Tag Archives: gore

Green Room – Review

17 May

I’m not saying that the horror genre is completely saved, but what I will say is that there has been a major step up in the genre thanks to indie film makers. Within the past year we’ve had some excellent independent horror films like It Follows and The Witch grace theaters with the intelligence and originality that I love seeing movies like this. Now we have Jeremy Saulnier’s newest film, Green Room, which can be added to this new echelon of horror. This is a bloody, suspenseful, and exhausting movie that puts new faith in no holds barred horror film making and made me jealous that I didn’t make this movie myself.

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Pat (Anton Yelchin), who is in a punk band with his friends called The Ain’t Rights, is in the middle of a pretty unsuccessful west coast tour. After a show in Seaside, Oregon that is a complete bust, they are hired to do a gig in the backwoods of Portland in a club that is owned by a group of neo-Nazis. While the show itself goes fine, things take a turn for the worst when Pat stumbles upon a murder that took place in the green room backstage. Now Pat and his friends are being held by the skin heads and their leader, Darcy (Patrick Stewart). Darcy and his crew have no desire to let the band leave alive, which means the group of inept punks have to band together, strategize, and fight their way to freedom.

I love movies that take place in one location because I feel like it adds something more immediate to the story. While there are a couple places the band goes to in Green Room, the central story focuses on Anton Yelchin and his friends just trying to get out of the small skinhead club. This makes for plenty of claustrophobic scenes laced with paranoia and close quarters fighting. That being said, this is a very intense, gritty, and gruesome movie and Jeremy Saulnier really makes it a point not to shy away from any of the brutality. If you get sick looking at blood or absolutely abhor violence, this is certainly not the movie for you. If you’re looking for that grindhouse thrill, Green Room certainly has your back.

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This isn’t to say that Green Room is just some cheap grind house movie, because it’s so far from that. This is a very well executed, shot, and acted movie that has the balls to the wall attitude of ’70s exploitation and shock cinema. The true horror behind this movie that allows it to really stand tall and be more than just a shocking movie is the almost unbearable suspense and the down to earth characters that you’re almost certain to run into the likes of at some point. The scenes when it’s the punks against the skinheads during an escape attempt, it gets a little hard to breathe. There was a point in the movie where I realized that anything could happen to these characters and it was best to stop thinking like I knew what was going to happen next. This isn’t fleeting fear. This is fear that gets under your skin and makes you feel like you need a power shower.

One of the main reasons I was so interested in this movie was to see the great Patrick Stewart not only play a villain, but a villainous backwater neo-Nazi. Captain Picard as a Nazi. How does that not make anyone interested? It came as no surprise to see Stewart completely own his role and not go the over the top route that could have been gone. Like I said, the characters are pretty grounded in reality and that include Darcy. When Stewart first read the script, he said he really wanted the role because of how scary he found Darcy, and he does a great job with the character.

Green Room can join the ranking os one of my favorite movies of 2016 so far. There’s still a lot of movies ahead, so anything can happen, but right now I just can’t get it out of my head. This film is a brutal reminder that the world is full of heinous people, but never does it forget to be entertaining. It’s filled with an almost unbearable amount of suspense, an excellent performance by Patrick Stewart, and plenty of terrifying scenes that you can not unsee. Thank you Jeremy Saulnier and Green Room for helping breathe new life in a stale genre.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

13 Oct

… Hmm… How can I even start this review? I have just watched one of the most bizarre movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. As you can probably guess by the title, it’s the Hong Kong martial arts cult classic Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. Take the gore effects from exploitation horror films of the 1980s, combine that with martial arts action, and top it off with some wonderfully hilarious gallows humor and the end result is Riki-Oh. This will be an easy movie to talk about since it left me with such a strange reaction that made me both laugh and cringe, and while I personally thought this film was a riot, it really only is for a certain type of audience.

