Sunday, January 15, 2012

Riget (1994)

The Kingdom is the most technologically advanced hospital in Denmark, a gleaming bastion of medical science. A rash of uncanny occurrences, however, begins to weaken the staff's faith in science--a phantom ambulance pulls in every night, but disappears; voices echo in the elevator shaft; and a pregnant doctor's fetus seems to be developing much faster than is natural. At the goading of a spiritualist patient, some employees work to let supernatural forces rest. (Imdb rating 8.6)

I'll let you in on a secret; most of the time, I know before I watch something whether it will fit this blog or not. When the movie's title is something like Vampire Whores from Outer Space, you can't help it. But while I'd heard rumblings about Lars von Trier's Riget (The Kingdom), I had no idea about how gloriously scary and insane it would turn out to be.

Mr von Triers is known for being very 'artsy', hell, he's one of the founders of what is possibly the world's most pretentious film movements in Dogme 95. Riget, having been developed before Dogme 95, shows early signs of future techniques, such as the complete lack of artificial film lighting, shooting completely on location, and handheld camera work. While the resulting images are grainy and under developed, the swooping camera movements, strange angles and frankly bizarre editing at times creates a genuine air of atmosphere.

I hope there are no ghosts up there.....

The show also manages to straddle a delicate line between scenes of humour and scares very well, never sinking too deeply into either, but there are still plenty of both. It's also quite graphic for a tv show (maybe the Danish have less problems with violent/sexual material on tv?), and while the special effects are nothing special, let me just tell you to be prepared for the last five seconds of the last episode. It takes me a lot to yell out 'what the fuck!' when I'm sitting by myself watching something, but I did here....

I honestly can't wait to watch Riget II, and have a feeling it will be as good as the first. I heartily recommend Riget, if you can handle the somewhat slowish beginning of the first episode:

Things I learnt:
  • Dishwashers with Down Syndrome have amazing spirit sensing/future reading abilities.
  • Kids steal crappy tire hubcaps with you don't take them with you.
  • Smoking is fine in Danish hospitals.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Bunker of the Last Gunshots (1981)

A group of soldiers are locked inside a concrete bunker and we see how they deal with the ensuing madness that follows from being locked there for an unspecified amount of time. (Imdb rating 6.1)

The Bunker of the Last Gunshots is not a short film that gives answers. While I was smart enough to figure out the general plot (that's a first for me) of this experimental steampunk French movie, there isn't much help, with a lack of any dialogue whatsoever. But really, the gaps don't need to be filled in.

I would hazard a guess that this movie is a microcosm of how humanity can deal with stress wrongly; as when a seemingly important counter starts to slowly reverse back down to 000000, the men start to kill each other with wild abandon. Before the countdown, they looked bored shitless, with one chap even collecting particularly good specimens from his nose and placing them in containers. Another guy electrocutes beetles. Another guy apparently uses masking tape and garbage bags to wrap up corpses.

Don't judge me!

The bunker society seems based around the two arch-principles of baldness and Nazism though, and after the discovery is made, it's open season for gunshots and strange tortures, like shooting electromagnetic waves into ears and what disgustingly looks like death by force feeding. The ending is great as well, as it shows the futility of all the abhorrent behaviour throughout the movie.

I was really impressed by this. It was strange, it was experimental, but it wasn't pretentious or unnecessarily confusing. The Bunker of the Last Gunshots stands on it's own.

Things I learnt:

  • Going outside on a completely dead Earth/some other random planet requires you to dress as a sand person from Star Wars.
  • You can feed severed hands in jars as you would a fish.
  • In the future, everyone will be bald!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mega Piranha (2010)

A mutant strain of giant ferocious piranha escape from the Amazon and eat their way toward Florida. (Imdb rating 2.7)

Syfy original movies are universally terrible. But they always seem
to save the worst for their 'mutated versions of animals attack!' movies. Giant sharks, giant octopuses, alien mutant bears, all are just awful.

But strangely, I somewhat enjoyed Mega Piranha, even though it 'stars' 80's one hit wonder Tiffany. Oh, don't get me wrong, required to show any emotion at all, her acting makes me wish she'd go back to singing subtly sleazy songs in malls like she used to. The males lead is just there, with his muscles and two day stubble growth. Barry Williams, the eldest Brady Bunch son, is there as well, and at least he injects some type of personality into his character.

But you don't really want to hear about the rabble they hired
to play actors, you want me to explain the piranhas. At the start, we see them eat some natives dumb enough to go swimming in the Amazon, or at least a weak CGI visual representation of it. That's fine. Then we get topless natives along with a fat guy partying on the same river, before noticing a half eaten crocodile corpse floating by. Still fine. Then the piranha's attack... wait, PIRANHA'S DON'T EAT BOATS! Apparently they do, and as they get bigger so do their prey. By the end, they are eating submarines and fucking battleships!

But don't worry! Our leading man has a method of beating them. It's called 'Lie on your back and bicycle kick the shit out of them'.

It's like they are trying to show how abysmal the piranhas look.

