Archive for the 'Foreign' Category

20
Jan
17

The Demoniacs (1974)

It’s not that I don’t like Jean Rollin, because I do, actually. Even still, every time we watch one of his flicks the first thing I wonder is how long it will be before I end up drifting off to sleep? Well, the magic number with The Demoniacs was 46 minutes.

demoniacswreckers

The wreckers are out for loot… and blood!

Rollin definitely has his thing, namely mute naked chicks roaming around in gothic settings. And fear not, there is plenty of that to be had here. The mute naked chicks in question in The Demoniacs are the latest victims of a ragged band of wreckers (folks who trick ships into wrecking on the shore and then pillaging their contents). Their ship crashes, they wander towards the wreckers in their white linens all helpless and stuff, and of course are raped and left for dead.

demoniacsghost

Seeking ghostly revenge

Somehow the mute naked chicks end up at the local ruins where they find a clown, a Jesus, and I dunno, a devil or something? They make a deal with the devilish character, and obtain his power through sex (just in case you forgot you were watching a Jean Rollin movie) in order to seek revenge against the evil wreckers.

demoniacsclowningaround

Clowning Around

So, as is usually the case with Rollin’s flicks, there are some really good-looking moments (perhaps he should’ve done photography instead of film?). Alas, he can’t seem to string them together in any meaningful way. More than any other flick of his, The Demoniacs left me perplexed as to what it was actually about or what, if anything, it was trying to say. It was almost good, which makes it all the more frustrating that it wasn’t really worth a damn in the end. That being said, there are some truly bizarre moments that I don’t regret having experienced, and the boldness with which Rollin plants naked women in unlikely scenes and poses amused me until the very end. Still, I can’t really say that I’d recommend this movie to anyone.

20
Sep
15

Alice (1988)

Alice peeping some such horror in her

Alice peeping some such horror in her “wonderland.”

Having seen Jan Švankmajer’s Faust and Little Otiknaturally I was curious to see what the animation genius would do with a story like Alice in Wonderland. So, one hot day this June (yeah, I got a big backlog of movies to write up, what of it! I have a life don’t you know!) some friends and I sat down to watch his Alice. It’s sort of exactly what I expected.

There isn’t much reason to go into the plot; I’d venture to say most folks are familiar, at least on some level, with Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland. Švankmajer doesn’t deviate too much from the original ideas of the text, it’s his interpretation that’s wildly different than anything you’ve probably seen before. When I think of Alice in Wonderland I must admit I envision the Disney cartoon from 1951: a prim and proper English girl falls asleep and dreams of a strange land with rushing rabbits, cheshire cats and evil queens.

Tiny Alice wades through a dank and dingy room, on her way to lord knows where.

Tiny Alice wades through a dank and dingy room, on her way to lord knows where.

While Švankmajer keeps most aspects of the original intact, it’s their presentation he toys with. Instead of a pristine English countryside, our Alice is living in a dirtier, more dangerous place. Rather than the vibrant colors of the Disney cartoon, Švankmajer paints the picture in dim shades of brown and gray where everything is in a state of disrepair and decay. Alice walks around this “wonderland” where doorknobs and handles consistently break off, and the rabbit she follows isn’t a manifestation of a cute, living bunny, it is instead a reanimated taxidermy piece that constantly needs to patch himself up!

If you’re familiar with Švankmajer, it should come as no surprise that the visual effects and animation in this film are fantastic. I love watching his work. But, god damn this movie felt like it was about twice as long as it should have been, and it clocks in at only eighty-four minutes! Something about the pacing is really off, and I hate to say it makes watching the film almost feel like a

Queen of Hearts to Taxidermy Bunny: OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

Queen of Hearts to Taxidermy Bunny: OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

chore. I’d like it better maybe if it were broken up into segments so I could consume it piece-by-piece rather than sitting down and watching the whole thing at a go. It wasn’t just me, a few of my pals watching it felt the same way too. I can’t put my finger on it but the film has a sleepy quality that really makes it difficult to get through. Perhaps it’s because so much of the film goes by without any background music?