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In the early 200s, prisons have become a privatized business, which led to higher levels of corruption and violence in order to keep business booming. Ricky Ho (Fan Siu-wong) is the newest prisoner in one of the most violent prisons in the world. Upon his arrival, Ricky sees how corrupt the jail really is and how it’s actually run by a gang called the Gang of Four, who works in league with the sadistic Assistant Warden Den (Fan Mei-sheng) and the Warden (Ho Ka-kui). The gang and the wardens become determined to kill Ricky when he starts fighting their men and destroying their business, but what they fail to realize is that Ricky has the power of superhuman strength and is nearly invincible. Let the battle begin.

This may be a pretty short review because there isn’t a whole lot to say about it. It simply is what it is and you have to accept it as such. What’s actually surprising is how many really good reviews this movie has gotten. It looks like it’s filmed on the cheap, it’s loaded with over the top gore, and the English dubbing is so bad it’s hilarious. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky succeeds, however, because the movie knows what it is and takes great pleasure in being as over the top and stupid as it can possibly be. In some ways, that’s pretty respectable.

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Let’s get down to it though. What did I think of this movie? It’s not all too surprising that I think it’s a gem of a movie. It made me laugh the entire way through with both its intentional and unintentional humor. Let me just list a few of its most over the top moments. In one scene, Ricky punches the top half of a guy’s head clean off. He just punches it off. In another scene, an opponent of Ricky rips out his own stomach and tries to strangle Ricky with it. Who in the world can think of something like this? Someone with a twisted mind or a really strange sense of humor? Or both?

Everything else in the movie that has nothing to do with its violence or humor is pretty useless. There is almost literally no story, at least not one that I can see. Characters are introduced throughout the whole film but then die in the next scene, which means there isn’t any character development at all. That being said though, that’s not what the movie is about. This film is about showing off some pretty gross special effects and making people laugh. In that regard, it succeeds.

Since it’s release in 1991, Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky has gained a fair amount of cult success. It makes sense that a movie like this doesn’t appeal to a wide audience. It’s schlocky, violent, and gory but it’s also a whole lot of fun. I can’t wait to show this movie to more people just to see how they are going to react to something like this. To me, this movie succeeds at what it sets out to do and I had more fun than I probably should have watching it.

Fright Night (1985) – Review

30 Aug

Imagine a world where vampires were still not the bud of jokes. Lets face it. Vampires are overused in the horror genre, and also have bled (no pun intended) into genres that they don’t even belong in. That isn’t to say that all modern vampire films aren’t cool, but they can be few and far between. Making light of the over usage of vampires can actually be a fun thing, too. Just look at Tom Holland’s 1985 film Fright Night. This movie has become a cult classic in the horror genre, but to call it purely horror would be a lie. It’s an excellent blend of comedy and horror mixed with a true love of everything terrifying, and is proud of its roots in classic Hammer films and anything worthy of a scream.

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Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is nor stranger to horror movies, with his nights spent staying up late to catch cheesy horror movies on t.v., hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), an aging actor in Hammer-esque horror movies. You’d think that given the opportunity to face the supernatural would mean a lot to someone like Charley, but when his new neighbor, Jerry (Chris Sarandon), turns out to be a vampire responsible for dozens of murders, he is anything but thrilled. Charley doesn’t find any help with the police or his family, but his friends Amy (Amanda Peterson) and Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) gives him the benefit of the doubt and convinces Peter Vincent to help Charley, who has the utmost faith in the t.v. star’s ability to hunt vampires. What happens next is Charley’s and Peter’s showdown with the supernatural that won’t end pretty.

Sometimes I’ll watch a horror movie and enjoy it immensely for what it is. Most of these movies serve to startle or create some sort of reaction of fear with the audience. On the other hand, there are some horror movies that just seem to be made for fans of horror movies. What I mean by that is that there are some movies that are just so full of in jokes, references, allusions, and recreations that will make any horror dork squeal with delight. This is the case with Fright Night, Much like Tom Holland’s later film Child’s Play, this film is purely meant to bring joy to fans. It isn’t a particularly scary movie, but it’s one of the most entertaining “horror movies” you’ll ever see. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s a comedy more than it is a horror film.