The piranhas confused even me, as I assumed they were like Aquaman; useless out of water. But I stood corrected, as they jumped out several times to snatch people, destroy buildings, and conveniently dispose of villains at the right times. They still look like something a cat regurgitates.

The actions moves pretty quickly, which is a positive, and there are several false endings. The actual ending, however, annoyed the shit out of me, because it made absolutely no sense. I thought maybe I'd missed something, except even the Wikipedia synopsis seems to have no idea what exactly happened either, not a good sign.

Mega Piranha is a pile of crap, but at least it's a fast moving one.

Things I learnt:
  • You can beat a piranha in a knife fight.
  • Or you can use rockets.
  • You can make someone's head explode by shooting a flare into their open mouth.
  • Topless natives have brown blood.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ubu Roi (1965)

An evil giant man is persuaded by his nagging wife to usurp the King of Poland, and he is successful, until his extremely harsh new laws and the return of the former King's youngest son lead to a fight for the crown. (Imdb rating N/A)

Right off the bat, you need to know this is a French made-for-TV movie by Jean-Christophe Averty, based on Alfred Jarry's play Ubu Roi, a play so scandalous, that it's first performance in 1896 was stopped after the first word was uttered, because the crowd rioted.

The first word was "Merde", translated as "shit". I can't imagine how a crowd back then would have felt, if they ever got past the first word, at what quite possibly could be the lewdest, most lowbrow plays ever conceived. The amount of swearing in this puts Eddie Murphy to shame, and I have the feeling most of it wasn't properly translated to English either.

The main character Pere Ubu is just a vile human being, he's extremely fat, obnoxiously loud and egotistical, and acts like every petulant child you've ever wanted to punch. His wife is barely any better, and they spend the entire movie arguing or manipulating each other. The whole movie plays out like a pastiche of Shakespearean themes and plotlines, with bits stolen from other plays here or there. It's very predictable, but not moreso than most other movies.

I think some classical film students just had a heart attack.

The style is the main talking point here; I can almost guarantee you will never see another film that looks even remotely like this. The Forbidden Zone has some vague similarities, such as the black and white colours and mix of animation and live action, but that's it. Trying to adopt a more theatre based approach to film making, Ubu Roi dispels any types of camera panning, zooms and even moving the camera at all. At any one time, there could be three, four, six different mini-scenes onscreen, all interacting with each other in bizarre ways. Characters will pass things to each other, and the item will change size depending on where the camera is. It's visually disorientating, and cool as hell.

Ubu Roi has a unique way of word building, and by that I mean it barely exists. Half of the time, it's just characters over a black background. When there are props, they are flimsy at best, such as the cardboard horses, which look like something a five year old would strap into and race around in. Occasionally, there will be a solid setting, made from what looks like white tape. You are really forced to use your imagination, much like you would in a play.

Unfortunately, Ubu Roi does retain other play features; monologues. As a side effect of the visuals, none of the characters ever shut up, as they need to be constantly explaining what is going on action-wise so you don't get completely lost. This works well most of the time, but can start to grate. The ending is very flat as well, but I can't fault that, it's like that in the original play on purpose, to be as different to the usual 'classic' play endings as possible. Still, this is a crazy movie, and if you can get your hands on it somehow, it's well worth a watch.

Things I learnt:

  • 'Disembrained' and 'Hornigobolets' are real words.
  • 'By my green candle!' is a common saying?
  • You can kill people by them being turned into paper cutouts of themselves, then just ripping them up.
  • Or you can just threat to sharpen your teeth in their calves.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rock's Winning Workout Without Weights (1990)

Some tanned out Californian misfits attempt to conduct a workout tape, that strangely enough when considering the title, doesn't contain any weights. (Imdb rating N/A)

Rock's Winning Workout Without Weights is a workout tape sent from the level of hell where all of the schizophrenic serial killers exist. Or San Francisco. Either way, it's twenty minutes of non-stop muscly insanity.

But let us meet our crew!

Rock, the somewhat pudgy leader, with his Andre the Giant tights and ultra-high pants, leads us through the exercises. It's obvious that every part of the nutrients he's ever eaten and exercise he's ever done in the last twenty years has been devoted to growing an illustrious mustache, so he delegates moving to others. He also needs several tries at saying 'triceps'.

Zar, the bearded hippy slab of sinew! From what I can gather, he's been cryogenically frozen from 67' Frisco to specially appear in this video. Rock seems quite fond of him, except for the ten or so times that Rock has to correct him on how to do any basic exercise movement. Regardless, he's described as having "calves as his strength" and being "the great triathlete of the decade". The video ends with him lounging in a kiddies pool of what I can only guess is baby oil, before I assume Rock straddles him after the video fades out.

Dorral Silverthorn continues the run of having a stupid name. He's at least 130, regardless of the helpful text under his name saying he's 83, and he just shakes constantly. He convulses so much that Zar could place a bowl filled with vegetable juice and pot in his arms and he'd get a nutritious weedshake in eight seconds. He interrupts the video to throw his Christianity around, informing us that getting fit with this tape will "heal thy outlook on the Eternal Death". In a closeup, he warns that the Government is a two-faced hypocrite. 'Booze is a loser, and a loser is a boozer'. Strong words, but they are couched in old-man long winded bullshit, so no one cares.

