Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Yurikuma Arashi (2015)


Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara
Screenplay: Kunihiko Ikuhara and Takayo Ikami
(Voice) Cast: Miho Arakawa (as Ginko Yurishiro); Nozomi Yamane (as Kureha Tsubaki); Yoshiko Ikuta (as Ruru Yurigazaki); Ami Koshimizu (as Konomi Yurikawa); Aoi Yūki (as Mitsuko Yurizono); Aya Endo (as Reia Tsubaki); Junichi Suwabe (as Life Sexy); Kazutomi Yamamoto (as Life Beauty); Kikuko Inoue (as Yuri-Ka Hakonaka); Mariya Ise (as Eriko Oniyama); Mitsuki Saiga (as Life Cool);
A 1000 Anime Crossover

Abstract Spectrum: Fantastique/Surreal
Abstract Rating (High/Medium/Low/None): Medium

After Mawaru Penguindrum (2011),  my introduction to Kunihiko Ikuhara with only his reputation to fed off was an immense, rewarding experience in itself over twenty four episodes. With only twelve episodes here, his follow up Yurikuma Arashi is literally about lesbian bears, a fairytale of love between woman and bear woman that has an almost naive, sincere message of tolerance against homophobia, but something you stay for with its pop surreal artistry and exaggerated, light hearted tone even with serious subject matter like peer pressure and finding one's identity.

Whilst not as surreal as Penguindrum, trying to devalue Yurikama as just an "normal" project for Kunihiko Ikuhara  is absurd considering Ikuhara's worldview is fairytale, bright coloured fantasy with an elasticity to the world, metaphor not only standing in for character emotions but becoming the scenery being said characters. He's a director, alongside the creative team and animators that work on this sort of show, who is blatant in his symbolism but manages to get away with it from the elegance of his aesthetic style, a gorgeousness matched with open eccentricity that's emotionally awarding.

For the full review of this series, follow the link to my other blog 1000 Anime HERE


Home Sweet Home (1981)


Director: Nettie Peña
Screenplay: Thomas Bush
Cast: Jake Steinfeld (as Jay Jones); Vinessa Shaw (as Angel Bradley); Peter De Paula (as Mistake Bradley); Don Edmonds (as Harold Bradley); Charles Hoyes (as Wayne); David Mielke (as Scott); Leia Naron (as Gail); Lisa Rodríguez (as Maria); Colette Trygg     (as Jennifer); Sallee Young (as Linda)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #95

There are times in Home Sweet Home which are admittedly amusing. It starts on the right tone for a slasher you can laugh with through the introduction of its killer Jay Jones (Jake Steinfeld), a hulking muscle man in white t-shirt and jeans whose high on PCP and constantly giggling loudly. Immediately he shows himself to be utterly evil when, having already killed someone to steal their car, he runs over an older woman crossing a who admittedly, even for an elderly woman who dropped her shopping bag, could've gotten away if she didn't stand still in the middle of the road waving her arms. It's the sort of thing that would get a viewer excited for the film when said killer ends up in the Californian woodlands where a family with friends have gotten together to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving also has an alien quality to it because, as an Englishman whose never been on American soil, Thanksgiving is a holiday entirely unknown to me yet was constantly referenced to in a lot of American imports in film and television to the British Isles, never actually described in detail as, understandably, an American audience would have grown up with the holiday without any need for context. It can't be glibly compared to when family gets together for Christmas, but it's a holiday that I have no real grasp of expect for how its depicted in cinema. It's certainly a holiday, like every other one, that's ripe for a horror film to exploit - having just seen Jackie Kong's The Being (1983) pervert Easter, a Thanksgiving film especially as a holiday meant to bring families and long distance relatives together is rife for psychodrama and grim ickiness. Particularly as well with Eli Roth's infamous and acclaimed fake trailer Thanksgiving (2007), it's a season that should've had an iconic slasher film for, not just two obscurer entries like this and Blood Rage (1987).

