Tuesday, July 31, 2012

For my Swedish readers: SF-Bokhandeln presenterar Bögskräck!

Ett event som sker nu på Torsdag i Stockholm, där jag och Johan Sundell snackar bögskräck. Ni är hjärtligt välkomna! :) 

Följ med SF-Bokhandeln på en resa genom skräckfilmens historia från ett hbtq-perspektiv, guidad av Fred Andersson och Johan Sundell! Med tydliga exempel och roliga anekdoter visar vi hur homosexualitet och  transpersoner har påverkat och skildrats i en av Hollywoods mest älskade och klassiska genrer.

to 2 aug 17:00–19:30

Science Fiction-Bokhandeln (SF-Bokhandeln Gamla stan), Västerlånggatan 48, T-Gamla stan



Saknar ramp vid ingång över ett litet trappsteg, brukar generellt inte vara något problem för rullstolsburna. Mindre toalett finns tillgänglig vid entré. Vid behov finns hjälpsam personal på plats.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Devil with Seven Faces (1971)

Don't let the giallo-esque title fool you, The Devil with Seven Faces is far from an murder mystery and yeah, I would say it's a completely different genre. The title might fool us, but don't get scared away from this pretty standard but well-made crime-thriller directed by gun-for-hire Osvaldo Civirani. He dabbled in every genre possible, from pepulm to erotic, but I think this was his only adventure into crime. Not a bad little movie either, but I'll get back to why it's bad and why it's not the best movie ever made either.

Carroll Baker is Julie, a normal girl trying to live a normal life - until suddenly several strange men is starting to stalk her, taking photos of her and behaving very badly. Thankfully she has two men to do the protecting, her lawyer Dave (Stephen Boyd) and her new boyfriend Tony (George Hilton). After a while they understand what has happen. Julie's sister Mary is accused to have stolen a million dollar diamond on London and other criminals thinks Julie is Mary! Soon her life is at stake and everyone around her lives more and more dangerous, and only Julie can bring back the diamond from her sister and make the terror stop.... or?

Or? Yeah, that's the key word in most Italian thrillers from the 70's and this is no exception. It actually has a form of giallo-esque atmosphere, which is also helped by the groovy score, but the movie itself is one of those twisty caper/heist-thrillers, but from a different point of view. This is a quite original take and the story more or less works by itself because the set-up and concept is so good.

The best thing with this film is of course the actors. Caroll Baker is always excellent and works fine in the lead as the lady in need, Luciano Pigozzi has a smaller part as a baddie but is always good. George Hilton, maybe a little bit on routine here - remember he made tons and tons of giallos and other crime-related films during the 70's and this was probably just one in the bunch, another paycheck - even if the Amsterdam-location must have been a nice addition to the job. What makes me really happy is the presence of Stephen Boyd. I had no idea he was in the movie and he's nice to see him so relaxed and cool - compared to all the big budget historical extravaganzas he made in Hollywood. He's a splendid actor, VERY underrated and fits good in this form of film. Like so many other former Hollywood actors who got older he did a lot of European movies during this time, but never became that big in Italy.

I wish I had more to say about The Devil with Seven Faces, but I don't. Well, yeah... the reason why it's not the best movie ever made is that everything smells like a gun-for-hire production. There's no personality in the production, like everyone was there to get their pay check and that's it. Even the action scenes, especially the car chase, is very sloppily made and relies mostly on speed-up footage of cars chasing each other, and it NEVER looks good. I can't imagine why they couldn't find another solution, or just spend some more time shooting the scene - angles could help a lot making it look faster and more dangerous. Now it's just point-and-shoot and it's crap.

Still, it's a good little thriller. It will not revolutionize your world and you might even skip it for more important titles, but if you find it cheap and trust my review, give it a try sometime - at least for good old Stephen Boyd's sake.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Brian De Palmas controversial thriller might be a bit too mainstream to be included here on the Ninja Dixon blog. The reason why it's here now it's because it's one of my favourite films by De Palma, and that's a hard choice because I love most of what he's done (I tried watch Scarface again recently but had to turn it off because of Al Pacino's shitty acting, but that's a different story and it's better for my safety that I keep quiet about my opinion). Dressed to Kill feels a lot like a Giallo and it's filled with sex and violence. De Palma himself calls it a "dark sexual fantasy", and that's probably the best description of it.

For once I will skip to tell the story, because it's more or less a version of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, with some of the same twists - but a lot bloodier and with more sex. De Palma has always been more European in a sense, but mixed with the American way of doing everything a bit too much. This is a marvellous combination and makes Dressed to Kill maybe the ultimate "erotic thriller" ever made, I mean - you have everything from Dario Argento's stylish murders, Hitchcock's shocks and twists and the tackiness of every American musical ever made. What's even more fascinating is how this is a skin flick, an exploitation movie with big stars and big budget. Full frontal nudity, dirty talk and ultra-violence - something you could only see on 42nd street before this hit the big screens. It's not a rip-off, it's a homage to everything De Palma loves.

Originally he wanted to do Cruising and the rumour says he even wrote a script based on that story, but when he couldn't get the rights to Gerald Walker's novel he just took some of the ideas and transferred them to this new script. The result became the second most controversial thriller of 1980, of course after William Friedkin's own version of Cruising. But when Friedkin took a more serious route, De Palma made a full-out gory, sex and over-the-top murder mystery instead - and maybe that was for the best. Because in a "dark sexual fantasy" you have a lot more freedom than in a production that is based on extensive research and real locations and people. One similarity between Cruising and Dressed to Kill is that both directors choose to let different actors play the killer, than the "real" killer. These actors also played other roles in both movies. I like this idea, it's clever and maybe some would say it's a cheat. But hey, everything for suspense and tension yeah? The Italians did this every damn day during the seventies. Another fine detail is that its De Palma-veteran William Finley doing the voice of "Bobbi", in just another way to confuse us - and those who's trying to catch the killer.

Dressed to Kill deals with transsexual issues, in a quite negative twist also - but I personally think the cause for the murders lays in something else than the gender of the killer, like in Psycho - schizophrenia, multiple personalities etc. The movie actually features a clip from The Phil Donahue Show, where journalist and transgender person Nancy Hunt talks about being transsexual. It's the only connection to realism in the whole movie. This interview was also the thing the triggered De Palma to write Dressed to Kill. He did a lot of research on transsexualism and became more and more fascinated by the thing called "gender discomfort", which also caused some discomfort among his friends: "I was at a dinner party, and I asked, quite innocently, 'Wouldn't it be terrific to dress up in women's clothes and go out and see how people related to you? And everyone looked at me like I was a lunatic!" Happy for us De Palma did make his movie on the subject, just not very correct and proper.

I'm probably not the only person who thought about this, but have you noticed the interesting connection between Dressed to Kill, Blow Out and Body Double? Except being very European and Hitchcockian thrillers of course. Blow Out starts with a homage to b-slashers, with POV camera and an unknown assassin going into a house and killing a woman in the shower. The end of Dressed to Kill features a similar sequence, but this time a dream and not a movie-in-a-movie, were the killer through POV breaks into a house and kills a woman in the  shower. Dressed to Kill didn't only upset the trans-community and the women's right organizations, it also gained negative attention because Angie Dickinson used a body double in the infamous shower scene that starts the movie. Something that's actually very visible and I'm sure De Palma somehow wanted to poke fun at this phenomena - and then he makes a movie called Body Double which ends with a humours scene where they need a body double during the making of a corny horror movie.

