Sunday, November 27, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Original title: Onna no kappa
Directed by: Shinji Imaoka
You can stop with the Hentai jokes as of now. From here on it’s all Kappa! The Japanese water spirit, renown for being malicious troublemakers, with a bag of tricks ranging from breaking wind, peeking up women’s skirts, pulling kids into the water, rape and drowning people. Keep a cucumber handy as they are addicted to the vegetable, and tossing it in its direction could be what gives you the extra minute to escape the claws of the Kappa.
You may have seen him before in woodprints of the Edo period, or as the lurky turtle monster in Kimiyoshi Yasuda’s and Yoshiyuki Kuroda’s Yokai movies of the late 60’s, possibly even in Takashi Mike’s Yôkai daisenô (The Great Yokai War) 2005 … but you have never seen him like this. Stop what you are doing and come meet Kappa… you won’t regret it.
But back to Imaoka, who is considered part of the “Seven Lucky Gods of Pink” circle, and like most of the people working in Japanese genre cinema spent several years working for one mentor. Imaoka’s mentor was the great Hisayasu Satō, which makes him an interesting name in my book. But where Satō holds a more voyeuristic and rough approach to the pink themes, Imaoka tends to take the themes lighter, coming at the genre with a more comedic angle where the sex scenes not necessarily are the main focus. He may have alienated a lot of Pinku viewers with his restrained approach, but he’s gained a lot of acclaim from critics and even won the Best Director Award at the Pink Grand Prix. One can see why critics would favour them, as Imaoka’s movies frequently have a serious emotional theme from which his movies build off. It’s not rare to find characters stuck in the rut of convenience and every day routine whilst yearning for something else that they at one point in time gave up on.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Directed by: Terrence Fisher
I can’t really understand genre fans that don’t like Hammer films! How can you not like Hammer films? For years I’ve been fucking annoyed that watchers of genre cinema all seem to be so polarized, they either only want the gore, the violence, the nihilistic carnage, or even worse, the ones that draw a line with The Exorcist, Jaws and Alien and determine that everything beneath them is automatically unwatchable trash.
Well obviously these people are not really fans of genre cinema. Let's just say that they like a few quick scares, and keep Hollywood in business. Fans of genre cinema take it all in, and leave no rock unturned in their search for the next thrill. The audience above are joined by the fact that they completely ignore the fluff… whilst supposedly claiming to like genre cinema. Well, the fluff is really what makes it all worthwhile. It’s the stuff that keeps the really good from the really bad. It's within the realm of the fluff where the important movies really are found. Such as the Hammer films. Looking at them historically the Hammer movies where the first gore films. Yeah, screw Hershell Gordon Lewis, screw the Japanese Chanbara flicks, Terrence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein 1957 is the first splatter flicks. When Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein shoots Christopher Lee’s creature in the head with a shotgun and Lee holds his hand up to his face as the blood pours out of the concealed hole in his head, it was deliberate. When Lee’s eyes turn red and the blood seeps from the side of his mouth in The Horror of Dracula 1958, Fisher with makeup artists Phil Leakey and Sydney Pearson knew exactly what they where doing and knew that they where pushing the limits of things… and they created a complete new horror ingredient that people had never seen before, which in it’s own turn made Hammer Studios the minor success story that it was to become.
Terrence Fisher also helmed 1964’s The Gorgon based on a script by screenwriter/director John Gilling – who would later also direct some of the better later movies for Hammer, such as The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile both 1966, and ended up directing the Paul Naschy penned La cruz del Diablo (Cross of the Devil) for Naschy in 1975.
