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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Resolution (2012) - Horror, Drama

Resolution (2012) - Resolution is the story of two men, torn apart by drug use, brought together for an intervention in one friends desire to mend the damage done. A series of strange occurrences turns this drama about a broken friendship into a surreal journey of addiction, guilt, life anxiety, and forgiveness. Written by Justin Benson and directed by Benson and partner Aaron Moorhead, it is a film that leaves the viewer with some resolution but maybe also opens windows to places that are not fully explored or satisfactorily connected. A piece of film making art that in some ways is an unfinished canvass.The story is about two friends who went to high school together, Mike Danube (Peter Cilella) and  Chris Daniels (Vinny Curren) who have drifted apart in adulthood because Chris has a sustained addiction to crack cocaine. After receiving a video of Chris acting erratically and seemingly dangerously, Mike leaves his pregnant wife Jennifer to seek out Chris, following a map that Chris included with the video, a seeming cry for help. We think he is going to offer treatment but instead takes a more drastic approach. 
  Stunning his friend with a tazor Mike handcuffs him to a pipe in the rundown house and then informs him the two of them will be there for seven days, long enough for the drugs to leave his system. Naturally this does not sit well with Chris who very quickly goes through many of the stages of not only withdrawal but also grief. Chris tries many approaches to get himself freed such as Pleading, lashing out in anger, and negotiation. The guy wants to smoke crack and that is a serious addiction so really trying anything is okay. The premise of two men brought together in this situation is the physical structure of the film, it is the place this film lives but it is not the only place.
  The early movie establishes the characters well enough with Mike the calm successful one and Chris the delusional crack head. the addition of a few more characters in a couple other crackheads, and  Charles, the Native American owner of the house that Chris has been squatting in, all add some depth to the area and situation. One thing we notice early on is the lack of any interaction between Chris and anyone else alive, a directorial decision leaving open the idea that this could be a story about Mike's mental health. Sure the crack heads that come looking for a fix are there to see Chris but the directors skillfully make it that the only one we actually see Chris interact with is Mike.
  Mike also has other troubling issues that lead one to think that Mike's sanity is not necessarily as firmly packed as we originally think. First there is the initiating video the film opens with. Filmed as if someone is following Chris around it is a collection of extreme behavior and emotion that supposedly Chris sent to Mike. However, once the two men are together Chris denies creating it. Is Chris a reliable reporter? Well he is a crack head so probably not. Mike, in his wanderings around the neighborhood over the seven days at the house, starts finding strange pieces of media, an old record and a record player, a VHS tape and player, a reel of super eight movie and a projector. Each seems to be telling him a story that Chris chained to a pipe does not seem to connect to. Mike develops the idea that these finds are a story looking for an ending, and until he and his friend can give that ending the cycle of  finding will continue. When he finds media that include he and Chris, and the possible tragic ending to their situation, they look for a solution. Though this idea is never fully understood by the characters or the audience it is the driving force to the climax of the film.
  Through the increase in intensity of the story idea Mike and Chris are able to reconcile many of the issues that have not been resolved in their relationship. When the film climax is reached on the seventh day. Mike releases Chris and they are in a frenzy to find an ending that does not end badly for either of them. A surprising amount of tension is created with the side characters in this stretch. Always on the clock the film passes its timer and still has a situation where there are real stakes. The last scene is a bit disappointing, intentionally open ended and unclear it feels more like a unformed idea than an ending. It could be that the media, "We (Chris and Mike) are in the story" idea was not fleshed out clearly enough that makes the last scene lack impact. It could be that the writer, Justin Benson, and Directors, Benson and Moorhead are being obtuse.
  Ultimately I don't think they are, I try not to read about the films before watching and reviewing them so there are probably plenty of interviews I will see after this that will fill answer my questions. This is a solid film, grounded in character that explores an interesting idea. I would definitely recommend this film for anyone looking for a unique take on the horror genre.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Psychos in Love (1987) - Horror, Comedy, Psycho

Psychos in Love (1987) - This movie starts with black and white interview footage of a serial killer Joe (Carmine Capobianco) relaying information about the women he has dated cut with scenes of the women being murdered by him. When it settles down on the fourth girl Dianne who our killer also fell for love at first sight. The deal was sealed when she expresses a hate for grapes as strong as his. After they meet we also get interviews from Dianne (Angela Nicholas) and we see she is a similar deranged killer.  She then also is seen in scenes where she murders her dates. Played for humor with light music the film does not take itself too seriously. The interview parts are like a post career retrospective and the interspersed scenes are to fill out the love story. There is also this breaking of the fourth wall where the color scenes are interrupted by Joe or Dianne noticing the camera. The film is a ridiculous comedy, crazy plot, loonie characters and gory fun. According to Wikipedia, "Carmine Capobianco said of the script, "We decided to do something that was totally off the wall, totally fun"."
