Monday, 21 February 2011

Top 10 WTF?! Films

Some films go out of their way to be a bit odd. To test the waters and see what they can get away with, you know? Sometimes it’s nonsense, sometimes it’s art. One thing that can be said is that the more bizarre a film is, the more interesting it can be. Some studios spend millions of dollars adjusting their films if an audience says they don’t understand something. This list is for the films that decided, ‘hey, screw sense’!


10. MEET THE FEEBLES (1989)
Before Lord of the Rings and other big studio fare, director Peter Jackson was known for being a goremeister with his tongue firmly in cheek. Meet The Feebles was his vision of the Muppets, if the Muppets went bat-shit insane, were carnal monsters and drug users. Originally in development for Japanese TV (oh those crazy Japanese), there are hippos with eating disorders, pornographic ant-eaters, paparazzi flies, and junkie frogs. Highlight of the madness? A Bugs Bunny-esque rabbit with HIV praying to Kermit The Frog on a cross.

9. ICHI THE KILLER (2001)
Quite big budget Japanese fare, the film is the most intense mob film you will ever see. The main WTF factors here are the sadomasochist mob boss who is looking for someone to challenge him and the sexually repressed titular Ichi, who confuses sexual arousal with murderous intent. The entire film is an insane, over the top, manga-esque piece that will leave you laughing hysterically, or yelling ‘down with this sort of thing’.

8. THE BEYOND (1981)
Now for Italy’s turn, horror legend/hack (depending on who you ask) Lucio Fulchi made a film about a woman who inherits a Louisiana hotel which sits on a portal to Hell. Plenty of confusing goings-on here, including, but not limited to, possessed kids, blind people being attacked by dogs, paintings transporting people to other dimensions and zombies. Apparently, Fulchi was interesting in putting random sequences together to make a scarier and more bizarre film. I think he succeeded. I think.

7. ANTICHRIST (2009)
Not for the faint-hearted, Lars Von Trier’s harrowing examination of a couple after the loss of their child is disturbing and sometimes straight up disgusting. Bashed by some as misogynistic for its portrayal of the wife, this film pushes your limits of taste, adds in grotesque images of animals and is unabashed with its portrayal of sex. This one is NOT a date movie!

6. VISITOR Q (2001)
Ugh, another messed up Japanese film… Directed by Takashi ‘Ichi The Killer‘ Miike, this is a more low budget, visceral experience of a dysfunctional family visited by a mysterious man who seems to be driving them to the brink of insanity and mayhem. The film starts out shocking (including scenes of a daughter selling sex to her pops, and charging him extra when he ‘arrives’ early) and moves to farcical with an interesting ‘milking’ scene. A bit peculiar, this one.

5. POSSESSION (1981)
Starring Jurassic Park’s Sam Neil, this film starts out normal enough, being a story about a couples discourse, but around the forty minute mark, it becomes a monster film, then becomes an art film, then a surreal film. Controversial on release, the performances are stellar and the story gripping (mainly because it is difficult enough to follow). Scene not to be missed but most to be avoided is the wife’s breakdown in the railway station tunnel. You have been warned.

4. NAKED LUNCH (1991)
Famous for having one of the most inaccurate titles in film history, David Cronenberg’s adaptation of William Burroughs’ ‘unfilmable’ novel is, well, one of a kind. There is something going on about drug use, and espionage, but one thing I know for sure, the typewriters turn into giant bugs. It’s wrong that a film this mental is as classy as it is.

3. SOUTHLAND TALES (2006)
What else would you expect from the director of Donnie Darko but something out there? Way out there. A film with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Rock set to the tunes of Moby has a lot going for it right off the bat. A lot of people didn’t like it, because it really isn’t for everyone. The best way I can describe it is a David Lynch film for an MTV audience. Just like Donnie Darko, this one is destined to be a cult hit, with people trying to get their heads around just what the hell is happening in their DVD player. Scene to scratch your head to: Justin Timberlake miming to All These Things I’ve Done by The Killers.

