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All reviews - Movies (43) - DVDs (2) - Books (5) - Music (2)

An atmospheric erotic vampire tale

Posted : 12 years, 6 months ago on 1 April 2008 03:07 (A review of Vampyres (1974))

An erotic horror film that actually works on nearly all levels is a pretty rare thing. However, Jose Ramon Larraz's VAMPYRES does just that. The erotic scenes are steamy and arousing, without veering into softcore porn territory; there's a fair amount of tension built into some scenes; and there's a decent amount of blood and gore as well. The cinematography is handled by Harry Waxman, who was also director of photography on THE WICKER MAN a year earlier (in 1973). And like that film, he manages to imbue his images with genuine atmosphere (helped out of course by the beautifully gothic location where it was filmed). Jose Ramon Larraz directed and also wrote the script (under tha alias D. Daubeney). He ignores most of the conventions of the vampire genre; ie. his vampires don't have fangs, or turn into bats, and they can wander around in the daylight without bursting into flame. There's no vampire hunter or priest brandishing a cross or holy water or wooden stakes. Besides the fact that the two women are portrayed as vampires, there's no element of the supernatural present at all in the film. This manages to make the film a bit more original and different than most of the vampire films of the period (which usually stuck to the rigid conventions listed above). The story involves two bi-sexual vampire women (Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska) who lure men to their crumbling gothic estate, make love to them, and eventually kill and feed from them. One of the women takes a liking to a would-be victim (Murray Brown), allowing him to live by only feeding from a wound in his arm while he's in a drugged or drunken state (not aware that she's a vampire). This eventually weakens him, but not before he begins to suspect something's not quite right about the women. The gothic manor is isolated from civilization by a deep forest and this isolation adds to the films dreamlike and slightly surreal atmosphere. It's reminiscent of Jean Rollin's erotic vampire movies but not nearly as surreal as say Rollin's REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE because as I mentioned above the fantasy and supernatural element is down-played in VAMPYRES. In fact if it weren't for the opening shot in the movie that shows how the two girls died (killed by an unknown assailant while in bed making love together, no less), then it could be argued that they weren't really vampires at all but just adapting the psychological traits of vampires in order to satisfy an abnormal and sadistic sexual addiction. In this sense it could be seen as an (erotic) revisionist vampire movie, foreshadowing George Romero's MARTIN by three years. The scenes of violence and bloodshed can be seen (and enjoyed) as mere exploitation, but to me there seems to be a subversive element involved in these scenes. The erotic scenes are portrayed as tender (albeit arousing) moments and not necessarily pornographic at all; but they're usually followed by an outburst of violence where the vampire women viciously slash and stab at their victims with a dagger, voraciously licking and drinking the blood that flows from the wounds. And it's these violent scenes that actually seem pornographic. This is one of the elements I really like about the film, which makes it stand out above other erotic horror movies of the time (like Hammer's erotic horror films for example). In closing, while the dialogue and plotline may not be all that original, the gothic atmosphere, isolation, and dreamlike quality evoked by the cinematography as well as Larraz's indifference to the usual vampire movie conventions make this an enjoyable viewing experience. It certainly rises above its low budget limitations.

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Surreal and disturbing

Posted : 12 years, 7 months ago on 25 March 2008 06:10 (A review of Rampo Noir)

Great Japanese film, based on the macabre short stories of Edogawa Rampo (known as the Japanese Edgar Allan Poe). It's an anthology consisting of 4 segments. The first segment is "Kasei no Unga (Mars Canal)" and it's only about 7 minutes long; but it's a very surreal 7 minutes and a nice way to open the anthology. A naked man (Tadanobu Asano) staggers along a bleak landscape and comes upon a pool of water where he sees the reflection of a woman (and I'll leave it there because this is really a conceptual piece left up to the individual viewer's interpretation). This segment makes great use of sound and the absence of sound. Up next is "Kagami Jigoku (Mirror Hell)" and it definitely brings the noir mystery element (as well as some S&M kinkiness). Private detective Kogoro Akechi (played by Tadanobu Asano), investigates a series of deaths where the victims faces have been melted, their skulls charred, and a handheld mirror found at the scene of each crime. It features a wonderfully kinky erotic scene involving rope and candle wax. The third segment, "Imomushi (Caterpillar)", is my favorite and the most disturbing; directed by the wonderfully demented Hisayasu Sato (Splatter:Naked Blood). A soldier returns home from war but without his arms and legs. He has also lost the ability to hear or speak. His wife takes care of him, but her "care" soon turns to torture and sadism. Private detective Kogoro Akechi (Tadanobu Asano) turns up again. Kogoro Akechi is a recurring character in Rampo's works (much like the character of Dupin in Poe's stories). This segment reminds me of a much more disturbing and sadistic version of BOXING HELENA. The fourth and final segment is "Mushi (Crawling Bugs)", and it's basically a surreal and melancholic tale of obsessive love (with some perverse twists of course). It also features some beautiful cinematography. Tadanobu Asano stars again as a limo driver for a stage actress, whom he's secretly in love with. She doesn't share this love, however, and he finds a way to (shall we say) remedy the situation.

