Friday, February 24, 2012

FACELESS (1987)

The passing of Lina Romay made me realize that I'd seen few of her films nor lots of Jess Franco's stuff overall.  I watched THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF ten or so years ago and remember almost nothing about it except that it was awfully fun.  FACELESS was filmed much later and features Romay in a bit part as the wife of Dr. Orloff.  It's acclaimed as one of Franco's better works and also one of his juiciest in terms of splatter levels.


Truthfully, I wouldn't wander into this expecting ropes of intestines to be flying all across the screen.  The plot, which is basically EYES WITHOUT A FACE in the eighties, demands a certain amount of grue.  Can't have full face transplants without breaking a few faces, bro.  But this is no August Underground or Nacho Cerda thing, really.  A plastic surgeon makes one little mistake in his storied career and the victim/patient comes after him with a vial of acid.  His sister saves him only to get unprettied up.  From there, the doctor goes on a quest to find beautiful women and their faces to save his sister from her facelessness.


It is a Jess Franco movie, so I expected a lot of lurid sexy time.  Porn diva/Vanna White-doll hybrid Brigitte Lahaie is in this as the surgeon's assistant and Caroline Munro also shows up in a nighshirt to increase the dish count.  I wouldn't call FACELESS especially sleazy or anything, though.  It feels like the epitome of an eighties movie.  Models, cocaine, high-heel sex on pricey couches, and the Cutting Crew-style electro-pop "Theme from Faceless".  


I dug the cast a lot.  The aforementioned Lahaie and Munro, plus Chris Mitchum brings his usual spirit of grindhousey fun to a role as an investigator of sorts.  My hopes got high when I learned Telly Savalas was in this, but he really doesn't have much to do.  The effects are pretty solid and Franco wisely edits them in non-lingering ways for the most part, the second screencap above being a pretty egregious exception.  The film flirts with Big Themes like voyeurism (at one point, actresses and models are described as people who are paid to be looked at), but I suspect that most of it is pretty skin-deep, ha ha ha.


I wish I had more to say about this!  It's no masterpiece, but it's certainly an acceptable time-killer even if it's occasionally baffling in the Euro way.  Faceless!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

THE TAINT (2010)

Great news, guise, the gender dichotomy inherent in the horror genre has been upended!  You know how almost every horror film after NIGHT OF THE LEPUS has been bejeweled with exposed and exploited lady breasts?  Well, thanks to THE TAINT and its 2.5 million engorged penises, it's not an issue anymore and we can all be separate-but-equals.  At the very least, the meatsword damage in this film checkmates the stone phallus lady-vexation in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, so it's off the table from now on, K.


Science goes awry again as a male stimulant that inadvertently causes violent misogyny gets dumped into the water supply.  Heads get smashed and hideously erect beef whistles spout gallons of paintlike semen.  For the duration of this film, we'll follow sunglass wearer Phil O'Ginny (it's Irish) and badass squirrel-slaying park ranger Misandra(!) as they navigate the post-Taint apocalypse.  There are flashbacks aplenty and the film skips around like an eight-year-old girl playing hopscotch in front of a movie theater showing PULP FICTION.  But it works.  


It doesn't surprise me that Troma just picked this up.  The massive number of man bananas on display aside, TAINT recalls the best of Troma: profuse gore and ridiculous and hilarious purposeful camp.  The effects in this are pretty impressive, as in the applaudable decision to not make this a 2-and-a-half hour thing.  TAINT clocks in at just over an hour, which is plenty of time for this sort of exercise, so please tell every other horror filmmaker in existence today, okay?  The effects are GREAT except when they're not supposed to be, like when yogurt guns are shot and giggle sticks sliced by knives.  But the head-crushing, oh my, it's immaculate.


There's no reason to get too intellectual or whatever.  But obviously this movie is playing with gender roles deep-rooted in our society.  BUT here is what I want you to take away: THE TAINT is not boring!  This is NOT the movie equivalent of being lectured at by some chubby professorial type in a sweater with cat hair all over it.  It's fun, it's outlandish, and if you watch it and just get head-crushing and mutilated winkies out of it, I'm sure the film's makers would say, "Fine, bro."  It's also not part of the burgeoning gay-horror scene, like those BROTHERHOOD movies, 99% of which are horrible.  And why is American minority-horror always horrible?  Like, is there A single good black-American horror film? (PS: If this is not the most offensive part of the review, I am quitting)


I liked this so much that I forced my co-workers to watch it on my birthday (yesterday, THANKS FOR REMEMBERING) and, I don't want to give away my identity, but we work in a pretty conservative and staid field and they all laughed and were mortified immensely.  So that is a recommendation of sorts!  If you dig the seemiest side of genre stuff, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not obtaining this.  It's a good watch with your non-church or riot grrrl friends.