Before I begin the ol’ revoltin’ reviews, I really want to call your attention to a truly sensational looking upcoming motion picture that goes by the name of Violent Starr.
If ever there was a successor to Star Crash (my favorite motion picture of all time by the by), Message From Space, or the multitude of sci-fi awesomeness that followed in the wake of Star Wars, then this appears to be well and truly it! Here, check out the teaser to see what I mean…
Awesome, right? To learn more and to keep abreast (or even two…get it? Man, I still got it…) be sure to slap a “like” on the flick’s official Facebook page located right here!
When a symbiotic, drug secreting, monster mash named Aylmer (voiced to silky smooth perfection by legendary horror host Zacherley) goes on the lam from his previous friends/victims he takes up residence with lip wounded pretty boy Brian; a real rube of an individual that is soon charged with carrying this blue cock of a beast all over town where he (the monster that is) proceeds to eat the brains of anyone who has the misfortune to cross his path. What follows is a sex and blood Gorgy™ (yup, your’s truly just coined a new F’n phrase!) of hallucinogenic mayhem, monster blowies, and classic New York sleaze in the mighty grindhouse manor.
Brain Damage is writer/director Frank Henenlotter’s follow up to his low-fi masterpiece Basket Case (and exists in the same cinematic universe as a familiar cameo will verify) and in many respects comes off as a more technically adept version of the previous work mingled with elements of the legend of Faust (a deal with a demon in exchange for great power…in this case massive trips…and all that); and while ol’ Case was full on punk rock D.I.Y. aesthetic, Damage comes across as a more New Wave follow up with it’s slick fever dream visuals and technically polished effects work.
As much as I love Brain Damage, and would easily recommend this release on the strength of the feature flick alone, ol’ Arrow is making me do the broken record bit and say that the extras present on this release really blow the value quotient right through the F’n roof. Don’t believe me? Well, then you sir or madam are a grade A ass cheek…I mean c’mon just feast your putrid peepers on these fearsome features and say this Blu isn’t worthy every damn dime! Kicking off the whole horror hootenanny is a nearly hour long making of doc that covers the creation of the film in amazing detail (yet surprisingly contains nary a word from ghoul ol’ Heinous Henenlotter his damn self, though that is rectified by a rad ass commentary from the man included as well). This is a hell of well made piece o’ film on it’s own, and again…totally makes this release worth it, but like some sort of damn fright flick based Ron Popeil this release is going to offer you so much more for your beastly bucks. Next up are a duo of short docs about the creation of the film’s multitude of monstrous effects with creature maestros Gabe Bartalos and Al Magliochetti respectively, followed by a chat with Karen Ogle (stills photographer, script supervisor, and assistant editor…plus multitasker) about her memories of working on Brain Damage. Former Fangoria editor-in-chief Michael Gingold is up next with a look at the present day state of the film’s shooting locations with Henenlotter in tow. I have loved Gingold’s previous installments in this series on previous Arrow releases, and this one proves just as entertaining. Also included are a interview with super fan Adam Skinner, who’s band The Statutory Apes (good F’n lord) recorded an entire album based on the film with the help of some other musicians (you get to hear many tracks from said album as well…mileage will vary here). Bringing up the rear are a Q&A with Henenlotter from some film festival somewhere (you in the Coffin Club know how I feel about these things…and if you’re new I’ll sum it up…these are usually redundant and are poorly shot with bad sound…although this one is a multi-camera affair, so it’s better than most), massive image galleries, the film’s theatrical trailer, an exceptionally well done animated short (with an aesthetic that seems like an unholy but gorgeous union between Will Vinton and the Chiodo Brothers) about a giant monster that’s seen better days (with a cameo by Zacherley), and a presentation of the film with an isolated score track. I’m exhausted…
In short, Brain Damage is a fantastically demented, bodily fluid drenched, off-the-wall phantasmagoria for the senses…a surreal masterpiece that stands on equal ground with it’s legendary predecessor Basket Case. This is an absolutely essential film for any lover of ye olde Grindhaus, and the love lavished upon it by Arrow makes this a must own release!
