Posts Tagged ‘dismemberment

24
Jan
09

REPO! The Genetic Opera Review (Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of SAW fame)

Badass.  Digging the Communist theme.

Badass. Digging the Communist theme.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is the brainchild of Darren Lynn Bousman, who most of you know as one half of the team that made SAW such an immensely popular and lucrative franchise, and buddy Terrance Zdunich, who is mainly a storyboard artist working on movies and TV shows.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the plot.

In the year 2056 – the not so distant future – an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family’s mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera. Written by Lionsgate

If there’s one thing that is grossly apparent right off the bat, it’s that Bousman and Zdunich have a lot of respect and love for cult classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show and also seem influenced by more elegant and classic opera works such as Phantom of the Opera.  There’s even a bit of The Who’s rock opera Tommy in there.  It’s no shock that the mind that helped push the SAW franchise forward would be able to create a Gothic, dystopian future, but credit must be given for slick, yet earthly atmosphere embedded in the sometimes hallucinogenic visuals of the film.  It looks great, period.

Bousman manages to keep the narrative moving along swiftly with great focus, even while dealing with the difficult medium of opera.  That’s right kids, an opera where no word of dialogue is ever simply “said.”  Unlike musicals, where there can be breaks in between musical passages to drive the story home with normal movie dialogue, Bousman ensures that every word is “sung”, which can be very awkward at first when your not expecting it.  It’s difficult to accurately describe, but once you see and hear it you will clearly understand what obstacles must have popped up from this bold and daring choice.  Other than that, Bousman also unleashes some incredibly awesome graphic novel panels to fill us in VERY quickly of a particular characters background.

Paul Sorvino and his shotgun-wielding ninja chick bodyguards.

Paul Sorvino and his shotgun-wielding ninja chick bodyguards.

It may be a tricky type of film to make, but Bousman is a razor-sharp horror producer and director, and knew that if he brought in the right talent, he would have a chance to lure in a slew of fans regardless of the experimental nature of the film.  Paris Hilton (Super Global Slut) , Anthony Head (Giles from the Buffy TV Series), Sarah Brightman (acclaimed opera/classical singer and once married to Lloyd Weber who wrote Phantom of the Opera), Bill Moseley (Of House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects fame) and Paul Sorvino round out the eclectic nucleus of the cast.  Terrance Zdunich also has a fairly large role as the Graverobber, and steals the show with his “Zydrate Anatomy” song.  The cast is, like so many aspects of this brave venture into total cult cinema, uneven throughout, with those who can sing clearly being more enjoyable and tolerable than those who can’t, with Alexa Vega and Bill Moseley probably being the two biggest culprits.  Hopefully the star power and notoriety brought by those actors outweighs the damage they have done by simply being the weak links vocally.

Sarah Brightman definitely has some bitchin' pipes.  And she's kinda sexy, in that scary way.  She probably a goddamn witch in real life.

Sarah Brightman definitely has some bitchin' pipes. And she's kinda sexy, in that scary way. She's probably a goddamn witch in real life.

Which leads me to my assessment of the acting itself, which again can be easily defined as uneven.  While some amount of over and under acting is perfectly acceptable in horror, especially in something this theatrical and over the top, but sometimes the cartoon like personalities crossed the line between tasteful and embarrassingly out of place.  At times the actors would play very serious, as if this carried the same weight as The Phantom of the Opera, and at other times it was clear everyone was having fun and things were much more airy and carefree.  I waited for the flick to settle down, and choose a definite mood and direction, but it never did, as it gleefully jumped back and forth between trying to be emotionally heavy and serious, and being grin-worthy, funny and lightweight.  Maybe I am reading to much into something that can’t truly be defined, but I would have loved to see some lines drawn pertaining to acceptable behavior from all characters, as you would with any other film.

She got the creepy, goggley eyes.  Burn at the stake, you kinda-sexy witch.

She's got the creepy, googly eyes. Burn at the stake, you kinda-sexy witch.

The final piece of the Repo puzzle is one that isn’t a very common problem in movies, the soundtrack.  That’s not to say all movies has great soundtracks, but they also don’t rely as heavily as Repo does on its’ music.  So how does the song selection hold up?  Take a guess.

UNEVEN.

Some of the songs, like Zydrate Anatomy and Legal Assassin knock it completely out of the park, while others are either too short or too gimmicky to be considered truly great. While taste is bound to vary from viewer to viewer, I felt the music was acceptable, but could’ve benefitted from maybe one or two ballads complete with verses, chorus, and a bridge and a few more rock and roll anthems.

There's also some gore, which is very well done, but used very rarely.

There's also some gore, which is very well done, but used very rarely.

I, like so many of you, have waited for years, eagerly anticipating this movie to be released in any format, anywhere.  And while it may look and sound like I have nothing but negative things to say about Repo!, I feel it’s a case of me being exceptionally critical of a piece of work I felt had all ingredients to really show the world how versatile the “horror” genre can truly be.  Repo is by no means a failure, but instead comes off as a combination of over-indulgence and lofty ambitions.  It succeeds at what it aimed to do, but the cost for achieving that goal may be a dent in Bousman’s reputation, depending on how this is received in the community.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this vehicle can be used to create an amazing, genre-bending film, but Repo! isn’t that flick.

