Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New blog: Ninja Dixon is now... Ex-Ninja!


I'm leaving this museum of reviews to start all over again at Ex-Ninja. It's bascially the same kind of movies, but I will try to write more free, expand my texts to articles and columns. And most of all, all the stress I felt with Ninja Dixon is now gone. I can start all over, I can get a little peace of mind.

The first review out is the forgotten, but good, anthology movie Trapped Ashes - directed by Joe Dante, Sean S. Cunningham, Monte Hellman and Ken Russell!

This blog will still be here, so if you need to come back to check out older reviews it won't be any problems. I have no plans to export them to the Ex-Ninja.

So if you feel for it, welcome over to my new place :)


Thursday, February 14, 2013


It's just not fun anymore. The visitors is getting less and less, everything has been written. There's nothing new to add to genre cinema writing.

I know I've said it before, but always come back. This time I must go on and quit Ninja Dixon while I still have some interest in this once so magical artform.

Might start over someday, under a different name. It's just not important.

Take care.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Toolbox Murders (2004)

My plan yesterday was to watch and review Toolbox Murders, but I ended up with Mortuary - also directed by Tobe Hooper. Today I searched the apartment again and found it! It was right in front of my eyes all the time, of course. I watched this first when it came and then forgot about it, bought the DVD some years ago and forgot about it again and now I understand why. This is by far one of Hooper's weakest moments, but it's still better than a lot of other generic, crappy DTV horror films. I'm not gonna make any comparison to the original 1978 movie, mostly because they're totally different films and I just don't believe in comparing everything new to stuff produced during the over-hyped the golden years of cinema. 

The original is actually damn boring and completely lacks talent (except the always awesome Cameron Mitchell of course!). But 'nuff about that!

Toolbox Murders suffers from the same problem as Mortuary: great ideas, a fun concept - but none of the ideas is fully developed and we're left with a boring slasher-esque thriller who hardly even tries to be scary. I know Hooper can do better and I'm afraid I think this was just another paycheck for him. It glimmers here and there, but the characters and the dialogue is the best - the horror is just something we've seen before a thousand times.

Hooper tries to provoke and produce disturbing images, but to receive R rather than the dreaded NC-17 the filmmakers was forced to cut the kills down and left is a (almost) bloodless mess. I'm pretty sure the horror would have been better with more gore, more violence. If this had been produced today it would probably never have suffered the same form of tasteless mutilation, but what can we do about it today? Nothing it seems.

I've heard the uncut kills is included as a bonus on the R1 DVD, but hey... there's no point in watching them outside the movie. I want them in the movie, where they belong.

On the good side, the cast is excellent. From the always enjoyable Angela Bettis in the lead to reliable character actors like Rance Howard, Juliet Landau and Greg Travis supporting the thrills it's a nice way to spend an evening. It's the same style of quirky, slightly disturbed Tobe Hopper-characters we're used to see - and that's a good thing, because it's part of his style. I need to see people like that in his movies, it's the last thing he has left from a far more successful career.

The idea used in the film is good, but it's surprising they never used it to something more. The occult and the old Hollywood always creates magic. Mysterious apartments, old actors remembering the past, long corridors, hidden symbols and weird noises. It's good stuff, it's great stuff. But everything is thrown away just to making something more simpler, something more... cowardly.

Until there's an official director's cut out I just can't recommend it. Sorry. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mortuary (2005)

Tobe Hooper is a curious fellow. I've always admired his worked and always tried to look beyond that first movie, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, that since then has become a curse for Hooper. He's far from a one-trick pony, with excellent stuff like The Funhouse, Poltergeist (yeah, I know some people claim Spielberg did all the directing, but you'll find many who claim Hooper did the job also), Lifeforce, TCM2, Eaten Alive and of course Salem's Lot. His TV-work and some of his less famous stuff from the eighties and nineties is good also. Seriously. Stop comparing, please. He's worth a more serious approach.

It took me four times to actually watch Mortuary. This time I managed to watch more than the first twenty minutes. It's my own fault, because I've been listening too much to the fancy schmancy bullshitters out there, people who prefer to look back into the past than analyzing the work of directors who doesn't want to repeat themselves. That's also Hoopers curse. He will be the director of TCM for his whole career and I think it's no coincidence that Mortuary has a weird, off-beat and macabre dinner-scene and odd redneck-esque characters acting strange. That's his burden and I guess it pays the bills.

