Posts Tagged ‘Disembodied hands

10
Oct
15

The Beast Within (1982)

beastwithinposterI’m not quite sure where to begin with The Beast Within. I sort of assumed, just by its name, that it was a werewolf movie, but it’s not that at all. After having watched it, I’m still not exactly sure what it’s all about. I also assumed that Ronny Cox would play a huge dick in it, because that’s what Ronny Cox does. But he doesn’t! He plays a normal dude! In fact, he plays a dad very concerned about his son. See what happens when you assume? Anyway, I’m not sure The Beast Within will overturn all your expectations, but it certainly is different than your typical horror flick.

The plot is super convoluted, which is one of the film’s shortcomings. If I were to go in-depth not only would this be a 2,000-word blog post, it would also be rife with spoilers. So I’ll do my best to keep it short and sweet. During their honeymoon, Caroline and Eli (Cox) MacLeary run into some car trouble. Eli runs to get help, leaving Caroline and their dog with the car. The dog sees something in the woods (because everyone has car trouble while they’re near the spooky woods) and bolts. Caroline of course goes after the dog, and is mauled and raped by someone… or something.

Caroline and Eli do some digging.

Caroline and Eli do some digging.

Seventeen years later, their son Michael is having some serious medical issues. Fearing they might be genetic, the couple must come to terms with the fact that Michael is the result of Caroline’s rape. So like any loving pair of parents they head to the town where it all went down to look for any information on Michael’s biological father. When they get there, they are confronted with nothing but spooky folks who refuse to cooperate, or even acknowledge that anything bad ever happened in their town. Luckily, Caroline finds a lead while fishing through the library’s old newspapers. Strangely enough, the folks tied to Caroline’s mysterious lead start dying horfiffic deaths, and Michael is becoming less and less like himself…

Yowza, this movie is so all over the place, and so strange! As I said before, the plot is circuitous and confusing and just generally batshitty, and it’s more than a little distracting. I think if it had been simplified even just a little bit, it

The beast within finally comes out...

The beast within finally comes out…

would have made a world of difference. That being said, I still admire how much this movie tries to cram into its 98 minutes, and I certainly didn’t find myself bored or exasperated by it, and for me that’s always a bonus. It even has stuff it wants to say about small-town nepotism and the beasts we all become once we grow into adults, even if it’s done a little clumsily. The performances are all pretty good too; even old Ronny Cox is convincing as a normal dude, which I never thought I’d say. But probably the best thing The Beast Within has got going for it is the practical special effects; damn, that shit looks good.

Apologies for this rather ambiguous post, but I don’t want to give too much away. This movie was fun in large part because I didn’t know what to expect, and I hate it when I accidentally fall down the trap of wasting paragraph upon paragraph detailing the plot. I think this movie is definitely worth your time, so long as you have patience enough to deal with a rather mystifying plot and a weird obsession with locusts.

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06
Oct
15

Office Killer (1997)

What is that Dorine up to?

What is that Dorine up to?

I can’t count how many times writing this blog has made me miss the days where I had full access to my parent’s cable box. There is, after all, some pleasure in clicking through countless channels and coming across a horror gem that you otherwise would never have heard of. I watched so many movies when I lived at home with them, I’ve straight up forgotten most. Until recently, Office Killer was one of those, but when Q mentioned a campy horror flick starring Carol Kane as a serial killer, a lightbulb went off. Oh yes, I remember that…

Directed by photographer Cindy Sherman (which is why Q was interested in the first place), Office Killer tells the tale of a meek copy-editor whose job, after nearly two decades, is suddenly at risk. Dorine Douglas (Kane) has been at Constant Consumer almost since its inception, but that hasn’t earned her much respect. In fact, some people think her quiet nature hides something sinister and creepy. Kim Poole (Molly Ringwald) feels strongly about this. Perhaps she’s right.

Michael Imperioli is practically a baby here.

Michael Imperioli is practically a baby here.

Constant Consumer hasn’t had a good quarter, or year, in a long time. To make up for lost cash, Virginia Wingate, the head honcho at the magazine (who also happens to be a chain-smoking asthmatic – this will be important) hires Norah Reed (Jeanne Tripplehorn) to help the company downsize. Of course, Dorine is one of many to receive a nice little pink slip that kindly informs her that not only have her hours been cut down to part time, she’ll also be expected to work from home for most of it. To a lot of us today, a prescription for working from home doesn’t sound so bad. But Dorine’s home life is not exactly ideal. Every moment spent at home is spent looking after her needy, handicapped mother. Without even the minimal contact of her coworkers, Dorine’s going to have to make new friends. If she doesn’t, she just might go insane.

Have you read the latest issue of Constant Consumer?

Have you read the latest issue of Constant Consumer?

I’ve always liked Carol Kane as an actress, but I’m certainly more used to seeing her play a loud, obnoxious character (Scrooged, Princess Bride) than the quiet mouse she plays here. I’m happy to report she handles this role just as well as anything else I’ve ever seen her in, and she does so with just enough humor to fit the film perfectly. I’ve heard the film referred to as campy, and while that’s true in some places, it certainly isn’t an all-out romp. In fact, I think you could even say it’s a little sedate in places where it most definitely could have been taken over the top. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re walking into this one expecting a laugh riot, you’re not going to be pleased. There are some chuckles all right, but just chuckles. I’m hesitant to even add comedy as an appropriate category for this movie.

Office Killer is about as good as I remember it being when I first saw it ages ago. And that, according to my Netflix star-ratings, is about three stars. It’s not a movie I’d go up and down the street shouting about, but it is a pretty solid outing. It’s certainly not a bad way to spend a night in October. And hey, you get to see a pre-Sopranos Michael Imperioli playing an awkward character. That might be worth it in and of itself!

05
Oct
15

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)

Does anyone out there still rent Netflix discs? Is it just the old people? Do I count as an old person because 1) I’m 35 and 2) I rent discs from Netflix? Should I stop asking rhetorical questions? Sometimes I wonder why I continue to rent the discs, since I go through cycles of watching them and then not watching them for months on end, letting them sit there on the table by the front door. But it’s just so hard to let go! I’ve been a disc customer for so long, bloodfromthemummystomb_2and I feel a real emotional attachment to my disc queue, which is why it pains me so damn hard to watch the discs drop from the queue to the ‘saved’ section like flies. But even still, it’s my security blanket: if I’m not sure I want to buy a movie I’ve never seen and it’s not streaming, it’s the best and cheapest way to rent a flick, since Netflix pretty much destroyed any chance of walking out the door and finding a decent place to rent movies. Sorry, but Redbox does not fucking cut it. And I am not one of those people who will just watch whatever is available. In fact, I think that’s the worst thing about Netflix streaming – I tell someone to watch a movie and the first question I get is: “is it on Netflix?” What the fuck! A movie’s only worth seeking out if you can sit on your ass and click a few buttons to get there? Pshaw!

Well anyway, that’s a long way ’round to introducing Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, a disc I’d had sitting around for nearly half a year. It was kind of one of those unintentional rentals; I’d added it to my queue so long ago and didn’t do proper maintenance after returning the disc beforehand and it just came in the mail. And sat. And sat. And sat. I guess I was under the impression it would be some old, muddy print of a boring movie I never meant to watch and only threw on the queue because it had the word “mummy” in it. Luckily it was much better than I expected.

As with most Hammer horror, and most mummy movies for that matter, the plot is pretty simple. An archaeologist named Fuchs brings back the severed hand of a pristinely-preserved Egyptian priestess. Frankly I’m not sure why she’s referred to as a mummy, because she is not mummified! She’s just a regular woman in a sarcophagus who happened to avoid decomposing for thousands of years. She even manages to maintain perky, tasteful underboob.

A disembodied hand is rarely a good thing.

A disembodied hand is rarely a good thing.

NBD. Fuchs suspects the mummy, otherwise known as Queen Tera, has some weird, deep connection with his daughter Margaret. Which kinda makes sense when you notice they’re played by the same actress (Valerie Leon).

So, the night before Margaret’s birthday, she is waiting patiently for her boyfriend Tod Browning (yeah, that’s his name folks) to come pick her up. Before Tod shows up, Fuchs gives her this gaudy old ring for ‘protection.’ From what? Or whom? And why is Tod’s mentor so afraid of it? And why is everyone in London suddenly an archaeologist? I guess these old fogies know some shit’s about to go down on Margaret’s birthday, and everyone involved in the original Queen Tera expedition is greedily guarding the relics they kept for themselves, hoping it will protect them from whatever evil the Queen has in mind for the world at large. But with Margaret suddenly (psychically?) connected to Tera, can they stop the worst from happening?

Not bad for a thousands-year-old broad.

Not bad for a thousands-year-old broad.

Okay, a lot of the movie doesn’t make much sense. But, it’s rare that I watch a Hammer film expecting a riveting, thoughtful plot, so I don’t care. This movie still has a lot going for it. First of all, everyone is so god damn fashionable, especially Margaret and Tod, who must have a different jacket for every day of the week. I guess Tod comes from money, because he drives some hot-ass cars that would be just impossible to afford on an archaeological apprentice’s wages! While it’s all pretty cheap and unimaginative, the Egyptian tchotchkes and costumes are vibrant and fun. But, perhaps, not as vibrant or fun as the electric-red blood spattered on everyone’s throats once Queen Tera is done with them!

I’m not saying you should rush out and get a copy of Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. But if you happen to find yourself in the vicinity of one, or find a copy for a relatively affordable price, pick it up. It’s good, harmless fun. If you’re already bought in to Hammer horror, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this one, too.

02
Oct
15

Roman (2006)

Roman watches television.

Roman watches television.

Lucky McKee’s May is without a doubt one of my favorite horror movies. The more stuff of his that I watch, the more I dig: Sick Girl, All Cheerleaders Die and The Woman are all great too. So it was only a matter of time before we finally watched Roman, which has McKee not only writing but also starring, with Angela Bettis of May fame behind the camera this time. The switcheroo bears interesting, if somewhat frustrating fruit.

Roman (McKee) is a welder by day and a lurker by night. The masculine dudes he works with poke fun at him while at the lunch table, mocking his lack of a television and his inability to join in on regular guy conversations. At home, Roman sits by the window with a beer, a cigarette, and a longing to see the girl next door (Kristen Bell) pick up her mail. One day, Roman changes it up a bit and has his beer and ciggy outside. This turns out to be a decision that will change Roman’s life forever, because Dream Girl just happens by and asks for a drink.

Boy oh boy Roman sure does love his Dream Woman.

Boy oh boy Roman sure does love his Dream Woman.

Well, one thing leads to another and eventually they’re back in Roman’s apartment. But awkward dudes are awkward, and Dream Girls never really know how to deal with that, so she tries to leave. Roman’s emotions take over and, well, things don’t end well. That doesn’t necessarily mean Roman’s not going to pursue a relationship with this lovely lady, though…

Suddenly, Roman seems to open up. The guys at work are noticing a difference, even beyond the fact that all he’s eating these days is canned pork and beans. There’s even a new girl he’s started seeing, who might be just as batshit weird as he is. Maybe even weirder. Awkward guys never had it so good!

Roman is almost like May in reverse. This time, it’s the lonely, awkward guy who has to work hard to “make” new friends. And like May’s, Roman’s world is made up of largely imagined relationships. When they get real, shit gets dangerous. The real difference is, unlike May, Roman actually finds someone who is more fucked up than he is.

Roman loves picnics in the park.

Roman loves picnics in the park.

I have to admit, this movie frustrated me a little bit. I’m all for low-budget flicks, but sometimes a movie is almost too low budget for me to fully enjoy. I kind of felt like that with Roman. It just looks shitty to a distracting degree. It also moves at a glacial pace and seems as though they’re trying to stretch material that would work better for a short film into a feature-length deal. All that being said, in retrospect I think I enjoyed this a lot more than I felt like I did right after I watched it. I guess perhaps it takes a little time to digest. It’s definitely a rare occasion for me to say something like this, but I think it could be polished up and repackaged into a prettier picture someday, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing. But if you like McKee’s and Bettis’s work, this is still worth a watch, for sure.

12
Sep
15

The Creation of the Humanoids (1962)

creationposter_3Who doesn’t enjoy mid-century science-fiction? Maybe I like it so much because we are now decades-removed from the prevalent paranoia that serves as its backbone; because its post-apocalyptic future is our kitschy past. I can look back and laugh at its naiveté, misogyny and general short-sightedness because we’ve come so far, right?

Well, yeah, maybe not that last part. And of course, not all science fiction of this period is laughable; a lot of it is legitimately good stuff. I can’t really say that’s true for The Creation of the Humanoids though! This movie is a god damn laugh riot! Seventy-five minutes of paranoid plot exposition, twists and turns that make no sense, and my favorite: the dismissal of women, even if they’re robots!

The setting is a dismal future after the atomic war. To make up for the loss in human population and low birth rate due to radiation, humans created a new breed of robots. The humans couldn’t tolerate working next to a robot that looked like a machine, so scientists worked hard to create robots that look like humans. But as the robot population grows, so does the backlash against them. The Order of Flesh and Blood is a large, aggressive conservative organization hellbent on wiping those pesky ‘clickers’ off the face of the Earth!

Robots and humans in collusion... but WHY?!

Robots and humans in collusion… but WHY?!

Trouble rears its ugly head when one of the heads of the Order, Captain Kenneth Cragis (that’s The Cragis to you) finds out his sister Esme is ‘in rapport’ with a robot! Well, this certainly won’t go over well with the Gents in The Order, many of whom already envy Cragis’s high position. He best go set Esme straight, because that woman needs her brother to tell her what to do, right?!

Well, Esme is pretty headstrong and she’s not having it. But the good news for Cragis is, he meets Esme’s friend Maxine while he’s over at Esme’s place. Party at Esme’s… at 2:30AM… just ’cause, I guess. By 4AM, Cragis and Esme are planning to get married, or ‘contract with one another.’ Cragis is still bummed about Esme’s unwillingness to ditch her robot husband, but thrilled to have met and fallen in love with his future contractor in the span of an hour and a half! I mean, who wouldn’t be? But you and I know, of course, trouble lies ahead…

Oh, Creation of the Humanoids, what a glorious disaster of a time capsule you are. On the one hand, I have to

I just can't get over The Cragis's pants. LOOK AT THOSE AMAZING PANTS!

I just can’t get over The Cragis’s pants. LOOK AT THOSE AMAZING PANTS!

admire its attempt at a positive message: don’t hate people (or, I guess in this case, things) that are trying to help you; don’t shake your fist at the advance of science and technology because you’re only hurting yourself, that kind of thing. But then I wonder how its ending can actually be consistent with that message. And no, I’m not going to spoil it for you, because the ending is so awesomely sweet you need to see it for yourself.

The presentation and pacing of this film is baffling. As I noted before, it really is nothing but exposition. There is not a single thing left up to the viewer to figure out on her own. Our friendly robot serves as narrator for virtually the entire movie. There are very few scenes where the action tells us anything, and when it does, it’s explained to us anyway – just in case we missed it. But don’t worry, that doesn’t actually mean the film is boring! The running time is short enough and the costumes and effects fun enough to gawk at that the seventy-five minutes will fly by like nothing. It is definitely worth watching, but only if you’re in it for the right reasons. I mean, I guess the movie is sort of thought-provoking, but being that it’s 2015 and these were thought-provoking ideas in 1962… well it’s kind of stuff most of us have figured out by now. I suppose you could twist some of the ideas into issues we’re dealing with today; like maybe replacing robots with climate change or something like that but frankly this movie’s probably better taken for what it is: a plea to the folks of 1962 to embrace technology, even if it means losing ourselves in it. Which, I guess here in 2015 we already have?

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.

17
Nov
14

Isolation (2005)

Nice guy Dan gets down and dirty with his livestock.

Nice guy Dan gets down and dirty with his livestock.

The yearlong abandonment of my Netflix queue has resulted in yet another surprise disc in the mail. I don’t remember putting Isolation in the queue, but I know for a fact I did so absolutely blindly; I’d never heard of the movie before or since, but surely it ended up on the list due to the phrases “bovine fertility” and “genetic study” in the film’s synopsis.

Dan is a broke-ass farmer who sold his livestock to the whims of a genetics company. He doesn’t know the nature of their experiments, really, but John, the scientist behind the operation, assures him it won’t cause his farm any trouble. Orla (Essie Davis), Dan’s veterinarian (and former lover, it would seem) is also in bed with the genetics corporation, and has reason to be suspicious the company’s experiments might not be as harmless as they’d like everyone to think. On top of keeping the true nature of the genetic experimentation secret, the company has made Dan promise to keep his farm isolated from strangers. The secrecy has yet to pay off, however: neither Orla nor Dan have been paid for their part in the experiments.

When one of Dan’s cows is about to give birth, Dan tries his damndest to aid the animal in the process. Unfortunately, the calf is far too large for it to come out naturally, but because Dan’s way behind on his phone bills, he can’t call Orla and must solicit the help of some guy named Jamie who is squatting on his property in a trailer hiding from his lover’s brothers, or something, to help him jerk the calf out of the cow. Needless to say, the Calf is fucked up in all sorts of ways,

Orla (Essie Davis) investigates a nasty situation.

Orla (Essie Davis) investigates a nasty situation.

and when Orla finally makes it to the farm (women’s intuition, I guess?) she discovers the calf was actually pregnant with six babies! Seems the geneticist’s interest in farm efficiency was taken just a little too far. Anyway, one of the calf’s calves not only bites the shit out of Dan and Orla, but also escapes. John believes it can cause a great illness and plans to quarantine the farm, and then you know, the search for freak baby calf thing is on.

Isolation isn’t a terrible movie, and it’s not a great movie. I guess that really just makes it unremarkable. I knew within the first fifteen minutes that it was going to be filled with a bunch of relationship drama that I didn’t care about, and it was, and that detracted a great deal from the film. Dealing with a large corporation’s big scientific secrets and inability or unwillingness to pay those involved sure sounded like a great opportunity for meaningful social commentary. Unfortunately it is totally squandered here, and really has little to say except the usual don’t-fuck-with-mother-nature-or-else-your-farm-will-be-destroyed-and-you-might-have-a-deformed-and-infected-baby. There’s just no complexity or surprise to it at all. Even the parts that are centered around relationship drama that could have been exploited to further our distaste for the corporation at hand here aren’t highlighted at all – like, what was the point of having the couple squatting on the farm? To prove that Dan is a nice

Squatter Jamie doesn't like what he sees.

Squatter Jamie doesn’t like what he sees.

guy? To make that cop that shows up that one time look like a jerk? Maybe, but to what end? All these could be achieved through other means. Honestly, it really seems like nothing more than a dangling, pointless plot line. Same goes for Dan and Orla’s former relationship: okay, they used to screw, now what? Now nothing, it seems. Some pre-fucking sexual tension would have served us better.

On the upside, the acting is all right; no complaints there, though I wouldn’t nominate anyone for any awards or anything. By far the best parts of the movie are those where the practical special effects are featured. There’s definitely tons of gory opportunities, and it feels like any lofty ideas about damning the man were eschewed in favor of grossing out the audience. Which I guess is fine, but only because the effects are actually good. Still, I’d rather watch a movie with more to say and shittier effects than one with great effects and nothing to say. So, if mother nature gone bad is what you’re looking for, there are much better movies around than this one! I can think of two that we watched just recently that far outshine this one. First there’s Bats, which isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but is slightly more interesting and definitely far more entertaining. There’s also Kingdom of the Spiders, which is a super fun time that didn’t rely on special effects geniuses, to be sure. I’d definitely say give those a try over this one any day.




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