The circle is closed and the joke's on Brian De Palma, as usual.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Plot of Fear (1976)

Long time since I watched a giallo, but finally - after a week of Jess Franco - I found the time, early this morning, to sit down and watch Paolo Cavara's very interesting Plot of Fear. My plan was to get my hands on it quiet a while ago when Tom Skerritt visited Stockholm, but I never found it and kinda forgot about it - until yesterday when a the nice DVD from Raro suddenly stared at me from the shelves of a second hand store here in Stockholm. It's mine, I thought and grabbed it faster than The Dark Knight Rises is a fiasco! The only movie by Cavara I've seen before this one is Black Belly of the Tarantula, one of the best giallis ever made. So how could he top that? With making one of the most original and off-beat giallis I've seen.

Michele Placido (more famous from the Italian TV-series La Piovra) is the sexually liberal and slightly odd Inspector Gaspare Lomenzo, a young cop who's know in charge of the investigation of The Fauna Club-murders. One by one the members of this little private sex-club is killed in very various ways and it's impossible to find any clue to who the killer is. Like all good giallis everything is connected to art, and this time to the very macabre (I've read it myself as a child) German children book Der Struwwelpeter, with the killer leaving one drawing from the book at each murder site. Somehow a young woman, Jeanne (Corinne Cléry), knows more than she wants to say - and it doesn't help that Lomenzo falls in love with her, which could be a very bad idea...

That sounds quite ordinary, yeah? Well, it's not. Plot of Fear is an oddity, mostly because it spend so much time just showing us the life's these wonderful characters. It's like Fellini made a low-key, violent, crime movie! Even the smallest part is well-defined and funny, or tragic, and there's a lot of personality in each and every extra in the background. Cavara didn't only create an interesting murder mystery here, but also a colourful gallery of destinies. But fear not, it also has a generous amount of murders - some of them bloody - and a couple of twists and turns.

The flashbacks to the Fauna Club is the best and could be something from a Tinto Brass film. In one interesting sequence they sit and watch an production of the Italian animator Gibba (aka Francesco Maurizio Guido), a very vulgar and sexual detailed cartoon that looks like a mix between sci-fi and fantasy - what can the title be? Let me know if you have any clue! The leader of the Fauna Club is played by John Steiner, an excellent actor doing yet another of his classical sleazebags. What a guy!

Tom Skerritt has a very small part (I wonder how he ended up in this film?) and Eli Wallach a bigger and more interesting part, as a mysterious private detective who some of the Fauna Club-members contact when they realize they might get killed. But I would say that this is Michele Placido and Corinne Cléry's movie, because they rule in every scene they're in.

Plot of Fear is a closeted hippie-giallo with some interesting political undertones and lots of murders. I really loved it. A great thriller, a great drama and a fresh spin on a genre that needs that little extra to be really interesting. 

Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion (1970)

This will be the last film of Jess Franco I will review for a while, mostly because it's hard to find new superlatives for each new text. Franco often revisits same themes and ideas and that makes many of these movies seem a bit similar after a while, so I will end it for this time with another fantastic movie, Eugenie...the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion, as the DVD title says. The original title is Marquis de Sade's 'Philosophy in the Boudoir', based on de Sade's text by the same name, but honestly, both titles works very fine in the end. I have a tendency to prefer Franco's dark sexual dramas before his lighter movies and this is no different. Eugenie is a mature, intelligent drama with lots of nudity and a wonderful cast. The story is as simple as genial...

Marie Liljedahl plays plays Eugenie, the daughter of the rich businessman Mistival (Paul Muller). Mistival's mistress is Madame Saint Ange (Maria Rohm) and she makes him allow her to bring Eugenie to her private island for a weekend. There her perverted stepbrother Mirvel (Jack Taylor) awaits them, and what begins as a childish, drunken and weed-smoking day soon becomes more sinister when a cult worshipping de Sade arrives and watches the Madame and Mirvel sexually use and abuse the young Eugenie...

Being a story based or inspired by de Sade (I never read any of his works) Eugenie is a tasteful trip down sexually lane with some light spanking and whipping, tits and asses, drug use and an intercourse or two. Quite far from the excessive sleaziness Franco shot during the later seventies. This is both good and bad. Good because it gives Franco more time to shoot a stunningly beautiful drama and bad because maybe someone wants more sex when it comes to a movie like this. For me, it doesn't matter. This is high-quality sleaze with some kind of ambition to do more than just give the audience a hard-on.

Eugenie is a trip to one of the circles of hell, an almost supernatural story about living in a world about sex. Franco never says if this is a good or a bad thing, there's not judging at all and the open, almost surreal, ending both reminded me of The Beyond and Nightmare City, if you get my point. It also echoes the later Countess Perverse in style and concept. I would love to have been a fly on the wall on this shoot. First of all we have the cast, the very talented Liljedahl, a Christopher Lee that had no idea (yeah sure!) of what was going on, the producers wife, the wonderful Maria Rohm, making it out with Jack Taylor, a gay man that probably have seen more pussy than few other gay men!

Even today, in 2012, Eugenie, feels very fresh and modern. If it had more gratuitous sex maybe, but still. This is a movie that survived the years and still makes an impact that fits both the cult squad and the arthouse-aficionados. It's interesting how Franco had such a bad reputation from the beginning, because most of his works I've seen is actually quite classy - and they easily would gain more attention than his trashier production if we, the cult movie fans, would demand more of our movies than just boobs, gore and goofy action scenes.

Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion is another masterpiece, yeah, a perfect piece of arthouse-sleaze. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Devil Came from Akasava (1971)

First of all, I would lie if I said I actually understood the story of The Devil Came from Akasava, but in some weird way I think that's the point with it all. It's a spoof, a send-up, a caper with a lot of humour and of course made by Jess Franco. Officially another Edgar Wallace story, but I'm not so sure it's really one from the beginning. Maybe something Wallace's son wrote down on a napkin once, just an idea,  a few words and somehow the German producers of got their hands on it. So what's it about? I'll give you the basic structure, but that's all.

Somewhere on a tropical location (really Alicante, Spain and the garden of an hotel) a couple of scientists - Horst Tappert for example - find an amazing stone, or metal, that both create huge damage to the people handling it, but also can transform normal metals into gold - or something like that. Suddenly everyone wants this stone, and one of the scientists goes missing and so is the stone. A relative to the scientist, Rex (Fred Williams), starts to investigate but soon finds out that everyone wants to kill everyone in this confusing mess of a story!

I can't say that The Devil Came from Akasava is Franco's best movie, not by a long-shot, but it still holds a certain charm to entertain me. The best thing with it is the cast, from Horst Tappert doing is normal robotic routine as Horst Tappert to Soledad Miranda, in a quite small part, as a thief and maybe even a secret agent. She's cool and beautiful, as usual! Paul Müller and Howard Vernon shows up later in the story and both is perfect in their small parts. Fred Williams, who was that guy? Anyone who knows? He looks good and had some talent, but he's lost as an interview object. I want to hear his story! Someone, please?

The problem - or maybe the point - is that the script is so damn convoluted. Everyone is fucking up things for everyone else, friends becomes foes and foes becomes friends and in the end... I'm not sure how it ends. This could be a part of the concept of course, the movie has humour and a generous twinkle in the eye. One part I really love is the Kiss Me Deadly-reference, the bag with the mysterious stone that kills people with a strong light. The film could be a unofficial goofy sequel to Robert Aldrich's classic noir-masterpiece...

Franco made this at the same time as Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in Ecstasy and it differs a lot from the two other movies. It's also one of those Franco films that looks less thought through, cheaper and yeah, sloppier. We have the traditional hotel garden standing in for a jungle, there's editing that even I can do better - sometimes - and uglier lighting. It's easy to see that the heart of Franco wasn't involved all the time, this was a normal gun for hired-project.

