Posts Tagged ‘torture

12
Feb
09

Friday the 13th: A Midnight Showing Fanboy Retrospective

Curse or Creative Genius?  We'll soon find out how well the Marquee player from the slasher genre holds up in modern day.

Curse or Creative Genius? We'll soon find out how well the Marquee player from the slasher genre holds up in modern day.

Good day to you, fellow Midnighters, and welcome to my first ever Retrospective piece here for Midnight Showing.  I want to handle this a little differently than most “retrospective” pieces I see on the Internet.  Instead of simply trying to impress you with my harmfully encyclopedic knowledge of this series and it’s many quirks and idiosyncrasies, I want to take a look at it from a relatively spoiler free perspective of a fan who is analyzing the overall impact of such a lucrative and beloved,  yet heavily criticized series that’s bread and butter was the apparent exploitation of sinful teenagers who just so happened to be fucking around with the wrong psychopathic serial killer.

And what a wonderful place to start.  The Friday the 13th series (which I will refer to as F13 for the rest of this piece since it’s much shorter and easier to type!) has become a source of ridicule and comparison.  Whenever a movie series begins to take a turn for the worst while cranking out sequels, everyone seems to jump to equate that failure, with the failure that was the endless stream of entries into multiple horror franchises in the 80’s.  Also, people in general (people in general meaning not fan-boys and horror geeks) seem to feel the movies have absolutely no value or merit, and serve only to fulfill a misogynistic, predatory sexual desire only experienced by guys usually aged 14 to 35.

The funny thing is, now a days dressing like a homeless manical serial killer is kind of an "in" look.

The funny thing is, now a days dressing like a homeless manical serial killer is kind of an "in" look.

For those who feel this way, do me a favor.  Got to your local movie theater on Thursday the 12 of February of 2009.  Get there about 11 o’ clock.  Stand in the parking lot, and see how many people go up to the ticket window and buy tickets to see F13.  Note how many of them are women.  You will then be prompted to SHUT THE FUCK UP by me.  The notion that F13 is some kind of soft-core porn for men who have trouble with women, is an asinine, paranoid delusion created largely in part by ultra-sensitive people with too much free time.  They claim its to protect their innocent children (who undoubtedly have porn underneath there bed mom doesn’t know about) from on-screen violence and the temptation of sex and drugs.  The irony of course, is that even back then in the 80’s and especially in today’s media, we glorify and report on death, rape, famine, disease, torture, executions and everything else that’s horrible and desensitizing.  Apparently, by many folks sense of logic, real death and other horrible acts of humanity are perfectly acceptable to be reported 24/7 on the news, but if we perhaps want to get scared a little, in a safe and communal environment such as  a movie theater and watch some dumbfounded teenagers fuck, do drugs, and get ripped to shreds by a masked iconic serial killer, to whom we relate to more than those dying on the news, we are bad people.  Apparently a lot of people who criticize the already marginalized horror genre don’t own any mirrors in their houses.

But before I dig any deeper into the messy pit that is morals and standards, let’s explore the soul of the series a bit.  F13 (the original) is actually more of a cautionary tale than anything else, it’s just told in such a where were relatively innocent teenagers (Hey, they smoked pot and had sex, so of course they are a little guilty) are brutally slain.  For those who haven’t seen the original F13, what I’m about to say will be a major spoiler, so now would be a good time to scroll down to the next paragraph or watch the goddamn movie, since it is still quite good.  The mother of Jason Voorhees is in fact the killer throughout the entire first film.  Although since you never see her, you just assume it’s Jason taking revenge for the negligence of the camp counselors who let him drown.  This twist should intrigue anyone looking to see the remake, as Jason is clearly visible in the trailers and commercials, yet it’s widely known he didn’t start his body count until Part 2.

Marijuana

Marijuana

+

sex

sex

=

Equals Death.

Equals Death.

