Wednesday, February 27, 2013

IN MY SKIN (2002)



IN MY SKIN is a French film about a woman who stumbles outside a party and mutilates herself on some unidentified debris.  It's probably not unfair to shelve this with similar French xtreme fare like INSIDE and MARTYRS, although IN MY SKIN is more deliberate and philosophical than those films and less marinated in gore.  Not that there isn't grue here—that would be inconceivable, given the whole premise of the thing.


In this film, though, infliction isn't some fetishy thing that's dwelt upon for its own sake or so some FX person can demonstrate mad skills.  It's (possibly) a stand-in or metaphor.  After mutilated lady Esther's mutilation, her life alters in remarkable ways.  She tallies gains at work, seemingly letting her ambition go free, while simultaneously driving away her boyfriend at home.  It's like the physical breach of her flesh has led to the collapse of aspects of her personality, whether that's inhibition or emotional stability.


The line above references Esther's claim that she didn't feel the original mutilation.  Notice that I put "original" there—as you might have guessed, she starts getting way into expanding injury to other parts of her body.  This leads to awkwardness in social situations and imagery that's semi-reminiscent of My Very First Period stories, hammering down the sexual/sensual overtones of her war with her own flesh.


Other characters fall by the wayside as the film hits the home stretch and we're left alone with Esther and her modified/mortified body, sometimes shown in De Palma-style split-screen because art fucking rules (and because the credits prophesied that this would happen).  The last third isn't quite a flawless triumph, but that's acceptable...what comes before makes it worth the spin.


I have been pretty cool to the charms of French horror.  Most of it feels like teenager-y trying too hard to impress.  IN MY SKIN is a bit more mature and thoughtful, although the film itself warns us against treating it rationally when Esther chastises her boyfriend, "You always look for meanings!"  Why does she get SO into slicing up herself?  Is it a form of rebellion against her professional or love life?  Is it a last-ditch attempt at establishing control over something?  Narcissism and fascination with her own body?  Or inversely a Cronenbergian revolt against the body as an alien thing and potential enemy?


Who knows?  Even without a satisfactory explanation or Cliffs Notes, IN MY SKIN is still well worth seeing.  For lovers of CRASH, France, and backyard wrestling deathmatches.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

SANTO Y BLUE DEMON CONTRA LOS MONSTRUOS (1970)

I am one of (I suspect) 30 people who saw the lively MIL MASCARAS VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY in its theatrical """release""".  This occurred at a theater in Kentucky, just where you'd expect a lucha movie to screen, at a theater which had not advertised the movie at all & didn't include it in the listing of showtimes on the marquee.  When I asked to buy a ticket, the ticket guy seemed baffled that I even knew that it was happening.  It was the strangest movie experience of all time and I feel like the release was the result of mob pressure or a lost bet.  But I loved the movie anyway and always meant to delve more into the golden age of luchadore-vs.-monster cinema.  So my hopes going into SANTO Y BLUE DEMON were sky-high...


Tragically for me, this film lacks MUMMY's self-aware spirit of fun and is played much straighter, though on the budget of a child's lemonade stand.  The best comparison that I can conceive is the 60s Batman show, only if a mad scientist sucked all of the purposeful camp out of it.  Like, we're going to make you watch this thing that we didn't really think through or try that hard to make, but you are not allowed to have fun with it.  It has monsters and fighting, so stop whining and watch it.


Santo and Blue Demon are best Mexican wrestling friends.  They also have issues with recently-dead mad scientist Dr. Halder, who gets reanimated by his dwarf assistant and immediately sets to work building a squad of extremely cheap-looking monsters, basically Universal monsters who are way past their expiration dates—

*a vampire in a shitty hipster hat


*a Frankenstein's monster (called "Frankenstein", grrrr) who looks like a paunchy Telenovela star with food poisoning and a barber school haircut


*this thing, which is like a cyclops/Creature from the Black Lagoon mashup


*a mummy who walks like he is a taking a DUI test and an old Mexican person semi-dressed up like a werewolf.  And an evil duplicate of Blue Demon, too.

Dude, this thing is full of monsters!  Aren't you already incredibly impressed?


The problem is that all this monsterousness is so much monotonousness without a solid story told with energy and passion.  And, oh dios mio, SANTO Y BLUE is one of the best movies ever at lazily pissing away any potential that it might accidentally generate.  If you came to me on the street and told me that you had a movie in which a mad scientist and his dwarf assistant conduct surgery on a water cyclops, while assisted by rockabillies in green greasepaint, I would give you a fistful of money to see it!  


But then I would give you a fistful of knuckles afterwards.  Too much of this is draggy and cyclical.  The fights consume tons of time, but because it's mostly Santo fighting dimestore Halloween costumes that have to last for the entire shoot, the action isn't that pulse-pounding.  Plus it's scored with the most generic stripshow jazz, so it's hard to shake the Something Weird feeling, which doesn't exactly square with action movie greatness.


