Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Count Dracula (1970)

Bram Stokers Dracula has been filmed so many times, it's hard to see if there's actually any point of watching all versions out there. But Jess Franco's Count Dracula is one of the best, and together with John Badham's version from 1979, my favorite. What Franco succeeds with is to make the story quite true to the original novel - but not as true as it was planned. It takes some big steps way from the original source, but never looses the focus. For once we also has a Dracula that feels dangerous. Christopher Lee has played the old count many times, but this is one of the few times where he's using that sexual energy that's so important for the vampire-character. The coolest thing is that he starts old and gets younger and younger, and even if the make-up is a bit crude, it never takes away the illusion.

But this is not only Lee's show. First of all we have Fred Williams as Jonathan. This character has always been a wimp no matter how you write him, and so even here. But Fred is great in the part, and is both naive and handsome - as I've always seen Jonathan Harker - and never becomes a true hero. He's just following what other tells him to do. The those are Herbert Lom and Jack Taylor, as Van Helsing and Morris. Both are excellent actors, and really takes over the story after a while - with Harker lurking around in the background. Soledad Miranda and Maria Rohm is perfect as Lucy and Mina, and we shouldn't forget Klaus Kinski as Renfield. With no lines and only in one room, he still brings a lot of charisma to the character and has most of his scenes against another intensive actor, our old favorite Paul Muller.

Even if the budget is very, very low, Count Dracula has a lot of stunning scenes and locations. Just turn this movie black and white and you'll have one of those old Universal horror movies, which feels even better than if Franco tried to imitate Hammer. For even if we have all the classic ingredienses, this is far from Hammer and feels more inspired than their later vampire-flicks that Lee was forced to star in. I guess Franco had a little bit more time to shoot this movie too, because the lightning is excellent and the zooms are minimal.

This is absolutely one of Franco's best movies, but maybe a little less personal than the fan-favorites. But this stands on it's own legs as a competent and gorgeous interpretation of one of the most famous horror books ever. And if you can stand a few silly things like rubber bats on wires and those dangerous stuff animals that attacks in one scene, this is a lovely vampire-movie. And no, I won't even mention the German Shepherd's, because they're just wild dogs - and what I can remember, no one is calling them wolves anywhere in the movie!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alternative 3 (1977)

I've always loved British TV-productions, and the best thing with it is that it never ends. There's tons and tons of quality dramas, thrillers, science fiction and everything between heaven and hell that you can imagine. Right I'm watching The Omega Factor, Beasts, Children of the Stones - all fantastic shows - but also mini-series like Nightmare Man and movie like the masterful The Stone Tape. So I decided to give Alternative 3 a go, a mockumentary that caused some controversy when it was aired in June 1977. It was first meant as a serious hoax for April Fool's Day, but it was delayed and people just wasn't expecting something like that to happen without warning.

We follow real life TV-host Tim Brinton in Science Report. He and his team was first out to make a documentary about the "brain-drain", the hiring of British scientists by foreign governments. But they also discover that 24 of these people has disappeared without a trace, sometimes alone and sometimes with their families. Where are they? Slowly the team uncovers more and more leads, and show them that there's a way bigger conspiracy taking place - that involves murder and paranoia...

This is of course a top-notch production. Nowadays the acting and sometimes the directing can be a little bit to unconvincing, not so "real", but for an unsuspecting audience during the summer of '77 it probably gave a bigger impact. But still, this is a tense and nail-biting little mockumentary in the way only a the British television could have done it. It's slow and talky, a bit on-the-nose - but very engaging and smart. The script carefully gives us more and more clues, trying to get us to make up our own theories about what the conspiracy is all about.

It's a very good thing using unknown actors (but I'm sure you will recognize Shane Rimmer and Richard Marner) in combination with the very real and dead-serious Tim Brinton. Another thing which makes this quite unique is that it focuses a lot on environmental problems, which makes it seem a bit prophetic sometimes. But first of all it's an elaborate April Fools Day's hoax, a fine little TV-thriller with a nice complicated conspiracy theory and a really cool "found footage"-sequence!

I recommend you all to go to - for example - and get yourself a copy of this lovely little movie.

And because we live in this crazy, crazy world - there's actually people who think this movie is real, or at least based on real facts, and that the April Fool-thing was just a cover-up from the government to make everything believe it was a fake! Just read more here if you dare - but it has a LOT of spoilers.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Three Mexican lobbycards heading my way!

I just took a chance on these three on Ebay, because I wanted to see if the seller was any good. If this turns out fine I will bid on a couple of more. 

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

It was a long time since I last saw The Sword and the Sorcerer, and yesterday when walking home from work I found a cheap DVD, anamorphic widescreen and all, of Albert Pyun's classic at Record Hunter, the excellent store in Stockholm. So could I stop myself? No, absolutely not! 

The totally awesome Richard Lynch plays Cromwell, a very evil man that wants to crush the stoic and heroic King Richard. But to be able to defeat King Richard's soldiers he need something special, and that special is the ancient demon and sorcerer Xusia! So he wakes him up from his eternal sleep and makes him help out with killing all the soldiers of King Richard. He then throws Xusia from a cliff and think he's dead. After that he executes the king and queen, but the young son, Mikah, escapes, just leaving the daughter in Cromwell's dirty hands.

Many years later Cromwell is the ultimate evil king over the country, but Mikah (now played by Simon MacCorkindale) wants revenge. He hires Talon (Lee Horsley), an adventurer and mercenary who with his times of tough guys will help him overthrown King Cromwell and save the princess! But what no one knows is that Xusia is alive and planning his revenge too...

This was a blast. I didn't except it after so many years actually. The best thing was that it was a lot more mature than I expected. Sure, the overall story is like standard fairy tale, but it's also filled with darker themes, some very nice graphic gore and nudity. This was of course after Conan, a movie that also was more violent and controversial than people will remember, so this one is welcome in a genre that rapidly almost became a genre for children.

One of the strong parts of The Sword and the Sorcerer is the acting, because even a handsome movie without good acting can be terrible to watch. Here Richard Lynch makes one of his best performances ever, in the almost Shakespearian character of King Cromwell. Obviously not a happy man, even bitter and sad after he gets the power, but still having anxiety over the maybe not even existing threat of Xusia (it's like he's having bad conscience) and of course that he knows that Mikah is lurking somewhere out there trying to gather the people against him. His relationship with his closest man, Machelli (George Maharis - who is fantastic), is also very up and down, like they're married almost. Not the normal master and slave like in all of the other fantasy-flicks out there. Lee Horsley is excellent as Talon, a very likable and well written hero and the rest of the bunch ranges from great to good.

