Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Short Film: Bloody Date (Japan, circa 2007)

The clay animation — or, "claymation" — gore shorts of Takena Nagao have been making the rounds on the Internet for awhile now, gaining increasing popularity and attention due to blurbs from Boing Boing and other hip (and unhip) websites and blogs across the globe. Chainsaw Maid is the one that seems to be the most popular, but it is only one of a whole series of intensely violent claymation shorts that utilize every aspect of the genre visual vocabulary of horror, gore and exploitation film. The short featured here is Bloody Date, one of his more consistently bleak films.
Were many of these films live action, they would be repulsive in their nihilism, misogyny and visual overload. But executed in the cute technique of claymation, the excesses of Nagao’s film often become as comic and laughable as they are violent. Imagine, if you can, that someone like Ed Gein or Richard Speck had created Gumby instead of Art Clokey; these might have been the type of films they would have made.
According to the info on his myspace page, Takena is a Japanese college science student in his early twenties living in the city of Uji who likes watching movies, listening to music, reading and making clay animation films. His star sign is Cancer, he’s slim and 169 cm tall (that’s a little less than 5½ foot [!]), and smokes but does not drink. He also claims to be single, which explains why he has the time on his hands to continually produce such cute and entertaining monstrosities!
At the moment, Takena Nagao is still very much an Internet sensation. He has downloaded a variety of his films on youtube, and they can also be viewed on his website

Night of the Creeps (USA, 1986)

(Spoilers.) Somewhere in the midst of Night of the Creeps, Fred Dekker's directorial debut, Detective Cameron (Tom Atkins) asks, "What is this? A homicide, or a bad B-movie?" The correct answer, in both cases, has to be a resounding "No!" For the dead in Night of the Creeps are not simple homicides, but rather walking dead who have been taken over by mind-controlling slugs, and while the film is indeed a B-movie, it is hardly bad.
No, Fred Dekker's enjoyable homage to the tacky films upon which he teethed as a child is everything but bad—even way back in 1986, when the flick came out and was almost universally panned by critics, true purveyors of skid-row trash theaters could recognize what was flickering across the screen: a truly unique, entertaining, tongue-in-cheek and blood-drenched gem that played with the genre vocabulary even as it delivered the goods. Regrettably, word of mouth hardly stopped the film from being a flop, but it did, over the years, turn Dekker's film into a popular cult film with a (justifiable) lasting reputation. (And an influential cult film at that, as can be seen by such contemporary genre black comedies such as Slither [2006 / trailer].)
The insider references that pepper the film could fill a term paper, but luckily Dekker—who wrote the film as well—was smart enough to know that for a film to be good, it also needs a lot more than just characters named after famous genre directors or a credits sequence typeface cribbed from EC Comics. Thus, in a time-jumping narrative that could easily have fallen apart if incorrectly handled, Dekker manages to stuff some fine characterization, great dialog, and sight gags that still work as well today as they did when the film came out in 1986 (even if the 80s' style comes across as quaint now as the 50s' style).
The opening scene alone is a good example of both what makes Night of the Creeps so much fun and, in turn, possibly un-understandable for the masses when it first came out. How often does a walking-dead flick open with a persiflage of an aliens-in-space flick? In this case, out in space two half-naked pink-skinned midgets with faces no mother could love are chasing a brethren-alien carrying a canister. Luckily the alien-speak is subtitled (in both alien and English), so the viewer can follow that the alien with the canister is the bad alien and those in pursuit are trying to stop him from releasing something terrible. They fail, and next we see the canister twirling through space and down to earth, where it lands in the B&W fifties in a delightful homage to the original Blob (1958 / trailer), only this time around the gal—who has just dumped her loser policeman boyfriend for the college jock—gets axed by a passing-by escaped psycho and the jock swallows a slug from outer space.
With that the flick jumps forward to the (then contemporary) 1980s, where the rest of the film takes place and all the loose ends introduced in the first scenes slowly tie together into a fine crescendo of witty gore and horror laughs full of unexpected and expected turns. Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall) are two collegiate nerds who decide to join a frat because Chris thinks it's the only way to impress Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), a spunky girl dating the college asshole Brad (Allan J. Kayser). Though the frat has no intention of ever accepting a nerd and a "cripple"—J.C. needs crutches to get around—they set the boys up to steal a corpse from the local hospital, which just happens to have a cryogenics lab in it. The corpse they end up stealing is no less than the young parasite-infested guy from the fifties, whom they promptly drop and leave behind as they run away "screaming like banshees" when it begins to move. Mr 1950s shambles back to college before his head explodes, releasing the slithering slug-like parasites into the world.
It seems that the parasites take control and lay their eggs in the brains of their victims, where they eventually hatch out in a burst of brains. At this point, the cynical Det. Cameron (Tom Atkins) enters the scene, full of bad attitude and one-liners, hardened by the broken heart his axed ex-girlfriend left him with back in the 50s. Next to be animated in the dead axe-murderer that Cameron secretly killed and buried decades ago, but soon the number of walking dead begins to increase. J.C. kills himself when he is taken over, but not before he discovers and passes on to Chris the method for killing the parasites. Chris and Det. Cameron then join forces to destroy the extraterrestrial threat, which has since managed to infest a busload full of jocks. The big showdown is at Cynthia's sorority, where Cameron, Chris, and Cynthia take on the zombies with a flamethrower, shotguns, and a lawnmower and this following classic dialog is exchanged:

