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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Boston Science Fiction Festival 1

It's time to gear up and get ready for ten days of Science Fiction!

Boston Science Ficiton Film Festival Schedule

This is an early schedule for this year's Fest. We are actively working on the shorts programs. Selectees for that component will be announce shortly. Tickets for individual shows will be going on sale within the next 48 hours.
The 24 hour Marathon selections will be announced within the next 48 hours as well.
Thanks to everyone for their patience.
Feb 8: US Premiere MARS ET AVRIL with director Martin Villenueve
Feb 9: Shorts Program 1
Feb 10 World Premire! FOUND IN TIME
Shorts Program 2
Feb 11 Shorts Program 3
ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW (direct from Sundance)
US Premiere! WHEN TIME BECOMES A WOMAN from Jordan
Feb 12 Shorts Program 4
N. American Premiere! EL XENDRA (Honduras)
US Premiere! JUAN IN A MILLION (Chile)
Feb 13 Shorts Program 5
World Premiere! SIN Theory
World Premiere! DOUBLE HAPPINESS URNANIUM (N Zealand/Hong Kong)
Feb 14 Shorts Program 6
World Premiere! ETERNITY
World Prmeiere! 95ers ECHOES
Feb 15 Shorts Program 7
World Premiere! SPACE MILKSHAKE with George Takei & Billy Boyd
World Premiere! MOTIVATION GROWTH with Jeffrey Combs. Q&A with director & crew after show.
Feb 16 Shorts Program 8
US Premiere! EARTHBOUND (Ireland)
East Coast Premiere! WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH in 3D
Feb 17 The Marathon aka The 'Thon including DEATH OF A SHADOW, The Oscar nominated short from Belgium starring Matthias Scoendaerts.
More information coming shortly.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Parasite (1982) Horror Infected

Parasite (1982) - Well this film is advertised as the first starring role for one Demi Moore as well as her first husband Freddy Moore. Freddy the musician met Demi when she was just 16 years old and even though he was already married started living with her. They were married shortly after that before her 17th birthday. When this film was made the actress was 19 years old the same year she landed the role as Jackie Templeton on General Hospital. This unfortunately is not the best of films with a story that is bland and without real threat. You always know there is little or no budget when the story is based in a small desert town. Demi plays Patricia Welles a local in the small town.
  To set up we see a scene where a mysterious man comes in on a scientist Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini) while he is working. We never see the man (until later when we learn he is Wolf the Merchant (James Davidson) but see that he does something that terrifies the bound scientist. He implants something in the man's stomach. That is all we see in the setup scene but it makes sense when we later join Dean he entering a compound called work camp 34. He is looking for a safe place to complete his work. This is not it, the sounds of a couple guys molesting a woman can be heard. Dean creeps up on them with his laser gun in hand. Guess what? its the future and he has a laser gun. After fighting with the two men he frees the woman only to have her attack him too. All of this is to give us some sense of time and place.
  It is a post apocalyptic world where a good portion of the population have a sickness that makes them violent. He ends up getting in more trouble trying to help the woman out, but all is not bad, the old man Buddy (James Cavan) brings him into his room for a rare treat of coffee and to explain to us some of the specifics of the world they live in.
 When he enters a small desert town gas has to be bought with silver, or barter. No one wants American money anymore. He is on the run and looking for a place to hide and finish his work. He takes a room in a boarding house run by Maggie (Vivian Blaine) and goes to the diner for the only food left these days, canned soup. Now the world is taking shape, but need antagonists in the form of a group of local thugs lead by Ricus (Luka Bercovici). He was an orphan raised in the work camps in the suburbs but now as a young adult refuses anything to do with  the society run by the Merchants. He and his gang of friends, Dana (Cherie Currie), Bo (Joannelle Nadine Romero), Arn (Freddy Moore), Shell (Natalie May) and Zeke (Tom Villard) drift through life taking what they can to survive. Crossing paths with Dean is trouble for all and if not for the intervention of diner owner Collins (Al Fann) and Patricia it may have ended badly for Dean.
  The primary story for Dean is a race against time. He has a creature growing in his abdomen that he keeps sedated with an injection. He has a second one in a canister (of course it gets out) to try to study in order to find a way to kill it. Adding to his pressure is Wolf, the Merchant who is trying to retrieve the creatures. It is never really clear why the Merchants were having Dean grow these creatures. They are dangerous though, if they mature they will spray spores into the air, anyone exposed to the spores will in turn grow new creature. (repeat til no humans exist). The weak premise is never fully explained and the practical part of the story does not give Dean the time to do any studying. In fact he resolves the problem of killing the creature in a simple ah-ha moment. He just decides what will work and it does the first time out. This is a real movie killer.
 The toughs let the canister creature out and poor Dana ends up a shriveled mess because of it. Its a strange film in that by the end the gang is very sympathetic. They are just misunderstood kids and had no idea what they were getting involved in. Really its a failure in the script. The toughs are really not so tough just kids with nothing to do in a no where world. We don't learn enough about how this world came to be, besides some vague references to a nuclear war. We really don't learn much about how these people came to where they are or what there motives are. This film is a bit of a mess that way. It alludes to things but through the characters we just don't get enough to care.
    Primarily Dean spends his time dealing with the gang of toughs in town and getting to know Pat. Dean is not the great scientist more of a guy used as a plot device to make the story go. We learn when he found out what the creatures were that he was growing for the Merchants that he destroyed all but the one he wishes to cure himself of and the one in the canister he will use to find the cure. Knowing the trouble he would be in he ran. So we have Wolf the Merchant hot on his tail. Pat well just is a local who happens to have a good heart. Demi is young and innocent it is her pre-boobs phase and she barely acts at all int he film. She really doesn't have any role beside helping Dean move the sad and small story forward to its conclusion.
