Movie Reviews That'll Put Yer Eye Out, Kid!


Slither (2006)

The new horror-comedy Slither, written and directed by James Gunn, quickly sets the tone, revealing both its intentions and influences with an appropriately traditional opening shot that recalls many a sci-fi/monster movie.A meteor hurtles through outer space, while in the big, black void beyond, we see the planet Earth, spinning like a bright blue bull's-eye... the perfect target for space debris of the traditionally villainous variety. Meanwhile on Earth, in the small town of Wheelsy, a seemingly dim-witted police duo whittle away the evening inside their police cruiser as, unbeknownst to them, the smoldering meteor suddenly blazes across the night sky, crashing in the not-too-distant distance.

It's the dawn of deer hunting season in Wheelsy, and Wheelsians young and old are ready and raring to reassert their rightful place atop the old food chain high above their antlered inferiors. Coincidentally, sexy school teacher Starla Grant (Elizabeth Banks) is busy discoursing on Darwin's theory of evolution. Being a young and attractive woman, it's not surprising that Starla's distracted students are far more ardent in their amour for their curvaceous teacher than they are for any of that dusty old Darwinism, of which Starla seems the sole devotee

Sharing in her student's lustful sentiments is Starla's oldster hubby Grant Grant (Michael Rooker), who is very much devoted to his wife. All the same, it becomes clear that things are not all rosy and racy at home when later that evening, Grant attempts to give vent to his passions with a suggestion of sex, and Starla rebuffs his advances, apologizing for not being in the mood. Withered and woebegone, Grant wends his way towards a tavern to give his sorrows a proper Pabst Blue Ribbon beer bath.

Seated in the bar and hunkered behind a bunker of beer bottles, Grant is approached by a fellow lonely-heart named Brenda. Soon thereafter the lovelorn twosome are traipsing and tripping through the woods when Grant stumbles upon a strange, goo-strewn pod. After engaging in some tried and true backwoods science by prodding the pod with a carefully chosen stick, something erupts and shoots from the pod, and appears to enter Grant's body. Confused, but believing he is okay, Grant hurries home to his beloved Starla.

Despite his beliefs, over the next couple of days Grant's appetites continue to grow and expand, and his insatiable voracity begins to emerge in the form of bodily mutations. With small town life suddenly spinning out of control, an unimaginable horror continues to evolve, adding a new link to the food chain, and ensuring that before long hunters will become the hunted, now that humans are on the menu.

Horror-comedies are indeed a tricky lot. The tightrope walk between what is frightful and what is funny often proves too precarious a permutation, sending movies that aim to have audiences scream in terror one minute and shriek with laughter the next, rapidly plummeting in a fiery heap to their blazing box-office deaths. Even so, there are those occasions when the balance between horror and hilarity is just right. This result can be a unique film hybrid that succeeds in evoking two of our most basic human responses, and combining two popular movie genres, that on the surface, seem completely dissimilar.

Certainly, there are plenty of horror movies that briefly utilize humor for comic relief, or at the opposite end, films like Young Frankenstein or the Scary Movie franchise which are strictly comedies spoofing popular horror films. Still, neither of these "types" are horror-comedies in the truest sense. With this in mind however, for the perfect example of a film that truly does fit the bill, one need look no further than James Gunn's monstrously funny fright-film, Slither.

When watching Slither, Gunn's directorial debut, one can sense the pure joy and adoration the director/screenwriter has for horror movies as throughout the film Gunn proudly displays his numerous inspirations like a badge of honor. Whether its David Cronenberg's '70s shockers, Shivers and Rabid, low-budget sci-fi horror like The Deadly Spawn, or Frank Henenlotter's humorous '80s horror hybrids, Slither is a blood-drenched, slime-covered love letter that gives horror film enthusiasts something to celebrate. At the same time, one need not be a "horror buff" to enjoy Slither however, as it is just a fun, highly likeable movie in general, and as such, should prove an entertaining, and possibly disgusting, viewing experience even to audience members unfamiliar with the film's predecessors, or who may miss the various winks and nods.

Although Slither's basic story cannot be lauded for being innovative, necessarily, it is really quite clear that this was not one of Gunn's concerns, nor apparently, an aspiration. Rather, he has managed, quite handily, to rejuvenate some rather worn-out horror movie concepts and conventions with an abundance of wit, humor - and yes - originality. For this reason Slither never feels stale, or like the slimy "creatures featured" in the film, sluggish. This is of course a breath of fresh air in a genre that, truth be told, has begun to feel as imaginatively stagnant as someone who uses phrases like, "a breath of fresh air."

In his director's chair debut, James Gunn does an exceptional job bringing his ideas to life onscreen. Visually, the film is not overly extravagant but nor is it boring, and the somewhat restrained, deceptively simple approach benefits the film overall. The special effects are a successfully effective melding of the traditional variety with state of the art CG, and what may have perhaps looked like cheesy, hackneyed hokum in another film, actually works quite wonderfully here.

