19 March 2017

BLACK CAT MYSTERY/COOL IMAGE


BILL'S BULLPEN/BURNED OUT WITH ALL THE ULTRAVIOLENCE


After reviewing A Serbian Film, meaning I had actually watched A Serbian Film, I fell into a slight depression regarding modern horror movies. It is not a depression that suddenly came over me out of the clear blue, but rather an agitation and exacerbation of an underlying horror film depression I have been wrestling with for some time. The bottom line is I just find a lot of modern horror just too over the top for me. I am not sure what exactly I mean by modern horror and do not think it is something that begins at a certain date on the calendar. Certainly the films of H.G. Lewis were ultra gory and disturbing and those came out in the early 60’s. But there is some other quality inherent in many newer films that I find more disturbing than the explicit gore even. I am not about to do some sort of “brainy” in-depth study or dissertation on the topic, but rather I just want to express my general feelings and move on.

When I began this blog a long time ago in about 2005 it was in different format and had a different direction. It has existed on a few different hosting platforms, like Opera, Wordpress, and two paid for places. I came to Blogger after multiple struggles with all those platforms and it has been a struggle here since Blogger and all things Google, or virtually all things Western, are blocked here in China where I live. But I manage with a little skill, savvy and patience to keep active. The site originally began as one of those retro themed sites and the early versions of the blog featured all those old ads and articles on people like Nancy Sinatra. Hence the name The Uranium Café, named after the small little restaurant near the Trinity atomic bomb test site. As it exists today the blog is only about movies. I recently removed all posts pertaining to comic books and music and such. Originally the movies here were all what one might call classic, cult or midnight movies styled films. Usually all were made before 1980.

But I still enjoyed watched modern horror movies and I had set up a second blog called Necrotic Cinema to deal with those reviews. I long ago stopped that blog since it was just a hassle to maintain even one blog much less two given my lackadaisical approach to such things. I moved all the posts from that site over to this one and ceased posting there though the blog is still online. One thing I had always noticed was that my reviews of newer films at NC were much harsher and cynical than my reviews of older films at this site. It just seemed I did not always enjoy the viewing experience (though sometimes I did and still do) and newer films often left me feeling disturbed and restless. As I said in my review of the sordid and abysmal A Serbian Film many people use these negative feelings as a defense of a sick, pointless film’s latent value. “Oh, if you feel disturbed and think about it later I must have value, because it got under your skin!” Donald Trump seems to get under everyone’s skin and provokes controversy but few people (especially on the new Marxist left) seem to feel he has value or merit based on simply the fact he disturbs people.

Since watching A Serbian Film I've watched a couple other newer styled films I had seen reviews of on the Youtube channel called Bloodbath and Beyond, a fairly enjoyable channel. Two were the Laid to Rest films with the character Chrome Skull and the other was a movie called Stitches about a killer clown. I may review those films, but I think I have reached a saturation point with ultra violent and sexually deviant and disturbing films. Any opinions on those two films I will save for reviews if I do any. But I just find that maybe because of events in my life and growing more than a bit older I have lost my taste for most all of that. I do not consider myself a prude and I also am not opposed to violent imagery in cinema. I do not winch or look away and often replay the more violent scenes. I am a fan of special effects, and practical effects in particular, and I know they are actors and it is all make believe, and yet I begin to question why I need to replay a scene of a Serbian woman being macheted to death while her killer continues to ravage her headless corpse. Or, as in Stitches, why I need to see a long played out scene of a male student having his dick ripped off by a killer clown who then dangles before the classroom with a witty one liner thrown in.