Det. Cameron: "Well girls, there's good news and bad news. The good news is, your dates are here."
Girl: "What's the bad news?"
Det. Cameron: "They're dead." 

Funny, horrific, quick, intelligent, bloody and complete with a discreet nude scene, Night of the Creeps, a film made by a genre lover for genre lovers, is without a doubt one of the best genre films of the 1980s. Which is not to say that it will only appeal to genre fans. No, in his directorial debut Dekker manages to walk the fine line between film geekdom and delivering teensploitation goods and thus delivers a film that can easily entertain both the genre novice and the hardened genre old-timer.
If you haven't seen Night of the Creeps yet, you should, for you are truly missing a great film. And it really doesn't matter which ending you see: The scrapped original ending of a burnt Det. Cameron stumbling into a graveyard before his head explodes and a spaceship starts searching the ground (which actually makes a rather pleasing full circle in the narrative), or the more depressing (and slightly dissatisfying) cheap-scare ending that made it to the theaters back in '86 in which Chris and Cynthia obviously don't live happily ever after.

A Better Tomorrow III: Love & Death in Saigon / Ying hung boon sik III jik yeung ji gor (Hong Kong, 1989)

Spoilers. John Woo directed parts one and two of this popular series about the ultra-cool gangster Mark Gor, who actually dies one of the funnier "tragic" deaths in the second instalment. Thus director Tsui Hark had little option other than to do a prequel for his entry into the series which he had previously only produced. While fans of the Woo films might have an axe to grind in regard to this Hong Kong bullet ballet, people unfamiliar with the series will probably find Love & Death in Saigon entertaining in its own way, especially when viewed as an ironic comedy.
Tsui Hark, never one the most subtle directors of Hong Kong, definitely lets his penchant for over-the-top and completely unbelievable situations and plotting run wild in this one, resulting in some pretty good laughs and great eye-candy fight scenes. This movie may not be the best movie that Hark has graced his name to, but it is indefinitely better than his badly flawed attempt at breaking into the American market, Double Team (1997/trailer). The only thing in Double Team that was any good was Mickey Rourke's greasy, cocaine and alcohol addled performance as the bad guy; in A Better Tomorrow III every performance works and the tacky, laughable story is at least pulled off with the tongue firmly in cheek.
Chinese pop diva Anita Mui has definitely never been made-up more ugly than in this film, her make-up job looking like that of Joan Crawford in her Trog (1970/trailer) years. That every man she crosses paths with should fall madly in love with the neon-lipsticked, gun-toting killer is almost as unbelievable as the fact that her make-up never smears, no matter what happens. Still, she does make an oddly impressive presence in the film, much more so than she does as the bland and frumpy character she played in Rumble in the Bronx (1995/trailer). As Chow Ying Kit, she is the person that teaches all-thumbs Mark Gor how to kick ass in two-fisted gun fights and even gives him his trademark black trench coat — before taking a ton of bullets in her back and leaving the man with eternally broken heart.
The story has the type of logic found only in Hong Kong. Gor (Yun-Fat Chow) arrives in Saigon in 1974 to meet up with his jailbird cousin Cheung Chi Mun (Tony Leung), who wears a thick-rimmed pair of glasses dorkier than those of Buddy Holly. Being men of sound minds and the time being one of war, the two of them decide that dealing guns is the way to success; through their business deals they meet up with shady-lady Chow Ying Kit (Anita Mui) and become the best of friends. Eventually they all end up in Hong Kong, where Mun's Pop opens a shop. Of course, honor and friendship influence their every action, which results in one of the funniest love triangles in a long time, a love triangle that doesn't become any less laughable after Kit's supposedly long dead gangster husband Ho (Saburo Tokito) shows up. He promptly blows up the uncle's shop, beats the shit out of the two interlopers and then splits with his babe Kit for Saigon. Of course, Gor and Mun follow hot on their trail, driven by both love and revenge.... The big show down in which Ho and Kit bite the dust is as wonderfully hilarious as it is a well choreographed shoot fest.
