Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Deep Red (1975)

WARNING: May Contain Spoilers

After a performance jazz pianist Marc Daly is witness to the brutal murder of psychic Helga Ulmann, who read the mind of the precocious killer earlier in the day. Marc with little leads from the police begins his own investigation with the help of a feisty local journalist. Dissecting the clues though proves as a challenge as the killer is always a step ahead of Marc, and is now targeting him. Drawn into different leads, only to be left dead by the killers actions Marc begins to uncover that this killer isn't all that new to murder and has a very dark past. I must apologize ahead of time, though I'm not comparing it to Suspiria, the film comes up several times in this review, but do know that I do not measure this based on my love of Dario Argento's masterpiece, merely just using it as reference.

Deep Red, or Profondo Rosso,  is the first of Argento's stuff that has scared me since seeing Suspiria years ago. I admittedly jumped when that doll came running out of the closet in that absurd bit of laughter, it about scared the piss out of me. In true Italian Horror, or rather maybe just signature Argento, the deaths are gory and run a bright red color of blood. Always memorable my personal favorite was the bathroom scene murder, where it was actually absent of blood but made for a rather haunting death that doesn't leave you. The murder mystery proves to be as deceiving as can be, I only guessed it seconds before the reveal. As in all his films Deep Red is quite visually stunning to look at, with the dazing use of red and surrealistic lights of blues. In this however Argento uses a distinct lack of color, painting a portrait with neutral tones, which I may find more gorgeous to look at than the former. The music, though phonemically composed by the Goblins, is ill-fitting at times (i.e. Giordani's death, Marc scaling the balcony), but very tone setting in others (Amanda Righettani death, the uncovering of the drawing).

I'm an Argento finantic as much as the next horror movie lover but I'm not shy toward admitting there's faults in his work. In watching a Dario Argento's film I've noticed that generally the same story occurs, or rather the same basics. The beginning usually opens up with a woman who we never really get to know dying a gruesome death only to be followed by more unattached deaths, all of course in full giallo style. Also in having a love for his films that does mean you substitute certain qualities over the others, i.e. I'm willing to forgive the poor sound editing in respect to the DP and camera movements. The construction of characters is more developed in this as opposed to his prior films, and oddly human with their faults and personalities. David Hemmings Marc, the pianist, is sensitive in his work as an artist, which is humorous in contrast to Daria Nicolodi's Gianna as the high strong reporter. And then the darker side of the film, Gabriele Lavia as Carlo, the talented composer suffering from alcoholism.

In reading reviews prior to viewing the film most acclaimed this as the best of his giallo's, which as far as I've seen might be true. Hoping that my next film to watch by him does not disappointment me as the dreaded Tenebre, which unfortunately might be attributed to me watching it after I watched Suspiria. When renting the film make sure you get the Italian version, not the American. For those who hate subtitles you'll be disappointed as putting it in English there still are bits in Italian for scenes that had to be re-edited in after being cut. But that's the film in full form and has several important if at the very least enjoyable moments. Nothing will ever be Suspiria, I'm sure most know this, but Deep Red is rather a good on its own terms and defiant of the genre giallo. I really enjoyed the film and found it scary, I'd recommend for Argento or Italian horror fans.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Horror Short - Microcinema: Improvisation Can Be A Killer (2011)

My blog has been getting a little bit of attention thanks to my followers and people on twitter retweet my reviews. At the same time though I only do one review a week, spare for the Irrelevant Post Friday's which basically do nothing but let me compose a horrific display of random thoughts, all for the public to view of course. A review a week isn't all that encouraging in bringing readers back and since I've been wanting to do something else for awhile I came up with Horror Shorts. It's the same as a film review only where I review horror shorts available via youtube or websites or however else they become accessible to me. The length will be cut into two paragraphs and I'll link to where you can view the short. I'll do these as often as I come across them, so if you're a filmmaker and have one you'd like me to review please send it my way.

