Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Death Scenes 2" (1992) d/ Nick Bougas

 photo 17cf7ad5-2ece-47eb-8970-3e2969307bea_zps9adf08bc.jpg
Just to let you know, rather than really exploring the depraved depths of my usual brand of black humor, I took the highest possible road where the screenshots are concerned for tonight's review, as is usually the case with every "real death" documentary there's plenty of opportunity for hardcore bleeeech, and director Nick Bougas' follow-up to his 1989 epic direct-to-home-video release takes full advantage of every single friggin' one here, lovingly serving up notorious famous death footage not just once, or even twice in slow-mo, but  frame by brutal frame detail of the carnage in one particular case... I can still remember the night they stocked this one on the shelves at one of my local video haunts on 'the Ave', I snagged it, and when I returned it, I ordered an original copy for myself straight away, having been much more of a serial killer/real death/shockumentary completist kinda guy back then, as unsettling as that probably sounds to some of you. I say 'some', because Death Scenes remains one of the top ten most viewed reviews of all-time here at the Wop. Go figure...

 photo ds2e_zpse41106d0.jpg
Show me all the horrible footage and pictures you want, just don't let Anton sing 'Golden Earrings' again...
After a gruesome recap of the first video for those that missed it, it isn't long before the screen is engulfed with the horrors of war, and WWII is well represented, as usual, with photographs of battle-maimed soldiers and footage of smoldering corpses hanging out of tanks as the norm. Next, the focus is 1950s-era death, with teenage hot rodders, drunk drivers, and road hogs meeting fiery ends in several graphic high school driver's ed films of the day. Death doesn't bypass Tinsel Town either, as we soon find out, and the deaths of Hollywood stars like Tyrone Power, Bela Lugosi, Marilyn Monroe, Lenny Bruce, and Elvis Presley are touched upon, usually accompanied by grim morgue table, crime scene, and/or casket photographs. Dying naked on a bathroom floor with a syringe still in your arm hardly constitutes "glamorous" in my book... During the segment on the tumultuously groovy decade that followed, after some Vietnam footage and race riots, we're introduced to the crimes of Albert DeSalvo, Richard Speck, and the Manson family, with crime scene photos and autopsy slab shots of all of the Tate-LaBianca victims included.

 photo 8be85cfe-40b1-4a95-a295-3be723855b05_zpsd54a5407.jpg
"B.W. is my favorite movie reviewer on the internet, and my favorite candy is barbiturates."- Marilyn Monroe 
While the focus remains on serial killers, John Wayne Gacy is discussed, and even the sickening contents of Milwaukee cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer's bathtub and refrigerator are shown briefly. Then it's back to Hollywood where actor Vic Morrow and two Asian child actors tragically lost their lives on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie during the night filming of one of director John Landis' segments, when a helicopter loses control due to misfired pyrotechnics, and spirals down, killing all three instantly. If the horrible accident was difficult to make out from the initial camera angle, rest easy, there's two more to choose from, including a close up that's slowed down to frame by frame analysis. We close with a well upsetting montage of gore from the video era that includes suicide jumpers, mass bombings, Pa State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer's televised .357 suicide in it's entirety, gory color Mexican newspaper photos and footage, and even a late-term abortion. Stay classy, Death Scenes 2...

 photo 1b559ed2-af66-4a87-9914-2cb7c7c7402a_zpsb258bf6b.jpg
Get those kids to safety, Vic, in case that helicopter is forced to make an emergency Landis...errr, landing. Sorry.
As nauseating as this series can be (and usually is), tonight's review in particular, they've been long since surpassed by internet access, where you can sate the most morbid of your curiosities, and watch mankind outdo itself in terms of brutality and violence, worldwide, on a daily basis, if that's your bag. It certainly isn't everybody's, and those who are easily affected by such imagery and subject matter should obviously steer as clear of this one as possible. On the other hand, it stands as a frank reminder of how unchanged we remain as a species, despite our self-awareness and general belief that we occupy a higher rung of the scala naturae than the other life forms on the planet. If you share in that particular belief, watching Death Scenes 2 just might force you to reconsider your position. Four Wops.