But of course, this is a very stunning visual movie too and Pyun really makes a lot of probably a quite low budget. It looks big, but still is still shot in a lot of interiors or in smaller outdoor areas, which I guess was a low budget necessity. Pyun also seem to have carefully chosen real buildings, indoors and outdoors, that has castle- or a middle ages-feeling to make it bigger and look more expensive, but just used small parts of these not to show any modern structures I guess. And it works very good. 

The gore surprised me. Some very nasty bits with a torn out heart, a head split open, impalings and blood-spurting. Way to go, I loved it! No splatter-movie of course, but it spiced up the movie a lot.

It think may of us could agree that The Sword and the Sorcerer is one of the best and entertaining fantasy-movies from the eighties, up there with Conan and The Princess Bride. They all three have very different styles, but if I was going to a deserted island this is the movie I would bring!

And for you who live in the US and Canada, go right to this page and pre-order Tales of an Ancient Empire. It will be available all over the world sooner or later, but for you who can - get it and support this sequel, now 28 years in the making! It's just a month or so until it finally will be released.. and I can't wait to see it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Black Demons (1991)

Another slightly forgotten Lenzi-flick, Black Demons is not his strongest, but another of those very charming late Italian horror productions that have been forgotten over the years. The story is simple but effective: three students (among them the excellent Joe Balogh) goes to Brazil to research about black magic. Dick (Balogh) get's right into a black mass and somehow gets possessed by the power of black magic and brings it with him when they travel into Brazil.

During the trip they meet to hikers who live nearby, and they visits their old house out in the jungle. Not far away is a funeral place with the graves of six black slaves that where killed by their white masters many years ago. The legend says that they want revenge. When Dick starts to play the music he recorded during the black mass he resurrects the slaves and they starts to take their bloody, gruesome revenge!

Like Hell's Gate, Black Demon has a low pace and is very cheap, but I think Black Demons is the better movie. Why? Well, first of all the direction seem a lot more inspired and Lenzi uses beautiful locations and some cool black ritues to make the generic story a bit more entertaining. They terror is also spread all over the movie and not just during the last half hour, which makes the slow pace between the horror faster. Another thing is that is has a little bit more gore than Hell's Gate. There's at least three very graphic murders, among them a very brutal eye-ripping and a cut throat with a lot of blood. The zombies themselves actually looks really good and creepy, almost disgusting with the decay shown with subtle and well made make-up effects.

The weakest thing with the movie is the actors. Joe Balogh is good, and so Keiith Van Hoven, but the local Brazilian talents are terrible. Especially Philip Murray who also makes the worst death-acting EVER. He and the other locals also have problem with the english (everything seem to be their natural voices, not something that's been dubbed in later) and it's hard to hear what they're saying. The woman playing the maid in the house is cool too by the way, and has charisma, but have the same language problems. Sonia Curtis seem to be somewhere else, and even Lenzi claims that the acting problems was a big part of making the movie weaker than it was. Curtis also drank some local milk and got hospitalized during the shooting, so I guess there was some chaos.

It's also fun with a slightly political incorrect theme of the movie. Just the titles, Black Demons, that refers to zombies with dark skin - "black people" - could, I guess, cause some irritated viewers out there. And the zombies are black, and is refered to black slaves in the movie, attacking white people. But on the other side, it's about revenge - just only that they loose in the end. Lenzi himself, in very good interview on the DVD talks a little bit about this, but still feels it's just a horror movie and with no deeper meanings.

I like Black Demons, even if it has problems. The gore is fine, the music is atmospheric, the zombies are brutal and Lenzi's directing is inspired. Once again it's Olga Pehar writing the script, and it's a good and effective b-horror story which could have done better with out some of the dialogue. It just gets a bit talky.

I wish that Lenzi could come out from retirement and give us more movies like this. Mattei could do it, so Lenzi - come on!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Månguden (1988)

In 1988 Jonas Cornells Månguden was shown on Swedish public television and left scars in many young views or many, many years. The movie itself was only shown twice that year, and until now it's been surrounded my legends and rumours. But finally, it's out on DVD. Personally I've been searching for it during many years. In 2005 I was very close to get a copy from composer Jan Tolf, but he died during our mail conversation and I just felt that it was pointless to search anymore. But now it's out and it was interesting to see if it was as scary as I remember it...

Tomas Laustiola is John Vinge, a Swedish-Finnish cop that's responsible to catch a brutal serial killer. This unknown maniac slaughters innocent families out camping, with a HUGE machete. He or she is also dressed in a black robe and a creepy African mask, the mask of the Moon God. To really mess up the minds of the police the killer films his evil deeds and let the police have it as a gift.

Vinge, an alcoholic and a victim of an abusive father - also an ex-cop, is tired of being a nobody. He continues the investigation together with Erland Salander (Per Myrberg), a profiler who has retired because of a nervous breakdown. Together they find that more and more clues leads to the Ethnographic Museum where two mysterious researchers work, a woman that attracts Vinge's attention and the creepy Andreas Gregor (the always f**king brilliant Heinz Hopf). But more life's are at stake, and the killer is getting more and more brutal...

... and no, it's not nearly as scary as I remember it! But this is still a really great little thriller which has no connections at all with the typical slasher, It has more nods to the Italian giallo and American thriller actually. The pace is quite slow, but filled with tension and mostly good and great acting. The dialogue can, as usual with Swedish productions, be a bit stiff - but the actors do their best and they all feel convincing. It also looks great and has some creative visual touches that very few other Swedish TV-productions have. Jonas Cornell did a very fine job here.

As a movie made for Swedish television this is unique in many ways. First of all, it dares to be commercial with some brilliant set pieces and spectacular backstories. The red herrings are shameless and honest, and the concept with lost and found footage works extremely well. It's not only the footage that the killer leaves (which is really eerie), there's also another surprise later on in the movie with reminds me of Cannibal Holocaust of all movies! Yeah, it’s a long shot – but I’m sure you know what I mean when you see it. As a Swedish production from this time is also quite violent, but compared to what we see today - or earlier in other countries cinema - it's weak. It has one graphic murder though, and some brutal shots of the killer dragging people out from their tents and whacking them with a machete.

It starts of as a normal Scandinavian cop-movie, but evolves into something more colourful and odd. It has hidden documents, silent movies, murders, old artifacts, a childhood-trauma worthy of Dario Argento, a masked killer with black gloves and even a supernatural touch which I love. It's been hyped over the years for being scary, but it's just more than scary: It's a damn fine little TV-movie which holds your interest from the beginning to the end.

I was surprised to see how good it was after all these year, and to be honest - I prefer this one before all these trillion fucking boring Beck, Wallander and Van Veeteren-movies that being produced every day. Here's a movie that borrows heavily from the European genre cinema and feels proud of that. For once there’s a Swedish movie that could be called international and actually wants to do something with a tired genre.