Written and Directed by Skip Shea
Staring Alex Lewis and Aurora Grabill
Director of Photography, William Smyth

Microcinema: Improvisation Can Be A Killer follows Peter Martell, a snuff film fan who is tired of watching and ready to be an active participate in the dark film form he loves so much, but at Peter's peak of voyeurism things turn unexpectedly. The film is an immensely disturbing six minutes of the torture porn variety. As said, for lack of a better phrase, the film really grabs you by the balls and drags you in a direction not anticipated by the common thought. It really has one of those moments where you can honestly say I thought of everything happening BUT that. And in that it's rather disturbing and hard to watch, but all in a professional way; nothing to mimic the low cred snuff films that Peter is addicted too.

Skip Shea is an adept director with equal ability to write, his short film gets more across than most full length films. Acting is also quite proficient by our two leads; Alex Lewis falls into his role with ease, reading off Shea's dialogue as if he's the next Raymond Lemorne. And I most definitely must give my credit to Aurora Grabill for bravely taking a part such as this, one she also pulled off rather well. The cinematography is good, it's from the point of view of a video camera but the look and feel isn't the typical "found footage" style. My only negative I'd say for the film is the violence goes on a little bit to long in its short running time, for my taste at least. Highly recommended Microcinema is available here for a very worth it $0.99, (it's worth more, in my opinion). In addition to watching it you can also read through the description which gives an insight into its beginnings and its creator. You can also follow Skip Shea on twitter.

If you have a short please send me a link, you can contact me at or on my Twitter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deadgirl (2008)

Deadgirl is about two high school boys who break into an abandoned mental hospital and find a seemingly dead girl locked in the basement. When the supposed dead girl moves the two friends find themselves in an odd situation, sensibly Rickie wants to call the police but JT suggests a perverse taboo that hybrids necrophilia and rape fantasies to a horrifying extreme. Rickie rejects the idea but doesn't stop JT from delving into a sadistic addiction, or from encouraging others to join in. The boys now pressed even more as they are exploring dark passages and repelling against each other find that their new 'toy' is not all helpless, as a bite may give you her illness.

Deadgirl is a surprisingly deep horror film about the human mind paired with the desire of sexual need. It also has a supernatural element about it which adds to the films, surprisingly complex, layers. In one respect we see the chilling portrayal of the dead girl by Jenny Spain, a newcomer who has no films to date but this one, but she gives a creepy performance, and I'm not entirely sure if it's solely because of her facial structure or her ability to work her unconventional looks to her advantage. Then on the other end of the spectrum we have friends Rickie and JT who are committing a horrible act of rape repeatedly by keeping a sex slave, and while JT's true nature comes out under his fantasies Rickie's stays repressed and is fighting against his sanity. I have no idea if the writer and the directors had any intention of making Deadgirl more than just a disturbing film but it came out as a rather deep insight into human nature. The final scene with Rickie being strong proof of that.

As I've been doing research for the review I saw a few people mention how it was degrading to woman in it's brutal rape scenes. I have to disagree with both statements, degrading to woman would be more if they portrayed the sex slave aspect as a light subject that JT and Rickie should be proud of in contrast to the disturbing and sick one that was put out for us. And the rape scenes aren't brutal, in context yes, but highly explicit and graphic? No. There is really only two parts where we see any physical carnation of rape and the second one is treated so casually that it'd be hard to miss if you hadn't been following the film. The acting is also, surprisingly, good. And the character development, once again, surprisingly deep. The director of photography uses a color hue of greens and blues to capture the hospital basement in almost a musty feel for the darker scenes, and in contrast a cloudy sun day for the moments of character reflection.

