Sunday, November 25, 2012

Paul Naschy's Memoirs of a Wolfman (1997)

I've been enjoying several Paul Naschy movies the latest week or so, from stuff I haven't seen before to revisiting good old classics. During this time I've also been reading the US paperback of Memoirs of a Wolfman, the autobiography that was published in 1997. The version I have was release a couple of years later and includes a bonus chapter and a signed card by Naschy himself. Very nice and it makes me even more sad that I never hade the pleasure to meet him in real life.

The memoirs chronicles his life from childhood and we get a detailed look at his family and relatives - and friends of the relatives, which might seem to be a bit exaggerated - but you will also notice that more or less everyone of these persons is connected to what he did later. They introduced him to things in life, they said something, they experienced things together with him - everyone means something for Naschy and without very few exceptions he gives them their full credits.  Another fine thing he does - up to his 20-30's - is to write down the comics he read at the time and the movies he watched, which also gives a strong hint of what inspired him during his filmmaking career.

It's well known that Naschy had a big ego, close a to narcissistic persona. He's a very proud actor and filmmaker and never shies away from letting us know when he's done something good and brilliant and masterful - but he also, very emotional, digs deep down in his failures and depressions, how he was so weak that he couldn't take care of himself, how he did stuff for money just to be able to pay the rent. The last chapters is actually quite painful to read, and the part where he tells us about his heart attack is so sad! The bonus chapter is the worst, where his self-confidence is rock-bottom and he basically say "goodbye" at the end, to never return. Thankfully he obviously got back on the saddle again and had quite good career even after that, including his best performance ever, in Christian Molina's 2004 film Rojo Sangre. He also starred in an official Spanish Dogme-film, Once Upon Another Time - a film I need to see as soon as possible.

The bitterness overcomes the happiness, the enthusiasm, in the end, which is a damn pity. But we know better and Naschy knew better also. Memoirs of a Wolfman is packed with anecdotes - some of them extremely bizarre - and a good insight in the work of low-budget filmmaking in Spain and Europe during 60's, 70's and 80's. The strangest chapter is when he tells us how he got involved in a cult of real devil worshippers!

His enthusiasm for making horror movies, the macabre and living on the edge of society, which he seem like at the same time as he's missing the recognition from the elite, is the fuel of this book. Naschy seems to more than a good, decent guy - a person who always cared for people who cared for him. An interesting mix between a macho-man and lover of women to a supporter of gay rights, and a guilty-filled catholic and left-wing horror fan. Everything at once and probably the reason why he made such interesting and stand-out movies.

Sometimes difficult to read because of the hardships in his later life, but also a very rewarding story surviving and fighting for what you love. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Skjult (2009)

"I. TOLD. YOU. SO!", that's the usual mature words from Jocke over at Rubbermonsterfetishism after I've seen another one of the movies he's been nagging about for years and years and year and years. Skjult (or Hidden, the US title) is one of these films. And like in the case with the Finnish horror classic Sauna he actually, finally, bought the movie for me so I would feel forced to watch it. This is of course good for me, because I never so no to free DVDs and if they happen to be good it's even better. With Skjult I was on the edge of my seat, not only because of the suspense but also because... well, lets wait a bit with discussing that. First the story...

Kai's mother has died. He hasn't seen her for many years, mostly because she was a fucking monster. He still despises her there in the morgue and when he understands she left her dreaded house to him, he goes on a mindfuck until he's not sure what's real or not...because, is someone...something living in the house? Who can it be and what do it have to do with him and the past that haunts him over and over again...

Skjult is one of the best and eerie horror movies I've seen in a while. I especially like the mix of horror and mystery, something that many wannabe horror-directors forget in their hunt after making a cool, gory horror story. I like that to, but I'm a fan of good twists and the one in Skjult really kept me very nervous - because part of the set-up of the twist makes the ending suck big time. And... well, I don't think it sucked. I think it ended just the way I wanted it, but still... there's clues here and there that it's a lazy, shitty ending - but something tells me it's just a way for the filmmakers to fuck around with us in the same way as the leading character is being fucked with by his memories.

A good genre movie never needs dialogue and Skjult thankfully keeps away from the talky parts and tells a story with few words and a lot of very intelligent use of the camera and editing. I literary jumped right up a couple of times, which is very rare nowadays - for me at least. Kristoffer Joner, who plays Kai, is one of the best and most convincing Norwegian actors right now, a guy who can do genre movies like Ond Tro and Bad Faith and still do it without ham it up. There's not need to act like damn moron just because you're in a horror movie (just watch me in Camp Slaughter!), keep it real and the audience will follow you to hell and back.

Skjult makes small, neat references to several horror films and sub-genres. From The Changeling and House by the Cemetery to slashers (somehow it actually a slasher turned-in-side-out, like Santa Sangre is a giallo backwards - more on that another time) and classic haunted house stories. This is excellent and it works so well. It's one of those combinations that you would never see in a Swedish production, at least not yet. It's brave because it's could be confusing for a genre-sensitive audience.

If you want deep, dark forests, dangerous waterfalls in slow-mo, old ugly dirty buildings and close to dim-witted locals (in a realistic way, I've seen all these characters where I lived before, in Jämtland, Sweden), Skjult is the movie for you. It has a frustrating, but in the end - after giving it some thought - a very rewarding ending. It makes you think and analyze and I've been doing some thinking and no, it doesn't suck. It's actually not bad at all.

Rent it, buy it, try to see it. I would love to hear what you think about this Norwegian chiller!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Attack of the Werewolves (2012)

I don't like horror-comedy. I think horror should be serious and - most of the time - humorless. That makes interesting movies. But there's a few - very few - movies that mixes horror with comedy in a good way. Shaun of the Dead, Tucker and Dale vs Evil and Cabin in the Woods for example. I know that the last one isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I don't give a f**k about that. They're comedies, but the horror is real. People die, the monsters is scary or the situations serious. That makes a good horror-comedy. Attack of the Werewolves, also known as Game of Werewolves, is a new Spanish production - released this summer in it's country and now on blu-ray in the UK. It's also one of the few horror-comedies that works.

Tomas is coming home to his old village, where he lived until he was 15 years old. He's invited to talk at some fancy occasion, because he's a famous writer - well, not that famous actually: he wrote on book that sold nothing and now he wants to write a second one. But the villagers has other plans for him and suddenly he finds himself facing a werewolf... and the only way to stop the werewolf is if it's eats Tomas! This won't end well...

It works because the danger is real. There's not slapstick-monsters, just real dangerous ones. I love that. Attack of the Werewolves is also packed with excellent actors, and the leading man - yet another semi-failed Spanish men with dream, just like in Torremolinos 73 - played by Gorka Otxoa both manages to be touching in his dreams to write another book, and handles the slapstick and gags at least as good. His former best friend Calisto (Carlos Areces) is extremely funny, a real character still being over-the-top. The same thing can be said about the third protagonist, played by Secun de la Rosa, probably the most annoying and most incompetent literary agent ever shown on screen.