Home Sweet Home is certainly not that iconic film. Immediately after its intro, while with a charming homebrew quality, it starts to drag dreadfully. For the first two-thirds, it's the amateurish foibles of the family being picked off that's of more interest. The Latin girlfriend Maria (Lisa Rodríguez) of one of the friends who's constantly cheerful and happy to be there, not letting a visible language barrier between her and others stopping her from enjoying herself. The father (Ilsa director Don Edmonds) who's crankiness is only match for stinginess in stealing petrol from an abandoned car, or his wife who with a friend manage to get out a speeding ticket with charm and a revealing blouse top. The most well known, and infamous, character however is Mistake (Peter De Paula), the son whose face is always in mime paint, walking around constantly with a guitar with a backpack amp on his shoulders and justifying his name to the rest of the family. On one hand he's incredibly annoying, jumping in on people to scare them or being a pervert, even commenting on his own parents making out in their bedroom being chased by someone else. On the other hand he's the most interesting. Charming his young sister (Vinessa Shaw in her debut as a young toddler) with magic tricks, conjuring eggs out of his mouth at the dinner table, or trying to woo Maria after becoming smitten by her. He is, for better and worse, the reason anyone probably remembers Home Sweet Home to this day.


Unfortunately as the characters start to be picked off the film becomes less and less interesting. A lot of any amusement from the film is the strange quirks like the father grumbling about getting the peas cooked for the dinner or the posters for multiple King Kong films in the guest room, little things that might sound boring and asinine for some readers to consider but more interesting for me considering the movie as a slasher film is pretty mundane. Baring a leap on a person under a car bonnet, like Madman (1981), the giggling man-mountain killer is actually pretty nondescript if it wasn't for his constant laughing. The lack of tension forces one to appreciate the absurd non-events as the family's Thanksgiving is constantly interrupted by the lights of the electricity going off or there being no wine in the house.

It suggests that, perversely, I'd rather how this ridiculous mundane dross in horror films but its exasperated by the fact that most of the time I don't find the stalk and slash scenes in many slasher films that interesting, and considering Home Sweet Home is far from the best in the sub-genre, it's pretty screwed once most of the characters who were actually interesting are gone and the bland, white meat protagonists are left. I admit to jumping one, in all due praise to the film, but it doesn't sustain what is mainly a slog for the final thirty or so minutes. It's still a lot more entertaining for me than Blood Rage - the other Thanksgiving slasher film more proficient technically in a momentous way, but lacking the charm in this one's shambolic nature - but that's a low lying fruit for it to pick. That it's also one of few slashers from the golden era of the sub-genre directed by a woman doesn't redeem the film's actual quality either sadly, Home Sweet Home only really stands out in this area as part of an odd trilogy where Nettie Peña first edited the hardcore porn horror film Dracula Sucks (1978), than directed this, than in 2009 twenty eight years later directed a documentary promoting wind power, which is as unconventional as you'd expect for a career trajectory. 


Monday, 3 April 2017

The Nail Gun Massacre (1985)


Director: Terry Lofton (and Bill Leslie)
Screenplay: Terry Lofton
Cast: Rocky Patterson (as Doctor Rocky Jones); Ron Queen (as Sheriff Thomas); Beau Leland (as Bubba Jenkins); Michelle Meyer (as Linda Jenkins); Sebrina Lawless (as Mary Sue Johnson); Monica Lawless (as Bobbi Jo Johnson); Jerry Nelson (as Leroy Johnson); Mike Coady (as Mark)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #94

Synopsis: A camouflage wearing, bike helmeted figure driving a gold hearse is picking people off in a small Texas town with a nail gun. Amongst those killed, whilst almost random as a killing spree at first, are builders involved in a gang rape of a young woman some time before. Could the events be connected?

Watching The Nail Gun Massacre, it's a slasher film which invaded a small Texas town and cross pollinated to create a bizarre mutant. It's a notorious film which you can't just call "so bad it's good"; those type of films, outside of film fandom, would be strange as a concept for a casual horror fan to digest, likely to put many off, but something like The Nail Gun Massacre is a more imposing film to try to appreciate, the drastic tonal shift from a serious opening involving rape to the farce it becomes enough to put many off it before you get to the moment after moment of utter ridiculous scenes, dialogue and production issues on display. With the exception of that opening, which is jarring to the rest of the film, that sense of being more strange than most films of its ilk is why I appreciate it more. It's what I'd call "catastrophically weird", a rare breed that stand out for how strange they are because of their numerous technical and logic issues as they are for the odd good virtues they have. Works with so many bad ideas alongside good ones, aspects sometimes like here that cannot be defended in the slightest, and yet such a compelling bombardment of things outside of conventional human behaviour let alone film character logic that they're surreal by accident. Noticeably, why they're rarer, is that unlike a film like Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010), which have one or two memorable traits but are mostly sluggish experiences that need a group viewing or alcohol to work, nearly every minute of these movies are constantly wrong footing you and far more interesting (and entertaining) as a result.

