Saturday, April 28, 2012

Philosophy of a Knife

Philosophy of a Knife [QuickFix]
Directed by: Andrey Iskanov
Russia/USA, 2008
Drama/ Documentary, 249min

A documentation of war crime atrocities conducted by Japanese Unit 731 during the Second World War. A harrowing brew of archival footage, re-enactments and interviews with Anatoly Protasov, who was a former doctor/ military translator at the trials of the U731 doctors in Khabarovsk, USSR at the end of WWII.

Phew, prepare yourself to be mangled by the steamroller of malevolence, because Philosophy of a Knife is the Ben Hur of extreme cinema!  An epic piece of work, that drains its audience with almost four and a half hours of grotesque but captivating study of the legendary Unit 731.

Crafted through interviews, archive footage and reconstructions, Andrey Iskanov’s joyride of atrocities beats the shit out of any History Chanel documentary ever. This is the ultimate history of Unit 731, the Japanese research facility that conducted chemical and biological experiments on prisoners of war, from the early days, to their exposure and trial after the war. I can’t argue the accuracy of the Protasov interviews, but that old man has an aura of authenticity which definitely set’s up a level of realism which totally sells me the coming scenes of archival footage the often lead up to the brutalities to be re-enacted. What makes this such an overwhelming and powerful trip is the way Iskanov brings his Art-house-surrealistic touch to the realm of tortures and death. Even in the midst of the most grotesque of moments, there’s an aesthetic that propels the onscreen monstrosities deeper into the mind. Rapid edits, loud music, re-enactments cut against real footage and archival material creates juxtaposition from hell, and it becomes a test of endurance.

There’s a decent enough idea behind the movie, as Iskanov claims in his introduction that he wanted to show the events from the Japanese side and the morale dilemma that came with working there. This is obvious through the subplots found in each part of the two part movie, concerning a young nurse [Yukari Fujimoto] and her letters to those at home – who’s voice is performed by Manoush, German actress/singer/writer who also holds an important part in Marc Rohnstock’s Necronos: The Tower of Doom 2010 – and in the second part where a young officer [Tetusro Sakagami] finds himself conflicted between his emotions for a Russian female prisoner [Elena Poboatova] whist in the service of the Emperor, torturing people for a superior purpose.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it’s the sleaze, the gore, the violence of the special effects (or what is shown, I’ll never look at cockroaches in the same way ever again) that one comes to this movie for. Sure the history lesson is tantalizing, but it becomes a competition of comparison to the Men Behind the Sun films from the 80-90's. Iskanov pulls it off with bravura, giving new takes on classic scenes and bringing some even more disturbing stuff with him. Fuck The Human Centipede, this is four hours plus of medical accuracy, and let’s just say that the effects are gag-inducing.
The audioscape of this thing is amazing, there is no sound effect left unused as Iskanov pushes his nightmarish images to a further level with noises and industrial music that could compete with a Merzbow concert.

I guess the thing that attracts audiences the most with Philosophy of a Knife and the Men Behind the Sun movie, is the basic fact that these are all real atrocities which where performed on real people. The Evil that mankind does holds a strong macabre fascination for us all in our daily struggle with the fact that we are all going to die one day. In the safety of our TV couch it’s easy to gloat upon the carnage, but never forget that this is telling you a real story, and the morale debate on doing wrong for a good cause is a fascinating one. I often toy with the idea, what if Unit 371, or even the Nazi WW2 human experiments had come up with a life-altering discovery? How would this affect our otherwise polarized judgement on the matter?

Philosophy of a Knife get’s 6/6, and that’s for the approach to the subject matter and sheer enormity of this movie. Although there are some minor flaws, which in all honesty would be like complaining about the tan marks on the nuns in eighties nunsploitation flicks, or sock marks on nude inmates in WI.P films, the film is still totally worth the full house. Damn, four hours plus of vile grimness, interwoven with an important historic story. This is potent stuff. Just after Iskanov had completed postproduction, and had shipped his cut/footage to US for the DVD release, he was obtained by the FSB - that’s KGB to you and me mate! His computer and materials where seized and he was continuously interrogated on the source and extent of his research. After being held captive in a military base prison cell for five days, Iskanov was released with little of his materials or computers given back. I’d would have written it up as a genius marketing gimmick if I didn’t know that, one of the ballsiest Swedish movie distributors, have been trying to get this movie out for over a year now. More than one hard drive has been seized by officials on the way between Iskanov and the distributor. Or the fact that the box of discs I once sent my mate Alex in Russia, never arrived at his place either! One wonders what they where afraid Iskanov may have found…?
I forbid you to call yourself a fan of extreme cinema until you’ve sat through the full 249 minutes of Philosophy of a Knife.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Incident