The real success is the simple - but very effective script - with a couple of great twists and a storyline that just goes up! Up!! UP!!! all the time until they do stuff that people only think about but then trash because it's too much or too silly, but here they do it and it makes it even more awesome. Like Shaun of the Dead it still stands firmly on the ground of reality, but set in a landscape of absurdity. The violence is violent (but less gory than I thought it would be), the comedy is broad and the drama is big drama. Like all good movies want to have more when the movie ends, because you like the characters and it's open for so many more adventures.

Spanish comedy is special, not for everyone, and pretty close to the even more outrageous Italian comedy. But I think the Spaniards is better at mixing some seriousness into the story, with less shallow characters and more interesting storylines. Of course there's bad comedies to, but I guess the legacy of Almovador and De Iglesias has left a lot of inspiration to other filmmakers also.

Oh, but how's the werewolves? Let me tell you one thing: you won't be disappointed! These are big, brutal classic werewolves. Part Naschy, part Chaney, part animal. The make-up is extremely good, among the best I've seen - especially in something that probably don't have the biggest budget in the world. They're violent creatures to, and shows it in graphic ways - but it could have been even more nasty if you ask me. Somehow, when watching it, I feel that Paul Naschy himself would have played on of the old men in the village if he was still alive. His spirit is all over the story, either they meant it that way or not.

Good, fun, charming werewolf-movie!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Man with the Severed Head (1973)

I've poured a couple of whisky's in my poor, poor body and now I'm gonna try to write a few words about The Man with the Severed Head, aka Crimson. Forgive me if it's incoherent! This is an interesting movie 'cause of several reasons: it stars Paul Naschy, one of my favourite horror stars and it's also produced by Eurociné, the legendary cheapo production company owned and controlled by Marius Lesoeur (and later his son Daniel Lesoeur). They're mostly famous for a couple of extremely cheap Jess Franco production but also the notorious Zombie Lake, a movie poor Jean Rollin directed just because Franco never appeared to do his job!

A band of thieves gets in big trouble after their leader gets a serious brain injury after a failed robbery. To save him they go to a famous surgeon, who happens to don't have any working hands after an accident, to make a god damn brain transplantation! They need a new brain of course and kills some other gangster - who happens to be a raving psychotic - good choice, lads! Anyway, they make the transplant, but of course everything goes wrong!

It has some good parts - but mostly really bad and boring parts. The best thing with the production is the awesome cast, from Paul Naschy in a supporting part and the always excellent Claude Boisson and the reliable character actor Víctor Israel, who also gets killed in the masterpiece Horror Express. Olivier Mathot has a bit of an underwritten role, but he's a welcome presence in any of these movies. The women are there to look pretty and nice, but has very little to do - it's a man's world, as usual.

What's good with The Man with the Severed Head is the brain-transplant part, which is something from an American fifties horror movie or maybe one of Franco's Dr Orloff adventures. It's cheesy and fun and colourful with a cool lab and a lot of unrealistic science explained in very serious ways. The rest is, unfortunately, not that good. This is one of those movies you'll watch because of the cast and nothing else. Well, at least if you're an un-experienced Eurociné-viewer. For us who love, adore and worships this very special production company this is one their most slick and expensive (well, everything is relative)) productions with some really nice cinematography, good directing by Juan Fortuny and a script that holds together, even if nothing much happens.

The biggest disappointment with it is how they take a fun premise and they never do anything good with it. If I did a movie with a brain-transplant I would let the patient run amuck really good and not just run around like a drunk reality soap contestant and not do much more than that. Why not let him roam the French countryside, perform some creative kills and THEN die. Now the final is just a bad episode of some German detective-show.

The Man with the Severed Head is only for us who needs to see either everything starring the talented Paul Naschy or produced by Eurociné. You rest... well, stick around and I'm sure there will be something more interesting for you to watch. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Werewolf Shadow (1971)

Yeah, Naschy is without a doubt the best werewolf actor ever. He's mixing the classic werewolf with the more modern, animalistic creature without resorting to exaggerated make-up effects. He just doesn't need it, this athletic weight-lifter who was more focused on being an director and writer than acting, but when the production company of his first werewolf-movie found out that Lon Chaney Jr was too old, too fat, too alcoholic and too sick to work again the only solution was Naschy himself. And we should be eternally grateful for that. Werewolf Shadow became on of Naschy's biggest hits and it's easy to understand why. The story is tight (but hardly original) and it delivers some cheap and fun gore, gorgeous directing by the master León Klimovsky. It's a very handsome and attractive production, from the talents behind the camera to those in front.

Two beautiful chicks goes on a road trip to some distant parts of France, looking for the grave of a famous crazy medieval princess/fucked-up serial killer - and maybe even a vampire! On the road they meet Polish nobleman (and werewolf) Waldemar Daninsky who offers them to stay in his house for a couple of days. What they don't know is that the crazy vampire princess is an old enemy of Danisky and soon she's back from the grave, spreading her vampirism and the only solution is for Daninsky to fight her once again - in the shape of a bloodthirsty and uncontrollable werewolf!  

You see? The story is simple and fun and an excellent excuse to show a lot of werewolf-attacks, nudity and slow-motion vampires running in forests. The first scene is Daninsky laying in the morgue, ready for autopsy. According to Naschy himself they shot that in a real morgue and moments before there was a real, bloody body laying there, a young man killed in a motorcycle accident. They just flushed the blood away and Naschy was ready for his scene! This is one of the best-looking Paul Naschy's also. He's strong, looks vibrant and virile and he practically owns every scene he's in - even with beautiful women clinging around his neck.

But he really comes alive as Waldemar Daninsky, in a raging fury (that could be a cool 80's action film with ninjas: Raging Fury!) and with a foaming mouth he rips people to death, chewing on their throats and rolling his eyes it was his last day of acting ever. And it's SO convincing. The make-up is cool, it's simple compared to other movies, but there's no need for more. It's all about the acting, how the body works, the eyes. Naschy knew how to do it and he did it extremely well. But what to expect from a guy who wanted to be The Wolfman since he first saw him in the cinema as a teenager?

I'm not expert, but somehow it seems like Naschy was one of the first filmmakers to introduce graphic gore to the Spanish cinema. That doesn't mean it's much of it in any of his films, but Werewolf Shadow had a couple of graphic scenes that I totally forgot from the first time I saw it. The most surprising thing is when he chops a head off a vampire woman, all in one take - the effect itself isn't that good, it's primitive, but I was expecting them to cut away to a reaction shot of Naschy, because it felt like it should be like that. But instead we see him chop it off with a couple of whacks! No cuts, nothing. Not convincing either, but it's the thought that counts in cheap horror movies like this.

Now I've been writing about shallow, cheap things like gore and nudity and werewolf-attacks, but that's what Werewolf Shadow is about. I mean, for fucks sake, the alternative title is "The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman", which kinda says it all. It's extremely well-made entertaining with Paul Naschy in top form.

