Thursday, March 28, 2013


It figures that the last movie I watch for this year's Plumbing the Depths shindig is the one that's going to be the hardest to write about. That's because this is a real live Art Film. Not only that, it's accomplished and unique in addition to being extremely graphic and weird to boot.

Before watching this I had never seen a movie made by Lars von Trier. There are a few titles of his that come up when discussing disturbing cinema, so I knew it was a matter of time. As far as I can tell, though, this is the only one he's made that is considered to be a horror movie. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a father and mother whose son falls out of an upstairs window while they're busy humping away. Overwhelming grief and pain ensue. The husband is a psychotherapist of some sort who pulls the wife out of the hospital and convinces her to throw her medication away. They then venture to Eden, aka the woods where they have a cabin, in order to help her through her grieving process and banish overwhelming fear from her life. Things do not turn out the way he plans.

I liked a lot of things about this movie. The music is moody and permeates everything with a creepy bad vibe feel. When the woman is stressed, the camera gets kind of wavy in an unsettling fashion. Best of all, there are some morbid and bizarre scenes with animals that have to be seen to be believed, in particular the one in which chaos reigns with a fox. I suppose the bizarre things von Trier lards this film with could be considered precious or overly quirky, but if you just take it all in like, say, a Cisco-enhanced fever dream, it's successfully upsetting.

Where things get really unpleasant is in the realm of sexual conduct and graphic abuse. Considering the couples' kid died as a result of fuck-related inattention, these themes play a major role throughout. This movie features some of the most squirm-inducing scenes I have ever seen. I found myself assuming that the camera would cut away (pardon the pun) and cursing the fact that it didn't.

An added bonus is that this is a film that will stay in your mind for a time - at least, longer than some plotless shock-value-and-nothing-else production will. I'm finding myself rethinking things said and done in Antichrist and spinning theories as to what it all means, which (as you might guess) isn't always the case with the more lowbrow disturbing fare. If you like films that are about passing on a mood via cinematic osmosis, then you are definitely going to find this interesting.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Serbian Film

I'm not sure that I know what the people who made this film were trying to prove. Apparently it's an allegory for the way people are treated in Serbia, as in the government forces people to do awful things. Sadly, I'm ignorant to the current state of affairs there, so I have to assume things must be pretty damn bad in order for there to be the things there are in this movie.

From the very start, this movie tries very hard to make the viewer uncomfortable. It begins with a cheesy porno flick, which as it turns out is being watched by the 6 year old son of the man starring in it. While it's presented as an opportunity to show that the dad, protagonist Milos, and his wife are not hung-up on porno and sex like the average 'merican schlub is, being a typical American prude I found it to be gross. If you knew my dad and then pictured him in a porno you wouldn't much like it either, to be fair. As it turns out, most everything that happens in this movie is related to sex, and while it's quasi-pornographic it's even more violent and completely intent on being as shocking as possible.

Milos needs money, and takes a lead from a former co-star to join a producer/director looking for his legendary stamina and weighty gristle to be put to their use in an artistic porno being made for a private client. The compensation being offered is exceedingly generous. While he's dismayed to learn that there is no script for him to read and that no one will tell him what the film is actually about, he's tempted by the lure of the money and his wife is on board once she hears the figure too. Naturally, as people who have seen any movie ever will tell you, it's going to turn out that acting in this movie was a super bad idea.

I get that Milos' family could use some cash, because money can be used for goods and services and all that. On the other hand, their house is pretty nice. I suppose the economy is weak there, but I also wonder if Milos might be able to get a job doing something other than sticking his dick into various things and people if he was no longer that into being a porn star. But in any case, he is given an earbud to stick in his ear to take direction and is whisked away to the movie set. When he starts to balk at where the movie is going in terms of theme and method acting and the like, he tries to quit and finds that breaking his contract isn't going to be particularly easy.

This is far from the worst movie I've watched lately. There are appreciable production values, and the acting is not bad. It's not great, either. The level of soullessness of the characters in this film is what ends up being impressive. If humans evolved to end up doing the things they do to one another in A Serbian Film, we might have been better off being shit-chucking apes. Yes, this is the movie famous for showing a newborn baby being raped. I'm sure there was a point to that other than classic "what's the worst thing I can think of", at least if you were to ask the filmmakers. Maybe that it's the government trying to ruin a country that's still in its infancy? Huh. But the really disgusting thing is that, arguably of course, that scene isn't even the worst one in the movie. This is a movie so intent on bringing the viewer down into the morass of a profane and meaningless existence that even at the end, when one assumes there isn't any further indignity that could be visited on the protagonist's family, they find a way to shoehorn in just one more.

Ultimately, this is a bizarre, depressing and unsettling flick. It's hyped for good reason. I wouldn't put it on a list of Great Films or anything, but it certainly deserves a place on the list of "dare you to watch it" movies.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

August Underground's Mordum

I've seen many movies that are more disturbing than this one, but few (if any) that are more offensive. I can't decide whether I should be impressed with the filmmakers' abilities to create something that so perfectly encapsulates the psychoses of worthless and inhuman pieces of shit, or whether I should be perturbed that  someone would want to expend any effort on bothering to do something like create this movie in the first place.

Calling this a movie is kind of a stretch. It's an effort to imitate home video taken by a group of people who enjoy torturing and killing other people. Given that it looks like refried shit, the verite aspect of it is locked down. The shoddy video quality, combined with surprisingly competent makeup and effects, make for unpleasant viewing. If you imagine that you're seeing a video diary taken by bad people in real life, this could scar for for some time.

However, this being the age of mass communication and the Internet and such, it's at the same time obvious that this is not a real document. This is underscored by the fact that the killers are terrible actors. Either that or they're the most insipid and wretched pieces of unwanted afterbirth ever to ham it up in front of a handheld video camera. You've got the fat guy - he fights with his girlfriend constantly, most often over his desire to see other dudes' penises and the fact that his girlfriend has sex with her brother. Fat guy looks about as intimidating as the average video store clerk and in candid moments in the film when he gets tipsy and talks silly, or mugs it up while victims are being assaulted, he has a perfectly punchable face. Then there's fat craaazy girl. She's the most verbally abusive of the trio. She has a penchant for vocalizing how their victims must feel, and is most prone to eye-rolling theatrics. Fat craaazy girl has a scene with two victims where she vomits on them for at least 8 or 9 minutes and another one where she violates a captive woman with the severed penis of another victim. I'd say she's the epitome of banal TOTALLY EXTREEEME PSYCHO but that honor goes to her sibling/sexual partner. Hair farmer guy looks just like beardo Josh from Blair Witch Project and is a walking, gibbering stereotype of what you imagine a way out there scary serial killer dude would be like. He has the lion's share of repulsive moments here, among them raping the exposed internal organs of a victim and raping the corpse of a preteen girl in a bathtub while covered in shit.

The dialogue in this film is, in all honesty, over 50% the word "fuck". It's like they're reading a mad lib where every blank was filled with that word. Also, all three of them NEVER SHUT UP. They're goading, teasing, shouting, cursing, spitting and above all laughing nonstop. It's annoying as shit. To be honest, the aural cacophony is bad-trip-on-cheap-psychedelics unpleasant, so if you assume that the filmmakers were just trying to provide as nasty and debased an experience as they could, I guess it works in that regard.

So there you have it. If you've always wanted to see what it would be like if someone took the "Henry and Otis film their exploits" scene from Henry:Portrait of a Serial Killer and made an entire movie (or 3 of them, for that matter) out of it, only worse, then here you go. It's not good, and it's an awful experience to sit all the way through it. In fact, it's honestly more disturbing to consider the motives of those behind this than to take the events shown in the video at face value. So there's that.

Tomorrow: A Serbian Film

Monday, March 25, 2013

In a Glass Cage

I had never heard of this movie until about a month ago. You would think it was the most horrifying and upsetting thing you could ever watch if you went by the average opinion on, say, imdb. It certainly deals with horrifying subject matter. It goes places most movies won't, especially artsy types of film such as this. However, it ultimately wasn't particularly compelling.

I was pretty freaked out by the Stephen King novella Apt Pupil. I was no older than 12 when I read it. It's about a teenager who discovers there to be a Nazi in his neighborhood, living under a false identity. The kid blackmails the war criminal into telling him all about the atrocities he perpetrated and breaks his brain and soul in the process, ending up committing suicide by cop. A relatively crappy movie was made in the late 90's that isn't worth going into.

This movie has a very similar plot - the German is in Spain, though, and he's incapacitated from a suicide attempt and left in an iron lung. The young man in this story is hired as a nurse. It turns out he found the German's scrapbook, full of details about his work and pastime of killing and molesting young boys, and has become inspired to emulate the Nazi. He abuses the old man in the same way the old man abused children and arranges murders so as to involve the old man in the recreations of his previous handiwork.

