Movie Review: Thinner (1996)

Horror, Movie Review

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Thinner is a 1996 body horror movie based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, which was directed by Tom Holland, who brought us the beloved classics, Fright Night (1985) and Child’s Play (1988).  On paper, King and Holland is like a match made in horror heaven, but critics weren’t too kind to Thinner; many felt it was too immoral, for a start.  Whereas others felt it was a great idea with poor execution like much of King’s big screen translations.  Furthermore, the fact that every character was a horrible human being didn’t sit too well with those looking for someone to root for.  What’s wrong with movies about awful people doing awful things to each other?  Don’t you like it when the bad guy wins?  I sure as hell do; especially when it’s as entertaining as this baby.

Billy (Robert John Burke) is an obese attorney who specializes in protecting his towns small time mafioso from going to jail; not that he needs to do anything as the law and judge are all corrupt.  One night, while driving home, his wife decides to give him oral pleasure, and while distracted, he hits an old gypsy woman and kills her.  Dead.  Not coming back.  His case is quickly dismissed, causing the gypsies to deliver their own brand of ”gypsy justice” in the form of a curse that causes Billy to rapidly shed pounds until he wastes away completely.  How will Billy get out of this pickle?  Hope the sookie sookie was worth it.

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Let’s be honest: Billy deserved to be cursed.  Not only did he run over an old lady, but he never showed any remorse for his actions because he knew he was getting off.  Thinner had all the makings of a morality tale where Billy showed remorse for his actions.  But he’s a lawyer, and the message is lawyers are evil men who are above the law.  So, instead of accepting his fate, Billy hires his mafia pals to threaten the gypsies with violence in order to remove the curse.  For Billy to break the curse, he must pass it on to somebody else by having them eat a pie with his blood in it; a morality tale it is not, but an entertaining piece of mean spirited pie it most certainly is.

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Thinner is one of the better lesser known King adaptations and my personal favourite Holland flick; if you’re stuck for something to watch and want to switch your brain off for 90 minutes it’s perfect popcorn absurdity.  Some of the performances are cheesy and the dialogue is there for an extra sprinkling of cheddar, but overall it’s solid in all aspects.  7/10

Directed By:

Tom Holland

Written By:

Stephen King (novel), Michael McDowell, Tom Holland

Starring:

Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Daniel Von Bargen

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

90 mins

Movie Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

Arthouse, Crime, Movie Review

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Only God Forgives is the follow-up to Danish director Nicolas Winding’s 2011 critically acclaimed, Drive – a cultural phenomenon that made you want to buy a leather jacket and drive around at night listening to synthwave music.  A stylish retro thriller with minor arthouse furnishings, Drive was a commercial success and mainstream breakthrough for Refn; now a director with the world at his feet, his next movie was highly anticipated by cinephiles and causal moviegoers alike; when it was announced he’d be teaming up with Ryan Gosling again excitement was in the air, with many hoping for Drive’s unofficial sequel.  Instead, Refn opted to release a bloody arthouse picture as a tribute to Chilean surrealist master, Alejandro Jodorowsky.  It was an artistic statement which divided audiences like black and white; at its Cannes premier it received both a standing ovation and booed hysteria from the polarized audience.  Needless to say it’s a very ”love or hate”, if Drive was the cocaine, Only God Forgives is the acid – it might not be a good trip for some, but for others it might just take them on a journey of the conscience.

Julian (Ryan Gosling) is a drug smuggler who runs a Thai boxing club as a front for his criminal activities on behalf of his criminal family; after his brother murders a prostitute, which results in ruthless cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm).  Given that his brother was murdered for raping and killing an innocent woman, Julian has no desire to take it any further.  However, his domineering mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) demands retribution and her actions send Chan, also known as the Angel of Death, on a bloody mission of justice.

Only God Forbids is a strange movie; labelled pretentious and self-indulgent by its critics, they do have a point as it favours style over substance, but that doesn’t mean it contains none of the latter.  It’s a film that’s waiting to be dissected and interpreted in different ways.  The line between reality and symbolism is a blur; characters are merely caricatures in a hallucinogenic exploration of existentialism.  Just like Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1970), it’s a Western that abandons a traditional narrative to explore themes that are difficult to decipher right away; at this moment in time I’m still not sure what to make of it all quite yet: all I know is I want to study it more.  There’s nothing wrong with not being able to understand what the hell is going on, I sure didn’t.  But it’s a thought provoking piece of art that makes me want to decipher its meanings.