Either it is all becoming too disturbing for me or I am concerned that I am not disturbed enough. Have I just become jaded and burned out? Have events in my personal life made me more sensitive to some images and themes? Am I just tired of pandering this stuff under the bogus guise of a "social trend observer"? Who knows. Who cares. Most of the story lines are the same ones I have been seeing since the 70’s, done over and over. All the same stuff only the gory imagery and cheap-shots (i.e. jump scare tactics) are getting more ramped up in frequency  to appease the harder to please audiences. I am burned out with watching horny, angry teenagers go camping or explore a reputed haunted house or insane asylum and do all the same brainless clichés over and over. I am burned out with hacked up flesh and intestines and impaled faces. Lately I find myself watching more and more older films again, the MST3K type. While I do not see myself stopping watching modern horror films entirely I will try to be more selective. There is a vain of nihilism and hostility in newer horror films I just cannot put up with over and over any longer. If I read a review anymore that says '... ooh, this film is really bleak and hopeless and all the good people die off..." I think I will pass on seeing it. If I even decide to continue blogging with any passion I hope to go back to doing Hammer Films, or start reviewing all those cool old AIP Vincent Prices movies. Amazing that some of those, especially the Hammer films, were considered rather shocking for their times. We’ve come a long way baby. And I guess sometimes coming a long is not always for the better.


06 March 2017

A SERBIAN FILM/2010

A SERBIAN FILM/2010
DIRECTOR: Srdan Spasojevic
WRITER: Srdan Spasojevic, Aleksandar Radivojev
CAST: More dumb Serbian names

“What A Serbian Film underlines, though, is that some pictures can still get under audiences' and censors' skins. If this was just another bad and grotesque horror film, nobody would be paying any attention to it. The fact that it has already provoked such ferocious debate suggests that it can't be dismissed that easily.”

Some pompous quote from somewhere on the Internet

“The nastiest, most vile film ever made” people like to rant about A Serbian Film, often in a way that is recommending seeing it. As if some one saying “I know an Italian restaurant with the saltiest, most undercooked spaghetti in the world! You should try it!” is something that should inspire us to go give it a try. There is also the typical “art show” diatribe, as quoted above, that it is provoking debate, as if by the fact something provokes debate it automatically has some type of value that makes it important. My old art teacher Mark Pritchett made it clear that it is actually easier to provoke debate, albeit trivial debate, with crappy art than with good art. I think that is more the case here. I will explain this point later. Maybe. If I still feel like it.

This really is not my kind of film. I finished it but I almost did not and it had nothing to do with the violence. In fact the violence, while pretty intense, is not anymore intense than some horror films I have watched recently such as Laid to Rest with the Chrome Skull character. The issue with the film is around the repulsive sexual content and that sexual content being mashed up with the ultra-violence aspect. The film’s basic story centers around an aging, though once legendary porn star, named Milo. Milo now mopes around the house drinking Jack Daniels and not having much to do work wise since, like most porn stars, he is actually just an unskilled idiot with a big dick. He is a family man now with a son and wife who works as a translator of various languages. His son watches his dad’s old porno films that are not secured and later Milo gives the lad healthy father/son encouragement about the right time to masturbate. Night time is better. Yea, really, he did. well, you know those Europeans re so much more open. ut the kid is not even 1o years old and the scenes are very uncomfortable to say the least. Milo is coaxed out of retirement by a shady underworld character named Vukmir, who is the worst of all things in a European “art” film: a jaded, philosopher artist with wealth. Vukmir rants on and on about art and the plight of Serbia and how its people are lost and need something to jolt them back to life, or something like that. And what is it they need? Why, necrophilic child porn snuff films of course. That always helps reboot a busted society. Milo is a porn star of conscience and wants nothing to do with kids or beating women (as if beating was the end of it) and tries to get out, but he is injected with bull Viagra and goes nuts and fucks anything laid in front of him, including his own son. Yes, that is right. He sodomizes his own small son. Elsewhere in this debate provoking art film we get treated to Milo ejaculating on the face of a woman he just beat to a bloody pulp (and we see it all in its Serbian style bukakke glory), Milo hacking a woman to death with a machete while, well, fucking her and then continuing to savagely screw the blood spurting corpse. Some say the high point of this controversy stirring piece of cinematicart is when a masked thug has sexual intercourse with a newborn baby and the mother sits laughing as he does it. In another artistic and deep dialog inducing scene a woman is murdered by being forced to perform fellatio on a huge Serbian dong, after having her teeth extracted, and having her nostrils pinched shut, suffocating her. Nothing is left to the imagination and you know exactly what is happening at all times, and we see erect Serbian dude penises and jizz and blood and gore all over the place.

