Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Temple by H.P. Lovecraft

The Temple
by H.P. Lovecraft

Purporting to be a manuscript found in a bottle on the coast of Yucatan, written by German Naval officer Karl Heinrich during WWI, this Lovecraft tale is a strange one even by his standards. Heinrich and his crew aboard a U-29 submarine sink an enemy vessel and then submerge. When they next break the surface, they find resting atop their sub the corpse of one of that vessel's men, and around his waterlogged neck an ivory medallion of some strange and unknown being. Believing in the old adage of 'to the victors go the spoils', they claim this aged and possibly valuable icon as their own.

This sets off an improbable series of unfortunate events that include motor malfunctions, madness, murder, mutiny and mayhem, concluding with the submarine being trapped at the bottom of the ocean floor, caught in some sort of slipstream that is carrying it to an unknown destination.

At first this may seem like the forefather of that quirky episode of The Brady Bunch where Johnny Bravo finds a cursed tiki idol, but unlike that classic of TV cheddar, this ivory carving is actually pulling them towards its big poppa, an identical but much larger statue in the lost city of--can you believe it?--Atlantis!

By this time, Heinrich is the sole survivor, and as he glances out at this forgotten city, he feels the local temple calling to him. Sensing that the end is near, he scrawls out his story on some convenient stationary, shoves it in a bottle, and sends it to the surface for the benefit of all mankind...or at least all of Germany.

Now, this may sound relatively tame for a piece of so-called "Weird Fiction", and it is...which is precisely why I say that it is strange for a Lovecraft work. Beyond that, there's no real tangible evil here, which has always been a mainstay in the man's work, whether it be an unglimpsed evil or one on full display. The closest hint of a malevolent force at work here is the (likely supernatural) bad luck that befalls the crew, and that was really only the side-effects of Atlantis calling its ivory idol home. Outside sources have claimed that these events seemingly have no cohesion, but viewing it in this manner, I didn't have the same complaints.

Decent enough, but the militaristic narrative gets a little grating.

What say you?

--J/Metro

Monday, June 28, 2010

Genre Film on TCM (06.28.10)

A single film of note playing on Turner Classic Movies tonight/early tomorrow morning that I wanted to pass on to you. Check it out:

1:00 AM: Brainstorm (1983)
A scientist battles the military for control of a machine that records sensory experiences-including death. Cast: Natalie Wood, Christopher Walken, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson Dir: Douglas Trumbull C-106 mins, TV-14

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tonight on TCM Underground (06.25.10)

A couple of interesting sounding films on Turner Classic Movies Underground late tonight/early tomorrow morning:

2:00 AM: Deep End (1971)
A 15-year-old's obsession with a co-worker leads to a deadly string of crimes. Cast: Jane Asher, John Moulder Brown, Karl Michael Vogler, Christopher Sandford Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski C-91 mins, TV-MA

3:45 AM: Shout, The (1979)
A married man protects his marriage from a mysterious traveler who can kill with a shout. Cast: Alan Bates, Susannah York, John Hurt, Robert Stephens Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski C-86 mins, TV-14

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Train (2008)

Train

Written & Directed by Gideon Raff

Alex...Thora Birch
Willy...Gideon Emery
Sheldon...Kavan Reece
Todd...Derek Magyar
Claire...Gloria Votsis

If you've ever wondered what Hostel would have looked like if it had been directed by somebody else, then this is the movie for you. An attractive subset of American wrestlers (Olympic style, not capes and makeup style) and their coaches get separated from the rest of the team while en route from one European hamlet to another. They gratefully accept alternative travel plans offered from a vaguely pretty local woman, and they all hop aboard the Murder Express.


One by one, they begin disappearing. Actually, one by one they begin being abducted by the crazy conductor's creepy crew, and are promptly bound, beaten, tortured, mutilated and murdered.

Silly Americans. That's what happens when you travel anywhere beyond the friendly outback of Canada!

There's nothing new or groundbreaking here, and it is definitely derivative of the aforementioned Eli Roth films. But Train actually has a leg up on its forefather franchise. You know how the first time you watched Hostel, you kept checking your watch, asking yourself just when the hell the bloodshed was going to begin? Here you don't have to wait nearly as long to get your guilty fix. Throw in the fact that there are also elements of a slasher film evident here, and you've got an enjoyable time-waster if nothing else.


Gorehounds should be pretty happy with this one, as the red stuff is thick and plentiful. There's a particularly painful moment when a man's back is sliced open like a Christmas goose and his exposed spine is fractured with a hammer and chisel, ending his futile struggles. In fact, there are multiple times where I found myself grimacing at the grotesqueries playing out on screen. If you prefer a more subtle brand of horror, or if the (ludicrously titled) torture porn genre immediately turns you off, you'll probably want to keep on trucking.  Or training.  Whatever.

I found it to be cheap and dirty entertainment. And there ain't nothin' wrong with that!

2008
Rated R
94 Minutes
Color
United States

Birch, please!
--J/Metro

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Devil Within (2010)

The Devil Within

Written by Matt Dean
Directed by Tom Hardy

In the eyes of moviemakers, every high school student is either an unlikable receptacle for football player semen or an even more unlikable jackass who has made the lifestyle choice of being a complete and total tittering jackass. Outside of Sunnydale, there seems to be nary a favorable student in existence, which is one of the reasons that I grew tired of these High School Horrors long before my senior year.

Regardless, I sat down to view this film with fingers crossed, not really sure what I was getting into. While the murder of a prostitute engaged in a little roleplay with her latest John suggested that this was going to be a serial killer flick, it quite quickly became obvious that this was more in step with the slasher genre.

An 18 year old little miss perfect who is the desire of the whole school (including the principal!) is throwing a big birthday bash and everyone is invited. Well, all the "cool" kids, anyway. And amidst all the dancing, drinking, drugging, and pre-marital diddling, someone is lurking in the shadows...someone dangerous.

If you can imagine Friday the 13th by way of Can't Hardly Wait, you're pretty close to the truth here. As far as low-budget slashers go, this one isn't too bad. The acting was decent and the score was pretty good, but the script could have used some punching up and there was plenty of filler that could have been pared down. Also, there was a great speech delivered by a teacher regarding the 7 deadly sins versus the 7 virtues that lead you to believe that was going to be an important theme here, but it really wasn't played up nearly enough.

The twist at the end was enjoyable, even if not all together surprising, and the series of flashbacks upon the reveal to showcase the clues you may have missed owes more than a little debt to the Saw franchise.




View the trailer below!


2010
Not Rated
Color
English
United States

--J/Metro

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Unnamable by H.P. Lovecraft

The Unnamable 
by H.P. Lovecraft

Our narrator here is Carter--possibly Randolph Carter, last seen in "The Statement of Randolph Carter", although that is never implicity stated.  He is an author of Weird Fiction, much like Lovecraft himself.  The tale begins with Carter and his friend Manton sitting in a centuries-old cemetery, discussing the concept of The Unnamable, a formless evil so boundless and incomprehensible to the human mind that it can not be named.

Carter recounts a local legend in which such a force may very well have factored in, and in so doing actually invokes the Unnamable and provokes an attack.

And, really, that's about it.  This story is deceptively simple, almost a generic template for all of Lovecraft's work, and this is exactly what people think of when they hear the name Lovecraft.  It's not a bad story.  It's quite enjoyable, actually, but it's missing a lot of the power and complexities of his best work.

It should be noted that Randolph Carter was a character modeled after the author himself--Lovecraft's own Kilgore Trout--and this Carter, whether Randolph or not, was certainly speaking with Lovecraft's voice.  The first portion of the narration reads like Lovecraft defending his body of work to the critics.  He does it much better than I could ever hope to, so we will close with his own words.

"Especially did he object to my preoccupation with the mystical and the unexplained; for although believing in the supernatural much more fully than I, he would not admit that it is sufficiently commonplace for literary treatment."


"With him all things and feelings had fixed dimensions, properties, causes, and effects; and although he vaguely knew that the mind sometimes holds visions and sensations of far less geometrical, classifiable, and workable nature, he believed himself justified in drawing an arbitrary line and ruling out of court all that cannot be experienced and understood by the average citizen."