The cast does a very fine job in Slither, and the major characters that populate the film, while not profound or multilayered (which they need not be), are really nicely written. Despite numerous recent examples, and plenty of opinions to the contrary, Slither also proves that characters in horror films, even if they are simple, can be likeable. Unlike their multi-tentacled, slime-coated, blood-quaffing counterparts, the main human characters that the audience is supposed to relate to, or at the very least get behind in Slither, are engaging, oft-times funny, in some cases moderately intelligent, and for all of these reasons, decidedly human and easy to root for. Thankfully Slither also employs the classic monster movie tradition (think of the well-known Frankenstein monster for an example) wherein those aspects of the creature that are identifiably human still manage to emerge from beneath all of the deformities and ugliness, thus making the "monster" a somewhat sympathetic and ultimately tragic figure.

Apart from perhaps a couple of very brief lulls in Slither, the film is without any major problems. In all it is simply a very lively, highly-entertaining, tightly-scripted, out-and-out funny horror movie that should have some audience members squirming in their seats. Fans of recent horror-comedies like Dead & Breakfast, or Bubba Ho-tep should also have a lot of fun with Slither - a movie that is truly the best laugh-filled fright film since Shaun of the Dead and a gruesome gut-buster bound to become a horror-comedy classic. Now don't let my slutty quote whoring hinder you - just get to the theater and have yourself a bloody good time!

Originally published at

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Panik House to release Horror of the Malformed Men

Here is some amazing news I came across while perusing the DVD Maniacs forums. The following quote is from the president of Panik House, Matt Kennedy:

"I just picked up another handful of Toei titles. I listened carefully to what some of you had to say, and I decided to sign a couple of complete series. I didn't feel it was feasible to do this with the Sukeban films, because I felt that those films are wildly uneven in terms of quality from one film to the next, but with the two series I recently acquired, I am proud to say that each film is excellent. Each can easily stand alone, and each is an extremely fulfilling viewing experience. The two series I selected are proto-Pinky Violence films; these are the films that actually launched the genre.

The Yoen Dokufuden trilogy which starred Junko Miyazono is the series that actually ushered in the Pinky Violence genre. Sex & Fury was a take-off on the popularity of this series and Reiko Ike had won a contest to replace Junko in an as yet unnamed film back in 1968. These types of star-making contests were just as popular in Japan in the late 60s as they appear to be now in the USA, and many of the entrants would go on to star in their own series. Two were helmed by master director Nobuo Nakagawa, who was every bit as important to the evolution of the Pinky Violence film as Teruo Ishii and Norifumi Suzuki were, but Nobuo didn't have to wait decades for his acclaim. He was heralded as a genius back then, and remained popular throughout his career without compromising his artistic vision. He is perhaps the closest thing to a Kurasawa that one could find in the genre of female yakuza cinema at Toei during this era.

I've also acquired the two Meiko Kaji Lady Yakuza films known as Gincho Wanderer, which were the films that made her a star at Toei, and you'll know why when you see them. These films paved the way for Lady Snowblood, and just about every other film that would soon follow. It's no big secret that Reiko Ike is my favorite actress, but when it comes to full-on Iconoclast, Meiko Kaji is the original. She was the single most influential force in Japanese culture, fashion and music in the late 60s and early 70s, and was an outspoken feminist who helped usher in the social changes taking place at that time. Studio Voice ran an article a few years ago on the impact she had on the fashion industry in Japan back in her heyday, and the article caused a complete resurgence in her popularity that has lasted through today. There's a reason why Quentin Tarantino has named her his favorite actress, and she can be heard singing on the soundtrack to both Kill Bill films.

I also picked up a couple of Pinky Horror titles. The two most important, actually:
Horror of the Malformed Men & Snake Woman's Curse (which is known by so many different titles that this one might change by the time I release it).
The first is among the most notorious films in Japanese history. More controversial upon it's release than Battle Royale and Audition combined and multiplied. It is an often discussed and rarely seen film, and it is without a doubt Teruo Ishii's masterpiece. It was his favorite of his own films, and contains his signature Grand Guignol style taken to levels heretofore unseen. In short, it is a masterpiece in the cinema of transgression whose only peer is perhaps El Topo.
Snake Woman's Curse is another Nobuo Nakagawa classic that takes horror film conventions and turns them on their head. An eerie masterwork on par with Eyes Without A Face, it is a very jarring film experience, and will make a great companion to the release of Malformed Men.

There will be even more to come as I negotiate with the studios on still more titles. I haven’t set any release dates for these, as I’ve yet to receive the materials, but I’m confident that 2006 will see the release of at least two of them.

In the meantime, look forward to two more Teruo Ishii titles in July:
Screwed & Blind Beast Vs. Killer Dwarf, which will continue to push the envelope of Asian Cinema as only Panik House can."

Horror of the Malformed Men is an incredibly rare film that I have been desperate to see for a while. Knowing Panik House, they'll do an awesome job giving Malformed Men its first official video release. Whether it comes out in 2006 or 2007, for fans of Japanese cult cinema, this could easily be the DVD release of the year!

