I’ve come to a sudden realization. There just isn’t enough time in the day. In between household chores, work and picking up after the infantile storm my youngest leaves in her wake I have barely enough time to sit on my arse, even less time to catch up on all my programs (this makes me sound like a little old lady, I am aware of this.) I might be lucky once in a great while to be able to watch a film in its entirety in one sitting, its rare but it does happen on occasion. Before I find myself veering wildly off course I should explain what I’m hoping to achieve with this sparkling brand new segment. I’ll admit that writing a review usually takes me forever, this is on account of several factors the most pronounced of which is that I’m very easily distracted, at the very least I’m a lazy little schiite. Onwards, herein lies my dilemma I have seen many films, some recently and a great deal of others I would love to revisit, that I would love to preach about however because time is of the essence and I find it hard to sit still I’ve constructed a clever scheme in hopes to cover more movies in a shorter format.
Because I don’t wish to tread on anyone’s toes I shall dedicate this segment solely to an area of filmmaking that so often slides under the radar but is very deserved of promotion. An arena that suffers not from lack of creativity and talent though does fall prey to other important issues, matters that sadly rank higher in the grand scheme of things when it comes to distribution, rights, legal shenanigans and the like. In essence everything that is needed to put a finished feature onto the consumer marketplace. Without further ado here are my thoughts, often abbreviated and blunt, on a slew of films within the Indy scene
Crawl (2011) Australia
Director/Writer – Paul China
Runtime – 80 minutes
Crawl Productions, The Collective
Trailer courtesy of Youtube
This feature runs at a slow burn pace, much like No Country for Old Men, admittedly this isn’t for everyone but stick with it and you’ll discover a film worthy of praise and recommendation. Hitchcockian suspense (courtesy of a violin being stabbed viciously by a what appears to sound like a bow with an axe to grind and unhurried camera shots) incites tension through scenes rife with malicious intent. The story boasts deliciously jaded grindhouse values. Entangled within which are several characters that stand out. There’s a Croatian killer, a man of few words who gets the job done without falling prey to distraction, (unless it’s the tempting baggie of nose candy in his lap) or resorting to the lowest moral denominator. Then there’s the bar owner a seedy fellow indeed who resorts to old school primitive standards when it comes to settling debts.
Overall a film that is classically shot, exciting, unpredictable and charged with tense energy.
I give a very high recommendation on this one. But then of course I am partial to films with heavy accents bordering on subtitles.
Forbidden Empire (2014) Russia
Director – Oleg Stepchenko
Writer – Nikolai Gogol (story/characters); Aleksandr Karpov and Oleg Stepchenko (script)
Runtime – 127 minutes
Ankor-Film, Galaxy Vision, Marins Group Entertainment
Strange that Terry Gilliam had no hand in the making of this
Based on an 1835 short story by Nikolai Gogol entitled Viy this feature revolves around the adventures of Johnathan Green, a cartographer (an individual who composes maps) portrayed by Jason Flemyng as he traverses the deepest, darkest regions of Europe. He stumbles comedically into unchartered territory, the old country, Transylvania. An area not surprisingly draped in folklore and mysticism controlled by religious dogma and doctrine enveloped by an eons old curse. He soon finds himself embroiled in intrigue, mystery and supernatural forces far beyond his comprehension.
Although the dubbing is beyond obvious at times (this puts off the wife, but not me I thrive on this stuff) the story gallops along at a great pace showcasing idyllic locales and ‘simple’ natives untouched by the ravages of industrialization and the dawn of a new century.
An explosion of imagination, vivid imagery and overall charm keeps the interest in much the same vein as the recent Gilliam Brothers Grimm adaption and I’ll hasten to mention a slew of Chinese martial arts ghost story affairs. Although fantastical elements/themes veer headlong into Gothic and macabre territories often (bringing to mind Pinewood Studios vampire themed Hammer creations) keeping this only a hair away from the horror realm. Around the forty-eight-minute mark is when the movie tips headlong into darker realms. Seamlessly blending nightmare images from the Barker-esque literary arena with Del Toro like medieval underworld creations, ala Pan’s Labyrinth, is a scene that truly stands out, worthy of the price of admission alone. A remarkably executed startling FX extravaganza the likes of which I haven’t witnessed in many a year of movie watching experience, and my senses have consumed more than their recommended allotment of bizarre celluloid.
Complete with chalk circles, high flying witches, dashes of comedy, Charles Dance (who pops up when you least expect him to), powdered wigs and plasma obsessed immortals this is a film that wickedly sports many a diverse genre element the likes of which you might not see again in a long while.
Well worth a peek if like me you often find difficulty in locating movies tainted by fantasy themes, comedic elements and eye opening visuals. Be prepared for a fascinating sojourn at the very least, leave your assumptions at the concession stand.
