fredag 30 december 2011

The Savage hunt of King Stakh (1979)

Seriously, I dont really what to make of this movie. It is a Russian gothic fantasy horror that plays like a mixup of The Blind dead series, Hammer and Tarkovsky. It is wonderfully designed and shot, a true feast for the eyes but thanks to a overly talky and pretentious script it becomes quite hard to keep up your interest.

A student traveling through some remote parts of Russia during the 19th century is on a quest to write down all the different myths and legends of the region and arrives at Marsh Firs, an old castle out in a swamp. He meets the neurotic owner of the castle who tells him about three legends of the are, The Little man, the Blue lady and the Savage hunt of King Stakh (an ancient king who was murdered by his best friend and now roams the swamp looking to kill any descendant of that very friend), and of course - the curse on her own family. The castle and the surrounding marshlands are littered with strange characters and during his stay our hero desperately tries to survive all their odd machinations as people start to die after telling him about the Savage hunt of King Stach.

I dont really know what genre I should put this movie. The best thing about it is the design of the sets and the cinematography, it oozes Mario Bava and Terence Fisher. Or maybe if Tarkovsky made a remake of the old Hammer favorite Hound of the baskervilles? The environments of the castle are striking, pervaded in a gothic atmosphere with halls overgrown with vegetation or having lost to the waters of the marshes and are now flooded. The wet and cold marshes is a character in itself and the atmosphere cant be cut with a knife. The scenes with King Stakhs riders roaming through the land are supremely surreal and makes you think about Amando De Ossorios Blind dead series. The problem with the movie is that all of these ingredients, the horror and the fantasy are only a small part of something else, something that would be more suited for a small room full of pretentious moviewatchers drinking wine in their Fassbinder t-shirts, not uttering a word until the movie is over. There are droves of heavy, doomladen philosophical dialogue without any obvious connection to the story and all of this becomes clear when you watch the dvdextras where the director clearly states that he wasnt interested in doing a fantasy/horrormovie. But on the other hand I will admit that it is impossible not to be drawn into this macabre world thanks to the visuals, the good acting and the interesting story. It requires patience. And the reward is a movie you most likely will never forget.

onsdag 28 december 2011

Shan Huas Xie ying wu aka Bloody Parrot (1981)

I have to start this review by admitting that I wasnt able to follow the story with all its absurd twists and turns. It is never really clear what is going on with the plot and new characters are introduced all the time. Based on an old legend of The Bloody parrot, somewhat similar to the old genie in a bottle - if you see it you will get three wishes. Three wishes that of course will send you straight to hell. The Emperors advisor sees it, wishes the return of a great treasure and moments later he, his wife and his son are all dead. Now a great hunt for the treasure starts and a quest for finding out who the Bloody parrot really is. A tough as nails swordsman happens to be wandering around in all of this and manages to get mixed up in the violent shenanigans all while he gets the hots for a prostitute who in the name of exploitation spends just about the entire movie naked. There is a lot more to the story than this but it would seriously take me hours to write it all down so I'll leave you with this somewhat vague description. I recommend you see the spectacle for yourself.

And that is what you should do if you have any sense of fun, see this lovely movie. Shan Huas Xie ying wu aka Bloody Parrot is a nicely shot little thing with tons of well choreographed and violent fightscenes, eastern magic and nudity. If people arent slicing each other up with swords or other sharp tools of cutting they perform strange magic or assassinate each other. We even get some messy gore in the shape of a couple of really gross and fun autopsies. This is an excellent Wuxia that I would recommend to anyone that likes their kung fu movies a bit more violent and exploitative. An awesome double bill with the slightly similar Portrait in crystal.

fredag 16 december 2011

Tetsuo - The Bullet man (2009)

FINALLY! The Iron man is back! With a vengeance! And in... English? Wtf? Then again, we always knew that if there was another Tetsuomovie there would be lots of Wtfs. Twenty-two years after the original Tetsuo and nineteen after the sequel, Shinya Tsukamoto finally returns to the wonders of biomechanical psychopatics and more loving fusions of flesh and metal.

An American man living in Japan with his Japanese wife and their son is struck by grief when a mysterious man kills the young boy by running him over with a car. As this is a Shinya Tsukamoto movie this event triggers something in our hero, making him turn into a metal beast and he starts searching in his past to why this is happening all while trying to control the anger that is transforming him. Not so easy when your wife is demanding vengeance.