SANTO Y BLUE didn't do much for me.  Word is that it's one of the weaker Santo entries, so I'm sure I'll give the whole idea another shot later on.  Let's end on a good note for now, the note of vampire tits.  See you next time, Internet friends!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

TURKISH STAR WARS (1982)

aka DÜNYAYI KURTARAN ADAM aka THE MAN WHO SAVED THE WORLD

"My daughter cannot speak since I hid the brain and the sword!"

I've had a thing for Turkish trash for a while now, but I think I can stop the search for increasingly insane-r films.  If anything can top TURKISH STAR WARS, I will be pleased/amazed/horrified.


Most movies give you time to sit and settle into the plot, but not TURKISH STAR WARS.  The movie opens with this frantic narration over stolen footage from American STAR WARS.  It basically just blasts information at you, like a college professor who has poor teaching skills and schizophrenia, too.  Basically, people reached the stars, but nuclear weaponization threatened and also an enemy from space threatened, so humanity banded together, but the Earth was destroyed by lasers, but (maybe?) reconstituted itself thanks to the power of brain molecules, which are an exclusive trait of mankind.  Even with brain-shielded Earth back on its feet, the star wars continue and the best, awesomest space pilots are (of course) Turks named Murat and Ali.


Two things about that screencap tell truths about TURKISH STAR WARS.  A) the space battle scenes involve guys in helmets standing in front of movie screens showing STAR WARS & acting like they are ducking laser shots and B) Murat and Ali spend A LOT of time saying quasi-offensive things about women.  It's a relief to know that feminism was a passing fad and the future will be back to normal as far as broads are concerned!

Ali and Murat get shot down and land on a desert planet and wander around, fighting progressively sillier monsters and guy-talking about ladies and their crazy ways.  Then their prayers are answered and they finally meet a woman!


If this is an accurate depiction of the future, I am 100% okay with the Earth blowing up.  Doro Pesch-influenced eye makeup, bottle-blonde long hair, makeup applied with a gun, and a Rambo headband!  Accept my friend request!  She's the mute daughter of a priest/scientist guy, who explains that the planet is under the tyrannical rule of The Magician, who wants to defeat/destroy Earth, but can't BECAUSE HE DOESN'T HAVE A BRAIN.  All he has are an army of monsters that resemble last-minute Halloween mummies or football mascots from schools with poor funding.



Not that The Magician is that imposing himself!


He also has a queen that I was pretty sure was really a guy, but now I think is maybe just unfortunately designed.


This is a Turkish movie starring Cüneyt Arkin from LION MAN, so it naturally includes tons of ridiculous fight scenes.  Thankfully, this movie doesn't go overboard with the trampoline dropkicks and karate-chopping-off of limbs, like LION MAN did.  There's enough to entertain, but not so much that you're glutted with it.  Murat and Ali do most of their fighting in satin jackets that look like they came from a 1984 Merle Haggard tour, btw.


The movie rips off STAR WARS, but that's not the end of the tale of its thefts.  I literally fell out of my chair laughing when the Indiana Jones theme starting playing and the ending scenes are a mashup of STAR WARS footage and disaster scenes from some Biblical or Roman epic that I can't place.  The stolen stuff, the twitchy editing, the soundtrack that sounds like Mr. Bungle at grindcore length, and the sheer insanity of many of the scenes clearly mark this as the best STAR WARS of all time.




It even has a message that we all should hear:


I am just so proud to live on a planet that makes movies like this!  And you can watch it for free at Internet Archive, using the POWER OF YOUR HUMAN BRAIN (or find it with subtitles at other places on the Internet):

  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

IMPULSE (1984)

IMPULSE starts with a bang...literally (hey girl!, totes!, cool story bro!, ermagehrd!, :D!).  And then it continues and ends with banging of all sorts, from first-time lesbians to automatic rifles and (less merrily) a clankingly mechanical script at times.  It also has banking.  It's no hidden gem the likes of which the world has not seen, but it certainly has enough cult cachet to earn its spot in discerning gentlemen's midnight collections, at least for a little while.


Plot: THE CRAZIES, only not so crazy for the most part.  No one rakes a lawn or cackles like a pirate, but the people of this small town are progressively losing their ability to restrain their impulses.  Think about when people swipe your parking space or talk on a cell phone at the library.  Approximately none of us immediately think, "Oh, well, live and let live."  Even Ghandi would have fantasized about beatings to death with fish or sticks.


In IMPULSE, that dream becomes a reality, slowly but surely.  The slow burn adds to the creep factor, as we (and our out-of-town protagonists) gingerly reach awareness that anger management is serious business.  At the outset, we basically get cranky behavior and unhinged yelling.  Then morbid behavior fueled by resentment about bedpans.  Then full-on shooting murders of delinquent kids and general mayhem.  Me gusta!


