in both Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Ruggero – Cannibal Holocaust – Deodato’s House on the Edge of the Park (I honestly didn’t know he directed this, you learn something new every day). And an unexpected gutting scene (of the vanquished) which leaves one wide-eyed. Gore and bloodshed are utilized when necessary and applaudably kept far from overkill territories leaving the film to rely more on exquisitely-crafted tension. The caliber of such bears mentioning also as it’s well applied; both grisly and believable.

The classical soundtrack is both atmospheric and ominous suitably fitting the films mood not in any way distracting the viewer from the harrowing experience at hand but rather adding to it.

manhunt erotica with a knife

And just where are you thinking of putting that, it looks awfully sharp!

My only slight qualm is the way in which Manhunt draws to a close in what many might deem a predictable manner though it’s not truly elaborated upon leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions as to the characters ultimate plight.

In short, this viewing was a great deal better than I had expected. I went in blind having never heard of the film, or its director (or even its cast) and left pleasantly surprised. A wicked mash-up of the ‘stalk & slash’ genre, Deliverance, Turkey Shoot, the finest from the 80’s Cannibal genre, Wolf Creek and Hostel this is hardly original (there’s even been a remake, with the ame name, released in the last year based in Ireland) though riveting throughout has a deliciously gritty vibe and should not be ignored, regardless of the fact that it has a rather low score on IMDB. Personally, I’d give this an 8.5 with zero regrets and would place it on much the same plateau as the aforementioned Australian Outback outing. Make time for it!

Your slave to celluloid in many of its extreme guises,

Cult

Scorching the Retinas – We

Setting the Retinas upon Another Artsploitation Feature

We (2018)
The Netherlands

Artspolitation - We

Writer/Director – Rene Eller (based on the novel “Wij” by Elvis Peeters)
Runtime – 100 minutes
Pragmatic Pictures
NL Film funds Production Incentive
VAF Film

Faced with an email with the words “controversial”, “European” (which could possibly mean subtitles; admittedly my weakness), heavily edited for general consumption (I’m paraphrasing here) and “bored teenagers” plastered across it, I’ll admit my attention grew to rabid heights. Strange then that this isn’t a feature described as drenched in grue, brimming over with head kicks or exhibiting an overall nature which most would deem bizarre, for wont of a better term. Rather this, if I’m to believe the accompanying text, is a film which showcases eight bored teens and the antics they get up to during a long summer. Now, I can only imagine what this might entail. Having once been a teenager myself my mind races with all the uncomfortable occurrences, embarrassing situations, strange emotions and changes my own form went through, not to mention the myriad of (lets just call them) “naughty” thoughts which would take up residence in my skull often over-riding those, which looking back, made considerably more sense. It’s an interesting couple of years, for most involved, to state the least. And I have children, one of which is around the age of those showcased within this feature so with that which I already know in mind, and the memory of that which I got up to as a “frustrated lad”, let’s just say I can’t have a fence around my property high enough or security trained well enough. But, that’s enough about me what about the feature at hand?

We commences in a small town in the picturesque countryside on the Belgium/Dutch border. It proceeds to introduce the main players through a reflective narrative; a collective of eight privileged teens each with their own personality, some easier to read than others and others infinitely more perplexing. Everything appears innocent enough, in a Stand by Me or The Goonies sense. But the wholesome family entertainment values are soon brought to an abrupt halt as the cast prove themselves to be far removed from that which traditional celluloid would want the viewer to believe.

alf cake

Because every review needs Alf!

Interactions turn from playful to jaded in the blink of an eye but without the batting of. An impromptu game of “guess what this is” appears ‘everyday’, it seriously is, until one sees the context and parameters of said game, the ease and unabashed nature of how the victor becomes triumphant and how it progresses from its innocent enough origins (which really aren’t) to blatantly off the deep-end in an instant. This is one of the earliest indicators of how We might progress, shocking of that there’s no doubt (these are kids!) but depicted in such a ‘laissez faire’ manner as to highlight the anything goes/zero ramification/responsibility attitudes of those involved. Sure, there’s stereotypes of ‘European’ but this takes the proverbial cake!

It’s at this point that many might have already tuned out and turned away, and I can honestly see why and how they might make this decision. This however is still early on; the films aura becomes cloudier in wanton abandon as it reaches its climax (please excuse the pun in this context) and in doing so showcases a few of the main characters, their decisions, the “Manson-esque” driving force behind their downward spiral, back story and possible reasoning as to why they might be the way they are (?) Outrageous carefree antics transform into illegal pursuit; prostitution, blackmail and an online presence. However, even this isn’t enough for one of the attendees. She demands “it” get bigger still in her pursuit of the perfect reality piece d’art, else she’s out! It isn’t enough that the collective has a lurid website and that they’re spending all kinds of silly cash on whatever takes their fancy at the moment, they yearn for something more, something to ‘up the ante’.

Even with the untimely death of a close friend (a key player in the groups activities), the details of which the film doesn’t divulge until later, the group carry on, even enlisting others to join in on the “fun”. The landscape turns excessively darker and more sinister in tone as the key players experience a mixed bag of emotions, internal struggles and find their own ways to cope with strange new scenarios, and (shock horror) even responsibility and the ramifications of their actions as the film nears its eventual finale. But it’s true what ‘they’ say a small community soon finds a way to uncover all the secrets therein and secrets begin to unwind and unravel at an alarming rate.