For me a "bad" film isn't enough in being funny in its flaws as it eventually loses any interest. Instead there should be such a density in illogical aspects that you'll find new ones over multiple viewings, which The Nail Gun Massacre has in spades from the film crew being visible onscreen from their reflections in a car door to the hodgepodge of Whitey Thomas' frenzied synth score against the diegetic sounds onscreen, like the inexplicable rifle firing sounds in an open woodland scene that had to be weaved into the film's world when the individuals firing the guns near their shooting area couldn't be shut up by the production crew. The fans of this film legitimately love it and a lot of this is that, like another catastrophically weird film Things (1989) from Canada, it's so out there in its ramshackle tone that The Nail Gun Massacre, which is mainly a series of random killings by nail gun - not even in fatal areas but even death by nail in elbow or stomach - strung together by a slasher film revenge plot, does have a manic lunacy to it. In terms of slashers films, a horror subgenre I can be unpredictable in my opinions on per film, The Nail Gun Massacre is one of the more entertaining examples because it never gets slogged into the predictability of many others due to this tone, and is such a weird beast to experience only over eighty minutes.

It helps as well that the late director and creator Terry Lofton, realising mid-production the problems he was facing (that he needed to shot drastic amounts of new footage to splice in, that people as mentioned were firing guns nearby mid-filming, that cast members became unavailable or had to be replaced by his own mother in one of the more infamous scenes), and went with the punches, adding intentional humour and absurdity to the tone. Thankfully, he didn't start deliberately making a bad movie, a scourge of modern cinema, but continued to make what he wanted to be the next Texas horror film after The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), "cheaper than a chainsaw" as one memorable tagline stated, whilst accepting any flaws that came up as part of the film's flavour. Baring the serious first sequence, which is uncomfortable to sit through as it's done as a serious and (actually carefully done) scene of sexual violence, you can easily view the rest of The Nail Gun Massacre, a completely separate film, as having its tongue firmly in its cheek whilst never giving up on trying to be credible as a horror movie, even if it still failed, something which is absolutely applaudable.

Technical Detail:
Another factor is that, like a lot of these American independent horror movies, they still manage to be apt documents of real lo-fi Americana even when they're following the scripts of horror plotlines or this incompetent. The verisimilitude found from having to use local actors or, as mentioned, even the director's own mother (who was the actual store owner of one of the locations) has an immense effect in giving the film more to admire even if the original intentions are found wanting. The actresses cast to do nude scenes yet look like women you'd actually cross on the street at that time in Texas with mid eighties perms and Bridget Jones knickers, the same applying to the men including one now immortalised onscreen in one of the most gratuitously long scenes of the film of his bared buttocks thrusting back and forth dead centre on camera.

Even if the plot's a shambolic mess, devolving very quickly into a series of random kills and characters who appear and then disappear, what I found myself interested in more was the grungy reality of a film that had to rely on non-actors and locations you normally don't seen in higher budgeted horror movies from the time instead. The Nail Gun Massacre is far more rewarding in its humorous asides intentional or not, of the girlfriend unimpressed by her new boyfriend taking her to a cafe for $1.19 grilled cheese, the actor who has to push himself back even when supposed to be playing dead on top of a barbecue he's just landed on in his death scene, the playfully sarcastic relationship between the denim wearing doctor (Rocky Patterson) and the Sheriff (Ron Queen), our central characters following the killer's trail of caresses, or the general sense of a local American town of the time that you rarely got in the glossier Hollywood films. For every gaffe technically or in content, the homebrewed tone helps support The Nail Gun Massacre for all its mishaps by unexpectedly turning it into a document of the place the production was shooting at that time, just one that happens to be wrapped up into a slasher film.

