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Main Entry: exclusion
Definition: expulsion; forbiddance
Synonyms: ban, bar, blackball, blockade, boycott, cut, debarment, debarring, discharge, dismissal, ejection, elimination, embargo, eviction, exception, excommunication, interdict, interdicting, interdiction, keeping out, lockout, nonadmission, occlusion, omission, ostracism, ousting, preclusion, prevention, prohibition, proscription, refusal, rejection, relegation, removal, repudiation, segregation, separation, suspension, veto
Antonyms: acceptance, addition, admittance, allowance, inclusion, incorporation, welcome
send to Coventry, to refuse to associate with; openly and pointedly ignore: His friends sent him to Coventry after he was court-martialed.
People from the music industry that I respect, idolize or just simply appreciate: Ennio Morricone, Amy McDonald, Daan, David Bowie, Therion, Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen, Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Joy Division, Bobby Darin, the Everly Brothers, Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, The Animals, The Byrds, Donovan, Vargoth, Drudkh, Behemoth, Triggerfinger, Falkenbach, Finntroll, Einherjer, The Smiths, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, BB King, Ministry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rufus Wainwright, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, Raymond Lefèvre, Children of Bodom, Volbeat, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Anathema, Velvet Underground, Norah Jones, Fatboy Slim, Moloko, Angelo Badalmenti, Sarah Brightman, Lady Antebellum, Enigma, Muse, Army of Lovers, Chris Isaak, Lesley Gore, Kasabian, Pearl Jam, dEUS, Mumford & Sons, The Subs, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Cuff the Duke, Pulp, Oscar and the Wolf,
People from the movie industry that I respect, idolize or just simply appreciate: John Saxon, Mario Bava, Joe D'Amato, George Eastman, Darren Lynn Bousman, Boris Karloff, Enzo G. Castellari, Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Antonio Margheriti, Klaus Kinski, Lloyd Kaufman, James Gunn, Rob Zombie, Sid Haig, Matthew McGrory, Karen Black, Dennis Fimple, Irwin Keyes, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley, Wolfgang Petersen, Nicol Williamson, Fairuza Balk, Piper Laurie, Philippe Mora, Tom Holland, Ronny Cox, Lucio Fulci, Christopher George, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Catriona MacColl, Fabio Frizzi, Nicolas Cage, Todd Farmer, Tom Atkins, Paul Verhoeven, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Stuart Gordon, H.P. Lovecraft, Jeffrey Combs, David Gale, Barbara Crampton, Fernando Di Leo, Joe Dallesandro, Terence Fisher, Anton Diffring, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee, Robert Stevenson, William Girdler, Rebecca De Mornay, Mako, Ti West, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, David Carradine, Roger Corman, Adrian Hoven, Monte Hellman, Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton, Steve Railsback, Ed Begley Jr., Peter Fonda, Nathan Juran, Lionel Jeffries, James Glickenhaus, Ken Wahl, Joaquim de Almeida, Sam Peckinpah, William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, Edmond O'Brien, Kurt Raab, Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Karl Freund, Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, William Lustig, Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Wise, Fred Dekker, Fritz Lang, David Hemmings, Michael Ironside, Jan-Michael Vincent, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Victor Buono, George Kennedy, Charles Bronson, Richard Fleischer, Elmore Leonard, Paul Koslo, Michael Winner, Brian Garfield, Lee Marvin, J. Lee Thompson, Riz Ortolani, Yul Brunner, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Michael Crichton, James Brolin, Mel Brooks, arry Cohen, Michael Moriarty, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Robin Hardy, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Michael Reeves, Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Dick Maas, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Paul Naschy, Paul Morrissey, Truman Capote, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Sellers, Gene Wilder, Patrick McGoohan, Herb Freed, Richard Kiel, John Landis, Tim Curry, Simon Pegg, Jenny Agutter, Frank Oz, Dario Argento, Quentin Tarantino, Everett De Roche, Stacy Keach, Russell Mulcahy, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Donald Pleasence, George Peppard, Simon Wincer, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Gary Sherman, Faith Domergue, Alexandre Aja, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Eli Roth, Ishirô Honda, Greydon Clark, Cybill Shepherd, Neville Brand, Vincent Schiavelli, Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Alan Rudolph, Jonathan Demme, Pam Grier, Mark L. Lester, Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Kilpatrick, Don Dohler, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Jake Busey, Charlton Heston, Lorne Greene, Walter Matthau, Peter Bogdanovich, Woody Allen, John Milius, Franco Nero, Crispin Glover, Dennis Hopper, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Armando Crispino, Sergio Grieco, Helmut Berger, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Forster, John Huston, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., George Miller, Mel Gibson, Robert Rodriguez, George Hilton, Kane Hodder, Michael Madsen, Tony Todd, Nicolas Winding Refn, William Grefe, Cirio H. Santiago , Joe Dante, Don Coscarelli, Angus Schrimm, Tobe Hooper, Tiffany Shepis, Brad Dourif, George P. Cosmatos, John Boorman, Stephen Boyd, Tommy Lee Jones, Rod Steiger, Brian DePalma, Gunnar Hansen, George A. Romero, Simon Boyes, Adam Mason, Jack Arnold, M. Emmet Walsh, James Stewart, Darren McGavin, Kathleen Quinlan, Jack Lemmon, Robert Foxworth, Olivia De Havilland, Michael Pataki, Jerry Stiller, John Carradine, Julian Sands, Freddie Francis, Don Sharp, William Castle, Bill Rebane, John De Bello, Terry O'Quinn, Peter Sykes, Wes Craven, Michael Sarrazin, Lewis Teague, Yaphet Kotto, Sergio Stivaletti, John Phillip Law, Michele Soavi, Umberto Lenzi, Anna Falchi, Lon Chaney, Sergio Martino, Edwige Fenech, Ursula Andress, Michael Sopkiw, Edmund Purdom, Hal Yamanouchi, Barbara Bach, Cameron, Mitchell, Alberto De Martino, Ernesto Gastaldi, Maurizio Merli, John Steiner, Mel Ferrer, Barbara Bouchet, Marty Feldman, Tomas Milian, Bruno Mattei, Lamberto Bava, Luc Merenda, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Sergio Corbucci, Tito Carpi, David Warbeck, Luciano Pigozzi, Gianfranco Giagni, Florinda Balkan, Rosalba Neri, Mel Welles, Dagmar Lassander, Neil Jordan, Walter Huston, Ray Bradbury, Gregory Peck, Orson Welles, Bert I. Gordon, H.G. Wells, Ida Lupino, Kirk Douglas, David Lynch, Eddie Romero, Bela Lugosi, Al Adamson, Tor Johnson, Edward D. Wood Jr, David Cronenberg, Christopher Walken, Tom Skeritt, Martin Sheen, Dino De Laurentiis, James Wan, Anthonhy Perkins, Curtis Harrington, Julie Harris, Ornella Muti, Ray Lovelock
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Sudden Fury (1975)
Meet Fred. Fred is a genuine psychopath!
