Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Short Film: Bendito Machine (Peru/Spain 2006)

Bendito Machine is the name of this month's Short Film, the 2006 winner of the Aniboom Awards. The Flash animation film is by Jossie Malis, an illustrator and animator currently living in Barcelona.

Born in Peru to Peruvian-Chilean parents, he moved to Santiago de Chile in the 80s, where he graduated high school and went on to study advertising and graphic arts. He followed that with some additional studies at the NYFA in NYC, before moving on to Barcelona, where he completed his Masters in Stop Motion Animation at 9zeros, a Catalonian school of animation. He still lives in Barcelona, busy as a bee with all sorts of projects. His website, Zumbakamera, is full of interesting illustrations and films including Bendito Machine II (2008) and Bendito Machine III (2009) and is well worth a long perusal. The guy either takes some good drugs or he is truly creative, maybe both.
A fan of animated film since he saw his first one at the age of four, his product that which is indefinitely international in nature and look with that which shows echoes of the indigenous art of South America take a wild guess where Bendito Machine fits in.
I suppose I could do a write up about Bendito Machine, but the fact of the matter is someone already did one which is much better than anything I would probably write. Namely Andrew S. Allen, at his great short film website, Short Film of the Week.
On March 31, 2007, Andrew S. Allen had the following to say about Bendito Machine: "Jossie Malis uses a powerful, graphic animation style to tell the story of human evolution and its effects on religion and industry. A small, prosperous village is overtaken by a more powerful tribe with methods for more efficient and more enjoyable living. All told in a limited space with an extremely limited palate, this short uses simple techniques to tell a much bigger story. Painstakingly animated entirely in Flash, Bendito Machine avoids the usual pitfalls of Flash animation. Malis’s animation feels incredibly organic supported by well-crafted sound effects. […]"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ten Best Films in 2010

For the second time since the creation of this blog, A Wasted Life presents its annual list of the "Ten Best Films" of the last year. Of the 67 films reviewed in 2010 on A Wasted Life, the films ranged from truly bad crap to real treasures—the treasures being both treasures of quality and true treasures of crap. But like last year, the choice here is also not necessarily based on the quality of the film, but rather how it affected the viewer. Did it leave A Wasted Life open-mouthed in shock? Was it fun to watch? Did it truly entertain? (Not even Spielberg films manage to do that all the timein fact, nowadays his films often annoy more than anything else.) All were new discoveries: films seen for the first time, some with no prior knowledge of what was to unreel. The order is arbitrary and based purely on the decidedly personal taste of A Wasted Life—so if you don't agree the selection, tuff nuts.
The finer points of the selection criteria are explained in the intro to the Best of 2009 list. Essentially, however, aside from the criteria stated above, two other decisive points are that the films chosen do not necessarily have to have been made in 2010, they simply watched have to have been watched by A Wasted Life for the first time in 2010, and, furthermore, none of the 12 "Short Film(s) of the Month" come into consideration.
Thus, due to the latter point, neither Alma (Spain, 2009) nor The Pearce Sisters (Great Britain, 2008) made it to the list, though both short films are truly breathtaking.
Two full-length films, Witchfinder General / The Conqueror Worm (Great Britain, 1968 / trailer) and The Reflecting Skin (Great Britain, 1990 / trailer) were disqualified because they were not a newly discovered films, but favorite films re-watched and finally reviewed. (So, though not included on the list below, they nonetheless receive high recommendations as films to watch. The Reflecting Skin is particularly a film that will truly burn itself onto your brain, scarring you forever...)

The final list of ten has been pared down from a total of 13 new discoveries watched the last year that A Wasted Life felt as being truly worthwhile, even if most probably cannot seriously be described as "good" in mainstream, traditional senses. (Fuck mainstream, traditional senses.) In fact, some can only be described as truly bad—but they sure left an impression and are well worth watching a couple of more times.