The score by Cliff Martinez is the films dark beating heart; ominous synth drones draw us into Bangkok’s hellish underbelly and eerie Eastern instruments give us a feeling that there’s much spirituality at work; perhaps even the supernatural.  In a film where dialogue is sparse, the score is relied on heavily for mood and emotion; it’s a triumphant soundtrack to any journey into the abyss – and it makes for great background listening on a dark, rainy day.

Only God Forgives is a flawed movie, but anything that’s so personal to its creator is always going to boast some self-indulgence; that being said, it’s a flawed masterpiece.  Any movie that divides people so passionately is worth seeing if you ask me.  10/10

Written & Directed By:

Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring:

Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm

Genre:

Crime, Arthouse

Running Time:

90 mins

Movie Review: A Lonely Place To Die (2011)

Action, Movie Review, Thriller

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A Lonely Place To Die is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover; at first glance, it could easily be mistaken for another backwoods survival horror – only set in the Scottish Highlands: a group of city slickers on a hiking expedition find a young girl trapped in a hole in the woods and must escape the wilderness to get her to safety as they’re pursued by the men who put her there.  Sounds like a fairly standard cat-and-mouse horror fare, doesn’t it?  Well I’m happy to report that it’s so much more.  It starts off like our assumptions would assume, only to unfold into a more complex crime thriller involving various parties looking for the girl.  It accelerates at cheetah pace, shifting gears like a Formula One car, to make for one hell of a suspenseful ride.

Fun story: When director Julien Gilbey set out to find funding for A Lonely Place To Die, he was given 3 million pounds to make anything, as long as it was set in the Scottish Highlands and showed lots of scenery.  Basically, he could have handed in any old piece of crap as long as it had shots of mountains and forests.  The scenery is certainly seductive; if this comprised solely of shots of Munro’s it’d still be amazing due to how stunning the North of Scotland is.  However, thankfully there’s a story to it – a very original crime story.  The scenery is used as an antagonist to give a sense of isolation and danger; mountain ridges and rapid rivers prove to be as dangerous a foe as military trained assailants with guns.  It gives off the impression that sudden death could lurk behind every rock and tree, while making it a priority to avoid the majority of genre cliches.

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For any survival thriller to be effective, the characters must have some substance, in my opinion.  The reason Eden Lake surpasses mediocrity like Preservation et al, is because the heroes are people we can empathize with.  A Lonely Place To Die’s characters aren’t perfect human beings; there are even moments where they discuss ditching the little girl to save their own keisters – like most normal people would.  The people we’re supposed to root for are far from a group of saints: Ed (played by Ed Speleers) is a selfish insensitive twat who becomes a heavily flawed anti-hero.  The lead villain, Mr. Kidd (Sean Harris, at his slimy best), is well fleshed out and not just you’re typical one dimensional gunner.  We spend quite a bit of time with every party involved, which elevates it above and beyond a formulaic thriller.  Melissa George is a likable enough lead with a good heart who shows bravery throughout.  It’s a very physical role and she nails it.

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The less you know about A Lonely Place To Die the better; it’s better if you go in knowing as little as possible and allow it to take you by surprise.  It’s on Netflix US currently, so if you have it drop everything you’re doing and watch it.  For me, it’s up there with Kill List as the best British film of the 21st century that isn’t part of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy.  A smart crime story with the suspense and tension of the best horror films, you’d be foolish not to give it a whirl.  10/10.

Directed By:

Julian Gilbey

Written By:

Julian Gilbey & Will Gilbey

Starring:

Melissa George, Sean Harris, Ed Speleers, Alec Newman

Genre:

Thriller

Running Time:

99 mins

Movie Review: August Underground (2001)

Horror, Movie Review

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”Crime”, ”atrocity” and ”fucked up” are the terms most associated with Fred Vogel’s infamously notorious August Underground series, and sometimes they’re meant as compliments.  Some would even go as far to call it art, where as others would dismiss it as exploitation trash from a demented hack with murder fantasies.  It was curiosity that led me to watch the first of the three movies more than anything; pseudo snuff films aren’t to my taste at all, but after reading so much about them for years, I decided to finally take the plunge.  Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy it at all; in fact, I didn’t feel anything.  As nasty, brutal, disgusting and realistic as the events taking place are, the lack of plot, character development and engaging dialogue make the atrocities ineffective.  However, to dismiss its artistic merit is something I don’t agree with.

