Sunday, January 31, 2010

Colin



Colin
Directed by: Marc Price
UK, 2008
Horror /Drama, 97min
Distributed by: Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment.

I’m not too much for writing on modern horror. Sure I’ll watch it, enjoy it and every now and again one of them will bring something new to the scene. But I can’t see myself returning to the movies of the last decade with the same passion as the movies of my youth – well possibly some of the J-horror’s, the South Korean scene, a couple of American flicks, and the terrific wave of stuff to have come out of Europe these last few years – but not in the same way as the movies that shaped my passion for genre cinema did. They just seem to lack that curiosity, lust for exploration and naïveté that movies of the past had, again with a few exceptions of course. These are the movies that have me thinking of them the morning after I have seen them. These are the ones that stick in my mind and actually are worth the time putting down my thoughts on. These are the ones that probably will be referred to in the next decade.

Every now and again Independent cinema produces some amazing horror features shot on minimal budgets giving maximum effect. Many of my favourite movies - and yours - are movies produced by devotees outside the major studios. Movies that are shot on an almost nonexistent budget and are made by true enthusiasts who know exactly what they want out of their minimalistic production. And most often they have a completely new innovative idea that they have come up with which makes the movie so much better than the usual larger studio churn outs.
Marc Price’s 2008 indie horror film, and first feature, Colin is one of those films that stands out and is definitely much more interesting than a lot of the contemporary horror.

Supposedly shot on a budget just under a fifty pounds Colin is an interesting and rather impressive movie even though it has some flaws. I’ll return to them later. It holds high quality, an intriguing narrative and a fascinating rush of insight at the end of the movie. It plays with the Zombie genre and respectfully holds it close to home, and several references to other great movies of the genre are apparent. The unique twist to Colin is the unique choice of having Colin, the lead protagonist, actually be a zombie. We see the world through the zombie’s perspective.

I’ll give you a run through of the movie's premise without spoiling it, because it is a movie that should be seen. So, starting off with the protagonist Colin coming home from an off camera struggle we see him enter his home, shout for his friend, who obviously doesn’t answer we are introduced to our leading man. Washing up after the off camera fight he realizes that he has a bite on his arm – a bite that means one thing – he’ll return when he dies. In panic he tries to wash the bite and misses to see that his flat mate Damien shuffles into the kitchen and bites his deeply in the back of the neck, securing that within a few minutes this character will be coming back from the dead. A battle takes place, where Colin violently rams a kitchen knife repeatedly into the head of his flatmate Damien. This opening montage sets the tone, we now know that this movie is going to be violent, we know that the camerawork will be shaky and handheld giving that guerrilla style faux documentary style of photography. The score is going to be low key, and I don’t know if there ever was a movie to open on such an ominous tone – as you know that a bite from a zombie means definitive damnation. Protagonists set in a damned world filled with zombies is one thing, but starting out as a zombie, that is profoundly dark.

Colin [played by Alastair Kirton] turns into a zombie, and starts his journey. So far we do not know to where or why – the thread that will give that rush of insight at the end – but until then we will merely observe him as he shuffles his way through the streets seeming to just be roaming, like zombies do in zombie films. But no adventure is complete without it’s fair share of obstacles and trials, which Colin faces several along his way. During the course there are vigilante zombie slayers, zombie hordes that wreak havoc, and even family members that become part of Colin’s trial. The thing that I liked the most is that the film stays true to the mood set in the opening sequence. There are no cheesy gag’s that try to go for a few bursts of relief giving laughs. It stays dark, brooding, and sinister throughout. And being a zombie, Colin obviously decomposes more and more as time goes by. Scars do not heal, and a painfully looking facial wound that he receives when a gang of slayers chuck a pipe bomb at the zombies looks completely revolting at the end of the film. Because the film does end, Colin tattered and torn, but finally reaching the end of his objective, and in some twisted way the ending is almost an opposite of the opening. Where the movie opens on a downer, it lands on an upper – a twisted sick upper, but still a positive compared to the negative of the start.

Now then why are people raving about this flick then? What makes it so special? What does his low budget zombie flick bring with it that none have before? Well if you want my sincere opinion on it I’d call it a love drama set in a horror milieu. Shocked? Well yes of course you are, but that is what I consider it to be and I’m sure that you will see this when you reach the end of the movie. As said before there is a rush of insight that I feel almost equals the one at the end of M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense 1999. You realise that you have been watching Colin in a conscious journey, a journey based on the most positive of all values - Love. And when you come to this conclusion, watch the film once again, and you will see all the referents delicately planted throughout the movie, the colour signifiers, the signs, and the motifs that drive, or perhaps by instinct direct Colin towards his goal, all make sense when you know what they represent. It’s a really splendid weave that Price has woven together here, and I agree with the critics that claim it to be one of the most interesting zombie films for a long time.

