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Archive for December, 2009

Stop shooting me!

David Hess’ range goes from zero to sixty in an eye blink. He does menace the screen with a bug-eye presence, but his danger is all torso and rage. He is a perfect fit for the home invasion/hostage flicks, but as his career attests, does not make the transition into the cartoony action pictures of the late 80s and into the 90s. He is all curly hair and open shirt thug of the fading glory days of a Times Square street hustle.

Perfect for this ridiculous movie. Opening with the stupidest rape/murder ever – a slow car chase crawls to a stop when Hess whips his car in front of the victim’s, then plops into the passenger seat next to the little woman driving. Improbable, silly, and stupid. Yet it is the motive for the rest of the movie, I guess. Though really?

Giovanni Radice hams it up as the mentally slow sidekick of the psychopath Hess. He really jams up the awkward in a fantastic dance sequence, that is both charmingly, socially sadistic. The rich kid party goers are unsympathetic, snobbish, and pained in their attempts to tease out the beast that lurks under the surface of Hess’ Alex.  For you see the whole party is a set up to murder Alex.  By inciting him, having him terrorize them, the party’s host can enact revenge for the rape/murder of his sister. Got that? Yeah, it does not make any sense, considering what these idiots allow to happen in the meantime.

The movie has a weird disconnect as to where the terror and horror is located. The women are painted in highly unfavorable hues. First as temptresses who need to be taken by force. In this regard, the movie is horribly misogynistic.  Alex basically tries to get his lackey to rape a woman, but he can’t go through with it. Then Alex threatens people with the razor, pees on a guy in a pool, makes girls kiss, slices up a young girl after cutting away her clothes.  Funny Games, this isn’t.

Very silly little movie, really.

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The Road

the Boy and his Papa's corpse on the beach

I am not sure where to begin to talk about THE ROAD.  I mean the audacity of attempting to re-imagine a Fellini?!

I liked the book a whole lot, its not as good as a Blood Meridian, but it is a tense and powerful novel. But what I love about McCarthy rests, almost entirely, in his ability to push to the edges of the narrative the gruesome reality of his brutal stories. What possibilities exist, do so at the loose frays on the edges of scenes and characters. McCarthy’s skill is in focusing the horror on the most mundane elements. The scene where father and son enact the house invasion, only to find the human cattle in the cellar will always stick with me, not for its brutal silliness, but for the abject horror that the father drops his zippo somewhere down there. The potential narrative arc of that lighter is devastating.

But the movie, by its very nature as a visual medium, needs to illustrate with a crisp and unflinching exactitude. As a result, the images are static. The ambiguity and desperation is only as effective as the faces, actions, or grime that can be shown. Add to that, the necessity of back story melodrama in the expanded role of the mother, and what results is a less morally elusive narrative. Instead what we are treated to is a sad mash up of science fiction conventions – shades of Road Warrior, survival porn, and the rich history of washed-out blues and grays of bleak dystopian films – and the power is stripped of its emotion, in its place is manipulation.

Everything that makes the novel good, ultimately failed the movie.

Avoid.

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crying blood effect is super creepy

This is so good. It has everything that a schlock horror movie should have! There are extreme death, disgusting situations, murder and madness, and a whole town rapt with hijinx!

The story is structured like a Stephen King novel – meaning that a group of ordinary people are introduced as templates for the oncoming evil. How that evil plops down into their pathetic everyday lives is meant to fill pages upon pages in the King novels and drive home the emotional impact of the terror. But in this movie it just gives an excuse for more actors to mutter silly dialogue and met horrible ends. Wait. That sounds a lot like a King novel too!

Take for instance the woman, Mary, who dies at the seance. She is the motor of the action. Or at least, the movie’s flimsy attempt to explain the silliness. Plus she sets up the graveyard scene, in which two lazy gravediggers leave her coffin half buried, so that the crusty cigar chomping  newspaper man, can rescue her with the pick axe. Mary screams as the axe drives through her coffin, stopping inches from her eye, teeth, and cheek. Terrible way to get rescued.

There is Bob, played with amazing physicality by Giovanni Radice, a creep who has a blow-up sex doll girlfriend, even though all the hotties in town seek him out to party. He gets a garage drill to his temple. Why? Because he is blamed for the murder of the make out kids in the car. The one who was bleeding from her eyes and then barfed up her whole intestines.

There are the guys in the bar. The three of them are used to illustrate how the unleashed horror effects the locals. First they don’t believe anything. The the now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t corpses attack and gut munch all of them right up.

There is Gerry and Sandra. Who’s relationship is strange. Are they doctor and patient? Are they lovers? Friends? Who cares. Gerry is the ultimate hero of the movie. And Sandra gets her head squished. Which brings me to a very strange point in the zombie canon. Fulci has decided that these undead, risen corpses, preferred method of consumption is a hand to the back of the skull, as the zombies fingers rip and crush open the skull, brain bits oozing and glooping as the victim is scalped. Great special effect, but very strange.

keep yer mouth shut!

