Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

Yes, a lovely spring afternoon, the eve of Easter, and one’s thoughts turn naturally to gentle bunnies.  Candy, jelly beans, chocolate eggs.  But not all that gentle according to watershipdown_violencePhil Brown on CGMAGONLINE.COM!  Yes, from Jan Svankmajer’s ALICE to DONNY DARKO bunnies have their own dark side as well, and let us not forget WATERSHIP DOWN or NIGHT OF THE LEPUS!  Or in short, for one’s Easter viewing enjoyment, please to peruse Mr. Brown’s selections for  “Top 10 Most Frightening Bunnies in Film History” by pressing here.  Which one will you find in your basket this Sunday?

(And a happy Easter to all as well!)

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

“Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.” – Shel Silverstein

(The above quotations courtesy of blogger Lindsey Goddard who adds, I offer you my Top Twelve Weirdest and Creepiest Horror Movie Dances.  They are all listed here for different reasons . . .  but all of them possess a certain WTF factor.   Like seriously . . . WTF?)

So “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” in fact, from INSIDIOUS (“even ghost boys like to dance) is #2 on “The Dirty Dozen:   Top 12 Weirdest and Creepiest Horror Movie Dances,” by Lindsey Goddard on DIRTYLITTLEHORROR.COM, which appeared on my computer screen today and which I absolutely cannot resist sharing.  The weirdest (or possibly just most insane) is the zombie line dance (with music and lyrics) from DEAD AND BREAKFAST, #4 on the dance card.  That’s counting from the top down, so what will be #12, the last on the list, the weirdest, creepiest horror dance ever?  Hint:  think Linnea Quigley, and it’s not HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS.  Not enough?  How about not California but Louisville, Kentucky, or . . . well, all right, it’s the cemetery striptease performed by punk girl Trash (“Let’s get some light over here.  Trash is taking off her clothes again!”) from 1985’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, the movie which also brought us the idea of zombies craving brains.  To see, wallow, enjoy all twelve for oneself press here.

Quoting the Indiana University Cinema blurb for February 24:  Set in a dystopian Texas of the future, THE BAD BATCH is a “post-apocalyptic cannibal love story,” as writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour describes it, “ROAD WARRIOR meets PRETTY IN PINK with a dope soundtrack.”  This genre-breaking thrill ride won the Special Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice Film Festival and features a dream-ensemble cast of Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey, and Diego Luna.  The film opens later in 2017.  Director Ana Lily Amirpour is scheduled to be present.  Asked herself afterward about PRETTY IN PINK, Ms. Amirpour allowed that was something she’d said in one interview and she’d never do it again, but she smiled when she said that.  As for ROAD WARRIOR, there is a Mad Maxish ambience to THE BAD BATCH with scavenger societies, makeshift cities (one making use of an aircraft graveyard), and never-mind-where-the-gasoline-comes-from automobiles, though in this case more the speed of Vespas and golf carts.

Then another question:  What was the significance of the bunny?  Let us go back in time for a moment to Amirpour’s earlier movie A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT* and Masuka the cat (cf. January 19, 11 2015).  Masuka acts there as a sort of marking figure, passed in ownership between people who become important; in this a bunny (unnamed in the credits unless I missed it) becomes the pet of a little

“Do you want to hang out or something?”

girl who in turn becomes the bond between principle characters Arlen and Miami Man.  But beyond that, well, animals in some way may represent innocence and purity, Amirpour allowed, but (harking to another question too) this might not be a film to put too much stock in one-on-one symbolism.

What it is, though, she said is a “personal story of a girl who feels cut down, ripped apart by life,” as well as, as she was writing it originally, her “love letter to America.”  She hastened to add, this was before current times with a President Trump.  Yet a pervading image is that of a Texas desert divided by a wall, behind which are thrust the “bad batch,” the non-productive, the terminally ill, illegal immigrants (Miami Man was, originally, “a Cubano”), the homeless. . . .   They then are further divided into two “cities,” The Bridge (so named from homeless who, in US cities, often take shelter under expressway bridges and the like), a machismo culture and also . . . cannibalistic, and Find Comfort, a more benign hippie-like civilization whose diet tends more toward pasta.**  Needless to say, they hate each other.

