Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mercenaries, Brigitte Nielsen Conquers the World

Described by the CIA Director (Cynthia Rothrock) as an Amazonian She-B@@@h, Ulrika (Brigitte Nielsen) undertakes a plan for world domination.  Yep...we have a can't miss one today.  2014's "Mercenaries" is filled with comic book-style action, and a babe filled mercenary team clad in black fatigues and leather.  Is there anything else you need for the the new year?  Why even consider going to see the new Angelina Jolie bore-athon, when when you can see Zoe Bell as a Ranger/Delta psycho, and Kristanna Loken as a former USMC sniper?  Available on Netflix, here is a review of the next film you will watch.
Unlike the daugheters of the first 44 U.S. presidents, Elise Prescott (Tiffany Panhilason) is hot, and as the  movie begins, kidnapped by Ulrika's band of terrorists in Kazakhstan.  Ulrika's demands?  If the president wants to see Elise in one piece again, Ulrika insists they overthrow the government of Kazakhstan and insert her as the president.  Ulrika loves abducting beautiful women and using them as prostitutes, and her plans for Elise turn even more treacherous.  Ulrika, a formidable foe, believes all women are weak and unreliable, so she doesn't fear them.  Hence the CIA director finds four of the baddest women with tactical experience she can muster.  Coincidentally, they are all incarcerated in maximum security prisons.  Cassandra (Bell) is a GI Jane.  Kat (Loken) is a sniper.  Mei-Lin (Nicole Bilderback) is a pilot and bomb maker. Lastly, Raven (Vivica A. Fox) is a covert CIA killer turned traitor.  If they rescue Elise, pardons await them.
These four killer vixens, armed with pistols, automatic rifles, and explosives that would make James Bond proud, must put their bad attitudes aside and work together if they plan on succeeding.  As our mercenaries begin their approach to a former Soviet prison, now Ulrika's (I just love saying that name) fortress, they realize that this Amazonian-b@#$h also has amassed lots of gold and some ICBMs.  With some smart planning, they infiltrate the fortress, but the blonde giant is two steps ahead of them.  Mei-Lin is quickly taken prisoner, and her and Kat will be strung up for torture before too long.  Oh yes, add some betrayal and hints of lesbian attraction, and chances of rescue and survival seem thin.  Nevertheless, our fully equipped vixens are ready to turn the tables on their Amazonian tormentor.  
Will Elise, the first-daughter, be brought back to the President in one piece?  If successful, will the CIA keep their word and give our four babes pardons?  Will Ulrika's hatred for women be tempered by her crush on Cassandra?  Ms. Nielsen looks terrific and is ominous as a wild terrorist leader.  The rest of the above mentioned actresses also do a fine job.  Pure action, lots of explosions, gun-fights, cat-fights, revealing battle gear, and witty dialog contribute to a must-see action film.  Directed by Christopher Ray, don't miss this one.  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Zombie Isle, 1970s Drive In Gore-Fest

...but made in 2014 by Robert Elkins (writer and director).  As the winter blockbusters under impress, treat yourself to a horror film from a very pristine era...even though it was made a few months ago.  "Zombie Isle" looks like one of those cheesy quality straight to drive-in movies.  The camera work is uneven, and scratchy.  The acting is campy....but refreshing.  Oh yes...the gore.  Are you sick of Rated PG-13 quality zombie films?  I think Robert Elkins is.  We see ominous scenes of zombies eating coeds while they are still kicking.  The fiends rip off flesh, chew, eat some face, chew some more, and then battle for intestines.  Sort of a hybrid of Lucio Fulci's "Zombie" and "Shock Waves,""Zombie Isle" is a refreshing throwback to 1970s horror treasures.
The plot:  Some hot coeds, a couple of jock-wannabes, and their pervert professor (Tony Jones) head to an uncharted island to study flora specimens.  The professor pairs up his students and sends them in different directions.  Our pervert-PhD saves Amie (Kyle Billeter), his star pupil, for himself and then endeavors to get in her pants (these two are pictured above).  As each of the couples delve into the island's fauna, worm infested zombies close in.  Slow moving, but popping up everywhere, the pretty coeds and their wimpy men are pulled apart and devoured.  One lass, Cindy (Catherine Goodson) is alive for many torturous moments as the zombies eat her bit by bit.  Edie (Leah Gosnell) suffers a similar fate.  Only Amie, the perv, and two ditzy coeds remain.
Like most deserted islands in these films, there is a secret military lab, run by a Nazi mad-scientist, hidden on it.  The U.S. Government brought him over from Germany but were horrified by his experiments.  Instead of trying the monster for war-crimes, they gave him a deserted island to ply his trade.  He abducts Amie, and eventually her two friends and pervert professor.  This schizoid has invented a formula which brings the dead back to life as his slaves.  Half eaten Edie, not so pretty anymore, is brought back.  Herr Doctor can also control them.  Oh yes..his magnum opus....a three-headed zombie, who needs to feast on body parts (see photo below).  What does the evil doctor have in store for our pretty coeds and their professor?  Who's brain is he keeping in a glass jar, and cooing to?  Did the broadness  of the Marshall Plan in Europe allow this Nazi scientist to slip through the cracks, and flourish on an island near Virginia? 