While Mortuary has some serious flaws - including sloppy editing, some really awful physical and digital effects and sometimes a lack of energy from the director himself - it also have a lot of good stuff going on. The story, from writers Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch, isn't half-bad. Just a bit unfocused. It's an original twist on the boring zombie-theme with some truly original and bizarre ideas. It has a lot of black comedy - my favorite being the scene where the mother is sorting out her embalming equipment from the kitchen equipment! The dialogue is witty and mostly very fun in that quirky, strange way only characters talk in films by Hooper. The actors feels a bit awkward in the beginning, but they're soon in peace with their characters and the dialogue and in the end I would say this film has some of the more interesting people I've seen in a low budget, direct-to-video horror film that everyone hates.

Why? For example, the adult characters behave good. They don't act like assholes. The mother, played by Denise Crosby, is a good mother. She understand her son isn't a saint and gives him some freedom, but still cares about him. When she sense smoke on him she's more worried that he's in to heavier drugs and when she discover he's been out in the graveyard two in the morning she just tells him to bring a baseball bat the next time, for protection. Every adult character behaves in the total opposite way than they usually do in similar films. This is also one of the few genre productions I've seen who has a normal gay character who's treated like everyone else and behaves like everyone else.

How's the horror then? Hooper works hard with the little horror he has, but most of the power of the scares is let down by terrible make-up, lousy set-dressings and one of the worst final scenes I've seen. I can see his idea here - a reference to the almost otherworldly, unrealistic style of Eaten Alive - but that belonged in the drive-in's during the 70's, here it just feels like a bad episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.  The lack of real gore and that final, nasty horror-punch he's usually so good at, makes a weak horror movie.

What makes it worth watching is the ideas, the acting, the dialogue. That's the Hooper I love.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Unlawful Killing (2011)

When I was seven years old me and my best friend Kristian were playing with a tape recorder at my mothers house, outside Sigtuna. Kristian brought some cassettes from home, belonging to his father. His father was, like almost everyone at this quiet community, an recovering alcoholic and a deeply religious man. We put one cassette into the recorded and pressed play.

What we heard was his father confessing a murder. He killed someone. He was in deep angst, I remember him sounding sad - almost crying. It was scary and we turned off the tape and I ran to my mother... Anyway. Nothing came out of this. It was forgotten and for many years I didn't think about it. Until my mother mentioned she heard that Kristian's dad nowadays had his own religious community, some kind of church. And it all came back to me. I think this imprinted my mind to look for mysteries, the unexplained.

Everyone loves a conspiracy, especially me after this episode of my life. But I'm also a sceptic. I'm an atheist, I don't believe in UFO's, Bigfoot and too absurd government cover-up's. What I do believe in is the eternal evil and greed of humans and I know, for a fact, that a person - or several - can do what ever is in their power to get what they want. Remember, it takes only two persons to create a conspiracy.

Like all decent human beings I pretty uninterested in royal families and crap like that. They're a left over of a very non-democratic way of reasoning and for me they're just spoiled brats who toys around with the peoples money for their own pleasure and luxury. And no, they're not good PR for the countries either - because that means every country who doesn't have a royal family sucks at tourism - and that's just not true. Even the smallest damn monkey understands that. They're a waste of money, energy and intelligence.

Actor, comedian and author Keith Allen, part conspiracy nut, part smart dude, has made the most interesting and wittiest documentary on the "murder of Princess Diana" so far, Unlawful Killing. Before I watched the movie I read what ever I could find on the case - on the net, I just don't have time to read books nowadays - and got myself a pretty clear view on the pro's and con's of the theory. Allen and his team has a clear anti-Royal stance in the movie (and no, there's hardly any objective documentaries made - ever, because all of them are made by a filmmaker who have decided to tell a story, whether he understands that or not) and that can be bad, but for an anti-royalist like me it's like heaven. He goes through everything around the accident, points out clear - and confirmed misses from the police and media - ask questions that never got answered, lets the people who didn't believe in the accident-theory and was heard by the police talk about what they know. It's not a sloppy production, it's well-made and rude in that wonderful British way we love so much. There's no ass-licking here towards the inbred family living a life in glamour behind those castle walls. Of course there's people who will refute the evidence presented here, but let them do that. They've done it since the accident and always had the media and cops behind them anyway.