This is a timeless, slightly trashy, classic. A must in every collection of eurocult! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Panic Beats (1983)

The first time I saw Panic Beats I didn't like it so much. It was okay and that's it. So after a few years, and a weekend spending in front of Paul Naschy's fine autobiography "Memoirs of a Wolfman" I decided to give it a new try, hopefully with a couple of years of experience and maybe, mentally, a bit more mature. Well, who am I kidding? I will never grow up! Panic Beats on the other hand was a bit of a revelation this second time, especially after reading about how it was made in Naschy's book and I would say it's a damn fine and fun horror movie after all.

Paul Naschy is Paul who's deeply in love with his sick wife. They're travelling to his family's old villa where they're gonna spend some time so she can relax and feel better. But what she doesn't know is that Paul is one horny motherf**ker and it doesn't take long until he's after the young maid! Soon weird things starts to happen in the villa, can it be old bastard Alaric de Marnac who's back from the dead to harvest victims again!

One thing I repressed after the first time is how many twists this little film have. It's far from the typical Naschy horror, and a owes a lot more to the giallos of Italy - including black gloves and something sinister happening somewhere in the background of the story. There's at least two, three... maybe four, twists coming at ya and it works and makes a movie that could have been very traditional work very well. Naschy, who also directs, delivers a good surprising character who's actions is very hard to predict.

It takes a while for Alaric de Marnac (which also makes this an original sequel, spin-off to Horror Rises From the Tomb) to show up, but when it happens its with full power and quite surprising. Something that's been very overexaggerated over the years - probably with the help of hyperactive fan boys hugging their rare, now totally worthless, x-rentals - is the gore. Sure, it's violent, but there's actually only two really graphic kills - and both of them are more or else off-screen for the time. The effects is cheap and simple and the blood is plenty, but still... Naschy have done much gorier films through the years.

Panic Beats was shot in General Franco's old villa and Naschy have told how the whole places was filled with photos and letters, just abandoned and forgotten - like the pathetic but yet so dangerous former owner. Veteran actress Lola Gaos, who does a wonderful performance as the housekeeper Mabile, was one of those being terrorized by the fascists and that added to the tension of the acting and atmosphere of the set. Naschy himself was a socialist and it's easy to read in some of his movies - but I still haven't seen the highly political movies he made during the end of the seventies, for example the assassination thriller El Francotirador. I think it was a decision he made, both to mock the fascist regime and use them to produce something provocative and entertaining, like a good old horror movie.

My favourite Naschy film is still the gritty, sleazy and gory Seven Murders for the Scotland Yard (and Hunchback of the Morgue of course), but Panic Beats isn't far away. It's a good story, it delivers some nice kills and nudity for those who like that and foremost: it looks very good and truly prove what a good director Naschy was. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Mysterious Island (1929)

I have several favourite genres, but the one I care the most for is the "unknown civilization"-style adventures, preferably from the 70's and directed by the great Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure. Can't get better than that. But I love all of them, except the new ones who's a bit to family-friendly for me. One I've missed all my life and actually didn't know existed until a couple of weeks ago is Lucien Hubbard's The Mysterious Island, one of the earliest examples of "talkies". According to Famous Monsters of Filmland they started shooting the movie in 1926, as silent movie. Budget problems, weather and all sorts of problems delayed the movie and it wasn't released until 1926 - now with new scenes added, with sound! But is it any fun? We'll see...

Lionel Barrymore plays Count Dakkar (Nemo's real name) who with his submarine seeks vengeance on those he don't like, for example the evil Falon (Montagu Love), who just taken over Dakkar's peace-loving, slightly socialist-wannabe island, with his army. Dakkar and the traditional handsome hero and traditionally beautiful heroine escapes with the submarine. Falon won't accept this and goes after them in his sub until there's no turning back and they have to face the... terrifying underwater people!

The long production time, reshoots and change from silent to sound is very visible in the finished result. The talkie-scenes looks stiff and very "on-the-nose", with long and complicated exposition. The main bulk of these is also placed at the beginning of the film, which makes it odd when it slowly becomes more of a silent movie the longer it goes. On the good side here, the acting is a lot better and more realistic than I've seen before - both in the sound and the silent-parts.

The Mysterious Island has some deep flaws, which might be the result of the above mentioned problems. It stays way to long focusing on politics and talking and some drama and some more talking. It's until the last half hour we're getting some monster-action and adventures without soldiers and war, but that half hour instead is just fantastic. Both subs get problem and they're sinking deeper and deeper until they lands in the middle of an underwater city, inhabited by creatures of short stature who looks like a mix between Donald Duck and the 1967 version of Son of Godzilla! Creepy fuckers, really creepy. They're like aggressive little zombies! But life isn't easy down in creepy fucker-town, because they're attacked by a dinosaur (a crocodile dressed like a dinosaur) and also a big octopus (played by a real octopus) and this is problems our submarine-crew need to deal with to!

The effects here is well-made and sometimes very, very good. The simple, but effective effect, with thousands of these creatures running from and to and beside the giant octopus looks good in a surrealistic way. We see how they've done it, but it still works so well. 

The legend also says that both Benjamin Christensen and Maurice Tourneur also worked as directors on the production, during the years. I don't know if there's any truth in this, but why not? It's not impossible and it's talented and interesting enough to have people like this involved on different stages of the production. Despite its flaws and being way to focused on drama and less on monsters and adventures, this is a damn fine little movie and I'm very happy I found it on DVD in Germany, in a good transfer and very English-friendly - and in black & white, the colour version is since long lost. 

You can find it easy on and if you're a fan of oldies like this - get it!

Masquerade (1991)

This review is dedicated to my faithful reader and frantic commenter Megatron, who when I linked the IMDB page to him wrote "THANK YOU!!!". Because of him I actually decided to find it, watch it and also write maybe the first serious English-language reviews of Masquerade aka Private Detective aka The Black Glove aka Bassi istinti. Like many other Italian hardcore movies from this time - and overall during the nineties - money was spent on the productions and they often also was released in a non-sex version, softcore or just as a "sexy" mainstream movie.

Masquerade feels more like a normal movie, a TV-production or something similar in this soft version of the film. The presence of Rocco Siffredi might give the original vision away, even if he shot a couple of non-porn movies during his career. I hate Siffredi by the way, so I'm happy to say he's not in this production so much - and I'm pretty sure his only talent is more visible in the hardcore version, something I never will watch anyway.

It's not much a story. A female cop, Linda, is sent undercover to Florence where she teams up with her curly-haired male colleague Guido (played by someone who seems to be some kinda porn-legend in the US, Joey Silvera) to investigate a shady art dealer and the businesses around him. Soon someone is killing people involved in the art business, a killer with black gloves, hat, coat and a long, sharp knife!

Masquerade is a giallo, a pure Italian giallo with everything - mostly - giallo needs. It only has three-four murders and it's not that gory, but there's some bloody and a stylish killer getting rid of annoying characters. Like it should be. It looks like a cheap TV-production, a bit flat, but with nice locations and sets and surprisingly good acting (but what do I know, it maybe the better-than-average English dub helped out here). Joey Silvera has some charisma and comic timing and the ladies looks good and beautiful and can at least move in front of the camera without looking silly.

