Saturday, January 30, 2016

Short Film: The Hobbit (USA / Czechoslovakia, 1966)

As of yet, all Short Films of the Month presented here at A Wasted Life were presented because we found them good. Here, however, is one presented because we think it sucks. And sucks enough to be interesting, sort of.
Did you, like us, see Peter Jackson's overly long and drawn out and oddly uninvolving trilogy and think, "Well, it can't get worse than this"? (OK, in all truth, we only saw the first two instalments; we decided not to bother with the third one.) Thing is, it was already worse twice before: in NBC's "execrable" kiddy animated kiddy musical version from 1977, and in this formerly presumed lost animated short film from 1966.
Wikipedia explains the facts: "The 1966 short animated film The Hobbit! was the first ever film production of The Hobbit. It was directed by Gene Deitch in Czechoslovakia. American film producer William L. Snyder [14 Feb 1918 – 3 June 1998] obtained the rights to the novel from the Tolkien estate very cheaply while it was still largely unknown, with the proviso that he produce a 'full-colour film' by 30 June 1966, and immediately set about producing a feature-length film, with screenplay by Deitch. The project fell through, but after the explosion in the novel's popularity, Snyder realized that his contract had not required the film to be of any length: he therefore instructed Deitch to create a 12-minute film based on his earlier work so that he could retain his rights. He later sold the rights for around $100,000 (not adjusted for inflation). The final project has very little to do with the source material." According to imdb, "The film was screened once in a Manhattan theater on June 30, 1966, the day the contract expired."
Not everyone hates the short. Eye for Film, which says "it's still a treat for completists and an enjoyable little film in its own right", has the following praise: "Brought to life by the beautiful illustrations of Czech painter Adolf Born, which will strike a chord with anyone who grew up watching kids' TV in Europe in the Seventies, this is a whimsical tale that will continue to charm younger viewers today. Excitement is provided by the swelling orchestral music of Václav Lidl, and Herb Lass' narration delivers on drama whilst maintaining a reassuring, bedtime story tone. Although there's no animation in the conventional sense, flashing lights lend impact to the scary sequences and there's so much detail to enjoy that the eye never wanders."
Decide for yourself.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Incubus (USA 2006)

(Spoilers — but, like, who fucking cares?) Written by Gary Humphreys, who also wrote True True Lie (trailer), another unknown movie likewise filmed that same year in Romania, which, going by a landscape pan near the start of the movie, looks like it might be a beautiful country worth going to. Incubus, however, is not a movie in any way worth watching.
AKA Fear Factory, the original title of Incubus gives hope to some form of sex horror movie, as the literal translation of "incubus" — a male version of a "succubus" — is an evil spirit that descends upon women as they sleep for sexual intercourse. But the film jettisons the fine points of the term and, instead, claims that an incubus is simply some demon that invades your dreams. Wrong — like everything else about this direct-to-digital flick.*
* This movie's minor claim to fame is that it is the first movie ever released specifically as a direct-to-download movie: it premiered on the Internet and was released by AOL on Halloween, 2006. There is a lot of crap on the Internet. 
In all truth, a more fitting title of this "movie" would be A Total Piece of Shit, and that is what we will call it as of now. A cut and dry template for a career-killing movie that doesn't even succeed at being funny bad, A Total Piece of Shit excels only in the amount of boredom it induces. And while it is easy to understand why non-actors with no career might accept a part in a flick like this, it is sad to think that anyone who ever had any career at all, even a minor one like that of Tara Reid, would stoop so low. (To fall any deeper would require a co-starring role with Richard Grieco — see: Webs [2003] and Raiders of the Damned [2005].)
The plot of A Total Piece of Shit is a predictable as the movie itself, and is driven primarily by one laugh-inducing, head-shaking, unbelievable, and bad decision after the other on part of the youthful fodder-cum-wannabe characters. Five minutes into the movie, after a badly lit and shot chase and kill scene in some locked-up compound, these six stock characters are introduced and it quickly becomes obvious that they are not only bound to die and that they probably subconsciously want to die, but that they are all bona-fide candidates for the Darwin Awards: every decision made in the movie, like most of the dialogue, is not only illogical, but screams "Kill me!" Indeed, we have seldom seen a movie in which the characters all deserved to die more than they do in A Total Piece of Shit.
Our six idiots — semi-Final Girl Jay (Tara Reid), her brother Josh (Russell Carter), and friends Peter (Christian Brassington) and Karen (Monica Barladeanu of Caved In [2006 / trailer] and Fall Down Dead [2007 / trailer]) and Holly (Alice O'Connell) and token Afro-American Bug (Akemnji Ndifernyan) — survive a nasty car accident (unscratched!) while returning home from a camping trip in the mountains of Montana, a camping trip that obviously involved no camping equipment but does involve Karen wearing "five-hundred-dollar boots". Of course, they do the logical thing of wandering off the road and across the countryside and, since they're going to freeze if they stay outside, breaking into the first fenced-in and locked-up building they happen to stumble upon — by rappelling (!!!) 30 meters down through an opening on the roof. (Here Karen, who early on shows herself to be the stupid bitch, proves to be the smartest one there by turning around and leaving. By dint of the film's closing scene, she actually turns out to be the movie's true Final Girl.) Trapped in the compound, they stumble upon the so-called incubus, a sleeping murderer (Mihai Stanescu of Catacombs [2007 / trailer]) instantly recognized by Jay. ("It's the guy who bit off his tongue...") Only, instead of being put to death as reported to the press, the bad boy had been handed over to bad people conducting bad experiments. As can be guessed, once the non-teen teen idiots enter the compound, the rest of A Total Piece of Shit is basically about them running around a lot and making more stupid decisions, all of which lead to them dying one by one.
In any event, any person with a brain — and probably even those without one — won't find anything mildly of interest in A Total Piece of Shit, which drags on for way too long and does nothing but stumble from one annoying stupidity to the other, torturing all viewers (or at least those that don't save themselves by falling asleep or turning the movie off) with interminable, noxious boredom. We can only guess A Total Piece of Shit was made as a tax deduction and not as a serious project, for no one making a serious movie (unless truly untalented) would make a movie like this, a movie so moribund and lethargic and unintelligent and uncreative that its overriding and all-encompassing inability and carelessness doesn't even manage to garner giggles. (How carelessly was the movie made? Well, one character kills his possessed girlfriend and doesn't even blink. They use flashlights even when the lights are on and complain that the batteries are getting low. And — perhaps the most subtle of all the mistakes — characters who have bitten off their tongue talk totally normal moments later.)
Nothing exciting happens, nothing scary happens, nothing is well-shot or well-acted, nothing is in any way interesting or involving or worth wasting your time on in A Total Piece of Shit. We saw A Total Piece of Shit so you don't have to.

Monday, January 18, 2016

R.I.P.: Wesley Earl "Wes" Craven, Part V (2000-05)

2 August 1939 – 30 August 2015

What follows is a look at some the projects he was involved in — actually and/or presumably. TV series are ignored.

Go here for Part I (1970-77)
Go here for Part II (1978-86)
Go here for Part III (1987-93)
Go here for Part IV (1994-99)

Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000
(2000, dir. Patrick Lussier)

"I never drink... coffee."

Aka Dracula 2001. Craven needed a new car, so once again he acted as one of a dozen "producers" and then let his name be plastered all over the promotion material as the "presenter" of this movie directed by his regular editor Patrick Lussier. Lussier eventually went on to make the absolutely great 3-D remake of My Bloody Valentine (1981 / trailer), naturally also titled My Bloody Valentine (2009). The DVD to this movie still lies on our "To See" pile, so one day we'll review it... maybe. Starring a not-yet-famous Gerard Butler — "a relatively unknown actor who falls rather short of the seductiveness necessary for a portrayal of the Count, in my book" [Pop Matters] — and featuring Jeri Ryan (she can seven of nine us any time) as one of the wives, though "a critical and commercial disappointment" [Wikipedia], the movie obviously did well enough for Craven to present two more Patrick Lussier-directed, direct-to-DVD sequels, Dracula II: Ascension (2003) and Dracula III: Legacy (2005), neither with Butler.
Wicked Horror, which calls the movie "a flawed but enjoyable update", has the plot: "A band of thieves (Jennifer Esposito of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998 / trailer), Omar Epps & others) rob the archives of a notorious collector (Christopher Plummer of Cold Creek Manor [2003 / trailer], Nosferatu in Venedig [1988 / trailer], The Clown at Midnight [1999 / trailer], and The Pyx [1973 / trailer]) in Patrick Lussier's Dracula 2000. The deviants believe they are walking away with a fortune in antiquities, cash, gold, diamonds, and the like, but what they have really scored is the dormant corpse of Dracula (Butler). The collector is from the long line of Van Helsing's that have long been protectors of the innocent and mortal enemies of Dracula. The burglars unintentionally reanimate Dracula's corpse and the ruthless vampire unleashes hell on New Orleans, whilst looking for a young woman (Justine Waddell of Thr3e [2006 / trailer] and The Fall [2006 / trailer]) who shares his bloodline. [...] There are some really witty one-liners, a few great kill scenes, and some interesting twists."
In general, however, the reaction to the movie was more along the lines of Puffy the Cucumber, who froths "In 2000, Dracula comes to New Orleans seeking the daughter of Van Helsing. Bland action movie ensues. Only redeeming factor is that every chick is groin-achingly hot."

Scream 3
(2000, dir. Wes Craven)
Two years after Scream 2, Scream 3 hit the screens. So where is Kevin Williamson? Doesn't matter, they got some other guy named Ehren Kruger to do the script which, due the social pressure that arose during the aftermath of the Columbine High School killings, had the gore toned down and the humor amped. Three endings were supposedly shot to ensure no leaks got out before the film's premiere. The final result got mixed reviews and ended up being the lowest grossing Scream movie so far, but it was a hit. We haven't seen it yet, but plan to: it features Carrie Fisher and Lance Henriksen, after all.
TV Guide, which says "it all feels a bit tired", has the plot: "Poor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), survivor of the first two movies, is hiding out in a fortified house in the woods, hoping that if she lays low enough, no psychos will bother her. It's giving away nothing to say her hopes are quickly dashed. Stab 3, the ongoing movie franchise based on Sidney's ordeal, is in production at Sunshine Pictures, with veteran horrormeister John Milton (Henriksen) producing eager beaver Roman Bridger's (Scott Foley) feature-film debut. But someone's using a big sharp knife to fillet the cast and crew, which gets all the familiar faces — reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette), Deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and, of course, Sidney — back into play. New faces include Detective Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey); Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey), who's played Gale in all the "Stab" movies; B-movie starlet Sarah Darling (Jenny McCarthy); and spooky ingenue Angelina Tyler (Emily Mortimer), who's playing Sidney in the new movie. The picture is jam-packed with in-jokes and cameos. [...]"
At-A-Glance says: "The concluding episode of Wes Craven's self-aware slasher series suffers by comparison to the first two uncharacteristically clever and genuinely scary episodes in the series. It's as funny as its predecessors (and contains perhaps the single funniest moment in the entire series, involving David Arquette's forehead) but isn't quite as smart or frightening. The only characters worth their salt are the series regulars; the rest are purely Ghostface fodder. Nonetheless, Scream 3 is above par for the genre."
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds's Red Right Hand,
a song that is heard somewhere in all the first three Scream movies:

Red Right Hand von Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds auf

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
(2001, writ. & dir. Kevin Smith)

Since Jay and Bob make a guest appearance in Scream 3, it's only fair Craven shows up the next year in their film (as himself). GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) originally condemned the film for its "overwhelmingly homophobic tone", but changed their tone for a $10,000 donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, as well as to include a reference to GLAAD's cause in the ending credits. Plot: Jay and Silent Bob go to Hollywood.

They Shoot Divas, Don't They?
(2002, dir. Jonathan Craven)
Opening credits, plus:
Aka Slow Burn. Wes Craven helped produce this TV movie, the directorial debut of his son Jonathan Craven, with whom he co-wrote The Outpost (1995) seven years earlier (see Part IV). They Shoot Divas, Don't They? has some interesting faces in the cast, namely: Jennifer Beals, Tracy Lords, and David Bowie. Imagine All About Eve (1950 / trailer) with a psycho added and moved into a pop music setting: "Sloan McBride (Beals, of Dr. M [1990]) is an 80s music star who is trying to hold on to her career. She hires Jenny (Keri Lynn Pratt) as her assistant and Jenny seems to be the perfect employee. However, Jenny is actually planning her revenge because she blames Sloan for ruining her mother's career and causing her suicide." [Lifetime Movies]
Jennifer Beals —
I Can See through You:

(2002, dir. Robert Harmon)
Another flick dealing with killer dreams, and once again, Wes Craven Presents it. But as is explained in the film's FAQ page at imdb, "The complete U.S. title for They is Wes Craven Presents: They. Craven was considered an 'executive producer' of the movie. However, other than lending his name to the title, he had no part in the making of They. It's assumed that the purpose for putting his name in the title was to publicize the movie and attract horror fans." (Duh!) Also over at imdb, Claudio Carvalho of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, provides the plot in occasionally odd English: "While preparing for the examination of her Master Degree in Psychology, Julia Lund (Laura Regan) is called by her friend from childhood Billy Parks (Jon Abrahams) to meet him in a bar. They both had nightmares when they were children, and Billy is totally disturbed with demons from the dark that would be chasing him and commits suicide in front of Julia. The traumatic experience, plus the meeting with two friends of Billy, Sam Burnside (Ethan Embry) and his girlfriend Terry Alba (Dagmara Dominczyk of Lonely Hearts [2006]), in the funeral make Julia having nightmares again. When Sam tells her that they four have been tagged in their childhood, and demons are coming to get them to the darkness, Julia becomes afraid of the dark and asks for help to her boyfriend Paul Loomis (Marc Blucas)."
Dr Gore saw the movie and like many, he was not impressed: "Beware the PG-13 horror movie. It teases and teases but does not deliver. The concept was solid. Night terrors/beasts/things are attacking kids again after taking a break for a couple of years. So where was the payoff? Usually the characters have to go through the usual hoops where no one believes them, they must be crazy etc. This one never lets up and the grown kids are left to fend for themselves. It gets annoying after the third, 'Here, rest awhile, you're just under stress' scene. [...] Another downside is that I couldn't wait for the lead character to die. Couldn't wait. She did not inspire sympathy. Whine, whine, whine. In a nutshell, weak. SCORE: 1 out of 4 scary things happening off screen to characters I don't care about."
Many, many years ago, director Robert Harmon made his first feature movie, a low budget masterpiece entitled The Hitcher (1986), which was poorly remade in 2007 (trailer). It was a promising start to a lackluster career.

Wes Craven Presents
Dracula II: The Ascension
(2003, dir. Patrick Lussier)
Patrick Lussier returns to make the first direct-to-video sequel of Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000, and Craven prostates his name yet again. (Nothing wrong with that, as the fact of the matter is just like what the Pop Group sings below).
The Pop Group —
We are all Prostitutes:
Co-written with Joel Soisson, who also worked on Piranha 3DD (2012), The Ascension was filmed in Romania — in Transylvania, no less, if we are to believe some reports — but the synergy didn't seem to do much, as the open-ended film was not well received. In theory, the events begin mere hours after where the first movie ends. Nevertheless, Gerard Butler does not return as Dracula, replaced instead by Stephen Billington — who, in real life and out that makeup, can bite us anytime — who does return in the next sequel, Dracula III: Legacy (2005), for a few scenes.
Beyond Hollywood, which posits that "you have to really like genre movies to like Ascension", has an intelligent observation regarding the movie that more or less reflects the entire plot development of the film: "About 25 minutes into Dracula 2: Ascension, Fair Hair Lead Elizabeth (Diane Neal of Dirty Movie [2011 / trailer]) moans, 'Why is this happening?' Well, Lizzie, let's recap what you've done in just the last 10 minutes alone, shall we? Let's see: discover a vampire in your morgue; steal the vampire; and then feed the vampire a bathtub full of blood. Gee, no wonder Elizabeth is so shocked that Dracula woke up, killed one of her friends, and tries to kill the rest. Stupid girl."
Beyond Hollywood also has a decent plot synopsis: "Jason Scott Lee (of Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College [1991 / trailer]) stars as Uffizi, a priest and vampire hunter, who has tracked the burning corpse of Dracula (last seen roasting on a cross over Mardi Gras) to a morgue. Before Uffizi can destroy the undead bloodsucker’s remains, enterprising coroner Luke (Jason London of Carrie II: The Rage [1999]) and med student Elizabeth steals the body. Elizabeth's plan is to use Drac's powers to save Lowell (Craig Sheffer of Flying Virus [2001]), the love of her life, but Luke just wants to get rich because a mysterious phone call has offered him $3 million for the body."

Freddy vs. Jason
(2003, dir. Ronny Yu)
A Nightmare on Friday the 13th. Actually, Wes Craven had absolutely nothing to do with this movie other than that he created the character of Freddy Kruger, but seeing that it is the last Kruger movie — and Jason flick, for that matter — before both characters were (badly) rebooted, and that Jason is so closely connected with Sean S. Cunningham, who sort of kicked off Craven's above ground career with the original Last House on the Left (1972, see Part I), and that we found the great movie poster above (from Ghana), we felt like featuring it here. 'Sides, the great Ronny Yu directed, even if F vs. J isn't one of his better films — The Bride of Chucky (1998), for example, seems like a much better movie. (We ourselves have popped Freddy vs. Jason into our DVD player at least three times by now, but have never made it to the end. We've heard, however, Jason won.)
Classic Horror says, "Make no qualms about it, this film has no cinematic merit at all, and the plot (if you could call it that) was a mess." But Dr Gore would beg to disagree, gushing: "Now this is one match-up that I have waited many full moons to see. [...] Freddy vs. Jason makes one thing abundantly clear: These characters are not scary anymore. The monsters have become the heroes. No one fears for the lives of the victims. Every time Jason twisted someone's head off or gave them a taste of his blade, the audience was cheering. We want the monsters to win. [...] So Freddy (Robert Englund) needs Jason (Ken Kirzinger) to come back to life. Jason takes the machete to the new kids on Elm Street's block. The survivors start thinking Freddy is responsible for the hacking and slashing. It's too bad for Freddy that Jason is a glutton and can't stop killing Elm Street kids. Freddy takes it personal. No one messes with his victims. This all leads up to the title bout: FREDDY vs. JASON. Finally! This is where the movie shines. There is plenty of blood and guts and hacking and slashing and, well, everything you wanted to see. The fight at the end is a great payoff scene. I enjoyed the carnage. I don't think you could ask for much more from a movie called Freddy vs. Jason. It delivered the fight everyone wanted to see. Freddy was sufficiently gutted for my tastes."
Trailer to one of Ronny Yu's masterpieces —

