Saturday, 31 August 2013

Torture Porn: Eli Roth's Green Inferno Attains R Rating

Roth's latest - The Green Inferno - has secured an R-Rating from (what sounds like) a reluctant MPAA. Their statement claims that Roth's homage to Cannibal Holocaust contains "aberrant violence and torture, grisly disturbing images, brief graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use". Was it really necessary to use the term "aberrant"? I guess we'll find out when the film finally arrives.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

CFP: GRINDHOUSE: TRANSCULTURAL EXCHANGE ON 42nd STREET, AND BEYOND

CALL FOR CHAPTERS:

GRINDHOUSE: TRANSCULTURAL EXCHANGE ON 42nd STREET, AND BEYOND

Edited by Austin Fisher (University of Bedfordshire, UK) and Johnny Walker (Northumbria University, UK)

ABSTRACT DEADLINE: FRIDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2013


To walk along New York’s 42nd Street was, from the 1960s to the 1980s, to undergo a kaleidoscopic encounter with an array of international film genres. In this the golden age of the “grindhouse” movie theatre, disparate cinematic cultures rubbed shoulders on the same bills. Long since celebrated as a melting pot of “cult” cinema, this distribution model would nevertheless be the cradle for some of the most culturally visible of contemporary filmic sensibilities. This book looks beneath the lurid marquees to tell the myriad stories at the heart of this transcultural process and, by examining these genres in turn, illuminates them in their national, historical and cultural contexts. By contextualising commonplace notions of a sleazy underbelly of drug pushers and peep-shows, it locates the American grindhouse as a site of cultural blending, in which audiences actively consumed and took possession of these diverse genres.

The volume's methodological emphasis will be on detailed historical, cultural and political specificity throughout: firstly, to offer close contextual readings of the emergence and lifespan of a number of disparate genres in their own places of origin; and secondly, through a focus on patterns of distribution and consumption that have subsequently contributed to these genres’ cultural legacy. The tension between specialised contextual knowledge on the one hand, and recognition of the unstable nature of local identities on the other will be interrogated, negotiated and bridged. The intention is not therefore to position the USA as an inevitable hub of cinematic consumption. Rather, it is to look with historically-informed nuance at a cultural moment during which these genres found themselves being consumed side-by-side, through detailed explorations of the cultural-political tentacles that led to, and emanated from, this confluence.

Topics that will likely provide the volume with its key case studies include, but are not limited to:
  1. Grindhouse genres: from pornography to Italian westerns to Blaxploitation to Chambara to Ozploitation (and beyond).
  2. An American porn actor in Italy: Grindhouse “stars”, past and present.
  3. From “Vincent Dawn” to “Clifford Brown”: Non-US directors and their Americanised personas.
  4. Django, Django and Django: Repackaging and retitling.
  5. Grindhouse audience studies.
  6. Grindhouse theatres.
  7. From directors to distribution: the continued influence of grindhouse on international film and film culture.
A variety of approaches are encouraged, with likely chapters covering genres' forebears, lifespans or legacies, conception, production, distribution or consumption.
Abstracts of 300 words should be sent to austin.fisher@beds.ac.uk AND jonathan.walker@ymail.com , accompanied by a short author biography detailing publications and/or research interests and institutional affiliation, by Friday 20th September 2013.

 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Robert Englund on Come Dine with Me



How did I miss this? Robert Englund appearing on Come Die...err Come Dine with Me. It is only a shame that none of his courses featured ham.
Watch the full show at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBTy7OCjC4M

Monday, 26 August 2013

15 Second Review: Spring Breakers (2012)


Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers looks great, but comes across as vacuous. However, that is also the point. The opening sequence - which emulates the aesthetic of glossy music promos - is such a jarring shift from the Korine of Gummo, Julien Donkey Boy and Trash Humpers that the intention is apparent. The movie's nubile teens are out for fun... at any cost, consequences be damned. I will not say much more about their descent (to do so would be to spoil the film). What matters is that the protagonists' myopic outlook is mirrored in the film form: the movie is "pretty" on the surface, but lacks substance (character development, narrative meat). The only character I really cared about leaves before the party really gets started, and the plot unravels until it becomes so fantastically clichéd and vapid it is only matched by the "ideal" spring break stereotypes that open the film. Casting Disney Princesses Gomez and Hudgens is a smart move, as was having the cast sing two Britney Spears songs. These details anchor the already present themes: (a) growing up too quickly in an image-saturated culture, and (b) the difficulties of bridging between childhood and sexual maturity.
Unfortunately for Korine, these clever ploys backfire somewhat. Because Spring Breakers'  subtext takes over the form and the story, its themes are not developed fully: they feel shallow. Moreover, since the characters and plot are so depthless, the film comes across as only being "about" its ghostly connotations rather than being about the story onscreen: the denoted is demoted. Ultimately, Spring Breakers is not a bad piece of filmmaking, but it is a frustrating film.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