August Underground documents two serial killers as they go around causing havoc; getting in fights, torturing captives they have looked in their basement and being all round cunts is just their daily routine.  One of them films their activities at all times, whether it’s going to concerts, assaulting people or viciously killing them.  That’s the plot in a nutshell, or lack thereof.  Not that it matters because the intention of this movie is to provide a realistic account of the activities of evil people, and in those regards, it does.

The characters are completely authentic: the two killers converse and laugh like 2 young men would, sharing an undeniable camaraderie and affinity for their actions.  The day-to-day video diaries of their antics feels homemade and everyone they encounter, whether a victim or a passer by, seems true to life.  On top of that, the special effects don’t look fake in the slightest, so if you showed it to somebody who wasn’t in the know, it’s highly possible they’d believe it was a real life snuff film.  Once again, kudos to those involved.  Fred Vogel set out to make a nasty film which depicted serial killers how they really are: it is supposed to be a dirty documentation of sick people committing vile atrocities that’ll make the viewer feel uncomfortable.  The message is to remind us that there is real violence out there and it isn’t ”fun.”  As horror fans, we’re used to finding glamour in wickedness and this is a reminder that there are deviants out there who we should not adorn.  That’s the artistic merit of August Underground; it sets out to make a statement with brute force, and while not being to most peoples tastes (including my own), it succeeds with its message.

That being said, there’s only so much women being force fed their own feces and brutality I can take before I stop caring.  Personally, I’m only disturbed by movies if I form an emotional attachment to the characters somehow.  If I didn’t know this was fake it’d be another matter, but amazing special effects aside, I knew it wasn’t real and the lack of any real substance made it a chore to sit through.  Out of all the negative comments I’d have for this movie, I didn’t expect boring to be one of them.  I went in to test my endurance for vile atrocities, not for seeing how long I could watch without falling asleep.

If curiosity leads you to August Underground, be prepared: if curiosity did kill the cat then this movie ensured it was subject to torture before it died.  Through boredom or induced vomit killing you depends on your stronghold, whiskers.  Not without its merits, I’d say avoid this unless you’re a fan of simulated snuff.  Fred Vogel has evolved as a filmmaker since, making gore flicks with drama, characters and storytelling narrative.  I look forward to seeing those because his talent is evident.  5/10.

Directed By:

Fred Vogel

Written By:

Fred Vogel & Allen Peters

Starring:

Fred Vogel, Allen Peters, Andrew Lauer

Genre:

Extreme Horror

Running Time:

70 min

Movie Review: Lost River (2014)

drama, fantasy, Movie Review

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Ryan Gosling has forged quite the career from marching to the beat of his own drum; his acting roles are picked based on what interests him as opposed to coasting on his looks and charms all the way to the bank, and now, with his first directorial feature, he’s created a bamboozling piece of arthouse cinema in the vein of his mentor Nicolas Refn, and idols like David Lynch, Dario Argento and Gaspar Noe.  Film buffs are sure to have a ball playing spot the influence; Gosling proudly wears Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive on his sleeve, through the lens of Only God Forgives.  Like his acting roles, this isn’t concerned about pleasing the mainstream; in fact, judging by its Cannes reaction and Rotten Tomatoes score it isn’t pleasing anybody.  Critics are writing it off as a collage of influences on a canvas with no originality of its own; and while it is a collage of influences, to write it off as nothing more is lazy journalism.  Whilst displaying images reminiscent of its idols, it contains enough of its own symbolism and messages to warrant some respect in regards to its originality.

