Posts Tagged ‘St Nick’

Scorching the Retinas – Special Edition

Puppets, Cannibals and a Little Crimson for Christmas

Aka;

Inviting a Burnt Faced Gent over for a Spot of Christmas Stuffing

Cannibal_Holocaust_poster

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Director – Ruggero Deodata
“The Mother of all Cannibal Movies”

Unbeknownst to many cinematic attendees is that the Cannibal film genre has been in existence way before the movie mentioned above was ever released, decades preceding the more recent addition from Eli Roth entitled Green Inferno which could well have topped the same lists which many others from the same genre frequented. In essence a collection of titles deemed highly irregular, indecent and obscene (a fantastic early Dismember album if you have yet to place the audio betwix the ears) by authorities warranting their removal from the public’s view. I am of course referring to the notorious ‘Video Nasty’ scene circa 1984, although most of the films in this genre and on the list (sometimes primarily because of its inclusion) can also proudly boast that they are banned in more countries than I can name and sport more truncated versions than can be counted on both hands, and in some instances feet.

(trailer courtesy of fuckyourmudha)

Around the time that most were marveling at the introduction of an alien-looking colorful puzzling cube by name of ‘Rubix’ and tearing ‘Stretch Armstrong’ to his absolute limits. Others were left slack jawed by the US ice hockey team destroying their rivals, the Russians, in the Winter Olympics. Whilst the world was introduced to another entry in the Star Wars franchise a small percentage of folks chose instead to have their senses obliterated by that which is considered “the Citizen Kane of Cannibal films”.

Cannibal Holocaust was initially released in Milan (Italy) on the seventh of February 1980. In weeks following it was seized by the country’s authorities. However, before it’s seizure it had grossed enough in Japan to become the second highest grossing feature in history next to (a film it will never feature in a double bill with) Spielberg’s ET.

Cannibal-Holocaust Japanese poster

Cannibal Holocaust was the entry that topped the seething rivalry between two filmmakers. The finish line both headed towards, at full speed with utter disregard for decency, a feature that shocks and leaves an impression above all others. In effect a continuance and improvement upon the “Shockumentary” genre originating with 1960’s Mondo Cane and 1966’s Africa Addio. This race/rivalry commenced with Umberto Lenzi’s 1972 Man from Deep River. In 1977 Ruggero Deodata unleashed his take on the genre with Last Cannibal World. Thought to be the precursor to Ruggero’s masterpiece (C.H) ironically, it was originally supposed to have been directed by Lenzi. Eaten Alive was Lenzi’s answer released in 1980 and although completed before Cannibal Holocaust the title had already been claimed and the race won. Umberto Lenzi’s last ditch effort Cannibal Ferox (1981) showcasing an unflinchingly vivid emasculation scene featuring City of the Living Dead’s John Morghen (Giovanni Lombardo Radice sporting a more ‘American’ moniker) still managed to turn heads and rile censors into a froth laden frenzy but it was too late the fans already had a champion and Ruggero was nestled comfortably atop the throne.

Ruggero added to the genre in 1985 with a film containing more of a thriller slant on the genre entitled Cut and Run.

Laura Gemser promo

Nice…uhh..skull.

Naturally, during this time another well-known director, famous for titles such as Anthropophagus the Beast (aka Grim Reaper) and Beyond the Darkness among a huge list of others, also staked a claim. But it fell short. The entry another adding to his sexploitative Black Emmanuel series entitled Emannuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) also starred genre favorite Laura Gemser.

 

As well as being hailed worldwide as the controversial creation Cannibal Holocaust undoubtably is, for a myriad of reasons, it is also raising awareness and discussion in other arenas of filmmaking. Arguably one of the first to successfully feature a “found footage” perspective it was, however, not the pioneer. Pete Watkins’ Punishment Park used the technique near ten years before to great success. Hotly contested is that The Blair Witch Project was the first to do so, contrary to popular and ignorant belief, as it was made many years after both.

In regard to the film itself (please excuse me I got carried away in my introduction) it depicts footage filmed by a group of filmmaker’s intent on making the ultimate, unforgettable, documentary. Following other attempts at the same, most notably a vivid documentary of sorts entitled ‘The Last Road to Hell’ they employ the same dubious techniques to garner the required response to better elevate their careers on the premise of “Today, people want sensationalism. The more you rape their senses, the happier they are.” As voiced by a studio exec character later in the film itself.

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The film crew

As it happens these very same filmmakers, Alan Yates, Faye Daniels and Jack and Martin the cameramen, never return to promote their findings to any interested studio. Therefore, after much deliberation an NYU Professor and a hired guide dive deep into the Amazon in search of the four. After finding their trail and successfully bartering for the ‘lost reels’ he returns to offer up the material for studio perusal.

Cannibal_Holocaust_Crew

Marshmallows, anyone?

Following a short trek into the jungle including various shenanigans and boisterous tomfoolery, which effectively displays the attitudes of the film crew, two tribes, the Yacumo and the Shamatari are introduced (both portrayed by actual indigenous peoples). Within no time whatsoever our intrepid film-makers go to work and use whatever advantage they can to make it appear as if life in this area of the Amazon is more precarious and barbaric than any would ever assume. Naturally they manage to capture on film various traditional ritualistic punishments (the Professor who chooses to follow their trail witnesses firsthand an adulteress’s divine punishment) obviously viewed as unfathomably archaic and barbaric to those not familiar with the traditions and culture of the people themselves. They embellish upon other instances and manage to formulate other scenarios to receive a required effect to keep those ignorant in thrall. In one instance the crew capture and immolate a large portion of a tribe in a hut. Jack can be heard yelling “It’s beautiful” above the cries of those trapped. Later they capture, and gang rape a lone female. In the following scenes she becomes an integral part of an iconic impalement image that is known the world over as one that needs no accompanying words to make people think of this film. The film draws to a climax with the tribes combined realization that the film crew’s intentions are misguided and their presence toxic. The crew becomes systematically hunted and you can draw your own conclusions as to the finale as I shan’t ruin it.

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Filmed primarily outside Leticia, Colombia, near the Brazilian border is what gives Cannibal Holocaust both a realism and authenticity that only adds to its viewing experience, a rarity in the genre as opposed to the plethora of others merely attempting the illusion of being also set in the ‘Green Inferno’ (more often referred to as the Amazon) some of which actually filmed continents removed in Sri Lanka.

Other elements that add to its weight and believe-ability is its utilization of indigenous peoples as ‘natives’ and the great use of the locale’s scenery, landscape and various shots of varied wildlife in the area, including but not limited to chattering monkeys, a hungry looking Cayman and an anaconda.

cannibalholocaust controversy

Amazon Sushi..?

Naturally one can’t think of this film without thinking also of the controversy that surrounds it. Choice on screen action includes rape, murder, cannibalism (duh!) and an assortment of violence so vivid Mary Whitehouse would roll over in her grave. The characters portraying the film crew were asked by the director to disappear for a few years to add intrigue and weight to the whole film crew lost in the jungle premise. However, on demand he produced the actors to prove that in fact that the film was merely that, a film, and not real to suppress further legal wrangling’s, three years of which put his career on hold following this film’s release.

In another such area are its unflinching scenes depicting animal cruelty. Scenes which include the gutting of a muskrat, the evisceration of a turtle, the braining of a monkey and the shooting of a (pet?) pig/boar. Not to mention the dismemberment of a spider and a slicing up of a snake. In defense the film’s director stated that all animals killed during the films production were consumed by its cast and crew. I only wonder if they tasted half as bad as the gruel which the Professor was obliged to sample. A scene which obviously tossed this fanboy back to an early work by Peter Jackson whereupon a community vomit bowl is passed around and enjoyed by everyone in attendance. “Yum! I got a chunky bit”.

CannibalHolocaust Soundtrack

A hauntingly beautiful score by Riz Ortolani whose orchestral brilliance is also featured in such genre standouts as Mondo Cane (1960) and Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling (as well hundreds of other places) makes certain areas of the film especially stand out. The juxtaposition of barbarity set against melodies with no wicked intent whatsoever makes a huge impact. Synth/electronic audio is also present and highly effective in raising tension levels when necessary.

Naturally, I would be amiss in not mentioning this films effects and gore content. Obviously. any fan has seen better (this film is now close to forty years young) but what makes this film so effective and mesmerizing are the situations depicted. Seriously who wants to be stranded in a jungle where every step could mean life or death with a population whose dialect and customs are mysterious at best. The found footage camera techniques only add to its overall foreign aura and its claustrophobic feelings of desperation, desolation and frustration. With that in mind however the effects are plentiful and are unflinching displayed. There is a butcher’s shop full of intestines, enough skeletons to give Ray Harryhausen a coronary and unfathomably plentiful corpse chomping scenes on offer to give a gaggle (is this a collective of…) of vegetarians a cause to erect a suitably sized vomitorium.

The rawness of the violence is an element that makes an impression and the film so impactful on the senses. Witnessing a group of mature (Whoops. I nearly said “old”) ladies behead and disembowel a struggling younger female is especially retina scorching. Personally, however, it’s the scene that depicts an excruciatingly slow medieval-esque dissection of a body that scars my cortex the most. However, you wish to slice it and whatever your thoughts there’s no denying that this slice of celluloid is undeniably damaging and ferociously unforgettable even close to some forty years after its release.

Cannibal holocaust facts

There’s no denying that Cannibal Holocaust, much like a Disney family-oriented film has morals and leaves the viewer with something to think upon after its credits are through, something along the lines of who’s the real savage in its instance. But honestly, does anyone watch a film like this to reflect on their humanity or is it an experience to test the limits of the psyche and the gag reflex. I know which camp I’m in. Whatever side of the fence you reside I recommend seeking this jaded gem out whenever possible.

 

Meet the Feebles (1989)
“From the director of Bad Taste comes a film with no taste at all”
Director – Peter Jackson

Meet the feebles dvd cover art germany

In December of 1989 Peter Jackson shocked cinematic moviegoers and the Henson family (allegedly) by releasing what many, even to this day, still deem vulgar, obscene and highly irregular. So, what was all the fuss about and why might the Henson clan be concerned? In a nutshell Meet the Feebles is a parody of, and in part (ha-ha) a loving homage to, a show that’s been gracing television sets since 1959. It’s safe to assume that your parents also enjoyed it in their ‘jamis’ also.

The Muppets unlike the aforementioned promotes family values, friendship and morals whereas Meet the Feebles tells it how it is, warts and all. And chooses to explore the back stories of the characters involved and documents what really might be happening behind the curtains of a variety show… It isn’t pretty.

(trailer courtesy of N.B.)

Before I continue, I’d like to point out that much like in the celebrated Henson Muppet universe (be it in the series or the movie spinoffs) all the creatures here represent animals, with a wide variety on display. With that in mind however I’ve always wondered what ‘Animal’, ‘Gonzo’ and ‘Beaker” are supposed to be. Meet the Feebles makes it a little easier by displaying each character closer to actual scale (to the animal they appear to be) and often true to what many might perceive the animal’s particular personalities to be.

Bovine

Do Cows like SnM antics?

In brief, the storyline revolves around the production of the show but more specifically the trials and tribulations of several of its main characters as the show starts to firm as a cohesive unit.

Robert, the hedgehog, is a shy type (true to form) who is about to commence his new career as a part of the Feeble Variety hour.

Heidi, the hippo, is the shows main star but predictably has gluttony issues and an incessant nudging suspicion that Bletch (a walrus, her lover and the producer/owner of the cabaret) has plans to replace her role in favor of someone younger.

Harry, the Hare, lends a comedic element to the show but much like his ilk he also suffers from an uncontrollable ailment. He likes to “party” without regard for the ramifications, or his health.