Of course, A Better Tomorrow III doesn't hold any water under the slightest of scrutiny, but fans of mindless Asian fun that take pleasure in laughing at stylistic excesses will enjoy themselves. Everyone else will just scratch their head and wonder why anyone would want to watch trash like this… but then, most people I know think that about most of the films I watch.

Dog Soldiers (Great Britain, 2002)

Dog Soldiers is the wave-making 2002 debut of director Neil Marshall, who made even bigger waves (and got a lot of good press) with his 2005 follow-up The Descent (trailer) and then got the typical third-film scrubbing with the highly derivative but highly enjoyable and entertainingly trashy Doomsday (trailer) in 2008. In all three films he shows a sure directorial hands and a good grasp of narrative structure — let's hope he manages to show the same in his upcoming fourth feature, Centurion, which is reportedly a sword and sandal film set in 117 A.D.
But to return to Dog Soldiers. The tale is an uncomplicated one. A bunch of soldiers under Sgt. H.G. Wells (Sean Pertwee) drop down into the backwaters of the Scottish Highlands for some training maneuvers with some Special Forces already somewhere on site. But when they locate the Special Forces base camp, all they find is a lot of blood, unused weapons and an injured and gibbering Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham). With nowhere to go they make their way through the forest, only to be attacked by big, unseen creatures. On the run, they stumble upon a back road just as local gal Megan (Emma Cleasby) is going by in her Landrover and they all manage to escape, taking refuge at the nearest house. Once there, they find it deserted and in no time at all they are trapped inside surrounded by werewolves. The beasts might not have balls (in a physical sense), but they sure are hungry. The fight is on to survive until sunrise, but although the soldiers have weapons they are very low on silver...
Marshall’s modestly budgeted debut film is a surprisingly effective and enjoyable return to the werewolf film, one of the less popular mainstays of filmic horror and one of the most difficult to make work. But, along with Ginger Snaps (2000/trailer), Dog Soldiers is one of the best lycanthrope films to be made in decades. But whereas Ginger Snaps liberally peppers its narrative with allusions to puberty and awakening sexuality, Dog Soldiers remains firmly rooted in the traditional and visceral but adds a nice dose of black humor. Nothing really all that new, maybe, but well done and fast: once it starts moving, the narrative slows down occasionally only enough for the viewer to catch their breath and keep track of what’s going on, but in general the flick barrels along at an enjoyable, adrenalin-stoked speed. True, at the start of the movie there is one character too many, which makes it difficult initially to keep them apart, but once the sun sets and the full moon rises the numbers quickly get reduced to a more manageable amount. Considering how little time is given to character development among the manageable amount, it is notable that the remaining characters actually mange to assert something known as personality.
Not to say that the movie doesn’t have its small flaws. The differing times it takes for various people to change seems a bit indiscriminate, as is the motivation of one character in particular. And while it is nice to see some good old fashion hairy suits instead of CGI — anyone remember the laughable werewolves of An American Werewolf in Paris (1997/trailer)? — the werewolves in Dog Soldiers don’t always look all that convincing, which is probably why Marshall makes the wise choice of showing the only in parts or quickly. But none of the flaws found in the film are really all that surprising for a budget-strapped production, nor do they really do all that much damage to the movie. And in any event, Marshall makes up for them by really throwing blood and entrails around with free abandon — who would ever expect that a single man could have soooooooo much uncooked blutwurst inside.
In short, Dog Soldiers is a debut film to be proud of that might not add anything new to the genre but is nonetheless a fast-paced, exciting and bloody ride spiced with just the right amount of humor. You might forget it a week or two later, but while you're watching it you'll be anything but disappointed.