The two films that didn't make the cut? The eurotrash gore fest Les mémés cannibales / Rabid Grannies (Belgium, 1988), and the poverty row debut film of Daddy Brady Robert Reed, Bloodlust! (USA, 1961). One and all, they are films that truly left our jaws on the floor for a variety of different reasons, but they were just shy of that extra special kick needed to make the final cut.

Those that did make the final cut follow below in no particular order, other than for the final film. The titles are all linked to the original reviews presented on A Wasted Life. Read and enjoy – or better: go watch them all yourself.

So here they are, A Wasted Life's Best Films of 2010:

The debut feature-length film of Sylvain Chomet, this wonderful and truly odd animated masterpiece is a visual and surrealistic joy. Virtually no dialog, but for that a lot of great musical interludes. If the film doesn't scare the bejeebers out of your little kids, they might actually enjoy it as much as you will.

The Mutations (Great Britain, 1973)

Also known as The Freakmaker. Is The Mutations a good film? No fucking way. It is a cheap and sordid English exploitation film, a shocker that panders to the lowest denominators of trash and has absolutely no socially redeeming factors to it. Unpleasant to watch, it disturbs and sickens but never scares. What a jaw-dropping experience it is—so grimy that even when seen on TV one can physically feel the filth of the sleazy grindhouses where it originally must have played. Featuring Donald "I-Say-Yes-To-Everything" Pleasance, the pulchritudinous Julie Ege and the muscular cult eurotrash regular Brad Harris, The Mutations pretty much cost director Jack Cardiff his directorial career: while the talented man continued to get jobs as a cinematographer up until he died, never again was he given a film to direct. See this film to find out why.

Evil Aliens (UK, 2005)

More trash extraordinaire! A hilariously gory low budget English film featuring hot babes and aliens that kill and slaughter just for the fun of it, the buckets of blood fly in this fast-paced, tasteless and hilarious film. If you can get past the extremely disgusting early scene of the aliens tearing apart the ass of a stoner with a twirling razorblade dildo, then you know this film is just up your… alley. From Jake West, the director who also brought you Doghouse (2009 / trailer), so you know how low and cheap the jokes are going to be—but, damn, the film is funny! Could have used a bit more breast, though.

Coraline (USA, 2009)

A technical marvel and wonderful horror film for kids and adults alike. Not for the faint-hearted or impressionable, but from frame one to the end, Coraline is a treat for the eyes. Like Les triplettes de Belleville / The Triplets of Belleville (France, 2003), if Coraline doesn't scare the bejeebers out of your little kids, they might actually enjoy it as much as you will.

Lady Frankenstein (Italy, 1970)

The perfect example of eurotrash, it has everything you could possibly want in a Gothic horror film, euro or Yankee: a production that alternates between looking cheap-shit and extra-fine; a name star (Joseph Cotton) slumming it that disappears ten minutes into the picture; gratuitous but forever appreciated nudity; sleazy sex and graphic violence; ugly men and purty womin; a totally insane plot and more. At 95 minutes, it flies and never bores—a perfect film for the whole family. In the public domain in the US, you can catch the whole film for free at the Internet Archive—or embedded here, just below.

Slugs: The Movie (Spain, 1988)

OK, first off, this list was begun before
Juan Piquer Simón, the director of this movie, died, and this film was on it from the very beginning. So this is not a sympathy vote. Slugs: The Movie is simply, truly, completely true eurotrash finery. It pretends, as so many eurotrash films do, to be an American horror film—but it fools nobody. The plot has more holes than all the porn stars of LA combined and the acting is almost as bad as the dubbing, but the gore is copious and the film hilarious. It is also one of the first horror films around that posits the fact that virginal girls are just as likely to die as sluts, and that assholes have as much of a chance to survive as good guys do of dying. Meat-eating slugs go on a rampage in small-town USA and despite the ever-increasing bloody dead, capitalism will not be stopped! If this film doesn't tickle your eurotrash bone, then you don't have one. A masterpiece of Z-horror, enjoyable from the start to end.

Botched (USA, 2007)

A fun and bloody film that never takes itself too seriously, Botched proves that Stephan Dorff can actually make a good movie on occasion. High camp, copious blood and great dialogue peppered with some capable direction—the first five minutes alone are a proof of true directorial talent—make for a film that flies by quickly and that never leaves the viewer feeling bored or insulted. God only knows why this fine piece of genre splatter flew under the radar to total obscurity, for it really deserves much greater popularity than it has gotten to date. One day, it will surely be rediscovered as a lost gem—be the first on your block to do so!

Here's a film for fans of enjoyable mental mindfucks. Get past the first five minutes and you're in for a wild and wacky ride that defies description, not to mention any and all expectations you might have or develop while viewing the film. Like Botched above, this Korean film initially met with great resonance at genre film festivals around the globe only to disappear under the bottom shelf after being picked up for release. Is Byeong-gu truly wacko, or is earth really endangered by aliens out to destroy the green planet? Save the Green Planet! will either leave you a total fan or a total hater, but it is highly unlikely you'll go away indifferent. This flick has everything from slapstick to Fellini references to torture porn to social satire and criticism, tying itself up into one weirded-out bow by the film's surprisingly downbeat ending.

A truly Shakespearean Shaw Brothers film from the Golden Age of Hong Kong costume dramas, this Wuxia film is as tacky and trashy as the best of them. A bit low on the violence, its convoluted tale is nonetheless enjoyable, enhanced by some of the best set design and lighting of the genre and featuring a splendid color scheme of green and red that is a true visual treat. Had Maria Bava been a filmmaker in Hong Kong, this is probably what his films would have looked liked. All that and a magical killer spider that sounds like an elephant—what more could you possibly want? OK, maybe it doesn't hold a candle to later Hong Kong versions of Romeo & Juliet like The Bride with White Hair (Hong Kong, 1993 / trailer), but that is aside the point—Web of Death is older, an early classic, and therefore should be treasured for what it is: vintage Shaw Brothers sock-em, chop-em idiocy.

Mary and Max (Australia, 2009)

This wonderful claymation film narrates the tale of the life-long friendship between a frumpy Australian girl growing up in the suburbs and her pen pal, a decidedly socially inept New York Jew with Asperger's Syndrome. Though we hate to list films in order of preference here at A Wasted Life, it would do the film injustice not to proclaim Mary and Max as the "Best Film of the Last Year". Made in 2009, it received such limited theatrical release outside of Australia that it can almost be called a direct-to-DVD release. Luckily, here in Berlin it actually played a week in O.m.U ("original language with subtitles"), and as a result of the director's previous four short films—one of which, Cousin, was the Short Film of the Month for May 2009—we beelined for the cinema to see it. And aren't we happy we did! A technical joy, a visual pleasure, and a non-stop laugh—despite many topics and events that are anything but funny. A beautiful film that deserves far greater recognition than it has been given.

And finally, an extra film to end A Wasted Life's list of Ten Best Films of 2010: as an added attraction, here is the best film watched by but never reviewed on A Wasted Life.

The Other Final (Netherlands, 2003)

As many of you know (and many probably don't), in July, Spain won the 2010 World Cup when (we are happy to say) they defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in the final match. (About the only thing that would have made us happier would have been if Uruguay had beaten Germany for third place, but that wasn't to be.) But though the Dutch didn't win first place, at least they were there this time around—rather unlike 2002, when they didn't even make it to the Cup. One fine fellow of the Land of Orange, Johan Kramer, took the opportunity to make this truly great but unknown Dutch film, a wonderful film that truly captures the love of the sport. The Dutch play a nasty game—not only can spit well (1990), they have some truly amazing Kung Fu kicks (2010)—but at least they grow some good weed and when they aren't playing the game, they also seem to have an understanding of the spirit of the game. The Other Final takes the two lowest rated FIFA teams of 2002 and puts them together for a match, "the Other Final." One of the greatest sports films ever.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sakuya: yôkaiden / Sakuya: Demon Slayer (Japan, 2000)