2. SUSPIRIA (1977)
One of the most beautiful films ever made, this Italian horror by Dario Argento is centred around murders and mysterious happenings at a dance school for teenagers. Off-putting, with colours being intense, sounds being disorientating, and subtleties like having door handles up too high to make the girls seem more child like make this film a masterpiece. There is nightmare imagery and witches too. Unsettling for all the right reasons, it’s no wonder there is a remake with Natalie Portman in the works.

1. MERMAID IN A MANHOLE (1988)
Part of the insane Guinea Pig film series (again, Japanese, WTF!?), this mindwarping film is about an artist finding a mermaid down in the sewers while looking for art supplies. After finding a boil growing on her, he takes her home to care for her in his bathtub (as you do). The boils spread, and some pop, leaking colours for the artist to use to paint her. Yup, it’s a bit odd. But if a film could ever do with a remake, it’s this one. It has a lot going for it, except for its cheap 80s feel (then again, maybe that adds to it). I dare you to watch this film and not ask, at least once, WTF?

I now have some articles being published with the good folks over at Best For Film.  Articles I post there will make their way here after a few days, but do check out their site. There are some decent articles by writers who are probably better than me!
        

Monday, 14 February 2011

Top 10 Criminally Overlooked Horror Films

The last two decades have seen an overabundance of horror films flood the market, with many of these being ridiculous attempts at making a quick buck, whether it be sequels or poor cash ins on successful films. Hell, look at IMDBs bottom 250 and just count how many are recent, awful horror films. But in this barrage of crap, some truly worthy fare gets lost along the way. Now, a truly good film will always find its audience, but for those that have it a bit more difficult, there is this list.

10. SEED OF CHUCKY (2004)

For many, this fifth entry in the long-lagging Child’s Play series seals the nail in the coffin that the previous instalment, Bride of Chucky, had hinted at. A film about two maniacs trapped in dolls bodies attempt to transfer their souls into human vessels, many fans found the film stupid and completely devoid of scares.

The film is a comedy!

I swear...


Let’s face it, everyone was bored of the killer-doll-trying-to-find-a-human-body angle about halfway through the second film. This, however, is a film for the fans, being the most self-referential horror since Scream (and cheekier by far). The film is genre pop culture in a can, with a cast bound to catch your attention one way or the other, with the likes of Jennifer Tilly, Billy Boyd, John Waters, Hannah Spearritt (of S Club 7 fame) and rapper Redman. Throw in Brad Dourif as the always delectable Chucky, and you have one insane tongue-in-cheek thrill ride.

Think of it like a live action version of The Simpsons… with killer dolls.

9. SPHERE (1998)

This sci-fi horror about a group of scientists sent to examine an alien spacecraft found in the Pacific Ocean, who discover a mysterious sphere that unleashes an entity that creates a nightmare situation, was bashed by critics upon release, yet…

It’s terrifying. And not in ‘loud noise/soil your whites’ kind of way. It is all about playing on your paranoia about the person next to you, and it plays on this fear well. Samuel L. Jackson delivers solidly as a ridiculously disturbing potential villain, and even Sharon Stone works well. Give this film the attention it deserves and deny the chill running down your spine during the book scene, I dare you.

Pictured: Samuel L. Jackson and two people who are yet
to be tired of the mother fuckin snakes on the mother fuckin plane.


8. DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)

This one might be a bone of contention, as it has quite a large fan base, but George A. Romero’s zombie apocalypse of scientists and soldiers taking refuge in a missile silo was lambasted when first released and for years considered the weakest of the original trilogy.

“Let’s see, I’ve my keys… My wallet… I feel like I’m
forgetting something…”

But this film was released in the 80s, a time of fun and frolics and bad hair dos. Horror was dominated by lighter fare like Return of the Living Dead and Fright Night. Romero’s previous Dead film, Dawn of the Dead, was a comic book come to life and people were expecting more of the same. What they got was a dark and gritty portrayal of humanity losing. This film dares you to hate the protagonists, putting you uncomfortably in their. Really, it is a film before its time and can maybe now be re-evaluated as the people piece it is.