Horrors of Malformed Men

Don't Deliver Us From Evil

Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1970)

Someone once wrote: Cruelty in the young is like arthritis in the elderly - it's in their bones. I remember first reading this ridiculous generalization when I was a teenager and it made me so angry that I immediately set to picking on cripples and tripping old women whenever possible (activities I'm proud to admit I still engage in regularly, even if the arthritis creeping into my knees has slowed me down just a smidge). The controversial French film, Don't Deliver Us From Evil reminded me of this quote as it deals, in part, with the seductive power of human cruelty and the influence it can produce on young, impressionable minds. If this last bit sounds like you, take heed, for to continue reading this review will surely be at your own eternal detriment and damnation.

Anne and Lore are best buds at a convent for young girls. At night they enjoy hiding under the blankets with a flashlight and reading sordid stories with a nun sternly patrolling the row of beds nearby. Anne and Lore also like faking crude confessions because it's fun to flabbergast priests who are prone to turning pink. In addition to rectorial arousal, the carnal compatriots enjoy peering through keyholes at naughty nuns, and, as written in Anne's journal, have also renounced Christ and dedicated themselves to lives of dirty deeds - which means lots and lots of sinning for Satan!

Whatever Lore and Anne might get up to at the convent pales significantly when compared to what the young lassies do at home on the weekends. Whether it's taunting and teasing a simpleton with their naughty nubility, setting haystacks all aflame, or poisoning the gaping gardener's beloved birds, behind their innocent faces and flower-print dresses, what began as a blossoming friendship has deteriorated into a ghastly pact of cruelty and evil most vile.

Don't Deliver Us From Evil was inspired by the true story of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, two teenage murderesses who shocked all of New Zealand in 1954 - a story which subsequently became known to modern movie audiences when Peter Jackson successfully adapted it into his 1994 film, Heavenly Creatures. Unlike Jackson's film however, any possible success that Don't Deliver Us From Evil may have enjoyed upon its initial release was not to be had. The film immediately ignited controversy, due in large part to its blasphemous depictions, and as was often the fate of such films , Don't Deliver Us From Evil was ultimately banned.

Even today it's easy to see why the movie might have created such a stir - especially with all the recent controversy over religions being depicted negatively in the media. More than being merely an exploitative film, the director of Don't Deliver Us From Evil, Joel Seria, derived much of his antipathy towards the Catholic church from negative personal experiences he had growing up. This repellency for the strictures that religion enforces, as well as its inherent contradictions, is felt strongly throughout Don't Deliver Us From Evil, and is the fuel for some of the film's blasphemously startling sequences and most memorable moments.

The rebellious and cruel nature of Anne and Lore, and the movie itself, make a strong impression and are a major part of what makes the viewing experience distinctively memorable. To an extent, these anarchistic aspects of Don't Deliver Us From Evil also verge into the realms of surrealism, but not necessarily in terms of any specific visual execution (except for perhaps the radical use of violence). Rather, there seems an almost ideological kinship - a revolt against false reality and the supressive, moralistic constructs which shape and structure much of our existence.

Lore and Anne seems to operate within a constructed reality of their own, where they derive pleasure from cruelty and are not bound by social mores or ethical restrictions. The film does not appear to be interested in either condoning or damning their actions, but instead, presents their story without judgment, thus, leaving any judgment-making up to the viewer. It is interesting however, to contrast the way in which the film portrays Anne and Lore as being aware and alive, whereas those around them seem somewhat less so, as though they are trapped in some kind of hypnotic haze. Take for example the humorously blank reactions of a congregation absentmindedly listening to a sermon, and at the end of the movie, a theater audience that seems equally entranced but unable to fully comprehend what they are hearing and seeing. To put it more clearly, it is as if the roles have been reversed and the actors are in the audience watching reality unfold onstage.

The link to surrealism is further solidified during a scene in which the girls read from Maldorer, written by Le Compte de Lautreamont, an author championed by the surrealists, and from whom was derived the famous quote used to "describe" surrealism, "beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella."

As far as the technical elements of the film go, Don't Deliver Us From Evil was Seria's directorial debut, and quite a debut it is. The film is nicely photographed, nothing complex or too showy, but it is rarely boring to look at. In fact, as the movie progresses and the story becomes more "lively" the visual approach also seems to follow suit, matching the narrative with some slightly bolder visual strokes. The film's story and characters are well written, even if they may be unpalatable, or to some, downright repulsive, and the actors, both experienced and amateur, do some exceptional work. For certain viewers the movie may also move a little slowly at first. However, those who exercise patience will find the film to be at least engaging, if not wholly entertaining, and without a doubt, Don't Deliver Us From Evil does deliver a staggeringly powerful ending that will resonate in the mind long after the film is over.