  The film is a bland piece of vanilla with just enough to keep the viewer from turning it off. Not particularly interesting but with a few practical effects that were fun to watch.  The cast has more interesting facts than the film interesting moments. Besides being Demi Moore's first starring role, her husband Freddie was in several band in the LA area where he mostly pretended on stage to be a cat. Then there is the Cherie Currie story, who made her name in the great band the Runaways with Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Jackie Fox. Originally shot for 3D it has some shots that are obvious but the cut I have is strictly 2D. I may look at it simulated on my Sony Bravia to see how good they are. In the end though this is not a recommend. It really isn't even a "if you have an hour to kill". So save the time and keep looking through that discount bin for something a bit better.
Rating (2.9) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Babysitter (1969) Drama Sleaze

The Babysitter (1969) - This film came from the "Drive-In Cult Classics Vol 3" and is a sleazy little story of a man having a romantic relationship with the babysitter but it has a weird plot that is so much more than that, not quite a morality tale but certainly not the standard pulp either. The story centers around Babysitter Candy Wilson (Patricia Wymer) and the father of her charge George Maxwell (George E. Carey). George is married to Edith (Anne Bellamy) who plays the bitchy wife to perfection. Not meaning to create stereotypes here but the trope of "bitchy wife" in film is well establish and the character of Edith is written well for said trope. She is all about schedule and routine and constantly irritating in her pursuit to get George to do what she wants. Both sort of middle aged they have a small baby from a night of drunken love making that Edith now resents. (The love making without protection not the child.) They hire a baby sitter since there college aged daughter will not be home until the next day. This is the old days so the agency send candy a late teens early twenties hippie girl. George and Edith are portrayed as a couple going through the motions in what over the years has turned into a loveless marriage.
  Edith is trying to get out to socialize with local politicians and move her husband up the social status ladder. George is a District Attorney and she always wants more for him even though he seems happy with his job. He frankly is bored with his life, same old dinners and bridge nights, a wife who seems to nag constantly it is all getting old for him and he is prime for a dalliance.  So they hire Candy from a local agency to watch the little one. She is a relaxed hippie girl, doe eyed and innocent sounding when she is being shown around the house. When the couple leaves she immediately gets on the phone and invite a bunch of friends over to play music, smoke weed and dance in the basement playroom. It seems to be a groovy time with rock music by a full band and girls dancing around them. When the girls freed by the music remove their clothes you understand this is 1969 and didn't all the girls take their clothes off all the time? Okay this is some of the sleaze of this film and it is only the early return by the Maxwells that breaks the party up. Not while Edith heads to bed George is tasked to take Candy home. He sees the mess that the group made in the basement and it will ave to be a topic of conversation on the ride.
  Oh but does it turn there as Candy coolly lets it be known that the looks George is giving her are alright. In fact she just might be into exploring what it would be like to fool around with an older man. She very bluntly asks him about his relationship with his wife. They have some pretty cool banter about how the foods kids eat in 1969, tacos and hotdogs make them so cool and carefree; and George gets to ask. What are you some kind of hippie or something?
Candy says "I only know I want to laugh. I want to have fun. I want to feel things. I want to be free." George resists this first night but when Candy comes to his house the next day to swim in his pool all bets are off. They frolics topless and kiss leading to some afternoon lovemaking. Candy leaves the spent and sleeping man in his bed to be found by his wife who complains about him sleeping away the afternoon. So the initial deed is done and for George it is a refreshing change. The next two weeks will be repeated hook ups with the younger woman while also living the mundane events that make up his life with Edith. When with his wife we see through memory flashes that all he can do is think of Candy. The tension between he and his wife of course grows. He is only present in their life together but his mind is always on the hot young number he is seeing on the side.
  This is George's moral dilemma, he sees that the life he has is not the one he wants. He has broken his vows and experienced another relationship that is physical and fun and find himself torn between his obligations and his desires.  At this point it should be noted that this film is really not a fair representation of an affair. This film written by our lead actor is more of the ideal fantasy of an affair. George gets to play with a young beautiful woman but there are no expectations from this. Candy could be a sex doll for the number of requirements she has. She really just is having fun, sure she "digs" George but she will be able to walk away with no strings attached as soon as anyone finds out. The only consequences for her is having to find a new guy. This fantasy woman for George is a real flaw in the film, he never has to make the hard choices of two relationships with equal expectations. Candy is more the middle aged man's dream girl when it comes to infidelity which I suppose makes her so easy to get involved with. Still the lack of reality is clear and even when the shit hits the fan the consequences are strangely blunted.
  The secondary story has to do with George's job as the DA. He is on a high profile case where a biker is on trial for killing a woman. It was a brutal crime and there really is no doubt that he will be found guilty. In jail and awaiting trial, his girlfriend is desperate to find a way to get him out. Julie Freeman (Kathy Williams) knows George's daughter Joan (Sheri Jackson) from high school (or college?) and is going to blackmail him into throwing the case. How? By exposing a secret about Joan, that she is a lesbian. She gets in touch with Joan and comes to swim at the pool, the same day George and Candy have their first afternoon together. She intends to get pictures of Joan and her girlfriend in compromising positions, but never quite can get a good shot with her camera. When she pretends to leave the two girls leave the house and Candy arrives to find George. Julie stumbles upon them while looking out an upstairs window and now has the opportunity to get pictures of their afternoon.
  Those pictures compromise George's situation, he can be exposed at any moment. Julie insists that if he wants to keep his tryst secret he had better throw the case against her boyfriend. So what will George do, let a killer walk or let his affair become public? George being a product of the forties does the right thing and gets the conviction. The conclusion as mentioned earlier really leads toward this film being a immature fantasy instead of a morality tale. George finds out where Julie lives and Candy and her musician guys go there and rough Julie up until she gives up the negatives. So not only is the ideal lover without complication, she also solves any problems that might arise from her involvement. Unfortunately the photos from those negatives were already sent to George's boss, he comes in and his boss in true fantasy form lets him off the hook. He also suggests that George hurries home to intercept the postman so his wife never finds out. Really no work consequences at all? He get home and his wife is sitting at the dining room table looking at her set of photos. We see George's shoulders slump, defeat creeps into his face. His wife looks up and disappointment remarkably turns to understanding and she utters the one line that completely releases George from responsibility. "I guess we have been playing too much bridge." Wow, completely off the hook.