15 Second Review: House of Flesh Mannequins (2009)


House of Flesh Mannequins' blend of (somewhat) graphic sex, (not especially) graphic murder, filmmaking and pornography reminded me of A Serbian Film. Yet, released in 2009, House of Flesh Mannequins beat its (in)famous counterpart to the punch. The comparison implies a problem:  although released before A Serbian Film, House of Flesh Mannequins is utterly overshadowed by Spasojevic's movie. A Serbian Film is nastier, glossier, better acted, more violent, wittier, more narratologically complex, thematically richer and more memorable than Domiziano Cristopharo's effort. House of Flesh Mannequins draws inspiration from horror films such as Peeping Tom and perhaps even the work of David Lynch. Cristopharo overtly aims to create art-horror. However, that aim impedes the film: the result is neither as artistic nor horrific as it ought to be. I have not yet seen any of Cristopharo's subsequent films, but his debut is hampered by self-consciousness. Hopefully his other films are pitched towards the audience rather than being bogged down in navel gazing. Given the film's themes, it all feels slightly w**ky.  
 

Friday, 23 August 2013

15 Second Review: American Horror Story: Asylum (2012)

American Horror Story: Asylum is probably a "love it or hate it" affair. Luckily (for me) I fall into the former camp. The first half of the series may well have put off many viewers with its bombardment of direct homages to iconic films such as A Clockwork Orange and The Exorcist, and its broader inclusion of gene standards (slasher killers, Nazi doctors, wicked nuns, alien abductions, and ghouls in the woods). This "see if it sticks" method is entertaining, but shallow. :Luckily, the series settles down in its second half. Those willing to tolerate sequences of an adult (Franka Potente) claiming to be Anne Frank are rewarded with a more focused attention on story and character as the series progresses. A healthy tolerance to jumps in chronology is also required, as the script fits forwards and backwards in time at a rate that some may find alarming. Yet - contradictory as it may sound - one of the series' strengths is its pacing. American Horror Story benefits from its season-long cycles, which allow the writers to tie off the stories (without the need to set up a sequel series). The series begins winding down three or four episodes before the final frame. In an age of rushed denouements, this is most welcome. There are two other points of note. First, as far as television goes, this is one of the most horrific series I have seen. Second, Jessica Lange is majestic. She easily stole the first series, but here... it is worth watching the series for her performance alone. Roll on Coven.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Trailer Trash: Warning (2013)



Hmm, Warning indeed. Seemingly inspired by recent films such as Shark Night, Bait and Sharknado, Bollywood have jumped on the shark bandwagon (or should that be "jumped the shark"?). I realise that "inspired by...Sharknado" sounds oxymoronic. Judging by the trailer above, Warning looks like it might just be moronic.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Trailer Trash: Arcana (2013)



Miike returns to horror  - can the world keep up with this prolific overlord? I can't

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

15 Second Review: Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013) is a minor triumph. Its brief run-time is suitably efficient. The "intervention" device is refreshing, providing the teens with a legitimate impetus to stay in the cabin and reason to disbelieve Mia in the early stages of her transformation. The cinematography is great, especially in the climactic sequence. It is as gory as hell, but what stands out is the amount of nasty, affecting injuries on display: there is nothing like stabbing someone in the face with a hypodermic needle to induce a sharp intake of breath. Is it 'the most terrifying film' I have ever experienced (as the tagline promised)? No. However, it was an enjoyable and often aesthetically striking film.
There is much hatred for this film floating in the pits of IMDB, most of which emanates from perturbed fanboys who do not seem to have noticed that: (a) "remake" is just a way of selling sequels to a broader audience, (b) the original Evil Dead was not as comedic as many seem to think it was (it was just a little hokey and cheap in places), and (c) the aesthetics of horror have altered since the mid-1980s. I like the original as much as the next fanboy, but times change. All the haters whining on about poor acting, unbelievable elements in the story and lack of character development are clearly misremembering the original. Those elements may be present in the remake, but so too was the original: in fact, the original was guilty on these counts to a far greater extent. There is room on my shelf for both movies (but no room in my life for the IMDB hate-brigade).


Monday, 19 August 2013

Cultural Oddities: Donut Quest

Yep, we've all been there haven't we? The timeless tragic tale: boy meets donut...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Cultural Oddities: Dominique for TWELVE HOURS

 
I have just finished watching American Horror Story: Asylum. Anyone who has seen it will realise why the prospect of listening to this wonderful song for twelve hours straight sounds like a challenge worth considering. Congratulations to whoever had the idea to upload this to Youtube.
 
 

 
If you are a wuss, why not try the shorter version?



 
If you thought that was bad, try this. I made it through 2mins 58 seconds.
 