The answers to those questions are answered in a terrifying conclusion.  If you endured through Brad Pitt in "World War Z," you deserve to treat yourself to "Zombie Isle."  Nothing about this homage to the 1970s reeks of Rated PG-13.  On the contrary, the gore is icky and stomach turning.  The actresses are good-looking, and capture, in their performances, the mood of straight to Drive-In horror exploitation.  The DVD is reasonably priced on Amazon.com. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Sacrament, Jonestown Revisited

Earlier this year I traveled to Guyana.  My desire to visit "Jonestown" was thwarted by the jungle, as nature reclaimed a very unholy tract of acreage.  November 18, 1978 the Guyana military sent paratroopers to Jonestown.  These brave soldiers radioed in what they observed, hundreds (918, see picture below) of corpses...no sign of violence.  Central command in Georgetown assumed a plague or pandemic was the culprit.  The paratroopers are told they would be on their own until confirmation that contagions aren't responsible.  For three days the soldiers lived among the rotting dead, shunning food and water, which could be infected.  Nearly two weeks later, after baking in the jungle heat, law enforcement and the military will arrive to bag and tag the former members of Reverend Jim Jones' cult...the Peoples Temple.  Their demise, cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid (not Kool-Aid, which is still heavily sold and advertised in Guyana).
This brings us to  Eli Roth's 2013's "The Sacrament."  Directed by Ti West, this is a modern re-telling of the horror that forever stained a coastal South American country.  Though fiction, this film's parallels with the actual events in Jonestown are no coincidence.  A film crew heads to a mysterious location near the equator to do a story on The Eden Parish.  This ministry (..cult) collected addicts, drunks, and victims of western imperialistic and racist actions (their words, not mine) and gave them hope, love, and importance,  At first all looks Kosher (forgive the choice of words).  Then our film crew meets "Father" (Gene Jones).  Sam (AJ Bowen) is able to interview this charismatic figure.  Sam is instantly creeped out by this cult leader.  After the interview, Sam and Jake (Joe Swanberg), the cameraman, receive indications that not all is well in Eden Parish.  With some snooping, our duo realize that many of the church-members are captives who are not allowed to leave.  Further evidence suggests that "Father" has addicted the beautiful Caroline (Amy Seimetz) to drugs and has lots of carnal relations with her.
The vision of a paradise devolves into images of prison camps as many of the members beg our film crew to rescue them from oppression.  However holy "Father" makes himself appear, minimal scrutiny suggests something very horrific. Unfortunately, NO ONE LEAVES ALIVE!  Now Sam and Jake must decide whether to cut and run or attempt to rescue some traumatized women and children. We should mention Patrick (Kentucky Audley), the third member of the film crew, and Caroline's brother.  The cult has plans for him.  People who remember accounts of Jonestown in 1978 know how this will end.  The ending won't be easy to watch, consider yourself warned.
Jim Jones, before founding Jonestown, was rubbing elbows with San Francisco's political elite.  President Jimmy Carter, and his wife Rosalind were admirers of his.  Realizing that U.S. tax laws might put a hurt on his ministry, he moved it to Guyana.  The rest is history....unfortunately, a largely forgotten piece of history.  Eli Roth and Ti West have made an important film, and hopefully the dangers of Jim Jones-type figures will be realized.  Evil will not enter your door breathing fire and screaming carnage.  Evil will be welcomed into our homes uttering guidance for salvation and peace.  Mr. Roth and Mr. West tell one such story.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Night of the Seagulls, The Damsel Massacre

Today we look at the final installment of "The Tombs of the Blind Dead" series.  Directed by Amando de Ossorio, all of these films were shot in Spain.  Like it's predecessors, 1975's "The Night of the Seagulls" is famous for it's beautiful and buxom Spanish damsels getting ripped apart by undead Templar Knights.  Whether it be lesbian fashion models (see my Sept. 15th review of "The Ghost Galleon") or would be party babes (see my Oct. 31st review of "Return of the Evil Dead"), Spain's most beautiful women die the most horrible deaths in this particular film franchise.  So hats off to the many actresses, who screamed so well for us.
As our film begins, the Templar Knights skewer some schmuck and carry off his beautiful and buxom wife (Susana Estrada).  They then sacrifice her by ripping her heart out, drinking her blood, chopping up her body, and feeding the remains to crabs.  Fast forward 200 years, Dr. Henry Stein (Victor Petit) and his beautiful and buxom wife, Joan (Maria Kosty, pictured below), arrive at a seaside Spanish town. They should have heeded many warnings, like: None of the citizens will speak to them, the previous doctor already has his bags packed, and they are warned never to go outside at night.  The only friend Henry and Joan will meet is a half-wit named Teddy (Jose Antonio Calvo).  Soon they will meet the beautiful and buxom Tilda (Julia Saly).  Shortly after she arrives at their home, the townspeople come collect her and hand her over to the resurrected Templar knights (see photo above), who then rip her heart out, drink her blood, chop her up, and feed her remains to crabs.
Joan senses danger.  She has witnessed the processions where townsfolk lead beautiful buxom women to the sea.  Henry is convinced it's the wind...yeah right.  Then the beautiful and buxom Lucy (Sandra Mozarowsky) seeks refuge with Henry and Joan...until the townspeople collect her as a sacrifice.  Now Henry is listening to reason, and Teddy fills him in.  Every seven years, for seven days, a beautiful buxom Spanish lass is delivered to these ghost knights.  In return, the knights will not level the town.  In a show of bravado, Henry rescues Lucy and brings her home.  Now the fiends converge on Henry's house, probably desiring Lucy and Joan.  As Henry, Joan, Teddy, and Lucy board up the house, the knights attack.  The battle will be tenuous, as the good and the evil will suffer mortal casualties.  The inevitable final showdown will take place in the secret cave of these vermin.  
Will Joan end up as sea urchin bait?  Do the undead knights have a weakness which Henry can exploit?  The knights had their eyes burned out before being put to death centuries ago, so one wonders why the townspeople didn't just give them old hags with moles on their faces instead of Spain's eye-candy.  Never mind, that probably wouldn't have worked.  Gory and terrifying, "The Night of the Seagulls" (yes, the title is explained) is a fitting end to the "Tombs of the Blind Dead" Series.    

