Friday, 31 May 2013

15 Second Review: Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights (2004)

Yeah that’s right, Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights. Got a problem with that? I have seen virtually all the teen dance movies going – the best is clearly Step Up 2: The Streets, which has absolutely on competition. However, Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights is awesome, albeit in an entirely different way. The dancing is not all that spectacular. The plot is a hideous mess of West Side Story and ham-fisted attempts at political engagement (viva la revolution!). The dialogue becomes worse with every line: the final voice-over is a brazen display of unforgivably crass scriptwriting. Most cheesy and distracting of all is the score, which occasionally morphs into an acoustic guitar version of “I Had the Time of My Life”. The elements are all so atrocious that they are enormously and delightfully entertaining. In sum, Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights is the No Retreat, No Surrender of dance movies. Recommendations do not come much higher than that.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Human Centipede 3 Casting

According to EW, Eric Roberts have been cast to star in the forthcoming Human Centipede 3, which is a bit of a boon given that Six's films do not typically feature "stars". I'm looking forward to seeing Roberts in it - although he has been in dozens of better and worse  productions (ranging from The Dark Knight to Sharktopus) , I most prominently remember him as Alex, the lead protagonist in Best of the Best. Here's hoping for a side of ham with the 500-person centipede we've been promised.
 
 
 
 
Also cast is porn performer Bree Olson, so Six may be planning to take "torture porn" more literally this time. I'm sure you'll all remember Bree from such classics as Chloroform Bondage Silences Feisty Females, No! Please Don't Tickle Me There, Lord of Asses 9, Prying Open My Third Eye 2, Scooby Doo: A XXX Parody, and Jam It All the Way Up My Ass 4. Sure, it sounds like I'm making it up...

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

TesseracT: Altered State (2013) Full Album Stream


Brit-Prog-Djenters TesseracT are currently streaming their new album in full on YouTube. Well worth a listen. I am a big fan of artists offering a 'try-before-you-buy' streaming system: the music should be enough to persuade punters to part with their cash. In TesseracT's case the album is a grower, so it especially benefits from this kind of exposure. Altered State also works well as one continuous piece, as it is presented here.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Poster: Squirrels (Horror Movie)


This will either be great or awful - I doubt there is any middle ground with a concept like killer squirrels.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Cultural Oddities:Chistopher Lee's Metal Album


Christopher Lee has it all wrong... April Fools Day was last month. what is this sickness?

Sunday, 26 May 2013

15 Second Review: Banana Motherf***er

Banana Motherfucker is every bit as silly as the title suggests. That is not to say there is no method in the madness. In the first instance, the ludicrous B-Movie title and content plays into and augments current trends towards nostalgic, neo-grindhouse themes. What the filmmakers achieve within that framework is impressive. The editing is such that the fruit seems genuinely menacing at times. The filmmakers take advantage of the human willingness to anthropomorphise and imbue inert objects with agency. Of course, as the title suggests, this is all treated with an overt sense of silliness. Over-exaggeration is the order of the day, and the idea that fruit can come alive is matched by the actors’ hysterical over-acting.
 
This combination of ridiculousness and retro-horror pastiche means Banana Motherfucker is equal parts appropriation, revision, and mockery. Unlike the cannibal films Banana Motherfucker draws upon, the jungle itself comes alive here. This move is shrewd, allowing the filmmakers to bypass and lampoon the offensive racial stereotypes that were so often drawn upon by its 1970s predecessors.
If you want a copy, you can buy the DVD for only 5EUR from http://www.clonespt.com/index.html  The DVD features some deleted scenes – the microwave sequence is possibly funnier than anything in the main feature.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Short Film: Elm Street Fan-Film Double

As fan films go, Chris Notarile's Krueger films are pretty good - they are extraordinarily light on plot and the sound/music could be better, but Lombardi is far more convincing as Freddy athn Jackie Earle Haley was. Chris was originally planning a trilogy, so hopefully the third installment will be with us soon.


 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Cabin in the Woods: A High Concept Problem

I saw Cabin in the Woods some time ago, but this post was triggered by a recent call for papers: Slayage (http://slayageonline.com/) – the Journal of the Whedon Studies Association, no less – asked for papers reflecting on Cabin in the Woods, and while I have no intention of submitting a paper to the journal, I did pause to reflect.  Slayage is an appropriate catalyst since I can only assume the rave reviews I read about the film principally gushed at the altar of Lord Whedon. Since I do not see eye-to-eye with Whedon – in fact, I don’t think I’ve overly enjoyed anything he has created – I won’t dwell on him here.