The mystery itself is nothing special and the ending, the revelation of the guilty person, comes out of nowhere - but hey, I wasn't bored anyway. Thankfully the sex-scenes are short and not especially graphic, just a tit and ass here and there - can't even imagine how boring the hardcore-version must be. Masquerade in this version is just kinda cozy, a little bit boring, but it's easy to watch and not without talent.

When watching this and writing the review I'm also reminded how I found out about it the first time. It was Katja and Linus, who was collectors and friends a long time ago. They introduced me to a lot of filmmakers, actors, genres that I never heard about earlier and I spent many evenings at their apartments when I visited Stockholm as a young man. Linus sadly left us a while ago and I lost contact with Katja, but I'm grateful for what they taught me and the amazing worlds they introduced me to <3 span="span">

Boring, crappy fun for us who needs to see EVERY giallo made. You rest can... watch something better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Supermen of Malegaon (2012)

Made during seven months in 2008 but not properly released until this year, Supermen of Malegaon will go to the history as one of the best and most heart-warming documentaries ever made - and even better, it's connected deeply to the world weird cinema culture me and many others enjoy so much. It's not one of those hip, shallow, funny anecdotes docs that's been flooding the market during the last years, this is something much more closer to reality, something that's for real - as real as a documentary can be, because we all know those are often closer to fiction than the normal Joe can imagine. It's all about telling a good story.

Supermen of Malegaon tells the story of filmmaker Shaikh Nasir and his team of local talents in the poor, dirty city of Malegaon in the north of India. He has just hired weaver Shafique to play Superman in a new action-comedy-adventure where our hero is fighting pollution, drugs and all the other things that's destroying our world. With a budget of a couple of hundred dollars and a fantastic amount of imagination and enthusiasm they go on a journey to make their dreams come true, from the depressed screenwriter who's been fighting for 15 years to go to Mumbai to a director that refuses to leave his town - and in-between them the quiet, shy hero with a Superman-suit that gets more and more worn for each day of fighting, jumping and slapstick!

With a simple digital video camera and an energy, that we all should envy these supermen (and a couple of superwomen also), we follow them in their quest to make a local blockbuster. It would have been an easy task of make fun of these heroes, but director Faiza Ahmad Khan walked the line perfectly and delivers a touching and dramatic film about passion and love. Instead of laughing a the director when he accidentally drops his only camera into a dirty lake we're terrified, because we want him to finish this movie, for him and his team's sake. Khan never shies away with the camera, and there's both hard times and happy times during the making of Malegaon ka Superman - not everyday is easy and money is always a problem, but nothing is stopping them.

In the middle is the adorable, soft-spoken, gentle and slightly shy leading man Shafique, a man who can't weight more than 50 kilos. His dream is to play a hero and he gives everything in his performance, from wild stunts to dancing. The whole movie is sprinkled with quotes and dreams and it's impossible to dislike a guy that willingly does this and still is so happy. He died one year after the movie was shot, in cancer, but his dream became true: everyone is calling him Superman and he truly became a real, true star.

As a filmmaker myself, sometimes, I'm so impressed by the creativity of Shaikh Nasir and his team. They make a camera crane from an old wagon, uses an old bicycle for wild tracking shots, doing their own green screen effects behind a barn etc. A lot of spoiled Swedish indie-filmmakers should watch and learn from this documentary.

The only complaint I have is that it's too short. I could have watched an hour more, because I love these people so much.

Easily one of the best movies this year and it's something you have to watch at once!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eyeborgs (2009)

Once in a while you stumble upon something that you don't expect is good, at least that's the case for normal mainstreamers who only watches what they "know" its good because someone famous fancy schmancy critic said it is so. Me, an many others, never trust the mainstream and digs deep into the swamp of direct-to-video movies on the hunt for something out of the ordinary, and Eyeborgs is one of those movies. I'm not saying it's a classic, an unknown masterpiece of something like that, but it's worth a lot more than the stupid comments it gets on the IMDB or those who rather watch I, Robot than something more edgy and interesting.

In a not so distant future ODIN rules the US. Odin is a security and surveillance system monitoring every part of the country with a lot of different robots and cameras. But soon some people is getting killed by the robots, for small crimes like smoking tobacco (which is forbidden) and weird enough the surveillance cameras shows nothing odd - just accidents, or people killing other people. Who's controlling who here and what's the goal of this manipulation of the media... and robots? Homeland Security agent, "the father of the Eyeborgs", R. J. 'Gunner' Reynolds (Adrian Paul) soon gets involved against his wishes and understands that someone has tampered with his "babies"...

Eyeborgs is a fine budget-aware movie (IMDB says 3,7 million dollars, which sounds reasonable) with a more ambitious vision than the title or the back of the cover makes you think. Paul Adrian might not be the most charismatic actor alive, but he's still good enough for these semi-mainstream affairs and has both the locks and the charms to carry the movie. Everything about Eyeborgs looks and sounds good, which makes me thing it once was written to be a bigger, more star-driven vehicle, but somehow ended up on the lower end of the budget-universe. The computer animations, the robots, is a mixed bag - from bad to not bad at all, but they're still just Eyeborgs and there's nothing silly with them not being ultra-realistic. Instead the stunts and action around them is good and they're well-animated.

The nice story feels like a mix between RoboCop, Starship Troopers, more or less every modern conspiracy thriller made in the same budget range. It works fine and is highly critical to the surveillance-civilization we're getting closer and closer to be. This one makes several references to 9/11 and what seems to be the republican party, even if no political agenda is mentioned. This one also has a couple of interesting characters and there's more layers in them than in a normal DTV production. Danny Trejo makes an extended cameo and its nice to see him as a smart guy, not the normal thug - even if he's a tough guy even here.

It also questions what we see and who the terrorists actually are. If simple screenshots from movies or highly faked Photoshop-creations can be used as real photos in news media today without anyone questioning it - or maybe you remember the animated video game sequence being used as real war footage in the news - you also also understand that everything is possible and as long as the audience accepts everything without using some basic critical thinking, we WILL be fucked sooner or later.

Eh, now I'm going political again. As usual. Eyeborgs is a good and well-made action-thriller with cool robots, nice explosions and ambitious production values for being such a low budget production. I think you will like it. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sentinel (1977)

I've seen Michael Winner's The Sentinel so many times over the years and I never get tired of it. It's one of those 70's horror movies I always return to and I always find something new in. It still shocks me, believe it or not. Not that it's scary nowadays, but the atmosphere is so damn dirty and sleazy and odd and weird and yeah, truly fucked-up. What I understand Don Siegel was suppose to direct it from the beginning but he bowed out because of the subject and in came the biggest madman of them all, Michael Winner, and poured nudity, gore and a fuckstastic cast of character actors over us. I'm pretty sure Siegel would have made a scarier movies, but he would never even get close to the bizarreness of Mr Winner's vision.

