Saturday, October 29, 2011

Amuck! (1972)

One of my favourite ways of storytelling is putting a bunch of people in a secluded area and make things happen. I adore good writing, and because of the setting and very few actors, the writer has to make it interesting during at least 90 minutes. Amuck is one of those movies, even if it has some scenes set in more populated areas, but most of the time it's just three actors playing a mind game with each other on a small island, motherf**king wow what a good little movie this is!

The lovely Barbara Bouchet plays Greta, a secretary hired by the wealthy author Richard Stuart (Farley Granger). He lives with his wife Eleanora (Rosalba Neri) on an island with just a few locals living on the other side. A perfect place for an author who needs peace and quiet to write his masterpieces. But Greta is not only there because she needs a job, her best friend Sally (Patrizia Viotti) worked for Richard earlier, but has now disappeared without a trace and Greta wants to find out what's happen to her. She slowly realizes that Richard and Eleanora lives a special life, a very "open-minded" sexual life, and when she sees Sally in an home made porno she understands that something has happen on the island, but who is behind the crime?

Amuck is a perfect example of a simple yet very effective storyline. With the concept director and writer Silvio Amadio gets the opportunity to show us an effective chamber play with everything from mysterious flashbacks, home made sex movies, the always reliable idea of what's fact and what's fiction, murder and paranoia. It's not a bloody movie by any means and the body count is very low, but the impact of the story is so good that it's impossible to stop watching it. Intelligent use of red herrings makes the movie good and not absurd and in the end it unfolds in a very satisfying way.

Former American movie star Farley Granger had a nice career going for him in Europe during this time, and gets here a chance to play a complex character in a very rewarding on-screen relationship with the talented Bouchet and Neri. You never know where you have him and the idea of him and his wife having such an open relationship feels actually very fresh and modern, with no visible jealousy. Another excellent idea is that the flashbacks is told like Richard is writing a book, with maybe not that realistic re-enactments of what could have happen - so basically the flashbacks is the imagination of Greta's mind!

Teo Usuelli composed the music and this is the first time I've noticed his work, but what a fantastic score it is! Erotic, atmospheric, almost dreamlike, often with the same tones pulsating heavily in the background, almost like it's something from behind the walls - like the neighbours is having an orgy or something.

Amuck (or Amuck!) is out on a bootleg from the since long dead company Eurovista. It's a fullscreen VHS-rip, but the quality is OK - especially the sound, and except a few damages on the tape it looks fine. I hope this Giallo will get a good release sometime, because it's worth reaching a wider audience.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Esmeralda Bay (1989)

After a series of hardcore movies and obscurities that never seem to have seen the light of day Jesus Franco was on the go again with several movies with bigger budgets and bigger stars, Faceless, Fall of the Eagles and finally Esmeralda Bay. Eagles and Bay is typical Eurociné productions, but with a more ambitious feeling. Maybe they had a richer financer in the background somewhere, who also demanded more for the money. I know "real" Jess Franco fans tends to dislike Franco's more commercials projects, but I think they are excellent proof for what an excellent storyteller Franco was. Sometimes mainstream is needed to show us that part of a filmmakers talent.

It's actually quite similar to Fall of the Eagles, but set in the fictional country of Puerto Santo. We follow businessman Wilson (George Kennedy), who deals weapons with the local rebels and Robert Forster as Madero, the leader of the military police on the island. In the middle is the good-hearted banana republic-president Ramos (Fernando Rey) and the rebels, among them Ramon Estevez and Brett Halsey, all fighting for their own cause. The Americans want the military crushed and have planted their own under cover agents in the middle of this little war, and everything leads to the battle of Esmeralda Bay...

I have to admit that it's a bit boring in the beginning, but as soon as the intrigues starts Esmeralda Bay becomes an involving thriller-drama with some nice stock footage action at the end. In smaller parts we have Lina Romay (and she's excellent as the pathetic mistress of Madero), Antonio Mayans and Daniel Grimm, all doing great jobs with the material they have. George Kennedy is a pro, and so also Forster (who works together with his name-nemesis, "Robert Foster" - aka Antonio Mayans) who have a lot fun and energy has the intensive military leader.

Franco is an obvious hired gun here, to lead the ship to harbour in time (which he also does in the movie, in a cameo as captain of a boat) and make the producers happy. But with the time and money he had, and a great cast, he also delivers a good - if a bit generic - war drama with gorgeous cinematography and - for once - real squibs (Eurociné have a tendency to prefer non-squib shootings in most of their movies). There's really no depth in the story, but it's easy to see where Franco put his talent - in the drama parts. Few other movies can have so boring dialogues and still be interesting to watch.

Esmeralda Bay is out on a good-looking Spanish DVD, fullscreen and with English dub. It's cheap and worth buying.

"The Killer Elephants is about fucking shit up"

"The Killer Elephants is all killer and no filler. There isn't a moment that goes by in the film that could be considered boring, it moves at lightning speed and works with maximum efficiency, leaving exploded cars and building in its wake. There is some semblance of a plot about good guys and bad guys and a good cop who got framed and some drugs and some other stuff, but it isn't about all that. The Killer Elephants is about fucking shit up. Whether that shit is a jeep or a house, it doesn't matter. Blow that mother fucker up!"
Yeah, another amazing review, this time from Twitch! Read the whole text here!

And I will be back with reviews soon, it's just been a very busy week with other things. Just keep your eyes open, I think I can feel a Jess Franco coming up sooner or later...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Killer Elephants - now at Diabolik DVD!

Yes, now it's possible to buy the Attackafant Entertainment DVD of The Killer Elephants at Diabolik DVD. Get it here!

Prepare for trashy fun! Just watch the trailer!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You wanna read about Mark Dacascos and exploding helicopters?

Then I suggest you head over to Exploding Helicopter ("Celebrating the cinematic art of helicopter explosion") and read my guest review of DNA, the amazing DTV-classic starring Mark Dacascos and Jürgen Prochnow... and Pong Pong. Read all about it here!

The Coroner (1999)

Many years ago I was hanging at a video store in my old home town. I knew the owner and also a lot of the nerds running around there. One of the movies that the nerds talked about was a little production called The Coroner they said it was incredible bad! I never saw it, but a couple of years ago I found Shadowbuilder (with Michael Rooker ya know) on DVD in the bargain bin at my local supermarket. It was one of those ultra-cheap discs with several movies on, and one of them was The Coroner. So today I actually decided to watch it and it more or less lived up to the legend of being bad: it's very bad. But still kinda enjoyable in a freaky way. But it's hard to write about movie that's so incompetent, so empty and so stupid. What could I do? Well, I did what every normal person would do: grabbed my copy of The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey and consulted The Nine Satanic Sins, and here's what I came up with:

The Nine Satanic Sins

1. Stupidity
- Oh, stupidity is the biggest sin in The Coroner. I love how the police department refuses to investigate a suspect just because he's THE coroner in town, even if there's tons and tons of physical evidence against him. This is just a small stupidity compared to the whole movie, but I need to choose something.

2. Pretentiousness
- The Coroner is guilty of pretentious flashback-moments, and use of even more pretentious flashforwards.

3. Solipsism
- The whole movie is based on solipsism, that the only thing that counts it's the main characters own experiences, reasons and opinions. She hits a person in court just because she think he's wrong, she also - someone tells us - once called a dog to the witness stand because the dog is a better witness than a human. She's bitch, to use a more frank word.

4. Self-deceit
- The Coroner, because of it's pretentiousness actually think it's an important piece of thriller. A good thriller, a good drama with some intelligent satire. Eh, it's not. And I guess self-deceit also includes not noticing how the concrete wall bounces around like a cheap whore when someone is banging a head in it.

5. Herd Conformity
- Yes, following the mainstream is a good thing sometimes. But not when you complete lack talent to do your own Silence of the Lambs and Seven.

6. Lack of Perspective
- Obviously a film team that forgotten than they can't make movies. They just don't have "it". Very painful, indeed.

7. Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies
- They made bad movies 100 years ago. Why make a bad movie again?

8. Counterproductive Pride
- Pride made the makers of this movie continue, and it destroyed them in the end. Sure, it's nice that the movie was made - not many people make a movie - but why didn't they realize no one involved had any kind of talent?

