Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW (1971)


People always say that the lord moves in mysterious ways, but people rarely mention that the same thing can be said of Satan.  Well, that used to be the case anyway.  Nowadays, he'll show up and start shooting fireballs at people for no reason, or maybe possess a young girl and have her say frank and direct things like "hello, my name is Satan, and I've taken over this girl's body!  Hey priest, why don't you give me a poke?  Don't be so uptight!".  Back in the day though, Satan could be pretty subtle.  Evocative even.

Take, for example, Blood on Satan's Claw (1971), which takes place in a small farming community in 17th century England.  A satanic influence infiltrates this village in mysterious ways.  For example, a farmer finds a strange skull buried in a field, a woman gets an unknown plague and then disappears from bed, a young man thinks he sees a satanic figure hiding in a crawlspace, a young woman goes insane and appears to grow a claw hand, people grow small patches of fur on their bodies, etc.  This is much creepier than just having a red dude with horns and a pitchfork show up and poke people in the tookus.  These events could signal disease or madness, or maybe a collective desire by a group to evoke the spirit of Satan, or maybe a combination of stuff.  The point is, these occurrences inspires the deepest, darkest recesses of the imagination, and creates an atmosphere of impending doom.

There is a "judge" who is in charge of legally taking care of this kind of stuff, but he is pretty much the opposite of the more typical Witchfinder characters (like from Witchfinder General or Mark of the Devil), who are the real evil, using the slightest indiscretion that might be construed as "satanic" (like some local hussy doing a semi-dirty dance to a lascivious flute solo) to torture and kill anyone he wants within a 20 mile radius.  Here, the judge initially isn't convinced that there is anything satanic afoot, and also spends some time away from the village when things really get demonic and shit.  When he returns and realizes Satan is screwing up his town, he attempts to deal with the situation instead of throwing some half naked chick on a rack to get his rocks off.  The point is, Satan is the real asshole here, and not the dude in the funny hat.


One of the most important things in a horror movie is atmosphere, and Blood on Satan's Claw has it in spades up the ass.  There's the creepy ass score, the fantastic cinematography by the esteemed Dick Bush (knock it off, he's esteemed), employing off-kilter Welles-ian angles and a brownish autumnal palette, conveying a sense of lifelessness and decay (like dying leaves and shit yo).  Then there's the previously mentioned mysterious developments, often couched in shadows and darkness, making them even creepier and more atmospheric.   

The movie is also anchored by the awesomely hot and ironically monikered Angel, who, under Satan's influence, grows crazy eyebrows, tears her dress off in front of her teacher and cries rape when he won't boink her, and also resides over ritualized rape and human sacrifice (I'm not trying to give everything away, but I want to be clear about how much fun stuff is packed into the movie).  She's played by Linda Hayden, best known as co-starring in Hammer's Taste the Blood of Dracula.  I know most good Christian people would run and hide from a character like that, but I for one think a little spontaneity and danger in a relationship would probably be healthy for me.



P.S. Under the wire bitches!  Review #11 in the 3rd Annual Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown.  That's it yo.

P.P.S. Happy Halloween!  Watch this video:


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CHILD OF THE SABBAT (1989)




Boy, that Satan guy is always up to something.  At least, that's what "the man" would have you believe back in the 80's with the whole "satanic panic" thing.  Now this stuff is best remembered by me as a rad, dated aesthetic, and certainly not the embodiment of evil.  Take, for example, this still from an episode of Unsolved Mysteries:  


This chick shot her husband with the help of her boyfriend, and they throw in a little mention that she might have been worshipping Satan, even though the murder had nothing to do with Satan.  She wasn't sacrificing her husband; she wanted to run off and boink some other dude.  Anyway, watching this bit of the segment as a kid really creeped me out, but now it comes across as fetishistic; some lady with big hair in a nightie worshipping an image of Satan while surrounded by candles, all fuzzy, soft, and blown out.