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Dead 2, The Zombies Invade Mumbai

Also known as "The Dead 2: India," the Ford Brothers (Howard J. and Jonathan) have followed up their zombie hit, "The Dead" with a similar film.  In 2010, The Ford brothers went to Burkina Faso to film a most ominous zombie apocalypse movie.  Virtually every scene had zombies pursuing the protagonists, usually just a few feet away.  In the end....Africa lost.  In 2013, "The Dead 2" takes us to India and into the slums of Mumbai.  Even without the undead, this is a scary setting.  Like much of Africa, Mumbai's slums suffer as the world has failed them.  Perhaps part of the horror in these two films derives in the fact that the wealthiest nations have ignored the third world in all but superficial ways.  We don't admit to ourselves that we believe a life in the third world is not worth as much as our own...but if we take a cold hard look at our psyches....well...the truth might horrify us.
As the film begins, Rajiv returns to India on a ship from Somalia.  News reports out of Africa are confusing, as for no reason, the entire population is falling victim to cannibalism.  Rajiv has been bit, and in short order, he will die and then return.  The zombie outbreak is quick in and near Mumbai.  Nicholas (Joseph Millison, pictured above) is 300 miles away fixing wind turbines.  Atop one of these windmill structures, he sees the outbreak hit in very eerie fashion.  Knowing something is wrong he contacts his office in Mumbai only to find out the city is being overrun by biting mobs.  Uh oh, his pregnant girlfriend, an Indian from a very traditional Hindu family, lives on the outskirts of the slums.  As Mumbai gets deader by the minute, Nicholas starts a trek to enter Mumbai, it's slums, to rescue Ishani (Meenu Mishra).
The trek will prove harrowing.  The nearer to Mumbai he gets, the more dense the population....and the deader the population.  Nicholas befriends a ten year old boy, Javed (Anand Krishna Goyal), who serves as his guide.  We are treated to both their back stories, which hammer home some noble themes.  Nicholas is determined to reach Ishani, as years ago he abandoned his pregnant girlfriend resulting in the death of his child.  With a chance for redemption, Nicholas' determination just might lead him through a zombie horde of biblical proportion.  On Ishani's end, her very Hindu dad is disgusted by his daughter, who he believes has disgraced the family name.  Oh yes, holed up in their house is Ishani's mom, who has been bitten.  Will the pending apocalypse reunite this family, torn apart by dishonor?
Like the first "The Dead" movie, the zombies are ominous.  Every time Nicholas stops moving, the undead appear just a few feet away.  I won't spoil the ending, but I will say that as Nicholas nears Mumbai, he makes some hard decisions that will change him forever.  Whatever kind of jerk Nicholas was 10 years ago, he is committed to save his girlfriend and their unborn child.  Even if he does reach them, will he then be able to get out of Mumbai and India?  The Ford Brothers have done it again, taking the zombie apocalypse to regions that may me undergoing their own apocalypse without the undead thrown in.  Both these films are exhausting, with endings that ignite new questions about how we in western civilization view our brothers and sisters in the third world.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dirty O'Neil, Nympho-Maniac Cop

If you are not a fan of 1970s sexploitation, drive-in fare...stop reading now.  For the other 99% of this audience, let us examine 1974's "Dirty O'Neil."  Highly offensive in nature, especially if taken seriously, one might criticize this work for trivializing rape, police brutality, sex with high-schoolers, and women professionals.  Premiering at drive-in theaters at the height of the now defunct woman's lib movement, "Dirty O'Neil" may have been a welcomed diversion in a society just looking to be offended.  If remade today, "Dirty O'Neil" would feature a woman as the protagonist, and would offend no one.
Jimmy O'Neil (Morgan Paull) is a patrol cop in Newhall, California.  Not a big town, but every woman in it is stunning and quick to get naked.  O'Neil is irresistible to females and he knows it.  He is also the luckiest cop alive, as every time he responds to a fender bender (see photo above) or pulls over a speeder, the offender just happens to be a sex-starved young lady.  During the course of this film, he gets down and dirty with a stripper, a diner waitress, a nurse, a rock-band groupie, a girls high school basketball team, the Norwegian trophy wife (see bottom photo) of a local judge, and a speeder.  His two main paramours are a nurse (and rival basketball coach) named Lisa (Pat Anderson) and the diner's waitress, Ruby (Jeane Manson, see photo below).  Both women wear very short dresses and seem to be missing undergarments.
The above paragraph captures the bulk of this film, but evil does lurk in the shadows.  Three thugs, fresh from robbing a gas station and murdering the attendant show up in Newhall.  One night, as Ruby leaves the diner, these fiends grab her and brutally gang rape her.  When Ruby finally does tell Jimmy about the attack he asks her why she did not tell him before.  Ruby confides to him that she did not look at him as a real cop.  Devastated by this assessment, Jimmy's libido falls through the floor.  Unable to live up to the expectations of Newhall's fare nymphs, Jimmy questions his self worth.  Depressed, Jimmy contemplates leaving law enforcement and Newhall.  Is there a path to Jimmy's salvation?  Yes!  As the three thugs seek another episode with Ruby, Jimmy is intent on protecting and serving what is left of Ruby's virtue.
Comedic, violent, and erotic.  Need I say more.  The acting is a lot better than most films of this genre.  Pat Anderson ("Fly Me") is very appealing in a very naughty nurse outfit.  Morgan Paull ("Patton" and "Blade Runner") as O'Neil is also superb.  This film also has a big time director, Lewis Teague ("Cujo" and "Alligator").  If you have a proclivity toward being offended, hopefully you haven't read as far as this sentence.  For guilty pleasure, "Dirty O'Neil" is available on Netflix.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Killer Mermaid, Montenegro Nights

