Monday, April 30, 2018

Legend of the Mountain (1979)

Director: King Hu
Notable Cast: Shih Chun, Hsu Feng, Syliva Chang, Tung Lam, Tien Feng, Chen Hui-Lou, Rainbow Hsu, Wu Jiaxiang, Ng Ming Tsui, Sun Yueh

Legend of the Mountain remains a rather unique cinematic experience for a variety of reasons. As one of the overlooked films in King Hu’s filmography, particularly compared to his famous wuxia films like Come Drink with Me, Dragon Inn, and his artistic pinnacle A Touch of Zen, it’s truly a wonder that this film finally finds itself with a proper release in the US via our friends at Kino Lorber. It’s not a film for everyone, thanks to Hu’s enigmatic narrative and almost-too-much-of-a-good-thing visual and auditory approach to the film, but for those that are seemingly up for the 3+ hour leap into realms of magic, love, and just a hint of horror, it’s a film that embraces its cinematic experience in full.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Directors: The Chiodos Brothers
Notable Cast: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Vernon, Michael S. Siegel, Peter Licassi, Royal Dano, Charles Chiodo

In terms of horror films, the 1980s represents perhaps one of the most diverse decades in exploration of the genre that expanded on the foundations established by the boom of low budget exploitation films of the 1970s. When it comes to truly odd cult hits, it’s hard to go wrong with some of the cornerstones of the genre that came to fruition during this decade. One of these weirdly effective cult films is Killer Klowns from Outer Space, the memorable and completely insane love letter to 1950s science fiction horror that has continually found life through its dedicated cult fanbase as time marches on. It’s only fitting then that the film has now received the full three ring circus treatment on the latest Arrow Video Blu Ray. That’s because, for all of its tongue in cheek humor, blending of style, and generally silly demeanor, Killer Klowns is a film that has as many great stories behind the film as it does in executing its ramped-up horror comedy punch. It’s a film that knows just how strange and off beat it is and embraces it, making it one of those films that defies conventional critiques. It’s also so charmingly B-grade that it deserves the cult audience attention.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Psychopaths (2017)

Director: Mickey Keating
Notable Cast: Ashley Bell, Angela Trimbur, Mark Kassen, Ivana Shein, James Landry Hebert, Jeremy Gardner, Helen Rogers, Larry Fessenden, Sam Zimmerman

In recent years there has been a resurgence of artistically charged horror films in the mainstream conscious, but there are always those truly enigmatic and impressive films that lie in the undercurrent of what’s popular. Even though the filmography of Mickey Keating tends to fit into the rising popularity of the arthouse horror with his focus on atmosphere and artful visuals, most of his films tend to find themselves buried with limited releases. His latest, Psychopaths, was once again given little fanfare when it first hit VOD and now it is even available to stream for free on Amazon Prime with little in the way of marketing or word of mouth. This is a problem because Psychopaths, for all of its divisive approaches, is a dynamic, perplexing, and impressively well-crafted modern arthouse horror affair. It might be Mickey Keating at his most Mickey Keating, but it resonates in a strange way that really had me hook, line, and sinker.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 2 - Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies (2018)

Director: Seijun Suzuki

Even though Seijun Suzuki has been heavily recognized as a key artistic figure in Japanese cinema that influenced some of the great modern directors, so many of his films have been left in the shadows of time for western audiences. More recently, Arrow Video has really stepped up in this regard by digging in and getting some of his classics and overlooked early films the releases they desperately deserved. Not only did they drop the iconic and artsy Taisho Trilogy, but they have gathered together ten of his early films into two box sets (limited to 1500 copies each) for collectors. For the second volume, under the title of Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 2 - Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies, Arrow gathers together a slick mixture of differently styled films to cover a lot of the tones and style that Suzuki used as a hired gun for the Nikkatsu studio through the late 50s and early 60s. This review will briefly cover the five films in this set, but for those who are even remotely fans of Nikkatsu, Suzuki, or cinema from this era of Japan then this is a no-brainer purchase.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Twilight People (1972)

Director: Eddie Romero
Notable Cast: John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Charles Macaulay, Pam Grier, Ken Metcalfe, Tony Gosalvez, Kim Ramos, Mona Morena

