Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Escape From Tomorrow

Writer/Director:Randy Moore
Starring:Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber
Availability: DVD and Blu-Ray widely available from Random Media

    Let me just start this review by asking how the fuck is it possible this film made it into theaters?  Disney is a company known for being greedy, cutthroat, and definitely aren't afraid of being embroiled in a legal battle or two.  Somehow, though, writer-director Randy Moore was able to shoot a movie guerilla-style in a Disney theme park, made no efforts to mask that the film takes place at a Disney theme park, violating a lot of copyright laws I'm sure in the process.  Yet it got released without even a threat of legal litigation.  I doubt we'll ever know how Moore pulled it off, but I've got to say "Fucking bravo, man!"

    Naturally, as a fan of fringe cinema, I've been wanting to see Escape From Tomorrow since I first heard about it.  I really started getting interested in it even more when I realized how divisive the film was.  There is a good handful of people I've talked to who absolutely hate this fucking movie.  I was also incredibly interested in the backstory of the film.  As a child, following his parents' divorce, Randy used to spend a lot of time at Walt Disney World with his father.  As he grew older, his relationship with his father soured, and the happy memories the park once held for him became bitter and dark.  Once he came of age and had children of his own, he starting taking his children to Disneyland a lot, to the point where it became an obsession.  He wanted to create happy memories for his family, but all the pain and heartbreak came flooding back to him.

    After the death of his grandparents, Randy decided to take the inheritance that he received from them, and used it to make this movie, similar to what Damon Packard with his equally guerilla-style masterwork Reflections of Evil.  He decided that he had to shoot it at a Disney theme park, despite the fact that in doing so, the movie may never see the light of day.  Now, all this history would cause the film to be at the very least a cult cinema curiosity.  Let me just tell you this movie is so much more than that.  This movie is so intensely personal, and exists as a sort of catharsis for Randy.  He has channeled his childhood demons, and brought them to life in a film that is a surreal, experimental, endlessly compelling cinematic nightmare.

    The idea to shoot the film in monochrome black and white, a decision that was made out of necessity rather than an artistic decision, works wonders here.  There's no way a movie that was shot under these conditions should look as good as this does, and it simply looks magnificent.  I also loved Abel Korzeniowski's superb score.  It was simply a superb, haunting, incredibly effective piece of music.  The amount of professionalism on display here is nothing short of a revelation when you consider how completely unprofessional the majority of the production was.  Randy Moore is a director that I have no choice but to keep my eye on.  This is the work of a true artist, a master of his craft.

    I really think the best way to approach this film isn't to focus on the narrative of the film.  I'll admit, it is a bit of a mess sometimes.  I think it's best to view it as an experiment.  This is a director taking a real risk, and getting a chance to tell a personal story in the process.  The father in the film is portrayed as a lustful, womanizing drunk.  The park, at first seen as a blissful place full of wonderment, ends up bringing this family nothing but absolute horror.  The events that transpire in the last half hour are absolutely insane, and they simply have to be seen to be believed.  I couldn't help but fall madly in love with this film.  It casts a spell on people.  While it truly does seem to be a real love it or hate it affair, it's not something you're likely to forget anytime soon.  It's not a perfect film, but I feel inclined to give it a perfect score.  Why?  Because you don't come across too many films with this sort of personality and vision anymore.  That, my friends, is something to be celebrated.

    Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos...

Big Bad Wolves

Writer/Director:Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Starring:Tzahi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Menashe Noy, Lior Ashkenazi
Availability: DVD and Blu-Ray widely available from Magnet Releasing

    So, when Quentin Tarantino declares a movie the best of the year, people tend to stand up and take notice.  Now, I should point out that Tarantino has been known for making some pretty dubious choices from time to time.  He did, after all, declare Woody Allen's Anything Else one of the best films since the release of Reservoir Dogs, and also considered The Lone Ranger one of the best films of its respective year.  Still, the man is a powerhouse in the world of film, and as a rule, he does have pretty impeccable taste.  That wasn't what gave me the desire to seek out Big Bad Wolves, though.  What made me excited about the project was seeing the names Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, the masterminds behind the awesome gorefest Rabies.

    Big Bad Wolves is, at its core, a story about what a father will do to protect or avenge his family.  Tzahi Grad, in an absolutely chilling performance, plays Gidi, a man whose daughter has been sexually assaulted and left for dead, and he wants to find out where the killer has buried her head, because in Jewish law, a body needs to be buried with all limbs and organs, as they were born.  The main suspect is a seemingly harmless schoolteacher named Dror (a note perfect performance from Rotem Keinan).  In one of the film's opening scenes, Dror is seen being tortured by the police to try to get him to confess to the crime.  Unbeknownst to them, the torture is captured by a child's cell phone, and ends up on the internet.  The man who led the assault, Micki (Lior Ashkenazi), is fired as a result, and decides to kidnap and torture Dror to force him to confess and clear his name.

    As Micki is about to kidnap Dror, they both end up being kidnapped by Gidi, who intends to torture Dror until he tells him where his daughter's head is buried.  To complicate things further, Gidi's father, a retired army vet like his son, arrives at his son's home, and decides to assist Gidi.  To spoil things any further would be an injustice to the surprises that are locked away in the film's narrative, but suffice to say, most of you will not see where the film is heading.

