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

Monday, February 25, 2013


I've been hearing about this movie for years and years. The one term that gets bandied about when people mention it is "disturbing", so I figured it would be a natural fit for this experiment of mine. I guess it qualified.

Harmony Korine might be best known for writing the screenplay for another disgusting movie called Kids. I won't be writing about that one anytime soon because I'd have to watch it again in order to do so. But enough about that. Dude wrote and directed this one, and if the blurb I read is correct he had a budget of 1.3 million dollars with which to do so. Holy crap. That's a whole lot of money to make something that intentionally looks like hammered shit.

Gummo, the movie, hates the fuck out of cats. You'll see more violence against felines in this movie than you can swing a stick at...which is one thing that happens to a dead cat hung up on a string. Cats are also shown being drowned in a barrel of water, crawling with bugs, sold to a butcher to be resold to a Chinese restaurant, shot at with BB guns and inspected closely to see if their genitals indicate pregnancy. Why all the fuss over cats is anyone's guess. 

Humans don't fare a lot better in this movie, though. You've got a dwarf, retarded people, deaf people shouting at each other, glue huffers, foul mouthed little kids, perverts,a preteen transvestite and a kid who never talks but shows up throughout the movie wearing pink bunny ears. I like to think they were the inspiration for Louise on Bob's Burgers.

Bookoo crazy shit happens, of course. Bugs swarm out from behind portraits when they're moved. A kid in filthy black bathwater eats spaghetti as his mom shampoos his hair. A young woman shows her sister how to rip electrical tape off of her nipples to make them bigger, or something. Two boys pay a guy to have sex with his Down's syndrome sister. If this sounds vaguely incoherent and not very pleasant, you nailed it.

I have nothing against Chloe Sevigny, but her being in this kind of ruins the whole realism thing that Korine was clearly shooting for. She's way too pretty even with her dopey small town hairdo. Not to mention that almost every other person in this movie looks like they're from Dogdick, Arkansas (or Xenia, Ohio for that matter) and are all just method actors except for her.

After watching Gummo, it seems to me that people who found this movie so disturbing haven't spent any time with people like the folks in this movie. Yeah, everything is on a higher level of weird, but growing up in Stockton/Lodi, I met some people who aren't that far off from some of these characters. At least this wasn't shown in smell-o-vision.

Tomorrow: The Woman

Sunday, February 24, 2013


I remember the first time I saw the VHS box for this movie. It was at a video store in Aptos, CA and I was 19, maybe 20 years old. My buddy rented it and we went over to his house to drink some beers and watch it. I found it really boring and fell asleep or tuned out or something like 10 minutes into it and that was that. The end.

I remember my friend telling me what I missed out on but I never cared enough to bother giving it a proper watch...until now! Aw yeah.

Now that I've seen it, I can safely let you know that this is one sick movie. It's actually pretty hilarious, too. I wouldn't bet anything of value that the writer/director/makeup artist meant for it to be funny, but I'd like to think this is the case. First off, this is one of the cheapest movies I've ever seen. It appears to have been shot on Super-8. This actually is a good thing - clearly dude was incredibly dedicated to his movie and really gave his all to make it come alive (sorry) with the resources he had at hand. Unfortunately for people with any gag reflex or good taste, his dream was to make a movie about a crime scene cleaner who collects body parts and lives with a woman whose fondest wish is to make sweet love to a dead guy with a broom handle (read:wang substitute) stuck into his rotting guts.

I can't say the acting is particularly good. There are also some bizarre scenes (yeah, I know) put in, I suppose, to flesh out the running time. For example, there are two scenes involving someone urinating that take just about as long as it takes to empty one's bladder. So if you're into pee stuff as well as corpse fucking, then boy are you gonna love this! There is also a sweet dream sequence, a ridiculous accidental death shown involving a ladder and a neighbor's pellet gun, and even a short segment of a slasher film seen in a theater that manages to look cheaper than Nekromantik in the first place.

