Wednesday, March 19, 2014


FATHER'S DAY (2011) (NR) Dirs. Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matthew Kennedy, Steven Kostanski, and Conor Sweeney
99 mins.

Like House of the Devil and Hobo with a Shotgun before it, Father's Day is recorded with the aesthetic of a late 70's or early 80's grindhouse flick. Specifically, it 's made to look like it was taped off the TV with a VHS, channel bumpers and all. There is even a fake trailer halfway through the film, a la the movie Grindhouse. Everything looks authentic; the film's frames are scratched and linty, the colors are saturated to a ridiculous degree, there are jittery splices in the footage, and the score is pure Moogy deliciousness.
The story revolves around the legend of the Fuchman. Chris Fuchman to be precise, an obese necrophile who likes to kidnap fathers, rape and kill them. When Fuchman kills a priest and kidnaps stripper Chelsea from the club she works at, it's up to three intrepid heroes, film noir reject and Chelsea's brother Ahab, male hooker Twink, and Father John, to rescue her and stop the Fuchman.

They follow in hot pursuit of Fuchman and Chelsea following the abduction, chasing Fuchman's truck, but ultimately lose him and fail to rescue Ahab's sister. The day is fading, so they pitch camp until morning. During the night, Twink and Father John eat hallucinogens and fuck.
The next day, they follow Fuchman's trail to a waterslide park, where they discover a corpse and a terribly wounded Chelsea. Ahab engages a fleeing Fuchman, unleashing a flurry of handgun rounds and shotgun shells into his body. After Fuchman falls, Ahab stomps in his skull and hurls the body off the side of a ledge.
The trio's victory is short-lived, although, as it is discovered that the Fuchman is actually a demon of sorts, a spirit that is reborn each generation. He has Chelsea's soul and is using her as his vessel. Yet Fuchman is in Hell. So Hell ahoy! Ahab and the boys load up a pistol and prepare to kill the Fuchman, on his home turf, and end his reincarnations.

Father's Day is vile, disgusting and hilarious. It revels in breaking taboos and making the audience uncomfortable. Male on male rape, Catholic homosexuality, abortion, genital mutilation, and incest, all make their appearances. The gore is both cartoonish and gruesome. The whole movie is brilliantly shot and edited, and the comedy mostly hits its mark. The acting is hammily self-aware and the many homages and parodies (i.e. Escape From New York, Twin Peaks, Phantasm) are clever and respectful.
Easily recommendable to gorehounds, Troma fiends, and fans of black humor. It's a goldmine, but as with most of Troma's fare, it's definitely not for the squeamish. 7/10

THE BLACK 6 (1973)

THE BLACK 6 (1973) (R) Dir. Matt Cimber
94 mins.

After a white girl's brother discovers that her boyfriend is black, he and his biker cronies beat the man to death with chain links. Later, the victim's estranged older brother Bubba, leader of the Vietnam vet biker gang the Black 6, receives the news. He makes his way home with his gang in tow to reconcile with his family and find out what happened to his little brother, Eddie.
Since the murder occurred on the local high school's football field, Bubba first questions the coach. The coach is little help, so Bubba petitions the police to no avail, but he does learn that the murderers were bikers. What does he do next? He goes bar-hopping, of course.
Bubba meets up with an old drunkard at the bar #1, who tells him that his high school sweetheart Lucille might have some answers. Bubba leaves to find her. He finds and threatens her pimp, Copperhead, in bar #2. Copperhead spills her whereabouts and off goes our hero. Bubba finds Lucille and she informs him that Eddie's girlfriend was named Jenny King. He drops Lucille off with his mother and heads for Jenny's workplace: bar #3.
This has got to be the breeziest investigation ever, as at the bar the gang responsible for Eddie's death are all there. It's quickly revealed to Bubba that Jenny's brother and his friends are the killers (they practically brag). The rest of the Black 6 arrive to back Bubba up against the gang, but before they can scrap, the police enter and break up the ruckus.
Later, the white gang meets up with another biker gang run by a strange fellow called Thor. The two gangs form an alliance to bring down the Black 6. They send two envoy riders to invite the 6 to meet up and talk things out, in what is clearly a trap. Yet the 6 bite, and they head off on their bikes much to the dismay of Bubba's mother and sister.
What follows is one of the most frustrating endings I've seen in a while. The lighting is so terrible, I found myself gazing at the screen in wonder for roughly ten seconds before I realized that I was looking at the front of a motorcycle. Shitty lighting, shitty fight choreography, and the sudden piss poor editing make the whole climax pretty incomprehensible. After killing many dozens of his fellow racist bikers, a desperate gang member rides his bike, with a flare in its gas tank, at the Black 6.  The motorcycle explodes in (what I assume is) midair, and the movie's over. It's so sudden, so abrupt and it really squanders all of the momentum built up during the first eighty minutes. A shame.
The actors portraying the 6 were all NFL stars of the day (their teams are listed in the opening credits), so understandably their acting is a bit wooden at best. Gene Washington is clearly the most charismatic of the bunch and he basically carries most of the film. The supporting cast is great though, and the actors portraying Lucille, Bubba's mother, the Coach, and Jenny all stand out for their strong performances.
The Black 6 dwells in the realm of comedy for its first third and but gets a bit darker as the film progresses. The transition is not handled well and all of the plot's setups do not pay off. Unfortunately, what could have been a great murder/revenge film is marred by bad pacing, a lack of any mystery surrounding the killers, slapstick segments (mostly early on), and most of all, a muddled and unfinished climax. Yet is has so much potential. If any cult classic should be remade, it's this one. 4/10


DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1912) (NR) Dir. Lucius Henderson
12 mins.

Though there have been a couple film adaptations of Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before the 1912 version, this is the only one to have survived, so far. Directed by Lucius Henderson and starring future director James Cruze as the doomed doctor, the film serves as a cornerstone to not only horror, but to narrative cinema itself.

Dr. Jekyll is in his lab, reading up on the effects of different drugs. He is a able to concoct a new substance that separates the good half of a person from his/her evil half. Upon testing the formula, Jekyll turns into his criminal shadow-self, Mr. Hyde. He checks out his new visage in a mirror, and having succeeded in his experiment, ingests an antidote and returns to his Jekyll form. Jekyll immediately jots down his results.

However, experimenting with the drug over the course of a few months, Jekyll begins to transform into Hyde unwillingly. While studying one day, Hyde emerges. It's interesting to note that you can physically see Jekyll struggling for control over the Hyde personality. Kudos to James Cruze for being able to portray that in a matter of a few seconds. Hyde wins out and, after tearing Jekyll's notes, runs amok in the town streets, where he attacks a little girl. He scurries off, evades capture, and using the antidote reverts back into Jeckyll.
Later, when meeting with his fiancée, Jekyll begins to suffer from one of his spells. He runs off out of sight and transforms. As Hyde, he attacks his wife-to-be, and when her minister father intervenes, Hyde strangles him to death.

A policeman chases a fleeing Hyde to Jekyll's house, but when he reaches it, Hyde has already ingested the antidote. Dr. Jekyll appears and reassures the officer that Hyde is not there. Knowing now that he will never rid himself of Hyde, Jekyll arranges to meet his fiancée and break it off. During their meeting, he must again run off to avoid endangering her. He gets back to his house in time and morphs.
Inside Jekyll's home, Hyde finds that he has run out of antidote and must remain in this form indefinitely. Hyde trashes the lab and Jekyll's butler fetches the police. In desperation, as police ax down the laboratory door, Hyde drinks a flask of poison and dies.
Even at twelve minutes there is a lot going on in the adaptation. The pacing is very fast, especially for its time. Blink and you will miss scenes. The Hyde makeup is excellent, I can imagine very creepy for 1912 audiences, and the big dissolve used to show the initial Jekyll's initial transformation is groundbreaking. At this point, horror cinema is still in its infancy, but its teeth are starting to come in. 7/10   


THE EXECUTION OF MARY STUART (1895) (NR) Dir. Alfred Clark
18 sec.

This is arguably the very first horror film ever made, and it was produced by American inventor Thomas Edison. The idea that Edison invented the horror film is mind-twisting. Why didn't they tell me that in elementary school? The Execution of Mary Stuart consists of only one scene and runs about eighteen seconds. Interesting enough, you could also call it the world's first exploitation and splatter film.
It's 1587. A group stands around a blindfolded Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots. The blindfold is removed and she kneels at a chopping block before her. The executioner raises his ax and beheads Mary for treason against Queen Elizabeth. He then picks the head up and holds it aloft.
That's it. Through clever early editing (this is oft considered to be the very first edited film), the actress playing Mary is substituted with a dummy, so that the decapitation can occur on camera. Wow. A hundred, and almost a quarter, years have passed since then and directors still use that dummy trick. Sorry H.G. Lewis.... the dynamic duo, Clark and Edison, did it first. 8/10

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


DON'T GO TO SLEEP (1982) (NR) Dir. Richard Lang
93 mins.

This made for TV movie is brought to us by none other than Mr. 90210 himself, Aaron Spelling, and was originally aired on the ABC network. The plot follows Phillip and Laura, a married couple with three kids. Well, two kids now, because a year ago, a car accident left their eldest, Jennifer, deceased. The two surviving children, Kevin and Mary, leave the city with their parents, who have decided to make a fresh start and settle into a new house in a more quiet, rural setting (house number 13666, no less). Along for the mooch is also Laura's mother, who makes a sport out of taunting the newly sober Phillip.

After the five move in, the youngest, Mary, starts hearing noises and a gravely voice calling her name at night. She screams for help, and the alarmed parents burst in her room to find Mary's bed aflame. She is rescued, and the fire squelched. Lacking any clear explanation for the occurrence, the couple have Mary retire to her brother's bedroom for the evening, but it is not long before the disturbances begin anew. Mary starts convulsing and yelling for help. When Kevin retrieves the skeptical Phil and Laura, they find Mary sound asleep and with no evidence to corroborate Kevin's story. Kevin vows payback.

So the next day, Kevin makes some (allegedly) spooky sounds on his tape recorder. That night he plays them to torment his little sister. He smirks as he feigns sleep and eavesdrops on Mary being scolded for her outburst.

On the third night, as Kevin runs off to tattle on his sister for freaking out again, Mary musters her courage and investigates the noises, which seem to be originating from beneath her brother's bunk bed. There she meets the apparition--her dead sister Jennifer, smiling intently.
When she is discovered by her parents, Mary tries to convince them that she saw Jennifer, but to no avail. Not knowing how to deal with their daughter's apparently increasing break with reality, the parents argue about seeking psychiatric help. Meanwhile, a spectral Jennifer continues to visit the confused child. She is able to convince Mary that not only is she indeed real, but that if she wants Jennifer to stay for good this time, Mary's going to have to dispose of any person that gets between them. This does not bode well for the other members of the family... who are all growing weary of Mary's antics.

As time goes on, Mary becomes more and more possessed by the spirit of Jennifer. She starts to rationalize her previous supernatural encounters. She cleverly eludes her psychiatrist's inquiries during their visits. By night she is concocting schemes with Jennifer to eliminate her pesky family members. Grandmother first, then that snitch Kevin. It's not long before she sets her murderous sights on dear ol' Dad. Laura eventually discovers what has been going on and is able to escape. Young Mary is hospitalized. During the film's denouement, we see what really happened to Jennifer the night she died in that car accident, and ladies and gents, it's fucked up. This is grim stuff for television, especially for 1982.
Don't Go To Sleep, like Dark Night of the Scarecrow, is a great example of less is more. In lieu of elaborate gore or special effects, we instead get fleshed out characters, great acting and a legitimate creepiness that is far more tangible here than in horror films that have ten times the budget. Dennis Weaver and Roth Gordon are excellent per usual, but Robin Ignico's Mary is superbly executed. Her fear during the initial hauntings is vividly pronounced and totally believable, and her frenzied, schizophrenic monologue at the climax of the film would be impressive for the most veteran of actors, let alone a child of her age.
Another great early 80's TV movie. Sort of like a fleshed out Twilight Zone episode meets an episode of Dark Shadows. The music is full of melodrama. It's soap-operatic. The cinematography is average for television, but the lighting is very well done, and the film's arguably scariest moments are accomplished by lighting (and good acting) alone. The conclusion is a near-Shakespearean tragedy. I mean, I truthfully feel bad for the mother, Laura. Jesus, lady. Sucks to be you. 7/10

SCHRAMM (1994)

SCHRAMM (1994) (NR)
Dir. Jorg Buttgereit
65 mins.
The only other Jorg Buttgereit film I've seen so far is Nekromantik, and as much as I enjoyed that film, Schramm is easily the better of the two. The production values are higher, the acting, much more somber and realistic, and the camera movement and projection effects are incredible. The movie feels like a mixture of William Lustig's Maniac and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, with a few drops of Fulci-esque gore. It's invasive, grim and uncomfortably personal, as we follow the sad life and death of the Lipstick Killer, Lothar Schramm. 

