Jump to content
DVDVR Message Board

HALLOWEEN HAVOC 2021


RIPPA
 Share

Recommended Posts

ESCAPE THE UNDERTAKER

Bonus Review by RIPPA

Several months ago, my son asked to (re)watch the Original Star Wars trilogy – it has morphed into a weekly family movie night and it is the best (only?) good thing I have going on in my life at the moment. It is something I have been meaning to bring up in the general movie thread but I have been lazy. The reason I bring it up here is a week or two ago as we were trying to find a movie to watch I went past the Escape the Undertaker Netflix dealie. I didn’t give it a second thought but my wife went “Wait? What’s that?”

It is at this point that I should point out that neither my wife nor son watch wrestling. My wife is vaguely aware of some wrestlers (a few of the women like Bayley and Becky Lynch especially). She is aware of the New Day due to my watching of UpUpDownDown. She especially knows Xavier Woods as she frequently watched Da Party Uno videos with me. My son only knows wrestlers via memes which means he pretty much knows John Cena and the Rock. 
With that all being said you can imagine my surprise when after showing them the trailer and explaining the premise (an interactive Netflix movie) both wanted to watch it. 

Neither is a fan of “horror” but this is “horror” is the loosest definition of the word. In fact, I think it is labelled as something like “family horror” on Netflix. Either way – it is most assuredly done with kids in mind. The after school specials and Halloween themed special episodes we watched growing up were far more terrifying than this. So to many of y'alls disappointment - there won't be anything gory (or as horrifying as current WWE Booking. WHOO-HOO!!! Got it in! Fish in barrel shot!)

It only is about 30 minutes and that is even with exploring most of the options. I didn’t watch the Black Mirror Bandersnatch thing so I am not sure if this is the standard but with this, most of the “choices” were watching events from each member of New Day’s perspective. (Do you follow Kofi up the stairs? Do you go with Woods to the basement? etc...) The choices that actually affect the ending are minimal – two at most. I think we only found two “dead ends” – can’t call them deaths as in one case the Undertaker just knocks you unconscious (while basically a comedy spot is happening so yeah clearly this was booked by the RAW writers) and the other choice is just joining heel Taker. We got the “best” ending on the first try but it really isn’t that hard to know how to get there.

I will give them credit – a few times there were things that were genuinely creepy. Granted part of this could be because there was a whole “face your fears” section and two of them were things that are WAY high on my list of Nopes.

The members of New Day are great in this. My son was surprised at how good they were at acting. There are allowed to acknowledge some of the usual tropes surrounding surviving horror films. Of course, so many things do that now that you could consider that a trope in and of itself.

Undertaker was by far the worst part as somehow a movie/tv show designed with plenty of smoke and mirrors couldn’t hide how fucking broken down Taker was with actual smoke and mirrors. Near the end, Taker takes off his jacket and it legit makes him look 10 years old. (And I don’t mean in a plot point way – just in a “Jesus Sting – keep that T-shirt on” way). I have never seen someone look so bad and uncomfortable in the rig they used to lift him three feet off the ground so he could play Palpatine for a hot minute. And I haven’t even mentioned how stupid it is that he was still wearing his MMA gloves. Like you clearly stopped living the gimmick Taker, you can take them the fuck off now.

There are a few nods to wrestling fans that made me chuckle that the rest of the family looked at me like I was crazy for. I called the Taker sit up spot which popped my son. There was a really weird reliance on old Paul Bearer stuff which all things considered might have been the creepiest part of the show. Oh, also, it really seemed like they redubbed some old footage to have Pat Mcafee doing commentary with Michael Cole as opposed to whoever it was at the time that Vince now clearly hates.

We all enjoyed ourselves because it was stupid fun – which is exactly what we were looking for at that moment. Not horror but fits the Halloween vibe. I definitely would recommend it if you have younger kids who also happen to enjoy wrestling.

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Was it just me or did you get the vibe that Undertaker and New Day were never on set at the same time? I didn't look too closely, but it felt like a lot of the shots were framed tightly to cover for the fact that they were using a double for Taker. Agreed on Taker looking like hell, and with the Paul Bearer stuff I don't know why they didn't go for a more cartoony 90s purple Taker with full wig on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, Swift said:

Was it just me or did you get the vibe that Undertaker and New Day were never on set at the same time? I didn't look too closely, but it felt like a lot of the shots were framed tightly to cover for the fact that they were using a double for Taker. Agreed on Taker looking like hell, and with the Paul Bearer stuff I don't know why they didn't go for a more cartoony 90s purple Taker with full wig on.

Funny that you said that last line because I was thinking a similar thing about how he could have put on the purple gloves or something.