Snow

Purely because pictures of snow covered roads are boring

We is a feature which is at times understandably difficult to watch, especially for parents with children of around the same age as those depicted; the mind reels, but it remains fascinating throughout whether it is in fact a depiction of “millennials” (which is the common conception) or merely a group of bored kids with zero supervision within surroundings devoid of excitement, and an air of what harm could possibly come from their actions? Unflinching in its approach, bolstered by top-notch, all-in, acting and quick to shock based on the fact that the cast is on initial appearance seemingly as innocent as unplowed snow (whatever that in fact means. I’m sure there’s a pun in there someplace) We takes the viewer to plateaus they might never have imagined and may well be unprepared for, although the tip-off is the disclaimer on the movies ‘box’ (and the fact that it is distributed by none other than the open-minded, censorship-be-damned, folks at Artsploitation). Obviously, many have added misleading blurbs to garner attention and boost sales (I can name a list a mile long off the top of my head as to films which have promised only to have left me miserably disappointed) however this is the real deal.

We takes the viewer on a journey across a terrain that’s bumpy at its best, visually scarring in instances, horrifying in others and a destination which might make one wary about sharing the street, let alone taking out any agreements, with a group of teens. But I won’t ruin it, this is a stunning and undeniably harrowing, experience you have to immerse yourself within with only the spoilers the films synopsis willingly provides. In essence this is a film I enjoyed more than I thought I would though will have a hard time describing without feeling like an utter creep who has just watched something others might not be able to appreciate based on my spoken words (what say I try to describe it better using text) alone …”Yea, it has naked teens in it they have sex and, uhhh… I’ll shut up now before you call the authorities”.

Kids film

Similar in part to outings by Lars Vin Trier, Trainspotting, Life and Death of a Pornogang and KIDS this is a film sure to spurn a myriad of trembling pens to paper, and outraged digits to keyboards in offense as its presence continues to ignite screens on a global basis.

A varied Pop/Techno/70’s soundtrack serves as a hypnotic background to the deviant tableaus on offer and the myriad of emotions bubbling beneath the thin veneer of normalcy on offer, at times. And is far from what one might expect. Kudos to the creative team behind this in their choices rather than the simpler option of utilizing tunes which would have been easier to implement and are undeniably more recognizable.

Plucked from the Artsploitation website “RENE ELLER is a Dutch director and producer. He started working as a casting director for television and commercials. After that Eller started to make an international name for himself, first as music video director and later as the founder of Czar, which grew into one of the most successful commercial production companies in the world. Since a couple of years Eller has fully immersed himself into the world of feature films. We is his feature debut”.

artsploiatation film logo

We is available both cut and uncut on DVD and Blu ray here https://www.amazon.com/We-Blu-ray-Rene-Eller/dp/B082PPZTNN/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=we&qid=1580741631&s=movies-tv&sr=1-6

Comments, suggestions, recommendations? Feel free to drop me a line.

Your slave to cinema in many of its extreme guises,

Cult

Scorching the Retinas – The films of Bruno Mattei

Island of the Living Dead

eyeballs header

Island of the Living Dead (2006)
Italy
Director – Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
Writers/Screenplay – Antonio Tentori, Giovani Paolucci and Bruno Mattei
Runtime – 98 minutes

 

island of the living dead.jpg

For those who are new to the films of Bruno Mattei, like myself, an introduction. Island of the Living Dead was the last feature Bruno Mattei completed before his passing in 2007. His filmography is vast, diverse, and much like Joe D’Amato, he has also worked under a plethora of pseudonyms touching upon soft core, exploitation, Nunsploitation, drama, adventure, science fiction/fantasy, Caligula/Nero Emperor debauchery films and the cannibalism genres (although some twenty years after their heyday).

He’s most famous for a film entitled Virus (1980) aka Hell of the Living Dead, Night of the Zombie and Zombie: Creeping Flesh. And with as many aka’s as that you can betcha’ it placed high on Thatcher’s Banned/ ”Nasties” list back in the day.

Ironically, His output oftentimes overlaps those more renowned in the same genre, both in theme and substance. Zombie 3 (1988) is an instance where he stepped in to finish a Fulci feature when the original director was forced to depart due to suffering a stroke.

zombie 3.jpg

Alright, so this is a film shot somewhat recently hoping to capitalize on the aura and feel of an 80’s old school classic. The giveaways; well for one the copyright date, the names in the credits changed to give it more a European feel, but other than that it boasts a made for television, on the cheap, feel (much like a vintage Troma feature) down to the font, boldness and even the position of the credits themselves.

The movies opening scene introduces an island with a slight problem. Apparently, the locals have tired of the foreigner influence and rather than use the age-old trick of poisoning the visitors (or boring them to death with interpretive dance and the like) they decide instead to reanimated corpses via magick of the Dark variety. It works. Too damn well in fact, the undead overrun the Isle. One would think rifles would help, they don’t, but they do provide a decent enough head explosion to perk the interest of the Gorehounds among the audience early on. A character who could be a vampire is the last to be seen (I’m not sure where he figures into things, perhaps we’ll find out later?) before the scene comes to a close.

