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A tribute to Meredith Kercher and the Kercher family
Is Amanda Knox Guilty?
Yes. She is.
The Monster of Florence. A creepy case of occult serial murder
Damien Echols: Hex, Lies and Videotape. What Paradise Lost left out.
A Critique of Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
Rebutting a Murderer: What Making a Murderer isn't telling you
Underrated overlooked horrors you should see
Day of the Dead (1985) music vid
Demonitron: The 6th Dimension
Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape
The Big Racket (1976) tribute:
A tribute to Bruno Mattei.
Entertaining and informative documentary on a much maligned sub genre of horror
Ah, those crazy Italian Cannibal films.
Where men were men, women were mistreated, natives were racially stereotyped and animals were terrified and quite frankly doomed. Throw in some fun times dubbing and plenty of gratuitous nudity, grue and sleaze and you have yourself a fun night. Unless you don't like Cannibal films and rather than... erm, not watch them, what better way to highlight your dislike of a sub genre, by making a documentary about it focusing on (and taking at face value) all the politically incorrect aspects of it, by getting some talking head critics to read to much into things and highlight how for all of their knowledge and wisdom, they just plain don't get Italian exploitation or indeed any exploitation? Or at least that's the impression I got from this nonetheless quite entertaining and informative documentary. One critic opines that violence against women' and misogyny is "par for the course" in horror films (such as The Innkeepers and The Thing) and of course the animal cruelty aspect is visited yet again, although one can understand this at least and the exploitation of natives are also finger wagged at. Thing is, we're all aware of this and recognise that exploitation cinema can be at times genuinely exploitative and not in a good way at all, yet we still watch such films, meaning we've made peace with it to a degree and recognise that these films were films of their time so to hear somebody yet again pontificating about how horribly politically incorrect those rotten Italians could be 40 years ago is a tad grating at this stage.
Yet... it's still a freaking documentary about Cannibal flicks and when it comes to delivering the goods interview wise, it totally delivers, with amusing interviews with both Ruggero Deodato and the apparently notoriously difficult to secure an interview with Umberto Lenzi having them both strongly claiming it was one and not the other who pioneered the sub genre, with Deodato suggesting that Lenzi simply ripped off a Man Called Horse. We also have contributions from Luigi Cozzi, Sergio Martino, (who still insists the snake accidentally ate the monkey when filming Mountain of the Cannibal God), Roger Kermann (who REALLY dislikes Cannibal Holocaust) and Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who's remarkably restrained when it comes to sticking the boot into Lenzi, considering their dislike of each other, as well as a charming Me Me Lai, who gives some very amusing anecdotes and comes across as a lovely person.
So, as Cannibal gut crunching documentaries go, (and it's not like we're spoiled for choice here either) it's overall a way entertaining offering from director Calum Waddel, even if the hand wringing condemnation kinda annoyed me.
But overall I quite liked it and give it a 7.5/10 and it's recommended viewing for any horror or exploitation fan.
The Outsider (1979)
Utterly pragmatic look on low intensity warfare where Realpolitik reigns and the end justifies the means
Irish American rich kid Michael Flaherty (Craig Wasson) is a disillusioned Vietnam veteran, captivated by the romantic patriotic tales of his Irish Civil War veteran grandfather (Sterling Hayden). Determined to aid The Cause, he joins the IRA to fight the British. However, once he arrives, he finds that all is not what it seems, an all encompassing shade of grey permeates everything and that both the IRA and the British army consider him an expendable asset if need be and cynicism and utter pragmatism abounds.
The Outsider is a film I've personally been looking for for the past 25 years or so, partly for being captivated by the novel as a kid and partly because my brother appeared in it in a scene where kids play soldiers, as one of the kids. Now that I've finally seen it, I found it an unassuming tour de force. There is no glory here. No heroism. No idealism. Just workmanlike docudrama style reality as both the IRA's army council and British military brass make coldly rational and logical decisions which will further their respective causes. When children are killed in the crossfire during a gun battle, by British army bullets, the IRA's army council discuss the tragedy in terms of how much more support the deaths will gain them among Irish Americans, while a British Colonel (veteran British actor Geoffry Palmer) admonishes his subordinate that "We can't have 12-year-old children being killed Nigel, it will swell up the ranks of the IRA", while his subordinate protests against SAS involvement on the grounds that "They'll make a mess of things, they always do", which will gain further recruitment for the IRA.