I would lean towards Taker and New Day at least all being on set at the same time for the finishing sequence. That being said if you told me that Taker was only on set for one day - I would totally believe you

Link to comment
Share on other sites

THE RENTAL

 

(Dave Franco, 2020)

SELECTED BY @J.T.

My justification for "The Rental."

I like this movie because of the misdirection.  You start off thinking that this movie is a set piece featuring the cast of characters placed in front of you. so you sit there and watch their dysfunction unfurl. 

As the credits roll, you learn that there was far more going on than you realized.  The Rental takes voyeurism and the breaking of the third wall to a whole new level.

REVIEWED BY @(BP)

This is what’s so fun about projects like HH. I hadn’t heard of this before, and it’s a total blast from start to finish. It’s the kind of taut thriller that was commonplace in movie theaters years ago before tepid Lifetime movies and derivative VOD schlock cornered the market, but it’s blended with the mumblecore relationship movie aesthetic of the past decade. 

The screenplay by Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies) is marvelously economical. We’re introduced to all of the main players and understand their relationship dynamics in the first five minutes; by ten minutes in the table has been set and we’re at the primary location where we’ll spend the remainder of the movie. It’s a tight 88 minutes, a perfect runtime for horror in most instances. 

A young professional (Dan Stevens), his cheery girlfriend (Alison Brie), his business partner/“work wife” (Sheila Vand), and his troubled ex-con brother (Jeremy Allen White) whom the business partner is dating, take a weekend getaway trip to a remote oceanside airbnb cottage. The revelry and relaxation is quickly spoiled by the underlying tensions and secrets between the quartet, and that’s long before things get creepy. 

I won’t go much further into the plot details to remain spoiler-free, but the only other significant character is the rental’s property manager, played by the indispensable Toby Huss. Huss is one of the great living character actors, adroit at playing dopey or menacing. Here he gets to do a bit of both, keeping us off kilter and unsure of his motives. For another great Huss performance in the dimwitted louse vein, check out the late great Lynn Shelton’s indie comedy Sword of Trust from 2019. 

Franco proves to be a capable filmmaker and a good study of the shot composition and editing that make films like this work. We can see a bit of The Shining here or The Evil Dead there among his influences. He certainly owes a great deal to his DP Christian Sprenger, who among other notable works shot every episode of FX’s Atlanta. He’s the goods, and the climax in particular is a great showcase for him.

None of this would necessarily work without the performances to elevate the material, and every actor is game. Stevens and Brie in particular are building an impressive body of work across multiple genres, and I always look forward to seeing them in projects. 

Your mileage may vary on the twists and turns of the third act. I saw some criticism about it being disjointed and tonally awkward, but the discomfort of the setup and the destructive interpersonal developments throughout the film are rendered in such a way that it was as equally thrilling and horrific to me as the ending. There were moments in the film that worked on me so well and made me so uneasy that I couldn’t help but grin at the ingenuity of what I was watching. 

The very end is perhaps too cute and has been done elsewhere, but it doesn’t cast a pall over what came before. 

What a treat to discover a horror/thriller so recent that is so well crafted. Whoever picked this is a real mensch. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, RIPPA said:

What a treat to discover a horror/thriller so recent that is so well crafted. Whoever picked this is a real mensch. 

Thanks, dude!  I tried my best not to pick a crappy movie.

I really like The Rental.  As a member of the audience, you assume that the movie is about the crazy relationship bullshit being played out in front of you, but it's not and the payoff is pretty great.

Edited by J.T.
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

SLEEPAWAY CAMP (Robert Hiltzik, 1983)

 

SELECTED BY @(BP)

It’s a perfect composite of all of the sketchy choices made in teen and adolescent movies (particularly horror) in the 80s through the filter of an oddball independent auteur. Absolutely the funniest movie a filmmaker can make and then dedicate to their mother. 

REVIEWED BY @Ultimo Necro

This is a film that I had never seen. As a kid me and my buddies must have went through every 80’s slasher film in the Blockbuster. I don't think I had even heard of this movie until the infamous “How Did This Get Made” episode. I’m therefore quite pleased I got this in what could be my final Halloween Havoc review. So with that in mind, I tried to remove Jason Mantzoukas, June Diane Raphael and Tall John Scheer’s comments out of my mind, pretty easy considering its been 7 years or so since I listened to the episode, and go into this with a fresh set of eyes and ears. So with that in mind I prepared to take a trip to a summer camp for Halloween Havoc, and you know what that means….

“now its time for… Halloween Havoc, gonna have a good time, celebrate…”  Well, you get the gist of that.

I’m not going to go through the film scene by scene, it’s pretty much a straightforward, old school, slasher film for the most part, interspersed with flashback scenes to provide context for the plot, all pretty straightforward stuff.

