Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ten Foreign Films That Shame American Horror.

Ten Foreign Films That Shame American Horror. 

Ok I may come off as a film prude from time to time, but I think most people would agree mainstream American cinema is filled with lightweight fluff.  Horror seems to have suffered more than any, and I, like many horror fans, have turned more and more to foreign films.  I don’t claim to be an expert on foreign film, or film in general, but I know what I like, and can recognize a good movie. So here’s my top ten list (of 11 films) that really outshine the American horror film.

1.       Martyrs- Hailing from France, Martyrs is one of the most brutal films you will ever see.  The film moves along at a hectic pace, and the few times it slows down just gives you time to let what happened sink in.  The final few minutes are an exercise in depravity that is just hard to watch.  One of the scariest things about Martyrs is that it doesn’t follow the rules.  There’s no safety, no hope, no hero, and if the last scene is to true, no peace even in death.

2.       REC- This is what a zombie film should be like, OK maybe they really aren’t zombies, but possessed people, still REC has everything a good horror fan wants. A beautiful heroine in Manuela Velasco, a group of survivors fighting for their lives, and ravenous blood crazed, flesh ripping zom, er well whatever they are.  If you liked the American remake Quarantine, check this far superior original versiontied


 Rec 2- Sequel to the Spanish Horror movie of the same name, REC2 loses very little of the originals magic.  Set in the same location as the original, literally hours after the original, Rec 2 deals with a group sent in to rescue the survivors.  Or were they?  Some fans complained about the films moving closer to a possession storyline, but in actuality it just helps further separate from the American “zombie” films.  While they aren’t zombies by the traditional standard, and they even run, horror fans didn’t seem to mind and are eagerly awaiting a third installment later this year.

3.       Ju-on- This is the film that started it all.  Back before scary Japanese kids were a cliché, this introduced America to the Japanese ghost story.  Maybe it wasn’t the first, but by way of its American remake, it was the first to become widely known in the states.  It spawned numerous sequels, which weren’t bad but didn’t seem to have the same magic as the original.  They weren’t helped by the saturation of the Asian market with spooky kid movies, and American remakes and spoofs.

4.       I Saw the Devil- You can argue that I Saw the Devil isn’t horror and, honestly might have a point if you only consider horror to be pertaining to the supernatural.  That however leaves out a lot of films normally considered horror.  While it isn’t supernatural, the brutality in this film matches or exceeds that found in a lot of American “torture porn.”  The fact that it has an intelligent story, excellent acting and brilliant direction shouldn’t exclude it from the horror genre.  If anything it just shows how accepting we have come to be of stupidity in horror.  The best film of 2011 is a must see and is far better than any American horror film released in recent years.

5.       R-Point- I described R-Point to a friend as a ghost story, but it’s really not in any traditional sense.  While ghosts are involved, it’s really hard to shoe horn it into the ghost story genre.  It’s more a movie about an evil place, and the evil deeds done there.  It’s a Korean film and those accustomed to creepy kids in their Asian horror might find this a welcome break from the norm, as the film focuses on a military unit during the Viet Nam war.

6.       Audition-Takashi Miike is known in America for his mostly extreme gore and violence in films like Ichi the Killer.  Audition doesn’t slack on the violence and gore but it’s still probably the most easily digested by the American audience.  Probably the most striking thing about Audition is its sudden 180 from sweet love story to violent horror. There are hints that all is not right, some subtle, some not so much, but the last half of the movie will still hit you like a sledge hammer to the head.

7.       A Tale of Two Sisters-Another Asian film subjected to an inferior American remake.  More of a psychological thriller than supernatural horror, the film keeps its audience from guessing what exactly is going on till near the end.  It is a haunting, evil spirits or just the horrors of a deranged mind.