9. Lack of Aesthetics
- The Coroner is so ugly. SO UGLY. And no one involved seem to understand it. SOOOOO UGLY!

The Coroner was actually distributed by Roger Corman's New Horizons, but I doubt he ever saw the movie itself. The director, Juan A. Mas, was a long-time collaborator with Corman, mostly as second-unit. Maybe he should have stuck with filming inserts of feet getting out of cars, close-up of hands and those exciting scenes of airplanes landing and taking off that someone always need to shoot for ever darn movie.

Many words about a crappy movie. But I'm unemployed and kinda borded, so I'll blame it on that.

Frightmare (1983)

Non-graphic murders in horror movies like strangulation, drowning and gassing should be forbidden. A badly executed graphic murder scene is still a graphic murder scene. Frightmare does not have any scenes involving drowning, but are still guilty on all accounts of skipping gory deaths. This is of course a sin as big as any other cinematic sin when it comes to making a genre movie less attractive for a bloodthirsty audience. It's a pity, because Frightmare is quite good and ambitious compared to others in the same sub-genre.

Ferdy Mayne (what kinda name is that anyway, Ferdy?) plays Conrad Radzoff, an aging horror star stuck in crappy TV-commercials and making appearances at film festivals and conventions. That don't stop him from suffer from extreme megalomani. After collapsing at a university, during a Q&A, he retires to his home and decides to take revenge on his old director, and then he dies. A couple of the students from the university attends his funeral and decides to kidnap his corpse and party with it all night long, which is of course a very bad idea. With the help of some black magic Conrad Radzoff comes alive again and starts hunting down the kids having fun with his dead body!

Director and writer Norman Thaddeus Vane creates a good-looking movie with a story similar to the better and bloodier 1987 oddity Bloody Movie. In one of the parts we see a very young Jeffrey Combs, who got cast because he had the same hair-colour as the fake head being used in a not so interesting decapitation later on in the movie. It's easy to see that he got himself a long career, charisma all the way and a lot of talent on display.

I love movies, especially horror movies, set in the world of horror movies. It's always a pleasure and gives the filmmakers opportunities to make references to good movies, actors and other filmmakers. I guess that was the plan with Frightmare and Vane really makes a good job with the visuals and some sly in-jokes. Conrad Radzoff seem to be based on the legends: Cushing, Lee, Karloff and Price and Mayne makes a good job both spoofing and celebrating their careers and personas. The scenes are filled with fog and smoke, spooky staircases, a big mansion, graves and nicely lit night scenes - but something is missing. First of all, it's hard to understand why Radzoff wants to take revenge. He might be crazy, but obviously has some sense of humour and would probably never be that angry if someone stole his body. The other thing is the lack of creative kills.

I never understood the point of making a bloodless slasher. Why the f**k would someone want to do something like that? Even of the murder-set-pieces are nicely done, they are weak and has no power at all. A tongue-ripping is obviously cut and the decapitation is sloppily edited and filmed in complete darkness. The rest is non-graphic kills: strangling, gassing, someone getting hit by a coffin and dies that way, etc etc.

With some gore and blood Frightmare would have been a lot better, a lot more entertaining. Because you can never fool fans, slashers aren't high art - they are Grand Guignols of teen angst.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall of the Eagles (1989)

I'm a man of emotions. I can't stand people who actually know something more about a filmmaker than the filmmaker himself. When it comes to Jess Franco there's an interesting and recurring opinion that some of Franco's movies are not Franco at all, but just something he did because he got a big pay check. Well, fuck you all. Franco has always mixed an artistic sensibility with crass commercialism. Why do you think he zoomed his camera to every pussy in the frame? He probably liked it himself, but he (and his producers) also knew that pussy sells tickets. It's that simple. So when Franco directed some of his more mainstream productions, like Bloody Moon or Faceless (both excellent movies, especially the latter) certain fans just couldn't stand that he did something that even a normal horror fan could appreciate. I tell you know and for the first and last time, Franco's style hasn't changed much at all. Faceless is as much Franco as The Awful Dr. Orlof, and even Franco considers Faceless to me a full-blown Franco-movie! That brings me to Fall of the Eagles, a Eurociné-produced WW2-drama released in 1989. A movie that has been blamed for not being Franco enough for years. Let me tell you, that's as wrong as it can be.

Not that the story in Fall of the Eagles is something special, but it has a few interesting ideas. First of all, it's set in a storyline where Germans are the "heroes". I mean, there's good Germans and there's bad Germans as usual, but even the baddies has a lot of character and are multi-layered in a way that an American filmmaker never could have done it. Like several of Umberto Lenzi's WW2 movies this is also about the war coming and splitting up friends and enemies all over Europe, and how they deal with the war, love and politics. The main patriarch is the old businessman Walter Strauss (Christopher Lee) and his talented daughter Lillian (Alexandra Ehrlich) who decides to do her duty for the Fatherland and joins the much to the dismay of her father, who are a convinced Nazi, but don't want her to sacrifice her life. His best friend is an open-minded woman, Lena (Teresa Gimpera) who maybe, maybe not, transforms his life when something is happening. Lillian is in a love-triangle with the young and optimistic soldier Karl Holbach (Ramon Estevez) and SS officer Peter Froehlich (Mark Hamill), but ditches them both to do her part in the war....

Like always, Franco is a drama-director and he's not that really interested in the war itself, only what it can do with people. And to my surprise, because I was fooled by the negative words, this is a very nice drama, directed with Jess Franco's same talent for subtle character-developments and gorgeous cinematography by Jean-Jacques Bouhon (who also shot Faceless). I love how Franco let the faces talk, for example the last ironic scene when Lillian is staring empty in front of her while the cigarette smoke of American soldiers caresses her face. Fall of the Eagles is just one part silly WW2 film, but the bulk of it is traditional European arthouse-drama with an intelligent deconstructing of the German family, not necessary in a negative way, because we're talking humans here. Not Spielbergian stereotypes.

Another interesting detail is Captain Anton (Daniel Grimm), a gay Nazi officer who actually is damn nice and wants to make good - but fate wants something else. His homosexuality is discussed very shortly and he's a bit upset that a woman calls him queer, because he's can't approve of such a degrading word of what he is. "I'm just a nice guy pretending to be bad because no one respects a nice guy." Another tragedy of war, but in a smaller scale.

There's not nudity, but if you aren't lazy and willing to dissect the movie you will find it's a lot of Franco-esque undertones. From the frail love-triangle, the father that refuses - not something you would see in a Hollywood-movie - to abandon his believes in the Arian race, the deathbed-marriage, the nightclub-singing and a lone Nazi playing organ in a church. Just those small poetic moments that Franco is a master of. But this is also commercial war-movie, but I think all war-scenes are lifted from other movies (among them scenes that also showed up in Franco's Oasis of the Zombies), but are edited into the newly shot footage in a good way. If you're not used to European exploitation or having basic knowledge in film stock and editing you would probably never notice the change of quality or rhythm in the editing.

The actors are also very good, especially Christopher Lee who makes an amazing performance - maybe the best he's ever done with Franco and probably the best he did during this part of his career. A surprise is Ramon Estevez, Charlie Sheen's older brother, who makes a fine job as the young ambitious German soldier. Mark Hamill, an old favorite of me, is good to - but it makes me wonder how the hell he could go from Star Wars to Eurociné in just a couple of years? Either it was a conscious choice or he just had a very bad agent.

Fall of the Eagles is released in the Czech Republic under the title Pád Orlů, and it's a good and cheap DVD. Slightly letterboxed, often good colour and sharpness. Probably taken directly from Eurociné's master-tape. Hardly BD quality, but well worth buying (for example from here!).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mind Ripper (1995)

After watching The Hills Have Eyes part II the only logical continuation would to watch the movie that first was planned to be part III, but before shooting began changed title and was rewritten to be Mind Ripper! And it might be a story about fucking around with genetics in an underground base, but it feels so damn much Hills Have Eyes that it's hard to see it as anything else than a twisted little sequel. My memories of this has always been quite on the bad side, but during the years I've started to appreciate DTV exploitation more and more and now I can say, without shame, that this is a quite entertaining flick, especially for us DTV-fans.

