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Of all the '8 Films to Die For' that I've seen (which is most of them),
this one is undoubtedly the best (though that isn't saying much). It's
not what I'd call brilliant horror, and certainly could have been a lot
better, but there are some really good ideas here and they're well
carried off by the director and his cast. The film could be called a
zombie film - although I think that isn't really an accurate
description. The film does take some influence from said genre, but the
monsters in the film aren't zombies - instead, they're teenagers high
on PCP. The plot focuses on a small town cop, who is devastated by the
loss of his young son some years earlier. He's called into work after
one of the other cops took the night off sick, and is intrigued by one
of the prisoners in his cells. He notices the guy is missing a finger,
and jumps to the conclusion that he's holding the man who kidnapped his
son. After sending another officer to the prisoners' house, all hell
breaks loose when the fourteen maniacs being held in his basement are
The whole film takes place at night, and director Craig Singer (who previously made the half-decent 'Dark Ride') makes best use of this as it gives the film a tremendous dark atmosphere that serves the central plot line well. It's basically a film of two halves; the first half focuses on the interaction between the two central characters - the cop and the prisoner. The best thing about the first half is the suspense and intrigue drummed up as we wonder exactly what is in the guy's basement - the sequence that reveals it is really well done. The second half is much more action packed and sees the maniacs let loose on the streets, and then we watch as the cop desperately tries to keep his family safe. The film is rather savage in the gore department - though to the director's credit, he's restrained with the gore and uses it only when needed - which ensures the biggest impact. The fact that the special effects are well done is also to the film's credit. The plot line flowing throughout the film regarding the officer's son is interesting; but soon gets silly. It also has to be said that many of the character decisions throughout the film are questionable. Still, this is an interesting effort and I would say if you only see one 'film to die for', make sure it's this one.
French director Alexandre Aja exploded onto the horror scene in 2003
with excellent horror flick Switchblade Romance, but since then he's
disappointingly veered off into remake territory. He can be forgiven
somewhat for his first remake - an updating of the Wes Craven
semi-classic The Hills Have Eyes - because it was quite good, but this
next attempt - an Americanisation of South Korean film 'Mirrors', is
not so successful. The basis for the plot is actually quite good and
with some minor tweaks, Mirrors could have been a successful horror
film. The plot focuses on Ben Carson; and ex-cop and ex-alcoholic who
has been forced to take a night watchman's job in order to get his life
back on track for the good of his children. His new job is at a
shopping centre, which was forced to close down after a fire devastated
the building. He soon notices that the mirrors in the building are
extremely clean - as a result of the previous watchman's obsession with
them - and he later finds out why, as there's an evil that lives in the
mirrors; and Ben Carson is their next target.
The lead role is taken by Kiefer Sutherland. I've been a fan of Kiefer ever since I saw The Lost Boys; but he feels out of place in this film. It's probably just because I'm so used to seeing him as Jack Bauer that it's impossible to believe him doing any other role. The first half of the film is rather poor; the atmosphere of the former shopping centre is good, but most of the runtime is taken up by various CGI special effects going on in the mirrors, and it soon becomes tedious. Luckily, things pick up in the second half. There's a rather nasty murder scene; and then the film starts to develop a plot, which is fairly intriguing. It has to be said that the plot is rather lacking in logic at times, and all sorts of plot holes can be picked out; but then again, it is a film about evil inside mirrors at the end of the day. The revelation regarding how the mirrors became evil is a bit disappointing; I was hoping for something better, but at least the final twist is amusing. Overall, I can't recommend this film really but if it's a rainy day and you've got nothing else to watch, you could do worse than see this.
The Three Faces of Terror is a horror anthology film made by special
effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. Stivaletti worked with many of the
luminaries of Italian horror, including Dario Argento, Sergio Martino
and Riccardo Freda; and their influence appears to have rubbed off on
him somewhat as while this isn't a great film by any stretch of the
imagination; it's an interesting one that harks back to some of the
classics of Italian horror; most notably Mario Bava's masterpiece Black
Sabbath, of which the title is a direct reference. The first story also
takes influence from the Bava film as a major plot point involves
someone taking a ring from the finger of a dead person. While on a dig,
a man takes a ring from the finger of a mummy and subsequently finds
himself dealing with a curse - that being that he turns into a
werewolf! The story is not as interesting as it could have been
(certainly a recurring theme in this film) and that's a shame. He
finally does turn into a werewolf at the end and as you would expect
given the director's primary vocation, it features a good change
sequence and the werewolf costumes isn't all that bad either.