    I'm no expert on Israeli cinema, but I will say that the films of Keshales and Papushado make me want to change that.  One of the things I loved about this film was the fact that it was a movie that focused more on the psychology of the characters rather than being another torture porn flick.  Another interesting twist is that all three of the central characters are all fathers with daughters themselves.  Each one has done some pretty unforgivable things in their lives.  Nobody is a hero here.  These are all people who have chosen to walk a darker path in their lives, leading them all to be the big bad wolves as the title suggests.

    I can't stress enough what an excellent film this turned out to be.  I simply adored the way the plot unfolded.  I wouldn't call it a slow burn, but it took its time to develop each character, and give us some insight into who they are, and why they have been thrown into this grim situation.  Every performance was magnificent, though Tzahi Grad as Gidi was the true highlight.  Despite the fact that he has kidnapped these men, and has put Dror through absolute torment, you can't help but sympathize with him.  As a father myself, I can't say that I wouldn't go a little mad myself if I discovered one of my daughters had been raped and murdered. It's not something any father wants to experience.  The film doesn't play favorites, though.  There's always a bit of mystery in the air.  Just when you think you've got it all figured out, another twist is thrown in, and you're left trying to piece it all together again.

    This is a film that feels like a classic piece of independent cinema.  The cinematography is absolutely stunning.  The score is effectively chilling.  Where Rabies reveled in gore and violence, this movie scales back from all that, and we end up being more horrified by the things we don't see than the things we do see.  The mental tricks this film is able to play on the viewer is something that a lot of films attempt, but aren't able to pull off.  Do I agree with Tarantino that it was the best movie of last year?  No, I wouldn't go that far.  However, I still highly recommend this one.  It packs a real wallop, like a sucker punch to the heart.

Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos...


Incest Death Squad 2

Director - Cory J. Udler (Incest Death Squad, IDS:Rising)
Starring - Tom Lodewyck (House of Purgatory), Greg Johnson (IDS:Rising), and Carmela Wiese (Incest Death Squad)
Release Date - 2011
Genre - Horror/Exploitation
Format - DVD (Personal Collection)

Rating (out of 5):
     Sequels.  To some that word is almost vomit inducing while others get a boner just thinking about their favorite films getting a follow up.  I personally enjoy it when I discover a movie and at that same moment I learn that that film also has a sequel or two.  That gives me a great opportunity to have a movie night or a small marathon.  I am also the second kind of person that I mentioned earlier that gets way too excited for a sequel.  After watching Cory J. Udler's Incest Death Squad I had to pull down Incest Death Squad 2 from my display shelf and give it a go.  I spoke with Udler after watching the first IDS and he informed me that he felt the sequel was better than the original so that only fueled my desire to see the film.  So I took it down from the shelf and tossed it in.
     The film, once again, follows the incestuous siblings Amber and Jeb Wayne (Johnson and Wiese) as they prepare for a road trip to track down Aaron Burg (Lodewyck).  Aaron was able to escape from their biblical clutches.  He returned to the loving arms of the hotel owner and the two skipped town so the Wayne's could never find them.  However, Jeb is very resourceful (just like anyone with God on their side) and is able to track them down.  Amber, who is carrying his bastard child, could not wait until they reached him in person and gives him a call.  This, in turn, warns him of their approach forcing the hotel owner to pay her sleazy cousin to intercept them and kill them.  This doesn't happen and the Waynes are able to make it to Aaron where he does not play nice.
     What makes a sequel successful is realizing what aspects of the first film the fans liked and capitalizing on them.  Sadly, not every director is able to do that with their follow up film.  They ignore their fans and give them another film that lacks everything they want to see.  Udler heard the cries of his fans and followed Incest Death Squad up the way he saw fit to make the fans happy...and made one hell of a film.  The acting in this one is just as good, if not better, than the first film.  Though the release dates are only one year apart the entire cast showed a lot of growth between this film and the last.  Greg Johnson and Tom Lodewyck once again showed why Udler chose them to lead.  Also, I don't think it is possible but I do believe that Carmela Wiese and Melissa Murphy got hotter.  I would let both of them eat crackers in my bed!  The story is a great follow up to the first film.  It gives us more of the things we loved with the first films (religious rants and bloody deaths) while giving us a slightly different story that keeps us on our toes.  Kudos to Udler for that.  Finally,  the film has the same style bloody deaths as the first film.  Those that did not read my review for the first film may not know that this film is not a straight forward horror film.  Instead, it is an exploitation type film that just has dark elements.  Overall, Incest Death Squad 2 is a worthy follow up to the original IDS.  The film has all the bang the first film has and then some.  Check it out!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tin Can Man

Writer/Director:Ivan Kavanagh
Starring:Michael Parle, Patrick O'Donnell
Availability:DVD available at most online retailers

    I love mindfuck movies.  In fact, I love all movies that are weird, surreal, and bizarre.  Unfortunately, I see a large amount of people who use the word weird like it's a bad thing.  I say those people don't have any real imagination, because if you truly had one, you'd embrace the wild and the different.  You'd want to experience things that will challenge your mind, and show you the limitless possibilities of art.  The reason I bring this up is because Ivan Kavanagh's Tin Can Man is absolutely insane, and I mean that in the most loving way possible.  This is not a film that plays it safe, and it's not a film that's out to please its audience.  In fact, this is a movie that wants to stress you out.  It wants you to spend the entire 80 minutes absolutely distraught, and the fact that it achieves this is nothing sort of celebratory.