This year's "Killer Mermaid" (aka "Nymph") is probably the most memorable film ever set and filmed in Montenegro.  I'm fairly sure it is the best movie ever made about mermaids, as well.  Wonderfully filmed, after watching this movie I now have Montenegro on my list of desired vacation destinations. No doubt "Killer Mermaid" will be much maligned, as most straight-to-DVD works are, but this is a terrific and fun horror flick.  One might argue that it starts slow, but the great looking actresses and actors make up for that.  In any event, the final 45 minutes is rapid paced, scary, and gory. Fabulously directed by Milan Todorovic, and terrific acting by Kristina Klebe and Natalie Burn (picture below), make today's blog selection the biggest sleeper of 2014.
Mr. Todorovic introduces and defines his characters well.  Kelly (Klebe) and Lucy (Burn) are college chums who travel to beautiful Montenegro seven years after graduation to hook up with their old classmate, Alex (Slobodan Stefanovic).  Alex is now engaged (...to the displeasure of Kelly and Lucy) to the luscious Yasmin (Sofija Rajovic) who can sense that Lucy and her fiance used to be intimates.  In need of an immediate distraction, Alex proposes a boat trip to an island not on the map where and abandoned army base exists (...yeah, this is always a brilliant idea).  Oh yes...in a parallel plot, an old seaman is murdering beautiful women and feeding them to some monster living underneath that abandoned base.  Joining our quartet is Boban (Dragan Micanovic).  For you ladies, Alex and Boban are quite good looking, equipped with killer abs.  
Unaware that this uncharted island is the lair of a seductive monster and her henchman, our five really hot characters land there.  As they tour the island, the henchman follows, prepared with a knife, hook, and rifle.  Unfortunately for Yasmin (pictured above), she is separated from the group, and her head.  Uh oh...the guys hear really sweet music, which Kelly and Lucy do not.  The music puts Boban and Alex in a trance luring them to the the killer mermaid's lair.  Hungry and unmerciful, the mermaid desires to eat all the visitors, and it is up to Kelly (the smarter of the two surviving babes) to pull the hunks out of their trances and mount an escape from this bloody island.  As the mermaid shreds some of the characters, Kelly must use her brains and overcome her fear of the water to survive.  The mermaid (Zorana Kostic Obradovic) is monstrous, but to the guys, she appears sultry and alluring.
The ending is exciting, and the inevitable cat-fight between the mermaid and Kelly won't be avoided.  The origin of the mermaid is explained and also the even more horrific origin of the uncharted island adds to the terror in "Killer Mermaid."  The DVD is very reasonably priced on Amazon.com, and as the cold winter approaches, you owe yourself a horror movie with bikini-clad babes and six-pack ab hunks.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Salem's Lot, The Vampires Eat Maine

Between "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Funhouse," Tobe Hooper directed a made for TV mini-series based on a Stephen King novel.  I know, nothing says shocking horror like "made for TV" (can you detect my sarcasm?). The two aforementioned horror movies were frightening, but could Mr. Hooper deliver the scares on prime time network TV in 1979?  Yes.  The famed director delivered  a relatively loyal adaptation of one of Mr. King's first novels, in....very shockingly horrific fashion.  The U.S. version, which we will look at today is over three hours in length, while the version that was released in the U.K. is 72 minutes shorter.  The condensed British version should be shunned, as two of the scenes omitted are the opening one and the closing one.
David Soul ("Starsky and Hutch") plays Ben Mears, a boring writer.  He's grouchy and doesn't have much personality, nor do any of the men in Salem's Lot.  He arrives in town to do research on the old Marsten House.  He believes the house is evil, and it's history backs that up.  Susan (Bonnie Bedelia, "Die Hard") falls in love with him immediately. Coinciding with Ben's arrival is the arrival of Mr. Straker (James Mason).  Straker is a mysterious, and classy European who is opening an antique shop in town.  Straker claims his partner, Mr. Barlow, will arrive shortly.  Oh yes....Straker has moved into the Marsten house.  Barlow does arrive...in a crate.  The night he arrives, two children are bitten, and so is the town Realtor (Fred Willard).  The bodies start piling up, and in some very shocking scenes, children vampires stalk other children (see photo below).  Ben tries to convince people that vampires have arrived in Salem's Lot, and they emanate from the Marsten House.  Eventually, a high school teacher (Lew Ayres) and the town doctor (Ed Flanders) team up with him.  
As Barlow and the new vampires go through town like crap through a goose, Ben and his ragtag gang of Van Helsing wannabes must act quickly.  Beware, Barlow has the wisdom of dozens of lifetimes and is always several steps ahead of Ben.  As Ben realizes that he will have to take the battle to Barlow, he convinces his gang that they must enter the menacing Marsten house.  Oh yes, his most loyal follower is Mark (Lance Kerwin).  Mark's parents were ripped to shreds in front of him by Barlow.  Now Mark is a 16 year old vampire hunter. Mark knows the score...he is a horror enthusiast. Uh oh, Straker and Barlow make a move for Susan..now the mission has a rescue component to it. Will Ben, over-matched and scared, be able to save Susan and keep his friends among the living?
Not much gore in this film, but it does contain very chilling scenes that will give you nightmares. Barlow (pictured above) is a very scary vampire.  He sends children vampires after their parents and siblings and preys upon the character weaknesses of the townspeople.  The U.S. version (183 minutes) is ominous, which Stephen King would have appreciated.  The cast is great, the scares are effective, and the discomfort level is maximized.  Until recently, this 1979 adaptation of the best-selling novel was scarce in DVD format.  If you have suffered through annoying teen vampires in modern TV and cinema, see "Salem's Lot," which reminds us that these undead vermin are stuff that horror movies are made of.    