As for the IRA themselves, there's Emmet, the pleasant and utterly ruthless executioner, The Farmer (veteran Irish actor Niall Toibin), a coldly implacable and completely ruthless brigade commander who retorts to complaints by a visiting army council member regarding civilian casualties to "tell GHQ to get me more guns instead of dynamite and my aim will be much more selective". and Tony, a smiling baby faced psychopath who the Farmer disdains because "It would make you sick the love he has for the trigger", but who also has no problem using to commit assassinations, precisely because of his bloodlust if it furthers The Cause. No morality. No ethos. Just get the job done in a pragmatically efficient way as possible due to the end justifying the means, in a low intensity war fought just as much via PR and through the media as it is in the back alleys of Belfast or fields of Monaghan.
Irish actor Ray MacAnally terrifies in a left field scene as a murky British intelligence torturer, whose torture of a civilian is utterly workmanlike and casual as a means to an end.
The Farmer coldly tries to figure out who a suspected informer may be with no illusions to the viewer as to what will await the informer's fate. There are no heroes and no villains, no Good Guys or Bad Guys but merely opponents who will use pawns as they see fit to win the war.
The film is not without its minor flaws, such as one or two dodgy/missplaced accents but overall, as has been said by other reviewers, The Outsider is a true lost gem of a film with no easy answers but many astute observations. 9/10, highly recommended.
Boooring. I'm not impressed, Mr Ho
The first Men Behind the Sun was starkly & grimly disturbing, outright shocking in parts. The second Men Behind the Sun was exploitative gold.
Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre was sober and definitely had its moments.
Men Behind the Sun III: Destroy all evidence is... a plodding bore. Japanese soldiers on a train basically have flashbacks from the other Men Behind the Sun films (parts 1 & 2) as Godfrey Ho was feeling REALLY lazy and decided he couldn't be bothered putting any effort (at all, whatsoever) into his rip off and apparently thought "Hey, that Wes Craven dude made a Hills Have Eyes sequel that consisted mainly of flashbacks, I'll do the same! Ho, you genius!".
Anyway as has already been said far more eloquently than me, avoid this, it isn't worthy of the Men Behind the Sun moniker. Just a really dull, plodding film and anyone who's seen the other MBTS films is missing nothing- and I do mean absolutely nothing- here at all. Avoid like the plague filled syringes of unit 731.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
God bless America... and God bless the Korean Hans Gruber!
Korean terrorists attack the White House and it's up to ex Secret Service agent and all round badass Mike Banning (Gerard Butler looking all rugged and gritty) to save the President Benjamin Asher (a steel jawed no nonsense Aaron Eckardt) and also America.
And basically that's the plot and rather than get bogged down in serious chin stroking discourse, director Antoine Fuqua wisely decides to use a contemporary world security issue to revisit the 80s, with Rick Yune standing in for a good Hans Gruber from Die hard, as the silkily evil villain Kang, who's got R rated badassery to go with his suavely evil demeanour.
Any action fan will really be wondering if Olympus has Fallen delivers the goods and the happy answer to this is yes, yes it does. Butler shoots, stabs, tortures and neck snaps his way to the bad guy's lair, delivering a cool monologue on what he intends to do to Kang to boot, and the action is mercifully R-rated, with it basically being chock full of gritty and at times wince inducing violence as well as having a pretty damn impressive looking all out assault on The White House itself. Does it have plot holes? Hellz yes, it's one of the many awesome things about it. Is it brainless? It's more Brainless than Jersey Shore. Again, one of the many awesome things about it. Is it jingoistic and low brow nationalistic? It would rival the likes of The Delta Force, Death Before Dishonour, Invasion USA or any Golan Globus production, circa 1980s in sheer, breast beating flag waving fervour. I'm not even American and even I was shouting "God Bless America!" at the end of this flick. So basicaslly anyone looking for a sober examination of US foreign policy should avoid this one and watch Syriana instead. It has a paunchy George Clooney with a beard as well as a badass mark Strong.
