Tokyo Gore Police

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Set sometime in the future, Tokyo Gore Police tells the story of Ruka (Eihi Shiina of Audition fame) a member of the Tokyo Police Corporation whose specialty is hunting Engineers, a mutant breed of super-criminal with the ability to transform any injury into a weapon. While fighting the good fight Ruka stumbles upon evidence relating to the murder of her father and is soon drawn deeper into the world of the Engineers in pursuit of the truth.

Tokyo Gore Police takes the best parts of films such as Robocop, Starship Troopers, Videodrome & Tetsuo and blends them into an over-the-top satirical splatterfest the likes of which I can honestly say I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing before. Within the opening five minutes the blood & guts is already flowing freely and it continues to do so throughout. It’s obvious special effects/make-up is director Yoshihiro Nishimura’s first love, as at times TGP almost begins to resemble an FX reel rather than a film. Continue reading

Vampyros Lesbos

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Uncut & Uncensored screams the cover, “The Citizen Kane of European Exploitation Cinema” squeals the quote, a psychedelic musical score that’s “World Famous” – come on now people! Get a grip! This is Jess Franco we are talking about here – hot sheilas, cheesy muzak, subtitles, plotlines with holes bigger than some of his former girlfriends, lots of nekkidness and a shit load of visuals that make no sense but damn they are filmed beautifully. I mean lets face it, Franco ain’t a great director by any stretch of the imagination. His movies never make sense, they’re slow, weird and badly acted for the most part, (except when he lucks into a Kinski or a Christopher Lee slumming it) but the girls always get their kit off, there’s always at least one weird moment where you go “what the fu..?” and just occasionally he gets a visual moment that’s stunning. But the Citizen Kane line? Someone needs to get out more. Continue reading

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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What can I say, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a bona fide genre classic, one of the most well-known horror movies EVER. A film that after 33 years still manages to give off that grim feeling of hopelessness and total terror. A film whose history is plagued with major censorship hassles (specifically during the mid-80s “video nasty” hysteria), mass walk-outs, and plenty of negative reviews by shocked and sickened critics. TCM is a film that reflects the bleakness of the era in which it was shot, which encompasses the aftermath of the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal, a time of government oppression, racial conflict and revolution.

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[REC]

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Some horror movies have a cerebral bent, using the supernatural or extreme as metaphors for daily horrors and social issues. Others aim for a psychological effect, to tap into collective fears and deeper psychoses. Then there are movies like Spanish festival hit [REC], that simply aim to create the cinematic equivalent of a rollercoaster – a feat that [REC] most definitely achieves.

Angela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo are heading out to follow a couple of firemen around on their nightly duties as part of their ‘day in the life’ TV programme, “While You’re Asleep”. However, an apparently routine call to free an elderly woman trapped in her apartment suddenly becomes more sinister when the whole building is closed off with Angela, Pablo and the firemen still in it due to some kind of mysterious disease outbreak.

[REC] is all shown through Pablo’s camera, in that Cannibal Holocaust/Blair Witch Project style that has become very big recently through such releases as Diary of the Dead, Cloverfield and The Zombie Diaries – although [REC] (narrowly) precursors all of these.

It is a style that aims to immerse the audience into the action to increase the thrills – and here, it works magnificently due to some terrific and clever work behind the camera and solid work in front. In particular, Velasco proves utterly charming in her role and we immediately sympathise with her even though her role for much of the film is reduced to running and screaming.

The premise is simple and the plot streamlined, but the script is deceptively intelligent. Minor characters are remarkably well-drawn so that even in a relatively large cast, everyone remains distinctive. From the bickering and confused elderly couple, to the preening camp hairdresser, to the young agent badly out of his depth yet struggling for control and Manu, the fireman who proves himself heroic and resourceful, all are painted as real human beings.

The filming is even more intricate. The conceit of Pablo being a professional cameraman, used to chasing journalistic subjects, allows the filmmakers to ease off the ‘shaky cam’ and shots are perfectly lit and framed for maximum effect. Take, for example, the shot where Angela is breathlessly talking to camera with a dead body in the background over her shoulder. As she speaks, she keeps moving so the body drops out of view behind her and we are constantly wondering, has it got back up? Is it going to suddenly jump on her?