There’s a lot of psychotropic, semi-gory fun to be had with Repo!, but it’s kinda like looking for a 20 dollar bill in your friends extremely messy room, you know it’s worth it to look, but your gonna have to sift through some shit to get what you want.

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10
Jan
09

The Poughkeepsie Tapes Review

That's a lot of tapes.  Guy must of had a reward zone card for Best Buy.

That's a lot of tapes. Guy must of had a reward zone card for Best Buy.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (or simply Tapes, as I will refer to it from here on out) is not a movie.

I’ll let that sink in.

“When hundreds of videotapes showing torture, murder and dismemberment are found in an abandoned house, they reveal a serial killer’s decade-long reign of terror and become the most disturbing collection of evidence homicide detectives have ever seen.” -Tribeca Film Festival Synopsis.

It’s a mockumentary, minus the comedy and satire.  It’s a mockumentary that houses a two-pronged attack of brutally accurate portrayals of torture, murder and dismemberment seamlessly interwoven with expert analysis and the thoughts and memories of those who were affected by the killers rampage, and those who were hunting him down.

In fact, it’s not too far removed from what the Discovery channel and TLC show on a daily basis.  All those shows about FBI profilers and how they catch these seriously deranged serial killers all seemed to be influential to the Dowdle Brothers, who both penned and directed Tapes.

And  writing may actually be Tapes strongest assets, although I’m sure it will get lost amidst all the chatter about the lengthy, suspenseful, and downright shocking film the killer shoots himself that is shown at certain intervals throughout.  The writing leaps off the screen, as the Dowdle brothers concoct a credible, highly intelligent, innovative killer and sets him loose in the “Anywhere, USA” suburbs of Poughkeepsie, New York.  The killer taunts his pursuers and gives cryptic clues for investigators to find, knowing far in advance where exactly the authorities will look to find them.  It’s this depth to a nameless, faceless character that brings us closer to him than is comfortable for most audiences.  Instead of being bogged down with trite, rationalizing back story about how the killer was beaten as a child or not hugged enough as a baby, we instead get an uncompromising and genius killer, who has found a way to elude the authorities all while documenting his spree.

A brief glimpse of the killer's throrough work.

A brief glimpse of the killer's thorough work.

Direction is also key, not so much in the static look of the interview pieces, (with the exception of the interview with Cheryl which actually made me lose sleep, it’s that fucking clever and disturbing) but in the low-fi, slow burn masterwork of the killers tapes.  The camera is almost always in the right position, whether it’s showing you everything that’s going on, or whether it’s showing you nothing, such as the inside of a car door, or an empty room.  There are times where the camera will be haphazardly placed, seemingly by accident, and we are left with just the screams and pleads of the victim and the orders of the killer to clue us in of what going on.  It’s a time-tested approach that works flawlessly here.  Show some gore in full view to screw with audience equilibrium, and then deprive them seeing something later on.  It works in two ways.  Once you don’t show the audience a scene straight on, it gets their minds working.  They create in their head horrible visions of what must be going on.  It also works to create a sickening feeling in the viewers, because they have to realize that they WANT to see whats happening, so much so they are willing to create the images in their own heads to replace the ones that aren’t on the screen.  It’s a lost art, but it’s a tactic employed by the Dowdle Bros. in exemplary fashion.

Eyes Without A Face reference in the movie.  Who would've thought?

Eyes Without A Face reference in the movie. Who would've thought?

With the audio and visual facets of the film firmly in and place grounded in reality, the one area where horror, or should I say terror in this case, goes awry is usually the acting.  You can have all your ducks in a row as far as directing and writing are concerned, but if your actors don’t come through in creating these characters in the physical form, than everything is lost.  Thankfully, the Dowdle Bros. must have been keen on this, and not only hired no names, but no names who looked liked everyday people.  I’m not sure how involved with the casting they were, but from what I’ve read and inferred through the piece itself, it seems fairly obvious they were pivotal in every decision made.  The most all inclusive and flattering thing I can say is, and this goes for the whole endeavor, not JUST the acting, if this were played one TV on night, and no one was told it wasn’t real, there would be a legitimate fear and uproar in many communities around the U.S.  It’s that believable.  So believable that even though I knew coming in it wasn’t real, I still lost sleep over it, and was looking over my shoulder while watching it.  It’s orchestrated with the sole intention of, if nothing else, to stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Tapes has a long, uphill battle ahead it.  Still having no official release date for theatrical or dvd release, it is caught in release purgatory.  And once it is released, it will undoubtedly be met with serious backlash from angry mothers and politicians who won’t even bother to see the flick, but instead just berate both those who created it, and its fans.  It will be labeled as the next sick evolutionary step in the Torture Porn sub genre, when it really has a lot less to do with the fantasy world that movies like SAW occupy, and a lot more to do with the gritty, unfair, demented world we live in everyday.  There’s no sense of morals, right and wrong, or justification that other horror flicks try to implore.  It is just cruel, relentless, remorseless and always 10 steps ahead of you.  Just like the killer.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes has, buried underneath it’s tough outer shell, an insane amount of creativity and artistic ingenuity.  If an opportunity to see this bound-to-be-lost gem arises, don’t hesitate.  Just don’t plan on going to bed immediately afterward.