Archive for the ‘Scorching the Retinas – Film Review’ Category

Scorching the Retinas – Tackling the Wrong Turn Franchise

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)
wrong turn 2 cover art
Writers – Turi Meyer, Alfredo Septien, Alan B McElroy
Director – Joe Lynch
Runtime – 97 minutes
20th Century Fox, Summit Entertainment, Constantin Film Production

Sure, why not start in the middle rather than at the beginning? Well, I did and here I am. Cult is away again, probably sleeping already. He’s on vacation and he’s stuck with his young un’ at home, and let me tell you, she’s a spirited one. If she ain’t singing “Let it Go” or “Into the Unknown” she’s storming around like a Princess, with an attitude to fit. But getting back on track; I’ve got the reins now with snippets of that Slayer Comp still ragin’ through my ears.
So what say we get started.

(trailer courtesy of Movie Clips Classic Trailers)

“Wrong Turn 2” was made back in 2007 and it doesn’t take long to realize this. Cell phones are flip things, and earpieces are akin to those unsightly slabs of metal worn on “Star Trek” (the early series with good old Shat not the newer ones).

wrong turn 2 opening kill

Breast or Thigh? …It doesn’t matter!

Anyhows,  this chick, in the opening scene, is belligerent, screaming at her agent about one thing or another then she plows this poor chap down.  and wouldn’t you know it the poor bugga’ scratched up her Stang. Now rather than being somewhat pissed, who wouldn’t he scratched up the Stang’, she’s unsure, hysterical. However, this doesn’t last long. Some logger type looking chap makes his way outta the woods and cuts her in Twain. Downwards (“Terrifier” style), not across and this movie is off to a great start with perhaps one of the finest kill scenes to open up a movie ever. And my popcorn has suddenly found itself with extra butter (or a liquid which looks strangely close).

Wrong turn 2 Henry Rollins

End scene. Enter Mr. Black Flag, Henry (motherfkn’) Rollins, and an introduction to a reality game show of sorts with six contestants (five now, or seven. All depending on how one looks at it) and a theme centered around the Apocalypse (at this point we should all be taking notes and making time to rewatch the “Mad Max” franchise). Naturally, all of the contestants are young, nubile, hot to trot and bursting with enthusiasm.
A quick look behind the scenes shows the competition heating up and a producer wearing a “Battle Royal” shirt which is rather fitting (if you haven’t seen it, drop whatcha’ doing and prepare to forget Hollywood’s take on it; which is often referred to as “The Hunger Games” franchise).

wrong turn 2 i wanna play

Peek a boo!

The games begin, the rules are explained and it’s clear from the get-go who’s present for the money and who for the prestige of competing. Mr. Rollins does a great job of emulating the drill Sergeant from “The Frighteners” and “Full Metal Jacket” (R. Lee Ermey) and there’s another stand out scene in the books. But it ain’t all fun and games. There’s something uninvited in the woods which wants to join in but with rules of it’s own choosing.

“Holy shit, the whole family’s deformed” about describes the way the remainder of the movie goes. Powered by “The Hills Have Eyes” and general Slasher movie mayhem on bathsalts the kills come fast and furious, unflinching, just like Daddy likes them and uncompromising to boot. Seriously folks, this has more guts in its first half than most reputable Cult Cannibal flicks and a shotgun which would put many cannons to shame.

wrong turn 2 Boom

BOOM!

The pace here is remarkable, fluid and feverish throughout, enough to spike anyone’s adrenaline and the characters varied enough to bring forth opinions ranging from instant I don’t care if you perish hatred to I wish you’re the one who survives to repopulate the world adoration. The acting isn’t horrid enough to deter from the story, which is somewhat minimal, but it matters not when the screen is drenched in this much grue.
The finale looms, there’s enough blood and body parts scattered to give Dahmer a boner and the cast is significantly smaller in size, but more widespread,(that’s a pun), than when the movie commenced. But the action remains slick and sticky (nope, this isn’t another filling every available orifice extravaganza flick) two teams face off and…
Well that’s where I’m going to leave my blow-by-blow (enough of the double entendres already) commentary.

wrong turn 2 lunch

This is strange. I can see my spleen.