Another little detail that fascinates me is the power that narrative has on us, and just how easily we, the audience, are manipulated into taking sides. Simply because we have spent some time with Colin we actually take sides with him. There’s a scene where some guys attack him and try to steal his sneakers – and you find yourself hoping that he’s going to make it out “alive” without them succeeding with their theft. Now when you sit there rooting for the zombie - a figure that otherwise usually only is there so that a protagonist can smash, or blow their heads to smithereens – then you know that you have been mind fucked by some serious dramaturgy and a well written screenplay. It’s an interesting approach that hasn’t been utilised in the zombie genre before to my knowledge. Although George A. Romero did this slightly in Day of the Dead 1985, Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead 2004 has a similar themed finale and Bruce La Bruce uses the same approach as Colin in his 2008 gay comedy horror movie Otto; or up with Dead People, and I’m sure that it will be used again.

Colin is a intelligent and engaging movie, although the main problem I have with the film is that it’s way too long. The movie, just like the zombie Colin, simply shuffles forth and suffers from many tedious sequences. In the most humble way I would definitely have recommended Price to have cut at least a half an hour or more out of the movie, because there are some really slow and unnecessary parts that wouldn’t be missed if they weren’t there. The removal of that tiresome footage would end up giving him a compact hour of interesting zombie mayhem that still would stand out and be unique in its own way.

Neither is the proactive zombie a new novelty in any way, we have seen zombies make active choices and take actions before, as early as 1979 Lucio Fulci, with the help of Elsa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti's screenplay for Zombi 2 sees the amazing Zombie vs.’ Shark scene – a possibly first action taken outside the norm. And in George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead 1985 he has Bub the zombie (played by Sherman Howard) take actions outside the usual hunt for food criteria that befalls zombies. A theme Romero constantly returns to in his movies, giving the zombie more conscious than a simple eating machine. But Colin holds a revelation, as you now may actually see, a revelation that affects all zombie films that have staggered their way past us before. The until now aimless wandering of the zombie may actually be conscious making decisions. Remember that scene in Romero’s excellent Dawn of the Dead 1978 when the lead characters discuss why all the zombies have returned to the mall? Well they say that it’s because the dead return to the old patterns they followed when in life, and this becomes even more obvious in Colin. Perhaps all zombies actually have an agenda that they are following, simply stopping to chomp down on a some human brains and entrails along the way.


All in all, Yeah I enjoyed Colin more as the movie ended, after I had had that rush of insight, but the journey there is way to slow and uninteresting, because there’s nothing really new in there – so it’s fair to say that Colin is a smart and intriguing movie that should have been shorter, and one of the few movies of the genre that actually get’s better on the second viewing. It’s apparent that Marc Price knows his storytelling and as far as I’m concerned he could possibly hold the future of modern horror in his hands.

Image:
Full screen 4:3

Audio:
Dolby Digital 2.0, or Dolby Digital 5.1 – unfortunately there are no subtitle options, but then again there is hardly any dialogue to talk about anyways.

Extras:
There’s a decent package of extras on the 2disc special edition. Disc one has an entertaining Audio commentary by director Price, Alastair Kirton, and several other key actors and crew. Disc two contains a forty-minute documentary on the making of Colin, which gives further insight into the movie and process behind it. And finally there are five deleted scenes, which could have been fifteen if you ask me, that play with optional commentary by Price.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Martin



Martin
Directed by: George A. Romero
Horror / Drama, 1977
USA, 95min
Distributed by: Anchor Bay


Martin, one of the finest pieces of George A. Romero’s cinematic heritage, along with Night of the Living Dead 1968 and it’s sequel Dawn of the Dead 1978, sees Romero place all the cards on the table and present truly believable situation that much like his previous living dead movies, deconstructs contemporary horror.