The Incident
Aka: Asylum Blackout
Directed by: Alexandre Courtès
Usa/France/Belgium, 2011
Horror/Thriller, 85min

Sometimes the less you know of a movie before watching it, the better it serves you. In this world of information overload, we’re more than often already familiar with tone, theme, imagery, key shock moments and synopsis’s way before we enter the theatre, or stick that disc in the machine… Luckily for me, the brief research I did before watching The Incident was completely wrong, which set me up for a ride completely unlike the one I was prepared for.

It’s the late eighties. A bunch of mates, Max [Kenny Doughty], Ricky [Joseph Kennedy] and George [Rupert Evans], who all play in the same struggling Seattle grunge band, work in the kitchen of Sands sanitarium. During a heavy thunderstorm, there’s a power shortage leaving them, wardens and patients in the dark. That’s when the inmates kick up a riot, break free and go wild… and we all know what happens when the inmates take over the asylum…
The Incident may be an English language film and give the impression of being a generic American shocker, but it's not. It's more European than anything else, and I shit you not when I constantly say that French directors are solidly on their way to taking over the cinematic world of the horror genre. The list can go on for ever; Alexandre Aja, Pascal Laugier, Xavier Gens, David Moreau & Xavier Palud, Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury and now one half of music video duo Alex and Martin, Alexandre Courtès, takes the step over to feature films.

I really, really, like movies that take some time to establish the ordinary world, the people who live there, their traits, give dimension to their characters and all that jazz which makes me invest in the movie. The Incident does all this, and what surprised me is that the ordinary world is already in its ordinary state pretty creepy and eerie place, thanks to that remarkable location. There are no windows on the exterior shots of the asylum, and none in the interior shots either. This creates a intimidating feeling of claustrophobia, and it also inhibits us from making a mental map of the layout, making it easier to get lost well inside the asylum.
I often talk of the transition into the unnatural or the world where the ordinary is ruptured, and the way The Incident breaks through is brilliant. When the bulletproof glass separating inmates from staff is ripped out of it’s frame presenting the psychos with a free passage to the “other side” of the border/glass, you know there’s going to be trouble. A point of no return that makes an impression, and it does so through some very smart moves, and well-written script and timing. Hiding in the safety of the kitchen as the inmates hammer at the glass with rods, chairs and even a shelf, Max asks George for some reassurance that the inmates “cant break that window right?” Before George even has time to think about his reply the force of the inmates pushes the glass out of it’s frame and they now access the whole sanitarium. The actual border of “their side” and “our side” between patients and staff acts as a clear set of rules by which the asylum is controlled. As soon as rules are set in genre cinema we can break them, and the show can get on the road.
But why don’t they just get up and get the hell out one may ask. S. Craig Zahler’s script deals with that in two interesting ways, the first being the obvious, the power is out. But convention tells us that power shortages can always be overcome, back up generators, torches and lights or even lack of logic that makes broken stuff suddenly work. Well here it’s definitely off, there’s even a scene where head officer, J.B. [Dave Legeno] explains to the cooks what’s happened and why they simply can’t fix it. Not only the lights, but also the automated doors and the system that keep thing tightly locked. Then there’s the second interesting thing that the script does to the protagonist George… He’s been at the asylum since five in the morning, he played a gig the night before, there’s been earlier dialogue about the fact that they drink beers before and after shows, so with this in mind, on the day of the power shortage, we know that George is hung-over (shown in the weird imagery as he takes a shower that morning) he’s most likely suffering from lack of sleep, which will have effects on endurance (sloppy when packing up the delivery) his psychic state (snaps at Max during the serving of lunch) and physical state (is overrun by inmates several times during the walk back to lockdown). Weakening the protagonist is a move of genius, and that’s exactly what that late gig, early morning, lack of sleep trick is all about.
Establishing the threat! There’s something about Welsh actor Richard Brake’s stare that get’s under your skin. From his first scene and the way Laurent Tangy’s camera lingers on his face, there’s something sinister and unnerving in that stare, and this is used to perfection in The Incident. Slowly the Harry character is introduced. At first it’s merely the way he stares as George as he stands in line for his dinner. This escalates as he encourages other inmates to “spit out the meds”, and when all hell breaks loose, we can completely see why George choses Henry Green as his antagonist. The face-to-face confrontation that their “struggle” finally culminates in is an uncomfortable one as it doesn’t quiet play out as we are accustomed to. But it works, and it creates a creepy emotional state that the movie plays with in its final act. It sends shivers down my spine when genre breaks convention and goes elsewhere to explore other areas. I find that The Incident several times shows me one thing, but offers several possible interpretations... stuff that makes you go back to movies.
Darkness and lack of light play a huge part of The Incident. Together with the lack of orientation, the darkness adds to the above-mentioned claustrophobia. It also helps build tension, as we never really know who’s out there, behind us or even worse, right in front of us. The Incident uses the murky lighting, the shady corners and the blackness of adjacent corridors to have figures lurking in the dark. With the use of strange noises, incoherent patient dialogue and mad laughter, the audience never know what kind of attack, or who will pounce at them next, the tension builds and anxiety sets in.