Cliff notes version of the story is kids and their Dad are involved in a boating accident, caused by summer camp kids. One of the kids survives, becomes super introverted. 8 years later goes to summer camp with her cousin Ricky who is more brash and outgoing. Quiet kid gets picked on by, mainly, a bunch of insufferable little shits. Said insufferable shits start to get killed off one by one, with the odd adult death thrown in for good measure. Deaths ramp up towards the end of the film as the number of suspects dwindle. Then the end happens. We’ll come to that later.

What struck me most about the film was that I was shocked that this film was made in 1983. In many ways it is way ahead of its time with regards to issues such as bullying, mental illness, sexuality, body dysmorphia and transgender issues relating to adolescents. Its almost the perfect film for today's generation, where it seems that more and more pre-teens and teenagers have to deal with these issues.

The main character Angela, the boating accident survivor, clearly suffers from sort of PTSD from the accident. She has been raised by her Aunt who is herself has some sort of issues. It is revealed her Aunt’s husband has left her and my take is that this had an effect on her Aunt and in turn on Angela. It is revealed later in the film that Angela, as a child, saw her Dad in bed with another man. So you can understand her shyness and awkwardness around other teenage girls. She has had issues in her childhood which probably made her feel like she was not the same as the other girls in the camp.

On the flip side, her cousin Ricky is the very definition of 80’s all action masculine teenage boy. Like a testosterone fuelled Scrappy Doo, he spends his time at the camp playing ball or trying to pick a fight with the dick-head kids. It’s quite a good contrast of “what every 1980’s boy should be” in Ricky compared to “what every 1980’s girl should not be” in Angela.

The main antagonists are Meg and Judy, a couple of stereotypical 1980’s teenage bitches. We’ve all seen them on TV, or known them in real life (if you are as old as the author). Constantly making fun of Angela for being quiet and not talking. One scene in particular Judy pokes fun at Angela for not showering with the other girls in her cabin. “What, have you not hit puberty yet?” she asks. Which, for someone with body issues, is probably the worst thing you can say to them.

That angle that the girls used to bully Angela really got to me personally. From the outside I’m a confident, tall, muscular, man. However I was not always this way, in my school year I was the youngest male, and I was also probably the smallest in terms of size. When I graduated high school I was 5’7” and maybe 140lbs soaking wet. I was a late developer. When I first went to college I shared an apartment on campus with 2 absolute douchebag football players who spent the 6 months I was there with them, making my life a living hell. The would say shit like “Jay hasn't hit puberty yet” or “Hey, Jay are you still a virgin?”. They pulled shit like getting one of their dumb sorority friends to come into my room and pretend like she wanted to make out with me, then they ran in with their football gear on and try to jump on me. They were utter dicks. So I could emphasize with the smaller quiet girl. Thankfully, I transferred, discovered the gym and shot up a bit in size. So seeing a young quiet kid get picked on really gets to me and I think that's what hooked me in.

The film moves along more like a “whodunnit” at times, but it’s fairly clear early on, or at least it was to me, who the slasher is. The pacing of the film is quite good. The death count ramps up towards the end as the number of people around the camp dwindles.

Some people rate slasher films on scares or jumps, however, I think the true reaction that a slasher film should be judged on is the “wince”. For me, there were not enough winces. Maybe the pedophile chef being scalded by the vat of boiling water. Meg being stabbed in the shower almost had me in a wince, but not quite.

The only true moment that disturbed me was the final scene. Not because of the reveal, or the nature of the reveal, but the look on the killers face and the noise they are making. That was truly disturbing, almost guttural animal noises. It’s actually quite a climatic scene and the twist is really well done and revealed. I don't think it was as “next level bananas” as some people would make out, the clues were subtle, but were there throughout.

The supporting cast were brilliant in this movie. All the camp kids were fun stereotypes, Mike Kellin as Mel gives a great performance as the camp owner Mel. Also, huge shout out to Paul DeAngelo as Ronnie, one of the counsellors, who delivers the best big dumb camp counsellor performance I’ve ever seen. His role in the final twist and delivery of “how can this be” is Stallone-esque.

Well, now you’ve heard what I thought of the movie, lets head over to Amazon for some 5 star reviews.

Ultimo Necro writes.

“I had never seen this movie before, but I had heard the How Did This Get Made episode about 7 years ago. I was given it in my Halloween Havoc movie review club on the DVDVR messageboard. While it has mixed reviews, I say don't listen to what the “critics” say and make up your own mind on it. The film is fun to watch, and is the ultimate October Sunday Afternoon slasher movie to get you in the mood for Halloween. I liked it so much I bought copies for all my family for Christmas. Even my weirdo Aunt and her strange quiet daughter. 5 stars”.

On a final point, if this is the final Halloween Havoc we do, I’d just like to thank everyone for their picks and reviews. I’ve enjoyed writing all the ones I’ve done.