Another alternative reason that many may have rated Cabin in the Woods so highly is that viewers were enamoured with Cabin in the Woods’ idea more than the whole. I did not hate Cabin in the Woods. In fact, I found the first 50 minutes or quite fun. Having sat through the morbidly dull Headspace immediately beforehand, Cabin in the Woods at least offered some sass, and moved forwards at a fair pace. The conceit was reasonably amusing, and I do not mind suspending my disbelief for 90 minutes to partake in the ludicrous set-up. Still, it bothered me. I have only just been able to put my finger on why.

So what went wrong? For a start, Cabin in the Woods’ central idea was nowhere near as clever as the filmmakers and some sectors of the fanbase evidently believed it to be. The whole film felt rather too smug for my liking. Neither did I think the idea was especially original. I had not seen that particular set-up before, but that is akin to saying that Hack! Is a radical departure too – really, both are just variations on the Scream metacommentary/genre deconstruction motif, which in turn was a continuation of New Nightmare…which arose out of the fact that 1980s slasher franchises quickly became self-parody (Freddy’s Dead, Jason Lives, Jason X, Hand of Death: Jackson’s Back, Slumber Party Massacre…). Although Cabin in the Woods had a smart little gimmick, it was not the radical, refreshing turn in horror many claimed that it was.

Had the film ended with the ‘office party’ moment (specifically the line about the Merman), I would have enjoyed the film much more. What really kills it for me is the way the plot moves forward beyond the 50 minute mark. Whedon et al evidently decided that the third act should be all-out destruction. Many viewers were clearly impressed, perhaps because decimation is the logical conclusion to deconstruction. To me it smacks of desperation – an attempt to distract the audience with a layer of increasingly ridiculous nonsense and CG, padding out what is a much shorter story.

Throwing in extra intertextual-references (“ha ha, he looks like pin-head”) is equally dubious. Such inclusions are hardly fruitful, and add little to the content. The strategy relies on an audience’s willingness to congratulate themselves for recognising said points of reference. Since my cynicism is flowing at this point, I may as well run with it: audiences’ mental-masturbation should not distract from the lack of content. Perhaps audiences responded so positively to the film precisely because the mechanism encourages one to indulge in and endorse the movie’s over-arching smugness.

This is not to scapegoat Cabin in the Woods alone. The same problem haunts many contemporary horror films. Kill List was another film that suffered in the same way. I enjoyed the first hour or so, then the direction slipped, and the plot became flabby and unwieldy. I seem to be in the minority here, since Kill List is another film that received glowing reviews for its originality. For my money, there is a vast difference between ‘game changing’ and losing focus.

The problem does not originate with the writers, but with the commercial movie system. Filmmakers are required to pitch their idea to studio execs. The ideal film pitch is high-concept – the film’s central idea should be summated in as few words as possible. That system is fine – films should be about something, and filmmakers should have a clear grasp on what that “something” is. However, writers should begin with a complete vision and summate the conceit based on that whole. The problem is that so many films feel like the idea came first, was pitched, and then had to be developed into a feature.

Cabin in the Woods is one such example. The idea is exhausted within 50 minutes. Beyond that, it feels like the writers have painted themselves into a corner. Since the idea was not fully formed (or edited well enough in the early drafting stage) the only viable response to the self-imposed constraints is to explode outwards, changing direction. No amount of writing-in foreshadowing can alter the fact that the plot of Cabin in the Woods is a tale of two halves, and the opening section is significantly stronger because it contains the narrative’s concepts. Judging solely from the film itself, I am unconvinced that the final reveal was mentioned in the concept-pitch, and have my doubts that the writers even had a definite grasp of that reveal when they first pitched the idea.

Many films suffer from the pressure of having to sustain a narrative for 90+ minutes. Frankly, I would much rather pay half the price to see a coherent, complete, tightly edited 45 minute film than sit through a bloated film like Headspace, or Cabin in the Woods: the filmic equivalent of an easily distracted child.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Making of Jason X

Two behind the scenes videos from Jason X for anyone who is interested in that kind of thing





Monday, 20 May 2013

Cultural Oddities: Kermit the Frog's Favourite Film is....



