Spend a few fucked-up minutes inside the head of Syl Disjonk. You'll be happy you did. IMDB tells me that this Québecois madman (and Voivod loving metalhead) contributed vfx to Éric Falardeau's existential gorefest Thanatomorphose*, but before today I'd never heard of him (so thanks Twitch).
Disjonk's fringe sci-fi/horror aesthetic would be a perfect fit for Astron-6, as his shorts have more than a passing resemblance to the work of fellow Canadian Steven Kostanski. However, please disregard my lazy comparison, because this guy is obviously on his own trip. 2011's award winning Ethereal Chrysalis is a brain melting hybrid of Lynch, Lovecraft, Terry Gilliam's Monty Python animation and the hellish fleshscapes of Australian surrealist James Gleeson. It also features a great score by Martin Gauthier (who scored 2007's underrated demonic subway shocker End of the Line) and practical fx work by none other than the infamous Rémy Couture.
Dim the lights, crank up the volume and enjoy!
*Disjonk also served as editor on a couple of shorts: Broken Flesh Ecstasy and Imperatrix Cornicula. Based on those titles alone, I have to see them.
A trailer and poster have dropped for one of my most anticipated upcoming horror movies, Robert Eggers' The Witch.
The period film (set in 17th century New England) is reportedly a beautifully crafted, naturalistic and terrifying portrayal of a family of puritanical settlers who fall afoul of an evil crone who lives in the nearby woods. First-timer Eggers took home Best Director for it at Sundance this year, where the film was met with seemingly universal acclaim.
Eggers has a background in production/costume design and art direction, and apparently his eye for visual detail is all over this movie. As for The Witch's historical accuracy, Eggers wanted to research the period and folklore thoroughly, and ended up doing so for an astounding four years. In his own words:
“The kind of research I did here was wild and obsessive, almost disgusting. I have always been into folktales and fairy tales and New England’s past, so with this film I wanted to create an archetypal New England horror story. Something that would feel like an inherited nightmare of a Puritan family.”
The word is that every aspect of the production, from the fabric used for costumes to the construction of the sets (all built on a remote rural location), is meticulously detailed and authentic. I'm talking right down to hand-forged wrought-iron nails and real reed-thatched roofs.
The obsessive realism doesn't end there. No makeup was used on the actors, and all the dialogue is spoken in historically accurate 17th century English. Composer Mark Korven used a number of archaic instruments in the score, lending a further air of spooky, New England atmosphere to proceedings.
The shoot, which was apparently cold, gloomy and arduous, took place entirely on location in Northern Ontario, Canada, using only natural light and candlelight for interior shots (taking a leaf out of the Scott/Kubrick book of period realism).
As to the horror aspects of the movie, expect earthy, visceral, Satanic occultism.
Feast your eyes on Dan Mumford's killer alternate poster for Eli Roth's long-delayed cannibal flick!
Although an Australian release date is yet to be announced, I'm happy to note that our scissor-happy censors have passed it uncut with an R. Violent horror films rarely get an R here, our most common rating for movies slapped with an R in the States being MA15+. Our R is equivalent to the MPAA's NC-17 (both restricted to 18 and over), and is usually reserved for sexually explicit movies like von Trier's Antichrist.
I love the Italian cannibal cycle, personal faves being Deodato's Last Cannibal World and Cannibal Holocaust (natch); Lenzi's Eaten Alive!; Sergio Martino's slightly softer, more jungle adventure-oriented (albeit with pig fucking) The Mountain of the Cannibal God; and Marino Girolami's deliriously nutty zombie/cannibal hybrid Zombi Holocaust.
While waiting for Roth's modern gut-muncher to finally splatter across our screens, here's a few more morsels of fresh, still-warm long pig for you to gnaw on. My picks for coolest original one-sheets for each of the aforementioned Italian sickies:
Don't forget to visit Wrong Side of the Art for your fix of original horror, sci-fi and exploitation posters. The most beautiful high-quality scans anywhere on the net!
Oddball Belgian slasher Cub is one of the latest Euro horror flicks to make a splash on the festival circuit. However, festival hype may be damaging for this movie, because although it's not without its charms, in the end it's a pretty slight and disposable bit of horror fluff. If you were hoping for this year's Martyrs or Let the Right One In, you'd better drop your expectations or you'll likely be disappointed. Personally, I found it a frustrating experience. It does have its good points, particularly in its design and visuals, but conceptually and narratively this arty little slasher is too flimsy to make much of an impression. First, the good stuff. Cub doesn't exactly subvert the "slaughtering campers in the woods" formula, but it does add enough new touches to make it at least superficially unique and therefore somewhat memorable. Unlike other horror subgenres, such as monster movies and body-horror, the camp/cabin slasher isn't exactly known for its thematic richness (not that it can't be, hello Cabin in the Woods). There's usually not much more to be explored in these movies beyond devising new and creative ways of murdering people, so to make a movie that's even superficially original is worthy of some praise.