For me, that sort of thing is the appeal of Child of the Sabbat, an ultra obscure shot on video 36 minute movie from ultra obscure director Louis Ferriol, "best known" for The New York Centerfold Massacre, which was released through mail order VHS in the late 80's and is sort of an inept, SOV version of Ray Dennis Steckler's The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher.  Only die hards are willing to explore shot-on-video horror movies of the eighties, and only those die hards with extreme intestinal fortitude are willing to explore shot-on-video horror movies of the eighties that were only released through mail order in the back of some magazine.  So, I guess you know where I stand as far as my intestines are concerned.


So, a schoolgirl is walking home to the sounds of maybe a camera snapping pictures (?) and an evil whispering voice, but is snapped up by a car and immediately sacrificed on an altar.  Later, another young girl (dressed as an angel) is walking to a Halloween party alone late at night and is also kidnapped in a car.  I don't know why parents are letting their young daughters walk around at night by themselves, but either way, it's pretty clear that Satan is up to some shit and he has denizens doing his dirty work.


Meanwhile, 12 year old Becky is apparently possessed by Satan, which has left her catatonic.  I don't why Satan would bother possessing a girl just to lay in bed all day.  It's like flying to Venice just to take a long nap in a hotel room.  Anyway, her mother calls a priest to come over and check her out, since conventional medicine has failed her.  The priest suggests hydrotherapy, which really just means they have her lie in a tub.  Sometimes the wisdom of God extends beyond the wisdom of science.  Either that, or this guy is the shittiest exorcist the world has ever seen.

 

Meanwhile, Becky's older sister Francine is an "exotic dancer" who thrusts her loins in front of strange men to Berlin's "Trash" (copyright be damned).  She later reveals that she was molested by her minister father, but mostly she dances around and shows off her big hair.

That's a shot right there.


Meanwhile, an awesome Jersey metal chick, with her jean jacket and big hair (of course), is driven home by the same priest.  She insults the priest and then switches the radio dial to a station that plays some barely audible thrash metal.  Later, she tries to get an abortion on the cheap, and a creepy guy with a wire hanger suggests that she have the baby and then sell it to him instead.  That's what happens when you try to save a couple of bucks I guess.

Meanwhile, a mysterious chick with a mean rack and wearing a red neglige seduces the priest.  Oh, and meanwhile, there's footage of a "real" human sacrifice, which looks exactly like the staged sacrifices.  I guess the fake scenes should be comended for their realism.

If this sounds like too many plot strands to be reasonably resolved within a 36 minute time frame, don't worry, they're not really resolved.  Child of the Sabbat comes across as a big collage of random footage culled from public access reenactments of the evils of satanism, accompanied by random evil sound effects, droning synth, and barely audible dialogue.  It should be noted that this is the "director's cut", and that the original runtime was 59 minutes.  Maybe the director cut out all the dialogue scenes that explain what these events and characters have to do with one another, but I don't care either way.  The movie is a reminder that the fuzzed out big hair aesthetic power of Satan lives on to delight the childish pervert in those with gumption and a taste for the dated and the scuzzy   


P.S. You can watch the movie online here, and it includes actual factual information and shit about the production.

P.P.S. Post #10 out of #11.  Halloween is almost here and I still need to squeeze one last fucker in there.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ANGST (1983)


I sympathize with people who are honestly dealing with mental issues, like the guy you see riding the bus who is oblivious that he is wearing his pants on his headSure, he might make your morning latte experience really really uncomfortable, but at least he’s not hurting anyone. When he eventually looks down (very eventually) and realizes his pants are in the wrong place, he feels bad and vows to try and fix the part of his brain that is responsible for maintaining trouser placement. Sure, he’ll probably keep screwing up, maybe one day accidentally choking himself with his own pants-scarf, but at least there’s an effort there to recognize mental failure

However, don't get me started on those full blown nutbars that don’t care just how fucking crazy they are.  These people should be suited for a funny tux and locked up in a padded cell, but unfortunately, bureaucrats or whoever let these guys out before the batshit has been forcibly squeezed out of their noggins. 