How did I not guess that it was Miami Connection? I'm assuming his second favourite is No Retreat, No Surrender

Sunday, 19 May 2013

15 Second Review: Needle (2010)

I couldn’t follow this one. I tried, honestly I did. Okay so became bored and started checking my email. Nevertheless, it is not really my fault that I become distracted. In the first ten minutes,  the movie is constituted by an overly-long set of opening credits, a sequence in which someone inexplicitly bleeds to death, followed by a high-school sequence that reminded me of the opening of 2001 Maniacs. Not a promising start, and the film continues in much the same way. Someone goes indoor climbing and starts bleeding. Their climbing buddy shouts “what the f**k is going on?”. I do not think that the statement was intentionally self-reflexive. The few recognisable faces from recent horror movies (John Jarratt from Wolf Creek, Michael Dorman from Triangle, Nathaniel Buzolic from The Vampire Diaries) do not help. In fact, their presence makes this feel even more like a disjointed conflation of “bits” that have been inexpertly stitched together. There is some lame wrap up to suggest coherent motivation, but ultimately Needle just needs to get to the point. as it stands, the movie is unfocused piffle.  

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Latest Issue of Projections Journal: Entertaining Violence




 


The latest issue of Projections Journal (Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 2013) is entitled "Entertaining Violence": it looks like it features some interesting essays that would be worth checking out. You can read Dirk Eitzen's introduction for free at the Journal's website: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/berghahn/proj/2013/00000007/00000001/art00002

Friday, 17 May 2013

Trailer Trash: Why Don't You Play in Hell (2913)


Sion Sono's latest - looks surprisingly light-hearted for Sono...there must be some mistake...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Song of the Day: The Dillinger Escape Plan - When I Lost My Bet

 

Oh those cheeky sell-outs with their soft-hearted ballads - it's all a bit shmooshy and lite, but I can't help but love the cuddly lil' fellas

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Censorship: OFCOM report

 
Ofcom commissioned a public survey of 1830 UK viewers aged 16 and over. A similar survey is published each year so as to be able to track trends.
Ofcom’s summary of results of relevant topics is as follows:
 
Levels of offence on TV
Less than a fifth of UK adults say they have been offended by something on TV in the previous 12 months a similar proportion to the previous year.
  • Almost a fifth (18%) of respondents said they had been offended by something on TV in the previous 12 months, a similar proportion to the 2011 results.
  • Older respondents were more likely than younger people to say they had been offended (27% of over-65s compared to 13% among 16-34s).
  • As in the two previous years, among those offended, language (47%), violence (33%) and sexual content (32%) were the most common causes of offence. But among those offended, fewer people (10%) said they were offended by nakedness than in 2010 (14%) and 2011 (16%).
  • Among those who had been offended, four in ten (39%) agreed with the statement such things should only be shown when viewers are likely to expect them (e.g. after a clear warning), followed by 36% who agreed that others should be allowed to see these things , whereas 20% thought that it should not have been shown .
  • The main reaction on seeing something that caused offence was to switch channel (50%). Almost a quarter (22%) said they switched off, 15% continued watching the programme and 15% discussed it with others.
  • Audiences today are less likely than in 2008 to switch off when they see something that offends them (32% in 2008 vs 22% in 2012) and more likely to continue watching (5% in 2008 vs 15% in 2012).
 
Attitudes towards sex, violence, swearing and harmful content on TV
  • Opinions about the amount of sex, violence and offensive language on TV look to have shifted since 2005; with the proportion saying the amount is about right having steadily increased for each type of content, while the proportion stating too much has declined.
  • The majority of respondents felt that current levels of sex (67%), violence (56%) and swearing (56%) on TV are about right . One in four (24%) felt there was too much sex and just over two in five felt there was too much violence (39%) and swearing (39%). This compares to 36% of adults saying there was too much sex on TV in 2005, with 56% for violence and 55% for swearing.
  • Older respondents were more likely than younger respondents to think levels were about right for each type of content.
  • 16% of respondents said they had seen something on TV in the past 12 months that they thought was harmful, either to themselves, to other adults or children; a similar proportion as in 2011.
 
