A group of attractive d-bags heads out into the woods to party it up in a secluded cabin, only to have a slash happy murder machine pick them off one by one…oh for F’s sake…seriously? That’s all you have for me WTF!? Wait, what’s that you say? There’s boobs and blood in the first few seconds of the film…okay, you have my attention. Thrill me.
To put a finer point on the sinister synopsis for this fright flick, the basics are as follows: Years previous Rachel was the final girl of a killers blood splattered rampage. Flash forward and ol’ Rachel has agreed to accompany her hard partyin’, always a-screwin’ pals to a secluded cabin in the woods for a little spring break horseshittery. Anyway, it will come as absolutely no surprise that folks (eventually) start turning up all dead like. Who will survive, and what will be left of them and all that biz.
Now, as you can see the story for WTF! will not be taking home the top prize in the Daniel XIII Originality In Horror Writing Competition (and Bake Off)™. So does that mean the film is entirely without merit? Not really. First the boring basics; this film is very well shot and acted (I know, it kinda surprised the shit out of me as well), with the standout being Callie Ott as Rachel whose performance has a depth of emotion not often found in your garden variety slasher flick. Also in the plus column; this film doesn’t shy away from both the blood (eventually…again…guess where this is heading in the next paragraph) and boobs, which all of you readin’ these wicked words knows is the whole damn point of this genre.
And now the moment you have undoubtedly all been waiting for…there are some elements of WTF! that just don’t work as well as they should. First up, with that title, you would expect this film to be one over-the-top romp, but it really isn’t. As stated there is naked flesh (though not to extremes by any stretch of the imagination) and gore (while there is definitely blood shed, the kills aren’t particularly innovative…though the make-up and effects are well done), but the story is bog standard (minus a sort of obvious twist at the eleventh hour) and the pacing is way off with the front half of the film devoted to “teen” assing around and characters saying “f**k” alot…and not much else (opening sequence excluded). It takes roughly forty five minutes (out of eighty…well, almost eighty, the flick actually runs seventy three minutes with seven…count them, seven minutes of end credits…WTF indeed) for any real horror biz to go down, and that just should not be (though admittedly the back half is paced reasonably well).
So there you have it; WTF! is just another stalk n’ slay affair; neither shitty enough to skip, or good enough to watch more than once…do what you will with that knowledge my creeps.
The first thing you’ll notice when you sit down to watch Ghost Note is that the film makers behind this fright flick actually had an original idea (will wonders never cease?). Don’t believe me? Dig this preternatural premise my creeps; Teen with ‘tude Mallory is left to her own devices when her family pisses off to Hawaii leaving her sour ass behind. So what’s a girl to do with all of that free time? Why, go nosing around in the attic and uncovering a family secret…namely that her late grandfather attempted to exorcise a demonically possessed mass murdering jazz musician but instead just imprisoned his spirit within the home decades previous. She also goes jogging…oh, and eventually unleashes that murderous musician to begin his happy-go-lucky homicide spree once again.
Ghost Note does a lot of things right. First of all, the visual aspect and origin of our main monster, Eugene by name, is fun and unique enough to set it apart from most supernatural slasher pictures. This demonic dude is decked out with a face mask adorned with nails and a mess of barbwire around his noggin that gives him a distinctive look and mounds o’ menace. Also, the way our heroes unravel the mystery of Eugene and his connection to Mallory (not to mention his resurrection) is engaging and fun to follow. Finally the technical aspects (in particular the acting) are strong and don’t immediately scream “low budget” which is refreshing (though obviously not a necessity to this revoltin’ reviewers enjoyment of any given flick).
Now ol’ Ghost Note does hit a few flats here and there, in particular in regards to it’s pacing. This flick is definitely more of the “figuring out the clues and stopping an evil” type of film rather than a “non-stop orgy of blood-a-flyin’ awesomeness”, so things get slow at times, and Eugene himself doesn’t even make the scene until an hour and twenty minutes into the run time (though there is some possession biz here and there beforehand). And speaking of run time, this movie is an hour and forty one minutes long…it needed a minimum of ten minutes removed to really cook.
Slow bits aside; Ghost Note is a fun fright flick that offers some things you haven’t seen a thousand times over, and the fact that it offers a unique villain is enough for me to recommend it alone!
1977 was a turning point for director Kinji Fukasaku (whose previous work, the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series had been a commercial and critical success), as he shifted from a gritty, pseudo-realism feel to a more outlandish aesthetic. Nowhere is that more evident than in Doberman Cop a film based on the popular manga by “Buronson” (creator of Fist of the North Star); a heady mix of gunplay, martial arts and lowbrow comedy…which brings us to this review!
Doberman Cop concerns the misadventures of yokel cop Joji Kano (“Sonny” Chiba), who arrives in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho nightlife district wearing a straw hat and carrying a squealing pig under his arm (subtlety isn’t this film’s strong suit). He’s made the scene to investigate the murder and mutilation of a girl from back home who had been working as a prostitute before her untimely death. When inquiring with the police handling the case, he’s dismissed as a country bumpkin…but he soon proves he’s tougher and smarter then anyone suspected (back home in Okinawa, Kano is called a Doberman with good reason). Soon Kano is pulled into a world of sleazy prostitution, corrupt talent agencies, mobsters, and a depraved serial killer (?).