    Pete is in need of a break.  He's stuck in a job he hates.  His girlfriend just dumped him.  I mean, he seems to be a nice and reasonable man, so naturally, you're going to sort of feel for the guy.  One day, while moping about, he hears a knock at the door.  The man at the other end claims to be his neighbor, and asks if he can use his phone because he's been in an accident.  Pete hesitates, but being the nice guy that he is, submits to the request.  Right off the bat, you can tell the neighbor is a bit batty.  After getting off the phone, the man starts spouting off all sorts of insane rubbish, and this is when the film starts its downward spiral into madness.  Pete is clearly freaked out by the guy, who just won't seem to leave.  The man ends up taking Pete for a ride, and the events that follow are nothing less than the film equivalent of a walking nightmare.

    Michael Parle as the deranged neighbor is fucking brilliant in his role.  This is the type of performance that calls to mind Dennis Hopper's Frank from Blue Velvet.  At first, he seems quite friendly, but once he lets the menace show, all bets are off, and the man becomes absolutely frightening.  Patrick O'Donnell is also quite excellent in the role of Pete.  Pete is a man with no balls, and it's really no surprise that life has been so hard on him.  You sympathize with him, but you also truly believe his fear and confusion as the events surrounding him just become more bizarre and out of control.  The first 30 minutes of the film, with just the two men talking, provides some of the most chilling moments I've seen on film in quite some time.

    Naturally, many people have likened this film to the works of David Lynch, especially Eraserhead.  The black and white cinematography probably aids this comparison, but I think the comparison is lazy.  Not every surrealist movie is an extension of Lynch or Fellini.  In fact, this movie is much more minimalist than anything Lynch has done, and actually brings to mind the work of James Fotopoulos.  Comparisons be damned, though. This movie is absolutely an original piece of work, and there's no doubt that Kavanagh has a truly distinctive voice.  It's definitely unlike anything I've ever seen before, and I must say if you are one of us who appreciate the cinema of the weird, you owe it to yourself to check this bad boy out.

    Colin Downey's camerawork here is absolutely breathtaking.  The black and white looks gorgeous, and the angles and shot compositions add to the nightmarish feel, and bring the entire experience to life.  I also have to give some mad props to the sound design, as it creates an air of tension that might not have existed without it.  In fact, from a technical standpoint, this movie is nothing short of marvelous.  I'm not going to spoil the experiences that poor Pete suffers through, but I will say that by the time the movie reaches it's strange, subdued, oddly fitting ending, you will feel like you have experienced everything Pete has experienced.  This is a movie that melts inside your brain, and once it gets inside, you're going to have a hell of a time shaking it out.  This one's a real beauty.

    Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos...

Incest Death Squad

Director - Cory J. Udler (The Girl Who Played with the Dead)
Starring - Tom Lodewyck (Ed Gein: D.D.S.), Greg Johnson (Mediatrix), and Carmela Wiese (Incest Death Squad 2)
Release Date - 2009
Genre - Horror/Exploitation
Format - DVD (Personal Collection)

Rating (out of 5):
     In late 2011 I started up my first incarnation of what would later become Demons of Celluloid.  That blog, Blacktooth's Reviews and Rants, was something I started to relieve stress and review obscure indie films and classic horror flicks that time has forgot.  A year later I was invited to write for Horror Society and I could not pass up that amazing opportunity for a no talented hack like myself to join a prestigious horror site.  It was at this time another reviewer, for a small blog and not Horror Society, told me I needed to check out Cory J. Udler's Incest Death Squad and Incest Death Squad 2.  The titles alone drew me in but I could not get the IDS site to take my fucking order.  I was able to do a little Facebook stalking and was able to add Udler and over time we became friends.  I purchased all his films several months back but never took them down from display to watch because they were signed.  I was able to resist the urge to watch them for several months but my will was weak and I broke down.  I took all the films down from my display shelf and popped them in one after another.
     The film follows reporter Aaron Burg (Lodewyck) who is sent into a rural community in Wisconsin to cover a story.  Here he meets a random assortment of locals and even finds romance with a beautiful young lady that owns the local motel.  One evening he visits the local bar and meets another beautiful young lady.  The young lady, Amber Wayne (Wiese), picks up tourists and takes them back to her place where her incestuous brother kills them because "God" told them to.  She takes Aaron back but instead of killing them the two play a rousing game of hide the sausage which results in her immediate pregnancy.  Amber's brother, Jeb (Johnson), lets him live because he planted the seed in his sister and holds him captive in their barn where he forces him to kill tourists like them.
     When that reviewer requested that I watch these he stated that this film, and follow up, were solid horror flicks.  That statement, as short as it may be, is far from being accurate.  The movie is good so don't think I didn't like it because I did.  That statement is incorrect because this film is not actually a horror flick.  Instead, this film is a form of exploitation known as hixploitation or hicksploitation.  Hixploitation is exactly as it sounds.  In the 70s during the exploitation boom many filmmakers made films exploiting the fine folks from the south and Appalachian region.  Films like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, and Southern Comfort are all prime examples of these films.  Hixploitation actually never faded from memory and still continue to this day with shows like MTV's Buck Wild and Duck Dynasty becoming ingrained in our pop culture.  Just like with any genre, exploitation films sometimes dabbled in horror or added horror elements and that is exactly what Udler did with this modern classic.  This film is a prime example of hixploitation meeting head on with horror and I fucking loved every minute of it.  The acting in this film is fucking phenomenal.  The entire cast needs to work in way more films together.  Greg Johnson is a powerhouse of a performer and easily steals the show. Tom Lodewyck also does an amazing job and is a very strong lead actor.  He really needs to be apart of more films.  Also, Carmela Wiese and Melissa Murphy are both very talented actresses and both are fucking hot as hell.  The story for this one has been told before in one way or another but this one is by far the most entertaining and creative.  Finally, the film does lack the amount of kills one would expect from a film with the title "death squad" but like I said earlier, this is not a straight forward horror flick.  However, the kills we do get are fun, bloody, and very creative (to some extend).  Overall, Incest Death Squad is the kind of film that could be watched by itself or as a double feature with Herschell Gordon Lewis' Two Thousand Maniacs. The film is flawed but in the end it is a blaspheming good time.  Check it out...because God told you to!