Anyway, even though it’s a little tough to get through for some of us (Q had no problems; loved it – he is more patient than me!) I am not sorry to have watched it. I’d even recommend this to the right kind of person. It is definitely a film worth seeing, especially if you’ve never seen any of Švankmajer’s work and have a thing for Alice in Wonderland adaptations. But of all three I’ve seen, I’d have to say I liked Little Otik the most. Of course, that may just be because it was the first film of his I’d ever seen, and what the dude can do is pretty darn impressive.

29
Aug
15

Fat Girl (2001)

Anaïs getting her banana split on, while she watches her sister Elena get her make-out on. Awkward...

Anaïs getting her banana split on, while she watches her sister Elena get her make-out on. Awkward…

Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl is a difficult, unnerving, uncomfortable film. I’d never seen any of Breillat’s work previously, I’d only read that she was a “controversial” director. After watching Fat Girl it’s pretty obvious why the film community has slapped that label on her. This had been on the to-watch list for, oh, three years before we finally got around to it. It’s not exactly high up on the list for Saturday night entertainment, unless you’re in a particular mood to be challenged and made to feel totally gross.

The film is about two sisters. Elena is a freshly postpubescent beauty, ready to explore her sexuality, but only with someone she loves. Her younger sister Anaïs is anxious for a roll in the hay, too, but she thinks it’d be more ideal to lose her virginity to someone she didn’t really care about. Anaïs is also fat, certainly something Breillat is not about to let her audience forget: the film is peppered with scenes of Anaïs eating: a banana split while her sister makes out with an older boy at a local cafe, a huge plate of food at breakfast compared to everyone else’s more modest helpings, and my

There there sister, this piece of bread will make you feel better.

There there sister, this piece of bread will make you feel better.

favorite, a scene of Elena feeding her a piece of bread to make her feel better.

Their family is on a beach vacation. Ah, beach vacations during the coming-of-age times always result in such drama, don’t they? Elena “falls in love” with Fernando, the aforementioned older boy who sneaks into their cabin at night and convinces Elena to go much further sexually than she’s ready for – all while Anaïs is jealously watching. Elena’s affair strains her already contentious relationship with Anaïs; the two seem to routinely switch between hating each-other and desperately needing one-another. I think it’s fair to say they depend on one-another more than not, as it is clear through the family scenes Mom and Dad have better things to do than concern themselves with the lives of their daughters.

So much about this movie stings! I myself have never been a skinny beauty, so all those scenes of Anaïs eating her jealousy away really cut to the core. That’s not to say the film is made for any particular demographic; watching Elena in bed with Fernando is just as cutting and cringe-worthy. Even further, watching the two girls hurt each-other is hard to watch for anyone. Worst of all though, is the shocking ending that comes out of

Elena learning to navigate her feminine wiles.

Elena learning to navigate her feminine wiles.

nowhere. Yes, I’m going to bait you like that – of course I’m not going to tell you what happens. But, my god Catherine B, that is some cold-ass shit!

Even though it is painful, or perhaps because it is, I really liked this movie. What good is a movie if it doesn’t evoke some sort of strong emotion, right? I like how Breillat makes it a point to get into the heads of both of these girls, proving the world is no better a place for a young beauty than it is for a Fat Girl. We all have our struggles, and they’re all different, and that’s what makes it so damn hard to understand another person’s motivations, even if they’re family. Fat Girl is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you’re up for a challenge, it is more than worth a watch; it is a very good film indeed.

17
Dec
14

Taxidermia (2006)

Every time I see a list on the internet of “the 10 most disturbing movies you’ve never seen” I feel like I’ve been challenged; either to prove how many of them I have seen, or to see the ones I haven’t. Sometimes I surprise myself with how many on any given list I’ve experienced, other times I am disgusted with myself for clocking in at zero. Anyway, one such list had on it a Hungarian film I’d never heard of. Turns out, I don’t think I’ve actually seen a single Hungarian film in my entire life, so I was doubly interested in checking out Taxidermia. All I have to say is it’s a damn shame this was my first foray into Hungarian cinema. My gag reflex is triggered just at the thought of this movie.

Taxidermia follows three generations of Hungarian men. Our genealogic odyssey starts with the pathetic and desperate Morosgoványi, who I guess is some kind of military servant responsible for the Kálmán family somewhere that is cold and remote. Morosgoványi amuses himself by drinking flames and squirting fire out of his dick and screwing holes in walls and slaughtered pigs. He impregnates his superior’s wife, who gives birth to his son, who has a tail, which I guess is supposed to have something to do with those pigs that Morosgoványi screws, or doesn’t screw, or thinks he screws, or whatever. After Kálmán kills Morosgoványi, he treats the newborn baby as his own.

Morosgoványi reporting for flame-dicked duty.

Morosgoványi reporting for flame-dicked duty.

Christened Balatony, the boy grows up to be one of Hungary’s biggest and brightest competitive eaters. We watch as he induces his own vomiting, only to shove some other disgusting, viscous food product down his throat. He has a hard-on for the female competitive-eating champion, Gizi, but so does his top-rival in the competitive-eating world. Who will win her heart? Well I don’t know who actually does, but she ends up marrying Balatony and they give birth to a boy they name Lajoska.

Balatony eats his way to the top.

Balatony eats his way to the top.

Lajoska is nothing like his parents; he’s skinny, frail, and not even remotely interested in the fact that his father, now bound to a chair due to his morbid obesity, can digest food bars, wrapper and all, with no problem. Lajoska’s passion is taxidermy, he’s good at it and his shop seems to do decent business. But he’s constantly berated by his father for being a weakling. It’s only a matter of time before his father’s incessant badgering pushes him over the edge.

Lajoska attempts to muscle up.

Lajoska attempts to muscle up.

Holy. Fucking. Shit. This is, without a doubt, the most disgusting movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Maybe you think that’s an overstatement. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. Maybe you just think I watch chocolate-chip cookies and rainbows on parade, and don’t know what disgusting is. But you’re wrong. This is more disgusting than Salò. Gory isn’t exactly the right word, though there’s a pretty solid, minutes-long scene of our taxidermist rooting around viscera. There’s also vomit. Lots and lots of vomit. And lots of glossy post-vomit chins. And competitive eaters going at a giant plate of caviar. And engorged penises alongside rotting animal carcasses. I mean. Really. Fucking. Disgusting.

Balatony as a vast, old man.

Balatony as a vast, old man.

What really made me interested in seeing Taxidermia is the rumor that the film is an allegory of Hungary’s history. Not knowing enough about Hungarian history to connect the dots, I read this spoiler-filled breakdown on IMDb that does a great job of making sense of the hot mess. I’m still not sure after a little education that the film had to be so fucking disgusting, though. I can only come to the conclusion that the writer/director György Pálfi is filled to the brim with self-loathing. It’s strange, because I’ve read his other film, Hukkle, is charming as fuck.

Of course it is important to watch films from other countries, to experience world views different from ours, to help us relate culturally to people whose lives are completely different from our own. But, dear lord please, don’t make this your Hungarian selection. I’ll go back to the drawing board and hopefully find something a little more palatable. Taxidermia should only be watched on a dare.

13
Nov
14

Fascination (1979)

Okay friends, this is it, the last post for this year’s 31 Days of Horror! Hey, it’s only a few weeks late, could’ve been worse, right? Our 31st horror pick for this year’s set is Jean Rollin’s Fascination. It should surprise no one acquainted with Rollin’s filmography it’s an erotic lesbian vampire thriller thing, with a whole lot of really good-looking scenes (and women) and a lot of shrugged shoulders as far as plot is concerned.

The movie starts off in an abattoir. Two genteel ladies are told consuming fresh ox blood will be good for their health. Though hesitant at first, the ladies eventually come to appreciate the refreshing tonic. But we’ll get back to that in a bit: first, let’s meet Marc.

Marc: bewildered, intrigued... fascinated?

Marc: bewildered, intrigued… fascinated?

Marc is a petty thief. He made a deal with a band of other petty thieves to do some petty thieving, but ended up stealing all the loot for himself. After unsuccessfully taking one of the other thieves hostage, Marc ducks into a seemingly empty château in hopes of hiding from them until sunset, when he can escape under the cover of night. Marc quickly learns the château isn’t empty at all: two ladies-in-waiting, Eva and Elizabeth, are preparing the place for the owners to return. And by preparing the place, I mean playing with knives and running around naked and stuff.

Eva and Elizabeth... so pretty!

Eva and Elizabeth… so pretty!

Marc tries to scare the ladies into submission, but it seems they’re more turned on than scared. So like any red-blooded French thief, Marc goes with the flow. Elizabeth is more than happy to submit to his whims, but Eva seems genuinely taken with the man. The two keep warning him that at midnight, death herself will arrive. Marc is nothing but amused by this, and he decides to hang around and see what all the fuss is about.

Definitely the most striking image from the Fascination.

Definitely the most striking image from the Fascination.

Right on cue, a bevy of sexy ladies show up! Marc doesn’t know exactly what kind of club he’s found himself surrounded by, but it seems like he’s hit the jackpot! You and I of course might suspect this meeting might have something to do with the abattoir from the beginning of the film. Sure enough, turns out these ladies are thirsty for human blood, and Marc is the right prey at the right time for them to feast upon. But things are complicated by Eva’s genuine feelings for him: will she betray her coven of witches to save his life?

Things didn't end well for this pretty little lady thief.

Things didn’t end well for this pretty little lady thief.

Fascination is one pretty picture after another; I took so many stills from it and wish I could use them all. It just looks absolutely beautiful. The plot is sort of interesting, I suppose, but I didn’t really care whether or not Marc survives, or what becomes of his relationship with either lady, or what these mysterious women actually plan on doing to him or each-other. I cared more about what they were wearing (or not wearing, I guess). This movie, like other Rollin movies I’ve seen, is all about style. If Fascination has something to say, I’m not sure at all what it is.

Sexy ladies in see-through nighties meet up for an annual blood-sucking party? Who wouldn't want to see this?

Sexy ladies in see-through nighties meet up for an annual blood-sucking party? Who wouldn’t want to see this?

I will admit to having fallen asleep to Rollin’s Rape of the Vampire, so I can’t make a legitimate comparison between the two films except to say Fascination kept the plot moving along enough to keep me awake! Aside from those two, the only other Rollin I’d seen was Living Dead Girl, which I remember digging a whole hell of a lot but it’s been too long now to make a real call about it. Suffice it to say Fascination was good enough to get me pumped for watching the other Rollin we have in our collection, and I think it’s probably a safe starting point for anyone who’s down with sexy French lesbian vampires with very flimsy excuses for being nude.

27
Oct
14

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

As I probably have mentioned before, October is a triple-treat month: my birthday, my wedding anniversary AND Halloween, all within 31 days! Best month ever! Being the total romantic that I am, I insisted we continue 31 Days of Horror on our first wedding anniversary. The movie I chose was, of course, Mario Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon. Q happily complied; that’s why we’re married, folks.
John Harrington is a studly fashion designer, whose expertise is in wedding gowns, bridal lingerie and murder. His favorite kind of murder involves newlyweds; preferably women who are still wearing the bridal gowns they’ve purchased from his shop. He knows he’s mad, but he can’t stop murdering brides! It’s just something he must do; every bride he cleaves will bring him one step closer to solving his insanity, or so he thinks.