Lance Henriksen is Stockton, a scientist who together with his colleagues finds a body in the desert, a man nearly dead. They fill him with experimental drugs and medicines and makes him come alive again, miraculous getting better from his serious wounds. Stockton leaves the project and looks forward to a nice summer together with his teenager children, but need to drop by his old desert-facility. But without them knowing it, shit has hit the fan and man, called Thor, has escaped and is mutating to a almost unbeatable beast - killing off everyone that enters the underground base!

It might not seem like it on my little text above, but it's a perfect sequel to The Hills Have Eyes part II. "Thor" was probably a wounded member of the family, maybe Pluto, and of course the US government want to use a rare specimen like that to transform into a killer-soldier! And then we have the camping family, but this time with a plane instead of a van! Mind Ripper is a very cheap production. It looks cheap, the directing is quite everywhere possible and there's not specific style of the movie. It does not help that the UK DVD from Anchor Bay looks like someone ate the master and puked it up before putting it on disc.

But Mind Ripper succeeds in being a fun Alien-style rip-off with a mutant instead of an alien. The cheap interiors, probably a basement in Sofia, Bulgaria, somewhere, works better than expected and the cast is a lot better than this movie deserved in the first place. Lance Henriksen is not bad at all, especially in the scenes together with Giovanni Ribisi and Natasha Gregson Wagner as his children. Claire Stansfield is good also.

The highlight of Mind Ripper is the excellent make-up effects and the gore. The latter is not in any enormous amounts, but brutal and nasty - and it's always disgusting see someone tear off his toenail by mistake! A nice eye-stabbing and a few other blood-spurting scenes makes this a fun monster-romp.

Hardly a masterpiece, but I have a soft spot for direct-to-video productions that actually deliver some bloodshed and good acting, without any pretentions of being high art. I doubt the R2UK is the best version around, the picture seemed cropped - it was probably shot with 4:3 ratio in mind, but it's cheap anyway.

I guess the only way to go now is to watch The Hills Have Eyes 2, or what do you all say? :)

The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985)

I once worked for one of the Swedish financers behind The Hills Have Eyes Part II. He also raised money, part of it from Sweden, to First Blood. That one became a huge success and made him a rich man for a few years during the eighties, before he wasted it on import wives and booze. But one thing was for sure, The Hills part II was a financial disaster and didn't make any money at all. Not that the original is any favorite of mine, it's one of Wes Craven's weaker "classics", but here Craven just took the job to make some money because he was close to bankruptcy and needed cash fast and without any hazzle. The result become on of the dumbest sequels produced - but it's still quite entertaining, believe or not.

Wes Craven proudly jumps the shark with this hilarious sequel which in a very forced way connects its story to the original movie from 1977. Robert Houston once again plays Bobby, the surviving son from the first movie. He's nowadays a motocross champion... or something... and is planning to the desert again with his friends to a competition. But just before they're leaving Bobby gets a nervous breakdown and they have to go alone - but with Rachel (Janus Blythe) as a protector. She's really Ruby from the first movie, the daughter of our beloved mutant-family! Anyway, because they're late they take a shortcut and ends up stranded in the middle of the desert and gets to meet the family once again...

Everything in this movie is SO stupid. It's hard to even imagine how stupid it is if you haven't seen it. From the legendary "dog-having-a-flashback"-scene to one of the female characters suddenly taking an outdoor shower because "she can't miss a chance like this", and this is in the middle of the night when something fishy obviously is happening around them, her friends disappearing etc. I also need to mention that the final girl is blind, but actually walks around and escapes the family over and over again like she actually can see very, very good!

It's like director/writer Craven just didn't give a shit what was going on! Why introduce an important character like Bobby just to let him go and never be seen again? The overall feeling was that he would show up and save the day in the end, but NOOOO! And how come Ruby is a flashy business-style woman involved with motocross-competitions in this movie? The mutant family obviously is masters on motocross driving also! The movie itself is sloppily edited, has one of the worst visual effects I've seen (when the dog runs away in the night, you will understand when you see it...) and has very uneven lighting! The direction goes from competent to just crap within a blink of an eye in some sequence and the ending is a very elaborate and unnecessary trap that just feels pointless.

Not everything is bad. The movie is quite entertaining and moves along nicely. Michael Berryman is as usual just fantastic and he gets more to do here. Not much gore except a nice bloody throat-slit with machete. Not bad. The best thing with the movie is the location, an old mining village. Very atmospheric place and here we see a lot of nice cinematography and some good directing and editing.

Right now I'm having a flashback to the time when I wrote a review of a better movie, probably with fewer words. So I will get a nervous breakdown and stop this now. The End.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Killer Elephants - review by

The kind people at Tellusfilm wrote a very fine review of Attackafants first DVD-release, The Killer Elephants. You can all all read it in Swedish here, but they were very nice and translated the review to English for you non-Swedes to read! Enjoy!

The other night I put ”The Killer Elephants”, hot from the presses, into my DVD-player. You don’t recognize the title? Not that strange perhaps. It’s a relative obscure Thai action movie from 1976, nothing you will find at your local movie rental shop’s Top Ten shelf. If it hadn’t been for the newly started distribution company Attackafant Entertainment, which released this movie in collaboration with Njutafilms, we poor freezing Swedes would probably never have had a chance to see it.

The story isn’t that obvious, men honestly: if you’re going to watch a movie with the title “The Killer Elephants”, is the story really that important? That’s what I thought. But to put it short, it seems to be a cop that with more or less help from a slightly less law-obedient acquaintance tries to free a village from a terrorizing gangster. At least that’s what I think it’s about, I was busy following all the brawls and car chases. Elephants? Yup, there is some nice elephant action as well.

The first time I heard about the movie, or rather the title, I thought it was a movie about killer elephants, perhaps the mutated result of a scary experiment gone wrong. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. These are regular elephants, albeit used as demolition artists and car crushers. Very cool (even if mutated killer elephants would have been even cooler). There’s also a scene in this movie that I’m willing to bet a few bucks will never be reproduced in another movie. Bandits knocked out cold by elephant penises are tragically underrepresented in movies, that’s all I can say.

I had a blast watching “The Killer Elephants”. It’s obvious that 70’s action from Asia not always was that different from its western counterpart regarding the actual core of the storytelling. There’s a lot of “Hey ho, let’s go”.

I was positively surprised about the picture and sound quality. Call me narrow-minded, but if someone says “Thai action from 1976” I expect pretty awful quality, in the vein of fourth or fifth generation VHS copy (if anyone out there remember those). This looked pretty good however. Sure, there are some dirt and scratches from place to place, but nothing too disturbing.
I want to send a personal “Thank you” to the man behind Attackafant Entertainment, who with this (and hopefully many more in the future) release broadens the Swedish DVD market to include more than just the latest special effects lollapaloozas from Hollywood. Knowing Attackafant’s main agenda is pure love for all thing movies rather than just making money makes it all even more admirable. That attitude renders a standing ovation in my book.

So, go buy yourself a copy of “The Killer Elephants” now. If you for some reason don’t like it, you can still stand tall and proudly proclaim “That elephant-penis-knockout-movie? Yeah, I’ve seen it.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Snuff Trap (2003)

When I first heard of Bruno Mattei's "comeback" into the old style of exploitation, Snuff Trap (aka Snuff Killer) was the first production I heard about. But I stayed away from it through the years, mostly because it seemed like a normal soft-porn film and I'm not interested in that genre. Then Mattei started to make movies with cannibals, zombies, WIP and demons and suddenly I understood what he was doing: restarting the old tradition of true Italian exploitation. So my interested turned back to Snuff Trap and especially after I realized it was partly inspired my Joel Schumacher's underrated 8MM (starting Mr Hair himself, Nicolas Cage) and just wasn't another boring skin flick.

Carla Solaro (a veteran from several Tinto Brass productions) plays Michelle, a rich French woman living with a esteemed politician. She has a daughter from a previous relationship, Lauren (Federica Garuti, I think...) who one night disappears after living la dolce vita at a fancy night club. Michelle's husband does not want her to contact the police because his political ambitions and Michelle starts her own investigation and decides to go undercover in the seedy pornographic underworld to find the kidnappers - and it leads to a downward spiral of sex, torture and... snuff!