Monday, April 28, 2014

The Lost Empire

Writer/Director:Jim Wynorski
Starring:Melanie Vincz, Raven De La Croix, Angus Scrimm, Angela Aames
Availability: DVD widely available at most online retailers

    I don't know if you realize how intimidating it is to write a review based on a Jim Wynorski fan, but believe me when I tell you that the stress it has given me is unbelievable.  Jim Wynorski is a cult hero to a lot of us b-movie fans who grew up frequenting the classic Mom and Pop video stores, as well as those of us who grew up watching USA Up All Night.  Jim made the kinds of movies that spoke to the adolescent in all of us.  He came along at a time when people like Fred Olen Ray and Andy Sidaris were also carving their own niche in the b-movie stratosphere.  Jim was just better at it than most.  He was by no means a bad filmmaker.  He just wanted to make movies that were fun, and really, isn't that what going to the movies is all about?  

    The Lost Empire was a film with a strange production history.  The owner of the company who produced the film wanted to find a first-time director to make a film that would hopefully end up losing money, so he could write it off as a tax loss.  Jim was oblivious to this at the time, so he took full advantage of this opportunity, filling the screen with everything he loved about b-movies growing up.  His everything but the kitchen sink approach impressed the head of the production company so much, that he decided to give it a theatrical run, where it actually ended up making some money.  The rest, as they say, is history.  If it wasn't for this film, Jim might not have been given the opportunity to work with Roger Corman, and we might have missed out on this incredible film legacy.  I mean, if you look at the group of films he did between this and Hard To Die, that's an impressive body of work.

    Melanie Vincz just oozes hotness as Angel Wolve, a policewoman hell bent on getting her revenge on the caped ninjas who murdered her brother in a jewelry store robbery.  Her FBI agent boyfriend is convinced this is the doing of Dr. Sin Do, a cult leader who is believed to be an incarnation of Lee Chuck, a man believed to have made a deal with the devil in exchange for bloodshed.  Sin Do is raising an army of female assassins, and Angel decides to go undercover to infiltrate the operation.  She enlists the help of a Native American woman named White Shadow (played by the voluptuous and beautiful Raven De La Croix, a staple of Russ Meyer films) and a female prisoner named Heather to battle the female assassins, and of course there's the eventual showdown between Angel and Sin Do.  Did I mention Sin Do is played by the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm?  Yeah, that's pretty bad-ass.  

    This movie has everything I love about b-movies from this era.  You've got a terrific score from the great Alan Howarth.  You've got gorgeous women in various states of undress.  You've got ninjas, a battle with a gorilla, lasers, a nice little nod to WIP pictures, James Bond homages, and if you don't have a great time watching this, then you need to loosen up.  It's unfair to call this sort of thing a guilty pleasure, because I truly believe Jim Wynorski was a master of his craft.  Whatever limitations his films might have, be it due to budget or some uneven performances, he is always in control of his films.  This movie moves at a lightning fast pace, and you truly feel that Jim knew this could be the only chance to ever got to make a movie.  He throws so much on the screen, so much beautiful insanity, that it very well could end up being my new favorite Wynorski film.  

    I also need to give some mad props to the remastering job on this film.  It looks absolutely stunning, and is easily the best this film will probably ever look.  For a movie that has been sort of lost in obscurity over the years, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Needless to say, I wasn't let down.  Jim, thank you for giving us so many wonderful movies over the years.  Your films weren't perfect, but fuck perfection.  Your enthusiasm knows no bounds.  I definitely recommend picking this bad boy up.  The only thing missing is Rhonda Shear.

    Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Watch Out

Writer:Steve Balderson/Joseph Suglia
Director:Steve Balderson
Starring:Matt Riddlehoover
Availability: DVD Widely Available

    Have I mentioned how much I fucking love movies?  Well, if I haven't, then I need to fix this oversight.  I simply adore the power of the medium, and the seemingly limitless possibilities it possesses.  To me, there are no "good" and "bad" films.  I see movies as an extension of a director's personality and vision.  To most people, a film like Plan 9 From Outer Space is a bad movie, but Ed Wood had a true vision that was unlike anything else anyone has ever had before or since.  The films that I hate are the ones by directors who have no vision.  I'm talking about the filmmakers who are either out to make a quick buck, or the ones who simply don't have ideas.

    Steve Balderson is a director who is chock full of ideas.  I first discovered Steve via his black comedy Pep Squad.  His follow-up, Firecracker, was a movie that left me in absolute awe.  The thing was, though, that both films couldn't have been any more different.  The same can be said for the film I'm reviewing tonight.  I'm talking, of course, about his gleefully offensive adaptation of Joseph Suglia's novel Watch Out.  This is a film that will simultaneously blow your mind and clear a room all at the same time.  There are times when this movie echoes the low-brow absurdity of early John Waters, and times when it echoes the pitch black misanthropy of Todd Solondz's work.  In other words, it's another brilliant piece of work from this mad genius.

    Matt Riddlehoover, a prominent figure of independent gay cinema, is nothing short of sensational as Jonathan Barrows, probably one of the most vile, narcissistic characters I've ever seen on screen.  He's a man who is literally in love with himself.  The man is so in love with himself that he even has a blow-up doll made in his likeness.  He's not straight or gay.  He's just so convinced of his own superiority, that he considers everyone else beneath him.  Here is a man who can only get sexual gratification thinking or looking at himself.  You would think spending 90 minutes with this guy would be unbearable, but it couldn't be further from the truth.  The combination of the whip-smart screenplay and Matt's impeccable comic timing make the absurdity of his narcissism absolutely hysterical.

    There really isn't much of a plot to speak of here.  Jonathan heads up to Bentor Harbor, Michigan to be interviewed for a local teaching gig.  They keep giving him the run-around, so he spends most of the film holed up in his seedy motel room, usually engaging in some sort of self-adoration or sexual gratification.  These scenes, especially the blow-up doll scene, are quite explicit, and definitely succeed in making its audience a tad uncomfortable, especially since the inner monologues are usually ranting about how inferior everyone else in the world is.  When not being stuck inside his motel room, he's encountering all the local townsfolk.  Everyone he meets is absolutely infatuated with him, almost to the point of obsession.  He relishes in the opportunity to tear every single one of them down.  He doesn't fuck around with his command of the English language.  His words are sheer poison.

    After an hour of this ugliness, the movie takes a detour, and becomes a different film altogether.  It becomes something much uglier, more absurd.  I would hate to spoil it here, but the final act is very likely to piss a few people off.  It does seem like some of what transpires could exist in Jonathan's head, but it's never really made clear.  In a lesser director's hands, it would reek of desperation.  However, Balderson has such a firm grasp on the material, that not once did I ever felt like he took any missteps.  It's a brave, bold vision, but it all works.

    You have to have a special kind of sense of humor to appreciate what Watch Out does.  This is a very nihilistic comedy that's not afraid to tackle some taboo topics.  In the opening scene, pedophilia and child abuse are played for laughs.  Steve Balderon is a true commanding voice behind a camera.  Not only does he compose some beautifully stylish shots, but he also knows how to command the perfect performances from his actors.  He doesn't make films that play it safe.  Even though his films are all completely different, they all belong to one singular, brilliant mind.  His films are bold, uncompromising, and if there was any justice in the world, he would be a cult film icon, instead of being curiously swept under the rug.  Watch Out is a film that comes highly recommended from me, but if ever a film was truly not for everyone, this would be it.

    Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos.

P.O.E. Project of Evil

Director(s) - Giuliano Giacomelli (P.O.E. Poetry of Eerie), Edo Tagliavini (Bloodline), Donatello Della Pepa (Sono Io), and Domiziano Cristopharo (House of Flesh Mannequins)
Starring - Dario Biancone (Silence), Angelo Campus (P.O.E. Poetry of Eerie), and David D'Ingeo (The Phantom of the Opera)
Release Date - 2014
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "7 tales of terror"
Format - Streaming (Online Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Italian horror is a sub-genre all it's own and that is for a damn good reason. Most Italian horror films are literally considered a work of art.  Attention to every detail is unrivaled by any other style of film.  So much time is put into every camera angle, lighting, musical score, dialogue, and so much more.  Most of this stuff is taken for granted by their American counterparts and that is why their films will always have a space on our shelves. In 1990 my favorite director, George A. Romero, partnered with giallo pioneer and Italian director Dario Argento to create an anthology film called Two Evil Eyes featuring the work of Edgar Allen Poe.  This film is one me and a friend of mine would watch religiously when we would hang out.  I loved that film so much that when I started this blog for the second time I reviewed it first.  This film is nothing short of extraordinary.  A few days back I caught wind of an upcoming Italian anthology titled P.O.E. Project of Evil and is a sequel of sorts to P.O.E. Poetry of EeriePoetry of Eerie was a new one to me but the thought of another Italian take on a Poe tale really excited me.  Lucky for me my friends over at Brain Damage are the ones releasing this one in the U.S. and I was able to view it before it was released.
     The film features renditions of Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum, Solo, Loss of Breath, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Tell-Tale Heart, The System of Dr. Tar and Prof. Feather, and The Premature Burial.  To cover each one of these will take me days.

