Half dingo, half kelpie, 100% awesome. Constant companion to my Bowie for 17 years, and to me for the last 11. Last night you were full of life, but this morning you left us, on your own terms, without euthanasia. Tough until the end. We love you Rocky. Farewell old friend.
Sunday, 24 May 2015
Following Jeremy Saulnier's masterful Blue Ruin, his upcoming punks vs skins thriller Green Room is probably my most anticipated movie of 2015. I've been dying for the first reviews to hit, and earlier this week the first few surfaced out of its debut at Cannes. Happily, it looks like Saulnier hasn't disappointed on his third feature. Have a read of a couple of very positive reviews here and here.
So, some good news there if, like me, you've been anxiously wondering if Saulnier's first foray into the bigger leagues (big name actors and presumably a substantially larger budget) would pan out. The big surprise from all the reviews I've read is that everyone seems to be in agreement that Green Room is essentially a balls to the wall horror movie, both in terms of its structure and the amount of violence and gore on display. I did not see that coming, and I couldn't be happier to hear it.
However, the thing that will make or break this movie for me (and doubtless many of the folks reading this) is the veracity of Saulnier's depiction of punk and skinhead culture. Green Room is a punksploitation film through and through, a subgenre that's had a spotty history to say the least. For every halfway decent punksploitation flick (Suburbia), there's been five absolutely laughable ones (Romper Stomper). If your movie is just a goofy fantasy (Class of 1984, Return of the Living Dead) you can get away with ridiculously exaggerated stereotypes. If on the other hand you're going for realism and authenticity... you'd better get it right or your target audience will be doing a lot of groaning and eye-rolling.
We'll have to wait and see with Green Room. From the outset, the idea of a venue owned and run by Nazi skins is already pretty suspect to me. Does such a venue actually exist anywhere in the US, outside of a KKK or similar neo-Nazi compound? Not that I've ever heard of. The closest thing that comes to mind for me are the NSBM thugs of Blazebirth Hall in Russia. But in Oregon? From what I gather, the Portland SHARPS would probably have a thing or two to say about that. Maybe someone with some knowledge and experience of the region could set me straight in the comments.
I spent a lot of my teens and twenties in Canberra, so I've got a personal and bloody history with Nazi skins. My time spent there in the '80s was characterised by my friends and I constantly looking over our shoulders, and sometimes having to run for our lives from a particularly vicious crew of skinhead thugs. We were a bunch of scrawny teenage punks. They were older, bigger, musclebound gorillas who thrived on intimidation and violence. They hated us and everything we represented, particularly our fondness for skateboarding and US hardcore, which they passionately resented due to their extreme nationalist views. Some UK punk they could tolerate, but the US shit? No fucking way. I was in the melee at the infamous Massappeal/D.R.I. show at the Old Canberra Inn in 1987, and was lucky enough to make it home with only a mild concussion. A lot of other people that night and over the following months were not so fortunate.
So let's just put it this way: if this film depicts some Nazis getting their balls ripped off by their own pitbulls, you'll have to excuse me for indulging in a little sadistic wish-fulfillment and schadenfreude.
Green Room comes out later this year. Soundtrack courtesy of Poison Idea, Napalm Death, Hochstedder, Syphilitic Lust etc.
Thursday, 21 May 2015
New track from the current supreme rulers of heavy-hitting, riff-driven hardcore. NYC's AJAX haven't yet dropped a single dud track over the course of a demo, 7'' and the choicest cut on Beach Impediment Records' Hardcore: Gimme Some More comp. This band is absolutely fucking untouchable. New EP hits in June. Hopefully a full-length to follow?
Saturday, 16 May 2015
There's a good reason why Oakland, SF's Hunting Party has remained on my turntable for the last three years. Authoritative, intelligent and original, there's very little recent hardcore that can even touch this. That's right kids "original". Remember that word? While too many people seem to be marching in reverse these days (destination 34 years ago), some, like these miscreants, are still actually trying to move forward.
Too short lived and criminally under-represented, Hunting Party only left behind a demo, the incredible Subrosa with Whispered Pacts 7'' and the best track on Iron Lung mixtape II.
Saturday, 9 May 2015
It seems like there's always a hot new horror movie that's being touted by critics and promoters as being "the scariest of the year", "the most terrifying I've ever seen" or some other hyperbolic statement. As ordinary filmgoers like you and I discover them for ourselves, it's only natural that we want to share the experience with others. We want them to have the same exciting, adrenalised experience that we had sitting in that darkened theatre or living room. When you're younger it's driven by a sense of pride at having sat through a gruelling movie and survived. As you get older and more jaded it's about alerting friends to the fact that there's a new movie out that actually has the power to elicit fear beyond generic jump scares.