After all these years, Månguden still delivers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hell's Gate (1989)

It's Leeeeeenzi-time! Yes, Umberto Lenzi is one of my favorite directors from Italy, he can also be a bit uneven. But I think mostly that has do with what he put's his heart in and nothing else. Some days it's just a paycheck, another day passion. And hopefully both most of the time. I've always been fond of his horror production from the eighties, and Hell's Gate is far from perfect, but still an entertaining piece of b-movie heaven.

Giacomo Rossi-Stuart plays Dr Johns (with a perfect hair cut by the way) who's leading an experiment how long a man can stay down in a cave. On the 78th day they're gonna bring him up, but everything goes wrong. First he disappears in the caves, screaming that "they" gonna kill them all, and then it's exactly what happens. Because in the 12th century seven heretic monks where buried there... or something... and now they want revenge from beyond the grave! So now they have to kill seven heretics to... come back to life maybe?

Ok, I've seen this movie many times but I've never understood every detail. As usual I like to focus on the good things and except the very, very low budget this movie is quite an entertaining little flick, but far from a masterpiece. The setting of a cave is of course great, and this cave is also connected to some underground tombs belonging to a nearby church - so there's everything you need for a horror movie set in the underground. But the budget is noticeable in the TV-style execution of the movie (maybe it was made for TV?) and that it drags on some scenes too long - like they need to focus one the spectacular stuff to hide that the rest of the movie is very cheap.

But still, it never drags. It's hardly exciting and fantastic like Nightmare City (but how many movies are like that one?), but still manage to throw in two gory killings (Lenzi sure loves that axe in the back of the head, I think it's in most of his horror movies from the eighties), some spiders, explosions, a burning cross and a lot of running in tunnel to not be boring. The script is very simple (by Lenzi's wife Olga Pehar), and the final echoes of Nightmare City with a nightmare that becomes reality. I think the actors, especially Barbara Cupisti works fine and there's also a very short cameo by Paul Muller in the end.

It's not better than Black Demons or Ghosthouse, but I have a soft spot for this one. Can't help me, so shoot me if you want.

A photographic interlude - The Lars Hollmer Tribute Night (2010)

Great evening. The artists feature on the photos is Ruins, Klotet, Yra and Mats & Morgan!

All photos taken and copyright by Gregory Fital.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A movie that never was: House of Zombies

It was so many years back now, but this was a movie we started pre-production on. The script was written, the location was found and cleared, we shot some test footage of stunts (I will find that sooner or later too), made a teaser poster (with me as a director, but later it was decided that Mattias Bloom would direct) and some early make-up tests. Well, then everything went down the drain.

But I found the poster and some make-up tests and I'm sharing it here with you all. As a detail I can mention that my main inspiration was the House-movies that Fulci and Lenzi did (including Ghosthouse, Hell's Gate and Black Demons). Cheesy, gory and entertaining standard-horror with a lot of stupid characters and blood.

Thai Police Story (1986)

I guess you've seen that cheap collection of three thai action movies? It's the more famous of Panna Rittikrai's movies, Born to Fight and then we have the ultra-boring Spirited Killer. Born to Fight is quite good and has some good action and stunts, but the strange thing is the third movie - first released as a bonus flick during it's BCI-run - Thai Police Story (The original title is 2 Nuk Soo Poo Ying Yai). But even if it's dubbed, has a crappy print and fullscreen this is actually the best movie of the set - at least if you want wonderful, crazy micro-budget thai-action!

The story is forgettable, but it's something about the son of a mafia boss who befriends one of his bodyguards (played by Panna by the way), and this bodyguard is also friend with a police - and they're friends, but on opposite side of the law. Of course another gang want's more power and the action begins. And action is the main word here. The movie is 57 minutes long and and has so much fun and ultra-violent action that it just never becomes boring. Here we have real contact fighting, fucking painful stunts, big squibs, bad overacting and more stunts.

As usual with Panna Rittikrai's early movies you see a lot of stunts that later was perfected in modern Tony Jaa-movies. Here we have a fight with (I think) six people on top of a truck, people falling off of course, which echoes the in title-only remake of Born to Fight (good one by the way, Dan Chupong should get more work!) and a lot of moves and gags that you can see in all the new movies now. The fighting is actually very good, but here the focus is painful stunts instead of long fighting scenes.

If you enjoy lowbudget asian action flicks that's more obscure than a lot of other movies, give Thai Police Story a chance and I'm quite sure you won't be disappointed. This is good stuff from the master of stupid stunts, Panna Rittikrai!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Farewell, Terminator (1987)

Here we have an odd little movie. Farewell, Terminator was Isaac Florentine's first official movie and it's something so weird as a cyborg-martial arts-futuristic movie about Israel! It's only 27 minutes long, but still shows Florentines talent for stylish action and nice production values for very little money. Or... well, the production value is rundown buildings, destroyed cars and a lot of dust - like all post-apocalyptic movies from this time.

Yaakov Yaakobson is Dror, a police that works in the worst neighbourhoods in his country. When he killed enough criminals he get's a free passport out of the country... and now that times has come. But by mistake he discovers that there's a price on his head, and it's the police that's behind it all! Why?

It's a nice story actually, not bad at all - and very typical short film subject. The concept has been used before, but with different twists, and this is one that I like. It feels logical for once. Florentine fills the screen with ruins and old cars, lots of concrete and dust, and in this some good and violent action sequences. The first fight is a bit silly, with to much speed up to make it look serious, but the second one between Dror and one of the criminals looks great and is very brutal. I can see how he got the chance of directing bigger movies after just this little scene.

But the story focuses on the drama and the secret behind it all, even here Florentine manages to hold up a good pace and brings some good performances from the actors. I'm happy I finally got to see Isaac Florentines debute movie and it's a pity it's not easier to find. It could have been a perfect bonus movie on one of his feature length movies. If you get a chance to see it, take it - and I'm quite sure you will like it, at least if you are fans of obscure post-apocalypse or the talent of one of the best action directors in the world right now!

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

There really isn't any good version of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. The Omega Man with Charlton Heston has a lot of cool moments, but the whole movie is a failure. The Will Smith version is just... boring. What's left is Sidney Salkow far from perfect The Last Man on Earth with good old Vincent Price as the not so lucky survivor of a disaster that wiped out most people on the earth and turned the rest of them to vampire-like creatures. Well, actually they seem more like zombies and it's interesting to see how much Romero got inspired by this movie (which he himself has pointed out).

