Bartender, get me another Tarkovsky. Stronger, this time. For those of you sighing heavily, I promise I’ll get back to watching the trash Hellraiser sequels soon.
I gave my whole Tarkovsky spiel in my write up on his 1972 introspective sci-fi film, Solaris. After having missed Stalker at my local independent theater, I was disheartened that I wouldn’t get to see it, especially after one of my co-workers saw it and really enjoyed it. But alas, you can always count on the Criterion Collection to re-release old school art films for way too much money, and a couple weeks ago, they did just that. Talking about the value of films and how much they should cost is a debate for another day. Let’s just get to the Russian arthouse weirdness.
Stalker takes place in a strange world. Is it post-apocalyptic? Perhaps. Nothing grows in the non-specific country in which Stalker takes place. Buildings are ruined, and the earth is cracked beneath everyone’s feet. Is it a dystopian hyper-industrial future? There’s more evidence of this, with the militaristic police that seem to be patrolling every street corner and every back alley. Chemical factories and power plants make up the skyline. Whatever the case, the world of Stalker is a funereal one. Three men meet in a bar. We do not know their names, only their professions. The Professor, the Writer, and the Stalker, a man trained to bypass the military quarantine surrounding a mysterious area of lush greenery simply known as the Zone. These men are prepared to risk their lives for their mission into the Zone, as legend has it that within the Zone lies a room that can immediately grant the wishes of anyone who enters.
Editor’s Note: I started writing this out of pure unadulterated passion when I got home after watching this. After sleeping it off, I continued writing it in a much more calm, cool, and collected fashion. I decided to keep the bits I wrote the night of.
I’m writing this while sipping on a pilsner and riding out a sugar high from too many Mars bar bites. My friends and I made an evening out of this. We assembled with snacks and whiskey and craft beer and watched one of the worst received movies this year. We do this often, bad movie nights, but this feels special. It’s a bittersweet feeling, making a ritual out of consuming somebody else’s art to purposefully make fun of it.
Wait, did I just call The Bye Bye Man art? Fuck me. I’d like to formally apologize to the entirety of human arts and culture. (more…)
Practical effects hold a very special place in my heart. Among my first horror movie experiences were John Carpenter’s The Thing, the 80’s remake of The Fly (mmmm, Jeff Goldblum), and The Evil Dead, and their outstanding effects work have eaten their way into my brain and have never left. I’m a firm believer that when practical and make-up effects are done right, they surpass anything you can do with a computer and a green screen.
The Void is a Canadian (woo!) body horror/ cosmic horror/ throwback horror flick from Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who are responsible for the purposefully-bad movies Manborg and Father’s Day. They know their way around ’80s schlock and are adept at creating throwbacks and homages to the movies and scenes they love.
This movie takes place in an unnamed small rural town, where local cop Daniel comes across a bloody man stumbling through the country roads while on patrol. After bringing him to the local, semi-defunct hospital, Daniel’s problems start multiplying like deranged rabbits. A pregnant teenager coming to the end of her term in the waiting room. Two manic men brandishing guns storm into the hospital looking to kill the man Daniel just brought in, spewing nonsense about monsters and occult magic. Multiple hooded figures, possibly cultists, begin surrounding the hospital en masse, clearly waiting for something. Pretty soon, one of the hospital’s nurses begins acting completely deranged, killing a bedridden patient and then clipping her skin face off before erupting into the bubbling bulbous monstrosity of flesh, appendages, and orifices.
And then things get bad.
We’re just burning through Criterion movies here like the entry-level-hipster-self-proclaimed-film-buffs we are! Out of all of the films that sit on the Criterion shelf at movie stores, The one I’ve looked at more than any other has got to be The Complete Lady Snowblood. The simple elegance of the title alone was enough to hook me, and once I found out that Meiko Kaji starred as the titular assassin, I was sold. She was the best part of Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and I was really interested to see what she could do in a less sleazy film. For those of you who read this blog just for the bad movies, I promise I’ll get back to Hellraiser soon.
Lady Snowblood (Shurayuki-hime) follows Yuki, a young woman raised from birth to be an assassin and carry out a vendetta against the leaders of a small gang in 1800s Japan. These ne’er-do-wells are responsible for killing Yuki’s father and raping her mother before her birth. When Yuki’s mother attempts to get her own revenge, she is imprisoned for life and decides to have a baby that can grow up to exact her revenge.
Now 20-something years old, Yuki prowls the countryside piecing together whatever information she can to track down those responsible for devastating her family, using her umbrella sheathed katana to doll out bloody justice whenever she sees fit.
Let’s take a break from the Hellraiser series. No matter how much I might like some of those movies, most of them aren’t great. Barring the first, they aren’t really achievements in cinema. I’ve recently picked up a bunch of DVDs and Blu-Rays on clearance (rest in peace, HMV) and I really feel like I need to start working my way through them. So, I decided to start with one of the most highly praised films of all time.
City of God (Cidade de Deus in Brazilian Portugese) is a Brazilian (duh) crime drama set in the titular favela (rough slang for a lower class district or slum) of Rio de Janeiro that follows a large ensemble cast of characters across multiple decades of their lives. While they all grow up impoverished, their lives take different turns as they navigate the gang, drug, and violence filled City of God, a place where children are killed in the streets and you rarely make it past the age of 30 without being riddled full of bullet holes first.
While City of God follows the stories of over five main characters, the protagonist and antagonist that draw a through-line from one end of the story to the other are Rocket and Li’l Zé. Both starting the story as young kids who see the “glamorous” life of local low level street thugs, one develops a creative passion and becomes enamored with photography and journalism while the other indulges a thirst for power and blood that only violent crime can provide him. (more…)