Word of mouth spreads, and things can get a little exaggerated. Case in point: a couple of posts below this one I wrote that the otherwise excellent The Babadook isn't as terrifying as its reputation might suggest. Of course this is all very subjective, as what is scary to one person may have little to no effect on another.
Last weekend I sat in a crowded theatre and felt genuine fear for the first time in years*. I wasn't alone either, as the audience around me nervously squirmed, squealed and shrieked throughout the whole movie. The film I was watching was David Robert Mitchell's It Follows, and for much of its running time it freaked me the fuck out.
As with all great movies of the genre, there's a provocative allegory buried under the surface of It Follows that gives it real depth and meaning beyond the horror. Its exploration of the often dark and troubling nature of teenage sexual politics is one that we can all relate to, and its metaphor for sexually transmitted disease is a potent one. Not everyone reading this has contracted an STD of course, but who among us hasn't at least once experienced the anxiety of thinking that maybe we have? If you've ever waited nervously for test results to come back, you know exactly what I mean.
That STD allegory is enough to induce feelings of discomfort and nervousness, but it's the film's surface level horrors that bring on the waves of dread and gut-level terror. The titular "It" of Mitchell's film sent shivers up my spine that I probably haven't felt since first seeing Romero's corpses walk in Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. There's an everyday familiarity to this film's supernatural antagonist that hits in a personal, visceral way. It's deeply unsettling.
Another technique that It Follows uses to scare the shit out of you is in very effectively exploiting the sheer panic of being unable to escape from a relentlessly pursuing menace while enclosed in a confined space. Honestly this is probably the gnarliest element of the movie and in a few sequences had me literally cringing and groaning under my breath. There's a claustrophobic, nightmare logic to these scenes that made me tense up and wince every time the action would move into a building. It's a fantastic device for building dread.
The other thing that really drives the fear in this movie is the killer, no-holds-barred electronic score, courtesy of Disasterpeace (aka Rich Vreeland). Fans of retro synth horror scores are being absolutely spoiled at the moment (thanks to movies like Maniac, The Guest etc), and Vreeland has delivered one of the best here. A piercing, throbbing, loud score that blatantly references some of the greatest horror soundtracks, most notably Halloween, The Shining and Alien. There's no doubt as to the extent to which It Follows' score wants to manipulate the viewer. Its sole purpose is to to jangle the nerves, pound the senses and railroad you into a feeling of panic and impending doom.
All this, combined with some of the most stunning cinematography** seen in a horror movie in a while, as well as a fine set of performances from the young cast (especially from The Guest's Maika Monroe) make this a horror movie not to be missed. Original, terrifying, beautiful and haunting, It Follows is an instant classic. Watch it late at night, in the dark with the sound cranked up loud.
*at a movie that is, the real world terrifies me constantly.
**the lighting of outdoor locations is very inventive and striking.
Friday, 8 May 2015
Sydney Film Festival 2015 hits next month and this year brings with it a motley assemblage of genre offerings. Richard Kuipers seems to have sourced the majority of this year's Freak Me Out sidebar from SXSW, which is fine by me as by all accounts the selection there was strong. Here's a brief rundown of the movies I've scored tickets to. I'll do my best to get capsule reviews up for all of these.
WE ARE STILL HERE
Fuck yes! The Cramptonaissance continues. I've already been pretty vocal about my excitement for this here and here. Fulci Lives!
I loved Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's romantic subversion of Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth. You can read my review here. This is my first chance to see it on the big screen and I can't wait.
From the romantic to the Nekromantik! Only two words required: new Buttgereit. Unsurprisingly, this Berlin-set anthology is supposed to be somewhat transgressive in terms of explicit sex and gore.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and that New Zealand produces the best horror comedies. From the island nation that has given us Bad Taste, Braindead, Housebound and What We Do in the Shadows comes a metal splatterfest overflowing with practical gore and satanic demonology.
Unless I'm forgetting something, this Ulrich Seidl produced chiller marks the first Austrian horror movie I will have seen since Funny Games (I haven't seen Blood Glacier yet). The word is that this is a very stylish, beautifully shot, slow burn creeper. Prolicide or Matricide?
THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY
My only pick outside of the Freak Me Out section this year. Berberian Sound Studio's Peter Strickland turns his attention from the giallo to '70s Euro-sleaze, citing Jess Franco as an influence among others. The Duke of Burgundy has been getting raves for its luscious design and gorgeous cinematography, and is apparently funny and moving in equal measure.