Tagged: horror 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???

Blood Feast

Blood-Feast1

Video Nasty #1 of 72

Year of Release: 1963
Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Budget: $24,500
Run Time: 67 minutes
Alternate Titles: Originally advertised at drive-ins as Egyptian Blood Feast
UK Censorship Status: Released with 23 seconds cut in 2001. Re-released uncut in 2005.

We open on a woman returning home from somewhere (we later find out it was work). She takes off her coat and switches on the radio, which is broadcasting a warning about a psycho murderer roaming the streets. She gives a disgusted face and then shuts the radio off. Undisturbed, she disrobes and gets into the bathtub. She hasn’t soaked for very long when a shadow falls over her! It’s a man wielding a machete! He stabs her in the eye, killing her instantly and then hacks off one of her legs before leaving the scene. The camera lingers on the carnage like a teenage boy ogling his first pair of breasts. Cue opening titles…
For anyone familiar with slasher films, this scene is going to produce a bit of deja vu. It’s a pretty basic set up and nasty pay off that you can find in about a million cheap gore films made throughout the 70’s and 80’s. The thing is, this isn’t either of those decades, this is 1963!
One of the many amazing things about Blood Feast is that there was really no precedent for its existence. There had been splatter films made before in Japan but nothing on this level had ever been seen in American cinemas, especially with the stranglehold the Production Code had held there since the mid 1930’s. This is even more amazing if you know that the Code hadn’t even been abolished yet! It was a few years before a slew of more mainstream films started chipping away at the censorship board and a full five years before the new ratings system was put into place. For all its many faults director Herschell Gordon Lewis’ and producer David F. Friedman’s cheap little slasher really was ground breaking and oddly historically significant. But how does it stand up after decades of imitations and rip-offs that followed in it’s wake?

To give you an idea of how wonderfully loopy this film is, you should know that a large plot point centers on an evil book club! Not just any evil book club, however. This one is run by a Mr. Fuad Rhamses (Mal Arnold who also appeared in Lewis’s sickie Scum of the Earth), exotic caterer extraordinaire. Of course, a loopy movie needs a loopy villain and boy does Rhamses ever fit the part! If his habit of cutting apart members on his book club list to revive Egyptian goddess Ishtar (not actually an Egyptian goddess) wasn’t enough, Arnold imbibes the character with what’s possibly the very essence of camp, before camp was even invented. He seems to be relishing every bit of goofy dialogue that comes out of his mouth and chews the scenery with gleeful abandon. But my favorite thing about this character is that he’s supposed to be an old man but he’s really a young man who’s hair (and eyebrows!) have been unconvincingly spray painted grey! Besides his limp, and the times people mention his age, there’s no other indication that he’s supposed to be a senior citizen! So there’s your first slasher movie villain, how about the victims?
Well, the main one is 1963 Playboy playmate of the month Connie Mason, who certainly wasn’t cast for her acting abilities because, well, she really has none. At all. Her performance can probably best be described as somewhere between a small child reading off a Teleprompter and someone with a bit part in a school play. Even the other actors were reportedly bothered by her lack of skill, which is really saying something since no one in this movie can act their way out of a paper bag!
As Fuad moves through a series of nubile young things, most with beehive hairdos, chopping off body parts along the way he still has to manage his business which, in a rather convoluted way, leads him to cater a party for Connie Mason. Mason, in another bit of coincidence that should shock nobody, is also dating the police detective (former sideshow barker William Kerwin who eventually married Mason) that’s trying to solve the recent string of brutal murders! Oh the humanity! (As a side note: everybody in this film seems to know everybody. It’s like everything that happens onscreen is self contained in it’s own cheap bloody universe!)