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I’ve written quite a bit of reviews on Hammer horror films, and have firmly stated that they are some of my favorite examples of how to make a scary movie. It seems that Tom Holland feels the same way, as this movie quite literally looks and feels like a Hammer film from the 1960 or 1970s. Even the name Peter Vincent is not only a nod to Vincent Price, but also Hammer icon Peter Cushing. There’s another scene that takes place in Peter Vincent’s apartment where the room is filled with horror memorabilia. There’s a painting of Bela Lugosi in Dracula, a bust of Count Olaf’s head from the remake of Nosferatu, and if you look hard enough you can see the mask that Roddy McDowell wore in Planet of the Apes. There’s another scene that carefully recreates an iconic scene from The Exorcist. What I’m saying is that part of the fun of watching Fright Night is spotting all of the homages that Holland wrote in, but that’s not all, folks.

Where this film really succeeds, though, is putting it all together. It’s a fantastic combination of horror and comedy that can actually be a tricky thing to pull off. I’ve heard people say that all horror has a touch of comedy since laughter helps keep people unafraid, but Fright Night is legitimately hilarious. The acting is good across the board, but Roddy McDowell and Chris Sarandon (whose character I refer to as the Vampire Humperdink, thanks to The Princess Bride) really own their roles. You can see how much fun they’re having in the way they perform their roles. They both ham things up quite appropriately. Finally, while there may not be too many special effects shots, all of them are memorable and some of the make up is just downright fantastic.

Fright Night is an example of exemplary horror film making. While there was really only one scene that made me jump, it’s still incredibly well made altogether. What has to be remembered is that this film is a horror/comedy and is meant to be laughed at. For fans of horror, it’s a must see for so many different reasons. Hell, even if you hate horror movies, this one may just be worth your time.

The Blob (1958 & 1988) – Review

22 Aug

When I think about movies from the 1950s, I immediately think of alien invasion films. There are classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and then there are those that are classics for totally different reasons like Plan 9 from Outer Space. Arguably one of the most celebrated of these invasion films is the 1958 cult smash, The Blob. Like many sci-fi and horror films, it got a remake in 1988, but surprisingly enough, it stands up to and in many ways surpasses the original.

Let’s look at the original version first.

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Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and Jane Martin (Aneta Corseaut) are out on a date one night in rural Pennsylvania. The night seems ordinary enough, until Steve notices what looks like a meteor hurtling towards the woods. When the contents of the meteor, a small gelatinous blob, is inadvertently brought into town by an old hermit (Olin Howland) people begin disappearing. Steven finally notices the blob, which has grown a lot bigger, consuming the town’s doctor, but when he begins telling people, only Jane seems to believe him. As the night goes on and more and more people begin disappearing, the blob finally grabs the town’s attention when it attacks people in a movie theatre in its iconic climax.

What could have been a pretty standard B-grade alien invasion story is bolstered into becoming something of a genre masterpiece. But what is it that really puts The Blob a step above the rest? Like a lot of these genre films from this time, there’s an underlying theme of communism making its way into the American way of life, but it’s done with what I think is the most simple but affective way. The blob, which is red, literally consumes everybody and becomes bigger and bigger. This blob, by the way, is a real achievement of special effects. Sure it looks dated now, but there’s certain scenes that made me excited at the clever usage of practical effects.

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The 1958 version of The Blob is a lot of fun. So much fun that there’s even a festival named after it which is dedicated to celebrating the film and other movies like it. It’s also fun to see a young Steve McQueen, who would go on to be an action megastar, in probably his most timid role. Unfortunately, this movie really won’t appeal to everyone. You have to be a fan of the genre to really appreciate what this movie was trying to do and the ways it succeeded. Still, it remains a cult classic that will never be forgotten.

There was a sequel to this film in 1972 called Beware! The Blob, but I’ve never seen that one, and I really have no interest in seeing it. Instead, I’m gonna jump ahead to 1988 to look at the remake.

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a meteor crashes in Arborville, California (that’s new) and is soon brought to the city by and old homeless man (Billy Beck) who gets it stuck on his arm. The amorphous, acidic substance soon disintegrates and consumes the man and begins working its way through the small town, growing larger and larger as it consumes more people. Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) and Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) are two teens caught in the middle of all of the chaos which only gets worse when scientists and military personnel, led by Dr. Meddows (Joe Seneca), get involved and reveal a large government conspiracy that could be the end of the world.

Just like the original fit in nicely with other 1950s alien invasion films, this version of The Blob fits in great with the sci-fi/horror film of the 1980s. Like a lot of those films what really stands out to me in this movie is the special effects. The blob is much larger and much more aggressive, so the death scenes in this movie are much more explicit. This means we get a lot more of those practical effects I was talking about, except a whole lot better. People are disintegrated, snapped like twigs, limbs are pulled off, and faces are melted all in the name of cheesy horror.

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Another thing this version has is a great sense of humor that borders on the line of self awareness. There are a lot of jokes in this movie that genuinely made me laugh, and it’s pretty safe to say that everything that happens in this movie is done in a sort of tongue in cheek kind of way. That being said, the humor makes for characters that are easy to like which causes a reaction when one of them dies. Let me just say also, that this movie has some guts in killing off the people it does and when. There are plenty of shocks, laughs, scares, and great special effects that makes The Blob from 1988 not just a good remake, but a great and, dare I say, superior remake.

For both of the films, you have to already like the genre or be open to the idea of liking the genre. With the silliness of the first one and the excessive gore of the second one, these movies aren’t for everyone, but both have garnered praise and celebration which is all well deserved.

Zombie – Review

6 Aug

Italian horror offers some of the most popular and beloved films of the genre. With names like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci, there’s plenty of content to choose from, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever movie you find will be violent and equally gory. But, hey, that’s what people come to expect in horror movies, right? For this review, we’re going to be looking at arguably the most famous film by the Maestro of Gore, himself, Lucio Fulci. Zombie may just be an unofficial  sequel to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and an attempt to cash in on the zombie craze, but this film actually stands alone as one of the greatest zombie films ever to be made.

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When Dr. Bowles (Ugo Bologna) goes missing and his boat carrying a rather large zombie shows up in New York Harbor, his daughter Anne (Tisa Farrow) is brought in for questioning. While investigating the boat herself, she meets Peter West (Ian McCulloch), a journalist with the same questions she has. Their inquiries lead them to the Virgin Islands, where they hope the find the mysterious island of Matool. Along the way, they enlist the help of Brian Hull (Al Cliver) and his wife Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay), a seafaring couple who are more than willing to give them a ride on their boat. When the group gets to Matool, they find the island ravaged by zombies, whose numbers are increasing more and more each day. Their only chance for survival may lie with Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson), a scientist working to solve the mystery of these zombies who was also a close friend to Anne’s father.

First, I’d like to give you a little history on this movie since it’s a bit out of the ordinary. It all starts in 1978 when George Romero released Dawn of the Dead, which was the sequel to his 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. Internationally, this film was known as Zombi. Now, in order to cash in on the massive success Romero’s film, the Italians decided to make an unofficial sequel, this being Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, now known as Zombie in the United States. This film has absolutely no connection to any of Romero’s movies, other than the fact that there are lots of zombies in it. Strangely enough, from this film, even more sequels were released. That gets a bit too confusing so I’m just going to stick with Fulci’s cult classic.

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Now let’s look at the movie itself. This is without a doubt one of the greatest zombie movies ever made. In a time when zombies have become a subject of parody, even within its own genre, it’s so satisfying to see a movie that takes its subject matter seriously. Let’s just say that when this movie was first released, it was banned in the UK for being too obscene, and as a fun gimmick, the theaters handed out barf bags. Sure, the whole barf bag thing is all in good fun, but that’s not to say that there aren’t some really sick scenes in this movie. Some are so gross that they have become iconic. The most famous scene has to do with someone slowly getting their eye pierced by a sharp piece of wood. This isn’t done offscreen either. Oh no. We see it in all its gory detail. Think Un Chien Andalou, but with zombies.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Zombie is more than just a festival of gore. In fact, it’s still a pretty cool movie in its own right. Think of it as if The Serpent and the Rainbow and Cannibal Holocaust had a baby. There’s a lot of cool voodoo type stuff going on and the gore just kind of adds to how cool everything else is. The pacing moves very slowly, especially the scene with the boat pulling into the harbor. It adds a great sense of suspense and dread that overtakes the entire movie. To top it all off, that late 70s Italian synth soundtrack just makes the movie all the better. It definitely feels like a movie from the 1970s, but it feels like a great one.

No matter how you look at it, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie is a classic of the horror genre. It’s fill of suspense, gore, violence, and fantastic makeup and effects. Zombie movies have become something of a cliche recently, and that’s a shame because they used to reign as some of the greatest horror stories in film. This film may not be for the squeamish of feint of heart, nor is it a movie for people who treasure their eyeballs, but it is an important part of film history as one of the landmarks of horror, and also as a film that has earned its title of a cult classic.

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.

Men Behind the Sun – Review

11 Mar

Oh boy. This is what it’s come to. I’m really digging up something with this one. This time we’re gonna be looking at T.F. Mou’s 1988 film Men Behind the Sun. It sounds innocent enough, but this infamous, though relatively obscure film, is one of the most brutal, grotesque, and disturbing films ever made. Look at any list about warped movies, and it’s guaranteed that you’ll find this one on here. Many people argue over what this movie is trying to do, but everyone seems to agree that it will definitely leave a mark on anyone who dares to watch.

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In the later days of World War II, the Japanese were getting desperate to turn the fight around to their favor, and a method that seemed both popular and deadly was biological warfare. The film follows a group of young Japanese boys enlisted in the youth corps that are stationed at Unit 731, a mysterious base run by a recently disgraced Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii (Gang Wang). Soon the boys (and the viewer) finds out the secret work happening at Unit 731. The base is a testing ground for new biological weapons with the test subjects consisting of captured Chinese and Russian citizens.

This is actually the first part of an unofficial series that I’ve made the decision not to watch, mostly because they’re pretty hard to find and it’s pretty unnecessary considering the heavy subject matter. This is a movie that has torn audiences in to two separate factions with differing arguments on how to look at what is being presented. On one side, there are the people who think this movie is a disgusting piece of exploitive horror, using the testing and gratuitous gore as only a way to make people squirm. The other side truly believes that Men Behind the Sun is an important film that explores a horrific time of history in a no nonsense way. It’s hard to choose a side because there’s enough evidence to support both theories.

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T.F. Mou is a very odd figure in terms of his filmography. After joining the Shaw Brothers, Mou worked in the genres of crime, horror, kung fu, and exploitation. The Shaw Brothers aren’t really known for producing the most thought provoking work, but Mou, himself, was very dedicated to making Men Behind the Sun as realistic and historically accurate as possible, and for that I commend him. He hired actors who looked like their historical counterparts and researched for over a year in order to create an accurate depiction. Wang’s performance as Shiro Ishii is especially memorable. This makes me think that T.F. Mou was really trying to create a historically significant movie that would shock people into understanding the horrors that people endured. Unfortunately, he sort of took it way too far.

There’s no way to be comfortable watching this movie. I first saw this movie in school during a class about horror movies, and I found myself looking away at many points during the movie. Me. The guy who loves gory movies, but this was just too real. This is where the movie seems to lose its footing in a major way. For an hour and a half, you’re just subjected to scenes upon scenes of relentless brutality that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. It’s just way too much gore and sickening imagery to really keep someone’s attention focused on the history. Men Behind the Sun really is one of, if not the most sickening and repulsive movies ever made.

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Normally, I post a video in these reviews, but I just can’t for this movie. I can’t even write a review giving my opinion on it because I don’t know what it is. Technically, it’s very well made in terms of shot composition, effects, and historical accuracy. At the same time it’s a horrific piece of exploitation that is enough to make the most experienced movie watcher sick to their stomachs…or more. All I can say is that whatever this movie was trying to do, be it sicken people or depict a terrible history, it did it’s job. It’s just a bit to much for me to recommend to anybody.

Hammer’s “Karnstein Trilogy” – Review

20 Feb

I absolutely love the horror films that were produced by Hammer production company from the 1950s through the 1970s. Now me saying I love them means I love quite a few of them, while others are absolute crap and don’t even qualify as being so bad that they’re actually good. By the 1970s, Hammer was running out of steam and began to get tired of releasing sequel after sequel instead of creating something new. The answer to their problems (sort of) was found in a novella Sheridan Le Fanu called Carmilla. The result is the uneven, but totally Hammer-esque, Karnstein Trilogy.

The first of these films was released in 1970 and titled The Vampire Lovers while the other two were both released in 1971, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil.

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While these movies are called a trilogy, it’s kind of hard to find any sort of continuity among them. The only real connection is that all three implement the Karnstein family of vampires as the villains. In The Vampire Lovers, Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt) is a bisexual vampire who begins to prey on the young women of Styria, turning entire households against the people who know what she truly is. After his daughter falls victim to Marcilla’s bloodlust, General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) gets a band of men from the town together to march on Karnstein Castle and put an end to the evil once and for all.

Lust for a Vampire tells the story of the vampire Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard), who may or may not be the same vampire from the first film. I really can’t be sure. Anyway, Mircalla finds her way to a finishing school where she once again(?) begins preying on the students. Meanwhile, the school’s new English teacher, Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) begins falling in love with Mircalla, which begins an unholy and forbidden relationship that can only end in tragedy.

In Twins of Evil we see twins Maria and Frieda (played by Playboy centerfold models Mary and Madeline Collinson) arriving in the town Karnstein after losing their parents. Their new guardian is the uncle Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), a strict puritan who is also the leader of the “Brotherhood,” whose mission is to hunt the witches and other servants of the devil and burn them at the stake. While Maria begins settling in, Frieda becomes more and more attracted to the mysterious Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), an evil count that has recently been turned into a vampire. As Frieda becomes mixed up in his evil, Maria must try and protect her from the wrath of Gustav and his Brotherhood.

Let’s start with The Vampire Lovers. Like I said before, at this point in time, Hammer was running out of steam and their ideas for their movies were getting stranger and stranger. Just look at Dracula A.D. 1972 which came out a few years later. The good thing about The Vampire Lovers is that it still has that classic Hammer feel to it. There’s plenty of great scenes and the atmosphere is spot on with the traditional town inns, to the foggy cemeteries, and the ominous castles lit in the moon light. That and also the obscene amount of sex and nudity. That was Hammer’s draw with this movie, and it works to a point but begins to get pretty silly with its gratuity. All in all, this is a good entry and a fine start to the trilogy.

Then there came the sequel, Lust for a Vampire and… oh man… it’s something. It’s almost as if the film makers didn’t know if they were doing a softcore porno or a horror film. I get that they were trying to draw people in with the promise of boobies, but this is just ridiculous. The movie starts off cool enough with the creepy architecture and vampire horror stuff, but it soon goes away. Instead we get a cheesy love story between man and vampire, horrible music, and a stupid amount of gratuitous nudity that was thrown in just to get people in to see the movie. This isn’t a horror film, it’s too funny for that. Some of the actors who worked in this movie have even said it’s the worst movie they ever worked in. I can believe that.

You would think that after a movie that bad, the third film would only be worse. What if I was to tell you that it’s not only the best of the trilogy, but one of the best Hammer films I’ve seen. Twins of Evil combines vampires and witch hunting and features Peter Cushing as a violent puritan who burns “witches” during the night. We also get a fantastic vampiric villain played by Damien Thomas who seems to relish hamming it up any chance he gets. This is a super entertaining horror film that actually poses a lot of good points about the gray areas in morality and also has two villains working at opposite ends of the spectrum. Cushing’s character is a zealot for God while Thomas’ vampire is a zealot for Satan. It’s surprisingly smart and has its fair share of creepiness and gore.

The Karnstein Trilogy certainly isn’t the greatest work that Hammer film studios came up with, but for the most part it certainly is entertaining. The first film is fun, the second is the closest thing to career suicide you could see, and the third is an un recognized masterpiece. Fans of Hammer films should really get a kick at seeing how far they were willing to go in the final days of their productions. These movies certainly aren’t going to convert anyone who doesn’t like their other films, but for those of us who do they provide the creepy, gothic atmosphere that we’ve come to expect and the horror and gore that we’ve come to love.

Detective Story – Review

5 Jan

The job of anyone that is crafting a tale of mystery that takes place in any form of media has a very important, and I’d argue, difficult job. They have to make it intriguing in such a way to keep the audience in the dark and always guessing. Now, the Japanese cult phenomenon director, Takashi Miike, has dabbled in pretty much every genre in his unbelievable filmography of over 90 movies, and Detective Story is his combination of mystery, dark comedy, and his own brand of sick horror.

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Raita (Claude Maki) is a Japanese business man who has recently moved into a new apartment. Coincidentally, Raita’s new neighbor is also a man named Raita (Kazuya Nakayama), a private detective who doesn’t really have both feet planted firmly on Earth. Detective Raita soon begins investigating a series of bizarre murders, in which the victims have had certain organs removed after they were killed. Evidence against the private detective is soon uncovered, so he pulls the business man Raita into the mix of things for help, and the two plunge deep into a sickening quest to clear the detective’s name and solve the mystery of these brutal killings.

There are things in this movie that remind you that you are watching a movie by Takashi Miike. The film was actually written by someone else, but Miike’s style is certainly injected into the story, mostly by the use of his twisted sense of humor and the brutality of some of the scenes. This definitely isn’t as gut wrenching as other films of his like Ichi the Killer and Audition, but Detective Story does have a fair share of scenes that will make the viewer squirm, but laugh at the same time.

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The story is pretty muddled, as is the case of a lot of Miike’s films, but the difference between Detective Story and the other ones is that the others have things happening that really catch the viewer’s attention. The films I already mentioned have a sickening amount of over the top gore, and a movie like Sukiyaki Western Django has pretty insane action and art design that kept me interested, even when the story sort of fell through the cracks. Detective Story doesn’t really have any of this. The beginning and ending are both strong and grabbed me, but the entire middle part is filled with people just running around, doing a whole lot of what seemed like nothing. I felt like the plot got stuck in the mud and was just moving for the sake of a run time.

Now, there are really cool scenes, don’t get me wrong. Unfortunately, my copy of the movie had some things awkwardly blurred out, which kind of pulled me out of the movie for a second. Still there are other scenes that will shock, and others that will make you laugh. Nakayama’s performance is gleefully silly which is nice in a movie that had the potential to be so morbid. A lot of the humor in this movie comes from Nakayama’s ineptness getting in the way of him and anyone else solving the case. There are also a few gory scenes that will be remembered, but that doesn’t really make up for what is a really boring movie.

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I don’t really have much to say about Detective Story because it’s pretty forgettable, save for a few scenes. The story gets so caught up in itself and has this weird way of moving that I felt like I was missing stuff, but it turns out nothing was really happening. I can’t say I was really expecting too much from this movie, but I will say that I expected more. Fans of Takashi Miike will want to see it for his strange sense of humor and a few cool gory scenes, but the rest of the movie falls short and will kinda fade into my memory until it is hardly remembered.

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.