The only gaffe I have issue with, and it could be with how the film is preserved on physical media, is how the audio and music together on headphones is a nightmare at points. Whitey Thomas' music for every head scratching decision, (infamously the piano cords undercutting one piece of the Sheriff's dialogue of example), is also amazingly creepy in its literal screaming tones and drones. The campiness of it doesn't detract from how openly ghoulish it is even in this absurd content. Even the ridiculous robot voice for the killer, whilst making bad puns that can't be heard properly most of the time, still have an appropriate madness to it. The full audio mix however actually gave me a headache, which in some ways added to the current viewing but isn't necessarily needed to appreciate the film.

Abstract Spectrum: Psychotronic/Weird
Abstract Rating (High/Medium/Low/None): Low
The Nail Gun Massacre definitely sits in a place that feels like Texas but is completely alien to planet Earth in general, the sort of place where police go to a crime scene but leave the body, telling the bystanders an ambulance will come to pick it up later in one of many moments of terrible crime scene management. Where one can ask about the wild butterflies and killers being on the loose. Rarely do I find "bad" films to have a sense of anything fun to them because I can't laugh at incompetence and boredom creeps in; in rare cases like this film, what happens is the equivalent of finding yourself in a strange world with its own bizarre logic instead, where even the editing or music is distorted and effecting you. It's amazing actually how such an erratic film, especially as someone with mixed thoughts on the subgenre, manages to still work altogether in spite of the glaringly obvious problem of its mangled production history with extensive reshoots. But a lot of it, intentional and not, is to do with the fact it's a constant barrage of weird dialogue, strange plotting decisions and visible production mistakes. Baring one prolonged scene of the doctor on the phone talking, the film always has something new to stumble over, placing it above many "so bad they're good" movies which coast along with only a few wooden lines of dialogue and mostly blandness. It's probably as much due to Terry Lofton's right decision in being in on the joke that helps with this, wanting to still make a well made film, helped by its use of film celluloid even on 16mm, but taking the blows on his chin without issue.

Personal Opinion:
One with precaution unless a viewing can appreciate this type of cinema on its own terms, but I can't help but like The Night Gun Massacre. Rarely do I like this type of cinema but when it's this consistently odd, it becomes something above being a "bad" film I should laugh at. Instead it has an appropriate deranged energy that intoxicates me, left dizzy afterwards but rewarded by that queer feeling alongside the ridiculous memorable mishaps.


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Dark Myth (1990)


Director: Takashi Anno
Screenplay: Takashi Anno and Tomomi Mochizuki
Voice Cast: Alan Myers (as Takeshi); Jay Harper (as Kikuchihiko); Peter Marinker (as Takeuchi); Blair Fairman (as the Narrator); Daniel Flynn (as Brahman); John Baddeley (as Hayato); John Bennet (as Jiku); Larissa Murray (as Miya)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #93

With the following, I dive into the more marred area of anime horror and fantasy. This may sound immediately dismissive of Dark Myth but, bearing in mind its far from a perfect straight-to-video anime in the first place, the review takes on a nostalgic admiration for this type of obscurer, flawed one-off from the late eighties and early nineties era of animation, one which ended up part of something called The Collection, explained if you follow the link below, which has formed an odd part of my nostalgia getting into anime in the early 2000s. Mostly surrounding more modern anime released by the late ADV Films, The Collection from Manga Entertainment was nonetheless a gateway to older anime for me in spite of only having English dubs, many of them frankly bad, a strange motley bunch of obscure titles and notorious ones like Violence Jack (1986-1990), and symbols on the DVD spines unique to each title who's meaning I've yet to understand. For better and worse, this series which included Dark Myth was as much an important part of getting into the medium as was getting second hand Manga Entertainment releases of Ninja Scroll (1993) and Akira (1988).

For more on this, and a review on this fantasy horror anime about ancient mythology, hungry ghosts and late eighties synth, click for the full review HERE


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Texas Chainsaw (2013)


Director: John Luessenhop
Screenplay: Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan and Kirsten Elms
Cast: Alexandra Daddario (as Heather Miller); Dan Yeager (as Leatherface); Trey Songz (as Ryan); Scott Eastwood (as Deputy Carl Hartman); Tania Raymonde (as Nikki); Shaun Sipos (as Darryl); Keram Malicki-Sánchez (as Kenny); Thom Barry (as Sheriff Hooper); Paul Rae (as Mayor Burt Hartman)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #92