Christina Haines plays a successful supermodel living with her dashing boyfriend Chris Sarandon. They're happy, but like all decent couples in this age of enlightenment they want some privacy and Christina finds her own apartment, where she can relax and... well, that's not gonna work, because soon she finds out that her neighbours is some weird freaks who loves her a bit too much for her own good. And what the hell is that priest doing at the window all day? Soon Christina's life is upside down and when it gets weirder and weirder in the house no one believes her of course, until it's too late...

In general I can agree with some of the criticism against the movie. Christina Raines is a bit stiff, she's not the best actress to hit the screen - especially in the more normal drama-scenes, she's a lot better when it gets weird and violent and many of the cameos has a gimmick-style over them, but we're talking about Michael Winner here, a man who always stood with one foot in serious mainstream and the other one in gratuitous exploitation. And to be honest, my favourite Chris Sarandon is a bit wooden here also, I'm the first to admit it. This also gives the movie an eerie dream-like feeling where nothing is what it seems. The FANTASTIC cast is just stunning and it's extra fun see future stars in supporting parts: Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger, Christopher Walken, Beverly D'Angelo and Griffin Dunne (though he's not credited on IMDB, but believe me, he's there as an extra). Even Richard Dreyfuss shows up in an uncredited appearance and he still denies it's him - I've asked him!

What's good about The Sentinel then? Oh, I lot. A LOT. The story is simple, yet brilliant and in the typical 70's way - dark and cynical. The location and and cast - very similar to Rosemary's Baby, which makes it even more exploitation, is wonderful and truly bizarre. Burgess Meredith is acting like he's an old New York queen, Sylvia Miles and D'Angelo has the lesbian couple, John Carradine being grumpy in the attic, Ava Gardner being both glamorous and slightly alcoholic at the same time - I will always love her for doing her stuff, she just got better and better over the years! The Sentinel goes a lot further than any other mainstream movie I've seen from the time with nudity and sex and just that dirty feeling that's so hard to scrub off. That also goes for the violence.

It's bloody and graphic and all in gory, juicy close-up's. It's like watching an Italian horror production sometimes, but maybe with fewer scenes of carnage. The famous stabbing scene is there and it always surprised me because it's so damn graphic - and that whole sequence is so intense. You can also say that about the final, with an army of real-life "freaks" (sorry for using that word) playing demons around Burgess Meredith chewing the scenery like never before, and he seems to have a lot of fun! Michael Winner rarely shies away from stuff the audience don't want to see and The Sentinel has it all.

I've seen a lot of movies, more than you can ever imagine, but I can say that The Sentinel is one of the absolute favourites. It's there for me when I'm sad and it's there for me when I'm too happy and need something to bring be down. The only bad thing with it is the lack of mutant bears, just like in my second (very secret) favourite, John Frankenheimer's The Prophecy. But don't tell anyone about that, or I'll get a big bad spanking from the geek elite!

Giallo x 2: The Sex Maniac vs. The Killer!

It's getting harder and harder to find gialli I haven't seen and those I find is more and more obscure, and most of them time also less and less spectacular. I've seen two interesting Italian thrillers the last couple of days and because neither of them is interesting enough for their own posts I've decided to squeeze both of them into one post. Hope you don't mind (I've done it before, so you better accept it!)? :) First out is a semi-famous, The Slasher is the Sex Maniac! (1972), more known as So Sweet, So Dead and with the impressive looooong Italian title "Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile".

A killer is slashing up unfaithful women and leaves compromising photos next to their bodies. Inspector Capuana, played by an excellent and emotional Farley Granger - who also has a nice moustache, takes the lead in the hunt for the killer but something makes the killer getting closer and closer to him! Why? What? How? And... who is it?

The Slasher is the Sex Maniac isn't the most original giallo ever made. Actually the total opposite. It feels quite cheap and is packed with nudity and sleaze, and less gore and violence. The American cut, they say, had inserts of hardcore. I don't know if that's true, but it would fit the cheap style and flat cinematography. The story itself isn't bad, it's just very unimaginative. What makes it interesting is the kinda unexpected ending, who has an extra dark twist in it. Which is also the best thing with this giallo. In the end it might be only for us, the fanatics, but give it a try if you feel bored and need Farley Granger to spice up your boring evening.

Next up is the very interesting Five Women for the Killer (1974), directed by Stelvio Massi. Don't be scared away by the absurdly generic title, this is one of the better gialli I've seen - and I've only seen it dubbed to German without subtitles!

A journalist, played by British actor Francis Matthews, comes home after being abroad and finds out that his wife has died and their little son at the hospital. Tragedy! He seeks comfort in the arms of his sons doctor Lydia (Pascale Rivault) and tries to cope with his sorrow. But then terror strikes! A killer is murdering pregnant women, one after another and now it's up to the brave journalist and macho-cop Howard Ross to solve the mystery and catch the killer!

Here we have a thriller that I haven't read much about, which is strange because the mystery is quite good and it has two of the most brutal and bloody murders I've seen in a giallo - up there with the macabre and sadistic murder set-pieces of Andrea Bianchi! But what makes this thriller a stand-out is the excellent directing by Massi and cinematography by Sergio Rubini. It has a lot of handheld, almost documentary camera, natural light and wonderful editing. In more than a few occasions it feels "real", like a radical, edgy crime doc.

Two gialli, none of them perfect, but still with enough interesting details and twists to be worth watching. The Slasher is the Sex Maniac is fairly easy to find, but I've only seen 5 Women for the Killer on an non-subbed German DVD under the ridiculous title Ghostkiller! It's in widescreen, but the quality isn't exactly stellar....

That's all folks!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Crawlspace (1986)

I like director David Schmoeller and Puppet Master is a film I still hold very high, even if it's almost forgotten because of the trillions of sequels and spin-offs coming from Charles Band the years after. It's a dark and stylish and actually quite eerie horror movie where the dolls is more creepy than funny and the gore is nasty and bloody. Stuart Gordon's Dolls is still the best doll-movie ever made, but Puppet Master isn't far behind. But this isn't about dolls, it's about one film by Schmoeller that has stayed away from my pretty movie star eyes for years and years...until I got a chance to buy it during the last trip to Germany. We're talking about Crawlspace of course, also famous from Schmoeller's little mini-documentary Please Kill Mr. Kinski, available on YouTube for the curious geek.

The story is almost embarrassingly simple. Kinski plays Karl Gunther, a former doctor - now a landlord - who obviously has some issues with his nazi-father. This means he's only renting out his apartments to beautiful young women and then kills them off one by one with traps and just good old fashioned stalking. Well, until a new girl moves in... who's really difficult to kill!

Crawlspace is a very simple movie, bordering to having a thin storyline. Well, yeah, the storyline IS thin, but it also has a very nice atmosphere and gorgeous cinematography by Italian master Sergio Salvati. Schmoeller keeps the story going with some creative directing, not letting the small set (basically a couple of rooms and the hallways outside them) bring him or the story down. The actresses hasn't much to do except looking good, but Talia Balsam shows some guts when working opposite the notorious Klaus Kinski, professional scene-stealer and sex-maniac, and manages both to be adorable and interesting. A hard thing in horror movies on the lower side of the budget-scale.