 
Surely Jesus did not have this in mind when he made the internet...
 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

15 Second Review: Cherrybomb (2009)

Cherrybomb has a strong cast and is competently directed, but ultimately suffers from a sluggish script that goes nowhere. The opening suggests that the protagonists will spiral out of control, but what that amounts to is a host of clichés: teens experiment with drugs (GASP!), have sexual experiences (DEAR LORD!), steal a car and crash it (YIKES!), and finally break into the local leisure centre (yawn...err, I mean YOWZA!). The film is more earnest and complicated than I am making it sound, but I hope to have captured its central flaw. Teen behaviour is routinely sensationalised in media representations, Cherrybomb comes off as  a cross between a half-hearted Daily Mail editorial crossed with a humourless Porky's. To whit, My Super Sweet Sixteen is more dramatic and horrifying than this film. Worse still, it feels either like the writer has lived an utterly sheltered life (and so finds the events genuinely shocking), or is writing directly from personal experience, in which case they need to realise that their life is not interesting enough to sustain a movie. Even the ridiculous tagged on ending fails to stir. In short, Cherrybomb needed to be explosive, but unfortunately it is a dud.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Torture Porn Book Site


I have just published a micro site for Torture Porn: Popular Horror After Saw.

Access here:

Thursday, 15 August 2013

New Snuff Book Website

 
 
The website for a new anthology on Snuff film - Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media - has been launched. Check it out here www.snuffmovie.co.uk
 
 
 
Description from the site:
 
The phenomenon of so-called ‘snuff movies’ (films that allegedly document real acts of murder, specifically designed to ‘entertain’ and sexually arouse the spectator) represents a fascinating socio-cultural paradox. At once unproven, yet accepted by many, as emblematic of the very worst extremes of pornography and horror, moral detractors have argued that the mere idea of snuff constitutes the logical (and terminal) extension of generic forms that are dependent primarily upon the excitement, stimulation and, ultimately, corruption of the senses.

This books brings together some of film and media studies’ leading and newest voices to assess the longevity of one of screen media’s most enduring cultural myths. Drawing on new research and theoretical perspectives, the contributions in this volume address areas ranging from exploitation movies, the video industry, trends in contemporary horror cinema, pornography, Web 2.0 and performance art in their quest to locate precisely where the cultural mythology of the snuff movie is situated within a twenty-first century mind-set.
Thorough, provocative, and well argued, Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media should appeal to anyone interested in this controversial cultural phenomenon.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Short Film: Donut Cats in Japan




If only it had been Donut Monkeys vs Columbo...but hey, I'll take what I can get. Worth watching for the  end credits alone. Strangely, it left me with the same feeling I get after eating a donut.  This could be my new diet regime...

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Trailer Trash: Krrish 3 (2013)

Hell yeah... it's about time

See No Evil 2 Directed by the Soska Twins

 
 
Over at their Penny Dreadful blog, Jen and Sylv Soska have announced that they have signed up to direct Lionsgate/WWE's See No Evil 2. The first film was a steaming pile of doodie - sub-slasher cack starring the wrestler Kane. Will the Soskas be able to bring a spark of excitement to a project that barely anyone wants to see? I certainly hope so. Given their sheer enthusiasm and a good run of successes, I have every hope that this could be one of the gleaming sequels that rises above the original.
 
Below is their official statement on taking over the film:
 
"We are beyond excited to be pairing with WWE Studios and Lionsgate on SEE NO EVIL 2. We’ve been WWE fans from way back in the day. We actually started watching in the very time frame that Kane was introduced. I had no idea what I was getting into when we were channel surfing and saw the Undertaker addressing the crowd, pleading for them to hear his side of the story regarding his fabled brother. From that very moment, we were hooked and you can be damn sure we were watching that fated PPV event, Bad Blood, during Hell in a Cell, when Kane dynamically made his debut. To be working with Kane is very special for us.

That very year, Lionsgate Entertainment formed in our own hometown of Vancouver and since has proven itself again and again to be a trailblazer in the film industry. It’s been a long time aspiration for us to work with both these phenomenal companies and to be able to work with both on this project is truly a dream realized.

Great things come in twos, proven more so by the sensational script penned by Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby and though our lips our sealed as to any details on the story itself, we can say that even those who think they know what they’ll be getting are going to be blown away. We could not be happier." ~Jen and Sylvia Soska

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The New Dr Who - One Question...


Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor Who. The question on everyone's lips: how far into the first episode will he refer to the TARDIS as 'The f**king TURDIS'?