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre marathon ends finally. You can hear the sign of despair in that sentence alone. It starts with an almighty scream, with the first film from Tobe Hooper in 1974 managing to profoundly influence horror cinema onwards as a stone cold masterpiece, and gets an underrated sequel immediately after in 1986 with part 2, but slowly starts to fall off the rails soon after. Contrary to popular belief however, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) with its transsexual Leatherface and Matthew McConaughey chewing scenery on his robot leg isn't the nadir for me as others think, cinematic heaven alongside Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) compared to everything post 2000. It could be nostalgia for older American horror movies pure and simple, and I'm not defending the 1990 and 1994 films for their flaws, but the later sequels from 2003 onwards have all been painful, a toxic nature especially to the Platinum Dunes films with their grimy sheens and desire to be repugnant but with a lack of necessary reason behind them. In comparison to the 2003 and 2006 films, the innocent stupidity of the older sequels seems more innocuous as flaws.

The 2013 Chainsaw film, made in 3D, decided to be an immediate sequel to the original 1973 movie, attempting to be a far better tribute to the original and thankfully ditching the 2000 films' timelines permanently. Once the ending of the first film is replayed in the opening credits however, the film immediately takes a questionable direction by introducing an entire new lineage of the Leatherface family that gets mowed down by stereotypical, morally dubious rednecks in a shootout, instant questions of the direction this film is going raised as its erratic nature instantly appears. The point to this is to include a main plot strand that would've have succeeded without a convoluted turn, a child of the Leatherface family surviving and growing up into Heather (Alexandra Daddario), inheriting the Leatherface history and property back in Texas after a relative dies. Presumably set in the modern day, Heather is a raven haired blue eyed girl who works in the back of a supermarket where her best friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde) does, preparing meat for sale and collecting the remaining bones to use in her homemade art much to her boyfriend Ryan's (Trey Songz) bafflement. Even by the standards of logic bending in horror sequels, the film goes as far as disrupt whole time chronology and mathematics when the transition from the original 1974 film to this present day would be at least over three decades past but Heather is visibly a young woman in her twenties, the area of a Highlander sequel of disrupting previous reality.

The problem is more than this however, as there's plenty of popular horror films whose sequels, something that if it raises a bias in me and other horror fans, can tolerate it in the eighties films where charm and naivety is visibly found, how we accept the convoluted ways to defeat Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street sequels that never made sense and contradicted each other over the next films. There's something though ever since the end of the eighties and the popularity of horror which made the resulting sequels less tolerable than this, the gooey effects and eighties eccentricities lost leaving films who were undercooked continuing on from popular movies. They're particularly ones which try to be momentously different from previous entries or try to be clever, only to be shown to have lazy writing which squashes any cleverness and even ideas inappropriate to the timeline unless they had the courage to be completely separate from the films before. Unfortunately, unlike the 1986, 1990 and 1994 sequels which existed in their own bubbles, Texas Chainsaw is set after the first film and, like Jason Voorhees being revealed to be a body jumping undead parasite in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) with sudden and jarring lore, and a lack of quality writing, the gaffe Texas Chainsaw (3D) makes where apparantly Heather found the fountain of youth in the decades before isn't as problematic as her whole existence as the protagonist. A female lead whose friends go to Texas for another series of deaths in the franchise, sadly with only Leatherface and none of the eccentric cannibal family scenes of better prequels, that culminates to a plot twist so obvious in how it's going to take place, with an openly sinister Southern town major (Paul Rae) and his lackeys in the background, that its immediately signposted from the beginning as a dumb idea before its executed.

It's a film you can still have fun in, improving in quality in fact after the empty and vile nihilism of the 2000 films, sporting a greater sense of blissful stupidity to its content, but there's still a fine line between good natured naivety to completely being logically unsound for the sake of a plot idea it tonally thinks is edgy and going to be exiciting but has been seen before, isn't done well and is openly problematic in the context of the film's own initial plot in spite it drawing closer to what fans would probably want, making Leatherface the innocent and good person in spite of the fact he's still a sociopathic, mass murdering cannibal. Not only is the body count he brings into being likely to make it impossible for a certain character to side with him, still able to run at a gallop in his old age, chainsaw in hand, and living in a basement, but in context of the whole series its dubious no matter how popular and iconic he is in the context of the Chainsaw films to cheer him on unless a significantly better script was actually written on this idea. If the film had been a dumb slasher film it might've actually redeemed itself and made the finale of the whole franchise (until the shelved prequel Leatherface (20??) ever gets released) a more positive one, a silliness in tone and logic with a memorable chase scene through a funfair. However it eventually leads to stereotypically evil southern rednecks, a cop whose sense of morality in the final scene is utterly against reality, and a character changing their attitude only from having a whole box of crime scene evidence and documents from the 1974 killings left with them in an interrogation room, making the fact that the Illuminati were controlling the Leatherface family in The Next Generation more sound as a story concept just for the fact the film didn't build up to it and look embarrassing after all the prolonged setup.  