One great example is the crazy asshole at the center of Angst, an Austrian take on the serial killer movie (not endorsed by all of Austria; I just mean an Austrian dude made it). He's released from prison after only ten years despite killing an old woman, although maybe Austrians find old people as annoying as I do and therefore are lenient as far as codgercide is concerned.  He had previously served 4 years for stabbing his mother, and if his mother is as annoying as most mothers, that sounds about right.  Anyway, quoting the psychopath, "when they asked me about my dreams, I told them about flowers".  As a result, the doctors think he's been rehabilitated.  That's the problem with trying to figure out how crazy somebody is; you can't really get inside of their head.  They should invent an EKG that lights up when some dude is thinking about stabbing a hooker.  Maybe one day.
 

In actuality, he has spent a chunk of his prison term planning the perfect murder.  Not a murder where he'll get off scot free, but one that perfectly fulfills his sick desires.  He gets out and considers killing two hot chicks sitting in cafe, and then a female cab driver, but neither opportunity is ideal.  However, after wandering through the woods, he comes across an isolated house with no one inside.  He breaks in and waits for an elderly woman and her daughter and invalid son to return home, and that's when the shit hits the proverbial fan.  

That's the plot, but really, Angst isn't about plot.  It’s a portrait of a schizo psychopath who is at odds with the world and driven to lash out.  He lives in his own head, obsessing over his next murder and "reminiscing" about his troubled childhood.  He is completely outside of the wavelength of humanity, but this disconnect is mainly rendered visually. He is at odds with other people within the frame, as they are represented as fragments or imposing faces judging him, filmed in distended angles. 


Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven is also a cinematic portrait of a schizophrenic at odds with his jarring environment, putting the viewer in a schizophrenic's shoes.  That movie has some visual similarities to this one, but in this case, the camera also floats and hovers at strange angles as it follows the killer, like the gliding steadicam shots of Halloween pushed to the edge of madness. There's even use of a camera harness like in Frankenheimer’s Seconds, which keeps the character in close-up while giving the impression of the world around him swirling and overwhelming him.  


Here is a stripped down slasher movie from the point-of-view of the slasher, transformed into a cinematic experience that defies narrative and suspense plotting (and therefore isn't a slasher, so maybe I should come up with a better description, but whatevs).  Everybody has a little nutbag in them, and Angst tries to tap into that and force you to confront it.  The dark minimal synth score from Klaus Schulze (formerly of Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream) certainly helps.  It gives the feeling that you're locked in a cramped room with Kraftwerk as it slowly dawns on you that they have given up on life and might be taking you with them.


P.S. Review #9 in the Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown.  I got this shit.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)


Happy Birthday to Me revolves around the top ten students of the uppity Crawford Academy. Normally this type of thing would be tallied through GPAs, or possibly standardized test scores. However, membership in this group seems to be a matter of privilege and status. It’s really just a license for some spoiled rich twerps to drink, smoke, jump a bridge in a car while it’s opening, and, most importantly, murder each other. The movie wants it clear that anyone of these assholes can be the killer. Therefore, everyone acts suspicious at different points, even if it just means furrowing one’s brow at the camera in a menacing manner. 

The lead is top 10 member Melissa Sue Anderson (of Little House on a Prairie) and her intense quizzical moping (we get a brief respite from this intensity when she undresses to a semi-funky soft rock tune). She has repressed the trauma she experienced from a car accident on her birthday four years prior.  Not only was her birthday party not attended by the cool kids, her father didn't show up and her mother died in the accident. No amount of cake can make that birthday happy.


Melissa thankfully survived the accident, but with the aid of an “experimental” form of brain surgery. I don’t know about you, but if a doctor came to me wanting to perform some “experimental” brain surgery, I’d punch him in the balls and run for the hills. All of this repressed memory stuff, the loss of her mother, and her distant, status quo maintaining father, causes Melissa to spiral into a psychotic depressive tizzy. Glenn Ford is the doctor responsible for the aforementioned surgery, and therefore feels responsible for helping Melissa sort out her mental hullabaloo. She also may or may not be responsible for the murders, despite obvious evidence that may or may not be to the contrary. All of this is daftly revealed in the super twist ending that manages to be both balls out and balls deep in equal measure. 