From the jangly guitar ruckus that plays over the ol’ waves n’ rocks (a.k.a. the classic Toei film’s logo) you can tell that you are going to be in for one unconventional film 9well that, and the fact the flick sports the handle of F’n Wolfguy for shit’s sake). As is the way of such things, former members of a rock and or roll band (who moonlight as gang-rapists, as one does) are gettin’ themselves slashed to pieces by an invisible assailant (the police come to the totally rational assumption that a demon is to blame, but it’s really some sort of phantom tiger…maybe…I mean one is superimposed over the background sometimes…yeah…). Anyway one of these murders is witnessed by a man nicknamed Wolf (played by Mr. Ass Kick himself, Sonny Chiba), the last surviving member of a clan of werewolves hunted to extinction, who decides to solve the damn case himself…and by “solve the case” I mean create new assholes for every gangland thug that gets in his way via his enhanced strength and agility (and other powers that increase as the lunar cycle progresses). Along the way he also gets involved in the plight of stripper cum singer Miki and her syphilis (she’s got a smack habit too, but who’s counting?); the woman those rapin’ rockers did their number on. Oh, and there’s a musical number featuring a backdrop comprised of a butterfly with a vagina for a body…
Wolfguy is exactly the type of flick that makes the beastly blood flow in my vicious veins; it’s equal parts sleazy and arty, it’s packed fat with heaps of gore and boobs, the soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, there’s excessive martial arts, super powers, trap laden secret labs (where the Yakuza attempt to create a werewolf rival for our hero after vivisecting him), supernatural overtones…all of this and more in a film that doesn’t even run a full ninety minutes! To say I loved this movie would be a severe understatement! The only negative some may have with this movie is that there are no crazy werewolf makeups or transformations…Wolf is a man with superpowers based loosely on lupine attributes…but please, please trust me when I say you won’t even miss full on lycanthrope action with all of the off-kilter goings-on in this flick!
While I feel that this release is worth it just for the feature presentation alone (deja vu), there are a few bonus features added to the mix to sweeten the pot so to speak. Included are: new interviews with Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, Producer Toru Yoshida, and of course Sonny Chiba himself. All are informative, and give a real snap shot of what it was like to adapt a popular manga (yup, the wild n’ woolly world of Wolfguy began on the printed page) into a relatively low budget feature. The film’s theatrical trailer rounds out the extras.
To put a nice, pretty bow on it; Wolfguy is one hell of a fantastic example of surreal grindhouse awesomeness; there’s blood, boobs, and bad guys aplenty, Sonny Chiba goes berserk every other second, and there’s gallons of gore and supernatural powers on display…but this thing immediately!!
Anthologies seem to be all the rage as of late in the horror biz (okay, they’ve kinda always been a thing as far as fright flicks are concerned), and why the hell wouldn’t they be? I mean you get quick lil’ bite sized nuggs o’ terror time, and if one story sucks the high hard one there are many more just minutes away waiting to win you back. With that in mind, let’s focus our putrid peepers on the new anthology XX; a collection of stories helmed entirely by women directors (as if that clever title didn’t tip you off…and knowing the brain power of some of you lot I’d wager it didn’t…)!
After the wrap around segment (which begs pleasant comparison to the works of Jan Svankmajer and The Brothers Quay) from award-winning animator Sofia Carrillo (La Casa Triste), we get a tale directed by former Rue Morgue magazine editor and SFX whiz Jovanka Vuckovic called The Box (which just so happens to be an adaptation of a piece by Jack Ketchum just so ya know). The story centers on a young scamp that looks inside a weird ass strangers gift box during a lil’ shopping spree in ol’ Manhattan town. Upon returning home, the lad has no appetite and begins not eating for days on end. The malady soon spreads to his father and sister and culminates in a nicely executed and surreal sequence that is the highlight of this simply told yet effective tale. So far, so good…
Next is The Birthday Party brought to us by Annie Clark (who everyone is telling me has some alter-ego called St. Vincent whatever the F that is about). This yarn concerns a frenzied mother attempting to throw the perfect birthday party for her child regardless of any and every obstacle, including the death of her husband. Manic, full of color and pseudo ’60’s aesthetics, and displaying an undeniable energy; The Birthday Party is another winner…good lord, we’re two for two…I’m getting nervous…
That brings us to Roxanne Benjamin’s (co-producer of the V/H/S flicks and co-writer of the previous segment) piece Don’t Fall; the most traditional fright flick of the bunch! We follow a group of college kids who stumble upon scared ground in the desert, which naturally releases a supernatural menace that stalks n’ slays our heroes. Uncomplicated with a nice retro ’80’s horror flare this too is a real good time in the ol’ horror biz. C’mon movie, don’t F it up now…
Finally we have Karyn Kusama’s (Director of The Invitation) Her Only Living Son, which tells another tale of a mother planning her child’s birthday…but this tyke (I say tyke…this dude is like sixteen) is an abusive shape shifting bastard who does his best to foil his mommy’s plans for a perfect, or even normal, day. This is yet another well done story, and even though it’s a tad weird to have two segments featuring mothers planning Birthday’s, Her Only Living Son manages to be unique and vicious in it’s own right.