 On the first date when they admit there psycho tendencies to each other their bond grows immediately strong. They almost immediately do a tandem murder well after they had sex that is. The after sex talk about what you do with the bodies after murdering them adds to the light comic approach the movie takes. Filmed exclusively with a male eye the film although about a male and female killer is all about the men. The scenes of Joe killing we see attractive women (probably too hot for the character) the camera lingers in closeup tight on the body parts sexualizing the victims. Nudity abounds in these murders while it is Dianne is sexualized in her murder scenes. She is enticing the men to let their guards down and always fatally for them. Last there are continued cutbacks to Joe's bar where he has a woman Nikki dancing bare breasted.
  Then we cut to the plumber Herman who clears a clog for a woman and then hits her over the head with a wrench. He proceeds to ripher cloths open and acts goofy in delight as he cuts her up and cooks parts of her in a pan of searing vegetables. His routine is to then dress and eat the victim as a luxury meal. So now we have three psycho killers and all appear above the law.
  Dianne has a problem with a victim where he turns the tables on her and rapes her, but with the help of a nearby rock she eventually wins the skirmish and desposes of him. Beside the Dianne one liner "That was no fun at all."  it does not seem to have a purpose.
  The plumber makes his way to Joe's bar and shows his total lack of game with the ladies. Joe on the other hand although heavy and balding seems to have no problem with the ladies at all. Yet he is in love and even is less interested in killing and more into spending time with lovely Dianne. The scenes of their lives together come with a song sung between the two main characters about the same characters "Psychos in Love" The movie never loses its sense of humor even if the humor is all one note.They don't stop trying with the jokes though and the death scene where they can't seem to kill Nikki enough leads to the two deciding to get married.
  Wow what a shit show of ridiculous bits from losing interest in killing and then having their first marital problems. They are determined to just be happy with each other and maybe not have kill kill kill. Dragging on to when they marathon the five Friday the 13th movies and all three Halloween movies. To more scenes of the bar and it makes one wonder if the ideas, although cute would ever lead to anything. I mean what happened to that plumber, doesn't he have to come back into the film. Of course it happens that they meet over a clogged sink.
  Coming to an agreement where Joe and Dianne will give the plumber is going well until he mentions eating with grape sauce. Things go south with the negotiating and we have another big gory gag. at this point this film could end because it has gone no where. Finally it ends in an argument between the couple.
  So what can you make of this film? It certainly has a personality but lacks the cohesion that shows any real plotting that matters. So in the end it is just a collection of gags based around a couple serial killers falling in love with each other. Hard to watch all the way through because the character arcs do not have enough range. I am sure I can not recommend this film even though it tries. It is cute for a bit, funny at times but ultimately does not get anywhere we hope.

Psychos in Love song

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

City of the Living Dead (1980) Horror Gates of Hell

City of the Living Dead (1980) Spoilers! All through this review! I have watched a shit ton of movies in my life and have extensively explored the Italian horror genre but somehow I failed to ever see this film. So I was pleasantly surprised when I put this DVD in and saw something new to me. I thought that I had seen it but watching it was a new experience. Part of a three film Blu Ray set called "Gates of Hell Trilogy" put out by the Australian company Cinema Cult it also contains the other two Lucio Fulci Gates films The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. Whether a problem with the DVD or my player I could not get the special features to play which is a bit disappointing. The film is a wonderful piece of cinema with a great score by Fabio Frizzi and Fulci directing it tells the story of a Gate of Hell being opened by a priest killing himself near it and how the lead characters try to shut it. Dunwich is a small New England town supposedly built on the ruins of Salem where the witch trials took place. A sick looking priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) walks in a cemetery. There is some strange cutting in this film going between the cemetery and a seance in New York City Mary a psychic see Father Thomas hang himself, followed by the sounds of howling and we see the dead rise from a nearby grave. Mary (Catriona MacColl) goes into convulsions seeing this and appears to die. On a gravestone in the cemetery is a saying. "The soul that pines for eternity shall out span death. You Dweller of the twilight void come Dunwich."  While the cops investigate Mary's death, we get some exposition about the book of Enoch a four thousand year old book that tells of the gate or some such thing. There Interrupted by the crying out fireball that appeared out of no where to ad some proof of the supernatural. Teresa (Adelaide Aste) predicts that horrible things are happening in a distant town.  Peter Bell (Christopher George) a reporter shows up in NYC looking for a story. He and Mary end up going to Dunwich to attempt to close the gate to Hell before All Saints Day. Confused that the dead Mary is involved well with Fulci things take turns and her turn is amazing.