Infested (USA, 2002)

Director Fred Decker — who did not make this film, but did make the absolutely fabulous Night of the Creeps (1986/trailer) — is quoted to have said "You never set out to make a cult movie." Obviously not everyone agrees with him, for director Josh Olsen obviously did exactly that with this 2002 film, his only directorial credit to date (today is July 29, 2009).
As might be expected from an industry-worker who has (also to date) acted as presenter for a total of 20 trailers at that great website Trailers From Hell — including Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (1974), Ms. 45 (1981), Boss Nigger (1975), Galaxy Of Terror (1981), Shogun Assassin (1980), Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975) and The Apple (1980) — he didn’t simply try to just make a cult film, but instead chose to go the Full Monty and film a true-blooded Guilty Pleasure. And what can one say, other than that he succeeded?
Infested is a no-budget piece of entertaining crap starring a bunch of has-beens, never-beens, never-will-bes and other such familiar faces that joins Night of the Lepus (1972/trailer) and Frogs (1972/trailer) as a film with one of the most unfrightening concepts of a creature of mortal deadliness: in this case, the house fly. (Don’t be tricked by the bugs on the DVD cover — the film is about mutant killer flies, not mutant killer wasps or bees.) But, as to be expected from a Guilty Pleasure, the flies aren't just normal flies, they’re badly animated CGI flies that eat your brain when they get inside of you, turning you into a mindless, unstoppable zombie! Now that’s a concept that was definitely not thought up with the Academy in mind...
Like any person with half a brain, Josh Olsen must have hated that Yuppie piece of self-involved self-pity The Big Chill (1983/trailer), for he swipes it totally as the framework situation of Infested. The credits roll as a bunch of successful NYC yuppies get a phone call one-by-one which results in their getting together for the burial of one of their former clique, who has killed himself. The only unsuccessful one among them, he had been working as a janitor at a governmental institution when he took his life by wrapping himself completely in plastic. At the funeral, the yuppies are all more happy to see each other than they are disturbed by the death of their former friend, and all go to a nice house by the Hudson to spend the weekend together. Joined by the girlfriend of their dead pal, Jesse (Amy Jo Johnson, who will surely one day do a chick flick with Jennifer Garner, playing Jennifer's spunky younger sister), at the house they dance to an English-language version of Da-Da-Da (by the German band Trio, a true one-hit wonder group), question their values and re-bond... and maybe screw around, if the chance comes up.
But no sooner does one of them (Nahanni Johnstone) have her topless scene than does she swallow a bunch of flies and go zombie. She promptly gives it to a "Desperate Husband" (Tuc Watkins as Brad), and the shit hits the fan. One by one the flies take over the yuppies in a spectacle of lousy CGI effects and a lot of blood (love that scene of Warren [Zach Galligan of Gremlins (1984/trailer)] cutting the flies from his injured leg with a razor), until only the drug-dealing and ecstasy-tripping Eric (Robert Duncan McNeill, who has really put on the weight since his days as Tom aboard the Voyager) and Jesse are left to destroy the flies and zombies and save both their necks and the earth. At that point, the two discover that the song Da-Da-Da makes the flies explode...
Actually, the flies also explode when they are hit by light, but this plot point comes and goes as needed for there is many a scene when they don’t explode although they should. But then who expects a Guilty Pleasure to be logical? And make no mistakes about it, Infested is impossible to enjoy on any other level. The acting, dialog, plot development, (most of the) special effects and anything that must be good to make a half-way professional film are for the most part missing or fifth-rate, and therein lies the joy of the film. Don’t watch Infested expecting quality, watch it for the piece of shit it is and you just might find that it is pretty enjoyable, in a dufus sort of way.