The second story is probably the most inventive of the three and focuses on the subject of plastic surgery. A woman goes to see a surgeon with her friend; and requests that she has her face altered to look just like said friend. The doctor and the friend subsequently disappear; leaving the girl on a strange odyssey through the surgery. While inventive in theme, this theme is not particularly thick on the story side and that leaves it rather lacking as it doesn't really go anywhere. The final story was my favourite and is entitled 'Guardian of the Lake'. This simply focuses on a bunch of friends that go for a relaxing weekend at a lake and end up becoming dinner for a monster that happens to live in the lake. This film has some originality with regards to the wraparound story as each of the stories ends; before we get the final conclusion of each story once the third story has - apparently - finished. This doesn't particularly add anything to the film; but I don't think I've seen this in an anthology before. The conclusion to the wraparound is decent also - although anyone who has seen the British classic Tales from the Crypt won't be very surprised.
Frank Henenlotter strikes me as a director unwilling to make
compromises. I highly doubt that anyone else was involved with the
creative side of this film; and the result is something that is not for
everyone, but is a real ride for those who can appreciate it. In fact,
Bad Biology is really nothing like anything else I've ever seen;
there's been some comparisons with earlier sex related horror Teeth,
but this film takes those ideas much further and adds in a whole
boatload of new ones. The film opens with a shot of our female lead,
who goes on to proclaim that she was "born with seven clits".
Naturally, this birth defects means that she has an overactive sex
drive, and this means she spends her nights hooking up with various
men, and usually killing them in the act of lovemaking (to say any more
than that would spoil one of the film's most ingenious plot elements!).
She goes through life believing she has no equal, but eventually we are
introduced to Batz; a man whose penis comes complete with its own
Bad Biology is a film with no boundaries; it's never clear exactly where it's going to go next and this is one of the best things about it. The plot really allows Henenlotter to go wild and basically do whatever he likes; which the director delights in doing. However, the film does show some restraint in regards to how the story is built up; it would have been easy to just let his two central characters go wild on some kind of gory rampage, but instead the director builds the pair of them up with their own stories before they eventually meet. The film is incredibly sleazy, which I loved, and the majority of it takes place very much in the gutter. The director adds in a few sequences that aren't particularly relevant to the plot but help to instil the sleaziness of the whole thing; a conversation between some kids in a cafe was hilarious. There's a sequence towards the end in which one of the central 'monsters' goes berserk which goes on too long, but other than that; this is exactly the film I wanted and I have to thank Frank Henenlotter for making it! It's just such a shame he makes films so sporadically; with all the rubbish coming out nowadays, somebody needs to give this man a blank chequebook and tell him to do whatever he wants with it! Highly recommended for trash fans.
Probably one of the reasons why Dario Argento is still making films
today while many of his counterparts are not (aside from the fact that
Argento is still alive, obviously) is because the director moves with
the times. In the seventies, he made stylish seventies films; in the
eighties, he made trashy eighties films, in the nineties he made
over-complex nineties thrillers; and in the decade just gone, he made
soulless genre films (the fantastic Sleepless being the exception). It
would appear that Argento was trying to hark back to the good old days
with this film - which takes the genre name as its own title - but
unfortunately he's missed the mark rather badly. The plot is pure
Giallo, however. Several women in the city of Milan have disappeared;
only to turn up dead some days later. When Linda's sister is abducted,
she goes to the cops and is put in touch with FBI agent Enzo Avolfi,
who immediately jumps to the conclusion that Linda's sister has been
abducted by the killer and proceeds to let Linda help him in every area
of the investigation.