Did you know that Mt. Fuji erupted in 1707? I didn't, but I learned that it did from this Japanese film, Sakuya: yôkaiden / Sakuya: Demon Slayer. Another thing learned, a tad less factual perhaps, is that when Mt. Fuji erupted, it released all sorts of demons from the inner depths of the earth's intestines. For years thereafter the demon plague spread across the country, kept at bay only by the forces a family of warriors wielding a magical sword. But the magic sword also sucks the life out those that yield it, and whenever the candle of life of the demon slayer burns out, the next must meet his or her destiny and swing the blade against the evil demons crawling across the landscape.
Sakuya: Demon Slayer begins with the death Sakuya's wig-wearing Dad (Hiroshi Fujioka). Sakuya (Nozomi Andô, the love interest of the indefinitely more enjoyable Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden [2004 / trailer], seen here in her skivvies) accepts her destiny and promptly dispatches the river demon that killed her father. But wait! In the reeds does cry a baby demon and Sakuya, her maternal instincts awoken, promptly adopts it to raise as her brother, Taro.
A year later, Taro looks like a normal ten year old but for the green dome on the top of his head and Sakuya must finally do her destiny and go kill some demon. Accompanied by her adopted bro and two "ninjas" (that spend most of the time reminding her that she is a girl, insulting her, or trying to goad her into killing her adopted demon sibling), she travels to Mt. Fuji to kill the Spider Queen (Keiko Matsuzaka of The Happiness of the Katakuris [2001 / trailer]). Along the way to Mt. Fuji she and Taro stop to pay respects at every Buddhist shrine in Japan and have a brief fight with a man who likes to turn teenage Japanese girls into Japanese Barbie dolls, and to battle a demon cat with two tails. There is also a short interlude at one shrine in which a bunch of "good" paper-mâché demons dance around trying to invite Taro to return to them – at that point in time, he still does not know his origin and is not yet truly confronted with conflicted loyalties.
The big showdown with the Spider Queen ends up being more of a tacky take on the typical scenes of Godzilla tearing a model of Tokyo apart than anything else, only this time around it's the Spider Queen stomping through a model of some small Japanese town. Before and in-between: betrayal and loyalty, fights with demon minions and human freelance criminals, passable and truly laughable special effects all come into play as the nubile Sakuya swings her sword this way and that, looking sorta sexy in that typical samurai stance. Come here, young lady, I got a sword I want you to play with…
Oh, we did have high hopes for this one. Sakuya: Demon Slayer is the second film of Japanese director Tomoo Haraguchi, the man behind the insanely stupid but hilariously entertaining werewolf samurai films Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden and Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden 2 (2004). But instead of the total psychotronic gobshite weirdness of the aforementioned duet of high, gore-laden inanity, Sakuya: Demon Slayer delivers mostly weirdness lite with very little gore – and much like Lite Beer is good enough when there ain't anything else around to drink but really doesn't cut the mustard, neither does this film.
Which isn't to say the film doesn't have occasional scenes of entertaining nuttiness or wild ideas or even nice film work (i.e., sets, makeup, costumes, cinematography, etc.), it's just that it doesn't have enough of it and what it has is interspaced with way too many moments of boredom. Fans of Japanese monster flicks might enjoy it as a mildly interesting alternative to the normal Godzilla flick, but others might find themselves looking at their watch instead of the TV screen.
On the other hand, Sakuya: Demon Slayer could function well as a "training film" to introduce any young-and-impressionables you might have to the world of gonzo film: Though full of demons, ghosts and swinging swords, not only is the realistic blood level remarkably low, but the film also has moralistic messages concerning loyalty and love. (Nonetheless, some of the concepts and one or two scene might scare the crap out of the younger kiddies, despite a filmic execution that is oddly inept and an obviously fake style that is so typical of many Japanese fantasy films.) Were the film only a tad quicker and the storyline streamlined of its extraneous details – particularly all the sexist grief Sakuya gets for being a girl – it would be a far more enjoyable flick.

The ending of Sakuya: Demon Slayer is also particularly unsatisfying. Even if one overlooks the Godzilla homage, the sudden revelation of a secret super-power of the sword is riotously laughable and renders the entire prior fight as illogical – but then, had Sakuya simply used the super-power from the start, there would never have been the extended, climactic fight scene.
Sakuya: Demon Slayer
: mondo-weirdness lite from Japan – sort of like sushi with no fish. Good for the kiddies, but not anyone else.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nightmare City (Italy, 1980)

Umberto Lenzi, the infamous director of innumerable the eurotrash classics and lesser-classics of highly variable quality such as (to name but a few) Orgasmo / Paranoia (1969 / trailer), Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972 / trailer), Spasmo (1974 / trailer), Ghosthouse (1988 / trailer), Black Demons / Demoni 3 (1991 / trailer), Eyeball / Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro (1975 / trailer), The Man from Deep River (1972 / trailer), Eaten Alive (1980 / trailer) and Cannibal Ferox (1981 / trailer), tries desperately to make some social and ecological commentary in this film, Nightmare City, one of the first "fast-zombie" films ever made, if not the first. The commentary is there, occasionally subtle in the plotting or pictures but mostly spouted stridently by one of the main characters; luckily the exploitive and trashy aspects of the film are strong enough to overcome the badly dubbed didacticism of the often inane dialogue.
In Nightmare City, instead of some virus (as in 28 Days Later [2002 / trailer] and 28 Weeks Later [2007 / trailer], among others), radiation is the catalyst for changing normal consumers-of-goods into consumers-of-people. The radiation kills the body but leaves the cells alive and regenerating at an enormous rate, effectively turning the irradiated into unstoppable, super killing machines; at the same time, the since the dead are dead the blood cells rot and die unless replaced, the afflicted have to kill and drink fresh blood in order to survive – and to not get a nasty case of facial scabies.
Although intelligent enough to lay traps and tricks to get to their victims, none of the thirsty ever actually drain those they kill – instead, the sip and run to kill yet another person. This senseless greed and wasteful excess is perhaps a one of the more subtle (?) reflections upon the gluttony of mankind that Lenzi attempts to comment upon in the film: dead or alive, our innate nature is to destroy and waste. And indeed, it mankind's senseless and never-ending need for more and more energy that leads to the radiation disaster that makes the living dead... But then, in the opening credit sequence superimposed over shots of nightmarishly ugly and impersonal housing blocks, both man's loss of humanity and the concept of what a "nightmare city" might be are already raised as well, if only visually at this point.
But as already mentioned above, for all its "commentary", Nightmare City is exploitation trash and is thus best enjoyed as exploitation trash. And what a doozy it is in that respect!
The film starts with reporter Dean Miller (the Mexican non-actor Hugo Stiglitz of Survive [1976 / trailer], Night of a Thousand Cats [1972 / trailer], Guyana: Crime of the Century [1979 / trailer] and ¡Tintorera! [1972 / trailer], amongst dozens of other films of note, who walks through the film as if he's been constipated for a year) going to the airport to interview an arriving scientist about the radiation leak. But an unscheduled plane lands and out pops the scientist – travelling on an unexpected plane though expected to arrive? – and a bunch of scabby-faced people who proceed to decimate the entire airport. (Somewhere along the line in the film it is brought up that you can kill them by destroying their brain, but no one pays any heed to the advice.)
Though the zombies kill everyone else at the airport, Dean makes it back to the station where he tries to interrupt the disco dance broadcast of the television station that he works at to spread the breaking news of the event, but he is stopped by General Murchison (a once-again-slumming Mel Ferrer of Rancho Notorious [1952 / trailer], The World, the Flesh, and the Devil [1959 / trailer], The Hands of Orlac [1960 / trailer] and Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive [1977 / trailer]). Constipated and pissed, Dean quits his job and then tries to phone and warn his wife, Dr. Anna Miller (Laura Trotter of The Last House on the Beach [1978 / trailer]), but she is busy at work at the polyclinic. The zombies attack and kill everyone in the TV station – in what is probably the most famous scene of the film, both due to the inanity of zombies verse disco dancers and the slicing off and eating of one dancer's breast. Dean manages to escape in a VW Bug with a Ferrari engine, zooming off to the hospital to save his wife just as the shit hits the fan there. The two manage to escape in an ambulance just as martial law is declared.
Of course, a film with just with just two characters – especially such wet rags as Dean and Anna – lacks viable victims to sympathize with, so others get introduced: Major Warren Holmes (Francisco Rabal of Dagon [2001 / trailer], Sorcerer [1977 / trailer], Belle de Jour [1967 / trailer], and Viridiana [1961 / trailer]) and his hot artist wife Sheila (Maria Rosaria Omaggio, a former Playmen model seen to the left and in movies such as Bloody Sin [2010 / trailer], The Museum of Wonders [2010 / trailer], Hercules II [1985 / trailer] and The Cop in Blue Jeans [1976 / trailer]), and General Murchison's daughter Jessica (Stefania D'Amario, whose exploitation career includes some true classics, including Le deportate della sezione speciale SS / Deported Women of the SS Special Section [1976 / gratuitous scene], La sorella di Ursula / The Sister of Ursula [1978 / trailer], Cyclone [1978 / trailer] and Woodoo / Zombi 2 [1979 / trailer]) and her husband Bob (Pierangelo Civera). Another purty young lass briefly takes respite with Sheila, but she barely is let in the house before she gets her eye gorged out. As for Jessica and Bob, they have the bad luck of having two undead friends that remember to show up for their date...
The gore, like the makeup of the undead, is extremely uneven. The diced breast and eye-gorging scene are both extremely graphic, but the throats that get slit – of which there are a lot – don't bleed all that much – nor do most bullet holes. The film suffers tremendously by having Dean and Anna as the main focus, as neither is likeable: she's a strident, whining bitch and he's a self-righteous hothead. They aren't exactly smart either: on the run and out of gas, instead of tanking up quickly at a deserted station, they dawdle and gab until it's too late – and then they blow up their only means of motorized escape! Not too long thereafter, Anna actually even gets pissed at Dean for killing a zombie Priest who tries to eat him – about this time, the viewer begins to get pissed off that a zombie hasn't eaten her yet, but the film isn't over yet, even if she never does actually get eaten by a zombie...
Nightmare City is quick enough and has more than enough laughs, both intentional and unintentional, and even a few moments of suspense and surprise, but rest assured it is pure Italo-trash, and as such you have to like bad movies (and bad dubbing) to truly enjoy it. A fast if illogical and inane ride, Nightmare City holds one's interest until the very end, but the out-of-the-blue, möbius-strip mind-fuck ending is a true jaw-dropper. Lenzi really had balls to dare doing it, and it will probably either make or break the film for you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