I watched the unrated version, with some extra 20 minutes trimmed by civilized countries like the US and Britain, and I will say I did not really know that much about what the film was about in these terms. I did not know it was about children being sodomized graphically. I had seen a review on the Youtube channel Bloodbath and Beyond and I was curious because of the way the film’s technical quality and acting were reviewed highly. I had heard of the film before but tend to avoid what is called extreme cinema. All that Japanese crap and pretentious European art puke. I have seen enough o know it is not for me. And I forgot those guys on Bloodbath and Beyond are pretty twisted fucks themselves. I almost quit but finished as to give it a review. Oh, I know, let me guess: the fact I could not stop watching is debate provoking or something. Nothing of the sort. I have seen tons of films. Many of the extreme cinema variety, especially from Japan (BTW, I do not consider Audition to be an extreme cinema film though it is often included on lists). I have seen many of the old Video Nasty films. The emphasis on those films was more graphic violence and not violence mixed with sexual imagery. What I manage to review here is but the tip of the iceberg of the films I have seen. I knew I would pan the film and I just wanted to finish it to see, if in the end, there might be some redeeming element. There was not. Unless one considers Milo killing himself and his family then a group of Serbs deciding to make a sex film with the corpses is redeeming in some way. I guess I do not.

So it goes back to what I was getting at in my first paragraph about what is art and who gives a fuck. Why is shit and puke and jizz and child sex art to some people but Jurassic Park is not? Because that other stuff is rancid garbage and the only way to market it is to call it art and to say it provokes heated debates. Then some art/film/philosophy/saxophone student who has been in college for 6 years with a man-bun and black finger nails will feel intellectually superior to you if they can generate a nice big debate around it and the hypocrisy of society and this and that load of horse shit. This is not really even a horror film, it is some sort of weird perverted underground fetish filth and since it was released in 2010 the “brilliant” auteur Srdan Spasojevic a total of one other film called The ABCs of Death, that features yet another little kid in the poster art. Was the film okay in the technical department? Yea, it was okay. So what? Not as technically good as Jurassic Park or Good Fellas. Like my old at teacher Pritchett said in a way, you could take anything, like a vat of urine with a crucifix in it, and call it art and when someone says “I don’t like it” then suddenly you have provoked debate and it has some sort of worth. Someone pooping on the American flag can suddenly become art because someone else vehemently opposes it as such. Well, it is not art. This is not art. It is crap. Crap is not art. Urine is not art. This film is not art or thought provoking. It generates vile images that the viewer responds to with disgust. “Oh, that is interesting. And why exactly did you find the scene where the newborn, blood covered baby was brutally raped revolting? Lets explore that. Oh, and why did you not find that plate of uncooked, extremely salty spaghetti delicious?” I give up. Please, avoid this film. Avoid Serbian cinema. Avoid Serbia.






01 March 2017

GREEN ROOM/2015

GREEN ROOM/2015
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Saulnier
WRITER: Jeremy Saulnier
CAST: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair

The term green room refers to what is basically a waiting area for performers before they go on stage. In this petty decent suspense thriller a band of what seems to be punk rockers (I dunno for sure) are desperate yet again to make any sort of money they can get their hands on and agree to play a show for a bunch of neo-Nazi skin heads. The action takes place around rainy Portland Oregon known more for it green anarchists and Prozac addled post slacker generation than for skin heads, but seems everywhere you turn anymore there is a hive of Nazis stirring up trouble. The band has a rocky start but they soon win over the hearts and souls of the crowd with their ear splitting three chord mayhem. Upon returning to the green room they stumble in upon a murder scene and that is when things get complicated and the movie turns tense. The over all storyline is that they are trapped in the green room with the Nazis trying to get in to kill them off as potential murder witnesses. The rockers are not really fighters but when pushed into a corner they, for the most part, give the bad guys a pretty good fight. And by pretty good I mean at times the violence is jarring. At other times it is done off camera a little too much, but there is enough in your face gore and blood spatter to keep you either glued to screen or repulsed and avoiding it.