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a classic in its own sense, thanks to a fantastic concept and story by the iconic H.G. Wells, but it’s a tale that sometimes finds itself being translated oddly to film. Many of the official film adaptations of the story have both their fans and detractors, depending on which version you watch it leans heavily one way or the other, but there is one thing that the Dr. Moreau story has inspired that is of particular interest to readers of this site: all of the knock offs in B-cinema. The Twilight People, the focus of this review, is one of those knock offs. Featuring some fun animal/people mashups and a brisk pace, the tone and feel of this 70s film will appeal to those who love to dig through the annals of cinema history for the strange and offbeat. For the rest of the cinema watching community though, it might be a harder sell thanks to a thin script and mixed execution. If anything, the actual restoration of this film and release on Blu Ray is much better than the film itself and for those who do find The Twilight People on the radar, it will be a solid addition to their collection.

The Return of Ringo (1965)

Director: Duccio Tessari
Notable Cast: Giuliano Gemmea, Fernando Sancho, Lorella De Luca, Nieves Navarro, Antonio Casas, Manuel Muniz, Monica Sugranes, Victor Bayo, Tunet Vila, Juan Torres, Jose Halufi, Francisco Martinez Celeiro

Expectations can be the best and worst thing to bring into a film for the first time. Particularly when one is under the impression that a film is a sequel and, surprise, it’s not. This kind of expectation and whiplash change of impression constitutes the first 30 minutes or so of my experience watching The Return of Ringo. Partnered with another film called A Pistol for Ringo in the new Blu Ray set available from Arrow Video, they are both directed by Tessari and both star Gemma in the lead role as a character called Ringo along with a substantial amount of the same cast too. Perhaps I should have done a little research before digging into it to set my expectations up properly. However, after watching the first one and enjoying it immensely, I leapt into The Return of Ringo expecting more of the quirky anti-heroics of Ringo as he continues to wander the desolate lands of the wild, wild west.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Whispering Star (2015)

Director: Sion Sono

Notable Cast: Megumi Kagurazaka, Kenji Endo, Yuto Ikeda, Koko Mori

A passion project of Sono's 20 years in the making, The Whispering Star sees the director make a return to a more thought provoking form, and stylistically and thematically harkens back to an early point in his career, calling to mind such works as The Room or Keiko desu Kedo, for point of reference. For fans of these earlier works, you'll have an idea of what you are in for. That is, a much less extreme cinema and a slower, reflective film bathed in lush visuals that really gets your mind going. Frankly, I believe Whispering Star to be one of Sono's best work yet. It's familiar, yet exerts a freshness we haven't seen in his works before with its overall visual aesthetic and genre choosing (sci-fi).

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Blood Splatter: 2018 Horror Vol. 1 [The Midnight Man, Terrifier, Pyewacket]


Director: Travis Zariwny
Notable Cast: Grayson Gabriel, Emily Haine, Gabrielle Haugh, Summer H. Howell, Keenan Lehmann, Louise Linton, Meredith Rose, Robert Englund, Lin Shaye

The reason why I’ve called you into my office today is that, well, to put it nicely, we need to talk about The Midnight Man. Recently, there has been some speculation that The Midnight Man could have been a good movie. Really, there is potential here. It has a fun monster/game concept at its core, it features a couple of roles for horror elite actors, and the production value is sharp. The problem with it is not how it looks from the outside. It’s the inside. The Midnight Man has one of the thinnest and most illogical scripts I’ve had the pleasure to experience in a long time, the performances of the two/three leads are perplexing at best (jaw droppingly awful at worst,) and the film has a confusing tone. In all honesty, I spent the entire run time of the film desperately trying to figure out if it was meant to be funny. If it was, I didn’t laugh. If it wasn’t, boy, I sure feel awkward that this is how it came out.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)

Director: Jung Bum-Shik
Notable Cast: Wi Ha-Jun, Park Sung-Hun, Lee Seung-Wook, Oh Ah-Yeon, Park Ji-Hyun, Yoo Je-Yoon, Mun Ye-Won

