Wednesday, June 29, 2011
IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY: A CASHIERS DU DINEMART COLLECTION by Mike White (2010 Bear Manor Media / 377 pp / tp)
From 1994-2008, CASHIERS DU CINEMART was a fanzine featuring wildly opinionated movie reviews and retrospects, as well as interviews with everyone from Crispin Glover to cast members of seldom-seen 70s blaxploitation films. IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY collects some of the fanzine's finest moments, and features introductions from exploitation film guru Herschell Gordon Lewis as well as everyone's favorite media whore, Chris Gore.
Author Mike White is perhaps best known for calling Quentin Tarantino out for "borrowing" scenes from a 1989 Hong kong movie named CITY ON FIRE for his own film, RESERVOIR DOGS. White even made a short feature titled WHO DO YOU THINK YOU'RE FOOLING, which shows (side-by-side) shots from both films, calling Tarantino's motives into question. The opening chapters deal with this whole saga, and while I had seen White's film online, there's plenty more here for those interested in this on-going celluloid grapple.
Among my favorite sections were Mike Thompson's look at the original script for the Nicolas Cage film 8MM, Mike White's section on ALIEN 3, White's interview with Canadian cult film director Guy Maddin, and of course, the huge section dedicated to the 1975 blaxploitation classic BLACK SHAMPOO, which features an overview of the cast, interviews with the director and a few stars, and an interesting story on how Mike and his friends became addicted to it (and still hold annual viewings).
While I haven't mentioned even half of what's on display here (STAR WARS fans will get a kick out of the small section dedicated to it), IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY looks at films through the eyes of super-geek film fans, and while (at times) things get a bit anal (I mean, what film geek DOESN'T get anal when talking films?), film fans will not be bored, even if a topic being discussed isn't of particular interest.
A fun. informative, and smart book to garnish any film freaks' book shelf.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
SENSATION by Nick Mamatas (2011 PM Press / 208 pp / tp and eBook)
From Cthulhu cults to suburban nuclear bomb creators, you never know what you're gonna get when you crack open a new novel from Nick Mamatas...SENSATION is no exception. And despite a few head-scratching moments, this was a hard one to put down.
It seems a centuries-old war between a rare species of Costa Rican wasps and an intelligent breed of spiders has spilled over into human society. While the spiders are able to latently control people and change the course of human history, the wasps' victims are usually chaotic and cause worry among the arachnids. In SENSATION, the wasps sting an average New Yorker named Julia who quickly begins to change into a radical anarchist after leaving her hubby during one intense sex scene (and I don't mean that in the pornographic sense). The spiders keep dibs on Julia's movements by living inside the heads of "men of indeterminate ethnicity." (I should state here that the first 50 pages or so feature some truly funny scenarios and dialogue...something I didn't expect from Mamatas). When Julia begins to influence other like-minded radicals, the spiders begin to worry the wasps may be planning something big, as Julia's husband Ray watches her actions on the news, wondering what on earth is going on.
SENSATION is told from the spider's view points (and--I THINK at times--from the wasp's), and while it was a bit confusing to follow at times, Mamatas makes it work. The underlying question here (do humans have free will or is something else controlling them?) is quite frightening, and considering this novel suggest insects are, makes this whole thing downright creepy (and I say this in a positive way). This is another original, well-written--if uneven--tale from Mamatas that can be consumed in a sitting or two.
Now where did I put that can of Raid?...
Now where did I put that can of Raid?...
LET IT BLEED by S.L. Schmitz (2011 Dead Tree Comics / 348 pp / tp and eBook)
Basically a goth-re-telling of the Gospel, S.L. Schmitz's LET IT BLEED takes place in the early 80s in middle America, in the middle of an already established post-punk/industrial music scene (there's references to countless bands in the early chapters).
A young, drug-addicted punk known as "The Dead Girl" is pregnant with the Messiah while her boyfriend ("The Razorblade Boy") sings for a a punk band (and doesn't exactly treat her like the new Mother of God). Described as having a voice that's "producing a tune so bereft of romance, erotic to the point of suicide," Razorblade Boy quickly becomes the most interesting character here, although everyone in Schmitz's dark, moody novel managed to come alive in their own unique ways (and while there's many, Schmitz wisely keeps the tale focused on a chosen few).
LET IT BLEED's strength is in its poetic prose; there's certain sentences (and even entire sections) that I re-read not only to get what the author was trying to say, but to enjoy the beauty of the wording. Whether describing the scene in a crowded night club, demons contemplating their eternal struggle with Christ, or The Dead Girl's love for her abusive boyfriend, Schmitz makes it all read like a poem spawned from the collective auras of Peter Murphy's lyrics and the short stories of Samuel R. Delany (in particular, Delany's "Aye, And Gomorrah" from his classic collection, DRIFTGLASS).
With endless scenarios that are simultaneously beautiful and horrific, and a heartbreaking conclusion that left me wanting more, LET IT BLEED is a sure-fire hit for anyone into music or religion-based dark fiction (just make sure to take the time to read this slowly...there's much going on and Schmitz gives much food for thought).
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
DIAPHANOUS by Roy C. Booth and R. Thomas Riley (2011 MinnKota Publications / 57 pp / eBook)
What seems like a missing persons tale quickly develops into an old-school creature feature in this nifty collaboration. I always have a hard time reviewing these short tales without giving too much away, but suffice it to say the sense of impending doom the authors create between the worried characters creates a tension that'll have you buzzing through this in no time.
It's no easy task to pull off a monster story without a little bit of camp creeping in, but Booth and Riley have done it...and if the suspense doesn't get your goosebumps going, the wicked critters on display here surely will. DIAPHANOUS is a fine way for any monster fan to KILL an hour or so.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
(WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS FULL OF SPOILERS. YOU CAN THANK ME NOW)
When a couple of my friends heard I was going to watch A SERBIAN FILM (arguably one of the most controversial horror films to hit the scene since 1989’s NEKROMANTIK), they were in disbelief. While I was a big “gorehound” in my younger days, I’m really not into extreme horror; I thought the more extreme underground/backyard films that NEKROMANTIK and its ilk spawned in the early 90s helped drag the genre deeper into the toilet than it had already fallen. And don’t get me started on the “torture porn” films that have emerged since HOSTEL became a semi hit; to me these types of films are nothing more than porn for sadists.
But like any horror film fan who has been dared to watch things nearly once a year since he was a kid, I simply HAD to see this movie: after reading several reviews (one that explained in graphic detail all the mayhem that goes on), I gained that rollercoaster-enthusiast thing: here was another movie people were saying goes too far and that “normal” horror fans won’t be able to handle. You went on Lightning Loops, you survived the Great American Scream Machine…but can you handle the 70-foot, 220 MPH drop of (insert your own coaster here). I mean, I figured since I sat through 1977’s SALO: THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM without losing my sanity, and got through the infamous ending of NEKROMANTIK 2 without throwing up, how bad can this thing be?
Well, like 1989’s HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (which I still think is one of the most disturbing films of all time), A SERBIAN FILM “works” on a psychological level, despite the gruesome visual violence and imagery. I know there must be some who have seen this who are laughing at my statement, but it’s how I felt when the film ended. Reviewers from Serbia have decried this film over on the Internet Movie Data Base, claiming it to be nothing but pure exploitation trash and questioning why the films’ two stars (who happen to be two of the most popular actors in Serbia) would even attach themselves to such a vile project. I personally have no idea…but suffice it to say, A SERBIAN FILM is both a bottom of the barrel exploitation film that DOES INDEED go way too far, yet at the same time has an addictive storyline that kept me glued to the screen and that you won’t find in most extreme films. And what makes the whole project more disturbing than anything is the quality: its shot and edited very well, features top-notch acting and a score that creates tension in all the right places.
Don’t get me wrong: Although it may sound like it, I’m not praising this thing. A couple of friends of mine don’t even want their names or websites associated with it. But when a film with this much controversy behind it comes down the pike, it’s worth taking a look at WHY. Here’s a brief look at the story, then my final thoughts before I jump in the shower and try to forget some of the images I just sat through…
A SERBIAN FILM deals with a retired porno actor named Milos. He lives with his wife Marija their and young son, Stefan (who looks to be about 7 years old), struggling to make ends meet. They catch Stefan watching one of Milo’s old porno films in the first scene, and explain to him that daddy was just “playing” with that girl. (There’s a few scenes of Stefan asking his dad questions about the “stirring he felt down there when he watched that film,” that—to me—were more disturbing than the coming violence.)
One day Milos gets a call from an actress he used to work with. She introduces him to a director named Vukmir (who looks a bit like NON from the 1978 SUPERMAN movie) who in turn offers Milos a huge sum of cash to come out of retirement to star in a new project he’s filming: the only catch is Milos must sign a contract without any knowledge of what the film is about (Vukmir explains it’s a fresh, real-life type of artistic porn genre he’s creating). When Milo’s wife agrees the money is too much to turn down, he signs the contract. But after doing a couple of rough sex scenes where a young girl (about 12 years old) is watching from the corner, Milos tells Vukmir he can’t be involved with the abuse of women or the involvement of children. And when Vukmir tries to explain to Milos another new genre he’s creating (“Newborn Porn”), Milos storms out of the room (and most viewers will, too).
Milos wakes up 3 days later to learn he had been abducted and drugged with something that has turned him into a sexual monster. The remainder of the film features Milos’ memory coming back (with the help of footage he finds on video), and it’s in these sequences that A SERBIAN FILM had gained its notoriety. (SPOILER ALERT): There’s a decapitation-during-sex scene (that while gruesome, was actually done more disturbing in NEKROMANTIK 2), women being beaten, a newborn baby gets raped (yes, you read that correctly), heads are smashed to bloody pulps, Milos is raped by one of the cameraman while knocked out, and in what is arguably one of the most tasteless, demented endings I’ve ever sat through, a drugged-up Milos unknowingly rapes his young son as his brother rapes his wife next to him, and when he realizes what’s happening, Milos and his wife beat and rip his brother and the filmmakers to shreds. Amazingly, after all this, there’s actually a wicked twist of an ending (although it’s more depressing than sitting through PINK FLOYD THE WALL 10 times in a row).
While I was impressed with the overall quality of the film (especially the acting), I’m convinced director Srdjan Spasojevic simply wanted to up the ante—to make something more disgusting than what has come beforehand, despite his claim that A SERBIAN FILM is an allegory on how Serbia’s government keeps “raping” their citizens from the cradle to the grave. Seriously: GIVE ME A BREAK. (Spasojevic also clowns around during his “serious” introduction, bringing his whole point into question). The film would still have been a rough one to watch without all the use (and abuse) of children, and in fact might have been regarded as a true classic of the genre. I can only imagine what went (and still must be going) through the young actor who played Stefan’s head (and I’d like to know what kind of parents would let such a young child act in something like this). And it’s the whole child-element that makes this film as disturbing as it is, and that will also hinder it from reaching a wider audience or gaining any serious respect from genre fans. Even us horror fans who have “seen it all” don’t need to see this (especially those of us who are parents) played out on a movie screen, and I know I won’t be watching it again anytime soon. If ever.
While A SERBIAN FILM could’ve been a true classic, it crosses the line that should not be crossed, and hence won’t be mentioned alongside other extreme horror films such as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and NEKROMANTIK. It’s actually kind-of sad as there’s so few horror films out there that leave a mark on you anymore…but this is a mark those seeking entertainment simply don’t need.
Unless you are the type of fan who HAS to see it all, do yourself a favor and skip A SERBIAN FILM. Your mind will thank you.
Now where’s my scrub brush?...
Vukmir and his female assistant look on as they force Milos to perform in a snuff/porn movie in A SERBIAN FILM.