Yet Another Month of Horror 2015 – Chapter 5

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Wrapping up the month with: The Serpent And The Rainbow, The Majorettes, The Flesh Eaters and The Ghoul.

 

The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988 – Wes Craven)
Thanks in part to Matt Price and his podcast “Let’s Scare Matthew Price To Death”, I’ve finally closed a huge gap in my horror knowledge by seeing – on screen no less – Craven’s enormously entertaining film. This past week Matt helped present Craven’s The Serpent And The Rainbow at The Royal cinema here in Toronto and then did a live on stage podcast directly after the film (inviting several other local podcasters to join him). I had started watching the film years ago, got 10 minutes in, tuned out and promised I’d get back to it one day – and thank goodness I did. I must’ve been in some weird zombi-fied state lo-those-many-years-ago not to have jumped head first into this movie. Granted, Bill Pullman is Bill Pullman in it and occasionally distracts from the more serious moments, but fortunately the film allows itself to play in that surreal middle ground between reality and dream and have a ball with it (that coffin scene is one for the ages). There’s also a wider view of how Haiti itself woke from their own political slumber (which is done surprisingly subtly) and a couple of proper jump scares – build-up, payoff and well-deserved audience reaction. That voodoo is gonna get ya!

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Yet Another Month of Horror 2015 – Chapter 4

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The bookends were terrific surprises as I didn’t even know they existed a week ago: Next Of Kin, Just Before Dawn, Deathdream and Don’t Deliver Us From Evil.

 

Next Of Kin (1982 – Tony Williams)
Psychological horror? Ghost story? Giallo? Slow burn thriller? Why yes, yes it is. This little known Australian flick about a woman who returns to run the family rest home after her mother passes away not only covers a variety of stylistic and thematic horror approaches, it does so wonderfully well through an extremely well-orchestrated story. Containing some lovely & creative shots, a fantastic score by Klaus Schulze (did my day ever brighten up when I saw his name in the credits) and some deft changes of pace, this is easily one of my best horror finds in a very long time.

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Cinecast Episode 392 – Man Candy

Both of the guys were at film festivals last week. Andrew at Minneapolis Int’l Film Festival and Kurt at HotDocs. We each pick four films from the screenings and give short capsule reviews. Coincidentally enough, two picks from each of us are of the western genre. Who knew you could have a western documentary, but apparently you can have more than one. Bill S. Preston Esquire directed a doc and apparently the story of Kurt Cobain has not completely been told as Montage of Heck goes deeper and is quite excellent. Michael Fassbender (who opens the audio of the show) teams up with Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn in Slow West and Brit Marling defends her manor and her life in a post Civil War wasteland in The Keeping Room. All this and more inside. Grab a cup of bottomless java and have a listen!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

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Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown

 

 

Easily the biggest surprise and possibly my overall favourite film of this year’s Toronto After Dark film festival was Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s (director of several American Horror Story episodes) take on the 1976 early slasher The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Though that little film from 1976 has its supporters and certainly has some choice moments, it seemed like an odd pick for a revisit. The original as directed by Charles B. Pierce (director and star of the head-shakingly bad Boggy Creek II – And The Legend Continues – best known for being one of MST3K’s victims) is an awkward melange of horror/docudrama/slapstick comedy that tries to tell the actual events of a masked serial killer who terrorized Texarkana in 1946. And yet…There were some well-realized moments of genuine horror and interesting filmmaking. For his first feature, Gomez-Rejon seems to have focused on those positive aspects and has built a compelling, moody, surprising and absolutely gorgeous film.

Of particular note is the way he composes his frames. More than once during the film, I found my eyes roaming about the square footage on screen, trying to pick up all the little details and contrasting different colour combinations. I’m sure I missed some clues lurking in the background, but the simple pleasure of being pulled into this lovingly created canvas and wanting to savour each little corner, shadow and object was more than enough. If that sounds like a bit of an overstatement, it’s partly due to having very few expectations regarding not only the story but the level of filmmaking. It’s not that I thought the movie was going to be bad (the trailer is quite handsome actually), but from its opening tracking shot that pans down from a Drive-In screen playing the original film (and which continued through the parking lot filled with many of the films primary characters) it was obvious that Gomez-Rejon had very strong stylistic ideas for the film – all of which actually help move the story forward and engage the audience.