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Raging Sun, Raging Sky (2009)


Director: Julián Hernández
Screenplay: Julián Hernández
Cast: Jorge Becerra (as Kieri); Javier Oliván (as Tari); Guillermo Villegas (as Ryo); Giovanna Zacarías (as Tatei)

Synopsis: After a night of passion with a mysterious woman Tatei (Zacarías), plagued by the voices of everyone she passes and connected to a mystical alter-reality, Ryo (Villegas) is pushed onwards into a passionate love triangle with two other men, Kieri (Becerra), who Ryo is in love with, and Tari (Oliván), obsessed with him, taking all three between a porn theatre where gay cruising takes place to apartments where the alter-reality can be found through a bathroom sink, the jealousies and romances culminating into an alternative reality of warriors coveting Ryo and magic in a desert landscape that Tatei presides over as an ancient goddess.

As a heterosexual man, viewing gay erotica has a very different perspective than for a gay or bisexual viewer who'd be fully able to appreciate their sexuality onscreen. It could be so easy for me to trivialise this and put one's foot in ones mouth in an area which, rightly, should be written the most about by actual gay and bisexual viewers and critics but, to bring out a personal secret of mine, I share the same opinion once made by one of my idols Alejandro Jodorowsky that I wish I was born bisexual as a whole dimension of beautiful sexuality is unavailable to me to appreciate fully, peering through a window into rooms I will never be able to walk through or welcome with the emotional depth as for a gay man. I can still appreciate the sensuality of the male form, and do everything I can to learn and improve as a person to appreciate this more, but the above will always be in mind for me having considered carefully and found my own sexuality is heterosexual.

But that doesn't mean that sensuality of any form, regardless of your sexual orientation, cannot effect you still, and be powerful and attractive erotically even if you're not attracted physically to your fellow gender. Someone open minded and without bigotry or self consciousness about one's emotions can still find sensuality when done well or with such exuberance in such films, and the best of gay cinema's decadent and experimental entries can not only wash over any viewer with their sexuality fully, but are personally for me some of the best cinema has ever made, knowing full well that many of the iconic films were made, in times where oppressive and homophobic atmospheres were rife, with the creators bravely and proudly expressing their sexuality and not hesitating to express himself with full artistic vibrancy. When it works it's not only intoxicating, the best of gay experimental cinema (Derek Jarman, Kenneth Anger) or the best of erotic and transgressive gay cinema (Jack Smith to Peter De Rome), but shows you how good cinema is in form, style and emotional connection, and with this in mind, Raging Sun, Raging Sky does deserve to be compared to luminous entries like Pink Narcissist (1971) or Jean Genet's Un chant d'amour (1950) from decades earlier, completely separating itself from the drab, wreckage of social drama which trivialises subjects like gay sexuality into dramatic points, and places within a better type of cinema where the physicality and sexuality is so pronounced, between the aggressive and sordid but also the romantic and tender, that it's probably the greater way to deal with these themes.

Interestingly Raging Sun, Raging Sky begins with a woman and a man having a sweet, playful one night stand after getting caught in the rain together, deliberately starting with a pan sexuality as that man becomes part of a romantic triangle between himself and two other men. Over three hours long, two hours in sumptuous black and white, the last hour in colours, express its theme of desire with this in mind, a urban set realistic drama which yet, almost entirely without dialogue, does so almost entirely from then on from the perspective of an all homoerotic world where the various interactions, sexual rendezvous and moments of conflict raise the characters' passions above merely being gay sensuality but a universal form, sexy and erotic for any viewer whilst proudly embracing its sexual identity, openly fetishizing and artistically painting the male form and various fantasies of men meeting mysterious strangers, from wide eyes youths with backpacks on to the older, confidant individual who sticks out amongst the crowd, with pride. The first two hours pass quickly, managing to convey enough drama with minimal dialogue whilst feeling like a continuation of Pink Narcissist, an erotic film which for many years had an anonymous director and is set in a hyper fantastic world of gay fantasies, of imaging countless different sexual interactions and romances within a world of its own, a film set in real life urban Mexico, but a monochrome alter reality within a porn cinema presided by an older, beautiful female projectionist who lets male customers in to participate in orgies in the aisles to dark, night set streets and chain fences and warehouses where other meetings take place.