Have you noticed that most of these French genre pieces clock in just below ninety minutes? Feel the pacing of the movies, and you will realize that there’s never a slow moment. Compared to others, many of the French flicks lack those awkward scenes that stop the flow of the movie. A lot, if not all of it, is due to editor extraordinaire Baxter. Baxter has cut his way through the crap – used in the most respectful way that is - on movies like Haute tension 2003, À l’intérieur 2007, Piranha 2010, Livide 2011 and Incident 2011. Hearing director’s talk about the way Baxter works is inspirational, because they all say that Baxter cuts everything he feel’s slows down the pace or is out of place.  Baxter is ruthless, and brings a whole new dimension to the films that these creative directors have written and shot. Baxter is in more than one way the epitome of the old three film rule which goes: You make three films, the one you write, the one you shoot, and the one you edit. He makes some damned hard but effective cuts in those movies he’s helped shape, and he truly shows the talent in Juxtaposition and effective editing. I’d easily watch a movie for the Baxter credit alone, as I find myself holding this person higher and higher in my book for each movie I see his craft perfecting on.
The version of The Incident I saw was an early screener, lacking pre- and end credits, which made the choice of Alice Cooper’s Only Women Bleed on static black screen after the last scene a weird but interesting experience. There’s an awesome atmosphere, to The Incident, and there where documented fainting’s at the premiere screening in Toronto! It has some simple but efficient effects, there’s also some more advanced ones that deliver a couple of really grim moments to satisfy the gorehounds as the survival horror turns to violent sadism in the last act. I liked this one, and I’ll go back to it again when I can see a real version, because I’m kind of certain that there’s an alternative way to read the events in the movie. The Incident is a fierce pressure cooker of tension that will have you biting your nails bloody! This one will get under your skin and have you looking over your shoulder when you are in dark corridors for a long time to come.

The Incident, coming soon from NjutaFilms!

Sorry couldn't find a trailer, but here's a bit of a mood reel...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Night Train Murders

Night Train Murders
Original Title: L’ultimo treno della notte
Directed by: Aldo Lado
Italy, 1975
Thriller, Rape/revenge, 94min

How could the late Ulla Isaksson ever have know that the script she based on a century old folksong, later directed by Ingmar Bergman as Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring) 1960, would end up being a prime source for exploitation films? Did she ever know? Did anyone ever inform her of this?

Wes Craven hit it off when he loosely based his Last House on the Left 1972 on the Isaksson script, and the ball was set in motion. Movies that sometimes where inspired by the plot, sometimes by the title such as Last House on Dead End Street, 1977, La settima donna (Last House on the Beach) 1978, to some extent Autostop rosso sangue (Hitch-Hike), 1977, and even Mario Bava’s Reazione a catena (Bay of Blood) was labled Last House on the Left, Part2 when it was finally released in the USA pooped up all over the place. Most of the films drew inspiration from the Craven movie and it’s spawn, and perhaps most famously Ruggero Deodato’s House at the Edge of the Park 1980. But already in 1975, Aldo Lado and Renato Izzo wrote a screenplay based on a story of Roberto Ifanascelli and Ettore Scanó (responsible for several similar stories) came up with Last Stop on the Night Train, also known as Night Train Murder.

Laura Stradi [Marina Berti] and cousin Margaret Hoffenbach [Irene Miracle later to star in Dario Argento’s Inferno 1980] are on their way home for the holidays. The two girls take the train from Munich with Laura’s hometown in Italy as the final destination. But fate has other plans for them, and they never get there... On-board the train they encounter two brutish thugs; Blackie [Flavio Bucci also seen in Argento’s Suspiria 1977] and Curly [Gianfranco De Grassi] team up with the seedy blonde know only as “the lady” [Macha Mérli, best known for her performance as the psychic Helga Ullman in Argento’s Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) the same year, 1975] and set a series of sordid games in motion that lead up to the death of the two young women.  Following the deaths the three end up at the home of Professor Guilio Stradi [Enrico Maria Salerno – Inspector Morosini in Argento’s debut feature L’uccello dale piume di cristallo (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) 1970] and his wife Lisa [Laura D’Angelo] who soon realize who they have encountered and take a violent revenge.

Night Train Murders could more or less be looked at as a chamber piece, as it mostly takes place in one location, apart from the last act. This startling thriller is simply fascinating from the opening titles with that dodgy vocal song, but more on that later, to the final shot. Because this is a well plotted, well-written and definitely surprising film.  The movie is like a jigsaw puzzle where each part interlocks with the next brining a larger image together. As I say, this is a well-plotted, well-written gem, and now I’ll tell you why!
Already during the opening titles the threat of Blackie [Bucci] and Curly [DeGrassi] is presented as they who run around Munich, stealing, roughing people up, and even robbing a drunk Santa of his few pennies before freeloading onto a train in the station. These guys, despite being stereotypical villains for Italian genre film of the time, are definitely trouble to count on for hell raising.

Six minutes in, the set up for a later twist is presented. The overprotective parents are presented through a series of phone calls to the maid who just put Laura [Berti] and Margaret [Miracle] on the train home, and Prof. Stradi [Salerno], who obviously spends his days saving the lives of people – on his way home to his wife, he stops in the corridor as he hears two colleagues talk about the unfortunate accident victim who’s life can’t be saved. The honourable Prof. Stradi hands his briefcase to the nurse and tells them to call his wife and tell her he’ll be late… a presentation of traits that later will collide, and become of importance to the story.
The introduction of “the Lady on the Train” [Mérli] is an interesting one. Only moments after she enters the full train carriage and giving off an aura of a sophisticated lady – later enhanced when she discusses politics with the famous politician she recognizes in the newspaper to be sitting across from her in the carriage - she accidentally drops her purse as the train shakes through an intersection. The only item that gives any form of identification of her person is seen after the contents spill out, is a sordid photograph of a group sex session. Alberto Galittini’s edits of the carriage passengers looks at Mérli is magnificent, as it taints every scene between Mérli and the co-passengers in that confined space from there on. It also indicates that the posh lady is not quite what she seems behind that strict facade. Also it’s no surprise that the scene is placed directly after the carriage of priests and bishop is presented. Contrasting the passengers in this way is a metaphor of heaven and hell, good and evil, and pretty soon this comes to ring disturbingly true.
The girls are somewhat innocent kids, giddy to be away from school, smoking way to many cigarettes and exploring their sexuality – “Try leaning against the wall, you get a great feeling from all the vibration. Go on, try it!” Margaret says to Laura who answers “Yeah you are right. You think of everything.” This dialogue too is significant, as flirtation, forbidden pleasures and sexual tension is an important part of the set up.  The old saying curiosity killed the cat comes to mind.
Margaret confides in Laura, her first and only sexual encounter, they pleasure themselves by the vibration of the train. Margret has a brief but daring flirt with the thugs in the train restroom, which leads to the Blackie forcing his way in with “The Lady” when she goes to the restroom, and the sexual tension between the two leads to them having intercourse… with, believe it or not, cutaways of the train entering tunnels and rail tracks. Again this is all presentation of character, Blackie is a ruthless predator who won’t take no for an answer, and with the photograph and fact that she’ll shag strange blokes in the train crapper, and we understand that “The Lady” is a lurid character.
After changing trains, the girls are confronted by Curly and Blackie again, this time The Lady comforts them with the words that she won’t let them harm them. Now if they had stayed on the other train, the one filled with businessmen, politicians and the clergy, we may have believed her, but as soon as she says this, Lado takes us on a quick tour of this new train’s passenger. Prostitutes, Peeping Tom’s and Junkies… this is a completely different ride, as mentioned above, polarization is the game, and here it’s school bock example. In it’s finest form as the girls, held captive in the seedy night train, by Curly, Blackie and The Lady try to make a run for it, when Blackie beats Margaret… as she falls into the glass of the dark carriage door, editor Gallitti rapidly inserts shots of the light happy Christmas dinner taking place at their destination. Keep an eye open for Dalia di Lazzaro, from Andy Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein 1973, and Dario Argento’s Phenomena 1985 during this dinner party. Later Gallitti does the same when Margaret’s parents dance whilst their daughter is being raped.  As mentioned earlier, contrasts play a big part in this movie, and here’s it’s presented in it’s finest form.
Within the dark confined space - superbly light and captured buy cinematographer Gábor Pogány who also shot Pink Floyd: Live at Pompei 1972 - tension builds, as Curly, Blackie and The Lady start off a series of sadistic games, sexually themed torments and rapes, that not only had the BBFC’s refuse to give the film a cinema certification in 1976, and landed the it on the list of banned video nasties back in 1983, but also arrives at a shocking climax leaving both the young girls dead. This hideous act propels us into the final act.
In accuracy with the original Isaksson source, the criminals arrive at the home of the victim’s parents, and as an audience we are now craving vengeance. It’s really not too complicated; once again we have an emotional recognition. We can’t experience what the girls or their parents do, but we want justice for the wring done to them.