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A Month of Horror 2014 – Chapter 3

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Let’s dig into a few more tasty horror treats…In this post: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Monster Club, The Town That Dreaded Sundown and Gurozuka.

 

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (Bob Clark – 1973)
I’m not sure how this “let’s get our friends together and make a movie” movie didn’t completely collapse into itself, but it somehow stayed afloat even if about 70% of the frame at any given time seems to be complete blackness. Fortunately director Bob Clark (Black Christmas and a c.v. of films almost as diverse as Robert Wise) wisely decided to clad his group of friends in brightly coloured clothing for their night time adventure through an island cemetery for fun & games and inspiration for their play. None of them seem to like each other, so calling them “friends” might be a stretch, but they all seem to follow the egotistical and nasty director who performs a number of rituals over the graveyard. Without really meaning to, he ends up accidentally waking a whole assortment of dead folks. The last 20 minutes of the movie actually work quite decently with the troupe trying to battle and escape the zombies, but it’s a bit of a challenge to get there.

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A Month of Horror 2014 – Chapter 1

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Skeptical about yet another set of October horror reviews? Can’t says I blame you, but I’m doing it anyway…My first 4 of the month: The Comedy Of Terrors, Pieces, Society and A Page Of Madness.

 

The Comedy Of Terrors (Jacques Tourneur – 1963)
A less than auspicious start. You would think that with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff all being directed by Jacques Tourneur (Jacques freakin’ Tourneur!) that you might end up with a bit more than warmed over gags, broad dull humour and an uninteresting story with staid visuals. But that’s exactly what you get here. Price and Lorre are occasionally entertaining just by their sheer presence as undertakers that need to create a market for their services, but it all becomes old pretty quickly. The musical score is possibly the worst part of the whole affair – it’s overbearing as it continually tries to tell you what’s funny with little whistles, blorps, xylophone runs and all manner of recycled generic bad kiddie TV show music. Painful at times.

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A Month of Horror 2013 – Chapter 5

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Not sure if she’s winking, squinting or wincing? Neither am I…Anyway, these were all watched in October (so it still counts towards my month): Visiting Hours, We Are What We Are, Omen IV: The Awakening and Basket Case.

 

Visiting Hours (Jean-Claude Lord – 1982)
You can only suspend belief for so long, you know? I can forgive much of the silliness in the plot of this killer-stalks-hospital slasher – especially when it handles several early scenes with pretty decent tension – but the last 30-40 minutes so obviously contrives a final showdown that you can’t help but throw your hands up (several times). It’s sheer laziness really – I get why they wanted to have Lee Grant run through long empty hospital corridors with the relentless Michael Ironside chasing her, but couldn’t they be even slightly creative in figuring out how to clear out other people? With all the commotion that had been going on in the busy hospital and with it crawling with cops, the film (without any explanations or reasons) has the killer chase his intended victim across 3 separate floors without running into a single person. Well, except for the nurse he recently wounded who was lying on a cart completely unattended (even though she was moments earlier hurriedly wheeled in due to him stabbing her). Even William Shatner couldn’t make me forget that.

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DVD Review: Slice and Dice: The Slasher Film Forever

Director: Calum Waddell
Starring: Mark Atkins, Emily Booth, John Carl Buechler, Corey Feldman, Tobe Hooper, Adam Green, Mick Garris
Producers: Naomi Holwill, Calum Waddell
Country: UK
Running Time: 75 min
Year: 2012
BBFC Certificate: 18

Documentary:
DVD Set:



There has been a minor surge of celebratory film-focussed documentaries over the last few years. I’m not sure of the correct ‘label’ for them, but I mean the type of documentary that plays as an enjoyable nostalgia-trip with a ‘fan-boy’ feel. We’ve had Not Quite Hollywood presenting the joys of Ozploitation movies, Machete Maidens Unleashed looking into the Filipino genre film industry and several celebrating the work of a single director/producer/artist, such as Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan and Corman’s World. I’m a bit of a sucker for these types of films, so I track them down whenever I can – who doesn’t like a trip down memory lane or a chance to find some lost gems within a genre you love?