     Anthologies are typically a mixed bag.  When an anthology is good you get a solid film consisting of several short stories that pull you in and give you one hell of a good time.  However, not all anthologies are consistent all the way through and this is typically a problem when you feature shorts directed by different directors. Sadly, that is what happened to this anthology here.  The film is not a straight forward horror flick, but is more of an art film set in the macabre world of Poe.  That is one of the many reasons I did not enjoy myself with this film.  Art films are beautifully choreographed, shot, and written in a way that the viewer has to be open and willing to view the film the exact way the director, or directors, intended for it to be seen.  Obviously, I am not an art film fan and most of the stuff this film has to offer was over my head.  The acting in this one is actually very solid throughout each film.  Every segment has a top notch cast and that made the segments go down a little easier.  Th stories for these had so much potential but decided to be more of an art film instead of a horror flick.  There is a fine line between art film and Italian horror flick and this one found it's way onto the wrong side of that line.  More focus on horror and suspense would have made these all go a long way.  Now, with that being said, The Premature Burial and Murders in the Rue Morgue were fucking phenomenal.  Premature Burial is a Fulci-esque take on the classic Poe tale that really needs to be expanded upon.  This is the shortest story in the film and easily the most affective.  Murders in the Rue Morgue was the other great story in the film.  This one was surprisingly raunchy and shocking.  If this film only consisted on these two tales then it would have received a 4.5 out of 5 rating from me.  Finally, the film has some phenomenal special effects that were never fully capitalized upon.  Overall, P.O.E. Project of Evil is an art film made for the fans of Italian horror.  Sadly, if you are not an art film fan then this film will not go over well for you.  I still recommend this film just for the Murders in the Rue Morgue and Premature Burial segments. 



Writer:Paula Duerksen, Cory J Udler
Director:Cory J Udler
Starring:Paula Duerksen, Shannon Lark, Kaylee Williams, Greg Johnson, Stu Hollow
Availability: DVD and VHS available at

    I know it's been a few days since my last review.  I've had a bit of writer's block over the weekend.  I've started several reviews, but just couldn't figure out how to finish them.  There are times when I feel like the mammoth amount of films I watch on a regular basis starts affecting my ability to explain what I love about a film, and equally what I hate about a film.  So, I figure it's about time I just get my head together and write again.  If nothing else, it will be a cathartic release from all the drama and insanity that has been going on around me lately.

    Now, here we have a film about organized religion.  The weird thing to me is that religion is still considered a controversial subject to tackle in film.  This is sad to me, because there is a time when I have to wonder when are people going to realize it's just a story.  It's a piece of mythology that, unfortunately, people still latch on to after all these years despite how much our thinking has evolved since then.  Not only that, but it's strange to me how acceptable it is to still persecute atheists.  The sheer amount of insane misconceptions about atheism is staggering to me.  I understand that death is a frightening thing, and we all want to think we have something grand and beautiful to look forward to when we die.  Still, I don't think that excuses the hate and fear that seems to go hand in hand with religion.

    I've never discussed religion with Cory J. Udler, so I'm not sure where he stands on the subject, or even what he believes.  I think it's safe to say he has his own problems with it, though, especially considering all four of his films have had religion as one of the main focal points.  Apparently, the inspiration for Mediatrix was a road trip Cory took during the shooting of Incest Death Squad 2.  They were checking out the Ed Gein sights in Plainfield.  While there, they took a detour to the Mediatrix of Peace shrine in Necedah.  Cory remembered going there as a kid, and figured that place was just creepy enough to beg being exploited in a movie.

    Paula Duerksen (who also co-wrote the film) plays Mary Ann Van Hook, a drugged-out whore who grew up with an overbearingly spiritual mother.  Mary Ann is also a scam artist, and even fakes a pregnancy to extort money.  After leaving home, she moves in with a couple, Carrie and William.  She convinces them that she has a real connection with the Virgin Mary (played by the always beautiful Shannon Lark).  She eventually causes William to have a heart attack from mixing drugs, and this causes Carrie to lose her mind, because she feels William's death was a result of him being a non-believer.  Mary Ann even coaxes Carrie to have sex with a man under the false assumption that the man is the angel Michael.  Eventually, she starts convincing all the local townsfolk that she has a connection to the divine world, and there's also a subplot involving a priest who has made it his mission to expose Marry Ann for the fraud she really is.

    Now, one thing I must say about Cory's films is they seem to be much more intelligent than he gives them credit for.  He usually considers his films to be sleazy exploitation flicks, but there are so many deeper ideas going on inside them.  In fact, I'd say his films rely more on the strong writing and characters than the exploitative elements.  Mediatrix is no exception, and despite being a scrappy, occasionally messy film, is probably the best film I've seen from him.

    This is a movie that combines dark humor, religious satire, some bursts of shocking violence, and even a fair amount of sex in the mix.  The results are nothing short of compelling.  The camerawork is solid, and shows that Cory does have a strong visual style.  The acting across the board was unusually strong for such a low budget film.  The script was absolutely brilliant, and was able to balance all these ideas into something not only cohesive, but also quite captivating with its deceptive simplicity.  This is exploitation for the thinking man.  It's not a film that you can call perfect, but it is a film that has real ideas, a true vision.  Cory and Paula created something very original here, and now that I hear Cory wants to break away from no-budget cinema, I'm very interested in what he has up his sleeve next.

    Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos...

Friday, April 25, 2014


Director - Eric Stanze (China White Serpentine)
Starring - Emily Haack (Scrapbook), Jason Christ (Satan Eats Lunch), and Sarah Swofford (Demon Board)
Release Date - 2011
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "The skin of the civilized world is growing thin..."
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     I always praised the horror community on how supportive and tight knit it was.  People would always share the most recent films that had seen that were worth a damn while shit smearing the ones that sucked ass.  However, the indie horror community can fuck right off.  They can fuck right off just like Fran Drescher's voice.  I'm pissed because I just recently discovered the film Ratline by extreme horror fan Eric Stanze.  Ratline was a new one to me that I only discovered about 6 months ago or so.  The film looked fun so I reached out to the Wicked Pixel Cinema Facebook page and over the course of several months I built a relationship with them and they finally sent me a signed screener.  Thank you so much for that Eric and "Eli."
     The film follows Crystal Brewer (Haack) and her half sister as they flee from the scene of a botched heist with money in tow.  Once shit got real they headed to a small town to lay low and think things through. It is here that she meets a beautiful young lady (lesbian love) and the two hit it off instantly.  Around this time a man comes into town seeking an old Nazi flag to complete a ritual needed to engulf the world into chaos and to grant him immortality.  It is only a matter of time before Crystal crosses paths with him and learns of his dark past and his ties with the Nazi party.  She also learns who her real father is.  That leaves her to make a choice; follow the stranger on his bloody rampage or protect her family from him.
     I love all horror from the past to now.  Every decade has a certain style of film that sets it apart from the others.  The last few years saw the rise of the extreme horror films and this is something I have expressed a dislike for in almost all of my reviews.  Most of these extreme horror flicks give us buckets of gore and extreme sexual acts without giving the viewer any real story.  When I first saw the artwork for Ratline I assumed it was an extreme horror flick but only after a few minutes I quickly realized that this is type of film that has been long forgotten.  This film was a straight forward horror flick which is something most films have gotten away from and that was a damn shame.  The acting in this film is superb.  The entire cast did an amazing job.  Sadly, this is my first encounter with them all and that is something I am going to have to fix...and soon.  The story for this film is fucking fun as hell and very well written.  Stanze is a real fan of horror and knew exactly what horror fans wanted to see.  I loved the beginning Satanic cult angle before completely twisting on me to give me an unexpected Nazi spin.  A sequel needs to be made dammit!  Finally, the film has some very impressive kills and great special effects to pull them off.  The kills were not out of place or there to give use pointless gore.  The kills actually fit the story and that is important when making a straight forward horror flick.  Overall, Ratline is a fucking masterpiece.  It is balls out and bloody the way it should be.  This is not a film everyone needs to check out.  Instead, it is a film that everyone MUST own.  I highly recommend this one!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wrong Cops

Writer/Director:Quentin Dupieux
Starring:Mark Burnham, Eric Judor, Steve Little, Marilyn Manson
Availability:DVD Widely Available

    Quentin Dupieux is one of the most original, unusual voices in modern film.  I remember seeing his film Rubber for the first time at a midnight screening at one of our local arthouse theaters.  It was a film that I had mixed feelings about.  I loved the absurdity of it, and I thought the first half was absolutely brilliant.  Somewhere along the way, though, I felt the film lost steam, and started to ramble.  Basically, it was a great short film padded out to feature length.  His follow-up, Wrong, was probably an even weirder film, but I felt it was much more successful.  It was funny.  It was strange.  It was one of my favorite films from 2012.

    Quentin's new film, Wrong Cops, falls somewhere between his two previous films.  It's definitely a hard film to pin down.  When it began, I felt a bit uncomfortable, because the film just wasn't funny.  As it moved along, though, I realized this isn't really a movie that's meant to be funny in the conventional sense of the word.  This is a movie that combines the absurd surrealism of Quentin's previous work, and mixes it with a sort of meta-humor that would feel right at home on a late night Adult Swim line-up.  This is Quentin having a lark, doing a little screwball exercise to fill the gaps between his more serious work.  If you can appreciate the oddball approach and oft-kilter humor, it will entertain you.  However, I can promise a lot of you will absolutely HATE this film.

    Basically, Wrong Cops is a series of vignettes involving one of the most incompetent police forces imaginable.  Every cop in this movie is either a total loser or some sort of piece of shit human being.  Officer Duke (Mark Burnham, reprising his same role from Wrong) is first seen selling marijuana inside of dead rats.  He then encounters a teenager (Marilyn Manson in a brilliant bit of stunt casting), who he ends up taking as a hostage.  While being held captive in Duke's apartment, he forces him to listen to this obnoxious bit of techno in a way of showing the teen what "good music" is.  After the teen escapes, Officer Duke tries to shoot him, but accidentally shoots his neighbor instead.