Where Apt Pupil is superior is in having the characters express their motivations and emotions about what is happening in their lives due to their mutually parasitic relationship. I suppose you could argue that King spoonfeeds this to the reader, but it's still more effective than In a Glass Cage was. While it may be petty to expect a half-dead old man in an iron lung to emote more, he's practically lifeless. He just does what the young man tells him to do. And while it's made crystal-clear at the end of the movie that the young man was abused as a child by the old man, until that point there's no reason given for his insistence on joining forces with the Nazi - except maybe that finding the scrapbook is reason enough. The other characters at the periphery are practically ciphers as well. There's no emotional heft when no one is acting like actual people act in fucked-up situations like these.

This is not a bad movie. It's remarkably restrained considering what it shows happening, and the subject matter is disturbing. Maybe having watched Salo not 24 hours before skewed my perception of this film, considering they share central themes, most notably the cycle of abuses perpetrated on the weak by the powerful. It's too uneven to give it my unreserved recommendation...not that anyone was waiting with bated breath for that.

Tomorrow:August Underground's Mordum

Sunday, March 24, 2013


This might be the great grandaddy of them all when it comes to disturbing cinema. Sure, Un Chien Andalou is way older, but it's shorter, and this has a multitude of profane and revolting images and scenes in comparison. It's hard to believe it, but considering this takes place around 1945 and was filmed in 1975, more time has passed between when it was released and today than from the time it's portraying and when it was filmed. That makes me feel old. Actually, life does that just fine on its own but seeing this doesn't help.

Based on a book by de Sade and updated to show fascist Italy in place of revolutionary France, this movie is about a group of powerful politicians/libertines who kidnap 18 young men and women and retire to a country villa in order to explore the depths of their collective depravity. They have aged whores tell stories about nasty things they've seen and experienced to the group of them in order to stoke their libidos. They institute rules forbidding heterosexual coupling and any expressions of religion. And as the movie progresses and the men become more and more debased, things get way messier, more disgusting, and violent.

It's taken me a long time to watch this movie in its entirety. For one thing, this used to be scarce as hell. A video store in SF that carried it required an additional deposit in order to rent it. Copies on eBay used to sell in the triple digits. A great friend of mine saw it a couple of decades ago and if you ask him about it he'll start shouting MANGIA! MANGIA! at you. Now that I've seen it, I bet it'll make a goose walk over my stomach (so to speak) when I hear it. To say this movie is offensive or gross is to say that the Rolling Stones used to be better than they are now. Also, it's pretty long. Not like a Cremaster movie long, but almost 2 hours. No, I didn't fall asleep or anything, but considering things get sick as fuck not much over an hour into it and you start to realize they're not going to get any better before it's over, I think it's fair to say that watching this is an ordeal.

Sure, the makeup effects are somewhat janky. In lots of ways, this movie is just weird. One of the four libertines has a lazy eye and insists on having a dopey grin on his mug throughout. The endless nasty stories from the old whores, and the overly theatrical way in which they're delivered, grew tiresome. But it says a lot that this movie is almost 40 years old and easily one of the most disturbing things I've watched this Lent. It may have started out being infamous given the paucity of anything else like it in the world of cinema, but its pitch black nihilism and the strong evil vibe it gives off make it shocking even today.

Tomorrow:In a Glass Cage

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Forced Entry

When I was a teenager, a friend of my mom and dad's gave me a box full of Penthouse and Playboy magazines from the mid 70's and early 80's. I figure his wife was sick of them being in their house, so they were passed on. As you might imagine, I read every one of them from cover to cover, and I used to see ads for video tapes of this movie. Now, the 70's and early 80's were pretty disgusting. Clothes were butt ugly, bell bottoms were de rigeur, perms were considered hot, greasy hair was a fashion statement, and pornography was something that played at the Bijou Theater off Pacific Avenue in my hometown of Stockton, CA and was advertised in the local paper. As nasty-ass as those times were, though, I had no idea how low it could go until I watched this movie.

Forced Entry tells the story of a gas station attendant (and maybe owner, considering he's free to leave whenever he wants) who has recently returned from Vietnam. We know this because everything reminds him of Vietnamese people, places and things. This is shown in black and white footage that appears to be newsreels from the Vietnam Conflict. Really, he just looks like Harry Reems without the mustache he wore in Deep Throat. Anyway, dude follows women home, rapes them, and kills them. Since this is a straight-up hardcore porno film, that makes this an unusually disturbing entry in the genre. I'm sure with the advent of the Internet and digital video etc that movies that combine porno with any multitude of other topics are commonplace, but I hadn't seen anything like this from that era before. It's completely repugnant.

There are layers of disgusting aspects to this movie. First off, it's filmed in 1973. While it's impressive that this is supposedly about a veteran suffering from PTSD before it even had that name, I couldn't help but feel that that was a plotline slapped onto a movie that was made to show someone explicitly raping women and then murdering them. The constantly interspersed war footage is just more heinous shit on the pile. 1973 also means that aside from Reems' lack of mustache, there's a whole lot of hair on display here. While I'm not much of a fan of the current trend towards shaving and waxing anything and everything, this is the opposite extreme and it's pretty ugly at times. Furthermore, I suppose it's dumb to criticize bizarre music in a damn porno, but it really is absurd. Perhaps most revolting of all is Reems' relentless talking during the rape scenes. It's creepy, repetitive and, again, disgusting as shit.

At least the end offers something slightly different when it features what could well be the most retarded pair of hippie chicks I've ever seen in cinema. It's easily the worst acting in a (not surprisingly) movie full of bad acting. The scene where the killer meets his demise is wholly disjointed and thoroughly stupid. Overall, this is one nasty, ugly and sick piece of work. Almost unbelievable.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Ex Drummer

Maybe I've just seen too many grotty and unpleasant movies in a row at this point, but I thought this film was a pretty good time. While the dialogue and events that transpire are undoubtedly most foul, it had a strong undercurrent of good humor that kept it from getting particularly bleak.

Ex Drummer is the story of a famous writer who is approached by 3 local losers in a garage band and asked to drum for them. He agrees under the condition that they will only perform for one show and that they all understand that they are scum and he is awesome and is only joining up with them to soak up their shittiness and make literary hay. If that sounds random, you're right.

No one in this movie is a good person, with the possible exception of the baby of the deaf guitarist, and she dies after being neglected to the point where it's implied that she has been left to eat her own shit out of her diapers while her rotten-fish-smelling mother is zonked out on the couch. The viewer is also treated to a singer whose favorite pastime is beating women to death, a bassist who regales his invalid father (strapped to his bed) of his predilection for fellatio and who can't move his strumming arm due to his mother walking in on him masturbating and a singer for a rival band who has a wang the size of a Clydesdale's and isn't afraid to put it just about anywhere.

The writer is perhaps the most offensive character of all. He goads everyone else at all opportunities and seems intent on insulting all races, creeds, genders and sexual orientations. At least he's funny.

This is a movie that throws a lot of cinematic trickery at the viewer. The credits are in reverse, some scenes feature a character who is upside down, corpses sit as though being interviewed after they're killed, etc. It is the kind of stuff that would come off as precious to some, but while some things worked better than others, I found it to be interesting and certainly felt that it kept the movie from getting too dark and disturbing. Also, overall, the music is fantastic. There are a couple of tracks that are as good as anything I've heard in a movie, and the band's songs are excellent. This is definitely a fucked up movie, but in a good way.

OK, we're getting down to it.  Only 6 movies left in this year's edition of Plumbing the Depths!

Tomorrow:Forced Entry

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bad Boy Bubby

So I'm down to the last 8 movies I'm going to review before lent ends and the Triduum begins. Up to this point, there haven't been very many, if any, that I would call uplifting. That's probably because I made it a point to watch notoriously unpleasant, disturbing, and/or shocking movies. Well, today's film was a pleasant surprise. Bad Boy Bubby is at once incredibly wrong and positively inspiring.

Things start off in a seriously weird way, though. Bubby is 35 years old. He's never left the apartment he lives in with his mother. It's stark and industrial looking - no TV, no radio, just a weathered crucifix on the wall and a gas mask hanging on a peg by the front door. The gas mask is for his mom to wear when she goes outside. To hear him talk, it's clear he doesn't know a whole lot, but one thing he's learned well from his mother is that if the poison (outside) doesn't kill you, then God will. His mother grooms him, feeds him, browbeats him into sitting at a table for hours while she's away from home, and has sex with him. At least until his wayward father comes home one day. Shortly thereafter, Bubby finds himself out in a world that he couldn't understand less.