There are jump scares galore, but the pacing is perfect. The story allows for lulls, where we explore characters and get background information, before launching into the next eruption of chaos. Everything culminates in a killer climax and in a razor-sharp 75 minutes, the film is as tight as a drum.

Any flaws are relatively minor. The story is very simple and there is no attempt at any kind of depth beyond surface thrills and at one point proceedings resort to that hoariest of horror exposition cliches – the Wall of Newspaper Clippings.

But such quibbles are trying to pick holes in what is a massively enjoyable movie. Co-directors Jaume Balaguero (Darkness, The Nameless) and Paco Plaza (Romasanta) have delivered serviceable but unspectacular work in the past, but [REC] is glorious, visceral entertainment.

After a successful run at various film festivals (including the 2008 New Zealand Film Festival), [REC] received worldwide theatrical runs; except in the USA where it was locked down until its rapidly-greenlit Hollywood remake could be rushed out, Quarantine. It is, however, difficult to see how a remake would improve on the original in this case – [REC] is a lean, mean thrill machine of a movie and undoubtedly one of the horror films of the year.

Extras:
  • Extended scenes
  • Behind the scenes
  • Casting and rehearsal footage
  • Trailer
  • Image gallery

Available on R4 DVD from Vendetta Films.

Army of Darkness [Blu-ray]

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Has there been a movie in the horror pantheon as endlessly quotable as Army of Darkness? And a hero – not a villain, but an actual bona fide good guy – as enduring as Ashley J Williams? But amidst all the nostalgia and love for Bruce Campbell’s grandstand performance in the lead role, it is often forgotten what a mixed bag the actual movie is.

At the dawn of the 90s, Sam Raimi was not yet the household name he is today. Indeed, outside of the Evil Dead movies, he only had the minor success of Darkman and the calamitous failure of Crimewaveto his name. But the Evil Dead brand held a lot of stock, particularly amongst horror fans, and when the third was announced as being the big budget (relatively speaking), epic Grand Guignol capper to the series, anticipation ran high. Continue reading

Splice

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Ever since a 19-year-old named Mary Shelley wrote a novel called Frankenstein, the scientist who plays God and creates life has been a staple of fiction. Indeed, Shelley realised her work’s place in a long tradition by subtitling it, The Modern Prometheus. From the dawn of cinema, the concept has been brought forward repeatedly by filmmakers, including in 2009 director Vincenzo Natali with Splice.

The world of splice is that of giant pharmaceutical company N.E.R.D. and its superstar geneticist couple Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley). After successfully created new organisms from spliced DNA, the two suggest introducing human DNA into the process to provide donor organisms to cure all sorts of adverse genetic human conditions. When the company bosses baulk at the concept, the pair decide to go ahead themselves…in secret.

The resulting hybrid, named ‘Dren’ (NERD backwards, of course), grows at a rapid rate and Clive and Elsa struggle to keep its existence secret. Then Dren herself begins acting more unpredictably, with particular instability arising from her human side.

There can be little argument that the subject matter of Splice is well-worn territory. The usual questions of morality and creation are raised, but to Natali’s credit, that is not where he focusses the attention of the film. Instead, he makes it about a family unit, albeit one dysfunctional in the extreme, the cycle of abuse and the connections we form with each other.

Even more telling, Natali does not shy away from the sexual element of proceedings and this is surely the pivot for most audiences. If you are on board with the choices of Natali and the characters, this is a brave approach that escalates proceedings. On the other hand, it is easily open to derison and may distance a more cynical audience.

The film itself belies its modest budget and is superbly realised. Austere environments are carefully composed throughout, while Dren herself is an impressive combination of practical and digital effects throughout the stages of her life.

While treading a fairly familiar core plot, Splice takes enough adventurous steps to make this a superior sci-fi flick, with brains beyond its creature-feature roots. Highly recommended.

Extras:
  • Vincenzo Natali Interview
  • Featurette: A Director’s Playground
  • Behind The Scenes
  • Trailer

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Jug Face

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Deep in rural America, a backwoods community have their own way of doing things. Arranged marriage is the tip of the iceberg. In return for apparently supernatural healing, the people perform ritual human sacrifice to The Pit, a muddy hole in the depths of the forest. The method for selection is based on potter Dawai, who periodically slips into a trance during which he creates a jug emblazoned with the face of the person to be sacrificed.