At the first glance Snuff Trap looks like a porn movie. The digital material is not processed in any special way and the pre-credits looks as cheap and primitive as they can get. The lighting is flat and the acting suffers from being dubbed by other actors. But Mattei gets things going, and even if it's a boring mission to rip-off 8MM with a DV camera and a very low budget, he's doing a very fine job with giving the movie a nice pace and even if it's filled with a lot of footage of people walking, it's not boring. It lives it's own life and handles that well.

The basic premise is taken from 8MM, but only one or two scenes are directly taken from that movie. The rest is an "original" story that works quite well, better than it should. While it's hard to say something about the actors because of the somewhat cartoonish dubbing, their presence is not bad and in true Mattei-tradition we're treated to some gratuitous over-acting in the best possible way. My favorite actors are Anita Auer as Dr. Hades and Albert Ruocco as Roy, her slightly effeminate assistant and manservant. Here we have some over-the-top performances in a good way, from people who probably knew that they had nothing to loose and that this was a good movie to have some fun with their characters. If was a filmmaker I would make a movie only with these two sleazing around in Hamburg!

One thing that surprised me with Snuff Trap was that it wasn't as graphic as I imagined beforehand! Sure, it has tons and tons of nudity (and even some real hardcore and nasty S/M on TV-monitors) and a few deaths, but it stays far away from the worst things. I can't say it's classy product (...and it would probably offend notorious Swedish morality-protector Janne Ahlgren a LOT) but it's enough serious to be seen as a "real" thriller and not a soft porn masterpiece.

Snuff Trap is another fun exploitation movie from the fantastic mind of the late master Bruno Mattei. Oh, I wish he could have stayed well and alive and worked for another lifetime. But shit happens, so even to filmmakers we hold dear...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Attack of the Robots (1966)

Here's a fine little movie, Attack of the Robots, directed in 1966 by maestro Uncle Jess Franco and starring the one and only Eddie Constantine (and a cameo from his son, Lemmy Constantine also). Made during the big spy-craze during the sixties when every company wanted their own Bond-style movie. Attack of the Robots makes references to Bond and is well aware of what it's suppose to be, but it's not only a fun Bondish action movie, it's a seriously good movie who should be seen by much more people out there, not only fans of Franco.

Eddie Constantine is Al Pereira, a secret agent and an ex-alcoholic who lives a nice life pretending not to be a secret agent any more. Until a dangerous crime organization led by Sir Percy (Fernando Rey) sends out robot-esque assassins to kill the worlds most important leaders in politics, religion and other unnecessary bastards. They aren't really robots, but controlled with an electronic device in their glasses and it's all connected to their blood type. So Al Pereira is sent to Spain to investigate, and is directly contacted - a bit brutal - by a Chinese crime organization who also wants to get the technology to control people. Soon Al is hunted by the Chinese, the Spaniards and his own bosses wanting him to close the case once and for all!

Witty and charming are two of the words I could use to describe this movie. Other words are "great looking", "funny" and "tongue-in-cheek". This is, much like The Girl from Rio, a movie that spoofs the spy-genre and do both with respect and with comedic perfection. Franco and his co-writer, Jean-Claude Carrière, plays with every cliché in the book and do it so well. My favourite scene is when Pereira is presented the gadgets, an exploding umbrella, electric gloves, exploding cigar, a flute that could crush glass with it's sound and he just looks scared, because every gadget is so damn dangerous for him also! Another fine scene is a send-up on the typical "arriving to a new country with postcard-stock footage on the beautiful city" which here ends in Pereira only finding an packed tourist-bus with extremely dirty windows, which shows us nothing for the beautiful scenery outside. It's like a scene from a Marx Brothers movie!

But Attack of the Robots it's not just fun and games, there's a lot of nice fistfights, and some more advanced fighting from the "robots", especially when they meet the Chinese in Pereira's hotel room where both gangs are set to kill or kidnap him. This also ends in a scene where our hero needs to hide dead bodies from a sexy woman trying to seduce him.

And yes, of course Uncle Jess makes a cameo as a jazz-pianist. Important detail!

The movie was shot on a low budget but looks great and has a lot of action, stunts, comedy and fun actors and it never gets boring. A very competent movie and another proof of Franco's skills as a storyteller. The only way to see Attack of the Robots, except old video tapes, is the DVD-R from Sinister Cinema. It's taken from a 16 mm print and looks good, but is heavily cropped on the sides - but it almost seems like Franco have that in mind because it still looks good even if some of the shots are a bit cramped. This is clearly visible in the credits, but except that it's a good way to see the movie.

Cinema skriver om The Killer Elephants!

I förra numret av Cinema skrivs det faktiskt om The Killer Elephants!
"KILLER ELEPHANTS är förmodligen en av tidernas märkligaste filmer. Thailands största actionhjälte, Sombat Matanee’s spelar en man vars fru kidnappas av banditer. Då tar han sin flock med elefanter och ger sig ut på en räddnings action utan like. Det krossas hyddor, välts bilar och en stackars sate blir knockad av en elefantballe, något man inte ser varje dag!" - Jason Meredith
Vi på Attackafant Entertainment känner oss stolta till att ha bidragit med ordet "elefantballe" i Sveriges mesta filmtidning! :D

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SS Girls (1977)

This is how I see it: Gabriele Carrara woke up one ordinary boring morning. The phone rang and an intensive voice asked him if he was interested in doing a movie. "Yeah, fuck yeah!" screamed Gabriele to the unknown caller and asked for time and place for casting. No need for casting, the voice replied. We've seen you at the local theatre, and you fits perfect in this movie. Could this be a dream, could this really be happening? Our newly discovered movie star was happier than ever. He would show the world what a magnificent actor he was, finally!

A couple of weeks later and Gabriele was on location, a nice villa outside Rome. The script wasn't half bad, but he sensed that the director - a newbie named Bruno Mattei, an excellent editor but beginner as a director - didn't know what he was doing. Time for our hero's first big scene and Gabriele did, what he thought, a perfect take. But Mattei wanted "more", "bigger", "energy". So he did the scene again, this time with some extra "schwung". But that wasn't enough. "You have to act like this is your last day alive!", Bruno almost screamed at his actor. "Remember, your character is doomed and I want to see that in your performance!".

So Gabriele Carrara gave all he got, and the rest is history.

Basically a rip-off on Tinto Brass masterpiece Salon Kitty, but in a way it's maybe more entertaining, more shocking and more spectacular - but with a budget not even close to the catering budget on Tinto's movie. I don't know if this movie came first, or if Women's Camp 119 was Mattei's first big break into exploitation cinema, but SS Girls is almost a perfect nazisploitation movie, made by someone who knew exactly what he was doing.

I mean, we real fans always knew that Mattei was a master. He was a talented director and a good storyteller, but with (often) trashy scripts and bargain bin actor ensembles (nothing bad with that, just a detail). Mattei fully understood the magic of exploitation, of making a quick buck. He understood that if he took the best from other movies, tossed in more sleaze and violence, and he would have a success. But he also realized that for an exploitation movie to sell, to be appreciated by the audience, it need to be told professionally and with a story people could follow - even if the story was stolen from a big budget Hollywood movie with aliens.

SS Girls is, in-between the sleaze and nudity, an almost dreamlike experience with a lot of fascinating and beautiful scenes. Most of the don't hang together, but each scene is like a provocative piece of sleazy art with more ambition than I think the ordinary eurocult-Joe on the screen could imagine. It runs for ninety minutes and it feels like, at the most, forty minutes of well-paced melodrama. So it's a good movie, really. If you don't agree with me, give it another shot and watch it from my viewpoint.

But the main reason for watching SS Girls is the presence of Gabriele Carrara, an actor who chews the scenery, spits it out and eats it again with some extra Italian cheese on the top. I think we all can agree that this is over-acting, pure classic over-acting done the correct way. Gabriele steals every scene he's in (and he's in most of them) and plays the character totally straight - but with some excessive acting as a bonus. He loves what he's doing and it shines through to us in the audience, and that's why Mattei have him on camera almost the whole movie - because the camera loves him and he loves the camera.

SS Girls is probably the best sleaze movie I've seen. It's also, so far, the only nazisplotation I liked to 100 percent. It's out now from Njuta Films and this is something you need to own and enjoy for the rest of your lives.

The Attackfants are here!

I'll get back to you with a detailed list of links where to buy Attackafant Entertainment's first DVD, Kom Akadej's The Killer Elephants! Here's the specs:

The Killer Elephants

Prepare to get squashed!

This ain't no circus! From the depths of Thai film history comes Kom Akadej’s forgotten masterpiece about cops, gangsters, a house-crushing story of love, and… killer elephants! Starring legendary superstar Sombat Metanee and a who’s who of 1970’s Thai cinema! Filled with the traditional stunts and action of Thailand, from brutal fistfights to extravagant car chases!

For the first time on an official DVD comes the international version of The Killer Elephants, a movie never before released on any home video format in Thailand. Attackafant Entertainment is proud to present this action-packed lost cult classic to a wider audience!

Special DVD features
Widescreen version of The Killer Elephants, sourced from VHS.
An Introduction to The Killer Elephants by Regis Madec
International theatrical trailer
Artwork gallery

Technical Specifications
Fullscreen 4:3
English with Swedish or English subtitles
Region All

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Porno Holocaust (1981)

I'm not sure how to start this review. I've been sitting here for ten minutes trying to figure out something smart to say about Joe D'Amato's Porno Holocaust. But sorry, it's more or less impossible to write something smart. Maybe I should fill this review with comments about how much I love Anthropophagus and the brilliance of Beyond the Darkness and Death Smiles on a Murderer? Maybe some words about what an excellent cinematographer D'Amato was? No, I can't do that, because I've been strong enough to sit through this awful mix of porn and horror and I need to talk about it, I need to clean my eyes with soap and hit my back bloody with at least ten lashes of that sinful whip I have in the basement. Then I'll be pure and free again.

A bunch of nobodies goes to an island to investigate claims that a monster is running around there killing people. Then they fuck - a lot. And then the monster fucks a lot. And then some more fucking. Radioactive penis. The end.

I think that was a realistic retelling of the story, more or less. Could have cut some parts of the story for you, spoilers and stuff. But what the hell, I think you'll survive.

But how the fuck should I review this flick? I guess "fuck" is a good word because that is what people are doing a lot during almost two hour of this masterpiece. They fuck here and there, some lesbian, a threesome with two local guys with huge dicks (bigger than the monster's), some fucking with each other and finally the monster fucks around a little bit - raping I guess, but the women seem quite enthusiastic and often helps him with putting the penis where it should go. Ah yes, then the final two survivors escape with a boat and fucks out at the sea also.

The last time I saw Porno Holocaust was at a fifth or sixth generation dupe and I can swear that the porn was edited out of that version, or I was probably asleep during the more graphic scenes. Here it's very graphic, yes... hardcore, which was a surprise after all these years. Now, I kinda think hardcore porn is quite boring and especially in a horror movie. So how about the horror? If you count one black dude with a silly latex-thing in his face a monster, I guess that's horror for you. If you think it's so cool with red paint smeared over peoples faces and call that gore, I guess this is a horror movie for you.

For me it's just trash. And guess what, it's a movie you have to own! Imagine this: that boring co-worker and his wifey comes home to your place and sees the enormous cock... eh, movie collection. They are used to Swedish cop-movies and, at the most, 40 Year Old Virgin. They have never seen so much weird movies before. They ask you what you recommend to begin with and you take down Porno Holocaust from the Joe D'Amato-section and says: "This is it. The ultimate horror movie. See it together with your mother and father!".

That's the main point with Porno Holocaust, because it's not only an ordinary fuck-movie, it's a "what the fuck"-movie also - and should be treated that way. Good luck with your co-workers parents now and don't blame the upcoming scandal on me please.

This amazing movie is out from Njuta Films NOW and you better buy it before I'll convince you not to!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Bite (1989)

How about this storyline: a young couple travels through New Mexico, the man gets bitten by a radioactive snake who transforms his arm to a killer snake! Not to forgot the short stop at a gas station where the owner has a dog-monster in his basement! Wtf?! And do you know what? This is an extremely entertaining movie, totally absurd and very well-made. Why?

First of all, The Bite is boring. It keeps up the pace like a pro, never stops for any unnecessary plot-twists or romantic storytelling-roadblocks. Frederico Prosperi (who also made the wacky Wild Beasts) tells his story with frantic editing and actors who knows exactly what they're doing. It might only be Bo Svenson who seem to be somewhere else (probably longing for a bottle of whiskey and the TV at his hotel room) and just slums along to make the day go faster. Another odd casting choice is Jamie Farr as a travelling salesman, and he's not bad at all. It's like he's wanted to do something similar for a long time, and he's inspired and plays his part with both one part seriousness and one part tongue in cheek.

There's not much to write about The Bite, because it's main reason for existing is the awesome and ultra-cool special effects by Screaming Mad George! It was a couple of years since I watched The Bite the last time, but during this period I happen to forget the insanity in the effects-department. From the monster-dog, who's just in the movie for a minute or two, to the gory jaw-rippings (not one, but two of 'em!) - including one where the snakehand also crawls down the throat and rips out the heart of of the victim. The other main effects-sequence is when our hero finally is taken over by the snake-thingie and he's body is pressing out snakes, big and small! Gory, fun, graphic and spectacular. I love the bizarre scene when his head is split open to reveal a giant snake!

I mean, The Bite is not a movie filled with stuff you haven't seen before (Hmm... the head/snake thing maybe...) and is a typical cheesy horror movie from a time when this kind of movies was dying. It would have fit better as a movie from 1984-1985 than from 1989, but that makes it so damn charming to.

Give The Bite a new chance, forget about the haters and judge for yourself!

Curse of the Devil (1974)

The fourth movie (fifth if you count the never released - and maybe not even existing - Las noches del Hombre Lobo) with Paul Naschy as the unlucky nobleman Waldemar Daninsky, Curse of the Devil is one of the slickest and most commercial entry in the werewolf-saga. Even if I love the work of Naschy, more than a few of his movies lacks a coherent storyline and tries to mix everything into one story, which makes them a bit confusing. Here's the story is clear enough even for me to understand.

The movie starts with Irineus Daninsky (Naschy of course) chopping the head of an enemy in a duel. The family of the now headless dead guy puts a spell on Daninsky. Cut to modern times, and the - as usual - hunky Naschy gets the spell again from a descendant of the guy his forefather killed. He befriends a nearby family and falls in love with one of the daughters, but both daughters fall in love with him (surprise!) and this complicates things of course. But even worse, the werewolf-spell now works and every full moon Daninsky is transformed into a hairy beast and soon no one is safe in the village!

Believe it or not, but the story works very fine and there's an effective love story and a lot of werewolf-attacks. As usual people claims this is a gory movie. It's not, but it's a BLOODY movie - which is a big difference. So there's not lack of the red fluid here, trust me! Just don't expect graphic throat bites and bellies ripped open in gory fashion.

The only time I reacted to something, that kinda took me out of the story, was when one of the characters goes out in the yard and stumbles over a dead body that lies on the open ground without her seeing it. It's like something from a parody, because there's no doubt she would have seen the body. But details like that is just for people who must say that a movie is so bad it's good, just because they can't stand really liking a "b-movie". Mistakes can never destroy a movie. The only bad movies are boring movies.

I think this movie really shows the charisma and talent of Paul Naschy. From the intensive and colourful acting to showing of his torso from time to time. Naschy was well aware of his interesting sex appeal, probably both aimed at a female and male audience. He's not a typical handsome man, but more of a strong, cuddly and macho guy with an impressive way of just being very likable. You would never confuse the real Naschy with characters. He seem to have been a quite soft person in real life, liberal-minded and one-woman only. Maybe his films was a way to be able to play something very different from himself and having some fun at the same time?

Naschy took famous characters, or concept, and injected them with some sleaze, gore and blood - but still stayed surprisingly old-fashioned. When Hammer started to wind down and loosing their audience, Naschy and his friends took over some of those that wanted more action and the modern violence and still old-school horrors. Curse of the Devil is an excellent example of really good Spanish horror.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Prince of Darkness (1987)

Every scene, every moment of John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness is a classic, a sequence which always ends in being a Russian doll - there's a secret, a revelation within each sequence and it never ends. This movie triggers the imagination in so many ways and even after seen it time after time it always feels like a very rewarding story. Just like The Fog and The Thing. I've always been trying to figure out what makes many of Carpenter's movies so extremely interesting to watch over and over again, and I still don't know. A theory is that he weaves very interesting characters with small details, stories within stories that never stop the flow of the HORROR movie. Yes, Carpenter makes horror and he's admitted himself that he loves doing horror. There is never a boring day during the shooting of a horror movie.

I think makes movies like Halloween 3 and Prince of Darkness is the mix between fringe science and something that could be mistaken for supernatural events. The bases of Halloween 3 was constructed by Nigel Kneale, a genius of course - but slightly humourless and he loathed what became of that movie. He never really appreciated the little tributes in Prince of Darkness, for example that Carpenter uses "Martin Quatermass" as a screenwriting alias and one of the characters mentions he went to Kneale University. I think Kneale should have been proud of being in the hands of such a master - but maybe they where to alike to be buddies?

As a convinced atheist I tend to hold Prince of Darkness in even higher regard than usual. It gives a "natural" solution to the Christian myth (much like Knowing, the Nic Cage movie, did many years later) focused on an unknown being, probably from outer space or probably more correct: from another dimension. My favorite parts of the movie is when Father Loomis (Donald Pleasence) looses his faith later finds it again, even if we see how his friend Prof. Howard Birack (Victor Wong) pities him from being so naive. The first scene is when Calder (the excellent Jessie Lawrence Ferguson) cuts his throat with a piece of wood and Father Loomis is giving him his last rites - and Loomis stops, because during the chanting of latin words he realizes how pointless it is. It does not mean anything for the dying man, or for himself. This is a powerful scene, even if it seem insignificant at that moment.

It's also interesting how Pleasence acts in this movie. I love the man, one of my favorite actors ever, but he's always been fond of "giving it all" as an actor, including something that not so sensitive critics could call over-acting. I think most of them it's the opposite, because Donald probably studied how we humans react in real life and we're all over-actors in a way, it's just more visible on the big screen. But in POD Pleasence works very slowly, hardly moving (he was famous for always making movements, doing something, so it would be harder to cut him out from a scene) and even the talk and facial movements are almost like slow-motion. It's like his character is so controlled by the mighty church, maybe had problems with his faith before, that he has not energy to react. He just accept the situation and maybe even his death - which never happens, because he's (a genius stroke by Carpenter) hides most of the time during the last half hour, a very natural thing to do. He's a coward of God, so messed up in his head that fooling himself that he stopped Satan in the end gives him his faith back.

Prince of Darkness is a brave movie, one of Carpenters finest masterpieces.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Willies (1990)

My hunt for anthology movies lead me to a German release called Campfire Horror Tales. I thought it was Campfire Tales from 1991, but when I came home and took a closer look at the cover I realized it was The Willies, a kiddie-horror from 1990 instead! I was disappointed, to be honest. After reading some reviews, most of them negative, I decided to throw away all hope that this was a good movie and just watch it with an open mind. Was it worth it? Continue to read and you'll see...

The kids, one of them a very young Sean Astin, is out camping in the backyards and decides to give each other the willies with telling scary, true, stories. After a few short ones - about the lady who dries her dog in the microwave oven for example - the first main story is told. It's about a boy discovering the janitor in his school is a monster dressed in human skin and kills people who act mean against the boy. The second story is a dark tale of a fat kid obsessed by dead flies. He's in a constant war against a weird old man with a talent for growing huge vegetables with his "miracle manure"...

I'm not sure who this movie was aimed at, but it's obviously a movie for kids - if it wasn't for the very dark subjects, the mild gore and blood and some truly disturbing pieces of celluloid. But for once the story is as macabre as kids can be in real life, because if someone really think a child's imagination is just football and horses, they are very wrong. The Willies sets itself at the same level as the scary stories told by kids all over the world, but is a bit to sloppily made to make a powerful impact. The budget was obviously very low and there's a couple of embarrassing mistakes that could have been avoided. The cinematography is often very flat and the child-actors... OMG, this is among the worst I've seen. Some of them can't even walk by the camera without looking like a wax doll on wheels.

On the other side, the grown-up actors are good and James Karen and Kathleen Freeman makes fun supporting parts. Clu Gulager makes an almost pointless cameo which is more or less a role that anybody could have played. A wasted opportunity. Sean Astin is not bad either and Dana Ashbrook has blink-and-you'll-miss-him-part.

What's surprising is the violence. Not overly graphic, but there's a nasty throat-slitting (which in the movie itself is fake, but still), an exploding dog, blood-spurts and a cool old-fashioned rubber-monster (that story, I see now, is a bit inspired by The Crate-episode in Creepshow) and a couple of other scenes you never would see in a kids movie nowadays.

The Willies was a quite ok movie, better than I thought it would be. But it would have been a stronger movie with three or four shorter stories than two longer, but complaining now seem a bit pointless. Better just enjoy it for what it is.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rest in peace, Bill...

So the body of Bill Barounis, the gentleman behind Onar Films, finally took the final step and greeted the ferryman. Bill didn't need any silver coins, his legacy was enough to bring him where he wanted to go. Yesterday Bill passed away after a period of illness. A fantastic man whose life was ridden with weird accidents, illness and just plain bad luck has left us.

Yeah, Bill was famous for all the fucking weird things that happen to him over the years, but something that was way stronger than those bad things was his enthusiasm for the art of Turkish cinema, his friends, his collecting and that was something that reduced his moments of misfortune to something not even worth mentioning.

I'm not gonna pretend that we where best buddies, but we had a lot of contact over the years and I - as many others - shared his love for world weird cinema. After watching Altin Cocuk I found one of the actresses, a Swedish woman, living in the same city as me and Bill was so happy that I found her and we decided to include her in an upcoming release of the next Golden Boy-release. That will never happen now, but it makes me happy to know how happy Bill was because of this.

Like me, he was a hothead, a man who could be very upset. I'm not even sure how many times he said Onar Films was over and that he would never release another film again - but like the passionate man he was there way always a new DVD, better and more unique than the last. That was Bill. The last email I got from him was in August, and he was the same old Bill then:

"I already lost faith, courage and motivation for this shit, but I've got 6-7 films in my hands I must release as I've paid for them already."

He NEVER gave up and to the end he was preparing the next release, Zagor Kara Bela. What will happen now I have no idea, but in the end the movies was just movies. Left behind is his family, his friends and relatives. Those that meant the most for him.

I mentioned the body of Bill at the top. That's the only thing that left this world. The spirit, the mind and passion belong of Bill will always be here with us, around us, telling us to look out for Kilink behind our back, watch the skies for Turkish Superman and swing life the way Captain Swing would do it.

Love and respect Bill, wherever you are.


Lost Voyage (2001)

I'm having a Lance Henriksen period right now, Living La Lance Vita you could say. A while ago I got Henriksen's autobiography, Not Bad For a Human (of course signed by him) and yesterday I donated 100 bucks to Michael Worth's project Bring Me The Head Of Lance Henriksen, starring Tim Thomerson (and Lance of course) and deals with the subject of ageism in Hollywood. I doubt those 100 bucks was needed, because the funding was already there and the movie is shot an is now in post-production. But I wanted to support the project and get myself a unique special edition DVD as thanks.

There was a period when Henriksen made a lot of movies. He still makes tons of them of course, that's his trademark, but once upon a time he worked a lot in Eastern Europe, mostly in Romania. I think Lost Voyage is shot there (actually not, it was shot in LA - but I'll pretend I didn't read that!) and it's therefore one of his "jetlag-movies", as he call them himself. Quick and dirty and no time to get over the jetlag!

Judd Nelson is Aaron Roberts, a scientist specialized in the unknown. His main hobby is the Bermuda Triangle, where his parents disappeared without a trace many years ago. Suddenly the ship, The Corona Queen, appears again and a speculative TV-show lead by the enthusiastic Dana Elway (Janet Gunn) convinces him to join her and the team for a first visit to the boat. They get help from the grumpy owner of the shipping company who owned the lost boat, David Shaw (Lance Henriksen). Well on the boat something is of course very wrong, and soon they get killed one by one by supernatural forces!

