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The Peace Killers (1971)
Filthy Biker Scum!
Every now and then one must set aside the horror and Kung Fu in order to watch a little sleazy Bikersploitation and, to my surprise, Comcast's Action On Demand channel 'Impact' not only offered this film but featured it in HD! It still looked crap. That's not the point though, right? What we want from a film called The Peace Killers is a violent, sleazy biker flick and that's just what we get here. Mixing equal parts Hicksploitation and Blaxploitation, "Thunder in Paradise" and "Baywatch" creator Douglas Schwartz created a nasty little steamer of a film worth checking out, if you're a fan of exploitation.
The Peace Killers isn't a great film by any means; the acting was acceptable for low budget acting, the fight sequences were poorly choreographed and the deaths were completely unconvincing. In other words, it's the type of exploitation we've all come to know and love with just the right amount of nudity, rape and hot hippie ass to keep viewer's from setting down the remote and walking away or turning the channel. While all of this may sound negative, it isn't. I found myself slightly entertained despite this film's shortcomings. I can't recommend this film to those unfamiliar with Bikersploitation, or exploitation in general, but those "in the know" will probably want to check it out. Cowboy's crazy eye commands you!
Death of a Snowman (1976)
They Made Blaxploitation in Africa?!!
I know exploitation cinema isn't exclusive to America, many countries around the world have made and continue to make exploitation, but I have to say that I'm rather surprised to see a Blaxploitation film hailing from South Africa. I suppose when you think about it though, considering all of the political and racial strife South Africa has seen, Blaxploitation cinema definitely makes sense. Naturally this isn't the first time this particular film has seen release here in the states, a company called EastWest (likely a bootleg outfit) is still currently selling the "Soul Patrol" version of Death of a Snowman which runs one minute shorter than Synapse's. I know BCI also owned the rights to this a few years back though I can't seem to find any indication that it was indeed actually released.
Anyhow, the film itself was quite entertaining; there were a few sequences that seemed to drag along here and there but actors Davenport (lovin' his Sean Connery beard!) and Gampu were likable characters with a laid back, believable relationship. Seeing Gampu portray a respectable Blaxploitation hero with a strong moral compass was also a refreshing change-up from the usual pimps, pushers, hustlers, gangsters and vigilantes that typified the sub-genre.
Basically the action was right on point, violence over-the-top and the score was wonderful as it was filled with dark grooves and fast-paced action funk so, for me, everything about Death of a Snowman just felt right. As I said, there were a few lulls but this is exploitation
not Fellini. If there weren't some dull moments and missed opportunities for nudity, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this so thoroughly. Yeah right!
I quattro dell'apocalisse (1975)
Filmed with a sleepy haze, creating an almost dream-like atmosphere similar to Fulci's Conquest, it was obvious (outside of the title) that Fulci and writer Ennio De Concini (Salon Kitty) were drawing religious parallels with some sequences and imagery. Each of the four survivors also seemed to represent unfavorable aspects of the pioneering West including gambling (Stubby), sex (Bunny), alcoholism (Clem) and insanity (Bud). Is it a straight-up Spaghetti Western or an allegory? Tomas Milian is chilling as the diabolical Chaco and Fabio Testi delivers a surprisingly touching performance as the seasoned gambler Stubby. Lynne Frederick was absolutely gorgeous as Bunny, Pollard does a solid job as comedic relief and Harry Baird lends the film a child-like innocence, despite his insanity. There's really not much I can say about the acting or the locations but I did have a problem or two with Four of the Apocalypse. For starters it was boring as all hell, it just seemed to go on and on without any real focus, the journey seemed to be about the characters themselves and not where they were going or where they might end up. Another issue I had was the score, UGH! I found myself loathing the hippie, folksy score by Frizzi, Bixio and Tempera with an indescribable intensity. There was nothing even remotely western about the music, not one thing.