Shatter Dead (USA, 1993)

The director of Shatter Dead claims the initial inspiration for making his film came from having read Roger Corman’s autobiography: so impressed by Corman’s legendary ability to write and shoot his classic, low-budget genre films within a period of days and with little cash, Scooter McCrae decided that if he couldn’t write and direct his film within 31 days, he most likely needed to find a new career.
In the end, he supposedly wrote and shot his film over a total period of 39 days using "friends and friends of friends" for the cast and with a final production cost of about $4,000, a cost that makes most other "low-budget" films seem like major Hollywood productions. Shatter Dead went on to win the award for Best Independent Production at the Fantafestival in 1995.
Opening with a pleasantly artsy-fartsy soft-core scene of a big-breasted angel taking a woman from behind, Shatter Dead narrates the odyssey of Susan (Stark Raven), a living human, who lives at a time when God has gone on vacation and there is no more room in heaven (and hell, one can only suppose, though it is never said). When one dies, their soul has nowhere to go, the result being that the dead walk the earth as second-class citizens — something that they want to change, especially since living people are a minority. Susan, heavily armed and with her day’s worth of shopping, wants to get home to her boyfriend, but when some dead dude siphons the gas from the tank of her car, the going gets tough. Stranded, she first has her car stolen by "The Preacher Man" (Robert Wells), an undead religious leader, and later, at a "safe house," she lives through a blood-spattered shootout as the only remaining living person before finally getting home to find that her mildly good-looking, mentally unbalanced boyfriend Dan (Daniel "Smalls" Johnson) has slit his wrists....
The film includes a variety of wonderfully gory, truly perverse blood-and-guts scenes, the best undoubtedly being a pregnant woman getting her belly shot through and then giving birth to her living dead baby (a plastic doll, actually) through the gaping hole in her stomach. Likewise, the scene in which Susan straps a gun around the waist of her erectionless, undead boyfriend (no blood, no erection) and fucks him gets applause for its bravado. But prize winner or not, for all Corman’s supposed inspiration, Shatter Dead lacks a variety of features that are to be found in most of Corman’s low-budget films: continuity, atmosphere, narrative tension and creative visual direction. Much of what is lacking might be traced back to the fact that the film was filmed directly on video and had absolutely no budget, but it seems almost too easy an excuse to explain why the camera direction is so consistently dull and uninteresting, generating little if any visual tension. Similarly, the story is for the most part so predictable that it offers no surprises or suspense; when something happens that one hasn’t expected, the event seems more to lack logic than to be a creative twist of events. It seems that some film festival juries are easy to please....
Truth be told, though, Shatter Dead was made to be low-budget splatter film, and if nothing else, that is indeed what it is. So watch it for the gushes of blood and forget about any other qualities. Night of the Living Dead (1968/trailer) it ain’t; nor, for that matter, is it The Little Shop of Horrors (1960/trailer), but blood splattered it is.