There's a lot of chilling moments, of course - like all good docs - constructed to evoke more emotion for the victims, Diana, Dodi and Henri Paul, the driver. Dodi's father has his son buried in his garden and burns the former royal symbols from Harrods outside his house. It's a man who spends most of his time talking to his dead son and the story of Dodi is told in a more respectful and intelligent way than how he was portrayed by the world media. What I found most interesting his that there's never been any proof that the paparazzi's was near their car. Not even the verdict states this - it's just in the imagination of newspaper editors and us fools believing in them. There's a lot of stuff like this in Unlawful Killing.

I can't say this documentary is wrong. I can't say it's true. But it's a fine piece of conspiracy theory, far from the typical nutcase-films produced by home grown wackos in the US. It delivers suspense, satire and criticism in an elegant manner. But still, it's a documentary. And a documentary, like all kind of journalism, only delivers the opinion of the creator. Remember that the next time you're upset about something your read in the newspaper, on Facebook, Twitter or any other timewaster that blocks your mind.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Leviathan (1989)

The year of 2013 will go the history as the end of the life-long battle of which monster-in-underwater-base is the best. Jocke over at Rubbermonsterfetishism claims that Sean S. Cunningham’s Deep Star Six is superior to Leviathan (No Jocke, it’s not!), but in the end I think we both can agree that The Rift is the best and coolest film in this small sub-genre of monster films. Anyway, I decided to watch Leviathan for the tenth time (or something like that) and see if it still had the magic I’ve experienced before.

And you know… it still has.

I’m not entirely sure why I like it so much. It could be because of the awesome cast – from always reliable leading man Paul Weller to character acting legend Richard Crenna and excellent supporting actors like Daniel Stern and Ernie Hudson. Oh, and don’t forget Hector Elizondo (who I saw in the fantastic The Taking of Pelham 123 recently) and of course the lizard-eyed Meg Foster. Everyone is good and the dialogue is realistic and all of the characters, with the exception of Lisa Eilbacher, is written with depth and intelligence. I’m pretty sure screenwriters David Webb Peoples (who also wrote Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys) and Jeb Stuart got the orders from the producers to try to copy the realistic style of Ridley Scott’s Alien, with the same fast and witty dialogue.

Alien isn’t the only inspiration – the atmosphere and characters is directly from that film, but much of the storyline and twists is taken almost directly from John Carpenter’s The Thing. With some slight changes of course. Personally I love this, because I could watch Alien and The Thing rip-off’s all day long, especially if they’re so ambitious and drenched with money as Leviathan. It never reaches the excellent paranoia of The Thing – and it’s not the focuseither, this is more the anxiety over the infection, people looking for signs of illness etc. It works, but in all honesty it could have ripped The Thing even more here.

Leviathan is foremost a monster film and the special effects, the action, is extremely well executed. It goes from the usual slime and gore to a fifties sci-fi film complete with a silly (but cool) looking fish monster, just bucket or two of slime from being black & white and starring opposite Richard Carlson! It looks quite cool, but I guess there’s a reason why it’s kept quite hidden most of the time with just a few wide shots which lasts less than a second. It’s a pity, because the man behind the monster effects is Stan Winston and he and his crew has done a fantastic job.

Leviathan is produced by the nephew of Dino De Laurentiis and like his uncle he knows who to spend the money on the production. It’s big and gory and has a sensational cast, which must have been a dream for talented director George P. Cosmatos. The rumor says he got fired from one production for spitting in the face of an employee at the production office! One of the last movies he was involved with was Tombstone, but he was just hired to pretend to be the director. He just sat around the sent, relaxed and watched Kurt Russell do the job. But he still did good work and Leviathan, while lacking a personal stamp of some kind, still is one of my favorites from his interesting filmography.

There’s just one question left regarding the film: what use did the crew have of big, futuristic flame-throwers down in the underwater base?