8.       Thirst-Park Chan-wook followed his revenge trilogy with his take on the vampire mythos.  No sparkly emo teens, or desiccated corpse, his vampire is a fairly unique creature, more reminiscent of Christopher Lee than Bela.  Charming, sexy and brutal, this is probably one of the more erotic, and artful of recent mainstream vampire films.  Fans of the revenge trilogy, might be a bit disappointed but it stands out among recent vampire films

9.       Dream Home- If there is any film that competes with Martyrs in true brutality, and maybe even surpasses it, it’s Dream Home.  Not to be confused with the American film with a similar name, this is Asian gore at it’s realistic best.  The realism of this film and the fact that it could very well happen make it all the more disturbing.  Warning expectant parents might want to skip this one, even if you have seen the French Inside, you will be shocked by this film and one scene in particular.

10.   Let the Right One In- Possibly the best film on the list, it is also probably the less gory of the list.  It’s also one of the few (alongside REC) to have a semi-decent American remake.  At heart it’s as much a coming of age love story as a horror film.  It just happens the person coming of age is a bullied young boy, who befriends the vampire next door.

Special mention goes to A Serbian Film for going where no American film would ever go.  While it has some major flaws you can’t deny the power of it.  It is almost nonstop sexual and physical brutality, with a message.  It’s biggest flaw is the power overwhelms the message for the most part.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of good and evil

We all get hung up on good and evil.  We like to think it’s all black and white and ignore the grey.  Unless that is, we are the one getting called evil.   Then we like to justify, modify, rectify, and simplify what we did, it wasn’t a lie, it was a while lie.  Sure I cheated, but my wife/gf takes me for granted.  Well I did call in sick for the ball game, but we were overstaffed, and I never call in.  With others though, it’s usually black and white, cut and dry, good and evil. 

Truth is though that’s seldom the case, life and all those living in it spend most of their time in the grey. There’s a little good and bad in all of us, with possibly a few exceptions, and who knows, maybe even those monsters and saints have a little taste for the other side.  Hitler slaughtered millions, but can we say there was never, ever any good in him? OK probably not, at least not nearly enough to balance the scales, or even tip them a little.  It seems like most of the saints do end up having secrets drug out.  Martin Luther King apparently had some infidelities, JFK most certainly did, and now even Mother Theresa’s name is being brought up in the Catholic child sex controversy.  Not that she was active in abusing but she may have turned a blind eye and urged leniency for some accused.  The fact that these people, thought great inspiring leaders, have sins dug up after they die, really goes toward proving the point of this exercise. 

It’s like Mark Anthony said by way of London Willie, “The evil that men do live after them, while the good is oft interred with their bones.”  Even though we say don’t speak ill of the dead, we often do.  True there are those who have their evil or at least questionable past colored over by an untimely death.  Michael Jackson’s pedophilia accusations all disappeared when he died, not totally, but where only a short time before his death he was a joke, afterwards he was again the King of Pop. That’s the exception that pretty much proves the rule though.  Everyone knows Hitler killed millions of people, no one knows if he loved his mother.  Charlie Manson’s crimes overshadow any good in his life, even though he never personally killed anyone as far as we know.  Probably most of the people who know his name, don’t know that he basically directed others to kill, but kept his hands clean.  Was he evil, probably, but did he have any good? We’ll never know and really even broaching that subject will make people look at you strange.  He’s the boogie man, that’s all we need to know.

What about me, and you for that matter? Are we good? Are we evil? Are we a little of both.  I have struggled with myself, am I good or evil.  I have friends who think I am a really good guy, but I also know they don’t know everything about me.  My thoughts, even some of my actions that might make them hate, or even fear me.  I have told people there is a monster inside me that I fight to control, and I don’t always win.  Does the fact the monster exists, make me evil, or does my fight to control that base side make me good?  Like most things, like most people, probably it is a little of both.