This is where the subplot with the parent’s fading relationship and the new start this Christmas has brought hem, along with the previous establishment of their good character come into play. Blackie, Curly and The Lady, get off the train instead of the girls, The Lady with injuries obtained as Blackie beat her after the murders, is offered to come home to the ever gallant Prof. Stradi to have her wounds taken care of as his wife and he await the next train to arrive. Here the traits that where established early on come back into play, Stradi’s lack of to refuse tending to patients end up with him taking the trio of strangers home.
Then a streak of genius by the scriptwriters... a scene that earlier seemed to be random, falls into the jigsaw, making the fuller picture come into focus for the Stradi’s. During the opening of the movie we saw a scene where the maid who sends Lisa and Margaret to the train station on their trip home, calls Lisa, Laura’s mother, and warns her of the terrible turquoise neck scarf Lisa has bought for her father as a Christmas present. Curly steals this necktie as they toss the girls bodies and belongings off the train, and Mrs. Stradi quickly becomes suspicious of the strangers in her house. The frequent newsflashes on the radio finally reveal the identity of the two dead women found mutilated by the side of the railroad tracks, and Dr. finally snaps. To hell with moral, and common sense, emotions get the upper hand and he takes his vengeance on the thugs. The journey is complete, from respected, caring, kind-hearted man of society to cold-hearted avenger, outside the law. Just as in the Ulla Isaksson script, the question of how far would you go, what would you do, could you kill if you had the chance are posed. Harrowing questions that make the Bergman movie such a classic and poignant themes that ring true through the most of the imitations that came in it’s wake.
OK, so a few words on the soundtrack, because despite having something of a crap start with Demis Roussos garbing his way through “A Flower is All you need” – originally the theme song to a romantic themed animated film Il giro del mondo degli innamorati di peynet (Around the world of Love) from 1974 – Night Train Murders has a rather interesting soundtrack. Diegetic audio is of importance, as the sound of the train mainly plays as the movies soundtrack together with Morricone’s minimalistic score. But also non-diegetic audio is used to create effect. At times entire scenes off the train, inside the mansion of the Stradi’s are acted out without the correct audio. Instead we only hear the sound of the train rushing forth towards its destination.  It keeps a tension whilst showing us the contrasts, which I talked about earlier.

Harmonica is an important part of this soundtrack, as Curly frequently plays one. It also becomes an important signifier that the “Crazy Boys” also change trains when Lisa and Margaret do so at a border check earlier on. Certain that they alone in the new coach they have snuck into, they share a Spartan Christmas dinner of sandwiches and pop – kids once again – when they suddenly hear the warble of Curly’s harmonica. It’s a disturbing moment, as they react with honest fear… the crazy boys are there.

Night Train Murders still holds up, it’s a tight, tense and fairly sleazy piece that definitely is worth enjoying if you still haven’t seen it. A enthralling ride that takes some dark turns, and forces the audience to drop their morale and find their primitive being confined deep inside. Now available in it's uncut glory, with a new superior image, remastered in 1.85:1 and presented with crisp DolbyDigital 2.0 Mono from Shameless Screen Entertainment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Yeah. I'm kinda buzzin' because of this.