To cut this short, for it’s about my bedtime, Joe Lynch has far surpassed himself here. A homage to a wide swath of slasher flicks doused with a generous dollop of dark humor and enough glorious FX to sate the most depraved of penchants I’m pleased to state that this brings to the table more crimson goodies than any “Friday the 13th” flick and an overall viewing experience I would somewhat liken to (one of Cults favorites) “Dead Alive”.

chillerama

“Wrong Turn 2” is frenetic, unflinching, graphic, splattered with antagonists which appear immortal (though most certainly don’t live like it) and dotted with characters one wants to root for. The effects are abundant, grisly and executed with attention to detail (that explosion. Wow!) The directing is top notch, again huge props to the mind behind one of the sickest segments within “Chillerama”, and there’s seriously not a complaint here. Boobs, blood, guts, an inbred fellow who looks like he was plucked from a John Hughes film, tons of pitch humor and a final scene which puts Tobe Hoopers “The Mangler” to shame. This is my kind of film. Did I mention Henry Rollins is in this? I did, well shit I’ll say it again, cus’ he deserves another mention. Go get em’ Rambo (whoops!)
Do whatever you have to be able to set the eyes upon this. I much prefer this over any of the “Friday the 13th” films. Don’t @ me, I don’t care. I don’t have any allegiances, I like whatever puts a stoopid grin on my face. And now I’ve said my part. I’m out!
Shit. I Nearly forgot, Cult likes ‘ratings’ now. If it needs one, fuk, I guess a 9.5 will suffice.

The wrong turn collection

Here’s hoping I get the chance to lay words on the others in the franchise. If they’re anything like this I’m happy to oblige. Naturally I’ve plucked the wrong image from the internet to show the others in the series. This one shows the regular (British) versions, I’ll be diving into the uncut versions whenever I can find them, and the time, and access to Cult’s keyboard in order that I can diarrhea my thoughts all lover his site. Until then.

Scorching the Retinas – Avalanche of Indy
Necrosis (2009)

Necrosis movie

Writers – Robert Michael Ryan and Jason Stephens
Director – Jason Stephens
Runtime – 77 minutes
Unknown Productions Incorporated
Brink DVD

With a synopsis which sounds a little like “Dead Snow”, minus the location and Nazis, this also finds a small collective deep in the Nevada wilderness; the Sierra mountains to be more precise. Tiffany (yes, the pop star from way back) heads the cast. Thankfully, she doesn’t sing but strangely she does show her acting prowess to be some of the least annoying here. Michael (I was in “The Hills Have Eyes”) Berryman makes an appearance along with a warning which our “happy campers” (roughin’ it in a fully stocked and electric powered cabin) choose to ignore.

(trailer courtesy of HOrrors)

The movie progresses, night falls but not quite as intensely as the storm. And the snow, as it so often does, becomes a major issue. Hallucinations plague a few within the collective and around the same time a body is found. A frozen dead body (obviously, as this wouldn’t be nearly as exciting a story as promised on the box art). But it gets better yet. Nightmares occur and become increasingly more vivid as the film progresses. And consumption of copious amounts of wine leads to a pair of strangers teasing each other to the point of ‘blue balls’ possibly being added to this film’s description. Cut to various flashbacks of the Donner Party Massacre (which took part in the same hills as featured here only about a hundred years previous) folders overflowing with clippings based on the same and this features predictability factor leaps into stratospheric heights.

michael berryman in necrosis

A cabin. In the woods. you say?

Although predictable the film displays a somewhat promising nature. The atmosphere is plentiful, the surroundings picturesque, the cinematography top notch and the soundtrack effectively sinister. The films location adds to its desperation/isolation aura pulling the viewer in much like, but not nearly as effectively, as Kubrick’s “The Shining”.
Paranoia, anxiety and obsession drench the second half of the films narrative and divide the isolated cast, eventually  bringing secrets to the surface (admittedly assorted details which probably should have been divulged before the excursion into no-man’s land was planned). The films finale pits the mechanics of a 65′ Mustang against a 67′ and a fractured psyche against the determination of an enigmatic…

Necrosis and Penny vitale

Penny Vital plugs one of George Stults’ many holes

Yea. I’m not going to ruin it.
In conclusion and sans dropping more spoilers than I already have Necrosis isn’t actually that shabby. But, it could he better. It isn’t original, it often bears a made for TV vibe and dives into undeniably predictable depths. Furthermore, it has a string of loose ends which need tidying up. The gore quotient is minimal. The words ‘uncut and unrated’ are front and center on the features cover which obviously invites interest (for those viewers like myself who adore plenty of grisly stuff) though also eliciting controversy as IMDB quotes the running time as (80 minutes) which is considerably longer than displayed here (77 minutes).