The seventies vampire scene belonged to Hammer, Christopher Lee, Jean Rollin with his scantily clad vampire damsels, and the great EuroGoth films out of Spain and Italy, not to mention those dreamy, surreal Eastern European flicks of that time period, and the phenomenon that is Blacula! Capes, Bats, fog, fangs, fake blood and naked women stowed away in a musky castle cellar where synonymous with vampire films – and in some way still are but now it’s bats, fog, fangs, fake blood and naked women gyrating away to techno soundtracks in a musky nightclub cellar. I find vampire movies quite boring, as it’s all pretty much the same, and they are so inhibited by all those rules. Zombies are more my bag, as they are just mean fucked up munching machines from hell. Vampire movies that go for the jugular and blend in the eroticism that’s often associated with the vampire are much more appealing than the spooky Count stalking the nearest village. And that eroticism - with the whole forced Freudian analysis thing where they claim it’s all about male dominance, the fangs representing the male phallus and the bite penetration and all that shit. Well sit those mumbo-jumbo analytics down in front of a Jean Rollin movie and ask them where they male dominance is to be found, and they’d have a hernia. We all know that Rollin is a tribute to woman, and those films bust the old Freudian analysis right open.

Martin on the other hand is a very different vampire movie to the ones that where being made in the seventies, as it is set in a modern world, has no gothic iconography what so ever, but instead plays out against the backdrop of urban industrialized Pittsburgh. Neither is there any outspoken romantic subplot where young maidens swoon over the vampire, instead we see the young (or is he) Martin falling for a middle aged woman – a real desperate house wife - who in her state of depression takes a fancy for the boy. It’s fantastic stuff that should have made a larger impact when it was released, but instead has somewhat fell off the map only to come back as a late night cult favourite.

Martin Matthias [John Amplas – who starred in four more Romero films after this one] is a young man with a problem; he thinks that he might be a vampire. He finds himself in a complicated situation where he must sedate and draw blood from his victims to calm his lust for blood. But is it really vampirism that drives his blood lust, or is the prejudices that are held against him? Right off the bat, during the opening scene we find out just how complex Martin’s situation really is as he prepares his syringes, breaks into a single woman’s train compartment, and sedates her only to slit her wrists and drink her blood. Arriving in Pittsburgh, his much older cousin Tada Cuda [Lincoln Maazel – who only starred in this movie] receives him and takes him to his house so that he can watch over him. Cuda is sure that Martin is Nosferatu. Martin’s other cousin Christina [Christine Forrest – Romero’s wife, and who almost always has a part on his movies, either behind or in front of the camera] also lives in the house, and her boyfriend is played by Romero compadre Tom Savini, this time without his trademark moustache. Cuda holds Martin under strict surveillance, only being permitted to leave the house when going errands as Cuda’s delivery boy. But this doesn’t stop Martin from meeting other people…among them desperate housewife Abbie Santini [Elyane Nadeau – who also only ever starred in this one] …and feeding. Tension builds between the two men as Cuda accuses Martin of the deaths in the area, but still the test’s he sets for him fail to prove that he is a vampire. Martin and Abbie’s relationship grows, and after a failed exorcism, where among others Romero as a priest also takes part at the pre-dinner, cousin Christina removes the religious artefacts in their house, traps set to expose Martin, as she thinks Cuda is getting lost in his stupid superstition - it seems as if Martin is finally finding his place in the world. But, and no movie is complete with out it’s but, in one ironic final twist concerning Martin’s affair with Abbie leads Coda to take drastic measures and the ultimate test is posed.
Where many Vampire movies often have a dilemma being that the vampire and vampire hunter often are both as appealing to the audience, it’s fascinating to watch Romero’s Martin, and notice that the classic roles of Vampire - protagonist, Hunter – antagonist get flipped around and set at very separate sides of the spectrum. In the classic Universal Dracula from 1931 you forcefully root for Dracula [Bela Lugosi] at the same time as you root for lead protagonist, Professor Van Helsing [Edward Van Sloan]. It’s the same complex relationship you find in the Hammer films from the seventies, Count Dracula as portrayed by the charismatic Christopher Lee vs. Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. Even later in 1992 when Francis Ford Coppola updated the legend, you couldn’t help but being drawn to the eroticized, and empathized Dracula as played by Gary Oldman at the same time that you somewhere want Van Helsing [Anthony Hopkins] to put an end to the terrors of the Count.

Martin flips this relationship head over heels, and the longer we spend with Martin, the more it becomes apparent that he’s the real protagonist fighting his own desires and complexity against his cousin Tada Cuda who is the only person really convinced that Martin is a vampire. Cuda’s harsh ways soon manipulate us into favouring Martin and viewing Cuda as the bad guy. That’s also why the ending is so down beat, if we didn’t empathize with Martin we would be rooting for Cuda.