(trailer courtesy of SeverinFilms Official)

Cut to present times. A fishing boat, a crew (complete with a distinguished English gent) whose acting abilities are close only to the quality of the dubbing (it’s hilarious) and a treasure pulled from the sea. But the boat becomes damaged as the sea vomits its disgust at having the film produced upon it. The crew soon find themselves on an undersized dingy and soon upon an island with plenty of bushes (huh?) But that’s not all, there’s also ruins, a graveyard and a rotting looking chap in a Cavalier helmet who likes to grin at the camera (this makes me wonder what he’s been up to for the last four hundred years).

night of the living dead Theyre coming to get you Barbara gif

The crew split. A nod to “Night of the Living Dead” and “They’re coming to get you Barbara” in not so many words is blatant but it’s the wait until the corpse is upon you until you scream and move which makes me snort with laughter. It gets better; rather than run the poor lady struggles as if to fend off an unwanted snog. The chap grunts, as if to say “well, what do you expect. It’s not as if we have mouthwash or even toothpaste, it hasn’t been invented yet or transported to this island yet”.

islandofthelivingdead-gimme-a-snog.jpg

Gimme a kiss

Her companions scramble I’m sure they don’t want corpse lips on their bits either but he’s a persistent bloke who’s rather good at taking punishment from an adversary whose Kung-Fu is only slightly better than his acting.

Meanwhile the ships mechanic is encountering problems of his own. A legion of round helmeted troops has arisen from the sea, without appearing wet in the slightest, to infest the engine room. The ship, I’m guessing probably the most expensive prop in the movie, goes up with a boom, crackle and pop and the crew deliberate amongst themselves as to the reasoning why without really considering the likelihood that the mechanic is still alive.

island-of-the-living-dead  my gawd this books in latin.jpg

This is in Latin, but it’s OK. I know Latin

The remainder of the team find themselves deep underground in the company of ancient texts and wouldn’t you know it one of them reads Latin. One spells out doom whilst the others are fancifully jacketed Readers Digest special Editions most probably pilfered from the nearest Goodwill.

Soon, our heroes find themselves crowded with the likes of various types who shambles and display very little in the way of rhythm. I’m guessing within their four hundred years of solitude that they didn’t learn the Salsa, the Rumba or the Macarena. Luckily the script calls for our heroes to remain mostly unscathed. They advance accompanied by the type of soundtrack one would expect to find within a fantasy-based RPG and find themselves in a fortified building, a place of worship of sorts. The locals however remain hungry.

island-of-the-living-dead-08.jpg

C’mon just a nibble. It’s been four-hundred years fer Christs sake!

The night has magically transformed into day (kudos to the continuity department, perhaps their lunch break overran?) and our band of intrepid treasure hunters are off again. Those ominous tunnels won’t discover themselves, right? One contains a plethora of doors, one with a handle which begs to be broken whilst the other a sanctuary of sorts.

Probably the best line of the movie (“Oh shit, I think it might be too risky to go this way”) takes place at about the point when one of the crew discovers that it wasn’t altogether too wise to tap a mysterious cloaked figure on the shoulder (but it was in the script) “Father, Father” only to realize ‘he’ might have in fact, been a ‘she’ after all (wrong movie? Whoops).

Traipsing through the caverns our heroes soon happening upon plentiful homage to both Edgar Allen Poe (‘Montel Agro’ (sp) a wine from one of his tales?) and Lovecraft (one of the mirrors needs a little attention as it shows a reflection which is most definitely not a reflection).  A disgruntled head in a trunk full of gold is a surprising touch as too is the brief swashbuckling score. A spot of guitar fretboard tinkering is intriguing, do corpses still have sufficient dexterity in their extremities to pull off the flamenco?

zombie eyeball splinter.gif

However, it’s a scene sporting blatant Fulci (Zombie) worship, an eyeball and a wicked looking splinter, without a ‘money shot’ which might leave the majority puzzled.

Ghostly shenanigans and sudden Misfit (the band) in appearance acolyte silliness adds to a story with more holes in it than a string vest. Greed as it often does override survival instincts and the survivors continue about their merry way in utter disregard of their safety. The Isle opens up with its backstory using handy dandy stock footage from the 1600’s (wait what) and leaves only those with very scant attention still confused as to what’s going on. There’s an epidemic, the people are cursed with eternal undeath, blah, blah, blah.

Madness and hallucination prevail as it often does in times such as these and the crew start attacking each other. This threat is nothing however compared to the sudden appearance of a horde of vampires in corpse paint who’ve been hiding in plain sight the entire time.

island of the living dead conquistadors

They’ve been here the entire time. Did you know this?

Will Sharon, Snoopy, (Captain) Kirk (Where’s Spock?), Mark, Balboa, Max and Fred survive or at least make it off the island? How is it that their names seem pulled out of a hat dedicated to 80’s celluloid and/or cartoon worship? Why does Sharon remind me of the usually-naked-in-most-films-she stars-in; Laura Gemser? Is this in part homage to The Tombs of the Blind Dead series as well to Romero? Does anyone care, is there anyone even still watching at this point? Admittedly, this is rather silly but the ending boasts a lady with surprisingly adept scythe skills (where can I find a class?), a blazing inferno and a horde of zombies who grunt and groan like lovable (but don’t fed them after midnight, or get them wet) creatures from a Joe Dante helmed Christmas movie.

island of the living dead im not a gremlin

No one has ever called me a Gremlin, before now

Recommended only for those who have an adoration for the very worst, this is a feature overflowing with horrific one-liners, a script which a middle school-ager would be proud to take home to their parents, cardboard acting, makeup comprised of caked on foundation, obvious green screen effects aplenty and not nearly as much naked flesh on display as one might assume. But as much as I like to complain (I’m rather good at it) it has a certain something which can’t be denied. Is it the fact that it tries so hard to be what it so definitely isn’t? It deserves huge props in that regard, it fails but it’s delightful to watch it do so. Or is it that it’s just horrid and reminds me such of that which as a child I couldn’t get enough of. An element which dragged me into the realm of cult celluloid. I’m not entirely sure, but it has something which kept me watching, unable to caress the STOP button.

bad taste bear goes boom!