As far as the ick factor, why yes indeed this movie has it, and lots of it. The rotting corpse that Robert takes home is a marvel of wet, rotting revulsion. The scene where he and his girlfriend get down and dirty with it is truly repugnant. What makes it funny, though, is the cheesy romantic music going for broke in the background the whole way through. What wasn't funny, on the other hand, was the scene where a rabbit is killed, skinned and dressed on camera. I'm not morally outraged - I mean, people eat rabbits and wear their fur all the time and someone has to kill them in order for these things to happen. It was just disgusting. So if you're that person who won't watch Cannibal Holocaust unless it's the "animal cruelty free version", consider that a heads up.

The ending has to be seen to be believed. It's absurd and the effects are the worst in the movie, but what an ending indeed. I hear that the sequel ups the ante considerably - I will be checking it out later in this Plumbing the Depths bonanza and will let you know all about it.

Tomorrow: Gummo

Saturday, February 23, 2013


When I was a young schoolboy, I was convinced that the world was going to end via nuclear holocaust. The only question was how soon it was going to happen. It has to be difficult for kids today to relate, considering we managed to make it to the 21st century without blowing up the world, but back then I was fucking stressed over the situation.

I remember in 7th grade that a TV movie named The Day After was being hyped to the rafters. I read all sorts of nuclear trivia in the newspaper and recall hearing for days on end how this movie was going to blow the mind of anyone who dared watch it. Considering how horrific the source material was, I was convinced I might not be able to withstand the brutality this movie was sure to put forth. I was sorely disappointed. For one thing, while the initial blast was awesome in its power, it sure seemed like there was a big cast of characters still doing a whole lot of talking and, well, being pretty boring after. I was still terrified of death by nuke, but in retrospect I was pretty damn lucky they weren't showing Threads on TV in America that year. I would have (at least figuratively) shit my damn pants.

To say this movie is bleak is like saying King Diamond wears face paint and can sing in high pitch. As a point of comparison, the novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy is more upbeat and certainly has a happier ending. It's like the Requiem for a Dream of nuclear brinkmanship.

It's pretty obvious that this movie was made for educational purposes. It's kind of dry and things don't really start getting horrifying until about 40 minutes in. However, when things DO start getting bad, it's pretty eerie. The sense of dread is strong when the warning sirens go off and you're basically waiting for the bombs to drop. There are a number of scenes that show things you really wouldn't expect to see in such a dignified production about such an important subject (especially when compared with the lame The Day After) - it's a pretty raw film. It ends up following a survivor through about 10 years of time and, again, it's far from pretty what ends up happening to her and the world in general. There's a lot of vomiting, bleeding, shitting, killing, and most of all dying.

Considering the saber-rattling going on right now in North Korea, Iran and Israel in reference to nuclear capabilities, this movie might not be outdated as it might seem. If Threads is even halfway accurate in its depiction of the aftermath of massive nuclear bombing, though, I can't imagine there'd be any solution (should things get to that point) preferable to being right in the epicenter of the blast and getting snuffed out nice and quick. Pleasant dreams.

Tomorrow: Nekromantik

Friday, February 22, 2013


This is definitely one of those movies that ends and leaves you wondering "what the fuck did I just watch?". I decided to check this out after seeing it show up time and again on peoples' lists of the movies they found most disturbing. After having viewed it, I see why it's considered so but can't say that it was especially hard to stomach. Heh.

There's a preamble that says something along the lines of "while this story is fictional, things like this are happening right now all over the world", which is far from an uplifting thought. The story concerns a young man in Toledo, Ohio who feeds women to death for fun and profit on the interwebs. His exclusive website offers wagering on the vital signs and lifespan of his projects. Meanwhile, there's a cop in Sydney, Australia who decides this guy needs to be stopped. The cop has been scarred by his experience in Germany of busting a guy who was cutting another guy up piece by piece and feeding his own body to him (sorry if that's not clear, but think of the worst possible way to read that and you're on the right track). Therefore he's pretty bent on finding and stopping the feeder dude.

