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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 25

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Nightmare Cinema - 2019 - 6/10

Anthology horror is mixed bag, but when it hits – oh, when it hits, this strikes gold.
In each, a pedestrian walks the late night, deserted avenue, passing under the movie house.
On the marquee, the individual’s name and a cryptic title. The empty booth offers a ticket.
The first tale is classic 80’s slasher, energetic, faithful, funny, laced with twists.
Next is cosmetic surgery (females I sat with cringed), featuring Richard Chamberlain (still alive!!!) as the soft spoken surgeon of vast experience and additional suggestions.
Followed by the good priest, the beautiful nun, a class of children, and the dark presence.
The fourth is psychological horror and disintegration. While I equated it with Cronenberg, the end credits were dedicated to Charly Cantor, nudging me to seek out this hitherto unknown individual.
Final sequence … well … you’ll find out.
While derivative, the enjoyment level on this is pretty good. Mickey Rourke plays the “projectionist.”
Perfect to dip in and out.

Confession: I misread and thought this film was associated with Mark Gatiss, which tempted me.
Wrong. Mick Gariss, of whom I have several dismal books. Watch this, avoid his writing.

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Wer - 2013 - 6/10

Horror yarn of the hairy outsider.
We’re talking serious back hair here, as well as full beard, and shaggy hair.
Don’t even get me started about his king sized hands.
After a happy camping family is mauled (middle of the night, middle of woods, stupid city people), an unscrubbed mountain man - with a Romanian accent - is apprehended.
Interrogations, tests, and each night the moon gets fuller and fuller, until,
Oh, my God! There’s a full moon out! And wer is short for – aarrggh!

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The Velvet Vampire - 1970 - 6/10

One man’s poison …
Elsewhere, a reviewer (and Corman fanatic) dismissed this as one of Roger’s WORST films.
Making it must-see for me. I watched and was mesmerized.
Young couple at art gallery (the Stoker Gallery) meet the alluring Diane (LeFanu).
They accept her invitation to visit her Mojave Desert ranch.
The high desert is in the middle of nowhere, diversions include seductions and death.
Interesting locations, imaginative dream sequences, hypnotic music, nudity, and references for horror insiders.
Although lumped into the “lesbian vampire” genre, it is not as smutty as Franco, and lacks the brio of Rollin.
If anything, this reminds me of the swinging, swappin’ films of Radley Metzger (Score, Lickerish Quarter), reworked into surreal horror.
Unfortunately, Velvet Vampire bears the limitations of Corman’s all too typical hasty production.
An audio commentary by Celeste Yarnall is entertaining, talking about Corman, Elvis, Star Trek, and the vagaries of fate and fame.

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Vampyres - 2015 - 5/10

Faithful remake of Larraz’s 1974 classic.
Two female vampires hunt desolate woods and forlorn highway for fresh meat.
The “older” female lures a man to her bed and keeps him as sex pole / plasma bag.
As in the original, there is copious nudity, debauched romping, streams of red.
Slow going, however, with only the breath of a plot. The interiors are austere.
The 1974 was “Hammer” Horror (though it was not a Hammer film.
This 2015 is Euro Horror (ie: arthouse). While it does boast a third act, less is explained.
Acting is hit and miss, as are the characters themselves, meaning no one is memorable.
Female predators in both versions are a mix of carnivore and succubus, and in the latter version - torturer.

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Vampyres - 1974 - 7/10

One of the best Hammer films never actually made by Hammer.
Two beautiful women prowl a lonely road from overgrown woods.
They stop passing cars, hitch a ride, and take them to a deserted manor house.
Wine flows, bit of bedroom romping, followed by slaughter.
Gory Horror with abundant nudity, sexy and erotic.
Filmed at Hammer’s house, Oakley Court by independent Essay, which might explain why there was much more blood and flesh. Censors had a field day but current versions are fully uncut.
These are not elegant, romanticized vampires. Their savageness seems typical of the excessive 70’s.

Director Larraz’s audio commentary, in his heavily accented Spanish, is as enjoyable as the film itself.
He dishes the dirt of difficult players, and how much more graphic sex and violence he originally wanted.
Money problems, tight shooting schedules, distribution issues, thoughts on American vs European styles.
The version that finally passed he termed as the Vatican edit.
Narrative drifts into incoherence at times, and he confesses a cool image was more important than explaining everything.
Right on.

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 (Edited)

The Descent - 2005 - 7/10

White knuckle horror thriller, unsuitable for the claustrophobia types!
Six females who share wilderness, survivalist trips head to the Appalachia caverns (OK, North Carolina).
After a stiff forest hike, they reach the gaping hole in the earth and rappel down.
Personalities run from the reckless one, a controller, a grieving one, and the narrative rolls easy.
As the women descend deeper, and see evidence of previous cavers, the unease tightens.
Again, the friends take awhile until they realize things do go bump in the night.
By then, well, this is a horror ride. Expect misfortune.

High intensity smash from Neil Marshall makes this viewer wonder how his cinema career stalled.
After four films, and no I didn’t care much for Doomsday and Centurion lacked budget, Marshall now seems relegated to television.

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Peony Lantern - 1968 - 7/10
AKA - Botan Dōrō // 牡丹燈籠

Elders arrange for the third son to marry a recent widow, and profitably join two families.
To their dismay, the male prefers to teach poor village children, and stalls on any alliance.
That night, during the summer festival, he encounters two females who alter his fate.
He falls deeply in love with the beautiful courtesan, not realizing she and her attendant are ghosts.
Haunting story of temptation and obsession.
The compositions are spare but immaculate, and this benefits from a lush orchestral score reminiscent of Herrmann.

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November - 2017 - 8/10

“Kratt” - a magical creature in Estonian mythology.
A creature formed from household implements by its owner, who gave the devil three drops of blood to animate the kratt.

18th century (?) villagers skirt the edges of starvation and utter poverty.
Through religious faith, or witchcraft, they claw an existence.
A few have kratts that steal for them. If not, well, everyone steals.
Relatives from the afterlife visit, as does the Plague (who can be easily fooled), as does the Devil.
Inside this black n white, hallucinatory display, wind several stories of obsession and obsessive love.
Reminiscent of the experimental Book Of Days by Meredith Monk, as well as works by Sergei Parajanov.
For the classically curious, many of these folktales were told earlier in the ballet “Kratt” by Eduard Tubin.
Visionary, despite the slow pace, with jaw-dropping photography. Film borders on the sublime.

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 (Edited)

Dead Time: Kala - 2007 - 7/10

“Narcolepsy?’’ asks the judge.
“Yes,” says Sari. “Every time Janus tries to make love, he gets overexcited and falls unconscious. I cannot stay married.”
That’s one of the tiniest sideplots in this wild film mixing Horror, Crime, Noir, legend and prophecy.
Janus not only suffers narcolepsy, but he sees visions, and conceals a hushed phrase that cannot be shared.
While police investigate a series of brutal murders, supernatural forces gather.
Highly entertaining Joko Anwar film has great sound and always arresting visuals.
This obscure gem is a tour de force, though the fusion of styles may be off-putting to pure Horror fans.

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The Whisperer In Darkness - 2011 - 7/10

A second winner from the HPL Historical Society, first being Call Of Cthulhu.
Filmed as 30’s B/W, in the Universal world. Good sets, score, even effects.
When one realizes their budget was 350K, you can appreciate how much was accomplished.
Plot built steadily, though it was slow and a couple of scenes would have benefited from trims.
Otherwise, nice job if you are in the mood for cerebral horror, using a vintage template.

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In Fabric - 2018 - 7/10

Older woman, Sheila, looks to buy something new for a blind date, so she visits an odd fashion house.
(How odd? The employee - “A purchase on a horizon, a panoply of temptation. Can a curious soul desist?”)
Store staff remind one of Victorian governesses.
Meanwhile, Sheila’s home is slipping from her rules, while her employers start to “coach” her.
How about the new red dress? The one that leaves a rash on her?
(“In apprehensions lie the crevices of clarity.”)

Strange television commercials, a bizarre retail underbelly, Plasticine encounters.
Later, perhaps coincidentally, another dress wearer, runs afoul of the employer.
(“Darings eclipse the dark circumference of caution.”)
Unexpected, off-kilter humor proves funny and unsettling, in a world that is downright weird.
This is the third film I have seen by writer/director Peter Strickland.
The first, Berberian Sound Stage, I did not care for.
The second, The Duke Of Burgundy, I appreciated more than I liked.
This one, I did like, but it is overlong and suffers from an excess of ideas that he cannot array properly.
Should be of particular interest to, as it seems to borrow from, the cult of Ligotti.

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The Call Of Cthulhu - 2005 - 7/10

Creative adaptation of HP Lovecraft story into a black and white, silent movie.
Created by the H P Lovecraft Historical Society.
Extremely faithful to the work, plot follows our narrator going through his uncle’s journals of dark cults, madness in asylums (Arkham), and the sea going quest.
Nephew sets off toward mysterious ocean coordinates as the stars align and mighty Cthulhu arises.
Cheap watery sets, cheaper rubber monster - - Who cares? Ed Wood could not have done so well.
Great fun.