You were expecting a pic plucked from an early Peter Jackson film?

I can’t recall the amount of times I quoted, yelling furiously at the screen, Bad Taste, whilst witnessing the antics of those in distress. Seriously…”the head shots the only true stoppa!”.

Watch this at your peril, the cover art is better than the movie itself and the pictures displayed on the back jacket about say it all without one actually watching the film. But God help me, I want more and I have four more to sit through, so be prepared for I might scribble upon each in turn in my own good time.

Cult

Scorching the Retinas – Blood Bags

eyeballs header

Blood Bags (2018)
(Italy)

blood bags film

Writer – Emiliano Ranzani, David Mela, Scarlett Amaris
Director – Emiliano Ranzani
Runtime -84 minutes
Grey Ladder Productions
LMC Vision
Devilworks
High Octane Pictures

 

 

After an explanation of Gunther disease and various other ailments (in relation to an allergy to the sun) the movie opens on a trio of thieves breaking in to an abandoned mansion. Amidst synth laden atmospherics, slithering maggots and alarm bells (!?) they soon realize that they aren’t alone.

The scene ends, and the credits roll in a similar fashion to that shown in Re-animator (an exploration of intricately illustrated medieval medical images) accompanied by the same quirky score albeit with heightened synth elements.

(trailer courtesy of Rapid Trailer)

As soon as the claret from the previous scene and the somewhat familiar credits come to a close a budding camera enthusiast is introduced, as well her roommate. Within no time the pair shun their stereotypical Italian testosterone overflowing companions to travel across the Italian countryside in search of a location to showcase as part of a final work for the school semester.

blood bags breaking the law

What’s a little bit of BnE if not for an “A” in film school?

Meanwhile, a mysterious gent travels with a hold-all and visits a seedy undisclosed location whereupon he proceeds to collect a fair amount of blood in exchange for money. The transaction however does not go according to plan and under duress he is forced to extreme measures to keep his movements and activities under wraps.

From the very first the score (a heady mix of classical and synth) plays a lead role emphasizing certain scenes with a thick cloak of dread and menace.

Various close ups of eyes and victims in extreme duress, as well deliberate, unhurried, movements, lingering shots of the antagonist’s dark overcoat and gloves and avoidance of ‘his’ (the antagonists) face, an element which scream Giallo worship.

blood bags tracy

I like cameras and spooky looking old buildings

Naturally, the budding camera lady, Tracy played by Makenna Guyler, drags her friend, Petra, along for a traipse into her fear (what if she doesn’t make it as a camera professional?) She’s awfully chatty at times and into what I one will only assume is the mansion from the opening scene.

Petra wanders off, why wouldn’t she. She’s clearly isn’t as interested in old stuff as her overly excited friend and there are no boys around to flirt with (this is a horror film and people do dumb shit; it’s in the script) and has an untimely interaction with the business end of a wicked looking, dirty (if this doesn’t kill you, tetanus will) knife leaving her friend to fend for herself against a cloaked ‘assailant’.

Goblin soundtrack

Goblin; composers par excellence

The film continues, sans supplying a slew of spoilers, more than the movies box art description already has, I’ll refrain from giving a blow by blow narrative. Blood Bags is unashamedly up front with what it offers, obviously the main location of the film (other than the beatific Italian surroundings) contains someone/something who has an aversion to the sun and lives in a secluded habitat (I like that word!) The film’s title ‘slips into place’ following the enigmatic gent’s procurement of crimson and one would only imagine there’s not really that much more on offer. And there wouldn’t be, on a typical basis. However, Blood Bags manages to keep the interest. The score is impressive, palpable, an expert and well-crafted nod to cannibalistic, zombie and Giallo cinema by such under-appreciated greats of the genre such as Fulci, D’Amato, Argento, Deodata, Lenzi and others and results in heightened tension in just the right instances.

Dialogue interactions vary from predictable (“That’s my phone. It’s ringing!”) to darkly humorous and ingenious. The fact that Italian, Russian and English are used (rather than dubbing) shows professionalism, obviously not everybody speaks English. An early standout showcases varying differences in European and American attitudes, hampered by a language barrier, towards longevity and smoking. No doubt a spot of levity before the carnage commences, yet again. The acting is surprisingly palatable and takes this into relatable/believable realms.