We are introduced to the titular character, a prosthetic leg-wearing cab driver, who, when he's not running in marathons or driving his prostitute friend Marianne to various jobs, is in his apartment, ejaculating onto Sears catalogues or cleaning the semen out of his inflatable vagina. Fortunately for society, Schramm is now dying, having fallen off of a step ladder while painting over some bloodstains in his apartment. Seems his prosthetic came loose, and he snapped his neck upon impact with the floor. As he slowly departs this coil, Lothar's brain floods with flashbacks of his life and the events leading up to his fall.
These flashbacks are apparently random at first, but as the film progresses we begin to flesh out a timeline. We see Lothar doing normal things like showering, going to dinner or seeing his dentist. We also see him nail his foreskin to a table... and drug and rape Marianne (his only friend, mind you). The juxtaposition of everyday tediums with his shadow life of criminal perversion is striking, to say the least. Lothar's increasing levels of delusion lead to the double murder of two Christian missionaries in his apartment. It was their stains he was painting over. Towards the climax, as the dying killer's consciousness finally dims, we see some final flashbacks to Lothar as a boy, playing with crabs by the shore with, what I assume, is his family. And we see the wildflowers that grew there, suggesting that Luthor used to be innocent once, too. It begs the question, what happened to this guy that made him so fucked up? There are no real answers, you are left to speculate, and this makes him much more interesting than your average Norman Bates clone.

There is also a quasi-afterlife scene that I don't know what to make of.

The story is simple, but interesting, the writing and acting are up to par, and the special effects are effective and fun, but the real standout in this feature is the direction and editing. It looks as though Jorg projected the movie onto a piece of warping plexiglass, creating motion blurs, trails, and proportional distortions that make for a very psychedelic experience. Even the subtitles stretch with the picture. It's an incredible way to force the audience to sympathize with Lothar's condition, as the camera emulates his own hallucinatory view of his environment.

Schramm is definitely a splatter movie, but it's equally an art film. If you're into disturbing and disorienting films, this is like foie grois. Definitely an benchmark work for the genre. The visuals are amazing, the actors are fearless... and there is a rubber vagina monster, with teeth and tentacles, living in Schramm's lipstick drawer. Can't forget to mention that. 8/10

Sunday, March 16, 2014


THE REDEEMER: SON OF SATAN (1978) (R) Dir. Constantine S. Gochis
84 mins.

This is a weird movie. It's been speculated to be a religious film, but that's debatable. Six adults attend their ten year class reunion at their old high school, only to find there's no one there but them. They enter the banquet hall, pig out, and it begins to dawn on them that something might be wrong. They begin to investigate, and soon the former students realize they are locked and barred inside the school, with no way out, and there is a killer after them.... for SOME reason.
Seriously, they can't figure it out, and even after the denouement, I couldn't either. There are both a prologue and epilogue to the movie that just discombobulate the plot further. Basically, a thespian/priest, who had attended the same school and grade as his victims, is attacking them for living sinful lives. One girl is a lesbian, another is vain, one man is a lawyer, another is gay, etc. Apparently that is the motive. I kept waiting for a "you picked on me in high school" motive, as even the characters speculate that to be so. But no, unless I somehow missed it.
The editing is atrocious, but it fits in context with the grainy footage, muted yet oversaturated colors, and choppy narrative. It's surreal, if anything, and it does add a certain dream-like atmosphere to the clichéd slasher proceedings. There is little gore, but one scene in the school lavatory is brutally violent and well-executed. Props to both actors in that scene. The ending is impenetrable. Once the redeemer is finished with his work, there is a prologue that not only reveals his identity (as if the audience didn't know by now), but suggests he might have accomplices as well. Oh, and something about a curse involving a third thumb. An odd final note to end an odd movie.
The killer is played by T.G. Finkbinder, who is now a high school teacher, and although some of his performance is heavy-handed, some it works as well. As an actor, I'm sure he jumped at the role, as the redeemer dresses differently in almost every scene he shows up in, and every costume the killer wears is like new personality.
The movie also begs the question, 'do the writer and director sympathize with the priest?' If so, is this a Christian horror movie? Like the ending, this question will probably never be answered. I do know that the original title of the film was simply The Redeemer, and it was filmed in 1976. However, it was not released until 1978, after The Exorcist made a huge splash, so the producers added the 'Son of Satan' subtitle to cash-in on the Satanic horror boom late that decade. In reality, the concept of Satan has nothing to do with this film; if anything, it deals with sin and redemption.
Would I recommend this film? Perhaps to hardcore horror completists and fans of the surreal. It's not particularly well written, shot or acted, but it does have a feeling that separates it from other no-budgeted films of its time. It's a shame the director Gochis didn't make more films after this one, because as flawed as it is, it shows promise. 5/10

Saturday, March 15, 2014


NINJA TERMINATOR (1985) (UR) Dir. Godfrey Ho
87 mins.

