Tagged: Film

Schiave bianche – Violenza in Amazzonia

Cath

Also known as: White Slave, Amazonia: The Katherine Miles Story, Cannibal Holocaust 2, Captive Women VII: White Slave
Year of release: 1985
Directed by:  Mario Gariazzo
Run time: 90 minutes (uncut version)

Plot summary: The daughter of rich plantation owners witnesses her parents being slaughtered by a tribe of jungle head hunters and is subsequently taken captive. Lots of other stuff happens to pad out the run time.

Review: In terms of disreputable cinema, you really can’t get any lower down in the bottom of the barrel than with the Italian cannibal film. Well you can, but you’d pretty much be watching actual snuff movies. Cheap, dirty, cynical, and mean, if you want to get your kicks watching some really messed up shit, this is the genre you’ll want to wallow in. Honestly, I always have to steel my nerves for these things because I find them highly unpleasant. Despite usually loving the heck out of nasty gore films, I just don’t really find these types of movies much fun to sit through. In fact, they usually leave me a little sick in the stomach after. I think a big part of it is the real animal killings these things usually involve. I get why they’re there (that visceral kick in the guts you can’t get any other way) but it’s no excuse. If I could meet the director of Cannibal Ferox, I’d kick him in the face. Repeatedly. That said, this film, made at the end of a genre cycle that started in 1972 with The Man From Deep River (see mah previous write-up please), isn’t quite as bad as every other cannibal film I’ve had the displeasure to sit through. “Not quite as bad” meaning “not quite as fucked up.”
For one, the animal murders aren’t as plentiful and they’re mostly done by other animals and not humans, so even though they’re still set up so something actually dies on film, it makes me want to punch somebody a tiny bit less. For two, the whole thing isn’t as visceral as usual. There’s lotsa gore, but it’s spread out and there’s no dick choppin’ or boob slicin’ like they’re usually is. I fact, this is more of a love story than anything, which is really unusual. A love story full of attempted rape and splattered with a bunch of Dollar Store red paint, but a love story all the same.  Hell, now that I think about it, there’s no actual cannibal feastin’ in this thing either! Man there must have been a ton of disappointed dudes walking out of those grindhouse theaters back in the day!

So basically what you’re left with is an okay looooow budget film that somehow manages a few moments of decent atmosphere, some nice scenery, and an alright gory ending but one doesn’t really add up to much. I mean, if you read around about this genre you’ll  encounter stuff like Cannibal Holocaust and the aforementioned Ferox right away while this one pretty much just falls through the cracks since it doesn’t leave much of an impact. What a way for a crummy genre to go out: not with a scream but a sigh.  Hey, at least there’s a freakin’ ton of nudity though. And I don’t feel like my soul has been sucked out through my asshole! I guess I can’t complain too much.  Ah, life is fine.

Random Things

  • The gore in this movie is some of the cheapest have I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of cheap gore. A pair of severed heads early on is especially hilarious.
  • The copy I found online is supposedly uncut but features English dubbing that’s almost as cheap as the blood and guts, which is another reason why I probably failed to take this damn thing seriously.
  • Random thought during watching: “The main actress has really small boobs. And the main actor has a really small penis. That’s not something I usually think about when I watch films, so thanks movie! Thanks for that.”
  • Hey! Yes! I’m back! All three of you that liked my writing! The birth of my son temporarily sidelined me (for like a year) but I hope to be back to regularly posting soon. Hooray! Right? RIGHT???

Satan’s Slave (1976)

Satansslave
AKA Evil Heritage

Gorehouse Greats #9

So what would you do if your dad one day just up and went “Hey, I’ve got a brother I’ve never told you about and he lives in the ass end of British nowheresville! Let us all go visit him and we will have a jolly good time!”
You would probably look at him sideways and maybe suggest that he ease up on the homemade wine, right? Not 20 year old Catherine York (B-movie horror regular Candace Gendenning). Not only does she take off for the week of her birthday, she leaves behind her boyfriend, John (Michael Craze, who was also in Terror).  Yeah, this is going to end real well!
Everything actually goes fine until they arrive just outside their uncle’s expensive looking mansion and both dad and mom burn to death when their car mysteriously hits a tree!  We are then properly introduced to the group of lovely fun people who we’ll get to spend most of the film’s running time with.  There’s uncle Alexander York (played by Michael Gough who’s been in damn near everything), cousin Stephen York (who we saw earlier in the film raping and murdering a random American girl), and the unrelated Frances who functions a some sort of secretary to Alexander and soon to be former lover of Stephen.
If you’ve seen a British Satan worship film from the 1970’s you pretty much know what’s going to happen, that is almost everybody is going to die a horrible painful death for your amusement.  Thus, Satan’s Slave offers absolutely no surprises at all. So what does it offer?

In my write-up of Terror, I noted that director Norman J. Warren started off doing nudie movies until he found success with this film and moved in a horror-centric direction.  As a result, Satan’s Slave is kind of situated halfway between two genres: sexploitation and grisly horror. Quite honestly, it’s a kind of uncomfortable mix. If you’ve seen stuff like David F. Friedman’s The Defilers (1965) or any seedy exploitation from the 60’s and 70’s, you know the kind of uncomfortable I’m talking about.  For example, Satan’s Slave includes a male on female sexual assault (the woman is killed after), a priest who orders a woman stripped nude and whipped (she’s then burned to death), and several scenes where random nude women are sacrificed to Satan.  It’s that grimy mix of nudity, sex, and violence that really made this film a success when it was released and not any skill on the part of its director. Because frankly without all of this rather nasty, and mostly female directed, depravity the movie would be pretty freaking hard to sit through. Mostly because it’s. so. sloooooow.  The story inches along like a snail stuck on flypaper until the next bit of skin, “shocking” plot twist, or cruel bout of violence. This is also something I noted with Warren’s Terror: Blood and boobs are pretty much all that makes these films worth watching.  That kind of thing can be fun if you’re in the right mood, and aren’t too bothered by women literally being treated like meat, but it can also be very boring.  Satan’s Slave ends up being about 30% icky fun and about 70% “dear lord is this thing over yet?”
So while Warren still has a cult following with freaks like me that love this kind of thing, after watching two of his films, I’m just not that big of a fan.  I need a bit more to keep me from falling asleep, you know? I want to go to the carnival and ride the rides, man! I want to eat cotton candy until I get sick and ogle the bearded lady.  Staring at the dude biting the head off the chicken all night isn’t really my style.
On the other hand, that fingernail file to the eyeball was pretty bitchin’. Sigh.

Rating: C-

Random Things

  • We get another kind of neat opening credits thing with this one.  Every single drawing on display would make a really killer t-shirt.
  • I think there’s like 4 pairs of boobs that get shown in the first 10 minutes of screen time. Not even kidding.
  • Sadly, my small collection of David F. Friedman movies are stuck back in The States. Who wants to mail my copy of She Freak back to me?
  • It’s weird that, thanks to this DVD set, that you can find this movie for about 5 bucks at Wal-Mart. Is this the kind of thing your average Joe Lunchpail puts on his TV set when there’s not football to watch? Cause that would be pretty cool if it were true.

The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

Brain

Gorehouse Greats #6

Is it really possible for a film to be influential and famous even though very few people have actually seen it?  Well, I think Madmen of Mandoras (Or MoM, as I like to call it) is proof that it certainly can happen. You probably know of this thing by its much better alternate title: They Saved Hitler’s Brain. If you’re a fan of The Simpsons or Futurama, it will probably bring up images of heads in jars, specifically Hitler’s. Why they didn’t call it “They Saved Hitler’s Head” I don’t know but I guess it doesn’t have the same ring to it. The version with this alternate title is actually quite a bit different. See, when David Bradley’s dirt cheap little war thriller was sold to TV in the 1970’s, a bunch of extra footage was produced and cut in which mostly consisted of a bunch of idiot detectives stumbling around pretending to be connected to the events of the actual film, which worked about as well as you’d think. This extra footage somehow managed to be even crappier than the original movie, which is quite a feat, let me tell you….

So this would normally be where I, your handsome and ever so clever writer, would recap the plot of the film.  See, these things usually follow a formula. I hooked you in with that brilliant and oh so witty opening paragraph so now I get to bore you with explanatory filler. But, um. Okay. Plot. There’s this dude and his wife, whose dad happens to be scientist. Happens to be a scientist that’s developing some kind off improbable death gas that could easily destroy the entire world in two twitches of Hitler’s tiny mustache. Why the Hell you’d make something like this I have no idea but thankfully they’ve also developed an antidote! And dude’s wife’s father is the only scientist that knows how to make this antidote, or something. So this secret Nazi faction kidnaps both the gas and this science dude (and his other irritating “teenage” daughter, who looks about 35 years old and talks in made up youth slang) and takes them to the shitty tropical island of Mandoras (not a real place). It’s up to dude and his wife to save science dude and the world! Oh, and the Nazis take orders straight from Hitler himself, who is just a head in a jar.  Bet you did Nazi that coming! Ha ha ha! Sigh.

It’s actually much more complicated (and stupid) than my paltry attempt to explain things but that’s the gist as far as I could wrap my head around it. But really, none of that “plot” shit even really matters because there is Hitler’s severed head in a jar.  Without that, this movie would be practically worthless. Maybe not as painful as say Red Zone Cuba, but just boring and cheap and forgettable. In fact, I watched both versions of this thing on a different box set a few years back and even after sitting through it twice that’s all I could remember about it.  But man are those perfectly wacky moments worth the confusing chain of events, stupid double crosses, worthless characters that add nothing to anything, and horribly weak ending.
It’s really the guy that plays Hitler that makes it so awesome. When we first meet him he’s shouting at his superiors and gesturing like he’s got some kind of nerve problem.  Then when he’s just a head he does almost nothing but make shifty eyes and twitch his facial muscles like…he has some kind of nerve problem. Maybe the actor really did? I can’t think of another way to explain his performance but it’s brilliantly cracked.
And then there’s the part where they pick him by attaching little freaking handles to his jar and then put him in the middle backseat of an automobile like he’s some kind of small child.  It’s in my top ten funniest things I’ve ever seen, along with that time in high school that my friend Laura ate a live June Bug and that part in Shakes the Clown where Shakes tells that snotty little kid off.

Yeah, I can’t really figure this movie out. It’s like it seriously wants to be Casablanca or some other WWII spy thriller but that doesn’t work when your script and plot ideas sound like they were spit out by your friend’s creepy uncle that sits alone all day in his basement and self publishes novels that nobody in their right mind would read…and then your snarky cousin stole one of his books and wrote a in part about Hitler’s head in a jar.  Who was this movie intended for? How did it get made? So many unanswered questions. Oh, and I’ve got another one: “why did I sit through this for the third time?”
Of course I know the answer to that one: because I am a sucker for punishment.  I did it all for a head in a jar.

Ratings: Actual movie: D-
The part where Hitler’s head shouts “Schnell, schnell!”: A++

Lessons this movie taught me

  • It is possible to be sitting next to a person when they get shot and have no idea it just happened. (Silencers do not work that way!)
  • The proper way to dispose of a body is to shove it in a phone booth.
  • It’s okay to have sex with a dude you just met like two days ago as long as you’re married first.
  • The right way to deal with getting caught up in convoluted schemes to destroy the world that involve people getting shot, your friends turning out to be Nazis, and dictators in Tupperware containers is with a cheerful smile and a can-do attitude.
  • A woman can only take so much death and contrived plot twists before she snaps and starts randomly screaming. The proper way to deal with this is to slap her across the face and take her back to the car.
  • And lastly, the most important lesson of all: Hitler’s head is made of wax and looks damn cool when it is on fire. Mein Fuhrer! I can melt!

Horror Films of the 1890’s

Everything has to start somewhere and while anything involving cinematic origins is up for debate we can at least be sure that the horror genre got it’s start all the way back at the very beginning of film.  What exactly constitutes “horror” is a bit harder to define.  While a lot of early films were meant to be funny rather than frightening there’s quite a few that contain debatable spooky elements.  Do we lump them in as horror or just leave them as comedy? I guess it’s up to personal convictions.
What we can be sure of is that, like pretty much every other genre, camera trick, and cinematic convention, the horror genre was pioneered by a French magician named Georges Méliès.
I’m not going to get too into the life of Méliès, even though it is endlessly fascinating, but if you haven’t looked him up the basic gist is that he was pretty much cinema’s first genius and that we all owe him a huge debt. Sadly, even though he was incredibly innovative and his films are still a ton of fun to watch, he couldn’t keep up with the quickly changing face of cinema and was soon left behind to finish out his life as a toy maker. (Thomas Edison also had quite a bit to do with Méliès eventually bankruptcy after he sent his goons to steal copies of A Trip to the Moon so he could show it in America free of charge, but that’s another article altogether.)
What we want to look at here is the very first horror movies. In fact the very first horror movie, or what is generally considered to be so.  That would be The Devil’s Castle (AKA The Haunted Castle) from 1896:

While Méliès other films used his, at the time, innovative camera trickery to make the audience laugh or stare in wonder at the things that were happening onscreen, The Devil’s Castle was really the first of his films, or any film for that matter, that obviously wanted to try and create a sense of unease in it’s audience.  With it’s lonely castle setting, it’s random soldiers that wander into trouble, and even it’s hints of vampirism it set the stage for literally everything that came after and is thus incredibly important. This is where it all started folks.
Although it’s impossible to tell how well received any film from this time was, it’s telling that The Devil’s Castle was almost immediately ripped off!  Check out this little film from British film pioneer George Albert Smith that came out in 1897, titled The Haunted Castle:

I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And yes, that is a color film from the 1890’s! If you’re wondering why they didn’t do that more often, it’s because they had to tint every single frame of film by hand!
Smith was also responsible for a couple of other horror type films from around this time, Photographing a Ghost from 1898 which is most likely lost and this one from 1897, either titled The X-Rays or The X-Ray Fiend:

With this film you have an example of something that was meant to be funny but that has slightly horrific elements to it.  Would you count it or discard it when making a complete list of horror movies?
You could ask the same thing of this early Méliès film from 1896 titled A Terrible Night:

Again, it has (debatable) elements of horror and the supernatural, but it was meant to amuse rather than frighten, so it’s usually not counted as the first horror movie while The Devil’s Castle is. (For what it’s worth, The Devil’s Castle is also a much more interesting film.)

And that’s pretty much every pre-1900 horror movie that I’ve ever seen or heard of*. There’s also another Méliès film from 1899 alternately titled Cléopâtre, Cleopatra’s Tomb, and Robbing Cleopatra’s Tomb that was supposedly re-discovered in 2005 but most reports claim it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity so now we’re sitting here without what’s possibly the earliest instance of a mummy on film! Shame.
If anybody has any films from this time that I’ve missed I would love to see them! Drop a line in the comments. I’ll add them whenever I do a write up of the horror films of the 1900’s.

*I guess you could also count The Bewitched Inn (1897) which was the first of many “rube checks into a hotel and weird shit happens to him” films that were made in the very early days of cinema, but it’s meant to be funny and not scary! It’s so hard classifying things sometimes! Gah!

Why Do You Like This Crap: A Rope of Sand

Does one really need to explain why one likes the things one does? You really shouldn’t have to, but if your hobby is watching/reading/talking about/breathing the horror genre, people really seem to want to know “why?” Why do you like to be scared? How did you get started with this junk? What the Hell is wrong with you?

The simple answer is that I don’t really have an answer. I’ve always been into this stuff. Some of my earliest memories are of a five year old me digging through the shelves at my local small town library, looking for books about ghosts and monsters. I used to check out armloads of them. In the 90’s there seemed to be no shortage of books for young people that were meant to stop them from ever sleeping again. Most of them were just toned down reprints of old ghost stories and lame folk tales but they were pretty intense to someone so young (Those fucking Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books still haunt my nightmares). They were also the only real outlet for my growing taste in the macabre as I was a pretty sheltered kid. My mother was very overprotective and I wasn’t allowed to watch any horror movies that were above kiddie level . When we rented tapes from the local small town video store, I would always sneak into the horror section and just stare at the VHS covers.  The stories I made up about what they contained were probably more frightening than what they actually were, even though I was pretty squeamish about gore as well (I had to turn away when Itchy and Scratchy came on The Simpsons!)

It was in high school when I really got into horror movies, A lot of what I ended up watching was old films and crappy b-movies nobody else seemed to care about. This was right when DVDs started to become cheap and there was what I like to call, a dollar DVD boom. There were so many old movies that fell, or seemed to fall, into the public domain that you could pick up for almost nothing at Wal-Mart of Family Dollar, and a lot of which were horror related. The first time I ever watched a silent film was when I got  Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari in a pack of public domain films that I had received for Christmas, which also included some pretty crummy drive-in stuff as well (and Hatchet for the Honeymoon, a movie I still love to death).
That’s all well and good but it didn’t earn me many friends, or girls, or much of a social life at all but it at least helped to dull the pain of being alone on a Friday night or not being able to talk to any of the girls I could hardly look at, thanks to my crippling shyness. It was the first time that horror was there for me and it helped me get through some tough times.

It also got me through the four years of stress and loneliness that was my time in the US Air Force. When you don’t belong and you hate your job and have nobody to talk to that understands you, you kind of need an outlet. At least I did. That was when I got heavily into the exploitation and gore genres, trying to find the sickest most debased films I could rent from Netflix or order from Something Weird Video. I’m proud to be able to say that with government money I was able to watch classics like Cannibal Holocaust, Make Them Die Slowly, and Island of Death (one of the most hilariously fucked up movies I’ve ever seen).  Don’t get me wrong, I was also balancing it out with non-horror classics that every film nerd needs to see, but my weekends were usually filled with blood and depravity while everyone else drank themselves into a stupor (although I managed to do that occasionally as well.)

So, to answer that annoying question of “Why?” I’d probably just have to say “Because I just fucking do, okay? Now leave me alone. I just found a batch of old Count Chocula commercials on Youtube…”

Machine Head (2000)

Cover

This thing has been kicking around for quite some time in the DVD rack at the local Reject Shop, oddly fluctuating between a dollar and a whole two bucks. The cover art is actually pretty dope and the back of the box screams “Cult cinema at it’s best!” in quotes and everything, without citing a source, so it seemed like a no brainer to pick it up when it stopped being a dollar over-priced.
Was it worth it? Dollar horror DVDs are always worth it dude!

Plot: This awkward nerdy science geek has to hide his experiments with electronics and motors from his dad while they both work at a morgue his dad runs. The kid resurrects a corpse for a local science fair but everything starts to go wrong when he tries to impress a girl he likes…

Ah, backyard horror movies. While not always made in someone’s backyard, they are usually made by a minuscule studio using family and friends of the director and funded with the change pulled from his sofa.
I always like to commend the people that put these things together since making a movie isn’t easy and you’ve got to have some love for it to put so much time and effort into something that like maybe 20 people are going to see.  Unfortunately, most of them are, to put it bluntly, piles of shit. They either take themselves way too seriously and end up being painfully boring or they try to make up for their lack of budget by being “funny” and end up being painfully lame.
Machine Head might not be Young Frankenstein but it’s made well enough that it’s not too painfully awkward (except for that eye searing low quality digital video) and it’s actually kind of fun in a stupid Jr. high school type of way. It wears out it’s welcome by the end and the big final twist is too dumb to work, but the gore effects are decent for what they are and the acting and dialogue are hilariously loopy.  Plus it has this endearing small town charm that I don’t think I’ve seen in too many other horror movies. “Aw look, there’s Uncle Bill’s gas station! and there’s grandma again!” Yeah. Even the “sick” sense of humor present is still kind of endearingly childish, like the director loved Re-Animator so much that he wanted to re-make it for Mr. Dean’s 3rd period media class. I think he’d get an A but also probably a psychiatrist visit or two. To summarize: Machine Head is a decent party movie with the right kinds of friends and the right kinds of booze.