"I knew that Joel Manton actually half clung to many old-wives' superstitions which sophisticated people had long outgrown; beliefs in the appearance of dying persons at distant places, and in the impressions left by old faces on the windows through which they had gazed all their lives. To credit these whisperings of rural grandmothers, I now insisted, argued a faith in the existence of spectral substances on the earth apart from and subsequent to their material counterparts. It argued a capability of believing in phenomena beyond all normal notions; for if a dead man can transmit his visible or tangible image half across the world, or down the stretch of the centuries, how can it be absurd to suppose that deserted houses are full of queer sentient things, or that old graveyards teem with the terrible, unbodied intelligence of generations? And since spirit, in order to cause all the manifestations attributed to it, cannot be limited by any of the laws of matter, why is it extravagant to imagine psychically living dead things in shapes - or absences of shapes - which must for human spectators be utterly and appallingly "unnamable"? "Common sense" in reflecting on these subjects, I assured my friend with some warmth, is merely a stupid absence of imagination and mental flexibility."

--J/Metro

Friday, June 18, 2010

Genre Films on TCM (06.19.10)

Turner Classic Movies is playing a plethora (that's right...a plethora!) of genre films starting bright-and-early tomorrow morning! Better wake up early, hipsters!

6:00am: Manster, The (1962)
A mad scientist turns a reporter into a two-headed killer.
Cast: Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Satoshi Nakamura, Terri Zimmern Dir: Kenneth Crane BW-70 mins, TV-PG

7:15am: Killer Shrews, The (1959)
A maniacal scientist creates a formula that turns your average shrew into a giant, man-killing beast.
Cast: James Best, Ingrid Goude, Ken Curtis, Gordon McLendon Dir: Ray Kellogg BW-68 mins, TV-PG

8:30am: Wild, Wild Planet, The (1965)
Space amazons control the Earth by shrinking its leaders.
Cast: Tony Russel, Lisa Gastoni, Massimo Serato, Franco Nero Dir: Anthony Dawson C-94 mins, TV-14


10:15am: War of the Planets (1965)
Martians with mind-control powers attempt to take over the earth.
Cast: Franco Nero, Tony Russel, Massimo Serato, Carlo Giustini Dir: Antonio Margheriti C-97 mins, TV-PG

12:00pm: Green Slime, The (1969)
A mysterious fungus invades a space station and turns the inhabitants into monsters.
Cast: Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi, Bud Widom Dir: Kinji Fukasaku C-90 mins, TV-14

1:45pm: Soylent Green (1973)
A future cop uncovers the deadly secret behind a mysterious synthetic food.
Cast: Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors Dir: Joe Canutt C-97 mins, TV-MA

3:30pm: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Classic sci-fi epic about a mysterious monolith that seems to play a key role in human evolution.
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter Dir: Stanley Kubrick C-149 mins, TV-G

6:00pm: 2010 (1984)
In this sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a U.S.-Soviet crew investigates a mysterious monolith orbiting Jupiter.
Cast: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban Dir: Peter Hyams C-116 mins, TV-14

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Six Minor Works by H.P. Lovecraft

As I continue my chronological journey of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, I have come across a number of  what I call "minor works"--those which are either too short to merit a full review, or those on which I have very little to say for whatever reason.  Here are six more that fit into this category.

Celephais: Another dull experiment in fantasy from Lovecraft, but at least this one is written in language that is easier to read.  A man named Kuranes (well, that's not his real name, it's his dream name, don't you know?) once dreamed of the magical city of Celephais, and now he spends his nights trying to find his way back.  Is it ironic that these dream stories tend to put me sleep?  Published in the May 1922 issue of The Rainbow, after "The Tomb" but before "The Lurking Fear".

What the Moon Brings:  Yet another in the increasing canon of Lovecraft's dreamy tales, this one is shorter and more pointless than others, but at least it gets points for its profusion of morbid imagery.  Published in the May 1923 issue of The Amateur, after "Hypnos" but before "The Horror at Martin's Beach".

Ashes: This short story was actually written by author C.M. Eddy, Jr., and was subsequently revised by Lovecraft (although his involvement was unknown for years, and then ignored for even more years once it was discovered).  I'm taking a momentary pass on this one because it's not technically a Lovecraft story, and it's not freely and readily available.  Maybe I'll come back to it later.  Maybe not.  Sue me.  Published in the March 1924 issue of Weird Tales, after "The Hound" but before "The Rats in the Walls".

The Ghost-Eater:  Another C.M. Eddy tale that was only revised by Lovecraft.  See above.  Published in the April 1924 issue of Weird Tales, after "The Rats in the Walls" but before "Under the Pyramids".

The Loved Dead: Ditto.  Published in the May/June/July 1924 issue of Weird Tales, after "Under the Pyramids" but before "The Festival".

Deaf, Dumb and Blind: Double ditto.  Published in the April 1925 issue of Weird Tales, after "The Festival" but before "The Unnameable".