The Ninja Empire has acquired the Golden Ninja Warrior, a statue in three parts, which, when combined, grant a ninja the Supreme Ninja Art, aka imperviousness to blades. Three students of the Empire, led by Ninja Master Harry, steal the artifact, each absconding with a separate piece. Ninja Master Harry claims that the Empire has become evil, and he wants to reclaim the honor of the Ninja Empire by reforming the cabal with the help of the Supreme Ninja Art. The rest of the movie is just a slew of absurd fight scenes as the Ninja Empire send their forces to retrieve the Golden Ninja Warrior and kill Ninja Master Harry and his two accomplices. And there's a toy robot that delivers ninja threats. And a ninja Garfield phone. Just sayin'.

Ninja Terminator is spliced together using footage from the 1984 South Korean film Uninvited Guest, as well as new footage that Ho shot with three Western actors, including the unintentionally hilarious Richard Harrison as Ninja Master Harry. Ho then wrote a completely new plot and overdubbed the film entirely. I have to say, the music in this movie was quite good, and quite stolen from a great deal many sources, like Star Wars, A Clockwork Orange, Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. So.. obscure Korean footage, new Westerner footage, overdubs, and stolen music. This is the formula for Ho's infamous era of "ninja" cut and paste films (he has directed many other, more competent projects); quick, cheap, and efficient.

Apparently Ho meant these films to be serious and to have international appeal. Instead they have become cult classics and Ninja Terminator, in particular, is widely considered to be the best of the bunch. Much of the film is like a fever dream, so colorful, so strange, so explicit and yet so hard to completely recall... It's a hodgepodge of awesome fights, incomprehensible storytelling, magic and stinky cheese gently sautéed and served over a bowl of whatthefuckery. This is a must see for fans of the gut-wrenchingly inept. A disasterpiece of the highest order, Ninja Terminator proudly joins the moldy ranks of the great pantheon of distaste. 7/10 


KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) (PG) Dir. John "Bud" Cardos
97 mins.

I remember being royally freaked out when I caught Kingdom of the Spiders on cable in the late 80's. Now, many years later, I find it a charming addition to the killer wildlife subgenre of horror. No doubt riding the coattails of movies like Frogs, Jaws, band Grizzly, this oft-forgotten film has its own furry little charm and is quite possibly the main inspiration for 1990's Arachnophobia.

This time Shatner is playing Rack Hansen, a veterinarian in a small Arizonian town. When local farmer Colby calls him concerning a sick cow, Rack is baffled by its condition. The cow dies, and Rack sends blood samples to a university for a more thorough analysis.
The university dispatches a young specialist named Diane, who informs Rack that the cow died from a spider venom that is five times its normal potency. They soon discover that the normally cannibalistic spiders are organizing into colonies like ants or bees, and that farmer Colby has an assload of these spider hives in his fields. Diane suggests that the spiders migrated to this town in search of a food source, their usual menu having been depleted because of DDT testing.

A few deaths later and the mayor, trying to save face in light of an upcoming county fair, attempts to solve the problem by sending local pilot, Baron, up with enough insecticide to blanket the areas surrounding the town. Unfortunately for Baron, he isn't flying alone.

After failing to air raid the infestation, the spiders take the offensive and completely invade the town. This is where the movie really shines. Panic ensues; the residents are all rioting, cocooned bodies lay in the street, the police are helpless, and outside reinforcements do not appear to be coming. During the climax, Rack and Diane hold up in an inn with the owner and an out-of-town couple. In scenes reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead, they make numerous attempts to fortify the building; plugging entry ways, boarding up windows and gathering supplies. The spider attacks seem to be tapering off... The ending is grim and apocalyptic, and it practically begs for a sequel.
Shatner tried to make that happen for thirteen years, but the possibility collapsed along with its production company Cannon Films in 1990. RIP KOTS II.

It has cheesy establishing dialogue, slow pacing and some cheap effects (take a drink every time you notice a fake tarantula), but it also has that aforementioned charm, the unquestionable charisma of the Shatness, a few memorable scares, and an exciting, wholly satisfying climax and ending. A warning to the squeamish though: this film was made before there were strict animal rights codes in cinema and there are quite a few squishings on-screen. The filmmakers claim to have taken every precaution to avoid tarantula deaths, but if you look for them, they are there. When it comes to cruelty towards animals, Cannibal Holocaust ain't got nothing on this. 6/10



DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981) (UR) Dir. Frank De Felitta
96 mins.

