Saturday, December 31, 2011

SATAN'S BLOOD [ESCALOFRIO] (1978)


Mondo Macabro delivers again!  This seventies sleazefest from Spain goes for the gold in one of the most difficult hybrids in horror: the erotic horror film.  I know there are tons of them out there, but has anyone, even a baby fresh from the oven, been frightened by the likes of the WITCHCRAFT series?  As stimulating and good as it is, do you think a viewer was ever really upset by the alluring DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS?  These are questions for science, but I can answer this question—what is a film that is legitimately both sexy and scary?  Answer: SATAN'S BLOOD.  Or ESCALOFRIO.  Either works.


A couple meet up with what are purportedly a college friend and his galpal, then everyone goes back to a mansion in the sticks.  The mansion-owning couple have quite the collection of occult doodads, although if you are like me, you will sigh and wave your arm like a diva whenever a pentagram is shown.  So these people are like Wiccans or something?  Still, it's the seventies and there's no reason to be a pentagram pedant about such business.  The foursome end up playing eighth-grade games on the coolest Ouija board I have EVER seen...


...then the non-Pagan couple discover their hosts naked on an (UPSIDE-DOWN) pentagram and are promptly placed under a spell and sucked into an orgy.  I cannot lie on New Year's Eve, these scenes are quite stirring.  The ladies are gorgeous and all-natural, the guys are not distractingly repulsive.  It's choice.  But SATAN'S BLOOD isn't just about sexy times on the logo of Wicca, it's about horror!  Awful lady-eating, bad things with dogs, and death aplenty all go down.  I don't want to overpraise this thing because it's a low-budget film with all the attendant flaws, but so few films get this stuff right that it's well worth your time to seek this out.  


One peripheral note: you'll recognize lots of the voices in the English dub from all your fave Italian zombie and such movies.  This kind of made me wonder if voice actors got pigeonholed into roles and, if so, if hearing their voice automatically colored the viewer's perception of characters.  This is another question for scientists, I expect.  In the meantime, break out las tits and los black candles and get yourself a copy of this one.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

THINGS TO LOVE IN 2011

I live in West Virginia, so there's A LOT that I have yet to see (THE WOMAN, CHILLERAMA, MELANCHOLIA, etc.) because most things don't come anywhere near here. West Virginia is like Kryptonite to movies that aren't chick flicks or explodey superhero things. Also, I am going by US release dates because I can't fly over to Japan to see the 2010 premiere of 13 ASSASSINS; I can just wish about it. Fun fact: I watched 308 movies this year (so far).

 1. ABSENTIA ~ I saw this at a con and, as far as I know, it's still playing festivals exclusively, while CREATURE and DYLAN DOG made it into theaters, so there you go, there is no God. This is one of the most elegant horror movies I've ever seen and, from a storytelling/atmosphere perspective, it's irreproachable. It has the same brooding, melancholy tone that made SESSION 9 so memorable and it sticks with you long after viewing. Incredibly depressing and so good.

 2. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN ~ The least elegant movie I've ever seen and one of the most quotable. "When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat... with razor blades." "They're going to make comics out of my hate-crimes!" Most of the time, neo-grindhouse fails because it tries too hard to be arch and quirky or whatever, but HOBO manages to stay entertaining without crossing the line into being oh so pleased with itself and its wit. It's insane how much better the spin-offs of GRINDHOUSE trailers are than GRINDHOUSE itself.

 3. 13 ASSASSINS ~ It's probably impossible for someone to like everything that Takashi Miike has done, but I've enjoyed the majority of the stuff I've seen. Even so, this feels like a comeback, although it's probably one of his more conventional movies, even with the one-hour fight scene. That is not hyperbole. A dramatic martial-arts epic in the vein of Kurosawa, for real.

 4. THE TROLL HUNTER ~ I loved this and thought it recalled GHOSTBUSTERS or GREMLINS in that it was rooted in horror, but was generally a fast-paced action-comedy with really likeable characters. Scandinavia redeemed itself after my unpleasant RARE EXPORTS experience.

 5. ATTACK THE BLOCK ~ And this is like a modern-day GOONIES or something, only peopled with British street thugs. A better, not-annoying Euro SUPER 8.

 6. DREAM HOME ~ Not to be confused with DREAM HOUSE, which is American and allegedly sucks, this is the first genre thing I've seen from Hong Kong since the China takeover and it was shocking how explicitly the movie criticized life under China. It doesn't have the old Category III levels of gore, but it's wet enough. I hate slasher movies so much, but this one won my heart and nestled into a very short list of adored slashers, probably right under BLACK CHRISTMAS.

 7. I SAW THE DEVIL ~ Korean revenge horror from the director of the great TALE OF TWO SISTERS. Over two hours, but not at all bloated or boring & you definitely get your money's worth of violence. Wow, of things that I loved, a whole two so far were made in America.