Feed isn't the most tightly paced movie I've seen lately. It can't seem to decide whether it's a horror movie, a psychological thriller, or a black comedy. It dabbles in all three but never congeals into any one of them. It wasn't awful or anything, but it could have been a lot better. For example, the music is pretty much ghastly - lots of ironic oldies and crappy covers of crappy 80's tunes. The bad guy is one of those scary smart judo master geniuses. Unfortunately for his scare factor he has a giant tramp stamp. Not particularly scary. At least not in the way the filmmakers envisioned. Also, there's a love interest who spends the first third of the movie or so fucking the Australian cop a bunch of different ways. It's total Skinemax fodder for quite a while until things get gory towards the end.

If you're skeeved by giant fat people, this movie will disgust you and creep you out. People are force fed slurry containing the melted fat of dead people. There are lots of shots of rotting food and corpses. Even the more sexy type stuff shown early in the film is gross. I guess you could call it disturbing. I don't think all of the ham handed (sorry) subtext really comes through, but you can't blame them for trying. You certainly won't see a film like this come along every day.

Tomorrow: Threads

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eden Lake

It would be understandable if you had seen the listing for this movie on cable or the video store or whatever and thought to yourself "that doesn't look like it would be very interesting". Not much about the description or the actors etc. will let you know what is in store for you. Luckily for me, I had Unkle Lance and Aunt John to point me in the right direction.

Eden Lake is special. It's a handsome picture with handsome/beautiful leads and (generally speaking) breaks no new ground in terms of what it's about:a couple go away for a romantic weekend and run afoul of some local hooligans. What it does that other movies (and there are a lot of them with a similar premise) don't is take things farther and much deeper down. This is a movie that made me intensely angry and left a noticeable impression when it was over. I was genuinely upset at the way things turned out.

If you watch a lot of horror movies, you find that you anticipate what tricks a director or screenwriter is going to pull in a movie like this. It speaks volumes to the effectiveness of this movie that even though several tropes rear their well-worn heads, it still works. There's a palpable feeling of doom that kicks in when things start happening and lasts until the final frame, if not later.

At its core, this movie is the expression of the nightmare of the upper middle class person:torment and destruction at the hands of uncouth lower class chavs/slobs/punks/cretins. The couple has issues dealing with lower class folks and the way they choose to raise their children even before the real trouble begins. It's interesting to see how many things the couple does that are thoughtless or inconsiderate while on their trip. Of course, the young pukes are clearly the evildoers here, but you do end up wondering if there's anything the vacationers could have done that might have kept things from getting as awful as they do. Maybe not.

This movie is very adept at offering false hope. It's practically evil in that regard. It's a fascinating example of the fact that just because a movie has high production values and appears to be something very similar to something you've seen many times before, it can end up being something quite different. This is one hell of a downer.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013


France has been coming through with some of the most visceral and brutal horror films of the last decade or so. High Tension, Martyrs, Frontier(s), even Calvaire are as raw as almost anything produced in the USA, and usually more interesting to boot. Inside may be the bloodiest of all these relatively recent French imports. In fact, there's more blood spilled in this movie than in almost any other I've seen with the exception of early Peter Jackson stuff - and those were comedies.

Sarah is extremely pregnant on Christmas Eve. Having survived a horrible auto wreck only 4 months prior and losing her husband in the process, she is due to go to the hospital and induce labor the next day. Instead of spending the holiday with family or friends, she opts to spend the evening at home. This ends up being a colossal mistake. An imposing woman shows up at Sarah's door demanding to be let in, and soon makes it clear that she knows exactly who Sarah is and what she wants to take from Sarah. What follows is almost literally a bloodbath, and the unflinching presentation of the violence is at times almost overwhelming.

While the major conflict is clearly between Sarah and La Femme, what's more affecting at times is what happens to the unfortunate people who stand in the way between the two of them. A lot of people die in awful ways, and not many of them are fair. The directors clearly enjoy setting the viewer up to take a figurative sigh of relief or some brief respite from the tension, only to snatch any implied hope away. It's maddening, but thematically sound in my opinion. 