When headstrong teenager Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) finds the latest jug face while still in the furnace, she is shocked to find it bears her own face. Rather than submit to death, she decides instead to hide the jug, an action that will have dire consequences for the community.

Jug Face began life as a screenplay by short film director Chad Crawford Kinkle, which went on to win the script section of the Slamdance Film Festival. On the strength of that, he approached the production team from The Woman, knowing they were conmfortable with more “out there” indie horror ideas. As well as getting a production deal, Kinkle further pushed his luck by showing them his short film, Organ Grinder and on the strength of that, got the directing gig to boot.

Kinkle’s inexperience certainly does not show in Jug Face. He gets top drawer performances across the board from his cast. Carter, as the lead, effectively carries the film with her wide-eyed pixie look that lends her vulnerability, but her performance makes Ada’s inner strength convincing. Alongside her is her fellow The Woman alum, Sean Bridgers as the simple Dawai, an innocent victim role that is virtually unrecognisable against his turn as the morally-twisted domineering patriarch of The Woman.

The core cast is rounded out by genre vet Larry Fessenden as Ada’s duty-bound father and, in a terrific turn, Sean Young as Ada’s mother. Young nearly steals the film with a fiery part that could have easily been a cardboard villain, but instead comes across as a broken woman with genuinely good intentions. It is one of the greatest turns in Young’s career, so many years after headlining major films like Blade Runner and No Way Out back in the 80s.

The result of so many strong performances is a convincing (albeit very small) group of people divorced from the mainstream, living in caravans and shacks. Even when they have an excursion into town where they sell their moonshine, the modern stores and streets somehow feel a million miles away. As Ada finds her rebellion leads to the denizen of The Pit taking matters into its own hands, she decides to go on the run. But the outside world is frightening and strange.

Jug Face is a horror film, but it works best as a ensemble character study. The plot plays out in predictable fashion as The Pit keeps taking victims as it demands the correct sacrifice. It felt like the story needed another dimension, another twist, to elevate it beyond a fairly rote progression.

Despite this, it is a very strong indie movie. It has an unusual feel about it, and the richly drawn characters and environment are compelling. It is disturbing in a more subtle way, with an undercurrent of organised religion or any system of control and what it actually means for humanity. Not that it is all suggestion – plenty of the red stuff flows and some pretty gory remains pop up frequently.

Unique, deft and intelligent, Jug Face is a cut above most indie horror offerings and is a quality piece of work across the board. It punches way above its budget and is definitely worth a watch for any horror fan.

The “making of” is a solid 30 minute piece focussing primarily on the likeable Kinkle as he explains the real-life inspiration for the script and then on into production. Larry Fessenden, all wild hair and enthusiasm, is a huge presence as well, managing to be both charismatic and humble.

The mini-doco packs a lot in, from the digging of the pit through to monster design and finally to the triumphant premiere at Slamdance, a year after Kinkle had won the script competition there.

The other key extra is the Organ Grinder short. It is not a very strong piece of body horror and feels surprisingly amateurish against the assured nature of Jug Face. It is a great inclusion to see Kinkle’s roots and an important element in the movie finding its way to production.

DIRECTOR(S): Chad Crawford Kinkle | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 2013 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Modern Distributors/MVD | RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 1.33:1 | REGION: All / NTSC | DISCS: 1

Bad Biology

Bad_Biology_DVDA woman born with seven clits. A man with a detachable penis that goes on a rape spree…no, its not Woody Allen’s latest…its the (semi) triumphant return of genre favourite Frank Henenlotter.

Like most Love & Pop readers (well, the older ones anyway) I first encountered the legend of Frank Henenlotter through the pages of Fangoria magazine. His 1982 film Basket Case was getting loads of press and the gory stills certainly piqued the interest and the film was certainly worth the wait. I mean it had 42nd st flophouses, porn cinemas, winos, prostitutes and, best of all, a demented killer being carried around New York in a basket by his brother.