Which were:

2014 – The Mummy’s Shroud

2015 – The Loved Ones

2016 – Martin

2017 – Candyman

2018 – Hereditary

2019 – Under The Shadow

2020 – Don’t go in the woods

I’ve got to see some films I might never have watched both on the back of being allocated them and from reading your reviews and then watching the film afterwards. Thank you one and all.

Happy Halloween

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, J.T. said:

Two really great reviews.   I hope mine measures up.

Mine won't so the pressure is off of you there

I instead will be aiming for quantity over quality

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 minutes ago, RIPPA said:

Mine won't so the pressure is off of you there

I instead will be aiming for quantity over quality

Your bonus review was really good.   I am glad to see that other families have awesome and weird traditions like mine does.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, J.T. said:

Your bonus review was really good.   I am glad to see that other families have awesome and weird traditions like mine does.

Wait to you see the list of stuff we have been watching

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, RIPPA said:

Wait to you see the list of stuff we have been watching

Can't be any worse than what my daughter and I watch.  She's angry because Fall Break is this weekend, so she wants money so that she can go see Antlers next weekend since she will be back in school and I will be going to see Antlers whether she's here or not.

Edited by J.T.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

With the repeated mention of How Did This Get Made, might I suggest another podcast? "With Gourley And Rust" recently did a loose, two-part 237-minute covering of Sleepaway Camp. If you haven't previously listened to Matt Gourley and Paul Rust talk about horror movies, it's as cozy, comfy, and easy-listening as a horror podcast could ever wish to be. 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, christopher.annino said:

With the repeated mention of How Did This Get Made, might I suggest another podcast? "With Gourley And Rust" recently did a loose, two-part 237-minute covering of Sleepaway Camp. If you haven't previously listened to Matt Gourley and Paul Rust talk about horror movies, it's as cozy, comfy, and easy-listening as a horror podcast could ever wish to be. 

Absolutely seconded.  Paul Rust is that adorable kid that gets super hyper when talking about horror movies and has never grown out of that. They're both a little younger than me but I'm always amazed at how much their early childhood experiences of watching horror movies on cable or VHS ring familiar with my own.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, christopher.annino said:

With the repeated mention of How Did This Get Made, might I suggest another podcast? "With Gourley And Rust" recently did a loose, two-part 237-minute covering of Sleepaway Camp. If you haven't previously listened to Matt Gourley and Paul Rust talk about horror movies, it's as cozy, comfy, and easy-listening as a horror podcast could ever wish to be. 

I don’t like blood and guts

But I love it when they’re lengthily discussed 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/22/2021 at 1:45 AM, (BP) said:

I don’t like blood and guts

But I love it when they’re lengthily discussed 

I tell my wife all the time. A horror flick can have as much blood and guts and I don’t flinch. (See the Evil Dead series).  Much like wrestling I’m kinda numb to seeing people bleed.

That said, the Saw / Hostel generation took that to a new level and the horror “flinch” was born in our house.

We realised a zombie bite pissing blood means nothing but a weird Achilles heel cut is fucking brutal

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

VAMPIRE'S KISS (Robert Bierman, 1988)

SELECTED BY @Contentious C

It's held up as something of a meme movie due to the multitude of clips that have been taken out of context of Cage's acting, but it isn't the catastrophically terrible film that you'd believe it to be from various places on social media.  If anything, Cage's acting fits the character: someone literally going insane due to the loneliness and isolation in his life.  It doesn't hold a candle to screenwriter Joseph Minion's prior movie, After Hours, but it has its merits if you don't stare too hard at the "vampire" part of the name, and I'd still call it an effective "horror" movie for Cage's willingness to go to some dark places with the role.

REVIEWED BY @Execproducer

I could tell you about the various reasons why Vampire's Kiss is worth your time. The film's depiction of 80's night life that looks like anything but a good time but seemed like the only thing that mattered at the time. Or a pre-cell phone era of NYC where very public freak-outs barely warrant bemused glances from passersby.  I could extol the virtues of Maria Conchita Alonzo's performance as Alva, the much abused secretary at a literary agency. And I suppose I could produce sufficiently rapturous words to describe 80's Goddess Jennifer Beals, in all of her glory, as the title character. . 

But fuck all that. This is The Nic Cage Show.
 
Aye, there be spoilers ahead for this 34 year-old film.
 