    The problem is that the man in the backseat just won't seem to die.  It's also revealed that he has really good taste in music.  This ties in with a very amusing subplot involving one of the cops who is a wannabe musician.  His music is terrible, but he enlists the help of the dying man to try to bring it to life.  Adding to the insanity is a cop with a gay porn past, Eric Wareheim as a cop who gets off on sexually harassing every woman he encounters, blackmail, and a bunch of money buried in a backyard.  The movie just becomes more and more absurd, and by the final act, it has completely fallen off the rails into full blown insanity.

    Quentin shoots the entire movie in a very soft-lit way that recalls a lot of the television cop shows it seems to emulate in a lot of ways.  There are amusing cameos from brilliant actors like Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie.  Mark Burnham and Eric Judor are absolutely brilliant in their roles.  The humor is incredibly scattershot, like a series of sketches with no punchline.  There's not a likable character in the bunch.  The film's mixture of dadaist musings and low-brow humor can be jarring.  It's a film that I don't know how to recommend, or even to recommend it at all.

    Basically, if you're a fan of Quentin's previous work or fans of this abrasive sort of non-comedy, then this comes highly recommended.  However, if you are unfamiliar with the absurd worlds Quentin creates, I'd be very careful how I approach this one.  Personally, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I'm also a fan of this sort of anti-comedy.  I'm one of those weird fuckers who considers Freddy Got Fingered to be a misunderstood piece of dadaist brilliance.  This is a film with true underground spirit.  I'm not even sure how to rate the damn thing, so I'm just going to split it right now the middle and let you decide if it sounds like your type of thing.  It's like Reno 911 made for and by sociopaths.  If that sounds like your thing, and you have a taste for the peculiar like me, I'd say definitely check it out.  You won't see anything like it for a long time, or at least until Quentin makes another movie.

    Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Writer/Director:Steve Balderson
Starring:Karen Black, Mike Patton, Jak Kendall
Availability:DVD is out of print, but you can find a VOD option at

    Holy fuck!  I have just witnessed a true American masterpiece!  Steve Balderson's Firecracker is a brave, bold, surreal, beautiful, poetic, magnificent piece of film.  I almost don't want to review it, because I don't feel I can do this film justice.  Steve's debut flick Pep Squad showed he was a director with real promise, but Firecracker stands as probably the greatest piece of surreal Americana since at least Arizona Dream.  It is nothing short of tragic that a film this gorgeous hasn't gone on to be known as the true American classic it deserves to be!  Jesus Christ, I haven't been this excited over a film in quite some time!

    The inspiration for the film was a real life murder that took place in Steve's hometown over 50 years ago (and was even able to film inside the actual house where the murder took place.)  Karen Black plays a housewife with an incredibly dysfunctional family.  Her youngest boy, Jimmy, wants nothing more than to be a musician.  He is a kind, gentle soul.  His older brother, David (played by Faith No More's Mike Patton in a strong debut performance), is a cold-hearted, violent man who tears his brother down every chance he gets.  These people aren't caricatures, though.  It would be easy to dismiss David and hate him, but the family does love him, despite his awful behavior.

    One night, Jimmy takes off to a nearby carnival where he meets Sandra (also played by Karen Black), an "oddity of nature," and the show's main attraction.  They form an instant bond.  Sandra is smitten by Jimmy's innocence, and Jimmy sees Sandra's life as a mirror image of his own, because Sandra, too, is the victim of constant degradation at the hands of the carnival's owner, Frank (also played by Mike Patton).  Once David comes up missing, their seemingly simple lives start unraveling.  I won't spoil the story's surprises, but suffice to say, what unfolds feels like it's taken from the pages of a glorious, epic novel.  The stories almost blend together in a beautiful mixture of fantasy and harsh reality.  The family sequences are shot in crisp, sharp black and white, while the carnival sequences are shot in lush, gorgeous color.  

    I can't say enough good things about this movie!  I was hooked in the first five minutes.  The opening scene shows Jimmy's home life in all its dysfunctional glory.  Once he runs off to the carnival, the screen blends the black and white and color so seamlessly, that my job dropped at what I was seeing.  Another very cool thing about this film was the use of actual sideshow freaks to play the circus performers, adding an air of authenticity it might otherwise have lacked.  Karen Black, as usual, is fantastic in both her roles.  Mike Patton, as David, is pitch perfect.  As Frank, he's a bit over the top, but it doesn't hurt the film at all.  As Jimmy, Jak Kendall breaks your heart, his eyes full of nothing short of raw passion and pure emotion.  It's a simply marvelous performance.

    The cinematography is also a main attraction here.  This is one of the most beautifully shot films I've seen in ages.  Balderson had grown so much as a director in the years between this and Pep Squad, it's hard to believe it's from the same director.  At the same time, it was there to show that he was a director who didn't want to make the same film over and over again.  He showed a real versatility here that not a lot of independent directors are able to muster.  The shifting back and forth between the two stories can be a jarring experience for those of you who aren't prepared for it, but if you love movies that are daring and original, you won't find too many films that will top this one.  It exists somewhere between the demented suburbia of Blue Velvet and the colorful insanity of Santa Sangre.  This movie is a real force of nature, and I am eternally grateful that Steve Balderson was able to grace us with its gifts.  This movie is nothing short of a fucking masterpiece, and I defy anyone to prove any different.  I am in fucking love!

    Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos...