Published Sunday, January 29, 2006 by Brian.
Red Cockroaches (2003)
Adam Zarrasky is a paunchy thirty-something working as a bartender in a colorfully lit, but not heavily patronized bar somewhere in the Big Apple. Life for Adam appears to be fairly humdrum until a mysterious, and slightly androgynous femme in a subway tunnel rocks Adam to his inner core with nary a word. However, before Adam can offer even a friendly howdy-do, the love of his life disappears, leaving only a tooth behind, which our lovelorn bartender squats down to pick up. Of course, the tooth is hot (silly fool) and Adam burns his curious little digits, if only slightly, before finally managing to pocket the mystery molar.
Immediately thereafter Adam sits down to break bread with his girlfriend, but before anyone can so much as pass the butter, Adam astonishes her by suggesting they end their relationship. Now single and sassy, Adam is busy lounging on the couch when a prospective roommate arrives to take a look at the apartment. Of course, the prospective roommate is none other than the girl from the subway (you silly fools) and, she has a French accent to boot! The mystery girl reveals that she has a name to go with the accent, Lily, after which she and Adam proceed to engage in awkward conversation highlighted by Lily's deft, rhythmic fingering of a rose.
Much to Adam's chagrin the vexing vixen disappears a second time, only to reappear at a graveyard (much to Adam's...opposite of chagrin), where they smoochy smooch among the tombstones. Later, when Adam visits his mother he is startled yet again when the ubiquitous sex-pot makes another surprise appearance. However, the cake is truly taken when Adam's mother introduces Lily, to a now flabbergasted Adam, as his sister who has been in a coma (in France) for the last nine years.
Initially shocked and repulsed by this news, Adam quickly warms up to his sister, and being the good brother that he is, invites her to stay with him in his apartment. This time Lily accepts her big bro's invitation, moves in, and without blinking an eye, resumes her seduction of Adam. Late one evening Adam brings home some burgers, but unable to resist Lily's charms any longer, the brother/sister duo christen their unwholesome desires in the kitchen, resulting in a scene that is like a Carl's Jr. ad gone horribly wrong. Then, as if incest were not already challenging enough to a relationship, a nosy ex girlfriend, a horny landlord, acid rain, a surprise visit from mom, a murder by keys, and mutant cockroaches all threaten to destroy Alan and Lily's taboo affair.
Red Cockroaches was directed, photographed, written, edited, and produced by twenty-eight year old Miguel Coyula for a paltry 2,000 dollars. Considering this, and the fact that the film was shot over weekends for a year and enlisted actors who were willing to ply their craft for free, the film does exceed its no-budget origins. While no one gives an award-winning performance, the acting is suitable and Coyula proves at times to have a good eye for composition. The digital effects duties also fell on Coyula's shoulders (he spent another year in post production on the film) and again, all things considered, the look of the film surpasses its 2,000 dollar budgetary limitations.
The script, while problematic, also reveals that Coyula has some intriguing ideas and is not bereft of imagination. He does a fine job of presenting mysterious elements which keep the viewer's attention and also has a knack for infusing his story with a sense of "dream logic." Yet, it should be noted that often it feels as though Coyula has littered his story with mysterious, dreamlike elements but is unable (or unwilling) to use them in a completely satisfying way. In a sense, they are there merely for the sake of being there. This is fine within certain contexts, but if you are attempting to use said elements as narrative devices, then it seems unsatisfactory to just let them lie fallow. For example, the tooth. I was reminded of the tooth which Roman Polanski finds embedded in a wall in his superlative film The Tenant. While the tooth, at its most basic, adds an element of mystery to the film, The Tenant is a narrative horror film, and thus the tooth eventually serves a satisfying narrative function. In Red Cockroaches just as the tooth seems to be taking on a greater importance, and is being used for a narrative thrust, it is abandoned completely. However, if this, and other abandoned ideas are going to be answered in subsequent films (Coyula has a trilogy planned) then fine, but one (meaning me) can't help but feel unsatisfied with all the disconnected dots in Red Cockroaches.
Apart from some of the writing, I also had a bit of a problem with the special effects. To pick on the "quality" of the effects would just be bullying, and despite my enormous strength and my unrivaled fighting skills, I am no bully. The problem is this, they serve no real function other than effects are cool, I guess. The film is set either in the future, or as the director terms it, "an alternative reality." Thus, there is acid rain, mutant cockroaches (that serve no other purpose than to be mutant cockroaches), mutant people (which to my knowledge are only talked about), ships flying overhead at all hours of the night and day, and all of this adds up to nothing. If the idea was that it would make the film more marketable and more visually interesting, I can dig, but integrate these things into your story. I have the same problem with 100 million dollar movies, so when I see it in a 2,000 dollar movie... kudos for trying to exceed limitations, but if it's all for naught, it is just not for me.
