Saturday, 31 March 2012

Another Son of Sam (1977) Dave Adams

Well, that was a strange one. With Another Son of Sam multiple threat Dave Adams (writer, director, producer, editor and stuntman) here journeys so far beyond the realms of cinematic sanity that he ultimately achieves a kind of mesmeric effect, though dull his film is so damned loose and weird that its difficult to look away. The plot is simple proto-slasher cum police procedural stuff, a guy escapes from an asylum and goes on a killing spree, law enforcement set out to stop him. And there are mummy issues, resolved in suitably unhinged fashion. Mostly bloodless despite a fair bodycount, Another Son of Sam works mostly because its fathomless ineptitude becomes anti-art. Freeze frames without logic or reason, drawn out and dislocated POV sequences and insistent close ups on our killers eyes, a beneath banal sub-plot involving stolen money and swathes of police ineptitude permitting ever more death, even a spot of pointless filler (the film is less than 70 minutes long and still feels the necessity to open with a water skiing sequence and a nightclub number by low rent wailer Johnny Charro, who apparently is still an active presence to this day). To be fair one or two of the blink and miss 'em strangulation kills have a minor jolt (also I think someone gets stabbed with a hatstand though I'm not 100% on that one), and the climax is authentically bonkers as opposed to merely ineptly bonkers so it isn't completely devoid of conventional worth. Also some of the assorted ladies of the cast are pretty attractive in a bright mid 70's kinda way. But by and large this is a film that I would absolutely only recommend to absolute devotees of vintage era bewildering junk, by any other standards we're talking absolute nadir cinema here. As far as such work goes its among the more enjoyable I've seen even though the essential plotting was too straightforward for my tastes and it really could have done with stronger material in terms of violence and skin. So by way of summary, if you're the sort of person who needs to see this one, go ahead since you might just love it. But if you're the sort of person who still places much value on your time, sanity and so forth, stay far, far away.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Shaman (1987) Michael Yakub

Merriam-Webster defines a shaman as " a priest or priestess who uses magic for the purpose of curing the sick, divining the hidden and controlling events". The titular villain of one shotter Michael Yakub's The Shaman seems to operate on a lesser known fourth definition, that of being a complete fucking bell-end. He chooses a successor for no discernible reason  other than the guy being a frigid workaholic, kills several innocent people, hypnotises several to do his bidding and terrorises a couple of children. Perhaps the film was attempting a critique of European exploitation of the Americas, since the evil shaman is a northern European guy who acquired his powers from a legitimate shaman, elects an Italian American to use as his successor and hypnotises an African American couple, but I'm pretty sure no such thought was actually involved. Anyways, said shaman emerges from snowy woods to wreak his evil upon a community which seems to consist solely of three couples, and eventually they figure something wrong is going on and get their act together to stop him. The basic plotting of the film is fairly interesting, but the execution sorely lacking. White haired Eivind Harum comes across ok as the villain, a quietly vicious type with a certain cold authority, but everyone else is lacking. Michael Conforti wields neither appropriate pathos now power as his potential successor, and as his good natured friend Paul, James Farkas tries in vain to conjure up any kind of energy or chemistry but appears as nothing more than an awkward void. Nothing really to be said for the rest of the cast, other than that none are very good despite one or two at least seeming to try to act. The supposedly exciting moments are staged with little ability and include no bloodshed to speak of, so even the bits that should be mindlessly entertaining fall flat, and while children do appear to be in danger the film never pushes that envelope to worthy territory. Fortunately the pacing isn't too bad and people frequently say comically stupid things (and there's a nice joke about penguins), so as far as awful films go this is relatively watchable, and it does make something of an effort even if it usually fails. An often fretful synth score helps, laying faux drama upon the overwhelming mundanity in a fashion that if not exactly convincing is at times fun as a sort of idiots salvage job. I really didn't have too much of a bad time with this one, though it should be mentioned that it did send me to sleep the first couple of times I tried to watch it. There are a couple of moments of nice weirdness and at times an interesting sense of strangeness usurping the regular order of things, but really these pluses amount to little more than a vapour of vibe, a slight interesting tinge that hasn't much effect on the overall crapulence of the affair. All in all then, not something that made me want to hurt myself or others, but strictly one for lovers of truly bad horror films. BW out!

Wendigo (1978) Paul Kener

Well, I finally watched it. I've long been fascinated by the legend of the Wendigo (cursed by a witch to be a perpetually hungry cannibal giant), and so I first became aware of the existence of this little doozy a few years ago. Not long after that I saw director Paul Kener's only other opus, the brain-sucking proto-slasher disasterpiece Savage Water and from then on knew that Wendigo and I were destined to meet. And for a couple of years I would check on Amazon to see if it was available and at what price, watching it fall on and off the market as people seemed to buy and just as easily resell it, never jacking up the price as if out of some tender mercy for whichever curious foolhardy soul might buy it next, until finally the price actually dropped (I have a slight suspicion bootlegging may be involved, but what the hey!) and it was time for me to swoop in and make the buy.

And by golly it was worth it! A brazenly wretched affair even by the decidedly relative standards of low to no budget regional horror of the late 70's, Wendigo nonetheless possess a certain compelling crooked allure. A slim cast and trim runtime helps tremendously, though the pacing is poor, the cinematography shoddy (especially in the dreadfully lit night scenes) and the action inept, there is at least some sense of drive to it and the characters do raise a reaction of sorts. There's Mike for example, helicopter pilot and claimed adrenaline junkie of sorts who communicates with all the attention grabbing verve of a travelling insurance salesman who hasn't been excited about anything since the time when he was 7 years old and found out that Santa Claus wasn't real. There's Connie, naive city girl and something of a hoochie who memorably uses apple sauce in a metaphorical and borderline opaque discussion about flirting. On one occasion she is nude, but we only see her back Boo!!! Smarmy photographer Eric is appropriately punchable and Connie's husband Frank is a slate so blank you can virtually see through him. The real winner of the film is guide Defago, his idiotic dialogue submerged in a near incomprehensibly thick faux French Canadian accent that virtually necessitates a good pair of headphones to understand. Actor Van Washburn Jr. deserves recognition for his work here, and I like to think that there's a parallel universe out there in which he went on to reprise the character in a series of unrelated sequels. Aside from the value of such asinine characters, the scenery is nice and despite the direction coming from a realm where the only flair is what signals rescue flights and the photography ranging from murky to outright shit, occasionally it comes through for isolated evocative moments. And then there are the few moments of action, which carry a certain weird charge through being mostly so brief and poorly handled one could almost mistake them for misfiring synapses in the brain itself, the very structure snarled up by the viewing. Actually I'm almost certain that the few second climatic appearance of the Wendigo itself was either the result of possibly cause of brain damage. That's what comes of dedication to watching terrible obscure horror movies, they terminally fuck with your programming. C'est la vie...

So basically you should all totally watch this film, because it's awesome. BW out!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Robowar (1989) Bruno Mattei

There was very little chance of this film not being supremely badass. A combined rip-off of Predator and Robocop directed by hack trash grand wizard Bruno Mattei and starring veritable Colossus of kick-ass charisma Reb Brown in the Arnie role, along with Massimo Vanni looking like Chuck Norris and the always reliable Jim Gaines, and a script by husband and wife super-scribes Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2, Zombie 4: After Death)) and Rosella Drudi. Oh and our Claudio is also the guy in the robot suit, credited under his regular pseudonym of Clyde Anderson. Anybody reading this already knows whether this film is for them or not, people generally are either Mattei fans or have shitty taste. But for your sake dear reader I shall go on, lest you not be quite convinced. The pacing is the only drawback here, the film takes a little while to really get into the groove so during the first third there's mostly the dialogue to go on. Fortunately the dialogue is worthy of Mamet, my favorite line being probobly "You walk like a ruptured duck" . Clearly a film that should be shown to screenwriting classes as an example of how to get this sort of thing right. The action is pretty steady when it gets going though. Things tend to alternate between people and trees being shot up real good, and trees and huts being blown up real good, with occasional people being blown up real good for varieties sake. Oh and there is a bit of knife work, but I don't know that I'd describe it as real good. It's ok though.Basically if you like films full of people walking around in the jungle and shooting at trees with occasional explosions and a robot that speaks in comically mangled digital gibberish then this is a film for you. I like all of these things, so Robowar was definitely a film for me. It even musters up occasional pockets of genuine excitement and suspense in amongst the hilarity and repetition, with a climax that is more affecting than one might expect. There's no gore other than mangled corpses and a severed limb, and no sleaze which definitely hurts things, but as far as goofy action trash aimed at the undemanding goes this is definitely a winner. Not as good as the classic Strike Commando mind you, but in Mattei rip off terms this is pretty darned decent. Way better than Shocking Dark at any rate. So watch it folks!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Free music rules!

Am currently listening to The Ivory Chapel, by Rainwound. Stylistically a lot like Opeth, only mellower and less awe inspiring melodies. Also it appears to be one guy doing everything and putting it all together, which is pretty darned impressive but I can't help thinking he might get better with some more input. The real cool thing though is that he put all of his Rainwound output up for free download, so even if I didn't like it it cost me nothing. Seems like a lot of lower key metal bands are doing the same thing, and just using digital contribution boxes for those with means or inclination to donate. I'd do so myself but am unemployed at present, though when I have my own shit up and running I'll have to spread my token appreciation to all those whose work I've grabbed in the past couple of months. Especially helpful for me because I tend toward the esoteric in my tastes (pagan, Viking or experimental black metal, blackened folk metal, progressive melo-death, instrumental doom etc.) and the sort of bands that tend to make those kinds of metal tend to be on labels that tend towards charging more than I usually like to pay. So I gravitate to free music and so far its done me pretty well. I might even write more of a proper review of The Ivory Chapel after a few more listens (its 76 minutes long and one of those which tends to grow on you rather than make instant contact). In the meantime I recommend it, and cheers to Rainwound and all the other cool bands generous enough to be free from the machine!