The advent of the found footage horror movie certainly kickstarted one of the more divisive movements in the genre and its lasting effect remains intact - even if the style is finally waning from the mainstream conscious to not over-saturate the market. However, there are always a few of them that pop up every year and the first one to cross my path in 2018 is, believe it or not, a South Korean film. Over the last handful of years, the Korean market has proven that it can drop some of the best horror around (The Wailing and Train to Busan come to mind) so there was hope that perhaps the strong cinematic qualities would carry over to a found footage horror film. The execution in Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum is decidedly mixed though and, while there are some admirable qualities to be found in the film, it’s reliance on the found footage tropes undermine the film ultimately and the film has serious foundational issues. It’s an entertaining experience overall, but not one that is going to shake the market like the last few South Korean horror films that have made it to North American shores.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

City of the Dead (1960)

Director: John Moxey
Notable Cast: Christopher Lee, Dennis Lotis, Patricia Jessel, Tom Naylor, Betta St. John, Venetia Stevenson, Valentine Dyall, Ann Beach, Norman Macowan

City of the Dead was one of those films that would occasionally pop up in my peripheral vision as a cult cinema consumer, but it was not one that I would actively seek out. Even with a huge name like Christopher Lee attached to it, the lacking attachment of any of the bigger studios of the period (Hammer, Amicus) certainly had a part to play in my hesitation to leap into it, but the latest Blu Ray release from VCI perked my interest. While City of the Dead does hit some of the necessary Gothic elements that one expects from a film of this caliber, it’s also not a film that finds itself uplifted into the upper echelon of the genre. Still, fans of the style and those looking for a decent classic horror film to burn some time with will be fine with what is on display here - although it does tend to be somewhat forgettable ultimately.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Last Men in Aleppo (2017)

Director: Feras Fayyad

Featuring: Khaled, Mahmoud and Subhi and the other brave people of Aleppo

This was an experience I wasn't ready for.

I knew about the issues going on in Syria and had seen various articles and videos scattered about on the web, but to be put right in the middle of the chaos, to see the day-to-day lives of these people, it shattered my heart into an uncountable amount of pieces. I am thankful for where I live and my surroundings but to not even feel for these people, which some don't, is just unfathomable and disgusting. I will try and not let my beliefs get in the way of the work here, which frankly is the most singular powerful event I've witnessed with my journey through cinema.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Sleepy Eyes of Death 6: Sword of Satan (1965)

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Notable Cast: Raizo Ichikawa, Michiko Saga, Machiko Hasegawa, Masako Aboshi, Noriko Hodaka, Kazuko Wakamatsu

“Tsurumatsu! Don’t close your eyes. This is what it means to be a kill each other!”

The Sleepy Eyes of Death franchise, by the time the third and fourth entry have hit, certainly found their formula where Kyoshiro, played time and time again by the impressive screen presence of Raizo Ichikawa, essentially stumbles into random conspiracies while on the road. For the sixth entry, titled Sword of Satan for perhaps only one reason that I will get into here in a minute, the film continues to pump out another adventure for our nihilistic hero...and that’s about it. The last couple of entries has seen the series pull back a little bit from the usual gimmicks and tonally that remains for this sixth one, but this is a film that is so bare bones in its narrative that it uses most of its second act to string together somewhat random sequences to keep things exciting. Considering the film runs at such an efficient pace that it only clocks in at a whopping 75 minutes, it’s hard to say that it wasn’t entertaining even if that’s about all it is. Sword of Satan doesn’t have quite the lasting effect that other entries into the series have and that’s perhaps its biggest flaw.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Nocturama (2016)

Director: Bertrand Bonello

Notable Cast: Finnegan Oldfield, Vincent Rottiers, Hamza Meziani, Manal Issa, Martin Guyot, Jamil McCraven, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laure Valentinelli, Ilias le Dore, Robin Goldbronn

Aside from some alluring production stills of the film and the nicely designed poster, as seen above, I knew absolutely nothing going into Nocturama, and perhaps for the better. It is a slow burn thriller that greatly reflects the aspect of modern society that matters most, the youth. Without going into personal beliefs and opinions, there is no question that time always moves forward so it is inevitable that the youth will always one day raise up and carry on where those before them left off, and it has always been that way. This film explores a very scary and real look at an abstract mindset in some of those minds today that look to change the world.