Monday, August 31, 2009

Who Slew Halloween 2?

The biggest kill of Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 is the franchise.

I walked out of this thinking: I don't want to see another fuckin Halloween film as long as I fucking live. Or die.

I thought Zombie's first Halloween was pitiful. Well, it's endearing compared to this shit.

And I do use shit advisedly. This film deserves condemnation. And so does Dimension. They greenlit this turd. No wonder they're going to the wall. They've lost control of their material. Their first horror film, The Burning ('81), was fifty times better than this. Is that progress?

As this hulking bore was unspooling like a thick streamer of diarrhea, I had another thought: If a novice screenwriter had sent this script to an agent or studio, he would have been told to get the fuck out of town and come back in ten years when he'd learned how to fuckin write.

The writing here is virtually non-existent. There are no "characters", there is zero suspense, and the kills are so matter-of-fact and hard to see (thanks to the hysterical cutting), you could rate them PG-13.

I don't care who I offend, but Rob Zombie fuckin sucks as a horror director.

To be fair, The Devil's Rejects, which got by on pure adrenalin and viscera, is a very decent flick, but it's an aberration in Zombie's sad screen career.

House of 1000 Corpses is dumb, boring, hick shit, and both Halloween remakes are proof that he has no story sense and no passion left for the genre.

Good horror directors like Romero, Raimi and Carpenter were excited by ideas. Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, and the original Halloween, for example, told simple but engaging stories, and were alive with invention, suspense, and fresh technique.

Zombie gets decent budgets, gets carte blanche to do whatever the hell he wants, and he still turns out cinematic excrement that is impossible to flush from video shelves. It sits there like toilet seat smears that won't rub off.

As is obvious, this film made me really fuckin angry, especially in light of the fact that good horror like Grace, The Collector, Eden Lake, Dead Girl , and Sick Girl get next-to-no or zero cinematic exposure.

A big part of the problem are the studio suits who greenlight a stinker like this because they can't tell a prince from a bucket of toe pus. These people are running the industry. These people are fucking it to death until it becomes a moldy, stiff corpse.

What's he got to be so arrogant about?

Halloween 2, made by the goddamn sell-out Rob Zombie (Mr. Fuckin Horror, my ass!), who used to howl and pontificate about the pointlessness of remakes, is the personification of what's wrong with American studio horror.

In future, I now know what to expect from him. Crap. And what to do when another of his stinkers hits the mulitplex. Run in the opposite direction. Fast.

***

Believe it or not, there was an announcement today that the next Halloween will be in 3-D.

Whoopity-fuckin-do!

Will people pay ten bucks to watch someone take a dump right into their face?

The answer may be a depressing yes.

And finally, is there an antibiotic available that will purge a Zombie film from your system?

Yes.

Take one of these once a day for a week: Eden Lake, Combat Shock, I Stand Alone, Sheitan, The Shuttered Room, The Collector & Dead Girl.

Repeat if necessary.

At least the directors of these still give a shit.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fashion Doll Quarterly

If you're a doll devotee, you can not live without FDQ (Fashion Doll Quarterly), a magazine dedicated to the grace, sensuality, and extraordinary charisma of those born of plastic (and other birthing materials).

Each issue is swollen with stunning imagery and incredible creations.

The ethereal beauty above is the creative spawn of Lyn Raftis.

"I'm all about the lips," says Raftis in the Autumn 2009 issue. "Color should look like it's coming from the skin, not applied to the skin." She adds: "I want skin markings to look like real moles and freckles on real skin, not like spots of paint on resin."

This ad for Angelic Dreamz, a frequent port of call for me, is mesmirizing.

Some of the most polished doll photography is found within the pages of this magazine.

With her visible ball-joints, this brilliant creation is a delicious take on the Frankenstein legend, and possesses a strange vulnerability.

Photograph is by Mercy Neumark.

Naturally, the cover girls of the 'Vintage' issue are classic Barbie dolls; Barbie celebrates her fiftieth issue this year (and she doesn't look a day older than...)

Some of the stunning work of Alexandra Forbes to be found in this issue.

For me, dolls never lose their power and magic.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Films of Robert Hossein

The underrated, almost forgotten French director Robert Hossein (better known for acting in the Angelique films) made more than a dozen movies; three or four are quite exceptional.

The truly beautiful Marina Vlady...

...appeared in his first feature, The Wicked Go To Hell (Les Salauds Vonten Enfer, B&W, '56), an intense drama about two prison fugitives who take harbor in the home of an artist. After killing him, they get their comeuppance at the hands of the artist's lover (Vlady).

It's a wonderful, intense, twisty film.

So taken was Hossein with Vlady, he married her, although the marriage only lasted a few years.

One-of-a-kind French horror/erotic director Jean Rollin is a great admirer of Hossein also.

Although confined (mostly) to one location, Double Agents (Le Nuits Des Espions, '59) is a tense, fascinating thriller.

Set during WWII, two agents (Valady and Hossein) meet in a shack, and spend most of the movie feeling each other out and up (literally and figuratively). Suspicion fuels their rendezvous, and leads to an unexpected revelation. The real life couple have great chemistry on-screen, and the cinematography by Jacques Robin is very moody and thick with shadows.

I don't know why this occurred to me, but Roger Watkin's X-rated Midnight Heat ('83) shares tonal similarities with this film. It's about a killer (Jamie Gillis) holed up in a Times Square fleapit hotel. He encounters many people that night, but he must try to identify an assassin amongst them.

The level of paranoia is intoxicating, as it is in Hossein's Double Agents.




Vlady was out of the brilliantly titled Cemetery Without Crosses (Une Cord, Un Colt, '69), but the ravishing Michele Mercier was in. Although the producers initially wanted Bardot, Mercier was cast, and was catapulted to fame.

Hossein once again directs (beautifully) and toplines as a reluctant gun-for-hire enlisted by Mercier. There is very little dialog, but an abundance of emotion and tension.

The plot is not original, but the filmmaking is immaculate, and there is a solidity to its intentions that elevates it to Sergio Leone territory. It's interesting to note that Leone himself directed one scene.

Both Hossein and Mercier are incredible...

... and the weathered, time-beaten settings are so authentic they bleed.

Surely Enzo Castellari's masterpiece Keoma was influenced by this masterpiece.

Which was co-written by Dario Argento (although this is disputed by Hossein on the Anolis DVD).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inglourious Basterds and the Flying Fuck

While watching this, I thought: This feels like cinema. Although it's not terribly original, it IS cinema.

Then I thought: I can't believe I'm watching real cinema (with subtitles, long dialog scenes, and brutal violence) in a packed multiplex cinema. In a conservative California beach community.

The trailer totally misrepresents the film, so don't let it put you off.

It's a really solid, old-fashioned war drama with romance, action, suspense, and Lucio Fulci-level gore (scalpings). It's derivative, as is par for the course with Tarantino, but it did grab me.

It reminded me of Paul Verhoeven's exceptional Black Book ('06), another tightly structured WWII pic.

There are some surprises, and you walk away believing that cinema has not been murdered by Michael Bay-style video game offshoots.

I was very happy to hear that it was the weekend's biggest box office success.

There may not be A God, but there is definitely Hope out there.

It's refreshing to see a film by a guy who gives a flying fuck about good writing. Even if he does steal an awful lot.

In Praise of Hunchbacks



For admirers of the humble hunchback, and those who believe in the potential of the deformed to enrich dramatic conflict, Paul Naschy's Hunchback of the Morgue ('72) is a revelation.

At the age of seven, I watched Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and became giddy with fresh ambition.

"I don't want to be a policeman anymore," I told my mother as she pushed an iron across my father's white business shirt. "I want to be a hunchback."

"You want to be what?"

"A hunchback."

My mother shot the shirt with a burst of spray and shook her head in despair, already convinced that she'd had lost me to fantasy. "I don't want to hear stories about humpbacks or dwarfs or vampires anymore. Your sister's already scared enough."

I nodded. "But I can still be a hunchback, can't I?"

"I don't think so. Humpbacks are born that way. Be lucky you're not one of them."

That was the problem. I wasn't one of them. Although I wore a butt-ugly eye patch, my back was straight and my shoulders didn't lean. There was no sign of a hump, either. I'd have to find out how to grow one.

The years went by. I didn't learn how to grow a hump. I didn't grow one naturally, either.

What a fuckin failure I was.

I did, however, take my mother to task over her use of the word humpback.

We were riding in her Austin, a car close to vintage, when I re-opened the worm can: "Mum, you know how you say humpback?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You call a hunchback a humpback."

She kept her eyes on the road, even though she wanted to shoot daggers at me from them.

"Who do I call a humpback?"

"The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

"That's a movie."

"I know. But, you call him a humpback when he's really a hunchback."

My mother wasn't picking up my train of thought.

"Is this important? You'll be at school in a minute. Start thinking about that."

I nodded. "I just want you to call them hunchbacks. That's what their real names are."

"Alright then."

I smiled. Victory.

We pulled up at the school.

As I got out, mum leaned across to kiss me and said: "You wouldn't call what's on their backs a hunch, would you? So humpback is the right word."

Damn! And she always got the last word.

I have always loved hunchbacks and their humps.

Laughton's bell ringing hunchback brought tears to my ears. I couldn't watch it without turning into a snotty mess. I ached for that poor, unfortunate soul. I'd never been so moved to tears by anything.

I was seven. I was yet to experience the death of my grandparents.

A kid at school did get hit by a car and died. I didn't care about that bastard because he'd been stealing my lunch money for the entire duration of first grade.

When I was thirteen, I met a real hunchback. He was our class teacher, and he was a great guy. To save him any possible embarrassment, I'll call him Mr. H.

His hump was a beauty. It sat below his right shoulder and pulled his sweaters tight. It was often pointed at and indicated, but nobody ever spoke of it in Mr. H's presence. He was one of the greatest, most liked (by me) teachers at the school, a Catholic school for boys. More a gulag than a place of learning, it was inhabited by dozens of priests and brothers. On a daily basis, boys were beaten, slapped, kicked, and thrown across rooms into lockers and walls by these fine men of the cloth.

Mr. H was a lay teacher. He had no obvious religious affiliations and leaned not towards violence but slightly right when he walked the playground.

I was sure that his hump was the source of his kindness. I wasn't much for credibility in those days.

Mr. H had a strange habit. When he spoke, he would scratch his chest. When he stopped speaking, his hand would return to its side. When you asked him a question, the hand would wait. When he answered, the hand would go to work.

For reasons now unfathomable to me, I connected his hump to his hand. I theorized that speaking was difficult and stressful for a hunchback. Therefore, in order to alleviate the stress of speaking, his hump would command his hand to scratch his chest. That's how he kept his hump happy, and his body in balance.

Of course, none of this was ever proven.

But big, important stuff like God and Creation haven't been proven, either.

Mr. H got sick towards the end of the school year. The official story was he had heart problems. My story was his hump was playing up, and he had to get it fixed. What fixing a hump entailed I didn't know, but when Mr. H returned two days before school was out, I could have sworn his hump had shifted slightly left towards his spine.

I love this poster because it emphasizes the hump.

I am not an undying fan of Paul Naschy's work in the way I am undying for Jean Rollin. Many of Naschy's films leave me wanting or bored.

His Hunchback of the Morgue ('72) , however, leaves me wanting for nothing.

More than virtually any other Spanish horror film, it lives up to the grizzled, lurid promise of its poster art.

Naschy plays a hunchback who seems to orbit the local morgue. He's employed by a mad doctor...

... to do simple jobs like shelve corpses and clean the place. He makes himself even more useful when the doctor goes underground in order to carry out Frankenstein-like experiments on the recently deceased (murdered).

Naschy's 'Goto' character is in love with a young woman who spends most of her time on a slab. When the woman is tipped into a pool of acid, Naschy feels betrayed by the doctor.

Gradually, the feelings of betrayal boil into vendetta, and Naschy is instrumental in bringing on the doctor's destruction.

The plot is functional, but the film's tone and style are pure Gothic EuroPulp.

The subterranean chamber in which experiments are carried out on extinct humans is a stunning piece of art direction -- if not a great, marginally embellished actual location.

Scenes of Naschy carrying corpses through the foggy courtyard of a crumbling castle are to die for.

As is the score. There is a repeated romantic motif that may bring tears to your eyes, if not your soul.

Naschy's 'Goto' is a strange creation, part innocent, part willing accomplice of a misguided purpose.

Although he wears his hump proudly...

... and effects a winning gait, the decision to not sport facial deformity is a flawed one.

In one scene, he actually complains about his "ugly face". The scene doesn't work at all because he is not ugly at all.

What kept Naschy from going ugly? What prevented him from taking a route more hideous? A scar or ten would have helped immeasurably.

Still ,this is a wonderful but flawed Spanish horror classic.

Although it is rarely technically believable -- the day-for-night shooting is very iffy -- it harbors a power and exerts a stench of death and decay that would tickle a dead man's nasal hairs.

A stand-out scene involves Naschy almost bumping into a walking horror with two heads comprised of two locals who spent time in the mad doc's acid bath.

A bizarre scene in which real rodents race around the set on fire is later echoed in TF Mous' wonderful Men Behind The Sun.

The climax, which features a terrific monster, cements this as a masterwork.

The only edition to get of this is the Anolis special edition...

... which pays tribute to its greatness in a package that is part hardcover book, part DVD container.

It is stunning.

Almost half a dozen posters and fascinating text (in German and English) surround the enclosed DVD, which features a more than acceptable transfer from obviously rare, not so pristine film elements.

Call him a hunchback or call him a humpback. There's no debate to be had about the special place he holds in the world of fantastique cinema.