necrosis alternate cover #2

one of many alternate covers and titles available

one of many alternate covers and titles available
Among the films finer points are the inclusion of Tiffany as part of the cast (am I alone in wondering what happened to her? Probably) and the utilization of the delectable Penny Vital as Megan. Naturally a spot of random nekkidness helps and the surroundings are captured wonderfully, but all in all this is missing that certain something which might propel it into more remarkable realms. Necrosis is a prime example of a feature which tries but unfortunately doesn’t quite succeed, even though it was lauded with numerous awards upon the festival circuit.
5
Cult

Scorching the Retinas – Avalanche of Indy 2020

Avalanche of Indy 2020 Part the First

Welcome reader, may I present another foray into the Independent film realm. An arena where all manner of things simultaneously assault and please the senses. Features whose budgets are dwarfed by Hollywood blockbusters catering bills, in some cases individual valet’s tips, but whose ingenuity and imagination in face of such adversity is beyond remarkable. Unfortunately, a landscape ignored by many and promoted by only the brave willing to step outside of the Hollywood comfort zone. Without further ado here are my thoughts on a pair of films which have been nestled in my Inbox for some time but have only recently been permitted the time and attention they deserve.

Wakefield-project

A Wakefield Project (2019)
Canada/USA
Writer – Lindsay Seim
Director- L.A Lopes
Runtime – 88 minutes
High Octane Pictures

 

A pair of close friends blow their life savings on an Inn. That’s not so bad, this isn’t “Money Pit” after all. But wouldn’t you know, the place is haunted. Toss in a myriad of solar flares, a power cut, a mass murderer, a clairvoyant, snippets of a soundtrack plucked from a smorgasbord of classic genre flicks and…

Well, to make this short. This could have been worse. The camera work is far from horrid, the acting is competent. In actuality this has a surprising number of elements going for it. However, it’s the story and writing which let it down. The films pacing is a tad screwy and the films direction appears unsure of where it’s headed. Does it want to be a “See no Evil” clone, a Sci-Fi film, a ghost story, a homage to a Fulci classic (with listless undead with blood pouring from the eyeballs)

fulci city of the living dead

Does that come in a vegan option?

or another zombie film to add to the already mountainous pile? There’s seriously not much reasoning or explanation as to either direction. The dialogue admittedly runs the gamut of horrid through amusing. But again, this isn’t the worst film I’ve witnessed. It shows promise in some aspects although is tainted with a few scenes which appear confusing and a myriad of plot devices which make little dense overall it suffers from a story which needs tidying up some.

(trailer courtesy of The Movie Waffler)

Highlights are few and far between but include the films overactive soundtrack, an undeniable homage to a slew of genre favorites, an abattoir stage which could well be utilized to better effect and Reese; an instantly likable character (played by The Strain’s Dennis Andres) who spouts one liners and raunchy lines aplenty.

4

Watch this at your own risk. Hell, give this a few years and it’s sure to show as part of a bargain priced collection roster.

echoes of fear film

Echoes of Fear (2018)
USA
Writer – Brian Avenet-Bradley
Director – Brain Avenet-Bradley, Laurence Avenet-Bradley.
Runtime – 90 minutes
Black Butterflies, LLC

 

When a college students grandfather dies (in mysterious circumstances) she is left with his house. Caught in a little of a bind she decides to move in until she can tidy it up enough to be able to put it up for sale on the market. Her first night is restless. Awoken by strange noises and things that go bump in the night, but being the adventurous daring type, she decides to investigate (which is considerably more than I ever would).

echoes of fear - crawspace

Knock down a wall or two and voila’ you find a creepy crawlspace. But where’s Klaus?

The ‘happenings’ increase in intensity as Alicia (played convincingly by Trista Robinson) slowly unwraps the houses secrets. But will her boyfriend allow her to remain in the house long enough to unravel the enigma? Does he have ulterior motives? Just who or what is causing the disturbances and acting like such a nuisance? Why does the house have more crawlspace and hidden areas than most? Does Alicia need a Ghostbuster, an exorcist or a Handyman? And just what is up with her obsession with rodents?

These are all questions which slither through the annoying part of the brain which finds it difficult to relax as this plays out. However, I’m pleased to announce these are all overridden by the undeniable fact that this film delivers. And does it! An excellent soundtrack/score heightens the tension considerably whilst the camera provides plenty of misdirection within a setting (fun fact; the house depicted is owned by the writer/director) blanketed by shadows and objects which move seemingly of their own accord. A story which provides more than one could initially imagine provide a riveting, often palpably harrowing viewing experience (I watched this in the dark with headphones and jumped like a silly goose several times).

Echoes of Fear (2019)

As much as you try to close your eyes you’re “compelled” to watch

The films pace rarely let’s up. Alicia is stretched far beyond the point of which many others would decide to call it quits. Her tenacity, resourcefulness and bravery (I can see many calling it stupidity as they yell “oh hell, no” at the screen) is inspiring and takes the film into a different direction than others with a much similar theme. Her performance throughout is outstanding lending a credible edge to a feature which, honestly, only builds in its hypnotic nature as it progresses. Apparently, she’s cut of the rare cloth whose main characteristics include resilience to the Nth degree, eye- widening determination and not folding under pressure, no matter its origin. Based on the caliber of this performance; a rather unassuming introverted type who transforms into somewhat of a fearless explorer/sleuth. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Trista (Robinson) becomes inundated with projects and propositions in the very near future. The neighbor’s performance (courtesy of Marshall Hilton) is also worthy of note. A character who appears concerned though respectful of boundaries whose presence only adds to the overall mystery of the film as a whole.

Echoes of Fear Neighbor

Well howdy. I’m your neighbor.

Channeling “The Changeling” (not the Angela Jolie film but rather the unforgettably well-crafted and chilling George C Scott opus from 1980), utilizing the scare tactics of “The Grudge” and the visual build-up approach of classics such as “Halloween” though never wandering into copycat realms. “Echoes of Fear” traipses into arenas one might not expect adding layer upon layer of intrigue to a story which exhilarates and continues use to keep its audience enraptured.

(Trailer courtesy of Movie Trailers Source)

To keep this short, for it would be easy to praise indefinitely, “Echoes of Fear” proves that talent (on the directorial, writing and acting fronts) still thrives within a genre that’s recently resorted to gimmicks (utilizing stern gazed habit wearing folk, creepy vintage collectables and twisting folklore and fairytale) to provide the scares. It holds the attention throughout and is bolstered by both strong performances and a fantastic atmosphere laden score. And although it doesn’t ooze with gore it still obliterates all of the checkmark spaces in the prerequisite boxes which constitute a great horror film. Suffice it to say this is a must see and deserves the hype. A huge accomplishment for the crew involved and the low budget film genre at large “Echoes of Fear” demands respect, a larger audience and (tragically) more acclaim than my words can provide.

Echoe of Fear possessed

Words fail me, perhaps a spot of interpretive dance is in order?

Don’t waste another minute, “Echoes of fear” is a fantastic example of the crème de le crème of that which the creative minds within the Indy scene have recently produced (in my opinion). Add this to the top of the “to be watched” pile. You can thank me later.

 

9.5

Cult

Scorching the Retinas – The Hunt (Quick Review)

The Hunt (“A rapid get this done before it’s time to pay” review)

The hunt-poster

The Hunt (USA) 2020
Director – Craig Zobel
Writers- Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Runtime – 89 minutes
Blumhouse productions, White Rabbit

I’ll make this quick. I don’t have much time, I’m squeezing in a few minutes of scribbling following the screening while the wife gets a Pedi/Mani (nope, I’m out! No one touches my feet!)

Commencing with a grandiose soundtrack reminiscent of epic features of yore The Hunt starts off on a great footing, I’m excited already. Cut to the first scene – a luxurious aircraft in which a collective of well-too-doers (whatever that means; in short people with money and positions of esteem) are busy “subduing” someone who has apparently “woken up too early”. The mind spins, the word “Hostel” comes to mind, an ‘unfortunate’ is dragged back into the cargo hold and the movie continues.

Trailer courtesy of amazingMOVIEtime

Cut to a wooded area and a small, varied, assortment of confused individuals awakening with bits (I believe that’s the term) attached to their mouths. Yes, this seems uncomfortable enough, but it gets worse.

The Hunt the crate

But I can’t find one that’s vegan!

The appearance of a crate boasting varied weapons raises a few eyebrows whilst the sudden whizzing of bullets shreds said eyebrows and sinuous attachments into naught but crimson clouds. The frantic group soon find their bearings, a small fence and come to the realization that most have already been picked off.

Unlike most, The Hunt starts at an adrenaline spiked pace and rarely let’s up. Several characters have been introduced (but don’t get attached. Whoops!) as well their flaws. But those running still only have only the slightest inkling as to why they are in the situation. To make matters worse they have no clue as to where they might be.

The Hunt

But…I’m American!

Ingenious twists and turns (otherwise known as Red Herrings) aid the narrative in its flow and in little time the viewer has a better understanding as to what is in fact transpiring.

Who to trust, who can you trust and why should one? Many questions exist with one thing being plainly obvious; someone is having fun at the expense of another. The reasons as to why this is the case is carefully intertwined in a myriad of factors including conspiracy theories, the court of public opinion, stereotypes and numerous ideologies. One might immediately think ‘Class Warfare’; rumors exist that the films original title was “Red State versus Blue State” which have since been dispelled, whether they held merit, or not. Delicious dialogue interactions throughout might make the viewer ponder upon all manner of opinions and reasoning.

The Hunt reserved for the boudoiur

mmm…hhrrrr…mmmhhhh (and assorted other garbled mumbling)

Without ruining that which might already have been depicted in the trailer I’ll state that the characterizations here are humorous, varied, familiar and often surprising given that which many characters boast.

The Hunt is rooted upon the foundations laid down by such ‘classics’ as “Manhunt” (which I’ve just covered here), “Turkey Shoot”, “Hostel” and numerous others whose titles escape me at present while also boasting dialogue interactions which put one in mind of Tarantino- esque affairs.

Turkey Shoot movie

The action is top-notch (including more than merely the atypical cat n’ mouse scenario one might expect) the tension well-crafted aided by an excellent score/soundtrack and the scenarios which unfold vaster in scope than that depicted in many a similarly themed feature before.

For those who might be on the fence (check first. It might be electrified) this contains enough grisly explosions, gouging, shootings and unflinching brutality and even numerous surprisingly well-choreographed fight scenes to sate. Though, thankfully, it doesn’t sink into OOT realms which would glorify or put one in mind of a Cult Italian or Troma production. Occasionally, the unflinching factor is turned down.

The hunt fkn ouch

Fkn’ ouch!

The result of some actions are left to the viewers imagination, seriously when it’s that obvious one doesn’t need to see it in glorious technicolor, this is a nice touch (as too, for me, the exquisitely delivered grisly bits). The result is a feature which could well be placed in either the thriller, action or horror genres comfortably.

The enigmatic/mysterious factor is played well to the point that one of the main characters isn’t unveiled until well into the second act. The main character isn’t unveiled until deep into the first, keeping the viewer on their seat wondering if they are in fact going to perish as quickly as the others (whoops. Spoiler alert!) In regards to the main character; She (probably not as huge a spoiler as the others before it?) is portrayed brilliantly, kudos to Betty Gilpin for such a strong Femme Fatal portrayal which is sure to be remarked upon for years to come, retains a mysterious aura (what’s up with all this ‘mystery’ amidst such unrelenting bloodshed and carnage?) and truly doesn’t show her cards until the film’s final act/stanza (call it what you will).

the hunt femme fatale

In short, I need to get this wrapped up, (it’s time to pay) without dropping any more spoilers. I’ll gladly state this was fun from start to finish though admittedly a little predictable in places. However, the pace so fluid, the characters so enjoyable, and the dialogue refreshing (even that concerning “Grilled Cheese sandwiches”) though often doused in dark humor, as to make one not linger upon such things.

The Hunt how to make a good grilled cheese

Lets not concern ourselves with cheese

In conclusion, and because it’s time to break out the wallet for yet another Anniversary gift, give this a chance before you write it off as just yet enough survival feature. The Hunt is vastly entertaining, smirk inducing, often thought provoking and most importantly fun! And has earned my stamp of approval.

Fun fact;

The most dangerous game book

Because no movie review is complete…without the picture of the book it’s based upon.

Heavily influenced by Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, “The Hunt” now nestles amidst a myriad of others (including “The Pest”, “Hard Target”, “Surviving the Game” and “The Eliminator”) with much the same premise (imagine that!) for those whose penchants run to binge watching similar features, film comparisons (be it scene by scene or otherwise) and/or discovery of  directors whose works remain relatively unknown.