R.I.P.: Juan Piquer Simón

Juan Piquer Simón

16 February 1935 - 7 January 2011

How they keep dropping like flies. This week saw the demise of yet another film personality, this time around a name known by only fans of true trash cinema. The Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simón, born 16 February, 1935, in Valencia (Spain, not California), died at the age of 74 on January 7th, following a long battle with lung cancer. Some time ago, Simón said "I know I've worked in a manner and with a genre that critics do not appreciate much." For that, however, he worked in and with a manner and genre that have pleased many a viewer, particularly those with an appreciation of the mondo or trash aspects of low budget euro film. True, he hadn't directed a film since 1999, and the films of note during the years he was active were all before 1990, but all his films are true experiences that are worth viewing, particular if you’re the type of person who likes Ed Wood films – indeed, try to imagine Ed Wood films in color and with gore, and you come close to how some of his best films look like. Juan Piquer Simón, rest in peace – we will miss you.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1976)

Entitled Viaje al centro de la Tierra in Spain, it was released in the USA as Where Time Began. This film is often called the worst version of the story ever filmed, but it is simply a super-cheap kiddy film and as such should be watched as one. Don't watch this expecting to see the gore and guts of prime Simón trash, watch with an impressionable kid who will enjoy the film as you groove out at the film's patina of shoddy special effects and cheap filmmaking. This one is pure Spanish-imitation Roquefert...