Tales from the Crapper
(2004, dir. by six directors)
Depending on where you look, Wes Craven is either one of the many faces that flit by in this Tromapiece, or he "contributed $100 to the production while visiting the set". Maybe he did both. Who knows for sure, and who cares?
TromaWiki explains the movie: "Welcome to Tales from the Crapper, an epic of biblical proportions and questionable taste. Boasting the greatest cast and largest breasts ever assembled in Troma's thirty-year history, Tales from the Crapper will cause you to lock your door, look under your bed and pray for daylight. Tales from the Crapper is the inaugural film in Troma Entertainment and Lloyd von Kaufman's acclaimed Dogpile 95 Doctrine of Digital Filmmaking, and is destined to be part of all the critics's must see lists this year. Filmed on three continents, over a three-year period, with six directors, fifteen writers and a cast of hundreds, Tales from the Crapper adds up to pure en-TROMA-tainment! Hosted by everyone's favorite harbinger of the horrible, The Crapkeeper, Tales from the Crapper boasts not one but TWO films in one extraordinary digital feature! Twice the monsters! Twice the fat guys! And twice the boobies! Tired of searching for the perfect blend of highbrow entertainment, kung-fu action, alien adventure, and hot vampire lesbian sex? Well, look no further, because Tales from the Crapper is the perfect combination of those things!"
The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre, whose opinion we learned not to trust, rates the movie as "Worthless". On the other hand, this is a Troma flick, so they might be right...

(2005, dir. John Gulager)
The feature-film directorial debut of the wanna-be exploitation director John Gulager, son of the legendary cult actor Clu Gulager (of Return of the Living Dead [1985 / trailer] and a lot more great trash); Gulager Jr has proven himself to be trash-master extraordinary with the direct-to-DVD, socially un-redeeming sequels Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (2008 / trailer) and Feast III: The Happy Finish (2009 / a lot of dead people), not to mention the highly entertaining but almost universally panned Piranha 3DD (2012). His most recent project was the TV zombie gorefest Zombie Night (2013 / trailer) — we see him as a name with a future.
Wes Craven, along with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, was an executive producer of the movie; O.J. Simpson had a cameo originally but was cut out of the final print.
Plot? Well, Dr Gore has the Shakespearean plot for you: "Feast is about monsters attacking people in a bar. The end. It is a simple, stripped down, gory monster flick. No frills. No fuss. Just blood and guts. The who, what, where and why of the monster's reason for being or attacking is not discussed. When you get down to it, it's not that important. What is important is that monsters are ripping people apart as disgustingly as possible. Feast delivers the monster thrills."
As A (Nutshell) Review mentions, "The story and action starts immediately [...] after a no-frills super summarized introduction to all the players involved with the use of character titles. What will set the tone here, is that the introduction is highly comical, and gets the job done in a no-frills manner, so much so that most of the characters don't have names, but rather are named after caricatures, like Hero for obviously the Hero [Eric Dane], and Honey Pot [Jenny Wade] for a busty blonde chick (a staple in slasher-horror-thrillers)."
A trash masterpiece the fits to beer and pot like red wine to a steak or AIDS to a crack whore. Not one to watch with the little lady at home.

(2005, dir. Wes Craven)
Cursed was a cursed project from the start, despite the presence of the hit team Kevin Williamson (scriptwriter) and director Craven. Studio interference caused interminable delays and rewrites and reshoots, to the point that the film made was completely different than the one originally approved and with an almost totally different cast. As cast member Judy Greer has often been quoted of saying, "I don't know who kept making them fuck with it. [...] We shot the movie for, like, seven years. I think they said we had four movies worth of footage." Nevertheless, for that the movie is surprisingly coherent.
The Video Graveyard, which didn't like Cursed and called it "the first truly awful horror film of 2005", has the plot: "On their way home in the Hollywood hills siblings Elli (Christina Ricci of The Gathering [2003] and Sleepy Hollow [1999]) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg of Zombieland [2009]) get into a car accident after some sort of animal hits their vehicle. When they go to save the driver of the other car they see her dragged away by some sort of giant creature and end-up being bitten themselves. Soon enough they find out that the creature they saw was, in fact, a werewolf and soon they are beginning to start to transform. People start showing up dead, Eisenberg attempts to win his high school dream girl in the lame sub-plot, and their bodies start to slowly transform. In order to break the curse they need to find the person who attacked them — and the script proceeds to throw-out multiple red herrings until the obvious and predictable finale."
Trailer of a way better movie with Christina Ricci—
Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow:
We did see Cursed: once again, Craven's casting and that alone brought us to his movie film. (Christina Ricci is the bee's knees, the cat's meow and our wet dream rolled in one.) We found the movie way better than all the troubled production and bad press had led us to expect — and it is a thousand times better than the next werewolf movie we saw, the bloated and misfired big budget Wolfman (2010 / trailer). Our basic opinion jives with that of Dr Gore, who says, "As a horror flick, Cursed is pretty weak. The werewolf scenes are campy. When a wild, evil, snarling werewolf stops to give people the finger, you know this beast is just not wild enough. Werewolf attacks obnoxious Hollywood teens and no one cares. There's nothing scary going on here. Even after saying all that, I still kind of enjoyed Cursed for what it was. Being a desperate werewolf fan, I was just happy to see the big guy back on the big screen. I'm easy to please." In any event, one day we here at A Wasted Life might bother to watch the R-rated version, but doing so isn't high on our list — too much "been there done that" for only two minutes of footage.