I guess we will never find out…

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

Me and G's mutual action favorite is Scott Adkins, a marvelous fighter and sometimes quite a good actor also. His magnum opus so far is the (masterpiece) Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, John Hyams sensational fifth (if counting the TV-movies) sequel to the 1992 semi-classic starring Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme. They're both elderly statesmen of action cinema now, and it's up to Adkins to save the day and take over the torch. The biggest difference between him and the older generation of fighters his how he (like JCVD nowadays) dares to show emotions, work more with the acting part and not be afraid to be a little bit weak from time to time. He gives the characters depth and intelligence, even if they're here just to kick someone in the head. In Undisputed III: Redemption he gives us more of Boyka, the earlier so shallow typical Russian bad guy, and everything becomes so much better.

Boyka is now a broken man after the nasty knee-injury Michael Jai White gave him in the last movie. But when he gets a chance to fight the new champion his former employer Gaga, a ruthless businessman and gambler, gives him a new chance. He's transferred to Georgia where there's a prison tournament and a lot of money is at stake. One of them is an American, Turbo (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) and they soon - after some ruckus - becomes close friends, but something is fucked up in the tournament and they both realize it's not an honest game... and now they need to fight extra hard to survive!

I know it's very easy to read in gay sub-text in very male-dominated action movies like this, but the thing is that I can swear it's not even a subtext. It's there on the screen. Boyka is the ultimate closeted macho-man, giving his time to god and praying when he's really only lusting for his new opponent Turbo. His refusal to talk about kids and women, his acceptance of Turbo's flowers to him and how terribly jealous he acts when Turbo is gonna meet his wife. Not to mention that they both are referred to boyfriends, lovers etc all the time from the other characters. It's interesting, because Boyka never reacts to this. He's quietly accepting it. Turbo becomes irritated at one point, but forgets it fast.

But gay subtext belongs in action movies, I think we all can agree on that. So how about the action? Scott Adkins is THE best fighter we have now (forget about those short, silly Indonesian fellas!). His physique is outstanding and even if he's bigger and bulkier than most expert fighters I've seen he's working the floor, the fists and feet like he was born Thai or Chinese. The fights are plenty and brutal, lots of blood and slow-mo. Most of it seem to be real contact, but from time to time it's easy to see how how far the feet and fists are to the other body. But it's a movie, dammit. It's not snuff!

Undisputed II, who we watched again a couple of days ago, is still a good movie, but it's very weak (except Adkins) compared to part III, a film packed with bloodshed and broken limbs. I especially like the small twists, the dialogue and the brave decision to give the characters some... character. It's a few surprises here and there and far above the average DTV action film. I loved it! Can't wait to see was Isaac Florentine and Adkins will do with Ninja 2, currently shooting in Thailand!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Deep Star Six (1989)

Somewhere along the road (aka "the end of the eighties") the almighty movie moguls decided that movies set on an underwater base is the ultimate way of earning money. James Cameron's The Abyss, George P. Cosmato's Leviathan, Juan Piquer Simon's The Rift and finally Sean S. Cunningham's Deep Star Six all came out between '89 and '90 and they're all quite cool in their own ways. Cameron's film is the worst one, boring as hell - but is very well-made and has a wonderful cast. Personally I prefer when the genre gets a bit cheaper, grittier - and gorier, and I'm afraid peaceful water aliens isn't my cup of tea. It took me many years to actually open the DVD of Deep Star Six, but as usual - while searching for another movie - I found myself standing with this DVD in my hands instead of the Tobe Hooper movies I wanted. And going Hooper to Cunningham isn't that farfetched anyway...

This time the unlucky crew of stereotypical (the black tough guy with a heart, the white asshole, the good-looking hero wearing a cap, the female scientist, the token Russian dude that bites the dust faster then you can drink a small glass of vodka etc etc), hard-working, underwater technicians has spent their last six months by installing an missile base in a remote part of the sea. They discover that there's a huge cave under the place where they put the missile-stuff and when the ground gives away... something (yeah, I know - it's a damn monster, looks like a big, mutated mix between a crab and... something else down at the bottom of the sea) escapes and attacks them with deadly force!

