Tag Archives: blood

Near Dark – Review

3 Feb

Kathryn Bigelow has had a very interesting career in Hollywood, and she has a fair share of really good movies supporting her filmography. Her most recent feature, Zero Dark Thirty, garnered plenty of controversy, but I can’t say that it wasn’t a very well made and designed film. I also recently reviewed Point Break, which was one of her earlier efforts but still packed enough over the top entertainment to keep me interested. Today, I’m going back even further to her 1987 film Near Dark. This is a extremely interesting and well thought out take on modern vampires, and this is easily one of the best vampire movies ever made.

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Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) is a young farmhand that helps his father on their farm in a small south western town. One night, he meets the beautiful, yet mysterious Mae (Jenny Wright), who seems in a rush to get home and in her panic bites Colton on the side of the neck. Colton is then taken off the road by Mae’s travel companions. The leader of the group is Jesse (Lance Henriksen) and his girlfriend Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein). Along with them is the sadistically violent Severen (Bill Paxton) and Homer (Joshua Miller), a kid who is much older than he looks. It also turns out that these travelers are vampires who roam the countryside looking for easy prey. Colton now is being forced by these vampires to accept his new life and kill in order to survive. This leads Colton on a wild ride of murder and utter chaos.

If you look close enough, you might notice that the cast to this movie is pretty close to the cast of James Cameron’s Aliens. As many people know, Bigelow and Cameron were married for a while in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Cameron recommended these actors to Bigelow, and it worked out great. Henriksen is one of the most recognizable character actors working in film and television with good reason. He’s constantly bringing his best to every project he’s in and Near Dark is no exception. The same can be said about Bill Paxton, who really brings it in this movie. Because of Paxton’s excellent performance, mixed with Bigelow’s creative writing and direction, the character of Severen can easily be remembered as one of the great cinematic vampires. The rest of the supporting cast, along with Pasdar in the lead role are all very believable and do their jobs well, I just have to point out Henriksen and Paxton especially do great work.

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While the story of Near Dark is a pretty standard vampire tale, there are so many elements and scenes that put it a leg above the rest. For one thing, the vampires in this movie look like they could just be any person on the street. They aren’t pale or have fangs or anything like that, but they are just as vicious as any other traditional vampiric predator. There’s also a big focus on the affect that sunlight has on them. In fact, it’s one of the main components of the story. They don’t rest in coffins during the day, but they do have to take whatever precautions necessary not have a beam of light touch them. If it does, their skin burns and smoke starts rising off them. It’s really super cool. There’s also a now famous scene that takes place in a bar that really puts this movie up with other class-A horror films.

There have been so many vampire films made over the years that it’s hard to make the idea seem fresh and exciting. What Bigelow did here was take the vampire horror genre and mix it with the western genre to create a very unique feeling and looking film. There’s so much excellent imagery in this movie from the RV with the tin foil wrapped around the windows, to the vampires with blood dripping from their mouths in the bar scene, to an excellent shootout which results in lots of exposure to sunlight. These images are so well constructed and make this movie feel like such an original take on the lore of vampires. That’s really what I want to praise this movie for. Above all else, it is an original take on a tale that everyone knows so much about, but the newness and originality of this movie makes it feel so fresh.

Near Dark is a wonderfully original vampire film that grabbed me from the start and wouldn’t let up until the credits began rolling. It acts as a horror film, a western, and an action adventure movie all in one. I really tried my best to find something negative to say about this movie, but I had such a fun time with it that I don’t think it’s possible. This is one of those one of a kind movies that I could watch again and again without getting bored.

Final Grade: A

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Ironclad & Ironclad: Battle for Blood – Review

14 Apr

Movies about knights and medieval warfare and castles and kings and all that can be really awesome. There’s so much historical material to choose from that finding something and successfully making a movie about it can be a daunting task, especially making it in such a way that impresses an audience. One major success that comes to mind is Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. But let’s step away from a director of that magnitude and a budget that big. Instead we’ll be looking at two movies with much smaller budgets, these being Jonathan English’s Ironclad and the sequel Ironclad: Battle for Blood. One is a gleaming example of budgeted film making. The other is an absolute waste that unfortunately is stuck existing for all eternity.