So I think I will take Mark’s speech to heart. When I die I want my friends to list all that was good about me. Then I want that tattooed on my body.  I want the good interred with my bones.  An illustrated corpse to prove I had worth, that I was never totally bad.  Maybe that script could be my coin for Charon, to pay my way across the Styx. My pound of flesh to satisfy whatever God might care.  Or maybe, in the end, like so many deeds, both good and bad, it would be ultimately meaningless.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two Headed Shark Attack aka Hungy, Hungy Hippos the Movie

Two Heads? Genius

So in a fit of cinematic boredom I found this little gem on Netflix. Now I use the word gem very lightly in the case of Two Headed Shark Attack. In fact it’s more of a nugget, like a nugget of corn in a well formed bowel movement. OK maybe that’s a bit harsh, but it sounded funny.  Certainly in the new subgenre of shark/mutated fish movies cranked out by the genius machine at the SeeFee channel it’s not the very worse.  It’s not the best either, and really considered the genre is pretty shallow that is saying a lot.
Honestly, there’s not a lot in Two Headed Shark Attack worth recommending in this film.  When the most skilled actor in the cast is most famous for being the real life brother of the fat kid from Stand By Me, well it says a lot.  The most star power is wielded by the still beautiful Carmen Electra.

 Carmen is still extremely hot, but she’s not the same Carmen she was five years ago.  Not only that but she appears to slowly be turning orange.  She’s still hot though and was cast against type as the doctor, a doctor who lies around in a bikini inexplicably writhing sensually when no one else is around.  Still I have never complained about a sexy bikini clad girl writhing for no reason, even if the bikini girl is the color of a tangerine, and she has a bit of a belly pooch.  Carmen’s dialogue and her delivery of it is nothing short of ridiculous.  I know she can act better, I have seen it.  Maybe the director told her to deliver her lines flat and emotionless.
Still I can’t hate on Carmen too much with Charlie O’Donnel’s acting in this film.  Charlie, whose brother stole John Stamos’s wife, was even more brain grinding to hear “act”.  Seriously, dude, your acting was better on Sliders.  Jerry’s penis acted better on Piranha 3-D.  Also if you have a compound fracture of your leg, which I assume you were supposed to have, you can’t walk on it, even if you wince and go “ahh” with each step.  I’ll blame that on the director, I blame you for taking the part.

While neither of these actors is in danger of winning a lifetime achievement award for acting anytime soon, both have, and can, do better.  I can only assume that a paycheck and the promise of a fun campy film drew them in.  So what else to hate Two Headed Shark Attack, yes there is more.
The shark itself was pretty laughable.  While in long shots the CGI held up ok, especially for a movie of this type.  Up close the model looked as fake as fake can be. I don’t know if it was Styrofoam, plastic, or fiberglass but it definitely wasn’t flesh. Why two heads in the first place? I can only assume total lack of ideas and the directive “find something new” from their SyFy overlords?

“Let’s make a shark movie.” 

“Boss said they already done too many shark movies.”

“Let’s give the shark two heads.”


Bruce he aint, 2 heads or not
 Did I mention the shark looked stupid up close? Well that’s nothing compared to the scenes of it feeding.  At one point the shark grabs a woman’s leg, bites it swings her around and lets her go.  Not only was the letting go stupid and not like a shark, there was no blood.  Eventually both heads grab her and rip her apart but by then I was already shaking my fist in righteous anger.  Now to the actual kill scenes, since when did sharks start chewing and munching?  Sharks tear, rip, and swallow like a rough date not chew like redneck on a corn cob.  Seriously watching the close-ups of the shark smacking its mouth it reminded me of the old game Hungry, Hungry Hippos.  All I could think of was “quick, throw a marble and swim for your life!”  Bruce would hang his head in shame if he ever watched this two headed “shark” in action.
The behavior of the cast was ludicrous at best.  Something kills a whale and attacks your ship.  Let’s go skinny dipping.  Shark attacks your perfectly good boat, jump in the water for safety.  Need a fuse, use a wet shirt “It’s the best we have” sorry jack ass, it’s still soaking wet and your ass deep in water. Late in the film as the island sinks the survivors stand waist deep in water, lamenting that there is nowhere to go for safety.  Meanwhile in the background, no more than 10 feet away is doh, the island.  Meanwhile the shark is apparently getting a mani/petti because he never comes near until they have their wet fuse bomb ready.