Long before Darkman and Dr. Giggles, Larry Drake portrayed a mentally challenged thirty-six year old in the CBS TV movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow. Drake is Bubba Ritter, an large fellow with the mind of a child, and he spends his days playing with his close friend, Marylee, picking flowers in the fields and exploring the neighborhood. This comes much to the chagrin of some of the locals, most notably the postman Otis (Charles Durning), who suggests to the others that Bubba will eventually harm, or even rape her. When Marylee is mauled by a dog in a neighbor's yard, Bubba saves her and brings her to her mother, but he can't properly explain himself. Bubba is quickly blamed for her injuries, and a lynch mob is formed by Otis and his three dim-witted cohorts, Skeeter, Philby, and Harliss.

Mama Ritter, knowing of the incoming danger (as these men have been tormenting Bubba for years), has her son disguise himself as a scarecrow in the field behind their farm. Unfortunately, Otis and company have with them bloodhounds, and soon discover the rouse. All four men unload a flurry of bullets into the Bubba scarecrow> Shortly after, they are informed over their CB radio that Bubba had actually saved Marylee and was not responsible for the attack. Panicking, the men swear absolute secrecy, and by planting a pitchfork in Bubba's dead hand, attempt to pose the murder as an act of self defense.
A trial is held, and the men are found innocent due to a lack of evidence. The district attorney swears vengeance, and Mama Ritter swears vengeance, but the men laugh it off and go about their lives. That is, until one day a mysterious scarecrow shows up in Harliss' wheat fields... and Harliss suspiciously dies. The police are convinced it was a drunken accident, but Philby and Skeeter are convinced it's a murder. If so, was is the district attorney? Bubba's mother? The mysterious Marylee is claiming she still plays with Bubba... what else does she know? Has he returned from the dead seeking justice?
For a TV movie, this film is fantastic. I was a bit skeptical at first and didn't know what to expect. Yet although it starts on Bambi legs (feeling like a Wonderful World of Disney special), Dark Night of the Scarecrow eventually gains its momentum and delivers a ghost yarn with a tight and tense atmosphere. All this, despite the miniscule budget, awful soundtrack and lack of any on-screen violence. The story is spooky and classic, (a murder/revenge from the grave plot), the acting is solid (especially by Larry Drake), the stalking/death scenes are anxious and well executed, and the final reels are definitely spiked with a few shots of nightmare fuel. There are even a few twists. Recommended to enthusuiasts for its earnestness and its creep-factor, and also as a testament to the legitimacy of made for TV horror. 6/10

Thursday, March 13, 2014


CHRIST - THE MOVIE (1990) (UR) Dir. Mick Duffield
82 mins.

Crass was a punk band formed in the late 70's that espoused a philosophy of anarchism, feminism, pacifism, and anti-commercialism louder than any of their peers at the time. There is no "liking" Crass, it would seem; people either love them or hate them. Cacophony reigned supreme at their shows, and at any given time there could be up to four singers on stage, backed by a wall of guitars and bass and incessant snare rolls. Behind all that hootenanny would be, projected on a large screen, short films depicting gruesome images and sounds of the human condition. Those short films formed a trilogy, and were compiled by director Mick Duffield into Christ - The Movie, six years after the band broke up.

The first and second parts of the trilogy are called Autopsy and Choosing Death, respectively. They are relatively similar in tone. The footage is mostly Duffield using a camera to film a television, pretty much any random program on it, and then editing the footage into a preapocalyptic wakeup call to the viewer. There is a lot of juxtaposition going on; sitcoms are juxtaposed with slaughterhouse footage, and commercials with stock war footage. Inevitably, analogies are made between the two and the results are disturbing, to say the least. Duffield also employs a lot of stock footage, and sparsely drops a few bits of Crass live in there as well. Crass is arguably one of the first rock bands to employ samples, and many of them are included here, sometimes in their original context, and they're mixed and spliced with sweeping ambient and industrial noise.

Yes Sir, I Will, which constitutes a bulk of this movie, is a little different. Whereas the last two segments had little of Crass' music, this one actually plays the Yes Sir, I Will album in its entirety whilst Duffield's trippy and violent images strobe, seemingly in step with the jarring beats. Since this album is only one-track and filled with rants against the War in the Falklands, the footage has less sarcasm than the last two in the trilogy, and is instead more directly political. It's very basically comprised of war footage, atrocities and casualties (a lot of atomic bomb victims living and dead are shown throughout all three segments of the film), military pomp, and political leaders. There's a few other things in there as well. This is the longest segment, and although I like it, I don't think it is as strong as the satirical cynicism of the first two.