Protection of children and the TV watershed
Audiences today are more likely than in 2005 to think the 9pm watershed is at about the right time
  • 50% of respondents felt it was the responsibility of both broadcasters and parents to make sure that children do not see unsuitable programmes. Just under half (45%) felt it was mainly parents responsibility and 4% mainly broadcasters .
  • Parents were more likely than those without childcare responsibility to feel it was the responsibility of both broadcasters and parents to ensure that children do not see unsuitable programmes (53% vs 48%), and less likely to say mainly parents (42% vs 46%).
  • Most (96%) were aware that broadcasters are required to show television programmes that are not suitable for children only after a certain time in the evening.
  • Audience today were more likely to think the 9pm watershed was at about the right time, with three-quarters (75%) of respondents saying so. This compares to 64% in 20052 .
 
Internet Censorship
Opinions that the amount of censorship for the internet is too little have increased since 2010.
  • The majority of respondents (88%) thought TV programmes were censored, an increase from 85% in 2010. 74% felt that current levels of TV censorship were about right .
  • 40% thought the internet was censored. Almost half (47%) felt that current levels of internet censorship were too little , (increasing to 54% among parents), 23% said about right and 28% said they didn’t know whether it was about right or not. Since 2010 the proportion of respondents who said they did not know has declined (from 38%).
  • Since 2010 opinions that the amount of censorship for the internet is too little have increased from 41% in 2010 to almost half (47%) of UK adults in 2012. This rises to more than half (53%) among parents.
  • 73% of respondents were aware that it is possible to watch/download programmes online. Awareness declined with age (81% of 16-34s vs 53% of 65+) and parents’ awareness was higher than among those not responsible for children (80% vs 70%).
  • Among those aware that it is possible to watch/download programmes online, 55% thought that the content was censored and 10% thought that it was not. Awareness was higher among 16-34s (57%, compared to 50% of over-65s)

Monday, 13 May 2013

15 Second Review: Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

I imagine the Paranormal Activity script template to look something like this:
-Series recap.
-Mundane events. Quiet. Jump cut. Loud noise caused by everyday events.
-Mundane events. Quiet. Loud noise caused by someone playing a joke. Jump cut.
-Door creaks. Jump cut.
-Mundane events. Jump cut. Quiet. Loud noise caused by everyday events.
-Mundane events. Quiet. Loud noise caused by someone playing a joke. Loud noise caused by jump cut.
-Partial ghost sighting.
-Mundane events. Quiet. Loud noise caused by everyday events.
-Mundane events. Quiet. Loud noise caused by someone playing a joke.
-Low extra-diegetic rumble... PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
-Roll out the green screen. Throw people into the air.
 [- - repeat until 90 minutes have elapsed]
-Lamest shot of the whole film. End Abruptly.
The problem is not that this is a regurgitation of the previous films. It doesn't bring anything new to the plate, but that isn't bad per se. If it ain't broke, right? The problem is that the film relies too much on loud 'bangs' to scare, and that is dull. Worse still, some of the CG is really poor.
The latter might be intentional insofar as Paranormal Activity 4 appears to be an anti-technology/pro-environmentalist movie. The characters seem to think that leaving an Xbox Kinect on and laptop cameras running all night is a way of capturing footage of the increasing paranormal activity.
However, consider it the other way around: the activity increases because the characters leave their electrical goods running 24/7. For those who have seen the film, consider the car/garage sequence. That's right, ghosts are angered by waste. Roll on Ecological Activity 5. With that in mind, my line of the film is this: 'F***ing Prius'

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Steven R Monroe Seeks to Dominate the Female-Revenge Subgenre

Steven R Monroe, director of the 2010 remake of I Spit on Your Grave, has not one but two female led revenge films due for release over the next year.
 
 
The first is MoniKa. The official plot synopsis is as follows: "Reagan Tyler is a man who is troubled by visions and premonitions which ultimately lead him to “old school” Las Vegas. It’s there that Reagan meets the beautiful and mysterious Monika, a young woman who may have been killed the night before he even met her.  Reagan is now forced to put the puzzle together and find out what happened, how she is still present, and how he can help Monika claim her revenge on the killers of her younger sister."
 