My main complain with Deep Star Six is the lack of monster. There's a monster, but it takes almost an hour until we finally can see that darn creature and from then on it's in very short glimpses! I mean, I came here to watch monsters and kick ass and I'm all out of monsters! What I can see of the monster it's cool and it's fairly aggressive, killing off the characters one by one in not so gory fashion. The two bloodiest kills isn't by the monster, which is odd - but also quite original. Kinda unexpected - and both of them has to do with air pressure, which always is cool and gory. Deep Star Six also has a different kind of asshole in the form of Miguel Ferrer, the guy to go to when it comes to play asshole. But he - and the script - gives him a little bit more to do this time and he's not a total wanker in the end. Just a bit sensitive for monster-induced stress.

Even with the lack of monster Sean S. Cunningham keeps up the pace quite well and the focus is on adventure and rescue missions. I sense that he wanted to do something else than horror, but one of the final shots in the film still reminds me of the one of the final shots in his classic slasher Friday the 13th (but to be fair, it's almost a copy of the ending in Cosmato's Leviathan instead). The presence of Harry Manfredini as the composer of the score and some neat scare scenes still makes this a typical Cunningham film, even without that hockey masked crusader we love so much.

Could have used more monster, but at least it didn't bore me! That's - I guess - not bad at all.

The Cyclops (1957)

I've written it before, but Bert I. Gordon is one of my favorite genre directors EVER. I might have been treated badly by the losers at Mystery Science Theater 3000 and laughed at by serious critics, but they can - as you all know - go and fuck themselves hard with a broomstick (no lube!). What's his strength then? Well, he's one of the few that only make movies as entertainment. He doesn't even pretend to put some message in or any deeper meanings. He's a 12 year old boy in a grown mans body, enjoying monsters and special effects, handsome leading men, adorable actresses and action.

His daughter, Susan (who very sadly passed away in 2011) claimed Bert was the best father a daughter could have. And he seems very nice. I bought his charming autobiography (and got it signed to!) and it tells the story of a man who's as interested in making money as making fun movies. That gave his movies a lot of heart and passion.

The Cyclops is a very simple monster movie. A couple of years ago an airplane disappeared over Mexico and now, finally, the girlfriend, Susan Winter (Gloria Talbott) of one of the victims arranges one final expedition to find the airplane and (probably) the bodies. They land in a remote valley and finds themselves in the middle of a world with giant animals - and also a hideous Cyclops, probably Susan's boyfriend in a mutated state! Will the ever get away from the valley of the Cyclops, or will they stay there and... DIE?!

That last sentence is a as silly as the movie itself, but like most films by Mr BIG, this is also one helluva entertaining romp that clocks into just over one hour. That means there's hardly any time for silly romance or unnecessary storylines, just big animals and danger around every damn corner.

The Cyclops (he's not a real Cyclops, because obviously he lost one of his eyes in the airplane accident and then mutated a little bit more to make the other one huge!) is very cool, very impressive make-up work by the legendary Jack H. Young, still today very good and imaginative. But what to expect from a man who worked on movies like Salem's Lot, Apocalypse Now, The Brood, Walking Tall and Wizard of Oz?

It's still not Mr BIG's best movie, but here he's starting to find his form of storytelling. He perfected the art of monster movies the years after, cheaper and grittier than most other similar movies of the time, but judging by how famous they still are - for different reasons - I guess he came out like the winner. Hardly anyone talks about Tarantula and Them nowadays, (good movies, no doubt about it), but it's the insanity of Bert I. Gordon's films that comes to mind when good old monster flicks is brought up in discussions.

The Cyclops is out on a nice-looking, uncut (yes, a spear in the Cyclops eyes was removed from certain prints) DVD from Warner Archive and is a must for collectors of fifties horror- and sci-fi classics.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Puppet Masters (1994)

I like the early nineties. It was a time when the production companies strove to produce slick, not-too-original genre movies with a dash of gore and good production values. The X-Files had just taken over the world and now was the time to make movies in the same genre. One of the now forgotten mainstream attempts was The Puppet Masters, based on the Robert A. Heinlein story. An earlier film adaption was The Brain Eaters from 1958, which is quite good. What I really like about this version is that it easily could have been a feature film length episode of The X-Files. The characters of Sam (Eric Thal) and Mary (Julie Warner) is similar to Mulder and Scully and Donald Sutherland is a mix of all the dark, complex, father-figures inhabiting the X-Files universe around the main characters.