I think the best thing with the 1964 version is that Dr. Robert Morgan lives a terribly boring life. He's not the jolly good fellow Heston or the tough fun guy Will Smith. He never, not in a moment, enjoy his life as the last man on earth. His life is repetitive and the only thing he does is killing vampires during the day, being bitter and sad, and then trying to stay up all night stopping the vampires from get into his life. Life's shit and not fun at all. He's also filled of guilt and still lives in the house where his family died, because it's their place. Life don't get easier when one of his co-workers terrorize him every night as a vampire, screaming "Morgan! Come out....".

Not that this version is perfect, far from actually. Sidney Salkow's direction is very static, and maybe competent - but in a way that it feels a bit like a wasted opportunity. Just think if Terence Fisher could have directed it instead? or Roger Corman! That would have been something. Salkow's idea of directing is one shot - two shot - one shot - two shot and then some landscape. The attack-scenes outside the house, or when the vampires are chasing him is shot very generic and boring, but it's saved by gorgeous cinematography and a wonderful performance by Price.

Yes, Vincent Price. The master. This is his one man show here, and he's playing one of the most bitter and sad men in his career. He uses his height to almost make himself even more sad, like a lonely giant among aggressive ants. The performance is filled by interesting ideas, and just watch him when he realizes that the vampires think he's the monster. Suddenly he becomes a monster, with a hunchback and everything, twisting his body to something from one of Roger Corman's Poe-movies. It's quite subtle, but suddenly we understand how the bad guys of the movie actually see him as the monster, the main bad guy himself. Here we also understand how obsessed the character is about himself and how smart he is, to the point where he forgets that he's just a human being himself and not especially perfect at all.

The Last Man on Earth is one of the more interesting genre productions from the sixties. Uninspired direction and a the extremely weird idea to claim that Rome is LA (which don't work for one single second) can't stop this movie from being a classic and a very important movie in the history of horror movies.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Postmortem (1998)

After 1995 every producer wanted their own little piece of Se7en. I think that movie is fantastic, a masterpiece. But the weird thing is that I got more stuck to all the movies that was inspired by David Fincher's bleak serial killer-thriller. Russell Mulcahy's Resurrection (I've seen that movie countless times) and Mario Azzopardi's Bone Daddy (with Rutger Hauer in one of his best performances in years). One movie I've waiting to see again is Postmortem, Albert Pyun's thriller with Charlie (or Charles) Sheen solving some nasty murders in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Charlie is James McGregor, an alcoholic ex-cop and bestseller author who's been spending the last months drinking himself more or less to death in Scotland. He starts getting weird faxes, but ignores them - until the body of a young woman is found in his garden. Of course he's suspected himself, but after a while he befriends the cops and works together with them to find the serial killer. Of course this is a controversial idea, and from the beginning the cops is very hostile to him, but soon they found that he's not such a bad guy anyway - just a bit grumpy - and let him in on the investigation. 

And yes, that's about it. It's no other stories being told really, except McGregor trying to cope with his problems and the terrible crimes committed in their city. I thank the scriptwriters of that, for finally we have a serial killer thriller without any love stories and silly stuff like that. This is pure investigation, tough talk and some minor character development. Sheen is good as McGregor, but it's hard to seem him in such a serious and non-witty part at first. This was during a time he did a lot of smaller productions, and before his big career movie to replace Michael J. Fox in Spin City... and the rest his history.He did to really good movies during this period, Postmortem and The Chase (Rated X was good to, a movie I recommend). The script is generic, I can confess that, but still it holds the attention of the audience and has a lot of thrills and tension. 

But what really holds up Postmortem is the direction by Pyun, the awesome score (is it released somewhere?) by Tony Riparetti and the gorgeous cinematography by George Mooradian. There's so much style and class in this movie that it's hard to believe it was shot in 11 days only. Pyun fully uses the fantastic scenery of Scotland and Glasgow, and there's BIG shots in this. From wonderful nature to gritty city locations. I like that small dialogue scene between Sheen and Michael Halsey with a big square behind them. Something so small and intimate in such a huge environment. What I understand the whole movie is more or less shot with steadycam, and it brings a smooth feeling to the storytelling and the movements is flawless. It has a very slick production value and it looks more expensive than it probably was. Pyun also manages to focus on the drama as well as the action, which gives us a very human movie - far from contrived and automatic. 

Postmortem is a stylish movie that fully utilizes the 2:35.1 ratio. Because I wanted to see this movie in widescreen I had to go the illegal way, but after researching a little bit, it seem like the Swedish DVD is in the correct ratio. It's OOP though, but I will try to find it to make my collection even more flawless.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Fourth Kind (2009)

It might be hard for the haters out there to understand, but Olatunde Osunsanmi's The Fourth Kind was probably the most unknown sleeper hit of 2009. Made for around 10 million dollars, it earned 42 million in cinemas and probably even a lot more on DVD and Blu-Ray. I can understand why, because this is a really nice little abduction-themed sci-fi thriller, and it also has a confusing premise that even made me suspicious from the beginning. What we have here is a movie that mixes real footage (of interviews, police cameras) with reenactments of events, and it begins with Milla Jovovich introducing the movie telling us that everything is real and later real footages mixes with new film footage with Milla and a bunch of other great actors.

But everything is fake. Everything. And this is very well made. The video footage from the hypnosis sessions, the police camera stuff... it looks almost to real. You all know how ugly people look in the vacation video? It's the same here, nothing that indicates acting, special lighting or direction. Just very naturalistic. The film footage with Milla Jovovich as Dr. Abbey Tyler is very good, and it's miles from what the director created in his universally hated The Cavern. This looks and feels like a totally different director, and it's stylish and expensive.

The story is that the really Dr. Abbey Tyler discovers that a lot of people in Nome, Alaska, is experiencing the same sleeping disorders. Everything gets more creepy when they all wake up and see an owl outside the window. But during hypnosis they start to tell more, about something that's entering their homes and abducting them... We see this story first and most with Milla as the good doctor, but it's intercut with the research footage. Other good actors like Will Patton, Elias Koteas and Corey Johnson also portrays the locals.

Osunsanmi manages to create a chilling and tense story, that sometimes gets quite creepy. There's some footage in the end that of course is fake, but is strange and disturbing with small means. When Tyler gets more and more involved in the mystery of Nome, we also start rooting for her even more and more, and when she gets in trouble with the police (because of course they don't believe her stories about UFO abductions) it's hard to watch her getting weaker and weaker from the pressure. Much has to do with Jovovich and the other actors excellent work, but the location with miles of forest and and huge mountains makes it eerie.