7. HELLRAISER 4: BLOODLINE (1994)

Some don’t know the Hellraiser films number eight entries and counting, but number four is an interesting specimen. Director Kevin Yagher took his name off the film when it was recut by the studios, and it was dismissed by fans as, well, rubbish. But hear my argument.

Three words: No. More. Disco. The previous film tried its hand at being modern and contemporary but what we got was cocaine and dance clubs. The first two films will always be remembered as some of the finest horror cinema. I recommend you follow my lead and pretend that part three never happened. Though flawed, part four is Citizen Kane to part three’s Deuce Bigalow.

Bad hair day.


6. JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (2003)

Another monster picking off annoying high school clichés, this film was trodden upon by everyone. How can I defend it?

You guys are SO in a horror film right now.

It is a film with a monster picking off annoying high school clichés, and it is fantastic at it! Shot amazingly, with a simple premise and no holds barred attitude, Jeepers Creepers 2 is one of the rare films to deliver on the idea of mutilating those stereotypes we all knew from school with such a glee and malice but we can relate to them, making it all that more bearable as we watch them dissipate one by one, as opposed to, say, the Friday the 13th films, where we don’t care. Oh, speaking of which…

5. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6: JASON LIVES (1986)

This film brought Jason back from the dead as a zombie and, with him, a sense of humour about the stale slasher genre. This did not go over well.

He doesn’t take criticism well.

Now, this film and its self-referential nature can finally be appreciated. This is easily one of, if not the best, of the series. This one isn’t lumbering or stupid. It’s witty, fast-paced and is giving a wink to horror fans. The characters are relatively throwaway, but even they seem to know it. Plus, the sounds of gunshots in this film are ridiculously EPIC!

4. SILENT HILL (2006)

The big screen adaptation of the popular Silent Hill video games was quickly dismissed and forgotten about by pretty much everyone.

Uh-huh… Fuck this noise.

It’s sad, because this is one of the few hopes in an abysmal year (and, I’d argue, decade) for horror. The plot isn’t slow, it’s methodical. We are still getting to grips with the mother searching for a child who seems to have entered hell when suddenly we are faced with monsters and cults. Shot amazingly, with a creepy score and oodles of tension, this is a film that I think will be rediscovered down the line as an above average offering from the decade that brought the world Twilight (yeah, I went there).

3. THE HAPPENING (2008)

M. Night Shamalamafamagama…. The Sixth Sense guy returns with another horror, this time centring around the sudden mass suicides of large groups of people. With M. Night you already know you are going to get a twist, so I won’t spoil that for you, but after snorefest Lady in the Water, people were ready to tell M. Night where to go with his ‘twists’.

But this is pure B-movie fun. You know those nuclear horror B-movies of the 50s? Well, The Happening is our version of irradiated ants. Come on, do you really think we are supposed to seriously buy into a film that has both Marky Mark AND John Leguizamo as teachers? It was never going to win an Oscar, but it’s a bit of fun.

He’s wearing glasses. That’s how you know he’s smart.

2. THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999)

A horror remake before Michael Bay made horror remakes popular, House on Haunted Hill was a haunted house film labelled as unoriginal, non-scary, and dumb.

What film were people watching? I have honestly been unable to find any decent haunted house films between this and 1963s The Haunting. Ok, it is not a perfect film, but it looks amazing (ever see the Beautiful People video by Marilyn Manson? Now make that a feature), is genuinely creepy, and has the brilliantly Vincent Price-esque performance by Geoffrey Rush. Its ending is a little bit ‘Hollywood’, but if you buy in for the ride, it won’t disappoint you.

This film tried to bring back pencil moustaches single-
handed. It was a noble effort.

1. BLAIR WITCH 2: BOOK OF SHADOWS (2000)

I can almost hear people arguing already. The Blair Witch Project was arguably one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of the late 90s and you could hear the cash registers ring when this sequel abruptly found its way into cinemas. Fans hated the departure from the originals style, critics found the film messy, and director Joe Berlinger was vocal about the studios interference.