So, what has writer/director Jonas Govaerts (along with co-writer Roel Mondelaers) come up with to distinguish his first feature from all the other Friday the 13th clones? Well, for starters, the teens of Camps Crystal Lake, Blackfoot and Arawak have been largely replaced here by children - a pack of Cub Scouts. The only teens to be found are the Scout leaders, and due to their responsibilities as caretakers, the usual sex, beer, weed and ill-advised midnight frolicking are kept to a bare minimum. The killing here isn't meted out as the usual punishment for teenage moral transgressions. Rather, the killer's motives and/or madness may be socioeconomic in nature, due to the closure of a bus manufacturing plant that has left many in the local community jobless, disgruntled and suicidal. Although the film's central character is one of the young Scouts (a quiet, relentlessly bullied misfit named Sam), Cub's big drawcard is its mud-caked, tree dwelling feral child, Kai. The film's marketing has wisely featured him front and centre, because his wraith-like appearance and freaky mask are by far the strongest and most memorable image that Cub has to offer.
Complementing the film's handsome production design and cinematography, Cub's other major asset is Steve "ZOMBI" Moore's electronic score. Though more subdued than his stellar work on The Guest, it's still a satisfyingly creepy synth score. That's the stuff worthy of merit badges (sorry). Now to the not so good. (some spoilers follow, but honestly you can see all this coming from a mile away, so no biggie). The killer is revealed as a hermit who lives in a vast network of tunnels that exists under the forest floor. I've seen him described elsewhere as a poacher, but the impression I got is that he's a disgruntled ex-employee of the aforementioned closed bus factory (his subterranean labyrinth is constructed of leftover buses). Our murderous hermit is some kind of brilliant engineering genius, and has a control room that is somehow linked to a number of elaborate, jerry-rigged sensors and traps littered throughout forest above (the creepy Rube Goldberg traps are actually another of Cub's strong points). From here he monitors the movements of interlopers into his wooded domain, and I think he can also remotely spring some of the traps. All of this nonsense may sound cool on paper, but it doesn't really work in the movie. It's all extremely implausible and kind of ridiculous. I usually have no trouble suspending my disbelief in horror movies, but I was kind of rolling my eyes here. Most frustratingly, the film's best feature, Kai the feral kid, isn't a satisfying enough character. He seems to be the killer's accomplice (think a Flemish take on The Hills Have Eyes), but I couldn't figure out what their relationship was. Is he his son? Another economic victim of the factory closure, maybe the son of one of the laid-off workers who allegedly hung themselves in the woods? Just some weird fuckin' kid? I have no idea. It's possible that I missed a bunch of crucial exposition that would have cleared up some of my confusion. But honestly, I don't think I did.
At the risk of sounding like a gore obsessed delinquent who just wanted this movie to be a Saw sequel in the woods, I think the thing that would have saved Cub from mediocrity is more viciousness and a meaner streak to its violence. If the traps were nastier, and if the gore had been stronger and more explicit (and more plentiful) it could have been a cult classic. The juxtaposition of sweet coming of age story with truly brutal slasher gore (think The Prowler or Opera levels of sadism) might just have made it work like gangbusters. As it is, the watered-down kills and by-the-numbers predictability of the conclusion really lets this film down. Put it this way, there's a nifty little easter egg in Cub, a reference to Suspiria, and being reminded of Argento's classic was probably the funnest moment for me in what was otherwise a pretty drab experience. If you only see one European horror flick this year about a couple of creepy little boys, you might be better off watching the far superior Goodnight Mommy instead.
I'm following up my Midwife post with one on Society Nurse. Isn't that cute? Released on Iron Lung in 2010, Society Nurse's Junk Existence 7'' is absolute, uncompromising hardcore perfection. Five years on, and this three song scorcher has stood the test of time to emerge as one of the gnarliest releases of the new century.
Three tracks of unmitigated fury: urgent, snarling hardcore that would have fit nicely on the early Touch and Go roster alongside The Necros, The Fix and Die Kreuzen. The midwestern influence is glaringly obvious on the EP's opener "Junk Existence", which owes a blatant debt to Mecht Mensch's "Acceptance", from the guitar intro to the discordant Greg Ginn stylings. Side two shifts gears into total blast mode, and when those agonised, howling chords hit at the 00:47 mark of "Intimate" your fist will most likely be airborne. Then the intro to "Empty Bodies" knocks you on your ass, and it's almost time to start over again. Repeat until satisfied:
(The self-titled album that eventually followed three years later wound up as a completely different beast. Different singer; more generic guitar tone; the same '80s midwest influence but sounding like it was filtered through BL'AST's The Power of Expression. It had its moments to be sure, but it just couldn't live up to the promise of this barnburner of a 7''.)