However anyone who really just wishes to see Gerard Butler acting all heroic while delivering the action goodies in a decidedly R-rated manner, then Olympus Has Fallen is a more than adequate time filler and should definitely satisfy. 8/10, loud, vacuous dumb and a whole lotta fun.
And whoever played Mike Banning's wife had the easiest pay cheque on Earth.
A surprising gem from New Zealand
Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is a wild child methamphetamine & drink fueled girl who's not averse to engaging in petty crime to fund her lifestyle. One night, after her spot of smash 'n' grab badly backfires, Kylie is put under house arrest, complete with delinquent offender ankle bracelet, to live with her long suffering mother and her mother's almost permanently silent husband and has to endure being checked in on by her social worker Dennis (Cameron Rhodes) and likable security guard Amos (Glen-Paul Waru)
Kylie and her mother don't get on at all, with neither particularly happy with this state of affairs. Worse still, her mother who tends to believe in the paranormal gets even more annoying by insisting the house is haunted, due to the strange noises and weird sighting in the basement she had. Kylie scoffs at this and finds her mother's incessant chatter and claims even more irritating...
...Until she hears the noises herself one night. Things get even worse when Kylie starts having her own sightings & observations of weird stuff happening. Desperate for help, she and her mother confides in Amos the security guard. Amos, a keen amateur paranormal investigator decides to look into things, which leads to them uncovering some rather creepy info about the house in the process. As the mystery deepens, Kyleigh, her mother and Amos all realise that they're gonna have to solve it before whatever it is that dwells in the house engulfs and destroys them all...
Housebound is a very pleasant surprise comedy horror gem from New Zealand, but with nicely done scares and a creepy atmosphere to go with the chuckles, which come mainly via hilarious interactions with the dysfunctional trio. It also turns into a surprisingly layered film plot wise with some twists & turns in the third act to keep things nicely interesting. With some gold one liners and effective scares, it's emerged as one of the better horror viewings of this year and while frequently hilarious, it's primarily a horror thriller that simply tempers things with some very deft comedic relief.
Overall a highly recommended gem from New Zealand and it went down well with the audience at the Dead by Dawn festival where I caught it, so any horror fan should keep an eye out for this one. 8/10, really decent little horror flick.
Les gouffres (2012)
Georges (Mathieu Almaric) is a renowned speleologist who is called to either a south or central American location, after a group of vast sinkholes/chasms have been discovered in a forest. Accompanying him is his wife France (Nathalie Boutefeu), who has to live in an isolated inn while her husband is exploring.
Alone, with very few people to talk to, France starts hearing things, which she starts associating with the sinkholes her husband is exploring. Other stranger things still begin happening which leads France to wonder if the chasms are as far away as would appear. or maybe they're just getting nearer to her. Or maybe they somehow wish to communicate...
The phrase "interesting premise, terrible execution" immediately leaped to mind for me when watching this as it's quite frankly terrible and amazingly for a film of 62 minutes in length, it feels like a three hour affair, with it being perfectly at home with long lingering shots and exposition and weird ambiguous stupid stuff that doesn't make a lick of sense.
Those that like art-house or fantastical cinema may find much to like here but I was personally bored to tears by it and found it pretty nonsensical. Nicely shot though but precious little else going for it, with nothing really adding up satisfactorily for me. Didn't particularly go down well at the Dead by Dawn Festival either where I caught it. 3/10 a film to be avoided.
Gureitofuru deddo (2013)
Utterly demented and way entertaining film
Nami (Kumi Takiuchi) is a lonely young girl prone to outbursts of left field violence, due to being ignored by her poverty-relief obsessed mother who leaves one day, leaving her with her depressed father and older sister. Nami's dad takes on a mistress and still ignored and with her sister now with a boyfriend, Nami seeks constant solace in in an inane shopping channel, captivated by the gadgets and bargains offered by the smiling host.