Of course, Kinski still steals every scene he's in and he's not even doing his best job here. He's still a vibrant character on the screen, and it seems - not unlike him - to do the best he can without dialogue. He's been avoiding talking in other movies, mostly because he feels that he as an actor needs to be able to do the part without unnecessary talking. I agree with him, but it's always a pleasure hearing his voice and here he's extra sleazy, like a wrinkled old German man-snake who obviously wants to fuck every actress he's working with. It's very visible, he's not discreet in showing his interest to the opposite sex when he's working. This, of course, makes the movie even more creepy and even if the story is weak - and it's quite low on gore - it's still an effective horror-thriller.

Crawlspace was made by production company Empire Pictures, who made an impressive parade of good and original horror movies with strong casts and bizarre ideas, so even this one. Shot in Italy with Italian crew and producer, this feels more European than American and that detail is a welcome twist on what could have been a tired slasher movie. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

För mina svenska läsare: Weekend of Horrors 2012

Jag kommer att nu börja så smått gästskriva lite på den utmärkta sidan From Beyond och först ut är en krönika/artikel om besöket på Weekend of Horrors förra helgen. Det kommer att komma en del recensioner också så småningom! :) Kulturdelen är också en sidan där några recensioner av ej genrefilm kommer att publiceras, så håll även utkik där! Det var väldigt länge sedan jag skrev texter på svenska och jag vill gärna skriva på modernsmålet en sväng också.

Givetvis fortsätter Ninja Dixon som vanligt, inklusive de vanliga depp-inlägget två gånger om året att lägga ner bloggen ;)


Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

The 70's was without a doubt the golden age of devil worshipping and good old Satanism, especially if the movies was set in California or New York, which is odd by the way. Why do devils and occultism fits so good in sunny Los Angeles or on the streets of Manhattan? I guess we partly can blame Anton LaVey, but he also dealt with something very close to atheism and the mocking of religion by spoofing the rituals of the believers, rather than actually worshipping a the Christian devil. My favourite movies in his genre is Michael Winner's The Sentinel and Robert Fuest's The Devil's Rain, but Werewolves on Wheels could actually - at least after another watch - be one of my favourites, even if it's closer to classic exploitation than a serious attempt on hardcore horror.

A crazy (what else) biker gang, The Devil's Advocates, decides to sleep in a fancy garden belonging to a strange mansion - the rumours it belongs to sect of Satanists! It won't take long until the satanic monks comes out and feeds the bread and wine and soon they're all asleep. Next day they continue their travel, but this time some of them has become werewolves and starts killing the bikers one by one during their road trip!

Werewolves of Wheels must have some kinda record when it comes to the amount of slightly homoerotic man-hugs. The bikers hugs and hugs some more, rolls around in the sand and then - like an after-thought - makes sweet love to their "mama". This, of course, makes Werewolves on Wheels even better and more awesome, because even if the bikers are as annoying as always (I never felt connected with movie-bikers, they're just like big, stupid children!) they also feel more emotional and softer than usual. The man-love gives the movie an aura of hippie, both the smell and the interaction between the characters.

Even if all the details are there it's hard to categorize Werewolves on Wheels as a horror movie. Yeah I know, it has both werewolf-attacks and satanic rites - but it has the soul and mind of a biker-movie and I love that odd combination. It makes it even original and very creative. From the opening shots at the satanic mansion (which looks like some old 30's Hollywood-place, close to 10050 Cielo Drive...) to the effective, almost surreal desert shots during the last part.

It's a simple story, like all real exploitation movies should have, but what makes this better than most other biker-flicks is the quality of the cinematography, the wonderful stoned acting and the beautifully framed satanic rituals (lots of fisheye and wide-angle shots of course). It also have a couple of the coolest werewolves in American movie history, on the same quality level as Paul Naschy - and quite similar to his creations also. The blood - RED like only American exploitation could do it - splashes around a lot and it's quite violent gory in a cheap way, often in slow-mo. I also like how the used the sound of angry dogs as the werewolf-roars, which makes it even more realistic - which reminds me of a short scene outside a gas station which feels almost documentary in style, both the acting and the cinematography. They sure could make movies during the 70's...

Werewolves on Wheels is a surprisingly good and bloody movie. It would fit perfectly in double feature with The Devil's Rain and I think you should check it out as soon as possible. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tormented (1960)

Nothing bores me more than Mystery Science Theater 3000. Yeah, mostly because they laugh AT movies and not WITH them. They're actually believe that most filmmakers have no idea what they're doing, that they don't understand that a movie sometimes is bad. It's like petting a proud artist, who works hard with little money, and look down on them. Tormented is one of the movies that has been butchered by the idiots from MST3K and I can't in my wildest imagination understand why? It's cheap, yeah, but that's 95 % of the movies being made. Bert I. Gordon is one of my favourite directors and it's always interesting to see him make a movie that not includes giant animals or other monsters. Tormented is a classic, effective ghost story.

Richard Carlson is jazz musician Tom Stewart, who's about to get married to Meg (Lugene Sanders), something that's not that popular in the mind of her father - "It's bad enough accepting a musician into this family, but a jazz musician?!" - but Tom has bigger problems than that. His former girlfriend Vi (Juli Reding) is deeply jealous and threatens to expose their whole relationship to Meg and her family. During a quarrel in a lighthouse, Vi falls to her death and disappears in front of Tom's eyes. Soon she starts to haunt him, trying to stop his marriage with all means necessary!

It could almost be one of those intelligent TV-movies that was so popular in the 70's. The story is simple, but filled with great ideas, one or two stars, few locations and low on special effects. I'm not one of those that always pretends to be a bit more important by stating that it's nice with a movie that doesn't rely on special effects, because that's has nothing to do with the quality of the production - it's all about storytelling, no matter how much or how little special effects you have. Bert I. Gordon loves effects and he has a lot of them in Tormented, but they are low-key and consists mostly of ghostly figures floating around, a flying hand etc. Quite primitive and hardly scary nowadays, but surprisingly effective.

Richard Carlson, in the lead, has good material to work with. A man who's trying to avoid his dead lover and still keep up appearances until and during his upcoming wedding. Joe Turkel, who plays Vi's former boyfriend is fantastic. He's like an earlier version of David Cronenberg, both his physical appearance and his style of acting: cold and calculating. Gordon's daughter Susan has a big part as a little girl who understands better than others what's going on, and she's cute and not too precocious. Lugene Sanders as Meg is great, but like most actresses in "b-movies" during this time she has very little to do except looking good and happy. Except Turkel I would say the sinister performance by Juli Reding as Vi is the highlight of the show, both alive and as a ghost.

It's quite easy to guess where the story is going, but this is not one of those twisty thrillers that the title might lead us to (sounds like yet another Psycho-rip off, one word, low-budget, black & white), it's a very basic and doomed ghost story. We know the characters are fucked even before they fuck it up, and we follow them down the path until everything goes to hell. It's a damn fine little movie actually. The best scene is - and I will try not to spoil it - when the ghost travels into a house up to a certain person. We see flowers wither live in camera (not stop-motion or high-speed shenanigans and candles die away. It's a highly effective sequence and one of the best in the whole movie.