The Fourth Kind might now win any Oscars, but it's still a really good found footage-movie (kinda anyway) with excellent directing and acting. Well worth a watch. Or two.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Survival of the Dead (2009)

I might be the wrong person to write a review of George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead, just because I'm such a big fan. But what makes me a good reviewer is that I'm not lost in nostalgia. Though I love almost every single movie Romero has done, there's no holy cows for me. So is Survival of the Dead perfect? Nada! And that's fine with me. A perfect Romero-movie is a boring Romero-movie. None of his zombie-movies are perfect. Actually most of them has flaws. No, correction: every one of this zombie-movies has flaws. Some bigger flaws and some minor, but like with the work of Jess Franco, it's pointless to look at the crappy make-up effects in Dawn, or the terrible pacing that occurs in Night, or the way to talky beginning of Day. The clumsy script in Land and the not-so-original premise in Diary. It's all there and belongs there, because the movies themselves are perfect when it comes to story, to characters, to message. So with Survival.

Alan Van Sprang is back as Nicotine Crocket, the chain-smoking military that we first met in Diary of the Dead. He's traveling around with some other military survivors and destiny brings them to a small island outside the US coast. The island is run by Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick), a highly religious old man that believes that God has told him to keep all the zombies alive. His worst enemy is the violent, nasty, lying Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) who's been thrown of the island and is now surviving by selling boats and maps to the island to desperate survivors. Crocket teams up with O'Flynn and when they come to the island they get all mixed up in the long running rivalry between the two old men... which of course only can end in disaster.

So what we have here in an island that is more or less Republican hell. Both Muldoon and O'Flynn are hopelessly lost in their own politics - one on a mission from god to protect his island from all that are not from there - zombies and humans - and the other one just want to kill everyone because that's his right as an American citizen. In between is the "good" military - which is unique to be Romero, these are the most sympathetic military he ever had in a movie. Well, good and good. They are more neutral, but still are the one's we're betting on. What I like a lot is that it's hard from the beginning to tell who's the bad guys - if there are any - and it changes over the movie. Romero also revisits his old favorite theme of rednecks shooting zombies, and this might just be their story after all. 

As a movie Survival is one of his slickest movies in recent year. The pacing is good, and it's never boring. There's always a twist around the corner and lost of zombies. After the huge success of Diary Romero wanted to make something more commercial again, and this is it. You'll have a mix of Day, Diary and Land, but with a lot less budget it seem. There's no big mass scenes of zombies attacking, more one by one or in small groups, but it never distracts from the story. It's just a movie that centers around a small group of people in distant part of the US. There isn't that much zombies around. Romero directs with the skill of a master and the low key humor and dialogue might put some conservative horror fans off. Not me though.

The gore? Yes, it's way gorier than Diary of the Dead, but still never comes up to the mayhem in Land or Day. There's a LOT of very gory and bloody head shots, some fun impalings, a bizarre scene with a fire extinguisher and a zombie, some nasty neck bites, some intestines. Everything is well made, and is a mix of CG and physical effects - so nothing to complain about really. I have a feeling that it could have been longer though. Some scenes felt cut off, and you will notice which scenes when you see the movie. 

Survival of the Dead is a well acted, gory and very political zombie-movie with a lot of great ideas and scenes. I understand if some people will have problem with it, but I still think Romero is the king of zombie-movies and this is still better than a lot of the other crap coming out nowadays. Romero is an old-fashioned storyteller and when it comes to him I thank him for that. 

He's the ultimate American storyteller of gore and politics. Never stop telling those stories, George.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

White Cannibal Queen (1980)

Due to popular demand I will once again give you a review of a Eurocine-production, this time Jess Franco's White Cannibal Queen. A movie with a bunch of French/Spanish/random white dudes with sideburns and eighties hair cuts and clown-make up pretending to be dangerous cannibals. But to Franco's defense, it's a lot more entertaining that you could imagine, mostly because of good pacing and Al Cliver in the lead. Al yeah, great guy. He plays some professor that gets his wife killed in a cannibal attack, and his daughter kidnapped by the same bastards. Many years later she's grown up to a hot blond teenager with very little clothes and is also some kinda leader for the cannibals. Her boyfriend is the hot-headed Yakaké (Antonio Mayans) and she seem to be one of the only two women in the tribe. But Al wants her daughter back and is sponsored by some rich twats to go there again, and they all get killed and Al is the man. Something like this.

Yeah, it's easy to make fun of such a stupid movie. Franco hates this movie too, but still he manages to film some good stuff. Actually, whenever there's no cannibals around and they are far away from the jungle it's OK and much more stylish. Not that the jungle seem that terrible, it's more of an overgrown garden with nicely planned paths in it. Maybe the back of the hotel? I like the stuff with the young daughter in the beginning (like when she's listening to the music box, very classic Franco-style images) and some of that scenes that are suppose to be in New York. But when it comes to the cannibals Franco just treat them as a joke and just shoots the scenes fast and without any real thought. The only jungle-scenes that has some tension is when they come to the house in the jungle, and discover that everyone is dead. Quite OK.

The special effects are one of a kind. When people are bit by arrows or spears it's just because they're holding them to the body, or sticking them under the arm, to fake being hit. The cannibalistic scenes is looooong sequences of people eating raw meat in slow-motion. Al Cliver gets his arm chopped of, which look like a mannequin-arm and has the arm stucked behind his back rest of the movie, which is very unconvincing.

But to be honest, I enjoyed this movie a lot. It's still miles better than Cannibal Terror, another masterpiece from Eurocine. The only reason why White Cannibal Queen is watchable is because of Franco's talent. He just tried to do something with it, and probably got his little paycheck in the end. Ah, I almost forgot. Antonio Mayans as the cannibal-guy actually tries to do something good with his character. He might be the only one of the cannibal-actors trying to be a little bit convincing and at least pretend to do a good job with his character. Good for him, and good for us.

I finally found it, the lost location in Mannekäng i Rött

Mannekäng i Rött is an absurdly stylish Swedish murder-mystery set in a fashion house. Directed by maestro Arne Mattsson and released to be a big success in 1958. Some say, like me, that it was a big inspiration for Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace - and I still claim that. But I know some conservative Bava-fans won't agree with me. Anyway. I love this movie, though it has some faults (some pacing-problems and some comedy that hasn't aged well) and has always wanted to know where they shot the exteriors of the fashion house... and I found it today, just by mistake.

I just took my iPhone and took a picture (which I also made brighter, because the shadows was hiding the details) of this square in Uppsala because I felt it was something that I recognized, and when I came home I compared it with the few shots of the exteriors and found it was the same place. The little street in between the houses is a galleria now, but in the movie that's where a lot of the action is set. The fashion house itself, La Femme, is where the blue flag is above. The big difference is that (except that the street behind it is gone) they expanded the stores and there's no "roof" where people can walk under anymore.