 

Not surprising is that the authorities manage to get involved, as they often do in cases of this ilk. Thankfully, their presence is kept at a minimum making for little distraction from the ‘main course’.

body-bags-monster.jpg

You might say I can only see a boring rainbow, to which I’d agree

Monochromatic camera effects are a great added touch and depict the antagonists POV as he negotiates both his affliction and residence in search of those who have trespassed. Another scene worthy of note is a dream sequence in which Tracy travels lazily through candle lit atmosphere laden subterranean hallways only to see herself on a pedestal as a bloodied up ballerina,

The directing is also worthy of note. Blood Bags appreciatively doesn’t descend to an arena which many might predict. Although it sports a fair amount of crimson it strays from splatter territory preferring instead to rely on exquisitely crafted tension evoked by the aforementioned well-placed soundtrack and score.

The House by the Cemetery

Now that’s retro

Obvious similarities to Anthropophagus the Beast and The House by the Cemetery can’t be ignored, the pace is rather relaxed for one and although the film’s story, in many ways, has been tackled before (an enigmatic individual somehow conquering a devastating blood disease, or something along those lines, I’ll not ruin it) and is for the most part wholly predictable (you won’t need to re-watch or rewind this for any intricate plot lines, or something you might have missed as it’s rather straight forward) this remains a solid effort. A slice of undeniable homage and unmistakable worship of that which riveted wide-eyed audiences four decades previous. Will this spawn a revival of sorts, of the very same scene? It remains to be seen. One thing, however, is undeniable; this has all the ingredients, the panache and the class, to rekindle that adoration. And for that I applaud it.

Go into this with an open mind, few assumptions and you’ll have a blast, but be warned this will likely leave you with a hankering for it will spark an exploratory nature to rediscover old school cult cinema.

Cult

Scorching the Retinas – Killer Sofa

killer sofa

Killer Sofa (2018)
New Zealand
Writer/Director – Bernardo/Bernie Rao
Runtime – 77 minutes
Mad Kiwi
1220 Film Production Co.
High Octane Pictures

 

A film about a sofa (recliner for those in The States) with homicidal instincts, huh? I’m curious. Even though I’d initially assume this would belong under the Troma stable I’m still intrigued. Tell me more.

(Trailer courtesy of JoBlo Horror)

Initial scenes show the sofa (recliner) and its involvement in a grisly murder. This sounds strange, scratch that, it was rather a witness to it. And one can’t help but think that it shown to have somewhat of a personality, a face, a smirk of sorts, within its folds/design.

killer sofa dont mind me

Don’t mind me I’m just ‘sat here’ unassuming

A Police duo are assigned to the case to investigate the death of the recliners former owner and consist of a recently separated guy (Inspector Gravy, Jed Brophy) and his straight edged, no nonsense partner, Inspector Grape.

Said sofa is found in storage and taken to the residence of its former owners, Frederico, obsession. On the way Jack, a local furniture store owner, is asked for directions. He touches the sofa, believing he sees blood (he does, those moving the sofa had an accident) and receives a vision of sorts. A forest, a maiden, a chase. The mover leaves and Jack is left believing it to be exhibiting signs of harboring a spirit, a Dybbuk.

killer sofa an evening by herself

Don’t mind me, I’m just enjoying myself

When Franchesca, Piimio Mei, the sofas new owner enjoys ‘a moment by herself’ atop her new acquisition she awakes the next morning confused, out of sorts. Something is definitely amiss.

Jack, Jim Baltaxe, meanwhile does a little research (a video which showcases Tohunga Makutu, Grant Kereama, a strong on-screen presence who leaves an instant impression) and finds that his having touched the couch/sofa/recliner wasn’t the best of ideas as he isn’t in the best of health and it only seems to be getting worse.

TJ, Franchesca’s roommate, believes he is having experiences with the furniture. He believes the sofa attacked him and is found in the bathtub with a tourniquet around his leg. Strange happenings continue to occur and Jacks belief that a spirit might be possessing the sofa seems more and more likely although improbable it’s a piece of furniture after all.

dybbuk.jpg

The Dybbuk has somehow managed to find itself inside a piece of furniture, how quaint!

At times the same personality, mentioned above, seem to manifest. An intruder (another guy obsessed) to Franchesca’s residence brings about a quizzical and curious look (if that’s possible) though that’s not all the scene rolls out with quite the odd behavour but it all gets “ironed out” (whoops I’ve said too much!) though I shall not ruin it by providing play by play.

 

The backstory develops, most everything is explained, and all the weirdness seems to make sense, even the reason why the sofa seems to have a mind of its own.

Voodoo shenanigans and interactions like:

You were at his house, what were you doing there?

– He asked me to cut his legs off.

Keep the intrigue level high.

The comedy aspect displayed is terrific, although not laugh aloud the dark element works excellently. Who would ever think that a film about a killer piece of furniture could be so entertaining, well -produced, excellently directed and far from the ridiculous/bizarre heights one would expect and where other production companies would likely place it. The class with which this film plays out is admirable putting me in mind of others in a similar vein including an unlikely premise, one involving fleece covered mammals by name of Black Sheep. Dream like sequences add depth and are captured wonderfully, executed with flair adding a believable historical element which aids the story line.