 photo c969f9a4-3746-488c-a411-89061ec91078_zpsfdcb919c.jpg
"For my next trick, I'm going to put an embezzler's brain to sleep..."
 photo nu4w_zps43affeb5.jpg

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Frankenstein's Army" (2013) d/ Richard Raaphorst

 photo frankensteins_army_zps910b9dd2.jpg
Just a glance at the admittedly very tits poster art for this indie riff on the Frankenstein mythos, the pioneer full-length feature from director Richard Raaphorst, and my mind was delirious with the potential for chaotic, full-on gore-goods as sadistically served up by shambling swastika-emblazoned freaks-of-nature, negatively charged for battle in the hidden laboratory of a mad genius under oath to the axis war machine (even the most knee-jerk liberal could appreciate the novelty of such a premise, even if only to themselves, I'd wager). After all, this is/was the guy responsible for the incredible trailer for Woensdag Gehaktdag aka/ Worst Case Scenario(2008), that utilizes a few of the memorable creature designs one will encounter in this film. So, does Army live up to my nosebleed-inducing expectations in the end? Pull up ein sessel, throw some Wagner on your stereo, and read on to find out...Mach schnell!
 photo fa1_zps571bcc38.jpg
"Nobody squashes an accordion like I do! You heah me?? No-freakin'-buddy!"
As a small recon unit of Russkie grunts slip into East Germany's countryside (much like they slip in and out of accent) towards a final Allied victory near the end of World War II, with a soldier named Sergei (Joshua Sasse) given the undaunted task of documenting their historic march on camera for the greater glory of Mother Russia, all made possible by the handy hi-def video camera with integrated microphone-provided sync sound that they'd been developing since the Tsarist Revolution of 1917 or so (Nadia Comaneci couldn't make this kind of stretch in her disco-era prime, just sayin'...), at least until they receive a distress signal from some of their comrades and follow it up...What's the worst that could happen? It's not like they're gonna stumble across a top secret nazi laboratory fulla mechanized zombie soldiers or anything. Right?

 photo fa2_zps0e907f14.jpg
"Whattaya mean I looked different in my profile picture..."
Eventually, the soldiers start encountering some odd-looking sieg heilers along the way, that look to be a mash up of mechanical parts and enemy troops, and when they infiltrate a large warehouse nearby, they discover the horrible truth: Viktor Frankenstein (Karel Roden) himself is under the employment of the Reich, commissioned by the Fuhrer to resurrect his dead soldiers and rescue the Fatherland from the imminent jaws of defeat. That Adolf 's new shock troops are corpses haphazardly stitched together and equipped with knife-fingers, drill-faces, Stuka propeller-heads, and various other diabolical weapons of gore-spurting destruction, is, of course, an added bonus for Germany. Frankenstein's lurid experiments don't even stop there, folks, as he proudly shows off a 'half nazi / half communist' brain he's been tinkering on. What the fuck's next? Dr.Jekyll's Trompeter-reiten (Trumpet Riders) ??

 photo fa3_zps8133cfe6.jpg
""Make a small tin box", you said. "Shop class is easy", you said..."
Raaphorst himself designed the unique steampunk-esque "zombots" on display, and each new mad creation is more impressive and intricately insane than the last, and the film's splatter-flow is reminiscent of Brian Yuzna on a Re-Animator-y tear through a haunted house ride at a state fair, ironically enough, since Raaphorst cut his teeth as a conceptual artist for Yuzna and Stuart Gordon on films like Dagon (2001) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003). Overall, it's a pretty good time to be had, despite momentary lapses in CG and an overworked Deodato-style "found footage" framework that's more annoying than anything, by now. A straightforward approach (sans that shaky hand-held camerawork that just gives my bitter, middle-aged ass a bacon double cheeseburger of a headache...I thought "Whopper" would have been too obvious there, don't you?) would have netted this a three spot (had they'd rolled with the original 'Worst Case Scenario' idea, it would have been four), but an impressive debut just the same, from a director whose name we'll be hearing a lot more from in the future, I predict. On the scale, Army stitches together and shocks a pair of Wops 'fulla voltage. Give it a look.