The ground is still exactly the same, and the pillars on the grey house to the right seem to be the same. The same yellow bricks is also present even today.

I know this probably only interests me, so you have to live with that I think :)

Oasis of the Zombies (1981)

Look here, I have two releases of Oasis of the Zombies on DVD. Really, I have. Anyway, yesterday I decided to watch it again and just grabbed one of them. The UK Arrow release. I remember it to have ok quality and I don't demand so much of just this movie to be honest. Just so I can see what happens. The funniest thing with the Arrow release is the inside of the cover where you find information probably not for us fans and buyer out there, but to the retailers that once would buy this movie and sell it to innocent customers. Here's what the information say to the retailers:


* A heady mix of NUDITY and GORE - Jess Franco's Trademark
* The zombie make-up is FANTASTIC, as the is the music by Daniel White.
* The atmosphere and the totally INCREDIBLE zombies makes this film.
* The make up effects are good, the story is well written, the scenery SPECTACULAR and the cast likable.
* A must for any fans of the Euro-horror genre."

This is of course wrong. Everything, though some of the make up-effects is better than expected and there's some frames here and there of atmosphere. I'm sure Arrow must have been desperate and just too the advice from Hitler that the biggest lie is the best lie. The story itself is okey, but way to drawn out and confusing to really be something fantastic. The nazi's hides some gold out in an oasis (or something), and the only survivor (Javier Maiza... I think!) gets killed by a treasure hunter and the son of the the survivor travels to the desert to get some kinda revenge and find the treasure himself together with his moronic friends. Something like that, I'm not totally sure.

The good thing with Oasis of the Dead is the locations. Nothing spectacular, but it's a different look than a lot of other horror movies for once. But remember this is mixed up with stock footage from a so far unidentified war movie, something that looks likes photos being substitute for real landscapes and some of the worst dubbing ever. Most of the time the pacing is somewhere else and the dialogue is dumber than anything in 10000 BC (but still Oasis is a better movie than that suck-fest) but it as some moments. The ending is sloppy, but features some nice zombie-footage and cool atmospheric music-experiments) and Franco shows the desert in a beautiful way.

But don't expect any "heady mix of nudity and gore" (I'm not sure of "heady" was supposed to be "heavy", but both still works). It's very little of both, and the gore is non-FX like throwing around a piece of meat or put a few sprinkles of fake blood on the victim. Despite this, it's one of Franco's trashiest and most stupid movies from this time and it's entertaining if you - like me - manages to watch all they way through it. I might even like it a little bit.

But Oasis of the Zombies is also an existential horror movie, which this much-quoted lines say. Enjoy.

The Sheik: Did you find what you were looking for?
Robert: I mainly found myself.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Masters of the Pyuniverse!

Yes, the blog you all need, "The Pyuniverse - The Weird Worlds of Albert Pyun", is up and running! Right now it's me and Dave Z, but we're waiting for more Pyun-fans to grace this world with more reviews, news, fun and facts. The man has a lot of movie to take from and when he now starts to churn out more interesting stuff, it feels like at least one blog need to keep a good eye on what's happening out in the Pyuniverse.

My plan first is to transfer my reviews from this blog there, but also write my own introduction to why I've been so fond of Mr Pyun and his movies over the years. 

If you want to join, feel free to contact David Z or let me know and I'll give him the information! 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bulletface (2010)

Correct,  I'm the last person on earth to write about Bulletface. My plan was to be the first one. Well well. Not that I have anything new to write, I think the other Pyuniversal Soldiers out there said it all - for example David Zuzelo. Bulletface is in a way the most arty Albert Pyun-movie I've seen. It's quite low on action, and focuses on a low key and well played drama about Dara Marren (Victoria Maurette), an ex-cop who's been in jail for a couple years, and gets out to take revenge on the death of her little brother. He was the on that got here there in the first place, when she was protecting him from being arrested, and now after experienced daily rapes she's not a happy lady. The DEA wants her to help out over one weekend, to bust a new drug dealer who's spreading Red Eye - a dangerous drug that makes you violent, strong and finally kills you. 

But Dara is not that interested in the drug-biz. She just want's to find out who set her brother up, who pulled the trigger and who's responsible for the plan behind it all...

Bulletface is an odd my, but that's they way we want Albert Pyun to work. His filmmaker-personality is show more clearer. He's like an arthouse-exploitation-director who mixes the esthetics of DTV and French arty farty. Though he's not the man behind the script, everything on the screen is Pyun. From characters to visuals, the music and twists. I've mention before that I think Pyun in secret would want to go back in time to make noir-movies in New York, and it's even more visible here than before. No voice over, but it's about one womans fight for justice among bad guys, femme fatales and a dark past. Victoria Maurette carries the whole movies on her shoulders, and the actors are excellent (my personal favorite is Lydia Castro as Paz Gonzales, who I think can be something very big if she's given the right part), but she's such a big presence through the movie and takes over the scenes. Dara Marren is a very well written characters, and I could see another movie with just her. 

Albert Pyun might have made a lot of, at the first glance, macho boys-movies, but if you look closer the women has almost always been the main thing in the stories. Take a look at Nemesis and you first see Oliver Gruner, but the other main and more important parts are female characters. In Bulletface you will see some very nasty rape-scenes, and that's the only nudity that will be show. They are not the least bit sexy, believe me, and just makes the characters more layered and interesting. The men kinda take a step back here and letting Maurette, Castro and Jenny Dare Paulin take over the screen and it feels very fresh.

Bulletface feels part western, part noir, with an ounce of melodrama and thriller. It has a few minor scenes that borders to horror or even some kinda science fiction, but the drama is the most important thing and for once I appreciate that a lot. Pyun has blown up so much stuff anyway that it feels good to just sit back and watch something that deals more with emotions and humanity than explosions and horror.

You can buy it from the offical homepage.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nemesis (1992)

I was actually planning to wait to rewatch Nemesis until the new version was out, but I just couldn't stop myself. Don't you think that the secret dream of Albert Pyun is to be able to go back in time and shoot noir-thillers with Robert Mitchum? I'm just sure of it. Nemesis is a perfect example of neo-noir, or my cyborg-noir. There's tons of action, but it never forgets what it is. But first of all, Nemesis is a truly original movie. Some details are inspired my other movies, but as a sci fi-noir it beats snoozer Blade Runner with miles and miles. Where Blade Runner goes boring, Nemesis just becomes more and more spectacular and entertaining. 