Here a slasher that is ultimately based in an unspoken tragedy of teenage life; that is, when a young person celebrate a birthday party and nobody shows up (asshole relatives don’t count). This scenario was particularly well illustrated in the film Teen Witch, where our heroine Louise is left spending her sweet sixteen with her parents. She is forced to wear a hideous Krueger-esque sweater her parents gave her as a gift, and blows out candle after candle, like a series of steps in a Bataan death march. HBTM takes this idea a few steps further (well, more than a few steps further) into horror territory. If I explain things any further, I'll have blog mobs after me and I don't need that kind of stress in my life.


HBTM is one of the best slashers ever in my esteemed opinion, and a lot of the credit goes to J. Lee Thompson. He takes a Scooby Doo on steroids script riddled with gimmicky murders and turns it into a slick, hyper-emotional funhouse of repressed trauma (his direction here reminds me, coincidentally, of Scorsese with the Cape Fear remake). The material is taken seriously, and amped up to reflect the inner turmoil of the characters, all anchored by Melissa Sue and her borderline method performance. It’s a shame those assholes at the academy couldn’t throw her a bone, but I guess any movie that has a poster showing a beef skewer being jammed into a dude’s mouth automatically eliminates itself from Oscar gold. 

 

P.S. Review number 8 in the lazy baker.  It's the last week and I got some work ahead of me yo. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

RODAN (1956)


Death in almost any form is ugly and messy, so it’s especially absurd to think of a hydrogen bomb being able to cleanly dispatch millions of people. Besides the human toll, from both the victims, their families, and the entire society around them, there is also collateral damage in the form of nuclear fallout (hello flipper babies), as well as BIG ASS SCARY MONSTERS! Really, is the H-bomb worth all this horror and trouble? Perhaps you should just try talking to the other guy first, maybe box him in the ears if you have to. 

American and Japanese monster movies of the fifties share a lot of sensibilities, the most glaring one being the monster as a manifestation of fears specific to the technology of the nuclear age. However, the Japanese monster movie tends to more specifically revolve around the fear of a giant friggin’ bomb dropping on some poor bastard’s head and obliterating an entire city, and you can probably figure out why. Also as a result, these Japanese monster movies had crossover appeal to American audiences at the time, assuming they were dubbed and had scenes of some white guy standing around explaining things (or, in this case, white guys doing stuff while another white guy explains things in voice over). 

One such movie is Rodan, which sort of differentiates itself from the likes of the Godzilla movies by essentially being a monster horror movie and tacked on to a I’m-gonna-fuck-up-your-city-and-there’s-jack-all-you-can-do-about-it monster movie. Within the clichĂ© ridden realm of the monster flick, anything that structurally differentiates your film from other monster movies is an innovation worth celebrating. If you ripoff Jaws but tell it from the shark’s point of view, you’re gonna get high-fived by monster movie fans and rightfully so. 


The first part is about mine workers who fall prey to a mysterious unseen creature who tears these dudes apart (“it’s not murder…it’s worse!” one character proclaims). I like that this part is milked for psychological tension; the workers sense something is wrong before anything actually happens and even start falling apart from some unknown mental stress. The monster is not initially shown at all; for example, one dude is even sucked underneath the water with no explanation given. This is what makes it horror as opposed to an action filled story of a giant piece of rubber ripping people’s heads off and hurling a bus into the ocean just to be a dick.  When the monster is finally shown, it’s both shocking and hilarious. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s sort of like grandpa being in the closet his whole life, and then during Thanksgiving one year he suddenly comes out to everyone and starts acting like Rip Taylor out of the blue. Yikes. That’s the best metaphor I could come up with? I’m sorry. 