Yet, overall I love this film. Many hate it, but fuck them. It's not for everybody. Much of the real-life gore could be offensive to some viewers, but then why are you on this blog? The unrelenting visual and aural barrages, the choppy editing, and the post-atomic angst are meant as an affront to the audience's senses, and it accomplishes that goal in spades. For me, it's just fun to look at. I'd call this Tripscreen, but I bet for a lot of folks this is the brown acid. 7/10


MIRAI NINJA (1988) (UR) Dir. Keita Amemiya
72 mins.

Mirai Ninja is a live action scifi/fantasy, sort-of in the style of The Guyver. Therefore expect guys in rubber costumes. Though I normally associate rubber suits with schlock like the Power Rangers, here it's actually pulled off rather well; I am especially impressed with the fight choreography, considering the giant, bulky costumes and headpieces the actors are wearing.
The film's aesthetic is a nice mix of medieval Japan and futurist technology. Samurais carry both katana and phaser rifles, and wear little readers on the side of their heads that read their ki levels, a la Dragonball Z. ...And there are crazy mechanized vehicles. There are flying houses, tank houses, giant pagoda railguns, and AT-AT Walkers made out of little wooden shacks.
Take that, Lucas!
The story follows the attempts of the Suwabeh Clan in defeating the Dark Overlord's army of mechanical ninjas. Now, stay with me. The Dark Overlord (who resembles Zordon) lives in the Fortress of Darkness (of course) and aims to be reborn with help of his priest Raimei (your Palpatine for the evening, and exposition dumptruck). Raimei channels the Overlord's commands to the mechanical ninja forces and their general Shoki. Whew. Now, the mechanical ninjas are seriously fucking up the Suwabeh Clan, they force their Princess Saki into hiding and just bitchslap the Suwabeh army of cyber-samurai in a battle closely resembling the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.
Shiranui's design is inspired by Robocop and the Predator,
 yet he oddly resembles Ryu Hayabusa from the Ninja Gaiden series.
During this mass crush of the Suwabeh, a warrior named Hiu-Kaku goes missing and is presumed dead. Surprise! Raimei nabs him and with cybernetics and magic turns him into Robo....errr Shiranui, the Mirai Ninja. Shiranui rebels against Raimei and delights in slaughtering mechanical ninjas like the sale ends tomorrow. When Princess Saki is eventually (and obviously) kidnapped, the Suwabeh hire a ronin named Akagi to rescue her. Akagi selects five of the Suwabeh warriors with the strongest ki, and together they sneak into the Fortress of Darkness. There they must team up with the Mirai Ninja in order to survive the multiple waves of attack by Shoki and his minions, save Princess Saki, and stop the Dark Overlord before the solar eclipse releases him in this world... got all that?
The noble Shoki.
This film was released by the game company Namco, who released an arcade game based on the film, as well. Which is appropriate, because this movie feels like a video game. Its kinetic pacing, bright colors, beautiful matted establishing shots, hilarious greenscreens, and Batman-esque dutch angles all capture this quality quite accurately. The movie is a cheesefest for sure, but it takes itself seriously. The designs are awesome and the effects are inventive, even if they are imperfect or dated. The acting is what is to be expected, but props to the actor playing Akagi, he does his best to channel Toshiro Mifune, and it makes him stand out amongst the cast. The score is cheap 80's synth that sounds like one half The Legend of Zelda and one half Peter Jackson's Braindead. Oh, and it clearly lifts The Terminator theme as well.
Raimei doing his best Lo Pan impersonation.
Obviously this movie quotes heavily from the Star Wars franchise (and thus, The Hidden Fortress), but also Predator, Aliens, Ghostbusters, Big Trouble in Little China, and Robocop, just to name a few. I'm hesitant to call it a disasterpiece, as I genuinely enjoyed the film, but it comes close. It's absurdist, but it knows it. Does that make it art? Either way, it's very entertaining and at 72 minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome.
If you've ever wondered where the hell shit like RoboGeisha comes from, here is a clue. 6/10 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


