Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Bloodmoon (1990) Alec Mills

One of the less feted slashers to still earn a release on a non poundstore/fly-by-night DVD label, Bloodmoon is generally taken as proof positive that the slasher genre had well mouldered away its last worth by the late 80's, and that Australians were never good at making them anyway. Apparently their older effort Nightmare is actually quite a solid giggle but I haven't seen it yet. Easy to see why Bloodmoon gets little love, it's a copiously flawed work, yet I found it difficult to really dislike. Problems first, starting with plot which is sloppily worked out with several fudged motivations and a lack of clear central protagonist. In the first half hour a teen rivalry subplot weighs heavy, but that dissolves completely into cheesy romance, which is then largely set aside for luridly schlocky soap operatics. Of course murder is bubbling away at the heart of it all and things catch alight sometime in the second half with a turn into suspense shocker, but even as things come to a head the impression remains of two fairly distinct scripts hastily pasted together. Along with plot deficiencies the kills mostly aren't up to much, poised without much suspense, staged with little skill and perhaps worst of all displayed with little grue. There's some blood and a couple of nice after the fact body shots, but given that the killer's weapon of choice is a loop of barbed wire for garroting purposes the general absence of rent flesh and gushing red is coming on tragic. And adding to the malaise is an unmemorable score from the usually reliable Brian May (not to be confused with the shaggy haired Brit astrophysicist), spiced up with a couple of typical for the era wuss rock tunes which are really no match for the butt rock of its genre contemporaries.

But for all this, a good time for me. The younger cast members cast are bright and enthusiastic, performing without guile and selling the material with charm. There are a number of attractive girls and a bit of nudity, but in a nice departure it feels innocent and fun rather than sleazy and deliberate (even if it was indeed sleazy and deliberate, which I suspect was the intention). The older members do well too, especially a creepy, toadishly pathetic Leon Lissek as a cuckolded teacher and Christine Amor a delight as his ice bitch wife. The locations are pleasing and the direction randomly atmospheric, one of the kills is surprisingly vicious and others achieve in random shots a certain offbeat charm. And due to the well stuffed plotting there's always something to entertain going on even if it is decidedly inane. So I rather enjoyed it all and was never bored. Not a film I'd ever recommend as "good", but worth a watch for bad slasher junkies.

Blood Frenzy (1987) Hal Freeman

Ah, now this is the good stuff. In one of those wacky japes the like of which I really hope were never actually sanctioned by the APA, a therapist takes six patients off for an intensive desert retreat, at which exactly what you expect happens. If Blood Frenzy were less entertaining I'd be pretty ill disposed towards the way it treats as normal some of the more reprehensible myths about mental health professionals and their patients, that the former are well meaning but easily deluded and somewhat nitwitted and the latter often have little more than standard social dysfunctions and readily experience cathartic breakthroughs, but since its kinda awesome as far as no budget late 80's slashers go I thought it forgiveable.

Simple fare for the most part, writer/director Hal Freeman (better known as a pornographer and centre of the vital court case of that culture) avoids the sap and psychodrama or multiplous red-herrings that one might expect from the situation. The writing is rather fun and snappy, carving out somewhat agreeable characters from clay stereotype, with a good dose of enthusiastically delivered profanity (Pussy-bumper!). Pacing is well measured for the small cast, with death and excitement portioned nicely for suspense purposes, events building to a rather fine over the top and twisted finale that would be more at home in some of the genre classics of several years previous. Although the kills don't have much in the way of variety or invention they are mean and bloody, even mustering a small measure of style and eerieness. More nudity than just the one short occasion would have been most welcome, in keeping with the generally sleazy vibe but you can't have everything. The cast make up in enthusiasm what they lack in talent with one John Clark amusing as the sort of chauvinist who would usually be merely insufferable, and its nice to see Lisa Loring, who followed this up with the crap but fun ski themed Iced the next year. There's some awkward editing and the desert setting is rarely put to all that much atmospheric effect (though this is partly down to the problem that the majority of available prints of this seem decayed), but there are one or two good shots, and while the score passed from my mind almost as soon as the credits rolled there is nice use of a nursery rhyme. So altogether a winner and well worth a watch for fans of the era and style.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Naked Blood (1995) Hiseyasu Sato

By quite a ways the best known film from Hiseyasu Sato (a bucket or two of the good old claret will do wonders for your distribution!), Naked Blood sees him on decent albeit by this point slightly unsurprising form. The most striking difference to his earlier work is that Naked Blood isn't really a pink film, there's an important sex scene and some nudity, but the focus has departed from the carnal. In this vein is the other change, the film concerned almost as much with innocent (relatively speaking) victims as the warped guilty. But otherwise the expected is all there, ills in heredity here rather smartly detailed, progress for all it's lofty goals just a catalyst for flesh obsession, and of course isolation and voyeurism with a rooftop, camera and binoculars getting a look in.

With no random detours into sleaze to keep the producers happy Naked Blood is pretty slow and measured stuff, only really sparking in the final block which earned it it's sterling reputation even among the less devoted to the strange. But the plot and characters are compelling, even indefinably moving, and slants of outright science fiction are fresh and interesting. Sato gets ever closer to the apocalypse hinted in the like of Brain Sex, but with warmer, almost tender touch, the maturity of someone finally knowing to get their hands dirty. He engages more with his subject rather than spying, progress of sorts, but here lies the problem with the film. It's a simple engagement, he never fully gets inside the story and characters, never properly guts, skins and pins. Instead of revealing whole new aspects of his obsessions he just fractionally advances their study. It's frustrating because there's so much potential here and Sato has trod such material before (Naked Blood being a reworking of his earlier film Pleasure Kill which I have not seen but is apparently superior), I suppose it clarifies his limitations.

Still, taken individually as an art shock piece Naked Blood is well worthy of consideration. It avoids the general pitfalls of emotional drudgery, static shots and overdriven pseudo intellectualism, and its symbolism is neither forced nor over-obscure, it coheres on a narrative level with little dubious ambiguity. And importantly its gruesome scenes are well handled and thoroughly twisted without obvious contrivance a far cry from the sorts of films that treat educated audiences as fools to be shocked from complacency. So my misgivings granted, still recommended.