  So overall this is not a horrible film, sure the production values were pretty poor and the message of the plot is just awful. But it is also so much a reflection of the male psyche, the desire o be attractive and desired. The hope for that connection to an attractive younger woman. The fantasy that an affair could happen and there would be not consequences. Of course today there are websites like the website Ashley Madison where creating the hookup that George had, are just a few clicks away. Sure finding someone attractive and half your age might be a long shot on the site but the no strings attached affair is enabled online. This pre-Internet fantasy leaves the viewer a bit cheated though, it just is pulp if there are no consequences. The final shot with Candy dancing with a young guy show no ill effects for her either, she leans in and whispers to him, " I really dig you man." This film ends up being and hour and a half version of "No harm, No foul".
Rating (4.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than other.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) "La ragazza che sapeva troppo" and released in the US as "The Evil Eye", is a Mario Bava film that is not quite a giallo but is definitely a nice mystery thriller. If the film was more serious it would more easily be considered a giallo but there is some light hearted more humorous scenes that move it away from that genre. It has some cautionary messages in it about drugs and reading murder mystery books that were a bit contrive. The film opens with the main character flying to Italy to stay with a family friend. Nora Davis (Leticia Roman) is just twenty years old and off to have her time abroad. She is a reader of murder mystery books but has sworn them off on the trip. The gimmick here is that our girl is about to take part in a murder mystery. Here love and knowledge of the books will be an asset as she weaves her way into the story. The second gimmick has to do with the gentleman sitting next to her. Trying to pick her up he offers her a cigarette and then his whole pack. It is amazing in the present to think that lighting up on an airplane was once very common place. The point of this entire interaction is somewhat strange until we see the two in line at customs. Four men come up to the man and arrest him. In his suitcase is what looks to be packets of cocaine and cigarette packs they say are laced with marijuana. It creates the opportunity for a quite tense scene. Nora standing next to him remembers that he gave her a pack of smokes. What is she going to do? She could be caught with illegal drugs in a foreign country. She smoothly lowers the pack and lets it fall to the floor. But as she moves away a cop picks the cigarettes up for her and returns them to her. This scene is then cut here, Why? There could be a very tense will she get through customs scenario but it seems it was all so at the end of the film she can question whether she was high and lost her sense of reality? Very flimsy if you ask me but here it is in 1963 and marijuana is being used as a prop in a film.
  The murder mystery comes pretty quickly we meet Mrs Windell (Chana Coubert) the old lady that Nora will be staying with. She is ill and being attended to by Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon) who is worried about her heart. The old lady is reassuring to Nora saying she will get over her cold in a couple days and the two will have a wonderful time. Bassi on the other hand makes sure that Nora knows where the old lady's medication is and directions to the hospital he will be at. This is an ominous beginning and the storm outside confirms this. In the night Nora is called by distressed pleas by Mrs. Windell and she rushes in her attract black nightgown to her side. Panicking a bit she prepares the woman's medicine but unfortunately is too late. Mrs. Windell is dead and Nora is a nervous wreck. She throws her raincoat on and rushes out to get the doctor at the hospital. What were those directions again? Down the steps of the Trinita Dei Monti and turn right. On her way though her night goes from bad to worse.
  As she heads down the stairs of the famous church she is spied by a mugger who jumps out and pulls her purse from her. In the process her pushes her so that she falls and hits her head. Unconscious with blood in her hair she does not wake until she hears the scream. Dizzy and half awake she sees a woman stumble from the side of the stairs, she is in pain and falls, a knife in her back. A man follows her out into the light and Nora sees his face. He does not see her though, being more interesting in retrieving the victim. Nora passes out again as the rains start up again more strongly, washing away the blood and any trace that a murder had taken place. A man finds Nora in the morning and she is still very groggy. He feeds her some alcohol from a flask but then a cop starts up the stairs scaring the man away. Now the cop find Nora but smelling her breath thinks she must have fallen down drunk. This is why we don't let our daughters run around the globe on there own. When Nora wakes again she is in the hospital being treated as an alcoholic.
  This is the start of the murder mystery. No one believes her about seeing a murder. There is no evidence of one since the rain washed it away. The poor girl attends the funeral of her benefactor and probably would have gone home if not for what seems a chance meeting with Mrs Torrani (Valentina Cortese). Laura Craven Torrani is a socialite living in the apartment near where Nora saw the murder. She is very engaging with the girl and offers to let her stay in the apartment while she travels to Germany to be with her husband (Giovanni Di Benedetto). Was that a chance meeting, the photo on the piano of Mr. Torrani says not. He is the same man Nora saw drag the murder victim away, but she never sees the photo as it was removed by Laura before she left. So the setting is in place for the solving of the crime. The audience knows more than the protagonist and can sense she is in danger.
  Not to give the whole plot away since this is a film you should see, but it is Nora sifting through the clues like a detective in one of her murder mystery navels who finally will find the answers. While doing so there is the love interest of Dr. Bassi to help her on the way and in the end protect her. The serial killer aspect much like a murder mystery novel involves a killer who has been killing in alphabetical order, Gina Abbot, Maria Beccati, Emily Craven all have died over the years in a similar way. Now it is up to Nora davis to end the killing without becoming the next victim. All the while we see that she is being followed and watched by a man whose face we never see. Designed to make us believe that it is Mr. Torrani and add tension to the story. When Nora finally figures ouut the mystery the direct calls back the beginning of the film.