Killer sofa this is jed brophy

Believe it or not this is Jed Brophy, and this picture has little to do with a “Sofa”

The acting is top notch, one would never think this is a lower budget affair. Several outstanding performances give the audience a reason to care. Maxi played by Natalie Morris is mischievous though always has her best friends interests at heart. Jack, Jim Baltaxe, is an aging Rabbi who owns a failing business and has come to the sudden realization that he has a gift much like his Father, who wishes to have nothing to do with him. Inspector Gravy, Jed Brophy (District 9, King Kong, LotR and The Hobbit franchises and Heavenly Creatures among a ton more) buries himself in his work in order that he might be able to not dwell upon the state of his disastrous marriage. And then there’s the star of the film the couch/sofa/recliner a comfortable looking character who really can’t help the predicament in which he’s been placed. The effects showcased here are of note also. The film has strayed from the over the top gore aspect (which many others might well have ran with) to instead rely upon a creepiness, What the F! factor, and it works and could well draw the viewer into a what if scenario of their very own imagining after the films viewing.

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An unassuming microwave display, but is any one of them possessed?

Of note is that the end credits track (which also features during the beginning of the film itself and introduces the friendship collective all in a band) “You’re Cold” which is written and performed by the director. More importantly however, is the fact that it’s as intriguing and entertaining as the film itself. A film which (hopefully I conveyed my thoughts upon adequately during this short piece) warrants seeking out as it is far and above that which I assumed it to be. An assumption based purely on its title, if truth be told.

In conclusion, as if my words haven’t conveyed this already, I wholeheartedly recommend this film. Its far from the usual horror affair and is different enough to garner interest based on its premise alone. The fact that this has been pulled off without it plunging into unwatchable depths is beyond me and deserves applause in and of itself, but netter yet is that it works and stays entertaining throughout.

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Need a place to sit while watching a movie? I’m your man!

Catch this at your earliest convenience.

Cult

Killer Sofa premieres on VoD and DVD October 1st.

Scorching the Retinas

eyeballs header

The Hallow (2015)

The Hallow

Writers – Colin Hardy, Felipe Marino, Tom DeVille
Director – Colin Hardy
Runtime – 97 minutes
IFC Midnight, Hyperion Media, Hindsight Media,Prescience
Altitude, Irish Film Board (ifb), Fantastic Films, Occupant Entertainment

 

Adam is a curious type. He works in and around forests, amidst nature, and has somehow managed to bring something unfathomably ancient, mysterious and menacing back to his new home and family.

The family, himself, wife and infant son, reside in an ancient house far from the city surrounded by woods and structures (both man- made and forged by nature) forgotten by the advancing tide of humanity.

All is not well however and events transpire whereupon the family call the local authorities They arrive and after a quick evaluation state “…this isn’t London. Things here go bump in the night.” Adding to it that the (local) community believes the families surroundings (the forest) belongs to “The Hollow” who are comprised of fairies, banshees, “baby stealers”, in short, the supernatural.

the hallow cmon and get it babystealers

“Baby stealers” you say…

“If you trespass upon them, they’ll trespass upon you…” A local merchant tells Adam, as he fixes the window broken from the night before. And this is what appears to be indeed the case in this instance as the family undergoes instance upon instance of strangeness and unexplainable activity. They learn most everything can’t be explained away to their living in an old house. But what is really going on, can it be stopped, is there really such a thing as faeries or even banshees and will Adam’s curiosity be the one overriding factor to drag the family to its knees?

(trailer courtesy of Movieclips Trailers)

Without spoiling the film, or lending it a play by play narrative, I’ll lay a few words down upon why I believe it works so well. The Hollow plays out at an enjoyable pace. It introduces its characters, their flaws in a remarkable manner, their surroundings (an untouched wooded arena) exquisitely without adding Attenborough-esque undertones and the community in which they are obvious outsiders.

the halow outside

Oi! Hang on a sec, what was that?

The films small cast is excellent. Adam is played by Joseph Mawle whose performance brilliantly captures a man passionate about both his work and family. His wife Claire is portrayed by Bojana Novakovic (who has seen recent activity on American television lately with the short-running series Instinct alongside Alan Cumming famous for many film appearances including, but not limited to, one of my comedic favorites; Son of the Mask) vividly portrays a mother content with her lot in life, determined to keep her offspring safe and happy with her husband and supportive of his interests and career choices. Michael Smiley is instantly recognizable and plays a small part as a local Garda (Police Officer) who warns the family that the community believes they are trespassing upon the darker side of nature to lend an early portentous tone to the film alongside another warning from an old acquaintance which Adam has chosen to ignore.

the hallow a nightly jaunt

Nothing to see here. A nightly jaunt is all

The atmosphere is palpable, even from the very first scenes, in which the Irish countryside is showcased, and tension levels are executed with heart racing precision. An excellent score/soundtrack (courtesy of James Gosling) helps in this regard and elevates the on-screen action to another level.

 

Parasites, mildew, fungi, mold and other nature-based beasties (one might not immediately consider as predators( are all part of the proceedings amidst effects and costumes warranting applause which will put many in mind of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and the Western tinged Burrowers. Add to this possession antics, a harrowing transformation and forces at play (which predate that which most of us pray to on a daily basis) surrounding the family and their struggles to keep their infant from becoming part of the (forest) Hollow and the result is a film which seethes with ominous qualities, relentless suspense and predicaments which are rarely a hairs breadth away from anxiety levels bordering on an all-out panic attack. For all the parents I must mention that the baby’s cries add to the film’s aura and the anxiety levels in those scenes in which they feature create.

Seed by Uwe Boll

(Of note is that Uwe Boll’s Seed is a film which incorporates the same to fantastic effect though is on another level entirely in regards to what it offers both in primitive quality (others might say it’s ‘unwatchable shit’, and undeniably unforgettable shock value).

