Monday, February 22, 2021

Shogun's Joy of Torture (1968)

Director: Teruo Ishii

Notable Cast: Teruo Yoshida, Masumi Tachibana, Fumio Watanabe, Reiko Mikasa, Miki Obana, Yukie Kagawa, Shinichiro Hayashi, Asao Koike, Kichijiro Ueda, Tamaki Sawa


One of the best things about many of the recent Arrow Video acquisitions is their intentions to dig up some of the missing cult classics from the King of Cult, Teruo Ishii. They’ve already released a handful of his filmography, an insane amount of films for those who want to attempt counting them, and their latest, Shogun’s Joy of Torture, brings back one of his most sought-after and acclaimed titles from his pinky violence era. Like many of the other films released by Arrow, this 1968 exploitation flick is an omnibus of three stories centered around the titular theme - old-school torture elements from Japan’s history. It’s not one of his best, but for those looking for a slab of interestingly made provocative cinema, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. 


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A Writer's Odyssey (2021)

Director: Lu Yang

Notable Cast: Lei Jiayin, Yang Mi, Dong Zijian, Yu Hewei, Guo Jingfei


After a double-fisted punch of modern wuxia excellence with Brotherhood of Blades and its prequel, Lu Yang was a directorial name to watch. All eyes were on his third film as questions arose whether or not his style and balance between classic and modern influences would translate beyond the world he helped craft in the previously mentioned martial arts actioners. When the initial trailer dropped for his latest, A Writer’s Odyssey, a plethora of questions were left in its wake. With a dual narrative where ambitiously over-the-top fantasy action set pieces collided with a classic kidnapping thriller plot, the film looked almost too disjointed - even in the marketing. We all know that trailers are specifically meant to make a film look good and A Writer’s Odyssey, partnered with its odd title, felt a bit too egregious even for the vulgar auteur in me. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Swordsman (2021)

Director: Choi Jae-hoon

Notable Cast:Jang Hyuk, Kim Hyeon-soo, Joe Taslim, Jeong Man-sik


Far be it for me not to admit that, dammit, I love a blind swordsman flick. Whether it’s the couple of dozen Zatoichi films, the oft-overlooked Crimson Bat series, or standalone films like The Sword of Swords, if a film has a swordsman who happens to lose (or mostly lose) their eyesight, you can count me in. For the latest addition to this long-standing trope of martial arts cinema, the blandly titled The Swordsman, South Korea takes a swing at the trope with a fairly unique balance of modern revenge, historical placement, and classic chanbara foundations. The results, even within the formula, are highly enjoyable and the film’s attempts to ride a fine line between serious and camp are commendable throughout. It’s a slash-tastic time if one is willing to loosen up and run with the tried-and-true tropes that The Swordsman is drawing. 


Monday, February 8, 2021

A Nightmare Wakes (2021)

Director: Nora Unkel

Notable Cast: Alix Wilton Regan, Giullian Gioiello, Claire Glassford, Philippe Bowgen, Lee Garrett


While film and television adaptions of Frankenstein continually find their way to release every year, there is also a quite common trend in trying to adapt the life of Mary Shelley into the film landscape. At this point I must have seen half a dozen films that are inspired or directly attempt this approach and the latest, coming straight through your internet via Shudder, is A Nightmare Wakes. The life of Shelley and the writing of her iconic novel makes for a fascinating story in their own right, but there are only so many times one can see a ‘new angle’ on the material before it grows stale – just as the various versions of Frankenstein can cover enough ground. With A Nightmare Wakes, director Nora Unkel attempts to craft a psychological thriller around Shelley’s life during the writing of her novel.


Friday, February 5, 2021

Hunted (2021)

Director: Vincent Paronnaud

Notable Cast: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Claran O’Brien


The cycle of recycling continues. It’s a general rule of thumb that trends and style will eventually come back into the rotation, through a modern lens mostly, but it’s only a matter of time before something buried resurfaces. Color me surprised though when Hunted, the latest Shudder Exclusive to drop on the now illustrious horror streaming service, was proudly replicating the style and tone of the French New Extreme of the early 00s. A loose retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, Hunted strips all of the fairy and fantasy of the story and replaces it with grit, grime, and just a touch of influence from Last House on the Left. It’s an often uncomfortable watch, intentionally so, but fans of that dark and violent style will definitely howl with delight at what Hunted is offering.