Monday, May 21, 2018

Sleepy Eyes of Death 7: The Mask of the Princess (1966)

Director: Akira Inoue
Notable Cast: Raizo Ichikawa, Yaeko Mizutani, Ichiro Nakatani, Keiko Kayama, Michiko Ai, Tamotsu Fujiharu, Ryutaro Gomi, Kiyoshi Ito, Kanae Kobayashi

“For a villain like me, this is a very nice grave.”

In terms of this franchise, Sleepy Eyes of Death 7: The Mask of the Princess represents one key aspect of why it has been so successful: impressive execution. At this point, the formula of what constitutes a film in this series is pretty solidified and almost exclusively etched in stone, so there are plenty of elements to be expected in those regards. However, The Mask of the Princess uses those aspects to continually spin the film in some intriguing directions and plays on the audience’s expectations in some fun ways. On top of that, the film might be one of the more fascinating films of the series on a visual level with director Akira Inoue bringing a great sense of style and purpose to it that layers well with the narrative and script. Even when the film is predictable, it is able to be one of the best in the franchise on sheer execution.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bruce's Deadly Fingers (1976)

Director: Joseph Kong Hung
Notable Cast: Bruce Le, Michael Chan, Lo Lieh, Nora Miao, Nick Cheung, Yuan Man-Tzu, Chiang Tao, Tong Tin-Hei, Fung Ging-Man, Chiu Chi-Ling, Bolo Yeung
Also Known As: Bruce’s Fingers

The one thing about Bruceploitation films is that either a) you completely buy into the cheesy concept and appreciate them for what they are or b) you don’t. Even as a massive martial arts cinema fan, sometimes the obvious low budget cash ins on Bruce Lee’s fame (and death) feel a tad out of place and occasionally disrespectful. At their worst, this is most definitely the case. At their best though, which is where Bruce’s Deadly Fingers tends to lean towards, it’s fun and exploitative entertainment that knows exactly what it is. In the case of Bruce’s Deadly Fingers, an all-star cast, some outlandish silly sequences, and a lot of tongue in cheek humor is what carries the film to being one of the better ones I have seen in the Bruceploitation movement. It’s still a rather hit or miss product, but for fans of the kung fu sub-genre this latest Blu Ray from VCI for the film is going to be a necessary addition to the martial arts fan’s collection.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Quiet Place (2018)

Director: John Krasinski
Notable Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward

Being a parent is hard. It’s filled with drama and horror in equal measure with love and wonder. It is unlike anything else I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried a lot of stuff. One unavoidable fact of family life is that while it is many things, it is always loud. Whether a baby is crying, a toddler is whining/screaming, or an older child is having a shouting match with a sibling, a parent, or themselves, there is rarely an escape from the flood of sound that accompanies domesticity. The constant assault of this sound is already a point of anxiety for parents, if not because of the current situation (cough-we don’t need to inform the checker why I’m a boy but thanks anyway toddler) than from the unrelenting stimuli that are as exhausting as they are raucous.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Blood Splatter: 2018 Horror Vol 2 [Winchester, Downrange, Ghost Stories]


Director: The Spierig Brothers
Notable Cast: Jason Clarke, Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Angus Sampson, Laura Brent, Tyler Coppin, Eamon Farren, Bruce Spence

By all means, Winchester should be one of the best horror films of the year. The Spierig Brothers have a fantastic visual style, the film features two phenomenal leads in Jason Clarke and Helen Mirren, and the time period setting is ripe for a classic Gothic/ghost tale tone. So what exactly goes wrong with Winchester that it stumbles so badly? The answer is nothing really. There is nothing distinctly wrong with any of these things. Visually, the film uses its sets and period setting to give it enough of a decent look, the performances are certainly fine, and the film goes for that old school appeal of dramatic haunting with just enough modern tricks and jump scares to curb the appetites of the modern audience.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Revenge (2018)

Director: Coralie Fargeat
Notable Cast: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Columbe, Guillaume Bouchede

There is a current movement in horror, among some of the younger directors particularly, that sees the exploitation films of the past as a leaping point to create a new sense of artistry. The directing combo of Cattet and Forzani are breathing new life into giallo, for example, and now there is a new name on the scene making her mark: Coralie Fargeat. With her debut feature length film, Revenge, Fargeat is out to modernize – in an artful manner – the rape n’ revenge flick. Seeing as the genre has seen its fair share of terrible films to balance out the more impressive ones like Ms. 45 or the original I Spit on Your Grave, this is a welcome movement. Rest assured, Revenge is a BEAST of a film. Salaciously stylish, horrifyingly uncomfortable, and unafraid to embrace its exploitation roots with an artistic flair for the modern. It will make you squirm, gasp, cover your eyes, gag, cheer, and white knuckle the arm rest on your chair. Not only is it an effective film to bring the sub-genre back, it most certainly brings it back with a wicked vengeance that allows it to overcome its own flaws.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Champion (2018)