"The most KICK ASS SPACE NAZI invasion film ever made"

Sure, I've been quoted on covers before, but then for mag's that I've been writing for. This was the first direct CiNEZiLLA hit, and it's gone from small eight ads, to this glorious full page.

Too bad I can't live on this shit, because this was kind of a highlight.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Thing

The Thing [QuickFix]
Dir: Matthjis van Heijningen Jr
USA/Canada, 2011
Sci-Fi/Horror, 103 min

A Norwegian research team has found something up in the ice of Antarctic. Young palaeontologist Ramona Flowers… no wait, Kate Lloyd [Mary Elizabeth Winstead] is given the opportunity of her lifetime, to tag along and perhaps discover something that will change mankind for the rest of time. After revealing the spacecraft that supposedly crashed into the glacier several hundred thousand years ago, they find a creature trapped in the ice. It becomes Kate’s task to excavate the being, but shortly after the block of ice captivating the monster is placed in the Norwegian camp, it breaks free and now the people at the research centre are it’s prey… but you know that don’t you. Because if you got this far, then I know that you are a fan of the original just as much as I am.

Well, why is the question. Why does Hollywood insist on remaking classics? There’ must be enough fresh idea’s out there. There must be enough budding screenwriting talent out there that isn’t getting the shots they deserve. There must be other areas one can dig into other that the movies that once upon a time defined the horror genre. Now I’m not going to go on a rant about remakes here, because I actually do like some of them. Although they still look like crap compared to the originals, and perhaps it’s even worse when the new version puts the original to shame. Never the less, this is The Thing remake, or prequel as it turns out… oh, now that can’t really have been missed by anyone who really wanted to see this movie… If you go into seeing this film without knowledge of the original then I guess I’m older than you and you still have some great shit to discover along the way.

I read somewhere that someone thought that the link to the old film at the end was brilliant… well it is, but at the same time, there’s at least ten different links to the original movie woven into the texture of the movie throughout the entire film. SO perhaps you should have seen the original before listening to people talking about this one outside the theatre!
 Although I did enjoy the nihilism that came with this flick, I loved going into it knowing that not a single person will come out alive. There’s almost a perverted buzz going on as I sat back and waited to see how they off this bunch this time around… and in all honesty I think they failed.  Yeah, I love the darkness, but the monsters are revealed way to early, and they’re way to visual. Half the magic of the original is the paranoia. Something I never really feel creeping over me the same way that it did in the Carpenter version. Heck, if you break it down, this one is more or less a scene for scene remake of Carpenters version, sluggishly following the beats and twists of that gem, so how come they missed that vital beat I’ll never know. But then again, it get’s the job done and with knowledge of the original, I feel that it’s still quite fun to watch. Although I have a major problem with the ending! Not the link to the original, but the way they just leave Kate out there in the cold with nothing but the threat of a possible sequel looming… Yeah, I could just see them scripting some fucked up sequel where Kate manages to make it to the US camp, hook up with MacReady [Kurt Russell] and Childs [Keith David] and go yet another round with the beast. It’s the only loose end (or one of the few) between the two movies and in all honestly I feel that it’s just a screenwriter thing, it’s just their love for their character that led them to leaving us with the sloppy ending. Because it’s been done before in the original, but there was a threat, a possibility that Macready or Childs may have been the alien… here’ there’s nothing. I would still have been better to have gone to crack of dawn, Kate’s dead frozen body in the snow buggy, then have the familiar Norwegian helicopter swoosh by on it’s way to Lars and the camp to tie the sack together.
 A big bonus for The Thing 2011, is that pretty boy Eric Christian Olsen is of no use at all through out the movie and dies a terrible, but deserving death. I was scared to hell that he’d be the “heroic” counterpart to Mary Elizabeth Winsted, but instead we get Joel Egerton who get’s the job done.
The Thing get’s 4/6 for effort, because like the alien, this movie has mimicked the close to perfection. I’m pretty certain that you could take a couple of splices from The Thing 2011 and insert them into The Thing 1982 and they’d play seamless. So hat’s off to set decorator Odetta Stoddard, art director Patrick Banister, and production designer Sean Haworth. I can appreciate the love and respect for the original being woven into this prequel, and I really dig the details, like the Norwegians speaking Norwegian, the fine threads that connect this to the original – again, it in a lot smarter way than the ending which coincidentally lifts two shots out of the original to make them flow together even better.
But I hate when remakes posing as prequels have much more advanced monsters! Where the monster in the original – and let’s not fuck around here, the monster in Carpenter’s original is the star, Russell plays second fiddle to that imaginative beast that Rob Bottin created – was a imaginative weird thing that I’d never seen before. It freaked me the fuck out, and the monster here, although impressive as it is combining old school prosthetics, green screen and CGI, the error in my opinion is that they never really keep it the fuck off screen… instead it’s more of a showcase for showing off cool effects, yeah they are cool, but the more you show of the monster, the more it feels as if I’m playing a videogame! That’s exactly where The Thing fails in my book, keep the monster in the dark and build towards a really freaky reveal that I will take with me after the film is over… something that jiggles my imagination with the necessary what the hell was that questions, not a Oh, so that’s what it looks like…  Nightmares are made of the things lurking in the dark, not the pathetically lame computer generated monsters… Now I know I’ve been harassing CGI a lot lately, but do it right and it looks awesome, and that I’m fine with, but if I can see that it looks crap, why don’t the studios?