Aside from pacing and score, I had an issue with the editing, it seemed to jump about from sequence to sequence with little to no explanation or resolution. One minute Stubby is discovering Bud's grisly secret, the next they're shouting goodbye to him. Perhaps it was the print I was viewing but where was the confrontation between Stubby and Bud? Was one ever filmed? It just felt disjointed.
Four of the Apocalypse was a cool Spaghetti Western but it was a bit of a chore to get through, it seemed to never end as the four wander aimlessly, constantly bumping into new people to the tune of shitty, inappropriate music. In other words, if you're not a patient person, I guarantee this will tax whatever patience you do possess. I enjoyed this film on a different level from films like The Great Silence, Django or The Good, The Bad & The Ugly because I liked the characters more than the actual story but this is a rough film to recommend to anybody not familiar with Fulci's work or Spaghetti Westerns in general. I'd recommend renting first.
The Bunny Game (2010)
When At First You Don't Succeed...
Presented in beautiful B&W, Adam Rehmeier's The Bunny Game features breathtaking imagery, creative editing and outrageous performances by lead actors Getsic and Renfro as The Bunny and Hog. Very few low budget endeavors that cross my desk these days look this good or feature actors so thoroughly convincing. Though the film features very little dialog, it's not at all difficult to understand what's transpiring so long as you pay close attention.
I was greatly impressed with this film on a technical level and there's no doubt in my mind that Rehmeier will have a bright future in filmmaking. That said, I did have a few issues with the film that I would like to mention, the first being that this film, like Lucifer Valentine's gag-inducing Vomit Gore Trilogy, may have had a story behind it but what you actually see ends up feeling more like an experimental BDSM slave training video for Masters. I think that's why I had such a hard time losing myself within the film. To those unfamiliar with BDSM Master/Slave relationships, much of the "atrocities" you see playing out in The Bunny Game are pretty commonplace activities, including head-shaving and erotic asphyxiation.
If experimental cinema with all of its exaggerated noise, nauseating camera effects, avant garde lighting, rapid-fire edits, slow-motion sequences and monotonous scoring is your forte, I can't help but think this film was made for you because I just can't see the average horror or exploitation fan looking for a few chills deriving much replay value from it. In my opinion it's an impressive piece of Artsploitation certainly worth checking out, if you're into this kind of cinema, but be sure to do so before purchasing.
Il grande silenzio (1968)
A Spaghetti Masterpiece!
When asked what my favorite Spaghetti Western is I usually place Corbucci's Django at the top of my list but truth be told The Great Silence is far superior; it's a mesmerizing masterpiece overflowing with Roman violence and French nihilism. Corbucci isn't interested in presenting us with "good" or "bad," instead he introduces characters with very real human flaws such as greed, lust and the thirst for revenge. These men with their deep emotional scars, and monetary motivations, use the laws of the land to oppress religious freedom and justify murder. There's obviously more lying beneath the surface of this film for those interested in sharpening their analytical chops.
If Django's theme was mired in the muck and mud, The Great Silence's theme was buried beneath the frozen snow. Perhaps I'm looking too hard but it would appear to me that Corbucci's film portrays the snow almost as a living entity, as if it were a character witnessing the atrocities of Snowhill. The film's locations combined with the snow (actually shaving cream) and fog created a sense of isolation and an atmosphere of dread-inducing stillness.
French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (Questi's Death Laid an Egg) is perfect as the infamous Silence, a character that mocks the "silent anti-hero" stereotype of Spaghetti Westerns by being mute! Speech isn't the only thing Trintignant resists, he also carries a Mauser pistol with detachable wooden stock instead of the traditional six-shooters or repeater rifles used in pretty much all Westerns. To say he was different from other Spaghetti Western bad asses would be a slight understatement.
I won't say much about the finale but it was incredibly dark and depressing; I was angry and saddened as the film ended on a reflection so powerful it'll remain with you long after the film is over. Forget hand-holding, Corbucci lops hands off at the wrist. I cannot recommend this film enough, seek it out and add it to your collection.