As amazed as I was to find a top shelf anthology with no clunkers in XX, I was also pleasantly surprised to see a beastly bounty of bonus features on this Blu as well. Included for your devious delight are: a “making of” doc for The Box, a behind the scenes look and photo gallery for The Birthday Party, a featurette on the stunts of Don’t Fall, a behind the scenes featurette on Her Only Living Son. Along with that are interviews with all of the directors involved, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
I think besides the fact that it’s a stylish, often gloriously violent, and all around well made film; XX pulls off a real movie miracle and doesn’t include any turds among it’s multiple narratives. Recommended!
After a pre-credit sequence featuring a bitchy couple (one of whom shows her naked bewbs in like the first minute and a half…so that’s one point for you Dark Harvest) getting offed by a scarecrow in the desert, our story proper begins…after countless panning shots of the desert that is (and I hope you like that business because you sure will be getting a lot of it).
Anyway, said story involves a gaggle o’ goofs trekking out into the desert to…I don’t know, to hike, or ride horses or some such bullshit…look, does it matter? It doesn’t, because they start to get their asses handed to them one by one by that scarecrow I mentioned previously (actually a whole posse of scarecrows to be precise) before any hot n’ nasty equestrian or trail walkin’ action can transpire…after more shots of the desert that is (Seriously did the National Desert Filming Commission sponsor this film? Well, since the whole thing is shot on VHS and features sub-amateur actors menaced by a dudes in what appear to be off-the-rack Halloween costumes some of which are topped off with the kind of straw hat your Granny uses while tending her azaleas, I’m guessing no one funded this film…also that Commission doesn’t exist so there’s that…) all set to jingle-jangle acoustic guitar and Native American flutes (think the kind of garbage they play when you get a massage and you’re close).
So now that those landscape shots are done, the scarecrows are all fired up to start their horror biz, right? Umm…not quite…see there’s a few more things you have to get through before those danglin’ demons begin to go kill crazy; namely a metric ton of bickering, long momentum stopping campfire stories, talky bits (most of which are inexplicably about marriage), a random yokel or three (two of which appear to be the end result of growing Eddie Vedders from a vat of corn syrup), more talky bits (some recorded “live” directly in the path of gall force winds), boobs…pretty much any and every thing the film makers could chuck in to stretch that runtime and keep that effects budget way on down. But eventually people do get killed by scarecrows, in an orgy of high tension and even higher waistbands!
Filled with over-the-top acting, technical flaws the size of a small moon, and more filler than a billion hot dogs; Dark Harvest is a prime example of the Shot on Video sub-genre of fright flicks where anyone with a camcorder could (and did) make a horror film…and I absolutely had a blast with the damn thing! For all it gets wrong, it gets plenty right; namely there are monsters, blood, naked flesh, buckets of unintentionally surreal dialog, and off-kilter performances that never fail to entertain no matter how off the rails the narrative or pacing go…all delivered with earnestness and heart. And therein lies the whole key to an enjoyable film; I don’t care how badly you F up, just be honest about what you create (and I wholeheartedly believe the makers of Dark Harvest stood behind what they were creating) and your technical flaws won’t mean shit (I mean I’ll still point them out and write really infantile jokes about them…but you’re still going to get a good score from your’s cruelly)!