Gosling tackles issues like small town life, poverty, bullying, family, coming of age, and the environment in his first outing; Christina Hendricks plays the mother who goes to desperate lengths to support her family, leading her into a dark underworld overseen by Ben Mendelsohn’s Dave, a sleazy Luciferian-like scumbag with a fondness for karaoke.  Saoirse Ronan plays Rat, the young love interest of Bones (Iain De Caestecker), who spend their time ducking bullies led by the appropriately named Bully, played by Doctor Who himself, Matt Smith, in  career best performance thus far.  Their town is decaying as a result of the economic crisis, and the setting makes for a desolate urban fairytale.

Water plays an important part in Lost River; in a town where water is hard to come by, all the characters still seem to be drowning in one way or another.  Social commentary is playfully used to suggest that industrial and commercial growth has replaced reservoirs to the point nobody knows what they are any more, despite being necessary in order to survive.

Lost River does come off as a love letter to avant-garde cinema Gosling is inspired by, but to dismiss it as only that is unfair; although viewed through the lens of Refn, with the imagery of Lynch, Mallick, Noe and Argento splashed across the screen throughout, this urban fairytale has strong characters and enough moral, societal and self-empowering messages to stand on its own 2 legs.  Overall, it’s a visually striking treat that could suck you in based on that alone, but Gosling is a director with a voice who shows great promise, even if he does need a little confidence to speak louder without his influences whispering in his ear.  7/10

Written & Directed By:

Ryan Gosling

Starring:

Christina Hendricks, Ben Mendelsohn, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith

Genre:

Fantasy, Drama

Running Time:

95 mins

Tetherball: The Movie (2010)

Comedy, Movie Review

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Tetherball is one of those movies that you could easily dismiss as just another dumb sex comedy by reading the synopsis; a group of slackers become tetherball stars and as a result they’re up to their nuts in beer, babes and boobies, and to an extent it is just that. It never tries to be anything else than a mindless good time; a movie to stick on when you’re inebriated with friends is what it’s perfect for. But don’t write it off just yet, because it’s more than that: while containing all the typical dick gags and frat humour you’ll expect, it also manages to create a few unexpected laughs out of nowhere that take you by surprise, as well as riff on the sports world to create some hilarious satire. Although not quite the ingenious masterpiece Baseketball is (nothing is for me though, that movie is in my all time top 10), it does provide a worthy companion piece to it. If Baseketball is the daddy of sports satire, Tetherball is its delinquent the son; still in college, impregnating women and living with alcoholism, but it still has his daddy’s genes and wit. Mark my words, Tetherball is a funny movie, if you’re a fan of slacker, sex and sports comedies. If the guys from Porky’s were amazing backyard athletes, then they’d fit right in with the Tetherball guys. It reminded me of a good 80’s sex comedy; not only are all the characters womanizing drunks, but even the fat guys get laid with ease. In most modern sex comedies Chubby has to work for it, and if some unfortunate women is feeling pitiful, he might just score.

The cast features some known names too; Ron Jeremy plays the sleazy man of power to demands sexual treats in exchange for granting wealth and fame for a start. Although it’s not hard to hire Ron Jeremy, he’s always a lot of fun and here he plays one of his better roles in awhile, up there with Bloody Bloody Bible Camp and One Eyed Monster. Dustin Diamond, who we all know as Screech from Saved By The Bell also gets a good portion of screen time as the down-on-his-luck coach with more casualties under his supervision than success stories. Lastly, Lloyd Kauffman lends his voice as a commentator; always a pleasant voice to hear, but let’s hope he didn’t stiff these guys for money. Cameos aside, it’s the cast of unknowns who steal the show – Rick Dawson, Brian Titus, Rob Fender, and Jon Alderman – and they all demonstrate natural comedic chops that could see them go places, together and apart.

14 year old me would have loved this movie, but 25 year old me still really enjoyed it and laughed regularly from beginning ’til end. If you can find it anywhere, check it out (it’s available on Amazon and other VOD outlets). It’s much funnier than any typical dumbfounded assumption would ever give it credit for, and you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised. Comedies are supposed to make us laugh and Tetherball provides more laughs than you’d get having your nutsack tickled by a clown falling down some stairs. 7/10

Director:

Chris Nickin

Writer:

Rick Dawson

Starring:

Rick Dawson, Brian Fender, Brian Titus, Ron Jeremy

Genre:

Comedy

Running Time:

90 min

Movie Review: Applecart (2015)

Horror, Movie Review

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The artistic evolution of Dustin Mills so far has been somewhat similar to Bjork. While both apply their trade to different fields of art, they share an uncompromising tendency never to repeat themselves, creating outside the box works, with consistently excellent results. Not many filmmakers working today compete with Dustin’s unpredictability and tireless work ethic; with an average of 4 projects a year and each of them being different to the others, he’s an exciting talent to follow if you’re an indie horror fan, but even his most long-term die-hard followers couldn’t have predicted a film like Applecart. Needless to say, there aren’t many films out there like Applecart.

Applecart is an avant-garde portmanteau film comprising of 4 shorts: ”The Sleepover,” ”Caretaker,” ”Dad” and ”Let Me Show You Something”, all of which are shot in the style of a 1920’s black and white silent film, with the only sounds being a recorded audience track and burlesque style photoplay music. All of the characters wear white masks at all times; a symbol for their deepest, darkest secrets, and their emotions are impressively conveyed through body language. Throughout the film, the only food eaten by the characters is apples; this is a representation of forbidden fruits as we watch them indulge in sheer depravity.

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Applecart is not a film for the faint of heart; running at approximately 56 minutes, Mills is somewhat a merciful towards his audience, because despite being an excellent accomplishment, it isn’t the easiest of content to stomach. Tackling themes such as domestic abuse, abuse of the elderly, abuse of women and sexual perversion, it’s an unfortunate mirror of the real world we live in as opposed to mindless exploitation fodder that would be easier to digest if we didn’t think our neighbours might be capable of such acts. Despite portraying such themes in the extremist of manners, reality has proven time and time again they aren’t necessarily hyperbole. Applecart represents fear of normalcy; who knows what goes on behind closed doors when it comes to our colleagues, friends, neighbours and even family? Putting madness on the screen is easy. Having meaning behind it is something else entirely, and Mills most certainly has a message.

The cast consists of Mills’ regulars Erin R. Ryan, Allison Egan, Haley Madison and Dave Parker.  Kudos to every single actor and actress for not only for their bravery to be a part of something so bold, but to carry a film without words and convey every emotion with a body movement is an outstanding accomplishment.  This is not a film that’ll cater to all tastes; the most open minded viewers might find it too odd and perplexing, and the most jaded extreme aficionado’s might find the content to be too grim and disturbing.  But if there’s one thing any objective viewer could agree on it’s that the cast delivered.

All in all, Applecart is not for everybody: it’s as extreme as it is beautifully shot; easy to digest storytelling is replaced with arthouse sensibilities and a style of film not seen since the 20’s, and it’s as bizarre and challenging as they come.  I loved it, personally.  Filmmaking so brave, bold and free is a breath of fresh air, even for independent horror.  With output as frequent and magnificently strange as it is, Mills could very well give Shion Sono and Takashi Miike a run for their money in the frequency of strange department if he had their resources; but nevertheless his work is just as good as our Japanese maestros in its own right.  Mills is a keeper, and Applecart is the best horror film of 2015 thus far.  9/10

Written & Directed By:

Dustin Mills

Starring:

Erin R. Ryan, Allison Egan, Dave Parker, Haley Madison

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

56 mins

Movie Review: Faust: Love of the Damned (2001)

Horror, Movie Review

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Faust: Love of the Damned will always hold a special place in my heart as I spent the majority of my early teens watching it obsessively.  This was long before I was ever a fan boy of the director, Brian Yuzna, whose work I regard as some of the most enjoyable in horror.  But when I was in my formative years as a budding horror buff, this movie was one of the first to get the ball rolling, so to speak.  I remember borrowing it from my friends big brother, who had it recorded on a blank VHS along with Army of Darkness (1992) and scenes from a late night soft core sci-fi porno.  Suffice to say these movies made an impression on me growing up; especially that soft core sci-fi porno.  Anyway, having not watched Faust: Love of the Damned in about 10 years, I thought it was time I paid a visit to an old friend to see how he was holding up; and much to my delight he was doing just fine.