 photo fa4_zps16da28f2.jpg
"If I can just remoof zis baseball uuund ze funny bone, my zister vill stop calling me 'Butterfingers'!"
 photo nu2w_zps47906b42.jpg

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Naked Massacre" (1976) d/ Denis Heroux

 photo nakedmass0_zpsb1cc3cc9.jpg
Richard Speck, notorious for more than being name dropped as one of Divine's celebrity blow jobs in Female Trouble (1974), was also a U.S. merchant marine-turned-mass murderer when he slipped into a dormitory for nurses in Chicago on a July night in 1966, and spent the evening torturing, raping, and murdering eight young student nurses ("It just wasn't their night," he'd later chuckle) while on an alcohol and drug fueled bender, leading to a famous electric chair death sentence, eventually reduced to a twelve hundred year bed at Stateville Prison, where the unrepentant killer grew breasts, often boasted of his crimes, and spent his days blowing coke and fellow inmates until his black heart finally quit at age forty-nine. Tonight's review is just one of several cinematic dramatizations of this legendary scar-faced creep (Your humble narrator is a scar-faced goon, know the diff, Cliff), this one from French-Canadian director Denis Heroux, who'd give us the killer cat anthology, The Uncanny, the following year, chose the war-torn streets of Belfast at the height of it's political unrest as the backdrop for this rarely-seen exploitation dittie.

 photo nakedmass1_zps77036b49.jpg
"No Brady has ever planted a car bomb, Marcia, and you can be darn sure that no Brady ever will. Pardon my language, Alice..."
We see an awful lot of Richard Sp...uhh, Cain Adamson (Matthieu Carriere), a Vietnam Vet drifting his way back home to the States, aimlessly wandering the streets of Belfast amid spray-painted I.R.A. slogans and patrols of British soldiers, where the psychological burden of an abusive upbringing, the horrors of war, an unfaithful wife, lack of funds, etc, etc, take an irreparable toll on the man's fragile grip on sanity, finally leading him to break into a nearby building rented out to some student nurses with intent to burgle, or so he'd lead the terrified young women to believe, just before he convinces them to tie themselves up in one of the bedrooms, from which he calmly leads them, one by one, to a fate of degradation, sexual assault, and violent death. Just like he promised he wasn't gonna do! Joke's on you, girls. You showed kindness and trust to a transient sociopathic Robert Reed lookalike with a "Born for Hell" tattoo and an inborn hatred for women. That's never a smart move in a movie like this...

 photo nakedmass2_zpse0439b25.jpg
Not to detract from the horrific murder or anything, but check out that woolly lap-mammoth.
As predicted, things rapidly go Andy Milligan for our heroines. One aspiring care-giver gets the wind choked out of her, and another gets stabbed, while a third takes the knife from Adamson and fatally shanks herself in front of his eyes, rather than submit to his imposed sexual fancy, which doesn't happen to exclude outing a pair of closeted lesbians in a forced horizontal pair-up that ends in...anybody? If  you quick-witted readers at home said "violent, humiliating death", give yourselves... one of those puffy re-released Ugly Stickers (not "Charlie" though, he's my fave, and you'll have to work a lot harder to snag him, I don't mind tellin' ya), I dunno. Believing he's exhausted himself of potential rape/murder victims, and having confessed his incestuous relationship with his sister along the way, along with various other little-known personal tidbits that I'm sure these chicks appreciated hearing about just before being brutally murdered, and famously forgetting "the one under the bed", our reverse-feminist opens his wrist in the end, only to be denied closure by the authorities.

 photo nakedmass3_zpsfcd489a8.jpg
"...but I haaaaate salmon without a couscous side."
Among the unlucky nurses are Carol Laure, who you'll recall from the wild Sweet Movie, and Ely Galleani, an Italian actress who's worked with everyone from Fulci to D'Amato.I scored the C & F Services bare bones disc for a couple of bucks used at an FYE a while back, and it seems like a pretty fair trade to my best assessment, as I don't foresee any sudden mad collector urges to upgrade to a hardbox or mediabook release ever happening. If you're looking for a cheap fix of grainy ( bordering on downright murky in spots) blood, tits (thankfully not Dickie's),  woofin' seventies-tastic bush, and enough uncomfortable-looking misogynist torture and rape to make Krug Stilo step away for a momentary reflective stoagie of penance, then this one might just whet your appetite, briefly. On the scale, Naked scores a deuce, as the closest portrayal I've personally seen to the actual crimes themselves. Worth a look.

 photo nakedmass4_zpsc3b342b6.jpg
"Pour some crimson in me, Jimson."
 photo nu2w_zps47906b42.jpg

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"House on Straw Hill" (1976) d/ James Kenelm Clarke

 photo house-on-straw-hill-movie-poster-1977-1020208935_zpse2238025.jpg
Tonight, we'll take a look at the only British film to be found among the original seventy-two (and even the revised thirty-nine, for that matter) on the notorious "Video Nasties" list that inspired gestapo-style police raids on video shops back in the eighties in the name of "decency". Looking back, the sheltered and stuffy  film censors only really managed to succeed in bringing masses of violent film lovers together, the world over. Hell, even cobwebbed-up Damned frontman Dave Vanian caught, caught the proverbial Horror Taxi and fell in love with 'em. This effort, from the director who brought you a World War II-based musical sex comedy in 1978's Let's Get Laid, is an engaging little psychological thriller that stars cult icon, Udo Kier, as well as popular seventies British sex star, Fiona Richmond, and sexy genre staple, Linda Hayden.

 photo a722744a-fb76-42dd-907a-df350f8a0413_zps6104b0dc.jpg
"I am goink to zlip away to ze country zo I can start writing sings again..."
Paul (Kier) is a troubled novelist who rents an isolated estate in the British countryside, so that he might focus on writing the eagerly anticipated follow up to his first effort, with a secretary named Linda (Hayden) hired on from a temp agency by his agent, to accelerate the creative process for deadline's sake. Paul's lingering case of writer's block doesn't seem to discourage Linda at all, as she's packed away a handy dildo in her luggage, and plans to masturbate furiously over the coming weeks, sometimes in the middle of a nearby corn field in broad daylight, drawing the attention of two yokels on bikes, who stop to rape her at gunpoint... only she invitingly caresses the shotgun barrel, mid-violation, as a harbinger of where this chick's head is really at.Afterwards, she turns the duo's firearm on them, raping them of their miserable lives, and strolls back to the cottage as though nothing ever happened...

 photo dd8d639a-1e3e-4bc2-89a3-bc7fdefa5ad5_zps70a7b1e3.jpg
And the award for Least Masculine-looking Death Pose for 1976 goes to...
Meanwhile, the wide-eyed (and laughingly-overdubbed) Paul is so overstimulated that he's forced to wear latex gloves when making love to his girlfriend Suzanne (Richmond), who initially dislikes his new homicidal typist, who, in turn, adds the housekeeper to the meager body count along the way, but later warms up enough to her to wear a Joan Crawford-style lez-beanie with the young murderer while Paul is busy losing control of the vehicle on the winding country road back to the house, a victim of secretarial sabotage, no doubt. In the end, Linda turns out to be the vengeful widow of a suicidal author whose work Paul had plagiarized in bringing his first book to life, and a bloody, knock-down, drag-out finale, complete with a shock or two that I'll leave for you to discover for yourselves, is what follows...

 photo sh2_zps0afc2831.jpg
"How'd you guess I was from Bristol?"
Hayden, who'd later voice regret concerning her participation here, could be found in memorable genre films throughout the seventies, in things like Hammer's Taste the Blood of Dracula(1970), Tigon's Blood on Satan's Claw(1971), Night Watch(1973), Madhouse(1974), and even Queen Kong (1976), while Richmond would appear in lighter fare like 1971's Not Tonight, Darling, and reunite with director Clarke on Hardcore aka/ Fiona(1977) and the aforementioned Let's Get Laid, the following year. As for tonight's review, which was originally released as Expose', and alternately as Trauma, it's a worthwhile watch for fans of Udo, Linda, and/or Fiona, and Video Nasty completists alike, and as such, I'm gonna drop the deuce upon it, so to speak. Check out the Blu-Ray-dvd combo, available from the fine folks at Severin.