Let’s set up The Gorgon – Something is luring in the dark of Castle Borski just outside of Vandorf. Seven unexplained murders in five years have Inspector Kanof [Second Doctor Who, Patrick Troughton] a frustrated man. When young woman, Sacha Cass [Toni Gilpin], goes missing and shortly after, her bohemian boyfriend, Bruno Heitz [Jeremy Longhurst], is found hung from a tree. It all looks like a closed case, and the town Judge rules it all as a murder followed by suicide. Nobody but Bruno’s father Professor Heitz objects and points out that Cass body was actually turned to stone… the town of Vandorf obviously want’s to keep something a secret, and he will not leave until he’s unveiled the mystery and cleared his son’s name. Doctor Namaroff [Peter Cushing] and his assistant Carla Hoffman [Barbara Shelley] run the village mental institute and all seems fine, until Professor Heitz second son, Paul [Richard Pasco] arrives with the same ambition to solve the curse of Vandorf. Carla and Paul take a liking to each other, and plan to take off as soon as Paul has figured out what goes on at Castle Borski, which obviously set’s up an interesting little triangle drama between Paul, Carla and Doctor Namaroff. Towards the final act, Paul’s mentor, Professor Karl Meister [Christopher Lee] also comes to the small village and together with Paul they aim to put an end to the rumors that, Magaera [Prudence Hyman, in one of her few onscreen credited parts in a Hammer flick] – one of two lesser know sisters to the legendary Medusa - resides in the woods of Vandorf.
The Gorgon, is still one of those Hammer movies that sums up all that was great about Hammer horror, the atmosphere, the somewhat stiff stage performances of the cast, lurking death, gothic horror and, for the time period, acceptable special effects. Perhaps not as impressive as his work on The Horror of Dracula, you still have to give Sydney Pearson credit for the Medusa and her head of snakes. It get’s the job done, the turning to stone transformations, although primarily only make up, work and the final decapitation scene is still something of a classic Hammer moment. When it all comes around, the movie may be a tad on the slow side, but then again that’s what draws me into the world of Hammer. The slow meditative approach, the modest scares and the clean cut closure, which almost all Hammer movies end with. There’s never any lingering around for no reason at all in the world of Hammer. Kill the monster, cue the end credits, let’s all get up off the couch, and sod off to bed.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
If you write that your movie is about Nazi Occultism on the cover art, I will watch it. I have an intense soft spot for Nazi’s and the paranormal – and why not, it’s so goddamned out there. I love the Third Reich’s fascination with the occult. I have done so since Spielberg and Lucas made a Saturday morning matinée about the krauts obsession with the supernatural. If you also happen to be an indie filmmaker, with some really interesting movies on your resume, then I will undoubtedly watch.
To set up the story of Ratline, it would be easiest to say that the movie is about the hunt for an old Nazi flag referred to as “Die Blutfahne”, a mythical swastika flag that went missing at the end of the Second World War. The only surviving member of the SS Paranormal Division is now seeking the flag with the intentions of completing the rituals that have been brewing for decades.
The main selling point of Ratline is obviously the Nazi connection, the promise of grotesque entertainment and spontaneous nudity along the way - as you will see from the trailer below. It’s all there, but Ratline serves up something much more than just an average exploitation flick. It shoves itself way beyond simple conventions and presents an intriguing and engaging story that delivers some severe shocks in it’s final act.
Friday, November 04, 2011
So I’m in Bottrop Germany attending the ninth Weekend of Horrors with fellow cineastes, bloggers and genre movie critics Fred and Joachim. I’d was spending a small fortune on various special editions of Lucio Fulci’s epic Zombi 1979, when we keep seeing people walking around with these really neat retro style exploitation poster t-shirts of a naked woman with a horses head. That’s enough to catch my attention. Then we see flyers pinned up all over the place of a chubby fella with a pig’s head and 3D glasses… Yeah, when we see that there’s a free screening of said movie, it’s wasn’t a hard decision when we decided that dinner could wait, as we had a chance to see a movie not yet released. Especially a movie which few images seen triggered our imagination into places unexpected.
Stepping into a dimly lit room where some geezers where are fiddling about with the projector to get the correct aspect ratio – one who I’d later realize was director Chandon – I started to feel that this may just have been the best damned move this entire weekend, because moments later a bloke had an axe planted in his face and the gore-fest started.
Anyway, that’s where they take a bunch of outcasts for a weekend of recreation and self-esteem building. Characters are established some likeable, some not. Small details work their way into the narrative and will return later on in completely different context, such as Tim [James Burrows] the rather empathetic arsonist. Yeah, I know he’s an arsonist from the way he reacts to stuff he sees around the old cottage they are supposed to spend the weekend at. This works for several of the other main characters too, and predictions lead to the unexpected as Inbred manages to avoid a lot of way to common pitfalls along the way.
So grab a fountain pen and scratch Inbred onto your arm, because this one is going to be a classic, and you definitely don’t want to miss out on this gem.