Patrick Stewart plays the head Nazi and the tragically recently departed Anton Yelchin plays one of the more resilient band members. Not everyone get out alive and they go down twitching, with pit bull at their throats sometimes. There are quite a few plot holes and problems (like why did Stewart's character Darcy want the Nazi lacks holding the band prisoner in the green room to hand over the pistol to them other than as a plot contrivance) and why do a couple band members just run into situations that can only result in certain death? Like the soldier in the old war movies who charges the machine gun nest. Why not just wait and come up with a better plan or do nothing. I guess the film has to move along but these little bugs can ruin it all really. But in this case they do not really. Any movie like this relies on short cuts and gimmicks to keep things moving. In this case the bigger picture is salvaged by the end. The film luckily does not turn into some sort of lame social statement about the evils of white supremacism which in today's climate it certainly could have. It simply uses the situation everyone finds themselves in to build the action around. The punk band may be morally better than Nazis (but not morally better than prog-rockers!) and yet they are not above playing for skinheads for some slimy ass money. In fact the skinheads are portrayed as assholes, natch, but their hands are forced into trying to cover up a murder of passion. Definitely worth a watch and I wonder if there is an unrated version out there? A couple of the deaths seemed overly edited to me. But not disappointing in the violence department, or any other for that matter.






RANDOM COOL GIF

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28 February 2017

31/2016/ROB ZOMBIE


31/2016
DIRECTOR: Rob Zombie
WRITER: Rob Zombie
CAST: Sheri moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Philips, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Brake, Meg Foster, Ginger Lynn, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs

I figured I would get around to watching the new Rob Zombie film 31 sooner or later. I will admit that I went into it with low expectations and maybe that helped me to enjoy the movie more than I thought I was going to. Not as bad as I expected it to be. I think Zombie has some talent behind a camera, but I am not really into his hickploitation laden homages to retro-horror of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre school. It is as if they could almost work at some level but they never do. I did enjoy House of 1000 Corpses overall. But nothing since then, including everyone's darling The Devil’s Rejects. With 31 he returns to the realm of hillbilly-psycho horror after taking a break and doing the Satan/witch debacle Lords of Salem, which I reviewed here. In the end this is what Zombie does the best, and that ain’t much really, and it is what he seems to enjoy doing. 

A group of smelly looking and foul mouthed carnies are traveling by RV between shows back in about 1976 when, after stopping for an obvious trap in the road, they are either promptly killed or captured and then taken to play the game of 31, on the night of Halloween. Get it? November 31st. Seems the game has been going on for many years and may it explain the ongoing  disappearance of local people on Halloween night. The game is overseen by Malcolm McDowell and a couple women all dressed up as if they were members of a decadent French king's court. Winning the game consists simply surviving for twelve hours pitted against a collection of murderous killer clowns basically, all with names ending in " head". The most viscous of the bunch is Doom-Head, played effectively by Richard Brake. The oddest is a Nazi dwarf called Sick-Head. Luckily he is killed off early on. The sooner you kill off dwarves the better as far as I am concerned.  While the game goes on for twelve hours not much actually happens. Only four conflicts occur, meaning one every three hours. All the while the game is being bet on by McDowell and the others, with each of the protagonists getting different odds as far as their chances of survival goes.