Big shot Hollywood producers take a pencil and a notebook, because this ultra-cheap and sadly obscure 70s exploitation thriller succeeds - almost effortlessly - where practically 99% of all nowadays attempts fail miserably. I'm talking about sheer and genuine tension from start to finish, a simple but original and compelling plot, unpredictable and shocking story twists, being horrific without the use of a single special effect, etc. "Sudden Fury" honestly deserves to be wider known, or is at least entitled to an immortal cult status, as it truly was one of the most engaging viewing experiences I've had in the past couple of years.
Never heard about writer/director Brian Damude before, but he surely deserves utmost respect and credit for his screenplay that continuously sets you on the wrong foot. At the very beginning of the film, you automatically sympathize with lead character Fred, because he finds out that his wife Janet is unfaithful and lying to his face. Shortly after, when the two of them are driving along the godforsaken roads of rural Ontario, it becomes abundantly clear that Fred is a naive dreamer, an entrepreneurial failure, and an ill-tempered brute! When they get into a car accident that seriously injures Janet, Fred thinks up a series of diabolical schemes that even turn him into a genuine psychopath! One of the sliest and most loathsome psychopaths ever, in fact! I really don't want to reveal everything that happens next, but rest assured Brian Damude still has many nasty, courageous and startling surprises in store. Also, the ending may feel unnatural and unsatisfying at first, but it's actually quite brilliant.
Of course, one could righteously state that films like "Sudden Fury" have badly dated. These days everybody has mobile phones and reliable GPS-systems (although they probably wouldn't find a signal on these backwoods roads), but seen in its mid-70s frame, it's a nightmarish thriller. The film makes excellent use of the awesome remote filming locations, and there's a good old-fashioned moody country-soundtrack. The performances are terrific all around, but I simply must put Dominic Hogan in the spotlights for his role as Fred. Unfortunately, he died shortly after the release of "Sudden Fury", and Brian Damude incomprehensibly also never made another movie after this hidden treasure.
Blood Drive: The F...ing Dead (2017)
The more the merrier. The sleazier the slushier
Following their little excursion to the Kane Hill mental asylum, Grace and Arthur found out that Grace's younger sister Karma got transferred to an unknown new location. Right before the daily Mayhem party, they capture Julian Slink and violently force him to share what he knows. Simultaneously, two creepily behaving siblings crash the Mayhem party, also in search of vengeance against Slink. They are the sole survivors of yet another medical Heart experiment gone wrong, and the carriers of a sexually transferable disease that turns people into sloppy nymphomaniacs and eventually causes them to murder each other.
With every next episode of "Blood Drive" that I watch, I have the impression this show becomes even crazier, wilder and more derailed. The profanity and vulgarity featuring in this installment must be the nightmare of every censorship jury in the world, so I guess they just gave them a wild card. Half of the episode is one giant orgy and, although no graphic nudity, it's quite a gooey and provocative sight. There's also some nicely depraved humor in this installment, notably when the usually stern & formal Arthur also becomes infected with the STD and the overall vile one-liners of Julian Slink.
The Mummy (2017)
M:I - Mummy Impossible!
Did I read that right? Universal Studios is planning to remake all its legendary monster-movie classics from the 1930s in the next couple of years? "The Mummy" is only the first of a new series, and titles like "The Invisible Man" and "Bride of Frankenstein" are already in production? As a fanatic admirer of old-fashioned horror stories, I know I'm supposed to feel enthusiastic. But as a cynical critic and a heavy adversary of CGI-effects, I just know the revival of this monster cycle will only result in fancy-looking but substantially void and boisterous action vehicles full of atrocious computer effects and popular actors that are hopelessly miscast. I went into watching "The Mummy" with an open mindset, but my fears nevertheless got confirmed rather quickly.
The plot and screenplay are all over the place. Literally, in fact, as the film takes place in Iraq, Egypt and the London Underground. How can there possibly be Egyptian tombs in Iraq and London? Why is Dr. Jekyll investigating mummies and ancient Egyptian mysteries, even though he still hasn't found a remedy to permanently annihilate his evil alter ego Mr. Hyde? Why does Tom Cruise look more mummified than the real mummy? Cruise is more than 20 years older than his love-interest, but behaves like a spoiled and pimpled teenager most of the time. He depicts his characters as if he's starring in another installment in the "Mission: Impossible" or "Jack Reacher" franchise! The running gag with Tom Cruise's dead and gradually decaying buddy Vail is blatantly stolen from "An American Werewolf in London". On the positive side, I'm glad the titular monster is female, for a change. Princes Ahmanet definitely is one bad mother, and her background story at the beginning is easily the atmospheric and narrative highlight of the entire film. Admittedly there's a lot of violence, gore and special effects, but it's all computerized - as feared - and thus not the least bit unsettling or shocking. Even "Scooby-Doo" cartoons, or those childish mummy flicks starring Brendan Fraser, looked scarier than this.
Okay, I realize I sound like an old and embittered sourpuss here, so why don't I just board my time-capsule and send myself back to the 1930's?
Dark Was the Night (2014)
I'm blue da-ba-dee-da-ba-daa
I really wanted to like "Dark was the Night". Partially because it was recommended to me by a regular horror buddy whose opinions rarely ever differ from mine, and partially because you can easily tell that everyone involved in this production had the very best of intentions. Director Jack Heller clearly wanted to make an old-fashioned and atmosphere-driven monster movie; - one set in a sleepy little town full of fatigued and mentally tormented inhabitants, and with a monster that remains unseen and enigmatic until the climax. I admire that, honestly, and to a certain degree it works effectively well, too. I'm definitely giving points to "Dark was the Night" for the moody atmosphere and the integer acting performances, notably of Kevin Durand. Heck, I was even amused at how the script shamelessly makes use of all the most ancient and overused clichés in the book. The Sheriff is wrapped in self-pity and torn apart by guilt over the accidental death of his son, the amiable deputy returned from the big city with a trauma, 5th generation descendants mumbling about ancient Indian folklore legends, farm animals mysteriously vanish ... I mean, wow, who knew scriptwriters still dared to put that derivative stuff in horror films released after 2010? But then, there's the inevitable moment when you realize "Dark was the Night" keeps on building up and building up, yet nothing actually happens. Instead of putting so much effort in creating atmosphere, Heller and his crew ought to have focused more on action. Especially the exaggeratedly bleak blue colors quickly began to bother me. In order to make the forest, the town and its people look moodier and more depressed, a type of blue filter must have been placed over the camera lenses, or something. Everything looks blue in order to make you feel blue! Oh, and many reviewers around here keep raving about the fabulous end shot, but it's honestly nothing special (if you are familiar with cheap B-horror, that is)
I also bring a message from the Führer: your movie is messed up!