But a vampire or not? It’s a bold choice that Romero makes when he at no point in the film actually states if Martin is or isn’t a child of the night. Is Martin a vampire or is it all a psychological delusion of his? Romero never once gives us a solid answer, although the movie is riddled with clues to the truth, it’s an open question. One could consider that Martin’s elder cousin Cuda is so terribly much older than Martin – is it because Martin is a vampire stuck in the age he was when he was turned? Or perhaps those flashbacks that Martin has of a woman – obviously a taunting lover – who flees his grasp as she runs through gothic surroundings in a skimpy nightdress. The blood drinking – is he a vampire, or just a psychological mess…? Is the late night radio name that Martin takes, The Count, only an on air pseudonym, or is he really a descendant of the count…? It’s all up to the audience to make that decision and I like that Romero leaves this decision to me and doesn’t rub it in my face. Which also brings one to wonder about Cuda’s psychological state, and the actions he takes in the movie… who is the real monster?

Watching it now it’s easy to see how this movie is unique in its approach to the serial killer as a humane creature. Characters are filled with depth and complex layers, emotions are important to the narrative, and vampire mythology is cast aside in favor of a new updated mythos, which keeps us in the dark concerning Martin’s being. Romero makes a great job of laying out the rules that relate to this urban vampire tale and clearly marks the spots where classic Vampire mythology is reinvented and (at the time) brought up to date for the plot almost mocking the old in favor of the new. There's a metaphor for Romero in there too if you can see it. the new mocking the old. Most of the good old vampire weak spots are tried out in the quest to prove if Martin is a vampire or not.

The fusion between Romero’s script and Amplas terrific portrayal of the antagonized protagonist Martin is a wonderful experience, and you truly feel for this character. Much like Let the Right One In 2008, Martin mainly works because of the horror traits and themes being brought into the real world, and classsic drama. There are no hissing vampire women lurking in he back room of the club, there’s no transformation into a bat and flapping around the location, there are no special plasma drinks for vampires that have come out of the closet. Its just Martin against the world, a normal world that see him as a monstrosity.

As on most of Romero’s movies from this time period, he has his regular crew with him on the production, - Michael Gornick, Tony Buba, Tom Savini, and I feel that Donald Rubenstein’s score for Martin is among one of the better ever put to a Romero film.

So put the Romero Zombie flicks to one side, and check out Martin now. It is a masterpiece of Modern Horror.

Image:
Fullframe 4:3

Audio:
Dolby Digital Mono, English Dialogue

Extras:
Not a lot; a theatrical trailer, and a somewhat interesting audio commentary with George A. Romero, Tom Savini and John Amplas.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Dead Don't Talk / Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder - Turkish Horror Double Bill


The Dead Don’t Talk
Original Title: Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki
Directed by: Yavuz Yalinkiliç
Turkey, 1970
Horror, 76 min.
Distributed by: Onar Films


As you may recall in my rant on Kutluğ Ataman’s The Serpent’s Tale (Karnalik Sular) and the Turkish cinema – Yesilçam- it also had it’s own spectacular rise and fall producing some amazing movies of the fantastic genres during a brief period. But one of the most saddening facts about this time period is that when ticket sales once again halted and distributors and companies in a search to reclaim their money took drastic measures to get back their investments. Selling what they could to TV and foreign Video distribution, many of the movies left where destroyed to extract the silver contained in the prints. You can just imagine the amounts of films lost for all eternity for the small winnings that the devastating process gave in return.

With the tragic butchering of cinematic pop culture that took place in the mid eighties, it’s no wonder that the missing movies of their Fantastic scene are such sought after delights, and in some ways we do not demanded to have restored widescreen images and Dolby Digital 5.1 re-mastered soundtracks for these rarities – we will make do with what can be found – after all it’s either these releases or not at all. And it is fascinating to see the treasure hunters, or cinematic archaeologists if you like, come out from their intense searches with cultural heritage that one has thought missing forever now returned from the dead, no longer banished to the land of the Lost.

Onar Films Horror Double feature is a splendid investment for anyone who wants’ to get a grasp of what horror in Turkey could be like, as it features two movies made during the early seventies that are two completely different ways of approaching horror. One a classical old-school ghost in the haunted house flick and the other a contemporary arty Giallo flick with razor wielding killers, hot dames and eclectic soundtrack. In their own way, both movies are highly interesting, and also the short two years in between them goes to show just how fast trends and audience demands can shift, both creating and breaking new ground.

Fist out, Yavuz Yalinkiliç’s 1970, black and white Goth haunted house horror Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki (The Dead Don’t Talk) which they do, and even laugh ominously on each given occasion – so perhaps the dead laugh may have been a better title.

Yalinkiliç wastes no time setting the tone, creepy music and sinister laughter echo over the opening credits – and that’s pretty much the tone that you will get throughout the film, light hearted Goth horror not to different to the A.I.P films of the US, European flicks from Spain, France Italy and obviously the Hammer films of the UK produced during the sixties and seventies.

Melih [Aytekin Akkaya – one of the greatest Turkish genre stars along with Cünyet Arkin], and Oya, have been invited up to the mansion of the late Mr. Adem, presumably on business. It’s the 15th night of the month, and their coach driver makes sure to point this out to the youngsters before dropping them off outside the mansion and taking off like a bat out of hell. Melih and Oya enter the mansion only to find it empty, but strangely enough, the table in the dining room is set for two. The enigmatic servant Hassan [Giray Alpan – who actually looks like Vincent Price!] makes an entrance and greets them with phrases like Mr. Adem’s soul will be pleased. Later on Hassan lures away Oya to a living room sporting an executioners block and a portrait of a woman. He breaks down in tears in front of the photograph bawling on about how the woman, just like all beauties, leave him to wander the halls of the mansion alone. Later that night as Oya sleeps, Melih investigates the strange sounds he hears from downstairs and encounters the ghoul! The ghoul [Jirayir Ciracki] laughs as Melih empties his gun into the entity and stomps menacingly forth.

With some splendid in camera trick cinematography and the use of mirrors the ghoul seems to be indestructible as Melih shoot’s into a mirror. But the ghost can’t be stopped and both Melih and Oya lose their lives to the hands of the ghoul. Now we have had a pretty long set up of the ghost, the mansion and the curse of the fifteenth day, when the ghoul rises from his tomb.

Time to bring on the second batch, the new schoolteacher Sema [Sema Yaprak] arrives with the coach from the opening scene. She rides past two herdsmen, Kerem and Hodja. Meeting up the Director (the headmaster) Mr. Nuri, she installs herself in the mansion of Mr. Adem. Pretty soon the laughing ghost is up and about again, Hassan pulls his “woe poor me” shtick again and we see that everything is heading towards the same results as the first segment. But a rather unexplored relationship that has developed between Kerem and Sema has Kerem and his two friends Hodja Imam and Remzi make it their mission to put an end to the ghoul that walks the night.

After the ghoul knocks on Sema’s window late at night begging her to let him in, Sema flees and tries to hide at the home of Mr. Nuri. This leads her to the conclusion that Mr. Nuri is possessed or possibly housing the soul of the ghoul! Using herself as bait, Sema, Kerem, Remzi and Mr Imam go up against the ghoul in a final battle that has the ghoul begging for mercy as they taunt him with Holy Scripture and sacred artefacts. He melts before their very eyes leaving Sema and Kerem to walk off together into the sunrise.

I was quite worried as I started to watch Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki, as the first few minutes give a somewhat wrong impression of the movie. After the initial sequence and the introduction of Sema the movie really picks up and finds a decent Goth horror style in it’s own quirky way. There’s some classy cinematography, like the mentioned mirror scene, which is used for both parts of the movie, and some fabulous wide shots that really use the location wonderfully to bring some real atmosphere to the film.

If you frequently read the stuff I put up here you know how much I cherish a sceptic protagonist as it makes the transition into the world of horror from the ordinary word so much easier for us. Several times there are referents to this world, which in 1970 obviously was making huge progress, only a few years earlier the space race had started, technology was arriving and within a couple of years the video boom, cell phones and internet would be common household items. In the first sequence Melih states “superstitions are a thing of the past”, later Kerem say’s “In this century when people go to the moon, why do these ghost stories still exist?”

It could possibly be that Yalinkiliç’s wanted to make the statement that even though technology and progress prevails, it’s of out most importance that we don’t forget our history and cultural heritage. Even if it means believing in scary stories and laughing ghouls.

In the first sequence of the film you will see Aytekin Akkaya in a very early role. Later Akkaya would hold parts in Antonio Margheritti’s Ark of the Sun God and Yor both 1983, and was also in Çetin Inanc’s Dünyayi kurtan adam (The Man who Saves the World), the one you probably know better as Turkish Star Wars 1973 which saw him act against Cünyet Arkin, and T. Rikret Uçak’s hillarious 3 dev adam (The Three Mighty Men) 1973 where he was Captain America.



Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder
Original Title: Aşka susayanlar seks ve cinayet
Directed by: Mehmet Aslan
Turkey 1972
Giallo, 58 min.
Distributed by: Onar Films

Next up a movie completely different in tone – Mehmet Aslan’s Aşka susayanlar seks ve cinayet (Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder) 1972, made only two years after Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki. As cinema started loosing ticket sales to the modern thrills of TV entertainment, movie producers started looking for other tricks and delights to lure the audiences back into the darkness of the cinemas – and what better than graphic death, violence and sex! Aşka susayanlar seks ve cinayet is definitely not your average Goth horror but a fast moving shitkicker that brings all of the classic Giallo traits right into the heart of Istanbul. And it leaves an impression that will leave you craving more.