Taken at this level the film has potential in a real b-movie sense. It could have been a decent little horror film. But there are a few problems. One is Zombie himself. He wrote the script and it is just too full of low level attempts at filthy redneck humor. There is a joke about a pregnant woman and her unborn baby that is simply stupid and in bad taste and it is told in a such a way that it drags on way too long. The over all dialog is just not that good. Simply vile in some places when there is no reason for it to be other than Zombie is trying to shock us out of our puritanical value system and elicit a predictable reaction. Another problem is that the camera work is too jerky. I hate shaky cam work and I expected some here, but it goes overboard in most scenes. The editing is choppy and too quick and sometimes during fight sequences you do not know what you are looking at, like during the duel chainsaw fights. The editing goes back and forth between the two fights in a way that is distracting. Some scenes have annoying overuse of gimmicks like strobe lights to create a sense of disorientation or anxiety, but it creates more a sense of vertigo. 

And like I said in my review of Lords of Salem a big problem I have with this film is with goddamned Sheri Moon Zombie in the lead role. She has been in every film the man has ever made. I guess you save money in the casting department this way. She has really not been in anything else. She played a minor role in Tobe Hooper's remake of The Toolbox Murders ( reviewed here) and I think that is all she has ever done. Why do other other directors not ring her up? She has played the lead in like half a dozen of her husband's films, right? Because she cannot act and she is just revolting. I think here we see her closer to her true self than her previous roles when she is grabbing her crotch and talking dirt to a horny old gas station attendant (played by Tracey Walter). 

Rob Zombie is an interesting guy and I like his music and his music videos. I thought he would make some interesting horror films when he started all of this and to some degree he has. But to a larger degree he has delivered nothing special. I remember reading he was going to do a remake of The Blob and that sounded interesting, but it never happened. I can appreciate what he seems to be trying to do with some parts of his films, returning to old slasher/psycho/weirdo movie themes from the 70's and80's. But he seems to have a pissy-ass attitude towards life in a lot of interviews I have seen of him, dissing his old band mates and ranting on about the dreary, godless nature of the universe and how we will all be nothing but worm food one day. His humorless nihilism comes through in his work and while it works for his music it is hard to deal with for the length of a movie. I really would like to see that Blob remake and I would like to not see his trailer park trophy wife in it. 







19 February 2017

MOVIES I COULDN'T FINISH


This is a category I have actually been meaning to start for a while. I watch lots of movies but the truth is I finish only about half of the ones I start anymore. I am getting older and I have seen who knows how many movies in my life. At one time I tended to finish almost everything I started but in recent years I find myself getting bored or dissatisfied or even downright irritated by a film I have either just began or got to about the halfway mark on. Even with the idea in mind that I could just finish and then review it as a motivator I found I just cannot often finish some movies, even after multiple restarts. Perhaps with age comes a sense of feeling a bit jaded and cynical and having an idea, from experience, of where this train wreck is headed. The same old place all train wrecks end up. Sometimes it is simply the technical quality of the film. Often the cinematography can set me off quickly. I do not like shaky cam work or washed out, videoish looking film textures, or long arty ass static shots. Found footage films are out 99% of the time. Sometimes the acting and script is too lame for me to endure for 90 minutes or more. Sometimes it might be the pacing of the film and even a film with a big name cannot salvage the poor editing. It may be too slow or even too fast for me. slower tends to be better than rapid, choppy editing for me. Sometimes something may simply be too contrived and formulaic. Even the music score can set me off for some reason. 