First off, don't watch this film alone! Don't make the same mistake I did, and be sure to watch "Cataclysm" in the company of at least one good buddy, or preferably a whole group of friends. Not because the film is so petrifying, obviously, but for the complete opposite reason. "Cataclysm" is so dumb, so incoherent and generally "so-bad-it's-good", that it'll make guaranteed entertainment for a bunch of like-minded horror lovers! All the necessary ingredients are there, trust me: horribly bad acting performances, totally absurd storylines and plot twists, cheesy early 80s make-up effects, a washed-up Cameron Mitchell, nonsensical dialogues ("I've been staring at these walls so much that I begin to see swastikas in my oatmeal"), Nazi-orgy flashbacks, wooden disco-dancing moves, and the reincarnation of Satan himself in the shape of an Udo Kier look-alike with a very gay haircut. I had seen bits and pieces of "Cataclysm" before, as they got edited into "Night Train to Terror" for some reason, but the full-length version is definitely worth seeking out. Oh, and it's available on YouTube! What are you waiting for? WhatsApp your friends!
Do paranoid androids dream of electric sheep? Nope, of killing their creators!
"Morgan" is the name of an android, a piece of artificial intelligence, created in all secrecy by a team of devout scientists, in a lab somewhere hidden in a remote and forestry region. Before you start praising the downright magnificent make-up effects on the girl, bear in mind it's actress Anya Taylor-Joy's real face. She's a really good and talented young actress, but admittedly she has a bit of a weird face, which - luckily for her - helps to obtain interesting roles as the "outcast-girl" (also in "Split"). Anyways, Morgan is only five years old, but she already looks like an adolescent and she behaves like a spoiled teenager. Lately, there have been serious issues with Morgan, and she even stabbed one of her creators in the eye. Corporate headquarters sends out emotionally numb but highly professional risk-manager Lee Weathers to assess if "Project Morgan" should be terminated or not. Needless to say, Morgan's makers grew to love her as if she were a real child, and they will not accept that's she killed based on an evaluation by an outsider. Director Luke Scott (son of Ridley who made the Sci-Fi landmarks "Alien" and "Blade Runner") initially tries hard to make "Morgan" is a very ambitious, existential and emotionally challenging Sci-Fi/thriller, but he can't prevent that it turns into a rather ordinary 'stalk & slash' type of B-horror. There are a handful of terrific sequences, notably the scene with Paul Giamatti as the obnoxious auditor, but it's ultimately too lightweight to be considered a significant genre effort. Scott Jr. managed to gather an impressive cast (including Brian Cox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Toby Jones, Paul Giamatti) and the special effects are more than adequate, but I doubt anyone will remember "Morgan" in ten years' time.
The great, late Rod Serling: Mystifying audiences from beyond the grave!
When philosophizing about it somewhat deeper, this "Johnny-come-lately" 90s entry in the "Twilight Zone" franchise actually fits neatly into the legendary TV-series' overall mystical universe...
Bear with me; - practically 20 years after the death of mastermind creator Rod Serling in 1975, and following two reasonably successful attempts during the 80s to revive the format with a long-feature movie and a series, there suddenly came a "lost classics" film with two previously unedited tales written and invented by Serling himself. As if the imaginative genius sent a parcel from the sixties into the future, to be delivered from beyond the tomb and via ... the Twilight Zone.
Okay, all geeky fan-boy gibberish aside, the "Lost Classics" TV-movie is good entertainment for admirers of the original show, as well as for fans of mysterious Sci-Fi/fantasy in general. Two versatile tales are presented, both beneficing from solid acting performances and an uncanny atmosphere. The first one admittedly feels like rather formulaic, with Amy Irving receiving ominous premonitions of her own unfortunate future via a cinema screen. The segment won't hold many surprises in store in case you are familiar with the original TZ stories from the sixties, but it's fun to watch nevertheless. The second tale is pure gold; - a period piece with mad doctors conducting grisly experiments on remote islands, nasty immortal fishermen, a ghoulish ambiance, slowly mounting tension, a terrific twist ending, and ... the almighty Jack Palance. "Where the Dead Are" echoes the legendary tales of "Frankenstein" and "The Island of Dr. Moreau", but it's intelligent and sinister enough to stand on its own as a terrific and memorable creep story.
The Lunatics have taken over the Asylum!
The entire "Blood Drive" show definitely is a limitless playground for horror/cult scriptwriters with an overly absurd imagination, but particularly this episode "In the Crimson Halls of Kane Hill" must have been pure Walhalla! In this completely derailed and utterly bonkers installment, the less and less reluctant pair Grace D'Argento and officer Arthur Bailey take an unauthorized side trip from the race in order to look for Grace's sister Karma. She got institutionalized in a macabre place called Kane Hill, and getting her out of there eventually became Grace's main motivation to participate in the race. Through flashbacks, the episode clarifies how Karma ended up in custody, but it naturally all links back to the sinister & overhead masterplan of the Heart corporation. Inside the walls of Kane Hill, our protagonists quickly discover that the patients are running the show, while the doctors and remaining staff members have been reduced to (barely) living toys. If that isn't quite challenging enough yet, Julian Slink also sent the maniacal Rib Bone after Grace and Arthur, with a latitude for revenge. Granted, this TV-series is one giant guilty pleasure of mine and I can't bring myself to be overly skeptical, but this episode is truly fantastic entertainment for fans of extreme horror madness. Kane Hill asylum is the ideal horror setting; a morbidly atmospheric nuthouse with residents that are sick beyond words. The sequence where a handful of lunatic goof around with a staff member they turned into a life-sized marionette is one of the most demented things I've ever seen.
Mr. Glass, that's his name. That name again, is Mr. Glass
When I first watched "Unbreakable", upon its release in theaters in the year 2000, I thought it was a boring and overrated film. Now that I watched it again in 2020, I still think it is a boring and overrated film, but at least now I can easily bring myself to write a handful of positive comments about it as well. Quite a lot of things can change in 20 years' time, that's certain. For starters, M. Night Shyamalan hasn't made anything but rubbish after "Unbreakable", and continued to do so until the fairly successful "Split" in 2016, so it's a lot easier to label this one as of his finest accomplishments. More importantly, over the course of two decades, the film grew out to become somewhat of a unique trendsetter and simultaneously a type of underdog in its own sub-genre. Whether or not he intended for it to be one, "Unbreakable" sort of is a superhero movie. There have been dozens (far too many, in fact) superhero movies in the past twenty years, but in 2000 the concept was still fairly unique, especially considering the protagonist in "Unbreakable" - David Dunn - is a reluctant and highly atypical kind of superhero.