Years later, Nami, now a young woman has a peculiar hobby in which she observes and takes notes on sad and very lonely elderly people, who she calls "Solitarians". There's the angry middle aged man who barges by everywhere rudely bumping people aside, and there's the crazy homeless looking guy who feeds the pigeons, all collectively becoming Nami's muse and a source of endearment. One specific solitarian catches her attention. He's Mr. Shiomi (Takashi Sasano) an embittered old man, who once empowered with former status, is now alone, lonely and angry, going through each day with a grumpy, dreary resignation.
Nami is captivated by this with Mr Shiomi providing her with much entertainment. One day however a Christian missionary woman Su Yong (Khobbi Kim) visits Mr Shiomi and asks if he'd like her to engage in bible reading with him. Suspicious at first, Mr Shiomi eventually agrees and a hesitant friendship begins between them with Mr Shiomi, becoming less bitter and finding a new appreciation for life.
Nami is not amused. Mr Shiomi's new found zest means he's no longer a "Solitarian" thanks to Su Yong's meddling. What's to be done about this state of affairs? One thing's for sure, Nami will not have anyone messing with her precious hobby or her viewed from afar subjects...
Grateful Dead is well, pretty great actually with it starting off like a typically quirky Japanese comedy before slowly but inexorably getting darker & darker until veering into outright horror territory toward the third act. However, it's really a (very effective) mixture of genres, combining comedy with drama and some social commentary to boot, before its demented conclusion.
A highly recommended little gem it should be sought out by any horror/genre fan or anyone who likes offbeat films in general.
A strong 8/10, just a highly satisfying and nicely demented (but not at all demented for the sake of it) film.
Big Bad Wolves (2013)
Dark, partially brutal yet surprisingly funny Israeli horror
*No specific spoilers, merely in regards to plot outline*
A brutal sadistic child sex murderer is terrorising Israel.
Miki, (Lior Ashkenazi) is an uncompromising hard- ass cop who makes Dirty Harry and Cobra combined look like bleeding heart liberals. Miki is convinced that the killer is Dror (a great turn from a guy I've never heard of, Rotem Keinan), a mild mannered schoolteacher and is prepared to go to any lengths to get a confession, including beating his suspect senseless.
When his spot of police brutality badly backfires, he is suspended until further notice. However, not one to let such things deter him Miki resolves to get answers, even if it means kidnapping Dror and subjecting him to a bit of third degree in order to get his answers...such as what the killer does with his victims' heads...
However Dror insists- as he has insisted all along- that he's innocent, would never do such a despicable thing and that all of this is a horrible mistake. Miki is not impressed as he's convinced of Dror's guilt.
But ultimately it doesn't matter whether Miki believes Dror or not, because it turns out that it isn't Miki Dror must convince... it's Gidi. (Tzahi Grad)
Gidi is the one neither man have been aware of and he's a man on a mission. He may well have a murky intelligence style background of his own and he wants answers from Dror...because Gidi's daughter was the monster's- the Big Bad Wolf's, you might say- last victim. Gidi is implacable, determined and utterly ruthless and he will get answers. And if that means using the tools at his persuasion to torture said answers from his suspect, then so be it. And if Miki the upstart cop gets in his way, and doesn't see eye to eye with Gidi's plans, well that's just too bad...
Big Bad Wolves is a dark and rather brutal horror that's also infused with some surprisingly successful (albeit pitch black) humour that shouldn't, but does work for the film as a whole and actually balances out an otherwise quite dark and grim horror quite nicely and gives it a quirky unpredictable edge. It is NOT however a horror comedy but a quite dark horror with blackly humorous elements to it.
From the makers of Kalavet/Rabies (2010), (which I also liked for what it was) it's a marked improvement on its predecessor in terms of style, plot and character development and directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado are two talented up-comers that any self respecting horror fan should keep an eye out for and I'm personally looking forward to their next potential project to see of they can offer up a third win.