Still, quite entertaining and a nice cast. A cozy feeling, a movie to look at when you're very tired and just want to see handsome and cool people walking in and out of hotel rooms doing nothing special.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sinner - Diary of a Nymphomaniac (1973)

This starting to sound very repetitive, but Sinner - Diary of a Nymphomaniac is yet another film by Jess Franco that literary stunned me with it's quality. Made for the same producer as Countess Perverse, another fine movie, this Robert de Nesle production is totally opposite when it comes to atmosphere and concept. Countess Perverse is a stylish, comic-book, sleaze-movie and Sinner is another dark, strongly sexual drama that feels very personal. After the death of Soledad Miranda it seems like Franco changed his viewpoint on filmmaking for a couple of years, the stories got more serious and darker, maybe even more depressing, but also a lot more personal.

I don't want to reveal so much about Sinner and how it begins, but it's a brilliant way to start a movie and sets up for a downbeat story about a young girl's descent into a living hell. Linda (Montserrat Prous) arrives to Alicante from a small village, with ponytails and an innocent, childish dress. She drifts around in town until a man starts to follow her, and it ends with him sexually abusing her in a Ferris wheel! Soon after she ends up as the lover of Countess Anna de Monterey (Anne Libert) and her spirals into a mess of sex and drugs... soon she can't take it anymore and plans a revenge on the man that once raped her...

Sinner feels so modern, so fresh. It feels like one of those French indie movies, very arty, but never loosing it's grip around the exploitation parts of the story. The beginning, especially, is among the best I've seen in a Franco movie. One sequence is a loooong take of a man following Linda, handheld camera, in the middle of the unsuspecting crowds. It ends in the Ferris wheel and a beautiful edited sequence that shows nothing - but tells it all. Its rare, I think, to see a morality tale from Uncle Jess, but here it is - the dangers of sex and drugs, without getting annoying or stupid. It's just Franco's way to tell this kind of story.

There's a lot of nudity and sex in Sinner, which doesn't come as a surprise, but I must say that the most impressive thing is the fine performances Franco gotten from his actors this time. It's easy to sleep yourself through a sexploitation movie, but everyone from Montserrat Prous as Linda to Howard Vernon in a very edgy performance as a sleazy hippie-doctor makes very impressive jobs. Manuel Pereiro, who plays the unlucky Mr Ortiz, gives his character some depth and layers, instead of the normal sleazebag any other hack would transform him to.

Sinner is one of those oddities that's hard to set a specific genre on, but I would say it's a dark drama and one of the finest I've seen from Mr Franco. The DVD from Mondo Macabro also makes the glorious cinematography by Gérard Brisseau shine, in all it's brown and yellow shades, very seventies and very "here". It very rarely feels like a movie, more a very intimate documentary about a fucked-up life.

This is another movie that once again proofs the genius and talent of Jess Franco and I urge you all to buy it and support both the legacy of Franco and Mondo Macabro, the distributor. 

Parasite: a foul message from Mac Ahlberg!

This is a detail that stuck with me since a teenager when I first saw Charles Band's Parasite, a message from the films cinematographer Mac Ahlberg: DJÄVLA ARSLE. Ahlberg, a competent Swedish director of sex movies and a very talented cinematographer. I have no idea how he ended up in Hollywood, but remember that the sex movies he directed (and shot) was big hits internationally also: Bel Ami, Justine and Juliette, Flossie, Around the world with Fanny Hill etc. Good stuff to, even I find them entertaining - but maybe most, to have stunning visuals. In 1979 he shot Nocturna: Draculas Daughter for producer Irwin Yablans and directed the terrible, extremely boring mafia movie Hoodlums - and from that moment he was stuck in the US and had a long and interesting (but far from perfect) career in b-movies with the occasional blockbuster in-between.

In 1982 he shot Parasite for Embassy Pictures and Charles Band and there he left is most Swedish mark ever, this graffiti. Cazzata is Italian, and means "bullshit" or something similar, but DJÄVLA (or DJÄVLAR, but there's a cross over the R, changing the grammar of the message) ARSLE  means: Fucking Asshole. Or Damn Asshole, if you want to be less vulgar. I've always found it to be the highlight of this weak creature feature, even if it has nice slow-mo and one fun scene when the parasite crawls out from someones face. 

I've always wondered why he (who else could it have been?) choose those words. Maybe it was just for fun, just a silly curse word for me to discuss on my blog eons after the movie was made. Or is it a message to the Swedish film community that treated him like shit? Like they've done even most talented Swedish filmmakers who never wanted to be a new Bergman, but just themselves instead. Maybe some fancy critics would say that it's a lot nicer to work in Sweden with art movies instead of monster movies for Charles Band, but they just lack the worldview that a film critic should have. Freedom isn't just about making fine dramas for the fine audience, it's also to entertain and shock the masses.

I think Mac Ahlberg succeeded in leaving Sweden behind him, even if the movies not always had stellar quality, his workmanship always kept high technical quality.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Evilspeak (1981)

I'm not a religious man, but if I was one I would turn Christian only to convert to Satan directly. Just to make it feel right, because there's something seducing with the religious form of Satanism, something... out of the ordinary. Plus cool clothes, goatees, FUN supernatural powers, limitless sex and so on. Christianity gave us one fine thing, and that's Satan and the creation of Satanic horror movies. Eric Weston's Evilspeak is one of my favourites. It might not be the most "realistic" one, but it takes the Satanic rituals into the... hrmf... "computer-age" and this wonderful, wonderful sleeper-hit.

Clint Howard is Coopersmith, a nerd who's forces to join a strictly religious military school after his parents died in a car accident. Soon he's the number 1 bullied boy in the school, and the pranks on him becomes more and more serious. One day he finds a secret chamber in the basement. It's a sacrificial temple belonging to the famous (and since long dead) Spanish Satanist Father Esteban (played by the always cool Richard Moll) and now he wants back to the world, and Coopersmith will help him - with his computer! Soon everyone's life is at stake at the school, but hey - who cares, it's only fascist military men and Christian hypocrites that will suffer!

Evilspeak may take some time to get going, but compared to many other horror movies from the eighties this also has a story to tell, and maybe even a message. First of all, the stance against Christianity and military is so strong that I hardly thing it's a coincidence. There's more or less not one single sympathetic character (except one student, but he dies to I think...) among the "enemy", they're all religious wackos, crazy fascists or homophobic students. We really root for Clint Howard, aka "Cooperdick" - as his bullies call him, and when the final punishment comes there's only glory to Coopersmith, Esteban and Satan.

The scale of Evilspeak is very ambitious, from the beginning set a few hundred years back when Esteban sacrifices a woman to the sea (and hey, I always imagine it's Paul Naschy playing the Esteban part - it would have been a perfect role for him!) to the tough life at the academy and the cool underground temple...and the final scene of gore, fire and mayhem. I have no idea what the budget was, but everything looks big and impressive - but doesn't loose the trashier parts, the violence and nudity. It's a big budget b-movie, and one of the best of its kind.

What I always forget is how damn gory Evilspeak is. First of all, the decapitations - these must be the uncleanest and most brutal ever filmed. Good old Coopersmith have a hard time aiming them right and often ending it all with destroying the heads completely. Everything shot in glorious slow-mo and tons of blood. The scenes of drama leading up to this final has a couple of very fine and gory kills spliced in-between, for example the infamous pig-scene. MPAA, those child-molesting sunuvabitches, demanded some trims - but it's still gory and nasty.

I really like - maybe love - Evilspeak, but it's one of those movies that demands a re-watch from time to time, because it's hard to forget how good it actually is. I always remember the slow-moving parts, but they belong there and they are good.