 

A slew, a virtual cavalcade, of standout scenes make this an unforgettable viewing experience; one in which Adam is trapped in the boot of his car, a nod to the splinter scene in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters), one with the family’s dog Iggy chewing on something foreign, diabolic, yet most definitely alive and others bringing about an undeniable suffocating atmosphere comprise to make this a non-stop adrenaline-fueled nerve heightening thrill ride in a similar vein to Raimi’s The Evil Dead.

the hallow creepy book

Better wear gloves when you read this who knows what they used for ink.

In effect, The Hollow is a brilliant concoction effectively melding historical folklore, modern day technology, jaw dropping effects and pulse-pounding horror. Obvious similarities to Eli Roth Cabin Fever exist (ironically there’s a trailer for the same on this disc) and a myriad of tip of the hats to other celluloid cult affairs (The Thing, Pan’s Labyrinth, Burrowers and The Evil Dead) are unmistakable though are hardly overpowering. Brilliant direction (Colin Hardy also directed 2018’s The Nun), a wonderful pace, strong performances, an outstanding prop similar in tone to “The Necromonicon”, remarkable effects (with a gore quotient which is could well have been much higher though could well have, in effect, marginalized the audience) and an exquisite ambiance mark this as a film which demands attention. I could well scribble upon this for hours, taking this into diatribe territories, but I’ll prefer to cut my pondering short lest I spoil the overall experience with spoilers. Seek this gem out at your earliest convenience and feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts.

Cult

Scorching the Retinas – A were-Dinosaur Film? Now I’ve seen it all!

The Velocipastor (2018)

The Velocipastor

USA/China
Director – Brendan Steere
Writer – Brendan Steere
Runtime – 75 minutes
Cyfuno Ventures, Hollow Tree Films, Laika Come Home.
Wild Eye Releasing

After losing his parents, a priest travels to China, where he inherits a mysterious ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. At first horrified by this new power, a hooker convinces him to use it to fight crime. And ninjas.  (synopsis courtesy of the films writer and director; Brendan Steere)

When faced with a film with such a title and story line (above) how could I not resist a view, and the temptation to lay down a few words, seriously. To my knowledge the same premise hasn’t been tackled before. Sure, monsters of all varieties, shapes, size, gender (and political leaning) have been utilized in all manner of films before now. Unless you count the short film from 2011, by the same director, which started it all.

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The title scene from the ‘original’ short.

But none to my understanding include an individual, in this case lets spice things up by calling him a Pastor (which makes one only wonder where ‘the earth was created only a few thousand years ago’ belief/mythos comes in), who has the ability to transform into a Prehistoric killing machine, add to that ninjas and words of advice from a hooker (sex trade worker, street walker, purveyor of pleasures at a cost who knows what they’d like to be known as in this delicate time and age) and we have a film which I for one can’t ignore, much like a doughnut on a plate with a flashing neon sign which reads “free. Eat me. I’m yours!” Without further ado…

(trailer courtesy of JoBlo Movie Trailers)

The Velocipastor opens with a Grindhouse aura with a bold legend across the screen, which reads, “Rated X” by an all Christian jury is this indication of how the film will play out? It certainly has a sense of undeniable humor even this early on. The hilarity and a feel for how the film might roll out continues early on, in a scene in which the pastor, Father Doug, waves hi to his parents only to scream in terror as the car they’re next to explodes into flame. Although the image on screen is merely that of a legend “VFX: Car on Fire”. At this point I can well imagine those sans a love for B/zero to-no budget movies to have dispersed already (would the title alone not give an early indication of where the film might lead and how it might play out?) leaving those with the addiction to such glued to their seats.

Questioning his faith due to the abrupt and untimely demise of his parents Doug, played by Greg Cohan, decides a spot of travelling is in order. But he’s confused as to where to go. Father Stewart is on hand thankfully to offer a few words of advice “Go to where you think God will not follow  (and if he’s there, he’s within you)”

velocipastor driving

A rocking soundtrack finds our Pastor on the road, a myriad of questions and his faith battling for supremacy within his jumbled thoughts.

Doug finds himself in the forests of China, though I doubt his car took him all the way there. After an epiphany that China is in fact East Doug is perturbed to find a lady roll into his view. “Are you hurt/” he asks looking at an arrow protruding from her chest (this is honestly how the film plays out and I’m loving every minute of it) she offers him something and amidst the obvious language barriers he discovers he’s being watched and followed. The artifact in his hand cuts him in his haste to get away. In the next scene he awakens to discover his China trip is through, the following dialogue is plump full of unintentional hilarity and that he’s hungry.

Cut to a street view in which Doug runs in search of something. Meanwhile, a street walker encounters her pimp, Frank ‘Mermaid’ (cus he’s “swimming in bitches”) and discovers his maniacal laugh is worse than his bite and the park is where the money’s at. But there’s also something else lurking in the park. As luck would have it however a rubber suited large toothed reptile comes to the rescue and with this in mind it comes as no surprise that this film relies more on its glaring tongue in cheek nature than its FX departments professionalism and budget. Mannequin heads, crimson syrup and all. Although a synth addition certainly adds to Grindhouse homage and the films somewhat faux tension levels.

