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
Brain Damage [AKA Elmer]: a regular guy wakens to find a parasite has made him the new host – he’ll get an addictive and hallucinogenic drug on tap, providing he feeds the alien human brains! The star of this film is the talking alien / parasite / turd / penis / spleen that’s brought to life through claymation, animatronics & other physical effects, and given a surprisingly rational personality (for a villain) like something out of a kid’s cartoon. The humans on the other hand are all pretty campy, but it makes for some ‘laughing at you’ moments. It feels like the director (Henenlotter) is almost too good for this stuff, throwing in a lot of visually arresting moments, like the gore, and some weird psychedelic electrical brain-juice trips which are great to watch – although the ending should probably come with an epilepsy warning. Interestingly, it’s a film that defies categorization: it continually mixes gore, comedy, horror and social commentary – but none of them are strong enough to define the film; think MTV type horny/horror with a more serious tone. Brain Damage is as cheap and ‘B-movie‘ as they come (death, plot, death, boobs, death sleaze…) but it aspires to more in that it’s a unique and left-field mix of offbeat plot and wild visuals – which make it more engaging / entertaining / interesting than rigidly formulaic and dull B-movies. Despite being a heavy-handed parable for drug addiction (with a sexual & homosexual subtext) I’d take this over Requiem for a Dream or Spun any day. A nostalgic oddity that could only come from the 1980s.
B-Movie Score: 8/10
The Fly: when a teleporter accidentally fuses his DNA with that of a housefly, brilliant scientist Seth Brundle slowly begins a dramatic transformation into a man-fly! It’s a great testament to Cronenberg that he can have such an obvious directorial stamp on a film, yet keep it feeling like an old-fashioned monster movie; as the plot could have easily been an old Corman B-movie. The SFX department are on fire, with some of the greatest physical, in-camera effects that no amount of CGI could begin to replicate – the fingernails, puss, blood, guts, limbs, and transformations are all so visceral that it makes you feel sick in the pits of your stomach. There’s some other neat technical tricks such as the ‘how did they do that’ camera trickery for wall-crawling antics. Last, but not least, the small cast are all great, particularly Goldblum, who delivers a riotous performance as an increasingly peculiar and demented Brundlefly – but remains believable throughout. Top top it off, the telepods are a great feature for both extremes (fusion/blood/guts) and dramatics (noise, smoke, strobe), and there’s some classic ’80s programming’ going on. A bit of patience is required as the film takes its time to build toward a conclusion that – even after knowing the story – exceeds anything you could imagine. The Fly is one of those films where everything’s just right, and is easily still on of the best horror sci-fi movies around.
Seth Brundle’s nerdy clothes reminded me of someone… MR BEAN!!! (at least when it wasn’t one of the 200 shirtless scenes)
A Serious Man: the monumental breakdown of a weedy, pushover, atheist Jew as he searches for the ultimate answer, why him? The humour is the ultimate in dry / deadpan / dark / awkward and the story’s as bleak as anything else I’ve seen – so much so that handfuls of people walked out of the cinema around the 30-40 minute mark. The slow pace of the film didn’t help matters much and neither did the over-the-top ‘Jewishness’ – with lots of Yiddish vocabulary being used. The opening act didn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the film, and ended up being a distraction – whereas the finale is as open-ended as No Country. It’s shot well, remaining pretty stylish and retro throughout and the acting’s of a pretty high standard – there’s also a few tactically placed laughs to slightly lighten the mood. Overall it’s totally pessimistic, bleak, relentless & overwhelming with no likable characters and not enough funnies to balance it out. Very difficult to watch, unless you’re a diehard Coen fan or were Jewish in the 1960s.