To be blunt, Blood Feast is not a very good movie in the strictest sense of the word. Lewis was never a great director at the best of times and his first stab at a horror film after years and years of nudie movies is shaky at best. The sets are dirt cheap, the acting is grade school level, and the screenplay is atrocious. Everything about the film is just…tacky. It’s like John Waters before John Waters started making movies. The difference is that Waters is a talented film maker that makes campy trash on purpose while I doubt Lewis could have possibly made anything else!
But it’s hard to complain when everything is just so much goddamn fun. And that’s really the difference between this and a lot of the nasty trash that came out in its wake. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie now and I still laugh like an idiot every time I watch it. One really gets the feeling that the whole movie is just one big joke and indeed there’s a certain sick gleefulness to every frame of the movie that gives this away. It’s hard to imagine anybody writing and delivering lines like “Have you ever had…an EGYPTIAN FEAST?” or “Well Frank this looks like another one of those long hard ones!” without knowing that it was goofy as all get out. This isn’t a serious movie at all and anyone looking for meaning beyond giving a middle finger to basic human decency with one hand while grabbing piles of cash with the other should have their tongue ripped out and put into a stew pot.

So, yes. I would say that Blood Feast holds up really well in sort of an odd way. Even the gore, while incredibly cheap, is surprisingly plentiful and quite explicit, even by today’s standards (check out that tongue ripping scene! Yeesh!). While I don’t think this is the best Lewis/Friedman collaboration, that would probably be 1964’s Two Thousand Maniacs!, it’s still one of my very favourite films and a damn good one to start this project out with.
I’m still not sure why it’s on the Nasties list while stuff like Lewis’s The Gore Gore Girls or The Wizard of Gore aren’t but that’s really the magic of censorship, isn’t it? It’s wonderfully nonsensical in both the best and worst ways.

Watch the Trailer Here

Random things

  • Out of all the bad acting in this movie my favorite is probably the guy who’s girlfriend gets killed on the beach. Dude over acts so hard it’s almost like his head is going to explode!
  • To give you an idea of just how wonderfully cheap Blood Feast was, there’s a dream sequence where a woman gets stabbed on an alter…and the knife is very obviously plastic!
  • While there’s very little nudity on display, it’s very obvious in some places that the film’s producer and director both came from the sexploitation industry. There’s a whipping scene in particular that’s almost kinky!
  • Lewis on his own movie: “I’ve often referred to Blood Feast as a Walt Whitman poem. It’s no good, but it was the first of its type.” Ouch!

Next Time: Andy Milligan’s The Ghastly Ones

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!

Chill (2007)

Poster
“Horror goes retro?” What the fuck does that even mean?

The Lovecraftian horror film isn’t a genre that is very highly regarded, mostly because it’s one that’s filled up with a few winners and a lot of really awful crap. The man’s purple prose and monsters that can drive a man insane with a single glance, as well as his fantastic racism, make his work notably hard to adapt to the screen.  Basically the rule is: “If it’s not Stuart Gordon, it’s not going to be very good.” Therefore, I didn’t have very high expectations for this one, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. At least partially, anyways…

Chill is a movie that’s really much better than it has any right to be. An uncredited (at least on my DVD case) adaption of HP Lovecraft’s Cool Air, the film revolves around a drifter and former doctor that finds his way into an armpit of a town, full of pimps, hookers, and asshole cops. The grocery store where he applies to work is run by a dude in a cape that goes out at night with his stitched together assistant to pick up girls so he can steal their skin. Awesome! There’s also this girl that turns out to be sweet on him, and conveniently works in a shop next door. She also has a creepy stalker that also happens to be a cop, played by freaking James Russo, of all people! It’s interesting that a film like this would dare to have two villains in the same story and Russo is actually much much creepier than the cheesy main bad guy, but it turns out the cop is just there to be more slasher meat anyways. Boo.
And this is the real problem with this film. The first half is actually pretty creepy and well done, almost a mystery horror story, and it’s all set up pretty well. It’s low budget actually works for the film rather than against it, for once, creating a nice tense atmosphere and making it grittier than it would normally be. And then it all goes out the window and we’re subject to the same problems that a lot of no budget films tend to have. The pace gets rushed so we can have a bunch of action climaxes, the most interesting character gets offed, and the ending is really stupid and goes on for way too long. There’s also the matter of some really god awful CGI, which probably wasn’t the director’s fault, but my god, he couldn’t have thought any of it was acceptable. A note to future directors: CGI flames and explosions look really fucking terrible!  Just set a model on fire or something! It worked for over 100 years!

So in the end what we have is a film that really really really wants to be good but just can’t quite get there. Honestly, I think maybe the script needed a bunch of re-writes. I still think it’s a fun watch, what with all the gore and nudity and weird freaking story, but it could have been so much better. And that’s always frustrating.