The fable of Faust is a German legend about a man who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for omniscience and worldly pleasures.  Throughout the centuries it’s provided source material for all forms of artistic merit, ranging from literature, music, art, poetry and film.  Faust: Love of the Damned is based on a comic book of the same name written by Tim Vigil and David Quinn, and is about a man who sells his soul to a devilish character named M in exchange for vengeance for his murdered girlfriend.  Vengeance comes in the form of Wolverine-like claws, which allow him to hack and slash his enemies.  But when you bargain with the Devil and his agents you’re in his debt, and Faust’s is to kill on behalf of M.  However, once he meets a psychiatrist by the name of Jade, his humanity is restored somewhat, and with the power of Hell in his blades he sets out to exact vengeance on M before he summons the Homunculus; a dragon from the underworld.

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While far from being a masterpiece, the critical lambasting this film took upon release was unfair and misleading; critics lampooned it for its excessive, tasteless schlock, low budget effects and poor acting, but it did receive praise for the same reasons by notable horror publications.  Although cheesy and corny, it’s actually an insanely fun romp with a high body count, plenty of gore and impressive special effects courtesy of Screaming Mad George.  As for the acting: Aside from a hilariously bad performance by the lead, Mark Frost, the supporting cast are solid, with genre legends Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster) as good as they’ve ever been.  It’s not Yuzna’s best movie, but it’s in the same vein as his typical output, which has garnered him iconic status within the horror community.

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Faust: Love of the Damned is a perfect movie for switching your brain off to and watching bad guys get decapitated.  There’s plenty of blood, T&A and corny one liners to provide cheap, mindless fun and that’s it.  It’s a great popcorn movie with more positive aspects than negative.  So leave your brain at the door and let it dazzle you like the seductive little fiend it is.  7/10

Director:

Brian Yuzna

Writer:

Tim Vigil, David Quinn, Miguel Tejada-Flores

Starring:

Mark Frost, Jeffrey Combs, Andrew Divoff, Isabel Brook

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

98 min

Movie Review: Witching & Bitching (2013)

Comedy, Horror, Movie Review

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Divorces can be messy: especially when there’s a child involved who’s caught in the middle of a custody battle between his feuding parents.  Some movies in the past have shown how some parents go to extreme lengths to spend time with their kids; in 1993 Robin Williams even went as far as becoming a cross dresser and falsifying his identity just so he could enjoy quality time with his children while his wife was banging James Bond.  However, I don’t recall any parents ever taking their children to a stick up in a jewellery store then trying to flee the country: not until Witching & Bitching that is, the 2013 horror comedy from critically acclaimed Spanish maestro, Álex de la Iglesia.

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Jose (Hugo Silva) is a recently divorced petty criminal with no job and no money; this means that he can’t afford alimony payments, so he disguises himself as a silver painted Jesus and robs a jewellery store of its wedding rings along with a band of misfits dressed up like Spongebob Squarepants, The Invisible Man and a soldier.  It also just so happens to be the day he has guardian rights to his son, so he brings him along for the robbery to.  Nothing quite like some father-son bonding, is there?

After the robbery, the soldier, Jose and his son hijack a taxi cab and take the driver and passenger hostage to escape Madrid and get to France; while they make their way to the border, they bond over their unanimous hatred of women, unbeknownst that the trouble that waits for them ahead makes being taken to the cleaners for all your worth seem like chump change.  In pursuit of them are 2 police detectives and Jose’s psychotic ex-wife, Silvia (Macarena Gomez), who will stop at nothing to get her son back.  In order to get to France, they must pass through the village of  Zugarramurdi (a place in which there was a real witch trial in the 17th century), only to be captured by a coven of witches who want to eat them for dinner and use Jose’s son for their own personal apocalyptic agenda.

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Witching & Bitching is, quite simply, an absolutely bonkers battle of the sexes which pits a group of chauvinists against a group of cannibalistic women; the witches are portrayed as men hating, bloodthirsty fiends and the men are inept idiots, so any notion of it being sexist can’t be targeted at one particular gender as they’re both shown represented by their worst stereotypes.  But it leans a little towards women being the stronger and deadlier of the species; which as a man myself I can confirm to be an accurate assessment.  Those boobs hold power, and their ability to control, intimidate and manipulate is indubitable when you’re as nuanced as irresolute as the men in this movie.