Yes, here we go again. The original is a frenetic masterpiece in black & white technofetish surrealism and while the sequel had a larger budget it actually suffered from having a slightly more coherent narrative. Some of the magic was lost as the scenario grew bigger and bolder. Tetsuo - The Bullet man goes back to its roots with a smaller scale which I liked but still does one big mistake. It substitutes the panicked, glorious kitchen sink mentality of the original with some sort of headache inducing frenzy, complete with camerawork that is just too much. Tsukamoto moves his camera like he is on the sugar rush from hell and I am certain that a lot of people will be put off by this. As soon as any sort of action starts there is instant migraine. Mind-blowing, soul tearing migraine. I spent the first half of the movie in a state of trance, trying not to get upset over this but suddenly I realized that I had gotten used to it. Or somehow during the process Tsukamoto discovered a pattern that your brain responds to better. I don’t know. What I do know is the fact that after this, Tetsuo - The Bullet man became a much more fun experience.

And then we come to another not so fun part. The fact that it was shot in English. I do not know the reason for this, maybe Tsukamoto has some sort of reason for it. But it doesn’t work. The American actors (per usual when it comes to non-Japanese actors in Japanese movies) aren’t particularly good. The lead actor does an ok job with the physical part of the role; the transformation into something that looks like it was ripped straight out of H.R. Gigers foundry in hell and left for dead fused to a concrete wall. But as soon as he goes for a bit of dialogue, you cringe, mostly for the fact that the dialogue doesn't feel "natural". The lead actress fares better but she struggles a bit with the English language, just enough to make you notice. And then we have Shinya Tsukamoto himself as the main baddie, not exactly fluent in English but strangely appropriate for the proceedings. Or am I just a bit more forgiving because it is the fleshmetalmaestro himself? This doesn’t really matter in the end, it is the same as with the weird camerawork - as soon as you get used to it (more accurately get sucked into it) you just go along for the ride. When The Bullet man takes on an entire swat team in his father’s house there is no going back and of course, things just get better and cooler as our hero continues to transform into something... more.

Tetsuo The Bullet man is a kickass movie that is a worthy part of the Tetsuo saga, even though it does not do everything right. I am glad that I did not watch this at a cinema; my head would most likely have exploded. It is much more suited to the small screen and those dvd subtitles are much needed. If you liked the previous parts you will most likely love this too but if you are new to this particular universe I recommend you start with the original. It is still the best one.

tisdag 13 december 2011

Brain dead (2007)

You know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you realize that the movie you have just started watching will be awesome? Ok, so there might be a small voice in the back of your head that keeps insisting that "no, the movie cant keep up this momentum. In the end, it will suck." but you ignore that and place all of your hopes on what the director (in this case Kevin S Tenney, the maker of Night of the demons and Witchboard) will dish out. When 20 minutes have passed and every single female in the movie has shown her breasts I know I truly am in for a treat.

During the precredits we follow a meteorite traveling through the universe in a decent sequence, especially considering the low budget of the movie. In an amusing sequence the meteorite (actually not much bigger than a coin) lands on earth, smacking straight through the head of a fisherman turning him into a member of that exclusive club of the living dead since the piece of rock contained an alien parasite. He kills his friend in a nice, juicy goresequence and then the movie sets about doing what it does best, bring a number of characters into a remote location so they they all can be killed in joyfully gory ways. Sometimes you dont need more than that. Not only does the first part of the movie contain the before mentioned nudity, we are also treated to an exploding head and an eyegouging followed by a head torn to pieces - all with good, practical effects. This is how Brain dead goes, from beginning to end and it is helped by a decent script and a bunch of actors who are all in on the joke. Lots of clichés and silly humour, but with a nice wink to the audience. There might be an accent or two that arent exactly believable but really, who cares? This is a movie about braineating zombies infested with alien parasites. What is more important is that you are never bored, not one second. This is guilty pleasure at its finest. The only thing that I can complain about is the zombiemakeup which mostly looks silly but on the other hand, I am a firm believer of the Italian style of claypot zombies. The makeupeffects are otherwise excellent, good old school grue.