Red Eye
(2005, dir. Wes Craven)
Another one of Craven's rare forays away from straight horror and, as normal, he handles himself well enough that one does wonder why he wasn't given more non-horror projects. Red Eye, a thriller, is a B-film in its heart, but it has its heart in the right place. Unpretentious, well-made and well-acted, its narrative is far more enjoyable if you check your brain in at the door, and if you don't start pulling at the seams you are in for a tight and thrilling ride — at least until the final scene, when Red Eye changes from a suspenseful "trapped in a life-threatening situation" to a "killer in the house" movie.
Unlike Cursed, released the same year, Red Eye was a critical and financial success. We also enjoyed it, but would tend to label it a movie you watch with the better half, and not one to watch with the guys.
Qwipster has the plot: "Rachel McAdams stars as hotel manager Lisa Reisert, who is delayed at the airport due to the terrible local weather in Texas. While waiting for her flight, she meets a handsome and charismatic man named Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy of 28 Day Later [2003 / trailer]), and together they share some interesting conversation while they wait for the next available flight to Miami. Finally, they are booked on the 'red-eye', the last flight of the night, and as fate would have it, they end up seated together. Small talk grows more sinister as Jack reveals that he isn't all he seems to be, as he intends to use Lisa's clout as the hotel manager in order to secure a room change that would lead to the possible assassination of one of the country's top officials."

Wes Craven Presents
Dracula III: Legacy
(2005, dir. Patrick Lussier)

Director Lussier and co-scriptwriter Joel Soisson return for yet another direct-to-video flick "presented" by Wes Craven, whose only involvement in the flick was probably cashing the check he got for gracing it with his name. More than one source claims that Part II and III were shot at the same time, and seeing that they share the same cast and location, it seems believable that they were. Oddly enough, however, the Dracula of the first sequel (Stephen Billington) is now Rutger Hauer — normally a better actor, in any event, though as Foster on Film points out, "Hauer is hardly in the film, popping in only in the last few minutes to ham it up. If his part required more than a day of shooting, they weren't trying."
Most people who have bothered to watch both movies share the opinion that Dracula III: Legacy, like Dracula II: The Ascension, can pretty much be viewed as a solo movie as knowledge of the prior film(s) is not absolutely necessary, but Cinema on the Rocks disagrees, bitching that "Dracula III: Legacy isn't worthwhile unless one has already watched Dracula II and for some reason feels obligated to see how it ends."
Arrow in the Head seems to have liked the flick a little more: "On the heels of the Dracula 2: Ascension cliffhanger, witty Luke (London) and half-vamp, half-priest, all-asswhopper Ufizzi (Lee), travel through a vampire-ravaged Romania with the intent of saving Luke's chickadee Julia (Wescourt) and finding Dracula's (Hauer) pad to bury his fanged derriere once and for all. Get the whip, the blades, a six-pack and the stakes... it's vamp exterminating time… Ufizzi style! [...] We get one fully naked chick and then we get more naked broads in a scene that I like to call the 'Orgy of Blood'. I wouldn't mind attending one of those, like… SOON! The ladies get Jason Scott Lee shirtless and toned like a mofo on a mofo workout regime! [...] Let the gravy hit the meat! We get severed heads, harpoons in the chest/head/ eye (nice one!), mangled corpses, some impalings, stakings, a melting head, a lopped off arm, a body cut in two, some vamp bites, and more!"
Dr Gore was also caught by the orgy scene — "I guess Dracula's ladies would rather suck each other's blood than have to actually go out and get some themselves" — but hated the movie, saying "[...] Dracula III is so relentlessly stupid and edited so badly that I started to lose interest in it by the fifteen minute mark. [...] It's a collection of random vampire scenes that were stapled together to give the illusion of a coherent movie. Unless you desperately need to see vampires getting wasted, it can be skipped." 