This one starts off just as you would have thought, with an initial attack to set up the masked, gloved antagonist, when he picks up a hitchhiker only to abuse, rape and slash her to bits with a straight razor a few minutes later. Hot crumpet Mine [Meral Zeren] on the way home with her husband, Metin [Nihat Ziylalan] learns of the violent death of the young woman and instantly has flashbacks to a terrifying experience she had herself as a younger woman. Her then abusive boy friend Tarik [Yildrim Gencer – who played the masked Kilink in Yilmaz Atadeniz’s Kilink Istanbul’da 1967] raped, slashed and beat her to a pulp and left her for dead in the muddy terrain at the end of their turbulent relationship. The scar that Mine after the last assault left him with is the only thing that the cops can identify the killer by, as hat was the last thing the murder victim remarked on before dying. Being Giallo territory the pace is rapid and during a cocktail party we are introduced to the rest of the key characters; Mine’s best friend Oya [Eva Bender who starred in many of Aslan’s Tarkan films] Yilmaz [Kadir Inanir] who soon will become Mine’s love interest, and lurking in the background - Mine’s ex and our prime suspect for the initial attack, the sadistic Tarik!

After Yilmaz makes his suave introduction and sets his line of seduction in motion, Mine spots Tarik, who follows her out of the party and threatens her with a broken bottle to the face. Luckily her husband Metin arrives in the nick of time, and Tarik flees from the party.



Here starts the classic Giallo cat and mouse chase that we have come to love, as we try to keep up and figure out what is going on the plot shifts back and forth between several of the leading characters as we figure out who the killer is and what he wants’. And just as we would expect, as soon as we make a presumption, the whole thing skids off the rails and takes a new destination, and once again Mine is at the centre of attention again, but just whom can she trust? Her best friend, her husband, her new lover? We will never know until Aslan wraps it all up with the final twist, and lets us in on the secret of the plot that he’s been hiding behind his back all along, and it’s worth the wait.

I love the way this movie just get’s the formula, and nails the atmosphere of Gialli cinema straight off from the start. There’s none of the trying to be a Giallo like many other Gialli influenced movies that where made outside of Italy, often disappointing and confusing films that you won’t think twice about. Instead Mehmet Aslan hits the spot and proves that you don’t have to be an Italian to make an interesting piece of Gialli cinema.

Lies, depraved sexual appetites, sinister characters, black mail, red herrings and double crossing back stabbers, it sure is a Giallo in every sense. The soundtrack with it’s eclectic fuzzy guitar and gentle piano swirls, subjective camera, masked, gloved killer and there’s even a fabulous little scene where the lighting is very reminiscent of Mario Bava’s vivid colours of Blood and Black Lace [Sei donne per l'assassino] 1964. Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder does satisfy that thirst and definitely delivers! It utilises the classic twist, turn, and surprise ending of many a great Giall and it's possible that Sergio Martino’s The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh 1970 may have influenced the plot, but I'd say that also Henri-George’s Clouzout’s Les Diabolique 1955 had a part in the plot as it plays off the same platform - the murder for inheritance plot. But don’t think for a second that Mehmet Aslan stops there as he definitely isn’t pulling a cheap copy of what he’s seen before, and pushes it a few steps further than you may have foreseen.

It’s a great movie that fans of Giallo cinema definitely should check out, and together the two films on Onar Films Turkish Horror Double Bill make up for a terrific night of genre cinema exploration. And if you still want more, just watch the almost two hours of supplemental features and you will be in Turkish genre cinema heaven.


Image:
Both films are presented in 4:3 Full screen.
Ölüler Konuşmaz Ki - Black/White
Aşka susayanlar seks ve cinayet - Colour.

Audio:
Mono 2.0 Turkish Dialogue with English or Greek subtitles optional.

Extras:
It’s not a genuine Onar Films release without the fantastic amount of extras that these discs bring with them. This time there’s interviews with the late Metin Demirhan – who passed away two years ago, way to young – one of the most insightful Turkish film experts ever, who puts both films into their correct context and historical time frame. Giovanni Scognamillo – a Turkish actor, writer and cinema historian, who also discusses Turkish cinema, and finally an extensive interview with actor and Turkish star Aytekin Akkaya, who also talks about his career and the movies of Turkish genre cinema. All in all there’s almost two hours of interviews and you will walk away a lot wiser on the subject than before. And have a complete new set of movies you want to see. There’s a photo gallery of sills and posters from Turkish Horror films, a gallery of Aytekin Akkaya stills, and a series of trailers for other titles released by Onar Films.