So what is a girl to do — who’s already lost an arm and a leg (literally) to the dinner table?  Or a doting father who’s lost his daughter, but wouldn’t turn his nose up at a human filet.

Might there be a third way?

But also beware, there’s a quality of dream, of fairytale about the thing too, of don’t always take too literally what you see.  Be content instead to see beautiful images, though often enough combined with the grotesque — this is not a film for the faint of stomach!  Enjoy the soundtrack, and worry not too much about details like where gas or electricity come from in the desert (or pasta, for that matter, or how many humanburgers it takes to sustain a weight-lifter physique).  Or if the ending is, as we say in the romance biz, “happily ever after” or even, realistically, “happily for now.”  Sneak previews aside (Friday’s screening was presumably the first outside the film festival circuit), THE BAD BATCH is set for a June 23 release by NEON according to IMDb and, when the time comes, just sit back and enjoy it!

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*The night before, in fact, we got to see seven short films by Amirpour including the original A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, on which the feature-length version was based (although, in the short, without any cats).

**And, surely this is just my personal eccentricity, I couldn’t help seeing a parallel to this, and especially the ending, in the 1974 Sean Connery film ZARDOZ (see October 15, 2016).  Or maybe I am nuts.

Growing up in the USA anyway, though I imagine in much of the world nowadays as well, some of our first introductions to fantasy on a large scale, for better or worse, may be Walt Disney Movies.  Yes, I still remember SNOW WHITE (and parody her too from time to time), not to mention the artistry of a FANTASIA.  The list could go on — and in fact it does in an a next-to-obsessive (yet fascinating) way in today’s TOR.COM via Mari Ness in snow-white-prince02“Wrapping Up the Disney Read-Watch.”  And, yes, fantasy writers and readers, as much as we may look down now on some of the poorer examples, I for one can recall the awe that the best of the Disney films inspired in me as a child.  And may yet still now.

So, today marks the first snowfall of 2017 in Bloomington Indiana, and here at least a gentle one making a crisp day lovely — as well as quiet the week before the spring term begins in a university city.  A day for reflection and memories, perhaps, for peaceful thoughts and recalling joy.  But for plans as well for a horror-filled year (writing-wise, that is, for those of us of darker inclinations), perhaps in some cases taking inspiration from the memories presented therein.

For more, press here.

. . . the idea of faith is more general in the sense that it covers any devotion to a higher being or spiritual power.  It could be anything, from a religion-based god to alien overlords to the Force.  The point is that you believe in something outside yourself that, in some way, shapes, influences, or even controls the nature of our world.  Yet somehow, regardless of the faith, the path to getting there is always the same:  you have to hear the call, and then yoarrival_movie_posteru have to take conscious steps to overcome that adversity within and without to reach its source, taking you from a non-believer to a believer.

Well, no, I haven’t seen ARRIVAL yet, I tend to wait sometimes for what I think may be important films to be out long enough on DVD to bring the price down to buy for myself, but that’s my problem.  The above, from “Communication and Faith in ARRIVAL”  by Michael Moreci, on TOR.COM a day or two back, piqued my interest however (cf. below, for instance, November 3, August 26 ; September 17 2015):  the question of faith, belief, in science fiction as well as, perhaps to be more expected, in fantasy and horror.  The need for an author — or reader — to know a people’s traditions in order to build their world.

Or that’s how I see it.  Moreci also brings up Joseph Campbell (the hero’s journey), and the movies STAR WARS:  A NEW HOPE and CONTACT; while in my own writings I might note the upcoming TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH as well as, at least in part, THE TEARS OF ISIS.  And in any event I may look into ARRIVAL myself sooner than I had expected.  Moreci’s critique, on the other hand, may be read right now here.