There is some ambiguity to the main characters that I found interesting as well. Sarah is naturally the victim here. However, as she is depressed and heartbroken at having lost her mate, she doesn't seem to be too involved in the process of giving birth to her baby. She actually seems pissed off and resentful of all of it. La Femme is crazy as a shithouse rat - but all of her cruelty and determination is going towards having a child of her own. I don't seriously believe that a murdering psychopath would make a better parent than an angry and depressed person - but that fact that it's even something to think about is interesting.

Inside is a tightly focused, artfully composed splatter movie. The special effects are top notch. On more than one occasion, I ended up watching between my fingers, and that doesn't happen often. An enormous dose of suspension of disbelief is required at times, and I suppose it's more of a slick than gritty type of horror film, but this is a keeper for sure.

Tomorrow: Eden Lake

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Bunny Game

Holy crap, what a fucking piece of shit this movie is.

Let's consider the ways the filmmaker and star tried to generate attention and credibility for this abortion. Within the first minute, there's an explicit blowjob. Hmm. What other movie did that...something with, oh yeah, 2/3 of the same title. Remember how much attention The Brown Bunny got for that scene? Couldn't hurt. Next step is to have all of the roles played by non-actors. Brilliant! Of course, they'll most likely, you know, suck at acting...but with a story as pure gold as this one, who needs acting? It'll be a cinema verite type of thing.

As for that can't-miss story - here it is:a prostitute does a lot of cocaine and has sex with guys for money to buy more cocaine. She gets picked up by a trucker who takes her out of town and torments her for days on end. Then some other dude shows up and takes her away.

I would rather have an MRI done during an earthquake than watch this movie again. It's not the subject matter that offends. Repulsive subjects often make movies I quite like. This, however, is lacking in every respect. The editing is infuriating. What is obviously intended to disturb and shock is just grating and forced. It isn't shocking. It's lame. The acting is wretched. Apparently this movie was unscripted (no shit, Sherlock) and so scenes were drawn up and the actors just vamped the shit out of them. This results in a 75 minute movie feeling like it's as endless as the director's cut of Das Boot. And I call bullshit on the "real" aspects of this, namely the fact that 2 actors were BRANDED TOTALLY FOR REAL because of the POWERFUL ART OF THIS REAL FUCKING MOVIE DUDE. Yeah, they are both branded. Obviously, though, the cheesy design of the brand makes it pretty clear everyone agreed on it before it happened. Yes, that's the way it should be, too...I just resent the hucksterism of claiming it's so brutally unexpected blah blah.

Also, it's in black and white because ART. Dude, Eraserhead is in black and white. Also, Eraserhead qualifies as art. The Bunny Game doesn't. If you want to experience this movie without tracking it down or wasting 75 minutes of your life, imagine Yosemite Sam sticking his tongue out, huffing paint out of a plastic bag, and yelling at a woman who can't act and isn't wearing clothes. Repeat. For added ambiance, lean against the last octave or two of a Casio keyboard while you're doing that.

I know I've seen worse movies than this one. Not many of them took themselves so seriously while being so damn shitty, though.

Tomorrow: Inside

Monday, February 18, 2013

Combat Shock

Have you ever had a day when you thought your head might pop from being too giddy with happiness?  Maybe you were in the initial moments of a new romance, or had just gotten an unexpected promotion, or had won a sweepstakes. The world looked beautiful, fresh and ready to be plucked.

There's a cure for that, and it's called Combat Shock.

Made in 1984 as pretty much a student film for under 25K, this is as DIY as it gets. The only sprucing up it received as a result of being picked up and distributed by Troma was some stock footage of Vietnam added to the beginning. This is as grimy, nihilistic, and doomed of a movie as you could hope to see.

Frankie is having a rough go of things. He suffers from PTSD LAMF as a result of having been imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam for 3 years. He has returned to a Staten Island neighborhood that looks like a bombed out warzone. His apartment is busted up and filthy: the toilet won't flush and is filled with piss and waste, his cupboards are bare, the sink doesn't work all the time and the only thing in his moldy looking icebox is some spoiled milk. His wife isn't happy with the fact that Frankie's been out of work for 4 months straight and lets him know about it constantly. Their 1 year old child is severely deformed from what they assume to be an Agent Orange-related birth defect. The only people Frankie comes into contact with on his travels through the neighborhood are junkies, hoodlums, criminals and bureaucrats who can't help him get back on his feet. And all the while, he's tormented by flashbacks of the war. His life is hell and he's a (greasy) hair's breadth from going down in flames and taking everyone with him.

It is true that this movie is cheap and ugly. It's a perfect match with the story it tells. The acting is uneven at best, but the characters behave consistently throughout and it doesn't harm the movie too much. Frankly, if the acting and production values were much higher the bleak nature of things might become overwhelming. Things get awful enough by the end as it is.

Combat Shock has a lot to love about it. Crazed synthesizer music, composed by Rick Giovinazzo, who also plays Frankie and whose brother Buddy wrote and directed. There's a theme that recurs when Rick walks through the 'hood that has to be heard to be believed. It's awful yet amazing and ultimately endearing. Rick ended up orchestrating a hell of a lot of Hollywood movies after this, interestingly enough. The baby is a marvel of repulsive prosthetics that, while clearly fake, still is unsettling. Its synthesizer-created cries are eerie too.

You'll see a lot of Eraserhead and Taxi Driver in Combat Shock, but after being distilled through the vision and meager resources of Buddy Giovinazzo it certainly becomes something else entirely. I can't imagine another movie where someone OD's from opening an abscess on their arm with a coathanger and then sprinkling powder directly into the wound. Then again, I've seen few endings as brutal and sad as this one, either. Overall, it's a success. Call me crazy, but I think that when cult/shock/sleaze cinema is discussed a quarter century from now, Combat Shock will be given a place of prominence.

Tomorrow: The Bunny Game

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mum & Dad

I know this sentiment isn't unique in the slightest when it comes to the type of movies I'm writing about in this here Plumbing the Depths extravaganza, but it's still a fact that Mum & Dad is fucking weird.

To start with, it's produced by the BBC, which I would have assumed (before I watched it) meant there would be some semblance of, I don't know, class?  Shame on me for assuming.  It was also partially financed by the UK Lottery, which I find hilarious.  Can you imagine if some proceeds from the California Lottery were used to finance films and something like Mum & Dad was the result?  Fox News would be milking that shit for months.

I guess I should say before I go any further that I actually ended up not hating this movie - it's just seriously nasty. One scene in particular is arguably unprecedented in its degeneracy. I guess it's almost refreshing to see something, uh, new that can provoke a wave of disgust.

Lena is a young woman from Poland who takes a job as a custodian at a British airport. Her co-worker Birdie appears to be helpful, if not particularly pleasant to hang out with over the course of an entire shift.  However, things go south post haste when Lena goes home with Birdie and her mute "adopted brother" Elbie and becomes the hostage of the titular parental units.

Mum is a sadist who enjoys cutting and piercing her victims. Lena is renamed Angel and has something injected in her throat that makes her unable to speak or scream. Birdie is a sycophant who attacks Lena in order to reinforce her position in this batshit family. But the king of the castle is Dad. He is an amazingly fucked up individual. He screams and curses constantly and is used as the ultimate threat by Mum to keep Lena in line. It's a memorably bugged out household to be sure:there's porno playing on TV at the breakfast table, Elbie seems to be constantly disposing of plastic parcels of human body parts, and Dad is either reading his newspaper, yelling at everybody, or fucking or murdering something or someone.

The family lives "just at the end of the runway" and supposedly Dad works as a cargo agent. Birdie and Elbie also work at the airport, and all of them bring stolen things home to bolster their finances. This works well enough, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it seemed pretty unbelievable. Yeah, I know, but still. This movie is from 2008. Surely airport security doesn't suck that bad...but whatever, suspension of disbelief, I know.

This movie is crude and nihilistic. I suppose it could be considered a comedy. If so, it's pretty dark for such a thing. It certainly pays homage to my favorite horror movie : The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The Christmas scene (when the entire family is assembled) and the final shot certainly make that clear.

Mum & Dad isn't breaking any new ground, other than finding a disgusting new wrinkle or two. It's been called a "British Hostel", which is a bit of a stretch but somewhat understandable. In my opinion, it wasn't bad. Socially redeeming, though?  That's for you to decide.

Tomorrow: Combat Shock

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Don't Go in the House

When I was in middle school we had textbooks for Health class that had been published in the mid 70's. Everyone in the black and white photographs in that book looked greasy and sallow.  If you were to shake that book, dandruff would probably fall out.

Don't Go in the House is a movie that brings the look and feel of my old Health class textbook alive in cinematic form.  I cracked up the first time I saw this when I popped the DVD in and found there was no menu. Bare bones, ruthless, and truly ugly.

Donny is a man who has been controlled by his mother his whole life.  When his father left their home, his mother began burning his arms over a stove flame to punish him for misbehaving.  This has caused him to lose his mind.  Within the first 10 minutes of this movie he hypnotically watches a co-worker almost burn alive, is accused of "standing there like a faggot" by his boss, goes home to find his mother has died, and cuts loose like Maculay Culkin in Home Alone once he realizes he's free of her control.  That is, until he starts hearing and seeing her again.

This compels him to bring women home, hang them up in a metal-lined room, and set them on fire with a flamethrower.  The sheer brutality of the first kill is definitely disturbing.  Quentin Tarantino supposedly said that this movie freaked him out more than any other, and while that's apocryphal info, it's easy to imagine this movie being awfully shocking considering it was released in 1980.  In fact, it's no wonder Concerned Folks nationwide were feeling bad about horror cinema in general considering this and Maniac were released the same year. On the other hand, further murders are hinted at and the aftermath shown rather than several graphic killing scenes.  I assume this was due to budgetary constraints, considering this movie appears to have been made for about 20 thousand dollars.

There are many weird flourishes to this movie that I find endearing.  Honest-to-God disco music plays a big part, and there is a chorus of demonic (or at least crazy bananas style) voices telling Donny what to do that could easily be the homonculi from Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Everything people buy is super cheap - one of the victims buys a bottle of soda, some food and 3 packs of cigarettes and it costs less than $5.  I guess that part of the 70's was okay.

But yeah, this is a gross movie.  Donny's a big-time misogynist, and a world class weirdo. Every time he becomes anything close to a sympathetic figure, he immediately does something completely bizarre or wholly heinous.  The movie ends with a short scene of a little kid getting smacked around by his mom and then staring at the camera while the chorus of voices that spoke to Donny start talking to him.  Unfortunately, that didn't result in a sequel.

Tomorrow: Mum and Dad

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cutting Moments

Now this here is a sour little slice (sorry) of discomfort.  Telling the stories of 3 people whose affects range from depressed to unfeeling to psychotic, Cutting Moments packs a lot of awful into its brief (29 minutes) running time.  The film looks kind of grimy in a good way and the depressing music helps set the mood.

You've probably heard of this movie before. It's best known for showing a woman rubbing her lips with a Chore Boy and then cutting them off with scissors.  And it's truly disgusting.  I can't abide watching the surgery channel on TV.  I almost faint when I accidentally cut myself with a paring knife.  Movie gore, though?  No big deal.  But this one?  Almost intolerable.

The kicker is that the most graphic parts of this movie aren't really the most unsettling.  It's a genuinely sad story - the pain of knowing the dreams you started out with when you fell in love with someone have died.  In this case, it's even worse because a child has been seriously harmed along the way.  I mean sure, the way things end up is pretty ridiculous.  But the dour nature of this family's predicament/s is pretty rough to take even before the blood starts flowing.  If you haven't seen this one yet, it's on youtube.  Consider checking it out.

Tomorrow: Don't Go in the House

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Happy Valentines!
So I figured I'd start with something relatively brief.  As this film runs just about half an hour,  there isn't much time wasted.  As someone who isn't big on overlong films (read:has a burnt out attention span), this seemed like a good idea.

