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Saturday, May 28, 2011

6 Films to Keep You Awake: The (B)Lame Game

blame8Gloria, a single mother with financial difficulties, is invited to come and live with her friend, Dr. Ana Torres, a gynecologist who runs a clinic out of her home when not working at the hospital. In return for letting Gloria and her daughter stay with her, Ana asks that Gloria help with secretarial work at the home clinic, as well as provide a little much needed company for the lonely Ana. However, Ana is carrying a few secrets, with one being that she actually performs illegal abortions out of her home, the other, she is a lesbian with a major crush on Gloria.

Quick, which secret is hotter?!

Directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (of Who Can Kill a Child fame), Blame (La Culpa) has two very well developed female characters that are strongly portrayed by both lead actresses (played by Montse Mostaza and Nieve de Medina). The almost male/female dynamic between Ana and Gloria is a strength of the film, with Gloria having nothing to stand on to keep her and her child afloat, whereas Ana sees this as an opportunity to win Gloria's affection. Ana provides shelter and food for Gloria and her daughter as if she were trying to buy Gloria's love, but with Gloria being straight, she is not at all interested in Ana. In a way, they are almost using each other to get what they want, but Gloria isn't giving Ana what she desires, no matter how hard Ana tries.

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A major character trait of Ana is how incredibly successful she is at manipulation, specifically when it comes to unstable females. Many of the pregnant women that come in to see 'Dr. Ana' are young and impressionable girls who made a mistake and are now suffering the consequences. Ana uses their venerability to give these young women "advice," convincing them that abortion would be the best course of action in their unfortunate situation. This all plays into the Gloria character, who becomes pregnant from an unseen lover and is conflicted as to what she should do in the situation. Even though she initially wants to keep it, Ana uses her manipulation skills to coerce Gloria into aborting her baby. It's never clear as to why Ana would seem to want these women or Gloria to have abortions. Maybe it has something to due with her not being able to have kids herself, or maybe it could even have to do with her choice of sexuality.

Regardless of how well the characters are written, somehow, they are completely uninteresting, and I felt no connection to them whatsoever. Seeing as this film is driven by the two female characters, the lack of association I felt towards them is a major disconnect from the film as a whole. Now, I'm not sure how much of this is due to weak storytelling or if it's because I am watching from a male perspective. Maybe my absence of a uterus disconnects me from the abortion angle of Blame and a woman may take more from this film then I did, but I doubt it.

I'm totally in touch, brah. 

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Blame is filled with a number of plot holes, it's completely boring and mostly pointless. It's hard to say more about the film's story, as there is no real threat while, at times, there are attempts to make it look as if there is with heavy use of misdirection. Only problem with that is, if you want to misdirect, then what caused the misdirected moments to begin with? It's a wild goose chase that is not at all wild, just snooze inducing.

There is very little tension, no sense of dread and this comes from all angles of the film. Most of the music is weak and cheap sounding, and even though the film looks nice enough and the location is fantastic, something as simple as a wipe cut looks like something you would find in a Lifetime movie. It's fitting as Blame feels like just that, a Lifetime movie (but not NEARLY as good), but with a clear, over-the-top message that comes across quite blatantly in the film's ridiculous conclusion.

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I wish I could get an abortion, but mommy says I'm "too young." What a crock of shit.

And oh boy is the ending shot of Blame so completely moronic and silly that I actually fell back, slack jawed in amazement. It's embarrassing for all of those behind the film with this clear stance taken on abortion that does nothing more than alienate its audience. Outside of the abortion message of the film, as well as with all of the women that get these abortions, including the Gloria character, there seems to be a message that women who get abortions are unstable or even slutty in a sense. Like women are without the ability to make smart decisions for themselves. Nice to know I spent 72 minutes of my life watching a misogynistic propaganda film that could barely keep my attention.

Who can kill a child? Apparently dumb loose women can.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dying to Get (it?) Outta Rain Town

I have a few quick links to share with you all on this dark and stormy evening, with the first being a review for the Zombie/Serial Killer film, Die-ner (Get it?), a movie that forced me to type (Get it?) way more than I ever had planned on doing when I started writing reviews. I'd like to NOT thank Die-ner (Get it?) for that.

You can find my review of Die-ner (Get it?) (AHHHHH!! I GET IT! NOW FUCK YOU!) over at the latest issue of BThroughZ.

Die-ner (Get it?)

After that, I'd like to steer you towards a little place known as Strange Kids Club, where you can watch and read my brief thoughts on Hiroyasu Ishida’s short Anime film, Rain Town. A film that couldn't be more fitting with the state of weather that has been plaguing my area for the past two months. I might have to start wearing a flannel and crying over Kurt Cobain if this shit doesn't clear up soon. 

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Rain Town

That's it. I would stay and chat, but I have a free form knitting class at 7:00 AM and I cannot perform well without at least 8 hours of sleep. You know how it is. I promise I'll be back soon with something for CNAMB, you know, since I have been slacking BIG TIME as of late. International super-stardom takes up a ton of time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Run! Bitch Run!: Retro Rape Revenge

run bitch run2It would be somewhat of an understatement if I were to say that there has been an oversaturation of Exploitation cinema since the release of 2007's Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature, Grindhouse (though, the gears were in motion well beforehand). There have been many ups and downs that have come with this oversaturation, with one of the ups being that many films of the era have been given some recognition as well as a greater shot at seeing some sort of release on home video. However, what has been more notable than the rise in popularity of actual films of the time are the numerous, modern-made throwbacks to '70s Exploitation and Grindhouse movies that have flooded the market in both the mainstream and independent markets.

From remakes of genre classics like The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave, to original films such as Machete and Piranha 3D, films influenced by the cinema of the '70s has been given a small presence in the mainstream market. Then there are the independently made films that have been shoveled out at genre fans over the past few years. Movies such as Bitch Slap, Hobo With A Shotgun and today's feature, Run! Bitch Run!, attempt to capture an era of cinema that has long passed us by. Much like the films of that time, these throwbacks have been met with mixed results by genre fans, and rightfully so.

One of the many problems that come with recreating a style of film from the past (specifically with independent features) can be the filmmakers try way too hard to make something that really cannot be easily recreated in this day in age. Instead, they end up making movies that are simply transparent, lacking an identity as the focus becomes more about the homage, and less about the actual content. In addition, the style can often be used as an excuse for poor filmmaking, with many claiming that said film is meant to be bad because it's like a grindhouse film. That is, quite frankly, a steaming crock of corn filled doo-doo.

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With Run! Bitch Run!, director Joseph Guzman is somewhat able to avoid the issue of making a completely inept movie with the excuse of it being a throwback to Exploitation cinema. And while the film does sort of lack its own identity, it does a nice job of capturing the look and vibe of a '70s exploitation flick. 

The film follows two catholic schoolgirls, Catherine (Cheryl Lyone) and Rebecca (Christina DeRosa), who are trying to earn some cash for college by selling bibles door-to-door (see where this one's going?). Their smut peddling hits the brakes when one of the doors they go to just so happens to be the door to hell (well, not literally), and the two girls become abducted after they witness the murder of a prostitute by a scuzzy white pimp - who never wears a shirt AND has long hair - named Lobo (Peter Tahoe). Lobo and his small but viscous gang murder Rebecca in cold blood then brutally torture and rape Catherine, leaving her for dead. Or so they think…

If you've seen more than one rape/revenge film in your lifetime, you should have a good idea where this one is going.

Being set in the 1970s, Guzman and co. surprisingly do a commendable job recreating the vibe of a '70s Exploitation film. The locations are simple but feel authentic, and the same could be said for the movie as a whole. Run! Bitch Run! is not quite as sleazy as I would have expected, but it's not nearly as ridiculous, either, which works both positively and negatively for the film. Where it succeeds best is with attention to technique as well as an air of subtlety that keeps everything reigned in. There are moments where things do go a little over-the-top (like a plunger masturbation scene), but for a film such as this it never goes too far, therefore the movie avoids coming off as overly goofy.

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Run! Bitch Run! is veeery simplistic and also feels somewhat rushed, too. Not to say that this one should be any longer than it is, mind you, it's just the amount of time spent with naked chicks could have been properly distributed elsewhere (what am I saying?!). One of the big problems is just how standard it is as a revenge film. The story follows the basic three-tiered act of your typical rape/revenge tale, however, there is very little done to separate it from the pack, leaving the viewer with what is no more than a carbon copy of movies that are vastly superior.   

For the type of movie that it is, Run! Bitch Run! is unfortunately very hallow is in its impact. Now, I should make clear that I love the rape/revenge genre. I'm not one to try and claim that so-and-so film is not one that you can actually love because of its specific subject matter; that has always seemed like a bit of a copout to me, personally. I love the genre as a whole, and just because I do, doesn't make me a fan of rape. I don't 'like' the rape page on facebook, but I do 'like' the Ms. 45 one, if that makes sense. So when I say that it's unfortunate that the rape in Run! Bitch Run! is a tad underwhelming, please don't take it the wrong way. 

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The rape scene is not nearly as impactful as it should be for a film of this style, and for a rape/revenge movie (and one that's somewhat trying to be serious), that can really take away from the intensity of the subject matter. There is very little as far as an emotional impact, and because it didn't hit me in the gut like it should have, it's difficult to generate any real sympathy for the Catherine character, let alone care/cheer for her forthcoming moment of vengeful rebirth. It seems as if this moment was just there to be there to serve the story, instead of to drive the character.

Regardless, Run! Bitch Run! redeems itself by going out with a bang, and the last 8 or so minutes of the film are completely and totally satisfying. Overall, what we have here is a movie that actually does a nice job capturing what it set out to on an aesthetic level, but still seems to lack the heart of what made Exploitation films of the '70s so great. I'll gladly give Run! Bitch Run! a ton of props for doing things better than most modern, cheap Exploitation films, I just wish they were able to go all the way with what was started.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Holy Crap.

Here's the first teaser trailer for the upcoming South Korean horror flick, Cats.

At the 33 second mark, be prepared to witness the true face of terror.

That's all I have to say.

Oh, and you're welcome.

6 Films to Keep You Awake: To(i)Let

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Jaume Balagueró's entry into the 6 Films to Keep You Awake collection, To Let (Para entrar a vivir), is quite basic in premise, and clocking in at a measly 68 minutes, there is very little time to get all that complicated. The film follows Mario (Adrià Collado) and Clara (Macarena Gómez), a couple who, without much luck, have been searching high and low for a new apartment. With a child on the way Mario and Clara need something a little bigger, something befitting a new family, and Mario thinks he may have found the perfect place for the perfect price.

We first meet the couple as they are driving to their potential new home. It's quite the hike to actually get there, and when they finally do, it's a little less than what was expected. The building is located in a rundown and nearly vacant neighborhood - one that looks like a great place for meth use and dead body storage, as opposed to PTA meetings and soccer practice. With dwindling hopes that the interior may outweigh the exterior, they check out the pad anyways, but as luck would, or would not, have it, the place is rundown and near unlivable. They quickly decide that this will not be the right place for them to start a family and set to go on their merry way. Unfortunately for Mario and and Clara, the landlady (Nuria González) thinks otherwise and the couple find themselves trapped in the apartment building - an apartment building run by a madwoman.

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To Let starts off with a bang and, as I mentioned, it's a very short movie, so it hits hard and fast (like yer maahm does), getting right into the meat and taters (again, like yer maahm does), completely skipping the appetizer altogether. The viewer is introduced to Mario and Clara and, with minimal, straight to the point back-story under the film's belt, it puts them almost immediately in danger as they are trapped in the apartment building against their will. This opening works great and shows some real promise as it caught me off guard with how quickly and unexpectedly things went down South for the protagonists.

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On top of the balls-to-the-wall start, To Let has a gorgeous location; the aesthetic of the grimy and muted, graffiti ridden neighborhood looks fantastic. It feels almost like a European version of '80s/'70s New York with this gray and dead demeanor, which is only added to by the downpour of rain enveloping the already grim surroundings. That appealing appearance carries right over into the apartments building's rusty and dusty interior, with chipped paint, curled up wallpaper and cockroaches abound. If anything were to standout outside of the location and set design, To Let is also magnificently shot and edited. Pablo Rosso's cinematography is impressive to say the least, and all of these aspects I have gone over in this review thus far had me thinking I was in for a fantastic ride.                  

In what could easily be described as style over substance, To Let unfortunately falls flatter with far more than a simple lack of substance, and the longer the short film runs, the worse things get. I was pretty high and mighty for much of the first half but, as To Let went on, I found my enjoyment of it starting to dwindle to the point of complete dislike. Mario and Clara are trapped in an apartment building by this mad landlady who is obsessed with keeping her grotesque complex filled with unwilling tenants. She thinks what she is doing is okay, but she is clearly delusional as she acts out landlord/tenant situations with tenants that are bound and gagged.

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I'm okay with the familiar concept, and I'm okay with the basic premise, but when things began to get ridiculous I started to check out, no matter how nice looking the movie is. I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them, but to think that a middle aged, scrawny lady has the ability to keep captive and one up all of the couples that she has, is simply moronic. There is a scene where Mario has the chance to whack her right on the back of the head, but he hesitates for the slightest second, which is just enough time for her go on the offensive and overpower this fully grown man. Even when she is knocked down and nearly out at one point, the couple run away from her, squandering a chance to stop her for good, or at least incapacitate her so she is no longer a threat.

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There is a point in To Let where I just started to get pissed off, and it's at that point where every little lame thing began to stick out and force me to shake my head in disbelief (especially the dream within a dream, within a dream sequence). For a film to come out swinging with it's head clearly in the game, only to suddenly lose focus and stagger away from what it started is a major disappointment. You have a slightly corny but serviceable idea that is introduced properly then executed poorly, which is very unfortunate with how incredibly attractive the package is on the outside. If things were just kept simple and remotely believable, this could have been a serious contender; yet all that is left is a pile of steaming substance in an un-flushed TOiLET. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dumpster Diving For Gold: VHS VLOG

Vlog. How fucking hip.

Here it is folks, my very first ever video blog. I've always wanted to do one of these things, so it was just a matter of time before it would finally happen. While the video is a little cringe inducing to watch (for me, at least), I'm happy with how it came out, especially since I did it on the spur of the moment, in one take, with no prep whatsoever.

It's nothing special, just me talking some nonsense about a few VHS tapes I recently picked-up in the bowels of the earth.

Hope you bitches dig it.

A few quick post-video thoughts:

I touch my face. A lot.

This is not a 16:9 aspect ratio.

When I say conservative/catholic area, I am referring to the fact that the area I live in doesn't exactly equal horror, cult and exploitation cinema findings, unfortunately. There's a lot of digging, to say the least.

My hands move more than my mouth.

I think I might swear a little too much?

I neglected to mention that I don't like Crimewave all that much.

That's it. Thanks for watching, and I hope to do a few more of these things here and there, with a little more preparation, of course.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

T-Shirt Bordello of Blood

Recently, the kind folks over at T-Shirt Bordello were nice enough to send a few gifts my way after reading all about my heroic rescue of two baby jaguars that were trapped in a burning building this past March. If you aren't already aware of T-Shirt Bordello, they specialize in t-shirts for the nerd in all of us. With tees covering subjects ranging from Married With Children to Hellraiser, they carry a cornucopia of pop-culture and genre film apparel to dig into, but that isn't all they have to offer.

Have you been suffering from issues keeping track of where you last placed your keys? Try a Bates Motel key chain, it's mother approved. Got a pack of Parliament ultras and no place to put them out? An Overlook Hotel ashtray is nice this time of the year. Are you a big fan of "the drink?" How 'bout taking a few swigs from a Winchester Tavern pint glass?

Those are just a few small examples of what T-Shirt Bordello has to offer, but the star of the show is, of course, the tees. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

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Now, as I said, those are a few of my favorites, but my mostest favorites are the two shirts that they sent to me, which just so happen to be from two films I love:

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My thoughts are mad deep, son

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Straight throwin' out duck lips Like it's no ones business

That's right, Monster Squad and mother fucking Robocop, mother fucker!

The shirts are of solid quality, and the graphics look great and feel as if they will be able to last through more than a few washes without getting all jacked up. Not that I wash my clothes or anything silly like that; I like to have that natural musk that only can come from being unbathed and coated in funk juice. Can you smell it, baby? Okay, that's kind of gross.

All of the shirts are a reasonable $14.99 (plus shipping), and they update their stock with new designs every week, so you're guaranteed to find something you love there. Unless you don't love cool shit, that is.  So there you have it, T-Shirt Bordello. Nice people that sent me some nice things that I feel I can proudly pimp to all of you in complete confidence. However, they need to get rid of that Red Sux shirt with the quickness.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

6 Films to Keep You Awake: Stir of Diapers

babyroom8With a newborn baby in tow, newlyweds Juan and Sofia are just getting their family started together as they move into their dream home. Being new parents in an unfamiliar place, the couple decide to use a hand me down baby monitor to keep tabs on their new edition. The reassurance is nice, however, on the very first night Juan hears strange noises coming from the baby monitor, noises that sound very much like someone is talking. This obviously frightens Juan and, in turn, Sofia, but they chalk it up to a faulty monitor. Regardless, Juan feels a bit uncomfortable about what happened, so he goes out and buys a brand-new top of the line baby monitor - complete with an infrared camera - so he can keep a close eye on his newborn. Unfortunately, instead of finding reassurance, Juan learns there is someone (or something) else sharing the house with the him and his family.

Directed by Álex de la Iglesia, The Baby's Room (La habitación del niño) mainly focuses on Juan (Javier Gutiérrez), as it is him who is seeing and hearing these strange things coming from the baby’s bedroom. While babyroomfriends and co-workers would like to, no one really believes what Juan claims he is hearing and seeing, and that includes his own wife. Juan is afraid someone is out to hurt his family, babyroom1and he would do anything to protect them, but unfortunate events unfold in a way that make Juan seem less than stable as a father and husband. He becomes paranoid, believing that there's someone out to hurt his child or even his wife, Sonia, and it gets to the point that he himself may pose a threat to his family. His paranoia feeds an obsession with figuring out what is going on, whether or not it is hurting his relationship, his family or even his job.

The Baby's Room is along the lines of films like Candyman, Stir of Echoes or any movie that has a character with a questionable and/or possibly dangerous obsession involving a haunted past. Whether or not it's Juan's imagination that is causing all of this, he is seeing things, which gives him more than enough of a reason to be infatuated. And it's what Juan sees that is one of the stronger pieces of the film. The infrared baby monitor is nicely used for some genuinely creepy scares, and, much like we all saw in the One Night in Paris video, the baby's glowing eyes are unsettling all by themselves. Now, add in some random dude suddenly appearing next to that baby, and you're talking straight shit stains.

babyroom3The baby monitor is a good device to generate scares as well as adding a hair of originality to an otherwise all too common idea. Now, even though the film does have a familiababyroom6r storyline - and you'll have a good idea what the conclusion could be - The Baby's Room keeps the secret fairly safe. I never knew exactly where the movie was going, even if I had a good idea of where it could end up. Nevertheless, it is a properly executed film on most every other level outside of originality. Smooth camera work, an intense score, great settings, some creative ideas with the baby monitors, and strong acting from both Javier Gutiérrez and Leonor Watling (as the extremely gorgeous Sonia).

As a whole, The Baby's Room is very light on kills, but there is one that I must mention as it is simply incredible. Keeping things spoiler free, there is one death that has the perfect mix of brutality, blood and extreme realism. The music used is seriously intense, and the whole scene plays out in such a frightening and gruesome way that I can't help but compare it to that of classic Argento.

As is the case with most of the features in the 6 Films to Keep You Awake set, The Baby's Room is a shorter film, only running at 80 minutes. This is something that works in the film's favor in some ways, but hurts it in others. There is a lot that happens in this short running time, so the filmmakers did a commendable job trimming the fat. However, things do feel a little rushed at times, but even then, I have seen so many characters go crazy in this type of film that I very much appreciated how lean it is.

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In the end, The Baby's Room is a superbly made horror flick with some well-timed scares that effectively filled-up my diaper with the quickness. Even with a recognizable story, it's a film that executes well enough to keep things from getting stale. It's not perfect, but The Baby's Room is a solid entry into the world of Spanish horror; in fact, it's good enough to stand on its own, even outside of the 6 Film's set.

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