This could be one of the cheapest movies I've seen with Lance. Maybe not as cheap as Dying God, but it's so cheap I had a hard time getting involved in the story from the beginning. The cinematography is flat and direction is TV-like and far from something out of the ordinary. But maybe it's because of the actors or the tight little script, this movie actually is quite good. I first thought this was a rip-off on Ghost Ship, but that movie came the year after and I would even say that this is the better of those two movies. Ghost Ship has a big budget and more violence, but also feels automatic and more a product of a concept than an honest try to make something scary.

It would to be pushing it to say that Lost Voyage is scary, but it's still an effective ghost story and if you can live with the cheapest digital effects ever you could enjoy this movie a lot. It's produced by UFO and Philip J. Roth, which always means a cheap look and flat storytelling, but most of their productions is very entertaining and have interesting ideas. Here we have very simple CGI-ghosts, but it works surprisingly fine and the final scenes looks excellent and dramatic.

I love when movies made with a small budget tries to look big and expensive, because then they at least try to make something special and never falls in the trap of not believing in themselves. Lost Voyage and it's actors believe in what they're doing and that's easy to see.

A nice little TV-movie, recommended.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Human Factor (1975)

Forget all the bad words you heard about The Human Factor. Ok. Are they forgotten now? Wiped out? Gone? Finito? Good, because this is a movie that surprised me big time. This is the second time I started to watch it, the first time I managed to survive a half hour or so before I gave up. It happens sometime when I was prepared for something completely different. So what the hell did I expect? I have no idea. Sure, it's shot in Italy, but that doesn't mean it would be action-packed from start to finish. It was a directed by a director, Edward Dmytryk, at the end of his career and with George Kennedy in the lead. Well, that beginning surely fooled me, because it's what the common man call a build-up. A slow one, but still a build-up...

George Kennedy is John Kinsdale, an American computer engineer who lives in Italy together with his family. One night he comes home and finds the police and media outside his house, his family has been brutally executed! The police tells him they will do their best to catch the killers, but he can't let go of it and start using databases (which he can access at his work, a military facility) all over the world to try to find something that can lead him to the guilty criminals. But he doesn't stop there, but also takes on a fake identity and befriends other parts of the investigative team. Soon he has that lead, and goes after for revenge...

The Human Factor starts of slow, and slow in a gritty realistic way. There's no beautiful sets or fancy camera movements, just Kennedy living his life in Naples together with his family and the grief after the killings. There's talking and talking... and it was a mistake to give up the first time. This is one of those movies that uses the build-up to make us really get to know John Kinsdale and after that half hour we're with him in his hunt. I'm not kidding when I say that it gets surprisingly thrilling during the way, especially when John thinks he has located the next family to be killed - forces himself into their house and threatens them with a gun, just to make them understand that someone else will try to kill them.

If The Human Factor was made today, Jason Statham would have played John Kinsdale and be an expert in MMA. That would have made the movie so much boring, because Kinsdale in Kennedy's performace is just an ordinary, unfit bloke and a receding hairline and a high blood pressure. He's the average joe with a gun and an anger that I've seldom seen in a movie. He goes from being just an obsessed computer nerd to a violent, violent man using his length and weight (Kennedy is a very big guy!) taking down the terrorists one by one.

The action is quite low until the last half hour when the shit finally hits the fan. It's impressive stuff, good stunts and bloody. The fight between Kennedy and one of the terrorist in an backyard is excellent, but that's nothing compared to the finale when he alone takes down every terrorists who has taken over a supermarket! Bloody squibs-deluxe!

In the end The Human Factor becomes a very satisfying revenge-movie which clearly never makes Kinsdale either a hero or a victim. He's just an angry man.

The DVD from Dark Sky offers a very fine interview with the man himself, The Kennedy Factor, and he seems to be a very fine gentleman, very human and intelligent. He tells about his life and also a little bit about WW2, where he was a soldier. He's someone who finally doesn't try to romanticize war. He says how it is: "War is something that kills young people, and it's aweful". Thanks George, you're the best.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creepshow 2 (1987)

I would like to defend Creepshow 2, defend as strong as many hated it once upon a time in movie history. Well, no. I haven't seen much hate for C2 (that would have been the title it was released in 2011), but many agree that it's very uneven and that the only really good episode is The Raft. I would say that in some parts Creepshow 2 is a stronger movie than the first movie, which is a masterpiece in anthology movies and one of George A. Romero's finest mainstream-gifts to the world. His movie has a five stories in total and two of them are super-strong: The Crate and They're Creeping Up on You! The others are good, but even a classic as Something to Tide You Over feels a bit forced not just that convincing. That's my opinion folks, I don't wanna hurt any feelings here. Father's Day is a bit to uneven have pacing problems and The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is a bit to long and just plain silly (but I admit I think King does a fine job in the title role). But still, a magnificent movie.

Creepshow 2 only has three stories which I thought as a kid was a bit too few. I wanted more, but these three are also the most well-written in this short-lived series. I have one complain, and that is that the revenge-part of Old Chief Wood'nhead flies by way to fast. The wooden native American is a fantastic creature and stunningly well-made, and kinda scary also. The murders triggers more emotions and the script isn't dealing with them correctly. We, as the audience, wants a better, longer and more brutal revenge. Now it's over in a couple of minutes and that's it.

But the comes The Raft, based on another excellent short story by Stephen King. This is probably one of the best adaptations so far of one of King's short stories and the biggest difference compared with the written piece is the ending - which is a lot more effective in the movie version, more visual and a fun shock for the audience. I love the original ending, but it would have been a boring ending to a great episode.

One of the most hated episodes is the last one, The Hitchhiker, and I can't understand why! Here we have a very bloody, fun and action-packed story with a ghost/zombie/something that just refuses to die. I always loved this story and part of that is the fantastic acting by Lois Chiles who's mostly alone against the desperate hiker, killing him one time after another. She's a cool presence and carries her part with perfection. So even Tom Wright, who plays the very unlucky hiker - even if he's more unrecognizable for each time we see him.

Michael Gornick carries the Creepshow-flag with the same sense of quality as Romero, but with that premise that he had more story to work with in each episode. The first movie was a bit too long for me, but part 2 clocks in around ninety minutes and that's perfect. I hope we someday will see a real (well, Tom Savini still claims Tales from the Dark Side: The Movie is the real part 3) sequel or reboot, because King has way to many short stories that needs a treatment with a bigger budget and not drawn out to feature length movies.

Dolls (1987)

I think most of you can agree on that Stuart Gordon is one of the best genre directors from the US, and he’s career is filled with excellent, macabre movies - often with a nice twist of black comedy. One of the movies that was on my not-seen list until tonight was the Charles Band production Dolls, produced by Brian Yuzna. A fine trio of interesting filmmakers where Gordon easily stands out as the best and smartest of the bunch. When Band nowadays just writes “DUDE!!!!” on his blog and Yuzna travels the world to find new money to spend on his flops, Gordon still has integrity and continues to make smart movies for a smart audience.

A family on vacation is trapped by a violent storm and is forced to seek shelter in a big mansion far out on the countryside. In the house lives an elderly couple where the husband is a famous toymaker, specialized in dolls of all kinds. Within a couple of minutes a chubby nerdy guy and two punk girls arrives, also for shelter. But the little daughter of the family notices something she calls elves, but of course no one believes her. During the night one of the punk girls goes for a treasure hunt in the house, trying to find something to steal, but ends up being brutally attacked by something small... and very violent. And soon they are all in danger!

Holy mother of Fuck! How could I miss this movie for so many years? Yeah, probably because it was kinda hard to find in Sweden and it took a long while for a good DVD to show up. But here it is, from the people at MGM. What I really think is very cool with this one is that it mixes the black comedy of Gordon with the typical atmospheric production values of Empire Pictures. This is such a cool and visual movie with tons and tons of cool scenes and probably the freakiest dolls ever portrayed on the screen. I mean, come on! Dolly Dearest, Puppet Master, Child’s Play - they’re nothing compared to these little fuckers! What we have here is a clever mix of animatronics (I guess made by John Carl Buechler) and the classy stop-motion by the late Dave Allen.