La Morte negli occhi del gatto / Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye (Italy, 1973)

(Trailer.) The productivity of the director of this movie is easily explained once one realizes that hidden behind the anglicized name Anthony M. Dawson is the Italian Antonio Margheriti. If there is a land in which the directors know how to crank out product nonstop, Italy takes the cake. (Okay, maybe Bollywood keeps their directors even busier, but it is only as of recent that any of that product has begun to make it to the Western spheres, badly dubbed or not.)
In the case of Margheriti, despite of – or maybe due to – his massive output, he has quite a few classics and near classics in his oeuvre. Amongst his best are his Mario Bava influenced gothic horrors, including La Danza macabre / Castle of Blood (1964/trailer) featuring Barbara Steele at her most beautiful, his 1970 remake of that very same film, Nella stretta morsa del ragno / Web of the Spider, and the 1964 mutilated-nazi-killing-babes-in-a-castle flick La Vergine die Norimberga / The Virgin of Nuremberg (trailer). By Apocalypse domani / Cannibal Apocalypse (1980/trailer), which features John Saxon as a Vietnam Vet carrying an infectious virus that turns people into cannibals, Margheriti may have finally begun to run out of style definitely but not steam, but in 1973, when he made this entertaining piece of eurotrash, he still had his aesthetic wits together – no wonder Warhol and Paul Morrissey supposedly pulled him in the following year to help (uncredited outside of Italy) with both Andy Warhol's Dracula and Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (trailer to both).
Less a Giallo that Gothic, Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye utilizes stylistic calling cards of both genres. The ever-present killing gloved hands of the classical Giallo is present throughout the film beginning with the first of the seven deaths in the film, in which a man gets his throat slit and then is dumped in the castle's cellar as rat food during the movie's credits. Possibly set in the late 19th century, the film stars the French cult actress/singer Jane Birkin (best known in the US for her smaller parts in the Agatha Christie films Death on the Nile (1978) and Evil Under the Sun (1982)) as the decidedly over-aged schoolgirl Corringa, who arrives at Auntie's large, shadowy castle of Dragonston by coach from her convent school to visit with her mama, Lady Alicia. (The exact generation the film is set in is hard to place: while the setting seems to be of the 19th century, many of the characters – especially the luscious Suzanne (Doris Kunstmann) – look much more like contemporary 1970's Europe, and the costumes often seem to be of the 1920s.) People are being killed in and around the castle at great regularity, all dying under the watchful eyes of a rather fat and complacent cat (hence the movie's title). Could the murderer be Lord James (Hiram Keller, previously seen chasing and being chased by both men and women as Ascilto in Fellini's Satyricon (1969/trailer)), the supercilious and extremely eccentric aristocrat who keeps an ape – looking much more like a man in an ape suit – as a pet? Lord James does seem to spend a lot of time crawling around the secret passages of the castle, and his interaction with everyone is a bit less than pleasant. More bloody murders occur, including that of the ape, all obviously the handiwork of a very human individual, despite all the talk of supernatural elements and local folklore. Could it be that the who and why of the murders have something to do with an inheritance? Birkin's actual husband at the time, Serge Gainsbourg, the great now-deceased French singer of paeans to love and incest (often in duet with his daughter or Birkin), co-stars as a detective who keeps showing up at the wrong time….
Based on a novel by Peter Bryan, who once supplied the scripts for such Hammer productions as The Hound of Baskervilles (1959/trailer) and The Plague of the Zombies (1966/trailer), as well as the story for Trog (1970/trailer), Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye may fall short of being a forgotten, unrecognized classic, but the relatively unknown Gothic thriller is without a doubt a well made, highly atmospheric film with the typically baroque feel of the best eurotrash horror. Punctuated by some fine tension, decent gore and intentional laughs that are easy to misinterpret as being unintentional, the movie might move a bit slow, but it never fails to entertain. For all the seriousness of the movie's Gothic trappings and violence, and despite the effectively straight manner Ms. Birkin plays her part, Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye was obviously made with its tongue deep in its cheek, which only serves to make the movie all the more entertaining. (Really, how could a film featuring a guy in an ape suit running around a Gothic castle not fail to entertain?)
Unlike The Virgin of Nuremberg, Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye has seldom (if ever) found itself on late night US television, but a DVD is now available. Fans of Gothic horror or eurotrash will find it a more than satisfying film, well worth the rental or purchase.
The impressive music is supplied by none other than Riz Ortalani, one of Italy's great but (outside of Italy) relatively unknown masters of film music. Amongst his more memorable scores, he co-wrote (with Nino Oliviero and Norman Newell) the haunting, classic song More for the first of all shockumentaries, Mondo cane (1962/trailer).