Almost as amusing is the scene where the miner with the head trauma and resultant memory loss is trying to recall if he actually saw the creature. An official hands him a mugshot of the monster to try and jog his memory, as if this once ethereal and mysterious force has now been booked and fingerprinted and photographed in close-up. The dude with the head wound also provides the human drama, as he was about to get married, but now, thanks to that asshole monster, he can’t even remember his fiancĂ©e’s name. She gets pretty teary about it as you might imagine. That’s just one example of the human effect that a monster like this can have, whether rubber or nuclear. 

The second part is about, you guessed it, Rodan, a big ass bird with the ability to knock buildings and shit over through the power of supersonic flight. Watch the military truck do a 360 and the little dude fall out and get crushed underneath. This is the more conventional part, where people stand around and talk about science stuff (they especially like referencing Rodan’s “supersonic” ability) in between scenes of Rodan going to town on a city. Get it? Going to town on a city? Oh dear god help me. 

Anyway, my favorite attack is when Rodan drags off a couple who are spending their honeymoon in front of a volcano about to explode. You see, the H-bomb testing has not only cracked open the earth, and cracked open several prehistoric eggs that lay deep within said earth, but has also caused the local volcano to become active again. Of course, this madman immediately takes his new wife to the volcano so he can have her pose for pictures in front of it while a giant killer bird is flying around. If you want to get “wild and dangerous” on your honeymoon, snort some blow and have sex in an airplane bathroom like a normal person. 

The response to this threat is to simply have a bunch of military dudes empty firearms into the creatures. No strategic subtlety whatsoever. Just call up every tank in Japan and unload everything you got into that giant bird until he keels over or decides that messing with Japan is a bad idea and flies away and goes and ruins Bratislava’s day instead. Unfortunately, the devastation brought on by real bombs and such is not quite as easy to fix. However, the "unleash the firepower" solution makes for a way more awesome third act, so I’ll let it slide. 


P.S. Yet another post in the Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown.  Maybe 4 more, but I could be wrong.  I'm not going to bother to look it up right now.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

SILENT MADNESS (1984)


Have you ever tried to carry your wireless Casio keyboard down to the basement, tripped over a dildo (damn kids!), and watched your precious beep machine crash into every step on the way down? Well, the composer for Silent Madness happened to have the tape running the last time this happened to him and decided to build an entire musical score around that motif.  Art is truly a mysterious beast sometimes.

Speaking of art, the movie opens with a pan down the frame of a building, just like Antonioni's La Notte. Either it’s a coincidence, or the director primarily responsible for the movie Snuff thinks that people going to see a movie about a burnt maniac throwing axes at teenage girls will make the connection to Michelangelo’s oeuvre.   The dreamer in me is hoping for the latter.


Fancy pants crap aside, the plot begins with some nuthouse nurse complaining about some nutbag asshole being released because he's "unfit for society". The doctors tell her to shut up because they don’t have enough funding, he's fine, paranoia is bad for you, it’s a plot device, etc.  However, the nurse wields the power of an Apple IIe computer, and finds out that they accidentally released the wrong patient (they share similar names), a guy that is even more of a nutbar than the guy that is unfit for society.  Good to know the funny farm is on the ball.

Meanwhile, two "teens" are making out in a van, including the beefcake counselor from Sleepaway Camp and some chick that has no qualms about showcasing her bosom buddies (I personally prefer this version of the show).  Of course, the escaped nutbar makes the most of his new found freedom by planting a sledgehammer into the back windshield of the couple’s blue shag interor conversion van mere moments after escaping

The killer then tosses a hatchet into the girl’s back, and since the movie is in 3-D, the hatchet is supposed to come through the screen (theatrically anyways, although you can probably get the VHS to work in 3-D if you lick a couple of toads beforehand). This would undoubtedly be too dangerous to do for real, so they apparently asked Industrial Light and Magic to conjure up an animated hatchet circa 1984. Well, George Lucas said no (he was busy designing Ewok lunch boxes), so instead, they threw something together at the last minute using that Apple IIe back at the nuthouse.  That's some magical shit.