So I of course leapt at the chance of reviewing Slice and Dice: The Slasher Film Forever. This is a documentary by Calum Waddell and editor/animator/producer Naomi Holwill (who have been steadily churning out featurettes for DVD/Blu-Rays for the last few years) which, as the title suggests, looks at the history and continuing love for the slasher film. We are taken through the birth of the sub-genre with films like Psycho, Peeping Tom and Bay of Blood, then into its refinement and boom in the late 70’s/early 80’s with the release of Halloween and Friday the 13th and finally looks at what’s on offer now and where the films are heading. On top of the history, the interviewees discuss the essence of what makes a slasher film and why they love them.

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VOD Review: Dream Home

Here is something different. A slow-burn, gory slasher film based on the vagaries of capitalism, in particular, the Hong Kong housing market. Writer/Director Pang Ho-Cheung has been making ‘against the grain’ Hong Kong genre busters for some time now. One his previous films, the deadpan-absurdist feminist conspiracy noir, Exodus left a lot of people scratching their heads trying to find the joke. While Pang has yet to make his masterpiece, and Dream Home isn’t it, it is strange and weird and off-putting in all the right ways. So the film is a bit of a treasure nonetheless.

Cheng Li-sheung (Josie Ho) is working multiple service-industry jobs (from retail to telemarketing to prostitution) with one clear goal in mind. She wants to live in a harbour facing apartment in an upscale neighborhood Hong Kong. These types of residences run at exorbitant rates and is clearly beyond her means. But the year is 2007 and really this type of consideration seemed moot for many, at that point. When a choice flat opens up at a very good price, she jumps at the opportunity. However when the deal falls through, (the owners realize that they underbid their own real-estate) Cheng decides to take matters into her own hands to drive property values down.

These are the times we live in, magnified by a factor of 1000. The slippery slope of capitalism gone wild, is somewhat akin to David Cronenberg’s look at violence in the media with Videodrome. If the opening scene, a clever, and brutal use of industrial strength lock-ties, doesn’t turn you off from the queasy, explicit, nonchalant execution of the film and you can look by some down-right-odd cinematography (It is often quite experimental and off-putting), then you are in for a treat. Eschewing the usual suspense and stalk antics of the slasher/giallo, Pang plays it out in a very clear-headed way. Somehow, and this is a minor miracle of sorts, he even makes you care for Cheng, even though she is clearly the villain (delightfully focused as she is.) The film is structured in flash back so as to flesh how some of her motivations, but her clear-headed sociopath evening of mayhem (the movie basically takes place over 24 hours) is well realized for its absurdity, both at the detail level, and at in the big picture.

The final joke, not unlike Exodus, is a real winner. Welcome to the horror of new-millennium capitalism folks.

Review: The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

Director: Tom Six
Writer: Tom Six
Producers: Tom Six, Ilona Six
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 90 min


I have seen one or two things in my day. I’ve been to plenty of midnight madness pictures, I’ve been to several genre film festivals and watched a guy get his arm halfway ripped off during a rodeo. I’ve seen Teeth, Irreversible, Inside and I’ve even seen a close-up of Jesus’ anus being washed by midgets. And I’m sure I’ve probably seen something more squirm inducing, facial cringing or “fingernails digging into your arm rest” type of movie scenes than anything in The Human Centipede, but for the life of me I can’t think of what they might be.

If you’ve been around the movie nets lately, you’re probably no stranger to the premise of The Human Centipede, but I’ll give it to you anyway. In a nutshell, a mad scientist captures unsuspecting victims into his isolated home and conducts experiments on them. More specifically, he needs at least three “specimens” in order to make what the movie’s title refers to as a human centipede. By surgically attaching a person’s mouth to another’s bung hole and severing the tendons in the knee, he creates what essentially looks like one part of what roughly resembles a giant centipede. Attach another’s mouth to the tail end and voila! You essentially have a human centipede. And yes, it’s as gross as it sounds.

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