  Marcello and Nora are together looking over the sights of Italy talking about marriage. She reaches in her bag for a cigarette and remembers they are the same smokes given to her by the drug dealer. Could she have been smoking pot through the entire film? She wonders if this is the case and everything that happened was a pot induced dream. Hilarious. So it is a solid film with decent acting and a good twist. A bit dated but with lovely on location scenes in Rome. I definitely recommend this one for people who like murder mysteries.
Rating (6.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Howling (2012) - Crime Thriller

Howling (2012) - This South Korean crime thriller drew me in with its name, and although it was not the movie I was hoping for it was surprising. It is one part crime thriller and one part police inner office baseball that ultimately delivers. Everything thing does not turn out as you might expect and some of the film situations will push buttons viewers from the west. In its own way though it is a journey that is not looking for a perfect ending.
 Detective Sang-gil (Kang-ho Song) like many in his office is vying for a promotion. The interactions we witness lead us to believe that getting moved to higher ranking jobs is not an easy thing. Since the force works heavily in teams individual accolades are hard to come by and often success means sharing the benefits while failure is often owned individually. So Sang-gil is not happy when investigating a strange murder, where a man burned to death in his car, gets the news that he will be having a new detective starting with him that day. Detective Eun-Young (Na-yeong Lee) has just been moved off patrol and into the office. Sang-gil does not want to be baby sitting a newbie and worst yet she is a woman. This fact will be one of the two prominent features in the film. Eun-Young is one of the few women ever to get into the detective ranks and she wants to stay there. She wants to be accepted and do her job but the way Sang-gil is trying to solve the case without help is only going to hurt her chances. On the other hand she will not go around him and because of her inexperience needs him to help her through the case.

  The sexism by the police officers around Eun-Young is pretty extreme to American liberal sensibilities. She gets it from every guy she interacts with, Sang-gil tells her to go home that there is nothing she will be able to do to help his investigation. She will just get in the way and he does not want her around. The detectives in the office make sexual jokes to Sang-gil about whether he has been fucking her after just the one afternoon of work. Not only that but Eun-Young is right there in the room and they ignore her and speak freely like she does not exist. It must be a cultural thing but the way she just accepted the abuse and then later apologized to Sang-gil for everything was very hard to watch. They assign he busy work, tell her she needs to do whatever they want and suggest that she would make a good bed mate.
  This theme of the story goes all the way through the story. There is some story arc for Sang-gil where he eventually speaks up for her, defending her against the continuous onslaught of the other cops but it is unclear if this is any better. Where it seems she refuses to defend herself, having a male defender only continues the idea that she is not fit to be a cop. She never gets empowered as an individual within the group. Yes she does do some decent detective work which at least in the eyes of Sang-gil improves her standing but she also continues to make rookie mistakes. When it is brought up that she should be transferred back to patrol, Sang-gil defends her but since she never defends herself her fate in inevitable.
  The other track of the film is the case itself, Sang-gil and Eun-Young are lucky in the case falls right into their hands. What at first looks like a simple case of a man accidentally burned to death in his car turns out to be a murder and more. How the script handles this is to have the smallest thing become important. So since the lead cops are assigned the cleanup work that work becomes important. The man in the car for example did not catch fire lighting a cigarette as first thought. No the coroner find that his belt buckle was a little igniting bomb timer with an substance on his belt burned him fast. Not only that but the guy had bite marks on his body, and a drug in his system that is new on the market. So our two main characters have leads to track down from this seemingly simple case. Now it would be proper in this organization to share this new information with the detective team, but Sang-gil wanting that promotion keeps things to himself and delays his final report so he and Eun-Young can investigate themselves.
  This pattern continues with each small thing ending up being more important then initially thought. The pair seek out the drug dealer for this unique drug and in finding his hideout also find a underground prostitution ring focusing in young girls. They do not find the drug dealer though and the audience sees him killed by what appears to be a wolf. The killing connects the drug dealer to his hideout thus allowing the Captain into discovering that the pair has been holding back information. They are scolded harshly for not being team players, then sent to the simplest of tasks while the team investigates the prostitution ring. They are to look for the dog / wolf who killed the drug dealer. This leads to a breeder that shares information about wolf dog half breeds and a photo of the drug dealer, the man in the fire and two other men. This new lead gets Sang-gil and Eun-Young working the case and again Sang-gil wants to go it alone while his partner tries to get him to share information.
  Eventually the plot is fully revealed, and it really takes a wild trail of small clues before we get the entire story. The wolfdog cub was taken by a former police dog trainer, who has trained it to kill. Why do you ask? Well the child sex ring is run by the director of a children's organization. He has decided that since the two death's of his partners he is going to eliminate anyone who knows about his misdeeds. At the same time we learn that the cop had his daughter taken and abused in this sex ring and has trained the wolfdog to get revenge. All of this is really well put together crime thriller with the cops learning the parts one at a time. Then the film unfiortunately goes off the rails.
  In a strange turn Eun-Young feels a connection to the wolfdog, part spiritual and definitely not well done. She shares a moment or two with the beast, so that the climax is based on the wolfdog. In what can only be termed a stretch the police hope to lure the wolfdog out and kill it by hanging some of the little girls clothes in a tree near where the excop trainer and his daughter lived with it. Remarkably the wolfdog shows and Eun-Young saves it from being shot and starts a chase/follow scene as the dog leads the two partners to the hideout of the director bad guy.WTF! There is even slow motion dog running down highway shots that you have to see to believe. Then all that is left to do is have the two cops deal with the remaining bad guys and take another berating for not following procedure.
  The movie which overall was not a bad commentary on sexism in Korea really fails at the end. Unlike what you would expect in a Hollywood film, Eun-Young is not proven to fit in and is sent back to patrol. Sang-gil gets the promotion he wants but then does nothing for the partner that helped him move up. It really takes a bite although maybe a realistic one into the story arc. The strangeness of the wolfdog stuff also really harmed the recommendation I am giving this film. In the end it passes but only because of the social commentary.