Probably the best scene in the entire mess is the maggot storm. Four characters are attacked by a flurry of maggots for three to five minutes of screen time. The windows burst open and a huge wind fan blows chunks of foam or popcorn at the actors, as close-ups of patches of maggots squirm and burrow into the actor’s faces. When the scene ends, the room’s floor is, literally, carpeted in maggots. Its the most impressively disgusting thing in the movie by far. And that includes the wormy dead baby and the hanged priest’s zombie corpse speared to show his muddy, sloppy entrails.

While the story makes no sense. There are so many plot holes that to even start to mention them would take hours and probably give me a headache. It is one of the better zombie/ghost/gorefests out there, simply for its take no prisoners attitude and glee. Go see it.

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Great hair cut.

Let’s just get this out of the way, the priest did it. With his steely blue eyes and Grand Moff Tarkin smirk, he gives himself away the first time he saunters on screen, thanks to Craig Hill’s stiff performance.

Well, he at least did some of it. There are multiple murderers, a whole complicated black mail plot for motive. Based around the machinations of a scheming medium who uses her seances to uncover the small village sins for her own gain.

This is a slow moving romantic mystery giallo, as Stefano and Sandra fall in love, they are compelled to try to get to the bottom of the murders.

Why? Because Stefano is plagued with neurological damage from a repressed memory of watching his brother strangle a school girl so many years ago. And Sandra’s mother is one of the victims. Or something.

Still this flick manages to sneak in some real freaky degenerates – the queer piano teacher who is molesting the little lord fauntleroys of the village, the electroshock damaged manboy kept in the attic of the abortionist’s house, not to mention the murderous priest who stuffs an old lady into the fireplace face first!

There is a great boat chase scene, where the good doctor is escaping  his attacker by hanging on to the side of a passing boat, only to be run down by the killer’s own speeding boat.

And the scene where the buff Christ on the Cross jumps from the wall to attack the priest in a failed attempt to silence him. Seriously that was one heck of a statue.

The only other notable thing about this, otherwise, unremarkable giallo is that Lino Capolicchio looks strikingly similar to Mark E. Smith of THE FALL. It was distracting.

Lino

MES

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only two spiders died in the making of this movie.

What the heck happened in this one? Not only is the main character a police inspector, but the movie is highly sympathetic to him! Which, to me, removes a lot of the noirish sleaze as well as lifting the veil of strange perversion. The movie is just another example of a ‘police procedural,” albeit, with a giallo twist to the killer’s method and motive.

At first, I thought this was going to be a precursor to SE7EN – in that the killer seemed likely to be targeting ladies who embodied aspects of the seven sins. Plus the whole lovey dovey Inspector and his new doting wife, sweet and caring never fares well in these cat and mouse environments. But that whole story line just disintegrates into a complicated red herring blackmail plot.

The blackmail plot based around the comings and goings on at some high class spa – which includes a gay waiter who briefly tries to add some humor  as he drops cigarettes into the same bubble pool that ends the Edgwie Fenech sex comedy Giovannona: Long-Thigh. The spa, incidentally, figures into the murders by providing the tormented killer, who is revealed in the opening credits, really.

There is some nonsense about a framed husband on the lam who is quickly dispatched, sadly not in a bathtub, that send the movie reeling over to the real plot. The gore is minimal and the acupuncture needles, while a nice touch, should be the clincher at the end – BUT there has to be a happy ending for the conflicted hero cop and his lovely wife.

The fetish animal of the title is handled in the drug smuggling sub-subplot. There is an entomologist who is smuggling cocaine in with the deadly black tarantulas. And the audience is treated to some nature documentary footage of a wasp or bee or something like that fighting the spider. Cool.

Not the best giallo for some obvious reasons – namely competent police work.

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Right about the time Lizzy got her hypoallergenic cat, Madeline started referring to Aunt Ohwell and Knuckle John’s cat, Wade, as “her cat.” Wade is a very special cat. He is a total sweetie pie. But he is not the smartest cat in the world. Wade gets lost in the house, maybe he wakes up down in the basement and forgets where he is, so he starts meowing until either his brother Marten meows back or one of us people call him. He also falls off things all the time – tables, bookshelves, beds. But he is the sweetest, most purry cat you would ever want to meet. And he was incredibly patient with Madeline.

Madeline would come bouncing into Aunt Ohwell and Knuckle John’s and immediately want to start looking for Wade. “Where is he?” she’d ask as she’d inch around the dining room, creeping into the living room, before asking “Maybe he is upstairs on the bed?” Once she would find him, she would climb up on the bed, a huge happy grin on her face, giggling, as she gently petted his head and ears. Wade would let her pet him for awhile then jump off the bed and run out of the room.

Whenever Madeline would mention “my cat Wade,” she would giggle and smile. All she ever had to say about Marten was that he liked to run and hide. He did not like getting pets.