Rating: B+

Random Things

  • Machine Head is kind of a crummy monster.  He’s a re-animated corpse with a lawnmower engine strapped to his head.  All you’d have to do is pull his spark plugs out or put the wrong kind of gas in him and he’d be done…
  • I wasn’t kidding about the “look, there’s grandma again!” thing. She’s in the background for much of the science fair scene and is even shown driving away from the carnage, probably on her way to bingo night at the local Lutheran church.
  • Isn’t his dad going to notice that corpse has gone missing?
  • Isn’t the town going to notice his dad has gone missing?
  • So so many “actors” with snaggle teeth, weird moles, and clothes from the local K-Mart. Hollywood this ain’t…

To finish off, there is actually a metal band called Machine Head and they kept coming up when I was trying to Google info about this movie. Fun times!

Short Horror-o-Rama #2

Hey kids, it’s Wednesday again and that means another trek into the under appreciated world of the short form horror film! Once again I’ll be pulling from IMDB’s Most Popular Horror Short Films list and trying to find places online where you, yes you, can watch these at home yourself.  A splendid time is guaranteed for all.*

1.  Broken Night (2013)
Hey, who likes mind fucks? Well, here ya go. This 10 minute exercise in parental fear and driver safety finger wagging doesn’t work as well as it should because it’s just too damn slick looking, thanks to the use of a Nikon D800 digital camera to film the whole thing. The opening in particular looks exactly like a car commercial! It worked well enough to play at Sundance but in my opinion, it’s just “okay.”

2. Maniac (2011)
Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Shia LaBeouf as an actor, despite everyone telling me that I should be, but if this short is any indication, he’s got some chops as a director. Maniac is basically 10 minutes of disturbing graphic violence and not fun graphic violence either. It’s the type of graphic violence that would make most normal people sick to their stomachs. Unfortunately, I’ve been way too desensitized to that sort of thing for much onscreen to bother me anymore. My only quibble is that the film doesn’t seem to have much of a point beyond seeing how far it can go before the viewer shuts it off. That’s cool and all but something beyond that would have been nice as well.

3. Aftermath (1994)
Whoo boy, we’re getting into the nasties tonight, aren’t we? Aftermath is a sick little film and I’m not quite sure what to think of it. On the surface, it seems like a pointlessly disgusting piece of junk but it throws you for a loop because it’s so beautifully filmed and seems to have something to say about mortality and the value of human life. Or it could just be a grueling shock film about corpse mutilation and necrophilia. It’s supposed to be the middle of a trilogy, the other two films of which don’t seem as fucked up, judging by their synopsis’s. I’ve talked before about the thin line between art and exploitation but I can’t quite tell where this one stands. All I know is that the director’s first name is Nacho and that’s awesome either way.

4. The House That Drips Blood on Alex (2010)
Speaking of grueling, it’s a comedy horror movie starring our good friend Tommy Wiseau! He’s…not as funny when he’s trying to be. Neither is the script. It’s like that guy in the back of the class that makes dumbass comments and laughs at his own jokes even though everyone else wants to punch him in the throat. That dude made a movie and got Tommy Wiseau to star in it. Fucking Hell.

5. A Child’s Play Story: Chucky’s Revenge (2006)
Well tonight certainly ended on a crappy note. I’d cut this a lot of slack since it’s basically a backyard film but…it sucks. I’m sorry. If you’re going to homage a popular film, at least try and add something new into the mix, otherwise I could just pull out the original movies instead of bothering with the one you made. Especially if you’re going to steal it’s music and sound clips. Fucking Hell.

Well, that was interesting, to say the least. Join me next Wednesday when hopefully the films I find end up being a lot more fun to watch.

*Splendid time not actually guaranteed