This time a UFO lands far out on the countryside and it's passengers, which is parasitical creatures consisting of 60 % brain and belong to one big hive mind, takes over the bodies of three teen boys who witnesses the landing. Soon the infection, if you can call it that, spreads among the citizens of this sleepy little town and Sam, an agent, Mary, a doctor and Sam's father, who's the boss of the organization, is sent out to investigate. It won't take long until the parasites has taken control over the whole town and now they want to spread even further. But who's infected and who's clean, who can they trust? The paranoia is growing for each day and the aliens seem to have an uncanny talent for sticking their tentacles into the necks of even the most unexpected people...

The Puppet Masters is a daman fine little sci-fi movie. A lot better than I remember it to be. Sure, it's hardly original and we've seen it many times before. But the stylish production reminds us of The X-Files and it makes us feel safe. We know this is gonna be a tense little experience without going downright silly with spaceships and laser guns. It's down to earth and the focus is on the paranoia and some delicious slimly creature effects, which is a mix I like a lot. It's not as good as Philip Kaufman's brilliant 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is a more brooding and dark film. This is more a bright, expensive TV-movie without any deeper allegories but with a lot of entertainment. This also means it's more focused on cost-effective chases and not so complicated-action, instead of advanced animatronics and early computer animation (and it has quite much of the animatronics, really good stuff also). The stunts is great, old-school, gags. Car-chases, fight in helicopter, falling down stairs, something out of a PM Entertainment movie, except with no martial arts and less explosions.

Donald Sutherland is also one reason to watch this film. I've always been a fan of his work (which reminds me, he's also in Invasion of the Body Snatchers!). He's one of those actors who can work in any crappy production and still (with maybe the exception of Baltic Storm) come off as edgy and very in to his part. He works a lot with very small facial gestures and when he in this film, during a short scene, stops doing that he looks like he's over-acting like hell, but he's just acting like a normal actor would work - a bit on the nose. Here it serves an important purpose and it's a brilliant trick of the mind from an excellent actor.

The script has some problems, very minor ones. I have a hard time believing that alien parasites wouldn't notice if anyone of them was killed, especially when they're attached to a human being. The hive mind is powerful and if one of the "citizens" suddenly disappeared from the radar in the middle of the night, on the street when they expect to be attacked it's likely that they would notice this death, because it's a part of them all. This happens from time to time, and it's not something that bothers me - but I thought about it and it's rarely I give a shit about contradictions in the movie I'm watching - because it's... just a movie.

The Puppet Masters is out on a cheap blu-ray, together with Stephen Sommer's brilliant monster film Deep Rising on the same disc. A great double feature, two fine movies for very little money. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Last Horror Film (1982)

"I never seen a hooker run so fast" says Luke Walter, Joe Spinell's best friend in the interview featurette on the DVD of The Last Horror Film. The running prostitute has just seen Joe sitting on the toilet, in his robe, with hundreds of lit candles around him, showing his cock while demanding "Blow me!". I can imagine the shock, because Spinell was totally crazy when he made this oddity, and it's also one of his most fascinating and interesting performances outside Maniac.

I'm not sure why, but TLHF have never been as appreciated as Maniac. I think it's in the same league, but also in a very different one. Where Maniac is dark and gritty, TLHF is just far-out insane and packed with odd jokes, some amazing guerrilla-style filmmaking and Spinell being - it seems - drunk or high during many scenes. Something that doesn't take away what an amazing performance he gives, so edgy you can cut yourself on it. This is far from being traditional exploitation film and instead focuses on satirizing the exploitation cinema and how absurd that world is. It's set in a different universe where crappy z-horror movies is regarded as fine culture, which shows during the wonderfully funny scene where the Cannes jury watches Caroline Munro getting burned to death with a blow-torch and at the same time commenting her amazing performance, hoaw brilliant she and the movie-within-the-movie is. It's a daring movie, because it's one of many scenes that's way to smart for the audience that probably saw the movie later.