Fun; that’s what Doberman Cop is…which comes as a shock, as having seen my fair share of gritty yakuza movies I expected another grim, bloody (and a bit rapey) crime film, which this refreshingly wasn’t…rather this is a lighthearted romp with a very glitzy, sparkly, ABBA feel that is magnificently ‘70’s…and I enjoyed it thoroughly!
While the flick itself is an off-kilter winner, the extras included are a bit light. Featured are; a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane, and new video interviews with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba and screenwriter Koji Takada.
If you’re a “Sonny” Chiba fan, love Fukasaku, or enjoy the tacky glitz of the 1970’s, you’ll want to check out Doberman Cop; it’s a glorious cartoon of a motion picture that’s sure to please each and every connoisseur of the absurdity that underground sin-ema has to offer!
-Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca
Jazz music and neon fill the dark night…a night comprised of images and scenes that would be at home in an Edward Hopper painting, as an every-man protagonist is drawn into a seedy underworld full of corruption and danger. This is what comes to mind when I hear the words “neo-noir”…a genre made popular by visionaries such as Ridley Scott, Brian De Palma, William Friedkin and Michael Mann. While I am very familiar with the works of those mentioned previous, I was less so with the subject of this review; Stormy Monday…a “neo-noir” if ever there was one.
Young Brendan (Sean Bean) finds work as a cleaner at the Key Club owned by Finney (Sting) while continuously crossing paths with a waitress named Kate (Melanie Griffith), who just so happens to be employed by a shady, ultra-corrupt dude named Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones). Brendan overhears men plotting to hurt Finney so he’ll sell his club while dining at the restaurant where Kate works, and he soon warns his boss of these mysterious assailants headin’ his way. Just who are these men, and how does Kate and her boss figure into it? I ain’t saying here my friends!
The story to Stormy Monday is fairly straight forward, and if the film was just being judged on that, the whole affair would be fairly “meh”. Fortunately what really makes this one tick is the superb visuals and atmospheric mood director Mike Figgis brings to the screen. Also of note is the escalating sense of suspense as our dynamic characters (Griffith’s pitch perfect femme fatale with unsure allegiances, Bean’s earnest hero in way over his head, Jones’ snake of a businessman, and Sting’s multidimensional Finney) are constantly faced with the threat of impending violence hanging over their heads. I watched with baited breath waiting for just when and where the hammer was going to fall.
So the feature is a winner, but there are plenty of special features included such as: audio commentary with Mike Figgis (moderated by critic Damon Wise), a video appreciation by critic Neil Young, a tour of the film’s Newcastle locations, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
I went into Stormy Monday not really knowing what to expect (save for a good cast), but was treated to a gorgeous “neo-noir”; packed with interesting characters, dense atmospherics, and a colorful neon backdrop. Highly recommended.
-Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca
The Gracefield Incident (2017)
Ho ho, what’s this? A found footage fright flick? Why I haven’t seen it’s like ’round these parts before…unless you count the 4,567 other found footage flicks I’ve reviewed over the years. I hope this one contains a group of prattling d-bags heading to a remote, singular location. Let’s just hit play…yup, those bases are covered. How about a ludicrous explanation as to why every agonizing minute of these dullards’ lives are being filmed? Oh…the main protagonist lost his eye in a car accident and has since constructed himself a cybernetic eye that records everything. That is completely absurd…I like it! Okay Gracefield Incident I’m willing to give you a fair shake old man…
So yeah, a group of fools heads to a cabin in the god damned woods (I feel like I could just copy and paste a good 35% of these reviews…for real folks, you can come up with another cheap as balls location). They talk a lot…all at once…about absolutely nothing, drink, play cards, eat up run time, soak in a hot tub, eat up more run time, almost get wrecked by a giant meteorite…wait, what the f? Anyway, that meteorite just so happens to bring with it some rather pissed off creatures who then begin stalking our heroes (at first through the woods, then within the confines of the cabin itself)…and then something really interesting happened…that main character, Matt by name (played by writer/director Mathieu Ratthe), mentioned above? He went from bland dude to multilayered, emotionally driven, and totally believable in the blink of an eye. As The Gracefield Incident unfolds, Matt deals with the loss of a child, a marriage on the rocks (scenes played by an equally capable (Kimberly Laferriere), and the terror of facing an unknown terror…and I ate up every damn second of it thanks to a real and raw performance ! It should also be mentioned that while the location may have been chosen for budget reasons, it turns out this pic doesn’t look cheap at all in the end as it boasts some truly great special effects including not only the creatures, but some elements that I will remain quiet on as I believe you should see them for yourself with no prior warning. Finally, there are a ton of big ideas and story points that I have never seen in a found footage flick…yeah, I can’t believe I just typed that either, but it’s true!