Let’s start in 2011 with the original, as I deem that to be the most appropriate place to begin.

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After pissing off everyone in England, plunging the country into a civil war, and eventually signing the Magna Carta, it seemed obvious that King John (Paul Giamatti) was going to chill out. Unfortunately, he only seemed to get worse. After hiring a group of Danish mercenaries, John went on a rampage of revenge in a quest that would give him absolute control of England once again. Baron William d’Albany (Brian Cox) hires Thomas Marshal (James Purefoy), who is a member of the Knight’s Templar, and a group of other soldiers to defend Rochester Castle, an area that controls most of England. As the soldiers set up the defenses at the castle, King John and his mercenaries soon arrive, and the two sides engage in a bloody battle that lasts many months.

I’ve seen this movie described as Braveheart meets Seven Samurai, and to that I have to say slow down. It isn’t anywhere near those two movies, but I see what they’re saying as they all share similar characteristics in story. As far as Ironclad goes, however, it isn’t destined to be a classic. The movie’s fatal flaw is the absolute bottom of the barrel bullshitty camera work. Every fight scene is shot like the cameraman is having a life ending seizure. It made me sick and made the fight scenes way less awesome than I feel they were intended to be. It made some of the movie nearly unwatchable.

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Although it’s shot pretty miserably, I have to give it a lot of respect. Jonathan English wasn’t working with a huge budget, so the fact that he got good costumes and sets is really impressive. Also, Paul Giamatti and Brian Cox bring their best, as usual. Paul Giamatti especially really gives an amazing performance, which is reason enough to watch this movie. Also, I found it refreshing that instead of relying too heavily on CGI blood and gore, the film makers used prosthetics and other practical effects, which made me smile from ear to ear. Ironclad isn’t an especially good movie, but it is impressive considering the budget constraints. If you’re a fan of medieval movies, I might be inclined to say check this one out.

In 2014, Jonathan English returned to the director’s chair for Ironclad: Battle for Blood. The result is something best left forgotten.

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After the events of the first film, we find Celtic warriors raiding England, terrorizing and murdering its citizens. After a devastating attack on his castle, Gilbert de Vesci (David Rintoul) has his son Hubert (Tom Rhys Harris) track down his cousin Guy (Tom Austen), one of the survivors from the Battle of Rochester Castle, to enlist a group of fighters to help defend the castle. Guy, along with Hubert and other fighters, arrive at the castle and engage in bloody battles with the Celts and their vengeful leader Maddog (Predrag Bjelac).

Does this movie sound familiar to anyone? Wait… doesn’t it sound exactly like the first Ironclad? Well, that’s because it pretty much is a rehash of the first movie except without all of the cool parts. Remember the awesome gore effects? Gone. Remember the incredible acting by Giamatti and Cox? Gone. Remember the really horrendous shaky cam action sequences? Fear not! They’re still here and worse than ever. I don’t know what frame rate was used to shoot these sequences, but holy hell it made the camerawork so much worse than it already was.

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The only thing I really have to say about Battle for Blood is that everything that made the first one even a little bit worthwhile is completely gone. Instead we have pretty much a shell of a movie that shouldn’t even exist. I still can’t believe Jonathan English would return to direct and mess up everything he did before. The only semi cool thing is that Michelle Fairley of Game of Thrones fame had a role, and she’s not even in it that much. This was more than disappointing, it was downright stupid. Skip this mess.

Well, there you have it. The first Ironclad movie is pretty good and well worth checking out if you like the genre. It’s sequel, however, may rank as one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a while. Stick with the first movie, and you should have a pretty fun few hours.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

7 Dec

Here we are again, ladies and gentlemen. Back in the strange world of master Japanese splatter punk, Yoshihiro Nishimura. What a strange wold that is, indeed. This time he’s got his hands on two of the most famous and beloved monsters in history: vampires and the Frankenstein monster. Where could a mind as bizarre as his take these two creatures? What could he possibly make them do? Well, it’s been a few days since I’ve seen Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, and I gotta say, I’m actually a little surprised at what I saw, but even Nishimura’s tricks wear thin after a little while.

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Mizushima (Takumi Saito) is a Tokyo high school student who can’t seem to get a grip on anything. He’s a quiet, unassuming kid who doesn’t want any trouble. Trouble finds him, though, when a fellow student, Monami (Yukie Kawamura), falls for him. What he soon learns though, is that she is a vampire. Complications also arise when Keiko (Eri Otoguro), another student in love with Mizushima falls to her death after trying to attack Monami. Her evil father and mad scientist/chemistry teacher brings her back from the dead using spare parts of other students with special traits. This starts a battle between the two girls for the love of Mizushima and as an excuse to paint the halls red.

The story in this one seems a little tame compared to the summaries of the other films by Nishimura and company that I have reviewed before. Probably because we all know about vampires and Frankenstein’s monster, so they don’t really seem so strange to us. However, Nishimura and co-director Naoyuki Tomomatsu do their best at making sure this is like no other film featuring these two monsters that we’ve ever seen, and I’m pretty sure it is the most bizarre. Certainly not the best, but I don’t think a movie called Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl is really reaching for cinematic greatness.

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Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. A vampire movie in a high school with a budding romance as a main point of the plot? Believe me, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is about as similar to Twilight as Casablanca is to Saving Private Ryan. Both WWII films, but absolutely not the same film in any other regard. Nishimura doesn’t hold back on the blood that sprays all over the frame, nor twisted bodily effects that look goofy but are strangely imaginative. I laughed a lot during this movie. But there are things in it that made my head almost tilt off my shoulders in confusion and bewilderment. Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is surprisingly very racist and intolerant. It’s worth mentioning that their culture and views on race and society are waaaaaay different than ours, but from an American’s viewpoint, I could see how people could get very offended by the movie.

Running at just under an hour and a half, this is not a long movie at all. In fact, it’s quite short. Unfortunately, as with most of these movies, the jokes and tricks and blood and violence all get tired after about an hour. That makes the last half seem to drag on forever. All the violence and silly blood spray and effects are really fun at first, but how much of that and almost no plot can really carry a feature length movie? It really can’t. Watching these movies in two chunks might be the best way to go about viewing them, but watching one in one sitting gets boring after a while.

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Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is goofy, stupid, violent, bloody and funny… at least for a while. It unfortunately gets old and a lot of it is very offensive to a couple different groups of people. If you can get past that, because it is just a movie after all, and if you’re familiar with this sub genre than give Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl a watch. It’s not anywhere near as good as it could’ve been, and the charm wears off, but if you’re a fan of Nishimura, this isn’t news to you.

High Tension – Review

16 Sep

When you think of countries that make top of the line horror films, I normally think of places like Japan, Korea, or Italy. One of the last places you would expect to look is France, but recently France has  been adopting this style of film making that is dubbed New French Extremity. I’ve reviewed a film a while back called Martyrs, which was my first exposure to New French Extremity. Perhaps even more popular than Martyrs is High Tension, a horror film by Alexandre Aja that is genuinely terrifying, gory, and unpredictable.

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Alexia (Maïwenn) and Marie (Cècile De France) are in need of a vacation, so they head off to Alexia’s family’s farmhouse located far and away from the city so that they can get some quiet for their studies. Paradise soon finds it’s trouble when a mysterious killer (Philippe Nahon) breaks into their home and begins killing the entire family. Soon enough, it’s just down to Alexia and Marie, forcing Marie to take matters into her own hands and stop this killer before he has the chance to kill them.

Simple story, no doubt, but this is a slasher movie when you get right down to it and we all know exactly what we want when we turn one on. In the case of High Tension, I feel like I got a lot more than I was expecting. I heard a lot of good things about this movie, but I didn’t want to get myself all worked up over it and be disappointed when all was said and done, so I went in with a relatively blank slate. In the beginning, I was immediately impressed with the cinematography and the acting, especially for a movie of this genre. I didn’t even have a chance to get bored at this time, because Aja has such a way with building, for lack of a better word, tension.

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When the bodies begin to fall and the gallons of blood begin to pour, the pressure really gets turned up a notch. As a fan of horror movies, I feel like I’ve seen a lot that the genre has to offer. Good thing Alexandre Aja and his writing partner, Grégory Levasseur, are also huge fans of the horror genre. This puts them in a very good position, because now they can pay homage to horror films (High Tension seems like the child of two ’70s exploitation horror films I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left) but at the same time it creates new and interesting situations to keep the viewer interested. The scenes of suspense are crafted in such a way that I found myself not breathing, both out of fear, but also so I wouldn’t give away the location of the hiding women. Yes, this movie is violent and yes, it is ridiculously gory, but hey, that’s New French Extremity for you.

With these new situations and ways of telling a pretty archetypal story, there are things that audiences may not like, and this one has gotten some attention over the years. Without spoiling anything, the ending of this movie does something that makes the audience all say, as if synchronized, “Wait…what the hell?” To some people this will be awesome and make rewatching it a lot more fun than it was the first time around. Others will find this to be the most frustrating and ridiculous thing that could possibly happen. In my opinion, it worked. There are a lot of small winks and clues throughout the entire thing, and in terms of narrative, there are ways of explaining a lot of things that might seem unexplainable. As much as I want to talk about it, I really don’t want to give the ending away.

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High Tension will polarize a lot of people. I’m on the side of loving it. I really, really love this movie. It seems like there’s a lot of film makers who are afraid to really take their horror movies and turn up the terror to an 11, for the sake of getting a rating that will make the movie more accessible to wider audiences. Aja wasn’t afraid to go the extra mile. Granted, when it got to America (and being the wussiest country ever when it comes to movies) some of the scenes had to be toned down to get an R rating. If you get a hand on a copy of High Tension, make sure it’s the unrated copy, because you owe it to yourself to get the best possible version of this movie for maximum enjoyment and discomfort.

Battle Royale & Battle Royale II: Requiem Review

7 Jul

Before The Hunger Games was even a thought, Koushun Takami wrote a novel released in 1999 called Battle Royale. The following year, Kenji Fukasaku adapted the story for the big screen and was met with worldwide controversy over the subject material. This controversy, of course, garnered the film much respect along with just how well it was made. It’s almost cinematic law now that a successful movie like Battle Royale needs a sequel, and in 2003, Battle Royale II: Requiem was released.

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The first Battle Royale film takes place in a not too distant dystopian future where the Japanese youth has gotten entirely out of hand. As a response to their overly rebellious behavior, the BR Act is passed by the government. A group of students are witness to the effects of the this act firsthand when they are kidnapped on the way home from a school trip where their old school teacher, Kitano (“Beat” Takeshi Kitano), tells them that they are being released on an island where they must fight to the death until one of them is left standing. To make matters worse, unless they are all still alive within 72 hours or they are in a danger zone at a certain time, robotic necklaces that they are all strapped to will detonate. Let the games begin.

Battle Royale is truly an outstanding movie. How The Hunger Games got away with such a blatant rip off is way beyond me, but that’s not what I want to talk about. This movie had a good opportunity to be silly and violent, and in some parts there is great dark humor, but for the most part it takes itself seriously. Not only that, but it succeeds with its serious demeanor. There is lots of violence, but it never gets out of hand or ridiculous. In fact, it is hard to watch at times because you find yourself thinking about what you would do if you were in that situation. This makes Battle Royale a horrifying movie, due to its circumstances.

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Unfortunately, the movie does get a little heavy handed with the dialogue sometimes and it unintentionally funny, but as soon as you find yourself laughing, the next scene will only make you more nervous or upset. Takeshi Kitano is great in this movie and I had so much fun watching him whenever he was onscreen. Talk about taking a character and really making it your own. Battle Royale is a devastating look at teenage rebellion and the effects that it has on everyone around them. If you feel like you can handle the material presented in this movie, it isn’t really one you should let yourself miss.

Now, there really does not have to be a sequel. Can we just forget that it even exists? No? Fine. I guess it is my job to watch it and let you all know how it is. Three years after the original film, Battle Royale II: Requiem was released. Oh boy.

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Three years after the events of Battle Royale, one of the survivors of the games, Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara), has created a guerrilla terrorist faction to seek revenge on adults everywhere for the torture that they put him through. As a result, the government has upgraded their BR Program, and another group of high schoolers are put to the test. This time they are sent to and island where it is believed Nanahara is hiding and given the task to find him and kill him within 72 hours, or the necklaces will explode, not only killing the one wearing the necklace, but also their partner. Once on the island they are quickly launched in a battle with the terrorists who want to survive the onslaught and have their ultimate revenge.

Forget everything that was cool or exciting about the original Battle Royale, you won’t find any of that here. Instead we are forced to see battle scenes a la Saving Private Ryan. Was there anything like that in the original? No! Not only is it completely devoid of suspense, but it gets worse than the most repetitive game you may have ever played. Someone is shot, their partners neck explodes, and their friends all yell their names. Over and over and over again. To me, it almost becomes a comedy of sorts. Once the actual “game” is over and it becomes some sort of quasi-war movie, I completely lost interest.

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Unfortunately, the director of the previous film, Kenji Fukasaku, was set to direct this but dies of pancreatic cancer after only shooting one scene. His son, Kenta Fukasaku, who wrote both films, ended up directing the rest. I gotta say, I’m not a fan of his style. When you need to throw in CGI blood (which it is already known that I despise) and CGI debris in every other scene, the movie just starts to looks silly. That’s what Battle Royale II ultimately is: a silly mess of a movie. An overly long movie at that.

In conclusion, Battle Royale is not a movie that should be missed. It is exciting, suspenseful, and surprisingly thought provoking. As for its sequel, it is the ultimate proof that there are some movies that do not need to be made under any circumstances. Still, I’m glad I got to experience the first entry, and I’ll be sure to watch it again.

Samurai Princess – Review

3 Jul

For as long as I’m on this earth, I will do my absolute best to keep the crazy, over the top, blood splattering, Japanese movies coming. My most recent addition to the insanity is a little known film in this “category”, Samurai Princess. With a story by Kengo Kaji, the man who wrote Tokyo Gore Police, and special make up and effects by the always fun Yoshihiro Nishimura, what could possibly go wrong?

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In an alternate universe, feudal Japan is a strange place. The forests are littered with thieves and murderers whose bodies have been mechanically altered with weapons and other gadgets. These people are called “Mechas.”  When a princess (Aino Kishi) and her friends are attacked and killed, a mad scientist rebuilds her body and places the souls of the eleven friends inside of her to use as weapons. With this new body, the Samurai Princess wanders the forest in hopes of finding the people who ruined her life, and took the lives of her friends. Another, more powerful enemy, lurks in the shadows, however.

Just by that brief summary, it should be known not to take this movie too seriously. To be fair though, I’ve never watched a movie with Nishimura’s name attached to it and decided to take it seriously. Samurai Princess is a silly, often stupid movie that makes little to no sense at all. I’d even go so far as to say that it is almost unwatchable. Luckily, there is plenty of gore and a good amount of humor to save this movie from being so bad, it’s not even good.

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There is a lot to laugh at Samurai Princess other than the gore and the arterial sprays that squirt gallons of blood at a time. Some of the best parts of this movie are the ridiculous villains and side characters that pop up from time to time and offer goofy dialogue or just laughable weirdness. Of all these types of movies, this one might be the most surreal. The laboratories also have a “charming” design with body parts hooked up to all different sorts of machinery, and some of the gore effects look really great. One particular scene involves a fountain, made of human body parts, that is splashing blood all over the place. It’s dark, it’s weird, and it’s hysterical.

Don’t misunderstand me. This is not a good movie, even for the likes of this genre. The video that it’s shot on looks unbelievably cheap and the characters spend most of their time walking around forested areas that look like they could have been filmed down the street from my house. Movies like RoboGeisha, Machine Girl, and Meatball Machine look like thought was put into the locations. Samurai Princess looks completely random and has absolutely no continuity in its locations. Finally the story is told in such a way that it’s pretty much incoherent.

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Samurai Princess is a mess of a movie even for this genre. The characters, the humor, and the gore is all great, which is to be expected. Still, the narrative, the location shots, and the shoddy video all drag the movie down so far that they movie isn’t even enjoyable. I checked the time a lot throughout the movie with hopes that the movie was almost over, but i sat through the entire thing and I honestly can’t recommend it to anyone besides hardcore fans of the genre.

The Machine Girl – Review

24 May

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that a guilty pleasure of mine lies in the realm of Japanese B-movies, more exclusively those that fall into the “splatter film” category. I’ve reviewed RoboGeishaTokyo Gore PoliceMeatball Machine, and Helldriver. Now, adding to this list is The Machine Girl, an over the top blood bath directed by Noboru Iguchi, and gore effects by the master of B-grade splatter movies, Yoshihiro Nishimura.

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Ami (Minase Yashiro) is an average school girl who is very protective of her little brother, Yu (Ryôsuke Kawamura), especially since their parents killed themselves over a criminal investigation involving a murder that they were framed for. One day, Yu and his friend are killed by Sho (Nobuhiro Nishihara), the son of a samurai/yakuza boss, Ryûji (Kentarô Shimazu). Ami vows to get revenge for her brother, but is caught by Ryûji and has her left arm cut off (in a shower of blood that made me chuckle). Ami teams up with the parents of Yu’s friend, Suguru (Yûya Ishikawa) and Miki (Asami). They construct for her a machine gun to attach to her arm, and after some training, wage a war on the yakuza boss and his son.

Just typing this summary out made me realize how absolutely goofy the whole premise of this is. It wasn’t very easy to get it all down and make it sound somewhat interesting at the same time. That’s because the appeal of The Machine Girl is the visual chaos that fills pretty much the entirety of the movie. If you see the trailer, the summary that I wrote down seems a bit more interesting because you have a sense of how silly it really is. Like I said before, this kind of movie is my guilty pleasure. I recognize the fact that they really aren’t good movies. But, and this is a big but, they make me laugh and there’s plenty of blood and gore that paints the screen red.

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So, for the sake of being a proper critic, let’s objectively look at the movie. First of all, it looks really cheap, but that’s because it is really cheap. The movie is shot in HD which is common for movies of this kind and is pretty appropriate for the silly nature of the movie. If it was shot with beautiful cinematography, it would look and feel weirder than it already is. The acting in it is sub par and over the top. I can promise you that there is lots of fist clenching, teeth gritting, and yelling as characters run into battle. Finally, the writing is completely ridiculous. Honestly though, there really isn’t anything special about the dialogue. You could take all of it out and still know exactly what is going on.

A major plus for this movie is the insane camera work that is used during the more violent scenes. When Ami fires her machine gun arm near the camera, it seems to jitter a little bit like it is affected by the power of the gun. Iguchi used the same technique in RoboGeisha, which has a lot of similarities in its style. The gore effects by Yoshihiro Nishimura are also really cool. There is some CGI used for the blood and the gore, but a good deal of it is done with more physical means. Lots of arterial spray and limbs that go flying. The make up used for a character who has nails rammed into his face looks both disturbing, but very funny in its own dark way.

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Above all, that is really my main reason for watching all of these. The blood, the gore, and the action are so silly and over the top that I can’t help but be intrigued. The writing and acting may be bad and the HD may look cheap, but I can’t say that this wasn’t a really fun movie to watch. There were times where I got a little bored or was ready for the movie to be over, but most of the time I was into what was happening and wondered just what could possibly happen next. A machine gun arm, a flying clamp that rips heads off, a drill bra, and more make this a one of a kind movie. Well, perhaps not. It has been compared to Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, which is without a doubt a much better film. Still, I can see how much joy the film makers had making this because the finished product is so kinetic and enjoyable. It’s hard to explain how a movie is when you can really tell the makers were trying to make a movie that they would love to see themselves. The Machine Girl is one of these movies.

So, yeah. This isn’t a good movie, but it is entertaining and silly as hell. I don’t always feel the need to put on some highly artistic movie that will make me reconsider everything I know about film making. Sometimes I just want to see some limbs fly and a girl with a machine gun arm kill some bad guys. This gave me exactly what I was expecting, and for that, I can’t fault the movie. This isn’t for everyone, and to the people who have seen it and hate it, I completely understand. The Machine Girl stupid fun, and I personally had a good time.