For you who haven't seen it, this is Joe Spinell playing a stalker, obsessed by a horror movie star played by Caroline Munro. He travels to Cannes to, in secret, without her knowing it, shoot a movie with her in the lead. Soon people around Munro starts to get killed in gory ways and the only suspect is of course Spinell...

But TLHF is so much more. It's an orgy of colourful documentary footage from the film festival, often starring real life celebrities like Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black and Marcello Mastroianni as themselves - also without permission and tons and tons of bystanders acting as extras in the wacky adventures of Spinell's very special way of acting. Many scenes was shot directly after the real celebrities has left, and Spinell would enter the scene (for example the hotel lobby or cinema) to pretend to be a big star, getting all the photographers to go crazy over him. This is movie magic. Pure fucking movie magic. This and the experimental style makes it a unique and not entirely commercial experience. I'm pretty sure there was a lot of ad-libbing and non-scripted scenes shot in the moment. It's visible and it feels like that, but it also fits perfectly in this very original and slightly chaotic slasher-mystery-satire.

Joe Spinell chews the scenery as much as possible, but he's also very good. There's one scene when he breaks into Munro's bathroom and threatens her with a broken bottle and he's so real, so "in there" that it's kinda scary to watch. Spinell was a magnificent artist and actor, one of those few that completely committed himself to the part - and probably used other peoples fear of, his looks and style, without hesitation. An original man. With Spinell in the cast all other actors kinda disappears, but they're doing what they're suppose to do and at least doesn't sink the movie by abandoning the characters because of Spinell taking over.

I honestly thing The Last Horror Film is a brilliant film. An original piece of arty exploitation. There's never been done anything like it before and after. It has gore, nudity, satire, Joe Spinell and female underwear, Caroline Munro and disco scenes. That's what I demand from a good film. And so should you. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dr. Giggles (1992)

The Doctor Is In...sane!

I first saw Dr. Giggles on TV, one of those early channels in Sweden who only showed feature films (and probably sport, who the hell cares about sport?, something like Filmnet or TV 1000. I recorded it and it's still somewhere down in the basement. I remember watching it a lot during those teenage years, over and over again until I got bored with it, the tapes got buried in cardboard boxes and I went on to find more interesting films. But deep down there in my mind it's always been waving friendly, looking at me, maybe offering me candy - everything to make me follow the good doctor into the forest one more time. I ignored him until a couple of weeks ago when I saw that the blu-ray was extremely cheap, almost free - and I thought "what the heck", and ordered it.

One thing that strikes me when I watched it again was how much money must have been poured into the production. This is one handsome fucker of a movie. Remember, this was a four years before Wes Craven's Scream and horror was still very unpopular, and launching a new franchise, a tongue-in-cheek one, must have been an odd idea at the time. A movie relying heavy on humour but still had a lot of quite creepy sequences and seriously violent scene - just like Scream later on. Together with the movie a two issue long comic book adaption was released, two different CD's (one with the soundtrack and one with the Brian May score) and a big marketing campaign all over the US - but the film failed at the box office (according to Box Office Mojo it took in eight million dollars totally, which I guess was less than the budget) and fast forgotten.

Which is a damn pity.
Mostly because Dr. Giggles is a very well-made and ambitious slasher.

It was before its time, that's part of the problem. The script, or maybe more the story, isn't anything special, but the over-the-top witty dialogue, the acting (especially from Larry Drake as the good doctor) and the gorgeous production values, from the sets and special effects to the wonderful cinematography (by Rob Draper, who also shot the boring but nice-looking Halloween 5) is really a sight to behold. It's not overly gory, but has a couple of excellent scenes and it's a violent film, make no mistake about that. The morgue-sequence is still one of the creepiest scenes I've seen in a slasher, and you who have seen the film will not forget that shocker! It's stuff like that, the pitch-black comedy, the wonderful performance of Larry Drake and the glossy, almost advertising-style, look makes it almost a surreal experience.

Dr. Giggles could have be a very fun franchise and the doctor could have elevated to one of the best "slashers" out there. It's well worth revisiting, both for the outrageous early nineties fashion, the interesting characters and the comedy - but it's Larry Drakes show in the end.

He's absolutely perfect in the part. And that what makes Dr. Giggles such a delicious treat to devour.