So Dark Harvest gets…
Now on to the second feature contained in this release, Escapes…which is touted as featuring Vincent F’n Price…let’s see if he shows up for more than 3.7 seconds, shall we?
Escapes begins with a dude receiving a mysterious VHS of a horror film that he has no clue what the shit it is or where it came from (replace VHS with Blu-ray or DVD and you have the story of my F’n life creeps). The film is Escapes starring Vincent Price…well, that’s meta as all f**k. Anyway, it appears this film and the film within the film (Jesus H. Christ this is going to be one hell of a review…my head already hurts) is an anthology, so let’s take it segment by segment.
Story one concerns the antics of an innocent moppet lead into danger by a group of douche bags atop rad-ass Huffy steeds. Anyway, these Granimal gangsters dare our hero to cross some bridge supposedly guarded by a hobgoblin (I thought that was a job strictly enforced by the troll unions, but whatevs). After about 4,785 minutes, the kid decides to cross the damn bridge, and what do you know…there’s actually a hobgoblin there (and I have to admit, he’s brought to life in a fittingly creepy manner)!
Next we have a tale of a fisherman who mumbles a lot and is an asshole towards small fish. He then gets caught on a line and dragged into the water…the fuuuuuuuuuuu…
Moving on we witness the pulse pounding adventures of multiple lost travelers looking for Highway 49. These city folk are taught not to be in such a consarned hurry by Robert Mitchum’s brother (all expenses were spared here folks…though admittedly he’s great in the role) who advises they just take some time to relax…which of course goes unheeded leading to an endless loop that can only be broken by stopping at a local cafe for a cup of coffee…or can it? This is a great little Twilight Zone style tale, and along with the first yarn, makes this flick totally worth your time.
Up next is a vignette involving some creatures (recently escaped from some sort of laboratory) spying on kids playing and fat joggers eating snacks…yeah. As nothing as this seems, there are some really great and arty shots, not to mention fun creature suits…with an enjoyably playful twist. This one is a win as well as far as I’m concerned.
Following that we get a story involving a woman carrying on her late husband’s dream of finding gold on their property. This is a rather bittersweet entry that details the devotion of a wife to her husband, though things take a turn for the sci-fi when the wife finds a rather unusual discovery in her barn one night. If the rest of this film could be considered akin to The Twilight Zone or even Tales From the Darkside, this entry has a the feel of an Amazing Stories episode…all in all rather enjoyable, and my third favorite of the offerings.
Following that we have some weird ass shit involving a dude that looks like the cat that played Zorro from Frankenhooker wandering around some alley that’s home to glowing crystals and bums sharing artisanal bread. There’s also DWI inspired manslaughter…and some sort of purse snatching…or something…I don’t…
And back to the wrap around. we get a few seconds more of ol’ V.P. as we begin our final segment…one that directly involves the dude watching the accursed VHS as he is menaced by all of the threats from the previous stories…
Escapes is definitely a fun lil’ romp that will easily appeal to those that love shows such as the aforementioned The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Darkside, as well as lesser known anthologies such as Monsters. Briskly paced and full of fun if somewhat light (or downright fever dream) narratives, Escapes is as much a winner as Dark Harvest and is well worth adding to your fright flick library!
Also worth noting, besides offering up two full features those sexy rascals at Intervision have included some bonus features to enhance our viewing displeasure including an interview with Dark Harvest actress Patti Negri who proves to be a real firecracker as she cheerfully chats about her time on the film as well as her psychic medium business whose cliental have apparently burst into flames (so much for repeat business), an amiable chat with Dark Harvest actor Dan Weiss, and Escapes distributor Tom Naygrow’s anecdotes on the film’s writer/director David Steensland (and how the death of a clown named Wobbles started a downward spiral for his career). Good times for one and all (well except for poor Wobbles that is…)!
Look, I know when most of you creepy cats think of 2000AD your mind goes right to their most famous character, Judge Dredd…and I dig on Dredd too (my intro to the man being the killer Anthrax song I Am The Law), but my first journey into the Euro-comics goodness of 2000AD was via the badass barbarian Slaine: The Berserker, a character that immediately grabbed the attention of a lad raised on the lusty and violent adventures of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian (and I had to travel thirty miles to get ’em too…ahh, the small town life).