This is another fine film from Mr BIG himself, Bert I. Gordon. If you feel for something without giant ants or spiders or... yeah, what ever animal that's in fashion, give this one a try. I think you will enjoy it. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mark of the Devil (1970)

I can't say I've seen a lot of movies about the witch-hunts and the general stupidity of the medieval ages. Witchfinder General, Cry of the Banshee and of course, Jess Franco's underrated drama The Bloody Judge. So it wasn't until today I first saw Michael Armstrong's Mark of the Devil, a German production shot in Austria with a nice international cast of talents like Udo Kier, Herbert Lom and Reggie Nalder. Michael Reeves signed up to direct it, which it's easy to imagine after the success of Witchfinder General, but died before filming could start. His assistant Armstrong took over and shot most of the stuff, with some additional  material directed by Adrian Hoven. This could have resulted in a highly uneven film, but a good script and excellent actors makes this one of the best witch-movies made! I'll go so far I think it's on the same level of quality as Witchfinder General!

The story is a bit complex to write down, but Reggie Nalder is Albino, the local witch-hunter and everything is great and awesome and he's very aware of what he's doing...until Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) enters the town and takes over as the new judge and he's saying he's on a mission from god himself! His biggest fan is Count Christian (Udo Kier), who's his apprentice and student in the holy mission of finding disciples of Satan! All is well until the day Christian starts to suspect that Cumberland is doing this to just earn some extra money, rape women and use his power to get rid of enemies and when he witnesses how even the nasty Albino confronts Cumberland on this, the shit hits the fan!

Oh, it's a lot better story than what I've tried to explain to you. What I find most interesting is the complex characters. No one is really evil or really good, and even the baddies can change, or at least act human when facing danger. The danger is very realistic, so realistic I guess some people might think it's disappointing - but hey, I find it even better that way. More cynical. More real. This happens today to. The alternate ending, lost forever, had a supernatural twist to the story, which have destroyed the almost atheistic message the movie has. So I'm happy it wasn't used (and the director hated it), but it's a pity it's lost and destroyed.

In an exploitation movie like this some might think that the acting doesn't matter, but of course it does. Herbert Lom, who recently left us, delivers cold, dark performance. The work of a master. Udo Kier both looks good and acts well, but is a bit underwritten. He have some challenges as a character and struggles with giving him some more depth. Reggie Nalder is fantastic as always. This combined with amazing locations - and stunning cinematography - makes the movie a visual treat. It's both gritty and echoes of some Bavarian romance movie, and the dark nasty story makes this even more powerful: that such beauty can hold such terror.

Like all of these witch-movies the violence and gore has been widely exaggerated over the years, but it delivers some blood and minor gore - plus the required nudity of course. The effects is cheap and primitive but fits the style. The new German blu-ray includes six minutes of deleted and alternate scenes which is a joy to behold. Before the film was released it was slightly trimmed and here we get a change to see some gore and blood and glimpses of the shooting (some magnificent sideburns on the crew!), all to Michael Holm's beautiful score! Yeah, the score. The main theme is a bit similar to Riz Ortolani's theme to Cannibal Holocaust. Not that much, but I can hear something very familiar in the melody. I think it's just a coincidence and the score is brilliant to both movies.

The new German blu-ray looks stunning. It's a must have for collectors. It's a limited edition of 5000 copies, 3 disc release - one blu-ray (with some extras on it, including the extra footage), a DVD (also with the movie) and a bonus disc with interviews - sadly no subtitles. The video commentary track with Udo Kier and the gang looks fab, but still... no subs! There's also a commentary with director Michael Armstrong, I guess its lifted from an older releases and I will give it a listen some day.

So, what are you waiting for? Buy it!

In the Line of Duty (1986)

I can honestly say that the one that opened up the Asian cinema for me was Jackie Chan. Yeah, really. It's not that surprising. He's famous, he made some truly spectacular action movies and the team around him, actors and crew, all are stars in their own rights. Through Jackie I also discovered Michelle Yeoh (or Michelle Khan as she was known as on my video tapes at the time),  not only an excellent actress but also a fantastic fighter and stunt person. I don't remember which of her movies I saw first, it could have been Magnificent Warriors or maybe even Supercop (well, it's a Jackie Chan movie, but Michelle is the best in it), but sometime after seeing the great Yes, Madam I saw In the Line of Duty and after many, many years I bought myself a DVD of it (in Germany, this weekend by the way) and watched it again...

Michelle Yeoh is Michelle, a Hong Kong cop who can fight. During a flight the plane is hijacked, but she and her colleague Michael (play by Michael Wong) together with a Japanese Interpol agent, Yamamoto (the always brilliant Hiroyuki Sanada) takes care of the problem - but it leaves them in grave dangers when the hijackers two blood-brothers decides to take a bloody revenge on them! Michael falls in love with Michelle and Yamamoto wants to go home and repair his troubled relationship with his wife, but life isn't easy when professional killers is getting closer and closer...

To quote myself on Twitter: "Royal Warriors w. Michelle Yeoh might be the best martial arts film ever made." Yeah, I used another aka-title there, but it's still the same movie. And today, after having a good nights sleep and enjoyed Obama's speech this morning I will say the same thing. It's up there with the best of the eighties: Police Story, Tiger Cage II, Dragons Forever etc. What's even better with In the Line of Duty is that it keeps itself quite serious, compared to my other favourites up here. Sure, we have Michael Wong being mega-silly as the guy falling in love with Michelle, but even that story ends in disaster and at least Michelle keeps herself serious. But that's it. The rest is a very brutal and bloody revenge-themed story with tons and tons of action, and not just fights - this has everything.

One thing I adore with Hong Kong movies from the eighties is how every car chase ends up on a suspicious abandoned freeway outside Hong Kong where a dozen slightly disguised scrap cars gets tossed around like toys! The stunts are awesome and it looks better and bigger - but still cheaper - than a lot of Hollywood productions from the same time. At the same time the traditionally foot chase after the car chase ends up in gritty, cinematic, Hong Kong back alleys, which makes movies like this almost become surrealistic when it comes to the visual style. In the Line of Duty also delivers a couple of fantastic fights - that hurts! - and an ultra-violent shoot-out at a night club. Squibs, stunts and exploding glass, what more can you ask for?

Oh, and that scene with the chainsaw... it looks dangerous for real. Very impressive stunt-work and like all good Hong Kong actioneers, it looks like it hurts a lot during that fight!

What's even more interesting is how the baddies are portrayed. They aren't just normal, boring, terrorists - they're friends that promised each other to always help each other out - or die together. They do it because of passion and their own fucked-up logic. That makes even their story so much more touching and interesting and it's easier to see why they're just keep going. Because a normal terrorist often just wants money or have some kind of political statement to tell, but these guys just cares about each other. How about that, Hollywood?

I have the German DVD under the title "Ultra Force - Hong Kong Cop" from Eyecatcher Movies. It's a beautiful and uncut transfer, with original language track and English subs. A must in your martial arts collection!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Masks (2011)

Is the giallo on it's way back to the limelight again? No, I don't think so, at least not as a mainstream-genre. But behind the blockbusters lurks a new generation of filmmakers who loves the combination of mystery and splattery, spectacular murders. Just like me, that's the best combination. A gory Agatha Christie-style thriller is exactly what I want, that's one reason why I'm watching all the old Italian thillers - and of course every international wannabe there is. Masks is a very interesting thriller, a movie I think will be quite big and well-distributed now when it's finally - just a week or so ago - was released on BD and DVD in Germany. It's not English-friendly in anyway, so I had to rely on my very primitive school-German while watching this.

Stella wants to be an actress, but her latest audition doesn't turn out well. Before she leaves the theatre an elderly judge recommends her to take contact with the Matteusz Gdula school of acting. Gdula was a controversial teacher who had is own style of teaching acting, so controversial that he committed suicide and several of his students died because of the soul-breaking way they worked with acting. Nowadays the school just uses some of his ideas - at least that what they says... because something is wrong and more and more students is getting killed, disappears... and soon the killer wants Stella, more than anyone else!

Sounds good yeah? And it is! Director Andreas Marschall has managed to create a very convincing retro-feeling without going neither pastiche or parody. First I was afraid that it would be one of those grindhouse-style genre-tributes because the film was worn and dirty - but it was only an old movie clip, a faked news report, telling us about this very special method of acting. The story is a very fine mix between Suspiria, without trying to hide it, and gialli from the late seventies, when the stories became a bit more edgier, slightly more experimental and less detective-mysteries.

Andreas Marschall also gives us a giallo that works as it's own movie and not just as production referencing other, older, movies. He's a true master when it comes to visual, non-dialogue scenes. An eye for details and beautiful set-ups. Just like François Gaillard's masterful Blackaria, another - French - giallo-style thriller with an excellent story and an overload of imaginative visual, almost orgasmic, treats. Masks has a more money behind and in front of the camera than Blackaria, but they are both in their own splendid leagues.

Like with Suspiria - and even Black Swan - a physical artform is the McGuffin here, an art where you use your body and mind to tell something. I'm not a dance, but I've done my fair share of acting and maybe that's why I feel extra connected to the madness told in Masks? The idea of an acting-style that wears you down so much, makes you give everything you have - maybe even your life - attracts me, and it makes a fine story to. Now, some of the supporting younger actors are a bit uneven, but they're not in the movie enough to bring it down. Instead Susen Ermich, who plays Stella, carries a lot of the story on her (sometimes naked) shoulders with a few good German veteran actors around her (for example Norbert Losch and Maximilian Rüthlein for example).

Masks is a bit slow, it's moody and atmospheric, it takes its time to tell the story, but I would say Andreas Marschall really hits the mark here. It's an amazing tribute to the golden age of thrillers, but with slices of sadistic and graphic violence that's up to date without being too much. Highly recommended!

Weekend of Horrors 2012

I'm home again after three intensive days in Bottrop, Germany, at Weekend of Horrors. I didn't buy that many movies, approximate 30 DVDs and BDs, but invested in a couple of very nice t-shirts, some autographs and of course the AWESOME Paul Naschy memorabilia collection book "Muchas Gracias Senor Lobo" by Thorsten Benzel. I also bought an original merchandising button for John Carpenter's The Thing, which is a proud part of my shelfporn-collection now.

The highlight of the weekend was the Q&A with Doug Bradley, Simon Bamford, Hugh Ross, Nicholas Vince and restoration producer Russell Cherrington... yeah, it was the screening of Nightbreed: The Cabal cut! Very interesting to see the long versioner, with more drama and more focus on fantasy and less horror. Still an uneven film, but also a great cinematic experience. It was also fantastic to hang out with the makers of Blackaria & Last Caress and of course the Rohnstock-brothers, the madmen behind German gore movie Necronos.

Anyway, here's a couple of photos (here's a lot more!) and hopefully I'm back on track with reviews soon!

François Gaillard, the director of Blackaria & Last Caress, and me :)

Me and Jocke checks out a magazine with baby animals. Important stuff. 

Jocke and Jason!

Me and some scary, tall guys.

A bit too much salad for me.

Jason interviews director François Gaillard.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Necronos (2010)

First of all, I have to admit I never been interested in German gore movies. Never. I never felt interested in any of these hard-working gorehounds. Personally I've always wanted a good story first of all and if it's filled with massive amounts of gore, that's just fantastic. But I rarely find such a movie and to be even more honest, Necronos isn't one of those movies either. Anyway, I first heard of it in 2011 when my fellow buddies Jocke and Jason hanged around the Necronos-table at Weekend of Horrors way too much and later on Dark Entertainment in Sweden released it on DVD... and now, ages later I've seen it and to my surprised was entertained by it! What's wrong with me? Have I finally passed over to the dark, German side of cinema entertainment?

During ancient times an evil warlock (or something), Necronos, who's having a deal with Satan, fucks up everything around him and is killed. Many years later, "now", he wants revenge and sends out his henchman, a zombie named Goran, to fetch humans for the resurrection of Necronos. And that he does. Over and over again until they find the perfect human to use in the ritual to bring the warlock to life again! Yeah. I think that's it.

Director Marc Rohnstock have created a trashy and fast-moving splatter flick, and my fears that the 127 minute runtime would bore me to death didn't become reality. Which by itself is a very impressive thing. A movie of this kind shouldn't be longer than eighty minutes, well until now. So what's so good with it? First of all: it's consistent. It's 127 minutes of cheap, trashy gore and nothing else. Well, a lot of nudity also. But it's not quality rollercoaster, it's a film that stands proud on its two sleazy, naked feet and never tries to look polished one second - just to bring up the production values. It stays true to the consumer camera gore-splatter-nudity-o-rama it set out to make. That is something I respect a lot.

The second thing is that the gore is consistent. There's not just a teaser splatter-effect in the beginning and a lot of off-screen shenanigans, everything you see here is on-screen and very very very gory, graphic and nasty. It's not a movie I would show anyone outside our little awesome sphere of genre fanatics. Never. It's a movie for us and no one else. The gore is mostly quite good to. It's simple effects like chopping of heads and stabbings and ripping of body parts, but they work fine and is quite nicely edited.

The actors...well, it IS a German super-cheap splatter movie and therefore the acting is what it is. But that's also something that belongs in this genre, it's needed and who the fuck cares if someone who's in the movie for thirty seconds just to get his head ripped off actually can act? Not me, that's not the reason why I'm watching it. A third thing that makes Necronos work is the directing. Yeah, it's not advanced, but it effectively tells a long story with very small means. The editing heightens this also of course. I'm impressed.

Necronos, this dirty, sick, twisted little motherf**ker of a movie is not for everyone. But if you're into this kind of indie-film I recommend you to go out and buy it on the double!