In fact I am often not sure why I just give up on a film quickly but here I attempt to explore some of the possibilities. The only real "rule" here for me in selecting a film is that I expected the movie to be half way decent or entertaining before going into it. If I start a film that is most likely some low budget slasher flick of the slumber party or teen camp out variety I know what I am for and go in with low expectations and am less likely to be put off and even more likely to finish the film. If I am led to believe the film might be something special, because of the presence of a certain actor or the director's name, and then it fizzles quickly for me then it may wind up here. Also, if I tired to restart the film a few times and still find myself unable to endure it to the end then it might wind up here. I also will not do that much research into any of these as I am not sure what the point would be in doing that. I am also not saying other people may not enjoy the film and should not try it. I am just slightly fascinated with this habit I have of being able to finish only about half of the movies I start anymore. And with that in mind lets see the four films I selected for this post (each post will have four entries):

OUTLAWS AND ANGELS: I guess for me the last great American western movie was The Unforgiven, and Clint Eastwood was the last real cowboy actor. This movie featured his daughter Francesca in a role, so I was curious simply because of the Eastwood name. It is the first feature film by writer/director JT Mollner and I do not know who one other cast member is. In fact I do not even know which one was Francesca. It is in the style of many of the newer westerns and seems to be more inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s abysmal contributions to the genre than anything by Eastwood, Sam Peckinpah or John Ford. The first opening shots seemed promising but that all soon fizzled. The opening of the western town at the beginning with two hookers talking about stuff like anal sex and the choppily edited bank holdup scene, complete with an attempted retro style, but utterly corny, title sequence, just had me struggling to keep going. The dialog was trying hard to sound cowboy but sounded like a clueless city dude making up hillbilly dialogs. The violence was gratuitous and excessive without craft, and the deaths elicited still more corny dialog from the characters trying hard to act and show emotion. I figured the film was going to be something in the end where the gang of murderous bandits were going to hole up in hiding at the farm house shown at the beginning, where some young and troubled farm girls lived, and that there was going to some twist as in the hunters becoming the hunted or something like that. I assumed there wold be weird sexual situations as well. From some briefs reviews I read later it seems that is exactly what was going to happen, and that could have been a good story. A good story, maybe, in more capable hands.  The weak writing, direction, and acting just put me to where I could not make it past about the 20 minute mark. I understand the film degenerates into some sort of ultra-violent deviant sexual miasma in no time.  The music did not fit a western at all and seemed way too modern in spots. I think this quote from IMDb, where it got a merciful 5.3 rating, by astute user mike3368 hits the nail on the head: 

As an aging Western fan, just consider me a lone sentinel standing watch against this current spate of other movie genres masquerading as Westerns. THIS MOVIE IS NOT A WESTERN. This movie contains a purely pornographic plot and script, even if the visuals might somehow escape an XXX-rating . . . its R-rating makes a joke of the MPAA film rating system. It is almost impossible to find a shred of redeeming value in this movie . . . perhaps it was the oddity of finding the beautiful daughter of Clint Eastwood, Francesca Eastwood, appearing on screen with her mother in a cameo role, Frances Fisher – "Unforgiven" (1992). Well, the dialog was so mumbled, so garbled, so poorly delivered and edited that much of it was unintelligible . . . and that is a good thing. This movie works diligently to destroy everything we Americans regard as sacred, e.g., parenthood, Christianity, family, home, and childhood. Retribution? There is none. Director J. T. Mollner's first full-length movie, and maybe his last?

We can only hope. 



THE DAISY CHAIN: This film is from 2008 and stars Samantha Morton who is supposed to be a decent actress but I usually do not care for her work. She does seem to be able to act and it might just be the films I have seen her in that annoy me, like this one. I just did not want to see another annoying kid movie, and it was clear that that was what this was going to be. Not only an annoying and evil child movie, but also one set in a boring ass seaside town in boring ass Ireland, and so I would have to listen to that grating Irish accent all through the film. I had sat through all of the Babadook and endured that fucking annoying brat thinking something might come of it all in the end and when it never did I swore I would not endure another evil kid movie. I felt there might be something to this film and even made some screen captures as I was watching it thinking it might deserve a longer review after I finished it. But by about 30 minutes into the movies I realized I was on my third setting of trying to watch it. I took it off my old iPad once and then put it back on later for one more go and after a few minutes I just could not stand it any longer. The awful Irish accent, the bleak boring setting, the waves crashing over and over in the background, the dismal boring little cottage on the cliff, the awful Irish accent, the bratty child and her evil secret that Samantha Morton’s character is too dumb or blind to see, and of course the awful Irish accent. The film was very slow and boring and bleak in that unforgiving Irish sort of way. It got a 5.1 on IMDb and that is about right. I just do not like evil kid flicks any more. They are not scary in a real Satanic spirit sort of, they are just evil in that way that all kids are basically evil and annoying. And well, when it is a kid with an Irish accent, there you go. 