8/10 a taut, well made and well acted horror thriller and well recommended for any horror fan.
Mon Ami (2012)
Solidly enjoyable lo fi comedy horror
Best friends and co-workers Teddy & Cal are bored and disgruntled with their dead end job. Bored because it sucks and disgruntled as Teddy is passed for promotion in favour of the company owner's sons.
One day they decide that a great way to solve their problems and get rich quick would be to kidnap their boss's daughter and extort a ransom, thereby making enough $$$ to live on easy street for life. The only problem is, that if you looked up the terms "inept", "horribly disorganised" "bumbling", "Likable but kinda dim" and "worst kidnappers in the history of kidnapping", you would undoubtedly find the faces of Teddy & Cal staring back at you, probably while grinning inanely too.
And when you have two people whose planning capability could be written on the back of a postage stamp with room to spare, deciding to engage in an actual kidnapping, then you just know things are gonna end in tears. And blood. And dismemberment...
Mon Ami, while clearly shot on a shoestring budget is still a solidly enjoyable comedy horror that comes across as semi experimental and has a nice sense of unpredictability to it. It does have its flaws, with it being more restrained than I would have liked, although in fairness this was probably due to budgetary constraints. It also could have benefited with some slight trimming,with some scenes going on overlong. I personally found some of the performances akin to the hysterical performances of the screwball comedies of the 30s/40s, which I found slightly grating, and also probably due to budgetary constraints, the film relies on classical music for a score, which doesn't always work for it. That having said,it has a ton of heart,some decent dialogue and good believable chemistry between our two bickering buffoons and is in tone at least, nicely nasty in parts.
Overall it's a solid and ultimately satisfying lo fi indie comedy horror from the ever underrated Canada and worth checking out for any fan of indie comedies, horrors or thrillers and any horror fan who enjoyed the likes of Trent Haaga's Chop (2011) or The Cottage (2008) should have a reasonably good time with this. 7/10, a solid little film and an enjoyable watch.
An overlooked gem
Lila Lee (Cheryl Smith) is an angelic 14-year-old girl, in the care of the local church after her vicious gangster father goes on the lam, after he commits a double murder.
One day, Lila receives a letter from the mysterious Lemora (Leslie Taplin) telling her that her father is gravely ill and that she may see him, but only on the condition that she tells no- one. So begins a dreamy, garishly coloured and magical journey for our innocent protagonist to reach her mysterious destination. However, it turns out that Lemora is not who she appears to be and has her own special plans for Lila, that will change her forever...
Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural is a film that I had on my "Film to see" list for quite some time now and when I finally watched it, I gotta say I was absolutely kicking myself, I'd neglected to see it for so long as it really is a gem. Set in 1920s/30s America, it veritably drips atmosphere and has a languid, dreamy (or nightmarish if you like) tone, reminiscent of Let's Scare Jessica to Death, (1971) or perhaps more pertinently Messiah of Evil (1973) in terms of visual style and in fact, due to its visual overall look, I can't help wondering if a certain Mr Argento seen Lemora back in the day,and whether it influences his Suspiria, as both films have an undeniable similarity in style, visually. Cheryl Lee gives a very effective performance as the lost and innocent Lila, with her expression consistently exuding fragility and vulnerability, and Leslie Taplin is great as the mysterious,alluring and subtly sinister Lemora. For a (U.S.) PG-13 film it's surprisingly dark in tone, with certain touching upon sexuality themes that I'm not sure would be passed today in a PG-13 film and emerges as a decidedly adult fairy tale and an intelligent one at that.
Any horror fan who liked the aforementioned films should check this one out immediately. While I see threads on the film on the IMDb horror occasionally and know it has a place in the hearts of several regular posters there, I'm still somewhat surprised it apparently doesn't seem to get its proper dues as it truly deserves its place in the annals of classic/iconic horrors, as it's one of the best I've seen of its decade, and this is coming from a decade of absolute quality in regards to horror cinema.
8.5/10, a highly recommended gem that puts an innovative and intriguing spin on an established horror sub genre, it should be sought out by any self respecting horror fan.