VelociPastor the lovers

When they aren’t busy necking Doug and carol enjoy camping and taking down Ninja crime syndicates

In the following scene a slew of close ups and rushed zooms adds to the perceived drama emphasizing the characters facial expressions and reaction to that which seems impractical (to say the least). Confusion, again) unintentional hilarity and blunt dialogue is a huge plus in a scene where Doug realizes he can transform into something his faith tells him never existed. But, more importantly, can he get over receiving advice from a person whom he shouldn’t be associated with?

“Wait…you’re a hooker.”

“And a pre-med at law but people aren’t too surprised at that one!”

After discussing his predicament Doug is still in two minds about his next steps until, that is, Frankie (fuckn’) Mermaid, portrayed brilliantly by Fernando Pachero De Castro, enters his confessional booth.

Various camera shenanigans, close ups in rapid succession, a focus on a gaping wound and incessant screaming overlaid by synth adds to the film’s grindhouse homage vibe and the audience is either loving it or hating it at this point.

Following this encounter a plan is hatched and the groundwork is laid with commandments to follow, which still need to be hammered out if truth be told.

“I don’t know much about God.”

“I don’t know much about Dinosaurs…”

And it appears there’s a new superhero/vigilante hitting the crime-ridden streets.

velocipastor carnage

A budding relationship indeed!

A lengthy montage scene, set to a poppy rock soundtrack, shows the pair building on a budding relationship as well Doug training for his new role as one who cleans up the streets with his claws, tail and hunger. A great touch perhaps a little overbearing but this only add to the film’s awkward nature and lovability.

Doug still keeping with his profession continues to preach and take confessional, in a standout scene he’s caught unawares by Father Stewart (who has concerns about his recent behavior) resulting in him hiding books on dinosaurs like an adolescent caught with porn.

Doug decides to confess. Dramatic music adds to his spill-all. Father Stewart is at odds with what to do, he wants an exorcism and an end to Doug’s ‘hallucinations’ has he been hitting the Bible a little too hard late at night it makes one wonder?

velocipastor hiding dinosaur books

If only it were porn.

Father Stewart, Daniel Steere (a relation to the films creator?), decides the Diacese is taking too long so he decides to take matters into his own hands in taking his companion to an unauthorized expert on the same subject. An inclusion of a backstory (of how the two met) adds considerably more humor, more specifically of the darker variety, to the film, weight to his character and depth to the story (a standout scene includes but us not limited to; a bucket full of guts, a VC trip mine, a visit from a loved one and a thousand yard stare).

Have I mentioned the city’s crime element and ninjas yet? My bad, but seriously this should come as no great surprise! A ninja with an Australian accent who takes his sweet time formulating a game plan of attack, within a small collective of the same (sans the accents) who just so happen to be patrolling the park, adds to the film’s unpredictability and fun and further on-screen antics from the rubber suited one.

velocipastor ninjas vs dinosaurs

Hero, menace or merely a large reptile who poops in the woods?

Further split screen and camera effects (think The Brady Bunch) add an elevated art approach level to the proceedings where it might not have been assumed before. This whole scene could be perceived as being the flashing thoughts being processed within Doug mind and in short conveniently (for those not paying attention) recaps the entire film, up until this point, in only a few seconds. In short, Doug is in love and is about to embark upon enlightenment and a trip to pleasures of the flesh-ville against the teachings of his faith and profession.

Further scenes including the same crime element. and the inclusion of Father Stewart, explain the tenuous link between street drugs, help groups, the Church and Global dominance as if this needs explaining any further, isn’t this already covered extensively in The Lion King?

velocipastor transforms

Much like a similar scene from An American Werewolf in London sans a budget

The Films final showdown depicts surprising fighting prowess (my Kung Fu is better than yours) an emotional Ninja collective and a full torso transformation under, wait for it, complete control, as well more of the same diabolical, though still highly enjoyable, effects. It also brings about the history behind the mysterious Dragon Warrior mythos in case one might be wondering about the history of the artifact.

Velocipastor surprising fighting skills

Wait is that Michael Davidoff, is this another American Ninja entry? nah.

Well, this is a great deal to take in but I’m glad to report that Velocipastor is an especially easy to follow feature. The humor is obviously front and center. I honestly don’t think the same premise could be pulled off given a serious light to work under, and it works (in much the same way Kung Fury does, if you have yet to see this do so at your earliest convenience) leaning heavily on quirkiness, awkward situations and naturally the, elephant in the room, odd ball and bizarre elements, even send ups of several other genres which are all famous for using little to no budgets.

Doug and Carol (played convincingly by Alyssa Kempinski), the love interest who has crippling student debt, steal the film and their interactions and on-screen chemistry are priceless. However, for me it’s the dialogue which propels the film to even greater heights the quirkiness, the blunt nature and dry comedic pacing which has me chortling like one crazed. Naturally this isn’t for everybody, but for those who enjoy the sillier side of the B movie spectrum, the occasional Troma affair and films which can laugh at even themselves whilst holding onto the slimmest of story lines this is a feature which deserves a portion of your time. I would even go so far as to say that this would make a great triple billing alongside the BC Butcher and Kung Fury.

Your slave to cinema which often runs the gamut of unfathomably bizarre

Cult

For those burning with curiosity, like myself, I’ve thought it wise to include a trailer to the original short film (courtesy of the mind behind the prehistoric madness; Brendan Steere) Enjoy.