Monday, 5 August 2013

15 Second Review: Dead Island (Xbox360, 2011)

First, the bad news. Dead Island is glitchy as Hell: zombies regularly walk through walls and the game suffers from under-running when too many zombies enter the screen space, for instance. Some missions require precision jumping, and the control system is not designed to handle such motion. There is little opportunity to escape the onset of a zombie horde: I spent more time running past from zombies than I did fighting them. The Ryder Campaign is especially frustrating – I found myself sprinting to reach the next checkpoint before I died rather than trying to stand and fight. Now, here is the good news. Those faults aside, there is plenty to do here. The side missions are quite fun and are compulsive – in spite of its faults, I played this for hours. In fact, I played through to the end. Amassing some ultra-destructive weapons and learning the island’s layout really increases the game’s appeal.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

15 Second Review: Norwegian Ninja (2010)

 
Norwegian Ninja commits the worst crime it possibly could – it is dull. To be more specific, Norwegian Ninja is neither funny nor strange enough to carry the film, even for 80 minutes. Unfortunately, movies like this need “WTF?” moments aplenty if they are to succeed. The premise – Norwegian Ninjas – ought to supply such incidents, but writer/director Thomas Cappelen Malling has dropped the ball. A missed opportunity. Do not be fooled by the title and cover: Robogeisha it ain’t. Give me Ninja III: The Domination (1984) any day.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

15 Second Review: Jekyll (2007)

This modern-day adaptation of the Jekyll and Hyde story is a mixed affair. The tone is rather unsettled, swinging between overt comedy, science fiction, thriller, romantic drama, and (unintentionally funny?) stabs at horror. The result does not cohere, and is frequently cheesy. That said, the series benefits from James Nesbitt’s enthused turn as the titular Dr…. Jackman. It genuinely feels like Nesbitt is having enormous fun in his dual role/s. The main reason to watch is simply Steven Moffatt’s writing, which is as delightfully witty as ever. As a master of playful dual perspectives, the Jekyll/Hyde split provides Moffatt with numerous opportunities to merge multiple meanings. Moffatt also pays attention to the practical problems that arise from two personalities sharing a single body, which range from the minor (one wakes with a headache because the other has been drinking all night) to the major (one of them is married with kids, the other is a violent womaniser). Mundane as they may sound, they provide some of the series’ most imaginative and entertaining moments. Elsewhere, Moffatt’s wonderfully economic writing takes centre stage. For example, on a first-date one character is told not to make her usual mistakes: don’t try to be funny, don’t intimidate him, and don’t come across as a gold-digger. When her date opens with ‘what do you do?’, she responds ‘rich men’. It is worth watching Jekyll for these gems alone.

Friday, 2 August 2013

15 Second Review: Moonwalker (1988)


Imagine sitting a hyperactive four year old in front of a series of Michael Jackson videos, intercut with a) an episode of Go-bots, b) a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and c) an anti-drugs public information film. Now, get the energetic child to describe what they have just seen. Write it down. I can only imagine the incomprehensible gibberish that would result is what Moonwalker’s “story” must have looked like when Jackson drafted it. The screenwriter deserves a Nobel prize for bringing this to screen, however bizarre the results are. Part music video, part homage to other cultural touchstones (including Transformers), and part onanistic ego-fantasy, Moonwalker is as curious as it is incoherent. The trailer promises that it is ‘a movie like no other’, and in fairness that is an accurate description. 90 minutes of “stuff”, the film is visually exciting to a fault: it is the ultimate MTV movie in the worst possible sense. The Smooth Criminal section is immaculately choreographed, and is easily the most impressive element of the movie. The “afterschool special” anti-drug vibe is admirable in intent, but is hilariously over-pitched. The resolution is coded as conventional love story clinch, but occurs between Michael and three kids, and so the film does nothing but damage to the allegations of child abuse that would follow. The movie has value as an artefact of Jackson’s fame and of 1980s popular culture. As a narrative? Moonwalker is the cinematic equivalent of being beaten with a copy of Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

15 Second Review: Slasher House (2013)


Right, it is rant time. Slasher House suffers from a serious technical problem: the sound mix is so bad, that it renders the film virtually unwatchable. Mumbled dialogue is drowned out by echoes and background noise. Turning the volume up to hear said dialogue is not an option because the “scary” bits are so much louder than the speech. Riding the volume control for the duration is not an appealing prospect, and hardly makes for a gripping experience. Since the filmmakers evidently do not care if the audience has to struggle to access the dialogue, then I suppose the script does not matter. Subtitles are not included, so the distributors evidently agree with that (damning) assessment. The plot – or at least what is graspable without full access to the script – is babble. On the plus side, the saturated green-lighting (although over-used) helps to mask how cheap the film is, and the contrasting red tones work well. However, if writer/director/editor/co-producer/ cinematographer/costumer designer MJ Dixon wishes to rise above mediocrity, he or she should take on less. They should at least seek the assistance of a talented sound designer and mixer rather than taking on too much themselves. As it stands, Dixon puts the ‘hack’ in hack’n’slash.