Rating (5.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more than others.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tomb of Torture (1963) Horror Ghost

Tomb of Torture (1963) - Also titled "Metempsyco" This is such a misleading title, bringing to mind maybe the film Mark of the Devil, but it is nothing like that film. Instead it is a horrible little story of the death of a Countess at the hands of a greedy confidant. It is also the tale of how her mystery is finally told, as the ones responsible find that guilt is a hard thing to live with and one bad deed begets another.
  In a castle somewhere two girls investigate, they are thrill seeking in the old place. Just looking around through still furnished rooms for something to scare them. Ester (Emy Eco) and Cathy (Terry Thompson? guessing on this one) don't know it but they are being watched by the occupants of the castle. They are confronted by Countess Elizabeth (Flora Carosello) the heir to the castle and get scare when doors start shutting and lights start flicking as they try to make there way out. The entire scene is contrived to introduce the laughing deformed man. He stalks them driving them to tears before capturing them and taking them to his Tomb of Torture. It is called tomb of torture because down in the secret part of the cellar is a torture chamber among the tombs. We open the scene in that room with the laughing deformed man pushing Ester's dead body off the rack while Cathy bound in chains screams, screams that will never be heard.  We establish the way in and out of these rooms is hard to find and that the monster of a man is willing to kill.
  Dr Darnell (Adriano Micantoni) and his daughter Anna (Annie Alberti) happen to be returning to the castle after a long absence when they come across the villagers looking at the girls just discovered bodies. He goes over and indeed they can't be helped by a doctor. Raman (Fred Pizzot) happens to be there to give the audience some background. He is also ink faced to make his skin darker as he attempts to be from India. The turban on his head with the jewel makes the unintentional racism all the more offensive. He has been at the castle area since his love the countess Irene disappeared years before and has never given up the search for her. Isn't the loyal Indian servant also a racists stereotype?
  Countess Elizabeth has inherited the castle but is still desparately searching for where Irene has hidden her jewels. No money and a castle do not go so well together. Now with Dr. Darnell and Anna returning maybe something can be discovered. Raman and then Elizabeth believe that Anna is the reincarnated soul of the missing Irene. It would seem that way to the viewer also as almost upon entering the castle, Anna starts seeing the ghost of Irene in the mirror. We quickly see that Anna has been having a reoccurring dream showing the death of Irene in the Tomb of Torture. The voice that laugh in the dream is so obviously Elizabeth that we already know she had something to do with her death. Well actually we can't be sure with this American dubbed version because we don't know what the original Italian had in that place for a voice.
  It is also very possible that the translation garbled a relationship in the film too. After the dream sequence we see Anna out at the lake skinny dipping. She is interrupted by a man George Dickson (Marco Mariani) it is the Oh I won't look while you dress scene we have seen in many movies. The thing is that after this seemingly first meeting where they are introduced, the next scene has them madly in love and ready to get married. It really makes no sense after the scene at the lake but suddenly he is her hero and protector and she is in love with him. Hell they even sleep together!
  The story is a bit convoluted with one character using the laughing deformed man to do the dirty work. What is desired is that the psychic connection Anna has with the spirit of the deceased Irene be used to find her riches. When in the end things fall apart it is just a matter of time before the good guys win and the bad guys die. Everything culminates in the Tomb of Torture.

  This is not a great movie. I would even be wary of calling it good. The music by Armando Sciacia is a strange mix of over the top horror themes and whimsical melodies more likely to be heard in a Charlie Chaplin film. The translation I think is really horrible and the plot pretty see through. There will be no recommendation for this one. I do have to say though lovers of older horror will find something of value here, just look for an in Italian version with subtitles to get the real story.
Rating (4.8) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Desert of Blood (2008) Horror Vampire

Desert of Blood (2008) - When a metal detecting tourist uncovers a grave in Tacate Mexico he mistakenly releases a vampire trapped in it thirty five years earlier. Luis Diego (Justin Quinn) the vampire trapped in that grave was not too happy when he got out and with a hunger that needed feeding. He seeks out those who were left behind when he was trapped by the local priest and his girlfriends father. Unfortunately for him so many years have past that her is hard pressed to find anyone who is still alive. He wants revenge but those who placed the silver cross on his coffin have long since died. So instead he seeks out his former love, Sarita (Yvonne Rawn).
  There is an interesting conflict for Luis, on one hand he loves Sarita, or at least the seventeen year old version of her. Yet he knows she stood by and let him be buried alive. To be fair though her Father told him they had destroyed Luis, it was only the pleading of then novice priest Hernandez (Flint Esquerra) that convinced the two to spare Luis in  the grave. Sarita now in her fifties and caring for orphan kids on her ranch can't be the woman Luis once loved. He tells her he wants revenge but is blunted in it because of circumstances. Soon though the time when he can get some satisfaction will arrive.
  Sarita in an unrelated but convenient for plot device has a stroke and is bed ridden unable to move or talk. This prompts her college age niece Maricela (Brenda Romero) to travel to the ranch to care for Sarita and her kids. Accompanying her are her two friends Heather (Natalie J. Horton) and Samantha (Tori White) who see it as a chance to take a bit of down time in the sun. This is the primary storyline as Luis sees Maricela as a way to hurt Sarita. Getting close and then wanting to turn her seems like the plan but honestly the film is not really clear it wants Luis to be the bad guy. In fact for most of the film he seem a bit ambivalent to revenge on Sarita. It could be the poor acting by Quinn but I think the character has a complex relationship to navigate. On one hand he was cruelly locked in a box starving for 35 years but on the other hand the people who did it are dead and the love of his once life claims she did not know what happened to him.