Later on, Liz Caiten gets out of her college class, kisses her boyfriend (Danny Aiello's son), and hops on her skateboard wearing an adorable matching red athletic skating get-up. She is quickly snagged off her board by the killer and dragged into a garage, where he uses a handy vice to squeeze her pretty blonde head into a sickening pile of spam loaf.  What a waste of a perfect outfit.

A fashionable sorority house is bursting with fun, music, and excitement; the girls play Monopoly, with one of them performing a slutty dance, and another girl performing the decidedly less slutty Fur Elise on piano. The house mother (played by Viveca Lindfors, no doubt in dire need of grocery money) comes in just as Lorraine the slut is flashing her bra, and Viveca bellows about "sluts and whores and temptation". Lorraine then heads down to the basement to find some luggage, wearing her short red jogging shorts and adorable pink Adidas. Apparently, the sorority basement is a vast, factory-esque boiler room, and the storage closet lies in its deepest recesses. Regardless, she is snatched up by her poor Adidas and dispatched with a pipe.  It's too bad that these adorably athletic outfits are not allowed to live on for more than a single scene.
 
 I can think of few better instances of Walkman fashion than this one.

Our heroine asks the assistance of the local sheriff, what with a killer nutbar running around. Usually, members of the pork patrol in these kinds of movies at least pretend to give a shit about upholding the law and protecting its citizens. Not this asshole. He’s sleeping at his desk the first time we see him, doesn’t believe a word the desperate heroine tells him at any point and, in a moment of bacon-fueled clarity, asks her “why don’t you just get the fuck outta here and let me eat?”. Instead of wearing a uniform, all of these fat fuck cops should just wear bermuda shorts, flip flops, and that question emblazoned on a XXXXL t-shirt. 


Of course, there is a backstory for the killer, lest we wrongly presume that madness overflows from an arbitrary reservoirDuring rush week (that's a sorority thing, not a week when you only listen to Rush you friggin' nerd) sometime in the 50's, some hopeful girl pledges are getting their asses spanked as part of their initiation (although they were probably being naughty anyways). They decide to mess with the eventual psycho killer by getting him drunk, flashing their tits at him, and paddling his ass. Instead of being stoked beyond belief at his good fortune, he is somehow annoyed by all of this, to the point that he grabs a nail gun and kills all five of the girls ("nailing" them in some Freudian repression, possibly). 

 Ahhhh, remember the 50's?  Doesn't this image just bring you back to a time when things were simpler and way more black and white?

Of course, I could just spoil everything like a scumbag (although really, this is one you should be able to figure out), but I'll just point out my favorite sceneTwo girls are hanging out in the sorority game room/workout room, and the whole thing is oh-so-eighties (the Nagel-style poster on the wall is sort of an eightiesness stamp of approval). One is doing pull ups, wearing a neon pink headband and neon blue leotard, and the other is wearing a blue denim mini-skirt, playing the Dragon’s Lair arcade coin-op. They both get killed, including a sweet move where the killer ties a jump rope around a girl’s neck, attaches a dumbbell to the other end, and then tosses the dumbbell out the window, creating an athletically themed lynching. 

However, the more important question is; how the hell did they manage to afford a Dragon’s Lair arcade machine? I guess the real answer is that the game company was trying to promote their fairly new machine by sticking it in a movie. In terms of the narrative, a few sorority girls would never have been able to afford it, as it’s a laserdisc based game that cost about $4000 when it came out.   I mean, if you can afford to spend $4000 on a video game circa 1984, you probably don't need to go to college.

If you don’t know, Dragon’s Lair was basically a Don Bluth cartoon masquerading as a video game. You would watch animated sequences and then occasionally have to press a button at the right moment to keep from dying (and keep the cartoon rolling). It also cost 50 cents instead of the usual quarter, so I would usually just let some other asshole play it and just stand behind him and watch.  So basically, the laserdisc games were a gimmick, just like the 3-D stuff.  However, in both cases, you can just ignore the gimmicks and enjoy them as "cinema".