 

Cult

Scorching the Retinas: Dollar Movies – The Midnight Man

Dollar Movies Header

Dollar Store Finds; The Midnight Man (2016)
Director – D.C. Hamilton
Writers – D.C. Hamilton and Brinna Kelly
Runtime 106 minutes
Cinedigm Entertainment
Expression Entertainment

the midnight man movie

For those familiar with my scribbles it should come as no great surprise that I have a varied and wonderful collection of films. Most of which I have yet to admittedly lay eyes upon. Of these a great majority are those I’ve pulled from the shadow ridden recesses of various bargain bin. Others still are those I’ve rescued from charity stores. But there remains some I have yet to mention. This mysterious portion of my collection are films I’ve purchased new, still wrapped, at an unbelievable price. Each, in fact, only a single dollar. I’ve had similar experiences when visiting my family who remain in my ‘homeland’ and I will gladly report that ‘Poundland’ is for me is an utterly euphoric location to set foot in. In truth, a dangerous addictive retail location. Be it movies, snacks, sundry odds and ends or Pot Noodles (my favorite British ‘in between meals treat’ if truth be told) odds are I’m leaving that place considerably lighter in the funds department than when I first entered.

This film comes from a recent foray into the everything costs a dollar realm.

(Trailer courtesy of Cinedigm)

Obviously, it was the knife through the hand image on the films front cover and the mention of both Doug Jones and Vinny Jones in the cast list which first garnered my interest.

Will kemp Midnight Man

Nah – I can’t feel a bloody thing mate!

But apart from that what does The Midnight Man have to offer? After a view I can honestly state quite a bit, and definitely more than expected, especially for the single, solitary, dollar I handed over for it. Wicked one-liners. Smirk-inducing humor, intriguing interactions, and a nature most might associate with lower budget over the top BnW 30’s gangster affairs. But that’s just a brief summary.

Data from Star Trek, known as Brent Spiner in the everyday real world, plays a gangster kingpin who sends Grady, an assassin, with a rare, can’t feel pain, genetic disorder to do his nefarious bidding. This same assassin played by Will Kemp steals the show, reminiscent of both Ryan Eggold (from the current New Amsterdam television series) and Tom Ellis’ (Lucifer) in looks, accent and delivery his smart Alec character is most like that seen in Lucifer, a portrayal which is difficult not to appreciate. The Midnight Man starts out with an amazing footing though often spins its wheels in what appears attempts to stand tall with the likes of the dark humor Guy Ritchie and Tarantino films provide. Brinna Kelly (who co-wrote this) also stars. She plays a Paramedic who’s strangely been thrust into a partner/sidekick role. Oddly she embraces her sudden “responsibilities” without regrets or complaint.

Midnight man brinna

But we don’t need a bloody phone case. Do we?

Although there’s plenty of humor on offer the action scenes leave a little to be desired as too the acting (which is usually upbeat and over the top). However, it’s often hard to tell if this is intentional or not as the film doesn’t take itself all too seriously, this factor, obviously the love or hate element, adds to its charm and serves to divide the true B movie fans from the casual picked-this-up-hoping-for-a-good-in -the-Hollywood-Blockbuster-vein-movie viewer.

vinnie jones fruit cobbler

A fruit cobbler you say? I am intrigued. Do tell.

As the movie nears its mid-point Grady, Will Kemp, starts to experience strange foreign sensations and soon finds his ‘special powers’ waning. “The world’s a big, sharp, shitty place” is a quote that fits and about says it all. How will Grady cope, will he get his “powers” back? How does the story progress, how does Vinnie Jones (who also stars) fair as a gangster? And just what is a Cobbler other than …”one of those fruity things”? These aren’t the only questions which require answering. And although the movie is undeniably predictable and refrains from providing that which most comedic lower-budget movies do (copious amounts of blood, boobs aplenty and brawn) it provides a great deal more to enjoy.

The often-quirky soundtrack is varied ranging from too grandiose for its own good (much like an over produced TV special) to rock and even spats of Southern funk befitting a raunchy “all-holes” access adult movie much like the type seen on late night cable networks complete with a story line (but enough about that lest I get distracted).

Doug Jones Pale Man

I can’t seem to locate my eyes. Have you seen them?

Doug Jones (Hell Boy 2, Pan’s Labyrinth) makes an appearance as, Vick, a character draped in culture, class and a diabolical penchant for inflicting pain upon others (but he tends to waffle on a bit much like the villains in the oldie time Batman series. Of the standout scenes on offer his is one which brings the movie full circle but with the twist that Grady isn’t in as high spirits as he was when first introduced in much the same manner, tied down and ready to be pummeled like a rack of lamb. However, I’ll refrain from ruining the viewing experience suffice it to say there’s a few twists and turns and enough comedy to keep the package thoroughly entertaining from start to finish especially if, like myself, hooky, cheesy and B movies in their entirety play a larger part of your viewing habits than Hollywood blockbusters do.

So…is this a good deal for a buck? You bet your ass! I’d eagerly recommend it even if I had to pay three!

Cult

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