What in the blue hell does 'In death, be happy like a child a few days before Christmas' mean, you old fuck?

Zaddy and Rick (or something) are the two goons that do the exercises that actually involve something even remotely hard. I give them kudos for at least being muscular, but I subtract the kudos plus five for Zaddy, who struggles to do fifty dips, but then blames the completely rusted bars for his near failure. Zar has a vertical jump that nearly enables him to headbutt the ceiling, and he tries several times! Stop whining! Rick(?) is just some punk from Portland, who uses his screen time to vacuum up any remaining non-interest, but he's otherwise a non-entity.

You know the worst thing about
Rock's Winning Workout Without Weights is, if you ignore all the bullshit, there's actually a reasonable starter workout tape hidden deep within. If you do this every day, it might work. But God help the person that would willingly watch this every day.

Things I learnt:
  • Your face during military presses should be similar to your face during orgasm
  • Sometimes it's nice to spice up any workout tape with RANDOM LION SHOT!
  • A hippy will always beat a gym junky in a footrace.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Jack Ketchum's the Girl Next Door (2007)

Based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door follows the unspeakable torture and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt...and the boys who witness and fail to report the crime. (Imdb rating 6.9)

The title of this blog 'The Sick, the Strange and the Awful' is somewhat of a misnomer. In reality, the percentages aren't equal; the 'Awful' is a full 70% of the blog's content, 'Strange' is 25%, and 'Sick' is only about 5%. Even then, the 'sick' usually has no effect on me. Hey, it's only a movie!

I'll come right out and say it; I could only watch the first hour of The Girl Next Door, fast forwarding through the rest. I think I'm jaded more than most, I've seen quite a few disturbing movies in my time, but nothing hit me quite as hard as this did. This is a foul, foul movie.

I can hear some pseudo-gorehounds and other people intrigued by just how repulsive and vicious I'm making this movie sound. It is all of that, but somehow, it only has an R rating in America, the same as the Hangover, which is staggering. I think what makes it truly heinous is the lack of distance between what is happening on screen and what could happen in real life. As it should, because it *did* happen in real life, in Indiana in the 60s.

The real events are almost worse than the movie (real life was far more drawn out, but missing some of the more shocking parts of the movie). I'm glad I didn't know it was real beforehand, it would have only made the hit harder. The subtle way the film introduces the later appalling behaviour is also extremely effective. There are just little things at the start, the aunt flippantly giving the neighborhood kids beer, one of her sons killing earthworms by dumping them on an anthill etc, but they snowball quickly.

I'm being nice by not showing you anything

I'm still making some of you want to watch The Girl Next Door, and some of you will. Just heed my warning, that this movie isn't for any but the hardiest souls. The Girl Next Door is easily the hardest movie I've ever had to watch. I think I'll calm myself down by watching Cannibal Holocaust or Muzan E.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Cabinet of Dr Calligari (1920)

A man named Francis relates a story about his best friend Alan and his fiancée Jane. Alan takes him to a fair where they meet Dr. Caligari, who exhibits a somnambulist, Cesare, that can predict the future. When Alan asks how long he has to live, Cesare says he has until dawn. The prophecy comes to pass, as Alan is murdered, and Cesare is a prime suspect. (Imdb rating 8.0)

Ok, ok, I may be just a little out of my depth here. Having seen a grand total of two silent films before The Cabinet of Dr Caligari doesn't exactly make me such an expert of the nuances of 1910's/20's film. But Cabinet is weird, and I know weird movies.

Just to get it out of the way for all of the younger folks that didn't grow up with silent films (aka everyone), yes, there are substantial differences between films now and then. Obviously, there is zero sound outside of the musical score, characters don't say a whole lot, and when they do and it is important, there are title cards of what was said. There are other interesting techniques as well, such as different screen tints for different times of the day/lighting, and the always hilarious overacting, because actors felt that their lack of words was hampering them in telling the story. Just think Calculon from Futurama.

But that shouldn't disguise just how groundbreaking Cabinet was. I mean, it was probably the first film to ever have a flashback framing device, and most likely the first proper horror movie. Still, what makes Cabinet so strange is that the movie sets themselves. I can't say I've seen anything like it before. The whole set is made of paper and cardboard, but seems to have a life of its own, to be able to leer over characters, and it creates a sense of unease throughout the film. Buildings that go at 45° angles, trees that lean in, it's like space itself is warped and distorted.

Are those houses or the ends of ships?

While I wouldn't go as far to say that Cabinet was scary, there were moments when I watched intently, such as the first appearance of 'the Somnambulist'. The story was engaging, the run time was brisk (a notorious problem for silent films I find is that they are way too long) and the ending was really good, and could be considered another first as well.

Overall, this is the perfect movie to start with for your first silent. It will keep you long enough to finish anyways.

Things I learnt:
  • There was film studio pressure even in 1920.
  • Tim Burton has pretty much stolen everything from this movie for all of his.