--J/Metro

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Genre Films on TCM (06.16.10)

Turner Classic Movies is playing a bundle of creepy crime capers tonight, Wednesday June 16th, for those of you who are interested. They run until the wee hours, so you better start drinking your Mountain Dew right now.

8:00 PM: In Cold Blood (1967)
Two vagrants try to outrun the police after committing a savage crime in this real-life shocker. Cast: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart Dir: Richard Brooks BW-134 mins, TV-14

10:30 PM: 10 Rillington Place (1971)
A serial killer frames a mentally challenged man. Cast: Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, John Hurt, Pat Heywood Dir: Richard Fleischer C-111 mins, TV-14

12:30 AM: He Walked By Night (1948)
After killing a cop, a burglar fights to evade the police.
Cast: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell Dir: Alfred Werker BW-79 mins, TV-14

2:00 AM: Onion Field, The (1979)
When his partner is killed by a disturbed ex-con, a policeman struggles to regain his confidence. Cast: John Savage, James Woods, Franklyn Seales, Ted Danson Dir: Harold Becker C-126 mins, TV-MA

4:15 AM: True Story of Lynn Stuart, The (1958)
A concerned housewife goes undercover for the police to bust a drug ring. Cast: Betsy Palmer, Jack Lord, Barry Atwater, Edmund G. Brown Dir: Lewis Seiler BW-78 mins, TV-PG

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Baise Moi (2000)

Baise Moi


Written by Virginie Despentes
Directed by Virginie Despentes & Coralie Trinh Thi

Manu...Raffaella Anderson
Nadine...Karen Bach

Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and explicit violence. It should make for a great movie, but as this controversial French film proves, that isn’t always the case.

Nadine is a hardened prostitute and Manu is a detached porn star, two cold women who participate in sexual intercourse for profit. When Manu (along with a friend) is raped, and Nadine is, umm…nagged too much, apparently, they each kill someone very close to them and then head to the train station to flee from the authorities. The last train has already left, and when the girls meet for the first time, Manu suggests that they find a car and get out of town another way: ROAD TRIP!

Along the way, they have sex with some men, they kill some men, and they have sex with and then kill some others. And, well, that’s pretty much it.


Imagine Thelma and Louise, if that film was completely devoid of plot and the main characters liked to dance together to techno music in their underwear. On second thought, don’t imagine that.

I can’t say that I understood the motivation of the main characters. Nadine seemed to snap for no reason other than living with a roommate who was just looking after her best interests, and whereas Manu’s rape could be seen as the precursor to her becoming unhinged, her rather blasé attitude about the whole affair pretty much negates that possibility. As she says, “If you park in the projects, you empty your car because someone is going to break in. I leave nothing precious in my cunt for those jerks. It’s just a bit of cock.”

The beginning of the film was entirely too cluttered with unnamed characters who had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie, and the handheld shaky-cam was often frenetic and distracting. On the plus side, however, the soundtrack which was made up mostly of French rock and punk, sounded great (even if I couldn’t understand what they were singing),and there is a sex-club massacre that you won’t soon forget.

And finally, yes, the violence was plentiful, but it wasn’t nearly as graphic as many people claim. The sex, on the other hand, is plentiful and graphic. I was expecting “graphic sex” on a Basic Instinct level, and was rather shocked to see sex on a Butt-Bangin’ Beauties 7 level, which is to say, full-on penetration. As Roger Ebert pointed out, if it wasn’t for the sex, this movie wouldn’t be controversial.

But allow me to say that if it wasn’t for the controversy, nobody would see this film.

Ugh.

2000
Unrated
77 minutes
Color
France
French (with English subtitles)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Don't Torture A Duckling (1972)

Don't Torture A Duckling

Written by Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci, & Roberto Gianviti
Directed by Lucio Fulci

Florinda Bolkan .... Maciara
Barbara Bouchet .... Patrizia
Tomas Milian .... Andrea Martelli
Irene Papas .... Dona Aurelia Avallone
Marc Porel .... Don Alberto Avallone

A rash of child killings in a rural Italian town has the locals in an understandable uproar, and they're demanding justice one way or another. There are no real clues to speak of and so everyone is working on pure conjecture, letting superstition and suspicion get the best of them. First everyone is sure that it's the village simpleton. Then they're sure that it's the crazy old witch that lives in the woods. Or perhaps it's the recovering drug-addict heiress from Milan. Seems just as likely as anyone else.