Animal (2014) USA
Director – Brett Simmons
Writer – Thommy Hutson, Catherine Trillo
Runtime – 86 minutes
Chiller Films, Flower Films (II), Synthetic Cinema International
Whoa – a trailer on IMDB
Finally, a movie that promotes bag packs being worn the correct way. Kudos, I’m sure a huge percentage of parents with monstrous medical bills due to misaligned discs in the vertebra will appreciate this. Regarding the film, the premise is about as ground breaking as an infant’s pacifier, kids in the woods being chased by a monster and the cell won’t get reception (blah, blah, blah, so on and so forth) However, I couldn’t help but appreciate Animal as it progressed for several reasons, chief among them the likeness of the main character, Elizabeth Gilles, to a much younger Gillian Anderson (X-Files), blood spattered cleavage (and why not), effective scenes of tension, the applause worthy creature construction/FX and plentiful chunky crimson make up effects.
The collective of teens (aka. flossing utensils for the movies antagonist) were more likable than most spoiled brats traipsing their way through unchartered terrain, relatable and down to earth. Although there were moments when the pacing was dull, Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Bio-Dome) performance was barely more acceptable than a cardboard cutout, the film perked up from out of nowhere following an unpredictable baseball bat incident. From that moment on the film soared with adrenaline up until its commendable climax.
In conclusion, this was surprisingly better produced than most creature features, doesn’t scrimp on tension, kills and is deserved of a view although I must mention that it loses several points as the premise is undoubtedly similar to John Gulager’s (Project Greenlight’s) Feast.
Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991) USA
Director – Dean Tschetter
Writer – Tom Tully (story), Dean Tschetter (screenplay)
Runtime – 89 minutes
Saratoga Film Corporation
This leaves me more curious than a fuzzy feline perched next to a large container of cow juice
The cover art (shown above) yanked me towards this feature. Somewhat reminiscent of Frankenhooker, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and other cult gems from the late eighties and early nineties it promises camp and silliness in equal measure. what else could one possibly presume when the cover suggests a giant stripper carving up a car with a chainsaw. This presumption in fact isn’t far from the truth as the film plays out much like a buddy cop movie with a quirky Naked Gun feel and a decidedly Troma vibe.
Sweeney teases his partner, Joe, relentlessly. Often resorting to placing bets on the contents of his stomach at particularly grisly crime scenes. Joe meanwhile suffers from anxiety, the fallout of ED leading to divorce, other issues (as his partner so often loves to attest) also resulting from a lengthy serial killer investigation and having to suffer an insufferable dick for a co-worker.
Our mysterious killer employs the use of obnoxious equipment to do away with his victims and in true Naked Gun fashion a generator, carted around in a Radio Flyer styled cart, to power said (often everyday but inventive) tools. To keep the authorities on their toes, and the intrigue level high, hieroglyphic notes, messages that read like linear notes from a black metal album, are left inside each victim.
Meanwhile, we learn of Sweeney’s wife, a voice box conversing chain-smoker who frequents therapy sessions that recall Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye but on another level entirely. “Don’t be discouraged Mrs. Birdwell we have alternate techniques for difficult cases such as yours.” Don’t worry this side story makes sense as the movie progresses.
With numerous other nods to Police Squad/Hot Shots observation style humor, including a parody on Chinatown including belly dancers, a gourmet restaurant with roller-skating waitresses and camels wandering the streets (in Pittsburgh – WTF?) BPiP – an obvious abbreviation – keeps its humor level high and an enjoyable pace.
“I’m gonna’ saw this bitches’ face off and throw it to you like a frisbee”.
And although the film can’t be taken seriously inventive plot twists, gallows humor, a cheesy over theatrical soundtrack and often hilarious dialogue transpires into a feature that’s fun to watch even if silliness isn’t typically your go-to location within the genre.
Did I mention that renowned adult film starlet Veronica Hart has a starring role and that Tom –Day of the Dead –Savini (viscera ripping mastermind) ensured that the FX were top notch? My bad. Often teasing, the kill scenes are intentionally vague but always pungent with amusing undertones much like the prevalent theme throughout the film.
A modern-day homage to (the Godfather of Gore) Hershell Gordon Lewis and his ground-breaking ‘gore-met’ (see what I did there?) opus Blood Feast? Perhaps, but it can be argued that this is intentionally comedic in nature rather than merely laughable. Regardless BPiP remains an underrated gem, one that I’m glad I took the time to unearth (I did it again!)
Karate Kill (2016) USA
Director/ Writer – Kurando Mitsutake
Runtime – 89 minutes
Dark Cuts; Mamezo Pictures – K.K. Torin
Did he just punch a broad in the face? This looks rather risqué.
Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! My internet sucks royal ass. However, short of illegally downloading this feature (a factor which is irrevocably killing the Indy scene), I shall endeavor to do whatever it takes to get my musings for this feature off the ground.