Harry the hare

Here’s…Harry!

Finally, there’s Bletch. Much like any kingpin He has his fingers in many unsavory pies, ranging from a deviant cow (who goes by the title of Madame Bovine) and her filmed XXX antics shot in the basement directed by Trevor (the rat) to nose candy dealings with an anarchistic Scottish warthog. But let us not forget his penchant for helping rising stars, be it through under the table shenanigans or impromptu auditions.

Naturally many other characters make the story weave the way of a rich tapestry draped in filth, bodily fluids and carnality. The film bursts with many memorable scenes that will swim around in the cortex for a considerable time after viewing. And I can even mention a few without spoiling the story. For example, Sebastian the Foxes final musical curtain call; the Sodomy extravaganza, the results of Sid the Elephants paternity test, Chuck the Frogs Vietnam flashbacks and F.W. Fly’s gutter press antics. Although everything pales in comparison to the films finale which features Heidi brandishing an Uzi, a grudge and apparently limitless ammunition.

Heidi with an Uzi

“Say hello to my little friend”

It doesn’t sound that horrific, right? After all its only puppets. How bad could it possibly be? Well if the thought of a cow cavorting with a cockroach doesn’t make you squirm then perhaps Trevor slipping Lucille a “mickey” in order to get into her feline drawers might (makes one think that he might have be based on a younger Cosby). Perhaps the sight of an anteater’s nasal cavities dissolving from snorting more than merely the chorus girls unwashed knickers might do the trick? Then there’s FW the fly chomping down and commenting on the contents of an unflushed toilet. The list goes on and on and I don’t wish to spoil the fun though I’ll guarantee that the antics herein will quickly makes you forget about the costumes, the people inside, or those operating them.

With Meet the Feebles Peter Jackson and assorted cast and crew have delivered not just an ideal follow up to Bad Taste (in its own right  a classic of the low to zero budget splatter genre) but also a movie that stomps on all of the rehash attempts on the premise of how much a puppet movie can shock and how far can it stretch the envelope of decency. Team America World Police, The Happytime Murders and even the underrated French cult gem Marquis (I won’t even mention the experimental XXX fest Let my Puppets Come as it still remains largely unseen) come nowhere close to the grounds this movie explored (then ‘marked’ in obnoxious animal kingdom fashion) Hard to fathom that it’s fast approaching it’s thirtieth year anniversary. This is the real deal folks and is certainly not for the easily offended, family viewing or community movie night at the nearest Bingo hall.

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…Vicks Vap’o’rub?

Meet the Feebles will stick with the viewer for a long time after viewing, in short (as if my deliberation wasn’t enough) it’s bizarre, atrocious, grotesque and if you’re anything like the author so darkly humorous it’ll leave a smirk on your chops for several days to come.

 

Saint Nick (2011)
“Santa’s come to Slay”
Director – Dick Maas

Saint_Nick

Before I begin, I’d like to impart a spot of trivia before the eyes.

Sinterklaas (Sint Nicolaas), on whom this film is based, is the patron saint of children, often thought to be sailors, in Dutch legend. Parts of this legend are thought derived of Nordic/pagan origin as there are many similarities to Odin, who also rode a white horse by the same name, Sleipnir. Sinterklaas gave out chocolate letters as opposed to rune letters and carried a staff with black (face painted) helpers, which wouldn’t be received at all well today given modern day attitudes, whereas Odin had a spear and the help of black ravens (with minimal hint of racial connotations).

chocolate face for all

Chocolate Face for all!

During the Reformation (16th and 17th Century) Protestant reformers changed the date of this festival from the 5th to the 25th (of December) wanting to abolish the cult of Saints and Saint adoration. Although in the last century the gift giving tradition on the fifth has seen somewhat of a resurgence, especially in The Netherlands, due to the greedy, grasping hands, of the retail industry (think Valentine’s Day) and, it is believed, a book written around 1850 entitled ‘Saint Nicholas and his Servant’. Heavily inspired by Spanish customs whereupon Sinterklaas arrived by steamboat and was accompanied by ‘mock’ devils known as (Zwarte Piet) ‘Black Peters’ due to their supposed African origins.