So if F13 isn’t just useless trash spit out into the cinematic world by perverts, than what is it really?  Surely, it’s still a horror film, with the fact of whether or not it is actually scary still being hotly debated.  What I never hear in conjunction with F13 conversation and retrospectives is the fact that F13 was a movie made in a completely different time and social climate than the one we are currently in.  In the 80’s Reagan was president and he and his wife were trying desperately to clean up the world many saw as full of filth and sin.  The world’s major threats were Russians, not low-tech religious fanatics hiding in a cave in a desert of a 3rd world country.  Aids popped up, and subsequently scared the shit out of almost everyone.  All these factors, and about a million more, made the perfect breeding ground for escapism theater, a brand of movies that weren’t all based on history or current events, or even reality for that matter.  Even though F13 takes place at a very earthly and mundane looking summer camp, the idea that a undead, superhuman monster of a man, who seems fully grown by the time he makes his triumphant entrance in Part 2, can rise from the dead again and again to exact his bloody revenge against really anyone who gets in his way is quite out of the realm of possibility.

Why So Hockey?

Why So Hockey?

But it’s just that “unreal events in a familiar setting” that gets people all worked up.  Proper horror is all about taking something you may use or see or interact with in your life, and turning into a source of fear, tension, and discomfort.  The fact that because there is a certain amount of familiarity with something in the movie, in this case a normal summer camp in the woods, we can then use our imaginations and our disbelief to begin to believe how a place where so many have created cherished childhood memories, can turn into a labyrinth of pain, death, and mutilation.  The 80’s were chock full of repression, and from repression comes niche markets.  The aforementioned social climate saw a tidal wave of movies misdirecting our fear from the ones the nightly news we talking about, to indestructible bogeymen who can get us when we least expect it.  The only thing was, the niche was exploding at the seems, too much of a popular thing, and when niches become mainstream, they rarely remain the edgy, alternative , cathartic, and even experimental forms of entertainment they once were, they instead become just a vehicle for making a lot money.  F13 did have some surprisingly good sequels such as the ultra-violent and fast paced 4th entry (Friday the 13th The Final Chapter), which was originally slated to be the series finale, and the underrated 7th entry (Friday the 13th The New Blood) where Jason is confronted by some form of a meta-human with psychic powers who accidentally awakes him from his slumber (I call it slumber because it’s surely never death).  When it was all said and done though, most people didn’t see any of the newer entries as anything more than cannon-fodder for critics, porn for the perverse gore-hounds, and a cash cow for the big wigs pulling the strings.

Yet, there F13 sits, primed to make millions during one of the hottest movie going weekends of the year, Valentines Day Weekend.   Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay are directing and producing respectively.  This is the same tandem who delivered the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake back in 03, for what that knowledge is worth.  In the decade where Hollywood has completely abandoned any ability to create original content, especially within the horror genre, Jason Voorhees has been dug out of his 6 year nap, as Hollywood scrambles to put together a Reunion tour of sorts.  Michael Bay is surely kicking the tires on what once was a proud, thriving series to see if maybe now is the right to re-unleash the Camp Crystal Lake Slasher.

It will no doubt be financially successful, and will probably pay for itself within the first weekend, but I still feel uneasy.  Were less than 48 hours away from go time with the remake, and the Internet is buzzing, both good and bad.  Will my beliefs hold up?  Can a series that was at one point laughable, find a new home in the hearts of a new generation of film goers?

There’s only one thing I know for sure though.  It can’t be any worse than Rob Zombie’s Halloween.  Oh wait, fuck, what if it is?  Holy shit.  I need to lay down my head is starting to hurt.

Happy viewing this weekend fellow Midnighters, and do something nice for your girlfriend…oh wait who am I kidding, none of us have girlfriends.  But seriously, if you do, take them to see Friday the 13th.  They get all touchy feeling.  Trust Me.

Or just watch the recently released UNCUT version of the 1981 slasher sleeper hit My Bloody Valentine.

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.

08
Jan
09

Funny Games directed by Michael Haneke

Yup. You'll be bored to tears.

Yup. You'll be bored to tears. And probably really fucking mad about losing 2 hours.

Whenever I embark upon writing a review, I try my hardest not to bog you, the loyal readers, down with a bunch of intellectual mumbo jumbo and background info.  Unfortunately, this review can not only benefit from an explanation, but it demands one.

In 1997, Michael Haneke made a film called Funny Games.  It  garnered some controversy, and like all shocking and experimental films, gained a devoted fan base, as well as harsh criticism.

The film was something of an exploration of modern day societies, in particular middle to middle upper class Americans, acceptance AND passion for violence.