So once again. Get online and pick yourself up a copy of the Onar Films Turkish Horror Double Bill as they are on limited release of 1200 pieces only and once they are gone these films will once again return to the land of the lost, but this time not forgotten.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Doghouse



Doghouse
Directed by: Jake West
England, 2009
Comedy / Horror, 89min
Distributed by: Sony Pictures

I have a bit of a problem with movies that try to be both funny and scary at the same time. Perhaps it’s because the horror comedy is one of the hardest subgenres to master as you either end up with schlock comedy like the Scary Movie flicks, or a confusing genre bender like Christopher Smith's Severance 2006 - a comedy for far to long and then trying it's hardest to be horror film that isn't quite certain of which foot to stand on, with Danny Dyer in the leading role.

Few movies have managed - Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland 2009, Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep 2002, Paul Andrew William’s The Cottage 2008, Peter Jackson's Bad Taste 1987, Braindead 1992, Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead 2004, Tommy Wirkola's Död Snö (Dead Snow) 2009, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 1981 and Evil Dead 2 1987 - to name some of the successful attempts. But these movies don't mock the horror like in the Scary Movie flicks, but use the horror as part of their narrative and milk those traits for all they are worth.

Jake West’s Doghouse at least gives the tricky subgenre a decent run for it’s money, and does manage to entertain me, treat me to a few laughs, but isn’t scary in any way. Unless you suffer from gynophobia of course, then you will be freaked.

Obviously that’s not the main point of the flick either, it's all about the laughs, but I have serious issues with this niche and can’t quite figure out why you would want mix horror traits in with your comedy if you didn’t want to scare your audience. In generic horror it’s part of the formula, a laugh to bring down the defences and then shock the heck out of the audience. It’s the same pattern with the sex in generic horror, flash a pair of breasts, awakening the lust synapses which makes the audience lower their guard and BLAM! scare the crap out of them.

But why would one want to go for a few quick shocks in a comedy… If it’s done with love and respect for the genre and actually part of the narrative – like in Shaun of the Dead – it’s a treat, but done in the wrong way, like the confusing and overrated The Signal 2007 which does have some great parts - but you can't make three chapters in three different genres within the same film without major complications, it just bores the crap out me and I end up angered and frustrated that I wasted valuable movie time.

Doghouse didn’t bore me. I liked it, and perhaps not to strange either as it plays heavily on gender prejudice and young male chauvinism, a sensitive area that is a great area for exploiting. Comedy and Horror should push the boundaries of reason and moral values or they are not doing there job right.

A band of mates all get together to take former member Vince [the amazing Stephen Graham Guy Ritchie’s Snatch 2000, Scorsese’s Gangs of New York 2002, Shane Meadow’s fantastic This Is England 2006, and soon to be seen in Dominic Sena’s Season of the Witch with Nicolas Cage], out in the countryside for a weekend of boozing, partying and raising hell, all to help him get over his sore divorce. Ring leader Neil [Danny Dyer – I cant get my head around Danny Dyer either, as I get the feeling that Danny Dyer never actually plays a character, instead all his characters are Danny Dyer. Sure he’s fantastic in Nick Love’s The Football Factory 2004, but since then I feel that every character has been Tommy Johnson, or is it Danny Dyer? Remember I mentioned Smith's Severance earlier... well Dyer is Dyer.] Anyhow, ring leader Neil calls the shots, and promises the lads that they will soon see Vince back to the grand old man he once was, not the pussy whipped softy that he now appears to be. Through a series of presentations we see how all the lads in the crew all have their own troublesome relationships at home, which kind of sums up to their non politically correct attitude towards members of the other sex. Which also is what sets the basis for the jokes, gags and monsters to come. They take off for Moodley, where newcomer to the gang Mikey [Noel Clarke – who you may have seen as Mickey, Rose Taylor’s boyfriend in the two first seasons of the reduxed Dr. Who series, and actor/writer of the acclaimed Kidulthood 2006, and later actor/writer and director on the sequel movie Adulthood 2008] grew up, and discover that the tiny, and I mean tiny, village appears abandoned as they scamper right down to the local pub for the first round of pints. Inside the pub there’s a great gag about the non-smoking indoor’s law’s and the smell of the real pub as the audience see the gnarled remains of the barman behind the counter.