The trailer got my hopes up with its line "the city of Milan is known for its beautiful women, but someone is preying on them" - of course, the fashion house is the iconic setting of genre favourites such as Blood and Black Lace; but Argento is keen to skip over this and get straight to the killer, which is a massive shame. Atmosphere is one of the major things that separates the Giallo from the run of the mill thriller - and this one has none. The title "Giallo" - the Italian word for yellow, is used farcically as a description of the killer; who has yellow skin as a result of a medical condition. Of course, Dario Argento is no stranger to grotesquely disfigured killers - having featured one in his earlier masterpiece Phenomena, but while it fit the film in Phenomena, here it just comes off as comical and difficult to buy into. The film is not overly violent, although Argento does delight in showing us some gore. The gore scenes are not particularly well directed, however and overall the film lacks tension; which means the graphic scenes don't pack much of a punch. The cast was chopped and changed several times and the lead role eventually went to Adrien Brody; who is basically wasted. The script is really weak to the point where it does actually affect the film (Giallo isn't known for great writing, but in the best examples, it isn't a problem). The basis of the investigation is silly also; I have to admit that I don't know much about how crimes are investigated in Italy, but I'm just going to assume that the general public isn't usually given almost as much authority in investigations as police officers are! As a film in its own right, this one is pretty poor and as an Argento film; it's downright disappointing. However, since I'm such a shameless fan of the director; I can't bring myself to truly hate it.
Just when you thought there was no originality left in cinema, along
comes Deadgirl - a film that takes influence from the zombie genre, and
manages to craft something new and totally disturbing out of it. The
film transcends the genre to the point where it's only relationship to
it is the fact that one of the major players in the story is a zombie -
the focus of the film is always on the central characters. It has to be
said that Marcel Sarmiento's film has its problems; it's rather
amateurish and the plot doesn't always make complete sense, but the
story always has enough to overcome this. The plot focuses on two
school kids, JT and Rickie, that decide to skip class and head off to
an old abandoned mental hospital. Their foray eventually leads them
down into the basement; where they are shocked to discover a woman's
body. Disgust turns into curiosity for JT, and he becomes fascinated by
the body, which he discovers is alive though "cannot be killed". The
pair begins to argue and after Rickie leaves, JT decides to act out his
sick desires on the seemingly lifeless girl.
It has to be said that Deadgirl is not a film for the weak stomached as the main themes of the story are completely sick and twisted, and the film has the ability to keep on shocking the further it gets into the horrific plot. The plot heavily hinges on the sexual desires of the male leads. Many have questioned the plausibility of the plot in this respect believing that the majority of kids would not act in the way that the majority in this movie do. However, it's clear that the film is not meant to be realistic. At its heart is a naked zombified female found in the bowels of an abandoned asylum, so obviously realism is not one of Deadgirl's key elements. The film is more a coming of age story; albeit a twisted and depraved one, but the way that it examines the leading characters is always interesting. The pacing is slightly skewed in that it's rather slow burning for the most part, but builds into something of a frenzy at the end, and it is somewhat predictable how it's all going to turn out. But in spite of it's problems, Deadgirl needs to be celebrated for it's originality and for being one of the only films I've seen to take the subject of necrophilia and make something interesting out it (it's MUCH better than the God-awful Nekromantik). The film is clearly not for everyone; but I would certainly recommend everyone gives it a look.
Italian filmmakers were famous for ripping off popular franchises from
other countries (usually America). Often these rips offs were near
carbon copies (only with terrible actors being badly dubbed), but every
now and then, an Italian rip off will become more than just another rip
off. Setting a rip off of Japan's popular Zatôichi series in the wild
west wasn't an obvious thing to do; western heroes are famous for their
eagle eye gun handling abilities, among other things; but director
Ferdinando Baldi dared to go there; and the result is Blindman, which
despite the unimaginative title; is a rather decent western. The plot,
as the title suggests, focuses on a blind gunslinger. He's been hired
to escort 50 women across America; but runs into trouble when he is
double crossed by his 'business partners'. Not willing to lie down on
this one, Blindman sets off in pursuit of those that crossed him, with
Tony Anthony takes the lead role and does a good job with it. This is the only western I've ever seen with a blindman in a central role (unless you count Johnny Depp in Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and I really don't see how anyone could have done the role any better. I also liked how the film depicts the title character going about his business with modified tools - for example, a 'Braille' map and a compass without a casing. Naturally, due to the plot, the film is not completely serious but the tongue in cheek style works fairly well. The film is not overly violent compared to other films of its type, but there is a fair bit of violence directed towards women which might shock some viewers. There's also a small role for Beatles star Ringo Starr, which was a nice surprise. Overall, I can't say that this film ranks among the best of the genre; but its good fun and I'd certainly rank it as a western worth seeing.