THE HITCHER (1986) (R) Dir. Robert Harmon
97 mins.
Another one I wish I had seen sooner. Rutger Hauer plays the titular role, and is picked up in the desert, from out of the rain, by Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell). Hauer brandishes a switchblade and things go downhill for Jim fast. Jim eventually miraculously escapes the maniac, but the hitcher keeps returning in a marvelous game of cat and mouse that results in Jim's being framed for Hauer's murder spree. Jim is arrested but escapes (you'll just have to see it to see how), and the game becomes essentially a high-octane version of The Farmer in the Dell, where it's the police vs. Jim (although he does take an ally) vs. the hitcher... with lots of car chases, lots of explosions, and lots of mini-strokes in anticipation as to what will happen next. Now, I just gave a few scenes away, but no more! The film is pretty unpredictable, with lots of twists and turns, and they just keep coming scene after scene.
Police versus...
First thing of note is the top-notch cinematography. I mean top-fucking-notch. The camera dances around the movements of the actors and its quite breathtaking at times. The opening sequence in the car cab is so claustrophobic and intense. Even when the movie switches to the open desert (in glorious, glorious widescreen), cars drive by or people or weapons are thrust into the camera. These invasions of the screen again reinforce the claustrophobia, even in open areas, and maintain the audience's parasympathetic reactions throughout the film. This fucking camera absolutely defines the movie's heavy themes of helplessness and enclosure.
Jim versus...
Another heavy theme throughout is the gay undercurrent between Jim and the hitcher. The hitcher grabs Jim's leg early in the movie, and every time he corners Jim he near kisses him when making threats. When Jim spits in his face, the hitcher rubs the saliva on his fingers and into his face and lips. It's very sexual in nature, and it makes a movie from 1986, much like Freddy's Revenge the year before, very subversive for its time.
Now Rutger Hauer is amazing in this. Totally creepy, totally believable. I didn't see him as a replicant or a blind swordsman all; I saw this scary fucking creep. He NAILED this role, pun intended. But here's the problem: C. Thomas Howell. He is very convincing and earnest at certain points in this movie, especially the beginning, but in many scenes he just comes of as goofy and really hammy. It's just a little incongruent with the sweat-dripping perfection that Hauer is in his role. Really, that's about the only flaw I can find with this film, and it's mildly distracting at best.
Oh, and the score's great. 8/10


JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981) (R) Dir. Jeff Lieberman
90 mins.

This is a gem. It's got the same tropes and stereotypes as every other slasher film of the era, but it's just executed so effectively. Five kids head into the mountains of Oregon, as their de facto leader Warren has acquired a plot there, and they plan on camping on the land, you know, just to check it out. It is established early on that Warren, an experienced scout, is the key to the others surviving in the deep, impenetrable forest.
Along the way they meet a ranger played by veteran actor George Kennedy, who warns them not to proceed further. In true early slasher fashion, they ignore his warning and head up the mountain anyhow. Further down the road they meet a drunkard (Mike Kellin of Sleepaway Camp) who's just witnessed his nephew's murder. He begs the group for help, but in his incoherent mumblings, they ignore him and drive away.
They set up camp, play some jokes on each other, and whilst dancing (to some swanky electro-funk)around the campfire their first night, they are visited by an old backwoods man, shotgun in hand, along with his wife and daughter. He ominously threatens the group with the gun, saying that if they do not leave that night, they will wake "the devil". This is three warnings, folks. THREE. Yet the group remains defiant and stay on the mountain.
Well, some 300 pound oafish motherfucker in a checkered shirt and mask starts eliminating the group. Go figure. There are however, many twists in this movie, which I won't spoil, that are from left field and thus highly welcome in this sort of film.
The score was achieved as the composer whistled and blew into his microphone, and though its used sparsely throughout the feature, it is imposing and spooky. Added to the lush cinematography and wonderful location scouting, it creates the kind of atmosphere that DEFINES good horror. Gloomy, claustrophobic, and oppressive. The editing is pretty poor, I have to admit. The script is meh, pretty much standard fare for this sort of thing, and the acting, for the most part, mimics this. However two actors stand out: Gregg Henry as Warren and Deborah Benson as Constance. These two characters start at one point and end up completely transformed by the end. It's a great narrative arc, and seeing their gender roles slowly erode in the shadow of an imminent threat is truly unique.
Despite its clichés, Just Before Dawn is one of the finest, if not obscure, examples of the slasher genre. One part Friday the 13th (though the director has shown nothing but disdain for that film) and one part Deliverance (from which its inspired), this is a great addition to the hixploitation slasher subgenre. 7/10