Why am I talking about 2000AD in the first place? You’re not the brightest bat in the belfry are ya chuckles? Just look at the title of this here review…yup; someone (or ones more accurately) have made a new doc all about those roguish scamps across the pond (well, across the pond from your’s cruelly anyway) and let me tell you; it’s one hell of a story! Born from the tumultuous time when disenfranchisement and rebellion were king (a.k.a. the punk rock saturated 1970’s of ol’ London town), 2000AD was the comic book equivalent of the mindset that was prevalent at the time; gaudy, violent AF, full of anti-establishment rhetoric and distrust of those in power, satirical…in other words, exactly what the young scamps needed at the time to take their minds away from the hypocrisy of the world all delivered by jack booted ultra-lawmen, warp-spasming barbarians, mutant bounty hunters, alien warlocks, and genetically engineered soldiers…exactly the type of stories American comics were missing at the time (which would be noticed by publisher DC who would farm 2000AD for talent in the mid ’80’s and beyond forming their own take on the movement with their Vertigo imprint). Filled with interviews with legendary creators (2000AD creator Pat Mills, writers Alan Grant, John Wagner, Grant Morrison, artists Carlos Ezquerra and Kevin O’ Neill and many, many more) this telling of the origins of 2000AD is engaging, fast paced (which is amazing given the nearly 2 hour runtime of the feature), and an all around great viewing experience (not to mention balanced, as those interviewed don’t shy away from talking about all the warts present in the companies history as well).
As fantastic as the feature is, ol’ sinister Severin (the cats what released this beast ‘natch) have included a Mega-City One sized cache of bonus material as well including: a bevy of extended segments (including a great piece on the cinematic history of Judge Dredd that is brutal in it’s honesty) and interviews that combined exceed the runtime of the whole damn movie by a damn sight (hell, Pat Mills’ interview is an hour and a half on it’s own!), a blooper reel, a “behind the Scenes” featurette on the film’s soundtrack, trailers, a quick look at artists Jock and Henry Flint at work, a featurette where Pat Mills visits the birthplace of 2000AD as it appears today, and featurettes on five of the company’s titles (Bad Company, Future Shocks, Rogue Trooper, Slaine, and Strontium Dog respectively).
If you are a fan of underground (or European) comic books, Judge Dredd, or seeing the underdog prevail, then Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD is a can’t miss film (and those F’n extras make it even more so)!!
Zombie Presidents reawaken to kill obnoxious teens…that seems like a premise that would be both deleriously fun and near impossible to F up, right? Well…
Presidents Day (yeah, no comma here) begins with your stereotypical teen cardboard cutouts (jock, nerd, strong woman et. al.) getting ready to head to a cabin in the woods™ (Jesus H. Christ…there has got to be a place to film as cheap as this hoary ol’ chestnut…). Before I continue with the story at hand, I have to mention that these folks play their roles so over-the-top that it becomes rather grating, rather quickly…just like the obvious “wink, wink, ain’t we clever” self aware film making present here as well. Anyway…kids arrive, zombie Presidents rise from their graves to kill them (why, who the F knows)…and that’s about it. Oh, John Wilkes Booth shows up, and if you have even a third grader’s knowledge of U.S. History you will be able to assess his role in the proceedings.
Amateurish and with the comedic subtlety of a jackhammer to the ribs, Presidents Day is by no means a great (or at times even “good”) film. Your mileage will no doubt vary wildly as you decide if you have the sack to endure lines shouted with nary a regard for the tenants of acting in the name of seeing zombified historical figures put the murder on generi-teens for an hour and a half. Also, this film has digital gunshot flashes…I really hate that cheap crap.
All isn’t negative however. I mean, c’mon…zombie Presidents is a fun and creative idea, and some of the performances of said zombies is rather solid (in particular Michael Minto as Booth is a good time) as is their undead make-up designs (the gore isn’t too shabby for what it is either). Additionally, I believe the film makers were earnest enough with their presentation of suck off-the-wall material, I just wish they had dialed back some of the pseudo-satirical nonsense and just delivered a straight forward zombie opus that just so happened to have a ludicrous conceit at it’s core.
