Posts Tagged ‘Jealousy

29
Apr
17

The Love Witch (2016)

Dear friends, I’m out of practice. Like way, way out of practice. But a movie like Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is enough to get me hopping back into the game. I mean, a blog called schlockwave couldn’t in good conscience not write about this campy homage to sixties sexploitation.

Life can be a fairy tale, if you just give your Prince Charming everything he wants!

What do men want? Elaine, The Love Witch knows: “Just a pretty woman to love; to take care of them.”  Fresh off the loss of her husband Jerry (they couldn’t prove she killed him) she’s ready to explore the sea for bigger, better fish. Using sex magick she woos all sorts of men, only to discover they’re never as good as they seem. In fact, she dazzles them so much she turns them into whimpering crybabies – and Elaine has no time for crybabies!

This film is gorgeous. It’s shot on 35mm and the colors pop amazingly. I want to live in Elaine’s technicolor world. You spend 90% of the time immersed in the 1960’s – the props and clothes are spot on (not to mention to die for – my GOD I want every decanter in this film), until Elaine’s friend Trish pulls out a cell phone, or you see a modern Subaru next to a classic

Wiccans know how to party – naked, and in a circle.

car. The acting and pacing is also pretty-well perfectly matched to any classic sexploitation horror flick you can think of. It’s obvious Anna Biller has done her homework (and though I have not yet seen Viva it’s pretty darn high on my list now).

I admit when it was over, I knew that I’d enjoyed it – but I wasn’t sure if I loved it or not. It seemed strange to me that there were anachronisms like cell phones and new cars in this world that was obviously painstakingly made to look like another time and place. I’d also wondered exactly what it was trying to say – was there a coherent message?

After giving it some thought, I’ve at least interpreted it in a way that does make me love it, and makes me want to see it a second time. We’re never quite sure what Elaine’s real motivation is. Sure, we know

Congratulations?

it’s love but what does that mean, and why? We know that Elaine was berated by her husband, humiliated by her father, and schooled into the world of sex magick by a dude. A bunch of different dudes expecting different things out of a woman, and a woman feeling conflicted trying to fulfill all these different roles? Add to that the confusion and conflict between Elaine and Trish – each one wants to be like the other – until they realize they don’t. Think of how much easier it would be for these women to navigate social expectations if only they could support each-other instead of hide behind jealousy and lies? These problems are timeless and persistent, and perhaps those anachronisms are saying that though we feel modern, we’re still stuck in the same old world where women are subjugated rather than celebrated.

This movie is well worth a watch. It is beautiful, hilarious and even shocking at times. I am loving all these flicks paying tribute to the beauty (and idiocy) of exploitation horror. This, The Editor, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears – love them all. Keep them coming!

17
Apr
16

Eraserhead (1977)

Wow. It’s been a good six months since I’ve graced these pages with my incoherent, babbling thoughts – apologies to those who care. Sometimes, life just gets in the way of this self-indulgence. In this case, I went and had a kid, and it has kicked my ass like nothing else in my life ever has. That shit they say about having kids is true: it changes everything.

Henry (Jack Nance) at one of the most uncomfortable, awkward family dinners I've ever seen on film.

Henry (Jack Nance) at one of the most uncomfortable, awkward family dinners I’ve ever seen on film.

Sure, I didn’t doubt that was the case, but I guess I didn’t grasp just how profoundly everything would change – including my perception of movies.

Like most people, I first saw David Lynch’s Eraserhead in college. Whatever copy they played us at one of the last gatherings of University of Pittsburgh’s Twin Peaks club (named Wounded in Pittsburgh, smirk) had Japanese subtitles. I remember having no fucking clue what it was I had just watched, and loving it for that reason. Over the years my memory of the movie faded, I mostly remembered it being an incredibly bizarre, outlandish and freaky nightmare starring a stunned Jack Nance. In the meantime I’d become intimately familiar with Lynch’s work, so that all seemed accurate to me.

Mary is having trouble feeding her little bundle of joy.

Mary is having trouble feeding her little bundle of joy.

For the uninitiated, Eraserhead is, in short, a story about an awkward couple in the early stages of a relationship. Though I find it difficult to imagine them having sex, they have, and they made a baby. But the baby was born extremely premature and is basically a fetus in bandages sleeping on a dresser. We watch in horror as the baby unravels whatever tenuous relationship the main characters (Henry & Mary) had. While that all sounds fairly straightforward, it isn’t. This is Lynch at his weirdest, so, suffice it to say there is a lot of freaky shit happening.

Of course in the 12 or so years since I’d first watched Eraserhead I often toyed with the idea of revisiting it, either through some Lynch marathon or inviting some square over just to scare the shit out of them with it, but it never happened. Not until I had a kid, and my husband couldn’t stop thinking: watching Eraserhead would be really freaky now. So on an evening where we had somehow had enough sleep to sit through a movie after getting the kid to bed herself, we did it.

And oh my god.

It was fucking hilarious.

I get it now. Eraserhead is a fucking comedy! Okay, until there’s that unmentionable violence. But, up until that point, oh my god! Hilarious! Yes, I have looked at my baby like she was an alien. Yes, I have convinced myself the baby was ill, only to find out she was fine, only to turn around and once again swear there is something wrong with her. Yes, I have shouted SHUT UP numerous times in the middle of the night due to my own lack of sleep! Yes, I have put the humidifier too close to her head. All these things that seem nightmarishly cruel are very true to the experience I had during the first few months of parenthood. Nail, head, et cetera.

That baby don't look right.

That baby don’t look right.

I don’t think I can give Eraserhead a star rating. Did I like it? Yes, I like it on two levels. The first is obvious: I like David Lynch, I like weird shit, and I like movies a lot, so of course it follows that I like Eraserhead. The second level is that I finally feel like I’m in on the joke, and it’s always more fun when you’re in on the joke. While it is true that a large portion of this movie remains an inexplicable nightmare, I feel like I finally understand the motivation behind it. All it took was becoming a parent! But how can I translate that into any kind of rating? Movies like Eraserhead don’t get rated. In David Lynch’s world, movies rate you. I mean, should you see Eraserhead? If you are over 25 and you haven’t already seen it, probably not. Unless, of course, you are a new parent. In which case, yes, you should. You should definitely see it. Like yesterday. If it doesn’t make you laugh, well, you probably have no sense of humor.

12
Oct
15

Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball (2007)

Just a little over three years ago, I packed a bag and housesat in the middle-of-nowhere Montana for six weeks. With not much else to do, Q and I decided we’d watch at least a movie a day. Montana was also the catalyst for me to start blogging again; I’d actually started this blog a few years before that but let it languish, wilt and die. Anyway, we brought a giant binder of DVDs with us, and many DVDs went unwatched (like I said, giant binder). It occurred to us that October would be a fine time to pluck Nic Roeg’s Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball from the binder and watch it.

Set in the Irish countryside, Puffball centers around Liffey, a young and successful architect who has taken on a project renovating an old, dilapidated cottage. She and her boyfriend Richard are eager to get started, when he unfortunately gets called away on business in New York. Luckily, they bone on an ancient rock (which is actually an altar to Odin, as explained by Donald Sutherland) before he heads out of town. Unluckily, the condom breaks. While Richard’s away, Liffey discovers she is pregnant, and she is not happy about it.

A slice of country heaven.

A slice of country heaven.

She has more than that to be unhappy about, though. Liffey’s closest neighbors are well-versed in ancient Druidic magic. Molly, the matriarch of the family, believes the baby Liffey is pregnant with was actually meant for her own daughter, Mabs (Miranda Richardson), who has been trying to get pregnant with a little boy for quite some time now, for reasons the film will cram down your throat. It’s not working out, and the local doctor refuses her fertility treatments saying she’s just too old to be a new mum. But Molly isn’t worried, she is fairly certain that her knowledge of magic, coupled with Mabs’ daughter Audrey’s natural powers can get the baby back to the right family. A little penis mushroom here, a little tainted alcohol there and voila! The baby will be in the right womb.

Nosy neighbors.

Nosy neighbors.

Well, unfortunately Molly and her witchy cohorts aren’t as in tune with Liffey’s pregnancy situation as they think. The lines get a little crossed, and their meddling causes some seriously bad mojo for everyone involved. Most of this is happening without Liffey even realizing it. But, in the end, Liffey decides to keep her baby, much to Mabs’ dismay, which leads to a very unsettling argument/labor situation that is DEFINITELY not something you want to watch if you are eight months pregnant!

Too old to breed.

Too old to breed.

I’m still not sure how I really feel about this movie. It definitely made me very uncomfortable, but how much of that has to do with my own pregnancy and imminent labor I can’t be sure. Certainly the idea that there are forces outside of us working to influence the outcome of a pregnancy is a terrifying one. What I for sure don’t like is the insatiable I-need-a-baby-now attitude that defines Miranda Richardson’s character. Sure, the film makes no bones about why Mabs feels this way, and I guess this was necessary to contrast Liffey’s I-definitely-don’t-want-a-baby-but-oops-accidentally-got-pregnant thing, but it really made me feel as though the filmmakers, or perhaps Fay Weldon, the author of the novel on which the film is based, think there are only two categories of women: those who wish to spawn, and those who don’t. That sort of dichotomy leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Life-changing sonogram.

Life-changing sonogram.

I have other problems with the film as well, but I’m afraid they’re mostly due to the budget Roeg had to work with. The film is very cheaply shot and reminds me of a throw-away television production. Sometimes I’m able to overlook stuff like this, but here I found the cheapness distracting. I also felt a lot of the special effects, which were also distractingly cheap, were used in very heavy-handed ways. I am sure there are other ways to convey a fire from back in the day to a film’s audience than showing the present-day object with flames overlaid on top. Over and over again. Oy. We get it.

Somewhere deep inside Puffball there is a good movie. Maybe even a great movie. But as it is now, I am not sure I liked it very much at all. It is thought-provoking, which is of course a positive thing, but there are so many smaller problems with the film that they take away from my ultimate read of the thing. Also, don’t be too excited to see Donald Sutherland’s name in the credits; he is only in two short scenes and that made me sad, too. For the most part though, the other actors do a good job of pulling their weight; they just don’t have much to pull.

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.

23
Aug
15

Slam Dance (1987)

On those nights when Q and I simply can’t agree on what to watch, and neither of us have strong feelings one way or another, inevitably we turn to the bowl of shame. The bowl of shame is where we keep our cull* list, so when we turn to it, we’re indecisive, desperate, or both. In our younger days when we were more vital and resilient, we’d

The bowl of shame.

The bowl of shame.

watch the cull list through, with no breaks for “good” movies. But perhaps we’ve been scarred by too many duds to attempt to live through such an experience again. At any rate, the bowl sits there mocking us, and some evenings we just can’t resist. The night we chose Slam Dance I recall being particularly whiny and inconsolable, for what reason, I don’t know. I thought the title seemed promising, and knowing it was written by Don Opper of Android fame made it all the more enticing.

Unfortunately, the movie is pretty exhausting straight from the get-go. C.C. Drood (Tom Hulce) is a cartoonist keeping his head just above water. He lives in what looks like a large shower, though by all accounts it is his apartment. Maybe it looks like shit because it’s just temporary: he and his wife Helen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) are taking a break, and the guy needs a place to hole up for a while. That’s what happens when you get frisky with a call girl named Yolanda (Virginia Madsen).

But what happens when that call girl is found murdered? Obviously the cops and the murderers try to pin it on a doofus cartoonist, right? Of course! Drood finds himself in a web of, well, very bad things, and not even Good Cop Benjamin Smiley (Harry Dean Stanton) can seem to shake him out of it. Who’s behind this whole thing? Is it Detective Gilbert (John Doe), who seems pretty clearly hellbent on blaming Drood for the whole affair, and then some? Or what about Drood’s shady art dealer Campbell (Adam Ant); maybe he’d like to put Drood away for good so he can keep on banging his wife? Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s the lesbian madam who was in love with Yolanda?

Even the cover is annoying.

Even the cover is annoying.

Ultimately, who fucking cares? I certainly didn’t give a shit who lived, died, or lied in this movie. I did learn a few things, though: 1) I don’t like Tom Hulce. 2) I don’t like Virginia Madsen. 3) Don Opper should stick to movies about robots. 4) Harry Dean Stanton can’t save every movie he’s in. 5) Perhaps I should stay away from anything billed as an “erotic thriller.”

I can’t put my finger on exactly why this movie was so irritating. Perhaps it was simply that it thought it was way more clever than it actually was. There’s sort of this Doppelgänger thing going on, and that’s not interesting. And crooked cops aren’t really interesting. And philandering husbands aren’t interesting. And lesbian call girls are perhaps the least interesting thing of all. Maybe this movie might have been, like, subversive if it had been made in the 1950’s or something… but for 1987 it just looks like a coked-out mess. Gladly putting this one on the discard pile. Sorry, Don.

*Q and I have decided it’s time for a great cull; an early spring cleaning. We have a large number of movies we have not yet seen. Are these movies any good? This is the question we are out to answer. If it’s no good, out it goes.

26
Apr
15

Payback (1995)

It’s been a little over two years since Q and I decided it was time to cull the old movie collection. When you have 2,000+ titles and limited space, this type of slaughter is necessary. Last cull was a bit rough, though, so we’re intermingling this one with a good movie or two – just to keep our sanity. Anyway, somewhere along the line, as I’ve probably already explained in some other blog post somewhere, Q got this thing for Anthony Hickox. To be fair, he’s responsible for a few really enjoyable flicks, like Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Full Eclipse, and Warlock: The Armageddon. What these movies have in common is that they’re all horror flicks. Unfortunately Payback, today’s selection for the cull, can’t in any way be considered horror.

paybackOscar (Soul Man‘s C. Thomas Howell) and Mac are the best prison friends. Mac’s a little older, and Oscar watches out for him, especially when the evil prison guard Gully gets on Mac’s case. See, Gully knows that Mac has hidden a fuckton of cash somewhere, and he’s hellbent on finding it – even if it means murder! One day, Gully takes it too far, buries Mac in a pile of trash, and ends up killing him. On Mac’s deathbed, he tells Oscar that boatload of cash is his, if he promises to murder Gully once he makes it out of prison. All he needs to do is swipe that little watercolor painting he keeps in his cell, and the secret riches will be his.

But – oh, no! – Gully’s not as dumb as he looks! He’s already taken the watercolor painting! Looks like Oscar’s going to have to find the cash without the clue, and only hope that Gully won’t get there first. Of course, turns out it’ll be difficult for Gully to use his stolen clue; he’s had an unfortunate accident and now he’s blind! Well that’ll make Oscar’s revenge that much easier to exact. There’s just one thing standing in his way now – Gully’s hot wife in a two-sizes-too-small waitress uniform, Rose. Oscar worms his way into their daily life, an easy thing to do since Gully can’t actually see who he is, and ends up working Gully’s restaurant for room and board.

It takes entirely too long for Oscar and Rose to finally bang, but they do, and money is found, and lost, and there are all these very predictable twists and turns, and since no one in this movie is a good person, they’re basically all gonna get their very own, personal ‘payback.’

I suspect the only reason this film somehow managed to score a 5.8 on IMDb is the dripping-hot sex scene where C. Thomas Howell’s ass gets up close and personal with the hood of a car under a barn. Didn’t you always want to see Soul Man getting busy? Oof. Why? Why? Also, I never realized how disgusting handlebar mustaches are until I saw Howell making out in this movie. Shiver. There are a lot of questionable things about this movie, but his casting in the lead ‘badass’ role tops the list for me. How’m I supposed to believe this little guy’s gonna take down Gully’s monster AND seduce his sorta-hot wife? His character also never really seems bought-in to anything, least of all revenge. Revenge should never be wishy-washy!

Of course, the plot and characters leave a lot to be desired as well. The real bad guys in this movie are as bad as the baddest baddies in an episode of Walker: Texas Ranger. We don’t know why they’re so angry, aggressive and greedy, they just are. They’ll judge a book by its cover and then punch it in the face before you can inhale. This kind of unchecked male aggression is so damn tiresome, and it seems to be everywhere. What’s the deal with that? Payback is just another of those movies about a bunch of shitty people doing shitty things that I don’t care about. When there’s no investment in character or plot development, what incentive is there to watch a film? The five minutes of C. Thomas Howell sex? I mean, I doubt it. There’s not even a lot of boobage in this. It’s got all the elements of one of those sexy crime dramas, but they’re all so half-assed, non-committal and obvious, I’m not sure why anyone even bothered to put this flick together.

So I’m happy to report that our videocassette copy of Payback will be relinquished to the discard pile, making room for something more deserving of my shelf space. Or, let’s be honest, making room for another piece of shit we’ll end up culling in another two years. What can I say, we have a sickness, and we’re not about to seek treatment any time soon.

13
Apr
15

Deathstalker II (1987)

I’ve never been too interested in fantasy movies. Not that I dislike the few that I’ve seen, it just hasn’t been a genre I’ve sought out. The first time I saw the Conan movies I was nearly thirty, and I definitely enjoyed them quite a bit. And just recently, I watched Krull for the first time – another fun movie! But there was something missing from these movies that kept them firmly in three-star territory, and that is self-awareness, something Deathstalker II has in spades!

Meet Deathstalker: negotiator extraordinaire, incorrigible playboy, King of thieves.

Meet Deathstalker: negotiator extraordinaire, incorrigible playboy, King of thieves.

Deathstalker (John Terlesky) is the king of thieves, scouring the medieval landscape for fortune and fame. Though he likes to come off as a selfish dude, it’s clear he can’t leave a damsel in distress behind, no matter how dim-witted she might be! When Deathstalker sees a peasant girl (Monique Gabrielle) beaten by the King’s guards, he fights back in her honor. After handily beating the oafish guards, Deathstalker decides it’s time for a little menage-a-trois, and hits up the local tavern for some sweet titties and a few brews. But it looks like our peasant girl is in some serious trouble, and desperately needs Deathstalker’s help! He really has no choice but to go along with her and her crazy story about how she is actually a princess, but Jarek the Sorcerer (John Lazar) cloned her and usurped the throne! She claims to be a seer, and promises Deathstalker that if he succeeds in helping her reclaim her throne, he will become a legend!

I never really thought of bananas as part of the sword-and-sorcery landscape, but Monique Gabrielle makes it look good!

I never really thought of bananas as part of the sword-and-sorcery landscape, but Monique Gabrielle makes it look good!

As the duo travel to the Princess’s castle, they encounter many strange things, like exploding dwarves, zombies, and a village of Amazon women! Each time, Deathstalker and the Princess make it out by the skin of their teeth, thanks mostly to Deathstalker’s unfailing charm and, of course, flawless physique! The Princess claims Jarek’s sword skills are superior to Deathstalker’s; what will happen when they make it to the castle? Can Deathstalker come through in the end?!

Sure there's plenty of boobs in Deathstalker II, but they throw the ladies a bone every once in a while!

Sure there’s plenty of boobs in Deathstalker II, but they throw the ladies a bone every once in a while!

Deathstalker II is 85 minutes of pure, idiotic enjoyment. I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed watching a film as much as I enjoyed watching this one. The first time I saw it on VHS, I knew we needed to have a copy on DVD. After the second time I watched it, I had to watch it a third time the next day because it is so much FUN! This movie doesn’t take itself seriously for a single second, and that is the biggest reason for its success. The second-biggest reason is definitely Terlesky’s performance as Deathstalker. He is constantly winking, incorrigible to the max, and let’s admit it ladies, he’s pretty easy on the eyes. Next up is John Lazar’s Jarek, chewing up every bit of scenery he’s given, obviously having a blast.

John Lazar, hamming it up with the best of them!

John Lazar, hamming it up with the best of them!

Of course, for every good performance there are some equally bad ones: Monique Gabrielle’s acting is cringeworthy at best, and we get to see her in two different roles! That being said, as bad an actress as she proves to be in this film I thoroughly enjoy her performance here. I think it actually enhances the silliness of the movie in a positive way; unfortunately, Q does not agree! Then there’s Toni Naples who plays the evil Sultana, Jarek’s right-hand woman. She’s pretty awful too; she just isn’t in it as much as Gabrielle. But let’s get real here: we aren’t watching Deathstalker II for great acting, amirite? Both Gabrielle and Naples deliver just about as much as you should expect with lines like these! This movie delivers on everything it should: boobs, swords and sex. What more could anyone ask for?

06
Apr
15

Amer (2009)

AmerposterIt’s been said many times before, mostly because it’s true: either you give a shit about Giallo or you don’t. I’m hardly an expert on the genre, but in my dabbling I think I’ve sampled enough to know this much about myself: I wish I liked them more. They are so dang stylish and beautiful to look at, but often times the circuitous mystery plot loses my interest and I find myself appeased only by bright-colored gore, which frankly gets old after a while. It’s possible I blew my Giallo load by watching too many of them in a short period of time, causing their plots, directors and titles to get jumbled into a hot, Italian mess. But then comes along Amer, a beautiful homage to the genre that makes me want to revisit all those old movies anew.

Amer doesn’t have much of a plot to speak of; it relies much more on style to tell its tale. It is centered around Ana during three pivotal moments in each stage of her life. Each segment takes place in or around her family’s creepy, old mansion overlooking the seaside. In the first, Ana discovers her nanny/housekeeper/old-lady-who-makes-her-food is also a witch, her dead grandfather maybe isn’t so dead, and her parents having sex. In the second, the adolescent Ana (and her jealous mother) are painfully aware of her budding sexuality, and a trip into town turns into a clear rape threat as her

It seems as though someone is always watching Ana.

It seems as though someone is always watching Ana.

flirting with a boy her own age drags her into the territory of some leather-bound bikers who can’t help but lick their chops as the wind creeps up Ana’s very short dress. In the final sequence, Ana returns home to the now-dilapidated mansion, presumably after her parents have passed away. The taxi driver who drives her there ogles her through the rear-view mirror, and Ana seems both excited and distraught by the palpable sexuality in the vehicle.

Though there isn’t really a plot, Amer is compelling and intriguing throughout. There is barely any dialogue, and so we are guessing at each character’s motivations, fears and desires, which is a large part of the fun, and kept me engaged and excited for each new turn. The film’s directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani pull out all the stops, nodding to every genre convention you can possibly

Adolescent Ana

Adolescent Ana

imagine, straight down to a score loaded with tracks from old Italian films. Even still, the tale they present here is more interesting than any Giallo I can ever remember seeing, and though a story of a vaguely threatened woman is not at all original, presenting it within the confines of this genre works really well. Nearly every scene oozes eroticism and about as much sexual suggestion as a Georgia O’Keefe painting, but there is very little sex or nudity; instead we are faced mostly with voyeurism and fluids that aren’t bodily, but may as well be.

I can imagine watching this film with no background in Giallo and finding myself very confused indeed! But I think the reason why I liked this film so much is because it

Adult Ana

Adult Ana

takes everything I like about Gialli and eschews the confusing plot, allowing the viewer to focus on the interior of the main character rather than a million plot threads and unnecessary characters. I suppose the real question is, though, can someone go into this movie with no knowledge of such films and still enjoy it? I think the answer is yes, with many, many qualifications. Most notably, don’t watch this if you’re really interested in a story. While, yes, there is a story here, I can imagine a great many folks saying nothing happened in this movie at all. Anyway, what story there is definitely plays second fiddle to the images that tell it. In fact, I’m certain Cattet and Forzani chose this subject matter because it lends itself so well to such imagery. If nothing else, Amer is a beautifully crafted film; that much can’t be denied. Personally, I think it’s worth watching for that reason alone. Bottom line: Cattet and Forzani know what they are doing, and I don’t think they care if you like it or not. Me? I love it.

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.

08
Dec
14

Screamtime (1986)

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.

In the aftermath 0f 31 Days of Horror, we’ve continued to watch horror movies. We were getting a bit wary of the pre-determined pile we’d set aside, though, so we turned to Netflix, where we found Screamtime, an ’80s horror anthology.

sc3Apparently, Screamtime was made in 1983 as a British/American co-production, but not released until 1986. Also, apparently, one of the anthology segments dates back to 1981. It’s hard to imagine that a 1986 audience would have seen much appeal in material that seems to have already passed its expiration date as cash-in cultural ephemera; this screams out as a Night Train to Terror-esque effort to just dump some already-canned footage on the market. From 2014, though, its generically, amorphously  1980s aesthetics seem charmingly “period” rather than glaringly, unfasionably just-out-of-date. All said, though, there’s nothing here that’s better than a middling episode of Tales From the Darkside.

The frame story is set in the pre-Giuliani/Disney grimey New York City, where a pair of ne’er-do-wells shoplift some horror titles from a video store for an afternoon’s jollies, and then take them to a friend’s house to watch. The friend is a shapely lady, who we first find in the shower… Screamtime puts its skin in the first few moments, in the hopes that it won’t immediately lose its audience–seldom a promising tactic. Unlike the frame, which screams its “Noo Yawk” American-ness, the shorts themselves are all decidely British. The first segment concerns a beleaguered puppeteer who has no support from his wife, and is actively terrorized by his bratty teenage stepson. After the boy burns down his stepfather’s puppet stand, the Punch puppet begins to dispatch his master’s enemies… Next, a newlywed couple moves into a house, but the wife has increasingly gruesome hallucinations that no one seems to understand… Finally, in what is simultaneously the most delightful and most conceptually negligent segment, another band of ne’er-do-wells (this time, they’re motorcross enthusiasts) decide to rob a pair of old ladies who claim their great wealth is protected by fairies (and garden gnomes). The pleasures come there more or less exactly as you’d expect (though, sadly, if you connected the dots to gnomes on motorbikes as I iniitally did, you may be disappointed). The closing of the frame story was just as easy, but all the more delightful for it.

The belle of the ball here (aside from the climax of the fairy/gnome story) is the short bit at the beginning in the video store — having recently watched the documentaries Be Kind Rewind and Video Nasties, it was nice to see the Wild West-inside of a 1980s video store as though it was no big deal, and to have the shorts presented herein as though they were, in fact, in-story the fly-by-night cheapies that they really were. There was a clear implication that the filmmakers saw their prospective audience as the slimeballs they showed watching the stuff — the lowest denominator they could imagine. While I admire the honesty, if you’re in the mood for a lovably schlocky ’80s horror anthology, you’d be better served by Deadtime Stories or even the aforementioned Night Train to Terror than by what’s offered here.




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