Gotta love this painting by San Francisco based metal artist Andrei Bouzikov (who was the subject of one of my earliest posts here). The sentiment expressed here is a common one felt throughout the western world, but at this point, after years of hipster bashing on the internet, is it just petty and mean-spirited to keep mocking these pathetic twits? Nah, fuck 'em, they deserve it!
Due to a couple of rage-inducing experiences, this tribe of obnoxious wankers are the sole reason I don't go to revival screenings anymore. After gritting my teeth through screenings of Tenebre and Dawn of the Dead during which these clowns guffawed loudly throughout the entire movies, I vowed never to put myself through that pain again. For any of my younger readers who've had a similar experience and assumed that's just how repertory screenings are, I'm sorry to say that's just not the case. You used to be able to go see old films secure in the knowledge that you'd be watching it with other like-minded, respectful moviegoers who were there to, you know, watch the fucking movie and judge it on its own merits*. Since these twirly moustached, dead eyed, ecstasy-addled brats hit the scene it's all about ridiculing anything that doesn't fit in with their jaded sense of cultural superiority.
Again: fuck 'em. Moving from the inner city four years ago was one of the best decisions I've ever made. *I hate going into "angry old man" mode, but desperate times call for desperate measures!
The Sydney Underground Film Festival has launched its 2015 program, and I think they've pulled together an exciting and diverse selection this year. Best of all, the Factory Theatre is within stumbling distance of my place. We get new films from Takashi Miike, Gaspar Noe, Eli Roth, Adam Green, Bruce McDonald, Kim Ki-Duk and Quentin Dupieux. Not too shabby at all. I'll try and make it to all of the following:
Gaspar Noe's followup to the transcendent Enter the Void. Although it's being sold on the titillating promise of explicit, real sex, the semi-autobiographical Love is reportedly Noe's most restrained and personal film to date.
Bruce McDonald's Hellions (his first horror movie since 2008's excellent Pontypool) is my most anticipated film at this year's SUFF. I love horror movies that rely heavily on style, atmosphere and visuals, so it looks like I could be in for a real treat with this one. It was shot predominantly in Infrared(!), and is reportedly brimming with gorgeous, dreamlike and surreal imagery.
Speaking of surreal, Quentin Dupieux is back. The man who gifted us with the best rampaging psychic tire movie ever made is at it again! Following the absurd wonders of Rubber, Wrong and Wrong Cops, Dupieux's aptly titled Reality is about a first time director trying to get backing for his horror movie project. Things will (of course) get very weird.
Takashi Miike. Yayan Ruhian. Vampire Yakuza mayhem. That should be all you need to know.
With Eli Roth's love letter to Cannibal Holocaust - The Green Inferno - finally hitting screens this September, it looks like we're getting two new Roth movies in a single month. Knock Knock is a quiet remake of Peter Traynor's 1977 thriller Death Game, produced by Traynor and the original's two lead actresses, Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp. It marks a departure for Roth: his first star vehicle, and his first feature to trade in gore for straight up suspense.
Victorian HM-2 worshipping shredders Midwife might be Australia's best kept secret at the moment. A perfect storm of noise-rock tinged hardcore, powerviolence and grinding metal, these Melbourne maniacs are ripping harder than just about any other band on the continent right now.
Ahead of their afternoon show at Blackwire tomorrow, have a listen to their new tape that compiles 2013's /\/\/\/ and last year's Labour Day with a live set tacked on at the end. Standouts include the breakdown and subsequent blast in "Death Breeds Death", the punk-as-fuck noise rock riffing in "Characterised" and the face-melting gnar that is "Cactus". You're moshing.
It's a new morning in America... fresh, vital. The old cynicism is gone. We have faith in our leaders. We're optimistic as to what becomes of it all. It really boils down to our ability to accept. We don't need pessimism. There are no limits.
Sometimes an actor becomes a cultural icon for a single role (and a single incredibly famous line). Roddy Piper and his ass-kicking performance as Nada in John Carpenter's They Live is the quintessential example.
Piper's stoic, working class everyman turned revolutionary hero became a popular symbol for many of my generation, the disgruntled teens of the Reagan/Thatcher era. For those of us who weren't happy about the rise of mega-consumerism, media-saturation and corporate dominance, it was a kind of watershed moment when Nada put on those sunglasses. The perfect visual representation of what we were all thinking.
Roddy Piper was a survivor of exactly the same disease that I'm currently in remission from, Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Where I had four years of chemo and radiation, Piper beat his in only a year, an indication that he really was every bit as tough as he looked. It was his heart that got him in the end.
His swansong may be a good one. Filming finished a while ago on Vivieno Caldinelli's Piper vs Cthulhu short film, Portal to Hell!!!. With Twitch's Todd Brown (ABCs of Death, The Raid) as producer and Astron-6's Steven Kostanski providing makeup and fx, this little short will hopefully provide a fitting send-off for the big guy.
Chew some bubblegum. Kick some ass. Watch They Live.