Friday, 15 July 2011

SEE Jed As A Puppy!

"Se til helvete og kom dere vekk. Det er ikke en bikkje, det er en slags ting! Det imiterer en bikkje, det er ikke virkelig! Kom dere vekk, idioter!"

So, here it is, the trailer for this year's prequel to The Thing. I don't mind that the film appears to be an obvious hybrid of remake and prequel, as I anticipated that from the outset. My main problem with this trailer is that everything feels a bit "flat". The Thing is essentially an intimate little story about an alien and a small group of humans, and as such it demands amazing creature FX and a strong, charismatic ensemble cast. At this stage I have grave doubts about both. I will say without reservation that Mary Elizabeth Winstead definitely looks like the warmest place to hide. Ahem.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Not Human

A mere three months (almost to the day) before The Thing 2011 hits theatres, and Universal has finally seen fit to release the film's first promotional material. I like the logo's simplicity, and that it's so similar to the '82 poster logo. It's also interesting to note that they've opted for a painted image, obviously reminiscent of Drew Struzan's iconic artwork for Carpenter's film (right). The image also recalls the transformation and demise of poor Bennings (below).

That's right,
I'm still actually holding out hope for this...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

AFTERMATH: Mortician, Heal Thyself

cadaver's eyes... dead inside

Discerning gorehounds should require no introduction to Nacho Cerda, or his half hour mini-masterpiece Aftermath. The infamous little film was once considered to be somewhat of a holy grail for connoisseurs of grue, a bona fide underground phenomenon to be sought out and experienced on bootleg VHS. That was until a few years ago, when risk-taking DVD company Unearthed Films bequeathed it to the masses on a feature packed disc that collects the film with its two sibling works - The Awakening and Genesis.

To paraphrase something I wrote last year, I think
Aftermath dwells in the same rarefied cinematic netherworld as Hideshi Hino's two Guinea Pig entries - Flowers of Flesh and Blood and Mermaid in a Manhole (both also available on DVD from Unearthed). It's a shadowy limbo where art and extreme gore coexist, comfortably and without a hint of pretension, irony or "artistic slumming".

Of course I'm not saying that horror cinema and "highbrow" art are mutually exclusive. One needs only peruse the works of Ken Russell, David Lynch, Kei Fujiwara, Lars von Trier, Shinya Tsukamoto, David Cronenberg, Jörg Buttgereit and many others to see that, if anything, the opposite is true. My point is that Aftermath and Hino's Guinea Pig films belong to a very small subset of films that seem to draw their inspiration from the least accessible reaches of each sphere - extreme gore (eg non-narrative, faux-snuff) and performance art.

What might appear to be an unlikely marriage at first glance suddenly makes more sense when you consider the shock tactics employed by some of the more extreme performance artists of the 60's, 70's and 80's. Take for example the excesses of the Viennese Aktionismus collective - the ritualistic disembowelment of animals favoured by Hermann Nitsch or the simulated penile dismemberment of Rudolf Schwarzkogler. There are undeniable commonalities shared by the extremes of horror and art: unfettered imagination; a desire to push cultural boundaries and explore taboos; a distaste for the banal, the mainstream and the commercial.

all in a day's work...

Cerda's Aftermath certainly ticks all these boxes - it's highly imaginative, taboo smashing and about as non-commercial as you can get. Not to say that Cerda didn't have commercial ambitions for Aftermath, indeed he originally conceived of it as a show reel to sell his talents as a director(!). However, unlike many show reels, this film isn't a shallow,
technical exercise but a deeply personal project in it's own right. Amongst the gruesome proceedings, one can clearly see evidence of Cerda's fascination with Catholic iconography. It seems to me that the mortician here is a priest, garbed in his sacred vestments, and going through the motions of his familiar ritual. The morgue is his chapel... the autopsy table his altar. But all is not well in this death church, for the sense of elitist power that comes with the responsibility of presiding over the dead has overwhelmed the priest, festering into corruption and perversion.

The mortician's eyes, above his surgical mask, reveal a great deal of the turmoil that rages within. Self loathing, desire, pain, cunning, addiction,
shame, and an exhaustion that will never be cured by sleep. His carnal desires have consumed him to the point that he has become an automaton, and although those eyes reveal much, they are also the dead eyes of a reptile. As dead as the corpses upon which the mortician works... and preys. Indeed the highly realistic cadavers laid out on the morgue's tables appear to have more life than he.

Speaking of convincing realism, Cerda did extensive research for Aftermath, interviewing a forensic surgeon and even attending a triple autopsy. The film was shot in a real, functioning morgue in Barcelona, and the corpses seen therein are a combination of exceptional prosthetic work and one amazing performance by a live actor. The outcome of all this research and attention to detail is a very unsettling vérité experience indeed. The late Chas. Balun even claimed that Nacho had gone too far, when he famously labeled the film as pornographic.

Add to the above attributes some beautiful cinematography, graceful editing and powerful sound design, and you've got yourself a pretty special little slice of sickness. Buy the DVD directly from Unearthed Films HERE. Beware the Necrophiliac Mortician...