Give me a couple of millions and I will fund a sequel - because Coopersmith MUST RETURN!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Sinister Doctor Orloff (1984)

Many regards the 80's (and 90's, 00's, 10's....) the downward spiral of Jess Franco's career. In a way they might be correct, because he started to make more... utter trash. Porn, ultra-cheap action movies without any love or passion. But here and there, in-between such movies as Falo Crest and Golden Temple Amazons, Uncle Jess churned out some very personal and passionate projects. One of them is yet another Orloff-movie, The Sinister Doctor Orloff (not to be confused with 1973's The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff). Like the 1987 classic Faceless this is another take on the Orloff-mythology and as usual Franco blows me away with his talent. It's a f**king crime this isn't out on DVD! So what's it about? Well, it's the same old story...

Alfred Orloff (Antonio Mayans), the son of the legendary and controversial Doctor Orloff, lives with his old father (Howard Vernon, of course!) in a huge, spectacular house (created by Ricardo Bofill as usual) in Alicante, Spain. In the basement his mother Melissa (Rocío Freixas) is laying dead and frozen in time and he's obsessed with trying to resurrect her. The old Orloff has given up, but Alfred wants to continue his fathers legacy by stalking the streets after prostitutes to use in his experiments. Inspector Tanner (Antonio Rebollo) is as usual around the corner, getting closer and closer in his investigation!

Yeah, it's a very basic premise and we've seen it in many the other movies directed by Uncle Jess - but The Sinister Doctor Orloff goes further in creating a dark and menacing atmosphere. The scenes where Alfred is stalking the streets in his car reminds me a lot about Taxi Driver, but the similarities ends there. Everything is drowned in an amazing score written and performed by Franco himself. It's a mix between ambient experimental stuff and freaky and very alternative jazz. Never heard anything like this in a Franco movie before, and it's just another sign how different this production is.

While the story is very traditional - Orloff lures a woman come with her and then his literary eyeless brute Andros kills her, the story is so filled of dread and darkness. The loveless relationship between the bitter, insane old Orloff is a damn tour-de-force by Howard Vernon - very low-key, hardly speaking a single line - but so powerful. But you know what, the person who steals every scene is Antonio Mayans. It's rarely I write something like that regarding him. He's a good actor, but often a bit uninterested in his work - but here, wow... he's burning. Never seen him so intense, so cold. The sadness because of his mother, maybe even a incestuous feeling - something that seem to create a jealousy in hi father. This is top-shelf Franco, with out a doubt.

The ending is strange, odd, totally unexpected - and downbeat as hell.

This is always how it ends. I watch a Franco and I get stunned by how good it is. Franco is a smart man, one of the smartest people I've heard. But when he makes movies it's more about the EQ than the IQ, the Emotional Quote. He knows which buttons to push and he often gives a fuck about the small details. Why bother with stuff no one cares about when he can create a movie based on the wholeness, something very few other directors can.

The Sinister Doctor Orloff look great with great cinematography, editing and directing - not to forget the fantastic cast and original score. This is on my top ten Jess Franco movies from now on and I wish more of you could see it. Mondo Macabro, please... DVD?

Ninja Dixon Talks: Commando Mengele (1987)

My first - and maybe only - audio review! And of course I had to talk about one of my favorite flicks, Andrea Bianchi's Commando Mengele! Hope you like it. If I'm not too crappy I might do it again :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Slaughterhouse (1987)

The slasher-genre is probably the only genre that is allowed to be like it always been, without any changes. To criticize slashers is like complaining that the ball is round, pointless. Slashers has always been the Coca Cola of movies - if you experiment to much with new "exotic" tastes it just becomes disgusting. Let it just be Coca Cola: unhealthy, sticky and generic. That's one reason why I really love slashers from the late eighties. Because who the fuck came up with the idea to make movies in this genre when it's been dying for so many years? Already 81-82 it started to loose quality and everyone with a camera and a couple of dollars made their own movie. But they kept going and by the end of the eighties literary thousands of slashers has been made all over the world, most of them not reaching further than the local city border. Slaughterhouse (aka Pig Farm Massacre) is yet another of these late entries of slice and dice's, an ambitious take on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-concept, made for a dime and with a lot of passion.

This is the story of the Bacon-family. Not Kevin, but Lester and Buddy, father and son. Lester is in deep trouble and might be forced to sell his pig farm, but he has other plans for those who want him bad. That's where Buddy comes in, a big, fat hairy beast of a man that only communicates through pig-like grunts and screams. Lucky for them, because they kill to kill more people, a bunch of over-aged teens thinks the farm is perfect to shoot their own little zero budget horror movie, and Buddy gets a lot to do before the night is over!

Slaughterhouse is so much fun and a criminally underrated slasher/horror movie from a time when most movies of its kind just was sleepy imitations of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Nothing wrong with that, I love it, but the creators of Slaughterhouse puts a lot more energy and ambition into their little movie than few other similar movies from the time. Atmospheric cinematography, cool locations, and something that's so rare in these movies that even the rapture seem more likely to happen: likable characters. The baddies are gross and unsympathetic, but what to expect from a serial killer pig farmer, but as long the victims feels like decent human beings, I'm happy and feel more interested in the story more than usual.

On the negative side, Slaughterhouse has some of that not so funny late eighties comedy here and there, tossed into the story to liven things up. It rarely works, and comedy in slashers should be forbidden anyway. I think we all can agree on that, and if you don't agree you're a wimp. Nice anyway, but still a wimp. I mean, the couldn't even stay away from a car-chase scene packed with moronic country music á la any random Burt Reynolds-comedy before he became untrendy and bought a crappier toupee.

Thank Satan the kills are often nasty, quite graphic and slightly drawn-out, which balances the stupid humour in favour of sadism and blood. It's primitive effects, but works in that charming 80's way and has enough gore to entertain me, a cold-hearted slasher fuck-up who's seen it all.

The Lucky 13 DVD I have is one of the oldest in my collection, printed in 1999. It's probably OOP by now, but take a look at eBay or Amazon.com and I'm sure it's waiting for you somewhere...with a big bone cleaver!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fair Game (1986)

Time for an Australian film, Fair Game - which of course is not the same as the legendary fiasco from 1995 with William Baldwin and that chick, whatshername, or that new one starring Sean Penn and that other woman I can't remember the name of. They all look the same anyway, women. Add a moustache or hat and it's easier to keep 'em apart. Anyway, Fair Game edited into that doc on Australian exploitation-films, Not Quite Hollywood, but that short clip doesn't say much about the movie itself, because it's actually not a bad movie. It's a damn fine movie I would say, even if it has a boob-scene that looks very exploitative when it's screened, but kinda fits in good to the rest of the movie without truly being exploitation.

Cassandra Delaney is Jessica, a smart farmer girl who (I think) owns a safe-heaven for animals. One day on the road she bumps into three rednecks who almost forces her off the road. She complains to the law, but no one cares, and soon the rednecks is out for revenge - just for fun. So they kill her animals and sexually abuse her (including putting her undressed in front of one of their trucks, driving like crazies at the same time). When they're finished with her they leave her... and now she's ready for her revenge! And it's gonna be brutal!

Every Aussie movie seem to have car chases and this one sure has a lot of car-related stunts, from the insane beginning - which has some very cool climbing-on-top-of-vehicles-stunts - to the violent driving later, often with one of the characters - who must have been a stuntman also - doing the most dangerous stuff on top and around the car. Lotsa cool stuff. But this is mostly a fantastic and very simple story about a woman who just won't give up. Cassandra Delaney is great. This is the first time I've seen her, but she rules the screen every time she's in frame - and she's visible most of the movie, in one state or another.