Yours truly keeps on nagging that M. Night Shyamalan stole the basic concept for this film from the relatively obscure horror gems "The Survivor" and "Sole Survivor". True, both films came first with the idea of one single person walking away unharmed from a major disaster that killed hundreds of people, but "Unbreakable" admittedly is quite original in terms of linking it to superhero powers. After he miraculous survived a train accident that killed all other 300 passengers, Philadelphia security agent David Dunn is stalked and harassed by gallery owner and comic book fanatic Elijah Price. For you see, ever since birth, Price suffers from a physical condition that makes his bones extremely breakable, and he developed a theory that David Dunn must be his counterpart at the other side of the spectrum; - namely someone unbreakable. Why is this interesting? To be entirely honest, I still don't know, and this immediately leads us to what is still the bottom line: "Unbreakable" is a mainly boring and uninvolving film. The ideas are good and the integer performances (notably from Willis and Wright-Penn) are solid, but the slow pacing is intolerable and the "big revelation" at the end is quite "meh".
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right ... Here I am, stuck in the middle with the 23 of you
I completely gave up on M. Night Shyamalan between 2005 and 2015. Talking in film titles, that means between "Lady in the Water" and "The Visit". I always thought his supposedly greatest accomplishments "Unbreakable" and "The Sixth Sense" were vastly overrated (and even blatant rip-offs of obscure horror gems), but at least they were watchable. I severely disliked "Signs" and absolutely hated "The Village", so after that it was exit M. Night for me. From what I read on the internet, he only made rubbish and commercial flops in this 10-year-period anyway. "Split" seemed different. It has a more intriguing concept than all of Shyamalan's previous movies combined, and for the very first time, the plot genuinely appeals to fans of dark psycho-thrillers. Usually his stories are balancing on the verge of fantasy and melodrama, with a minor touch of morbidity.
The first half of "Split" is really good! The script luckily doesn't waste too much time and almost immediately begins with the powerful and intense kidnapping sequence of three teenage girls - in broad daylight on a busy parking lot - by a sinister young man with an evil grimace on his face. The girls, two typically shallow beauties and one introvert girl with a troubled past, are taken to an unknown location and locked up in a sort of basement. What follows next are a good 40-45 minutes of terrific cinema during which the three girls, simultaneously with the audience, gradually learn that their kidnapper isn't just an ordinary maniac but a deeply disturbed schizophrenic with no less than 23 different personalities. The quiet girl, Casey, realizes their only chance for escape is by manipulating the weaker personalities, but there's also a 24th and ultimately evil alter ego brooding within Kevin.
Lots of praise and respect for talented young actress Anya Taylor-Joy, and especially for James McAvoy as Barry, Kevin, Dennis, Hedwig, Patricia, etc. Okay, admittedly, it must be a dream come true for any actor to be offered the chance to play a character like this and demonstrate that you are capable of depicting a variety of roles, but still McAvoy puts a lot of passion and devotion in every single twisted personality! My personal favorite is definitely the posh, elderly lady with the dress and necklace. Best male-actor-playing-ugly-old-woman since Robin Williams in "Mrs. Doubtfire", for sure! Sadly, M. Night's true personality also comes to the surface, and not even McAvoy can prevent "Split" from slowly turning into a dull and overly talkative B-thriller. Notably the conversations between whatever personality and his therapist are tedious and seem to last endlessly, but also Casey's cliched background story is quite redundant. Not sure what rating "Split" received, but the violence and murders all occur off screen, and that is a damn shame! I didn't like the ending (come to think of it, I never like the endings in Shyamalan's movies) but apparently it's the bridge towards a sequel/origin story "Glass".
Better Watch Out (2016)
Joy to the world, good Christmas Horror is NOT dead!
Actually, I could even rephrase and state that good horror in general is not dead, because "Better Watch Out" would work just as effectively without the Christmas setting and decorations as well. I think I even read that, at one point, the film was planned as a "regular" horror release under the title "Safe Neighborhood". Still, I - for one - am very happy that it became a Christmas horror film, since I have the silly tradition to watch at least one of those during the holiday period! In case you love Christmas horror as well, I can warmly recommend "Better Watch Out"; - preferably even after having watched "Home Alone" with the entire family, and after the children went to bed.
If you haven't seen "Better Watch Out" yet, it is utmost crucial to avoid spoilers! I'll try not to reveal anything here, but it's simply better not to read any reviews at all in advance. Knowing certain plot twists from beforehand might not entirely ruin your viewing experience, but unawareness and the element of surprise are definitely major added values. I have seen more than 4,000 horrors and thrillers of all sorts over the past 20 years, including certain ones that featured more or less the same abrupt plot twists, but nevertheless I didn't see the twist in "Better Watch Out" coming. Love it when that happens! The script isn't totally unique or 100% original, mind you. The plot twist idea has been done before, but it's the accomplishment of co-writer/director Chris Peckover (previously unknown to me) that he brings it unexpectedly and even quite shockingly. And, as well, thanks to the very talented and convincing cast.
When browsing through the other user comments around here and online, I notice a lot of people deeply dislike "Better Watch Out" for the exact same reasons that I (and luckily many others with me) admire it so much. Bluntly said, yes, this is a "either hate or love it" type of film. Haters claim the scenario is utterly implausible, dumb and far-fetched. Fans, on the other hand, are likely to praise the writers' courage and out-of-the-box thinking style. Big fans, like me, even daresay the plot isn't too impossible at all. Aside from these discussions, "Better Watch Out" inarguably also is a very competent thriller/slasher with great suspense, twisted humor and a handful of nasty moments. The references and homages to the almighty and indestructible Christmas classic "Home Alone" are sublime.
Better Watch ... Something Else!
In theory, "SNDN3: Better Watch Out" couldn't possibly disappoint, or at least not disappoint more than the godawful part II. It's actually even a miracle that producers still wanted to invest money in another sequel, since part II was a bunch of shameless and stupid shenanigans that existed for more than 50% out of recycled footage of the original. Number 3 looks so much better, for starters thanks to the names of the director and several cast members! Monte Hellman admittedly hadn't accomplished much since his cult-classics "Cockfighter" and "Two-Lane Blacktop" in the early 70s, but he nevertheless remains a gifted director to have on board. Bill Moseley, instantly a horror icon thanks to his OTT performance as the demented Chop Top in Tobe Hooper's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre II" takes over the role of Christmas-Killer Ricky, and there are several more intriguing players, including Robert Culp and Leonard Mann, and the future David Lynch collaborators Richard Beymer, Eric Da Re and the stunningly beautiful Laura Harring. This can't go wrong, can it?