Supersonic Man (1979)

Classic Juan Piquer Simón. Also known simply as Sonicman, this slice of psychotronic weirdness has to be seen to be believed. Cameron Mitchell, one of the great slummers of all time, was really slumming it when he took part in this Superman (1978 / trailer) rip-off. Sold nowadays as a spoof of Superman, don’t be fooled: had William Beaudine filmed a script by Ed Wood, the final result couldn't have been a more enjoyable movie than this serious filmic accident. Tune in, turn on and drop out to total narrative and technical ineptitude – but don’t forget the weed.

Jules Verne's Mystery on Monster Island (1981)

Peter Cushing, Terrence Stamp and Paul Naschy (in a cameo) are all in this wonderful piece of trash. Bad special effects, simple characters, patchwork plotting and creatures that would not have cut the mustard in B&W films of the 30s or 40s (but possibly might have made it into some Japanese Godzilla film): Mystery on Monster Island is truly inane, innocuous and fun stuff, perfect for a rainy day with the kids – though they might not enjoy it as much as the true trash aficionado. Based on one of Jules Verne’s lesser works, Godfrey Morgan: A Californian Mystery, the film tells a typical "lost world" story but with less than typical special effects. Pure cheese!

Los Diablos del mar / Sea Devils (1982)

Why bother watching a trailer to a bad film when you can suffer through the whole thing? Boys verses pirates on the high seas and in Australia. Sound good? Nope – and it isn't either.

Pieces (1982)

Classic Juan Piquer Simón. The tag line says it all: "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre." The first film that made people start to remember his name: a cult slasher "classic" starring the late, great Christopher George and his wife Linda Day George. Like good wine, this film keeps getting better with age. A young boy punished for doing a jigsaw of a nudie-cutie in 1942 hacks his mother to death. Forty years later, a mad killer is going around a college campus killing gals to make a jigsaw body. Can the police stop whoever it is before there is no one left to play tennis? A wonderfully surreal, sexist and sleazy film – watch it with your girlfriend any day that you want her to finally break up with you. And what a truly jaw-dropping ending. (The poster above is pretty jaw-dropping, too – anyone else see a more than slight resemblance to Mike Kaluta's Bronze Age take of The Shadow?)

The Pod People (1983)

Here at A Wasted Life, this flick is high on our list of unavailable films we would love to see – and no, we don't want to see the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version, 'cause we see that a bit like making fun of the mentally handicapped. The inanity begins with the aliens of the flick themselves: they have the hairy ape body of "Ro-Man" from Robot Monster (1953 / trailer) and the head of Alf. The film was originally meant to be about nasty, people-killing aliens, but then some film called E.T. (1982 / trailer) cleaned up at the box office and Simón was forced half-way by the producers to change the flick into a friendly-alien film. The result is properly schizoid: half the film features the aliens killing people, the other half follows the friendship of a young twerp and his newfound pod alien, all of it filmed ineptly. Over at Horrorwatch.com, the reviewer claims that the film actually gave him brain damage... Regrettably, no trailer of Los nuevos extraterrestres (its original title) could be found on the web.

Classic Juan Piquer Simón. His masterpiece. A film that has to be seen to be believed – a description that applies to all his work, actually. Click on the title above to go straight to the review of the film here on A Wasted Life.

Cthulhu Mansion (1990)

Enjoyable Juan Piquer Simón. Supposedly based on H. P. Lovecraft, which is a bit like saying, dunno, Our Man Flint (1966 / trailer) is based on a book by Ian Fleming. Some thugs at a carnival kill a dealer; to escape they carjack the carnival's magician Chandou and all go to his mansion. Pissed-off demons go on a rampage. Starring the daughter of William "James T. Kirk" Shatner, Melanie Shatner, as Eva. Cheap, cheap, cheap – stupid, stupid, stupid – fun, fun, fun!