Alien degli abissi (1989)
Antonio Margheriti's Alien from the Deep is a gonzo Aliens rip-off, to be sure, and one not to be missed by fans of Margheriti's work as well as Italian exploitation cinema! Any film featuring Charles Napier as the tough-talking, no-nonsense, get-it-done military type is worth checking out but only Aliens from the Deep features Luciano Pigozzi doing his best impression of Lucio Fulci and an alien so outrageous, so comedic, that you will never look at crustaceous meals the same way again. There's no denying that Alien from the Deep is an uneven film, it starts out as an action adventure film with cheesy B-movie potential and then steadily declines into an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi horror film featuring a massive crab's claw swinging back and forth.
As I mentioned above, cult actors like Charles Napier, Luciano Pigozzi and Robert Marius star in this delightful stinker so expect good to adequate acting. Hit or miss acting aside, there's no denying the quality of the production values in this film, I was greatly impressed with the colors, sets and costumes, despite the low budget. It boggles the mind how far some of these Italian filmmakers were able to go in order to stretch their dollars to get a certain "look" and "feel," even if the film itself was a bomb.
Aliens from the Deep is one of those films that you shouldn't over-think, it is what it is and you just have to kick back and enjoy the ride. For me two things really stood out in this production and that was the forehead-slappingly bad creature and the painful dialog. The minute you see the alien tooling about like a remote control car, wildly swinging its claw and, eventually, standing up to reveal its Rickets-riddled legs, you'll fall in love with this film. Before you get to the "good stuff" though you'll be forced to suffer through the dialog which mainly consists of the actors each getting a turn saying, "Balls!" Carpi must have had a rough time writing this gem! From beginning to end, I enjoyed this film. No need to polish a turd, my review is pretty clear. You're either going to be entertained or you won't be. I recommend giving it a rental.
Killjoy 3 (2010)
Demons, Clowns and College Girls...Oh My!
When Band first announced that a third entry into the Killjoy franchise would be going into production I was a bit dumbstruck, why make Killjoy 3 when a new Trancers or Subspecies would have been guaranteed money in the bank? A new Puppet Master or Demonic Toys I can see as puppets have always been Full Moon's true cash cow but Killjoy? Boy was I wrong! Killjoy 3 was no masterpiece of horror, that's for sure, but I'll be damned if it wasn't creepy, sexy fun! Not only was Trent Haaga's Killjoy in rare form but the additional demonic clowns created by writer/director John Lechago (Blood Gnome & Bio-Slime) were genius! This time around we get a lumbering Emmett Kelly style clown dubbed "Punchy the clown," a scary mime and his parasitic sibling dubbed "Freakshow" and, last but certainly not least, a scorching hot succubus clown covered head to toe in body paint named "Batty Boop." Each clown brings its own distinctive look and abilities to the film but the most impressive power wielded by any of them was Batty Boop's amazing ability to cause my pants to spontaneously tent.
It's obvious Lechago was working on a low budget which is no surprise but he still managed to do a damn good job creating a wickedly entertaining sequel. The way Killjoy 3 is written one needn't watch the first two films in order to get their bearings as everything you really need to know about the character is made available to you in this installment. The dialog, outside of a few flat performances, was believable, the CG was fun and appropriate and the special effects make-up and gore were gruesome; this was an enjoyable B-movie romp with more positive than negative to look forward to.
If you're a fan of the first two Killjoy films, you'll want to grab this as it's the best of the series. If you've never seen a Killjoy film but you're interested in checking this out, be sure to rent.
Death Race 2 (2010)
The Race is On!
Directed by Netherlander Roel Reiné and scripted by Tony Giglio, with a story by Paul W.S. Anderson, Death Race 2 serves as a prequel rather than a sequel, despite the "2″ designation. Not only does this installment introduce viewers to the beginnings of the Death Race but also the origin of one of Roger Corman's coolest characters, Frankenstein. Originally played by David Carradine in '75′s Death Race 2000 and Jason Statham in the 'o8 remake, Luke Goss delivers a fun, though entirely too short, sequence or two as the legendary bad ass. His primary character Carl Lucas on the other hand was a lackluster anti-hero with a great face but very little charisma. Surrounded by the likes of cult actor Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames and Sean Bean though, one barely takes notice of any shortcomings Goss (or the script) might have had.