  Still he tries to get to know Maricela and even takes the time out of his non busy schedule to meet her at a cantina in town for a night of drinking and feeding and dancing and feeding. It is a strange scene where he not wanting to seem out of touch with the modern party scene bring with him his first female victim Amy (Annika Svedman), who he has turned into a vampire.
   She is there to make him seem not too interested in Maricela so to attract her more. Also accompanying him is human henchman Carlos (Mike Dusi) a small time thug who is his daylight "watcher". He has a deal with the guy that he will make him rich beyond his dreams. Frankly the only time we see any of these characters is when they are interacting with Sarita or Maricela . No one seems to do much of anything beside sleep and talk to each other. What I guess I am really saying is the character development stops at the plot the story can move forward. These shell characters are just a way to move things along. They have varying degrees of success, Carlos scoring with Samantha, Amy frustrated but eventually feeding off a patron and Luis connecting with Maricela even with cock blocker Cris (Naim Thomas) around. Cris an old friend from the very first time you see him you know he is going to be Maricela's love interest and as it turns out hero too. He figures out who or what Luis is and goes to deal with him Man to Vampire.
  In the end though the personal stuff is not going to be the focus of the film. Luis looses more and more of his humanity as time goes on and becomes solely focused on revenge. His really is the extent of the motivation so with his bad acting the story does not carry the impact it could.  Cris and Maricela figure out that he is a vampire out to do harm and know they have to deal with him and his group of henchmen. The two girl friends come along to make the Scooby gang complete in the final showdown. Did I mention both the other girls played by White and Horton were in the Candy Stipers film reviewed a year or two ago on this blog. I mention it because it is one of the most viewed pieces I have on the blog with over 4000 views, mostly because people looking up info on the striper bass have the review show up in the search results.
  You can probably guess what happens in this film as really there is no other place for it to go. It is the biggest flaw, that it is very one dimensional. A lot of the acting is tough to watch and the plot for what it is only makes sense to a point. There is this aspect of the luis character where as the oldest vampire he is the wisest. The back story though does not match up to that reality. In the past when he was banished to the ground he was young and not even sure what was happening to him. Now years later after living in a box the entire time he is suddenly the experienced expert. Everything down to the ending could easily be predicted by the most novice movie fan so it is a bit disappointing. I got this movie because in the soundtrack are included a couple songs from Ana Sidel, the LA based singer with the great cd "A Solas..." but unfortunately the movie does not do it justice.
Rating (2.9) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nympha (2007) Horror Religious

Nympha (2007) - Sometimes the origins of religion are not what we think they are. Sometimes there is a darkness behind the myth that when exposed makes us wonder how anyone could believe and have faith in the religion. No I am not talking about Mormons, or Scientology but of the sect of nuns in the movie Nympha. Here we have a tale that is dark and contemplative about a woman's journey to find God but in the end only finds monsters. The story written by Ivo Gazzarrini follows the spiritual journey of Sarah (Tiffany Shepis) as she arrives in an Italian monastery to join the order of nuns at the bequest of her bishop. Introduced to pray through the concept of body mutilation by the order Sarah begins to have visions of past residents in the house and seemingly supernatural occurrences. Confused and hurt she survives multiple tortures to her ears, eyes, hands and tongue, with each mutilation comes more of the story of the house and its inhabitants. Ultimately she learns the story of the place and the secret of the nunnery but is it too late to save her soul?  The concept of spiritual journey is a interesting one, covered via the pain angle in the Hellraiser series of movies. Here it is a bit of a different take. The journey is through the loss of the body's which serves to narrow the focus of the supplicant. Either way it is a hard way to try to get closer to God.
   Shepis one of the hardest working actresses in the business never shies away from a challenging role and she is up to the task here. Her Sarah captures the anguish of not understanding the horrifying process she must endure, while showing the strength to persevere through it. The small cast and lack of action makes the film a tough watch. Even with the focus on Sarah it is hard to understand the lack of anything else in this film. No morning prayers, no people coming or going in their daily routines, really no activities at all. If the action primarily in the new torture for Sarah is not being shown it seems nothing at all happens at this nunnery.
  Shepis is forced to be half of this film and the flashbacks she sees in her pain are the story behind the story. She does well enough in the role but it seems a real script and directing flaw. The story becomes a weird not day, not night dream world in which only the small cast, four or five actors exist. If trying to capture the surreal journey Sarah is taking then it does keep the focus there but ultimately loses the audience with what is a slow developing back story about a crazy religious old man Geremia (Allan McKenna) and his slide into insanity. The secrets of that second story are dark and disturbing, if only the film was better at getting to those secrets it would have gotten better marks.
  The buildup comes from finding out what the past story of Geremia is all about. Early on we see him and his crazy daughter Lavinia (Alessandra Guerzoni who also plays Mother Superior in the film) at the farm and in what appears to be a supernatural rapeshe is impregnated. The religiously fanatical Geremia delivers the child himself but loses his daughter in the birth process. He believes God wants him to name the child Nympha and so he must raise her to be in the presence of his God. He is a crazy son of a bitch though and hears voices of God in his attic saying in Italian FAME (hunger) and so his fanaticism turns deadly for those who visit him. We watch his acts increasingly more aggressive as he has difficulty first with a neighbor and then with a doctor, until is seems his God is seeking a more personal sacrifice from him.
  The story only unfolds in pieces, with each new mutilation to Sarah in the present, there is another part of the story from the past revealed to her. Director Ivan Zuccon seems to created a fairly compelling mood in the film but the story drags with motionless scenes of minimal activity. There are some rather large reveals in that story in the past, not unforeseen by this viewer but those who stick it out may be a bit surprised by the late turns. The deceptive twist that happens to Sarah though ends up being all for not with an ending that is less than satisfying.