Put two girls together like these two in Two Headed Shark Attack and they will make out
 So why did I set through this?  Was it for the prospect of writing a shitty  review of Two Headed Shark Attack? Maybe a little bit, but there were a few high (relatively speaking) points.  There was the skinny dipping. Which I dunno, I thought skinny sipping required nudity. True the girls do get topless, which was nice, even though both girls were woefully underfed. Don’t get me wrong they were cute and all but not cute enough to drive me to IMDB to find out who they were. However for two girls to get topless while a goofily looking male just stands there in his swim trunks and grins is really hard to buy.  Of course, two topless girls, two headed shark.  Guess what’s about to happen? Yep.  This was probably the selling point of the whole film.There were lots more bad stuff I could mention about the film, but really, it’s not worth going into it.

  So on to the good things about the film.  All in all Two Headed Shark Attack had two things going for it, Brooke Hogan’s tits.  Say what you want about her face, I think she’s cute and not really that manly looking.  Plus her boobs, while not as big as her father’s tits are much nicer to look at and less hairy.  The saddest part of the movie was that she kept her top on the whole film.  I pretty much expected it but a guy can hope right? Honestly the film would have had three things going for it, if she had worn a sexier bottom.  Seriously cut offs and boy shorts? Why not a thong or at least a French cut bottom to give us a little extra eye candy Brooke?  A little cheek would have definitely improved this movie.
Brooke Hogan two reasons to watch 2 Headed Shark Attack

I do have to give Brooke Hogan props though, and not just for her boobs.  Her acting was probably the most believable in Two Headed Shark Attack.  Now before you start listing your Oscar night “thank you’s”, once again that ain’t saying much.  Being the best actor in a film like Two Headed Shark Attack is like being the sweetest smelling turd in Don Vito’s toilet.
Brooke Hogan epic boobs

 So final judgment time, should you bother seeing it.  If you find yourself bored shitless and you already have Netflix, or can catch it on cable then why not?  If you have been drinking or maybe had a little smoke it might even be half way enjoyable.  Don’t by any means pay for this or Quint will track you down and kill you.  Hell I wouldn’t even watch it on SyFy, because then you miss the nipples.  Not that the nipples are that big a selling point, but boobs is boobs as the Reverend Desmond Tutu liked to say.  Basically unless you are a fan of shark flicks, no matter how bad, swim far and fast away from Two Headed Shark Attack.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interview with Mike Pine of Zombie Girl Diary

UPDATE The teaser trailer for Zombie Girl Diary is now online, you can see it here

It seems like originality is more the exception than the norm in Hollywood now.  Studios are content to crank out sub par remakes and teen romances disguised as horror. The true horror fan finds himself looking more and more to independent and low budget films to find anything that isn’t a retread or a Twilight rip off.

The latest low budget horror film to come to my attention is Zombie Girl Diary by writer director Mike Pine.  According to the movies official Facebook page, Zombie Girl Diary is the story of a mother and daughter fighting to survive during the zombie apocalypse.  Along the way they encounter other survivors and come together to attempt to survive in a world turned upside down.

Zombies are all the rage right now, in large part due to the success of The Walking Dead, so Zombie Girl Diary should have a large potential fan base.  However The Walking Dead has also set the zombie bar pretty high.  While not all horror fans are crazy about the show, it is better than a lot of what we see in theaters.

The cast of Zombie Girl Diary includes the beautiful Vanessa Rae Bent as Sara, Tessa Wagaman as Sara’s mother, model Eliza Jayne as the zombie tree girl, and just announced Jimmyo  Burril, of the Chainsaw Sally show, as Mark.