Hell, we're right there with them, pointing fingers and placing the blame with nothing to go on but instinct. And why not? That's half the fun of giallos. The other half is actually finding out who did it, and in this case the answer turns out to be the oh-so-obvious suspect that you never even thought of until it was too late.

Don't Torture A Duckling starts off a bit shaky but once it finds its feet, it turns out to be a hell of a fun pic. Never mind the fact that the title makes little-to-no sense or that the finale features the most obvious use of a dummy that I have probably ever seen. Concentrate on the bizarre characters, the beautiful exotic women and a truly violent beating that has to be seen to be believed. Absolutely brutal!

A good choice for Fulci fans, giallo lovers, and Italian horror fiends in general.

1972
Unrated
102 minutes
Color
Italy
Italian (English dubbed)

--J/Metro

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Festival by H.P. Lovecraft

The Festival
by H.P. Lovecraft

Here our nameless narrator is a man curious about the Yuletide rites of his ancestors, who travels to a small Massachusetts town to attend the titular festival...although he has no notion of what that festival may consist of.  He meets up with his strange benefactors, an ancient and old world couple, who promise to take him to the exact location when the time comes.

The time comes fast enough, and the unlikely trio head to an underground chamber where a large group of witchy worshippers are performing all sorts of wacky rituals, the likes of which his poor little mind was ill-prepared to witness.

There's really not a lot of story going on here, and what little there is is only a method of getting the reader from Point A to Point B--namely from the beginning to the shocking conclusion (which honestly isn't all that shocking).  Lovecraft seemed to have the destination in mind, and decided that the journey wasn't all that important.

Lucky for us, he gave us some nice scenery along the way.  His depiction of a rural New England town seemingly lost in time was crafted beautifully, but not nearly as effectively as in some of his tales ("The Music of Erich Zann", for instance).  The finale, however, which leads one to assume that 2 very different versions of this town are existing simultaneously, was a novel twist that fits into the Mythos quite nicely.

It's just too bad that one of the key images here--that of the members of the coventry hopping aboard some fantastical winged creatures and taking flight--seems so ridiculous, something that would be more at home in Heavy Metal magazine than a true horror tale.

Catching an early glimpse at the pages of the mystical Necronomicon may have helped to cement this tale as a favorite among fanatics, but I found it to be a mediocre entry in the canon....albeit a terrifically written one.

--J/Metro

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Endangered Species (2002)

Endangered Species

Written & Directed by Kevin S. Tenney

Mike “Sully” Sullivan.... Eric Roberts
Susan Sullivan.... Sarah Kaite Coughlan
Phil Yamata.... James W. Quinn
Police Lt. Wyznowski.... John Rhys-Davies
Warden.... Arnold Vosloo


A serial killer known as “The Health Nut” enters a gym and murders everyone that he finds, armed with a high-tech gun loaded with magic bullets. He takes with him the bodies of those deemed to be perfect specimens, i.e., in good health and with no physical scars whatsoever. His kill number has reached epic proportions, and officer Sully is placed in charge of the task force to hunt him down, aided by his fellow smartass and medical examiner Phil and the portly curmudgeon Lieutenant Wyznowski.

They bring into custody a strange man by name of Warden who has equally impressive technology, but it becomes evident that Warden is not the killer. In fact, he seems to be on their side.

So what’s the real deal here, and where does The Health Nut get all those wonderful toys? You’ll have to sit through this uneasy mix of buddy-cop-action and sci-fi-horror (with a strange Humane Society-type message) to find out.

The budget was obviously fairly low on this feature, and thus the special effects, while sometimes passable, were for the most part pretty pathetic, and the alien technology seemed something akin to a third rate SyFy Channel made-for-television movie. The actors did the best with what the had, but there’s not much you can do with a script that features a debate on whether or not Superman could crush Mighty Mouse between his Kryptonian ass cheeks. The musical score is a bit overwhelming at times, and the chase scenes are borderline ludicrous, chock full of slow-motion Six Million Dollar Man leaps and jumps.

All you pervos have something to look forward to, though: a shower scene, strippers, an interrupted blow job, and full frontal nudity. The question is, is that enough to get you to sit through this garbage?

Yeah, I thought it might be.


View the trailer below!


2002
Rated R
94 minutes
Color
USA
English

--J/Metro

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