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"We have such sights to show you"

Posted : 12 years, 7 months ago on 23 March 2008 06:33 (A review of Hellraiser)

Clive Barker directs, from his novella 'The Hellbound Heart'. Definitely the best of the series. Part 2 was pretty good, but they start to go downhill for me after that. Doug Bradley as Pinhead is a true horror icon.

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Zombies on a Muthaf**king Plane

Posted : 12 years, 7 months ago on 22 March 2008 12:11 (A review of Flight Of The Living Dead)

It's like DAWN OF THE DEAD (the remake) meets SNAKES ON A PLANE. It has some decent moments, but overall it's pretty boring up until the climax, when the action really picks up. Considering the film takes place on the potentially claustrophobic setting of an airplane, you would think the filmmakers would take care to build tension and suspense, but they don't. Once the zombie action starts (at about 37 minutes into the movie), it's just a matter of the zombies picking off passengers one or two at a time (kind of like a slasher film); until the climax where the remaining survivors face-off against the growing zombie horde. No real effort at character developement is made either - they're all just one dimensional - you don't care for or hate any of the passengers, so it doesn't really matter when they get killed off. Sacrificing tension, suspense, and character developement is all fine by me in a zombie movie as long as it's replaced by a massively gory bloodbath, and considering this movie was released unrated, I was expecting more gore. The zombies mainly just go for the throat (and not the Lucio Fulci style throat-ripping blood-spewing gore geysers, unfortunately). No gutmunching either. This probably could have been rated R, but I doubt they bothered submitting it to the MPAA since it was a staight-to-video release. The filmmakers tried to inject some humor into the proceedings - some of it works, but much of it falls flat. There are some fairly creative zombie kills, however. One zombie is dispatched by having a closed umbrella shoved into its mouth and out the back of its head - then the umbrella is opened. That was pretty cool. In closing, it was fairly entertaining and worth one viewing, but I wouldn't buy it and have no real desire to see it again.

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"I don't kill men, just demons."

Posted : 12 years, 7 months ago on 18 March 2008 12:17 (A review of Gojoe: Spirit War Chronicle)

Highly enjoyable film from Japan's Sogo Ishi. It's not his best film, and it's nowhere near as frenetic as say ELECTRIC DRAGON 80,000 V, but it's not supposed to be. The packaging and marketing of the film makes it seem like it's an action-packed epic akin to Ryuhei Kitamura's AZUMI films. While it does have some action/fighting sequences and some violence and bloodshed, that's not the driving force of the film - it's more about spiritualism and duality. So, if you go into this expecting wall to wall action you'll definitely be disappointed. The cinematography, sets, and locations are fantastic, and Tadanobu Asano's performance is excellent as usual. Veteran actor Daisuke Ryu's performance is also outstanding. His acting career stretches back to Akira Kurosawa's 1980 film KAGEMUSHA. On another note, if you're looking for a film that deals with spiritualism and duality but actually does have a lot of well-choregraphed action sequences, you should check out Kitamura's ARAGAMI.

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The real zombies were behind the camera

Posted : 12 years, 7 months ago on 16 March 2008 10:54 (A review of Night of the Zombies (1981))

I love zombie movies - I've seen a lot of them, and I can safely say that this is the worst I've seen. I don't mind bad acting, bad dialog, or even a ridiculous story line; but one thing I hate when it comes to a zombie movie is for it to be completely boring and nearly bloodless. I mean this movie was directed by Joel M. Reed, who directed the spectacularly splattery BLOODSUCKING FREAKS. Was it too much to ask for him to add some more zombie flesh-eating and gore to liven things up a little (pun intended). The plot (as it were) concerns a group of investigators searching for the bodies of missing soldiers. They encounter a group of undead WWII soldiers who've apparently been kept alive by some chemical. There's no point going into the plot any further - don't waste your time on this movie. There are better WWII zombie films out there - Ken Weiderhorn's SHOCK WAVES for example. Hell, even Jean Rollin's ZOMBIE LAKE and Jess Franco's completely inept OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES are much better than this dreck. And don't confuse this movie with Bruno Mattei's highly entertaining and gory NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES (aka HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD). I'll end this review with one positive thing about the movie - if you suffer from insomnia forget about Lunesta, just pop in this movie and in no time you'll be snoozzzzzzing.