Later Henenlotter films were also unique with Brain Damage and Frankenhooker most noteworthy. I wasn’t a great fan of the Basket Case sequels but they had their moments. Needless to say legions of gorehounds have been long awaiting the return of this maverick filmmaker and Bad Biology has all the trademarks of a Henenlotter film.

The story follows the two aforementioned sexual freaks, one created by nature, one created by misadventure and steroid abuse, destined to collide in a sexual Hiroshima.

Charlee Danielson plays Jennifer, an aspiring photographer born with the aforementioned seven clits. This proves problematic in her everyday love-life as her sexual trysts become so intense that she literally fucks her paramours to death. Another bizarre side effect of her freakish condition is a minute gestation period, resulting in deformed offspring being born mere hours after her latest coupling.

Batz (Anthony Sneed) is grappling (literally) with problems of his own. After a mishap at birth he was left with short-comings in the penis department. His answer to this problem is to inject all kinds of pharmaceuticals into his once flaccid doodle and create a cock that would make John Holmes envious. It’s not a perfect solution though. This cock becomes as demanding as the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, needing satisfaction and gratification and, along the way, deciding maybe it’d be better off on its own. This leads to one of the film’s most memorable sequences as the penis detaches and goes on a rape spree, breaking through walls and climbing up legs till it enters the warm and moist surrounds of fuzzy town.

Along the way we meet all kinds of patented weird Henenlotter characters including porn models, a crackwhore (brilliantly portrayed by Eleonore Hendricks, surely a shoe-in to play Nancy Spungen if they remake the “Sid and Nancy” story!), vagina-faced models, scream-queen Tina Krause playing herself and there’s even a cameo by grindhouse favourite James (The Exterminator) Glickenhaus. And only a select few filmmakers would show the view from inside a vagina looking out.

The film rolls along at a good pace and, like all of Frank’s films, is never boring or predictable. The only fault I can find would be in the (thankfully) short stop-motion sequence, it may be a tribute to the early stop-motion work in films like Basket Case (or not) but it’s decidedly clunky. Given that the leads have to date only ever appeared in this film they both do an admirable job carrying the movie.

Welcome back Frank, it’s nice to see you haven’t mellowed over the years.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Rubber

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Directed by French DJ Mr.Oizo (Quentin Dupieux), Rubber is a bizarro horror-comedy about a killer tire named Robert and his murderous adventures in the Californian desert.

Opening with a fourth-wall-breaking monologue concerning the film being a homage to the “no reason” theory often employed in cinema, Rubber proceeds to mess with genre conventions by having an on-screen audience watch the film – alongside the viewer – with binoculars and they comment on the action intermittently. There is also a sheriff who frequently acknowledges the fact that he’s in a film.

Ironic self-awareness aside, Rubber‘s star is without a doubt Robert the tire and his psycho-kinetic head exploding skills. As we witness Robert awake and begin to roll through the desert, he first encounters small obstacles such as a rabbit or a crow on which he tests his telekinetic abilities, thus reducing them to piles of gore. Then he moves on to a small town where he commences to explode the noggins of anyone in his way.

After finally being tracked down by law enforcement, Robert is shot to pieces but reincarnates into a tricycle and trundles off down the road, heading towards Hollywood.

Honestly, there’s really not much to Rubber. When I first heard the premise I thought how could this possibly go wrong? but after a while it does become slightly redundant.

There are definitely humourous moments and the idea itself is genius; it’s the execution that seems flawed. Had it been presented as a goofy Attack of the Killer Tomatoes-type deal minus the witty self-referencing perhaps it would’ve worked better, or maybe as a short film rather than feature length.

Nonetheless, it is definitely worth a look, just didn’t live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.

Rubber is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Killer Condom

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Based on a comic book by gay German artist Ralf König, Killer Condom is a deadpan horror / comedy that pokes fun at religion and politics while blatantly flaunting its pro-homosexual stance.

Sicilian born Luigi Mackeroni (Udo Samel, star of Herzog’s Kaspar Hauser and a coupla Michael Haneke flicks among other things) is a hardboiled, chain-smoking (even in the shower), trench coat-wearing detective patrolling the filthy, crime-ridden streets of New York… he also happens to be a flaming fag and has one of the biggest cocks around. Continue reading