I may be going too far for Deadgirl as I said that I have absolutely no idea if the film had any intention of being so deep, but seeing that's how I saw it that's how I'm reviewing it. There's also a bit of humor as the scene in the parking lot is good for a laugh. The soundtrack has an indie vibe to it which makes it feel more like a teen horror flick that may be tolerated. The negative I'd say about the film is that it's not a repeat watch, as good and as developed as it is, I don't have any desire to go back. But like all films about rape or a brutal nature as such you don't want to go back. A very good edition to the horror genre, one that I'd recommend to those who are looking for something unique.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Irrelevant Follow Friday Miseries

I'm about 99% sure that the title is beyond grammatical correction. Before I get on with Irrelevant Post Friday, as I now prefer to call it, I want to thank my seven followers who keeping me from getting into another discouraged four month dry spell where I write nothing. Not only them but the people on twitter who give me encouraging bits and also keep me updated in the horror society. I'm always at a loss for a more poetic appreciation which is intended to convey my absolute gratitude so all I really have to say is Thanks. But one day I will write a deserving thank you.

Either or I thought for this irrelevant post I'd share a little bit of information with you in regards to my blog. I've been checking my stats and I've found a fascinating piece of information. My blog gets most of its traffic, not from twitter, but rather from people googling the word Misery. 

My Feelings Exactly Kathy Bates
It's from my Master's of Horror post that I did for the Top Five lists for the month of October. It makes me laugh that most people come across my blog when they are typing the word misery in google images, to acquire a picture of sadness, no doubt, and instead come here. It's almost ironic, at least from my point. It's the most viewed blog entry because of that and I'm kind of glad because it was my favorite top five, or rather ten, list and one of my more adequately written posts.

Regardless of how they find it I'm just in bliss that they do. Happy Follow Friday, or Irrelevant Post Friday. Whichever is relevant to you. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

I don't think I've ever been so confused after watching a film. Here's how it went...or at least I think. Immediately after the events in the first film Kirstie is taken to a mental hospital where's she being held for her questionable testimony to the police regarding what happened with her father. At the hospital a particular doctor takes notice to Kristie's story and pursues finding the puzzle box and mattress in which Julia died on. Turns out the doctor is obsessed with the box and ends up bringing Julia back to life. The same story as the first pursues and once in full form Julia then takes the doctor into hell by having a smart but quiet girl at the hospital open the box. The three of them wander inside hell, plus Kristie who also managed to get into hell some way or another, but I can't recall. Inside hell Kristie discovers what its like, seeing her Uncle Frank's personal hell, and the doctor becomes a cenobite. Hellbound: Hellraiser II leaves a lot to be desired.

The scariest thing about the first Hellraiser film holds true in this one, and that is the violent imagery. Julia downing a mummy attire is an eerie image. The biggest killer of the film is the plot, where my sister and I felt blatantly confused afterward. In absolute the plot made no sense, nor did it connect, nor did it even seem to follow through. In a lot of ways it reminds me of seasons three and four of True Blood, several different plot lines, all trying to play out at the same time, some end mid way, some drag out till the end, some don't even start till the middle of the film, all not really be treated properly. The sadist doctor, where I can see would be a fitting job for the films S&M background doesn't really appeal to the audience as at first you could really give a shit whether or not he survives in hell, and more so when he becomes the torture doctor he
looks absolutely ridiculous. No where near as horrifying as Pinhead's getup. Some of the other stuff is interesting though, the look through hell was interesting, I enjoyed to see how the Cenobites were only a section for those who opened the box and the rest was just a look into how it's a personal experience for anyone who dies.

The acting defiantly improved, Ashely Laurence was actually really good in it this time, understanding her character better. Clare Higgens is about as good as she was in the first one, so I'll let you be the judge of that. But I enjoyed that they brought her character back, almost as the ultimate bad guy from the first film. Pinhead talks a lot more in this one, and I must say he has some stuff to say. I wouldn't call his dialogue witty by any means, nothing like Freddy Krueger's speech, but a lot of his sentences are almost quotable, and fitting for hell. I also kind of enjoyed how Kristie and Pinhead, as well as the rest of the cenobites, are almost friends at this point. He willing lets her wander around hell and she helps him remember who he was.

