Blade Runner (The Final Cut): A retired replicant hunter (aka a Blade Runner) must return to track down four fugitive android impostors in 2019 Los Angeles. It’s unbelievable to think that this was released in 1982 as everything about it looks and feels like a ‘modern’ movie: it’s still breathtaking, brimming with scenes and imagery that are nothing short of pure spectacle. Almost every shot is striking; and the scale/intricacy of the sets & worldbuilding is unbelievable. Despite all of this, Ridley isn’t above some tremendously naff product placement: Coca Cola billboards, Budweiser signage, Atari holograms, and a final fight illuminated by a humongous neon TDK sign… classy! There’s also a questionable sex scene and dubious mis-use of midget actors – to give the film a little edge and distraction. If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery; you know that Blade Runner is a top-drawer sci-fi, as the future-metropolis aesthetics and theme of ‘what makes us human’ are echo through pretty much every subsequent Sci-Fi classic: Ghost in the Shell, The Fifth Element, Minority Report, The Matrix, Dark City, Total Recall, Brazil, Looper, Akira, Ex Machina… the list is endless. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the starting point for the movie (Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dear of Electric Sheep?” is a SF masterpiece). Overall, Blade Runner is a parodically boilerplate pulp/noir story; yet the world created & proto “cinema du look” style paired with the outstanding source material & sci-fi twists, propel this film into classic territory.
The Green Inferno: when she joins a deforestation activism group, a naïve student comes face to face with the cannibal savages she’s trying to protect. I’ll put it straight out there; I’m not a big fan of Eli Roth… that being said, I had a blast with this film. The naive protagonist / final girl is surrounded by thin and/or unlikable characters (angsty alternative goths, far out hippy protesters, etc) so you’re not all that fussed about their fates, and watching them get dispatched is rather entertaining. There’s some outrageous practical effects, showcasing bloody and disgusting gore, but it’s all tongue cut out in cheek – think ultra black horror / borderline stoner comedy – with several laugh out loud moments. There’s a fun Final Destination style plane crash, followed by an intense tribe meeting (the scariest part of the film) – and after that it’s all killer. The only two downsides are that the film takes around halve the running time to get going; it also feels less urgent / more detached than the ‘found footage’ ‘real life’ cannibal exploitation films of the 70s & 80s. It would have been foolish to try to pull off a ‘Mountain of the Cannibal Holocaust Ferox God’ movie in 2015, as it just wouldn’t have the same impact, so Roth has taken the ‘cannibal movie’ template and given it a nice postmodern spin. The Green Inferno got an unfair rep by people mostly focusing solely on the gore; but tonally, it feels more like an out-and-out send up of student, or ‘leftie’ activism to me. Over time I hope it’ll become a cult hit along the likes of Cannibal the Musical and Delicatessen. Disgustingly enjoyable.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Ein! Zwei! Die!
Dead Snow: while staying at a remote cabin in the woods a group of friends are attacked by hordes of Nazi zombies! You immediately warm to this film as it put all the horror movie tropes front and center: horny “teenagers” in the remote wilderness with no phone signal, then they realise that it’s is how horror films start (ay oh!!). There’s also a film geek thrown in for reference-o-rama – we get everything from a braindead t-shirt to Arnie impressions. Once the setup – complete with creepy old local warning them – is out of the way we’re treated to a barrage of old school jumps, dark horror comedy, and loads sensational barnstorming, limb-pulling, head-rolling, splatter-tastic blood and guts – that puts the film somewhere between Raimi and Troma. Everyone involved looks like they’re having fun, and the ‘zombie cast’ are also fantastic – even tougher when they’re not strictly zombies: faster, smarter etc. The last hour romps through so much entertaining gore and dark jokes that when one of the last scenes gets a bit serious it feels like a hefty dramatic gut punch. If you’ve read this far, you probably don’t mind the idea of watching a Nazi Zombie film; and I can’t imagine many being better than this. Dead Snow is an absolutely solid (Nazi) gold, gory-AF horror-comedy.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Demons (Dèmoni): after being lured into a free movie screening a diverse cross-section of society are trapped and attacked by a demon curse. Essentially a zombie film but with demons, everything about Demons is an excuse to get more gore on the screen, and the crimson effects are unbelievable – puss, bile, blood, guts, and even whole demons bursting out of people – all done with physical FX. Not unlike some of Argento’s films of the era the production feels surprisingly high quality, which has made the modern blu ray release look way more impressive than similar movies from this era. The soundtrack is also interesting; packed with heavy metal royalty (and Rick Springfield) – Saxon, Billy Idol, Motley Crue, Pretty Maids, Accept – which give the film an authentic and nostalgic edge. To pad out the runtime we’re treated to longer-than-necessary sections of a film-within-a-film, and a completely ridiculous (and unrelated) street punk side-story – but it’s forgivable stuff. There’s also lots of ‘bad’ / ‘hammy’ aspects to the film which make it ripe for B-movie / cult status: it’s very 80s, and things like the dialogue, characters (like a black guy who just happens to be a switchblade proficient pimp), and performances carry a ‘midnight movie’ feel. Demons is not for everyone, but gore fiends and metal aficionados are the target for this badly dubbed pan-European cheesy horror.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Evil Dead: five friends go for a remote, relaxing break at a cabin in the woods… where they accidentally unleash an angry daemon. So I’ve seen this film about ten times, yet it still gives me the willies: from the outset there’s a lot of weird, floaty camera movement as it sweeps through the woods; something spooky or shifty happens about every 2 minutes; and you couldn’t have picked a more eerie set of locations: rickety house, basement, woods. The film’s packed with masterful moments of suspense, and the old school horror soundtrack gives it a timeless quality – screeching strings. There’s a few funny bits (and black humour thread throughout), but it’s definitely more horror than comedy. Whilst Bruce Campbell isn’t the best actor in the world, his presence is something else. The film builds towards a gore filed gory gore-fest of an ending – that will satisfy the hardest of horror fans. Essentially a B-movie, made on a shoestring budget; it has more than enough going on to totally distract you from the fact that it’s so cheap and brimming with continuity errors. The Evil Dead has more atmosphere, tension and impact than 20 empty, modern, derivative horror knockoffs. Proper horror cult classic.
Chanbara Beauty (a.k.a. OneChanbara, Bikini Zombie Slayers, Bikini Samurai Squad, お姉チャンバラ): straight to DVD zombie-fest based on a hack-and-slash video game centered around action-girls. The four titles and heartbreakingly dubious synopsis say more about the film than any review could, but if you still want to find out if this is any good… It’s always refreshing seeing headstrong, empowered, female action leads unleashing industrial-sized cans of whoopass, grabbing here gender by the balls and proving to everyone that women in modern cinema are no longer… oh, wait… is she wearing a fluffy bikini? Never mind!! Rule one of making a live-action adaptation of any game/manga is instantly broken: don’t do it with shit CGI and no physical effects!!! Made in 2008, looks like something cheap from 1988. Stylistically, it’s topped off with a shitty grey-washed out filter – rendering the movie devoid of almost any colour. The action direction is confusing: too dark, too shaky – and the non-action scenes are long, frequent and boring filler / padding. To cut this review short, I can’t remember the last time that hacking up zombies last felt so boring and arduous. I doubt that even fanboys of the computer games (which I’ve never played) could find any redeeming features in this stinker.
The Toxic Avenger: when nerdy gym cleaner (S)Melvin is pushed in to a vat of toxic waste, he gets transformed in to a fugly ping tutu wearing superhero that cleans the streets of crime. This is basically the one film/franchise that is keeping the Troma video label alive and kicking… and with good reason. The comedy is great, and clearly influenced by Brooks / Nielsen, but with a ‘shoxploitation’ / comedy violence twist. The overall attention to detail and SFX are outstanding for a cheap film (very smart editing too), and there’s a ton of inventive gore, epitomized by the car head-crushing scene. Not a single section of society / public / animals are safe from ridicule or violence – everyone gets offended and/or killed off in Tromaville. In classic schlock/b-movie style there’s a lot of nudity and groping going on in this town, a midget being tumble dried, limbs being ripped off, body parts being deep-fried. The Toxic Avenger is great fun to watch, and should be a pre-requisite for all film fans, particularly b-movie lovers & aspiring film makers. It’s also worth hunting down the Director’s Cut for the extra gore-factor.
The Toxic Avenger Part II Review