The third and final hour takes a different turn, briefly alluded to throughout the film in flashes of the characters' psyches and conceived as an alternative reality fed from the ancient Mexican mythology by way of a Jack Smith glamorous fantasy, found fully through a character leaving their head in a full bathroom sink of water and seeing it reflected in the bottom by way of muted, full colour photography. It's the section that's the more difficult to adapt to on the first viewing because, while the film  is formidable in length, a drastic tonal shift is felt to a more deliberately slow and avant-garde one in this final act. A lot of the final act's mood is, in honesty, that of normal actions being stretched on purpose to minutes long, such as a character as a lizard-man hybrid awoken from under dried out sand and rock walking from one end of a the screen to the other in a desert, evoking Michael Snow's Wavelength (1967) in terms of deliberately stalling time until its distorted. It'll be a challenge for some viewers, when the first two hours whilst without a lot of dialogue are sensual, breezy passages, but it's ultimately saved, making sure the film is still great, because it evokes a side of gay cinema of glamour and fantasy even on a low budget, that of the aforementioned Jack Smith with Flaming Creatures (1963) or Derek Jarman at his more openly decadent where gay/bisexual/transgender desire is made into grandiose drama by way of old forms sadly dismissed as kitsch or out of date, from old Hollywood b-movies to classical art, here in this case the old world of Mexican myths and fairytale plotting where one character has to rescue his love from the third with the woman Tatei as a goddess figure helping the first in his quest, something becoming rarely evoked in modern erotic and pornography regardless of sexual orientation of making sexual desire more than baseness and having monumental by metaphor to make it mean more than just that.


Technical Detail:
The monochrome cinematography is gorgeous. This isn't the effect of, for example, Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha (2012) which is black-and-white to seem artistic but feels utterly pointless and pretentious, lacking any point to the lack of colour visually, but has the appropriate sense of deep greys, blacks and whites which encloses the film's first two hours in a magical sheen, enough to show the stark reality of real life urban Mexico but also turning it into a place with secrets, where every street corner or the entrance of a cinema covered in film posters could be a place to have a carnal interaction with a stranger both participants with enjoy before walking away. An orgiastic communion of men between underground building pillars or sexual activity in a public toilet cubical that's passionate, claustrophobic and ultimately humorous when the concern someone will hear the individuals involved is dwindled when said person in earshot is more interested in wanking into a urinal in his own blissful state of sexual freedom. The sense of artistry, alongside its deliberate pace, evokes the films of the past in LGBT cinema in its elegance.

Abstract Spectrum: Expressionist
Abstract Rating (High/Medium/Low/None): Low
The mix of fantasy and realism from Julián Hernández is immensely intoxicating, managing to convey a Dionysus hedonism where while conflict, jealousy and aggression take place, everyone involved ends up happy and content with their various successful sexual encounters with strangers and those they love, all done with the main cast mainly using only their body language to depict this by a glance or a small physical gesture. Whilst not as elaborate as a fantasy like Pink Narcissus or Flaming Creatures, Mexico is depicted  as a place of countless secrets, where the sexual interactions between all the figures we see is fluid and beyond monogamy, confrontational in terms of having sex scenes which have a violent eroticism to them but against others which are also gentle and loving. A lot of the film is subtly abstract, where one is allowed to enter a world within a world, where everyone interacts without fences between every person centre stage onscreen, a casualness to the erotic tone that's breathtaking and affecting regardless of one's sexual orientation, particularly as the film succeeds in fleshing out the characters, able to breather away from sex scenes constantly, and that there's a complete disregard of puritanicalism here, where characters, whether their number, exist in their world where sex is fluid and allowed to thrive.