The three rednecks are three very distinctive characters, and all of them are extremely annoying and unsympathetic. There's no try to explain their behaviour, and I'm just thankful for that. Because this is a revenge-movie and there's not need to forgive any characters or in any way feel form them. They deserves what's coming. What's even more interesting with Fair Game it feels more like an adventure than action, or survival-horror - but in bright sunlight instead. It's a fresh take on the old story and it's odd that it's not more famous than it is.

Maybe because it's set in the Australian wilderness and the female character is so strong and good? I think especially a male audience, and we all know that the majority of men out there are assholes, just don't like a movie where we only root for the woman. I mean, even in I Spit on Your Grave they have a weak sensitive character, a male victim, that we actually feel for somehow (not all of course, but the character is there for a reason - so the male audience won't feel so bad). Forget that in Fair Game. Here you have three ugly motherfuckers and one great lady.

A surprise for me, a really good movie. Recommended to each and everyone who feels for some "ozploitation". 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dead & Buried (1981)

Dan O'Bannon is together with Larry Cohen my favourite screenwriter. If there's someone I always feels inspired by it's O'Bannon, and it hurts a lot that I never got a chance to meet and talk with him. What he did, just like Cohen, is proving you can write about the most absurd subjects and concepts and still make a good movie from it. An original movie, or just extremely interesting. I mean, Alien isn't that original - it's a combination of earlier, older movies, but set in the gritty seventies - but still in the future, and as a haunted house movie instead. See, it's still original.  What O'Bannon did with frequent co-writer Ronald Shusett was to take b-movies seriously, and that often made them better than typical mainstream flicks. Dead & Buried was one of the first movies in the sub-genre "Small Town With a Dark Secret" I saw and it still is one of my favourites.

James Farentino is sheriff Dan Gillis who lives in the small town of Potters Bluff. One day they find a badly burned man in car wreckage, he's still alive, but so hurt that it's impossible to communicate with him. Soon an identical man starts working at the gas station and the original victim gets brutally murdered. More people die and the good sheriff starts to think it's something very fishy in his little town. Is there black magic involved? Is it eve impossible for people to die in Potters Bluff?

Dead & Buried is filled with mysteries and oddities and a great gallery of original characters, just the work to expect from Dan O'Bannon and Roland Shusett. It's hard to deny the Lovecraft-feeling over the story,  but maybe it's the small town in Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth that's the inspiration, just like in Carpenter's The Fog, Amando De Ossorio's Night of the Seagulls and official film adaptation like Stuart Gordon's Dagon or Dan Gildark & Grant Cogswell's Cthulhu? Dead & Buried certainly belongs in the same category - the dangerous conspiracy of a small coastal town.

I think the intimate atmosphere in small towns scares us all. I'm from a small town, and lived in even smaller places, but I had to get away from there because of the mental inbreeding. The sense that everyone knows who you are and what you're doing. That's not style. That's the finest with this horror movie concept and it still comes back from time to time. The countryside IS dangerous. Maybe not in physical way, but like Cthulhu up here shows, it's a breeding ground for racism, homophobia and just egoism - in a way that never happens in a big town. I have nothing against small towns, but I prefer staying there at the most two-three days.

Anyway, this is one of many things that Dead & Buried deals with. But it's foremost a horror movie, dealing with strange powers - or is it a new science? The atmosphere is stunning, foggy and filled with an interesting feeling of dread - right under the charming American gothic. Everything feels dirty, dishonest, and still so cute and cuddly. It's hard to explain, but I see it like someone who smiles without smiling. Just muscles moving, no meaning behind it. That's what director Gary Sherman and the screenwriters created.

Most of the grisly effects is done by Stan Winston, except one scene - and it's very visible that it's not Winston who's done the effects. It's a cool scene, but has none of the realism that you can see earlier or later in the movie. Overall is a more grisly and nasty film than I remember it to be, which is good. I see horror movies because I want to see horror, not family movies.

Dead & Buried as a genuinely good twist, gore and blood and a great cast (watch out for Robert Englund in a smaller part, and Lisa Blount - from Ruggero Deodato's Cut and Run!). It's a very good and original movie and a perfect midnight matinee, maybe a double bill together with Messiah of Evil... 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Raajjeyam (2002)

I've been searching for eons, trying to avoid ever recommendation that said "Why would you watch his movies? The best scenes is available on YouTube!". But that's not me, no Sir. Imagine trying to be a fan of world weird cinema and only seen a few seconds of Banglar King Kong on YouTube? That's not fandom. Fandom is finding these movies and watching every damn minute of them. When it comes to the legendary Captain Vijayakanth, still a very popular actor and politician, it's been a bitch finding DVDs, but finally through some obscure webstore I've already forgotten the name of, I found Raajjeyam! It's mostly famous for showing up on blog-lists over the most over-the-top fight scenes in Indian movies, and that's what people outside India have seen so far. Until now.

What's so special with Vijayakanth is his appearance:

To be fair, he was kinda cute in that slightly chubby Indian way in the seventies and early eighties, but his potbelly, lobster-eyes and double cheeks is nowadays very absurd and colourful trademarks for being an action star. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, I love when people just refuse to understand that their best years is behind them and continues to act like they're twenty again.

I pulled a joke on Twitter that no one appreciated: "The reason why Captain Vijayakanth have two cheeks is that he's hidden an extra fist in the lower one". Laugh, goddammit!

Vijayakanth (I'm gonna call him Captain for from now) is more or less Jesus, according to the opening musical number (can't describe that ego trip, you have to see it for yourself) and he's also the owner of security firm. The Captain is probably THE single best catcher of criminals in his part of India and uses all his fighting skills, often totally over-the-top martial arts and strenght (he stomps in the water during a fight down in the sewers and flushes up the baddies by the power of his stomp!). He also has a very nice mute brother who's in love with a girl who don't want him. Anyway, through some totally unbelievable circumstances his mute brother ends up in prison and gets mixed in some serious business that... well, I'm not gonna tell you, because Raajjeyam is so filled with stupid (yes, stupid) twists and unlikely storylines that it's hard to understand. It all ends with the Captain going on a revenge-rampage!

To understand Raajjeyam you have to understand the Captain. This is, and I'm most of his movies is, a long love letter written by the Captain to himself. Without any shame at all. The ego-orgy in this movie is so fantastic that Tom Cruise comes off as a shy and submissive person in comparison. Captain is the most perfect human being in the world, he's sensitive and cries, but still knows how to round-kick twenty people at the same time. He's like Chuck Norris but with talent and charisma. And yes, you're correct: he can't fight, but pretends to, which means he's superior in every way to the movie-molester Norris.

Actually, Captain Vijayakanth is a really lousy actor and it's a sight to behold to see him act, or play smart, or cool, or funny. But that makes this glorious three hour epic filled with romance, drama, slapstick, music, bloody squibs, self-glorification and martial arts so much fun.

There's four big fighting-scenes to look forward too. All four goes on forever and gets more and more spectacular for every minute they goes on. The Captain sure knows how to kick people all over the room, or make triple-triple somersaults over people and show it from five different angles, often in slow-motion. One fight is set in a ladder-factory and turns out to be a really fun and creative action sequence, with lots of way to take people out with hitting a ladder to their head. It has four or five musical numbers, and most of them is quite decent, especially if you wanna see semi-naked Indian hairy men dancing and smiling like there's no tomorrow.