Cannibalistic witches and silver spray painted Jesus’ aren’t the only deranged delights provided in Witching & Bitching: The insanity ranges from peeping toms living underneath lavatories and 50 foot obese naked Pagan goddesses, which fit in nicely with all the splattery goodness, dismembered fingers and kids in ovens.  Man’s tendency to think with his meat stick is also explored; it doesn’t matter if a coven of witches is trying to eat you for dinner and sacrifice your son to their goddess, but when the attractive one pours frogs blood over her barely covered bosoms and gyrates on a broomstick, everything else on earth might as well be non-existent for those few minutes.

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Iglesia’s previous feature The Last Circus (2010) portrayed the workings of a madman on screen; in film we call that an artist.  A true out-of-the-box thinker, his warped vision is continued in Witching & Bitching, and is a must see for those who appreciate transgressive cinema with sweet comedic sprinkles on top.  Best served with an open mind, but an absolute treat if you have the acquired taste.  9/10

Director:

Álex de la Iglesia

Writers:

Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Álex de la Iglesia

Starring:

Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Pepón Nieto

Genre:

Comedy, Horror

Running Time:

112 min

Movie Review: Trucker Turner (1974)

Action, Blaxploitation, Crime, Movie Review

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Isaac Hayes forever left his stamp on Blaxploitation – and film as a whole – with the theme song for Shaft (1971) and the 2000 remake, starring Samuel L. Jackson.  Even if you haven’t seen either of the movies, it’s inevitable that you’ve heard the song before; unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life, that is.  However, when Sir Isaac wasn’t writing theme songs for iconic bad asses of cinema, he was playing bad asses of his own.  The Truck might not be as well known as John Shaft, but that doesn’t make him any less of a bad mother shut yo mouth.  Trucker Turner is, without question, a stonewall classic of the Blaxploitation boom period that deserves a seat at the table alongside Coffy (1973), Black Caesar (1973) and Shaft (1971).

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Isaac Hayes plays Mac ‘Truck’ Turner, a bounty hunter who is hired to track down Gator.  When they find him, a chase ensues and Gator ends up dead; this doesn’t sit too well with his woman, Dorinda, owner of a prosperous street escort set-up, so she puts a hit out on Mac and his partner, by offering 50% of her whore profits to whoever succeeds. With the criminals unable to take down Mac, the big bad Blue brings in his own guys to do the job; and Mac and his partner must fight to survive.

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 Isaac Hayes was never trained to be an actor, nor did he possess an innate knack for the craft; but what he lacked in range and ability he made up for in charisma and cool factor.  When he enters a room, grown women turn into horny school girls and men want to be him; much of the film is spent with Hayes running around shirtless, and there’s a comical scene where he chases a would-be assailant to a roof for interrupting his post-coitus nap with his lady friend, moobs jiggling and all.  His belly might not be equipped to roll a coin down, but there’s no questioning his appeal as a bonafide stud.

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Dorinda (played by Star Trek’s very own Uhara) commands her role as a psychopathic pimp out for vengeance.  Her rage levels are through the roof as she barks obscenities at her whores and everybody who crosses her path.  It’s a marvellously unhinged performance by her and even the cities high profile criminal kingpins are wary.

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The beauty of Truck Turner lies in the execution of its simplicity.  It has everything you expect from a Blaxploitation action flick: the body is high, the scenes are action packed, the soundtrack is funky and soulful, the talk is slicker than Rick.  There’s an excessive amount of violence, car chases and gun fights.  What’s not to love?

Truck Turner is a procedural actioner that doesn’t try to be anything else.  The protagonist is a bad ass and he’s always on the go; fighting, fucking and killing.  He’s a manly men of all men and deserves to be crowned as genre royalty.

Director Jonathan Kaplan would later go on to direct some of the most popular TV shows on network television, but the exploitation gems he made during the 70’s and 80’s remain his greatest contributions to his legacy.  Trucker Turner is a raucous, rowdy romp through the mean streets of the ghetto and it’s barrels of fun.  8/10

Director:

Jonathan Kaplan

Writer:

Oscar Williams & Michael Allin

Starring:

Isaac Hayes, Nichelle Nichols, Yaphet Kotto

Genre:

Action, Crime, Blaxploitation

Running Time:

91 min