John Boorman’s ZARDOZ is a psychedelic, science-fiction allegory 0f 1970s America on a path to possible destruction.  Zed (Sean Connery) is an ‘Enforcer,’ part of a warrior/exterminating clan controlled by the God-like Zardoz, who appears as a giant floating head in the sky.  Zed discovers the secret of Zardoz and infiltrates a secret, utopian land of eternal life (and apathy), whose residents are fascinated by their newest specimen from the outland.  Zed’s presence, however, may upset their society’s balance in profound ways.

So says the the Indiana University Cinema program book of Friday night’s midnight showing, to which Wikipedia adds:  The film received mixed-to-negative reviews.  Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it a “genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators. . .  The movie is an exercise in self-indulgence (if often an interesting one) by Boormanoriginal_movie_poster_for_the_film_zardoz, who more or less had carte blanche to do a personal project after his immensely successful Deliverance.”  Jay Cocks of Time called the film “visually bounteous”, with “bright intervals of self-deprecatory humor that lighten the occasional pomposity of the material.”  Nora Sayre, in a 7 February 1974 review for The New York Times, called Zardoz a melodrama that is a “good deal less effective than its special visual effects”. . . a film “more confusing than exciting even with a frenetic, shoot-em-up climax.”  Decades later, Channel 4 called it “Boorman’s finest film” and a “wonderfully eccentric and visually exciting sci-fi quest” that “deserves reappraisal”.

Other reviewers have said things ranging from pointing out, as is explained in the film, that the name of the God himself comes from THE WIZARD OF OZ (wiZARD of OZ — get it?), the carnival fake discovered by Dorothy behind the screen, to the fact that Sean Connery spends most of the film wearing an orange diaper.  And all this is true:  the film is fascinating, yet draggy in places; overly violent in other places yet circling around a sort of philosophical center; visually lovely in places yet, as it ends, at least somewhat disappointing.

So see it.  It’s worth at least one look.  And as to what it’s about, well, while some point to an H.G. Wells-ish Eloi/Morlock element,* perhaps half way through I began channeling a different book, by Robert Graves, that I’d read many decades ago called SEVEN DAYS IN NEW CRETE.(a.k.a. WATCH THE NORTH WIND RISE depending on whether one has the US or British edition).  Graves, noted for novelizations based on Ancient Greece and Rome (e.g. HERCULES, MY SHIPMATE [“retelling” the ARGONAUTICA, the voyage to win the Golden Fleece]; I, CLAUDIUS), wrote this one as his take on a re-created matriocentric utopia as might have existed in Minoan culture before men took over and messed everything up (one may note that, while a point isn’t made of it, the ZARDOZ utopia also appears very woman-based).  But Graves’s point is that every so often the “North Wind” must rise, there represented by a contemporary English poet brought purposefully to New Crete and unwittingly bringing about its destruction, because perfection is ultimately, of necessity, a static condition, leaving a choice of knocking it down and starting over or seeing it atrophy.

Or at least that’s the way I remember it.
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*One might also see in Zed an echo of the “savage” John in Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD.

Saturday this week offered a farewell of sorts, afternoon and evening retrospectives as a final tip of the hat to ten years of the Dark Carnival Film Festival, a.k.a. in its final sessions, Diabolique International Film Festival at the Indiana University Cinema (cf. September 28 2015; September 21, 20, 19 2014).  These were films from past years, fifteen shorts for the matinee session that proved to be favorites from previous screenings, some that I’d seen before, some that I hadn’t, starting with one in a dentist’s office and ending with killer shopping carts, and by small boys reading an Ancient Tome from their devil-worshiping deceased grandfather’s chest.  The best of these tended to be black humor, of which there were quite a few, while another trend was for movies that set up horror situations, then left the outcomes to viewers’ imaginations.