Rating: C+

Random Things

  • Pfft, “Horror goes retro.” Pfft, I say. Pfft.
  • Hey, guess what? Timmy Wiseau is in the credits for providing camera equipment! I’m not quite sure if it’s that Tommy Wiseau since it’s not listed on his IMDB page, but how many damn Tommy Wiseau’s work on low budget films in Hollywood? There’s also someone listed as “Erik Porn.” Snicker. I’m such a 12 year old…
  • Man, I’ve seen this thing sitting in just about every place you’d normally find dollar DVDs in this area. It must be more than just me buying them. Right? Sometimes all you have to live on is hope…

Short Horror-o-Rama #3

Hello kiddies! It’s time for more short horror films! This week we’ve got a whole steaming batch of backyard fan flicks mixed in with a couple of neat music videos. Have fun, and as always, stay safe when you play in traffic!

1. Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash (2011)
Ah, trademark infringing fan films, they warm my heart. Well, sometimes they do. This one isn’t that bad for a fan wish fulfilment thing. The props and the acting are strictly budget Halloween store but you at least get the feeling that it was made with love.  And that isn’t that the most important thing? Until Hollywood gets off it’s lazy remake puking ass, this is the best version of this idea we are going to get, sadly…

2. The Nightmare Ends on Halloween II (2011)
Chris R. Notarile’s work continues to impress me. This is another famous slasher film villain fan mashup but the production values are much higher than in Freddy vs. Jason vs. Spongebob and Notarile once again shows that he has real directing chops. For what it’s worth, I also really dig  Roberto Lombardi’s Freddy. A pretty fun little short all around.

3. Time to Dance (2012)
Jake Gyllenhaal hates hipsters. Jake Gyllenhaal goes to stupid hipster parties. Jake Gyllenhaal kills hipsters. Jake Gyllenhaal goes back home and thinks about what he’s done.  That’s pretty much it. Hey, at least the music’s catchy and there’s a bit of style to the whole thing. Wait, was this scripted or were they just filming a typical weekend for Jake Gyllenhaal?  Hopefully he got his hipster hunting license from the DNR and he’s only bagging his limit…

4. The Last of Us (2012)
Hooray, another fan film! (Just a bit of sarcasm there). This one is for a video game that I’ve never heard of. While it’s cool that people are making stuff like this, it’s like listening to cover bands. They might be good, but they’re still just doing other people’s songs instead of their own. It’s my sincere hope that these filmmakers use this stuff as stepping stones to better things.
On that note, this one is just okay even if it feels a bit too much like a video game you can’t play. Gotta love a bit of the old ultra-violence though.

5. Ghosts (AKA Michael Jackson’s Ghosts) (1997)
After Thriller, Michael Jackson promised his church that he would never make anything horror related ever again since they threw such a big stink about it being demonic and against God. By the mid-90’s, their influence must have waned because here came Ghosts, Jackson’s attempt to out do his previous attempt at a horror music video.  With a story by Stephen King and a screenplay and special effects by the amazing Stan Winston (who also directed) it seems like Ghosts should have been just as ground shaking. Bigger is better, right? Except that didn’t turn out to be true. What happened?
I think the problem lies with Jackson himself. Like a lot of his later work Ghosts is pretty much “The Michael Jackson Show, starring Michael Jackson as Michael Jackson” (he plays a total of five characters!) Therefore, it isn’t half as much fun as Thriller was unless you really buy into Jackson’s ego and the idea that the entire world was picking on him for being “weird” (Which he kind of brought down on himself anyways).
It’s not all bad, however. Stan Winston’s makeup is still incredible even if the digital effects really show their age. The music is also very good, even if it’s not up to the level of his earlier work, and Jackson’s dancing is still shit hot.
When you get right down to it though, Ghosts is still just an amusing curiosity instead of the groundbreaking piece it really should have been. Plus it played before screenings of Thinner. That could not have helped it’s reputation.

That’s it for this week. I really hope you all had as much fun as I had and didn’t eat the poison dates I set out on the table. Or was that poison grapes? Oh well. I’m sure you’ll all be fine.