  I could have liked this film it it was a bit more creative in its presentation. Still I though the effects although hokie at times were well enough done. The physical effects to Sarah as she is mutilated are done well enough to be believable. There is some really unnecessary nudity in the film, but since the film drags a bit it was a pleasant distraction. Still not of it really needed to be in the story. An example, the first time Sarah is taken to have her ears cut by Doc Rinaldi (Giuseppe Gobbato), Mother Superior tells her to strip completely nude. Other than intimidation there was no need for it. After the surgery she wakes in her room bleeding from her ears and dressed with blood on her clothes. The only real reason was so the audience could see the beautiful Shepis without her clothes.
  Later in the film there is also a love making scene between the grown girl Nympha (Caroline De Cristofaro) and Shepis that again has no real bearing on the story but is there for those watching the film to see two lovely female bodies. It is almost like the director knew he had an actress that was fearless and since the pacing was so damn tired he used it to try to improve the movie. If there is one thing that has historically sold in the horror genre it is naked women. Or did the director each scene was enhanced by the nudity? Were the story aspects of the scenes thought out but not well enough for the viewer to "get it"? Whatever the reason Shepis probably does not have to show her body in every film she does. She is a good enough actress that she can start saying no to these skin shots. It added little to the story and probably could have been skipped.
  In the end this film does not get a recommendation from this blog. There were way too many times it leaves the viewer thinking, "Lets get on with it.". Although somewhat compelling in tone it just does not have what it takes to hold the audience all the way through. The acting is very good but the set design particularly the lighting were a weekness. The camera did not move enough to make the viewing particularly engaging and really at root the script lacked something.
Rating (3.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Monday, January 7, 2013

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) Horror Revenge

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) -Unlike my last review this one does not have a great opening. An attractive woman comes down some stone steps to look at a beautiful ocean. Her voice over leads into a recap that will bring her to this place. She is Mrs Johnson (Soledad Miranda) a woman at a turning point in her life, about to do something she can not come back from. How did she arrive at this point? She and her husband Dr. Johnson (Fred Williams) were a happy couple, in love and moving through life in love's dream. He a successful doctor working on improving the species through hormone therapy and she, well his very attractive lover. He recently presented his life's work to the board of doctors who will fully instate him making his life perfect.
 Unfortunately the panel did not see his work as groundbreaking; in fact his work, which included experimentation on nearly grown fetuses, is seen as criminal. Dr Johnson is barred from performing medicine permanently. It is a devastating blow, while he tried to defend himself the panel's commentary on what is moral and acceptable in medical experimentation is clear and he returns home a broken man. Staring off into space and mumbling he ends up in a horrible depression eventually taking his own life. We come back to Mrs. Johnson standing on the shore of her private island and swearing revenge on the panel of doctors who she believes took her husband and their perfect life from her.
Beautifully filmed in Calpe, Alicante, and Valencia Spain the print I saw was in good shape and the locales when in frame were nice. Cinematographer Manuel Merino capture the location well and there are some nice angle captures in this film.  German with English subtitles the film has some passages where it seemed the emotion was trying to be captured but then other times the dialog read was a bit stilted. The music a weird mix of groovy beats from the seventies and more serious tones is noticeable from the very beginning of the film.
  Soledad Miranda was excellent as the grieving widow seeking revenge. Very attractive she manages to show her grief and anger behind her eyes. It is not a reach for us to believe that each doctor she seduces and kills would want to be with her. There is a fair amount of partial nudity in this film as with most every movie made by director and prolific Euro-Sleaze auteur Jesus Fanco. Miranda who was on the cusp of a long career as Franco's "it" girl sadly died a couple years after this film in a car crash in Portugal. It is said she was on her way to sign a long term contract with Franco.
  The character of Mrs. Johnson is indeed over the edge of crazy. When she finds her husband dead she does not call the police, no instead she lays his body in the bed and grieves. In fact all through the film no one knows that he is dead except her. She returns to spend time with him after her kills and each time she does it seems a bit sadder. You would think that maybe she is not bat-shit but after the first kill when she violently stabs her knife into the man's penis cutting it off (we learn later from the useless cop) we see the wild in those beautiful eyes. The character is a strange one to start with, a woman who does not appear to work. In a couple with no friends. Who live out on an island where there are no neighbors.That I suppose would drive anyone insane.  SPOILER! The ending where she has the least convincing drive off a cliff I have ever seen, she does so with the body of her man in the seat next to her. A side comment on that drive, it is a hill that runs down to the beach and sure it is not an easy ride down but to think it actually causes her death is silly. END SPOILER
  I think about this film are that I thought is was well put together. Refreshingly cogent for a Franco film it does not go off on any strange tangents as some of his work does. Sure there are things that are a bit strange but maybe interesting also. Prof. Walker (Howard Vernon) likes his sex rough and to be called names while it is happening, which ends up being a great scene for Mrs. Johnson as she can fulfill his needs while really meaning some of the things she is saying. A more common Franco cliche is that the woman doctor Crawford (Ewa Stromberg) is a lesbian, there is a really pretty framing of the two bodies as she makes love with Mrs. Johnson. A stranger less believable sequence where she is following Doctor Houston (Paul Muller) and he a tall man seems genuinely scared of her. This is not so believable when you see the slight Miranda.
 There is quite a bit of social commentary in the film, the primary being the doctors being against Mr Johnson's research and the use of human fetuses in doing testing. It is heavy handed but appropriate for the setup of the film. Then there was this great bit spouted by Dr. Walker about the youth at the time. Paraphrasing he that today's youth (1971 mind you.) can not be fit into a schema, because they will not take orders and execute them without question. They claim to be searching for a better world with protest against war, demonstrations and riots, and drug use. They distort their reality and thus do not fit into the reality of structure they will have to fit in at some point in their lives.