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Return of Count Yorga, More Frightening than the Original

"Count Yorga, Vampire" (see my review on this blog from February 5th) may be one of the scariest films of the 1970s.  In 1971, the sequel, "The Return of Count Yorga" hit the drive-ins.  Robert Quarry reprises his role as the charming Count, and in a rarity, the sequel may be scarier than the original...and that's saying a lot.  Before directing episodes of "Charlie's Angels," Bob Kelljan directed these two horror movies.  Today we will examine the sequel, that was not afraid to push the limits on the taboo.
The plot:  Count Yorga is back...don't ask how.  As the film begins, women push out of graves, presumably victims of the Count.  The un-dead babes then grab a little boy and turn him into a slave of Yorga.  Cynthia (Mariette Hartley) works at a neighboring orphanage which Yorga has tabbed an all you can eat buffet.  As Yorga visits the place, he bites the beautiful Mitzi (Jesse Welles) and falls in love with Cynthia.  Cynthia's arrogant boyfriend, Dr. David Baldwin (Roger Perry), is very protective.  That night, Yorga dispatched about a dozen of his wives to Cythia's household (see photo below).  In a most chilling scene, the wives massacre Cynthia's mom, dad, and sisters in front of her eyes and abscond with the shocked babe.  Now under Yorga's spell, Cynthia doesn't remember the attack.
In a horrific and heartbreaking scene, the lone surviving sister, Jennifer (Yvonne Wilder, also a co-writer of this film) who is also a deaf mute, tries to scream when she discovers her mutilated family.  In a very forbidden area, Jennifer will later be killed by the little boy who is now Yorga's henchman.  A little boy butchering a maternal figure in her sleep is unsettling in 2014, never mind 1971.  As David enlists the help of two cops (Ray DeLuca and Craig T. Nelson), the posse make their way to Yorga's mansion to find Cynthia.  They will actually find more than they bargained for as Yorga's harem awaits their arrival.  
Though a B-movie in every sense, including opening at drive-ins, both these "Count Yorga" films undoubtedly influenced some masters of horror.  Stephen King and director Tobe Hooper most certainly used elements from these films in "Salem's Lot" which horrified audiences nearly a decade later.  With a fraction of the budget as later, more famous vampire films, "Count Yorga" is definately the scariest bloodsucker of the past 50 years.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rubber, From France for....No Reason

Life is filled with "No Reason," or so we're told in Quentin Dupieux' 2010 film "Rubber."  We're also told, every great film has an element of "No Reason."  French filmmaker, Mr. Dupieux, likely had a reason in mind to explain what graces the screen in one of the strangest films since "Eraserhead." Perhaps a hybrid of a David Cronenberg and Coen brothers creation, this film will inspire you to think. Perhaps, though unlikely, this film is designed to be anything your imagination constructs from the particular contexts you have lived.  In any event, if you know nothing about this movie, get ready for a plot description that will blow your mind...literally.
The plot:  In the middle of the California desert, spectators from all walks of life have been assembled.  Atop a hill, a geeky accountant has given them binoculars in order to watch the show.  A philosophical police lieutenant (Stephen Spinella, pictured below) introduces the show.  Down below, it begins.  A tire comes to life and rolls out of a dump.  Bent on destruction, it crushes cans and scorpions.  The tire also realizes he has a sort of telekinetic power to blow up things.  It's first victim is a large rabbit...BOOM!  The tire has a soft spot for beautiful women, and when he finds Sheila (Roxane Mesquida) driving a VW convertible, it is in love.  The rubber fiend follows Sheila until a redneck runs it off the road.  Infuriated that it's infatuation has been interrupted, it uses it's force to blow up the head of this redneck (...a la "Scanners").  The thing finds Sheila in a shabby motel, and watches her shower before occupying the room next to hers.
When a cleaning woman (Tara Jean O'Brien) catches the tire in the shower, she throws it out of the room.  Bad move.  The woman's head then explodes.  Oh yes...the spectators?  Well, suffice it to say, they are part of a large plot device, which I will not ruin with a spoiler.  The most notable spectator is a veteran in a wheel chair (Wings Hauser).  The tire gets grouchier....perhaps realizing it's ability to get intimate with Sheila is limited.  As it's power increases, our rubberized devil blows up more heads and even massacres an entire town.  The inevitable final confrontation approaches, and we all will rack our brains for the true meaning of "Rubber."
Instead of hitting the internet and IMDB.com to find the meaning of "Rubber," give it some thought.  Metaphor, irony, symbolism, and social commentary are all at work here.  Too easy to dismiss as an elitist Frenchman commentating on the American condition, "Rubber" deserves deeper consideration. Available on Netflix, many of you have wrestled with the decision as to watch, or not watch this film.  Those of you who appreciated "Eraserhead," will be glad you saw "Rubber."  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Killer's Moon, The Lunatics are Loose, Hide your Daughters..