Imagine a world where this film was a horror about people obsessed with the Blair Witch film, then the freaky events start happening, but it is in no way tied to the film. It’d be amazing. A non-sequel sequel. Sure, the characters are loosely drawn in places, but they are well cast (Erica Leerhsen always
awesome) and the script is WTF enough to be odd and exciting.

Erica Leerhsen: I melt every time.

Even better, the DVD has a gimmick called The Secrets of Esrever (‘reverse’ backwards, in case you missed it) and this adds a new layer of images to some scenes. I’m man enough to admit I had to turn the light on when I noticed some of the secret images.

So, in terms of hate:quality ratio, Blair Witch 2 is a winner in my books. It has layers to explore and some brilliantly mind-twisting ways it gets there.

Did I mention Erica Leerhsen is in it?


I now have some articles being published with the good folks over at Best For Film.  Articles I post there will make their way here after a few days, but do check out their site. There are some decent articles by writers who are probably better than me!

                

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT/BLACK SWAN Review

Hello hello!

What must you think of me? Sometimes I am all over you, never leaving you alone, invading your personal space, sometimes three times a week, other times I disappear for ten days with no reason to my absence, bar an inexplicable Facebook status stating: "You all LAUGHED when I started my blog! I'll show you! I'll show you ALL!!! (What's that? You didn't know I had a blog...? And you typically ignore my posts? Well... well... you're a prick!)". Well, to explain my seemingly rash and somewhat excited status update, I can now reveal all.

I am now a contributing writer to a fuckin cool film website!

Don't believe me? Check out the link to see my very first article for the awesome folks of BestForFilm.com:
http://bestforfilm.com/film-blog/top-10-criminally-overlooked-horror-films/

These peeps are just crazy into film, and, thanks to the guidance of my 'little sister' Bev, I am now proud to say I can spread my horror nonsense with them.

Now, don't think for one second that this page is going to be neglected! Every post I do for BFF will also be published here a few days later (probably with slight alterations), and some articles will be exclusive to This Horror Is Your Face, as my style of ranting isn't always compatible with others!

Bless their wee cotton sock, 
they don't know what they have got themselves in for.

Now, in line with things I don't normally do, I am going to have a look at a film that is still actually in cinemas! Ladies and gentlemen, I present for your consideration, Black Swan.

I have always been a big Darren Aronofsky fan, even liking the seemingly terminal entry in his catalog, The Fountain, but seeing the hype this film had around it, I was very prepared to be disappointed. I was really in to The Wrestler, and figured he would not be able to top it in terms of a film for mainstream audiences. How wrong I was!

This tale of the precision and disturbing obsession a ballerina goes through to make it to the main stage is not a very original premise (much to-do has been made about a film very similar that should receive more recognition), but, for my money, you can close the book on any more films like this. Black Swan is as beautiful as it is startling, as tranquil as it is grotesque. Natalie Portman and Mila 'I could literally got lost in your eyes' Kunis are stellar, as are all the cast. The script is tight and, though feeling a bit familiar in subject matter, could not have been better. The film seems to be shot on a film stock very reminiscent of the late 70s (though maybe it was just the copy I saw), which is part of an overall juxtapose of beauty and grit (which also includes these petite and picturesque dancers in quite a derelict building).

I went in to the film knowing it was some way a thriller, but this scared me a helluva lot more than Paranormal Activity 2 did. Aronofsky is subtle is his mind-fucking, and knows how to turn on the screw amazingly. I don't know if it's because his big flop The Fountain was noted for feeling quite disassociative, but these characters you care for, even though it is the type of film you could very easily feel the exact opposite about.

Like I say, this film is quite hyped up, and if I had gone in expecting an amazing film, I may have been disappointed. It's that it shocked me with how good it was that has left an impression. I will go so far as to say I think the film should win Best Film at the Oscars (I certainly preferred it over seemingly everyones favourite, Inception) and will be shocked if it walks away empty handed. A friend summed up this film very well: It is The Wrestler for ballet.

Just beautiful.



Other Darren Aronofsky recommendations: