måndag 28 maj 2012

Absentia (2011)

Sometimes I like to take a chance, just buy a movie based on snippets of info gathered from online sources like Facebook or cover blurbs, without reading more than just the very basic core of the story. The story has to be interesting enough for me to do such a thing and Absentia has just that. The people that had seen the movie were mostly very positive so I decided to take the plunge. The feeling of really discovering a gem very much outweighs the fear of it sucking ass.

The main thing that attracted me to Absentia was the story, a tale of an unseen creature with slight Lovecraftian undertones that prowls a tunnel in an American city. A woman struggling with the disappearance of her husband and the decision of declaring him dead is visited by her estranged sister who brings a couple of skeletons of her own, namely substance abuse. They try to rekindle their broken relationship and all seems to go well. Until the husband shows up on her doorstep just days after his death certificate is approved by the authorities. He does not remember (or maybe doesn’t want to) where he has been and all of this is somehow connected to the tunnel, and the legends of other disappearances throughout the ages.

I really wanted to like this movie a lot. I really did. Some things work well, mainly the mood and the atmosphere surrounding the tunnel and what may dwell in there but unfortunately there are other things that really don’t bring this movie into the experience I wanted it to. The main problem is the story; too much time is focused on the relationship between the characters. The actors do a decent enough job with this, a lot of the dialogue seems ad-libbed and while the interactions might feel true, they're not just that interesting in a movie about a creature that hides in the dark waiting for humans to snatch. The creature bits work better, especially towards the end when the movie finally ditches all the drama and brings some nicely moody horror into all of this. I won’t go as far as to say that this in any kind of a failure, Mike Flanagan does a good job directing his own script but it feels somewhat unfocused. Maybe the story would have been better suited for a straight on creature feature? But then it would have been an entirely different movie and that was probably not what the filmmakers wanted. See this if you like slow burning moodpieces, I suspect that my disappointment comes from me expecting something entirely different based on the namedropping of Lovecraft in a couple of reviews and the very melodramatic dvdcover that makes this look like a movie it really isn't. Final words - Somewhat flawed but still interesting.

tisdag 22 maj 2012

The Rape After (1986)

One of the the more interesting genres out there out there is what I (somewhat lazily) usually refer to as CAT III. This is not really a genre but instead a movie rating in Hong Kong, I E the more depraved stuff out there: "No one younger than 18 years of age are permitted to rent, purchase, or watch this film in a movie theatre". The rating is mainly there for erotic movies but has also spawned a breed of really nasty horrormovies like Men behind the sun, Ebola syndrome and Dr Lamb - movies that will shock most people. My personal favorites in the genre are the supernatural shockers, always full of exploitative nudity and violence and sometimes somewhat odd sensibilities towards human life that the rest of us arent used to. These are movies that can surprise you with its nastiness only to show you some really silly slapstick in the next scene. Eternal evil of Asia, Devil Fetus, Seeding of a ghost, the list is long of movies that everyone with an interest in this should watch. But now I might have a new favorite.

The Rape After (nice title, eh?) is the type of movie that make you go for your remote, pause and rewind and watch scenes over again just for the sheer WTF. I will have to include one particular spoiler of a scene to give you an idea of what kind of movie this is. We follow the somewhat sleazy fashion photographer Mo Hsien-Sheng who likes old stuff, burial artifacts and such. When doing some model shoots at an old temple he steals a statue of a demon and takes it home, along with the model in order to get her drunk and take advantage of her. They both get way too drunk for anything like that to happen and fall asleep. During the night the model is assaulted by a demon that comes from the statue. Yes boys and girls, never steal demonstatues. Nothing more comes out of this, Mo meets a nice young lady and decides to get married and all is well until the model returns, now pregnant and believing that he is the father. Awkward. Mo persuades her to get an abortion and brings her to a sleazy clinic, the type where the performing doctor is all sweaty and disgusting but before the abortion can be done an unknown force demolishes the clinic and manages to give the doctor a syringe in the eye. We all know it is the demon baby ghost but the other characters seem to think of this as something completely normal, just an accident. Forget about the screaming and the supernatural happenings. Life goes on, eh? All of this culminates when the model dies in a car accident where Mo was driving and now things get really fun and weird.

Ok, to give a good description of this type of movie I will now describe one scene in particular, just to get your interest and reel you in into the wonderful world of CAT III. The charred and very pregnant corpse of the model is brought into the morgue (an excellent piece of makeup sfx) and an autopsy is performed. When the belly is opened a pair of hands comes out of the stomach and grabs the head of the doctor, ripping it from his neck. The other doctors flee and we watch the really strange image of the demon baby crawling out of the sliced up belly into the night as the umbillical cord is ripped off. Wow.

The rest of the movie follows Mo and his wife as they move into a new house, haunted by the demon and as things go we go through the usual proceedings. People die in various groovy and gory ways until Mo goes to find a priest to exorcise the demon, nothing new here. It is, however, the individual set-pieces that stand out. My favorite scene is when a person in the house hears a baby crying at night and goes down to the main floor to find a group of small children playing in slow motion. Eerie and creepy at the same time and this goes for rest of the movie that moves along at a good pace and perhaps a bit more finesse with the camerawork and technicals than some of the more low brow CAT III flicks. Towards the end we even get a bit of zombie flesheating as an added bonus an in all, this is a very fine example of this genre. Unfortunately this is not available on dvd as far as I know (I watched a slightly blurry vhsrip that at least was in widescreen) which is a god damn shame since this as of now probably my favorite CAT III flick. Recommended to fans of gore and exploitations everywhere.


Back in the days long before dvd I (like so many others before and after me) I used to hang around the local videostore, browsing the horrorsection and staring at the wonderful covers of all these movies that probably were the scariest movies in the world. As I grew up and began collecting movies I finally got to see all of the movies I had drooled over but there was one that eluded me. It was a movie called Strangeness about a monster in a cave but the cover had a picture from the Cormanproduced Alien clone Forbidden world, which added to the confusion. For some reason I never rented the damn thing and I spent a lot of years wondering if this really was an existing movie (this was before you could find everything online and this movie didnt pop up in any horrormoviebooks I had) or if my mind had deluded me over the years. Thankfully I found a scan of this very cover online so my mind could finally be at ease. Even better, Code Red released it on a nice special edition dvd and I finally got the chance to see what all the fuzz in my mind was all about.

The story is simple and effective. A group of people gather at the entrance of a cave that shares its tunnels with an old mine that was hastily closed down for uknown reasons a century ago. The reason for their spelunking is to evaluate if there is any gold left but we all know that they will be entombed and hunted by a tentacled stopmotion monster. It always goes down like that in California, I've seen this in lots of movies.

Strangeness was made by a group of first time filmmakers on a very low budget which shows really well from time to time, especially when it comes to the cave itself which sometimes is obviously fake. This is on the other hand redeemed by a decent enough script, some uneven but enthusiastic acting and a really fun monster. The atmosphere in the cave is good enough to sustain a fun feeling of lowbudget monster mayhem and the cinematography works really well, especially considering that the movie is almost entirely lit by torches and flares. Strangeness has a general sense of good fun with its cheesy but fun characters and an excellent tentacled stopmotion monster. Yes, the animation may be crude compared to Harryhausen but what the hell, how often do you get to see a tentaclebeast that looks like a huge vagina?

Strangeness is not the best monstermovie of all time, is has it share of flaws mostly related to it's budget but it was made with the best intentions and some of it comes off clearly when you watch it. It is entertaining enough and has a bit of good tension, the lovable monster and even some slime. If you are like me, a big fan of the low budget monster movies of that very era, you will adore it. Thanks to Code Red for an excellent dvd.

tisdag 8 maj 2012

Rat scratch fever

Brought back from a doomed space mission, an army of giant rats develop a big appetite for Los Angeles residents.

Well, the plot for this little nugget of joy was enough for me to buy the movie, especially after viewing the trailer that is a feast of loving cheese full of tacky models and full size mutant rat heads. Yes, I had to own it and as soon as the dvd arrived I sat down in front of the tv (to my girlfriends great pain. Not a fan of cheesy monstermovies I'm afraid to say) and started to worry. Can this really be good? 105 minutes of low budget monsters can be painful if the heart isnt in the right place. So, let's get down to brass tacks. Rat scratch fever is essentially a throwback to 50s monstermovies such as Quatermass experiment and First man in space. A previously unknown planet is discovered on the other side of the solar system and an expedition is sent to explore. They find remains of a dead civilization and somehow manage to wake an army of giant killer rats. All but one of the crew is killed and the final survivor, sexy Sonja, manages to get away in the spaceship though not before a rat sneaks its way into her vagina, taking over her completely. She returns to earth (with a bunch of rats hidden onboard), at first not realizing that she has a rodentproblem in her brain and wanders about in the desert while the company in charge of the expedition tries to find her before she reaches Los Angeles and brings on the end of the world.

First of all, I have to applaud the makers of Rat scratch fever for bringing back the fine plot device "Rat enters body through vagina", something we havent seen since Bruno Matteis lovely Rats: Nights of terror. I'm sure some of you out there will see this as horrible exploitation but to me it is just another fun way to get that very sentence you really like to hear yourself uttering while watching a movie: "Yes, they did do just that!". And for the squeamish, it isnt actually shown. Any movie which features this is good in my book.

The first thing that strikes you when you watch the movie is the very apparent cheapness of the effects, very much Bert I Gordon on a tenth of his budgets. A "normie" would probably look at this and dismiss it as low budget crap but for a person like me who has seen quite a few of this type of movie it is apparent that quite a lot of work went into making it look like this. Remote controlled cars are used as vehicles, rats are simply superimposed onto photographs (just like in Bert I Gordons movies), cheesy full size rats are all over the place and there are tons of simple models ready to be blown into bits. The point is that the simple cheapness of all of this is not just that it makes you smile while watching it but also drives the plot forward in the most efficient way possible. All of the needed set-pieces are there and the 105 minutes flow by in a good pace. Another positive is the fact that the movie is played almost completely straight (apart from a few "actors" who barely can keep themselves from smiling as they sit on cheap sets enhanced by some simple digital trickery) and the acting is way better than I expected, especially Tasha Tacosha as the rat-infested astronaut and Randal Malone chewing scenery as the Company man in charge of hunting Sonja down.

Oh, I had such a great time with this and I realize that I will repeat myself now because I have written the exact same thing in other reviews - this is proof that great ideas and a bit of ingenuity can be as good as a shitload of money. Rat scratch fever has a lot of that and if you are into a bit of low budget mayhem - Rat scratch fever is a must buy.