 photo 30e42d3b-cc94-44d9-974c-8a8dcf0994ab_zpsdf675964.jpg
"I vos practissink zhooting  jam jars off of ze garden wall...."
 photo nu2w-1_zps59255a2c.jpg

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Maniac"(2013) d/Franck Khalfoun

 photo maniac2_zps9d1d1f3c.jpg
As somebody who actually saw the Lustig original in the theaters back in 1980 (go ahead, rupture my stones and call me a dusty old relic, let's see what you blouses look like at forty-four), it'd be effortless for me to portray the role of Pist Pisstofferson, for whom fun, time, and joy have all long since passed by, and spiritedly slag off this latest remake from the New Wave of French Horror's dynamic duo of Franck Khalfoun and Alexandre Aja as another unnecessary and unoriginal one in a pungent, growing heap, but I'll reserve such harsh judgment for more deserving movies. This particular remake is kind of a hoot. People seem surprised that an actor like Elijah Wood is as convincing and effective as a mentally unhinged psychopath as he is here, but I've been in his corner since Green Street Hooligans (cinematic thuggery wins me over every time), and though he isn't nearly as overweight as Joe Spinell was in the original, he manages to look every bit as sweaty and unwashed. That's impressive.

 photo c00c2100-cbb0-45a4-aa94-20dbd7a29fd9_zpsc4344adb.jpg
"May I photograph your stiff?", queries the innocent Anna (Nora Arnezeder).
Frank (Wood) has some serious issues, thanks in major part to a psychologically destructive upbringing from a nymphomaniac called Mom (America Olivo)( who's more concerned about scoring her next 80's style-flashback double penetration than her son's mental well-being), not the least of which being constant crippling migraine headaches accompanied by vivid hallucinations that force him to abuse his prescribed anti-psychotic meds, as he tries to carve out a living for himself in the family business, antiquing and restoring vintage department store mannequins. Being a slight, unthreatening creep unhampered by girlfriends does allow for the pursuit of hobbies, as we see Frank enjoys a number, himself, like stalking and murdering random women, scalping them, and nailing the pulpy trophies to the foreheads of his favorite dummies in his secret hideaway. I collect first editions of books, but everybody's got their own bag, man.

 photo maniac3_zps17dca771.jpg
"I warned you not to sing 'Frodo of the Nine Fingers' within earshot of me again, tonight!"
After Frank blows through several victims like an e-date, a young clubber, and a gallerist, in the same way yours cruelly goes through a pack of cool mentholated doogs on any given evening, he meets a beautiful young artist named Anna (Arnezeder), who's seemingly the only girl in the city who's able to see past Frank's awkward, lonely exterior and free the beauty and art that's trapped within as they get to know each other. Actually, rather than the dimepiece she portrays, to score Frankie-boy's dummies for her upcoming art exhibit, she turns out to be just another dime a dozen, self-serving egotist chick with a jerk off boy friend, that you find yourself cheering on to get the next close haircut. In the end, his fragile grip on reality slips away, and he's forced to face physical manifestations of his broken subconscious, with similar results to the original's conclusion...

 photo maniac3a_zps67cdd25e.jpg
"Owwwwww! Awful touchy about that tv movie 'Day-O' you did, aren't you?"
For every thing I wasn't stoked about seeing (the CG gore comes off clunky and artificial in a few spots, as per usual these days) here, I found two that I enjoyed (the first person perspective was effectively executed, allowing for some inventive shot selection throughout, and French newcomer Nora Arnezeder is an acceptably cute replacement for legendary Hammer vixen Caroline Munro, as the film's main eye candy on display), but I still can't avoid the inevitable comparisons to the original film, whose downer vibes and groundbreaking gore still have people talking about it over thirty years later. Though this is decent enough in it's own right, nobody's gonna be talking about it thirty days later. On the scale, the Khalfoun remake peels back a bloody chunk of scalp to reveal a respectable deuce. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

 photo maniac4_zps9bcc792f.jpg
"That's the last time I smoke bath salts in Gandalf's dressing room..."
 photo nu2w_zps47906b42.jpg
Connect with Facebook