 8. FINAL DESTINATION 5 ~ But America is sometimes really good at taking formulas that work and breathing a bit of new life into them. Seriously, never driving on a bridge again.

9. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 ~ Formulas work, breathe new life, tank tops, demons, muy bien.

 10. SOURCE CODE ~ I almost put BLACK DEATH here because it's fabu, but it definitely released in 2010, so SOURCE CODE it is. Sharp modern sci-fi that recalls THE MATRIX and INCEPTION, only on a train, which recalls UNSTOPPABLE and SNAKES ON A TRAIN.

 Also pretty good: COUNTRY STRONG, ENDHIRAN (ROBOT), DRIVE ANGRY, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, CONTAGION.

 Best bad movie: It is going to be hard for anything to top the SHADOW PEOPLE, although you're not going to enjoy it as much if you don't get my friend Ernie to watch it with you.

I am very grateful that I have genre movies and the horror community to take me away from real life when I need an escape.  Best wishes for the little 2011 you have left and the 2012 that lurks in wait...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

9 TO 5: DAYS IN PORN (2008)

If I ever made a porn, I would block it EXACTLY like this.
AKA the post that will finally make me alter my content settings.  I've been on a porn kick lately.  I read Ron Jeremy's book (there totally is one!) and Legs McNeil's pretty great The Other Hollywood, among others.  It's fun to learn about such a seedy and poorly-understood industry & it's depressing to learn that it's often exactly what you'd expect.  Abused or neglected girls with problems, creepy exploiters, low porn-industry self-esteem or raincoat-and-cigar sleaze.  9 TO 5 shows you a lot of that, too, but the delivery is a a bit more graceful and successful than many similar efforts.  


The doc selects a very varied group of subjects and jumps us all around their lives, an approach that recalls The Other Hollywood & Qbert and yields all sorts of benefits—I'd be skeeved out or gutted with sadness if I spent too much time with some of these folks, but pirouetting from couple Audrey Hollander & Otto Bauer to working-stiff-porn-agent Mark Spiegler to the charismatic Roxy Deville makes it easier to digest the whole.  


The filmmakers focus on pairs in a lot of instances—Belladonna and her husband, Euros Lucie and Tom, Audrey & Otto, Sasha Grey and her boyfriend, and sisters Mia & Ava Rose.  It's intriguing and educational to see how far from healthy these connections land, but it's difficult to measure the extent to which porn is responsible.  A good modern liberal would probably scoff at some fat schlub's insistence that couples are just the way we're meant to be, but I'm sure it probably doesn't help your trust issues to see your boyfriend sodomizing your best friend by a dishwasher.  Then again, maybe there's a golden mean between mating like Pentecostals and trying to out-orgy Rome.


But keep in mind that the porn business is all business.  One of the truest things that 9 TO 5 teaches is that porn has very little to do with real-life sexuality and contact.  It's highly doubtful that Audrey Hollander would be undergoing frosting enemas (or something...I was kind of covering my eyes with a sheet at this point) unless there was an enema gap in the free market.  The porn business is an adjunct limb of show business and is just as callous and bottom-line-eyed, despite dealing in flesh and fluids instead of cute robots and shit.  

Guess what: I don't even like porn (softcore/Skinemax material is a different story) and had no idea who 90% of these people were, but I still found 9 TO 5 to be a fine viewing experience.  If you're at all interested in the subject, I'd start here and then move onto the porn section of your local library to conduct further research.  I can't wait to see the Google keyword traffic patterns for this one!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

IMPALER (2007)

After October's engorgement, I don't feel up to analyzing lengthy and often overlengthy horror movies, so I'm probably going to slowly fill up this blog with a few documentaries.  First is IMPALER, which covers the  gubernatorial campaign of "self-proclaimed" (this gets said A LOT) vampyre, Satanist, and wrestler Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey.  Fun fact: I have only known one person who spelled his name "Jonathon" and he had sex in public rest stops in Louisiana and liked to fondle the hair of sleeping boys.    
 This Jonathon could give mine a run for his money, though, as IMPALER starts off a mocking documentary, sneering at The Impaler's quirks and bingo-hall bravado, but it gets really really weird when (SPOILER) it's revealed that Jonathon's half-sister Kat, whom he claims to have nailed, is actually an alternate personality of Jonathon himself!!  Beyond that insanity, we spend lots of seedy time with Jonathon and delve into his mom-abused past and multiple fake deaths.  The worst traits of Satanists, wrestlers, and rednecks congeal into the cauldron of Jonathon.  Even given the traumas he allegedly suffered as a youth and all the hard luck, I still found it pretty hard to like him or feel for him.  He seems too infused with the spirit of every loud dumb redneck I've ever known.  I was rooting much more for his dingbat wife's kids to run away and escape to saner pastures.  


The film itself is pretty rough-looking, with gobs of handheld shots and minimal ambient lighting.  Parts of this drag and bore, but overall it's not a wasteful experience, albeit basically being just a sideshow.  

Watch it here.