As for the negatives, they are few; chief among them is that since this flick basically starts off in such a generic, well worn manner, and that the characters are rather bland upon first sight, some viewers may tune out before things really get cookin’…but in the end that’s a minor quibble, as I feel the first act doesn’t prepare you for the fun to follow which makes the remainder of the film such a devious delight!
Filled with strong performances, genuine scares, creepy atmosphere, and a unique story with some real surprises including some real emotional weight; The Gracefield Incident is a sinister surprise that stands head and shoulders above the others in the overcrowded found footage category!
Kudo Michi (Kumiko Aso) and her friends Junko and Yabe are concerned with their friend Taguchi, who’s been M.I.A. for a few days…so ol’ Michi goes to look in on him. T-man acts strangely distracted and then offs himself. So begins Pulse a pioneering classic of the now overly familiar J-Horror genre.
Anyhow; Michi and her friends check out a disk Taguchi left behind and they discover an eerie picture of him and a ghostly face on one of his monitors. Elsewhere, collage student Ryosuke (Haruhiko Katô), is trying out the internet for the first time (hahaha…timely). He no more then hooks his computer up and he comes across a strange website showing him disturbing pictures and videos…thus 4chan entered his life. Just kidding; that f’er is F’d as he has stumbled upon a cursed website…actually, that may be 4chan as well…Soon strange things start happening to both Michi and Ryosuke, and ghosts start popping up everywhere. Can they survive the encroaching doom?
Horror films are at their most compelling when they reach into us and trigger some kind emotional reaction. The horror films that stay with us after the credits roll are the ones that can dig deep into your skin like a tick, making you look over your shoulder when you hear the floor creak, or become leery about walking into a dark room. This is where Pulse shines as it shows us a city both full of life, and isolating…a city where people inexplicably vanish or take their own lives until few remain. Additionally, there are no maniacs here, no blood and gore…the ghost’s of Pulse are monsters only due to their condition, a condition brought on by the afterlife being nothing more than endless, painful loneliness and grief.
Speaking of endless, check out these extras (flawless segue, eh?)! With Arrow’s release of Pulse you get: A new interview with writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa and with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi, a new video appreciation with Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett (Blair Witch, You’re Next), an archival “making of” documentary, four archival behind-the-scenes featurettes, premiere footage from the Cannes Film Festival, cast and crew introductions from opening day screenings in Tokyo, trailers, and TV spots!
If you’re a fan of Japanese horror or director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (or you’ve seen the American remake), then you’ve probably already seen Pulse, then this is the version to own, as Arrow was done a wonderful job with bringing Pulse to Blu!
-Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca
Join us as we follow the adventures of Albert, a stranger on out shore from who the F knows where…a stranger who lives in a shit hole apartment and sells hot dogs at night. But all is not greasy wieners for our hero, no sirree…you see one night a high falutin’ arty farty type sees Albert as his muse, and photographs him. This coupled with seeing a dame he digs get a case of the “hot n’ hornys” for a photog inspires albert to “learn art”…which of course leads him to strangle the ever loving shit out of some models. Ah, the romantic life of the artist…
The first thing I was struck with upon viewing Bag Boy Lover Boy is how it really gives off the vibe of early late ’70’s ’80’s New York based exploitation. With it’s gritty street life (or as gritty as modern NYC can possibly be), emphasis on living the life of an artist, and absolutely wanton destruction of beauty (particularly of the living female variety) you will be hard pressed to not think of Ferrara’s Driller Killer, Henenlotter’s Basket Case, and Lustig’s Maniac…and that is a wonderful thing, as there are way too few modern fright flicks that are willing to sink to that sleazy aesthetic (and it’s sorely missed), but thankfully Bag Boy Lover Boy is up to the task. Make no mistake folks, this is true D.I.Y., punk rock film making and it’s like a punch top the face to those weened and accustomed to the more polite horrors found in modern cineplexes.
It’s also that same aesthetic that could really turn people off from this flick as well. Being entrenched in the art world, Bag Boy Lover Boy isn’t afraid to let it’s more “art film” strings show, and nowhere is that more evident in the film’s pacing. By no means a long film (this clocks in at an hour and seventeen minutes) there are a few sequences that may drag for some viewers especially in the “Albert learns art” vignettes, but I personally loved their off-kilter, surreal lunacy.
As cool as Bag Boy Lover Boy is on it’s own, there are a couple of extras tossed in to sweeten the pot, namely: an informative audio commentary with director Andres Toress, actor Theodore Bouloukos, and editor Charlie Williams that details just what it was like to bring this labor of love tot he screen, as well as two very short black and white student films from actor Jon Watcher, and the film’s trailer.
Look, if you dig the films that played 42nd Street in it’s heyday, as well as the near post-apocalyptic cesspool that was ’80’s New York City, then I’d wager Bag Boy Lover Boy will be an absolute blast for you; it’s sleazy, arty, and most importantly it’s filled with nudity and blood…so in other words, a real F’n home run!