Saintnick fighting the villagers

I will thrust you asunder with my stick of peppermint flavoring

It should come as no surprise therefore that his appearance, the white beard, red cloaked get-up and dependence on a naughty or nice list later transpired into what is today known as Santa Claus (and it appears the ‘devils’ transformed in vertically challenged folk with a penchant for sculpting toys). Our sleigh riding, gift courier is, let’s be honest here, a little less menacing in appearance, although for some reason the characters adoration of enclosed spaces often filled with soot and smoke still remains.

(trailer courtesy of Movieclips)

Naturally, Dick Mass’es (a most unfortunate name better suited to an adult film star in my opinion) feature embellishes upon certain parts of the myth and liberally injects creative license to pluck it from the realms of child appropriate bedtime story fare.

inappropriate bedtime stories

A classic example of bedtime fare which might not ‘pass’ these days

Saint Nick commences several hundred years ago in 1492 on December 5th and quickly introduces the crimson robed one and his entourage. Following a short visit to the nearest village filled with nefarious shenanigans he returns to his ship, leaving the villagers scorned. They band together, revolt against his degree and decide it best that Nicks water faring craft would look a damn sight better if it were emblazoned with flames, mountains of melting flesh and a screaming in agony motif. In the process of putting this to celluloid the film makers give hints as to how the film might progress choosing not to shy away from displaying brutal impalements, copious stabbings and a priceless scene that incorporates a much-underused utilization of a household gardening implement.

Flash forward several hundred years, to the 1960’s. a small family is terrorized then slaughtered by a collective of mysterious assailants. The children are dragged up the chimney, the eyes are plucked from the Mother and the Father is turned to mush while enjoying a game show. This act serves as a fantastic introduction, imparting the myth (that if a full moon appears on December 5th, it happens roughly every 42 years, Saint Nick and his entourage will tear their way through the surrounding countryside’s youth) and its accompanying curse upon the viewer in modern times employing effective atmosphere to get the point across and well-wrought tension to keep the attention.

The scene ends with a screaming youth and the viewer is transformed to present day Amsterdam.

In this act the main characters are a collective of College attendees. A classroom setting shows them as especially boisterous and typically lust driven. The film continues with more than the occasional reference to joints, parties, cheating on partners and Saint Nick day festivities. Strangely enough these characters, even thus far in, have a relatable quality to them in part based on their family surroundings, some are even likable perhaps warranting some viewers to root for their ultimate survival.

jackfrost

There be no pictures of kids at play in my scribbles.

The scene transforms to introduce a police station and an officer who seems particularly frustrated. After only a short while he’s seen executing (yes, executing) a wrapped gift which lands him a month-long suspension. It’s soon discovered that he was the hysterical lad from the second act who still bears quite understandable misgivings and doubts about the seasons festivities to warrant, via a thick bold typed printout, it be cancelled.

The film rolls on at a pleasing pace and as one might expect ‘Saint Nick’, and his band of merry face painted helpers make an appearance and terrorizes the town. Our characters become intertwined in the narrative and the Authorities, much as they do in most genre films, mess things up adding to the features narrative, characters frustration and the ease of which the films antagonist adds to the films body count. That in short, without supplying spoilers is how the remainder of this feature goes.

SAINT Nicks ride

Just give me some carrots and a city full of rooftops to gallop upon and I’ll be happy

Draped in humor the films style harkens back to a cult classic made around the same time entitled Dead Snow. When the action finds it’s pace the second, Dead Snow 2, in the franchise comes to mind, as too in part the Friday the 13th franchise. The death scenes are brutal, excellently crafted, often slathered in gallows humor, appreciatively plentiful and let’s not forget that hordes of ferocious unmerciful types (let’s call them zombies for arguments sake) attack a myriad of unsuspecting villagers. There’s even a standout scene in which blunt force trauma is administered by way of a Porsche.