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Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive - 2016 - 8/10

Much of Poe’s ill reputation stems from the slanderous first obituary, penned by a jealous rival.
Critical appraisal has erased the slurs of literary incompetence, much of the character assassination abides.
This documentary crafts an honest portrait of the man, his abilities and shortcomings.
Professional successes were often followed by self-destructive failures.
His perverse propensity for making enemies was a root, and alcohol a malignant companion.
Denis O’Hare does wonders as the brooding Poe, reading from journal entries, letters, poems, stories, in a gentle Southern cadence.
Interviewees include scholars, descendants, historians, writers, and two actors giving theatrical readings.
Photography at times reminded me of a Guy Maddin film, sweeping from spare and dreary to unexpected, vibrant lushness.
Quality primer for newcomers, Poe fans will enjoy, as well.

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Elvis Vs Cthulhu - 2047 - 7/10

Everyone’s favorite villains, property developers, are at it again.
Their target this time is the Black Sands Orphanage! In breathtaking Hawaii.
After the board of directors decline multiple offers, the developers meet on the beach at midnight and invoke dread Cthulhu. They beg the Great One to destroy the orphanage, devour the children, and leave the black sands red with blood.
Three pretty counselors, Julie, Jackie, and Jennie, all wearing matching white go-go boots, call for a hero.
Elvis.
The King arrives, forty years after his disappearance, and true to his Southern roots, he knows how to wield a chainsaw.
Between relentless battles, he manages to romance each lovely lady and sing classic songs such as:
“Tentacles Of Love,” “Stand Against The Shadow Of Time,” and “Beach Barbeque Rumble.”
A winner!
Don’t miss the closing credits where the Lord Of R’lyeh vows to return while the King sings “Bop bop a lula, gonna pop ya Cthulhu.”

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Campaign In Aghartha - 2047 - 7/10

Ignoring the briefings of military advisors, a deranged national leader declares war on the Underworld.
Not crime syndicates, not the Yakuza, Triads, Mafia, Bratva, drug cartels, Spectre.
Rather, the Hollow Earth.
Vowing to “secure border security” (sic), the great one orders a division of Spelunk Marines to the polar opening, guarded from time immemorial by descendents of Pangaea.
The narrative (stupidly) lags to permit pointless dalliances between younger Marines and a clutch of haunting Pangaean maidens, who prophesy doom.
Thankfully, a grisly encounter with the first guardian marks the onset of numerous “dooms.”

Blood and bullets ensue, along with unbelievable gore. Entrails and tentacles.
Imaginative (and highly troubling) photography bathe this sequence (NOT for the squeamish).
Observant viewers will notice a gradual softening and darkening of landscapes from this time onward.
The Marines push deeper, confront the even older civilization of Aghartha.
Since none there understand English, soldiers begin shooting.
Not before priests, however, implore the god they worship, the dread lord of R’lyeh.

Military tactics confront annihilation.
Beheadings, dismemberment on a mass scale, incredibly realistic, I might add.
The plot, if one is charitable enough to term it such, becomes incoherent.
Special note must be paid to the sound design, in particular the low frequencies.
Many sequences were all but silent, though the subwoofers throbbed like mad, evoking an almost palpable foreboding.
(In the audio commentary, the director noted the eerie look was achieved using hundreds of hanging paper lanterns.)

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Trilogy Of Perils Unknown - 2047 - 7/10

Three part anthology film launches in the subterranean depths.
The vast Vatican library descends lower and lower, from modern works to ancient grimoires to scrolls.

Mordecai, acquirer for hire, finds and appropriates the allegedly apocryphal, “De Tribus Impostoribus.”
Once banned as heretical by the Catholic hierarchy, the hierarchy later declared the work a hoax.
Except Mordecai’s client, the Deep State, knows otherwise.
Second chapter shifts next to high adventure! Deep in the Himalayas.
A ruined empire, a civilization in loathsome decay. The prize, the journals of Prestor John.
Indiana Jones buffs will love this section!
The tone darkens in the final section as the Deep State saddles Mordecai with three “helpers.”
A tramp steamer, manned by mutes, sails to 47°9′S 126°43′W in the South Pacific, and then waits.
Days elapse, the sea is glass, until a predicted alignment occurs, whereupon the waters boil and a jagged isle rises.

Devotees of R’lyeh can foretell the potential slaughter once the dreaming lord rouses.
Leaving Mordecai trapped between the omnipotent state and unleashed terror,
Film offers something for everyone, though the transitions could be better, and the ending is disheartening.

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Middle Men - 2009 - 6/10

Eye candy galore in film about the rise of the Internet porn industry.
Two dysfunctional geek whizzes devise encrypted payment tools to view skin.
Then they get some Russian backers.
Luke Wilson is the corporate fixer who smooths the kinks, allowing Internet porn, as we know it, to flourish.
Subplots with FBI, terrorists, marital problems, and murders, doodle around but don’t drag the pace too much.

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Martha Marcy May Marlene - 2011 - 6/10

Girl escapes from a backwoods cult, where the lot of womenfolk is cooking, dish washing, gardening, and spawning.
She hides at her sister’s lakeside retreat, though something shuffles in her wake.
Are culties following her? Is she ghosted by private demons?
Opaque thriller suffers poor pacing, an insubstantial adversary, and characters who test ones patience.
Although I kept checking the time while watching, this may appeal to those who fear soft footsteps.

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Bait - 2019 - 6/10

Martin and Steven had to sell the family home to smug middle class sorts who rent it out to hipsters.
Steven operates their fishing boat for day tripping tourists, Martin catches what the tide washes in.
Stark black and white film has a documentary feel to it, right down to the fake damage effects.
Harsh contrast between the struggling working class, the self-satisfied (yet struggling) middle class, and the shallow tourists who prefer a scrubbed, Disney version of a fishing village.

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Professional Killer - 1966 - 6/10
AKA - Tecnica di un Omicidio // Hired Killer

Clint, hitman, does his final sniper job. Takes his pay, declines a pricier assignment.
Then someone makes it personal, and he loads his gear and heads to Italy.
Pedestrian crime story is ho-hum plotwise, benefits from Robert Webber’s icy portrayal.
Where this excels is the mechanics of his work, his observations of details.
The way he avoid leaving traces and hones in on essentials.
Workmanlike film is detailed and well edited, so that loose threads tie together.
Opening section of New York is a time capsule reminder that the 60’s were not all Invasion and Psychedelia.

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Mountain Of Storms - 1968 - 7/10

Old school “extreme sport” film puts modern exhibitionists to shame.
In later years, Yvon Chouinard would found Patagonia, Doug Tompkins would found North Face, yet when they were young…
Five friends set out from California to Patagonia, the southern tip of South America.
They surf in Mexico and Peru, then sell their boards for gas.
They ski in the Andes; climbing up one mountain is an eight hour trek. No helicopter.
Then they sell their skiing equipment for repairs and gas.
Finally they make it to Cerro Fitz Roy where they port their own mountain gear.
No sherpas, no servants. Man vs Nature at its most elemental. Respect for these men.

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Sandy Denny: Under Review - 2006 - 5/10

An underrated, and sadly increasingly forgotten, singer from the 60’s and 70’s.
Denny sang on several acclaimed albums for Fairport Convention, later Fotheringay.
This was a career documentary film, not a personal one.
Denny’s demons, insecurities and substance problems were barely addressed.
To those who are still scratching their heads, Denny was the only artist ever to guest on a Led Zeppelin album. (“Battle Of Evermore.”)
In 1978, she fell down a staircase, struck her head, and died within a month.
Documentary more for knowledgeable fans.

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Face - 1997 - 6/10

Ex-"rights activist” Robert Carlyle now sticks it to the man by robbing banks.
The latest caper goes off, only the haul is not as expected.
Events sour.
Basically a character study of an idealist coming to terms with growing old and irrelevant.
With Ray Winstone, and an outta control Philip Davis.

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Black Cat - 1968 - 7/10
AKA - Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko // 藪の中の黒猫

A roving band of twenty samurai soldiers enter an isolated rural home.
Inside are a mother and her daughter-in-law, whom the men rape to death.
A year later, samurai nobles, traveling at night, have their throats ripped out.

Classic, brooding film is parts horror, parts theatre, artfully composed.
Vengeance vies with doomed love, as a dutiful son and faithful husband tries to discover what happened to the two women in his life.

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Postcards From London - 2018 - 7/10

Highly stylized film will appeal to a narrow audience.
Jim arrives in London, fresh for new experiences, finds himself in Soho.
He soon becomes involved in the rentboy underworld, with a until called the Raconteurs.
Not just sex, but stimulating conversation is provided.
For that, Jim needs to up his game in art, literature, culture.
Caravaggio becomes a particular touchstone.
Today’s art, mass produced for consumption by an impatient, less cultured world, stands in harsh contrast with the idealists.
A film rich in visuals, conversation, and concepts.