This movie has so many silly highlights and it makes me wanna find even more Vijayakanth movies. If someone has ANY idea where to buy DVDs with him, please let me know. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Curse of the Dog God (1977)

Japanese cinema has for me mostly been Kaiju-movies and Sonny Chiba. I've never been so much into samurai-movies and the recent Sushi Typhoon-production is just pure crap. I'm not a novice by any mean, I've seen a lot of Japanese movies but it has never been my area. But what I've realized is that the 70's cinema of Japan is something special, like most of the world during that time. The Inugami Family is one of the best and then we have Village of the Eight Gravestones, the Hanzo-films etc. Stuff filled with originality, violence and controversy. Three ingredients that's very important for me. My pal Jon in Norway sent me package a little while ago, and Curse of the Dog God was included. I've heard about it since earlier, but this was the first time I was able to actually see it. And oh boy, this is one original ghost movie...

I team of experts searching for Uranium finds a big heap of at a sacred mountain. On their way up there they accidentally destroys a small spirit house and then even more accidentally hits a dog! One in the team is getting married also, to a village girl, but the owner of the dog - a little boy - throws stones at him during the wedding. As a revenge. Back in the big city strange things starts to happen and soon people around him is dying. His wife is afraid the he's gonna die to, from the curse of the dog god, and goes slowly mad! He takes her back to the village for an exorcism, but it all ends with her dying! THEN shit hits the fan and the Dog God is furious, setting out to kill and destroy!

Wattya say about that set-up? Impressive? Yeah, and it works! I had no idea what this movie was going, and I couldn't in my wildest imagination see a subplot of rapist-wannabe motorcycle hooligans, a flying dog head, a giant drill running amok and so much other weird stuff. Not to mention the traditional female ghost with black hair, but here she's really nasty and violent!

Curse of the Dog God is a beautiful movie, packed with Japanese nature and landscapes, all in ultra-widescreen. The blood is RED, the violence is corny but borders to nasty and it's totally unpredictable. Lots of superlatives here, but this is a great movie - one of the best Japanese movies I've seen in long while. When Sushi Typhoon is churning out bullshit they should look back in time to their own countries past and see how to make original and bizarre genre movies for real and not just like simple, cheap, childish jokes.

But fuck Sushi Typhoon. Why does Curse of the Dog God work, with it's absurd premise and killer dogs, nudity, explosions and ghosts? Just because it's serious. I can guarantee that most movies works good when they're serious and the filmmakers actually trying to make something good out of it instead of joking around like another jackass. The Asian countries has always been experts in making serious, absurd and crazy, genre movies and most of them still do - even Japan sometimes. I like, as a part of the audience, to be taken seriously. And when the filmmakers respect me I'll respect their movie. Sure, there's of course pure horror comedies - but that's a whole different thing.

Lots of rambling in this review, but it's because I'm not sure what to write about Curse of the God Dog. It's that original and should be experienced instead of being a silly review at Ninja Dixon. Now my lust for watching Japanese cinema has awoken once again. Lets see what else I find in the collection...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Unmasked Part 25 (1989)

It's Friday the 13th! But I guess you all know this. I never reviewed a Friday the 13th movie on this day, never - but I always want to, because I love that franchise. Yeah, I know, it represents the cheapest and most shallow of all horror-series, but it still works after all these years. I even like the latest sequel/remake, I think Jason goes to Hell is fantastic and I love the Vs movie. My favourites is part 2 and 4, but the first one is a slasher-masterpiece. But everyone else is writing reviews about good old Jason, so I have to do something different. First I was trying to get my hands on some of the fan movies that's been made over the years, but no luck there. Then something reminded me of one of the first DVDs I ever bought, Unmasked Part 25, a British deconstruction of the slasher-genre, especially the Jason-movies!

Jackson (Gregory Cox) is bored with life. So he has left his old hunting-grounds, a camp in the US where he roamed the forests like a wild animal after his mother died. He's tired of killing camp counsellors. So he goes back to London where his father still lives, but it's hard to stop killing. After slaughtering a whole house of partying trendy British youths he meets a blind woman, Shelly (Fiona Evans) and she's so kind and nice the he decides not to kill her. They start dating and she loves him even if he has a deformed face and prefer wearing a hockey mask outside the house. But the almost automatic lust for killing won't stop and Jackson is torn between living a normal life and killing stupid partying kids...

Unmasked Part 25 was directed by the mysterious Swedish director Anders Palm, who I've been trying to find for an interview for may years now. He also directed another interesting movie that I haven't been able to locate, Murder on Line One (also from 1989) and seems to have moved to Canada, at least for a while. According to the IMDB he was involved in Swedish documentary a few years ago, but it can be another Anders Palm - it's not a rare name in Sweden. Anyway, Unmasked Part 25 is an interesting try to deconstruct the slasher-genre with telling it from another point of view but with the same clichés. Similar things have been done lately with Tuck and Dale vs Evil, The Last Lovecraft, Cabin in the Woods and so on.

What's a bit sad is that it only partly works. The beginning, the set-up to the romance is excellent and brings some spectacular and gory death scenes, which promises a smart twist on the legend of Jason Voorhees, but soon it stumbles on it's own ambitious and slows down and yeah, enters the world of pretentiousness. It picks up at the end again, with some gory murders and the depression of Jackson when he knows exactly what's his victims is gonna do when they see him. It's not fun with murders anymore. The final image is very ironic, a man trapped in his own destiny - and here we ask us the questions if he's a real person or a character who managed to escape from the world of movies.

It's an odd movie, very arty outside the murder scenes and with thick British accents both making it fresh and hard to understand at the same time. It delivers on the gore-front anyway with cool deaths and graphic violence. Lots of blood and often lingering a bit too long on the victims, which makes me surprised that the BBFC didn't cut anything from this UK DVD.

It's not a bad movie, but in the end suffers from being a bit too anxious of not being taking seriously and therefore added a bit too much student film melodrama. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Alyce (2011)

If you wanna see a dark drama this year, pick up a copy of Jay Lee's Alyce, just released here in Sweden by Njuta Films. Like my dear friend Cinezilla once wrote, if I knew that this movie was directed by the same director as Zombies Stripper I probably wouldn't have given it a chance. Not that Zombie Strippers was that bad, it's charming tongue-in-cheek zombie movie with lots of boobs. But that's about it, nothing more. And often that's not enough for me. I need something extra, some extra layer. Depth, as some pretentious people say. Alyce has all of this and it's a surprising departure from Zombie Strippers, and that's all I need to gain faith in a filmmaker.

A brilliant Jade Dornfeld is Alyce, a office worker who's best friend Carroll (Tamara Feldman) is a egocentric bitch - but not really that. She obviously care for Alyce, somehow, deep inside. After a terrible evening out clubbing Carroll is dumped by her boyfriend and they goes home to Alyce, or more correct: up on Alyce roof to escape reality for a moment. An accident happens and Carroll falls of the roof! Alyce, in her drunken depressed state don't know what she should do and locks herself in her apartment. Later a police officer knocks on the door and Alyce decides to lie and say that Carroll probably took suicide... and adds a story around that - until she understands that Carroll isn't dead, just very wounded. The guilt of lying and afraid of being caught in her lies drives her slowly into madness...

I wouldn't call Alyce for a horror movie, except it's slightly connected to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, but that's something I won't analyze. Read Cinezilla's review for example in that case. It's instead a very fine mix between a drama and a very dark comedy and it's pure joy to see Alyce go deeper into the shit, and also very painful. Her drug addiction gets worse and worse and her friends alienate her. Alyce is instead more bitter because Carroll treated her so badly, which is even more painful because Alyce is in love with her.

When the use of drugs escalate, the madness also gets more intense. She gets stuck in front of the TV, who shows how fucked up the world is and soon she decides to do something about it. Deleting those that treated her wrong, in very violent ways.