Then evening brought, taint02well, to quote the catalog:  Long one of the Dark Carnival Film Festival’s favorite features, THE TAINT is a throwback to classic Troma films — with all the goopy horror and absurd humor that implies.  Tainted water begins turning men into misogynistic head-smashing psychopaths, and our two young heroes must brave the bizarre world that results in order to find a cure.  Contains mature content, including violence, language, and sexuality.  To which the docent offered before the screening, “A great one to go out on . . . a very extreme film,” and, “offensive is a dime a dozen [but] is wonderfully measured.  [Director Drew Bolduc] knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Or as Kevin Dudley on Amazon put it:  one particular quote from the Fangoria.com review stated “THE TAINT is exactly what happens when smart filmmakers intentionally make a stupid taint1movie.”  The basic plot involves an experimental penis enlargement drug that turns men into oversexed misogynistic maniacs is unleashed into the public water supply and all manners of depravity cut loose.  To which I might add, while not one to invite the whole family to, as Troma films go it was not a bad one.

Then back at home, Saturday’s street mail brought its own prize, Flame Tree Publishing’s deluxe edition of MURDER MAYHEM SHORT STORIES (see September 6, July 11, et al.).  My story in this is “Mr. Happy Head,” originally published in WICKED MYSTIC, Spring 1996, and sandwiched between Dick Donovan (J. E. Preston Muddock, 1843-1934, who took his pen name from his fictional Glasgow detective, who in turn, some theorize, supplied the slang term “dick” [to pardon the expression] for an American private detective) and, in a non-Sherlock Holmes adventure, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Also expected from Flame Tree Publishing is CRIME & MYSTERY SHORT STORIES, for which keep watching here.

It occurred to me yesterday after posting the piece on witches, just below, that Mike Olsen had also posted a piece that day on Facebook’s ON THE EDGE CINEMA on BELLADONNA OF SADNESS (see September 24), including links to such sites as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.  To see for oneself, one may press here (though, warning, my glance through some of the Rotten Tomatoes reviews, including the professional ones, suggests to me that not enough attention may be being paid to the final few minutes of the film, especially in terms of its inspiration, Jules Michelet’s LA SORCIÈRE — but then that’s what this will be about).  So then, my next thought, it seemed to me BELLADONNA OF SORROW could stand 14517499_1004035183057088_7855174601020282731_nas an example of Sarah Gailey’s thesis of witches and power, for good, for bad, and possibly something new and more ambiguous:  They outline a new narrative for witches — that they might use their powers not for Good, and not for Evil, but for Greatness.  And they let us ask again the question we have always been asking of witches:  with access to unlimited power, what might they become?

And so my thought:  Consider the fate of Jeanne in BELLADONNA OF SADNESS as a sort of progress, where first she becomes the good witch.  When the lord goes to war and most of the men of the village follow, she becomes a sort of protector of those that are left, a ruler of sorts of the townspeople filling the vacuum left by their missing leaders, and ruling the village benignly and well.  Then, after the war as she seeks more power, she turns toward the evil — at the least as others might see her.  True, in the case of the lord’s wife and her would-be lover, some critics have pointed out that Jeanne does no more than what she had been asked.  But doesn’t that seem to be just an excuse?  That is, even without its violent ending, what she had been asked was in itself evil in terms of the society of its day (and probably, really, in our times too).

But then, the “new narrative” is what happens after Jeanne is herself crucified — the passing of her spirit to the onlooking women, and this is the all-important ending, consistent as well to the movie’s nineteenth century French source.  With the power of metaphorical witchcraft, “what might they become?”

In this case no less than the changers of their society from top to bottom through La Révolution.