Lastly, the title. If you are going to call your movie Red Cockroaches, then Goddamnit, why not give the people some red mother fu#*in' Cockroaches? You know that's what we all want - that's why the film is called Red Cockroaches, right? Yes, every once in a while we see a cockroach (not even sure they were red now), perhaps to remind us of what we are watching, but that is simply not enough. Again, like the other "big-budget" elements, the cockroaches remain on the periphery, frustrating me with their untapped potential. Seriously some more apt, and possibly more interesting, titles for the film would be "Dirty Burger," or my favorite, "Sexual Ketchup" (see above incest food scene, or don't if ketchup used as a lubricant gives you the willies). Again, if the cockroaches, like many other things, will play a larger role in the two following movies, then I tip my hat to those films. Or, maybe I am just a bully.
Red Cockroaches (or Sexual Ketchup, if you prefer) is presented on DVD in excellent fashion by Heretic Films. In addition to a nice transfer of the digital movie, there are a handful of bonus features, including a trailer, a making-of featurette, audio commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, storyboards, and a short film by director Miguel Coyula. It is very cool that Heretic is a company that appears to be interested in finding new talent and giving them wider recognition, while at the same time giving audiences an opportunity to watch and experience a greater variety of films. To learn more about them and their ever-growing film library check them out at www.hereticfilms.com.
Originally published at Horrorview.com
Labels: dvd, heretic, miguel coyula, red cockroaches, review
Published Sunday, January 22, 2006 by Brian.
Virgins From Hell
Mondo Macabro's latest delirious dose of "wild world cinema" opens in a smoke-hazed gambling house where the stakes are high, and evidently so was the camera operator. The camera swoops above the action like an injured mallard, revealing a cluster of poker-faced patrons seated around a swelling pile of moolah (the official Indonesian currency). However, all bets are off when a female motorcycle gang clad in primary colored pleather, armed with assault rifles, and fueled with feminine fury lay waste to the house of cards, before finally making off with all the Indonesian currency they can get their murderous, albeit well manicured, hands on.
After this bit of thuggery, and a largely out of focus motorcycle montage wherein the gaggle of gals look more lethargic than lethal, the motorcycle gang returns to their secluded hideout. Once inside, the money is counted, but when the leader of the gang reveals that instead of being equally distributed, the loot will be used to buy weapons - so that she can can destroy the diabolical Mr. Tiger, thus avenging the death of her parents - tempers flare and some requisite biker babe bickering quickly ensues.
Meanwhile, Mr. Tiger is busy being wicked inside his fake-ass castle. With the help of a mop-headed medical student, Mr. Tiger has created a super-duper, special, secret female sex serum which he plans to use in order to take over the world's aphrodisiac market - thus making Spanish fly a thing of the past, I suppose. But, before Mr. Tiger can push his product onto GNC shelves everywhere, that pesky pack of biker babes arrives, ready for a rumble.
For some unknown reason the motorcycle gang shows up without new weapons, or for that matter, any semblance of a plan. However, they do have a zippy little Suzuki Samurai with yellow lightning bolt decals... but alas even this is not enough to defeat Mr. Tiger and his heavily armed and brightly costumed legion of chubby, middle-aged men.
The dozen or so girls who survived Mr. Tiger's bullet blazing counterattack are tossed into one of his large cave-like dungeons. Beset by constant infighting, backstabbing and hair-pulling, the gang of girls eventually begin working together (well, sort of) in an effort to survive brutal tortures, a lesbian warden, and horny henchmen. But more importantly, will they ever manage to escape the evil wine-wielding clutches of Mr. Tiger, and if so, might they put an end to his diabolism and countless costume changes...with hymens intact?
With their recent releases of For Your Height Only, The Deathless Devil, Tarkan Versus the Vikings, and now Virgins From Hell, the good people at Mondo Macabro have put out some of the whackiest, most deliriously bizarre, off-the-wall-funny movies I've seen available on DVD.Along with the madcap plot and characters I've described, the acting is atrocious, the action inept and many of the interiors are about as gaudily tasteless as can be imagined (although I would love to have the portrait of a horse Mr. Tiger has hanging next to his whips). Fight scenes and violence abound, but it's all so unskillfully enacted and comically absurd that laughter seems the only probable response. In terms of sex, that which might have been included to titillate, like everything else, doesn't necessarily have the desired effect, but is nevertheless amusing and only adds to the laughter that the film will surely elicit. I'm not entirely certain what intentions the filmmakers behind Virgins From Hell (and other films of this ilk) may have had, but I can say with some amount of assurity that they wanted to entertain, and in this they succeeded admirably. Simply put, these films are so bad they're brilliant.