Inside Deep Throat
(2005, dir. Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato)
Yes, we've seen the original — and for all the body hair and bad acting and unattractive flesh, we liked it: Deep Throat is pretty funny. The boner or wet panties you [might] get is just an added attraction. The documentary on the social impact of the movie is available in two versions, an R-Rated Version and an NC-17 Version, but really, if the two-odd minutes that got the film an NC-17 chill you or bother you, what are you doing here at A Wasted Life?
Among the many talking heads, you find Wes Craven who, while mentioning a few of the early porn projects with which he learned the ropes of film and direction (see Part I), plays coy and refuses to offer a full list of past projects. (You can rest assured, that the list in Part I is but the tip of the iceberg — an iceberg we would love to surmount one day.) In any event, we took a brief look at Deep Throat (1972) in R.I.P.: Harry Reems Part II.
Soundtrack to the original
Deep Throat (1972):
Deep Throat, among other things, is famous for being one of the most profitable movies ever made (roughly $600 million on $25,000 production costs). Most people overlook the obvious, though Roger Ebert (R.I.P.) — who gave the documentary three stars — did not: "Deep Throat was made on the far fringes of the movie industry [...]. Since the mob owned most of the porn theaters in the pre-video days and inflated box office receipts as a way of laundering income from drugs and prostitution, it is likely, in fact, that Deep Throat did not really gross $600 million, although that might have been the box office tally.
El Gore cuts to the meat and potatoes of the documentary: "In Inside Deep Throat, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato examine the reasons behind the film's success and its tremendous impact on American society with the help of some members of the cast and crew (including Gerard Damiano and stock footage of Linda Lovelace herself) and other interviewees like John Waters, Larry Flynt, Ruth Westheimer, and Hugh Hefner. It focuses on the controversy and witch hunt surrounding the pop culture phenomenon that was banned in 23 states and nearly got Lovelace's co-star Harry Reems arrested for five years on obscenity charges, and aims to illuminate both sides of the coin."
TV Guide, unbelievably enough, has one of the better descriptions of this documentary on "the taboo-busting, precedent-setting" movie: "[...] A gold mine of giddy highs, stygian lows, and colorful dramatis personae. Clown-prince of porn Harry Reems, who naively imagined the movie's notoriety would help jump-start a mainstream acting career, spent years battling legal prosecution (though persecution is really the more appropriate term) and sank into a deep, alcohol-fueled depression before remaking himself as a small-town realtor. Lovelace, who later claimed she was forced by then-boyfriend Chuck Traynor to appear in the film that made her famous, drifted into unhappy obscurity haunted by her liberated alter ego and died, broke, in a 2002 car accident. Hairdresser-turned-smutmeister Gerard Damiano, cut out of the profits by his Mafia-connected backers. Henpecked Florida theater owner Arthur Sommer and his shrewish wife. Moral crusader Larry Parrish, who tried to lock up Reems and throw away the key for the crime of being in a blue movie and, years later wishes terrorists would go away so America's watchdogs could return to combating 'prostitutes and whoremongers'… you couldn't make these people up. But Fenton and Barbato also place Deep Throat firmly in the context of a turbulent time, when making a sex movie was an act of rebellion (however Quixotic), rather than a mercenary grab for the goodies. Descended from a long line of smokers, stag loops and white-coaters, Deep Throat — by any objective standard a lead-footed comedy with artless hardcore scenes — was the thin edge of the wedge. Much watched, more discussed and indisputable proof that there was more money in the adult film business than anyone ever dreamed, it appeared as the legacy of 1960s counterculture turmoil was wreaking unprecedented change on American attitudes towards women, free speech and sex. It triggered court cases, tempted dirty-movie virgins into porno theaters, added a fresh term to the lexicon of dirty talk, and brought both sexually explicit movies and the debate over their place in a free society into the spotlight. All but unwatchable in light of today's slickly produced smut, Deep Throat ran a carnally candid banner up the flagpole and America saluted."
A Wasted Life would disagree with the last sentence, and say that particularly due to "today's slickly produced smut", Deep Throat is eminently watchable. It's just badly acted and has body hair and pimples.

Follow the link to Part VI

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Beyond Hypothermia / Sip si 32 dou (Hong Kong, 1996)

(Spoilers.) A lean, mean, moving, and unjustly forgotten movie from the tail end of the Golden Age of Hong Kong bullet ballets, Beyond Hypothermia is well worth searching out. What makes this move particularly noteworthy, aside from the competent direction by former John Woo assistant director Patrick Leung, the top-notch editing, and the tight story, is that it manages to merge both what one expects from a multi-violent, blood-drenched Hong Kong killer flick with a surprisingly non-maudlin but touching love story. That it should end tragically is, of course, expected, but that the movie as a whole should be so effective, so successful, is not.