Another arrival in my groaning mailbox, BLURRING THE LINE (see June 12 this year; December 3, November 26 2015, et al) is finally here!  Published in Australia by Cohesion Press, BLURRING THE LINE, with Editor Marty Young, asks us the question of when fiction starts and reality ends.  That is, these are stories that are fiction, aren’t they?  But tales nevertheless of the kind that just might, possibly, maybe, like wasn’t there something like that last week on the Discovery Channel, be true.  And so, my action in the anthology is blurringtheline“The Good Work,” of young Christmas carolers in a Dickensian London who actually have a different agenda, getting invited in people’s houses to hunt for witches.  There are witches, aren’t there — at least in people’s beliefs back then?

All in all there are 20 stories, arranged in sections interspersed with factual essays.  For more, one can check the Amazon listing, including several detailed reviews, by pressing here.

Then second, consider this from MONKEYSFIGHTINGROBOTS.COM:  “Ranking The Top 3 Horror Films From EVERY Decade Since The 1920’s” by EJ Moreno, brought to our attention courtesy of Jamie Carpenter on Facebook.  I wouldn’t say I necessarily agree with all choices, or rankings, but given his criteria (which I do agree with, reminiscent in a way, I might add, to discussions when I was on the jury for the HWA’s 2012 special award for Best Vampire Novel in the 100 years since Bram Stoker’s death, cf. April 3, 2 2012, et al.) I think he’s made a noble attempt.  Or, to let EJ explain it himself, “[t]his list was tough to create because limiting myself to only 3 movies over the span of ten years within each decade is maddening.  Also, where do you begin ranking films?  So I attempted to form this list by including films based on the film itself, the quality, the legacy, the impact to the genre, and audience reception.”

Agree yourself?  Disagree?  Or just to find out which ones you’ve seen (or not yet seen) press here.

Jesus Franco’s VAMPYROS LESBOS is yet another horror film that doesn’t quite qualify as scary. More erotica than anything else, the film follows a vixen vampiress that, as the title would suggest, targets female victims. While a lesbian vampire is certainly a creative, albeit odd, character choice, that doesn’t mean that the idea should result in the film.

Unfortunately for us, it did.  And as you could probably guess, scares are in short supply while the sexualization of women is at the forefront of the entire film.  Of course, there are many that would disagree — in many circles, this film is considered brilliant, even one of Franco’s best works.  However, no matter the opinion on the film’s success, vampyroslesboscoverit’s very clear that sexuality is valued over the its “scary” qualities.

We may recall VAMPYROS LESBOS from last month’s post on “Sweet Lesbian Vampire Love” (August 14).  And so it is, um, covered again as #7 in Victoria Robertson’s “10 Trashy Horror Movies With More Skin then Scares” on SCREENRANT.COM, as pointed out in today’s e-mailbox by Scott M. Godiscak via Facebook and THE HORROR SOCIETY.  The list is not to condemn the sexy, at least not per se, but to lament the lack of actual horror when pushed too far aside by skin and/or blood.  The point is well enough taken (VAMPYROS LESBOS for example is actually a retelling of DRACULA from a more CARMILLA-like point of view, but is washed in sun — literally — rather than shadows) although, in some cases, we might still make room for guilty pleasures.  And as Robertson points out herself, for at least a few of these there are contradictory opinions.  Number 1 on her list, starring Robert Englund, is, for instance, filled with sly references to existentialism, albeit perhaps more superficial than profound.  Or are they?

More profound are ten different movies, courtesy of Robert Dunbar via Gerald Houarner on Facebook’s LITERARY DARKNESS, as brought to us by Rebekah McKendry in “10 Terrifying Science Fiction Films You May Have Missed” via BLUMHOUSE.COM.  Some of these are a bit obscure, the list itself sometimes suggesting sources, and I have to confess I’ve only seen four myself (although of the guilty pleasures above, I’ve only seen three as far as I know, but in this case it may be that some are overly forgettable).  Still some should be worth searching for, for a start on which one may press here — while for guilty pleasures press here.




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