10 years later, with NOTHING different with the exception of shooting locale and cast, Haneke remade his own film.  I personally found this quite perplexing, especially since it made me feel that even if I enjoyed the remake, which I planned to see first, I would never need to see the original due to them being, essentially, carbon copies of each other.

Now, instead of wishing I could’ve enjoyed 2 different, yet similar films, I wish I had never known about either.

“Two psychotic young men take a family hostage in their cabin.”

IMDB sums it up best.  And that’s it.  Say goodbye to 2 hours of your life.

Haneke must really think highly of himself.  I mean, to have the balls to remake your own film means that you must think it’s pretty important, important enough to have some major Hollywood actors in it and be shown to a new, wider American audience.  And really, it shows in his work.

I’ve watched some shit movies in my day, and I am proud as all fucking get out about it.  I’ve seen things that barely constitute as actual cinema…and enjoyed it.  The common thread between “bad” movies I wound up enjoying?  The people behind the camera understood, even if they don’t admit, what their movie truly is.  If someone is making a movie about lesbian vampires raping small schoolgirls with baseball bats up the ass, they might try to explain how this is a political “message”, but in their heart of hearts, they know they are just shoveling fantasies to anyone desperate enough to pay $20 bucks plus shipping to satisfy their own demented perversions.  The proof of this is, we never have people grow up making lesbian vampire baseball bat schoolgirl rape flicks, and then go on to direct something the likes of  The Passion of the Christ.

Haneke though, seems like the kind of guy who would have a rib removed so he could suck his own dick.  He seems like the kind of guy who would hold his dick so sacred, no one else could pleasure it but him.  Funny Games is, at it’s best, an exercise in how to take talented actors and a descent plot, and make the most unwatchable movie possible out of those ingredients.

If only I had a bag on my head for this whole "movie"

If only I had a bag on my head for this whole "movie"

Oh, and before you get on your high horse, yeah YOU the reader who will undoubtedly stumble upon this article and spout out mantra’s like “you didn’t “get” it” and “it’s art, not film”, Fuck You.  I got it.  I understand EXACTLY what Haneke is trying…TRYING to accomplish.  What he’s trying to accomplish is to keep the audience focused.  See fellow Midnighters, Haneke, about 4 times through the film, has his lead, and main heavy, Paul (played beautifully by Michael Pitt, unfortunately a wasted performance) look into the camera and either give us a telling look or a nod, or directly speak to us, the audience.  Haneke does this in order to “snap” the audience out of getting to into the movie and rooting for the good guys.  He wants us to face the fact that we, the audience, don’t approve of psychos killing innocents, but DO approve of heroes killing villains.  He’s trying to make us look within ourselves, at our own justifications and rationalizations we use for committing horrible acts of violence, and in some cases, even commit murder.

His head is in the right place, he just forgot one thing.  A movie.

He didn’t need to make the good guys win.  Haneke just needed a point.  Like most art films, he does an admirable job of pointing things out, making acute observations, and addressing a hot button issue.  But when it comes to making his final stand on the argument his film is making for almost 2 unbearable hours, he simply decides to plead the fifth, by restarting the games all over again with a neighbor and then rolling credits.  It’s like reading a college term paper without a thesis.  Sure, you’ve proven you can write halfway descent, and at great length, but you never prove anything.  You just blow the whistle, but then run when people show up asking “what is that fucking noise?”

Here's Naomi Watts tied up.  I have to give you something in return for reading this right?

Here's Naomi Watts tied up. I have to give you something in return for reading this right?

The most heinous crime though, is the fact that Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, and Brady Corbet seemed to really believe in this picture.  Their acting is unreasonably good, and it shows a tremendous amount of professionalism on their parts, considering how many LONG (and by long I mean 10 minute plus static shots of the actors with no cuts) scenes their were, almost all including intense emotional performances.  All wasted, in my opinion.

Funny Games is the perfect example of why terms like “Art House” and “Artsy-Fartsy” are dirty words to most movie fans.  It seems like everytime I take the dive into the deep end of the “Art” film pool, I wind up hitting my head on the bottom.  Because being told that the water is deep, and the water actually being deep, are two completely different things.  Haneke uses nothing more than pretenious, polite dialogue, “shocking” off screen kills, and Sesame Street style gimmicks (remember how all the muppets used to talk to us, even while in the middle of a conversation with someone?) to try and pass off his boring, uninspired schlock as something more than the ultimate tease and a full on slap into the face of any self-respecting movie-goer.