Well, one day the cats moved to “Caly-four-u-nah” to live with Aunt Ohwell. Madeline asked her mom to call up Knuckle John because she had something to ask him. So her mom dialed the phone and handed it to Madeline when Knuckle John answered.

“Knuckle John. Where is my cat Wade?” Madeline demanded before even saying hello. “Did you take him away?”

“Wade went to live with Aunt Noelle in California, Madeline,” Knuckle John tried to explain again to the concerned little voice accusing him from the other end of the phone.

“Is that far away?” Madeline asked before continuing, “Can I see him?”

“It is very far away. Maybe someday you and your mom can come and visit Aunt Noelle and Wade and Marten.” Knuckle John tried to reassure her.

Madeline thought for a moment, “Today?”

“No not today, Madeline, but soon, maybe.”

“Knuckle John. Why did you take him away? Go get him so I can see him,” Madeline demanded.

“Well, I can’t get him today, Madeline, but soon.”

“Knuckle John. You need to wear a coat because it is very cold outside. Do you have your coat?” Madeline asked, abruptly, shifting gears and changing the topic.

Weeks later, at one of the Birthday Parties, Madeline found out that everyone was talking to Aunt Ohwell on the phone. She demanded to speak with her.

Knuckle John handed her the phone and Madeline laid right in, “Why did you take my cat with you?”

Aunt Ohwell tied to explain to Madeline about how Wade moved to California and he misses her.

But Madeline was not so convinced, “Bring him back,” she concluded before starting to tell Aunt Ohwell about the train she and Knuckle John were playing with and how Knuckle John was not sharing.

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THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS

Pleasure to stab at you!

Edwige Fenech is in mortal danger, again! More importantly her wardrobe will not survive. This time she is on the run from a freeky deeky sex cult. One lead by a dork named Adam who believes that orgies are the only way to make a marriage work, that, and, stalking. I guess. I mean that whole plot line is meant to contextualize the titular symbol and add some much needed “suspense.” It does not work too well.

The red herrings are standard fare for these giallo things – an exotic main girl who is knocked off fairly early thus setting up the framing engine that moves the plot along. In this case, a black poof ball who happens upon a stabbed call girl in an elevator, works as a man wrestler when she is not nude modeling for a twisted little gay Woody Allen.  Her eventual murder, again with the bathtub, casts initial blame on the main boy, this time George Hilton, again.  Hilton spends the rest of the movie making himself look more and more guilty.

The next red herring consists of a host of suspicious creepers who spend a lot of screen time grabbing corners and gripping edges of pillars or walls before flipping out switch blades or sneaking fingers into gloves. These men are always lurking, lurking in the daylight shadows, watching the various girls walk into fancy buildings or trot across busy streets in miniskirts, all the tight outfits bouncing and jiggling.

Finally, there is a litany of popular psycho-sexual deviance tacked on as motivation for the killer. Of course, everyone in these movies is twisted by some sexual hang up or attraction, lesbians fare the worst, I am sad to note. While male homosexuals provide a flowering comic relief, foiling the police with sashaying and lisping double entendres. Unfortunately, this flick wallows in the sludge of sleazy moralism as the final motive.

George Hilton, the good looking ladies’ man hero of so many of these movies, plays the money-grubbing landlord who falls for the wrong dame, with a bewildered confidence. First, he has to deal with her “sadist” switch blade flinging husband, then allegations of murder, then his new gal’s mortally roommate’s bloody grasp, which finally sends him on the lam. He, also, suffers from blood phobia. Why? Well, in flashback it is revealed that he was in a horrid car crash where is dead father’s bloody corpse dripped blood on his tiny child  face until he was rescued. Now do you get it? That is just brilliant.

Poor Edwige Fenech. First, she doesn’t like orgies. Then she doesn’t like modeling. Then she moves into a condo next to super-creepy, unfriendly neighbors AND is plagued by a serial killer! No one believes that she is menaced, man-handled, and  nearly murdered. Then her new boyfriend is accused by the police as a serial killer. Next she is lured into a junkyard and a basement all under the pretense of reuniting with her beloved. Oh, to be a thoroughly modern Millie!

The police, in this one, are surprisingly well drawn and get a lot of screen time. Giampiero Albertini plays  Commissioner Enci as a man who’s hemorrhoids can be felt through the screen. His grouchiness is offset by the hijinx of his his assistant Redi, who is more adept at finding rare stamps at crime scenes than clues. But they are on the case and actually manage to solve it. Which is rare for these giallos, where the falsely accused main boy has to clear himself through a labyrinth of dead ends and near misses. Albertini conveys real glee in proposing any number of suspicions and theories pointing out guilt and culpability.

Three quotes are worth noting too –

“I don’t like orgies, I get motion sick.”

“Just wait until I try and make it with you, you’d be surprised at what a bastard I can be.”

“Who wouldn’t?! Every man wants to make it with a black girl.”

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