Alas, it can. I'll happily admit that "Better Watch Out!" shows good intentions and even attempts to come up with an ambitious & convoluted plot (in which the comatose killer Ricky gets telepathically linked to a blind psychic lady via her dreams), but the pacing is too slow, the script is too ridiculous, and the action/gore is far too underwhelming. My mate and I never quite figured out what Dr. Newbury's big plan was for connecting a relentless killer with a poor blind girl, but we're still willing to overlook that. The film's dumbness only starts when Ricky wakes up from his coma. Apparently it only takes a drunken & foul-mouthed Santa to wake someone from a coma. Then, our killer literally shuffles out of the hospital and onto the interstate in his nightgown, whilst leaving a trail of dead bodies behind him, yet nobody ever notices anything peculiar. Did I mention that Ricky's skull is replaced with a sort of fish bowl through which you can see his brain, by the way? Anyway, Ricky obviously goes after the yummy blind girl, but his doctor and the investigating police officer don't seem in a big hurry to go after him. As much as we enjoyed Laura Harring's bathtub sequences and a few moments of sardonic humor (the gas station's head), it's nearly not enough to compensate for the film's tediousness and sloth. I haven't seen part V ("The Toy Maker") yet, but it seems safe to assume that only the original "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is worth checking out in this franchise, and - to a lesser extent - maybe also the semi-remake of "Silent Night" (2012)
Blood Drive: Steel City Nightfall (2017)
Sympathy for the Devil?
Race day #3 rushes through the state of Utah, and once again Grace and Arthur are in last position. If that isn't bad enough yet, their car breaks down and they'll have to take a shortcut through a remote and sinister place named "Steel City" if they want to keep a small chance of remaining in the race. Steel City used to be famous across the nation as one of the leading car manufacturing cities, but due to an experiment with a revolutionary type of fuel additive gone horribly wrong, it turned into an apocalyptic wasteland.
"Steel City Nightfall" is definitely the most original episode thus far! The creatures terrorizing Steel City after dark are quite creative. They can't stand the light, but they are attracted by the smell & taste of fuel, and their fluorescent green eyes glow in the dark! Within the ruins of Steel City, there are also human survivors, but they are possibly even weirder than the monsters. Also remarkable in episode three is the continuous evolution of the Julian Sling character. In a comical but strangely recognizable (at least, if you're familiar with teleconferences with corporate superiors) sequence, a frustrated Sling must listen to a series of lousy suggestions to supposedly make the "Blood Drive" more commercially attractive. But rather than to obey, Sling subtly revolts and manipulates the finish of the third day. Could it be that we develop a bit of sympathy for the devil? On a less positive note, I'm personally not at all impressed by the serial killer couple Cliff and Domi. They are not at all convincing as merciless "Honeymoon Killers".
All the fine Arizonan cannibals!
Even though crazed out organizer Julian Slink promised that every race-day would end with a tremendous party, the Blood Drive participants arrive at the finish line in Arizona at the end of the second day, but Slink and his party caravan are nowhere in sight. Grace and the still reluctant cop Arthur Bailey join the rest of the racers for burgers at Pixie Swallows Motel and Diner, but quickly discover that the finish line is more dangerous than the race today, since chef Karl Kox and his yummy daughter Mimi use very peculiar meat to make their famous burgers! Meanwhile, Julian Slink gets summoned to Heart headquarters and his previously "free bird" position as the Blood Drive's Master of Ceremony seemingly isn't so untouchable anymore.
Episode 2 cheerfully continues on the same successful path as the pilot, with adrenalin and entertainment triumphing over originality. The idea of processing human flesh into fast-food certainly isn't new, but it does provide copious opportunities for nasty and gooey images. The highlight of the episode undoubtedly is the slaughtering of Fat Elvis, filmed through a constantly opening and closing kitchen door during which the diner employees nonchalantly walk without paying attention to the extreme bloodshed. The scene at Heart HQ also has a fantastic climax, and it shows (quite early in the series already) that Julian Slink's character is much than a just flamboyant creep. I even expect him to go through an essential metamorphosis in the upcoming episodes, as I'm sure he wants to prove to Heart that he's a wild animal that cannot be tamed easily. Oh, and PS, even though the sequences are totally gratuitous, Christina "Grace" Ochoa looks absolutely delicious in her black underwear!
Dead Ringer (1964)
Whatever happened to evil Margaret? Hush, Hush ... Sweet Edith!
Just a quick head's up: in this film review, yours truly won't be able to camouflage the fact that he's incredibly biased! I'm a tremendous admirer of Mrs. Bette Davis and even more fond of posh & prestigious drama-thriller stories of the early 60s. "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" and "Hush, Hush ... Sweet Charlotte" are both ranked extremely high in my list of all-time favorites. Speaking of those two well-known and widely acclaimed classics, I honestly don't understand why "Dead Ringer" isn't enjoying the same successful status. It's even relatively unknown and obscure, perhaps because it wasn't directed by Robert Aldrich and/or featuring the same tangible onscreen chemistry between Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. Regardless of the lesser status, "Dead Ringer" is a downright brilliant film, with an intelligent & compelling script, a fantastically paranoid atmosphere throughout, wondrous performances by Mrs. Davis and the entire supportive cast, and numerous of terrific highlights that'll certainly remain printed in my memory.
18 years since they last spoke, identical twin sisters Edith Philips and Margaret Philips-DeLorca are reunited at the funeral of Margaret's husband Frank. Margaret stole Frank from Edith all these years ago, and for Edith this was more than enough reason to break all contact with Margaret, because she truly loved Frank whereas her sister was only interested in his money and eminent position. Edith owns a cocktail bar, but she's buried in financial debts, and when she then also discovers that Margaret viciously faked a pregnancy to destroy her happiness with Frank, she feels that it's finally time for revenge. Edith lures her sister to the bar with the intent to murder her and take over her entire life. Her devilish scheme works out quite well at first, but there are recurring obstacles, like the persistent Police Sergeant Hobbson who was madly in love with Edith, and the fact that Margaret was hiding an extra few dark secrets as well.
Mrs. Davis seemingly felt somewhat uncomfortable at first, portraying a double role, but she quickly turns it around into a fabulous performance. When it comes to depicting elderly, vicious and unreliable shrews, Bette was - hands down - the greatest actress in history! The script of "Dead Ringer" is meticulously perfect and contains several very powerful sequences, for instance when Edith realizes she can't imitate her sister's handwriting, or when she's first (and unexpectedly) confronted with Margaret's secret lover. I also insist to underline once again the powerful supportive performances, most notably Karl Malden (as the policeman/heart-broken lover), Cyril Delevanti (as the butler), Estelle Winwood (as the mother-in-law) and - last but not least - Duke the dog!