Death Race 2 offers a bit more than the average direct-to-DVD sequel, delivering massive explosions, bloody violence, beautiful women, colorful villains and, naturally, a thrilling race. Surprisingly entertaining, this prequel disguised as a sequel comes clean with everything you see on the DVD cover plus a few shocking extras to boot. Nothing worthy of purchasing but a rental should be in order for fans of the previous films.
Wasteland Tales (2010)
Post-Nuke for a New Generation!
Awhile back I came across mention of this short film anthology and found myself incredibly intrigued as I'm a huge fan of post-nuke cinema, specifically the Italian variety. With a name like Shaky González attached to this project I was certain it would be entertaining at the very least but could a group of Danish filmmakers really craft their own distinct interpretations of the sub-genre while still maintaining a certain amount of respect for the source material? In my opinion the filmmakers and distro company behind Wasteland Tales have done a damn good job of doing just that! The first three selections on this anthology were definitely the best; González's "The Last Warrior" was outrageously cool and undoubtedly the most commercial of the lot but Christensen's "Connected" was nothing short of visually-stunning. Both shorts are begging for feature-length treatments. "Eastern Army" was decent as well though it suffered from weak fight sequences and a few predictable story elements.
The remaining three shorts we all good as well in their own way but each had issues I found hard to overlook, like the absurdity of Sakurai's "I Barbari Dei CPH" (reminded me of Mungia's Six-String Samurai) and the lack of even remotely convincing "zombies & mutants" in Jensen's "Max Fury." Concerning The Sun King's "Tutorial How to Kill a Racist," well it sort of came across more like an anti-racism infomercial; like preachy propaganda mixed with some brutal, video game violence. There was certainly a point being made that I agree with but I wanted post-nuke action and it didn't satisfy that craving at all.
Bottom line, wonderful! Wasteland Tales kicks all kinds of ass with well-produced and entertaining shorts and is a must-see release for post-nuke fans and a must-have addition to cult cinema collections. Not only was this packed with cool shorts for our viewing pleasure but there were quite a few extras as well including trailers, Another World DVD trailers, bios, a intro on Movie Battle 2010 and some stills and artwork. Very fun and informative stuff. Let's hope the success of this release warrants future anthology releases or even a release of the last Movie Battle 2007: Grindhouse shorts.
Far From "Boaring"
I know this film has received quite a bit of press and discussion on the Wildside forums but for some reason I was at a loss for what this film was about when I first rented it. As it progressed, I got the picture rather quick as Prey doesn't take long at all to jump into the thick of things. It's no surprise (or spoiler) that Prey's killer pigs aren't normal but I probably should warn creature feature fans that these particular piggies aren't of the deformed variety. They do, however, appear to be real deal FX creations (which they reveal sparingly) instead of CG though and that really helped me remain within the film.
The actors all performed admirably but their characters were, in my opinion, rather bland and lacked personality. Not only did they come off flat but their motivations will be disappointingly apparent to astute viewers, leading to a predictability that siphons away some of the impact of the finale. I found myself losing interest in the fates of the characters, even the remotely likable ones, of which there weren't many. There's certainly more than enough tension to hold your attention though and it never lets up, not even for a minute.
Prey is a decent thriller with some gruesome sequences of woodland carnage but it's nothing I could see myself watching again or even purchasing for my personal collection. When it comes to killer pig flicks, it is infinitely superior exercise in suspense than a film like Pig Hunt, which was completely gonzo, but the ecological disaster concept is stale and the entire film lacks replay value for me. Still
not a bad film so give it a shot, you may enjoy it.