For a review of Margheriti's 1989 movie Alien degli abissi / Alien from the Deep, go here.

My Bloody Valentine (USA, 2009)

My Bloody Valentine wastes absolutely no time getting started, using the opening credits to establish the basic background story of a mineshaft cave-in at the mining town of Harmony caused by the young Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles). The only survivor, Harry Worden, who seemingly killed his fellow trapped miners to ensure his own survival, is alive but in a coma. A year later he snaps out of it and promptly massacres the whole hospital before disappearing.
Back in Harmony, the local kids, including Axel (Kerr Smith) and Irene (Betsy Rue) are throwing a party in the mine, and Tom shows up with his gal Sarah Palmer (Jaime King). But unknown to all Worden in the mine, and he promptly decimates everyone but the Gang of Four, although three of them do leave Tom to his fate when the going gets rough. Luckily Sheriff Burke (Tom Atkins) shows up, saves Tom and shoots Worden who then runs deeper into the mine and (supposedly) disappears.
Jump forward in time again, and Tom is now returning to Harmony after roughly ten years to sell the mine that he has inherited. Sarah is now married to Axel, who is now the local Sheriff and bonking her co-worker Megan (Megan Boone). No sooner does Tom show up than do the bodies start piling, most being killed by pickax. Has Worden returned to Harmony? After all, he was never officially caught. But the truth comes out: Worden fell to vigilante justice and is buried in the woods — unluckily, his grave is now empty. Of course suspicion falls upon Tom, but the circumstances surrounding the murder of a miner named Red (Jeff Hochendoner) clear his name. Could it be Axel? Suspicion is cast left and right as one good citizen after the other dies a blood-spattered death...
Fans of the Golden Age of Splatter or those of the right age might remember this flick's title from the early 80s, when Fangoria splashed its pages with a spread about the Canadian-lensed bodycount movie that rode on the wave of teenage slashers that followed the original Halloween (1978/trailer) and Friday the 13th (1980/trailer) and, in turn, the horror films that played upon national holidays and days of note for their snazzy titles (To name but a select few: April Fool's Day (1986/trailer), New Year’s Evil (1980/trailer), Mother’s Day (1980/trailer), Black Christmas (1974/trailer) and Prom Night (1980/trailer).) Like many a film, the 1981 version of My Bloody Valentine (trailer) came and went so quickly that it hardly made a blip, thus saving the world from yet another never-ending franchise, but — again, like many other former flop — it nonetheless also gained a rather vocal cult reputation over the years, despite the fact that most of the prints in circulation (and definitely those shown on late-night television) were radically trimmed of violence. Thus it is hardly surprising that Hollywood, when searching for yet another "classic" with a catchy title to revamp for the modern teenager (after Prom Night (2008/trailer) and Halloween (2007/trailer), among others), got the idea of remaking My Bloody Valentine as well. (What was surprising, perhaps, was the decision to do it in the current rage, 3-D, but since in this case here the film was seen on DVD in 2-D, the decision is relatively immaterial to this review.)
Actually, much like the relatively recent and unjustly maligned Dark Castle releases House of Wax (2005/trailer) or Ghost Ship (2002/trailer), the 2009 version of My Bloody Valentine is far less a remake than a full re-imaging of the original. As such, it uses bits and pieces and an occasional scene framework of the original film, but on the whole it a completely different film. The planned Valentine’s Day party in the original film that drives the killer to his actions is, in the new version, only part of the long (2nd) introductory scene in which 8 or 9 characters of varying importance and the original Harry Warden (Richard John Walters) get introduced, dozens of teenagers get offed with a pickax and, lastly, Warden supposedly meets his end. A few other nods are tossed in the film, like the scene in the changing room full of miner suits or the clothes drier scene, but on the whole, the 2009 version of My Bloody Valentine is less a remake than it is simply a film sharing the same title.
Who knows the vagaries that resulted in the job falling into the lap of director Patrick Lussier, the man behind such easily forgotten horror movies as The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000 /trailer), Dracula 2000 (2000/trailer), Dracula II: Ascension (2003/trailer), Dracula III: Legacy (2005/trailer) and White Noise 2: The Light (2007/trailer), but the decision seems to have been the right one, for particularly when comparing My Bloody Valentine to the dead-teenager genre of the Golden Age, the film can only be seen as a really a fine slice of modern-day, socially unredeemable bodycount. Quicker paced than most, the film plays so faithfully to the classic rules that were it not so obviously contemporary in look the flick could almost be mistaken as original product from the 80s. In this sense, it also has the typical lapses in logic, lack of characterization and variable acting, but it also features blood and violence and a long gratuitous nude scene of the likes that have been missing from this type of film for decades. (OK, in the old days they would've used a gal with a bit more up top, but in no way would they have had her run around like that for such a long time.) Hell, back in the Golden Age of Slashers this flick would have surely been given an X-rating or (as the original was) been substantially trimmed of everything that makes it fun long before it hit the screens.
So who cares about logic and acting? This is a splatter film, and as such it delivers in spades, with good dollops of both intentional and unintentional humor (like a truly CGI-looking flying jawbone), just like it should be. If cheesy blood and guts films are your thing, you can’t go wrong with My Bloody Valentine. Needless to say, Hollywood’s hope for a new franchise is more than obvious in the My Bloody Valentine’s final scene…

Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers (USA, 1989)

Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers is the first full-length feature film of Jonathan Mostrow, who somehow managed to carve himself a Hollywood career despite his inauspicious directorial debut. An astounding achievement, actually, for nothing about Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers in any way indicates that he might be able to deliver a film as entertaining as his first real industry success, Breakdown (1997/trailer)....
Lou (Vic Tayback) is a mortician who has one-to-many outstanding debts with the mob, which would probably rub him out if he weren’t burying their kind for free. Unknown to the mob, Vic is secretly working together with Doc (Frank Gorshin — who played the Riddler in the old Batman TV show) to create a formula to bring back the dead: they plan to get rich by reviving the rich. Vic (Art Metrano), the second-in-command of the Mob, is suspicious about where all the lent money is going to, so he finagles a job at the mortuary for his two mentally deficient surfer nephews Freddie (Rodney Eastman) and Vincent (Warren Selko). Although they should spy for him, they change sides as soon as they are promised a cut of the eventual take and begin stealing the corpses required for testing the serum. After the dead Don of the mob is accidentally revived, he shambles out into Beverly Hills leaving a trail of bodies behind him, and soon the mortuary is full of pasty-faced brain-dead. But things really go wrong when the dead Don breaks free again at his very own funeral...
Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers is a notably unfunny comedy populated by characters that are all less than likable, and nothing that occurs in the course of the films painfully long 85-minute running time is in any way entertaining. Laughs are few and for the wrong reasons, a good example of which is Vincent’s haircut: worse than the boy's acting, it is both the scariest and funniest aspect to the whole film. Handled properly, Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers might have been a morbidly funny farce—as is Plots with a View (2002), for example, which also involves morticians—but no one involved in this low budget turkey gives an indication of having comic talent. Truly, the film is about as much fun as being caught in TJ with the runs and no toilet paper. Hard to believe that Jonathan Mostrow went from directing this to making Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003/trailer)....
Then again, maybe it isn't all that hard to believe.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...