Yet again, the crew at Mondo Macabro have done an exceptional job resurrecting another long-lost, largely unseen beauty, uncut for the first time, and making its U.S. debut. Considering how obscure the movie is, and its sketchy history, Mondo's restoration of the film has ensured that, apart from a few noticeable imperfections, Don't Deliver Us From Evil looks just about as good as one could possibly hope. The film is also presented in French with optional English subtitles.

This special edition disc comes with some great extras that are a fine accompaniment to the movie. First is a featurette entitled Hellish Creatures, in which English writer Paul Buck discusses the movie and the impact it had on him when he first saw it while still in art school. Next, there is an interview with the film's director, Joel Seria, who talks a little about his past, offers insights into his movie, and discusses the production of Don't Deliver Us From Evil. In addition to this, there is an interview with the film's lead actress, Jeanne Goupil, an essay on the film written by Pete Tombs, an art gallery, and finally, a trailer highlighting Mondo Macabro's ever-expanding catalog of movies.

In every way this is a superior release of a significant film that should be vital viewing for fringe film fanatics. Highly recommended!

Originally published at

Recommended and related product links:

Don't Deliver Us From Evil
Heavenly Creatures
Immoral Tales
Mondo Macabro

The Pyjama Girl Case

The Pyjama Girl Case (1977)

As one of the lesser-known giallo titles, soon to be released to DVD by those purveyors of delectable cinematic delights, Blue Underground, The Pyjama Girl Case is also an atypical entry in this most distinctive of genres. For example, the film is based (quite loosely) on an actual unsolved murder committed in the 1930s, that to this day is still enveloped in deception and mystery. Much of the film was also shot in Australia, where the murder took place, removing the film from the typical and familiar Euro locales for which gialli are so well-known.

The film opens on a beach where a young girl clutching an umbrella and a doll wends her way up the sandy, picturesque shoreline. Nearby, motorbikes race through the crashing surf as the girl sits next to an abandoned wreck of a car. Suddenly the little girl screams as a charred, lifeless arm falls from the mangled wreck, and rests its twisted hand on the doll's head. Once removed from the wreckage, it's discovered that the corpse is that of a woman whose face is so disfigured that the yellow pyjamas which she is found wearing serve as the major clue to her mysterious identity.

While busy spritzing the orchids in his glorious greenhouse, a semi-retired Inspector named Thompson receives a phone call from one of his colleagues about the unidentified woman's body, and the murder mystery surrounding it. Eager to trade in his flower mister for a flowering mystery, Thompson goes gum-shoeing once again in his search for both the identity of the woman, and her vicious killer(s).

This is a film that may leave those who possess a strict definition of what defines a giallo a little disappointed. In addition to the aforementioned departures, The Pyjama Girl Case does not feature a string of bloody, carnage-crazed murders and a faceless killer dispatching undressed damsels. Rather, there is only one murder, which serves as the catalyst for the film, and the ensuing investigation. Also, whereas the police are often on the periphery of many gialli, in The Pyjama Girl Case they are on the forefront, the results of which are a film that is more police procedural than gore-gushing, mayhem-filled murder mystery.

In addition to familiar faces like the debonaire Mel Ferrer, and the fetching Dalila Di Lazzaro, the film features the acting talents of Academy Award winner Ray Milland as the over-the-hill Inspector Thompson. Milland turns in a nice, and surprisingly spry performance as the curmudgeonly Inspector who everyone thinks is long past his prime, and whose unflagging desire to investigate is merely tolerated by his peers due to his decorated past. In part, the role Milland plays mirrors his own career as an actor whose best years, and most highly regarded roles, were far behind him.

In addition to Milland's performance, Thompson's storyline really anchors the film and his investigation is far more interesting, and substantially more bizarre, than that of his humdrum fellow investigators. Unfortunately, the storyline for Inspector Thompson, shopworn it may be, is mishandled quite badly as the film progresses, and as a result, The Pyjama Girl Case ultimately suffers for it.

The film was directed and co-written by Flavio Mogherini, a veteran Production Designer and Art Director who worked in that capacity on many films, including Mario Bava's eye candy spectacular Diabolik. Far less remarkable, The Pyjama Girl Case meanders a little too much - take for example a lengthy strolling sequence featuring lawn bowling, archery and lawn hockey - and is beset by a lot of cutaways that oft-times seem silly and unmotivated. Not all is bleak, however, and for the most part the film looks nice, even if it isn't always impressive. As part of this Spanish Italian co-production, both Carlo Carlini (The Big Gundown, Death Rides a Horse) and Raul Artigot (who worked with the likes of Jess Franco and Amando de Ossorio) are credited with the cinematography. There are some memorable images in the film, a favorite being Inspector Thompson inside his lush, brightly-lit greenhouse at night, which is set against a drab, decaying facade in the background.

Although there are problems with the film's story and the characters, the actual narrative structure is easily one of the Pyjama Girl Case's highlights. The plotting seems fairly standard and straightforward for the majority of the film, but its simplicity is indeed deceptive as it only serves to emphasize a great surprise narrative twist. To modern movie audiences it's a somewhat familiar narrative subversion, but it still works and I imagine it will please and surprise a lot of viewers.

Unfortunately the film's synthesized score and some odd musical cues tend to undermine the proceedings. The musical bungling continues as The Pyjama Girl Case also features two songs sung by Amanda Lear (the aptly titled "Yellow Pajama" and the somewhat befuddling "Look at Her Dancing") whose Nico-esque vocal stylings are not nearly as interesting as the fact that she was once romantically linked to David Bowie and was a protege to Salvador Dali.

Though it is not a classic giallo, and despite its numerous shortcomings, The Pyjama Girl Case is a worthwhile diversion and is certainly worth a look for fans of the genre. Blue Underground does a wonderful job in restoring and bringing this little-seen film to DVD. The remastered print looks great, with vibrant, saturated colors in some scenes, and rest assured, you can now enjoy all of those swanky and skanky 70s interiors with almost nary a blemish. The film is presented with a mono English language track, and while I would usually complain and ask for the Italian track and English subs, in this case it's preferable to be able to hear Milland's voice.

The DVD, which isn't exactly bursting with extras, does include a thirty minute documentary titled The Pyjama Girl Mystery: True Story of Murder, Obsession and Lies, in which the author of a book about the real pyjama girl murder mystery discusses the historical details and facts surrounding the case. It's an interesting bonus feature that complements the film nicely. Further DVD extras include the original theatrical trailer, and an 8 page graphic novel, The Pyjama Girl by Eddie Campell - the comic artist best known for illustrating From Hell.

Recommended and related product links:

The Pyjama Girl Case
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion
The Black Belly of the Tarantula
The Fifth Cord

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Night Watch Interview

Here is my interview with the director of Night Watch, and the upcoming Dusk Watch, Timur Bekmambetov.

B: When watching your film I was really blown away by how visually bold and imaginative Night Watch is. With a relatively small budget that equates to around 4 million dollars, you made an eye-catching, effects-filled epic that looks like it cost more than twenty times that amount. How did you and your collaborators overcome the budgetary constraints to accomplish this?

TB: My experience with Roger Corman gave me a sense of what filmmaking is. His secret of how to be creative is to imitate the budgets of bigger films - meaning to get the maximum value from acting, style and story. (Note: In 2000 Timur made Gladiatrix {aka The Arena} which Roger Corman produced).

B: Night Watch gives the audience a complex world that balances the real and the unreal by integrating the imaginary and fantastic with the realities of everyday. The film's success of bringing to life the fantasy elements relies predominantly on CG effects, but you seemed willing to employ traditional make-up and prosthetic effects as well. What can you tell us about your approach to special effects as a filmmaker's tool?

TB: That was the most interesting part of the work. You create a world that isn't really there, but the audience believes in it, because it captivates. We developed and produced most of the CGI in Russia and Ukraine. About 100 professionals were involved, from over 20 different freelance studios. During the making of the film they were temporarily united into one unit, working towards the same goal, with all communications taking place over the internet. We created a unique "pipeline," and now that the second film is in the making, we have developed software that allows us to control this complex system. This was the only way to bring these peopletogether without actually bringing them together, physically, and without disrupting their work at the studios; instead, each one sets aside part of one's time for the project. This approach proved very cost- effective.

B: This juxtaposition between that which might be termed the "unreal" and "real" seems to reach towards a type of surrealism that is prevalent in many horror and fantasy films. What can you tell us about this element in Night Watch?

TB: Night Watch mythologizes everyday life. Everything in the movie is truthful. Every element, every character, every location... An unfulfilled dream, a secret fear, an all-but-forgotten childhood memory, a toy you suspected to contain some living thing in its hollow inside... The film is full of objects, concepts and images that have a history, things that surround us in reality and that are, for me, THE reality - not the objective reality, but my own, the way I see it. The doll "Mashenka" stands for a whole era in Soviet Russia, when every little girl played with this kind of doll, and didn't have much else to play with. The yellow "ZIL" trucks have the same degree of significance for the Russian audience as,
say, the yellow cab for the American viewer.

B: There's a line in Night Watch, and I'm paraphrasing, that says, "To destroy the light in himself would be easier than to fight the immense darkness that exists all around him." Would you elaborate on this a little in relation to its importance to the film and your philosophical approach to the material?

TB: Everything in the world is interconnected, even if we can't see it. A man can change the world's history. This thought makes me excited.

B: Night Watch has a fairly straightforward premise, but the actual story and its plot are somewhat complex. With this in mind, when working on this epic trilogy, how do you as the director, for the sake of consistency and coherency, balance the larger picture and the smaller intricacies without becoming too overwhelmed by the immense scope of it all?

TB: I guess, like the master-schemer characters in the film, one has to know where one is heading, figure out all the steps to get there - and then sort of forget about it for a while and have fun along the way.

B: Someone once said (and I'm paraphrasing again) that an artist is never truly done working on a particular piece of art, but rather, at some point they are merely required to stop. It's not uncommon for a filmmaker to want to make changes to his or her film after they have stopped working on it. Was there anything that you wanted to change, either by adding or subtracting, and were able to alter after Fox acquired the rights to release Night Watch?

TB: I refuse for as long as I can to give in to reality which dictates that all creative imagination must stop after the filming is over. As long as editing continues, our creative team keeps throwing in ideas, we try to make it better. A lot of things become clearer only when the final product is more or less put together. Fortunately, with editing and CGI (and an occasional re-shoot) a lot can be achieved.

B: Thankfully the U.S. release of Night Watch is subtitled rather than dubbed. The subtitles are integrated in a truly innovative and effective way that actually complements the film rather than distracting from it. Whose inspired idea was this?

TB: We created these subtitles with our editor Dmitriy Kisilev. It's very important figure in the film. It's separate hero, leading the viewers through the whole movie

B: I imagine those who see Night Watch will be very curious about the next two films, Day Watch and Dusk Watch. At the risk of asking too much, what can you tell us about the next two films? Also, according to what I have read, the third film, Dusk Watch, will be filmed in English. How will this transition between the two Russian language films be achieved while maintaining continuity?

TB: The second movie Day Watch - is the end of the story that begins in the first movie. It is more ironic, a little bit sentimental, full of special effects. Dusk Watch - we're in pre-production. It'll be quite different from 2 previous films. We made a movie about Russia for a Russian audience. American movies in Hollywood style, Russian and French, commercials, computer games - we joined everything together but we made it especially for Russian people. It was local. But then I understood that local means unique, and it is interesting for everybody. I don't know the mechanism of transition yet, I simply enjoy entertaining people.

Originally published at

Female Yakuza Tale

Female Yakuza Tale (1973)

The lovely Reiko Ike reprises her role as the gambling, pick-pocketing, limb-lopping Ocho in this outlandish sequel to the aptly titled exploitation gem, Sex and Fury. Female Yakuza Tale quickly reintroduces Ocho and reestablishes the tone of the previous film with a slow motion, rain-soaked title sequence wherein our heroine takes on a dozen male assailants armed with only sex appeal and a deadly, bright red umbrella. One by one the men lose their lives, while their executioner loses only her clothing.

Following this, Ocho arrives in Kobe via a steamship and is greeted by a quiet, young woman who leads her to an awaiting rickshaw. The rickshaw drops her off at a dimly-lit building, but before Ocho can even say howdy-do, she is chloroformed by a group of men who then string up her limp body before relieving Ocho of her troublesome kimono. After she is revived with a series of slaps across the face, a chubby, effeminate man - who constantly licks his lips in a lasciviously, grotesque manner - violates Ocho with his fingers. It turns out that in addition to being a creep, the man is actually searching for something, and is surprised when he finds nothing hidden inside Ocho. Realizing they have the wrong woman, the men (who also understand that oft-times apologies are more difficult to make than escapes), knock the still kimono-less Ocho unconscious...again.

A blurry-eyed, groggy-headed Ocho wakes up, but of course, the nightmare continues -Ocho finds a bloody knife clutched in her hand, a dead woman laying next to her, and herself framed as a suspect in a recent string of gruesome deaths dubbed "The Crotch-Gouge Murders." Ocho vows to exact revenge on the men who have defiled her and set her up as a murdering them. While in pursuit of the men however, Ocho uncovers a drug smuggling operation, stumbles into the middle of a Yakuza power struggle, and forms an alliance with an ass-kicking nun and her posse of enslaved prostitutes, all of which dovetails into an out-of-this-world finale full of blood, bullets, boobs and gelled lighting.

Female Yakuza Tale is a really entertaining, action-packed, violent piece of sexploitation cinema. Director Teruo Ishii (Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf) created a film bursting with energy, humor, originality and visual flair. For example, where else are you going to see a mustache get shot off one man's face only to land on some other guy's upper lip? Or for that matter, thirty nude women eviscerating a roomful of mobsters - in heels? In addition, the overall production values are really good, featuring some extremely fantastic cinematography, great locations and costumes, and a large talented cast. Female Yakuza Tale's funky 70's score is also a lot of fun and overall really complements the film, while at times elevating the weirdness.

The script juggles a handful of storylines and characters, but is really quite cohesive and balanced throughout. My only complaint in this area is that the Sister Yashima character is given a great introduction, but is then absent for long stretches and is ultimately never as promising an addition as she initially seemed. However, the focus is on Ocho (the lack of which was one of the problems I had with Sex and Fury) and Reiko Ike is a charismatic screen presence who gives a great, and probably physically taxing, performance.

Panik House presents the film "uncut, uncensored and totally restored from the vault elements " and it looks absolutely flawless. Special features include - audio commentary by Chris D. (author of Outlaw Masters of Japanese Cinema), director and star bios, the original theatrical trailer, a poster and stills gallery, production notes, a special insert sticker, and optional English subtitles. This is a really great DVD release of an equally excellent and exceptional film that you would be wise to watch.

Here's a link to a trailer which a fan made that combines moments from this film, Sex and Fury and The Pinky Violence Collection.
(Contains some nudity)

Originally published at

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The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Inarguably, the 1970s was a very good decade for cinema. For many horror film fans it is also a decade distinguished by the release of some of the horror genre's best and most influential films. From what I can gather, for a lot of these fans, Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes falls somewhere into this category of 70s horror classics. All the same, I must confess that I've never been entirely certain what all the hullabaloo was about. In defense of the film and its many shortcomings, The Hills Have Eyes has often been cited as being influential. Regardless of these claims, it really seems to have been more impressionable, following most closely, and clearly, in the sizable footsteps of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Consequently, when I heard that The Hills Have Eyes was going to be regurgitated for what some are terming “today's cinematically illiterate audiences,” I just rolled my own eyes (which is the cinematically literate thing to do of course) and figured this was just a sign that the remake-rabid studio monkeys were steadily climbing their way towards the proverbial bottom of the barrel.

Believe it or not, and despite all of my bellyaching, when going to see this new version of The Hills Have Eyes, I had a pretty positive outlook. First, if Wes Craven (who is one of the film’s producers) is okay with his movie being remade, then really, who am I to bewail the decision? Second, I actually liked High Tension quite a bit and was curious to see what that film's director, Alexandre Aja, was going to do with material which I didn't exactly hold in high regard anyway. This being said, there will be more bellyaching later.

A family traveling through the dirt and dust of the desert with San Diego as their destination stops at a rickety, rundown gas station to stretch their legs, empty their bladders, and fill up their fuel tank. The grizzled old owner of the gas station chats with Bob and his road-weary wife Ethel, while their hormonally-saddled teenaged children, Bobby and Brenda, bicker in the distance. One of the family's dogs - there are two, Beauty and Beast - runs inside the gas shanty and Bob and Ethel's eldest, Lynne, chases after the dog. Last but not least, there is Doug - Lynne's husband - and thorn in Bob Sr.'s side - who tends to his and Lynne's infant child (and never mind the damn baby's name).

Finally catching up to her canine on the loose, Lynne finds the dog sticking its nose where it doesn't belong - namely inside a suspicious-looking tote bag. The gas station owner startles Lynne when he finds her inside, and believing she has seen the bag, becomes watchful of her. Lynne apologizes for the dog and hurries back to the motor home. As Bob Sr. starts up his vehicle, the gas station owner knocks at the window and suddenly suggests the family take a shortcut onto a less-traveled road that winds its way through the desolate desert hills. With everybody ready to get the hell out of the desert, Bob decides to accept the old man's advice, taking a short cut that will eventually cut short his family's travel plans... and maybe even their lives (cue diabolical laughter)!

The "new" version of The Hills Have Eyes is remarkably similar to the old. Ignoring the film's third act, the plotting is basically the same - although this version manages to smooth over a few of the rough spots in Craven's original - and some of the dialogue (which wasn't very good in the first place) is even repeated verbatim. Many might thump their chest and proclaim that this is being faithful to a classic, but I felt it was completely redundant, reducing nearly two-thirds of the film to nothing more than a flashier, bigger-budgeted imitation.

This largely paint-by-numbers affair exists at the opposite end of the remake spectrum from a movie like Cronenberg's The Fly. The latter is a prime example of a remake which takes a premise and then inventively re-imagines it and possibly improves on it; the "new and improved" The Hills Have Eyes is basically an example of artless appropriation, recycling, and expensive repackaging. Like the original, the remake may feature monsters with a hunger for human flesh, but unlike its predecessor, I think the movie’s real cannibals can be found eating their own tails at a bank near me.

So, what is new? The film features a brand new, violent, bloody opening that really grabs your attention - even if this is its sole purpose. The drawback of this opening is that it creates expectations which are never realized, and also makes the many redundancies that follow all the more laborious to watch. Nevertheless, as previously mentioned the final third of the film again takes us into some unfamiliar "territory" by incorporating a new locale into its final act - a place aptly described as being "like something out of the Twilight Zone." The addition of this eerie location was an inspired idea, and the one element I liked most about the film, so I'll leave it at that and let those who still want to see the film (ensuring that more crappy remakes are greenlighted, unfortunately) discover it for themselves.

As for the characters, I went to the trouble of mentioning all of them in my synopsis simply because with a large cast of characters, certainly there must be a likable one in the bunch. Yet, somehow this is not really the case. Sadly, if it were not for the cheap inclusion of a baby and a dog, there would really be no one to care about.

In keeping with the original, the family is essentially still lame and annoying - although some slight alterations and a few less than subtle additions alter the family dynamic a little. Anyone who has seen Straw Dogs will notice that the character Doug is now more than just a little reminiscent of the protagonist David Sumner in Sam Peckinpah's vastly superior film. The Hills Have Eyes has always had at its center the notion of a macho male, protector ideal - even the family's dogs reflect this - so it's easy to see how Aja could be tempted to fashion Doug in the mold of David Sumner and his eventual rise to violence. As a tip of the hat to Straw Dogs, this inclusion seemed okay, but its benefits to the film and the character were rather dubious as Doug's character arc, though now more clear and pronounced, is basically consistent with the original. As for those pesky cannibals, Aja and his partner in screenwriting, Gregory Levasseur, have elaborated on a backstory for the "hill people," which turns them into a clan of mutant miner cannibals. Despite how silly that may sound, I liked the changes Aja and Levasseur made here and felt it benefitted the film overall.

Apart from being more bland than their desert surroundings, the main characters also do things that should have audiences scratching their heads. For example, Doug makes it clear he isn't gun crazy like his in-laws, yet when he goes after the “hill people” who have slaughtered his wife and kidnapped his baby, he does so armed solely with a baseball bat. Now if Doug was the big, tough-guy type, this might be kind of fun. However, the fact that he’s just a nebbish cellphone merchandiser, makes it all seem just a little bit goofy. Prior to this, Doug also tells Bobby, the teenaged son with a gun, that they should only go after the hill people and attempt to rescue the baby once they have a plan. Despite his calm and collected response to little Bobby, there is never any planning, and I can only guess that a Louisville slugger is the extent of Doug’s strategizing abilities.

Furthermore, in the original the cannibals steal all of the family's guns and ammo, so Doug is forced to make do without. In the new version Doug doesn't take a gun because he doesn’t like guns and it goes against his principles, I guess. Okay, fine. But, this is also the transitional point in the story where Doug’s character embraces violence as a means of survival anyway - so in addition to finding it hard to believe that a person (even if they have issues with guns) would not arm themselves in such an extreme situation, it would also have made sense in terms of the character's arc for Doug to just take a damn gun with him.

Don't worry, it gets worse: Bobby, who's itching to say bye to the B and the Y that are standing between him and manhood, is left with the gun, and like his retired detective father, doesn't seem to know how the hell to use it. Instead of utilizing the gun to kill those who are trying to kill him and his sister, in one sequence, he shoots aimlessly at his assailant, as if to lure said attacker with bullets toward the elaborate trap he and his sister have conjured up. Of course if used properly... say like a gun, the firearm would have ultimately had the same result as the silly trap they’ve built. So, apart from a desire to let the kids whoop it up with their little MacGyver moment, this made absolutely no sense. Additionally, the fact that these characters love guns and yet appear to have no idea how to really shoot one, is the closest the film comes to making a clear political statement (albeit unwittingly), which in this case would be a shotgun-hoisting cry for gun control.

It probably goes without saying that a film does not "need" to have political commentary or an agenda to be good. Even so, this new version of The Hills Have Eyes evidently yearns for some depth in this regard, but ultimately and pitifully flounders about in its muddled attempts. Aja's version of the film amplifies the nuclear testing angle hinted at in Craven’s original, commenting on the U.S. Government's willingness to sacrifice innocent citizens for the sake of nuclear science. However, the film really stumbles over what seemed like its initial approach to this material when it mutates into what looks like a violent advertisement for patriotism, and then thusly, falls flat on its disfigured face.

To elaborate, when "our hero" stabs one of the mutant miners - who serve as the film’s embodiment of, and warning against, a governmental lack of concern for its citizenry - with a U.S. Flag (planting it in its aesthetically challenged head I believe) it’s unclear what response this is presumed to evoke. Should I stand up and salute the screen, clap my hands approvingly, or just laugh at the silliness of it all? (I chose the latter) Surprisingly, by this point what was apparently one of the film’s themes (if I may be so bold) has been completely sabotaged.

Also, around this point, the film's score also suddenly loses any of its subtlety by becoming laughably over-the-top. If the film took itself a little less seriously, I wouldn't be reluctant to say instead that all of this was simply tongue-in-cheek; or, even that Aja is perhaps using a heavy-handed and over-the-top approach to, paradoxically, sneak in some subtly, subversive commentary. Personally, it would require a rather dubious leap of faith for me to wholeheartedly make or accept such a claim. In instances such as this, I think it's often easy to confuse complexity with what is in truth nothing more than an unfortunate lack of clarity.

Although Aja's previous film, High Tension, received many a mixed reaction, most would agree that the young director exhibited a visual prowess that belied his relative lack of experience. The Hills Have Eyes demonstrates that, at least in terms of the film's visual merits, Aja's early success was not merely a fluke. Collaborating again with cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, the film, though at times a little too "shutter-happy," has some striking compositions, and Aja makes good use of the drab desert locale. In addition, the great effects work by the ubiquitous KNB illustrates why they are in such high demand, and the film’s action and gore set pieces should please fans of the same. Nevertheless, despite the usual proficiencies and the film’s all too brief flashes of interest and originality, it should be clear that I did not like the film. While I’m certain it will have a following and might possibly please fans of the original, to put it frankly, if this remake of The Hills Have Eyes is seen as being a good movie, then thankfully, I must be blind.

Originally published at

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