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Monthly Archives: November 2012

9 Lives of a Wet Pussy (1976): Driller Thriller

photo credit: Oregon State University

9 Lives of a Wet Pussy (Abel Ferrara, 1976)

[note: review originally published 1Dec2008]

 

photo credit: whosdatedwho.com

“It’s an art film… a SWEDISH art film.”

One of my favorite parts of being a film buff is finding those early movies that directors would love to disown once they get more famous. Ferrara, who would become an underground sensation a few years later with Driller Killer, helmed his first feature in 1976, a basement-budget porn outing called 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy. It has been called the most boring porn film ever made, probably because even while Ferrara was trying to churn out porn to make a quick buck, he couldn’t stop himself from adding the art-film structure and substance that would propel him to the status of cult legend.

 

photo credit: wildhotels.tumblr.com

“I’m not so sure about the sex thing, but I got this art-film expression down!”

The film follows the exploits of Pauline (Pauline LaMonde in her only film role), as related by her in letters to Gypsy (Dominique Santos who, again, never acted in anything else). As the film progresses, the exploits get wilder and wilder, including a very odd fantasy flashback involving Pauline’s mother, grandmother, and grandfather.

Porn films have a pretty simple structure; there’s a loose framing mechanism surrounding the sex scenes. This is, in general, why porn doesn’t work as film; no one thinks about putting much into the frame. Such is the case here, which I have to say kind of surprised me; Ferrara is well-known for coming up with great story ideas, however the end result turns out. As well, watching this makes it pretty obvious why neither LaMonde nor Santos ended up a star; both of them sound as if they’re sitting through a boring college class instead of getting it on with anyone and everyone (or reading about it). It’s possible that this was intentional, of course; it would certainly fit in with the world-weary attitude of the characters in Driller Killer, and would have certainly been a counterpoint to the porn films of its day (Emmanuelle had come out two years earlier, as a reference), but if so, it’s one of those clever Ferrara ideas that didn’t pan out. (It should be noted that other directors have taken this tack as well, most recently, to my knowledge, Michael Winterbottom in 9 Songs; I’ve never seen it actually work.)

photo credit: imcdb.org

There’s not really much footage I can show you containing characters. So here’s a Rolls-Royce.

Worth seeing for its archival value if you’re a Ferrara nut. Otherwise, you can avoid it. *

Bloodlust Zombies (2011): Not Nearly As Bad As You’ve Heard

Bloodlust Zombies (Dan Lantz, 2011)

photo credit: IMDB

Walk softly and carry a big axe.

 

I watched five movies yesterday. (Actually, five and a half, since I finished one I had started previously as well.) And I am willing to say right up front that the reason Bloodlust Zombies was, by a nose, my favorite of the bunch has to do with the exact combination of the movies I watched—because I am willing to grant this movie’s vociferous, and scathing, critics pretty much every bad thing they say about it, but in every case—every single one—I watch a much more widely-praised movie that did it worse than this one did. So, yeah, in the canon of bad—and this is a movie I decided to watch because (thanks to the wonderful Google Chrome Netflix Queue Sorter plug-in, which is in and of itself worth switching to Chrome for your primary browser if you’re a Netflix user) I sorted my queue on star + average rating and then chose something in the bottom five, which I do on occasion just for grins—this was listed as the third-lowest film in my queue. (I didn’t have the stomach for The Dead Undead, which is #1, and I’m saving #2, Bloodlust!, for watching with my infant son, who seems to be more attracted to black and white movies than color when he’s up all night.) And every one of those other movies that did something worse? They were higher up—in come cases, a lot higher up.

photo credit: horrornews.com

“No, I get to keep the gun, because you are far too distracted by Alexis popping out of her shirt.”

Plot: a high-security chemical research facility has just developed a hot new drug with military applications. There’s a spill, of course, and the facility is locked down, trapping a handful of employees inside. This chemical, naturally, transforms those it comes into contact with into ravening, blood-hungry zombie-like creatures (this is a rage movie, not a zombie movie, but, you know, six of one…), setting up the usual survive-the-night scenario.

Yes, I will give you pretty much everything bad you say about this movie. Its script? Terrible—but Red State‘s is far, far worse (and I was much more okay with the talky portions here, which at least featured snappy characters—like everyone else I will single out Lauren Todd as the movie’s best character AND best actor). The acting is crap? True—but everyone in this movie gives an Oscar-worthy performance compared to those I was exposed to in Año Bisiesto, which also covers the “the lighting is terrible”, and “the sound design is terrible”. Soundtrack woes? Man, you’ve gotta watch Baby Shower. I grant you, the soundtrack problems are only in one scene, but when you get there, you will laugh your cojones off. Trust me on this.

photo credit: Wreckhouse Magazine

“Don’t even THINK about judging until you’ve tried some yourself. Delicious!”

And, when it comes right down to it, let’s face it—you’re not watching a horror movie starring porn chanteuse Alexis Texas because you’re actually expecting a quality horror film. And from that perspective, well, this movie is so chock-full of hotties that you’ll think you’re in a strip club. (And if you had any preconceptions about this movie being serious horror, and they don’t go away in the scene where Darren [The Happening‘s Adam Danoff] is confronted by, in his words, “okay… random naked chick walking towards me…”, then you, sir, are most definitely in the wrong place.) When the porn star who gets top billing is only the third-hottest woman in the movie, you have to at least give mad props to the casting director. Am I wrong?

Go into it expecting stupid fun, and that is exactly what you will find. **

 

Black Moon (1934): Oh, I’ll Close This Up for You Reeeeeeeeeeeeal Good, Massa!

Black Moon (Roy William Neill, 1934)

[note: review originally published 1Dec08]

 

It looks so innocuous. IT LIES.

When I watch pre-code movies, I have a tendency to think in remake; I imagine how the movie would turn out were it made in today’s climate, with the advances in filmmaking technique we’ve seen in the last seventy-five years. That’s quite an impossibility for Black Moon, Roy William Neill’s racially insensitive (to put it mildly) voodoo drama, but man, a modern interpretation would make the almost incomprehensible last twenty minutes scads better. Neill (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man), a potboiler director who never failed to play to the lowest common denominator, was no artiste when it came to camerawork, and nowhere does this show more than during the movie’s extended climax; rather than giving us any one piece of the story, we get a fragment, then a camera fade, then a different fragment, then another camera fade… you get the idea. Seeing a bit more of, well, anything, and a couple of jump cuts would have really helped this. That said, when one plays to the lowest common denominator as successfully as Neill did during his almost thirty years in film (he started in the silents in 1917 and worked straight up until his death in 1946), one does have a tendency to make films that are at least watchable, if not enjoyable.

The young-and-beautiful phenomenon is not limited to modern-day slasher films.

Juanita Lane (potboiler ingenue Dorothy Burgess) was born in the West Indies, but has relocated to New York for school, and along the way met and married the dashing financier Stephen (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre‘s Jack Holt). But the call of the tropics is never far from her, and when Stephen heads out for a business trip, Juanita and their daughter Nancy (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer‘s Cora Sue Collins) head for the islands. Stephen persuades his secretary Gail (Fay Wray) to accompany them. When Juanita starts getting weird, Gail takes over as Nancy’s de facto nanny and sends a frantic telegram to Stephen to come save his family. But will he be too late?

“I don’t know who’s up there, but put down the bird’s nest soup and back away slowly!”

 

The first half-hour or so is full of all sorts of thirties melodrama that some how plays better than melodramatic films made after World War II; there’s something harmless about it all, if a little unsettling at times (one has to wonder about Stephen and Nancy’s relationship). A really kind of offensive character named Lunch is introduced as Stephen heads down to the island. Lunch is a black guy from Atlanta who works for the Perez family (Juanita’s uncle and the owner of the plantation that employs a number of native workers); Lunch is in love with one of the island girls, whom he calls a “monkey chaser”. Lunch explains the term, but I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself. Like I said, this is not a movie that would play well if remade today. But then Neill goes into all-fade-out-all-the-time mode, and it makes what should have been a fast-paced, dramatic conclusion into something, well, not. Instead, the movie slows to a snail’s pace just as the action really heats up; a confusing choice, to say the least. Perhaps Neill wanted to make his movie, which was even shorter by the standards of the thirties than it would be considered today, seem longer? No idea.

So when it comes right down to it, Neill’s arguably least-remembered film has something that will get under the skin of almost anyone who watches it. If you’re not offended by the subject matter or its treatment, you’ll be offended by the filmmaking techniques (and god help you if you find both unworkable). Yet still there is something about it that stops the viewer from simply turning it off. The dedicated film buff will see the seeds of a number of more recent drama/horror pictures here (notably I Walked with a Zombie and Fritz Leiber’s remarkable Conjure Wife), while those who are just looking for a way to kill an hour and a half will find it not the best movie they’ve ever seen, and probably not even the best movie they’ve seen this month, but not the worst, either. ** ½

 

Dying (2003): Whatever, Michael!

Michael A. Arnzen, Dying (Tachyon Publications, 2003)

 

…and when you’re done, the intestines can double as festive party streamers!

Just after I finished Michael Arnzen’s Dying, a chapbook-sized spoof of Martha Stewart’s Living, I was mildly amused by it. It’s solid writing—Arnzen obviously knows his way around a poem—but while you can craft till the cows come home, if you don’t have the art, you’ll never get anywhere in the poetry biz. And there wasn’t anything that really crackled in the words here. They were good, but they were nothing special.

Thirty minutes later, I thought about some phrase or another Arnzen had used in one of these poems and chuckled a bit.

Another hour passed, and something else struck me, and I got an attack of the giggles.

From there, it turned into the infamous giggle loop, and by the end of the night I was in hysterics. I’d finally figured out what Arnzen was doing here, and it’s hilarious. At the risk of being a spoiler, what I had missed the first time around was Arnzen’s absolutely deadpan lampooning of Martha Stewart’s prose style (which she mirrors so effortlessly in her speech, something that never fails to amaze me), which is so spot-on it’s almost frightening. And the more I thought about it, the funnier it got. I went from thinking “this is okay, I’d read it again” to “this is a work of minor brilliance,” and I’m still at the latter point. This was, unfortunately, a limited chapbook, put out a decade ago and most likely long out of print now, but if you stumble upon a copy at your local reseller of the finer volumes, grab it like it’s a writhing, nubile Medusa who’s been in prison for the past five years and hasn’t so much as smelled a man and hold on for dear life. It’s goooooooooood. ****

The Gateway Meat (2008): Tastes Like… Bacon!

The Gateway Meat (Ron DeCaro, 2008)

[note: review originally published 29Nov2008]

photo credit: wipfilms.net

Yeah, this is usually how clowns who run into me look after I’m done with them, too.

The Gateway Meat, a movie so obscure it hasn’t even found its way to IMDB yet [ed. note: this has since been rectified. As I write this, it even has 28 votes!], has been getting a lot of press at underground horror sites, and it’s overwhelmingly positive. Horror Society says “Ron [director Ron DeCaro] has delighted us with… the final episode of the Brightside Trilogy” and goes on to exclaim over the gore effects. (“If anyone can dish out the gore with as much realism and quantity as Ron can, then let me shake their hand!” Mr. Reviewer, meet Mr. Iskanov.) FearZone calls it “easily one of the best and one of the most disturbing, vicious, unrelenting, and brutal indie films I’ve ever seen.” I have to say, I wouldn’t go quite that far. I can’t argue with the gore factor– DeCaro is certainly working on the same level of special effects as Iskanov, Hino, and Mous before him– but the rest of the movie leaves something to be desired.

photo credit: flick-fanatic.blogspot.com

Meet Marcus. (Hi, Marcus!) Marcus is a very nice guy who likes to slaughter humans in order to try and rip portals.

The plot: a family of Satanists, headed by Marcus (DeCaro), move into the house of Marcus’ recently-deceased father. Dad, it seems, was also a Satanist, and was trying to open a portal to hell. Marcus wants to carry on the family business, so he’s selling his condo, which he allows his friend the Brightvale Butcher to look after and keep clean for when the real estate agent shows it. (Do you see the obvious problem with this idea?) Marcus becomes more and more obsessed with the portal, to the point of neglecting his familial obligations, which involve teaching his daughter (played by DeCaro’s own daughter) to torture, kill, etc. You know what they say– the family that slays together stays together. In any case, Marcus is convinced that a local mentally-challenged man named Bahtoe can open the portal. (One of the best lines in the movie comes from the Brightvale Butcher, who snorts, “this guy can rip portals?”) The problem for Marcus is figuring out exactly how to get Bahtoe to open the portal.

Note that I pieced all this together after a couple of hours’ worth of reflection after I watched the movie, and I did have to resort to the FearZone and Horror Society reviews to get a few pieces to fall into place. This is the final installment of a trilogy, it seems, and Horror Society is right when they say this will probably be disjointed if you haven’t seen the two shorts that precede it. I may have to track them down and watch this again afterwards to see if it makes more sense that way.

photo credit: horrorunlimited.blogspot.com

See? It really IS only a movie!

The movie’s strong point is obvious: the gore. The guys who did the effects for August Underground are back, and bloodier than ever. I’m not sure it is (as another site proclaims) one of the ten goriest films ever made, but if you limit yourself to just North America, yeah, probably. And the gore effects are certainly realistic enough (as I said previously, on a par with… etc.). In that respect, it stands head and shoulders over a number of the microbudget American gore flicks I’ve seen recently.

Its weak points are a bit more problematic. A lot of sites have talked about how good the acting in this movie is. I’m not sure if we saw the same movie. The obvious examples are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who look more like what they are (friends of the director having a fine time being in the movie) than what they should be (terrified young people about to lose their lives in horrible ways). DeCaro does a pretty good job as Marcus; I do get the change his character goes through as the movie progresses, but the other decent acting jobs are either static characters (the Brightvale Butcher, who stands as Marcus’ foil in that he is simply and irredeemably evil) or minor characters (Marcus’ father, seen in flashback). The movie is also paced more like a conventional thriller than a gore film; gore films, since the gore is really the star, we need to have body parts flying thick and fast. It’s admirable that DeCaro wanted to spend time on Marcus’ character development, but the end result is that the movie does tend to lag in places, especially towards the beginning.

It’s a promising start to Ron DeCaro’s career; there’s nothing wrong here that can’t be fixed by experience. Not for the weak of heart– or stomach– but interesting, in a revolting sort of way. ** ½

photo credit: spotlighttoronto.com

This photo is of a completely different kind of Gateway Meat. But I felt the need to include it anyway.

BreadCrumbs (2011): In Which Your Humble Narrator Attempts to Avoid Making Any Morning Wood Jokes

BreadCrumbs (Mike Nichols, 2011)

 

photo credit: df-movies.blogspot.com

A nice walk in the woods. With porn.

BreadCrumbs, the second directorial effort from horror documentary producer Nichols (Halloween: The Shape of Horror, His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th), has met with vituperation from just about every quarter. As I write this on October 25, 2012, the movie’s IMDB rating is a grisly 3.2, and its Rotten Tomatoes rating is 14%. As is often the case with movies like this, I’m really not getting the source of the hate; this is another run-of-the-mill slasher film, nothing terribly out of the ordinary, well-paced and a pretty good time if that’s what you’re in the mood for. To attack a slasher film, especially one made this late in the game, for being derivative is akin to attacking Mitt Romney for being a Republican; you may be able to find other angles of attack that have more substance, but if you choose the most obvious, that says more about the reviewer than it does the film.

photo credit: coldfusionvideo.com

Two of the nicest kids who will ever try to kill you. Really!

Plot: a low-budget porn film production company rants a secluded house in the woods to film a movie. (Hey, give them a break, at least it’s on location!) On the way there, they almost literally run into Patti (The Melancholy Fantastic‘s Amy Crowdis, a production designer on much bigger-budget films like The Messenger) and her brother Henry (House of Dust‘s Dan Shaked in his first feature appearance), who seem to be lost in the woods. Henry’s a bit slow, and Patti’s a bit spacey, which lends the encounter a very weird vibe. In any case, the crew gets where they’re going, sets up shop, and starts filming before they encounter the brother-and-sister duo again—this time in much deadlier circumstances.

photo credit: horrornews.com

Wait… YOU guys are going to try and make a porn film? No one told me this was a comedy!

I don’t think it can be considered a spoiler, given that the promotional materials (explicitly) and the movie’s tagline (implicitly) state that this is a serial-killer take on the Hansel and Gretel tale. (In fact, the film’s title in the German market is The Hansel and Gretel Massacre.) I’m okay with that, and I’m okay with using adult actors to portray Hansel and Gretel—you get that weird vibe from the initial encounter throughout the movie because of it, plus you don’t have to deal with activist groups getting all up in arms on you because you’re using child actors as murderers (or in a film that has anything, no matter how non-explicit, to do with the porn industry). I am willing to admit that, yes, I am helped along in this by Amy Crowdis being jaw-dropping hot—though in the holy-cow-gorgeous department, in this film, she’s got a serious run for her money from Shira Weitz, who plays the porn crew’s production assistant, Nicole. But that’s not entirely it. Shaked does Henry very well, as long as you pick up on the fact that he’s supposed to be slow early on, and Henry ended up being my favorite character in the movie because of it. The Hansel and Gretel act are the best actors here, though Marianne Hagan, the female lead in the film, is also not bad at what she does (and one can blame the script for the one huge stupid decision her character makes in the film).

I’m also willing to cut it some slack because Nichols—no relation to the Mike Nichols behind such films as The Graduate, by the way—knows his way around a camera, and some of the shots in this movie are stunning. The very last shot, with one character (saying who would be a spoiler) disappearing behind a hill in stutter-cam, is alone worth the price of admission; in fact, that whole last sequence is pretty solid.

photo credit: 1337x.org

One more picture of Amy Crowdis. BECAUSE I CAN.

Your mileage may vary. Judging by the low ratings one finds for the film everywhere one looks, it probably will. But in my estimation, this movie is not nearly as awful as it’s currently made out to be. ** ½

 

/livingroom (2002): Turn Off the TV, Ma, Damion’s Whispering

Damion Romero, /livingroom (Banned Productions, 2002)

[note: review originally published Apr2005]

 

photo credit: poweracoustics.org

It looks so unassuming.

I really can’t say enough good things about ex-Speculum Fight frontman Damion Romero. Romero has taken the world of deep-ambient field recording and made it something even more wonderful than it usually is. On /livingroom, according to the liner notes, the music was generated by “…the sound of the floor within the space, creating a large-scale acoustic feedback circuit….” No, it doesn’t sound all that interesting, and to be honest it does pale in comparison to hearing Romero do this sort of thing live (if you ever get a chance to see him perform, run, do not walk), where you get the full effect of the frequencies generated. But /livingroom is an amazing experience for all that, a piece of low-key, almost subsonic ambient that shifts and moves (as, one assumes, people moved around the space and vibrated the floorboards). Some of you will find this exceptionally good stuff to fall asleep to. Others will find its subtle shifts and changes excellent for active listening. Others will find it makes excellent background music for meditation, work, or what have you. What I can’t imagine anyone doing, however, is not liking it.

The only reason it gets four and a half stars instead of five is that I wished it, like the set he performed at No Fun Fest, had been considerably longer. **** ½