Opening with a bruised and bloody hand reaching for a bullet, the scene initially seems to have nothing with the narrative that follows, but by the end of the movie the circle closes and everything suddenly makes sense — tragic sense. There is no hope, there is no love, and there is no future for killers; and whether driven by a desire of vengeance or by not knowing anything else in life, the final result is the same: you not only kill your darlings, but die yourself.

The plot concerns a nameless hitwoman (the beautiful Jacklyn Wu), raised without a past by her "aunt" as a soulless killer whose cold actions are mirrored by her unnaturally low body temperature. She is less a human than an empty shell and a killing machine, but buried beneath the skin of the literally cold-blooded professional, the longing and desire for love and human companionship struggle to become free. A lonely woman lacking both a past and a future and in need of male companionship, she is slowly warmed by the delicious noodle soup made by the slightly thick-headed, friendly, and equally lonely man (Sean Lau, of Return to a Better Tomorrow [1994 / kill count] and Black Mask [1996 / trailer]) running the noodle stand across from where she lives. He dubs her "Pretty Ghost" due to her beauty and the way she appears and disappears without warning, and slowly an affectionate relationship develops between them. But the successful completion of a hit in Korea causes that now-dead man's bodyguard (Sang Woo Han) to go off the deep end. He leaves a long, bloody trail of (intentionally and unintentionally) dead bodies as he slowly hones in on the mysterious woman who killed his boss, losing more than just the little humanity he had in the process. In that sense, he is the reverse of "Pretty Ghost": as she warms and thaws out, becoming ever-more human, he becomes ever-more bloodthirsty and cold, soulless, and irredeemable — something he realizes himself in the final scene.
In all truth, were the two core narrative threads of Beyond Hypothermia — a relatively kitschy love story and a blood-drenched shoot-'em-up flick — separated, neither would be all that impressive despite all the stylistic panache and flash of the presentation. What makes Beyond Hypothermia so special is that it manages to follow the templates of the two genres so closely while achieving a balance that both works without seeming trite and that also gets the viewer solidly involved with the narrative and characters, to the point of even caring for the figures (or at least the two lonely leads).
The technical finesse of Leung's camerawork and staging matches well with the don't-waste-time screenplay by Roy Szeto (whose other projects include, among others, The fun kung fu zombie political parable We're Going to Eat You [1980 / trailer], the dead-horse-flogging A Chinese Ghost Story III  [1991 / trailer], the disappointing The Assassin [1993], the intriguing The Phantom Lover  [1995 / trailer] and the trashily fun Mutant City [1992 / trailer]). What truly carries the movie, however, and what truly helps make Beyond Hypothermia transcend being simply another flashy, well-made Hong Kong spectacle of flying dead bodies, are the two leads.
Both Wu and Lau are amazing in their respective extremely sketchy roles and manage to make their characters both more rounded and sympathetic than the extremely linear and low-fat script should allow. Wu manages to go from a convincingly heartless professional killer to a woman in doubt to a woman suddenly feeling moments of joy (probably for the first time in her life) with her facial expressions and body language alone, and as a result she makes a killer (so cold-blooded that she barely pauses when killing a child) likeable and an object of the viewer's interest and affection. Lau does likewise, presenting himself as a not-too-bright but extremely engaging man whose heart and love goes out to a mysterious woman, and who does everything possible to catch her interest. By the end of the movie, the viewer really wishes that the two would, could, somehow, ride off into the sunset. Instead, we get a massive shootout, an almost nihilistic last line (from Lau) that literally hurts in its irony, and a sad finale that even leaves even a room full of beer-swilling dudes silent.
True, some aspects (like how weapons are delivered to the heroine) occasionally instigate giggles in their inanity, but one is given little time to mull over such things; they are, in the end, perfunctory aspects that must be resolved quickly to get to the given point of the scene: that the killer is a perfect killer, that she is totally heartless, that the nemeses is introduced. And speaking of the nemeses, Sang Woo Han is a bit one-note in his characterization of the out-of-control, revenge-driven bodyguard, but luckily neither his haircut nor his beady-eyed, blinkless stare do all that much damage to the movie. The biggest flaw of Beyond Hypothermia is without a doubt the dated synth music that swells up in full-blooded 80s/early-90s tastelessness whenever there is a tragic or emotional scene. It is a further credit to the film and the filmmakers that despite be saddled with such a crappy and cheap-sounding aural nightmare, Beyond Hypothermia remains so effective, so tragic, so stunning.
It is time that this forgotten move was rediscovered. Give it a go: it might be the first Hong Kong bullet ballet that your women's-film-loving other half might like.
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