   A couple grave diggers having lunch at a cemetery, reporter comes by and they chase him off. Grave of  Mary Woodhouse, Peter is still investigating her death. He watches as she is buried with these great in the coffin shots. She wails in the coffin. Peter hears her but a plane going over head blocks the noise, tension as we wait to see if he is going to go back yo the grave he does but her struggle finally saving her as she screams. The scene is great with cool shots of Mary in the coffin struggle to claw her way out cut with shots of Peter thinking he is hearing her but not sure. After the rescue book of Enoch explanation is a bit much but the shots done in Giallo style close ups of the eyes Mary explains that the Monday the night is the All Saints day and if the gates of hell that have been opened in Dunwich are not closed before then the dead will walk the earth. Peter is prophesied to be the one to do it oh that book just is quite magical. Mary and Peter start the road trip to Dunwich where they will eventual meet the locals there and bring this story to an end.
  Back to Dunwich and an eerie fog is blowing in on a howling wind. A Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) in an abandoned house finds a blow up doll and what looks like a child worm covered rotting corpse. Junie's Lounge in Dunwich when the mirror just breaks all by itself, the two patrons and the bar tender examine it . Ever since Father Thomas hanged himself things have been strange. Then the wall cracks open and they hear sounds, the two patrons run off leaving the bar tender alone. They are the local spice for the town. The main characters are introduced. Sandra (Janet Agren) talking with her psychiatrist, Gerry (Carlo De Mejo), Emily (Antonella Interlenghi) comes in to see Gerry and we get some exposition about the Dunwich group, Salem witch burners are the ancestors of the town people.
With the creepy starting to happen in the town we start getting scenes that are goreliscious. Emily looking for Bob at the abandoned house, snarling sound scare him and he runs away leaving the poor girl alone.  The priest finds her and smears worm goo flesh all over her. She dies of fright her Father Mr. Robins shares that while talking to Gerry. The best set piece of gooey goodness has a couple locals, Tommy and his girl making out in their jeep. She is scared so he turns on the headlights to see the hanging priest in front of them. He appears next to the car the girls eyes start bleeding and her mouth foaming. Tommy goes from frantically trying to start the car to seeing his girls insides spill out of her mouth. Then the priest appears in the jeep and rips out Tommy's skull from behind.
  Hanging himself opened the gates of hell. Funeral for the Robin's. Ghoulish mortician is getting her ready. Mrs Holden died of fear also and we learn that Rose Calvin and Tommy Fisher from the jeep, town folk are blaming Bob who may be a pervert.

  Ghoul mortician tries to steal from the dead and has his hand mangled by the dead old lady. Emily's brother in his bedroom but something is outside the windows. He hears the moaning and the great music build the tension as he nears the shades to see his rotten corpse sister outside.
 Sandra has a gun smartest one out of the bunch apparently. The old lady from the mortuary is on Sandra's kitchen floor, Mrs Holden They are puzzled. Some social commentary about women having neurosis. More sound and the couple search around the house, when they return to the kitchen the body is gone. Panic sets in for Sandra knows dead Mrs. Holden is in the house. Logical Gerry calms her and she says " I will do whatever you say" Old lady was behind the painting but they don't see her. After the search the lights go out and a window blows in.(Did I mention the wind storm?) The glass blows into the painting and they see blood seeping out.
  There is also one death not caused by the dead, One of the locals finds Bob and thinking he is behind the deaths pushes his head into a industrial drill through the temple all the way through. It is quite the scene and we get great practical effects.
   Things start coming together once Mary and Peter arrive in Dunwich but the film doesn't really have clear main characters. Who are the hero's it seems they are Mary and Peter but we spend so much time away from them learning what's happening in the town that Gerry ans Sandra seem also to be emerging.  Gerry and Sandra arrive at a house the mortuary but no answer. Peter and Mary arrive at the graveyard, they have to find the priests grave and uncover him. Music tells us the tension should be rising and the fog. Gerry also arrives at the cemetery Mr. Logic meets the psychic. Now the four, Peter, Gerry, Sandra and Mary are assaulted by maggots blown in on the wind. Sandra Vomits as the floor is covered by them. It's a pretty amazing scene that ends with a call on the phone from little John-John,  Emily corpse killed her parents and John calls Gerry to tell him. The foursome drives over in the worst of wind storms and the girls look after John while the guys see the butchering of his parents. You don't see anything though this is an off camera murder, and we just get the reactions of the guys when they come out. It's a bit strange considering how much gore has already been in the movie
Plan is the funeral  parlor and then the cemetery to uncover he priest, Sandra takes John to Gerry's office while the other three enter the mortuary. Emily is waiting for Sandra and John-John and rips our the brains out of Sandra. This method is used repeatedly in the film, it like a hair pull but the back of the skull comes off. Pretty cool effect.  Kid runs, Kid in crisis running the dead are after him. Makes his way but the dead keep finding him. Gerry is suddenly there and confronts dead Emily by shutting his eyes. She vanishes and the crisis ends weird.