Cage is Peter Loew, literary agent by day and would-be lothario by night. He also has issues. Deep, deep issues that have sent him into therapy. He bemoans his lack of a deep meaningful relationship but regales his therapist, Dr. Glaser ( Elizabeth Ashley ), with the details of his conquests. In particular he picks up a woman named Jackie ( future film director Kasi Lemmons) and takes her home. Their sexual encounter has barely begun when a bat flies through an open window. As Jackie flees the apartment, Peter fights off the bat. He tells Dr. Glaser that this combat with the bat aroused him much more than Jackie did. When Dr. Glaser attempts to dig into this startling bit of news, Peter abruptly ends the session, something he has gotten into the habit of doing as the doctor will point out later. He is a misogynist who wants to control every woman in his life, including his therapist. But his primary target is Alva whom he verbally abuses both privately and publicly. He gives her a needle-in-the-haystack task of finding a decades old contract in a vast Der Spiegel archive.  Her failure to do so quickly sends him into increasingly bizarre and scary tirades. 
 
One night Peter spots Rachel ( Jennifer Beals) in a club and introduces himself. Cut immediately to Peter and Rachel in bed when she grabs him by the hair and sinks her teeth into his throat. After brief resistance Peter cedes complete control to Rachel who becomes his vampire lover and Peter soon comes to believe that he himself is becoming undead. The cut from introduction to sex is significant because we never actually see Peter pick her up and the film soon makes it very clear that Peter is delusional. He imagines serving Rachel coffee in bed or taking a shower together when clearly there is no one there. He freaks out in a work restroom when he can't see his own reflection but the camera pulls back to show you it is there. Towards the end the film tries to have it both ways when Peter sees the 'real' Rachel in a nightclub where he has just murdered a woman. He hysterically confronts her and a male companion. She remembers his name from the night he introduced himself but otherwise doesn't seem to know him. But as he is dragged away by bouncers, shouting that she is a vampire, Rachel and her date smile conspiratorially at each other and just minutes before he had hallucinated that vampire Rachel and friend had approached him in a different part of the club where she rejected Peter as a pathetic loser.  One piece of evidence that he is a victim of a vampire vs a mountain showing he is merely fucking bat-shit crazy. 
 
Bat-shit crazy describes all of his interactions with Alva. It escalates from verbal abuse to chasing her into a women's restroom where she threatens to defend herself with a gun she keeps in her purse. Peter remorsefully backs off but like a domestic abuser whose apologies and promises are merely empty words you know this isn't over. When Alva calls in sick to work her mother believes she is lazy and exaggerating her work issues. She doesn't have any clue what her daughter is going through.   After Peter finds out about the call off he takes a cab to her home and persuades her that all is good and she should come to work. No sooner is she in the cab than evil Peter emerges vilely berating her for not finding that contract. A scared Alva talks Peter into stopping by the service station where her brother works. He is the one who provided her with the pistol though without bullets as it was meant to be for show only since she rides the subway to and from work. He takes her pleas a little bit more seriously than his mother but he only has blanks to giver her, believing that will be enough to scare anyone off. 
 
After hours, with her and Peter the only ones at the agency, Alva finally finds the contract. Relieved, she presents it to Peter but he is too far gone into his delusion and attacks her. Alva threatens with the gun and Peter begs her to do it as at this point he wants to be free of Rachel's control. Alva points the gun at the ground and fires blanks. An enraged Peter grabs her, rips open her blouse and knocks her to the ground. He grabs the gun, puts it into his mouth and pulls the trigger. Surviving this, he believes his transformation into a vampire is complete.  He rips a crucifix from Alva's neck and it is strongly implied that he is going to rape her. From there he'll end up at the nightclub where he finally kills someone and sees Rachel ( real and imagined) for the last time and Alva will confide the assault to her brother who goes out for revenge.
 
Vampire's Kiss is dark as fuck, though not having seen it in over 20 years, I remembered it being much darker as in my memory, he had killed Alva. Maria Conchita Alonso is so good in this and it's a damn shame she didn't have a bigger film career, having by this point already peaked with Colors and The Running Man. The fear and desperation is real though I suppose playing off of Cage's performance probably made that easier. Jennifer Beals, a decent  if not good actress at this point, still shines in this role. Her Rachel ( or the illusion of her) breaks Cage down and it is totally believable. 
 
But, again, this is Nic Cage's film. This is the kind of performance that would only be tolerated by an indulgent family member (Peggy Sue Got Married ) or, in this case, a first-time director. It starts with the voice, like a community theater actor affecting a faux English accent with a severely deviated septum. Then there are the gestures both bodily and facial. There is the head turned away, arm outstretched, finger-pointing move towards Alva that he would re-use for Wild At Heart. Cage, a fan of German Expressionism, adds that to his performance and it certainly shows. During a scene where he threatens Alva's job if she doesn't find the contract, his eyes slowly widen and his lips draw back like he is channeling Conrad Veidt. It goes from funny to scary to bizzare and back again. As Contentious C pointed out in his mini review, it is a performance that in its context, beyond memes and YouTube videos, is a fascinating illustration of a mental breakdown. And it is all by design. This role prompted a debate on what makes good acting. To me, there isn't any debate. Nic Cage is one of the best to ever do it.   
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

And now the symmetry

ONIBABA (Kaneto Shindo, 1964)

 

SELECTED BY @Execproducer

A masterpiece of Japanese cinema. In Feudal Japan, a mother and her daughter-in-law survive by killing wandering soldiers and selling their armor and weapons. Their lives are disrupted by the return of a local man bearing bad news and a masked samurai who needs a guide through the tall grass fields where they make their home. There is a supernatural element with the samurai's mask but this is really about the horrors of human nature. 