Mondo Macabro's release of this film is really above par. Virgins From Hell is presented in a remastered anamorphic widescreen print, that really looks much better than one would expect given the obscure nature of the title. The audio is quite clear, without any fluctuations or noticeable imperfections - making it all the easier to hear the silly dialogue, a stolen section from the score to Dune, and a quirky instrumental version of The Moody Blues's "Nights in White Satin." The first disc also includes a trailer for Virgins From Hell, background information on the Women In Prison genre from Pete Tombs, and the Mondo Macabro previews trailer.Virgins From Hell also comes with a second disc that is sure to keep the party going with "70 minutes of trailers from the studio behind Virgins From Hell." The trailers run the gamut with supernatural martial arts spectaculars, more women in prison films, horror, crime films, jungle adventure and even war films. Based solely on the trailers I'm hoping Mondo Macabro releases a couple of the "Warrior" films and The Devil's Sword to DVD. Finally, a documentary on Indonesian cinema is included, and will look familiar to those who already own Mondo's excellent Lady Terminator release. So, with a fun feature film, a bevy of great extras and the most fashion conscious villain in cinema history, what more could fans of "the wild side of world cinema" possibly ask for?
Originally published at Horrorview.com
Labels: dvd, mondo macabro, review, virgins from hell
Published Friday, January 06, 2006 by Brian.
School of the Holy Beast (1974)
The nunsploitation genre is one of those peculiar cinematic niches unfamiliar to the "general moviegoing public," save Sister Act Two: Electric Boogaloo, and is a product of what some - mainly those who wouldn't identify themselves as being part of the aforementioned audience, or would correct me on the title of a Sister Act sequel - might fondly refer to as the halcyon days of exploitation cinema. Heretical points of view and blasphemous depictions, which usually include lesbianism and devil worship, are common characteristics of nunsploitation films. Certainly there are variations on such motifs, but these are the basic hallmarks, and attractions, to this sub-niche genre. With this in mind, Cult Epics DVD release of the nunsploitation shocker, School of the Holy Beast, doesn't disappoint and actually exceeds expectations.
In School of the Holy Beast an attractive (of course) eighteen year-old named Maya Takigawa (played by the similarly named Yumi Takigawa) spends a footloose and fancy-free day galavanting around town. Why all the letting down of hair? Well, it turns out that Maya is going to enter a convent ("where women are not women") the following day and is taking the opportunity to indulge whims which might otherwise be forbidden to nuns. These of course include (but are not limited to) a womanly spree of ice hockey-spectating, bumper car-riding and love-making with a complete stranger - the perfect climax to Maya's last hurrah.
Once inside the Sacred Heart Convent, Maya is briefly introduced to the nuns before she and her clothing are just as quickly whisked away. Again naked and prostrate, this time in front of a giant cross instead of a dashing stranger, Maya makes solemn as a congregation of habited sisters proceed to cover her naked nubility with a white shroud. Later, as Maya is beginning to acclimatize to life inside the convent, and grow accustomed to the nightly screams from self flagellation that echo off the holy halls, an immaculate conception-doubting, whisky-guzzling cutie named sister Ishida pegs poor Maya as a spy for the Mother Superior. Ishida's accusation is fueled by Maya's recent entry into the convent and an equally recent string of busts that have resulted in torture, which is of course the cure-all for any sisters who sin. As hoped for, Ishida's claim against Maya results in a not-to-be-missed bitch slap bonanza.
While not a spy, Maya does have ulterior motives for entering the convent. It turns out that her mother was also a sister (follow me) and died under mysterious circumstances inside the convent. Ultimately, Maya risks her own life as she attempts to unravel the mystery behind her mother's death, uncovering many dastardly deeds amidst a murder most foul!Much to my delight, this is without exception the best nunsploitation film I have ever seen. It goes much, much farther than others dared in its depiction of religious hypocrisy and outright blasphemy. Sure, as usual there is self flagellation aplenty, but add in rape, incest, masturbation, witch trial torture, rose thorn lacerations, urination on holy effigies, trapdoors, pits of boiling water, not to mention a bout of morning sickness, and it all combines to make a potent, offensive and entertaining exploitation film that is truly astonishing. Furthermore, add to this, striking cinematography, a good plot, serviceable acting and an overall nicely crafted, aesthetically pleasing film and what we get is a real trashy delight of a movie.
This DVD from Cult Epics is highlighted by a very nice 35mm widescreen transfer of the film with nary a blemish in sight. The film is also presented with the original Japanese audio and optional English subtitles. Extras include a trailer and two video interviews. The first with star Yumi Takigawa who recalls, with some noticeable reservations, her involvement in the film - the second is with film critic Risaku Kiridoushi who draws some interesting historical links and places the film within the context of other Japanese "erotic-grotesque" films from the '70s. While not for all tastes, this film is highly recommended for fans of exploitation cinema and will surely make a very nice addition to any adventurous movie watcher's DVD collection.
Originally published at Horrorview.com
Labels: cult epics, dvd, norifumi suzuki, review, school of the holy beast