John Harrington: Normal Guy

John Harrington: Normal Guy

At first, it seems obvious why John thinks the only good wife is a dead wife: his own wife Mildred is an absolutely miserable human being. She goes out of her way to make John’s life a living hell, and constantly holds over his head the fact that it’s her money that funds his whole fashion operation. Meanwhile, she holds seances so she can speak to her long-dead previous husband, whom she actually loved. All John wants is a divorce, but of course she won’t grant him one. Instead, she vows to be with John forever and ever, no matter what. I guess John decides to test her resolve and kills her in an almost understandable fit of rage. Sure enough Mildred hangs around, if only as a ghost to make him look insane to others.

Mildred said they'd be together forever...

Mildred said they’d be together forever…

Now with Mildred out of the way, perhaps John won’t be so batshit? Not so; he’s still got mommy issues to deal with, namely getting over her violent death. And what about that detective who keeps snooping around his shop, his house, his fashion shows for chrissakes? Could it be he knows John has been slaying newlyweds?
I think most Bava fans would agree Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not one of his best movies, but it is definitely a better-than-average horror movie. It is especially a better-than-average giallo! While I love the style of the giallo films, I have to say a lot of the time they are pretty darn disappointing; the plots are always going in a million directions too many and I am never genuinely surprised by the endings. At least with Hatchet we already know who the killer is. Instead, Bava is asking a more interesting question: why is John a killer? Though the answer doesn’t surprise you, it is still a fun ride.

Holy shit he's wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

Holy shit he’s wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

What is interesting about Hatchet is it seems to be the predecessor to a few other flicks I wouldn’t have expected. Comparisons to American Psycho are pretty obvious: both John Harrington and Patrick Bateman are self-obsessed rich guys who hide their murderous identities from the fools around them. But the whole mommy-issue thing reminds me a lot of my least favorite Cronenberg movie Spider.  Both Spider and Harrington are nut jobs who didn’t like to think of their mothers having sex. Throughout Hatchet we see John as a little boy re-experiencing his mother’s violent end, an awful lot like the scenes we see in Spider when the main character is transported into the past. I can’t help but think Cronenberg took a few cues from Hatchet; it doesn’t seem out of the question!

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon...

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon…

But, as always, my favorite thing about this Italian horror flick is its style. If only I’d watched this when I was shopping for wedding dresses, I would have had so many more ideas! And what about John’s pajamas? Wow, if that’s what dude lounges in just imagine what he’s hiding in that closet (aside from the cleaver, of course). And of course the film itself is just stylish beyond words, because that is what Bava does best. It just looks so good. This one is definitely worth a watch or two.

I want those pajamas.

I want those pajamas.

22
Oct
14

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has such a good cover, we bought it twice.  Maybe that’s not true; maybe my pal Grant had given me a copy at some point in the past, and I’d forgotten about it. But, whatever the reason, we ended up with two copies right around when we figured out what we’d be watching for this Fall’s 31 Days of Horror, and into the running it went. We watched it as title 20 of the series.

the-night-evelyn-came-out-of-the-grave-3Before I tell you about how it fared, check out that cover! It’s great! It’s got most of what you’d want in horror packaging: a scantily-dressed lady–a scantily-dressed lady with a skull head — holding an almost tasteful severed head. When I was a kid (much like Panos Cosmatos) I was fascinated by the jackets to the VHS horror films my parents wouldn’t let me watch. Because of my rather limited frame of reference, I often imagined them as more intense Scooby Doo episodes — lots of pursuit by monsters. When I was older and able to pursue such things myself, I realized that most weren’t like that (the closest I’ve gotten to that platonic childhood sense is Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse). Why am I sharing all of this? Because the jacket art to Evelyn is really great, and looks exactly like the sort of movie I’d like to watch.

Unfortuntely, the movie itself isn’t much to write home about.

To cut right to the chase, Evelyn in practice isn’t too far from Scooby Doo in the broadest strokes of its plot — I’m going to be spoiler-y here since I don’t think the reveals are all that shocking — we’re in territory that was well-explored, and better, by the likes of Dominique is Dead or, perhaps most exceptionally, by Henri Cluzot’s Les Diaboliques: a plot to frighten a lightweight into being scared to death. We get there in Evelyn by way of a by-the-numbers ’70s giallo, with all of the misogyny that entails.

Killing some braod, like you do. Though it's not impossible to have a libale protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn't even try.

Killing some broad, like you do. Though it’s not impossible to have a viable protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn’t even try.

In this case, the movie begins with our “hero,” the decadent and troubled Lord Alan Cunningham, bringing a comely redhead to his rotting Gothic estate somewhere outside of London. He takes her down to his torture chamber and tortures and kills her. Hey! Wow! Can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance! (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t). Seems sometime in the past, Lord Alan had a redhead — his late wife Evelyn — cheat on him, and he killed her for it. Now, he’s trapped in a terrible cycle of finding and killing more redheads to somehw assuage/amplify his guilt. Everyone in his life — his psychiatrist/childhood best friend, his playboy cousin, his crippled, very young aunt, his lawyer — knows he’s got this problem, and while they’re all troubled by it to varying degrees, the only one who seems to hold him at all accountable is Albert, the estate’s groundskeeper and Lord Alan’s brother-in-law. Albert is always there, watching Lord Alan’s murderous dalliances, sneeringly taking Lord Alan’s pay-offs to keep quiet. It seems only a matter of time before he gets his revenge…

Meanwhile, Aunt Agatha holds a seance to bring back Evelyn’s spirit — and it works! This is all too much for Alan. The doctor says he needs regularity in his life — he should consider marriage. Maybe that will let him work his issues out.

His cousin takes him to a fancy-dress party where Alan is immediately smitten by yet another redhead, whom he proposes to before they’ve even left. Everyone in Alan’s life takes this in stride; they think she’s awfully well-mannered indeed. That, i guess, is the only qualification that need be had to marry the lunatic patriarch.

Evelyn's come out  of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! ...Or was it?

Evelyn’s come out of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! …Or was it?

Strange things start happening — the new wife discovers Evelyn isn’t in the family crypt, Albert is killed by a venomous snake by a mysterious assailant, Aunt Agatha gets up and walks without explanation, and then is killed and thrown to Alan’s pet foxes by a mysterious assailant… Some one, or some group of someones has something afoot, though damned if any of the pieces seem to fit together (Spoiler alert: they don’t).

This movie does have some wonderfully atmospheric locations and sets to play with — the aforementioned torture chamber and fancy-dress party both look stellar, as does the rotting family crypt and gardens around it. The fashions and hairstyles of both sexes are top-of-the-line mod/psychedelic, and reflect a vision of Swinging London that we here at Schlockwave find almost irresistably alluring. That’s not to say exactly that the movie looks good — the camera placements are a mess, and a series of bad decisions were made in the editing room that manage to squander what seems to be this movie’s only real resource. It’s hard to believe this movie was handled behind the camera by folks who’d  made anything professionally before.

I’d say that’s a pity, but this movie left me awfully frustrated. Beyond the first act, we seem to have been meant to view Lord Alan sympathetically… which is awfully hard to do once he’s mercilessly killed a few redheads. When he’s driven to madness and death, I wasn’t sad at all to see him go. And, when his death turns out to be a ruse to expose the plot that had been cooked up by the new wife, one of the redheads we thought was dead (?), and the playboy cousin, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Their “sins” pretty well pale in comparison to his… and in the reactionary logic of horror generally and giallo specifically, doesn’t that emminently qualify Lord Alan for a really juicy bit of narrative justice? Not here, it doesn’t.

So, should you run across a copy of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, take a moment and drink in that cover art. It looks so good! But, you can safely skip watching it, not to mention buying it — let alone buying it twice.




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