 
 
 
The second is I Spit on Your Grave 2, which follows a very simialr plot to its predecessor: “Naturally beautiful, Jessica (Dallender) has just settled into New York where she, like many other young women, is trying to make it as a model. But what starts out as an innocent and simple photo shoot soon turns into something disturbingly unthinkable! Raped, tortured and kidnapped to a foreign country, Jessica is buried alive and left to die. Against all odds, she manages to escape. Severely injured, she will have to tap into the darkest places of the human psyche to not only survive, but to exact her revenge…”
 
I really rate Monroe's I Spit remake, so I'll check these out. However, I do so with the nagging feeling that this might be overkill.
 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Trailer Trash: Vulgaria (2012)


I make no secret of my love for ThirdWindow Films - they have a knack of distributing some of the most fun and interesting films contemporary cinema has to offer. The have just released the widely acclaimed Vulgaria on DVD, so here is a trailer to celebrate!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

15 Second Review: Like Minds (2006)

Sometimes form and theme marry together too comfortably. Like Minds embodies that principle. The film’s tone is every bit as sterile as the environs - a private school and police cells - against which the action is set. The film is as hard to engage with as its characters are.  The lead teens are so precocious that the film also feels pretentious. One teen is deluded, the other is apparently spellbound into a shared madness. It feels as if the filmmakers have been hypnotised by their idea, but they are deluded if they think the viewer will be seduced into a folie a deux. Had the filmmakers pulled that off, I would have heralded Like Minds a work of cinematic genius. Instead, the experience of watching Like Minds is more closely paralleled by another of its character couplings. One lead investigating officer is transfixed into denying the obvious truth of their situation,  while the other is frustrated by their partner's wilful ignorance. Appositely, the viewer is likely to be left angered by the script-writer’s intentional delaying of its final, all-too obvious reveal.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

15 Second Review: Closed Circuit Extreme (2012)


The only thing “extreme” about Closed Circuit Extreme is the amount of patience required to sit through this yawnfest.  Clearly this has been made to ride the found-footage wave, which is a good choice for a micro-budget filmmaker (the film was apparently made for 160 Euros). Less wise were some of the other decisions made, many of which are downright odd. The film is made in Italy, and features Italian actors, yet the script is in English. The result is that the actors – who are already barely credible  - are forced to deliver lines in a stilted manner. Found-footage lives or dies by the credibility of the acting: if The Blair Witch Project epitomises getting it right in this respect, Closed Circuit Extreme encapsulates getting it wrong.  In addition, the flow (and thus the credibility) is frequently broken by strange computer Crime Scene Investigation animations. These are every bit as pointless and irritating as the film’s other elements. The plot, such as it is, offers no respite. The story revolves around a fat man who sits around in his underwear and a couple who decide to film him for apparently no reason at all. Thankfully their endeavours are not wasted, because the overweight and under-dressed man coincidentally begins to interview young women for a non-existent babysitting job, then kidnaps, rapes and murders them. The CCTV cameras the couple install capture it all … well, not quite all…well, some of it … well, plenty of shots of the man in his underwear at least. If that is your idea of a good time, this is the film for you.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Best(?) Slasher Death

The Town the Dreaded Sundown continas one of the most bizarre kill sequences in slasher history



Yeah, that's right. Now bear in mind that The Town that Dreaded Sundown was made in 1976. This is not a post-Friday the 13th effort.  This is not the product of desperate writing in a slasher-saturated market ("how else can we kill someone?"). The sequence also manages to be simultaneously hilarious and creepy as hell.  Way ahead of its time.
Apparently the remake of  The Town that Dreaded Sundown is slated for 2014. If they include an updated "I am the insturment of death" sequence, I will be one happy camper.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

15 Second Review: 247°F

Whereas Jaws sought to scare people away from large bodies of water, 247°F's tagline promises that one will "never step foot in a sauna again". That contrast summates 247°F's limited ambitions more broadly. The film is fine as long as the viewer is content with seeing some young people in swimwear. However, watching ths film is one of the more challenging ways to indulge in such voyeurism. Be prepared to put up with dialogue so whiny that it would test the patience of even the most ardent bikini fan.
Frustratingly, there are some hints of promise here. The narrative is structured as if the writer has tried to experiment and/or provide some intrigue. However, the end result is a film that is confused and badly paced rather than clever. There is nowhere near enough tension, gore, suspense, excitement, character development, or even story to sustain 90 minutes here. What 247°F boils down to is exactly what one might expect from the poster art - teens trapped in a sauna. That five word synopsis is a damned sight faster to read than watching 247°F is, and contains just as much substance as the finished movie does. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

No-one likes being treated unequally....

...even capuchin monkeys. This experiment demonstrates that intolerance for discrimination is built into animal psychology. It also demonstrates that capuchins have great comic timing - keep watching for the "cucumber" capuchin's reaction.