Alyce is a tour-de-force for Jade Dornfeld, who lives every scene like I've seen very few do before. She's both extremely funny and disturbing at the same time and manages to pull of a fine dramatic performance in the middle of it. The supporting cast is great to, and it's always a pleasure seeing character actor veteran Tracey Walter show up as Alyce's annoying landlord. Another fine return is James Duval, who once seemed to be destined to be a big star, but has kept a low profile in tons and tons of indie movies. He's still extremely active (just check his IMDB filmography) and I hope we will see him in bigger movies and smaller well-distributed movies like this.

Alyce might not be a typical Ninja Dixon movie, but it's still a fine movie and you should check it out. The Njuta Film's DVD looks wonderful, and for you others I'm sure it's available on DVDs in your country to!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Devil's Rain (1975)

Like my old friend Joachim use to say, without Christianity we wouldn't have all these fantastic satanic horror movies that was made in the seventies, and to that degree I'll agree with him. The best thing with most of them is that "the evil" wins in the end, which makes them even more interesting. Several of my favourite horrors from the seventies takes its cue from Satan, stuff like Holocaust 2000, The Omen, The Sentinel and now The Devil's Rain proves that that good old devil still is one of the finest baddies we have on the screen. He's terribly underused nowadays, except in crappy Exorcism-themed movies where he looses in the end. Not good. So why don't take the time machine back to the middle of the seventies when a fantastic cast of characters put on their red robes and did some good ol' devil worshipping!

A violent thunderstorm. Mark Preston (William Shatner) waits, together with his mother, for his father to come home. And he does, but only manages to utter a warning that Corbis wants his book back - and then melts graphically into a puddle of wax. Soon after a demonic force attacks their house and the mother (Ida Lupino of all people) is kidnapped. Mark goes after them and comes to Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) hide-out, in the desert. When he's not coming back his brother Tom (Tom Skerritt) starts to investigate and is soon trapped in the nasty claws of a dangerous sect of Devil worshippers!

I really didn't believe it, but The Devil's Rain is one of the coolest and best satanic horror movies I ever seen. It has that typical dirty, realistic feel of the seventies but never shy away from melting people, Belsebub-make-up on Borgnine, explosions, more melting people and lots and lots of cool satanic symbols and awesome red robes with even more satanic symbols on them. Finally someone understood that a movie about good vs. evil doesn't have to be boring, it can be like every other movie from this time: just fucking crazy.

To make it extra cool and probably to add some nice flavour to the marketing our dear Anton LaVey is credited as a technical advisor and also shows up, very short, as a high priest during the final. I'm sure he enjoyed this a lot, especially because a movie like this basically was an excuse to poke fun at nutty religious people (as you know, LaVey was an atheist and used the legend of Satan to create a self-help ideology, but that's a whole different story). The movie looks spectacular and Robert Fuest's directing is flawless. How he uses the open spaces around the satanic church, how he delivers in the effect scenes - this is a master at work.

Another fine thing with this movie is the cast. First of all, Ernest Borgnine gives it ALL as Corbis, and seems to enjoy his performance like no one else. William Shater (another very underrated actor) is excellent and so is the entire supporting cast. I find Tom Skerritt a bit pale, but maybe its because the extremely colourful surroundings. It must be hard playing the straight man when Borgnine and Shatner chew's the scenery right behind you.

The Devil's Rain is a fantastic horror movie and if you stayed away from it because you're silly like me, watch dammit. It's very good-looking, filled with slimy effects and actors who crawls out from the telly because they acts so much. In a good way of course. The DVD from Dark Sky looks very good. Get it!

Fun fact: Ernest Borgnine didn't use any make-up for his performance as Corbis. He just wrinkled his face a little bit more.

Fun fact: John Travolta made his last really good performance in The Devil's Rain. 

Fun fact: Anton LaVey's chick golden helmet became a short-lived fab in California between July 28th and July 29th 1975. It was a roaring success among the "in-crowd".

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Watchers (1988)

The 80's was a special decade, a decade of horror movies that obviously had a younger audience in mind. You have more kid-friendly stuff like Gremlins and The Monster Squad, movies that still manages to be far more adult and interesting than movies for kids nowadays. Then you have flicks like Silver Bullet, Fright Night and even Troll 2! With young actors in the leads, starring in movies with violence and gore, foul words - and still having that cool youthful imagination that 2011's Super 8 tried - and succeeded - to generate. Watchers, one of the few Dean R. Koontz movies who's been produced, is also one of these odd hybrids of full-blown horror and entertainment for older kids. It also got three sequels, all produced by Roger Corman. Gonna get to those someday, but tonight it's the original movie and nothing else!

A secret lab is destroyed in a explosion and two creatures escapes from there, a hyper-intelligent Golden Retriever (what else, this is a Dean R. Koontz story!) and a ultra-violent hairy monkey-something-beast who wants to kill the dog. Anyway, the dog - named Furface later - takes shelter in a car belonging to a young Corey Haim (who also was the star in Silver Bullet by the way...) and they instantly fall in love - in a non-sexual way of course. But guess what?! The monkey-something-beast is after them and starts killing everything that comes in it's way! A government official, the forever-bad guy Michael Ironside, is also on the hunt for both the dog and the monkey-something-beast and he's also one of those fuckers that stops for no one!

Watchers is more or less a child of it's time. It couldn't have been made earlier or later, it's just a very typical eighties kiddie-horror with some gore, violence and bad language. And it's also quite good. It was years and years ago since I read the original book so I have no idea what's left, but the storyline is very typical for Dean R. Koontz: very straightforward, a damn dog and a monster killing lots of people. It might be annoying with a smart dog (the second worst to a precocious Japanese kaiju-kid!), but at least it's not playing basket or using a skateboard!

I've mentioned gore a couple of times, but it's not that gory actually. But still an okay amount of bloodshed and nasty human remains. The attacks are vicious and violent and that little hairy critter is sure hungry for human eyes! A couple of squibs and a little bit and a little bit of that makes it a bloody movie, but never extreme. It was enough for me, mostly because I like monsters and even a monster movie without a drop of blood can be worth watching.

Michael Ironside is a good baddie, as usual, but does his routine in his sleep here and never feels as dangerous as he should be. But he's good, no complains really. Corey Haim was a good teenage hero and carries the whole movie on his back, which is something I rarely acknowledge when it comes to stars in his age. But this was also a time when the roles in genre movies was a bit meatier and less childish. They took the young adults serious instead of spoil them with McDonalds-chewed easy watching crap.

And have you noticed how strange a dog looks if you looks at it for a longer time? The eyes! The eyes! It's a like deformed freaky human on four legs and a constant urge for disgusting food! Which reminds me of my wedding night... but that's a whole different story.

Fun movie, I liked it. One day I will watch the sequels also!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Karate Girl (1974)

I'm not sure where it actually started, the birth of the revenge-movie - maybe with Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left in 1972, a version of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring from 1960. Death Wish maybe, 1974? Or it just started because it felt natural, a good way to continue the gritty new style of cinema. Death Wish wasn't the only revenge movie released in '74, Bo-Arne Vibenius classic They Call Her One Eye came out and the film of the evening, Karate Girl, a Turkish rape-revenge who actually have some minor similarities to One Eye! Like another Turkish classic, Cellat, this is actually a very good movie that mixes the realism with total craziness and this makes it one of the better movies in the genre I've seen.