At long last the buffering is half way decent and I’m a little less pissed than in the last hour in which I tried numerous times without success to make it past the five-minute mark. Fingers crossed…
Kenji, played by Hayate, is on a mission, his only remaining immediate family member left, his sister “Mayumi “, is missing. His search spans continents and leads him to the seediest locales in Little Tokyo, LA. and a market catering to those with a penchant for witnessing atrocities committed on those wanting only a shot at what Hollywood is known for the world over – stardom. “But what are the odds if you got no visa and speak no English?” (downright abysmal I would say). Kenji soon learns of a cult type militia outfit, Capital Messiah, responsible for producing said repugnant video output with especial glee and a decadent disrespect for life. In a race against time Kenji finds himself with a destination in mind and an especially hazardous quest to fulfill if he’s to rescue his sister from the clutches of the cult and its leader Vandenski, portrayed convincingly by Kirk Geiger, who is a true definition of a madman. I’d warrant a guess and say that he probably doesn’t wear a seatbelt, or use a napkin when he eats at Hardees, he’s just that rebellious.
Enough with the vague (mostly spoiler free) synopsis, how does the film play out, when it eventually stopped buffering every three f-n’ minutes?
To be fair the introduction isn’t that fantastic. The backstory is explained well without bombarding the viewer with too many details, the opening fight scene however, with nods to brutality rarely seen in the genre, left a little to be desired. But when K.K progressed the quality and choreography catapults several notches into a marvelous flying fists and spraying crimson spectacle worthy of praise.
The antagonists are evil twisted bastards, instantly sparking feelings of revulsion hopefully not familiarity in the viewer, recalling similar characters from Hobo with a Shotgun played gloriously over the top with a zest for that crazed, everything and anything goes, attitude that comes by way of snorting an over-abundance of nose candy.
One of many appreciative details that surprised me throughout the film were the inventive camera angles utilized, never to an overkill effect but often enough for the viewer to realize that this isn’t your ‘common garden’ variety martial arts film, and K.K most certainly is not! Another factor that intrigued me was the exploration and development of Kenji’s fighting technique in relation to training for future assailants using firearms.
I’m a regular visitor to this area of cinema (a little behind admittedly due to schedule constraints) and rarely have I seen brutality used to such a degree and so effectively. The Raid; Redemption is noted for this, highly recommended, and a handful of others but many, though very impressive, don’t boast the delightful grindhouse vibe that Karate Killer sports, with delightful (odd choice of word in this context) nods to snuff and exploitation genres. K.K also isn’t at all bashful when it comes to pushing the envelope of decency (are you intrigued yet?). Where many features might shy away from displaying flesh or scenes ripe in depravity K.K excels eliciting a grin from yours truly and even a few moments of child-like glee and whoops and hollers if truth be told. Because of this and its overall feel I can see this being a huge hit in a festival/convention type atmosphere, it was recently showcased at Texas Frightmare weekend.
Karate Killer has many similarities (to another feature I hold in high regard) Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102293/). Both reside comfortably in the niche end of the martial arts spectrum. A location drenched in crimson arterial spray, blanketed by shards of bone and pungent with the unmistakable aroma of vengeance. Karate Killer to my knowledge however, has no relation to Manga, or an origin in the pages of an adult themed comic book unlike Ricky.
It would be here that I would normally mention the notable style of Kurando Mitsutake, the writer/director, and the ways in which he has made an impact on scene. However, I’ve neglected to do my homework. Gun Woman remains a film on my ‘must watch’ list (especially after viewing this) and I haven’t taken the time to read up on other’s thoughts and/or notes. After viewing and thoroughly enjoying Karate Killer I am without reservation in my recommendation. Whereas many before have attempted melding several genres Kurando Mitsutake has succeeded. Karate Killer is sans the silliness and absurdity often associated with grindhouse features utilizing scenes of hand to hand combat as an audience draw. It delivers a relatable storyline, although I’m not sure I would ‘take on’ a clan of crazies toting an alarming ballistics arsenal, and striking characters. But, perhaps, best of all the storyline doesn’t follow a predictable path, sure it teases the direction but then veers wildly away at the last second.
Sure, Karate Kill doesn’t boast the budget of Kung Fu Killer (another great genre film featuring the amazing talents of Donny Yen) but it is just as, if not more so, enthralling, near mesmerizing, in its inventiveness and overall appeal.
This is the film that fans of the genre, hoping for a little more ‘darkness’, have been pining for and then some.
Karate Killer will be released on Blu ray, DVD and VOD July 18th (a week after my birthday – wink, wink, nudge, nudge) bookmark the date as this could well sell out.
My apologies I appear to have gotten a tad excited with a few of my reviews, this was designed to be short and concise but then this is me and I tend to waffle on.
Until next time
-Cult (@cultmetalflix on twitter)