Every time I see it I also realize that Olivier Gruner is the perfect choice in the lead. He might be lacking the instant charisma like Van Damme has, but as an actor and character he grows more and more. He's just a more subtle actor in a way, with out underplaying the character. He kicks ass in the action, and maybe gives us the single best performance in a low budget action-flick ever. Yes, I'm serious. He has this sad face, at the first glance without feelings, but under those eyes there's something moving. I'm not sure he's been better than in this movie, but I would love to see him again in something bigger and bolder. Something far away from the typical DTV-movies, like this excellent example. 

Pyun is a visual director and tells a story with camera movements and explosions, but he has a good and effective script to work with. A script with layers and interesting characters. It was written by a woman, Rebecca Charles, and that might have been the best choice ever in a movie like this. It don't lack the fist- and fire-power, but both the male characters and the females are written in a different way. There's a sensibility in both Alex and Julian, two of the toughest good characters in the movie, and when Julian dies you feel for her. This brings me to one of the most interesting details of the movie. The names.

Almost all characters has has either a name that is opposite their gender or is unisex. Jared, Julian, Max are all women, and Michelle and Angie is men. Typical unisex-names like Alex and Marion is men too. I have on idea why, but it actually feels damn fine. You get away from those typical macho names when it's men, and the typical "sexy" names on women, because it's the opposite. Another thing is the frequent nudity of men. Nothing wrong with that, but it's almost more nude men than women - which I guess is also a result of a female screenwriter. Here we have some fun casting too, no other than Thomas Jane as "Billy" (which also can be unisex), who spends his scenes completely nude all the time!

But the main selling-point is of course the action. I've always said that Nemesis must have been the first non-Asian movie to be (or at least feel) inspired by Hong Kong-action and heroic bloodshed. The first action sequence is simply astonishing, and could be one of my favorite sequences ever. It's so beautifully shot and edited, with tons of great angles, camera moves, stunts, squibs and explosions. And it's probably the first movie that make that location seem expensive and big too! When the action movies to Hawaii we're getting some stunning set-pieces in the jungle... but the scene we're all thinking about is the famous shoot-out in the hotel. It still amazes me. It's short, but so well made and cool that it will define coolness for many hundreds of years in the future. The scene where Oliver shoots himself through the floor has been copied several times after this, but this is still the best version of it. 

Maybe I'm hyping it as usual, but I've done than since I first saw the movie in the early nineties. Nemesis is one of my favorite action movies ever. It's up there in the top ten of awesome action-scenes, cool lines, cyborg-noirs. It was also the movie that introduced me to the Pyuniverse, and I'm looking forward to many more flicks from the Pyuniversal Soldier!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Attack of the giant motherf**king Keoma mega-poster!

After a few years lost it's back again. The legendary gigantic Keoma-poster! I have no idea how long it's been in my possession, but now I will try to build a huge frame for it, because it's in a pretty bad shape. And yes, that's my partner in crime and life holding it up, and he's totally covered by it. That's the way a real poster should be!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Venus in Furs (1969)

I've had Venus in Furs laying in my apartment for a while now. Njuta Films released it, but I've been waiting for the perfect moment to watch it. This weekend felt good, because I've already watched one masterpiece from Uncle Jess and was prepared for one of his most celebrated movies. So I started to watch it yesterday evening and decided after ten minutes that this was to fucking good to be wasted on just that moment. I gave it a try tonite again and now it felt like a good opportunity to feel the vibe of how a trippy jazz-filled drama-thriller should be done!

James Darren, good choice of actor by the way, plays Jimmy Logan, a jazz-musician who after witnessing three decadent rich fuckers (Dennis Price, Klaus Kinski and Margaret Lee) torture and maybe kill a young woman, Wanda Reed (Maria Rohm). Some time after this he's confused and depressed, but finally finds his trumpet again, buried in the sand in Istanbul. There he also finds the body of Wanda and he decides to leave everything and travel around the world. He stops in Rio and falls in love with Rita (Barbara McNair) and also manages to be able to play jazz again. But one evening a totally lookalike to Wanda comes into the club and Jimmy suddenly falls in love with this this woman who everyone thinks is dead. But is she the real Wanda? Is she same woman that kills the people that killed Wanda? Reality, death and dreams melts together...

The production of Venus in Furs was troubled, which everything from changing story to concept. Franco didn't edit the movie either, so there's some overuse of flashy fast images, but trouble always makes big art - and Venus in Furs is big art. It's without a doubt the most stylish movie Franco ever made, and his script is damn inspired stuff. Like Eugénie from yesterday, this is a movie that feels thought through, but never becomes mechanical or stylish just for the sake of style. Franco tells a great love story here, a black and depressing one, but still something that feels real. Darren, Rohm and McNair gives it all in a symbolic Ménage à trois. Everything has Manfred Mann's brilliant jazz score wrapped around it and it's just perfection we're talking about here. Franco let the characters have time to develop, and though the movie is very visual, it never takes away the humanity from our heroes and anti-heroes.

Price, Kinski and Lee has small but important roles, and makes the best of it. Kinski has hardly any lines, but still manages to steal every shot he's in. Those eyes, god damn. It's scary how they seem to eat themselves through the screen. Paul Muller, another favorite and a Franco-veteran, has a minor part as the wacky party-host in a couple of scenes and it great to see him playing such a lightweight character for once. Yesterday he was fucking his stepdaughter, and here he's throwing feathers in the air and acting very drunk and funny. This is such a beautiful movie, a movie that inspires to do something yourself. It's like a creative trip, and I know I will have a hard time sleeping tonite just because these images will be in my mind.

Njuta Film's release is excellent and also has a couple of interviews - and as usual Franco is the best, churning out smart stuff and funny anecdotes. He knows what he's doing, and Venus in Furs is another proof of that.

Ego-weekend: two interviews with me!

Yes, some days you just can't get rid of a bomb. Or at least stay away from being interviewed. I haven't been interviewed for many years, so it felt great to get some good and interesting questions for once, from two great blogs out there. First out was Trashfilmaddict with an english-language interview, and you can all read it here. It deals more about my past filmmaking in general.

The second one is on a Swedish blog (so the interview is in Swedish), and it's easy to read here. It's mainly about Camp Slaughter, the ill-received Swedish slasher that still is referred to as one of the worst Swedish movies ever made. I have a quite big part, but gets killed off after 50 minutes.

So, read and learn something more about your favorite über-ninja ;)

Eugénie (1974)

Eugénie has one of the best openings I've seen in a long while: We see amateur-footage from a bedroom, a home movie. There's three people there, alternating handling the camera. One of them is a cute blond. She's being put on the bed and the man starts to kiss her. Then he strangles her in front of the camera, looks up and right at us and smiles. It's a snuff movie, and suddenly we're in a small cinema. Jess Franco in the character of Attila Tanner, is sitting and watching the clip. He's smoking. A man comes in and tells him that Eugénie has regained consciousness and now the story starts.

This is such a perfect opening. It forces you into the story. You want to know who the people in footage is, why is Franco sitting and watching it, and what have Eugénie to tell us now when she's awake again? It's a dark story, and probably the best script by Jess Franco ever. It tells the story of teenage girl Eugénie and her father, the writer Albert Radeck. After discovering her fathers book about sadistic sex, she feels almost an erotic urge to be a slave under her father, and he agrees to this of course. Together they start a new relationship which gets more and more controversial, and more dark and obsessive. They start to kill people, film it and the only one that knows about this is writer Attila Tanner, who do nothing to prevent it - probably because he enjoys it as much as they...

Not only is Eugénie a smart and well written movie, it's directed with flair and intelligence, and has that realistic style that I love so much. Franco uses his zoom very little, and goes after carefully composed shots to tell his story without being speculative (but don't worry, it's filled with nudity and some violence). My favorite scenes is when the father and daughter meets Attila in Berlin, and the whole scenes in shot in one take (or maybe two...), where you only see their silhouettes. Very stylish and it looks amazing. The dialogue is also very good and I'm sure it echoes Franco himself a lot with references to music and literature.

So even if it's a cheap movie and produced by Marius Lesoeur (from the infamous Eurociné) it's also one of the best Franco-movies I've ever seen. It's low key and don't have any spectacular Rio-locations, but feels very personal and real. Paul Muller and Soledad Miranda is just marvelous in their roles, what a chemistry! Franco makes one of his best parts himself as the strange and obsessive writer Attila Tanner. Eugénie is so filled with controversial lust, made with so much talent, love and intelligence, that it's a shame it's not even more famous among Franco-fans.

Ah, I almost forgot. The music by Bruno Nicolai is superb, one of the best scores from this gentleman I've heard. It mixes typical Nicolai-stuff with avantgarde-jazz and hypnotic beats. I need this soundtrack badly!

Yes, Eugénie is a masterpiece. I said here and now and will never take those words back.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Naked Trip (2008)

I had my share of watching indie-movies over the years, and I've been making them too. So I know what it's all about. I rarely get impressed by either my own work or other peoples works, because we all have a tendency to fall into the same traps. That's why felt very impressed after watching Alex Bakshaev's Naked Trip, a movie shot in the UK with Jason Impley in the lead. It's not perfect, but the good things outdoes every negative thing in a majority.

Jason Impley is George (I think that's the characters name, but maybe I just imagine that afterwards) a sleazy chainsmoking scumbag filmmaker that fucks every woman he meets, buys whores and just treats everyone like shit. But at least he do it for the sake of art! Well, this time he's really shit out of luck, because people that invested money on his last arty farty-project really wants their money back now, and he has no other solution than to just get out of town... but not with out problems!

One of the biggest mistakes you'll find in indie-productions is the acting. It's easy to understand, because the only people who want to be in your movie is your friends, neighbours and relatives. Eh, most of them don’t even want to be in the movie and just don’t give a shit anyway! This is one thing that surprises me with Naked Trip, the acting is damn fine. It’s not one single bad actor in the whole movie and Jason Impley rules them all. The character is both an evil child and a sleazy old man in the same body. Most of the time he’s shit-talking and treating people like junk, but somehow there’s a passion in him to, a real person that just want to do something good. To create art and make it good.

The movie is dedicated to Jean-Luc Godard and Jess Franco, but it’s mostly Godard that shines through. The style is very much Godard, and the black & white cinematography looks most of the time great and very retro, even if it’s digital. The locations are chose after style, and it gives the movie almost an unreal look, a dream-like quality. Alex Bakshaev as a director was a blessing. The visuals moves forward like nothing else, and there’s no boring and uninteresting visual choices in the whole movie. Some odd angle here and there stands out as a bit awkward, but they’re very few. Bakshaev also let the actors work, which we’re grateful for. Some scenes have not cuts, and the actors goes on without loosing the energy or tempo. Gone is also the typical theatrical lines and acting-styles, which makes this movie seem more big and grand than it actually is.

The movie starts with a nazi-flag above a bed. If I remember it correctly, that’s the first thing we see in the movie and that really caught the attention. Later in the movie Jason Impleys character talks about using a nazi-flag to grab the audiences attention, and that’s just what they did – and it worked, without getting pretentious or stupid.

Naked Trip is a wonderful little movie, and I’m not the only one that wants to see more both from Bakshaev and Impley.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ninja Assassin (2009)

Ninja Assassin is a cliché-ridden piece of mainstream-junk. But what a piece of cliché-ridden piece of mainstream-junk! My boyfriend turned to me during one of the action sequences and said "Like ballons of blood!", and yes - that's the biggest truth I've heard in a while. But I want to take the bad things first. In this story of revenge, the story is weak. Very weak, and you've seen it a thousand times before - often better - and I can't even imagine how they managed to extend the script to something that could be a feature length movie. Then we have the flashbacks, that effective stops the story every five minute or so. And if you can live with the fact that there's only KOREAN Ninjas in this movie - Sung Kang, Randall Duk Kim, Ill-Young Kim, Rain, Yoon Sungwoong, Joon Lee, Rick Yune + two female Ninjas of Vietnamese heritage - you will experience a fucking violent movie.

This movie is so blood that it makes 300, Rambo and Punisher: War Zone seem quite dry in comparison. People more or less explodes in bloods and limbs here, bright very red blood too. There's pieces of bodies, cut up bellies, decapitations and I have no idea of how many more ways to kill a human being! The fights are very fast and often in the dark (they're Ninjas you know), but I like them and it at least look good. Of course there's no gritty violence, nothing like Bronson or all these cool Korean thrillers. It's very stylish, very bloody and everything looks expensive. Well, it's shot in Europe so it has a minor touch of Nu Image and Steven Seagal in the locations, but with a lot more blood.

Did I mention that this movie was bloody? I'm not sure. But now you know!

Except the blood (here we go again!), there's one awesome factor with Ninja Assassin. It's not all the hunky Asian men, which is nice to, but in the role of the bad guy there's no one else than... Sho Kosugi! He's old and wrinkly, but God... he's so great, he's like human nature force. His voice, the lines they've given him, the final fights. This is a case of genius casting, and this really shows what a marvelous and powerful actor Kosugi is. I felt uncomfortable with his character, and when he's doing his evil deeds you believe the old man is evil. One of the best baddies I've seen in a Hollywood-movie in many years.

Don't expect this movie to get the Nobel Price in chemistry or something. This stupid and brutal and... and very hard to dislike.