REVIEWED BY @Contentious C

I suppose it’s fitting that I chose a not-really-horror film for this project and got a not-really-horror film in return.  This is, if anything, a grim testament to humanity’s survival skills, and a bracing look at what people will do to escape from unhappiness.  

I won’t bother with a synopsis, because there are dozens of those online - plus, you should probably just watch this yourself - but the dynamics in the film are a little strange.  Love triangles are nearly the oldest storytelling device we have, but what makes this one unusual in my view is the man who causes tension in these women’s lives.  The character of Hachi is, to put it nicely, a loser; to be more descriptive, he’s a sleazy, shiftless, lazy, cowardly, leering jackanape, and Kei Sato never plays him as anything else for even a second of this film.  There are no moments of honor or selflessness here, no redemptive glory for this man where he becomes worthy of anyone’s affection, and their omission is all the more striking for a culture that claims those concepts almost as a rite of birth.  His actions are entirely selfish and he meets a pathetic end as befits him.  And yet, these two women are willing to destroy their relationship with each other for his attention.

And I think that’s very much the point of the film.  The world that these characters inhabit is so thoroughly broken, so privated due to the horrors of war, that anything capable of providing distraction is welcome, even in the arms of someone they would otherwise despise - and despise doubly so, since Hachi didn’t attempt to save their son & husband, respectively.  They all have to kill to survive, and the price of escaping that hell on Earth is the disintegration of their own relationships.

While there are other minor characters in the film, the only other meaningful character of any kind is the scenery, which often takes on a life of its own.  The grass fields hide their murders and their trysts, but it also traps them; the marsh is representative of the mess they’ve made of their own lives, the blades of grass all too frequently resembling the swords they steal in order to live.  If there’s anything genuinely unsettling or creepy about the film, it’s almost all to do with the imagery employed in their surroundings, and those are excellent.

However, this is not without its problems.  There’s no need to guess when this was made, given that it’s a film where the two central characters are women and neither of them has a name, except in relation to a man.  I’m not sure that the somewhat sudden invocation of the supernatural works, either, although that section might have worked as its own story.  The few transient characters who become relevant to the plot are also missed opportunities of a sort, since the film spends a not-insignificant amount of time talking about the dead man Hachi didn’t save; a modern writer wouldn’t have been able to turn down the chance to bring him back and have the women kill him accidentally.  And as much as the graphic (for its time) sex scenes are intended to be a celebration of people finding comfort and joy in each other, they seem more desperate than anything else, just an early sort of opiate used to escape a world where evil is required to survive.

Overall, this is a very good movie - I think it would sneak into the Awesome category if I had just watched it blind.  However, it’s a movie that doesn’t give the audience that much of a way in.  You have to meet it on its terms; it will surprise you and it takes time to develop, but there are a handful of scenes that are so evocative and poignant that it wins you over eventually.  The acting, especially from Nobuko Otowa, is outstanding.  But is it a horror movie?  Only in the sense that people are the worst, and the most terrifying thing we do is tear apart ourselves and each other over our own insecurities.  

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I've pointed out here before, Nic Cage considers Vampire's Kiss to be his magnum opus. I've seen some of it on TV but didn't know it was really that good so I just kept channel surfing. 

BTW, if you shot a blank into your mouth it would probably kill you. From Wiki:

Quote

While blanks are less dangerous than live ammunition, they are dangerous and can still cause fatal injuries. Beside the explosive gases, any objects in the cartridge (like wadding that may be keeping the propellant in place, or objects lodged in the barrel) will be propelled at high velocity and cause injury or death at close range.

David Warbeck injured one of the zombie actors on the set of The Beyond because Fulci forced him to fire the gun too close. I think it's still in the movie! 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

BLACK SABBATH (Mario Bava, 1963)

SELECTED BY @Ultimo Necro

If it’s the last Halloween Havoc then I’m picking the movie that named the greatest band of all time.  A classic horror anthology.   