Being almost a fairy tale, it also takes the genre to another level with adding a good amount of violence, blood and gore - just like a really good fairy tale, and it’s often very well done and have a great impact on us, the viewers. But Dolls is first of all another proof of the genius of Stuart Gordon who tells the story flawlessly even if the dialogue comes out quite stiff sometime. But the script is overall very good, filled with politically incorrect details and the best vision of a child’s imagination I’ve seen, I’m talking about the bizarre teddybear-monster in the beginning. That’s a truer description of the imagination than everything Disney Schmisney cooks up for their next movie to sell at McDonalds.

If I was a father this would be the first “real” and more graphic horror movie I would show my kid. After the Universal classics and the original Godzilla of course!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes They Come Back... for More (1998)

I remember reading an interview with Stephen King once in which the journalist asked what he thought about the sequels being made to movies based on his books and King replied that he didn’t care because his story won’t disappear because of that. I like that opinion, and it just shows how King sees his books and novellas as something very different than then books. They live two different lives. And I don’t buy that he says yes to sequel after sequel just because of the money, he’s so damn rich he don’t need anything more. Remember this is the man who allows directors to make films of his short stories without having to pay for it, as long as they aren’t used in any commercial way. Fair enough I would say.

It was ages since I saw Sometimes They Come Back and I have no memories of the first sequel, so to be honest I have no idea if Sometimes They Come Back for More is connected in any way with the original short story or the first two movies. What makes this movie extra interesting is that it uses a 100 % safe way to make a horror movie worth watching: snow. And that in combination with occultism and Satan and his friends, this becomes a nice little movie with a tight script and a nice location. It’s basically about Captain Sam Cage (Clayton Rohner) going to Antarctica together with his colleague Major Callie O'Grady (Chase Masterson) to investigate what’s going on out on a secret mining base. When they arrive they find two survivors and a couple of dead bodies, and no one can explain what’s happen. Soon they discover that one of the scientists has found something deep under the base, something very hot… and satanic!

As a low-budget version of The Thing but with demons and Satan instead of an alien organism this is a decent little movie with a script that uses the claustrophobic location better than a lot of other movies in the same genre (I’m looking at you, Deep Freeze). And don’t we all love movies that a are shot in narrow corridors with fake snow blowing outside the windows? Yes we do, and it’s very rarely I get disappointed with locations like this. I also like the very pulpy storyline, mixing an arctic setting with pentagrams and satanic rituals. It’s like a vintage pulp novel come to life!

Clayton Rohner is also very competent hero and a good actor. He’s not a stranger in horror movies and Tibro Takacs 1989 mini-masterpiece I, Madman and 1997’s monster romp The Relic are both worth watching. In a smaller part, but important, we find Damian Chapa, a good actor who’s slumming in the worst basement-bargain homemade movies nowadays. A pity, because he’s good! In this movie he’s a good baddie with a nice set of black contact lenses.

A good little DTV-flick that’s better than its reputation.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Children of the Corn: The Gathering (1996)

I guess it won’t come as a surprise that I have a fondness for DTV and “meaningless” sequels to movies that wasn’t popular in the first place. But I see sequels, especially in the direct to home video market to be a very fine for of exploitation. Very pure, often a lot better than the originals because the often boost the violence and lowers the drama. Good old entertainment without an illusion of being anything else. When it comes to the Children of the Corn franchise I always loathed the first movie – mostly for the lack of gore and just being way to boring. The sequels are much more fun, and Children of the Corn: The Gathering is probably the best of the bunch when it comes to ambitions.

Naomi Watts (of all people!) plays a young doctor, Grace, who just returned to her hometown to take care of some family business, mostly her mentally unstable mother June (Karen Black) and her very young sister. But our favourite demon/devil is growing again and takes the shape of a young preacher boy who possesses all the other children in the town with his evil. Soon they are starting to kill their parents and it’s up to Grace to stop them!

What’s interesting here is that they actually tried to build a story, create characters to care and root for. You won’t see it in the short text above, but compared to the other movies this is a lot better. The build-up with the children acting sick, having convulsions and getting high fever is a good detail and feels a lot scarier than them just starting to act weird one day. Here everyone think they’re fine for a moment and calms down – and then the little critters attack fast and bloody!

It’s still the third sequel to a movie no one liked anyway, with a good amount of blood and gore and – believe it or not – tension. Naomi is one of the reasons the movie works so well, because she really create someone we care about. She’s a good actress and always been, and its fun to see how she can raise the quality so much by just doing her job.

The other actors are doing great to, especially Karen Black as the mother. Like almost all the other Corn-sequels this has a character actor in a minor role (the following movies have David Carradine, Fred Williamson, Michael Ironside and Billy Drago) and Karen really gives all what she got here. She didn’t have to, but she’s excellent in the part and it’s a pity she has to bite the dust without a good final scene against Naomi.

The gore is creative and graphic, from scythes through heads, decapitations, impalings, chopped of fingers, a man cut in half and so on. It’s well-made kills and gives a good story some spice. There’s really not that much to say about The Gathering, but it’s clearly the best and most successful of the sequels and it outshines the boring original movie (the SyFy version, from 2009, of the Stephen King’s original novella is a lot better by the way, skip the original and watch the TV-version instead!).

So Naomi, if you read this (come on, I’m sure you Google yourself sometime – I do!), don’t be shamed of this little horror movie. You did you best and it shows, good for you!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

I once read that Lance Henriksen never accept roles as child molesters, rapists and just any kind of acting in slasher movies. Probably a very wise decision for him, because it kept him going for many years now and he’s probably gonna act until he falls down dead (which I forbid, he can never leave us!). That’s why it’s a mystery that he accepted the role of the mystery host in Hellraiser: Hellworld. At a first glance it’s a Hellraiser-movie, but it’s just slasher in disguise. Probably the most hated (until the next one of course, Revelations) sequel in the Hellraiser-series and shot back-to-back with the interesting but very uneven Deader, also from 2005. I can agree it’s a weak movie, but if you forget what it’s meant to be and see it as a silly slasher it works.

Two years ago Adam (Stelian Urian) burned himself to death in the basement after getting to involved in the fictional Hellraiser internet-game (internet was VERY dangerous in the movies once) and now his friends are getting back into their old “drug” with participating in a Hellraiser-themed party, hosted by Lance Henriksen: Hellworld. Yes, this is one of those sequels that look at the franchise from the outside (like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare for example). Soon things are starting to get very strange in the old Leviathan house, and one by one our hero’s is getting killed in violent ways!

OK, look at it from a distance and it kinda works. The story and the twist is absurd and silly and shouldn’t work, and it would have probably worked better as a pure slasher outside the Hellraiser-realm. It also has a twist which I hate and I loath every stupid fuck that uses this idea to seem smart (I’m looking at you… NO, sorry. I won’t name any other similar movie, just so you can be disappointed by yourself). Why it works a little bit better here is because it’s a Hellraiser movie, which make it seem more logic… kinda.

Because like with Deader and Hellseeker, director Rick Bota makes a very fine job spicing up rewritten scripts and adds a lot of atmosphere and some nasty violence to DTV-sequels that never would have gotten the same treatment if they belonged to another franchise. Hellworld is the weakest because the story is the weakest. It’s shallow and belongs entirely to the beautiful location, the excellent effects by Gary J. Tunnicliffe and the presence of Lance Henriksen. As you might now, I LOVE Lance, and I watch everything he’s in. He can have a tendency, especially during later years, to look a bit bored – or maybe just too used to doing lowbudget horror films. In Hellworld he’s better than in other similar projects, and seems to have fun scaring the kids and saying silly lines. Or maybe it was just a nice vacation to Romania that made him in a good movie, I don’t know. His best scene is actually the last one, where he can do a more realistic and – it looks like – do some improvisation on the set.

I know you all hate Hellworld, and I can agree it’s no super-movie. But watch it as a slasher with a little bit of Pinhead tossed in and it’s quite fun. And it looks good at least, which is better than nothing!