Director: Kim Yong-wan
Notable Cast: Ma Dong-seok, Kwon Yul, Han Ye-ri

There is a moment in the second half of Champion, a film that follows the sports mold formula almost exclusively to a ‘T,’ where there is a little television program that is going through the history of our hero Mark, played with fantastic depth by Ma Dong-seok. This is, inherently, not an unusual piece for the dramatic sports film. It is meant to dig into the hero’s past, even so briefly, before the final showdown so that all of the characters in the film along with the audience are given as much emotional weight as they can carry before leaping into the dramatic and tense finale where hopefully it all pays off. Champion does its best to subvert the drama with enough humor throughout to give it a bit of its own spin, in a cheesy way, and it’s here that it reaches its own strange height. During this segment, the announcer talks about how Mark faced adversity as he grew up and that he was something of an outcast, but it was one movie that changed his life and lead him to start arm wrestling for the glory that would this final tournament in the last act. That film was Over the Top.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Directors: The Russo Brothers
Notable Cast: Um...everyone?

Ten years. The established Marvel Cinematic Universe has been running for ten years and while the quality of the material has seen its fair share of ups and downs over that period, one cannot deny the impact that these films have made on the industry as they have only continually garnered momentum. Eighteen films in this series and after the last handful reached heavy critical and box offices successes, it has all culminated in Avengers: Infinity War, the first of a two-part mega film that gathers all of our heroes into one massive epic against a villain they have been hinting at for the majority of the series. After Avengers: Age of Ultron was a massive misfire and Civil War doesn’t hold up nearly as well with repeated viewings, I found myself skeptical that a film with roughly 2 million characters (estimated) was going to be able to pull anything off worthy of the hype that was surrounding Infinity War. However, this film is not to be trifled with. Not only is it an efficient crossing of the entire series of films, powered by the development of the characters in other films, but it takes a lot of chances that betray the general formulas of the MCU thus far that will leave fans both perplexed and intrigued. It’s both consumable in its nature and occasionally bold for a blockbuster.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Children of the Corn: Runaway (2018)

Director: John Gulager
Notable Cast: Marci Miller, Jake Ryan Scott, Sara Moore, Mary Kathryn Bryant, Lynn Andrews III, Kevin Harvey, Diane Ayala Goldner, Eric Starkey

After Children of the Corn: Genesis and the truly abysmal made-for-TV remake of the original, I was ready for the Children of the Corn series to be laid to rest and buried behind the rows of sweet corn. It was obvious that this series had grown, was harvested and left the soil unfit for further cultivation. When it announced that the ninth entry into the series (yeah, nine entries) would finally get a release after being stuck in developmental hell for a handful of years, my excitement could be measured in a long and drawn out sigh. Even worse, Children of the Corn: Runaway was directed by John Gulager who managed to kill his own Feast franchise and make Piranha 3DD too stupid to survive. Imagine my surprise that this ninth entry to a series (that didn’t really deserve four entries) came out as not only decent, but one of the best that the franchise had to offer - not that it means much. It simultaneously reboots the series in a clever way while at the same time delivering a modernized spin on the intellectual property that matches the current trends in horror. Yeah, Runaway is not just another hackneyed slasher, it’s actually a horror film that expands on the mythology and pushes it into some new territory. It’s a mixed effort ultimately, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

I'm Flash! (2012)

Director: Toshiaki Toyoda

Notable Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kiko Mizuhara, Shigeru Nakano, Kento Nagayama, Itsuji Itao, Yukiya Kitamura

Toshiaki Toyoda is a filmmaker whose body of work I have only explored the early stages of. Having seen his first four features and being a fan of each: Pornostar ('98), Unchain ('00), Blue Spring ('02), and 9 Souls ('03), I think I have a good grip on what I like about the man and what makes his works click for me. He has a plethora of interesting characters in every narrative and his anarchic sensibilities lead to this brisk and punk in your face mentality that lends itself to some very memorable cinema. I'm Flash!, a later work in the auter's oeuvre, is no different than his early outings in this regard and is filled with the same chaotic energy that attracted me to his works in the first place. Age hasn't extinguished that fiery spirit whatsoever. I'm Flash! easily stands alongside the director's early gems.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Cambodian Textiles (2017)

Director: Tatsuhito Utagawa

Featuring: Kikuo Morimoto

Kikuo Morimoto, a Japanese native from Kyoto, travelled to Cambodia after its civil war, where the art of traditional textile weaving was practically extinct. He renovated a large piece of land and created a village that strived in this near forgotten art, crafting a successful economy and a village that has a lot if heart. During the time this documentary was made, Morimoto had revealed he was diagnosed with skin cancer and opted to not receive treatment, but to rather let life go its own pace on him. We see roughly two years of he and the locals lives as he inches closer to his departure and reflects on the state of Cambodian textiles and the community he helped build all these years ago.

Re:Born (2017)

Director: Yuji Shimomura

Notable Cast: Tak Sakaguchi, Orson Mochizuki, Yura Kondo, Akio Ōtsuka, Takumi Saito

RE:BORN リボーン (2017)

This movie is absolutely insane!!! Tak Sakaguchi comes back from a brief retirement for one more action fueled joyride that comes with an overwhelming barrage of action scenes that never disappointed. Zero-range combat tactics, created for the film by action choreographer Yoshitaka Inagawa, called to mind the intense hand-to-hand from the video game franchise, Metal Gear Solid. That is no complaint and in fact pulled me into the action even closer, no pun intended whatsoever.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Afriti (2017) - Short Film

Director: Avishek Das

Notable Cast: Adrija Baul, Arijit Chatterji, Suman, Ankita Debnath, Sinjan Sarkar

The first ever Bengali language slasher from India is a big deal and taking on that first foray into a subgenre of horror, or anything really unexplored in a particular country's cinema, regardless of what type of infrastructure group it belongs to, is something that must meet a certain standard of high expectations from an unready and unprepared world of... well, world cinema lovers to flock to. Does taking claim, whether the literal first of its kind or not, live up to the hype? To a degree, but it is an effort that has a lot of heart which sadly lacks a very strong craft across the bored making Afriti an ultimately mixed effort.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Legend of the Mountain (1979)

Director: King Hu
Notable Cast: Shih Chun, Hsu Feng, Syliva Chang, Tung Lam, Tien Feng, Chen Hui-Lou, Rainbow Hsu, Wu Jiaxiang, Ng Ming Tsui, Sun Yueh

Legend of the Mountain remains a rather unique cinematic experience for a variety of reasons. As one of the overlooked films in King Hu’s filmography, particularly compared to his famous wuxia films like Come Drink with Me, Dragon Inn, and his artistic pinnacle A Touch of Zen, it’s truly a wonder that this film finally finds itself with a proper release in the US via our friends at Kino Lorber. It’s not a film for everyone, thanks to Hu’s enigmatic narrative and almost-too-much-of-a-good-thing visual and auditory approach to the film, but for those that are seemingly up for the 3+ hour leap into realms of magic, love, and just a hint of horror, it’s a film that embraces its cinematic experience in full.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Directors: The Chiodos Brothers
Notable Cast: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Vernon, Michael S. Siegel, Peter Licassi, Royal Dano, Charles Chiodo

In terms of horror films, the 1980s represents perhaps one of the most diverse decades in exploration of the genre that expanded on the foundations established by the boom of low budget exploitation films of the 1970s. When it comes to truly odd cult hits, it’s hard to go wrong with some of the cornerstones of the genre that came to fruition during this decade. One of these weirdly effective cult films is Killer Klowns from Outer Space, the memorable and completely insane love letter to 1950s science fiction horror that has continually found life through its dedicated cult fanbase as time marches on. It’s only fitting then that the film has now received the full three ring circus treatment on the latest Arrow Video Blu Ray. That’s because, for all of its tongue in cheek humor, blending of style, and generally silly demeanor, Killer Klowns is a film that has as many great stories behind the film as it does in executing its ramped-up horror comedy punch. It’s a film that knows just how strange and off beat it is and embraces it, making it one of those films that defies conventional critiques. It’s also so charmingly B-grade that it deserves the cult audience attention.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Psychopaths (2017)

Director: Mickey Keating
Notable Cast: Ashley Bell, Angela Trimbur, Mark Kassen, Ivana Shein, James Landry Hebert, Jeremy Gardner, Helen Rogers, Larry Fessenden, Sam Zimmerman

In recent years there has been a resurgence of artistically charged horror films in the mainstream conscious, but there are always those truly enigmatic and impressive films that lie in the undercurrent of what’s popular. Even though the filmography of Mickey Keating tends to fit into the rising popularity of the arthouse horror with his focus on atmosphere and artful visuals, most of his films tend to find themselves buried with limited releases. His latest, Psychopaths, was once again given little fanfare when it first hit VOD and now it is even available to stream for free on Amazon Prime with little in the way of marketing or word of mouth. This is a problem because Psychopaths, for all of its divisive approaches, is a dynamic, perplexing, and impressively well-crafted modern arthouse horror affair. It might be Mickey Keating at his most Mickey Keating, but it resonates in a strange way that really had me hook, line, and sinker.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 2 - Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies (2018)

Director: Seijun Suzuki

Even though Seijun Suzuki has been heavily recognized as a key artistic figure in Japanese cinema that influenced some of the great modern directors, so many of his films have been left in the shadows of time for western audiences. More recently, Arrow Video has really stepped up in this regard by digging in and getting some of his classics and overlooked early films the releases they desperately deserved. Not only did they drop the iconic and artsy Taisho Trilogy, but they have gathered together ten of his early films into two box sets (limited to 1500 copies each) for collectors. For the second volume, under the title of Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 2 - Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies, Arrow gathers together a slick mixture of differently styled films to cover a lot of the tones and style that Suzuki used as a hired gun for the Nikkatsu studio through the late 50s and early 60s. This review will briefly cover the five films in this set, but for those who are even remotely fans of Nikkatsu, Suzuki, or cinema from this era of Japan then this is a no-brainer purchase.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Twilight People (1972)

Director: Eddie Romero
Notable Cast: John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Charles Macaulay, Pam Grier, Ken Metcalfe, Tony Gosalvez, Kim Ramos, Mona Morena

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a classic in its own sense, thanks to a fantastic concept and story by the iconic H.G. Wells, but it’s a tale that sometimes finds itself being translated oddly to film. Many of the official film adaptations of the story have both their fans and detractors, depending on which version you watch it leans heavily one way or the other, but there is one thing that the Dr. Moreau story has inspired that is of particular interest to readers of this site: all of the knock offs in B-cinema. The Twilight People, the focus of this review, is one of those knock offs. Featuring some fun animal/people mashups and a brisk pace, the tone and feel of this 70s film will appeal to those who love to dig through the annals of cinema history for the strange and offbeat. For the rest of the cinema watching community though, it might be a harder sell thanks to a thin script and mixed execution. If anything, the actual restoration of this film and release on Blu Ray is much better than the film itself and for those who do find The Twilight People on the radar, it will be a solid addition to their collection.

The Return of Ringo (1965)

Director: Duccio Tessari
Notable Cast: Giuliano Gemmea, Fernando Sancho, Lorella De Luca, Nieves Navarro, Antonio Casas, Manuel Muniz, Monica Sugranes, Victor Bayo, Tunet Vila, Juan Torres, Jose Halufi, Francisco Martinez Celeiro

Expectations can be the best and worst thing to bring into a film for the first time. Particularly when one is under the impression that a film is a sequel and, surprise, it’s not. This kind of expectation and whiplash change of impression constitutes the first 30 minutes or so of my experience watching The Return of Ringo. Partnered with another film called A Pistol for Ringo in the new Blu Ray set available from Arrow Video, they are both directed by Tessari and both star Gemma in the lead role as a character called Ringo along with a substantial amount of the same cast too. Perhaps I should have done a little research before digging into it to set my expectations up properly. However, after watching the first one and enjoying it immensely, I leapt into The Return of Ringo expecting more of the quirky anti-heroics of Ringo as he continues to wander the desolate lands of the wild, wild west.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Whispering Star (2015)

Director: Sion Sono

Notable Cast: Megumi Kagurazaka, Kenji Endo, Yuto Ikeda, Koko Mori

A passion project of Sono's 20 years in the making, The Whispering Star sees the director make a return to a more thought provoking form, and stylistically and thematically harkens back to an early point in his career, calling to mind such works as The Room or Keiko desu Kedo, for point of reference. For fans of these earlier works, you'll have an idea of what you are in for. That is, a much less extreme cinema and a slower, reflective film bathed in lush visuals that really gets your mind going. Frankly, I believe Whispering Star to be one of Sono's best work yet. It's familiar, yet exerts a freshness we haven't seen in his works before with its overall visual aesthetic and genre choosing (sci-fi).

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Blood Splatter: 2018 Horror Vol. 1 [The Midnight Man, Terrifier, Pyewacket]


Director: Travis Zariwny
Notable Cast: Grayson Gabriel, Emily Haine, Gabrielle Haugh, Summer H. Howell, Keenan Lehmann, Louise Linton, Meredith Rose, Robert Englund, Lin Shaye

The reason why I’ve called you into my office today is that, well, to put it nicely, we need to talk about The Midnight Man. Recently, there has been some speculation that The Midnight Man could have been a good movie. Really, there is potential here. It has a fun monster/game concept at its core, it features a couple of roles for horror elite actors, and the production value is sharp. The problem with it is not how it looks from the outside. It’s the inside. The Midnight Man has one of the thinnest and most illogical scripts I’ve had the pleasure to experience in a long time, the performances of the two/three leads are perplexing at best (jaw droppingly awful at worst,) and the film has a confusing tone. In all honesty, I spent the entire run time of the film desperately trying to figure out if it was meant to be funny. If it was, I didn’t laugh. If it wasn’t, boy, I sure feel awkward that this is how it came out.