DETACHMENT: This is a story about a depressed looking school teacher who takes up a teaching position at a school full of angry, aggressive and ethnically challenged students who are dead set on not learning and want to make the teacher’s life a living hell. After working ten years in China as a teacher and knowing the sense of futility a teacher can experience with even passive students I just could not deal with it. The burned out teacher with a jaded credo against the classroom of rebellious gangsta wannbe teenage thugs is just one genre I have never cared for. I liked a few of the angry young men movies from 60’s Britain but I just could not handle Brody’s long face and longer nose looking out into a room full of angry ghetto rats for the next two hours. After the obligatory contentious and overly critical progressive female school principal character was added to further make his cursed life more miserable I opted to bail out after about 20 minutes. Why would I want to watch that? Despair and depression are not fun. Did he win over the kids in the end? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I don’t care. Just so happy I went to school back in the 60’s and 70’s is all I get from these sort of films. It gets a 7.7 on IMDb no doubt because depression and unending, uncomfortable conflict are seen as arty, topical and controversial topics for most people. I have never gone in for all of that myself, And hell, how depressing can it really be? I ain't even in B/W or French!


JOHN WICK: Maybe 20 minutes before I pulled the plug on this one that a lot of people really like (a decent 7.2 on IMDb) and probably in so small part due to the fact it stars Keanu Reeves. To be honest I never thought Keanu was a good actor although I admit he has charisma and fantastic looks. His best stuff was his early teenage angst films and The Matrix. I often check out a film if he is in it. I consider his presence a recommendation. I like the guy a lot though I just feel he is an average actor in terms of ability. But this and the weird Eli Roth film Knock Knock makes me wonder what is up with the guy. Bad choices as far as I am concerned and are no better roles being tossed his way any longer? Once an actor begins making films where the poster art shows him pointing a hand gun towards the camera one can figure his serious dramatic acting days are over.  This film was so contrived I could not stand it. His wife dies of cancer. He becomes the broken man, a shadow of who he used to be,  flirting with self-destruction. This is proven by the fact he drives his cool Ford Mustang around in reckless doughnuts while barely missing trucks and bull dozers then beating on the steering wheel.  What guy has not been there? His not dead wife leaves him a cute little dog he should have named Plot Device. Soon a bunch of bad, ruthless Russian dudes want his car and when he says no (and called one a bitch I think) they break into his upscale house,  beat him, steal his car and kill his little cute pooch. And all of this is like in the first ten minutes of the movie.  So I wonder what the next hour and a half will involve? Maybe this guy tracking down the nasty Russian dudes and killing them off one by one? It is clear the guy has a past that makes him lethal. He broods a lot and talks in sentences of three or four words. I first thought it was like CIA or Black Ops, but he was once a hitman it seems. Retired now of course, but in movies there is always something to drag the once dangerous character back of retirement. And killing his puppy ranks up there at the top of the list. The problem for me was I did not buy Reeves as this sort of character. Not at all. Just like I did not buy him as a serial killer in The Watcher. This is a Charles Bronson type role and not one for Ted of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure fame. I didn’t buy him in this one and the plot is lackluster B-Movie fodder, something for someone like the new frozen faced Mickey Rourke to cover. 