It in my sincerest hope that this movie, via any medium, fails horribly.

Michael Haneke, please follow these instructions.

Michael Haneke, please follow these instructions.

04
Oct
08

Dard Divorce directed by Olaf Ittenbach

Dard Divorce

Dard Divorce

Dard Divorce is a film which starts off innocently enough, even soap opera-ish, where it’s explained that Nathalie is divorcing Tim and stripping him of everything he’s worked for.

Unfortunately, we’re ‘treated’ to about twenty minutes of Nathalie telling us what is going on. Not discussing it with some other character, but telling us the details in a voice over that is almost like a cheesy Detective flick. Oh, and her acting is God awful, even in just talking!

After being introduced to her kids we see Nathalie feeling sorry for  what she’s done to poor Tim. Next thing we’re thrown in to an orgy of violence and gore. First it’s Tim lying there dying then it’s Nathalie being tortured, her kids being tortured (wrapped in cling film! Why? I’ve no idea) then various gangsters getting heads blown off by shotgun (below) and limbs decapitated (bottom).

Head off! I mean heads UP!...

Head off! I mean heads UP!...

The one down side of Dard Divorce is the acting. None of the people in this movie can act! Not one! The director (Olaf Ittenbach) is obviously a very talented guy, he wrote, produced, directed and did some of the special effects in the movie! But seriously, get yourself some decent actors!

Give the man a hand! (Sorry, couldn't resist it)

Give the man a hand! (Sorry, couldn't resist it)

The special effects range from the [‘I’m-pretending-to-throw-a-knife’ (cut) knife-in-the-head] stuff, through to some nice head explosions and limb choppings. One nice (in theory) scene is of a body being dismembered in a bath, unfortunately the man doing the dismember is showing his member, by being stark naked. I can see why he’d be naked (no blood on his clothes) but do you have to keep including his groin in most shots??!

If you can overlook the bad acting and like a bit of torture/gore then it’s an OK film, story is a bit twisty turny, but it could have been a lot worse…

22
Sep
08

Ilsa She Wolf of the SS starring Dyanne Thorne

Ilsa - She Wolf of the SS

Ilsa - She Wolf of the SS

I’m prefacing this review with some UK centric back story: there was a comedy program on UK television called ‘Allo Allo‘ which mocked the Germans and had the most comical German accents. Every German spoke with a German tinted English accent. No matter how much I try to take this movie seriously, that comedy program pops in to my head since this movie uses the same German tinted English. In all honesty it’s a flaw only UK people who watched Allo Allo will notice. In fact, the movie would probably have been better had they filmed it in German and used English subtitles. But I digress…

Ilsa is the cruel warden of a conentration camp which is conducting ‘medical’ experiments on it’s male, and female, prisoners. Ilsa has a theory that women can withstand more pain than men, and she is out to prove it to the top brass of the SS.

NOTE TO ILSA: Woman can withstand more pain than men because they don’t have nuts to kick. Case closed.

But she is also using the men of the camp for her own sexual pleasure and, surprise surprise, one American prisoner can keep it up all night, and becomes Ilsa’s favourite, I’m guessing the story was written by an American, but Ilsa is also torturing the women of the camp to prove her theory. I won’t spoil the ‘story’ (what there is of one), but her sexual appetite becomes her downfall.

Look! It is the Fallen Madonna with the big boobies! (another Allo Allo reference)

Look! It is the Fallen Madonna with the big boobies! (another Allo Allo reference)

What I liked most about this film is that within two minutes we get to see Ilsa topless in the shower. Certainly got my attention! Or is that got me TO attention, oh, never mind. Then the first batch of women arrive at the camp, we’re then treated to a short scene of each presenting themselves to Ilsa completely starkers.

Gratuitous cleavage shot...

Gratuitous cleavage shot...

Some of the rape and torture scenes are a bit unnecessary but this movie seems to be all talk and no action. There’s no real gore shown, most of it is all off screen so its reputation seems to have preceeded it. The acting and script is so hammy that its still oinking and the gore is non-existant, so what is there to like? Dyanne Thornes ample bosom, that’s what! Achtung!

To prove my Allo Allo theory, here’s a YouTube clip, showing the best of season one. The Ilsa accents are EXACTLY like the Allo Allo ones!