Then all hell breaks loose as they find themselves standing face to face with the rabid zombie women of Moodley, monster that the guys soon name zombirds. A not very kosher joke, as many consider bird to be somewhat degrading to women, and not the delightful slang term that it actually is. And the jokes are all on that level, even going as far as the Lads’ F.C. football emblems on their jumpers.

But this is a comedy and you don’t want to get too worked up about it, I just wouldn’t advise that you recommend the movie to your most militant feminist friends. Although I’d have called the monsters Zombitches instead, it packs more of a sting. From this point on the horror traits kick in and it becomes more or less a dark comedic survival horror flick. The guys go up against an impressive motley crew of varied stylized zombirds, ranging from the bride, the wiccan witch, the cute girl next door cashier, to the hairdresser, the lollypop lady and the frustrated overweight housewife. Needless to say the shit hits the fan and the guys rough there way through to the bitter end.

Well really the horror of Doghouse is more of a platform for the movie to work out of and not the main device that drives the movie forth, the guys character development, even though it’s at it’s minimum, and the comedy is the strength of the film. And talking of that character development, the guys who are more politically correct are the first ones to go, and it is a splendid moment when the person with the largest arc actually turns right back to what he once used to be, goes back to being one of the lad’s fed up with taking crap from women, and I the audience cheer him on as he claims his ground and goes out to put the women back in place. Girls get back in the kitchen, because here come the fellas!

The paradox of it all is that even though the movie plays off the lead characters warped view on women and chauvinistic attitudes – sexist jokes in other words, it turns me, the audience, into the exact same thing as the characters, a chauvinistic pig who laughs, cheer’s and ooohhh’s as the guys bash their way through hordes, well half a dozen at least, of zombirds. It’s not a too pleasant revelation when you come to the conclusion, but what the heck, the film had me laughing on more than one occasion and within the context of being a comedy that’s a damned fine result.

West is no newcomer to the hybrid genre as his previous movie Evil Aliens 2005 proved, he knows how to tell a comedy using horror traits, and sci-fi in that specific case. And his debut feature, Razor Blade Smile 1998, starring Redemption Films icon Eileen Daly and David Warbeck [John Hough's Twins of Evil 1971, Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dynamite 1971, Lucio Fulci's The Black Cat 1981 and The Beyond 1981 to name a few gem's, Razor Blade Smile being his final picture] is pure modern Goth horror. Screenwriter Dan Schaffer, who makes his debut as a writer for film here, has a background in the comic – graphic novel world and herein lays the little detail that will twist your view on the movie. Schaffer’s creation, DogWitch has always been neo feminist and sees it’s female lead character, Violet Grimm take on friends and foes in a way that only she can. – The comic book is by the way added as a pop culture reference in Matt’s [Lee Ingleby] shop where amongst others the Palace Pictures quad poster art for Evil Dead can be seen.

Now with that in mind I’d say that it’s fair to think of the film as an ironic comedy with horror traits, and not a piece of misogynist trash. The guys are all stereotypes and their characters both commemorate and send up young male culture, and they come up against typical male fears and prejudices’ – they wanted the worst, they got the worst. So in other words you could look at the movie as a feminist film - after all, the women have the upper hand throughout the film, and when male incompetence fails you know that the guys are fucked. The final scene, reminiscent of that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid pastiche that they paid homage to earlier in the film comes to mind again and we realise that these blokes are going to die for the single reason that they stay the simple minded characters that they where at the start of the film.
Cinematography by Ali Asad – with several awesome music videos to his CV, the classic Nick Cave/Kylie Minogue duet Where the Wild Roses Grow to name one - is grand. The movie has a wonderful stylized look, but I felt that the sound designer and editor (West among them) probably should have gone over a few scenes one more time, as I missed some valuable audio keys and dynamic when the attacks start taking place - where's the beat in that initial knife attack?

Like said, Doghouse is an entertaining ninety minutes and well worth the watch, great effects, great fun and a smashing rock soundtrack, it’s the kind of movie that you can gather your mates round to watch – or your extreme feminist friend if you keep the pseudo analysis above handy – and have a excellent time watching.


Image:
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Audio:
Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Digital 2.0 English Dialogue, subtitles for the hard of hearing optional

Extras:
Anyone wanting to learn more on how this movie came about and was made is in for a treat as the Making of feature is very entertaining and holds several anecdotes from the production. There’s also a few deleted scenes, a blooper reel (does anyone ever enjoy them?), trailers, TV spots a still gallery of those fabulous Zombirds, and production stills.

Now watch this and tell me that you don't want to see this flick!