Look, I certainly didn’t hate Presidents Day, but I sure as shit didn’t love it either. I’d say if you want a laugh, intentional or not, give it a shot…you don’t see films about zombie Presidents everyday, and that makes it worthwhile alone.
Directed by Toei studios workhorse Kinji Fukasaku (the director most known for Battle Royale and the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, who had directed well over 30 films by 1975; The year this film was made), Cops vs Thugs concerns two yakuza groups; the Kawade and the Ohara, who are vying for control of Kurashima City. The Kawade have some political connections while the Ohara have made an alliance with the local police force which keeps the two groups in a stalemate…that is until acting Ohara boss Hirotani wrests a lucrative land deal away from the Kawade ( thanks in part to their ally in the police, Detective Kuno), which causes all hell to break out. Fed up with all the corruption and gang warfare, Kuno’s superiors put together a special task force to crack down on the gangsters and dirty cops alike.
The title of the film is not so much about “versus”, but comparing the cops to the crooks. Everybody in the film is a greedy bastard, and they all want their piece of the action (even the supposedly incorruptible characters are shown in the end to be dirty). Needless to say, there are no heroes here, and it’s fascinating to see what lengths the various players will go to get ahead.
While not an action packed crime film, what Cops vs. Thugs does have violence… brutal and bloody violence. In some ways the film reminded me of Takashi Miike’s yakuza films, as Fukasaku films everything very stylish (news footage-style photographs, Dutch angled black and white and hand held shots, etc.) which never fails to make the film feel fresh. The acting across the board is excellent as well with The great Bunta Sugawara as Kuno being the standout. Additionally the funky 1970’s score, is just fantastic and really adds to the surreal tone of the piece.
As for the Blu-ray itself, the high-definition transfer is excellent and really brings the neon drenched landscape of the film to vibrant, vivid life. As for extras, Arrow Video includes the following: Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs, a 10-minute video appreciation by Sadao Yamane on Fukasaku and a 12-minute video on cops and crooks in Fukasaku’s films by Tom Mes.
All together this is a sweet package for those that dig yakuza films or ‘70’s Japanese cinema!
-Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca
I always get excited when I hear that ultra-prolific genre film maker Richard Griffin is set to release a new fright flick upon us; ol’ Rockin’ Richie is a cat that really understands the horror biz, and is adept at bringing us all manner of devious deviltry. So imagine my absolute demonic delight when his newest production, Long Night in a Dead City appeared on my dreaded doorstep! Without further ado, let’s see if his newest opus measures up to his previous offerings…
Long Night in a Dead City begins with a young man named Daniel waking up bruised and battered in the streets of city cloaked in the darkness of night. Wandering the avenues, Daniel meets a man whom invites him home for dinner; a home our hero explores only to find a narrow hall leading to a surreal funeral attended by mannequins…yes, my creeps…shit gets awfully weird, awfully fast. Onward Daniel travels from one surreal scenario (ostensibly searching for his brother…though of course there is more to that than meets the ol’ eerie eyeball) to the next we learn how he became entrapped within this off-kilter urban nightmare…and let me tell ya; it’s weird…super F’n weird…and that is a great thing!
Packed with nightmarish fever-dream imagery, bizarre characters, and a cold urban setting (though this is contrasted with the baroque theater set portions of the film), Long Night in a Dead City could best be described as early ’80’s era John Carpenter with Jean Rollin helping out with script duties with Jess Franco on production design (hell, there’s even shades of Lamberto Bava in here as well). that all being said; this film is classic Griffin material as well with it’s pertinent commentary on religion (and the evils thereof), sexuality, and identity…all delivered with Richard’s non-preachy, always entertaining candor (not to mention this film is well acted and gorgeously shot).
If there is a negative to be found with this film, it would be that the narrative plays out in such an unconventional manner that it may turn off some viewers who are unwilling to submit to Long Night in a Dead City imaginative surrealism. But honestly, this flick’s unique, off-the-rails style is it’s strongest point!
If you love any of the work of the gentleman mentioned above, Long Night in a Dead City will be your cup o’ tea; it’s bizarre, insane, and has a surprisingly poignant story to tell among all of the Euro-horror trappings…in other words; it’s a great F’n time in the ol’ horror biz!