REVIEWED BY @Curt McGirt

I have a long history with this film. First time I saw it probably had to be renting it from local video store Rentertainment, AKA The Best Video Store Ever (RIP). They had an enormous amount of foreign cinema listed by country, and the first time I saw it was in the OG Italian chapter order, so it had to be from there. Every place else, even on TCM, it is in the unfortunate domestic cut to pieces by AIP to eliminate violence and sexual themes, adding cheesy Boris Karloff wraparound intros, and they even replaced not only the title* but both the soundtrack and color processing! To avoid this I went straight to good old Soulseek** and poked around until I found an Italian version with subs. This is the one I am reviewing for you: I tre volti della paura, or The Three Faces of Fear. It's a classic horror anthology by one of the great directors of not only horror (particularly giallo films) but peplum, spaghetti Westerns, fumetti neri, and sex comedies, and one of the best cinematographers ever, Mario Bava. We'll take this by chapter, after a brief start with Karloff saying that vampires and ghosts exist and might be sitting right next to you. Then again those aren't the only threats to your life.

Il Telefono/The Telephone

This first segment is a masterpiece of drawing-room suspense and the first time Bava dipped his toe into the pool of giallo, the Italian term for a genre of slasher thrillers that began with paperbacks known for their yellow ('giallo' in Italian) covers. All the bases are covered here. We have a beautiful woman in distress, black-gloved hands fondling a knife, a mysterious killer, and an unexpected twist. A woman named Rosi walks into her downstairs apartment at the beginning, undresses and showers, then receives a series of phonecalls. At first nobody answers but then the caller reveals himself to be seeing her every move and desiring to kill her. There appears to be no way of seeing her at all until a tiny space in a blind is revealed. Rosi, scared to death, calls her former girlfriend to come and keep her company through this.

Anyway, Bava was known as a master of setpieces and cinematography, and here we have a luxurious looking little apartment with ample lighting that belies the danger present... except for the constant ticking of a loud clock. The sexual themes mentioned above are Rosi having a lesbian lover, and other signs point to her being a former (and possibly current) prostitute. AIP removed those and even added characters and additional scenes to switch this up which is flatly dumb as fuck and offensive to an adult viewer (of whom there were, granted, few at the time for horror in the States). After the twist you can pretty much guess where this one is headed but the result is decidedly effective anyway. I'd give this one a B+ if we rate it like a school project. On to the next. 

I Wurdulak/The Wurdulak

Now for something completely different, this is a gothic horror tale of the AIP Corman stripe that has Boris Karloff (again) and a twist on the vampire theme. Mark Damon (of wooden performance in Corman's House of Usher) finds a guy with a dagger in his chest in the mountains of some undisclosed, probably Eastern European country. He drives it to a nearby home and brings it to the owner only to find it has vanished from his horse; meanwhile a dude right there is stabbing a headless guy in the chest with a sword?! The family at the house and the other two talk together and it is revealed that the head of the household went out to kill an evil Turk that was victimizing everyone and if he wasn't back in five days he'd be turned into a Wurdulak, who feasts on the blood of the ones he most loves, and can only be killed by being stabbed into the heart. Karloff appears just after midnight on the fifth day with a stab wound to the chest, a pallid appearance, a forceful demeanor, and probably a thirst for blood. 

Again, you can probably guess where things go from there. The story is based on a family afraid of its benefactor and how he insinuates into their lives one by one to poison/kill/usurp them, and it does a bang-up job of it. The story itself is extremely atmospheric and has a feel of damp cold as soon as the "hero" enters the place of the homestead (I dare not say this is a town or even a village -- there is nobody else around besides the neighbor, and we don't even see his house). And the end of it is just mean. As in Pet Semetary mean. No wonder they ended up changing it in the AIP version to Karloff on a bike thus breaking the fourth wall (which is at the end of the film in this version) just to diminish the hit. And possibly the most offensive is that Sam Arkoff and company flipped all the chapters, so Black Sabbath started with the following, had "The Telephone" in the middle, and ended with "The Wurdulak". If it was anything else, I would have said they were right, but there is THIS one to wrap everything up, and it's a doozy. 

So we have increased the tempo, basically. Now it's time to visit the final story...

La goccia d'acqua/The Drop of Water

Wow. This one still floors me. It's about a young woman who looks a bit of a floozy and a drinker (and is cute as hell for a blonde -- just my type I suppose) who is called to dress and look over for the night a corpse of a recently deceased elderly woman. Except she has an especially wonderful and expensive looking blue emerald ring on her finger. And has been recently contacting mediums.

Once again, you can put together the pieces. This has the best of Bava's love of color gels, with blue, green, purple, and all the clashes of the other colors of the surroundings merging into one lovely and terrifying collective while light pulses through the windows with pitch black overtaking it immediately. The silence and again, that pulse like the clock ticking from the first segment just magnifies the terror. And the twist at the end is total dead-on EC Comics "fuck you, you knew this was coming HAHAHA" awesomeness. I know I'm not saying a lot this time, but it is probably my stone favorite of any horror anthology segment. It's that good. And the absurdity of AIP STARTING with this instead of ENDING with this is beyond my ability to comprehend. 