Other influences also come to mind, including but not limited to, atmospheric Hammer cinematic affairs and even (closer to the films climax) a nod to Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagus the Beast (this film pops up everywhere) married with a vivid scene from John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London.

krueger who

Krueger, who?

Saint Nick himself might remind some of Freddy Krueger as he sports a similar third-degree burn, melted features, visage. Although strangely, it is often his burnt flesh smell that gives him away even some 500 years after the impromptu floating Catholic BarBQ event which he was so prominently featured in.

As the movie plays out a variety of other nods to classics within the genre come to mind. John Carpenters The Fog chiefly among them by way of the atmosphere and obviously the fog itself attributed to scenes set on boats in the middle of nowhere Ville.

Another scene which makes an impression is one in which a patrol boat gets plowed through by Saint Nicks vintage ‘ride’, the initial sight of which might prompt recollections of the ship in the Goonies or Johnny Depp as Capn’ Jack Sparrow (in a movie franchise that freally doesn’t need mentioning at this point) stumbling around whilst knocking back another swig of potent dark liquid. The soundtrack is a great addition adding depth to scenes and tension to others when needed although at times it appears more a fantasy score to an RPG platform-based adventure.

champions of norath

My favorite Playstation 2 RPG (in case you were curious)

Saint Nick is especially poignant around this season (this was originally composed around the Holiday season) as most parents would agree that the idea of having their brats punished for being naughty throughout the year sounds like a great idea (although they might hate to admit it). Obviously Saint Nick takes this premise and blows it wildly out of proportion (in effect making this a film to place in the guilty pleasures file) thankfully it chooses not to dwell on scenes having to do with the death of youth opting instead to concentrate on those resulting from the chase of said antagonist and his enigmatic, carnage fueled, black faced entourage. Scenes which are unique in and of themselves. Seriously, where else might you witness a horse with costumed rider racing across rooftops? Let alone a priceless moment in which a ‘dead’ horse falls atop a police cruiser moments after its occupants look at each other in abject disbelief and puzzlement as to where Saint Nick could have gone, when shortly before he was seen on horseback easily traversing the neighborhoods highest tiled peaks.

saint-nick-riding-in-on-a-horse

Whimper and I’ll put you in a bag!

It’s hard not to crack a smile throughout the close to ninety-minute view. In one instance a police scanner spurts “Suspect – long white beard and red robe” a statement that invokes complexities especially based on the season at hand. An assortment of characters adds to the experience and offer everything from an inexperienced sexually driven youth through conspiracy theorists and a mob enforcer type and mute historical great-with-a-hooked-staff villain complete with an army of mindless “zombie” thugs.

Other moments come by way of the use of subtitles, intentional or not, I couldn’t help but chuckle when the word “Ah” passed before my eyes as a character grunted in pain using the exact same sound, but in Dutch (huh!?).

Saint Nick is many things but most of all it hits the nail on the head in regarding the festivities themselves. “Getting presents can be fun, but you always end up with crap you don’t need.” About sums up this traditional holiday in my opinion, although I would be ecstatic if I opened unspecified designed wrapping paper to find this feature enclosed.

Xmas sucks

In between appearances in several prominent doom outfits Santa is also the worlds most outspoken advocate of the Holidays

Saint Nick, like most franchise slasher affairs, is left open to the possibility of a sequel. I only wonder if it’s to be set in Space, in the medieval times or with the addition of a hurricane featuring a plethora of famished water breathing mammals whose origins date back to prehistoric times. Either way, Saint Nick was a pleasurable viewing experience, a ton of fun, isn’t to be taken too seriously and is therefore recommended for those, like myself, who enjoy their horror laced with humor and plentiful effects.

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Dick Mass also directed Amsterdamned (1986), The Lift (1983) and Prey (2016) if you’re wont to seek out some of his other similar themed genre works.

 

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