I dig films of this type, since they parallel the societal breakdowns of George Romero's stuff and really display human behavior after the mask has slipped.  So IMPULSE is on a good footing with me from the start.  BUT let us not be too impulsive, there are issues here.   As stated, the script is a little weak in parts, especially in the part that is Meg Tilly playing returning daughter Jennifer.  Not sure if it's Tilly's performance or the general flatness of the character, but we don't get too involved with the one person on whom the entire movie pivots.  Big flaw, which could be remedied in a potential remake.  Make her compelling, give her something to do besides looking equally concerned about upskirt photos and car accidents.   


The whole third act, which should be the big payoff and orgy of immolations and explosions, is not.  We get a little of that, but spend a lot of time at a broken-down truck in a field.  Then there's a last-minute explanation that feels completely unsatisfying.  Something like this needs a grim conclusion, in many cases, but it never needs a rush job.

Despite the flaws, IMPULSE is worth your time and I'm sort of surprised that it doesn't have more of a reputation (I mean, I'D never heard of it!).  I would not mind seeing a remake if the characters could be fleshed out a little more and the script altered in the film's final third.  And more explosions and small-town cadavers, please.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

XTRO (1983)

Art is not science.  The failure of so many formula films clearly shows that movies can't math their way into society's heart.  But, good news, everyone, the reverse is also true.  Sometimes, a movie which at first glance seems an utter debacle somehow manages to overcome itself and attain a place of merit.  XTRO has flaws that glare across continents.  Upon its initial release, it was hated by professionals, like so—


U MAD BROS??  Granted, the acting here is frequently creaky, the effects aren't special, and the story as such is no epic.  BUT I violently disagree with the assertion that XTRO is brainless trash.  It's not and that + its arcane atmosphere make it an easy recommend.  Let me lay out my case.


Little British boy Tony is playing with his dad while his mom drives away and then the sky explodes.  Dad disappears, abducted by aliens, only to return three years later in crab-monster form.  Said monster indeed undergoes a second birth from some blonde woman (this is the scene you will remember), then goes to get his kid back.  He bites Tony, transferring alien powers of telekinesis and conjuration, and we get family drama and kid misbehavior until the superbly nihilistic conclusion.  


This thing is pretty patently juggling subtext about family breakup from a kid point of view.  Even the very first scene, in which Tony leaps over a fence after his departing mom, leaving his dad behind, makes this clear.  Tony pines for his dad during the three year absence, never warming to mom's new American boyfriend.  When dad Sam shows up, he tells Tony that he's been taken by aliens and transformed to live on another world.  Tony's forced to choose between his current life with mom and stunt-dad or alien adventures with his biological father, who now eats snake eggs.  


The snake's name is Harry, but it lays eggs, btw.  Given what Freud taught us about snakes, you can probably see that XTRO also has gender issues.  This movie kind of hates women!  But not in a seventies grindhouse way, more in a baffled pre-pubescent kid way.  An early scene involves Tony walking in on his mom having sex with her boyfriend and portions of the movie and dialog seem to call back to this experience.  "She's just a stupid woman!" Tony's mom tells him to soothe his pain about his snake being killed by a neighbor.  Later, when Tony tries to play hide and seek with his babysitter Analise (Maryam D'Abo), she feigns a headache so she can go get penetrated by her boyfriend.  "You're always lying down!" Tony whines.  XTRO exudes a mild disgust and disappointed anger about this whole sex thing.  Pretty common before puberty sets in, I'd guess, and pretty smart for the movie to exploit.


But all that is so much college talk.  You don't have to study XTRO to enjoy it because it also boasts incredibly fucked-up psychedelic elements that endear it to the wise viewer.  Once Tony gets his alien powers, you get scene after scene of murderous midget clowns, life-size GI Joes, and egg-spouting woman-cocoons.  This anything-goes approach really sets this movie apart from almost anything else in moviedom.  It gets so avant-garde and psychedelic and weird that you just give up by the time a clown fills a refrigerator with green sludge for alien eggs to incubate in.  


The harsh reaction to XTRO is a little baffling.  Granted, it has problems, but so do most horror movies that were hatched in the 80s.  If I had to guess, I would say that the visceral dislike for the film stems from a) it being British, but not restrained like good old Hammer films, which leads us to b) it's perverse, but doesn't restrict itself to sexual perversity.  That would just be mere bad taste.  XTRO is more interested in transgressing the whole idea of body itself, crossing those essentialist limits until what was human isn't anymore.  Plus, women giving birth to full-grown men!  It's simultaneously ambitious and nasty and it's not surprising that the arthouse crowd reacted like scalded grandmas to it.  But you, discerning reader, should give it a shot!