Anyways, Happy Halloween. Watch this. And just wish for any rings in the upcoming holidays instead of stealing them, trust me.

* This of course wasn't so bad of a thing because it gave a new name to a little band named Earth from Birmingham, England, who walked by the film's poster on the street and marveled that people like to be scared, thus making them decide to change their name to what else: Black Sabbath. 

** Go figure, I told my best buddy I had to watch this, he asked for a link and I came up with this immediately. Looks twice as good.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

PSYCHO GOREMAN (Steven Kostanski, 2020)

SELECTED BY @Lawful Metal

The greatest cinematic achievement of our time.  It's like a R-Rated Power Rangers mixed with a PG-13 Troma Movie.  It's brilliant. 

REVIEWED BY @J.T.

Psycho Goreman

Written and Directed by Steven Kotanski

2020, 99 Minutes

Cast:

  • Nita-Josee Hanna as Mimi
  • Owen Myre as Luke
  • Matthew Ninaber as Psycho Goreman (PG)
  • Steven Vlahos as Psycho Goreman (PG) (voice)
  • Adam Brooks as Greg
  • Alexis Kara Hancey as Susan
  • Kristen MacCulloch as Pandora / Queen Obelisk / Alasdair's Mom
  • Anna Tierney as Pandora (voice)
  • Roxine Plummer as Human Pandora
  • Alex Chung as Darkscream
  • Scout Flint as Alasdair
  • Robert Homer as Vince / Bio-Cop
  • Conor Sweeney as Maddox / Cassius 3000
  • Matthew Kenned as Kortex
  • Rick Amsbury as Dennis
  • Jayson Alexander as Hugh
  • Kenneth Welsh as Narrator / Judicator (voice)
  • Asuka Kurosawa as Witchmaster

Imagine my delight when I found out that my pick was directed by Steven mother fucking Kotanski?  The mad Canadian genius that lovingly brought the neo cosmic horror epic, The Void (2016), to the screen along with his cohorts in Astron-6 (the wonderfully batshit cult film collective) and single handedly made practical effects a thing again?

Then imagine my bemusement when I started watching his 2020 film, Psycho Goreman?  The movie that answers the question, "What if ET was an intergalactic dictator that was under the influence of bath salts?"  Sometimes we pick the movies, sometimes the movies pick us, right?

Siblings Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) accidentally uncover a mysterious gemstone while doing what kids do in the privacy and security of their own back yard... something that kids these days seem to avoid like the plague.

As it turns out, the stone gives the possessor control over a particularly vile alien despot eloquently known as “the Arch-Duke of Nightmares” (Matthew Ninaber in a rubber suit, with Steven Vlahos on vocal duties) who was imprisoned on Earth after trying one up Thanos from the MCU and obliterate the entire Milky Way galaxy, rather than just kill half of all sentient life in a fit of benevolent genocide.

By the way, our titular evil otherworldly overlord hails from the planet, Gygax.  As in the late E. Gary Gygax the notoriously cantakerous co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons:  the preferred social addiction for generations of nerds worldwide.

No. I did not make that last bit up on my own.

The Arch-Duke of Nightmares is eager to return to his campaign of mass murder, but Mimi, being a diabolical little brat, likes the idea of having a destructive alien on a short leash.  She then dubs the mutant creature, Psycho Goreman (PG for short), and decides to keep him for herself.  So for now, our bloodthirsty interstellar overlord finds himself bound to the confines of Canadian suburbia and entertains the slightest whim of this pre-teen hellion asshole little girl.  Mayhem, violence, and death will certainly follow shortly along with maybe a laugh or two.

This movie is proof that there is no more destructive force in the known universe than a 12-year old girl that can get whatever she wants at the snap of her fingers thanks to her absolute command of a highly destructive and bad tempered alien supervillain.  Psycho Gorman is a pretty amusing romp, but some of the comedy seems a bit forced.  I think that Kotanski relies too much on bathos and absurdity rather than letting the actors and the dialogue do things naturally.  It's pretty obvious that the target demographic of this movie is the beloved army of 80's and 90's VCR moviephiles that haunted the nether shelves of some mom and pop video store looking for the stuff we knew we weren't supposed to watch.  Psycho Goreman riffs on everything from Suburban Commando (1991) to the epic and campy live action Masters of the Universe (1987) joint and still has time to give our childhood tokusatsu favorites like Ultraman, Space Giants, and Kamen Rider a hug along the way.

I have to admit that I have passed this movie over a bunch of times while scrolling through my Shudder queue because ugh comedy, but I am glad that I have finally sat down and watched this thing all the way through.  Color me pleasantly surprised.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...