Blond bombshell Filiz Akin is Zeynep, a mute girl who lives with her aging father at a farm. One day five criminals, who just escaped from prison, invades the homes and kills the father and rapes Zeynep. Because of the shock of being raped, she regains her speech and decides to take revenge on the criminals. With the help of the friendly hobo Murat (Ediz Hun) she learns to be en expert shooter, manages to take a brown belt in karate and sets out to kill them all - but wait! Murat is actually an under-cover cop who wants to help her, but with the law on his side! One thing leads to another and in the end Zeynep becomes a cop to take down the last of the rapists!

I know, that sounds like the whole story - but believe me, like good old Bollywood and Thai movies from the 70's the story is so packed with details, intrigues, twists and I don't know what, that this is just a part of the adventure. Karate Girl (aka Kareteci kiz aka Golden Girl) is a fine movie with a frantic pace! I've never seen a character evolve so fast in a movie, and learn so much - I guess it all took a couple of years if we should think realistically, but that would be boring!

I think this is the first time I've seen Filiz Akin, and now I want to see a lot more. She's both a great actress and looks stunning handling a gun or kicking baddie-ass. I think she has a very slim male stuntman during the worst fights, but she's still so damn cool that it's hard not to admire her skills. Ediz Hun is also a likable hero and a good actor, a guy I would like to see more of - anyone can recommend me more titles with these two?

The similarities with They Call Her One Eye is quite small, but it almost seems like someone - maybe a producer or investor - saw One Eye at some festival (maybe Cannes?) and asked someone to write a screenplay with a mute chick who's raped and then takes revenge on the criminals - but first learns to handle a gun and do karate, and that's it. It would have been nice with a rip-off, but it's even better that it stands on it's own legs and becomes a movie of its own.

Did I mention I loved the martial arts in this movie? It's nothing perfect or spectacular, but hard-hitting and brutal. More rough and less fancy. Like it should be, if it's not Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan or Iko Uwais of course.

I got a DVD-R of this from Micke at Monkey Beach, the best little movie store in Stockholm. He probably knew I would love it. You should visit his store sometime and also see this movie if you're into Turkish action and random revenge movies from all over the world!

P.S! Jack posted some nice covers and artwork at his blog, go there dammit! 

Phantoms (1998)

Dean R. Koontz - a name both makes ordinary people happy and hardcore literature fans sad and whiny. Almost anyway. I read a lot of Koontz as a kid and sometimes I think back to his books with fondness. Maybe you who are his fans might think I'm unfair when I claim he's a poor mans Stephen King, but with an unhealthy obsession with golden retrievers. That's not a bad thing, because when King sometimes starts ranting for 100 pages about a small detail Koontz explains that with a few paragraphs. Successful movie adaptations of his novels has never taken off - it started with the nice Demon Seed and since then it's never been the same really. So that's why I'm gonna write about one of my favourites, Phantoms - a monster movie for the Scream-generation starring Ben Affleck, Rose McGowan and Liev Schreiber. And Peter O'Toole of course, close to 120 years old when he made this flick.

Lisa and Jennifer, two sisters, arrives to their old hometown only to find everyone gone or butchered in the must macabre ways. Luckily for them 13 year old sheriff Ben Affleck shows up with his perverted necrophilia-interested deputy Liev Schreiber to save the day - but hey, it won't take long until everyone - except the stars - is dead and buried and Peter O' Toole enters the story. He plays a speculative journalist obsessed with "The Ancient Enemy", the unknown force who's responsible for all the mass disappearances through the ages. And FBI think it's this force, a giant worm-like energy and brain-sucking monster who's behind it all! Now they have to overpower the monster with intelligence - and a lot of shooting at random scary objects!

Phantoms is actually a really trash big budget monster movie who steals (I don't remember how original the novel is) from a lot of other movies, but that's just fine with me because I want monsters and mayhem, tentacles and slime - and giant insects, and blood and harmless gore. That's why this movie is so damn good in it's own little way. That infamous (I know some forum-geeks hate that word, because they have no imagination themselves to understand what a "great atmosphere" can be in a movie) atmosphere is actually good to, which is odd coming from the weakest part in the Halloween franchise, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

Talking about stealing scenes - there's stuff that's almost identical to John Carpenters The Thing, Chuck Russell's The Blob and, believe it or not, Joe Dante's The Howling - the last scene to be more exact. Hardly not an original idea, but I always confuse these two bar-scenes with each other.

But Phantoms still manages to be it's own good movie and even if all the actors playing cops looks around 20 years too young, they're doing fine. Ben Affleck shows already here what a good charismatic (yes, that's 100 % true) actor and hero he is. It would have been easy, like - more or less - Schreiber to joke away the movie, be more over-the-top and silly, but Ben does what he does good here and he's a good anchor for us in the audience. Peter O'Toole, I love the guy, but it's quite obvious here that he's not really "in" the movie. He's having troubles delivering the dialogue convincingly, probably because it's very silly and unconvincing - except in the last little speech he as before the final monster-showdown. That's good stuff.

Once again, this is an underrated movie. It's a lot of fun, has nice monsters and tentacles and a story that goes directly to the mystery and action without a boring set-up. Is this out on BD? I would love to upgrade my crappy Swedish DVD!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Devil's Men (1976)

It took me some years to finally sit down and watch The Devil's Men (aka Land of the Minotaur), but when I got my hands on Scorpion's new DVD release I had to use some of my savings (and believe me, that's not much at all) to buy it. Even if Peter Cushing is a brilliant actor and an awesome character my favourite actor in this movie is the always enjoyable and colourful Donald Pleasence. He often did better work than Cushing in these obscure horror-jobs and took the chance to really use everything he learned as an actor and twist it a couple of times. Cushing mostly looks tired. Anyway...

Young couples is disappearing in Greece and when friends of a priest (Pleasence) also gets lost he sends after his friend Milo (Kostas Karagiorgis), who's a random tough guy/private detective/man of mystery/whatever. Milo starts an investigation and soon find out that more couples has disappeared over the years, and everything is connected to the old pagan temple who's around the corner. Is the suspicious Baron Corofax (Peter Cushing) involved somehow? Is he the leader of an ancient cult worshipping the Minoatur? Well, guess.

Most reviews I've read is quite negative, and in a way I can understand them. The script is all over the place, the direction is uneven, the actors ranges from really good to just very, very bad. BUT The Devil's Man also has a lot of atmosphere and a imaginative storyline filled with human sacrifices, nudity and bored acting by Cushing. Everything involving human sacrifice looks excellent, with sect members in colourful capes, a fire-blowing Minotaur statue, even some blood - and yes, the traditional fisheye objective to make everything look a little bit more distorted and fucked up, a nice seventies tradition.

Another fresh idea is to make the priest a really nice and fun guy, who enjoys young people and joking - good food and maybe some flirting, and still takes his job seriously. It's a nice departure from all the stiff priests I've seen. Only Donald Pleasence could have done it and it wouldn't surprise me if he created a lot of this character himself.

I've seen gorier movies than this one, but it has a couple of stabbings that looks okay and a sequence when several characters explode in pieces of blood, dust and flesh. That's about it. But the general style of the movie and the wild script makes it better than it people say it is. Another very odd thing is the score, composed by Brian Eno of all people! The song over the end credits is extremely good, I love satanic 70's rock - but I highly doubt that it's THE Paul Williams singing, it's very far from his voice and style. Anyone have an mp3 of this track?

The only bad movies are boring movies. This was a little bit boring, but overall a very fun and entertaining piece of Greek trash from the golden years. The DVD from Scorpion is, what I've heard, an "uncut" version that differs slightly from the other DVDs out there. I have no idea what's missing, but I'm so naive that a trust people and it's better I recommend this version to be on the safe side.

Yeah, that's about. A bad movie getting a bad review.