I was surprised to see that this was made by the same guy who directed 2006's The Abandoned.  That movie, while atmospheric, wasn't really that compelling in my opinion and I never finished watching it.  Watching it with commercials in standard definition probably didn't help. Maybe I should give it another try.  Anyway, Aftermath is lean and mean.  Whether or not it was Nacho Cerda's original intent to make this as a short film or feature length, its brevity works to its advantage.

The early scenes in Aftermath are of 2 male bodies being dissected.  Organs are removed and put in jars or on scales.  Leftover body parts are stuffed back into the open chest cavity, which is then sewn shut.  Pretty grim stuff, especially considering how good the special effects are, but nothing too out of the ordinary.  It's when one of the doctors finds himself alone with another body in the morgue - a woman - that things get repulsive in a hurry. I found myself wincing and looking away and then later feeling disgusted.  I suppose that's what Cerda was going for.  On one hand, all of the bodies in this movie were already dead to start with and no matter what degree of indignities they were subjected to, they would have remained dead.  On the other hand, it's awful to imagine the things done to that poor dead woman being done to anyone, dead or not.

It's weird to see something that could conceivably be called "art" (beautiful music, rich colors, deliberate pacing) that's also about corpse-fucking and feeding ground up human organs to domestic pets.

Tomorrow:Cutting Moments

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Plumbing the Depths 2013

So this year for Lent I thought I'd try something a little different than usual.  I'll be giving up something, as usual (caffeine), but this time I'll also be doing a little something extra.  I plan on writing something here every day.  Now, given my prodigious output so far, I'm not expecting to be writing all that much.  And as far as the quality is concerned?  Uh, yeah...not going to worry much about that either.This is just something to do that I hope will spark more regular posting.  There are a whole lot of movies that are remarkable for one reason or another that I'm most grateful to others for pointing them out to me.

What I'm looking to do this year, though, is to acknowledge some movies/films/garbage that have one thing in common:they are all considered to be, at least by a few people, disturbing. I know that the word "disturbing" doesn't really mean the same thing to everyone all the time.  I know people who can't watch Seinfeld because the depth of their feeling for people faced with embarrassing situations is actually too disturbing to them.  Toddler beauty pageants, open mike poetry readings, comedy improv troupes, American Idol auditions can all be classified as disturbing.  Shit, I saw a piece on the tv show Taboo last night about fruitarian freegans in SF eating rotting mangoes out of the trash while shrimping one another that was truly abhorrent.For the purpose of this experiment, though, I'll stick to a basic descriptor: these are movies that make you nauseous, angry, depressed, sad, and perhaps most of all uncomfortable.

When I was in high school I wrote a short story about two jerks who kidnapped a woman and mistreated her.  I wrote it because the thought of people being inhumanly cruel to someone else made me feel uncomfortable.  I found it scary to consider.  It was a pretty lame story, but I will always remember one of my teacher's comments about it.  To paraphrase, "You appear to have written this to answer the question 'What's the worst thing I can think of?'".  In a sense, he had a point.  On the other hand, as grim as that story may have been, it wasn't the worst thing I could have thought of.  The movies I have selected to write about this season, though?  They're all pretty bad.

I suppose I like to seek out the "worst of the worst" because I like to appreciate that my life is immeasurably blessed in comparison to those who inhabit these films.  There's a catharsis, however mild, involved in watching such things.  I had an old co-worker friend tell me a long time ago that I didn't care what kind of garbage I put in my head.  I guess this might be proof of that, but I prefer to see it as finding different ways to be frightened.  I love scary movies of all kinds because I like to be artificially frightened, after all.

But anyway, yeah, these movies are pretty bad for the most part.  An artist can shock and disturb without being overly obvious.  Most of the movies I'm going to write about, though, aren't particularly great and aren't considered by many to be art.  Which I guess begs the question:why bother? If I figure out the best answer to that, I'll be sure to let you know.

Also, there will be spoilers in most, if not all, of my posts.  Sorry if that annoys you.

Tomorrow: Aftermath