Goodbye, Uncle Tom is one of the Mondo films released in Italy in the
seventies. I'm not a fan of this type of film and therefore I've only
seen a handful of them - however, from my basic knowledge of the genre;
this one is way above average and actually delivers a good film to go
along with the numerous shocks. I have to be honest and say that the
central theme doesn't really interest me. The film is basically an
exploitation style documentary the American South prior to the civil
war and primarily focuses on the slave trade. I don't know a great deal
about this period of history and so I can't say how accurate this film
is - but really it doesn't matter. While the film follows a documentary
approach; that's really not the strongest element of Goodbye, Uncle
Tom. The film, for me, is all about style and directors Franco Prosperi
and Gualtiero Jacopetti lay this style on thick and it really works
brilliantly. The music (excellent score by Riz Ortolani) and the
cinematography are fascinating, and this is a real bona piece of
seventies Spaghetti film-making.
Films like this are generally designed to shock the viewer, and that is certainly the case here. The central theme allows for plenty of shocks and the most shocking scene on a visceral level is probably the rape sequence. However, the core of this film's ability to shock stems from the premise upwards and it's uncomfortable, especially in these times, to see how black people were once treated by their "masters". A scene in which a slave trader explains what his slaves are worth in the same way a cattle rancher might try and sell his stock, and why you cannot train an Indian to be a slave is the most shocking in this respect. It's hard to really rate the film alongside others in terms of acting and the script; but suffice to say, everything shown in the film is very realistic and it wouldn't be hard for an audience to believe that the film is taking place in pre-civil war America (if it weren't for the fact that film-making equipment was not invented back then, of course). Overall, Goodbye Uncle Tom is a great piece of exploitation that shocks, thrills and intrigues in equal measures. Highly recommended viewing.
I didn't like Sabata, or Return of Sabata; which begs the question; why did I watch Adios, Sabata? Well basically because I got the set on DVD. This film is set apart from the other two owing to the fact that unlike them, it doesn't star Lee Van Cleef. I thought this might condemn the film to being even worse than the first two; but Yul Brynner steps in and does a fairly good job with the title role. The plot does not follow on from the other two films and is just your basic Spaghetti Western stuff, with the title character this time helping a bunch of people steal some gold. The first thing I noticed about this film is that the music is a lot better than it was in the last one and there isn't so much of the jokey style, which is welcome. The plot is a bit of a problem as it's rather confusing and this makes things difficult to follow. It's also not all that interesting, which doesn't help. Director Gianfranco Parolini does well with the Spaghetti Western style and the cinematography is not bad. Overall, I can't say I'm a fan of this film; or of the series on the whole, but at least this third entry isn't any worse than the other two.
I have to be honest and say I didn't really like the first Sabata film, but I decided to see this one anyway. I would say that, actually, The Return of Sabata is slightly better than the first film in the series - although slightly is the operative word as both are rather poor Spaghetti Westerns. It's obvious that this film wasn't meant to be completely serious - as shown by the opening score, which is rather silly. The plot focuses on gunslinger Sabata. He rides into Hobsonville and discovers that the locals are being taxed by a man named McIntock. Sabata don't pay taxes to no man, so he decides to do something about it. The plot is not really all that interesting and there doesn't seem to be a great deal of point to it either. The film is also rather strange and features plenty of things you wouldn't expect to find a film like this; which is great for originality, but not so great considering most of it doesn't work. Naturally it's Lee Van Cheef as the master gunslinger who is the main standout, and he provides the best thing about the film with his role; although I'm not surprised he didn't come back to do the third film. Overall, this is a rather poor Spaghetti Western and I wouldn't recommend this - or the first one - to anyone (unless I didn't like the person, in which case I'd recommend they skip Leone and see these films!).
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