This film is what something like Forrest Gump would have been if it were intellectually honest. While Bubby has a way of winning people over, even though by all appearances he's stone-cold bananas, he does have to figure out the hard way that he can't grope strangers' bosoms or cuss out the cops. He makes his way through Adelaide, Australia in erratic fashion, eventually joining forces with a cruddy bar band and changing them into a bona fide performance art rock n roll sensation and meeting his perfect love match. As all Bubby knows of language is to mimic what's been said or shouted to him in the past, this makes for some very funny moments. While this is certainly more arthouse style than many of the other movies I've watched lately, with a runtime to match, it never got grating or boring. It made the point it set out to make and did it deftly.

Bad Boy Bubby benefits from an amazing performance by Nicholas Hope as the titular character. He takes a pretty ridiculous premise and makes it at least somewhat believable. And yes, there's enough filth and disturbing imagery and actions in this to make it qualify for this writing experiment in spades. It says a lot that even with the insane, creepy and sacrilegious aspects being in abundance, by the end of the movie I felt better about humanity than I did at the beginning. Definitely worth checking out.

Tomorrow:Ex Drummer

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Have you ever seen Last House on the Left? It's a repellent, agonizing, exploitative classic. Well, the people who made this movie wanted to remake that movie. They even hired David Hess to star in it. I'd like to think that Mr. Hess backed out, leaving them to blast this celluloid diarrhea onto an unsuspecting world.

If you've seen LHotL then you know exactly what to expect here. Two young women go out to party in the woods near Dogdick, CA. They forget their cell phones in their car. They meet Sylvester Stallone's kid, who cajoles them to come back to his pad and meet his awesome rocker buddies to get some free Ecstasy. They end up being raped, tortured, abused, and murdered. Then, the bad guys end up at one of the girls' homes, seeking assistance and shelter...quelle coincidence huh?

One thing that Chaos does way better than the movie it shamelessly apes is feature godawful, pathetic acting. I will say that the two victims scream well, and I mean that sincerely. It almost makes the movie effective for a couple of seconds at a time. However, everything else they do is wooden, boring, and lifeless. The villains are comically lame, too. The bad woman has literally the worst fake tattoos I've seen outside of the henna stand at Belmont Park. Sage Stallone (although to be fair, he was apparently acting in this against his will as he was under contract and wanted to leave when Hess did) is just sad. Anyone who made it possible for Fulci to be distributed to theaters nationwide deserved better than the shit he's put through in this. Probably the best actor in this movie is the woman who played Don Draper's maid as one of the victims' mothers.

Considering the movie is named after him, Chaos is a complete turd burglar. He sounds like he's reading a catalog. He's a Totally Extreme Badass Psycho Motherfucker for sure. Watch him mug it up like it's the only thing keeping him alive. Thrill to hear him recite the most banal and obvious dialogue imaginable - just how many ways can one man call another one a faggot? You'll feel like you're in middle school again! Imagine the scarcity of the budget or the complete lack of fucks the filmmakers gave that makes him repeat lines because a second take wasn't in the cards.

The very fact that this piece of shit is supposed to be a cautionary tale instead of the epitome of soulless cannibalization of a superior film is so depressing it's almost funny. The racial commentary is moronic. The ending is ridiculous. Of course, Chaos is the last man standing, because he's just a force of nature that can't be understood, placated, or stopped. Or something.

If you watch this, it's your own fault. Sure, there is base cruelty and rank misogyny to spare. Any movie that features a woman's nipple being cut off and then fed to her, or another woman's perineum slashed in order to "make two little holes one big one" is certainly trying as hard as it can to shock and disgust you. All it proves in this case, though, is that without characters or people who can act, write, or direct, it's all for naught. This movie is a complete failure.

Tomorrow: Bad Boy Bubby

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Girl Next Door

I figure it would have been in the summer of 1991 when I lived in Berkeley with my big brother. I went to Dark Carnival Books and saw a set of the zine Murder Can Be Fun, so I bought it. One of the first things I read about was the case of the torture, degradation, and murder of Sylvia Likens. The degree of abuse that she suffered was mind-blowing to 20 year old me. I hadn't been that unsettled since reading about a little kid put into a clothes dryer as a punishment, and that was when I was maybe 8 or 9. It was an introduction to a sub-level of humanity.

Since then, I have others to thank for disturbing me via literary means, chiefly Jim Goad, Peter Sotos, S. Clay Wilson, and Jack Ketchum. I suppose it's not surprising that Ketchum decided to write a book based on Likens' story. What's interesting about it is that he makes the events more horrifying in a way because he humanizes the aggressors, even while leaving out some things that are especially awful (not that he doesn't add things that are pretty ghastly at the same time). This film does a fine job at adapting his book.

It's the whitebread late 50's American normalcy that lays the foundation here. It's a time when your neighbors' home was open to you just about whenever and kids ran in packs through the neighborhood and the woods. Protagonist Davey lives next door to Ruth and her boys, who take on the responsibility of raising orphaned girls Meg and Susan. Ruth is the Cool Mom, who lets the boys drink beers and smoke cigs. She's just like one of the guys. Unfortunately for Meg and her little sister, Ruth loathes women and is at least a little crazy. Meg tries to get away, but doesn't. Davey feels really bad about what's happening next door, but never tells his parents or any other authority figure who might be able to help. On paper that sounds unbelievable, so it's a credit to the book and this movie that they pull it off. Many evil things happen because people are afraid not to go along for the sake of ease, and this film shows the worst-case scenario for being a follower.

There are some amazing acting performances in this. Meg is painfully charming, which I guess is one thing that pisses Ruth off so much. It's also nice to see Mark Margolis in anything, no matter how brief his cameo might be. Whether or not you know how bad things are going to get, it's incredibly uncomfortable viewing. I can only imagine what people who rented this because they thought they were getting a frothy teen sex romp with the girl from the TV show 24 felt like when this started getting ugly.

Tomorrow: Chaos

Monday, March 18, 2013

Baise Moi

As it turns out, this movie shocked a lot of people for one reason:hardcore humping. If you take away the explicit boning and exposed genitalia, you're not left with a whole lot. Certainly not good acting, a memorable plot, or any emotional investment in anyone shown on screen.

Even if you consider that this movie is an early 21st century exploitation film rather than an Independent Film, though, it's still not that good. The production values are below the basement and the gore effects are an afterthought. I guess there really isn't much to recommend this movie, as if you enjoy watching porn you probably already have another tab open on your browser to exactly that, and if you enjoy watching badass womyns tearing the man-centered world they live in a collective new asshole, this doesn't really succeed or at least do a good job with that.

The biggest problem with Baise Moi is that the two main characters are loathsome. They're self-centered leeches who start off the movie killing innocent people who have done nothing but give them money and shelter, and this is before they meet one another and join forces. Their motivations for killing some people yet letting others live, for fucking some dudes but murdering others, for pretty much anything, aren't gone into in the slightest of detail. I suspect that whoever made this wanted to tell a Thelma & Louise type "us against the world" story, with fucking, but didn't bother writing a script other than "they go places, meet people, maybe have sex, then kill them". If the direction were assured or the acting competent, or anything that happens particularly fascinating, this wouldn't be so bad.

Knowing the sex being filmed is real makes a scene or two more unpleasant than it would normally be, but I don't really know how someone could be shocked by this. It's just boring and not very good. It may be only 77 minutes long, but it feels twice that. Skip it.

Tomorrow:The Girl Next Door

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Well, first off, this was way better than Murder-Set-Pieces. At least 10 times better. It still wasn't very good, though.

I don't know what bug crawled up Uwe Boll's ass and possessed him to make this movie. I think he saw Gaspar Noe's Irreversible and thought to himself "I could do that", but I can't be sure. What Seed provides is a paper-thin story larded with abhorrent visuals, and to be fair, one pretty disturbing and effective idea.

There's a warning before the movie even starts that there is footage of animal atrocities co-opted by PETA featured in this movie. Then the movie begins with 5 minutes of raccoons being whomped into the ground, a skinned bear slowly dying and a fox being skinned alive. Why? No idea, other than to show that titular character Max Seed is a bad, bad man. Seed, who wears a burlap sack looking mask throughout the entire movie, is one of those Super Genius serial killers. According to news clippings, he killed 666 people (oh snap) in 6 years, so he's obviously a hard worker. Why it took the dude from Eddie and the Cruisers and Streets of Fire so long to catch him is unknown. Also, it's the end of the 70's but Seed has access to a video camera. It's kind of hard to believe but whatever.

Most of this movie is super boring. There's a 20 minute scene where the Michael Pare - led team of cops go to Seed's hideout and walk around getting picked off one by one before he finally gets arrested. Later, he's electrocuted. Unfortunately, thanks to a totally-not-made-up law in wherever this is all supposed to be happening, if he doesn't die after being shocked 3 times then he'll be set free. At his execution, 2 rounds of electricity don't get the job done so the spectators are dismissed and Seed is then buried alive. Of course, he escapes and kills everybody.

So basically, this is Uwe Boll gone Totally Extreme. It even has a spooky nu-metal version of "I'm a Little Teapot" that plays over the end credits. It's pretty lame overall. However, there are a couple of things that weren't awful. One of them is a scene where Seed bashes some older lady's head in. The static shot is reminiscent of Irreversible, for sure - not to mention what it's showing. Ultimately, the shoddy CGI and what I assume was the director's skill set make it not particularly grueling, as in Noe does in 20 seconds what Boll can't do in 4 minutes. It's still a high point in a movie of this caliber, though. The best thing in this movie is some early scenes of time-lapse video recorded by Seed of bugs, animals, and people locked in a room and starved to death. It's actually pretty unpleasant and somewhat original. Not only that, it works to make the ending a good downbeat one.

Tomorrow: Baise Moi

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Dude, I just got completely trolled by Nick Palumbo.

I don't rightly know how the hell this complete joke of a movie ended up on so many lists of Most Disturbing Movies Ever. It's my own fault for reading as few reviews of movies as I do. I don't want things to be spoiled, so I usually leave the reading for after I see the film. This time my plan backfired. All I can do is implore you to skip the shit out of this. It sucks harder than a strawberry on the first of the month. In the words of the late great George Carlin, it stinks like an anchovy's cunt.

So. There's a "photographer" in Las Vegas. I use quotes because he doesn't seem to know how to use a camera and I don't know how he might get paid from his work considering he kills every woman he takes pictures of and doesn't appear to have a side job. He's a descendant of a Nazi and proud of it, and often lapses into German that sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger taking a dump. Also, he's completely irresistible to women, especially women with weird-looking fake breasts. So he pantomimes having sex with them and kills them. Also, he has nightmares about actual footage of the WTC attacks on 9/11. Why? Who knows.

The credits at the end say copyright 2008, but it looks and feels older. The music is unintentionally hilarious. Imagine wanting to play flaccid poseur nu-metal like Korn and Mudvayne in your shitty movie but not having the licensing budget and you'll know what you're in for. It's the audio equivalent of a scary clown wearing Zubaz pants dry-humping your ears. Director Palumbo also takes full advantage of filming in Las Vegas, with funny results. Watch The Photographer amble past Mermaids and pass up the 99 cent chocolate dipped bananas en route to finding his next victim. Thrill as he drives past Circus Circus, Barbary Coast and Monte Carlo in his muscle car in order to pad the running time.

But what about the shock factor? It's nonexistent considering the laughable ineptitude on display here. The acting is so atrocious that I would be shocked if they ever had a second take of any scene. Seeing strippers and porn stars disrobe is boring as shit. Yeah, titties, okay, but that only goes so far. The makeup effects could be worse, but it's mainly dumping gallons of Karo and red dye on screaming women. HG Lewis was doing that (and much better to boot) decades ago. Also, the incessant Nazi bullshit is dopey. It's not shocking and makes no sense anyway. Grooving on Nazis and having childhood flashbacks and dreaming about 9/11 doesn't flesh out a character. Killing a little kid and almost killing a baby and killing a series of bare chested female automatons is more boring than anything else when the acting sucks so thoroughly.

Tony Todd and Gunnar Hansen show up to get paid, but their scenes are similarly useless. I hope they got a big chunk of the supposed $2 million it cost for Palumbo to squeeze this flick out of his rotting colon. It's also funny as hell to see the directors he name-checks during the closing credits. Dream on, buttwipe. Uwe Boll could probably do better than this. I guess we'll find out.

Tomorrow: Seed

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sweet Movie

I'm sure I'll be a little off with the exact timing of things in this review, but oh well. Please allow me to share with you my impressions of the film Sweet Movie.

First quarter hour: Well, this is certainly zany. Garish 1974 styled beauty pageant-ish competition for rich American tycoon to pick a wife. There's a gynecologist on stage who confirms the sanctity of each entrant's hymen, even. And dude looks like my brother-in-law. Huh. Hey, it's Dean Wormer! And he has, uh, a gold spray painted dick. And now he's pissing. How about that.

Meanwhile, there's a lady on a boat with Karl Marx's face on the front, sailing around. Some dude keeps trying to get on the boat. Hey, he's got his wang out and is taking a piss too. Whoops, got some on his coat. Now he's on the boat banging the lady while spectators kibitz from the sides of the canal. Weird.

About 45 minutes in - [after many more cray things happen including the tycoon's wife being wooed by a bodybuilder with an especially floppy wiener, then stuffed into a suitcase and sent to France. There she falls for a lip-syncing faux-Mexicano dude and ends up humping him in public, which leads to their genitals getting locked to one another and them being separated in the kitchen of a busy restaurant] we now have an interlude of footage of many corpses, many of which appear to have been buried alive. What the fuck? This is incongruous even for this bizarro flick and is gross as hell.

Just over an hour in - now the lady on the boat is in a room with a bed filled with sugar. There are cubbies on each wall completely filled with various types of candy. And there are 3 or 4 boys, none older than 10 or 11.  Surely they're not going to do what it looks like they're going to do. Shit, they're going there. If my wife walks in to see me watching this shit I'm never going to hear the end of it. It's like the boy equivalent of Brooke Shields' turn in Pretty Baby. Fucking foul.

1 hour 15 minutes in [about 20 minutes to go] - now there's this troupe of annoying actor/singer types. Reminds me of the drama and stage crew kids back in high school. They're having a big feast and are throwing the food around. Now they're spitting it in each others' faces and eating it out of each others' mouths. Disgusting. A couple of the dudes are making themselves puke on the table. Great. I wish I hadn't decided to eat while watching this. And now, of course, one dude has whipped out his babymaker and is spraying urine on the table...while the other dude drinks it. I'm sure there's a point to this, but sadly I can't tell you what it might be. But wait! It's not over. Now there are 3 guys all squatting over plates grunting and eventually shitting on them. And dancing around with plates full of feces.

1 hour 32 minutes - another clip of Nazi atrocities involving mangled and bullet-riddled corpses. It's more disturbing because it looks completely real. I guess just one clip of that shit wasn't enough.

1 hour 38 minutes - it's finally over.

The fuck did I just watch?

Tomorrow: Murder-Set-Pieces

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

So a couple of weeks ago I tried to flog this blog on the Facebook (which resulted in literally a couple of views, sweet) and asked my fake Internet friends to suggest any disturbing or revolting or just plain wrong movies to me. My sweet cousin was inspired to google and suggested The Human Centipede. Now, my cousin is not the kind of person who will have seen virtually any of the movies I've written about lately. Not that she wouldn't, I guess - she's not a lame or anything - she's just super nice and not into gross shit for the sake of being gross. Anyway, it proved to me that when a non-horror fan thinks of "nastiest movie ever", the one that's about peoples' butts stitched to other peoples' mouths comes up a lot.

Unfortunately, The Human Centipede sucked. My brother and I watched it and I'm grateful we did only because I don't hang out with him enough. That movie was lame as hell. Sure, it was a hilariously disgusting idea, and Dieter Laser was ridiculous and therefore somewhat endearing, but it was a failure. The acting was contemptible, the plot was asinine (sorry), and perhaps worst of all, it seemed to take itself seriously. There was precious little disgust to be found in such a wellspring of potential filth.

I have to assume that word got back to writer/director Tom Six that my brother and I thought his movie was crap some folks were disappointed with his movie after so much advance hype, because the sequel is completely fucking insane. I'm not sure if he was making a statement that he hates the critics who decried the state of modern cinema due to his movie, that he hates the fanboys who loved his movie, or that he hates people who complained that his movie was lame. He definitely hates something or someone bad, though, because this is one ugly and offensive movie indeed.

Martin is a short, bug-eyed, impressively bellied weirdo. He spends his shifts at a parking garage watching The Human Centipede over and over, while composing pages for his scrapbook all about his favorite movie. He carries out his plan to make a full centipede, including 12 people. Unfortunately for everyone involved, he's not a doctor or even a person with a triple digit IQ, so things go a little off the rails. He's psychically smashed to bits as a result of a father who molested him and a mother and psychiatrist who are almost as bad. Neighbors and other people he interacts with treat him with disdain and revulsion. He's a mess. It's the perfect character for this movie - he's the troll people imagine fans of movies like this to be.

If you plan on seeing this, skip this paragraph. The disgusting quotient of this movie is practically off the charts. Martin masturbates with sandpaper for lube. 10 people are stapled ass-to-mouth and injected with laxative. I'm sure you can guess why. Peoples' tendons are cut and teeth are smashed out of their mouths. There's even a scene where a newborn baby is smashed between a gas pedal and the floor of the car being driven away by the woman who just gave birth. It's so over the top that it's either one of the most offensive movies ever, a hilarious absurdist comedy, the nadir of horror cinema, or a touch of all three.

A couple of things work here that are hard to pull off. This movie is in black and white, and it really adds something. It looks great, and effectively creates a sick and deadening mood that fits well. Other movies have tried this (hello, The Bunny Game) and failed miserably, but not this one. Also, Martin never speaks a word. He howls and gibbers and coos and screams, but doesn't talk. I'm not saying there was great acting going on throughout - but it fit the character just fine.

I don't think I'll be watching this one again anytime soon, but I'm surprised at how much I didn't hate this movie. It was way better than the first one.

Tomorrow:Sweet Movie

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

I was 7 years old when the Peoples Temple members drank poison and died in Guyana. I remember my mother and father telling me about what had happened - not in any particular detail, to be fair - and going on from there to tell me about cults and how dangerous they were. To them, cults ran the gamut from the Moonies to the Hare Krishnas to the bible thumping fundamentalist Christians in the giant new church down the block. It definitely planted a seed of fascination in my brain. I guess it didn't keep me from joining one of the biggest religious cults in the world, though - congratulations to Pope Francis, by the way!

What this documentary did really well was show the Peoples Temple, in particular their congregants, as being human beings who believed that they were doing something important and special, as opposed to the stereotype of braindead lemmings who were busy being too stupid to live until they did as they were told and drank the bug juice and died. The interviewees are thoughtful and express what the Temple meant to them. While Jim Jones is an enigmatic figure at best and a vile monster at worst, it feels like much effort was put into showing as many facets of him as possible.

While Jones' church had been around since the mid 1950's, practicing the tenets of integration and socialism while moving from Indiana to waaay northern NoCal, then to SF and finally Jonestown, Guyana, the film really focuses upon the 70's. This provides a strong vibe of love and community gone rancid that is very affecting at times. It makes some revelations even stronger, among them that Jones would tell male Temple members that if they wanted him to fuck them in the ass, hey, no problem. Huh? I mean, I had heard of Jones' sexual proclivities but after much of the movie showing him as a kind of oddball preacher with perhaps a bit of a Messiah complex I had almost forgotten how scuzzy he was supposed to have been. Likewise, the more sordid accusations against Jones and the Temple regarding corporal punishment, overworking employees/volunteers, taking members' possessions and paychecks, and stifling any voiced opposition were all things my parents had told me when I was little. It's a credit to the film that these were brought out without heavy musical cues or other obvious drama. It was more unsettling that way.

Speaking of unsettling, the end of this film is pretty disturbing. I mean, obviously you know what's going to happen. It gets progressively spookier, though, to see the footage from Jonestown - with hundreds of dancing, singing, seemingly happy people (most of them, anyway). Dozens of kids, and moms and dads, and old folks, even a politician and his staff and a film crew - the vast majority of whom were all doomed. The feeling of dread and death is strong, as is the hopelessness and ultimate meaninglessness of what happened. This has to be one of the most depressing things ever shown on PBS.

Tomorrow:The Human Centipede II - Full Sequence

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I've been watching an awful lot of movies since Ash Wednesday, and this is one of the stupidest. This is what squares who don't watch horror movies are thinking of when the term "torture porn" is proudly bandied about. It's basically 70ish minutes of watching people get tortured until they're dead. This isn't a new concept, of course. What makes Grotesque stand out, though, is just how little else happens besides the torture. There's 10 minutes tops of character development, which is (unless the subtitles did me wrong) banal and far too ironic to be believed.

The plot? A man and woman are out on their first date when a dude jumps out of a van and bops them each on the head with a sledgehammer. They wake up in the requisite amber-colored torture chamber surrounded by nasty-looking implements and the sledgehammer guy in surgical scrubs. The sadist delivers some spiel to explain why he's going to torture and kill the couple - in this case, it's particularly dirty as he says he's looking to feel some sort of sexual spark and that if he manages to get turned on by their fight to survive then he'll let them go. Sure. This leads to the most pornographic torture scenes since the days of Ilsa or Mark of the Devil. I suppose I should be glad that I didn't find them to be much of a turn-on.

The director is totally from the What's the Worst Thing I Can Think Of school. Fingers are chainsawed off, nipples are cut off with scissors, nails are hammered into testicles, an eyeball is poked out and a penis hacked off before the psycho decides he's felt enough of a tremor in his nether regions to let the hapless couple live. They are moved into a hospital room with fresh flowers and are cared for and told that they'll be earning 700 million yen for their pain and suffering. Then they drink medicine that they're given by the psycho and - holy shit - end up back in the torture chamber to suffer more indignities until the movie ends with what is supposed to be a madcap turn of events. And then a shocking twist that sets the scene for a sequel.

Of course I winced and felt bad for the characters and was impressed at the audacity of the filmmaker. It really is the kind of movie you'd expect a 13 year old misanthrope to make. It's like a giant fart joke or a version of Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts that goes on and on to the tune of 70something minutes. Sure, it's unusually cruel. Yeah, it's rare to see a movie where the villain has gnarly B.O. to blame for turning out the way he has. Ultimately, though, who gives a shit? There aren't really any characters to care about. Even Guinea Pig 2 had some weirdo art fag rhapsodies that were more entertaining than this - not to mention that it ran a good 30 minutes shorter. A movie like this makes Hostel look like a horror classic.

Tomorrow: Jonestown: the Life and Death of Peoples Temple

Monday, March 11, 2013


The problem with Hollywood remakes is that 9 times out of 10, it's a movie that doesn't need to be remade. The originals are usually well-known, if not cult favorites, and have their followings. I assume they're remade because they bring with them a built-in audience or at least a promotional network of a kind, not because anyone could potentially do a better job with the material than original filmmakers did the first time around.

Deadgirl is a film that could do with a remake. Obviously the directors had a hell of a lot points to make and ideas with which they wanted to come across. Unfortunately,the result ends up not being particularly interesting or accomplished. I know that might sound obnoxious considering what an out-there idea forms the germ for this movie, but it's precisely due to the fact that the plot is so shocking and yet the film is not particularly shocking that I say this.

This is a movie about two high school outcast types who explore an abandoned mental institution (actor Noah Segan, who plays ringleader JT here in addition to ne'er-do-well Justin in Someone's Knocking at the Door, in which he explores an abandoned mental institution, with bizarre and unpleasant results, is gonna get really specifically typecast if he's not careful - maybe Grave Encounters 3 or Session 10 is in the works?) and find, behind a rusted-shut door, a young woman shackled to a bed and covered in plastic. The boys discover that she is dead and cold, yet breathing and alive - and unable to be killed. JT also discovers that he enjoys the idea of having a sex slave on demand, while other lead Rickie is far more conflicted about it. Other kids from their school get involved and things eventually end up getting really messy.

Probably the biggest problem with Deadgirl is that it's not sure what kind of movie it wants to be. Obviously, it's horrific to witness a dead/undead/who knows girl be sexually assaulted over and over again, so this is a horror movie. There's also quite a bit of teen angst/romantic sentiment shown with Rickie and the girl of his dreams at school. And, perhaps to keep things from getting too obsidian black, there's some humor. Ultimately, there is a shitload of Social Commentary regarding gender roles, stereotypes, how men goad one another into doing horrific things, absentee parents, and many more. Maybe it's just hard to take the filmmakers at their word about having a deeper message when the subject matter is so base and foul.

Overall, this is a B movie with a really intriguing premise. The acting isn't horrible, but it isn't great. The script isn't awful, but it isn't particularly illuminating. The subject matter is disturbing, but in the hands of great writers, producers, and directors it could be amazingly powerful. I can only imagine what this would have been like if Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee had made it.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cannibal Holocaust

As one of the most notorious horror movies ever made, I'm sure you've heard of this one before. While it's easy to assume that it might be overrated or at least outdated, such is not the case in my opinion. This is a purebred exploitation film that offends on several different levels and deserves its notoriety.

It's arguable whether or not this is the first found footage/mockumentary. While Punishment Park isn't a horror film per se, it's older than this. And of course, I'm sure there are many more that I'm just not aware of. Cannibal Holocaust certainly predates The Last Broadcast or The Blair Witch Project, though. It's more like 2 films combined together. The first half of the movie follows a professor and his guides as they make their way through cannibal country in search of 4 documentary filmmakers who are missing. The professor is kind of a doofus but, amazingly, his guides help keep him alive and he obtains the footage taken by the (now dead) people he was looking for. This part of the film has some gruesome scenes - after all, there are cannibals and lots of gross rain forest fauna to be dealt with - but it also is comparatively lighthearted. The professor swims in the nude and is joined by a bevy of naked young Yamomamo ladies, for example. Such levity disappears when he and his guides are welcomed by the tribe and partake in dinner with them, and in the second part of the film it's nowhere to be found.

This second part is a review of the footage taken by the documentary crew. While they are introduced off the bat as young, perhaps cocksure and reckless, they reveal themselves to be complete misanthropes when they meet up with the Yamomamo (treepeople) tribe. Apparently, they decide to take a preemptive strike in the name of "showing them who's boss" by crowding them into a hut and setting it on fire, shooting one of their tribe, and killing a pet pig who is clearly being raised for food. Not long after, 3 of the crew (all men) rape a young tribeswoman, who is then killed by the tribe. One of the rapists can't even keep a straight face when he's on camera looking at the dead girl. Of course, this leads to a climactic cannibalistic blowout where no sexual organ is left unsullied and no internal organ left inside their bodies. It's all pretty ghastly.

The music is at times cheesy and eerie, and plays off the revolting subject matter pretty well. This movie is infamous for its unblinking portrayal of animal cruelty, and it's easy to see why. A muskrat and turtle are slaughtered on camera. The turtle's death is particularly repugnant. Its legs kick rapidly when it's decapitated and its head continues to move around after it's cut off. Watching the guide pick at its innards might be the most disgusting thing in this entire movie. Also, the piglet being shot is gross. I found myself hoping that the cast and crew cooked it up and ate it after the scene was finished being filmed.

Cannibal Holocaust is a grimy film completely steeped in poor taste. It's a classic of a sort. I'm curious to see what Eli Roth will come up with in his (pretty much) remake when it's released next year, but for right now I'm going to take a shower.


Saturday, March 9, 2013


From the years of 1992-1999, John Bunting killed a lot of people in Australia. He did so under the guise of policing his community and clearing it of pedophiles and other predators. This movie tells the story of a young man named Jamie whose mother enters a relationship with John. It's moody, if not slow, and the atmosphere is thick with trepidation and unease.

At first, John seems like a good influence on Jamie, his brothers, and their mother. The boys have recently been sexually assaulted by the neighbor across the street, and John shows up to make things right by driving the pervert out of the neighborhood. The fact that he does so by hacking up kangaroos and throwing them onto the neighbor's porch is a little vicious and unusual, but you can't really argue with the results. Not only that, he's incredibly personable and likable. He's funny and kind to the boys and seems intent on helping them stick up for themselves.

Jamie's got a tough row to hoe before John comes into his life. His eldest brother bullies him to the point of rape. The scene in which that happens is icy cold in its matter-of-fact depiction of the act. In fact, Jamie spends the vast majority of his screen time looking shell-shocked. It's not always involving, but I can't say that it doesn't make sense. He starts off being abused from all sides and even the man who seems like he's going to be helping him the most ends up being a sociopath who will kill anyone on a whim instead of an anti-pedo crusader.

This is a pretty long movie that isn't afraid to take its time in creating a mood. Maybe I'm just ignorantly comparing it to any other Australian film I've seen recently, but it reminded me of Animal Kingdom in terms of pacing. I think things could have been tightened up a bit. Also, it got pretty confusing after a while in terms of who was getting killed and why. It seemed as though scenes were shown out of sequence, even. Either that or it wasn't made clear enough for my liking who was whom and why things were happening to them.

If you read a little about Bunting, the movie starts to make a lot more sense. In fact, as psychotic as he is portrayed, he was apparently even worse in real life. I mean, the guy ate at least one of his victims, and he played a Live album as a ritual when he killed people. Now that's just disgusting.

Snowtown is a slow burn of a film that adeptly shows the cancerous effect a serial killer had on a young man and his family. I didn't find it to be particularly compelling, but it certainly wasn't bad. If it were a little more focused and some of the supporting cast as talented as the actor who portrayed John, this could have been great.

Tomorrow:Cannibal Holocaust

Friday, March 8, 2013

Megan Is Missing

Holy shit. After reading about this movie from a few different sources, I figured I knew what I would be in for when I watched it. I even stumbled across a plot point or two that I thought would have a spoiling influence. I'm surprised to say that this is the most disturbing thing I've seen in a long time. I can think of a movie or two that had a more devastating effect on me, and I can certainly name several that are better made and more artistically impressive, but this had a surprisingly brutal effect on me.

Megan Is Missing tells the story of two girls, Megan and Amy. They're barely teenagers and they don't have a lot in common with one another apart from caring deeply for one another. Megan is the cool girl who has lots of friends. She does different types of drugs and screws around with lots of boys. Amy is more of a square - she's a daddy's girl who is more studious, mousy, and self-conscious. I got the impression they were so tight with one another because each wanted what the other had - they complemented one another well. Megan disappears one day, Amy follows suit a number of days later, and both end up in the same place by the end of the film.

Kids behaving precociously in terms of sex and drugs skeeves me out. I'm not pigheaded enough to assume it's some harbinger of changing times that kids are into nasty shit. Humans have been around a little while by this point, and I have no doubt they were fucking and altering their consciousness at a young age since the beginning. It's still depressing and gross, though. Writer/director Michael Goi taps into the Larry Clark vibe pretty well in an early scene that takes place at a house party. It's hard to believe that tons of teenage girls would pay $10 for the privilege of partying in what appears to be a crackhouse-style domicile with some assholes, but what do I know? I never paid $10 to go to a party in my life. Anyway, it's a grim atmosphere and the fish-out-of-water feeling that follows Amy around through this scene is oppressive. I was feeling depressed even before things got horrifying.

There are several tonal shifts throughout the movie, which makes sense considering the conceit is that it was cobbled together from webchats, skype conversations, video camera footage and television news broadcasts. While it's pretty clear throughout that this is scripted stuff and not a real documentary, it's a pretty good example of the faux doc genre. There's some social satire that appears from time to time that's a little too obvious, but on the other hand it's hard to blame dude for putting a little levity to counterbalance the pitch black depths of depravity shown. The friendship between the girls was believable, not to mention a nice respite from the endless asshole/bitch kids they were dealing with in their social lives.

I suppose if you don't have kids, especially daughters, this might not be that scary to you. It would also be tempting to criticize Goi for sensationalizing the Dirty Kids Of Today in the pursuit of shock or using prurience to garner the audience's attention. There are also scenes that go on way too long. So I'm not saying this is a perfect film, by any means. However, I found it genuinely upsetting, which doesn't happen often. It's a cautionary tale done in thoroughly disturbing fashion. This one will stick with you for a while.

Tomorrow: Snowtown

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Someone's Knocking at the Door

You may have seen a lot of horror movies, but chances are you haven't seen one quite like this one. It's about a group of medical students in LA. They're not exactly close friends. Really, they're pretty much a bunch of assholes. One night they decide to break into the Linda Vista Hospital and inject an experimental drug that serves as a conduit for 2 crazy killers from 1973 to cross into the current day and murder them with their sexual organs. Subtle, atmospheric, chilling...The Changeling, maybe, but certainly not this.

It's impressive to see a director's wholly bugfuck insane idea come to fruition. It's certainly grotesque and unusual to have a slasher-type movie where the victims are killed by giant purple warty elephantine wang and/or voracious carnivorous gooch. The fact that it's done in what I assume is supposed to be a humorous fashion is either a plus or a minus, depending on what you're looking for. It may have been far too harrowing if they had played it seriously. Then again, given the abilities of the actors, it's likely that there wasn't much hope of being able to pull off playing it straight.

Not every actor is bad in this movie, but a few are far from good. What's a bigger issue is the fact that practically every character is loathsome. The protagonists are all dopers, and not the awesome kind like Brad Pitt in True Romance. They're kind of hipsterish, too, which is obnoxious of course. They do reprehensible things to one another and whoever else is nearby. There's a lot of shit-talking, most notably to a dude nicknamed Spaz who has a severe stutter. This is played for laffs and while it's not incredibly offensive, it is obvious and not particularly funny.

The makeup effects aren't that great. There's a cop who gets shot towards the end and the effect's about as good as something on The Streets of San Francisco. At other points, though, the prosthetics aren't bad for what is clearly a microbudget production.

I can't really recommend this one. The ending is either interesting or a massive cop-out. Maybe it's a little of both. While it's somewhat original, it's ultimately not very good. Maybe there's a reason why there haven't been very many movies made about people getting fucked to death before.

Tomorrow: Megan Is Missing

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Long Pigs

This movie is based on a really interesting premise:what if a pair of documentary filmmakers decided to film the exploits of a cannibal? If the result had lived up to the promise, this would be a highlight of the mockumentary/found footage genre. While it's not a failure, it could have been way better.

Anthony is a gregarious, personable fellow. He also kills and butchers people in order to eat their flesh. This makes me wonder how the filmmakers joined forces with him. Did they put an ad in Craigslist Canada? It's pretty random. Anyway, he lives alone and has a pretty cruddy job as a valet at a restaurant. He fancies himself quite the gourmand and rhapsodizes at length on the sublime qualities of eating humans. Most disturbingly, he is able to narrate the cleaning/dressing/gutting process of preparing his meat, while he's doing it. The special effects are quite striking, and the blunt nature of the scenes where anuses are tied off (in order to prevent contamination of the meat) and bodies cut to pieces makes this uncomfortable viewing. It's pretty gross.

Unfortunately, though, the general tone is at times a little precious for my liking. The music gets cutesy/ironic during some scenes. Some of the dialogue is contrived - or maybe just beyond the acting abilities of those involved. There's a running bit about how different people taste like what they eat, which I suppose is plausible but came off to me as just kinda dopey.  The irony comes early and often, as in Anthony saying he's a mellow and peaceful guy compared to others on his beer hockey league, then going bananas during a game. It's too easy for a movie about a doofus cannibal to veer into slapstick, really. Even a side trip to a pig farm is a little too pat - not that it wasn't interesting, but you'll know what I mean when you see it.

It seems like this is the barest of bones of a concept. It runs a scant 78 minutes and some of that time seems like filler. A couple of plot points are shoehorned in and it's difficult to tell why people are doing what they're doing, except maybe because in a movie about a cannibal people are going to need to be dispatched and eaten. Also, as you can see in the picture above, dude is fat, so I get that he eats a lot, but the amount of people killed in this movie would keep anyone fed for weeks on end. Either he's the pickiest eater of only the choicest cuts or he's got more than one freezer stuffed with parcels wrapped in brown paper.

There are two scenes in this movie that make it something worth watching: one is the opening scene in which Anthony shows off his prowess at cleaning a carcass. It's disgusting and feels transgressive in a way few movies are able to pull off. Even more affecting, though, is a scene later in the film involving the father of a 7 year old girl who was killed and eaten by Anthony. The film crew, in a show of just how talented they are  at being compassion-free hunks of shit, are interviewing the father under the guise of obtaining footage for a TV show "about lost kids". The father is easily the most talented actor in this film, resulting in some actual emotional heft. It's definitely a great moment in an otherwise flawed film.

Tomorrow:Someone's Knocking at the Door

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In My Skin

With most of the movies I've been reviewing over these last few weeks, it doesn't take long to know that you're going to be in for an uncomfortable experience. Even the ones that take some time to get to the nitty gritty (so to speak) usually are titled in such a fashion that you know the subject is usually dire. If you didn't know what this film was about and bopped down to the local independent cinema to check it out, though, you would be in for a nasty surprise.

Marina de Van wrote, directed, and stars. She is a striking woman - tall, lean, and with huge eyes and gaps between her teeth. She's kind of awkward, almost ugly and therefore somewhat charming, kind of like Shelley Duvall. Esther, her character, is someone who has a lot on her plate. She has an intense job where work put in after hours is beneficial to her career trajectory and a boyfriend who demands her attention as well. She doesn't seem abnormally stressed, though, until an accidental injury leads into a new fascination with her flesh and blood. It's like a switch is turned on in her brain that causes her to cut into her body. The several scenes that show this happening I watched through scrunched up eyes. They are harrowing. de Van is great in this role - even in the scenes where no carnage is shown her movements and expressions caused me great discomfort.

There's a pivotal scene where Esther attends a business dinner with important clients and her boss that becomes almost unbearable in a two-tiered fashion. After being talked into having some wine, she appears to let her guard down. Unfortunately for her, this results in her zoning out and dropping the conversational ball more than once - all while carving up her forearm with a knife and then a fork. Your results may vary, but I felt sick to my stomach more than once while watching this movie.

It would be easy to assume that Esther mutilates herself in order to regain some sense of control over her life. However, while she does have pressures in her life, she doesn't really seem to be too weak or overwhelmed to deal with them. She'll argue with her boyfriend, stand up for herself when she feels she's been mistreated by a friend, and lobby to get a promotion rather than simper around and wait to be handed something. It's more like this is a movie about a woman who finds a new hobby. It's just a strongly disturbing one.

In My Skin gets pretty ambiguous by the end. While it seems like there is little hope that her obsession will slow down or at least not end up completely out of control, it's not clear if Esther is dead or alive. The confusing aspects of this film work in its favor. It's disorienting, unpleasant, and fascinating.

Tomorrow: Long Pigs

Monday, March 4, 2013

Night Train Murders

If you've ever wanted to see a retelling of Last House on the Left (and yes, I know that LHOTL is in itself a remake of sorts) that takes place on a train, wait no longer. While this might not be as crude and raw as the movie it's copying, it is at least as sleazy and at times is pretty disturbing.

The 45 minutes or so that pass before things get messed up serve well to build the personalities of the characters - at least as much as these things can happen in an exploitation film, anyway. Two young women are traveling from Germany to Italy to spend Christmas with one of their families. Meanwhile, two dipshit hooligan types end up on the same train while evading capture for petty crimes in the train station. The train is crowded so the young women bide their time standing near a lavatory while the dudes move throughout the train looking for trouble. A third woman, older than the other two and very sophisticated in appearance and manner, is accosted by one of the men and ends up forming an alliance with them that changes everything for the worse.

While the behavior of the lowlifes (not to mention the title of the movie, a-duh) caused some unease, I was wondering how on earth they were going to be able to attack the protagonists considering how many people were on the train. Then the girls change trains at a stop in order to avoid a delay and that's when I knew things were about to get ugly. The older woman turns out to be the catalyst for some horrifying deeds to be done, and she's quite creepy. She cajoles the girls to capitulate to the advances of the men and then goads the men into upping the intensity of their attacks. The ways in which she uses her appearance and station in life to her advantage are unpleasant yet pretty believable.

The most disturbing scene for me by far was when a passenger (one of the very few on the train, which by the way is being conducted by a man who is hitting the bottle so he's of no use), hearing the screams of a young woman being sexually assaulted, goes to the cabin and decides to just peep through the window at what's happening rather than go get help or intervene. Actually, he does end up intervening, but not in the way he should. It's brutal and depressing as anyone could want.

Night Train Murders is a great looking film, at least in comparison to the original Last House on the Left. While the villains aren't up to the level of, say, David Hess, they're creepy and repulsive enough. The end is awfully similar to Craven's film, as you will no doubt expect by that point. There's even a score by Ennio Morricone that adds great ambiance at times. Unfortunately, there's a song that plays over the opening and closing credits that is ungodly painful to have to listen to. Actually, considering how rank and dirty this movie is, it might be a perfect fit after all.

Tomorrow: In My Skin

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Henry:Portrait of a Serial Killer

I took a date to see this movie back in 1990 when it played at a theater in Berkeley. It went over about as well as one might expect it would. Considering the fact that I would do it all over again if I had the chance, it's not surprising that my date never had anything to do with me after watching this movie.

Twenty-seven years after being filmed, this still has an unnerving quality to it that dozens of other films have tried to imitate and exceedingly few have even approached success at doing so. If it weren't for the garish synthesizer score this could be one of the most cold-blooded and horrifying movies ever filmed. Even with the missteps of the music (apparently composed by a relative of the writer/director, surprise surprise) it's still brimming with sangfroid throughout.

There are some interesting thematic choices that are used here - whether for artistic merit or the constraints of a tight budget I'm not sure, but they've aged well. Early in the film there are several scenes that show dead bodies while audio plays of the victims' final moments. It's a clever conceit, and it's unsettling how long the scenes last. The actors are clearly very good at holding their collective breath. Don't tell me you don't look for breathing when you see a scene with a corpse in a movie. Given that the most graphic scene has kinda shitty makeup effects, it's definitely for the best that more is implied than shown.

The acting in this movie ranges from very good to amazing. Michael Rooker is so perfect for this role that he probably still makes people cross the street when they see him coming. He makes overrated zombie dramas on TV worth watching, even. Tom Towles is absolutely revolting as dimwit sidekick Otis, to the point where every time he flashes his giant yellow tombstone teeth you clench up, wondering what shit he's going to try to pull next.

This movie even made social commentary about our voyeuristic tendencies regarding violence in a more cogent and disturbing fashion than that wretched hunk of shit Natural Born Killers did many years later. The infamous home invasion scene, shown in retrospect as Otis and Henry watch it back at home, implicates the viewer and is also completely awful to experience all at the same time. That's a hard trick to pull off.

To live in a world with Henry, Becky and Otis even for a short time is a frightening prospect, and that speaks to the special nature of this movie. I'm sure you've seen it, but if not, then you really should. Just don't watch it with a date.

Tomorrow: Night Train Murders

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Guinea Pig: Flowers of Flesh and Blood

This movie might be one of the most notorious "shocking films" ever made. While it may not be that Herculean of a task to make Charlie Sheen flip out and mistake fiction for reality, this second film in the Guinea Pig series is famous for doing so. Supposedly he called the cops/FBI/Interpol/whoever to report this as an actual snuff film, and the rest is history. Now you'll see this movie show up on just about every list of disturbing (or at least most offensive) cinema there is.

After watching this at long last, I can confirm that this is grossly offensive and thoroughly repugnant in many ways. Rarely have I seen such care put into the making of something so disgusting. More than anything else, I was shocked that it looked as good as it did. I always figured it would be super cheap and crappy looking, but I was wrong. There's also actually a little bit of acting on the part of the killer. He's not exactly great, but the role is actually kind of darkly funny - he's basically an artist whose work consists of abducting women, shooting them up with drugs so they feel no pain, and then cutting off their hands and arms and legs, pulling out their innards, chopping of their heads and finally scooping out their eyeballs. Of course, none of those things are particularly funny, but the thought of all of that fucked up shit being done to people in the name of Creating Art is.

Luckily for me (and you, should you decide to watch this), this movie's only about 40 minutes. It's a rough 40 minutes, though. I spent the vast majority of that time with my mug scrunched up into what 3rd Bass called "The Gas Face". The makeup and gore effects are so good (aside from a couple of moments, anyway) that I felt nauseated a couple of times as I watched. Not good enough to call the cops or anything, but then again I wasn't high as fuck so who knows.

I know there's much worse coming down the pike with this blogging experiment, at least according to the comment sections on IMDB. I can only imagine how mind-blowing seeing this must have been back in the late eighties. In that regard, I'm glad it took me 18 years to get around to seeing it.

Tomorrow: Henry:Portrait of a Serial Killer

Friday, March 1, 2013

Titicut Follies

It's no coincidence that the second season of American Horror Story took place in an asylum. By doing that, everything became creepy by default. The thought of losing control of your mind, and then being placed in an institution that takes away your dignity and any chance of regaining your faculties, is a terrifying one.

While Titicut Follies is not a horror movie, it's plenty disturbing on more than one level. There is no narration. It's like a camera operator was plunked down in the middle of a madhouse - so the first level of discomfort is  the forced proximity to insane people. A couple of them rant and rave to the point of glossolalia about religion, politics, who knows what. If you've ever been stuck on a subway next to a crazy person, this will seem instantly familiar. This makes a movie that is pretty brief feel like it's taking forever to finish.

What's more disturbing than insanity? The people who are paid to take care of people suffering from mental illness not doing their jobs. One scene has the gentleman pictured above being goaded into a loud and aggressive response. More than one orderly mugs for the camera in "ain't I a stinker" fashion as they repeat words and phrases designed to make the patient go off, again and again. It makes you wonder what they decided NOT to do while being filmed. The psychiatric professionals aren't much better. They constantly interrupt or ignore the patients they're treating and don't seem to have any idea how to improve peoples' mental problems or the conditions at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane - other than feeding them more drugs, perhaps. This could also be a result of knowing they're being filmed by a camera crew. It seems to bring out the worst in a lot of people in this film.

It's hard to imagine how shocking this documentary must have been in 1966. While the concept of Bedlam being hell on earth isn't new, the matter of fact nature and unremitting unpleasantness of this movie reinforce the notion. Inmates are naked for unknown reasons a lot of the time. One man has a tube shoved up his nose all the way down into his stomach and food is pumped in to keep him from dying. He dies anyway. Even the variety show put on by staff and inmates that gives the movie its title is a total downer. While there are some moments that aren't that bleak (such as a couple of the performances from the show and a scene with a sweet older lady volunteer who seems super nice), the vast majority of the time one spends watching this movie doesn't result in increased faith in humanity.

Tomorrow: Guinea Pig:Flower of Flesh and Blood

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Men Behind the Sun

What we have here is a bad movie that provides a public service of a kind. Men Behind the Sun tells the story of a covert Japanese operation that took place in occupied China during WWII. It was believed that germ warfare was the wave of the future, so experiments were carried out on prisoners. Those responsible for perpetrating these far flung atrocities were not brought to justice, and this sordid episode is not well known. That's where this film comes in.

It's a good thing that someone decided to tell this story. The director did a lot with very little money or support from the Chinese government, as they feared strained relations with Japan as a possible outcome of this movie being made. I believe it is important to document wrongdoing, if for no other reason than to potentially keep atrocities like the ones shown in this film from occurring again.

However, this is not a well-made film. It is overlong. The acting is awful. There is no symbol too obvious or characterization too broad. The score helps to make a lot of the dramatic proceedings feel like nothing so much as a crappy TV movie from the early 1980's. But of course, when all you hear about a movie like this is how fucking sickening it is, I suppose you're not really watching it for the dramatic nuances.

That being said, why yes, it's true. This movie is foul. Among the things that happen in this film are:a baby is wrenched from its mother's arms and smothered in the snow. A young boy is knocked out with chloroform and then dissected and his organs harvested while still alive. A woman has ice-cold water poured over her arms while standing outside in the snow for 10 hours, then dunks her arms in hot water so that the skin and muscle can be pulled off of them like elbow-length gloves. A man is placed in a chamber where sound is pumped in at increasing frequencies and volumes until his intestine bursts out of his asshole. A cat is thrown into a room with thousands of starving rats and is eaten alive. A geisha has her armpit hair plucked out without warning, even.

Apparently the director used actual human cadavers for many scenes, which is pretty gross. More disturbing, according to pretty much everyone on the Internet, is that the cat in the rat scene was real, too. The director says he didn't kill it, but apparently he can't be trusted on that matter because there is another scene where rats are set on fire. So if you are disturbed by rats being burned up or cats maybe being hurt, then skip this one. Actually, if you're disturbed by disgusting shit with questionable educational value, then feel free to skip this too. Maybe read an article on Wikipedia about Unit 731 or something and save yourself the 100 minutes while you're at it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Woman

I'll start this by saying that Jack Ketchum is one of the greatest horror writers alive. He's better than a lot of the great dead ones, even. To read one of his books is to put yourself in the hands of someone who goes way farther than you think he might in service of telling a story or creating a feeling within the reader.

Mr. Ketchum teamed up with filmmaker Lucky McKee to write a novel, which then became this movie. McKee had an amazing debut with the movie May, then seemed to run into studio trouble with his next films The Woods and, especially (considering he was fired from the production, to its detriment), Red. Not the one about retired spies, but the one about Brian Cox and his dead dog. But I digress. They make a great team, and if you haven't read their new collaboration I'm Not Sam, I recommend it highly.

This movie is about seeing just how much evil and hatred can be shoved underneath the coverlet of polite upper middle class society. A lawyer with a beautiful country estate finds a filthy wild woman out in the woods, so he decides he's going to capture her, take her home, put her in his cellar and civilize her with the help of his family. His wife is shellshocked and wary - the type of person who would let their husband rape their daughter out of fear. His older daughter is deeply depressed and withdrawn, for what would appear to be obvious reasons. His son is a duplicitous scuzz who he is clearly molding into his own image. Only the youngest daughter has any vitality or apparent hope for a life beyond this bizarre clusterfuck - and I'm not even mentioning everything that comes to light before the end of the film.

There are several factors that make this movie particularly interesting. For one thing, the music is jarringly incongruous. I chose to see it as the inner dialogues of characters coming forth, rather than tonally appropriate picks. It's actually pretty funny stuff to hear upbeat, almost bubblegum type pop music when horribly heinous shit is happening on screen. Black comedy, to be sure, but not ineffective. The character of the Woman is fascinating, too. She barely speaks a word (of English, anyway), but is communicative enough - especially when she is let out of her chains.

I can't say that everything works in this film. There's a side character (a teacher at the older daughter's school) that falls pretty flat. Some actors are not as good as other actors. The subtext is so strong that it's not much of a subtext at times. There are many obvious symbols. Only the Woman is both a good and bad character - most of the others are either one or the other. Maybe the mom qualifies, too, but she'd be a whole lot more good if she had kept her husband away from her daughter, you know.

This is a beautifully shot movie that has strong undercurrents of unease and dread. The last reel, so to speak, is doused in gore and absolutely batshit fucking insanity. It even has what might be argued to be a happy ending. If this is what a union between Ketchum and McKee results in, I hope they work together many more times in the future.

Tomorrow: Men Behind the Sun