Brain dead might not be for everyone, I'll admit that but to the likes of me that love old school gore it is a wet dream. The story is simple but effective and Kevin S Tenney is a good director, whatever the material may be. If you want 90 minutes of boobs and gore you can do much much worse.

torsdag 8 december 2011

Silk aka Gui si (2006)

I loved Hideo Nakatas The Ring and Dark Water when they arrived on the scene back in the early 2000s and spent a lot of time afterwards soaking in all the spinoffs and ripoffs that poured in from every asian country imaginable, and then some. It didnt take me long to realize that most of them were pretty awful and that fact was sealed when the american remakes started dropping in one by one. So, I gave it up. I watched a Grudge sequel or two but never with any real joy. But then I found Silk. And a bit of hope for the genre. The filmmakers takes a concept that has been milked dry and twists and turns it around a bit with a bit of intelligence and voila! We have this fine piece of entertainment.

Silk stars The Menger sponge, a mysterious proteincube that a Japanese/Taiwanese team of scientists uses to catch a ghost, a sideeffect to its real purpose - creating antigravity. To learn how to master the powerful energies that the ghost emits (that they need to create the an antigravityfield) they need to study the ghost, a small boy, and learn how he died - and why. The team keeps him sealed up in a glass chamber and they study him constantly trying to make sense of his daily, very repetetive routines. They notice that he is talking to himself and bring in a young man with a few skeletons in his closet named Wang, an expert on reading lips. Now they need to find out who the boys is, why he died and why he kills anyone who looks him into his eyes.

The movies first half is top notch when it deals mostly with the science behind all this and the mystery surrounding the ghostly boy. All of this is handled subtly and with quite a bit of intelligence without gorging on the usual jumpscars - even though it has those too. Chao Bin-su, the writer and director of Silk also made Double vision, another really well made Taiwanese horrormovie with supernatural undertones and you have the same moods here. It feels fresh and interesting to focus more on the somewhat sad detectivework trying to find out more about the boys history. Together with good direction, strong acting and excellent camerawork we get a very competent chiller with brains instead of brawns that you watch with great fascination. Silk is a horrormovie of excellent quality that does weaken ever so slightly towards the end where it cant contain itself and goes into a more full on horror spree but it still feels a lot more fresh than the usual Ringu ripoff thanks to the lovely story. A very good asian horrorflick that I really recommend to fans of smart horror and is hopefully a sign that the genre isnt dead. A doublebill with this one and Japanese Noroi - The curse would be an excellent evening.

måndag 5 december 2011

Splinter (2008)

In these times of failing economies, religious strife and a general contempt for human life and dignity, it is nice that we all can agree on one thing. There can never be enough parasitemovies. To enhance the general quality of life as we know it we need more movies with strange lifeforms that takes over and changes human beings in ways that are as painful and gory as possible. When you ponder the masses of weird lifeforms in mother nature (and our bloodstreams) there should be about a million potential movie scripts out there. But as usual we get a shitload of crappy remakes instead. Thank you very much Hollywood.

Onto Splinter, which actually is an excellent example of a good parasitemovie. The plot is simple, almost waferthin but effective enough. Its only function is to bring people to an isolated location (in this case, a petrolstation) and let them try to survive the mayhem of a nasty parasite whose only purpose in life is to kill. And assimilate of course. The Slinter beastie is a very nice creation that absorbs its victims into a snarling heap of twisted limbs straight out of John Carpenters The Thing and the infection itself can be very painful, both for the victim and the audience who has to watch bones break in very excrutiating ways. It is a simple concept that works wonders for monsterlovers like me and the practical effects are marvelous. I also love the fact that we never learn the true reason for the parasite and just accept it for what it is: A hungry creature. The acting is another strong point, they do a good job with the material they have and actually behave fairly intelligent except for a slightly goofy sequence toward the end where they are trying to outwit the beastie using cold but it is only a very minor annoyance, the sequence works tensionwise but is a bit silly. I do have a bigger beef with the camerawork where the camera is all over the place a lot of times. It's like an manual on how not to use shakeycam which means that we dont get to see the parasite as much as we would like to. A choice of the filmmakers I assume but it gets annoying as hell at times. But that is about as negative as I can be towards Splinter and it does not detract from the fun of it all, just lowers the grade from Awesome to Really good. It is a fun and gory flick full of excitement which I really recommend and wouldnt actually mind to see in a sequel or two.