Word is spreading about Zombie Girl Diary and I can’t wait to see it.  This week I sat down (figuratively, honestly I have just always wanted to say that) with director Mike Pine for a quick interview.

Lord Dixie: So what about Zombie Girl Diary sets it apart from other films in the zombie genre?

Mike Pine: Well I am taking it in a way I really haven’t seen before where all the zombies have to follow the rules of nature. Like in winter they freeze and in the hotter months they decay faster and die.

LD:  So are these slow zombies, fast zombies or a combination?  I have heard the natural rules aka rigor mortis, rot, etc. used in arguments for both sides.

MP:  A little of both faster for the ones that just turned and slower for the ones that have been turned for a while.

LD:  Will the for the most part follow the "Romero rules" head shot to kill, eating flesh vs. just craving brains?

MP: Well yes head shot to kill, eating flesh, but it might not have to be from the living, and that’s where I will leave that.

LD:  Fair enough and you have me interested in that. Actually that’s something that always bugged me about zombies, but I will wait till I see the film and we can discuss it.

 So what movies influenced you and what is your favorite horror or zombie movie?

MP:  Well a lot of movies.  Of course all of the Romero films, Dawn of the Dead is one of my favorites, as well as the Phantasm films, and I could just go on and on.

LD:  So where are you at in production, and when can we expect to see Zombie Girl Diary?

MP:  We start filming next month and should be released later this year.

Hopefully I can catch up with Mike again once filming is underway and chat more about the film.   But for now be on the lookout for Zombie Girl Diary and help support independent horror.  It’s where it’s at!

Find out more at the official Facebook page.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

RIP Jonathan Frid and William Finley

On April 14, two men passed away with little fanfare and little notice from the mainstream media. One was William Finley, star of the cult classic Phantom of the Paradise as well as numerous other roles. The other was Jonathan Frid, star of the classic horror series Dark Shadows

Finley was lesser known than Frid, even in the horror community, even though he starred alongside celebrities like Chick Norris and Jessica Harper, and in films directed by Brian DePalma and Tobe Hooper. Still it was Finley who so many fans remember as Winslow Leech, the Phantom. His unique look lead to many small quirky roles, but nothing compared to the Phantom.

Frid was the man of so many childhood nightmares. His Barnabas Collins was a household name, at least in the horror community. Even many people, who don’t consider themselves horror fans, know the face if not the name, and many, like my late mother, freely interchanged the word Barnabas with vampire.

The media could almost be excused for not reporting heavily on Finley’s death. He was the star of a cult film, who remained masked for most of the film. Not only was his face hidden, but his signing voice was dubbed by Paul Williams for most of the film. Still he was a part of the horror community, our community, and his fans will miss him.

The lack of news on Jonathon Frid is nothing short of perplexing. While many inside the horror community might not know the name Winslow Leech, who is it that doesn’t know Barnabas Collins? The original series was remade in the 80’s with Ben Cross playing Barnabas, and now a remake starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton is in the works. With a trailer just released, and the movie being talked about, both good and bad, by horror fans, how in the hell was Jonathon Frid’s death not headline news this weekend?

***********(It appears that the Frid family may have only released the information today, which makes sense, still the fact remains that "lesser" celebrites are routinely overlooked by the press and often die with little notice)******************************

Shame on all the “news” sources that ignored these people’s death, they were important to us in the horror community. You have ignored so many others deaths, like Vampira, Ingrid Pitt, and Tura Santana. Maybe they weren’t guaranteed to snatch high ratings like a story about Snooki’s pregnancy, or Beiber’s latest haircut, but dammit they deserved more than they got. They deserve the same respect as others who have done less with their lives and are still celebrities. It pisses me off to see them ignored. It pisses me off to find out, along with so many others five days after the fact, that they have passed away.

RIP William Finley and Jonathon Frid, the mainstream news may have forgotten you, but your fans never will. You will live on in our memories forever
William Finley as Winslow Leech
Jonathon Frid, the original and only Barnabas Collins