11 February 2017

UZUMAKI/2000


UZUMAKI
2000/Director: Higuchinsky/Writers:Junji Ito (manga), Kengo Kaji (supervising screenwriter)
Cast: Eriko Hatsune, Fhi Fan, Hinako Saeki, Eun-Kyung Shin, Keiko Takahashi, Ren Osugi

I think I have mentioned in a few previous posts about my ambivalence towards more modern Japanese (and Asian in general, though I consider Japan to be yardstick by which the rest of Asian cultures is measured, for better or worse) horror films, or cinema in general. Which rare exceptions I find most of it wanting and I much prefer the Japanese cinema prior to about 1970. Uzumaki is for me one the exceptions. I had long put off watching this movie for one reason or another, but it was on my list of films to see before I died so I finally popped it in the DVD player and was pleased with the results, though it is a far from perfect horror film. I got the BT from demonnoid.com and was surprised to the find the entire manga comic series by Junji Ito included. I included, free of charge, a few pages for readers to check out. To honest I had no ideas this was based on a comic book unit I opened the folder. But like the film I was pleased with the story and art which I glanced over. I tend to not like the goofy looking fairy like characters that adorn the majority of manga comics and I felt the drawing in Junji Ito’s story to look more like the b/w independent stuff coming out of the US from places like Fantagraphic books.

The story takes place in the small Japanese city of Kurouzu which has come under the curse of evil spirals (or vortexs as they are called in the translation). It is not clear why the town is cursed but soon schoolgirl Kirie and her childhood boyfriend Shuichi are at the center of the escalating nightmare. Kirie finds Shuichi’s father absorbed in filming the spiral aptterns on a snails back one day on the way home from school. Soon there is a suicide at the school when a boy leaps from the top of a very high spiral staircase, landing at the bottom with blood and brains splattered everywhere. Things get more and more out of control as Shuichi’s father loses his mind under the influence of the vortex curse, one night almost losing control when there are no more spiral patterned naturo fish rolls in his miso soup. He convinces Kirie’s father, a pottery maker, that the vortex is the highest form of art and asks him to design a vortex patterned plate. Soon Kirie’s father is pulled into the curse. The situation at home is not the only concerns since at school students are turning into snails and having their hair grow out into elaborate spiral like designs the size of trees. The spiral (vortexs… it really bothers me how these films are translated at times. The term spiral is never once used though sometimes it is the better word to use. We do not say a “votex staircase”) motif appears all over the film, though not as frequently as in the comic book story. Eventually even the dark clouds in the sky assume a menacing spiral pattern.

Shuichi’s father eventually decides he wants to become a vortex himself. What better way to achieve this than to crawl into the washing machine and click it on. His mother winds up in the hospital in despair and she soon clips off all her hair as to eliminate any spiral designs. Soon she realizes her finger prints are spirals and…well… you can guess the rest right? She kills herself after a centipede tries to slither down her ear and soon her dead husband is calling to her from the other side, where there are perfect vortexes. Shichi himself gets all tied in knots, literally, and in the last scenes we see the towns people all under the effects of the vortex curse, except for Kirie. One memorable scene as her stalker admirer throw himself under a moving car so she will always remember him and he gets all twisted around the wheel and rim. The film ends with unanswered questions but most movies like this do. The comic book seemed to go off into other directions, such as many of the town’s folk turning into dangerous zombie like creatures. While some people in the film appear “zombiefied” they never collect together and terrorize Kirie as they do in the manga story. The film is shot using a greenish hue and it looks eerie. The music score is good and the acting above average. There are no gratuitous school girl panty shots and no sex, which is actually a relief and gives this Japanese shocker a boost in the credibility department. So many newer Japanese horror films are of the Pinku Eiga style, which is simply softcore porn with a few mutilations thrown in to balance things out. Nothing like seeing a young naked Japanese school girl in one scene and then a disemboweled, blood drenched one in the next to push all the borderline personalities watching right over the edge. I thought the film was creepy and well made and the effects and photography are pretty good for this style of movie. If you can get the comic book, if that is your bag, as I think it is actually a better story.
SAMPLES FROM THE UZUMAKE MANGA BY JUNJI ITO