 Overall this is not a bad film, constructed well enough with week but passable characters. The plot is a simple revenge story that is executed with varying amounts of cohesion. It is not the most compelling or memorable film I have seen but it is not a failure either. I think it gets a recommendation but I think some people will find it a bit slow. So if you are an excitement seeker you may want to avoid this one.
Rating (5.0) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Julia's Eyes (2010) Thriller

Julia's Eyes (2010) - Los ojos de Julia, Original title, Spanish
I love when a movie has a great opening sequence and this film does.When the first ten minutes is compelling it immediately makes the viewer want more and that is what the beginning of this film does. I end up liking the film a bit more because of the engaging start. Julia's eyes has such a start. We open on a neighborhood of identical houses. There is music we follow as we close down onto one house in particular house. The woman does not like the music and looks around for whoever turned it on. Not looking with her eyes as it is obvious that she is blind. The power goes off. The lead actress (Belen Rueda)stands in the dark her eyes bluish clouds of blindness. She is yelling into the dark, to the viewer it appears that she is yelling into a dark corner. There is no one there but she believes there is. Her blindness gets the viewer to believe it too. She goes down into the cellar and makes her way we think to a fuse box but part way across the floor is a stool. She seems to know what the stool is for and she climbs up atop it. A noose hangs from the ceiling and she has thought about using it before. She does not want to though with that being in the dark watching her. She addresses the darkness, "You think you can fool me. No, you can't fool me! I can feel your presence and your movements. I can even smell you, and if you think, you son of a bitch, that I'm going to hang myself while you're there..." A leg shoots from the darkness sending the stool flying and the woman struggles as the noose tightens around her neck. A camera flashes from the corner of the room a couple times capturing her death on film. Then we see a syringe kit being folded by the gloved hand of the intruder.
  Here we have the set up worthy of continuing the film. The woman obviously not Julia (also Rueda) since the title of the film leads away from that is a mystery. After we learn who she is, Julia's twin sister Sara, we still have questions that need to be answered. Why was she so willing to hang herself? It seemed she set up that scenario but why was there someone else there? Was the blindness the reason for the noose or was the harassment by the unknown person the reason? What was that syringe kit for, did it have something to do with Sara? So many questions to get the viewer primed for the main story. Julia being a twin has a feeling something is wrong with her sister and she and her husband go to the house. We quickly learn that the eye problems experienced by Sara are genetic and Julia has started losing her sight also. In a fine POV we get to see through Julia's eyes. How there are clouds of darkness as she struggles to make out the room she is in. It is a disconcerting experience to help the viewer understand her plight. Here is this woman struggling not only with the loss of her sister in an apparent suicide but also the fear that she will soon be blind. She has a loving husband Isaac (Lluis Homar) who stands by her even when she doubts her sister took her own life. Still this is a mystery and we know for it to proceed she needs to be lead towards answers.
Writer/director Guillem Morales does a fine job leading us through the story. With fellow writer Oriol Paulo we get the "next" character introduction needed to bring Julia to the next question. At her sister's home there is the next door neighbor Blasco (Boris Ruiz), his daughter Lia (Andrea Hermosa) and old blind lady Soledad (Julia Gutierrez Caba) to get her to the community center for the blind that Sara attended. From there the women of the center who are all blind help her notice that she is being followed by a man, through scent they find him out, and also that Sara had a boyfriend, a
to surprise to Julia. This leads to the Hotel Romeo, where Sara stayed at with her man friend and the character Crespulo (Joan Dalmau) and a key Sara left behind. While there the behavior of her husband Isaac raises suspicions for the audience, (possibly the red herring?). but in all doing everything that needs to be done to make a good thriller.
  There are several nice creepy and suspenseful scenes. When at her sisters funeral, Julia is sitting by the grave and mourning when a consoling hand is placed on her shoulder. Thinking it is her husband she then realizes through her foggy vision that she can see him yards away, startled she turns and find no one there. Then again after the blind women in the locker room of the community center identify a follower Julia tries to chase him through the half lit corridors of the building. Cornering in a dead end she realizes this is probably not the best idea she had. When we see the flash from the camera from the first scene we know there is danger in her decision. This before we even get to the big turn and the really suspenseful scenes. Adding to the horror for the character is that her husband first goes missing and then is found hanging in Sara's cellar with a suicide note detailing his affair with Sara. A devastating blow to Julia.
  Julia's condition deteriorates and there is only hope of an operations, It is unclear what the operation entails since part of the problem with the condition is nerve damage so what does the donor donate? retina? entire eyes? I am pretty sure eye transplants have not been successfully performed. So she is now in need of assistance and it takes the form of Ivan (Dani Codina) who is sent from the agency to teach her how to get around now that her sight is gone.
  There are a couple problems with this movie and really they start about this time. Ivan's face is never seen by us, the audience giving away that he is the killer. But then is he? where you never see him until the killer Angel (Pablo Derqui) exposes himself you can never be sure if he is the mysterious person in the shadows. As we learn the pieces of information we have been wanting to know we also see that Julia is in grave danger. Loving and kind to her Ivan is almost shown to be too good to be the bad guy but the filming choice lets us know it is not so. I suppose that they wanted us to be filled with a sense of dread but it was not the response I had. Since I knew she was in the care of the killer I just wanted to get to the climax, nothing was gained through the scenes of their relationship building for me. Secondly I really disliked the fact that she went to live in her sister's house. I understand how it was necessary for the logistics of the story but it felt way too forced. These were script decisions that make sense but I did not buy into enough. I think I would have liked it if we kept the Ivan character in full view and only slipped details of who he was in a bit at a time. It did not gain anything by outing him as early as the film did.
  Still this was an excellent film. Thrilling with a nice climax and one hell of a turn at the end and then a final fight for life that was satisfying and complete. So I liked this film a lot and maybe it will get me to include more thrillers into this blog. The horror aspects of the film were very complimentary so at least these films that straddle the line have a place here.
Rating (7.9) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.