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Back To Basics

Posted : 12 years, 8 months ago on 17 February 2008 06:47 (A review of Hatchet)

Basic plotline.
Gory splatter FX.
Gratuitous breast shots.
Unstoppable deformed killer.
Yep, it has all the ingredients for a return to early '80s era slasher/splatter films. If you're not already a fan of the above-mentioned genre of films, this probably won't make you one. But if you are a slasher fan, you would do well to check this movie out. It's not mind blowing (then again what slasher film is?), but it does feature enough of the "red stuff" to please most gorehounds. Plus it features humour that actually works for the most part; and this comic element is kept separate from the horror element, so that it doesn't slide into self-parody (ala SCREAM). It's definitely better than what's being churned out in American mainstream horror these days (who needs another shoddy remake of a superior Asian horror film anyway).

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Early death metal classic

Posted : 12 years, 10 months ago on 24 December 2007 02:10 (A review of Scream Bloody Gore)

I first bought this on cassette when it originally came out in 1987, and it proved to be too much for me then. A little back-story is needed here. **Cue the ‘80s flashback sequence** My first obsession, musically or otherwise, was with the band Kiss around 1978, at the tender age of 5. By the early ‘80s I had moved on to some harder music like AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and Motley Crue. In 1986 my second obsession hit – horror movies. This was when I first saw George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and I became a full-fledged gorehound. Sorry for the rambling, but I like adding some background information to reviews of music, movies, and books that were/are important to me and also others reading this review who grew up during this same era, with similar interests, may be able to relate. Now this brings me to my discovery of Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore”. Thrash metal was still very young, and I hadn’t heard any of it yet. Death metal was in its infant stages, with this album being considered one of the first death metal releases (at the time I wasn’t even aware of this newly emerging genre). But with my tastes changing to more extreme fare, I was ready to hear something harder than Ozzy and Motley Crue. While perusing the cassettes in the heavy metal section of my local music store, the title “Scream Bloody Gore” caught my eye (having recently been a convert of horror movies as I stated above). The cover-art also stood out (more on the artist later) with a skeletal zombie seated on a throne flanked by three other skeletal zombies, all clothed in monk’s robes and raising chalices. A quick look at the lurid song titles (Infernal Death, Zombie Ritual, Denial of Life, Sacrificial, Mutilation, Regurgitated Guts, Baptized in Blood, Torn to Pieces, Evil Dead, Scream Bloody Gore) and this sealed the deal for me. I plucked down my money and went home to have my ears blasted by a racket they had never before been subjected to. After a couple listens it still proved to be too much for me. I was getting accustomed to the music but it was so harsh, and I couldn’t understand most of what the vocalist was saying. I took it back to the store and convinced them to let me trade it in for something else. I had heard of Metallica but never heard there music before, so I decided to go with their latest album, “Master of Puppets”. After listening to this a few times, I was hooked, and this would lead to my next obsession – thrash metal. I would soon discover Anthrax, Megadeth, Overkill, Testament, Exodus, Celtic Frost, Venom, and Slayer. The moral of this story is you gotta learn to crawl before you can walk. By the beginning of 1989, I had become well versed in thrash and decided to purchase “Scream Bloody Gore” again, as well as Death’s second album, “Leprosy”, which had come out in ’88. Now I was ready for it! And I loved both albums. This was about the time that death metal was poised to set the underground metal scene on fire. Within no time I was deep into bands like Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Obituary, Entombed, Cannibal Corpse et al.
As far as “Scream Bloody Gore” is concerned, I consider it an extreme metal classic. It established themes that would continue as death metal progressed. The horror movie theme and gore-obsessed lyrics would become a staple of many burgeoning death metal bands (with bands like Cannibal Corpse and Carcass taking the extreme gore content even further). This horror/gore themed metal mixed with another extreme metal genre known as grindcore, would form its own subgenre – goregrind (got all that?). Death would continue the gore theme, but to a lesser degree, on their second album “Leprosy”. By their third album, ”Spiritual Healing”, they had dropped the gore theme altogether in favor of lyrics about socially relevant issues and philosophical views. Death was formed by guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and he would remain the only constant member throughout the band’s existence. The rest of the line-up on “Scream Bloody Gore” includes Chris Reifert on drums and John Hand on rhythm guitar. This is the only Death album they appeared on. Chris Reifert would go on to drums and vocals for death metal band Autopsy from 1987 to 1995 and then death metal/grindcore band Abscess from 1995 to the present. He’s played drums in other bands as well including The Ravenous and Doomed. I have no idea what happened to John Hand.
As far as the sound on “Scream Bloody Gore”, it’s pretty raw and the production is not as “full” as later albums would be. However, this is not a negative aspect in my opinion – I like the raw sound, and you can still hear the complexity and melody of the song arrangements that Death is known for. This sound would progress through their subsequent albums and spawn another subgenre of death metal known as progressive death metal (defined by these complex arrangements and melodic song structures). “Scream Bloody Gore” was produced by the legendary Randy Burns, who produced many important metal albums from bands such as Possessed, Dark Angel, Megadeth, Nuclear Assault, and Kreator. All the tracks on “Scream Bloody Gore” are strong. I never skip any while listening to it, but some stand-out tracks include ‘Zombie Ritual’, ‘Denial of Life’, ‘Mutilation’, and ‘Regurgitated Guts’. ‘Regurgitated Guts’ being a tribute to Lucio Fulci’s film City of the Living Dead (also known on video as The Gates of Hell for those of us who grew up in the US in the ‘80s). Check out some of the lyrics: “Suicidal preacher hangs himself/Unfaithful servant goes straight to Hell/When he returns your life will end/Down from the skies maggots descend/Least expecting his horrible face/Your decayed guts you soon will taste/Unholy feeling grows deep inside/Choking on your guts you open wide/Regurgitated guts/Satisfy his needs/Regurgitated guts/Now you’re gonna bleed”. Ah good stuff! And the lyrics to the title track ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ seem inspired by Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator: “Decapitated head licking your c**t…”,”Intestinal guts taking their hold…”,”Controlling the minds of the bloodthirsty dead…”,”Inject the reborn terror…”,”Orders to destroy, rip and tear apart/Wishing for the end, your death is just the start”. The CD version of “Scream Bloody Gore” includes two bonus tracks, ‘Beyond the Unholy Grave’ and ‘Land of No Return’, that were not included on the original LP and cassette release. ‘Beyond the Unholy Grave’ is from their 1985 demo “Back from the Dead”, and ‘Land of No Return’ is from their 1986 demo “Mutilation”.
The excellent cover art for the album was done by Edward J. Repka, who would also do the cover art to Death’s next two albums as well as albums by Megadeth, Possessed, Dark Angel, Atheist, Evildead, Ludichrist, Biohazard, Uncle Slam, Necro, Toxic Holocaust, and NOFX to name a few. Repka and Vincent Locke are two of my favorite artists for metal album covers. Locke did the artwork for many of Cannibal Corpse’s album covers, and he’s a comic book artist/illustrator whose work includes the original Deadworld comic.
In closing, this album is a must for those who want to hear the origins of death metal; along with Hellhammer’s “Apocalyptic Raids” (1984), Possessed’s “Seven Churches” (1985)(two releases that are also important to the first wave of black metal); Sepultura’s “Morbid Visions” (1987); Necrophagia’s “Season of the Dead (1987); and Morbid Angel’s “Altars of Madness (1989).

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Killing Spree DVD

Posted : 12 years, 10 months ago on 16 December 2007 06:29 (A review of Killing Spree [1987])

This is a review for the Killing Spree DVD released by Camp Motion Pictures.
DVD Features:
BLINDED BY THE BLOOD - a 60 minute behind-the-scenes documentary. This was a fairly interesting documentary. There's some informative bits about the video market in the '80s (since I grew up as a horror fan during the '80s video boom, I like hearing about stuff from this era); there's also some local news segments from 1987 concerning casting calls for the movie; and there's some humorous behind-the-scenes antics.
KILLING SPREE INVESTOR REEL - 3 minutes - This was some footage from director Tim Ritter's previous film, 'Truth or Dare?-A Critical Madness', put together with narration and sent to possible investors in order to secure financing for 'Killing Spree'.
KILLING SPREE VIDEO TEST SHOOT - 20 minutes - Footage featuring some key scenes shot on video to see how the scenes would work before wasting valuable 16mm film stock.
CAMP MOTION PICTURES TRAILER REEL - A collection of trailers for current and future releases from Camp Motion Pictures: Cannibal Campout, Woodchipper Massacre, Ghoul School, Video Violence, Beauty Queen Butcher, Splatter Beach, Zombie Bloodbath, and Killing Spree.
GET THE CATALOG - A still shot add for ordering the Alternative Cinema catalog.
COMMENTARY TRACK #1 - by writer/producer/director Tim Ritter.
COMMENTARY TRACK #2 - by Asbestos Felt, Joel Wynkoop, and R.M. Hoopes.
Killing Spree was also released on DVD in the US in 2000 (on the Tapeworm label) and again in 2003 by Sub Rosa Studios. I haven't seen these versions, so I can't compare them, but the image on this DVD looks like it was "cleaned up". It was shot on 16mm film, so this is the best it's probably going to look. There's some grain here and there, but that's natural with 16mm stock (and the fact that it's 20 years old now). Colors are not as brilliant as 35mm film would be, and this is most apparent in the scenes with prominent colored gel lighting, but this is also the nature of 16mm film and not a fault of the DVD mastering. The audio is mono and it sounds clean and clear with no distortion. Overall, a good looking disc with generous extras and it's fairly low-priced.

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Asbestos is a killer! Splatterific!

Posted : 12 years, 10 months ago on 12 December 2007 05:28 (A review of Killing Spree (1987))

This was a movie I had been wanting to see ever since I read about it in the pages of Chas Balun’s Deep Red magazine (Issue #4, I think) back in the late ‘80s. Unfortunately, writer/director/producer Tim Ritter couldn’t find a US distributor upon completion of the film in 1987, and he was forced to self-distribute it under his production company name, Twisted Illusions in 1990. This, of course, limited its release, and none of the “mom and pop” video stores in my small town ever got a copy. Finally, Magnum Entertainment picked up the distribution of the video in 1992 and it got a wider release. It still never showed up at any of my local video stores (this is probably due to the fact that by 1992, corporate assholes...er, I mean entities like Blockbuster Video had driven nearly all the "mom and pop" video stores out of business). The first time I was actually able to see it was on the Camp Motion Pictures DVD release. Now onto the film…

The first thing you notice, after the pleasing ‘80s dark-synth soundtrack, is that Killing Spree was shot on film (16mm to be precise), rather than video. The majority of micro-budget movies from this era that went straight-to-video were actually shot on video – Cannibal Campout and Video Violence, for example (which, by the way, I happen to love - I have a fondness for shot-on-video movies). Asbestos Felt (who had his head blown off by a grenade in Tim Ritter’s previous film, Truth or Dare?-A Critical Madness) plays the lead character Tom Russo, who suspects his stay-at-home wife Leeza is cheating on him with various people like his best friend, the electrician, the TV repairman, the UPS guy, pretty much everybody she comes into contact with. This drives our “anti-hero” mad with jealousy and he embarks on said killing spree – much goriness and hilarity ensues (with some fairly inventive splatter gags). That’s the premise for the movie, pretty much. There is somewhat of a twist in the film’s final act, but I won’t give away what that is here. Asbestos Felt’s over-the-top performance is great fun to watch and there’s plenty of dark humor running through the whole film. For example, Felt buries one of his victims (the lawn maintenance guy, no less) up to his neck in the ground, after knocking him out with a shovel. The guy comes to and starts screaming for help, and Felt proceeds to take off his shoe, then he peels off his filthy sock and shoves it into the guy’s mouth. This may not sound very funny, but in the context of the film it’s absolutely hilarious (and it’s helped out by some inventive POV camera shots). Asbestos Felt’s wife in the movie, Leeza, is played by Courtney Lercara, who had previously been in another ‘80s low budget splatter flick called Slaughterhouse. She was brought to the production by fellow independent filmmaker Donald Farmer (Demon Queen, Cannibal Hookers, etc). The special make-up FX were handled by Joel Harlow, and this was his first film. He would later go on to do FX for Toxic Avenger 2 and 3, Basket Case 2, Francis Ford Copola’s Dracula, and The Stand mini-series to name a few. He’s still working today and his most recent credits include The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, all three Pirates of the Caribbean films, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Star Trek.

Make no bones about it. Killing Spree is nothing more than an ultra-low budget ‘80s splatter film, with all the faults (and charms) that come with it. However, the splatter FX, dark humor, and some inventive camera work make it a bit more ambitious than most of the straight-to-video movies that came out during the ‘80s video boom. And if you grew up with these types of films like I did, and your favorite magazines were Fangoria (which gets quite a few plugs in the film), Gorezone, Deep Red, or Samhain, then you’ll probably enjoy it. Also, if you’re into low budget German splatter by directors like Andreas Schnass, Olaf Ittenbach, Andreas Bethmann, or Timo Rose, then you need to see this – you’ll love it (and you want even have to read subtitles).

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