Silent Madness no doubt delivers the silly 80's slasher goods, but maybe the biggest takeaway is that it contains the most bizarrely designed sorority house in the history of movies, or even the history of terrible ideas ripped from the drafting board of an insane architect with a gaping head wound.  Having said that, I have a feeling that if I ever commission an architect to design a house, it will bear many similarities to this one; a wide open 80’s themed game room, with a vast, creepy labyrinth below.  I doubt I'll find myself rich enough to be able to do that anytime soon, but a boy can dream.


P.S. Lazy Baker Halloween review #6 out of 11.  Shit is really getting real yo.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WE'RE GOING TO EAT YOU (1980)


Sometimes when people make the argument that man has no right to kill animals for food, they’ll ask the question: “what makes man better than a chicken? Chickens don’t start wars or hit each other in the head with frying pans or suppress each others rights”. Well, a couple of points in response to that: 

1. Maybe some men are worse than chickens, but I for one have never started a war or suppressed someone’s rights, and I have no current intention to hit someone in the head with a frying pan (although I can’t guarantee my stance on that won’t change at some point should certain conditions be met). So, I’m not worse than a chicken, and I think that gives me a right to eat them. Also, chickens haven’t started any wars because they can’t. Have you ever pictured a chicken attempting to operate a tank? Laughable. 

2. I’m guessing chickens are way tastier than humans. That’s a factor you know. 

3. I heard chickens are assholes. I don’t know if it’s true, but that’s what I heard. 



At the center of Tsui Hark's We're Going to Eat You is the military chief of an island.  Being that he's the head honcho without any checks and balances, he's a total dick that not only presides over a small society of cannibals that have been reduced to treating fellow humans like meat, but actually hordes this human meat for himself.  Somewhere in there is a social critique about dictatorships being dehumanizing and leading to huge disparities in wealth.  If a society places no value on human life, why not stick a dude on a spit and roast him with a honey glaze?  After all, chicken can get pretty boring pretty quick.


But I've gotten ahead of myself folks.  You see, Agent 999 heads to the aforementioned island of cannibals to track down a thief named Rolex.  Agent 999 is a pretty cool badass who knows kung fu and even rolls a cigarette on some dude's head during a fight just because.  That's panache folks.  However, he's pretty oblivious as far as secret agents go, being extremely slow to figure out that everyone in town is a cannibal.  Yeah, some dudes in masks come after him with giant knives, but I guess he figures the village has a couple of bad apples.  I dunno.

Rolex is also on the run from cannibals, and they also have to dodge a giant transvestite hooker.  We're talking King Kong Bundy in drag folks.  There is also some mistaken identity stuff and another thief character who escapes the clutches of the cannibals, but, basically, the plot is a clothesline for some wacky fights and a few slapstick sequences (particularly when the prostitute tries to corner Agent 999 or Rolex).  The fights sort of remind me of early Jackie Chan when he would use props, but done with gore and butcher blades and creepy masks. 




The effect is odd within the realm of the martial art movie; breathlessly silly yet nervewrackingly visceral.  Especially inventive are the near misses of the butcher blades in combat; the horrific rush of a giant knife entering flesh, only to be explained away with a visual gag (like when Agent 999 thinks his hand has been cut off, but it was actually a severed hand already there, just hanging out).  Of course, they don't always miss...

I guess We're Going to Eat You is a kung fu comedy at heart, but it utilizes a horror element in a different way than any other kung fu movie I've ever seen.  Having said that, go ahead and tell these guys they are starring in a comedy.  Just try it.