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Burning Moon

The Burning Moon [QuickFix]
Directed by: Olaf Ittenbach
Germany, 1992
Horror/Splatter, 86min

Lager lout Peter [Ittenbach himself] is forced to stay at home and baby sit his little sister [Annette Arbeter] instead of roaming the streets smoking dope and getting in gang fights. But in a moment of self-destructive behaviour intent on “punishing” his parents, Peter shoots up some drugs and watches as the moon starts to burn. Then he stumbles into his sister’s room where he starts to tell her two bedtime stories… bedtime stories that focus on death, mutilation, a serial killer, a psychopathic priest and the bowels of Hell!
Movies shot on video in the early nineties have a certain look to them that reminds me of the movies my mates and I where making in the early nineties. Plot was always secondary to the effects. It was all about the effects, the violence, and the cheap gory special effects the entire production circled around. Well, that’s exactly what Olaf Ittenbach’s early movies are all about. Shallow stories primarily designed to showcase his moments of gore and splatter. The Burning Moon has some delightfully classic old school effects, body parts chopped off, dismemberments, headshots, throat slits and human torment effects which still today are impressive. Fuck you CGI, you can never mimic reality as well as enthusiasm, latex and fake blood.
Homemade effects are fun. Naïve and enthusiastic and way to exaggerated, watching low budget flicks with cgi’ed blood and splatter isn’t the same thing. Ittenbach was at an early stage in his career here, but it’s already very clear where he’s going to go with his fantastic effects. These early movies are merely appetizers for the gore fests to come, and for each film his skills improved. That not saying that these effects don’t get the job done, the last ten minutes are one goddamned insane gorefest that pus a lot of others to shame, and Ittenbach’s past as a dental technician comes in handy when one devastating scene in graphic detail shows a drill splintering it’s way through teeth, sending pieces flying in all over the place.
Anthology films are coming into craze again, what with Little Deaths, The ABC’s of Death, The Profane Exhibition and on and on and on… So making your own way back in 92 is a pretty ballsy thing to do in my book. Especially as it’s your second real movie you ever made! Both films have childhood traumas as origin stories to both killers’ rampages. Which is interesting as I find a lot of German filmmakers look to the past scars for inspiration, despite genre they are working in. It’ kind of hangs to together with the melancholic angst of early Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. History comes back to haunt you.
There’s a fun moment when a victim to be is watching TV and Ittenbach’s previous, and first film Black Past 1989 is on the television. The victim to be, switches channel and says that nothing but shit on the tube. Julia [Beate Neumeyer] hides from her psychopath boyfriend behind a bathroom door, which Chris [Helmut Neumeyer] blatantly points out to her is a glass door. Another scene shows a cutaway of a blood splat over a leather-studded codpiece.  In the movies wraparound that odd German humour and dark nihilism I’ve earlier claimed to be a trait, radiates from Ittenbach’s The Burning Moon. Check out the Necronos: Tower of Doom piece for more on those traits.

I’m giving The Burning Moon a 4 out of 6 because I was in the mood for some old-school gore, and Olaf Ittenbach’s movie delivered it. He also managed to work a Jesus zombie in there too, and seen as I love depictions of hell, the vivid depictions that Ittenbach pus on screen in the last ten minutes are outlandish, and grotesquely intimidating in such a way that they would have made Lucio Fulci proud.

Here's a wonderfully dorky US trailer. Enjoy.

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