When Raging Sun, Raging Sky does get overtly fantastical it's also subtle but director-screenwriter Hernández clearly embraces the change fully. It's in the camp of modern directors like Albert Serra (Story of My Death (2013)) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady (2004)) who come from the realistic, minimalistic school of art cinema but in their various personalities absorb bouts of the fantastic and imaginary into their existing materials, the unreal depicted onscreen with a muted but undeniable magic to them, especially in Raging Sun, Raging Sky when you have characters floating down an actual cave with what appears to be old Hollywood b-movie wires helping them down, a grit covered fairytale plot representing the volatile emotions between Ryu, Kieri and Tari built up, and vast and atmospheric desertscape and hills used as the locations.

Personal Opinion:
Patience, or a night free to fully embrace it, is needed with Raging Sun, Raging Sky but it's the kind of poetic, openly artistic cinema that's worth this, gay cinema which even for a heterosexual man is powerful and erotic, an extravagance that feels like it's actually taking risks and succeeding.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)


Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay: Sheldon Turner
Cast: Jordana Brewster (as Chrissie); Taylor Handley (as Dean A. Hill); Diora Baird (as Bailey); Matt Bomer (as Eric Hill); Lee Tergesen (as Holden); R. Lee Ermey (as Sheriff Hoyt); Andrew Bryniarski (as Leatherface)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #91

Nearing the end of the Texas Chainsaw series, it's become a miserable marathon at this point, carbon copies now which feel out of touch to their source material entirely. In comparison, even the Rob Zombie Halloween films feels more rewarding next to what happened with the 2003-6 remakes of Chainsaw as, whilst they may have had ill advised decisions within them, Zombie was at least attempting something thoughtful within them even if they failed for many, whilst the Chainsaw films feel like cynical cash grabs meant to be nasty for the sake of it without any emotional connection to the material. The Beginning is utterly redundant in itself as it's a prequel, only clearly made because the 2003 film which started this new version of the series also technically ended it. An irony can be found in this knowing that in the eighties such an ending, with a character losing an arm, wouldn't have halted a sequel being made, and even the Chainsaw series wasn't above making sequels in spite of major characters being visibly unable to return, making the point of The Beginning suspect or absurd.

One wishes, after the empty grimness of the 2003 film, that this had some levity like a character returning with a chainsaw for a hand, if they decided to completely ditch this tone in an alternative reality and get back to even the slapstick tone of The Next Generation (1994), looking like gold next to The Beginning. Like the others throughout the series a group of young adults, in this case two men about to go to Vietnam in the midst of the war the US was in the midst of and their girlfriends, ending up enduring the terror of the Leatherface family, the prequel nature in showing the origins of the family in the late sixties. The issue with this is twofold. First, that it skips through most of the back-story in the opening credits. Thankfully the viewer avoids suffering through the adventures of baby Leatherface, already over-the-top with him being born in the midst of an abattoir conveyor belt and discovered in an outdoor bin, but everything it discloses afterwards is entirely worthless, only interesting in terms of if the film was actually going to disclose these details (Leatherface learning to wear a flesh mask of someone else's face, the decision of the family to become cannibalistic) in a far more dramatic, character based story, especially as the premise of depicting a family living in a town without any economy and people leaving that could've been a compelling one, an undercurrent that you can find in Tobe Hooper's original film already. Sadly the film even by the standards of a slasher plot is lacking in being compelling by itself, let alone in any subtext.

Secondly, because this is a prequel, the Leatherface family will not get their comeuppance as a result, the characters we're meant to support put against them already bland but further reduced to nothing knowing they won't be able to end the cannibalistic family, merely figures to be harmed and maimed through violence for the sake of violence that's grim rather than horrifying. A lot of the film as well is also just to have R. Lee Ermey shout and cuss throughout, Leatherface reduced to a side figure, Ermey's character now just tedious to see in this prequel and whose only moment of new character building to him where he got the sheriff's shirt from. This is also a film that attempts to be set in the late sixties, and even for someone like myself born in 1989 Britain, feels completely unlike the period and already dated as a 2006 film, a strange music video grim with the type of figures, like a female biker welding shotgun while she's moving, that you'd find in neo-grindhouse films rather than a period accurate movie in aesthetic and presentation. The film is so lacklustre and dour to withstand - none of the weird humour of the Hooper films, none of the nerve shredding music or visuals, not even cinematographer Daniel Pearl and the style of the 2003 film - and without any sense to its ending baring empty nihilism that its only worth a short review, the real low point of the entire franchise.