P.S. Review #5 out of eleven.  Six more, and October will be complete.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980)



Ever seen one of those beach party monster movies? You know, where some swingin’ dudes bring along their swingin’ bikini chicks to the beach so they can perform some hip wiggling dance so thrustingly violent that they look like their upper and lower bodies are having two completely different convulsions independent of one another. A dude wearing an ill fitting gill man suit occasionally pops up out of the ocean and scares the girls away and maybe kidnaps one and sticks her in a cave, only to be rescued later by the hero. Prime examples include Sting of Death and Beach Girls and the Monster. As far as horror movies go, they are quaint mid-60’s fluff, and about as horrifying as a rubber bat that somebody sticks in a half-eaten bowl of Jello that was left in the fridge, although I'm not saying that's a bad thing.

 

Well, by the time the early 80’s rolled around, audiences had changed. Times were more cynical and desperate, and art reflected that. Take, for example, Humanoids From the Deep, which is rooted in a similar premise where fishmen attack the denizens of a small coastal town, particularly the hot chicks. However, the songs and dancing have been replaced with makeout sessions, tits, and blood.  Oh, and fishman rape. I mean the fishman raping the chicks, not the other way around.  Nobody would ever rape a fishman.  Anyways, don’t worry folks; they’re just trying to propigate their species. There’s nothing gratititous about it. 

Here the fishman attacks a bikini beauty queen, but accidentally rips off her top in the tussle.  Things happen in the heat of battle.

While Humanoids is a very stripped down, simple movie, it does also flirt with two other genres. There’s actually a slasher element, as the fishmen stalk several females, whether clothed or otherwise, even peeping through windows at different points.  They also leave their victims a bloody mess (although using claws instead of a butcher knife). 



It also fits into the Jaws-sploitation genre (akin to fellow Corman production Piranha).  There's the strapping hero (the ever monster-vigilant Doug McClure) and the vaguely Quint-esque character (Vic Morrow, who has the cool lines and gets to act like a dick while rocking the stache), and the female scientist trying to figure things out (a welcome respite from the annoying nerd guy or the crazy scientist wearing a labcoat covered in blood for no reason).  There's also the opening killing, this time of a swimming kid that escalates into an entire boat blowing up.   That's how you one-up Steven Spielberg right there.

However, it lacks the more interesting plot aspects of Jaws (and likewise, many Jaws ripoffs), like the mayor that doesn’t want to report anything for fear of driving away tourists, or Quint having a Moby Dick-esque past with the shark.  Oh, I think I've gotten ahead of myself.  I do that alot.


Basically, someone throws some chemicals into the water which is supposed to make salmon grow bigger, but this accidentally creates the killer fishmen instead.  If you're gonna throw chemicals into the water to increase the amount of salmon you can catch, why not toss in some sleeping pill powder and make them easier to catch, and therefore, be able to catch more of themAnyway, Doug and his hot young wife find a trail of mystery slime and get suspicious and decide to follow it.  I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever felt the pressing need to explore what lies at the end of a trail of mystery slime.  I doubt there has ever been anything good at the end of a long trail of mystery slime.  You'll probably just find whoever is responsible for emitting the mystery slime, and that is someone I do not want to spend time with.

Anyway, that is just one example of these characters spending a LONG time figuring out that, indeed, something fishy is going on.  HA HA HA...oh, stop it.  Immediately after they do indeed figure out that there is a major problem, the fishmen team up and attack a town get-together on the pier.  If only they had put the pieces together a couple hours before and warned everybody to go home, but, on the other hand, it leads to an awesome scene where the fish dudes attack kids and rip off bikini tops and shit.

 Way to ruin a nice pier party you overgrown catfish, you.

As far as Jaws ripoffs go, Humanoids From the Deep is both on the unsubtle side of the spectrum and far more rapey than most.  However, that's not really a bad thing.  It takes some familiar elements and combines them in a stupid, stripped down way in order to appease the exploitation Gods.  It's also buoyed by acting stalwarts Morrow and McClure, who are performing in such a way that they seem to actually believe that they are absolutely, positively not starring in a movie about dudes in fish suits raping and killing women.  I don't know how they do it folks.


P.S.  This is review #4 in the Lazy Baker set of 11 for October.  Only seven more to go!