 Finally heading to the graveyard the three, Gerry, Mary and Peter arrive at night just a short time from midnight, they fail! The film sort of falls apart here a bit. Since they were supposed to close the gate before midnight but don't seem to do so the consequences for the world is the dead would rise. This is not the case though. They enter the family tomb and open his sarcophagus to find its broken out from the other side. They crawl through to check the other side. Dead Sandra is down there and they see her but suddenly she is behind Peter and rips out his brain. They killed Peter WTF! She then stares as Mary until her eyes bleed. Gerry rams a pipe through her and she dies a second time. Mary is okay now but what the fuck are they doing? Great visuals in the tomb of skeletal remains as the now pair move further towards the gates of hell,
They see the gates as the dead start to rise all around them.  The dead are coming for them! Priest guy appears and they are trapped his stare causes her eyes to bleed again. Jerry runs a cross through the priest who promptly burns and the dead are returned to the grave. Now we can call it City of the burning the dead catch magical fire. Wonderful Shame Peter didn't survive. Why the scream when the kid runs towards her to end the film? Must be from the first few scenes? I went back and watched the opening scenes but there is nothing there, So it is a mystery maybe the special features can solve. The music and gore are great in this film and even though it has some flaws this was a great film to finally watch. That last shot will bother me until I know the story behind it. This film is a bit problematic where women are screamy and emotional and the men are the calm ones telling them to get it together. The character Gerry in particular is a bit of a cad. Still the film is great and I definitely recommend this film to you all.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Carnival of Souls (1962) Horror Ghost

Carnival of Souls (1962) - Well not much has been happening with this blog. The business of my work is overwhelming the time I have for it. It's a shame because every now and again I have the time to watch a horror film and would like to talk about it. I decided to watch one of my favorite small low budget horror movies for the first entry of the year. I got the Criterian Collectoin Blu-Ray for Christmas so a nice version I was guaranteed. Carnival of Souls was made by Herk Harvey for a mere $33,000 and with the incredibly eerie organ score by Gene Moore the film builds a wonderfully creepy mood. Written by John Clifford this tightly well constructed story stars Candice Hilligoss as Mary a passenger in a car accident who miraculously survives being submerged in a river for three hours it is a meditation of life and death. She lives in a purgatory unannounced to the audience upon first viewing and the surprise ending is just a great turn. Emerging covered in mud she is a miracle but the story only lingers on that. She quickly recovers and heads to Utah where she has been hired as an organist at a church. She finds herself drawn to an old carnival pavilion she passes on the way. After taking a room she begins to have hallucinatory experience and seeing ghoulish faces, ever more drawn to the carnival. When all is said and done the twist occurs and we see that she has been living in a kind of purgatory being ever drawn back to death.
   Since this film is so old and such a cult classic most horror aficionados already know the twist and gist of the film. So I will NOT do a spoiler free review here.  In fact the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray  has a wonderful essay on the film by Keir-La Janisse the author of "House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films" If you buy and read that you can certainly skip my novice retelling of the plot. The essay included in the Blu-ray is excellent and far superior to anything I will do here. Instead lets look at the larger themes in it and how they relate to the plot. It supposes that there is a space between life and death. Mary crawls from a river after the car crashed three hours before with no explanation of how she survived in the fast running muddy river. She also crawls out right at the sight of the crash and not downstream as one would imagine. She is seen by the gathered crowd on the bridge and is touched by the officer putting a coat on her shoulder. This implies she is solid in form and not a ghost. She does not remember how she survived and little time is spent with anyone who can explain it.. She is sort of reborn from the river, she has a second chance at life. The next time we see her she is visiting the sight of the crash looking and reflecting on what has happened. This before starting a new life far away. The audience stays with Mary not hearing from anyone else bout what happened. We don't know if she is seen as a miracle or not. We don't see the grieving families of the other girls in the car crash.
  A small scene where we see her play the organ is interesting in that it sort of establishes her as not particularly religious. When the man (Tom McGinnis) who got her the gig in Utah asks her about it, she says that "It's just a job, that she is not becoming part of the church but instead is just playing music. When he asks if she is going to visit her parents before leaving she tightens up and says not she is just going to "drive straight through". Maybe again enforcing her rebirth into a different life. Does the possibility she is less religious indicate that she could not pass on the afterlife? The organ factory boss says she should put her soul into this new job. Does this also play to that theme? She states emphatically that she is never coming back and has to once again travel over the same bridge before getting to Utah.
  Once in the state she can only get eerie organ music on the radio and then she sees the pavilion, and then the face of a man in the passenger side window. This is a passage from her former life into a new realm. I love that Mary is not the easiest person to get along with. After the awkward conversation with the boss of the organ factory she has an equally off beat interaction with her new landlady in the Utah boarding house. After an awkward silence when seeing the room she is less than polite with her comment that the room is certainly what she expected, instead of saying it was nice like a polite person would do. Then again when the Minister (Art Ellison) at the church asks her if she would like to have a welcoming reception with the congregation, she says "Couldn't we just skip that." She is uncomfortable around people. It could be that she is just an anxious person but it could also be that she is not quite able to connect with the living?
  The strange encounters build while she is trying to settle in as the organist for the church. She and the Minister has another prescient interaction with the minister when he takes her to the abandoned pavilion. There is a barrier fence falling down to keep people out but Mary wants very much to go out into the place.The minister explains it isn't safe, but she ask him  "Could you take me out there." he says no because you know laws about trespassing but she says she would very much like to go out to the place. She keeps seeing that strange man with the white pastie face and is disturbed by it.  Also bothered by the other roomer in the house, a fast talking somewhat aggressive warehouse worker. Her wants to see more of her but she only consents when the strangeness of the town and her weird experiences make her too scared to be alone. Awkward with the living but seemingly drawn to the dead her life gets stranger and stranger.
She gets scared after having audio (or lack of) hallucinations where she can not hear anything except her own voice. She tries to interact with people around her but they do not see or hear her. Mary is beginning to cross over out of this world with each experience being more intense than the one before it. This latest one gets her some help from a local doctor (Stan Levitt) who sees her scared in the park. As they talk through her recent traumas he suggest she is having guilt of being the sole survivor of the car crash. She expresses how she does not need the company of others (the living) and resolves that her seeing the pastie face man is her imagination that she is going to face her fear by going out to the pavilion. She does it and it seems to calm her seeing that it is an abandoned park. Sure a couple thing happen to startle her but the big thing is something the audience sees that Mary doesn't. The pastie faced man laying in a pool of water.
  Where this could be a turning point for the better it really isn't. Mary afraid of the night coming agrees to have a date with the slimy roomer John Lindon (Sidney Berger). From the beginning he has been presented an a sleaze obviously looking to get her dress off. Played a bit over the top he is a lower class guy just looking to get with a woman normally out of his reach. Mary has an awful night, at organ practice at the church she is possessed by (?) the spirit of the dead and plays the strange creepy organ music that we have heard throughout the film.While in this playing trance she sees the abandoned park and the dead rising to dance in the dance hall, around and around at unnatural speed to her playing. Only coming out of it as the pastie faced man come towards he hand reaching for her. Interrupted by the Minister she is fired on the spot for playing blasphemous music. After a horrible date with all hand John where she again sees the pastie faced man Mary chases off John and has a frantic night barricading herself in her room, she decides to leave town.
  Of course she is inevitably going to be drawn back to that pavilion and the pastie faced people that inhabit the place. After another hallucination while waiting in her car for a mechanic she is impelled to go back to the but this time as the sun sets. Daylight has been her refuge and now her fate will be met in the dark. Seeing the dead rise once more to dance in the ballroom. She now is one of them in the dance and as dead as they are. We learn the woman vanished into this air, the doctor and the police wondering out loud what could have happened.
  Back in Kansas they have finally found the car, with surprise all three girls dead inside of it. Closing poor Mary's time in purgatory and ending the film. I love this film even with all its pushy men roles, the lecherous John Lindon in the rooming house, the pushy Minister who wants to save Mary's soul, and the boss at the organ factory, none really recognizes her as a person with her own drives but instead try to influence her into their ideas about what is good for her. She is a complex character played well by Hilligoss. A character that is disconnected to those around her and most probably still in shock from her trauma but one with a mind of her own. As someone who gets tired of religion infiltrating everything in our world it is refreshing to see a film where the main character limits that effect in her thinking. I still marvel that this script was written in just a month and produced for so little money and I am truly glad it exists.