PS: strangely enough, Bette Davis already played a character who impersonated her deceased twin sister in the 1940s movie "A Stolen Life". I haven't seen it, but I instantly added it to my endless must-see list.
Blood Drive: The F...ing Cop (2017)
It was love at first sight with this delightful trash!
For a long time, I hesitated whether I would simply review the entire series altogether, or do every episode individually. Eventually I opted to write per episode, also because the creators of this wondrously insane grindhouse homage took the effort to design a vintage VHS-cover image for each and every episode! Take a minute to browse through all these "fake" covers, I urge you, since they will instantly catapult you back to the glorious 70s and 80s!
Sometimes it only takes a second to know you'll love a certain series! That's what I experienced with "Blood Drive", even though the concept of reviving the grindhouse era is far from innovative. The unknown (to me, at least) James Roland created something that promptly appeals to all fans of extreme horror, over-the-top dystopian SciFi and generally absurd cult-TV. In an alternate 1999, following a series of environmental disasters and economic crises, the United States are a wasteland. It's the ideal setting for a large-scaled and illegal cross-state car race, but there's one little problem. Gas prices have become unaffordable, so the "Blood Drive" only allows vehicles that run on human blood.
In this first episode, there's the logical scene-setting and introduction of the lead characters. Gorgeous beauty Grace d'Argento is a tough and stone-cold loner whose mind is solely set on winning the race, but she unwillingly gets linked to the old-fashioned cop Arthur, who'll do everything to prevent innocent people to die for the sake of "fuel". The self-acclaimed "master of ceremony" of the race is the eccentric and psychopathic Julian Slink. It's immediately and abundantly clear that "Blood Drive" purely goes for sheer entertainment, put into practice via gore, sex, political incorrectness and perversity. Being original clearly wasn't a priority for Roland and the SyFy channel. The idea of cars running on human blood already featured in the obscure 2007 b-movie "Blood Car" (Alex Orr), but I'm easily willing to believe that film wasn't a primary source of inspiration. The main influences obviously come from great milestones like "Escape from New York", "Mad Max", "Robocop" and "Death Race 2000". It may not be Award-winning material but I, for one, am impatiently looking forward to absorb the upcoming twelve blood-soaked and utterly demented episodes!
When there's nothing positive to write, keep the review short & simple!
I honestly try to keep the ratings 1/10 that I hand out on this website as few as reasonably possible. That means I fanatically look for redeeming qualities in every lousy horror film, and usually I find a thing or two to justify a slightly higher rating. In the case of "Rave Party Massacre", however, and from the very beginning already, it was idle hope to find something positive. This is truly an awful and irredeemably bad amateur production where everything went wrong. The plot is thin, but nevertheless pretentiously attempts to express social criticism and come across as politically relevant. Every single one of the five lead characters is obnoxious, self-indulged, pathetic and you couldn't care less if they all died a horribly painful dead. The era and setting, namely an illegal rave in an abandoned hospital in the year 1992, easily could have led to potentially great horror situations, but the uninspired & untalented writer/director Jason Winn lets it go to waste completely. The special effects and gore are weak, and the animal mask worn by one of the killers is bluntly stolen from "You're Next". All in all, not one sequence managed to hold my attention for longer than 15 seconds, so why waste further time and energy on the review? Just avoid!
Well, we all got to start somewhere...
I realize this film has quite a large base of loyal and devoted fans, but to be entirely honest, it undeniably remains a truly dumb and irredeemable amateur flick. In fact, the sole reason why I'm glad "Schlock" exists is because it meant the first venture into cult-movie world by John Landis; - and John Landis will always be the genius who gave us "American Werewolf in London". "Schlock" apparently did get noticed here and there, which ultimately led to Landis modestly building out his career further, first with the more crazed out comedies "Kentucky Fried Movie", "Animal House" and "Blues Brothers", but then he and Rick Baker (also debuting here) immortalized themselves with the still-fabulous transformation sequences in "AWiL".
"Schlock" is a type of slapstick and absurd parody about a prehistoric ape-monster, supposedly the Missing Link, going on extreme killing sprees in Los Angeles and leaving behind a trail of banana peels. I could still appreciate the first 10-15 minutes, since Landis exaggerates so tremendously with his numbers. During the opening sequences, the camera pans around a playground where literally dozens of dead bodies lay spread around. When "Schlock" attacks, he allegedly makes two-hundred victims at once and the local news reporter even organizes body-count contests on live television! It immediately goes downhill, however, with non-stop lame and infantile jokes, as well as reference to cinematic milestones ("Frankenstein", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "King Kong", ...) that don't really work. There's a frustratingly high number of gags in which the monster is treated or addressed to like he's an ordinary human being, and those eventually make the film dull and tedious. After the first half hour (which seemingly lasts twice that long) the lack of financial means and creativity also becomes too obvious, and John Landis hardly still manages to hold the viewer's attention.
Macon County Line (1974)
"Macon County Line" is disappointing. That shouldn't have happened, but it did!
Like every self-respecting horror and cult cinema fanatic, I love to watch a good slice of "Hicksploitation" every now and then! In case you stumbled on this movie's page by accident and haven't got a clue what we're talking about, "Hicksploitation" (or "Rednecksploitation") are low-budgeted action movies/thrillers from the 1970's that are set in the American Deep South and feature violent backwoods folks and moonshining yokels with bad dental hygiene. Next to the biggest "classics" in this unofficial sub-genre ("Deliverance", "Southern Comfort", "White Lightning"), "Macon County Line" is supposedly one of the best efforts, but personally I can't help feeling a little bit disappointed.
Real-life brothers Alan and Jesse Vint are very likeable as the convivial Dixon brothers, and the lovely Cheryl Waters is stunning as the sexy hitch-hiker Jenny Scott, but the tone and the pacing of "Macon County Line" are wickedly - almost frustratingly - uneven. For more than a full hour, the film is a rompish comedy that almost solely focuses of the trio's jolly adventures whilst driving through Macon County, Georgia. Admittedly the grumpy and xenophobic Sheriff Reed Morgan warns the Dixon brothers to stay out of trouble, but the whole thing is very light-headed. Then, suddenly, the daffy plot becomes dark and disturbing, and by the time the finale kicks in, Macon County Line" feels like a totally different movie altogether. Practically out of nowhere, two random drifters also show up in Macon County and commit horrible crimes where then naturally Wayne and Chris Dixon get pursued for. "Macon County Line" is promoted as a true story, for example via the brilliantly compelling tag line ("It shouldn't have happened. It couldn't have happened, ... But it did"), but this was really just a trick to attract more publicity and audiences. That certainly worked, since it became of the most successful drive-in hits of all times. Good for director Richard Compton and his crew, but I can easily name a dozen of "Hickploitation" movies that are more enjoyable and impactful ("Jackson County Jail", "Cockfighter", "Race with the Devil", "Baker County USA", ...)
Visually astonishing, substantially ... less astonishing
Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with horror milestones from the silent era. Some of them I rate as downright brilliant and are listed high in my favorites of all times ("The Phantom Carriage", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari") but quite often I also literally have to struggle to stay awake throughout these so-called indestructible masterpieces. Murnau's "Faust" is definitely unique, because I experienced these two opposite sentiments during one film! The opening sequences are breathtaking. Unbelievably and utterly breathtaking, in fact. There's the grim prologue that covers a showdown between the archangel and Satan, with horrid images of the four horsemen and brimstone storms, and subsequently the temptation of the titular character (who sells his soul to Mephistopheles in return for youth), which is nothing short of jaw-dropping! What comes next is truly one of the most genius moments in cinema, namely the evil Mephistopheles towering over a little town and symbolically unleashing a plague on it. I think I must have re-watched that particular 7 or 8 times, simple because it's so stunning. But then something strange and incomprehensible happened. The rest of the film suddenly became tedious, prosaic and unremarkable. The content of young Faust wooing the beautiful Gretchen, while Mephistopheles distracts her deeply religious mother, is honestly rather dull and uninteresting. All the mind-blowing aspects of the opening sequences, such as the special effects and the camerawork of Carl Hoffman, are pushed to the background in favor of the mediocre romance plot. The finale finds Murnau returning to great shape, but the powerful impact of the first 15-20 minutes cannot be reached again.
Hollywood aan de schelde (2018)
The director's life-long dream has come true!
Being both a proud Belgian and a film-fanatic, I have been closely following Flemish cinema history for as far back as I can remember. This is approximately 25 years now, and the funny thing is that, for almost just as long as that, I've been hearing and reading that writer/director Robbe De Hert plays with the idea of shooting a large-scaled documentary of the exact same topic. There was always something standing in the way (financial issues, lack of collaboration, health problems, ...) and De Hert noticeably became more frustrated and embittered. But behold; - after all this time he realized his life-long dream, and I'm particularly happy to mention that it became a very complete and utterly professional magnum opus! "Hollywood aan de Schelde" - the title refers to the Belgium's biggest river and the economic heart of the Port of Antwerp - is a meticulously detailed, informative and absorbing documentary that covers Flemish cinema history from its pioneer years (director Jan Vanderheyden and his wife Edith Kiel) up until the nowadays talented generation of directors that have the potential to make it in Hollywood (Michaël Roskam, Felix Van Groeningen, Geoffrey Enthoven, ...). De Hert's film features fascinating interviews, anecdotes and sequences from some of Belgium's greatest cinematic monuments that are sadly almost forgotten already, like "Seagulls Die in the Harbor" or "The Man who had his Hair Cut Short"
Inevitably, of course, the discussions quickly lead into the same direction as they always do in Flanders, namely about money and funding. Writers, directors and actors complain that the government only sponsors film projects if they are based on thick and practically unreadable novels from our forefathers, but nobody is interested in seeing those. Still, since several decades now, there's a good mixture of commercially successful and more artistic genres, and this is largely thanks to the specially created and well-led "Flemish Audio-visual Funding". Flanders isn't exclusively about the dramatic adventures of struggling farmers' families, and "Hollywood aan de Schelde" establishes this once and for all. Well done, Robbe. I have one major point of criticism, though. As usual in this type of documentaries, horror and cult movies are shamelessly ignored, as if they are an embarrassment for cinema. Luckily, Steve De Roover made a special tribute to the Flemish horror heritage with "Forgotten Scares".
Knives Out (2019)
Pimp My Agatha Christie!
With the exception of my wife and daughter, and possibly my mother, Agatha Christie is the woman whom I love most on this planet. She truly was the most gifted and brilliant fiction writer who ever lived, and it rejoices me to see that her work still inspires other writers and filmmakers nowadays; more than forty years after she passed away. There are still many adaptations of her original work, but with "Knives Out", writer/director Rian Johnson attempts something entirely different. It's abundantly clear that Johnson was inspired by all of Christie's typical trademarks and hobby-horses, and he pays tribute to her most legendary characters and favorite settings, but the plot of "Knives Out" is entirely new and scripted directly for the screen. A good old-fashioned murder mystery/whodunit set in the enormous mansion of a wealthy family, full of eccentric people each of whom have dirty little secrets, convoluted plot twists, continuous red herrings that practically make it impossible to guess along, and a fabulous all-knowing but slightly odd sleuth slowly unravelling the clues.
Daniel Craig is downright terrific as Benoit Blanc, a private detective with a bizarre accent and weird one-liners, hired by someone anonymous to dig deeper into the strange and sudden death of patriarch Harlan Thrombey. It looks like suicide, but literally every greedy member of Harlan's bloodline had a motive for killing and - also in delightful Agatha Christie tradition - the plot even thickens after the reading of the will. It would be a shame to reveal too much about the plot, but rest assured that is refreshing and inventive, compelling as well as humorous, complex but simultaneously light-headed and 200% entertaining. The cast is phenomenal. Craig clearly enjoyed depicting a heroic protagonist that is the complete opposite of his James Bond character, and the Thrombey family exclusively exists of great talents, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Colette, Christopher Plummer and Don Johnson. "Knives Out" is perhaps slightly too long, but never tedious, and very well-directed by Rian Johnson (who honestly doesn't deserve all this hatred from disappointed "Star Wars" geeks)
Citizen X (1995)
"There aren't any serial killers in the Soviet State!"
Still very early in the film, the inexperienced but intelligent and honest forensic expert turned detective Viktor Burakov is confronted with the quote from this review's subject line; - spoken by a truly obnoxious senior committee member and right about when he reveals his first findings after the discovery of 8 bodies of young women and children in the area of Rostov. The ignorant and loathsome politician Bondarchuk (unthankful but stellar role for Joss Ackland) claims that serial killing is a typically American phenomenon, and imposes his opinion to the rest of the committee as well. This brief moment basically summarizes the entire film and simultaneously explains why a sick murderer like Andrej Chikatilo could remain at large for a long period of ten years and make more than 50 victims, even though his action terrain wasn't too expanded, and his methods weren't exactly subtle or sophisticated. "Citizen X" isn't just a brilliant thriller depicting the hunt for an inhumanly cruel serial killer, it's a perplexing semi-docudrama depicting the hunt for a serial killer in a country where corrupt and exaggeratedly conservative authority figures are deliberately obstructing police investigations, and thus putting more innocent lives at risk, simply to protect their own posts and beliefs.
"Citizen X" is a downright fantastic film, and as far as factual stories of real-life serial killers go, one of the most astonishing and jaw-droppingly incredible portraits I ever witnessed. This is one of those stories that you simply wouldn't accept if they were pure fiction, simply because it's too implausible and far-fetched. How can it possibly be that, already in the 80s of the previous century, prominent influencers sabotaged police researches, denied the use of easily available modern techniques, refused insights from forensic or psychological experts, abused the chaos to spread hatred against homosexuals, or even ordered the release of potential suspects only because they were members or the "correct" political party? It's unthinkable, perhaps, but "Citizen X" demonstrates that it was (and maybe, in some parts of the world, still is) a painful reality that cost many, many lives. The tone of the film is strikingly sober and depressing because of this. Burakov is a genuinely good person, and he doesn't want anything more than putting a stop to the horrifying murders, but he's made an oppressed minion by his superiors and even has to fear for his own freedom at a certain point. The film benefices tremendously from the gloomy time period and the sensitive political climate! The people of Rostov are treated like sheep, without respect or remorse for the family members they've lost, while the more influential authority figures arrogantly refer to each other as "Comrade" and revert to corruption in order to save their luxurious social position. It's compelling and disgusting at the same time.
Stephen Rea, who already stood in my personal top 10 of underrated actors on this planet, is magnificent in the lead role. The entire cast is perfect, in fact. Jeffrey DeMunn also puts down a remarkable performance as Andrej Chikatilo. He underlines that his character is a sexual deviant who suffers from uncontrollable and compulsory urges, but also makes sure that you never feel any empathy for him; - only hatred and disgust. The sole reason why I'm not awarding "Citizen X" with a perfect 10/10 rating is because it's an American film instead of a Russian one. If this would have been a sort of "Mea Culpa" Russian rectification to the victims and their families, it definitely would have been even more powerful (like the recent Hungarian film "Strangled"/A Martfüi Rém" was)
Silent Running (1972)
It's not too late; - cultivate!
One of the streams I love most in cinema are Sci-Fi/horror stories from the 70s dealing with either ecological, dystopian or misanthropy themes. Or better yet, a combo of all three together! For this reason, "Silent Running" stood on my must-see list since many years, and I felt quite convinced I would adore it as much as other contemporary classics like "Soylent Green", "Z.P.G." or "Logan's Run". It is indeed a wondrously unique and powerful Sci-Fi fable, and particularly the first half hour I gazed at the screen with pure astonishment in all my facial expressions. The beginning is so incredibly good, with close-up and detailed images of simple nature footage (for example a snail crawling over a leaf) to the tunes of Joan Baez' mind-penetrating ecological protest music & lyrics. Only when the film's credits are finished, the camera zooms out and the viewer realizes all this beautiful fauna & flora is contained within the borders of a huge artificial dome, floating around in space. One man, with the help of a bizarrely cute miniature robot, is lovingly looking after the trees and plants, but suddenly the peaceful tableau is rudely interrupted by two other men childishly racing against each other with motorized go-karts and destroying the crops.
With this, the tone for the film is set. Freeman Lowell, the calm and introvert horticulturist, is the good guy. The other astronauts (Cliff Potts, Jesse Vint, Ron Rifkin) are the ruthless minions that blindly follow the orders from an unseen government, speaking from an earth that is largely devastated by nuclear warfare and disasters. When the unthinkable command is given to destroy all the greenery that they looked after for 8 years, only Lowell revolts and undertakes extreme measure to safeguard the last remaining forest.
As soon as the other crew members are out of the picture, "Silent Running" admittedly becomes much less of a captivating Sci-Fi adventure. As much as I hate to confess it, there honestly isn't a lot happening here, apart from Lowell humanizing his androids (aptly baptizing them Huey, Dewey and - in memoriam - Louie) and philosophizing by himself. "Silent Running" somewhat bounces back and forth between John Carpenter's "Dark Star" and Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (for which director Trumbull was the special effects supervisor). The former is ultra-low budgeted and heavily plays on parody, whereas the latter is massively expensive and exaggeratedly perfectionist. "Silent Running" is in the middle. Not as cheap as "Dark Star", but only one-tenth as expensive as "2001", and since Trumbull is an effects-wizard, it's plainly clear to see where most of the budget went. The director also tries to narrate the story straightforward and emotionlessly. In the end, you don't feel too much empathy for Lowell, but I don't think you were supposed to.
A Monster Calls (2016)
A Successor for Tim Burton and Neil Jordan stood up
I'm very grateful to this particular Belgian TV-station for broadcasting "A Monster Calls" last weekend, but at a certain point during the film, I also came quite close to suing them. The reason for this is that they announced the film as a fantasy-adventure for the entire family. I can assure, however, that my two children (aged 10 and 4) were practically traumatized by the sight of the tree-monster, and that my wife (aged 38) consumed nearly three boxes of Kleenex handkerchiefs whilst crying over the sad plot. Just to say that "A Monster Calls" is an intense and totally absorbing film; - which is positive again in the end, though. Personally, I'm a tremendous admirer of so-called "adult fairytales" and gazed at "A Monster Calls" with pure admiration. The narration and atmosphere are reminiscent to some of the best (older) work of master story-tellers, like Tim Burton ("Edward Scissorhands", "Sleepy Hollow") and Neil Jordan ("The Company of Wolves", "Ondine"), and the special effects are - by lack of a better word - stupendous! With this film, Spanish director J.A. Bayona ("The Orphanage") profiles himself as the only worthy successor of the two aforementioned geniuses, and I sincerely hope he'll make more fantasy/fairytales like this.
Also, I don't know who came up with the idea, but it was a downright brilliant idea to cast Liam Neeson as the voice of the Monster. He emerges as a humongous tree, with a mission to teach a few valuable life-lessons to 12-year-old Connor. The boy's life certainly isn't easy. His beloved mother is slowly but surely dying from cancer, his father lives in the US but only comes to visit, and he's being bullied at school. With its harsh and confronting "stories", the Monster teaches Connor that happy endings aren't real and that enemies aren't always who they seem. Obviously "A Monster Calls" primarily aims at making the audience feel emotional and cry, but nevertheless, I've rarely seen a film that so open and honest deals with sensitive topics like terminal illness and trauma acceptance. The monster's stories are wondrously animated, the British countryside looks grim and depressing, and the performances are very powerful. 14-year-old Lewis MacDougall carries the film remarkably well, although with sublime support from Felicity Jones (as the mother) and Sigourney Weaver (as the grandmother).