I don't really know how to recommend this, while there are several disturbing images, and I'm sure some that will make most squirm, the plot is honestly a mess. If such you can call it a plot it almost leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It's also one of those films that starts out good but manages to collapse in on itself. However; I don't necessarily think it was that awful of a film, maybe my recommendation can stem from not necessarily going out of you way to watch it but if it's the only thing on or your a huge Pinhead fan, then yes its not too bad.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is a two part documentary series that does an in depth look into the making of all eight A Nightmare on Elm Street films. Spanning four hours (yes, it's painlessly long), the documentary collects interviews from original cast members, special fx and make up artists, and of course Robert Shaye, the guy who produced all eight films. Narrated with a fitting tone by original Freddy Krueger survivor Heather Langenkamp, between the extensive discussion time allotted and the equally lengthy bonus features which cover the unseen interviews Never Sleep Again leaves no questions unanswered.

The film has a cathartic honesty that's unanticipated, all films alike cast and crew admits to flaws and failures of their film(s), and a rectitude of explanation that's staggering at the least. They're not limited either, from The Kung Fu budget cut in The Dream Master to the complicated creative relationship between Robert Shaye and Wes Craven. Whether being Nightmare one or Nightmare six each film gets a fair share of screen time, which is all really done in respects to the fans of the film who lifted the franchise off the ground and stuck through it, even after the series lost its horror contour to the parody of memorabilia and classic lines. But what really makes this documentary luring, at least to my taste anyways, is the use of special effects and how it progressed through the ages. The documentary in itself is almost a brief side documentary on how Hollywood moved through the decade with the technology. And even an idea at what it takes to make a movie on an independent budget.

The interviews seem illimitable by the breadth of people involved. The previous cast members that directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch accumulated is incredulous, how they found Mark Patton, Jesse from Freddy's Revenge, is a testament in itself. As fans we don't get the 'big stars' such as Johnny Depp or Particia Arquette, but rather the big stars of the series like our heroines who took to Freddy more than once, Heather Langenkamp and Lisa Wilcox. And basically every victim in between. There's the usually disregarded behind the scenes crew who are as much apart of the series as Wes Craven is. They give you insight into the makeup process that it took to create the iconic look of Freddy and the imaginative deaths and the special effects that went into those. Wes Craven's commentary outside of his own work is not bitter, per say, but rather at a loss for the films that followed, save aside for a nice comment toward Renny Harlin. I basically enjoyed about everyone's opinions and insight into the films with the exception of Jack Sholder, as his came off rather arrogant.

The film makes room for a lot of humorous parts to pair with the light hearted fan base, the fangirl inside of me got really excited when I saw that Freddy Krueger and Jason Mewes actually existed in a world together. They even go into the pop culture gags that materialized after Nightmare three and four, where things like the Freddy doll and pajamas became available (as one interviewee ironically points out that Freddy originally was a child molester, and now you can wear him to bed). Band Dokken even stops in for a discussion on how their contribution to Dream Warriors was one of the first music videos available on VHS. At the end of the documentary as homage to the series and the Elm Street junkies each actor quotes their most memorable line during the credits. I mentioned this in the first Nightmare review but Never Sleep Again isn't just a documentary for the fans, even if you've only seen one out of the eight films in the franchise there's something to be savored here. I loved this documentary, as if you couldn't tell, and one that I'd watch again. I recommend to any fan of the genre, of the series, or just of film making in general. 

It's over. This proved to be rather draining task and I did not anticipate that watching all eight Nightmare films in a row would mentally wear me out, despite spacing them on a weekly basis (with the exception of Freddy vs. Jason). An oddly interesting fact the films that I had seen before I decided to watch them all (one, three, seven and eight) were the only four I liked. If I were to do it again, with another series of films, I'd do it every other week just to give myself a break from the excessive use of words (I'm dreadfully tired of typing the words 'Freddy' and 'Elm Street' and 'Imaginative') but I don't know if I could do it again, to be honest. I clearly have some masochistic qualities in film watching as I decided to watch all of the Hellraiser films; however I won't be writing reviews for that. I'm currently seven films in and most I don't have much of an opinion on. My recommendation for the series, film one through eight, is watch it. The films themselves hold reams of originality being eminent from that slasher outline, and hate or love them they are a prominent chapter in horror/film history.