The Rift (1990)

Enjoyable Juan Piquer Simón. In The Rift aka Endless Descent aka Siren 1 aka (in Spanish) La Griete aka (in German) U1 - Tauchfahrt des Todes, Ray Wise, R. Lee Ermey and Jack Scalia join Simón in jumping on the wave of underwater thriller/horror films that came out around 1989, a list that includes such crap as The Abyss (1989 / trailer) and such fine stuff as Leviathan (1989 / trailer), Deepstar Six (1989 / trailer), The Evil Below (1989) and Lords of the Deep (1989). In The Rift, the submarine Siren II is sent down to a mysterious undersea rift to find out what has happened to Siren I, which disappeared there. They find a lot of monsters and the gore flies...

La Isla del diablo (1994)

Know absolutely nothing about the film – but it is surely just as entertainingly cheesy as all his other films. Anyone want to fill in the blank?

Manoa, la ciudad de oro (1999)

Know absolutely nothing about the film – but it is surely just as entertainingly cheesy as all his other films. Anyone want to fill in the blank?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Dark Lurking (Australia, 2010)

Been there, done that.
Watching films like this give me the feeling that perhaps it is time to stop wasting my life. Really, how do some films ever get financed? Are those involved never ashamed for what they create? Is it not embarrassing for them to regurgitate their total lack of creativity on the screen for all the world to see? If there is one good thing about The Dark Lurking, it is that the flick is so fucking bad (in a bad way) that it could well ensure that those involved – and in particular first-time director Gregory Connors, who also is the blame for having "written" the thing – never again make another film. Let us pray.
The DVD cover is endemic of the film itself: Hey, let's just simply sell our turd using Geiger's Alien monster as the selling point. Not that the film has all that much to do with Alien (1979 / trailer) – aside from a certain love of air shafts, that is – but considering how unoriginal the whole film is, it is hardly surprising that even the packaging steals from elsewhere. The Dark Lurking owes a lot more to Resident Evil (2002 / trailer) or even the fun cheapie Alien Lockdown (2004 / trailer), both of which are indefinitely better and much more entertaining films – which says a lot, especially if you're one of the half-dozen people in the world that have bothered to watch Alien Lockdown. Alien Lockdown itself stole from other films, but at least it was cheaply fun and funny and good for a laugh; The Dark Lurking isn't really good for anything. True, the ooze and slime and guts do go a-flying, but that gets boring real quickly as there is nothing else of interest in the film.
So, what happens? Well, deep underground at Research Station 320 something has gone wrong. The experiment has gone out of control and the now locked-down research facilities is overrun by a mass of blood-thirsty mutant monsters that kill and eat every human in their path, who then also turn into blood-thirsty mutant monsters. Pretty thing Lena (Tonia Renee) wakes up naked and without her memory, and before long she joins a rag-tag group of survivors (consisting of various facility personnel and some mercenaries) trying to survive. They go down some flights and then go up some flights and go through a lot of air shafts and there's fog and ooze and bullets and blood and (once too often) total visual incoherence but no real plot to speak of. The number dwindles one by one and the truth is revealed: the lab was trying to clone evil (!) itself from an evil book (!!) and all them critters out there are a part of the great evil clone – Lena!!!! But like the one mercenary says to her close to the end: "You can change." (Tell that to a Republican, whydonchya?)
The ooze and guts are top notch, the cropped-together story an incoherent and ridiculous car wreck of a thread pretending to be a narrative, the direction sub-film school and lost on the editing table, and the acting almost universally sub-standard (Ozzie Devrish as Kirkland, a sub-intelligent mercenary who loses his life to leg-eating, slimy tagliatelle is probably the best actor of the film). But worst of all, The Dark Lurking is one of those films that causes time to come to a standstill: dunno how long the film actually is, but it went on forever.

The ending of the film is nicely depressing and dark and (for the first time) mildly surprising, providing you haven't fallen asleep and actually catch it, but by then it is much too late and too little to redeem the movie in any way. The Dark Lurking is a film for only the most undemanding and brainless action junkies who are willing to watch anything for a fix.

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