There’s something about tense dinner scenes in movies that just get to me.
The Invitation is a psychological thriller film directed by Karyn Kusama’s feature length follow-up to her incredibly divisive horror flick, Jennifer’s Body. The Invitation follows Will (Logan Marshall-Green), a man invited to the house he and his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) used to share for a dinner party with their old circle of friends whom they haven’t seen in years. Will is obviously very uncomfortable with being at a party held by his ex-wife, but things get a little stranger when the party guests begin noticing something is off with Eden and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman). The night slowly and slowly gets stranger and stranger as Eden and David behave more and more oddly, all while Will wrestles with the painful memories of his past that have begun resurfacing.
I’ve mentioned before how I work as a video store clerk, and any movie store worth it’s salt is sure to have a decently sized Criterion section. We’re lucky enough to have a sister section in our Criterion shelf dedicated to Arrow Video, a company that behaves like Criterion except they specialize in horror, sci-fi, exploitation, and cult films rather than pieces of high art. For example, films like Microwave Massacre, Society, and the entirety of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ catalogue of the macabre are available. Naturally, these films have flashy, explicit covers to grab your attention in any way possible, but out of all of them, I was drawn to a box set with a rather restrained and elegant cover. This turned out to be the Female Prisoner Scorpion Collection, a series of movies I knew nothing about at the time but after some quick Google-Fu, they shot right to the top of my to-watch list.
The Female Prisoner Scorpion films follow Nami Matsushima a.k.a Matsu the Scorpion (Meiko Kaji, later famous for Lady Snowblood), a convict in a Japanese all-women’s prison who was incarcerated for assaulting a police officer. Matsu fell in love with a narcotics officer named Sugimi who convinced her to work with him on a sting operation. Sugimi let the Yakuza catch Matsu, and let them have their way with her before using her rape as a distraction to help make his drug bust. Left bloodied, broken, and bruised, Matsu became hellbent on getting her revenge on Sugimi, and after a failed murder attempt against her former lover, she was locked away behind bars. Her hatred burns so deep however, that she’ll take any opportunity she can to escape prison, find Sugimi, and pay him back for the torture and pain she went through when he betrayed her.
I watched Face/Off for the millionth time recently, and after watching and loving Hard Boiled not too long ago I’ve been on an action movie (specifically John Woo) kick ever since.
The Killer is another one of John Woo’s Hong Kong action flicks, only released three years prior to Hard Boiled. Starring the infinitely cool Chow Yun-Fat as Ah Jong, the titular killer who falls in love with Jennie (Sally Yeh), a lounge singer whom he blinded by accident while performing a hit for the Triads. After another hit which goes awry, Jong pops up on Detective Ying’s (Danny Lee) radar.
When Ah Jong performs a final hit for an aspiring Triad boss so he can get the money needed to cure Jennie’s blindness, Ying pursues the mysterious assassin, becoming more and more obsessed with him. After the hit, Jong finds the men who sent him out are looking to terminate him, and now he must evade pursuit from both the police and his employers. Tensions rise between the police and the Triads, and many, many, many bullets are exchanged along the way. (more…)
Let’s take a break from the Halloween madness that’s been going on here on the blog and move towards adult films. No. Not, like, porn. Like, films with more mature themes than dumb slasher flicks. Okay, mature themes still sounds like porn, but I swear they aren’t porn. Just, screw it. I watched The Big Short a while ago and never wrote about it, and I saw Arrival in December. (more…)
I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to make proper art, you shouldn’t half-ass it. Sure, things will probably get screwy if an artist relentlessly pursues their vision for a project but I think all the best art is at least a little weird. You can easily tell if a film is half-assed or is the result of muddled or conflicting goals from the filmmakers, and I find it harder and harder to watch movies that are the result of handing a camera and a bunch of money to one person and letting them see their project through to the end however they see fit. Whether the film ends up good or bad, they’re almost never bland or forgettable.
Possession is a Franco-German drama/ horror film written and directed by Andrzej Żuławski starring the beautiful Isabelle Adjani and the incomparably hammy Sam Neill as Anna and Mark, a married couple going through the most extreme breakup ever committed to film.
Mark has returned home to Cold War era Berlin, West Germany from a business trip to find his wife Anna wanting a divorce. Her behavior has become somewhat erratic and hysterical recently, and Mark finds out that she has been cheating on him with a man named Heinrich (played by Heinz Bennent, a German more Udo Kier-y than Udo Kier). In shock and stricken with grief, Mark dives deep into a rabbit hole trying to investigate Anna’s alternate life to figure out why she would betray him so, and if they could ever reconcile their love. The further he digs into Anna’s affairs, the more sinister and disturbing things he finds out about her, leading to the discovery that perhaps something evil is driving Anna to have these new, depraved desires. (more…)