A century ago, we confined our lunatics in asylums.  Today, they vote, drive cars, occupy the cubicle next to yours at work, and have more rights than you do.  In 1978's "Killer's Moon," four of these psychos undergo experimental treatment.  As a government bureaucrat opines, "why imprison them if you can cure them?"  The tyranny of good intentions, as usual, gets so many good people raped, tortured, and murdered....but at least we (as a society) can say we care.  This film is hard to watch, as the victims are chaste school girls of a very clean cut sort.  What will be done to them will make you squirm.
Four of the most psychopathic rapist/murderers are undergoing experimental dream therapy at a low security mental hospital.  This treatment is supposed to make them docile, but the four escape into the English countryside.  At the same time a bus carrying a schoolgirl choir breaks down.  Part 3 of the plot, a couple of campers are fooling around with a local vixen in a tent in the woods.  Enter our four psychopaths.  At first, they gang rape the vixen as she leaves the tent to head back to town.  The two campers, Pete (Anthony Forrest) and Mike (Tom Marshall) realize maniacs are loose.  The girl choir, two of their teachers and bus drivers find refuge in a hotel closed for the season.  The maniacs converge and deliver an ax to the bus drivers neck and invade the hotel.  After knifing the proprietress, they rape one of the schoolgirls.  Unfortunately, this girl won't be the only one raped.  
As Mike and Pete head to the hotel, they have rescue on their minds.  The killers believe they are dreaming and have no inhibitions.  Whatever this experimental therapy was supposed to do, it backfired big time.  As the girls come to the realization that these fiends will violate and kill them, they compose themselves and look for opportunities.  Displaying heroism they never knew they had, the choir girls fight back.  Unfortunately, not all of them will survive.  In one very difficult to watch scene, the most brutish one chases down a girl, rips off her pajamas, and while fondling her, strangles her to death.  I repeat, this is not an easy film to watch...but horrific in it's imagery.  
Will our choir girls, with the help of the good Samaritan campers, defeat the evil quartet?  If they do, will they be scarred for the rest of their existences?  This British slasher film will unnerve you.  In many of these slasher films, the victims usually display personality traits that betray our sympathies. Here, however, the girls are pure...making their demise horrific.  Perhaps slow at times, "Killer's Moon" (directed by Alan Birkinshaw) won't leave you smiling.  Available on Netflix...if you dare.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), I watch 'em so You don't have to...

Yep, it showed up on Netflix!  Now this 2011 film beckons you.  As much as you love gore-fests, this film is just too much for your sensibilities.  Nevertheless....it beckons.  Perhaps you have been close to clicking on it....or perhaps you are in the process of summoning enough courage.  Hence today's feature "The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)."  I have taken the liberty to view Tom Six' (a fabulous movie-maker who I compare to David Lynch) latest film so you don't have to.  I know what you are asking, "Does it actually show {fill in the blank}?"  Yes...and more.
Okay...don't feel compelled to read on.  In the first "Human Centipede" movie, a meticulous German deranged surgeon sews three peeps together, mouth to anus.  One digestive system!  In #2,  Laurence R. Harvey plays Martin.  Martin is a half retarded, deranged lunatic who works as an attendant in a London parking garage.  The first film obsesses him, and he decides to create a ten-person centipede. Oh yes...he has plans for the front of his creation.  He lures the actress (Ashlynn Yennie, pictured below) from the first movie to London in order to make her the head.  In some very disturbing scenes, he collects nine other Londoners including a pregnant woman who is just about to give birth.  We get a peek at Martin's home life...and it also will make you squirm.  Martin was severely sexually abused by his dad, and his mom resents Martin as the dad went to prison for the abuse.
No surgical tools for Martin.  He will perform the operations using carpentry tools.  Hacksaws, pliers, hammers, etc.  Using a DVD of the first HC film as a guide, he knocks out his victims with blows to the head (no anesthesia, here) and begins cutting, snipping and stapling...and NO, this is not done off camera.  As disturbing as this film appears, there are a handful of scenes that rise to new levels of "disturbing." One such scene involves the pregnant victim mentioned above, but there is no need to go into that scene here.  I know what you're asking, "....is this a character study where the gory scenes are minimized so I only have to cover my eyes a few times?" No!  This is probably 87 minutes of covering you're eyes (...though you will peek between your fingers out of curiosity).
The madness portrayed in HC2 will leave you with some uneasy images.  A third HC film will arrive soon, starring Eric Roberts.  One wonders if this movie's relevance has increased as our governments ruin healthcare systems throughout the free world.  The medical profession is built on an oath to do no harm, but allow government to run that system, and we may devolve into Martin's world.  Our government systems protect the lunatic at the expense of decent, hard-working peeps...HC2 may be extreme, but is it also prophetic?  Conjure up your own messages from this film, which you may view on Netflix.  Finally, if HC2 is too over-the-top for you, let this review suffice.  However, if you can take it, Mr. Six has created an enthralling horror story, again.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Slaughterhouse Massacre, Classic Slasher Fare

We've heard it all before... "Nothing new here."  "Predictable." "Juvenile and immature."  WHATEVER!  2005's "The Slaughterhouse Massacre" is a lot of fun, and a perfect anti-holiday film.  Go ahead, watch "Miracle on 34the Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life,"  Me?  I'm diving into Netflix and clicking on Paul Gagne's (writer, director, and co-producer) magnum opus.  The same logic voiced above would have kept us from seeing "Motor Home Massacre" (see my review of this from December 27 of last year).  Ignore the arrogant elites who have not seen this movie.  The acting is good, especially by Shaila Vaidya as a victimized protagonist.
The plot:  A bunch of immature Texas college students, with nothing but fornicating in their mind are misbehaving in class, and then at a wild party.  Drugs, sex (of all kinds), alcohol, and partner switching is a bit too much for Stacey (Vaidya).  Uh oh, her boyfriend, the star quarterback, is sucking face with all the other coeds at the party.  Humiliated, Stacey demands to be taken home.  Of course, her plans get sidetracked when her unfaithful beau, Justin (Maurizio Rasti) has something else in mind.  Allen, Texas is an abandoned town where a madman, Marty Sickle (Gagne) once cut up some nymphomaniac college students.  Sickle is supposedly dead, but legend has it that a rhyming incantation, recited in Sickle's abandoned slaughterhouse will resurrect him.  Justin brings Stacey, and another hot couple, Bobby (Vaedynn Orland) and Tina (Stacey Denson) to the slaughterhouse with the intent of scaring them....funny!  
The annoyed Stacey has no choice, as Justin is driving.  The incantation is recited...and guess who is resurrected.  Now our quartet must run for their lives as Marty Sickle (pictured below) seeks to disembowel these nubile college kids.  Sickle has some success as he inflicts some very gory kills.  As our would be victims fight for survival, the very pretty Stacey gradually loses her clothes.  Before it is all over, Stacey will be battling clad only in some alluring lace undies. Hey..why not!  Sickle emerges as a burned Jason type figure.  Shotguns and knives don't seem to affect him. Stacey puts her mind to work and develops an ambitious strategy to send our antagonist back to Hell.  will Stacey be able to save her friends?
This film may be straight-to-DVD, but it is infinitely better than some of Hollywood's big budget garbage.  Filled with sex, gore, and scares, Paul Gagne delivers a most decent slasher flick worthy of your attention.  Neither Mr. Gagne or Ms. Vaidya have many credits listed after their names, but let us hope we see more of these very talented peeps in the near future.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Big Bad Wolves, Revenge, Torture, and Pedophiles from Israel

Be warned....this movie will have you squirming.  Be warned....you will turn your head or cover your eyes.  Be warned....this film might reveal parts of yourself that you preferred to remain hidden.  From Israel (filmed in Tel Aviv), we have 2013's "Big Bad Wolves."  "Big Bad Wolves" dwells in discomfort, and after it ends, a really long shower will be desired.  Great acting, music, and direction all contribute to this brutal crime drama which remains a mystery until just prior to the final credits.
Several children have been abducted, raped, tortured, and decapitated.  Dror (Rotem Keinan), a school teacher, emerges as the only suspect.  The most recent girl was found tied to a chair, with her head missing.  Tel Aviv detectives find Dror and bring him to an abandoned warehouse for torturous interrogation.  No luck.  The detectives are ordered to release him, and Micki (Lior Ashkenazi) is thrown out of homicide for this indiscretion.  Meanwhile, Yoram (Dov Glickman) starts hunting Dror, as his daughter was the headless girl.  Micki, coincidentally, also starts tailing Dror.  In a crazy scene, both men make a move on Dror and end up partners in a fiendish plot.  Yoram wants to know where his daughter's head is buried, and Micki wants a full confession.  Both these men have abandoned the legal system and intend a more primal justice.   
Tied to a chair in a basement turned torture chamber, Dror insists he's innocent.  Neither Micki or Yoram believe him....but are they wrong?  In a very slow and methodical manner, these men torture Dror, as the dead girls were tortured.  As painful and excruciating an experience it is, Dror pleads that he is innocent.  In the quirkiest scene in cinema this year, Yoram's dad pays a surprise visit.  At first shocked at what he finds, he then asks to join the festivities.  Yoram is perplexed that his dad wants to join in and even more so when his dad actually suggests more effective manners of torture.  Uh oh...Micki begins to doubt that they are torturing the right man.  Fear not, dad breaks out the blowtorch (pictured below) and what comes out of Dror's mouth is astonishing. 
Yes...the mystery is revealed...but at what cost?  Is Dror the killer? What is the torture doing to the person-hood of the torturers?  Most importantly....what deep dark evil recesses of your own consciousness are you visiting while viewing this film?  Beautifully shot in Israel, this is a must see for those of you that like the dark and ominous.  Available on Netflix, and containing torture scenes that surpass the ones in "Marathon Man," this film is most unsettling.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Switchblade Sisters, Girls' Rule

The most vicious war lost by America was The War on Poverty.  Keystone of President Lyndon Johnson's domestic policy, legislation eagerly embraced by both political parties (...as it is today), was domestic spending focused on keeping people out of work.  This spelled the permanent ruination of our urban centers.  Our government's main purpose switched from adherence to the Constitution to addicting it's citizens to entitlements. Today we look at 1975's "Switchblade Sisters." Every aspect of this film, and it is a gritty one, represents the decay of our once beautiful and thriving cities.  This movie is not an easy one to watch as there are no good-guys (...or gals).  Even among the gang members, the protagonists are sordid and sociopathic.
The plot:  The Debs are a female, juvenile gang who align themselves with their male counterparts, The Daggers.  Lace (Robbie Lee, pictured above right) is their bad-a** leader.  They bully the weak and terrorize local businesses.  In one such instance, they clear out a burger joint, except for Maggie (Joanne Nail, above left), who refuses to be bullied.  The gang makes a move on her, but she fights back and disarms a couple of The Debs.  The cops arrive and arrest the lot.  Lace's main squeeze is Dominic (Asher Brauner), who leads The Daggers.  In juvey hall, a trio of lesbian guards tries to gang rape Maggie.  Again, Maggie fights back, but the guards are too strong.  Impressed with her spunk, Lace orders The Debs to come to her aid, and they do.  Maggie now has earned Lace's admiration, but other gang members are suspicious.  Maggie is released first and Lace has her deliver a letter to Dominic.  Maggie obeys and is then violently raped by the heal....but she kinda likes it. Once released, Lace is slow to learn that Dominic (pictured below) is tired of her and has moved on to Maggie.
Lace and Maggie remain friends, but when other gang members fill Lace in on Maggie's extra-curricular activities, Lace contemplates her demise.  What happens next is incredibly violent and uncomfortable.  A rival gang makes a move for turf, and the results will be bloody.  Lace endures humiliations which up her proclivity for homicide.  Maggie sets her sights on replacing Lace as gang leader and Dominic's main-squeeze.  Alliances are formed and betrayals abound.  Gang members start falling, and an inevitable confrontation between Lace and Maggie approaches.
The urban setting is bleak and hopeless in this film...as so many of our urban settings are.  The characters aren't sympathetic figures, and the ending is hardly "feel-good."  However beautiful the actresses are in this film, their portrayals as gang-members make them frightening.  As our federal and state governments have ruined once beautiful cities, The Debs and The Daggers filled the voids created by the absence of morality and justice.  Maybe in 1975 "Switchblade Sisters" delivered a warning...but in 2014, this film will be viewed as prophetic.  Available on Netflix, enjoy.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Literature Review #5: The Spirit Within

As we finish our Christmas shopping, keep Sheila Parker's "The Spirit Within" in mind for those last-minute gifts.  Available on Amazon.com, this novel is about much more than anything other-worldy (though the supernatural is part of the backbone of this book), but more about the horrific predicaments that seek to snare.  For many, this tale will work as a Stephen King novel works.  Very likable characters who we are drawn to, and their horror and heartache becomes ours (...as readers). For many, the plight of Cassy Blakemore will be all too real, and this will become a horrific tale of abuse and the inevitable downward spiral victims are seemingly caught in.
Ms. Parker has created a really neat protagonist.  Cassy is about 20 years old, cute, creative, vulnerable, and as she is about to find out, betrayed by a false sense of maturity.  She is pursuing an art degree at a small college in New York state, has a boyfriend whom she lives with,  Raleigh, the hunk, makes her feel wanted and loved.  Though the supernatural will make a gradual entrance into the plot, an ominous and vicious monster will have a head start.  Those who have been victimized by domestic abuse will want to leap into the pages and rescue Cassy, who is too idealistic to see what Raleigh is evolving into.  Before she can safely remove herself from violence, Cassy is running away from everything.  Alas...in the technology age, there is no running away.  The brute is on her tail and any haven she finds is precariously temporary.
Cassy's sweetness and work ethic land her into an apparent oasis.  Hundreds of miles away, our heroine embarks on a new life.  New friends (...or are they?), a job at a florist, and a Prince Charming (too good to be true?) have come her way.  What could make this already complicated life even more so?  Cassy becomes aware of a hidden power.  She can make things happen, contrary to the forces of nature,  by willing them.  Does this power have limitations?  How can it be summoned?  Cassy has a lot to learn, and the reader knows she will have to harness it for an inevitable final confrontation.  Complicated enough? Unfortunately for Cassy, old wounds are opened.  Did her parents really die when she was young?  Is there a mysterious force, or persons watching her?  If so, why?  Is her new Prince Charming all that he represents, or should she fear him?  Of course, we will find out her past and present are intertwined.
The spirit refers to both that supernatural force dwelling inside Cassy, and also a hidden strength she must tap into to battle the monstrous fiend pursuing her.  Not able to count on the justice system, restraining orders, or her own brute strength, Cassy's spirit will make her a formidable foe to her enemies...but will that be enough?  Very reasonably priced on Amazon.com (Kindle and paperback), Sheila Parker's "The Spirit Within" would be a great Christmas gift for anyone enjoying stories of strong heroines, the supernatural, and beating the odds.